COMMENT: 'We have more in common than that which divides us'

NOT surprisingly, given that all but one of the thinkers and drinkers group down at the pub are red blooded crapauds – and the one exception has a record of honorary service to Jersey that would put most Jerseymen to shame – the subject of Guernsey being voted (or selected) the best island, with Jersey nowhere to be seen in the league table, raised its unpleasant head recently.

COMMENT: 'We have more in common than that which divides us'

The discussion came about following the publication of a letter in this newspaper agreeing with the findings and highlighting how much more attractive St Peter Port is when compared with St Helier and the banter became all the more interesting when a couple of blokes sitting at a nearby table were seen nodding in agreement at some of the points being made.

It soon became clear that they weren't local, and particularly so when the issue of office blocks on the Waterfront, and in particular the Esplanade area, was being criticised and one of them pointed out that everyone in our group must be able to remember what a mess the 'gateway to Jersey' used to be when visitors getting off the mailboat were greeted by the sight of a slaughter house followed by dozens of spud and tomato stores no matter which way they turned.

I have to say that whatever you think of the current development, it's a lot preferable to what existed throughout the 1940s and 50s and well into the 60s, although saying something is better than its mediocre predecessor isn't necessarily the highest accolade you can give it.

It was generally agreed within this now temporarily extended group that when it came to approaching each island from the sea then St Peter Port won that particular round of the bout by a country mile, although it was again pointed out by our new found friends that if the cobbles were removed from what is effectively the Guernsey capital's sole shopping street then it wouldn't be much different from any other town of comparable size in the British Isles.

We then got on to the subject of each town's markets and the other bloke who until then had been quite quiet suddenly said – to the astonishment of most of us – that when it came to that then Jersey's two were both in a league of their own 'as they've killed our market off by modernising it'. It was the use of the word 'our' that caused the jaws to drop because we'd just had the better part of an hour of extremely civilised debate about the merits or otherwise of each of the principal Channel Islands with a couple of Guernseymen.

It's actually quite an eye opener to reflect now on what we all managed to agree upon and particularly when we were criticising our own islands. I was particularly struck with their praise for our country parishes and condemnation of the ribbon development of Guernsey, where the majority of roads in rural areas are lined with bungalows.

I suppose it was inevitable that we'd discuss transport links between the islands and the desirability of inter-island sea services, and again there was an interesting idea from one of the Guernsey blokes. He referred to the Manche Iles Express which, according to their website, operate to and from a number of French ports and all the Channel Islands with the exception of Herm and suggested that at the very least the governments of Jersey and Guernsey should get together and talk to them

That said, Guernsey's Economic Development president Deputy Peter Ferbrache has already kicked the idea of co-operating with Jersey on an inter-island venture with Condor into touch so it's doubtful that he'd want to do anything with another company, despite Manche Iles being itself assisted by the French departmental government for the Manche region. Still, as my mate who lives in Guernsey said when we spoke about it last week, perhaps that will allow Deputy Ferbrache a little more time to practise his ballroom dancing, he apparently having waltzed his way to fame in that island's version of Strictly, Come Dancing a few years ago.

Whatever the eventual outcome, at least Jersey's thinkers and drinkers and their recently acquired firm friends from Guernsey have demonstrated that, just as the late Jo Cox so wisely remarked, 'we have more in common than that which divides us'.

And finally…If there is to be more protection for the areas around the Minquiers and Ecrehous, I hope someone tells the French fishermen.

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