Seeing sense

The view from the 92 reveals much about island life. Neil Tucker enjoys a thought-provoking bus trip

Picture By Peter Frankland. 06-07-21 Vox in town about the new Victor Hugo bench.. (30235708)
Picture By Peter Frankland. 06-07-21 Vox in town about the new Victor Hugo bench.. (30235708)

You can get quite a good view from the 92.

If you start at the bus terminus the route takes you past the new statue of Victor Hugo: the one which depicts him sitting on the bench outside the Town Church.

To my inexperienced eye it’s one of the better examples of art to appear recently. I admit I’m no connoisseur, but it’s certainly better than a sheep dipped in formaldehyde.

And in my opinion it does a pretty good job of enhancing St Peter Port.

Which is something I might not be able to say about a four-metre-high ormer shell on top of the round top store.

I still haven’t worked out what an ormer shell has that a kicking donkey hasn’t.

However, when I walked past the bench sculpture on the way to the 92 recently, I still couldn’t see any sort of sign or notice explaining the background to the sculpture.

It does appear to be a very good likeness of Victor Hugo, although I can’t verify that from personal acquaintance, despite what my grandchildren think. But might visitors who are not familiar with him simply see an old man on a bench being attacked by a giant spider?

And even if they recognise Monsieur Hugo, or have perhaps seen the musical Les Miserables, will they be familiar with the plot of Toilers and understand the role of the octopus?

I’m sure I’ve heard the suggestion that an explanatory notice should be nearby and I agree that would add greatly to the appreciation of the sculpture.

After all, only a few hundred yards along the route of the 92 the bus goes past the Liberation monument. This is an equally impressive structure, albeit in a totally different way, and that does have a notice explaining how it works.

Mind you, even here the notice is not by the obelisk itself, but several yards away stuck on the side of a nearby waffle shop which is disguised as a weighbridge. When visitors walk past in the summer I’m sure many of them miss it. Unless they’re hungry and looking for a price list.

When the 92 has to wait at the traffic lights I often glance across and wonder why the notice cannot be affixed to the obelisk itself.

After all, If people can glue themselves to the M25, surely an adhesive can be found to attach a notice to a granite monument?

If not on the monument itself, perhaps a descriptive notice could be put on a stand next to it.

If you stay on the 92 as far as Pembroke, you can see an example by La Varde dolmen.

Follow the signed path and you’ll find a display stand at the entrance to the dolmen giving a detailed description of its history. Something like that could surely go next to Victor Hugo’s bench, or on the adjacent Town Church railings?

I don’t know what explanation might be dreamed up to explain a four-metre-high ormer shell, mind. Perhaps a suggestion that if anyone held such a huge shell to their ear, the sound of the sea would be like a deafening hurricane-force 12?

Or that to prise such a monster from a rock would need a JCB rather than an ormer hook?

When the 92 leaves Town it heads north to Pembroke, and anyone who travelled that route last month must have noticed the large number of big black crows on L’Ancresse Common.

They were everywhere – and at times appeared to outnumber the golfers. That’s a very rare claim normally reserved for rabbits, or seagulls before the tip was closed.

I don’t recall seeing so many in previous years and I have no idea where they all came from.

I assume that crows live in crows’ nests – and that these tend to be high up in tall trees.

Or at the top of masts on old sailing ships.

But where are the tall trees on the common?

Or the sailing ships?

Have the crows become so domesticated that they don’t need tall trees any more? Perhaps they’re like local seagulls, some of which seem to have given up their ancestral tradition of catching fish at sea, finding it easier simply to wait at Cobo for the chip shop to open.

This could well be true, for I was annoyed in late summer when I found that some of the sweetcorn plants in my garden had been eaten by pests.

No, not the grandchildren.

I blamed rabbits, or even rats, but then someone told me it could well have been crows.

I would have believed pigeons, but would never have guessed at crows.

Perhaps next year I’ll have to pop to Torteval to borrow a scarecrow.

Alternatively, I suppose I could print out a nursery rhyme and display it next to my vegetable patch. The one outlining what happened to four and 20 blackbirds. Just as a warning.

After all, crows are bigger so one wouldn’t need so many.

When the 92 bus stops at Pembroke it frequently waits for the clock to catch up, so it can depart again on schedule. Depending where you sit, it’s possible to see over the wall and look at the beach while you wait.

When I was there I found myself wondering what might happen once a quarry starts operations at Chouet. With the prevailing wind coming from the south-west, will the beach be affected by dust and other particles being blown from the quarry?

I was comforted by the knowledge that the planners will naturally have taken any environmental impact into consideration.

As they do with all planning applications, of course.

It was while contemplating that that I accidentally bit my tongue, planted as it was firmly in my cheek.

I should also have felt reassured that when States members debated the location for a new quarry, they would not simply have decided on Chouet because it’s in the north and the easiest option, would they?

That would be like politicians compiling a budget simply by copying previous years and going for the same tired system of putting up tax on fuel, cigarettes and alcohol.

Or announcing that the tax strategy of the island needs to change and straight away concluding that must mean GST.

Oh dear….

For all the talk and recent emphasis on environmental issues, I wonder if we’ll notice much difference in future planning applications.

I read recently that Guernsey’s building industry was going to be more sustainable, but that seemed like a strange word to use.

A cynic might suggest that if buildings had been more sustainable in the past, we wouldn’t have needed to spend so much on repairs to La Mare de Carteret.

And I don’t suppose it will make new buildings any more attractive either. It’s perhaps fortunate that the 92 doesn’t go up St Julian’s Avenue, so its passengers don’t see the building being constructed where the old prison used to be.

I think I read somewhere that it will have a contemporary design, but those two words are worrying, being usually translated simply as concrete and glass.

So together with its fully glazed facade and sweeping curves, it sounds totally incongruous with nearby St James or Elizabeth College.

Perhaps in addition to considering the environmental impact of such buildings, planners should be told also to consider the ocular impact on local residents.

Or, just as a descriptive notice next to the Victor Hugo bench might help in its appreciation, perhaps architects should put a similar notice on their buildings, explaining what on earth they were thinking when they designed them.

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