A LETTER FROM THE CHANNEL ISLANDS.
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
SIR,—The heading of this letter is, I must first explain, quite misleading ; because actually I am not worrying about the Channel Islands at all. I have no more ideas than you have as to what is happening in Jersey, Guernsey, or Alderney at this moment : and I do not want to know. - On a fine July evening in Sark one simply is not interested in other places, even to please editors ; and that is that. Besides, important things, really important things, nothing to do with politics or new bank buildings and so on—have happened here to-day, Sir : as you will certainly agree when I tell you about them.
There was first the dawn ; not just any old dawn, but the dawn over Sark, which is quite a different thing. It was the colour of wild geraniums ; and I saw it, as I do not invariably; because James II., a fisherman, threw a stone up at my cottage window and said " Mackerel ! " in a deep, throaty voice that it was impossible to ignore. In ten minutes' time I was following James II. through a honeysuckle lane down to the sea ; and there the dawn was, just beginning to stain palely a sheet of greyish-silver beyond the rocks. And two' little white fishing boats were already out in it, dabbling
about like ducks. - •
James II. and I hurried down to the harbour—which, as you may know, Sir, is approached through a tunnel in the rock, and is claimed to be the smallest in the world—pulled smartly out to our own little white boat, and prepared to get under way. James II., unfortunately, is not an engineer—in Sark nowadays we fish from motor boats, not so romantic as the old method but quicker once the engine is started—and we lost a quarter of an hour before he discovered that the petrol wasn't turned on. But once we did get going there was no stopping us. When blue day came an hour or so later we had caught ninety odd mackerel, all a-glitter like live opals of the sea, and had loaded them into the Guernsey steamboat, to be sold at 3d. a pair, or thereabouts ; I forget the exact figure. In Sark mackerel fluctuate like bulls and bears, or whatever they are, on the Stock Exchange. Sometimes they may almost be said to be the local currency. Fish* are very important indeed to a little island entirely surrounded by them.
Though I do not find that the guide books have much to say about it, another most important thing in Sark is the cave of sea anemones. One should go there, as I did this forenoon, at half-tide, when some of the anemones are under water, some sparkling in a silver daylight, others- glowing like lamps in the green gloom of the cave, with the water dripping from them. They are' of all colours, these sea- flowers, of emerald-green and s jade-green, rose-red and blood-red and dove's-foot pink, russet and amber and orange, even a deep clear violet, and they glow with a clearer radiance than any jewels do. They stud the walls of the cave in thousands, so that in some places you cannot see the surface of the rock for them. You can spend a whole forenoon very pleasurably indeed doing nothing but looking in at the cave of sea anemones.
In the afternoon all Sark bathes ; except the fishermen, who see no sense in unnecessary immersions in salt water. And no island in the world has so many bathing coves per square mile of ground. People are always telling me how many scores of miles Sark is in circumference, a colossal number which I do not remember at the moment. But you can walk across the island in a quarter of an hour, and from end to end in not much over twice that time. The coastline is a bewilderment of little golden creeks and deep- water inlets. So that whichever way the wind blows there is always some sheltered corner to be found.
Sark needs its myriad little coves and bays, for it becomes popular in summer, and I am sorry to have to record, Sir, that even here, in this isle of flowers, we are not wholly free of the bungalow disease. There are, too, one or two hotels which pride themselves on being modern ; but nobody of any sense stays in them. And Sark will doubtless remain Sark so long as its people have the good sense to forbid the landing of motor cars on the island. What a joy it is to walk on roads where all the vehicles one meets are drawn by pleasant, noiseless quadrupeds !
The only way in which the natives really keep pace with the march of so-called progress is in the installation of wireless. If every cottage is not fitted with wireless to-day, next year or the year after the last few little conservative strongholds will surrender ; and I don't blame them. In the autumn and winter sea-mists descend on Sark and stir not for days on end, or the sea is so rough that no boat can come near the harbour. Then the wireless sets are in use all day and half the night, tuned in to London or Paris indifferently by these cheerful bi-lingualists. Some, I think, still prefer the French to the British, but most are very proud of England their colony, and are charmingly fascinated by the thought Of being in such close touch with London.
Only this evening, as we were out by the moaning buoy hoist- ing lobster pots, James II. was talking to me confidentially about his war experiences ; though, indeed, he soon forgot about all that when a cuttle-fish was brought up in one of the pots. " Urr—the beast I There'll be no more lobsters here to-day, you'll see." And there were not. But we took up, amongst other things, two fine fat red-backed crabs. And at this moment, as I sit here looking down over the sweeps of sloe-bushes that will yield such a fine blue-black crop for gin-making in September, I am thinking very particularly about one of those fat red-backed crabs. James IL's wife is cooking it for me. Wishing myself therefore a most excellent and hearty supper (since there is no one else to do so)i—I am, Sir, &C., YOUR CORRESPONDENT IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS.