Shock for Peel people

Film-makers will be amazed if they decide to shoot The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society here – they won’t be expecting to find a cement works and Portakabin village at the airport, a building site at the harbour or roads full of irate commuters, writes Neil Ross’s Emile in his latest letter to cousin Eugene. And if any of the crew are over a certain age, they could even end up having to retake their driving test...

Illustration by Peewee
Illustration by Peewee

Cher Eugene,

This will be my last letter for the year, mon vieux, if it gets to you in time, eh?

You know how I try to tell you what’s been going on in Guernsey every month? Well, Jack Torode, he said I could try to summarise what the States have done all year, but it would be a bloney short letter, eh?

He said they do a lot of talking, but they never seem to get anywhere, eh? Like they spent hours having another debate on that electronic voting for the States and in the end they rejected it again, so they still have to shout ‘pour’ or ‘contre’ when it comes to a vote. Jack said some States members wait and see how others have voted, and it takes longer as well. He said perhaps some of them think they get paid by the hour, eh?

The only decisions they do make seem to cost a lot of money and mess up the island, mon vieux. If ever there was a department with the wrong name, it’s the Environment Department, eh? They’ve agreed to let the Public Services build a village of 70 Portakabins to La Villiaze now, for all the immigrant airport workers. Caw, imagine what they’d say if a private person applied for that, Eugene. I suppose they let it through just because it’s the PSD, and they think that’s joined-up government, them. Or they allowed it because it’s Portakabins and not sheds, eh?

And now the Public Services want to scrap 200 long-term parking spaces to the North Beach, so they can work on the harbour and install new cranes and all that. And do you know, they say it could take up to three years? Hang, it only took six years to build the Channel Tunnel, Eugene. When you think, they could put a multi-storey car park underground in that time, but then, they should have done that in the first place, eh?

Jack said he’s glad he doesn’t live to the north, because there’ll be a hang of a queue along the front with commuters trying to find parking spaces. He said the quickest way into Town will be a water taxi from St Sampson’s, but then, they wouldn’t be able to get into St Peter Port Harbour, because that’s the problem in the first place, eh?

I was telling Jack there could be a secret plan as well, Eugene. You know I’ve told you how all these hotels and guest houses have closed and been turned into flats, like the Royal and the L’Ancresse Lodge and all that? And lately it’s been pubs closing, like the St Saviour’s Tavern and the Salerie Inn, and they’re all going to be turned into flats? Well, there’s even plans now for whole breweries like the Guernsey Brewery and Randall’s to be turned into residential units. I said to Jack, perhaps it’s all part of a strategy to solve the housing problem and stop people drinking at the same time, eh?

He said at least it would be some sort of strategy, which is more than the States seem to manage, them.

The latest one was the Environment – they were supposed to come up with a traffic strategy at the last States meeting, but they withdrew it before it got debated. It was the one that said owning a car was a privilege, just weeks before they said we might have no bus service, eh?

And they still haven’t decided what to do about the UK Government closing that VAT loophole, Eugene. The chief minister said he was looking into legal action, but he wasn’t sure, him, so perhaps he’s afraid of paying another cheque in compensation if it ends up like the UK fishermen. Jack said maybe he’s worried how much it will cost in legal fees; now he knows how the ordinary Guernseyman feels about getting any legal advice, eh?

There’s one good thing, though, and that’s all the talk about this potato pie film being made in Guernsey. Mind you, like I said, talk isn’t the same as action when it comes to the States, eh? I mean, the Commerce and Employment say they’ve been monitoring developments, but that could mean they’ve been watching, not doing anything, like they did with the fulfilment industry, Eugene. The trouble is, the film company have to be persuaded to come here, because it costs a lot more to do filming here, and there’s people saying the States should invest some money now because there could be millions to be made in publicity. But that would be forward planning, and the States aren’t good at that, eh?

Jack said he’s read the book, him, and if the film company expect to find Guernsey how it used to be, or how it looks in the tourist pictures, they’ll have a hang of a shock, them. He said there’s nothing in the book about a cement works and a village of Portakabins to the airport, or a building site to the harbour with roads full of frustrated commuters and aggregate lorries, eh?

That new tourism chief, he said it would be really good even to get some parts of the film made here, but it would cause disruption for a few weeks. I don’t think anyone would mind that, Eugene – after all, it could make a lot of money for the island. And when you think, it would be one in the eye for the Crapauds as well, eh? He said if they did the whole film here, it could disrupt the island for three months, but I don’t see that would be a problem either, me.

After all, the Public Services do that with just a couple of road closed signs, eh?

Je t’souhaite aen bouan Noué, Eugene!

A la perchoine,

Your cousin, Emile