Recently there’s been a proliferation of organizations working to feed the medical front line as they care for the overwhelming volume of sick patients. I came across one in Jersey and thought that would be a cool place to go visit so Feed Our Frontline and the lovely island of Jersey get the spotlight today.
No, not NEW Jersey. Jersey. The original Jerz. As in one of the Channel Islands. The other large Channel Island you might have heard of is Guernsey.
Feed Our Frontline provides meals to healthcare workers while also supporting local restaurants. They work with area hospitals to identify those with the greatest need. Meals can be purchased for individuals as well as their families. Service has been expanded to include the elderly and vulnerable individuals across the islands. A U.S.-based organization, Off Their Plate, is doing similar work, simultaneously feeding the front line while providing employment to hourly shift workers at restaurants.
Ever since I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (which I highly recommend) I have been fascinated with these islands floating out in the English Channel in between France and England. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live on an island. Okay, I can imagine it, but I can’t imagine actually doing it myself.
So I think about these places and wonder what it must be like to live there in general, but specifically what it must have been like to live there when they were occupied by the Germans in World War II and now what it must be like to live there during a pandemic. I can’t decide if we all live on islands now or if that sensation of nowhere to run would be all the more intense on an island. I imagine that the impacts of a pandemic would be experienced exponentially on an island where there are more personal connections to families for generations, more limited supply lines coming from offshore, possibly more likelihood of the virus just being passed around and around (not sure, I am not an epidemiologist, just speculating).
A bit of history – both Jersey and Guernsey are closer to France than to England but speak English as their primary language (though a portion of the population does also still speak their own version of French (Jerriais or Guernesiais)). From what I understand, because it’s a little complicated, the islands are parliamentary representative democracies and British Crown dependencies. They are fairly self-run, doing their own thing in terms of governance and trade, but at the same time they are preparing for Brexit and are protected by the UK in terms of defense. It’s beyond the scope of my brain capacity at this exact moment to delve deeper into that. Maybe I will at another point in history when I am not interrupted every 5 minutes and then suddenly two days goes by between my last cohesive thought and my next one. Both islands use the British Pound for currency and have the same international calling code as the UK (44). They simultaneously have French influence so you can get your baguette and cafe and then run down the street for some fish and chips.
Fun facts: Jersey has toads and snakes on it but Guernsey doesn’t. Victor Hugo spent many years in exile on both Jersey and Guernsey. And they also have a bit of a reputation for being tax havens, but let’s not dwell on that for the moment.
I have yet to make it to the Channel islands myself, but in 2016 I had a neat email encounter with a Guernsian who runs a robust shop on rue de L’Epinal in Forest, Guernsey, called Ounsworth Decor. If you know me, you’ll know why that caught my eye.
I had just finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society again and this time did a little google search to learn more about the island. I reached out to the shop to ask about the shop’s history and the island itself and was delighted to receive a reply. From that, I learned that Guernsey is 30 square miles with a population of 63,000. Most “Guerns” originate in Normandy, France (though the founder of Ounsworth Decor came from Yorkshire, England).
They speak English with a Cornish/Australian accent. There is a local dialect called Guernesiais which was spoken by most islanders up until the first world war. There is a strong Breton (Brittany in France) connection. With regards to sport Guerns always support England but that doesn’t stop some from having a strong French connection. A lot of locals have property in France. Guernsey has their own football team (soccer), Guernsey FC, that play in the UK league.
All goods come to Guernsey from the UK and they use the Guernsey Pound on the island. It is however not valid in the UK, though the UK Pound is valid in Guernsey. Guernsey is was never part of the EU, though the UK was/is?
So, there you have it! A little window into an unfamiliar world. And, by the way, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is now a film. It’s filmed in Cornwall, England, but unless you live on Jersey or Guernsey you likely won’t know the difference.
Stay well, stay home.
You will be alright.