Sunday, 10 June 2012

It Shouldn’t Happen to a Sailor (7)

Or in this case maybe it should!

The tiny island of Jersey, where I spend a good deal of time, is home to a small community of 90,000. The Island measures 9 miles by five at high tide and gains an additional 44 square miles of sand and rock at low tide. The inhabitants owe allegiance to the Queen of England but not her government. Essentially in all matters other than foreign policy they are independent. The Island is 90 miles south of the UK but only 14 miles from the French coast. As you can imagine, there is a strong French influence and there are families here who can trace their ancestry back to William the Conqueror. Much of the local legal system is based on old Norman French law too. One throwback to the old Norman times is the system of policing used in the Island.

The system works like this. Each Parish (there are twelve) elects a Constable who is responsible for law and order in his parish. The Constable is ‘elected and unpaid’. In order to fulfil his duties he has a team of voluntary Centeniers, each one theoretically responsible for the good behaviour of one hundred families. To assist in carrying out his duties , each Centenier has a team of voluntary Vingteniers responsible for twenty parish families. Their prime duty is to prevent crime. This is no easy job; if they are ‘too eager and enthusiastic’ they are not re-elected. If they are ‘too laid-back or lazy’ they are not re-elected. They walk a fine tightrope.

Davy, has a Channel Island 22 which he uses for crabbing and the occasional trip to France to replenish his supply of red wine and calvados, a sort of fire-water made from apples.Each Spring he takes the boat from his back yard down to the harbour and each Autumn he brings her back to overwinter.

So his road trailer makes four three mile trip each year. A couple of years ago, he became worried that the trailer may no longer be ‘street’ legal. The tyres were bald, the salt had seized the brakes, the brake lights didn’t work and the whole rig was covered in salt induced rust stains. What to do?

He called the local Constable who arranged to visit him and inspect the trailer. The constable brought the Centenier, who brought the Vingtenier with him and the three voluntary officials carried out a thorough inspection. 

        ‘Ah Davy, you have a problem here’, pronounced the Constable. ‘Look here, the tyres are bald, the salt has seized the brakes, the brake lights don’t work and the whole rig is covered in salt induced rust stains. This trailer is illegal. It’s dangerous - that’s what it is’

        ‘I know’, said Davy, ‘that’s why I brought you here. It’s March already and the crabs will be coming in by April, can’t miss the season, what am I going to do?’

The police officers agreed that this was indeed a serious problem and took themselves off out of ear-shot to determine what should be done.

After a few moments they returned
        ‘Well Davy, this is a serious problem’ said the Constable in his most grave and authoritative tone ‘Here’s what you must do. Firstly, you move the boat slowly, at six O clock on Sunday morning when there won’t be too many people about.’

        ‘That’s all very well,’ said Davy, but what if someone reports me? I might get into trouble.’

        ‘It won’t be a problem.’ Said the Constable, ‘we’ll give you a police escort’.

Now why can’t all policemen think that way?

Seaward