The Prehistory - 29th February
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Wednesday 28th January

On 28th Jan, I took the opportunity to pop in to the debate on members' pay.

A friend of mine works in the local media, watching the States and during January's debate regarding the pay for States members, we joked that, now that pay for States members will be almost a living wage, we should both stand for office. I say almost because the basic pay is still £5000 short of what was recently published as the average wage in the island - and for a single person wanting to get a mortgage, still sadly inadequate, even with a 5x multiplier, when the cheapest flat on the market is around the £150k mark. We laughed.

Tuesday 17th February
The Steps Meeting

The next time the idea came up was at a STEPS meeting. I'm very keen to increase the respect we should show for pedestrians and cyclists. I have visited a few countries in my time and, the poorer and less developed the country, the more likely it is that the law of the jungle reigns on the streets. In India, the Far East and South America, the pedestrian comes at the very bottom of the pecking order - and better beware! At the other end of the scale, in the some of the most forward-thinking and civilised towns in Europe, the order of priorities is reversed - pedestrians come first, next cyclists, then motorbikes, etc..

The STEPS meeting was fortunate enough to see a lovely presentation from Vic Froome of La Société Guernesiaise about country walkways which he has been developing for several years with varied degrees of success. His slides showed us views of woodlands and hedgerows which we would see all the time, if we took the time to look. It was, as he put it, a trip back to childhood: there were close-ups of tree bark, fungi and leaves which you only get to see if you stop, get your knees dirty and take a closer look.

Vic told us that a recent survey undertaken by the Société showed that tree coverage in Guernsey is 3%! How can we tell the Indonesians not to cut down their forests with statistics like that in our own island? He advocates walking - to and from school, to and from town, walking for the pleasure of walking and he is full of ideas for peaceful, rural routes for the purpose, he has, for instance, put together a proposal for a path from Delancey Park down to St Sampson's harbour. All good stuff - great for traffic reduction and the rejuvenation of The Bridge.

At the end of his talk, we asked a few questions and I wanted to know what we could do ourselves to further these laudable aims. But things happen slowly in Guernsey and Vic seemed to have the network - and the patience - he needed. Afterwards, the gentleman sitting next to me - who turned out to be a member of the States - introduced himself and we chatted for a while. It wasn't very long before he suggested that I stand for deputy and asked in which parish I lived. "St Martins," I said - which seemed to be a good answer.

He suggested that I attend the education presentation on Thursday evening and the States debate next week to see if I could picture myself sitting in the chamber. Might as well, I thought. I've never been into the public gallery before...

Wednesday 18th February
Peoples' meeting, Haute Capelles School

Education was the main topic of debate tonight and what I now know to be many of the usual faces were there. Apart from the penchant of some of them to bang on about their own views, rather than listening to the views of the public, these members are to be commended. They are the real attenders, the hard workers, the most committed of the States members. By what excuse do most of our deputies absent themselves from these meetings?

My theory about their need to talk rather than listen is this: they feel that most of their work (in the chamber) isn't being noticed by the people. The poor sausages want to communicate with the public - and they want some feedback! If I was in the States, that would be the first issue I would address!

Thursday 19th February
Education presentation, Candie Museum

Advisory and Finance member, Bill Bell chaired the meeting and Oxford Consulting Group presented their findings. What a bore! Spreadsheets and graphs abound. £40 000 pounds worth of figures and graphs and not one mention of the quality of education for the children all of this will concern!

Unsurprisingly, there was not a little chagrin directed at the consultants and at the chairman from the people who attended.

The chairman was dismissive of many members of the public who prefaced their comments with an explanation of their connections to education. There were many teachers there, but should we dismiss their views because they are teachers? One of the very valid criticisms levelled at the report was that educationalists weren't consulted. That their views should be dismissed even now shows a lack of respect which is rather shocking. Yes, these people care about education - enough to spend an evening of their time attending this presentation - and enough to devote their lives to teaching! We should applaud them and listen to them especially attentively, not dismiss their opinions as partial!

Again, those few hard-working deputies were in attendance, including the deputy I'd met at the STEPS meeting.

My friend in the media was there too and we adjourned to the Cock & Bull afterwards to listen to some folk music.

Monday 23th

My confidence waxes and wanes. I've got a list of things to do - including starting a web log of my experiences which will probably be too honest and getting my photo taken on the cliffs in a Tony Blair-esque striding meaningfully forward pose with a cheeky grin on my face for all those housewives. The week after that, I have to start canvassing on the doorstep ...

Tuesday 24th
Wednesday 25th
States in session - 1st day

The education debate today. There was some resistance, mostly from the A&F/Bill Bell camp (though it was heartening to see Laurie Morgan voting in favour of investment) but most of the members were in favour of honouring their promise and carrying the plans to invest in schools through. I'm amazed at the readiness of some members to treat those who "fail" the 11+ as less worthy of investment. Surely a strong case could be made for the reverse!

The irony is, in 2001, when the States rejected the original Education Board proposals to move towards a comprehensive system, costs were bound to rise. The proposals were to have a total of three schools in the island so two new ones were required; now the island needs a total of four, including the Grammar School, so you need three. QED. You can't have your cake and eat it too, Bill.

Thursday 26th
States in session - 2nd day
Friday 27th
Saturday 28th
Sunday 29th
The political pow-wow.
Leap year day - women can propose to men today.