Sunday, 5 September 2010

A Psychedelic Oyster

Last Tuesday I took advantage of the fine weather to do some gardening for an elderly lady in St Martin who I help out from time to time. I found her in her garden in an upset state and she told me that her grandson had been taken to hospital suffering the consequences of a designer drug that he had bought on the Internet. She thought that it was called 'Monkey Passion' and that it was advertised as a window cleaner and not for human consumption. Apparently the poor lad was crawling around on all fours like a beast, snarling at her, and trying to bite the curtains. Then he would giggle uncontrollably or yelp like a rabid dog. It scared the life out of her to see him like that, especially when the ambulance came and he was taken away in restraints. She hasn't been to see him yet but has heard from his parents that he is apparently completely well, calm, and cannot remember a thing that happened to him. However, she is worried that he has permanent brain damage.

I reassured her that this would not be the case and told her about a curious incident that occurred to some friends of mine when we went on a fishing trip to the Minquiers back in the late 1950s, probably 1959, which I remember as an exceedingly hot year. We all sailed in one boat and arrived at Maitresse Ile around 11 a.m., just after high tide I think. We moored up and pottered around, doing a bit of rod fishing, waiting for the tide to go down. At low tide, Bertie Durand, Micky Montain, and Ed Gilliat were looking for ormers. They found a few, plus a few oysters and around 6 p.m. we lit a fire and had a feast.

Some of the lads had brought a few beers and some wine and we sat around talking nonsense for a couple of hours when we noticed that a couple of our party were behaving strangely. Bertie Durand had climbed up onto a rock, wedged his backside into a crevice and was grinning like a monkey, making faces and spitting down on us. We all started laughing at this, thinking he'd had one too many, when another one started running around and around the island like a bird, flapping his wings and trying to take his clothes off.

A couple of us went off to chase him in case he hurt himself, or worse, and by the time we'd managed to pursuade him to get back to the camp fire, Micky Montain was taken the same way, sitting crouched before the fire, his head on one side, drooling like an idiot, and speaking in tongues, or what he thought was a sensible language but what to us sounded like Mongolian.

Fortunately, one of our party was a doctor in the UK who was on holiday in Jersey and staying with his cousin in Faldouet. He immediately suspected poisoning of some kind and suggested that we try to get them back on board the boat and to a hospital. Because the tide was against us we decided to continue to St Malo instead of returning to Jersey and we arrived there after midnight. During the journey, the behaviour of our three companions had become so extreme and bizarre, we thought that they were a danger to themselves and the rest of us so we took the unpleasant decision to lash them up with rope and secure them to the samson post. It was a horrible sight to see them there, alternately laughing, crying and gibbering like baboons.

To cut a long story short, we radioed ahead for an ambulance and all three were taken to the hospital in Dinan. By good luck there was a doctor there who had trained in Guadeloupe and when we told him what had happened he immediately diagnosed poisoning by a certain oyster known to be hallucinogenic. He called it 'Spondylus' and said it was very rare in our waters but common in South America. His theory was that the exceptionally warm waters had carried the eggs across the Atlantic. When we asked him if our friends would fully recover, he gave a typically Gallic shrug and laughed it off, saying, 'It's no worse than drinking several bottles of wine too many.'

And so it turned out. The next morning, the men who had eaten the oysters could remember nothing of what had happened to them and were surprised to find themselves in the hospital. They thought that we had played some fantastic joke on them and it was only when the doctor himself came back with a medical encyclopaedia that mentioned other known cases were they prepared to believe us.

On the way back to Jersey we gave them a bit of a ribbing about what had happened and although they never truly believed us when we described their antics, they took it in good heart. However, we all vowed never to tell another soul what had happened, not just because of the embarrassment it would cause them but because in those days everyone would think you were doolally and a bit suspect in the head. We all kept to our word about this and the only reason I say it now is because, sadly, they are all dead and I am the last one left. They are gone like snow on the water.

Also, I know my friend reads this stupid blog, and I want her to know that in some cases the mind is fragile and cannot stand a shock, but in others - when it is inebriated or poisoned with a drug - the brain is very plastic: anything can happen to it and it springs back into shape. Anything you do then may as well have never happened because the brain is in such a chaotic state it is unable to commit its sensations to memory - not only that but the time leading up to and following the intoxication can also be completely obliterated in the memory.

This is just my own theory on the matter but I had it confirmed to me by the men involved, who I questioned many times over the years about what they remembered of that day. Two of them remembered nothing - not even being in hospital, and the third simply had a vague memory of being on top of a rock and bouncing around like a monkey, leering at the sky. When I asked him how he felt, he said he felt happy, as far as he could remember. I've heard that American Indians and others eat substances like that in order to get the same effects. I can't think why because it looked hellish to me, especially as I'm someone who never likes to lose control of my thoughts and have been known to stop drinking after six or seven pints, for that very reason.

While I was finishing off weeding her garden, I cleared a load of bindweed only to find it was smothering a Datura plant, which is also known as the 'Devil's Trumpet'. It's also poisonous and has psychedelic effects so I decided to rip it up without telling her in case her grandson heard about it and decided to try that as well. In the days I used to go to church, I remember a preacher who said,

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children."

I didn't know what it meant then, but I think I do now. We should all try to help each other, and especially help the weak and the little children.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Netiquette, or 'How not to make threats and aggravate people'

As you can tell, I'm quite new to the blogging thing and the internet. I like the way that you can find out what everyone is thinking and, to me, it's nothing more than the way we used to get together down La Folie after we'd landed our catch and talk over what was happening in the island and give our opinions on different States members and decisions that were made - who was scratching whose back, and so on. But no matter how strong people's opinions were or how much we disagreed, we never fell out over stuff.

Even when we lost our moorings when they built the new marina, I can remember Roy Bullen, who was harbourmaster at the time, having a massive disagreement with Phil Larbalestier that ended with Phil unleashing a barrage of four-letter words towards the corner of the room where nobody was sitting. Of course, Roy took this to be a personal insult towards his good self but we managed to sort the whole problem out with a round of drinks and a shake of hands.

But now you look around at the blogs and because nobody is giving their opinions face to face, they think it is okay to resort to personal insults, sly innuendoes, or downright calumnies. They say stuff that if anyone had said in the back bar of the La Folie they would have been taken outside and flattened and given a dip in the briny for their troubles.

Now I'm not saying that I approve of violence in any form, except maybe when you're landing a six-foot conger that's wriggled off the gaff and has got his teeth in your wellie, but I think that if you're going to discuss politics and politicians, or even the other bloke whose opinion has got your back up, you should keep it polite and stick to the facts.

On other blogs I've seen people referred to as 'nutters', 'spivs', 'criminals', 'dykes', 'a***-lickers', etc, mostly by people who sign themselves as 'Anonymous'. What sort of a way to speak is that? Let me ask you a question: if you worked with someone and they kept referring to other people as 'nutters' or 'spivs', just because they held a different opinion to them, wouldn't you start to think that person themselves had some kind of personal problem, like a chip on their shoulder to do with their own life? I mean, are they so unhappy with their own life that they have to spend their spare time spilling their bile all over the interweb? Happy people just don't go round doing that sort of thing.

My advice is, keep a sunny disposition and look after your friends. The rest of the buggers can take care of themselves.

The only reason I mention this is that recently an acquaintance of mine asked me to look after his blog for a while and approve the comments. I did it for a couple of days but I must say that I was bloody disgusted by the filth that he was receiving. Now it could be that it wasn't real people sending this stuff in - it may have been some kind of spambot offering him Viagra and worse, but I don't understand why someone would send spam saying, 'I hope you die', unless it was from a private funeral agency.

Anyway, I'm just pointing out that you cannot believe everything you read on the internet, and if we had that many anonymous people on this island they'd have to set up a States department for Lost Souls, like in that book by that Russian bloke Googol. So when you read all those comments insulting people, written by people who cannot even spell or punctuate their sentences without using an names mentioned..., just remember that it's not necessarily a real person who wrote it. It's probably some kind of robot that cannot think for itself but is just programmed to repeat the same things over and over again.

If in doubt, find another blog or forum where people actually respond to each other's ideas and try to reach a conclusion, rather than just running round and round each other shouting insults. When I was a kid, if an adult saw a bunch of kids behaving like that, they would've taken them by the scruff of the neck and separated them, whereas now it's the adults who behave like yobs and use foul language and call it 'political debate'.

Blogs like those are bringing the island into disrepute. I would prefer it if, like ancient Athens, the  island became a centre of democratic reasoning and impassioned debate, with people calmly putting forth the old pro and contra. Remember, those are your brothers and sisters you are talking about: tomorrow we could be fighting together against a common enemy, like Sparta (or, more likely, the EU). So say your piece, speak your brains out, but keep it civil. And next time I see you down the Bagot, I'll buy you a drink and shake your hand.

Friday, 27 August 2010

A Little Bit of Pakistan

I wandered down to Charing Cross yesterday and was up to my knees in water. It made me think what it must be like for those poor people in Pakistan. I went home and gave a small contribution to DEC. I notice that over on the mainland the ordinary people have given 30 million and the government has only given about the same. I hope our government in Jersey matches what our public has given, which will be about 90K if everyone gives the same as me. Not a lot to ask, even in these times of austerity.

Talking of government, I saw ex-Senator Stuart Syvret while I was wading across to the post office. He looked quite dejected in the rain, with a crumpled shirt, no wellies, and an old Checkers shopping bag covering his head to keep it dry. Unlike some people on dirty nasty blogs (whose name I will not mention here), I would never kick a man when he's down. In fact, I would never kick a man when he's up, given what happened to me the last time I tried. It was on St Catherine's breakwater and I launched out at a bloke who had taken my spot while I went for a jimmy-riddle. I slipped on some seaweed and broke my wrist and was unable to work for six weeks. It's amazing how misfortune in war can make a man a pacifist.

Anyway, I popped over to speak to Mr Syvret and we had a friendly conversation about his recent travails. I offered him any help I could give him because even though he seems to have a dodgy temperament, he was right on just about everything he said in the States, and since. I know how it goes on this island when you get on the wrong side of the authorities. Don't ask me about my planning application for my Plemont extension and my run in with Senator Le Main, because that's another story which I'll save for a later blog post.

Helping people when they are at a low point, sticking together in times of crisis - those are old-fashioned Jersey qualities. I wish they were a bit more prevalent today. There, but for the grace of God, go I (or Allah, Yahweh, Brahma - whoever tickles your fancy).

Saturday, 3 April 2010


Just into the Easter Holidays and I get a letter through the post telling me I've lost my plastering job. My boss, who is a decent bloke, tells me that the work I did for Dandara was substandard and that the plaster fell off the walls.

It turns out I got the mix wrong and only put in half the amount of lime putty. You can imagine that I'm still in a state of shock and I went and lay down on the couch and thought about how that had happened. It's obvious now that because the measure was in kilos and our scales are in pounds, I just got it wrong. It's a shame it happened then because since then I've got myself a calculator that will do the conversion for me, as well as convert litres into pints. That was the other reason the plaster ended up on the floor.

Anyways, so I rings him up and apologises for calling him on a Saturday and I explained that although I got it wrong before, it was really the fault of the person who started buying from a supplier in France rather than England. Also, I had now learned from my mistakes and had put procedures in place to make sure it wouldn't happen again. I said, "Jim, we are in a different place now and I am confident that the measures I have put in place will ensure that nothing like that happens again."

"Dave," he said, "you are a ****. I'll lose all my business with Dandara unless I sack you. When you cock-up like that, you have to pay the price. I'm sorry mate, but you have to go."

And that was that. I now find myself amongst the ranks of the unemployed, but like Senator Perchard advised all of them last week on Talkback, I'm going to go out and get myself another job. Watch this space!

PS Because this is a family site, I don't allow oaths and swearing so you'll have to guess what he called me.

PPS It seems a bit unfair that I got sacked for not converting between metric and imperial but the bloke who ordered the incinerator and forgot about the exchange rate, losing 9 million quid in the process, gets a promotion. Funny old world!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Dipping my toe in the blogosphere...

A mate of mine at work told me about all this 'citizen journalism'. I looked into it and I'm amazed that anyone can say anything about anything or anyone. Nobody even cares if it's true which I think is not quite right. I know a few things about the Constable of St Saviour which I might tell you down the pub one night but I'm not going to write it down.

I've got a new ormering knife, when I was in Paimpol for the sea-shanty festival (that's my ex-wife's cousin on the right). When the water warms up, I'm going down to Pontac. My cousin says I should wear gloves because of the all that toxic waste coming from La Collette but I told him the Germans dumped all their poison gas canisters in the sea at the end of the war and nothing came of it. The sea can cope with anything - it's the ultimate solution.

I'm not worried, especially as I don't even like ormers. My cousin's neice has a fish restaurant in town so I sell them to her. If I see anyone staggering out of there holding their stomachs, I might start fishing on the north coast instead. LOL

PS If anyone can tell me what LOL, means, I'll send you an ormer.