“Oh you’re from Guernsey! Do you guys have internet over there?”—Every Tom.
“Guernsey? Hmmm… I’ve heard of Jersey?”—Every Dick
“Oh you’re from Guernsey! Don’t you all have your own airplanes over there?”—Every Harry.
“Wotcher shag!”—Deadpan. Every time. Shearing the ‘shag’ off of the end the salutation, ‘wotcher’ still often elicits the odd, “Excuse me?” Or plain old, “What?”¹
You only discover just how much Guernsey resides within you when discovering yourself residing without it.
Fifty flights in 2015: I’m worldly and ready for city living! No, you’re not mate. You were an office-bitch tourist and now you are an anonymous student, educationally anchored to a city in which people avoid making eye contact as much as picking up their dog mess. City living can press such cynicism on you right from the off. Samaritans signs splashed across Brighton don’t help: at high points they coax the suicidal to “TALK TO US”, because the low point of city living is that no other fecker will. Helping haul a woman from beyond the railings, over which she’d just hurled herself almost-successfully, contextualised their numerousness.
Drug use and abuse is overtly ubiquitous. We in Guernsey, with our peculiarly draconian drug laws, see it a little less and mainly restrained to the rubberstamped pharmaceuticals thrown by the fistful at the restless and miserable. And, of course, there’s booze.
Brighton likes its booze and all. One drinker told me that his rugger team have a mantra they make well known before each visit to the rocque: Beware the Breda! I treasure that little claim to fame in an odd way, but on the flip side I’d like the bastardisation of this beautiful beer, which makes the morning after two mornings after, ceased at once—because I’m not going to stop feckin’ drinking it.
Brightonians cannot believe the state of affairs in Guernsey concerning the ‘daily bread’ of illegal drugs—marijuana. Hash is big in Guernsey, as old hats and young will know, but it’s still treated as if it were krokodil. It is an especially and perversely messy situation for a number of reasons. The ‘crack’ of Brighton isn’t crack, but legal highs, synthetic cannabinoids. These formerly legally vended poisons with which innocent islanders ruined their mental and physical and social wellbeing, lives on in the lungs of leper-like Englanders. Police treat its possession quite seriously—but you could smoke a joint of Jane in public quite comfortable in the knowledge that police have better things to do.
Not so, in Guernsey. For the low-quality soap-bar hash dealt by the despicable dealers with whom our youth are condemned to contract, expect to pay higher a price than for its equivalent weight in gold (no shit); and a much higher price if you’re caught.
The Victor Hugo you see above, from www.visitguernsey.com, is possibly stoned, and on hash no less! Member of the Club des Hachichins (literally: Hash Club), Hugo was an avid hash smoker and used it, as many do, to both relax and think sideways: as his fellow hashie Gautier said, the “intellectual intoxication” was not even comparable to the “ignoble heavy drunkenness” of booze.
I wonder what Hugo might say: if he knew one would receive a fine and have their money seized and be imprisoned like some actual wrongdoer, for puffing on a little pot. In particular, I wonder why and how a cancer curing plant can still be considered so irrationally taboo, when Guernsey men and women fuck and fight each other like ferals every weekend on ye olde Breda, yer.
Verging on the political there—not where I want nor intend to be. I came to this city thinking I might become a political commentator or journalist, even writing an article imploring people to pay attention to politics. And I didn’t read a newspaper online or in print last year, nor will I in this! Life’s too short to be bothered about things that you can’t and won’t change anyway. I didn’t have anybody to speak politics to in Guernsey. Studying Philosophy, Politics and Ethics in Brighton’d be the ideal experience and outlet. But, alas, the whole charade rang hollow and hollower. The rich get richer; the poor poorer. Students are mostly busied by iPhones, identity politics and paying their way through extortionate existences.
Before calling it a day on bollotics², I would read about half a dozen news sites each and every morning, first thing in a coffeeshop. The routine was not just mine to perform solo. Seemingly purposively, I’d hear the echoes of the words which I’d just read, an echo chamber of bollitical aphorisms, having me question my sanity. People don’t even speak their own words because they’ve not their own thoughts to articulate. Like a broken record, but it’s not: it’s just one continually replaced with nigh-on identical ones; just press play and repeat. Like chart music—you hear it enough and you start taking it seriously.
Guerns, for the most part, are apolitical, and for that I love them. What a joy it is to return to a rock where people don’t harbour pretences of knowing what’s really going on. All one need know: that life’s a bitch for the best of us and striving and chirping your way through it, smiling as if it isn’t, is the best and only way forward. Not putting up signs at university proclaiming “ACAB [all cops are bastards]” and “Love Trump’s Hate” etcetera, we’re all so oppressed, and so on, ad feckin’ nauseam. (I’m not sure kids know how to have fun anymore.)
Early starts in Guernsey, if I can rescue one from out of Breda’s booby traps, are sublime. And I mean precisely that: sublime, wondrous, inexplicably moving. Rising to sights of humans sleeping on shit-strewn pavements, sounds of groaning buses, smells of the stale, stultifying city; falling to the monotony of car engines, the cacophony of British bawling and brawling; citynicism³ will inevitably chafe. Sitting on a bench overlooking Chouet headland at sunrise, feeling the waves crashing over and cleansing my city-frazzled consciousness, seeing not a soul but a lone dog-walker (taking the time to introduce himself and his dog), smelling fresh and salty air; lying in a bed to the first sleepy silence I might have heard in months. It’s eerie at first, peacefulness. It gives me goosebumps just writing it, but I do so to a chorus of cars chasing past my window; a derelict church hall just out of gaze, in which a couple, one of their parents and a dog have broken in and squatted. They were padlocked in there by the council yesterday.
I think I was fairly close to wrapping it up there, before receiving a call from a friend in Brighton who lives on the streets, telling me to come down (to their pitch) quick because someone’s attacked their dog. You couldn’t write this shit. Some drunk threw a kick and hit the dog in the jaw and made off. The owner is a superlatively kind and cheerful man, homeless for nearly the majority of his 40 years, learning disabilities, anxious about and obviously terrified for his dog’s life. The dog’s sound as the proverbial pound though, he proved by jumping on me, licking my face, biting my arm playfully—happy days. Sit at the pitch for a bit. Amongst the general Friday furore, a single and incessant manic-sounding voice can be heard shouting, distressing my friend. He asks me to go and look what’s going on. The man’s voice, beginning to break under the strain, is coming from a doorway across and down the road so I jog over and have a look. It’s a fully grown man wearing what looks like a dress, rubbing his hands together hysterically, shouting and gesticulating at, well, nothing. (It’s much more common than it might sound, Guernsey readers.) I walk over and offer a “Wotcher buddy!” Instantaneously, he desists, “Hello I’m Matthew”, and starts banging on about my beard and how his used to be ginger before he shaved it, “You must be a Celt man!” I reply, “Yeah, I’m half-Irish, from Guernsey, studying in Brighton.” Cue his own life story: homeless in a series of cities before settling here one year back. Hopefully not in that God forsaken doorway.
City life is interesting, one can at least say, but novelty doesn’t make social and financial poverty any the less jarring. Fuck me do I sometimes look forward to sitting on a bench, overlooking a bay, suffering for Breda and simply, peacefully being.
“Repudiation of the present cultural morass presupposes sufficient involvement in it to feel it itching in one’s finger-tips”—Adorno
¹ Interestingly discovered in a seminar on linguistics today that ‘Wotcher’ is likely derived from a medieval greeting ‘What Cheer’.
² Bollocks: politics.
³ City wrought cynicism.
After deleting Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which I used to publicise this site, visits dropped considerably. If you enjoyed this article, I’d really appreciate your sharing it on social media. Peace and chirps, Liam.