Thursday, 7 February 2013

Bench town St Helier - with Meredith

Following the earlier problems with Eddie, my Inner Editor, for our Bench Town this month I have appointed a guest editor. 

This is Meredith. 

She comes highly recommended as she has previously edited both Mathematica Felinica and The Litter Tray Times. I'm hoping that with Meredith's help I can avoid the usual faffing about before getting to the point, which is to show you the wonderful range of benches in the chosen Bench Town.

Our Bench Town this month is St. Helier in the Channel Islands.

Meredith: What channel would that be?

The English Channel. There are five Channel Islands and St. Helier is on the tiny island of Jersey, which is off the coast of Normandy in France.

I thought Jersey was in the United States.

Yes, but that's New Jersey. This is old Jersey.

Just how old is it?


So St. Helier is in Jersey, which is in France. Or is it in England?

Neither. It's a country in its own right. It's called The Jersey States.

Which state? Old Jersey? Or New Jersey?

Meredith, I think we should probably move on. I've got a lot of benches to do.

Suit yourself. 

My best imaginary friend Miggy and I went to Jersey very recently. 

We flew right over the Isle of Wight.

Is the Isle of Wight one of the Channel Islands?

No. It's in England.

Why is it here?

I just thought it looked pretty from the air.

Would it be too much to ask to see a picture of Jersey?

Here is a picture of Jersey.

So this is St. Helier.

No, actually, it's Gorey, north of St. Helier.

Why is it here?

Because it gives a flavour of what Jersey is like.

Speaking of flavour, have you got any tuna?

I'm going to ignore that. 

The tides are very extreme in the Channel Islands, by which I mean extremely high and extremely low. 

This makes for some very big beaches at low tide. Here is Miggy on the beach in Guernsey.

The beach doesn't look that big. And what, pray tell, is Guernsey?

It's another one of the Channel Islands.

Why is it here?

Because you know how I love swimming? I wanted to show you one of the wonderful tidal swimming pools which fill with water on every high tide.


 This pool will be entirely empty at low tide. It will be a rocky beach.

Trust me, no one is interested in this.

I am. Swimmers are. People from St. Helier are.

Anyway. Swimming is a big deal in the Channel Islands. In St. Helier there are plaques built into the seawall to commemorate the brave souls who swim round-the-island; it takes ten or eleven hours and it's very, very dangerous. 

We'll have to take your word for it since we can't read the plaques. You didn't bother to get close enough and focus the camera. 

Fair enough, Meredith. My career as a photographer has been a bit of a blur.

You should see the photograph I took of the lovely bench girl in the St. Helier Library.

Don't give up your day job. 

Have a heart, Meredith. I'm just getting used to this new camera.

I did better keeping focus on these benches.

Is this a bench? It looks like a concrete barrier to prevent erosion.

Well, yes, it is. But it's right on St. Helier's main beach and many people use it to sit on.

I sit on the roof of the car. That doesn't make it a bench.

Meredith, I'm not very happy about having this picture of you in here. This is a blog about benches. 

Does the expression talk to the paw mean anything to you?

It doesn't.

Here are some very nice wavy benches in Les Jardins de la Mer. 

I suppose they speak French in St. Helier do they? 

They don't. It's just that a lot of place names in Jersey are still in Jerriais, for example streets are called Rue. And a lot of Jersey people have Jerriais last names. 

I think you ought to get on with the benches, non?

Yes. There are a lot of benches like this because it's very windy in the Channel Islands so holidaymakers often need to seek shelter.

This beach shelter looks like it's tipping over.

My photography again. Sorry.

St. Helier is a small town chock full of benches. There are rows and rows of benches along the Esplanade.

There are rows of benches in the parks.

And there are rows of benches right in the centre of town. 

Is this the centre of town?

You know it isn't.

These are the brand new Queen's Jubilee benches in King Street.

Which King would that be?

Some English king. 

So the Queen's benches are in King Street?


Do they have the King's Jubilee benches in Queen Street?

There isn't a King's Jubilee. No king has lived long enough.

I'm feeling like that right now. 

OK, here are some very nice circular benches opposite the post office.

And in 2011 St. Helier bought 50 brand new benches from a company called Benchmarks. Here are some of the Benchmarks benches in the square off Rue Mulcaster Street.

I have found a basket and I am going to sit this one out.

Meredith, you are being paid as a guest editor. Please follow me in this tour of St. Helier's benches. Otherwise I will have to put you on Garden Leave with Eddie. 

I think you have mistaken me for someone who cares.

Come on, I'm going to show you some really cool cows.

Are they pink?

No, they're normal cow colours.

I'm partial to pink cows.

Or blue.

Channel Islands cows are not pink and blue.

Well, carry on without me then. 

Here are some cows. 

Jersey is famous for its cows. Great ice cream!

It's famous for business too. Smartly dressed businessmen cows like to sit on their benches and check the financial markets.

That goes for businesswomen cows too, of course. 

There are a lot of offshore transactions which attract people to careers in finance, law, and insurance. There are lots of very posh bank buildings and indeed some very posh benches.

It's a coincidence that the German word for bench is bank. 

The Channel Islands were occupied by German soldiers during World War II. Here are the Jersey War Tunnels which were dug by hand by slave labourers.

Although The Channel Islands were British territories, when Jersey was invaded in June 1940 Churchill famously wrote, "Let 'em starve. No fighting. They can rot at their leisure." 

With allies like that, who needs enemies?

This is Liberation Square, where they celebrate Liberation Day every May 9th. There are loads of benches in the square.

Here is the very old Green Street Cemetery which is called the green lung of St. Helier. There are benches here too, very simple stone ones.

It's where a lot of Jerriais people are buried. Fascinating headstones. I know, Meredith, you're going to tell me I need to get out more. 

And there used to be an aluminium man who sat calmly on this rock outside the Ogier Building on the Esplanade. But sadly be got beheaded by youths in November 2011 so now he sits inside the building. 

sculpture by Mariele Neudecker

Goes to show that even a good Bench town has its share of violence.

Finally, I couldn't resist this little bench at a very busy road junction in St. Helier. From the bench there's nothing to look at: it's noisy, fume-filled, and traffic comes whizzing around the corner at speed. Even so, the powers that be in St. Helier have thoughtfully provided a bench. 

I can't think who would want to sit here. Can you, Meredith?




The aluminium man is a sculpture by Mariele Neudecker at

Miggy and I stayed, as always, at the much-revered Revere Hotel in Kensington Place, St. Helier.

It is small and cozy and has red furniture and the most delightful staff*.

* This is beginning to sound like advertising. And the photographs are blurry again. You're rubbish.

Channel Islands ice cream is um, very creamy. For the creme-de-la-creme of ice cream benches, see

Cliff Dix keeps has a great eye for cows. Indeed he has a whole album dedicated to the Atlanta Cow Parade in 2003.   Here you will see cows of every description - hospital cows, shoe cows, watermelon cows, Elton John cows, and every kind of lovely decorated cow you can imagine. None of these are benches though. The cow reading a newspaper on a bench is the ING bench cow, at

The cow/girl on a bench reading a newspaper in a shopping center was photographed in 2010 by Daniel, aka parascubasailor, who lives in Thonon in France (near Geneva)  and has taken quite a few cow photos.  Daniel quotes from Mark Twain in his profile: You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

For more great cow benches, we've got the cream of bovine benches at

Swimming is great in the Channel Islands and I am a very keen swimmer. You can see my swimming bench at    Better still, here is a tribute to all swimmers and their benches

Just in case you think St Helier doesn't look like paradise, here's a link to my own benches here on Paradise Island

Many thanks to Boo and Melissa. As top-class models I am grateful that they were prepared to get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars a day.  

For more cat stories edited by Meredith see Cat Benches for World Cat Day or see how she ruined helped with my piano bench story. And just to get my own back on her, here's a blog about dog benches. So there.

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