Friday, January 29, 2010

Jim Cathcart show

Richard Fleming and I went in to chat to Jim Cathcart in BBC Guernsey. Jim is really professional and easy to chat to. You can hear the interview here for the next few days.

Some interesting new information gleaned on this latest trip to the island, updates soon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fermain Tavern

Visited the Fermain Tavern while over in Guernsey. There is a regular night held there once a month featuring local poets and musicians. It was hosted by prolific local writer Lester Queripel, who was in the enviable position of not only reading from his own book 50 of the Best, but also having other audience members selecting from this to read out too. Some interesting material on what was rather a quiet night - possibily due to it being officially the year's most depressing day.

There is a thriving local scene these days, which many people on the island are contributing to. It's great to learn.

Below Lester Queripel at the Fermain Tavern.

Off to Guernsey

Off to Guernsey this morning to stay with Richard Fleming and Jane Mosse. Will be at the Fermain tonight to hear some local poetry, and then with Richard, I will be on the Jim Cathcart show on BBC radio on the 27th.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Selling of Wilf Gaudion's Field

Interestingly, I've been sent a play by Jim Willis, called The Selling of Wilf Gaudion's Field. Jim tells me it was performed at the Beau Sejour Theatre, as part of the Guernsey One Act play festival. Jim was born in Orkney to Irish parents, but has lived in Guernsey most of his life, and ran a horticultural engineering company for 33 years which put him in close contact with the growers.

This contact informs his play, which is rooted in Guernsey matters of property and ownership, and the tomato trade. What strikes me on first reading (and I've not seen this performed) is the effort Jim has taken to faithfully represent a Guernsey way of speaking. Here's a short excerpt:

Doris: Yer, it’s all round the Bridge, your sellin’ to a Jerseyman. That Mrs.Falla from Holmdene, she says you took a lower offer than Tom Duquemin’s. She says you got no soul, sellin' our heritage to a foreigner. When I went in Le Riches, the girl behind the counter never lifted ‘er head once to speak to me, just took my money. There was a Jersey pound note in the change! We’ll have to do somethin’. What’re we gonna do?

Wilf: We’ll go to the bank an draw out all the housekeepin’ this week in crappo money. See if they don’t take it. Besides, Le Riches is a Jersey firm, she’s workin’ for the crappos. (Pause) ….Somebody painted a ‘J’ on the number plate of the truck last night and what’s more, they altered the name of our house from Sevenoaks to fiveoaks.

Doris: If this keeps up, we’ll have to sell up an’ move to bloomin’ Jersey.

Wilf: No fyur, it’d be all crappos to us two donkeys………What we’ll do is ask Mr.Critchlow to put an ad in the Press to say the field’s still for sale, that way they’ll know it’s not sold to anyone.

Doris: Is anyone else interested in buyin’?

Wilf: Not yet, but Mr.Critchlow is bringin’ someone around later, says he has cash in hand. That sounds dodgey to me, wot if ‘ees English, or French, we’ll have no friends left.

Doris: I’m off to Lilly to help ‘er bunch,…by the way ther’s a letter come…yer…. cheerie.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Appointment with Venus

My friend Catriona lent me this 1951 novel by Jerrard Tickell, an Irish novelist (1905-1966). Appointment with Venus was made into a film the same year, with a cast which included David Niven, Kenneth More, Glynis Johns and others, and shot in Pinewood Studios and on Sark. The story features an imaginary Channel Isle named Amorel, which appears to be a thinly veiled Sark.

Very much a product of its times, and seems sexist and in its reference to "seeing a coon show" in London, unacceptably racist. While Sark aka Amorel is portrayed as a backwater, with simple French speaking locals to add a bit of colour local. The plot revolves around an unlikely wartime scheme to steal a valuable pedigree cow called Venus from the island. Local girl and plucky love interest Nicola Fallaise accompanies Valentine Moreland and others on the rescue mission with predictable results. It is a surprisingly good escapist read however, if you fancy a bit of stiff upper lip brandishing wartime hokum.

Below a film poster for Appointment with Venus.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Compton Mackenzie and D.H. Lawrence

Have been in touch with Stephen Foote of the Guernsey Society. We are going to link swap for the anthology site. Really usefully, Stephen sent me a link to D. H. Lawrence's "The Man Who Loved Islands". This story is new to me, and I have just read the introduction by Chris Jennings, which says that Lawrence:
"...was a friend of Compton Mackenzie who had met on the isle of Capri in 1925. Mackenzie objected that he had been used as a model for the character in Lawrence's short story. There are, indeed some similarities.

Compton Mackenzie lived on Capri from 1913 to 1920. He then bought the island of Herm and Jethou in the Channel Islands. After financial difficulties, he sold Herm and moved to the smaller island of Jethou in 1923. In 1925 he bought the uninhabited Shiat Isles near to Harrris in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. He never lived there but did live on the nearby island of Barra, where he built a house. When Sir Compton Mackenzie died in 1972 he was buried on the island of Barra."

According to Wikipedia "Mackenzie at first asked Secker, who published both authors, not to print the story and it was left out of one collection".

When I was last at the Prilaux Library in St. Peter Port, I saw there was a good deal of Mackenzie material there, and I knew he had a connection with the island. But this is a great lead to follow up on both writers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Island Madness

Have just started to re-read Tim Binding's Island Madness, and I will upload a section to the Anthology of Guernsey site shortly. Again, and at the risk of sounding like a one trick donkey, a vastly more rewarding book about Guernsey than the Potato Peel Pie effort.

Its first chapter has stayed with me very clearly from when I first read it ten years ago, shortly after its publication. The opening section where a German plane flies over the south coast is beautifully written. But also this bit, which repeats the word concrete, which I find reminiscent of Dickens use of the word fog in Bleak House. The use of 'Him' to denote Hitler is also intriguing, like some sort of unnameable Antichrist, or Sauron figure in Lord of the Rings.

All through that winter men had been pouring in, onto the island: engineers from Belgium, skilled construction workers from France, men laden with theodolites and drills who bored holes and tapped rocks and drew their indelible marks in the sand. There seemed no end to them. Down in St Peter Port the harbour was jammed with trawlers and tugs and great floating cranes, their necks bent double in search of their prey; metal rods, barbed wire, timber, and cement – always cement, the essential dust of His creation, cement in the flat-bottomed barges which wallowed their way from Cherbourg, cement stacked twelve feet high on St Julian’s Pier, cement hauled round the island on the narrow-gauge railway built from Cherbourg, to be mixed and poured and moulded into the fertile shapes of war. A military chastity belt of His design had been fitted around the island’s most tender regions, so that like a jealous lord He could prevent any violation of His fresh, plump property. But still He wanted more: more concrete, more guns, more men. In all of Western Europe there was nothing that glittered in His mind eye more brightly than the Channel Islands. Inselwahn, they called it. Island Madness.