small island

I was born in Jersey. I lived here until I was ten or eleven or so. My first school was here. I loved Mrs Pickles. My grandfather had an appointment as ADC to the governors here for many years and for many governors. My grandmother was a vast personality socially, capable of inspiring tremendous love and tremendous distaste. She self-described as crippled, although was too proud for a wheelchair. She never walked without assistance, and I was her regular prop. She taught me to hold my arm like iron. She taught me to say “mein granmutter ist krank,” which isn’t German for “My grandma is crippled” but I used it without correction when she came and visited in Switzerland so I could get them to show me where the service lift was or explain away bad behaviour…

My family is written in granite here in this island. I understand tides based on this place. I understand weather based on this place. I miss this place all the time. If I could, I’d live here and fly back for auditions and jobs. But I’m not famous enough yet fukkit.

Readers, you might be getting confused about all these islands. So yeah. Jersey for first ten then overlap Jersey and IOM and Switzerland for another five years, then less Jersey, more IOM and suddenly more Switzerland, because of dad’s work bobsleighing and then I got my first job out in St. Moritz. Then IOM for ages.

For me, though leaving this island – that was the wrench. This island feels like my spiritual home. I miss it in London. I miss it everywhere. It feels … right. Mine.

The bastard ferry took about fifteen hours. They give you 30 minutes / 100mb internet free over your fifteen hours. Thereafter they are asking ungodly prices – throwback prices. Condor ferries still live in 2002 where WiFi was some sort of witchcraft. Still, I sorted some stuff out and finally had time to stop and chill. If the weather hadn’t been atrocious it would’ve been restful. As it was we were being lifted and dumped all over the place. My sea-legs are generational and perfectly wobblygood so I’ll roll with the boat, but there were a lot of people yakking and the bathroom stank.

I get hungry on the ferry. I get a pie. Pie, chips and peas? I can get away with having a pint with three hours left, surely? Even though it’s an unfamiliar vehicle? I have a pint.

Hours later the boat gets into port, and I get ready to go.

Remember. I was born here in this small island.

The guy I talk to at passport control is hostile. Last time I came here I almost got buttsearched at the airport. I sat in a room for ages before hostile questioning. As a teenager I’d get pulled over every time I flew in with my overcoat and my long hair. Every time for ages and every time for no purpose despite searching everything, to the extent that I got a letter of apology once from mister Renouf after the third consecutive time being the one they “randomly” chose. He was head of customs at the time and knew my grandad. He explained my rights. I’ve remembered them ever since They’ve come in handy.

“What are you doing in the island?” Says mister border to my fucking HOME. He is almost certainly a grockle by his accent. “I’m sorting through my uncle’s stuff.” “And then you’re exporting it off the island?” He targets the word “exporting”. “I don’t know,” I tell him truthfully. I’ve no idea what’s there. Hopefully I’ll take most of it to charity shops.” “Is this your vehicle?” “No, it’s rented.” … “Move along.” He’s probably made a note to harass me on the return journey. He’ll be welcome to go through basically a pile of old shirts and letters that I haven’t got the heart to chuck…

Literally five minutes after I have that arsehole conversation with Tweedeldum, a police van turns out to have followed me into the parking lot of the Airbnb I’ve booked five minutes from the ferry port. Another one – Tweedledee gets out with all the same attitude. Ok. When the sidelights are on in the hirecar it gives it more light than most headlights. “You were driving with no lights,” is Tweedledee’s opening shot in the “not from round ‘ere Olympics” I’m genuinely surprised by this news, although I’ve never driven one of these monsters before. “Fuck really?” I say. I could see perfectly well. I actually thought the lights were on and a bit shit.” “You seem a bit unsure.” “I don’t know this car at all yet. Plus I’m trying to remember where The Savoy is from childhood because I’m right next to it. Plus I’ve just come off the ferry.” I say about a third of what I want. “I can smell alcohol on your breath.” “I had a pint of John Smith’s with my dinner.”

My car didn’t have Jersey plates. I got breathalysed. I was under the limit. But basically Tweedledee pulled me over partly because it wasn’t a Jersey plate. 2 officious twerps in under ten minutes of being in the island. Fuck you, home.

This is what the uk is heading for? Where the woman on the tube attacked me for having “dark eyes”. Where the woman when I was floor managing at Ascot said”You’re not from round here, are you?” ” From Berkshire, no madam.” “No you know what I mean. You know … er …” “Touch of the tar brush is it madam?” “Yes! Yes!” “Well … My mother was Spanish … ?” “Yes! Yes, you see Graham, that’s it I told you.” “Will that be all madam?”

I’m Jersey born, I think of myself as belonging to this island, but it’s a small island with a weird border and a weird attitude. And it means that something potentially lovely is being fucked by small-mindedness. “He’s not from round ‘ere. Must be up to no good.” Still. I’m glad to be home, properly home, at last.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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