Beaches and cars

Growing up here really helps explain my attraction to water. Everywhere you go, the sea is there with you. In my wanderings today I ended up a few times on beaches. They just pulled me in.

Green Island. Because that island has grass on it. People sometimes get stranded by the tide. It’s speedy.

I stopped the car for a second, got out and looked at the beach and the channel. They say there’s a man in St John’s and he’s never seen the sea. I can kind of believe that of the people here. It’s small and it can give you an island mentality where you artlessly assume that the global population is really only about a few thousand people but you don’t need to look beyond the ones you know already.

Not being in a Jersey car makes me a marked man. The roads are tiny. So narrow. I know this and in the past I’ve driven Jersey cars here and not experienced this. All the Jersey drivers are very used to maneuvering in limited space, and they assume nobody else is. None of the roads are faster than 40mph and they assume everybody but them wants to drive at 90. But you can’t, and you won’t, and you don’t need to. The island’s roads are like the wet dream of some bastard London planning counselor who comes into every meeting and suggests “maybe we could make it sound like fun to call it a 20 mile an hour borough”. But … you can’t really go much faster than 30 here. They’re all two way roads with enough room for one car. You get very used to watching for stopping spaces and waiting in them when necessary. There are even turnpikes in some of the towns as they take up less space than roundabouts. And the etiquette of the turnpike. You go in order. You don’t jump the queue. As Jersey drivers just assume that nobody else gets it. And every Jersey car starts with a J on the license plate.

I’ve been in those Jersey cars. They hate grockles, and here I am with my obvious UK car. Even the hire cars are branded with a bright red H at the start of the plate. There’s no escaping being known if you aren’t a Jersey car. And you’re a pariah. You needn’t do anything, you just have to exist and the other drivers have moving lips and hard eyes as they come by on the other side. There’s no honking, we’re all far too polite for honking. There’s just polite hatred.

One order of business was to drop off a print of the Jersey Races that I sold on eBay. I brought it over on the ferry as it worked out a little cheaper than it would have done sending it by Hermes – plus Hermes would’ve danced the mazurka on it, shot it three times and thrown it in the sea. “Hi this is Hermes. Your package has been delivered. We chucked it in the water off Cherbourg.”

Tomorrow is Friday and so an admin binge before hopefully getting some more plates spinning. And I’m beginning to settle in my doss house. “You’re saving about £30 a night compared to all the other places. You might as well just have a nice meal every so often and stay where you are.” And by God she’s right.

Jersey. Beauty and memory and the mundane.

Of all the things I expected to be consistent throughout my life, who knew it would be the little bag on top of the loo. I first discovered these when I was too small to remember properly. I probably came back into a restaurant brandishing one to ask “What’s this thing for mummy?” I was probably admonished – “Put it back immediately,” which would have piqued my childish interest and seared the item into my mind. It probably went folded up into a sweaty pocket for further persual in private, to work out what it was that the adults found so shocking about this freely available little bag.

This hotel is full of period features, and perhaps this is just one of them – another touch of something old that has been around just about long enough to be chic again instead of old fashioned. Like the Rediffusion Radio. The petticoat lady sanitary product disposal bag. “She has a tache,” Lou remembers when I show her a photo. And by God she does. And there she is, free for all comers, on top of the beige loo in my beige room.

“So basically you’re staying in a doss house,” says my half brother. I just renewed for a week and it cost me £297.50. My half brother has probably spent more than that every night for a week and thought he was getting a bargain. But I’m okay in this for another week even if I can’t cook. I’m hoping to get this all done in time for the fifth of June and I’ll likely have to eventually hit upon a place with a cooker. But here, in the bathroom of this actually rather sweet family run hotel, is yet another thing that roots me back into the memory of the child I was, not so very long ago, in a world with different edges. A tampon bag showing a very old fashioned woman sporting rather fine moustache.

Another wonderful thing about The Mornington Hotel is the location. Bloody hell, it’s well placed. You don’t get the beach and the sea which I guess is what a lot of people come to Jersey for. But you’re close to the town centre in one direction, and less than a minute’s walk from Howard Davis Park in the other.

The park looks extremely disappointing until you get past the huge pigeonproofed statue of some dead monarch and into the gloriously landscaped lawns and rose gardens and trees that we probably bequeathed to the people of Jersey by whichever one of the Edwards it was. Had I known it was so lovely, so full of scents and birdsong, so close to the room in which I have festered, I’m not sure if my isolation would’ve been more bitter or more sweet. Perhaps a bit of both.

The wind is up now, coming in off the sea, buffeting my windows. The best of the weather so far was definitely observed through the window but I have another three weeks here and now I can move around and see all the wonderful vistas, the trees, the huge beaches and vast skies and all this wonder, and still, with all the possible things, I only have a photograph of this stupid disposal bag. Here she is. Enjoy.

You’ll have to zoom in to see the ‘tache

Up and about.

Up early in the morning to take advantage of my new found freedom and out into the world. St Helier is the capital, it’s the town where I was born, and it’s definitely a little more happening than when I was a kid where they just had a bloke selling fish, eighteen pubs and a twenty seven jewellers. Now it feels a little bit like one of the hipster boroughs in London. Rich people dressing down and broke people dressing up. I needed to go to the bank but it turned out the bank wasn’t where I needed to go so I went to the Greff and the Greff told us I needed to go to the archive and they sent me back to the Greff having taken my email but they haven’t sent me an email yet and this is how it’s going to go from now on. Fuck me how tedious. At least I saw a copper with a tattoo on my peregrinations. I like his white hat. Reminds me of being in the Bahamas as a kid. I forgot they were here too. I was so protected when I lived here though.

My usual reaction faced with this sort of admin nightmare thing related to this ancient tangle is to just throw up my arms in despair and leave it about a decade by which time it gets even more convoluted, but this time I’m going to get stuck in properly and go back for round two, three and four. This is only one of many strings I’m trying to pull here. This time I’ll get to the bottom of it even if basically everybody wants to fob me off on somebody else.

Before lunch I stopped at the registrar because I wanted to get a look at my birth certificate and see what time I was born. They are closed for COVID and I’ll have to do it online. I had lunch at the Arts Centre but it felt more like a cinema café and everybody was extremely anxious. Then I went back to the hotel before time in order to try and fill some forms in online and because, on the first day I’ve been able to get out it kept bloody raining on me…

I’ve been here a whole fecking week already. How did that happen so fast? Good God.

The hotel asked me if I was staying further and it’s definitely cheaper than anywhere else especially considering I get a nice sandwich for lunch. I agreed. Self catering will have to wait until I think I can sort something out from his tangled up impossible mess I’m trying to work out. This place is a minutes walk from the park and actually very convenient for everything. If I end up in a place where I can cook I’ll be too comfortable maybe. I have the advantage of wanting to get out of my room here at the first opportunity.

Sleep now and another go tomorrow. I’ve got to see an old family friend but I’m holding off because he’s 80. Gonna arrive brandishing my third test certificate so he can’t avoid me by saying I might be contagious.

The best thing about this room is it has a good big hot bath. I just got out. I’m sleepy and pickled. Good night/good morning. Boing. X

Jersey – Second test

I got to drive to the airport for a covid test. It was bright with occasional quick sea squalls. I took the scenic route down the five mile road. A kite coasted surprising close to my car, hunting for something in the scrubland. These are sand dunes turning to lush soil and then in turn to walls and buildings of that peculiar red granite that this island rises up with. Much has changed since those simple days when I lived here uncluttered. But much is the same.

Looking out at the dunes I shouldn’t have been surprised when I felt the tears on my cheek. This island … it’s my home. It carries that mark of a first place. The colours and sounds are how they are supposed to be here. The sea, ever present, blowing scent and life across this fecund rock, is right somehow. And in so many of my memories there are companions. The lost. Casualties of time and how is it possible when they feel so close, so close?

I drove past the stop sign where my grandparents had a mundane conversation that I remember precisely. Both of them are long gone now, sent back round or however it works, bodies buried down the road by the sea. And there, on the right, what used to be The Windmill House. Mum would say “Look, it’s The Windmill House!” There are no windmills anymore. I’m driving the car now, not her. She’s up on that hill in the weather. I’ll go and talk to her, but her voice will just be the wind and the grass and the stillness.

I was happy here. I didn’t know the island like an adult might. It was colour and light. It was smells and sensations in that way that children can be sometimes closer to dogs than people. I was digging in the mud and laughing large and running hard and totally unpolluted by the mess of responsibility and pain that comes with this adulthood. I was happy, and I feel their spirits gathered now. The energy of the lost perhaps to help me as I try once more once more and this time without giving up at the first knockback. I’m stronger now, and ready.

I miss them. Mum and dad. Da and Danda. Even Peter bless him. All taken too soon. I pulled up and waited for it to subside, watching the the sea as the waves broke over me. We can’t get out of time. It just keeps rolling. What little we have left is for joy. Not for being shut in a beige hotel room.

I’m exhausted. I’m going for an early bed, and believe it or not I’m allowed out tomorrow properly. I get to stop and touch the water, to talk to people, to begin things. It’s a long way between now and the end of this. If I had a home here, in my home, it would be easier. But I’ll muddle by somehow. Jersey. Now it’s time to start.

Jersey Day 4 – Running out of crap food

I have one more non alcoholic beer.

Today they gave me butter with my croissant. It was a highlight.

Tomorrow I have to drive to the airport and prove that I don’t have Covid again. After that I’m allowed out without getting fined. I can drive to the airport to get tested. That’s ok. But I can’t drive to the seashore and look at the sunset through the window because that’ll give everybody death. The pathogens respond to the nature of your journey, I think. If you ever worry that you’ve been exposed to it, just believe in your very soul that you are going to an airport to be tested, and the angel of death will pass you by.

Oh I’ve made a mess in my den. I have asked the hotel if they can let somebody in to change the sheets. The people who give me all the milk stay very very far away from my door and spend as little time as possible near it in case my contagion gets through the wood and into their lungs. They might come in while I’m off to be tested. The owner isn’t certain though. They’re wary. I guess the fear is that if my test comes back positive then they lose work.

It’s a constant diet of fearfulness, this era. Things like the Daily Mail that already specialise in separating us – they are having a field day with this, hammering wedge after wedge. “You are not safe you can only trust us!” And we are so absorbent. It’s why advertising is such a huge industry. We are sponges.

I’m going to delay much of what I came here for because it involves seeing very old people. Just on the offchance that I am carrying a brand new late developing asymptomatic variant of COVID, I’m going to avoid seeing Michael a few days longer until after my day 10 test. It’s as much for his peace of mind as my own. But this is bullshit and we all know it. I can’t even easily find a place to live because the idea of me coming over in the filthy boat with all my leaping nastiness – it’s not appealing at all in theory to people. I bet most of it Airbnb self catered places on the island are still closed because of this. I really don’t want to have to keep eating sandwiches and crisps and the occasional takeaway, in a suspicious smelling beige den.

BLAH

It’s just me and my head, kids! For another 24 hours at least.

It’s not so bad. I keep my own company well enough. Aaargh.

Jersey 3 – Milk

Every day, in the morning, I get eight mini cartons of semi skimmed milk. Half and half you might call it. I’m in Jersey, the magical land of dairy, but the milk is imported from Ireland. I use two cartons a day.

This morning there was a knock on the door as there always is, with my daily food. “There’s no need to leave more milk!” I shouted from my bed. “Milk?” Comes the reply. “Yes. Milk! I’ve got loads!” There is a pause. “Ok, milk!”

When I go to get my the bag there are sixteen mini cartons of milk with it, as well as all the instant coffee and tea things I could never want. By the end of the week there will be no more milk at Lakeland Farm in Ireland. It will ALL be in my hotel room. Along with rivers of Nescafé. I knew the coffee would be shit so I brought those dripthrough things that go in the top of the cup. I’m not using the Nescafé and unlike ketchup sachets it isn’t going to end up in my car. Only the mad and the young like instant coffee. The dripthrough is pretty crap as well but at least it isn’t Nestlé gak.

I’m wearing a T-shirt that was in the bag with the camembert. That’s what we’ve come to. It’s the cleanest T-Shirt I’ve got. This hotel is 2 stars so I’m not expecting laundry service. By the time they let me out on Tuesday I’m going to have nothing but my suit left to wear. I’ll waft into the fresh air smelling unusually cheesy. I will look at the sunlight with the eyes of a starved man. The air will be on my face. Moving objects will be in my eyeline!

This is my view.

It’s a weekend, so the builders aren’t working. The generator will be on all day from Monday.

You can see what a lovely day it is. It’s gorgeous. Perfect. I know I haven’t got Covid. So do you. But still I have to wait. Another test on Monday and then once the result is through I will be allowed to see the world again. It’s ridiculous but “use your common sense” never works because there are too many people with none.

I still have no idea where I’m going to stay for most of this trip. I can’t stay here, I’d go batshit crazy and I can’t cook anything. The best offer I’ve had is twice the price and minimum four weeks which I can’t even do as I’m going home on the 5th June (so long as this is sorted). I should probably rent a place somehow. I might find a way to do that once I’m able to leave this fucking room.

Jersey – Quarantine Day 2

I’m staying in The Mornington Hotel. It’s a pleasant 2 star establishment about ten minutes walk from the maternity hospital where I was born. Most of the photos on the website show rooms that I cannot go into right now. The bedroom is comfortable, and it feels like I’m the spy on a John Le Carré novel. Cork walls and some sort of alarm clock radio type thing made by Rediffusion – (remember them?)

I’m usually exceptionally good at digs. When I’m on tour I spend the first few hours organising my bits. Usually I have my Bose Speaker wired to my iPad for music on Spotify. Normally I have the means to make a little altar in a corner complete with gong and beads and a variety of different smokeless incense sticks. Frequently I have a Kindle loaded up with books I want to read, a good selection of clothes, a panoply of personalia and memorabilia. All of this went out the window this time. As soon as the cat was in the box I was on autopilot out the door and I am astonished at how badly I packed. I’m in here with no music but my phone. I’ve tried to make sense of the Rediffusion thing to no avail. And I’ve got virtually no oojieboojie stuff. Just my tarot cards. Not even palo santo. I feel naked. No books even. I didn’t really take into account the practicalities. I was too busy worrying about the cat and freaking out as I didn’t know where I was going to stay. I seem to have lucked out here. It’s not l’Horizon but it’s cheap and they care.

At 8.30 in the morning there’s a knock on the door and my picnic bag is left there. It’s great. They even put a sandwich wrapped in foil there for later, and a variety of snacks. I feel like I’m back at day school… I just need a Club or a Trio.

Day one sandwich was ham and cheese. Day two sandwich was egg. And these details are the things that help me know it’s a different day. The sun rises somewhere and sets somewhere else but I don’t really see it. I’m under the impression that the world is still turning out there but I’m not part of it. I sit with my sandwich and maybe I look at a building for a bit out the window as I draft my difficult emails and unwrap snacks.

The bin is full of packaging. I’ve been working through the instant noodles in the evening. The sink has my remaining non-alcoholic beers staying cool in water. I managed to resist the bottle of single malt on the ferry. I’ve got no toothpaste.

This afternoon I realised there was half a camembert left over in one of my bags. I disposed of it humanely. It had achieved sentience. I wasn’t aware of the smell until I left my room for a moment and came back. Now I’ve compounded it by ordering Friday night curry from the local Indian. This little beige room now smells of cheese, curry and feet. I’ve got some Nag Champa incense. I’m a little worried I’ll set off the smoke alarm but it might take the edge off.

And here I am.

I haven’t put the telly on yet but I’m going slowly bonkers so I might get lost in rubbish for a while tomorrow. I didn’t even bring camomile tea. Just some ridiculous mashup of infusions. But I can’t go shopping. Or do anything, really.

I’ve only got to do three more days. There are skies in Jersey. Beaches. Parks!

Day 1 – Jersey

I timed my arrival well it seems. The next boat over will be filled with journalists trying to get photos of this blockade, or of the battleships that have been sent here. By the sound of it it’s all kicking off about fishing rights. No surprises. This place is much closer to France than it is to England. It’s bound to be complicated in terms of fishing rights. We’d need a competent Prime Minister to properly make sense of things, so not in my lifetime by the look of it. Right now it’s this oaf and his dead eyed joyless wonderless cronies.

These are just navy boats. I took this photo yesterday leaving Portsmouth. I have no idea if they are the ones coming here now.

I’m in a room. I’m slowly turning it into a den.

This morning I received a text message from the Jersey government. “How are you?” It was mandatory that I replied. It’s an open question. As a teenager I might have been tempted to respond “Not so bad thanks! Could have done with a spot of hot food,” or somesuch. Me? I just told them “WELL” because by the tenets of the message there are only two possible replies. The other one is “COVID” which would likely lead to the whole hotel getting covered in one of those things they use to fumigate houses in America. And I am feeling pretty well right now…

I wish that there wasn’t a portable generator for a building site noisily running through all the daylight hours directly outside my window. I wish there was some sort of a view rather than just an alley and the building site. It’s so strange being in the town where I was born but with no property and very few friends. I now live in a room full of snacks with the inside of my head for company. Things have been magnifying a little bit already in here. It was good to speak with Lou this evening as I was getting pretty fraught. She was giving me the blow by blow of the cat’s ridiculously cute behaviour and it helped me get perspective. She’s extremely busy while I’m in here slowly eating my own face.

They left me a little breakfast in a bag outside my room today, with a sandwich for lunch as well. I ate that, snacks, and an instant noodle. I’ll have to be a bit smarter with how I live my life in this room or I’ll be dead of too much sugar by the time I’m allowed out. Tomorrow maybe I’ll order some food in. But money! Aargh. I’m here as a last ditch, blowing my SEISS in the hopes I can unlock some funds for my brother and I before the mountain of debt falls on my head.

Four more days only. Then I’m allowed out to start sorting things out, hopefully…

Arrival in Jersey

It’s hard to clearly research what will happen when we try to cross borders at the moment. All I’ve done is go to the place where I was born. I made it, but it’s been pretty weird.

The alarm pushed me up at 5 for last minute snuggles and goodbye to the cat before a swift shot to Portsmouth. I was getting on to the Commodore Clipper, which is an incredibly slow boat that goes to Guernsey first. I arrived at the booth. “Have you got your negative test?” Fuck.

I knew I had to get a PCR test on arrival. I didn’t know I’d have to get a test to get on the boat first. Turns out lateral flow is fine. That’s the antibody test. They were giving them away at ASDA so I grabbed a pack after a frantic drive.

All the people in the booth needed in order to let me on the boat was a text message from the NHS. In order to get that message I needed to input the number of an existing test and tell them that my result was negative.

You could just choose to open the test, look at the number, input it and say it was negative. I’m glad that they trust us to do it properly and don’t insist somebody gets paid to test us every time. Things are so much harder than they ever were these days – we are so closely monitored and corralled that I’m glad there’s still space to completely flout the rules even if I’m not advocating it. And I’m pleased and surprised that the test I picked up at ASDA was free as well. I thought by now that we’d be skinned at every opportunity. Seems our data is enough. With a text message on my phone, I returned to the booth and was waved through. I could’ve forwarded that message to myself and altered the date. So many ways to mess with it, although it’s likely pretty easy to get fined.

Before arriving in Jersey I had to fill in a form with all my travel history and lots of stuff about how I promise not to tell fibs or I’ll be fined. I then got issued a QR code. Leaving the boat I was met by a young woman with a mask who carefully issued me with a PCR test in a bag. Then I had a conversation with a guy about the contents of my car. Then I met a third person in a full hazmat suit who really wasn’t much good at swabbing but kind of rubbed the thing in my nose and mouth before packing it up to go to a lab. The result will define my freedom but might take a while. I have to take 2 more tests – most likely self applied and collected by courier.

Meanwhile I’m in this little old fashioned hotel room. I’m knackered after such an early start and long trip. I’m in one of a pair of twin beds, looking around this little room that will be my world for a few days. Here we go. Eventually I’ll be loose in Jersey. For now, patience.

Bluebells of sighs

In the morning sunshine, two small children frolicked through the Bluebells in the wood up at Stanmer Park. The gale was easing down but present enough to deter visitors. Not a dog walker. Nary a crackhead. Not even the guy in a plastic shirt running. Just little Lou and little Al. The sun cut through the trees lighting the carpets of tiny flowers, the wind took their scent, pumping out of them after a day of rain. These slopes are protected. Not much mud. Just enough wind for the smell to be so present. The sound of birds, trees and yes, cars. But mostly nature.

Blue. That sharp bright blue in carpets between the trees, and we must have hit the peak of it then, as the storm was winding out. Something so ancient in that smell, in this shock of tiny seasonal flowers that were there for the Romans as they were for the Normans as they were when we fought the Germans. We were mostly silent, glad of the peace and the beauty.

“I want you to have this to remember when you’re shut in,” says Lou. And I will. The bluebells! I’ve booked the cheapest hotel with parking on the island of Jersey. I’ll be shut in a room there, looking out at a wall, surrounded by beige for five days, occasionally sticking something all the way up my nose in order to discover what we already knew. I’ve booked it for a week to get me through quarantine and a bit more. God knows where then. Hopefully somewhere where I can cook. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. At least the first week is covered. I can sit there and remember the bluebells and Lou and the light after the storm.

Now I’m in bed. I’m up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to discover what it means to go to Jersey now that everything is fucked. First I’ve got to drive to Portsmouth. Then my last taste of freedom on the ferry where I intend to spend the whole damn crossing on deck unless it’s a typhoon. Then into my beige box for five days where I’ll end up going feral and drawing pictures of bluebells with ketchup sachets.

Mao just jumped up on the bed. I’ve only got about 7 hours before the alarm so I’m gonna stroke all the things that must be stroked and doze off happily.