‘If something went wrong we’d say “10% off crabs and lobster!” Then I’d call the boss up and say stick an extra fiver on the shellfish.’
– a guide to good business management, aboard the ferry to Sark.
My sister and I awake in a cramped one-person tent, that through parsimony and a preference for adventure, we’ve elected to sleep in as we explore the Channel Islands. We’re camped on the north-western edge of Jersey, a pleasant yet surprisingly small island off the coast of France. For some centuries it is has been the possession of the British Crown, and much of its French or Jerriais identity has disappeared over the last fifty years, as English and Scottish migrants have arrived to work in its burgeoning finance sector. The country is a tax haven, though do not expect to see gated mansions or humongous yachts, and those who benefit most from Jersey’s arrangements are also offshore.
‘well what can you do? I’ve given up caring!’
– John’s life-philosophy, in St. Aubin, Jersey.
We awake at Pebble Bank caravan park in Wyke Regis, on the edge of Weymouth, overlooking the small island of Portland and the impressive formation of Chesil Beach in the distance. The caravan park is itself filled with silent, empty static caravans and motor homes, and the occasional grown-up biker with lambretta tattooed on a leg or a Harley tattoo on an arm pops in and utters a gruff hullo as I dress and brush my teeth in the loos. We head out early, hoping to catch the morning’s ferry to Jersey, and we’re joined along the interminable walk through amnesiac suburbia by the occasional schoolkid walking by. Most are being ferried to wherever in huge range rovers that’ve never seen a peaty bog or flooded ford. It’s dullness about us, of a safe and suburban kind that seems homely if a little dispiriting.
Further down the hill we pass Weymouth’s harbour, and cut along St Mary Street and down Custom Quay road towards the ferry port. Walking takes around two and a half times as long as cycling, but we reach the place on time. The cost of the ferries is very high, around £100 each for in effect a return journey and a one-hour crossing between Jersey and Guernsey. Pricey, eh! Given that these are tax haven states, and whose ferry company presumably also benefits from such low taxation,it’s a little frustrating, but not unexpected. This is a part of the world where they will refuse you tap water, remember, citing its cost. People are rich here without having ever sweated in their lives, unless you count that time they struggled to digest a third helping from the local chain pub’s Sunday carvery.