Tuesday, 21 April 2020

28 Days Later

As of midnight tonight it's been 28 days since Sark went in to almost total lock-down.

Unlike in most places even the two food stores were closed with only home deliveries being permitted to make sure people could still eat. Which is nice. Trouble is that many of the islanders work on the island doing things that just were no longer allowed, whether this be on the land, in bars, restaurants, shops and even, of course, hotels.

I'll come back to hotels.

I make the place sound like a heaving metropolis, but it's really not. The point is that there are an awful lot of people on the island that suddenly couldn't work and, unlike in many places, there is next to nothing by way of support. Don't get me wrong, you should be aware of this when you live here, but it's still a stark and difficult situation here.

But it gets worse.

Sark has been both blessed and cursed. Blessed because, so far, there have been no positive cases of the Novel Coronavirus on the island. But similarly, cursed. Cursed because how on earth do you re-open the doors to a place that makes a great deal of its annual income from spring and summer tourism when by doing so you bring the risk of exposing the small population to something they've potentially not been exposed to before. It's true that some work has been permitted to restart, but even that comes with restrictions.

But what about me?

Well, in the first instance, I'm fortunate in that I work remotely and from home, so in many ways I'm unaffected. But the impact is no less apparent. I would be lying if I said I'm fine, I'm really not. In the same way that anyone in isolation isn't going to be fine. The escape is to go walking, for no more than two hours of course, however as that invariably means I'm walking with no conversation other than the thoughts in my head, even that is getting a little old.

I'm really bored of the thoughts in my head.

It's true that I'm quite capable of being relatively isolated for long periods, normally I'm happy in my own company. This is different. This has no apparent ending, no release, no plans to look forward to. As I said to my mother on Sunday, I'm taking it one day at a time, sticking with a strict regime of waking at dawn, starting work and not thinking of what the next day won't bring.

As things were beginning to grow difficult through February, I was quite aware that plans would fail to materialise. So I made alternate plans. For instance, back to the hotels, it was my Sark anniversary on the 20th of March, I toyed with various ideas but settled on booking a table pour une, pull on my glad rags, throw my heels in Imogen's basket and head off to Stocks Hotel for an evening of decadence and fine wines. Perfect.

And then Stocks, quite rightly, announced that they had taken the unilateral decision to close their doors until the end of May. Bugger. Okay, fine, pizza in the Bel Air it is then!

Or so I thought.

During the day of the 20th there was a Bailiwick wide order brought in to close all pubs etc. as of 18:30 that day. Okay, fine, I'll raid the freezer and drink cheap wine. It's almost the same.

Spoiler: it wasn't.

The next big plan was of what to do about my birthday in May. The original vague plans to do something somewhere are almost certainly on ice. Stocks is out as they are closed to the end of May. The pubs? Well, no idea. So I suspect it will be me, Monty the Bear and a bottle of whatever plonk I can get, along with a burrito at that fine authentic Mexican place, Casa Contrary.

Hmm, it'll be a little like my 49th when I took myself off to Venice, alone (if you ignore said bear), because I was determined to do what *I* wanted to do for the first time ever.

Venice is definitely out.

Also on ice was the plan to put Marlene back on the road, do a mini-roadtrip visiting friends and family in the UK before importing her to Guernsey and finding a nice place for her to live ready for jaunts over to France and, hopefully, the next Contrary Roadtrip. Not going to happen.

And France is currently out too. As is the UK, and I'm not that keen on going there.

Tricky.

I'm a very shy individual. I tend to keep myself to myself and other than brief conversations in the pub, I will happily sit in the corner reading whilst sipping a glorious glass of cold Rocquette's fine cider. It's not helped by the fact that I spend the working week alone, and working, so don't really have anything interesting to talk about. Can you imagine how little I have to talk about now after more than four weeks of almost zero human contact. Which is making writing surprisingly difficult to do.

I've managed to find things with which to entertain myself, of course, I've spent time exploring the virtual worlds as I can't travel for real, this in itself has made a nice change from just making stuff for sale or by commission. There's been lots of Netflix and Prime, needless to say. Though, unlike most of Twitter, I've only managed to get through 6 bottles of wine over the last four weeks.

Unlike the film, 28 Days Later, there is no script to follow, no spoilers or alternate ending. My life currently feels like a Belgian Art House movie where little seems to happen and I'm not sure what the plot is, though the main character is seem to be getting a little more raggedy as time goes on.

So as the clocks in the house tick towards midnight and, without ceremony, mark the end of the first 28 days, I shall head to bed, and no doubt dream of journeys.

Journeys that, for now, I can no longer take.


Sunday, 22 March 2020

So you want to move to Sark?

It's been a year and a day two days since I moved to Sark, rather disappointingly I've not written about it much other than my decision to move here and that first 100 days. Oh, and what happened when my well went dry... To be fair to myself, the wandering one, and other half of Contrary Towers, also hasn't written much, but then she writes for a living and is happily ensconced in Croatia.

I've had a lot of comments on Twitter about the move, change in lifestyle and, inevitably given the current pandemic, how I'm fortunate to be in such a safe place. Indeed, as I write, we are fortunate in that so far there have been no cases of this latest Coronavirus and the ensuing COVID-19. I've also had questions about the realities of moving and living here, these have come in many forms, but mostly they are driven by the simple fact that it's really difficult to find anything out about the place.

Or at least it was when I was looking.

So here it is, my little guide to life 104m above the Bay of St Malo, 49° 26' 2.3352'' N, 2° 21' 49.1004'' W.

Can I live there?

Well, they let me in.

Unlike Guernsey (and by definition Alderney) and Jersey, there are no special requirements to moving here, no license, permits, having a certain size bank account. Nothing like that. As Sark is a Crown Dependency, and not part of the UK, you do need to be at least a British Citizen or you would be permitted to move to the UK. That said, and this is a bone of contention, I am unaware of any checks being made.

Finding a place to live

One of the most often received comments from visitors during the summer, when they learn I live here, is what paradise it is. It's fair, in the summer it is glorious, but in winter, whilst no less glorious, it's different, an awful lot different if you're used to living in Central London. Or any other place that's built up.

So my first bit of advice is, quite simply: visit in the winter.

Whether it be a fact finding visit, or, as I did, looking at houses, do it when the weather is less than clement, when the restaurants are closed, the carriages aren't running. More importantly, don't stay in a hotel, though the hotels here are fantastic, you need to find out the realities of what it's like to be here and fend for yourself.

Of course if you're thinking about just buying a place that you're only going to be in for three months of the year because it's so quaint then, please, I implore you, don't. If you do, that delightful little cottage that you will use to impress your friends with will not be available to people who actually do live here year round.

And to be quite honest, if you're only here for three months during the summer, you won't discover the gem at the heart of Sark: the community.

I'd also advise, with my sensible face on, that perhaps renting here for the first year is a good idea. You'll learn an awful lot about the character of the island, both physical and community, within that year. For instance, I live on the West of the island. It's a but windy. You might notice, looking at maps, or by visiting, that most properties are on the East, where it's sheltered. Of course sometimes the prevailing wind loses interest and it blows from the East, like today, but mostly it's westerly. Days, weeks, months of westerly. The good news though, is that Sark buildings, are built to survive the wind.

Anyway.

There is an estate agent on Sark, a good place to start. Obviously you could try a Google search for Sark properties, but these will tend to be the ones for sale. The key thing to note here is that there are properties available that are not necessarily listed, unfortunately that means you need to know somebody by being here.

If you are now fervently reading the pages of the estate agent then please focus only on the "open market". Why? Well, to be local market you need to be "locally qualified", the requirements being...

  • You were born here, or
  • You've lived here at least 15 years, or
  • You are part of a family of someone that happens to be locally qualified
And the definition of a local market property? Anything built after 1976.

Simple really.

*looks at notes*

Ah yes, travel. The downside of looking at places here, in winter, is that getting here can be... difficult. At the moment it's really difficult, but that's all because of said pandemic. To get here you'll need to go via Guernsey, other options are available, but they mostly involve summer months and Manche Îles. If you're coming from the UK then, as I write, your choices are Aurigny and Blue Islands. There are probably others, but I've no experience of them so, by definition, they don't exist.

These will get you only as far as Guernsey, for the next step you will need to book a crossing with Sark Shipping or, if you're feeling flush and/or you can't make the journey times work, a private charter with the very lovely Ray Lowe. There is a fairly good chance you might have to stay overnight in Guernsey either arriving or leaving, or both, but fortunately St Peter Port is quite civilised, they even have ATMs!

The process of booking all of these things isn't that difficult, but it will involve some juggling. I'll happily give advice if you're so interested.

Moving here

Dear lord. Moving house is stressful enough. Moving to a rock in the middle of the sea is... more.

Before I even visited here to look at places I did an attempt at the logistics. And gave up. The problem is, wherever you move from, you have to get your stuff to Guernsey, and then from Guernsey to Sark. And then from Sark harbour to where you live.

You can't just hire a man-and-a-van.

Here are the steps.
  • Book removal van
  • Pack stuff
  • Load stuff in to removal van
  • Unload stuff from removal van, in Guernsey, and put in container(s)
  • Pay import duty
  • Send container(s) to Sark
  • Move container(s) from Sark harbour to where you live
  • Unload container(s)
  • Return container(s)
  • Go to the pub.
Fortunately, there are people that do this stuff for a living. I was given two names, R&R Removals and White & Company. I happened to choose R&R so I can only talk about them. They arrange everything, that's it. True I had to choose between doing my own packing and having them pack for me, needless to say I chose the latter as I lived alone and had work to do, but otherwise they did the lot.

The price? About £5,000 in my case.

But keep in mind that they did a day and a half of packing and filled in all of the steps, which meant my moving process went from the above to...
  • Book removal van
  • Go to the pub
That might be slightly oversimplified, but you get the idea. I should point out I did a full move, everything from clothes, equipment, furniture and on to even bags of coal. A one way trip.

As you might imagine, this is not something you can do in one day, there were two ferries involved (Portsmouth to Guernsey and Guernsey to Sark) and an awful lot of loading an unloading, so here is a very rough timeline you can work to...
  • Wednesday: collection day, removals people turn up, pack and load like mad
  • Thursday: see above, in my case.
  • Tuesday: your stuff arrives in Sark. In my case, mostly
  • Wednesday: you arrive in Sark with removal people
  • Thursday: In my case, the rest of your stuff arrives in Sark.
Estimate a week to move. Remember, your things will have to leave your place, travel to Portsmouth in a van, be unloaded in Guernsey, be loaded in to containers for shipping to Sark, shipped, moved, unloaded and containers removed. There are a lot of steps. I am deeply grateful that there are people that know how to do this stuff.

If you decide against the insane one-way trip option where you bring everything then it will likely be cheaper.

Getting about

Sark, rather famously, has no cars. Or motorcycles. We do have horse drawn carriages, though mostly these are used by tourists or occasional special visits. But to drive those, or tractors, you do need a licence, as Martin Clunes found. In the case of tractors you will only be allowed to have one if it's essential for your work.

Otherwise you choice is walk or get a bicycle.

If you have a bicycle you will need to pay bicycle tax, this is currently £11 a year, the 2020 tax was paid on the 31st of December 2019. If you acquire your wheels mid year then you need to bimble down to the Constable's office, this is the new building attached to the Chief Pleas meeting room on La Chasse Marette, top of the stairs, first door on your right, 2:30pm-5pm, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

As of 4th of July 2019 you can have an electric bicycle as they have been deregulated. Well, sort of, there are still regulations, 250W motor power, top speed 15mph. When you consider the speed limit for tractors is 10mph this is epic!

If you have need of an electric mobility buggy then I'm afraid you'll still need a doctor's certificate, insurance and, I believe, a test. I really should look in to this.

Back to bikes. According to the law you should have a working bell and front white light. This comes as some news to many of the people I know, but I'm a details girl so I actually read the law.

You can of course hire bikes, and many visitors do. They also promptly lose any sense of road craft and ride like complete fuckwits thinking there will be nobody else around. I've not had a spill yet, but came close one day at Clos a Jaon crossroads when a visitor crossed flat-out taking advantage of the downhill section on La Chasse Marette. Don't be like him.

There are no taxis on Sark.

That said, since the dawn of time, La Douzaine have been promising a public consultation on whether to allow rickshaws to provide such a service. Spoiler: there hasn't been one.

Ride on lawn mowers. We race them! And in 2019 there was the first ever hill climb up Harbour Hill. It was brilliant.

There is hope that eventually there can be a move to electric vehicles, unfortunately whilst this would improve air quality the speed of change here makes glaciers look like they have a train to catch.

Public transport.

We have the toast rack. Currently £1.20 with one stop. I have guided many a shocked tourist to where they are going after they asked which stop they should get off for place X. In winter you'll find it on the harbour, in summer it's at the bottom of Harbour Hill, can't miss it.

Getting and moving stuff

Most cargo is moved on the island by the carters. I think there are two, Jimmy's Carting and Island Deliveries. I use Jimmy, not just because he's my next door neighbour, and the first thing I did even before I actually moved to the island was emailed to set up an account. After any carting, whether this be visitor bags, shopping or a sofa from Sark Classified, you will be invoiced for that month's deliveries and you can pay by bank transfer.

If you're on-island and you want something moved from A to B, you contact the relevant carter tell them what and where and it magically happens. Similarly if you're going off-island you message said carter the day before, say which boat you're on, and where you are, and they will give you a time by which your stuff needs to be collected. This is where living next door to the carter has its advantages.

If you're off-island, we'll call that Guernsey though I believe there are other land masses out there, you make sure the stuff you can't be arsed to carry has a label, green for Jimmy, some other colour for Island Deliveries (I have no idea), you can get these labels at the Sark Shipping offices at White Rock. Attach them to your stuff, follow the lead of other people in where they should be placed and things will be loaded on the boat.

So long as things have a label and a destination they will get there.

Post. It's impressively quick. If somebody posts something from the UK and it can make the trip to East Midlands Airport and onwards to Guernsey then you will find your post arriving the next day. Of course if the boats aren't running because the weather is difficult then this doesn't apply. Our postmen are lovely, I say postmen because as far as I'm aware, there is only Simon, Ringo and the-bloke-in-shades-who-I've-never-spoken-with. Simon in particular knows everything and on moving here he is a font of all knowledge.

The Post Office is in Gallery Stores, you can't miss it, there is a gold post-box outside. The Gallery Stores is epic and I'll talk about that more later. It's a proper, wonderful, old fashioned service.

The prices for post vary as to whether it's within the Bailiwick, UK, Europe or the rest of world. The complication comes when receiving things, if it's a letter and somebody sticks a stamp on it, it will get here. If they go to a Post Office then you may or may not have to fill in forms depending on which one you go to, I've had reports of both when things have been sent to me.

Why? Well, I've not said this before but... We are a separate jurisdiction, in other words, we iz overseas!

This messes with people's heads.

And it can cause problems. I'll cover some of this later.

On the upside, there is no VAT on Sark. Or for that matter, any of the Channel Islands. This means if you're ordering something from Amazon with a Sark delivery address you might very well find it cheaper. Whatever the moral issues with Amazon and how they treat staff, Amazon is your friend. A huge amount arrives on-island from them, Amazon Pantry is particularly popular. But not all companies will do this. I'm in an ongoing battle with Apple, eBay, Google and Adobe with regards to VAT and jurisdiction. In fact, all of the above refuse to recognise my actual address. But that's a different matter, all I am saying is expect complications. Yet more of this later.

Anyway, back to receiving stuff.

I can't say I've seen any letterboxes on Sark, I'm sure some exist, I've just not noticed them. You leave your door unlocked, the postman/delivery person/whoever puts things in your house, you pick them up. I did ask once what happens if I'm off-island, stuff will be kept back. Or, you agree where they can be left.

There are no "sorry, you were out" cards.

The counter to this is walking in to the Gallery Stores for something else and being given a parcel because they knew there was one for you. It truly is a world apart.

Communication

The international dialing code for Sark/Guernsey/Jersey is 44, just like the UK. So you'd be right in thinking that you'll be fine using your phone here?

Think again.

It's not. If you are using a mobile phone, you will be roaming. If you call or send an SMS from a UK number to a Channel Islands number it will be charged as international.

There are three local telecom companies, Sure, JT and Airtel-Vodafone.

I happen to use Sure, mostly because I liked the deal they offered. There is a choice of wired broadband or wireless, as it happens I had a wireless router so I went with that option, that and because the house I moved to hadn't been occupied in some years so whilst it had a phone line, they found no record of it and it would have cost circa £130 to connect. 3G and LTE (4G) coverage is good and given I work from home and depend on low latency I am more than happy. I currently pay £35 a month for 200GB of data. Even with the amount of Netflix I watch this is enough, but keep in mind I live alone so it's mostly just me.

Needless to say I have a phone with two SIMs, one for my UK contract (you can't transfer numbers to here using PAC) and one for local messages and calls, remember, if you call or message somebody on the island from a UK number it will be rated as international. My UK provider, Three, happily accepted my new address.

Social meeja

Follow me on Twitter, also the venerable Paul Armorgie, Sarah Beaumont and Sark Shipping. There are two groups on Facebook you should join, Save our Sark and Sark Classified.

Other useful accounts are Sark Sheep Racing and the forthcoming Sark Community Dairy.

There are others but I'm now a bottle of wine down so, y'know, editorial decisions. Besides, most of the things posted by others are retweeted by the above.

Apps

There are three I use regularly.

  • Windfinder, this is brilliant and in time you'll understand which wind will stop the boats running. There is also an actual app for this, check your favourite app store.
  • Marine RADAR, useful for working out when your visitor will actually arrive so you can meet them at the Bel Air. Nay, essential.
  • FlightRadar24, handy for seeing which flight is overhead and to see how early visitors are going to land at Guernsey Airport because they pad the time so much.
Tax

There is no income or inheritance tax on Sark. But that doesn't mean there are no taxes.

The tax year runs from the start of January to December, if you are new to the island you will receive you tax identification number (TIN) when you receive your tax form in January.

I've already mentioned the bicycle tax so I won't cover that, there is also a tractor tax which is probably irrelevant if you're just moving here (£100/year) and a mobility scooter tax, I think, though no idea how much that is. In fact, check that yourself.

The main taxes come in two forms, the Property Tax and the Personal Capital Tax.

Property Tax

If you've been looking at properties at the agent I mentioned earlier, you will see them talk of so many "Sark Quarters", the quarter is from Norman law, remember Sark is one of the remaining parts of the Duchy of Normandy. In simple terms it's a unit of usable floor space. The amount that applies to a property is recorded in the Cadastre (the Sark land registry). Chief Pleas will decide how much it is per quarter and you will have to pay it. For 2020 the Quarter Rate is £15, not the £14.50 shown on the agent's website.

This payment is for the year ahead and is payable by the "possessor" of the property, which means if you are renting the landlord will have paid the rate for the year and you will probably be expected to pay the landlord pro-rata. But that's the first year. Once you reach 1st of January then you are the possessor, so you pay the tax. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I'll come to that.

Personal Capital Tax

You have options.

The Sark system is simple and also, interesting. Nominally you are taxed based on your worldwide personal assets, not income, with a minimum amount and a maximum. Simple. For 2020 the minimum is £450 and the maximum is £9,000.

The actual rate is 0.39% of your assets, so if you have less than £116,667 in any assets worldwide you will pay £450. If you are Bill Gates, you will pay £9,000.

I can hear you saying, those don't sound like options. This is where it becomes interesting. On the tax form you are presented with eight options for the personal tax.

  1. You can pay the forfait. This is the forfait factor x Quarters x Quarter rate, as this years forfait is 2.0 then you'd be paying the property tax plus twice the property tax. Perhaps. OR
  2. If you are a member of a household where the Possessor (there's only one of them, sorry) has paid the forfait then you pay the minimum tax. OR
  3. You pay an amount based on your world wide assets, obvs after calculation it would be between £450 and £9,000. OR
  4. You pay the minimum amount because your assets are below the minimum amount. They might ask you to prove this. OR
  5. You pay the maximum amount. OR
  6. You have fewer assets than the minimum, you're under 69 and you're paying property tax... Then there is no personal tax. Yay!
  7. You're a possessor living outside of Sark, declaring the property was not available to you for 90 days or more in the preceding 12 months then... you pay no personal tax. I have a bit of an issue with this one as it's truly open to abuse.
  8. You've less than £150,000 in capital assets and you're over 69 or holding a medical certificate saying you can't work, then you pay no personal tax.

Simple really. You'll get a discount if you pay your tax in full by the 31st of January, you can pay by instalments over eight months, other options are available. I knew I should have written this in January.

You become resident on Sark for tax purposes after 90 days, however, if you are coming from the UK it will be 270 days before you stop being resident for tax purposes there. As you might imagine there is an awful lot more to this, and I'm not going to explain it, contact HMRC or a proper tax adviser. Expect to lose the will to live after reading endless documents.

Now before you get too excited, I should point out the negatives... It is expensive to live here. Which brings us to...

Energy

Ah yes, energy.  Every silver lining has a cloud.

It's expensive. But don't worry, everything is so yay! The reasons things are so expensive come down to simple economics, it's a tiny market, so no economies of scale and everything has to be brought in by Sark Shipping.

Electricity

The good news: I believe all supply cables are buried. This means that even when we are enjoying the best that the Atlantic can throw our way the power stays on. Over this year I've only seen one power cut and that was down to equipment failure.

Electricity is currently priced at 54p/kWh with a £2 a month standing charge. There is a 50p/month discount if you receive your bill by email. Bills are issued early in the month and are payable within 28 days of the invoice date, rather annoyingly the invoice date is quite a bit earlier, for example:
  • Invoice date: 2020-02-29
  • Invoiced received by email: 2020-03-11
  • Payment expected by 2020-03-28
What's particularly annoying is that you will notice if you read your invoice, I do, that it might say "Reading taken in 02/03/2020", it's not the reverse order date that bugs me, it's that the reading on the invoice is apparently three days after the invoice. Hmmmm.

You can pay your bill electronically. If you're renting a property then it's likely the agent will have emailed the company to say you are the new tenant, there is currently no paperwork or formal agreement.

If you are fervently following the news regarding Sark you may be aware that the electricity company was recently bought out, the new owner is promising much, though it remains to be seen whether or not he delivers. One of the big issues is that whilst the price is currently 54p there are no guarantees that this won't change dramatically soon as it's there because of a Price Control Order (PCO) issued by the Sark Electricity Price Control Commissioner. A legal challenge has been raised by the company. For reference, the price before this PCO was 66p/kWh with a threat of 85p/kWh, though the previous owner backed down on the latter.

For news on things relating to electricity here then follow Sark Electricity User Group (SEUG) on either Facebook or Twitter.

Gas

It comes in bottles. And it's expensive. The major supplier of gas on the island is Ross Henry and, according to my last bill from him, a 47kg bottle of Propane is £144.95. I only use it for hob cooking and this lasted about ten months, but then I live alone.

I could write a whole blog post on how to calculate the available energy in a bottle and give estimates of how long it will last based on your hob burner size, but I won't do that. At least not yet.

The good news is that as with most things on Sark, if you run out during the day then a quick SMS to Ross will lead to his tractor turning up half an hour later and your new bottle installed.

Heating Oil

This comes from Gavin Nicolle at La Seigneurie Farm, Gavin also services boilers, and is the vet. Obvs. You can contact him by phone or SMS and, fortunately, you don't have to have a full load of oil which is handy for budgeting. According to my last bill, oil is currently 70p/litre, however this does fluctuate with wholesale oil prices.

One thing to try and avoid is running out as if you do so then oil will be delivered and, if it wasn't Gavin doing the delivery, he will come along in a while to bleed the system. Needless to say when this happened to me it was before the oil monitor I've been working on was installed. It best to keep an eye on things!

If anything goes wrong with your boiler then it will be Gavin who comes along to fix it. He's very quick and, unlike in the UK, if he can he will repair a fault rather than getting new parts. A good example of this was when my heating pump failed, stopping the boiler, it turned out the bearings had died, so Gavin arrived, removed the parts, took it to his workshop, rebuilt the bearings, and reinstalled all within about 90 minutes.

Renewable Energy

There is talk from the new owner investing in renewables for the island as a whole. If you would like to install your own solar array or wind turbine then planning permission will be needed. Of course to make things more complicated there is a new law being developed that relates to the licensing of the generation of electricity. Probably best to check with SEUG to see where things stand.

Logs

There are lots of log burners on the island though the only supplier I know of logs is our Seigneur, I suspect Gallery Stores also sells them. I'll update this when I next visit the stores.

Petrol and diesel

The filling station is behind Gallery Stores, needless to say, this is not self-serve. As you might imagine they don't like you walking through the place with fuel cans so... leave you can near the pump, go in to the hardware section, speak to whoever is there, you'll go back outside with them, they'll fill your can and then you can go back in to pay. Cost is, from memory, roughly the same per litre as Guernsey.

If you are only going to use the petrol for a two-stroke machine then you can ask them to add the oil there and then. Which is nice.

Be aware, you usually can't buy fuel at the weekend when the hardware department is often closed. Or perhaps I've just gone on the wrong weekends.

According to the Chief Pleas "Living in Sark" page there are two suppliers of oil, petrol and diesel. I'm not sure who the other one is!

Waste

If you weren't told when your bin day is then you can either ask a neighbour or call the Public Works Office on 832576. Rubbish should be separated in to burnables, glass, cans, pressurised containers (aerosols) and so on. If you don't have a bin then you can buy one from Gallery Stores hardware department for about £20, these have clip on lids so you don't have to play hint-the-lid when it's windy. It also means that the gulls can't get at your rubbish.

Rubbish should be put out between 7am and 8am on collection day.

If you have something larger to collect than contact Island Works and they will pick it up, there is a charge for this of about £5 an item. You'll be billed quarterly for rubbish collection, according to my last bill it's £22.20/quarter.

There's no mains sewage on Sark, most properties are connected to a septic tank, shared in some cases. Apparently the charge for emptying is £18.37 a load, though I can't for the life of me find the last bill I had with this on! To arrange an emptying call Public Works on 832576 or 07781 104846

Water

As with waste, there is no mains water. Your property will be either borehole, well or catchment, or some magical combination. This means you will also be burning electricity to pump the water in to the property!

When it's been dry a catchment may run out of water, in which case contact the Fire Service on their non-emergency number of 07781 110806, you'll be charged about £25/bowser load (600 gallons), this water hasn't been treated so you will need either your own treatment facility or take suitable precautions. If it's been very dry, as happened in 2019, a well may run out, mine did and people were struggling to remember when this last happened. If so, then it's the same as for catchment.

And then do a rain dance.

Booze

We have that.

There is a small amount of beer, wine and gin production on the island, hopefully in the next couple of years cider too! Everything else is imported though duty is lower than in many places.

You will note when visiting the pubs that many locals drink cans, this is simply because they are cheaper than draught!

Off-sales can be bought from the Bel Air, Mermaid Tavern and Island hall. I've not tried at the various other restaurants and hotel bars!

Food

A lot of vegetables are produced on the island, similarly eggs, pork, beef, lamb and presumably chicken. There is no bakery, so either buy bread that has ultimately travelled all the way from the UK, or learn to bake, or wait until I can raise sufficient funds so I can re-open the bakery. Milk production should resume once the Sark Community Dairy is a) built and b) running.

Chocolate is made on the island by Caragh. It's very nice.

Everything else is imported. There are two food outlets on the island (plus various Hedge Veg). Food Stop (on The Avenue) stocks lots of Waitrose things, newspapers and, importantly, wine, beer, cider and spirits. Mon Plaisir Stores (on Rue du Sermon, near the Methodist Chapel), stocks things from Iceland and Co-op, but they also do a lot of local meats and you can arrange for fish, crab, lobsters etc. by speaking with Helen or Rose. Unlike Food Stop where things like bacon are pre-packaged, at Mon Plaisir the packaging happens locally. So, for example, don't ask for a pound of bacon, ask for so many slices.

All of the local meats are epic. Once you've tried them it's difficult to go back to anything else.

Lots of people do Shopping Day trips to Guernsey to stock up on things you can't get on-island, similarly Amazon Pantry is extremely popular and useful. As you'll no doubt be receiving visitors, don't forget to ask them to bring things you can't get here!

DIY, household and gardening

The Gallery Stores has it all. As well as being the Post Office, there are sections for household goods, tools, paints, building materials and gardening supplies and equipment. As with everything on the island it's best to ask if you can't see what you need.

Financial stuff

I've already covered tax and VAT somewhere above.

Mortgages

As I write there are no mortgages on Sark, though is might be changing soon with the land reform.

Travel Insurance

You might find that your current travel insurance provider will no longer cover you when you come to renewing with a Sark address. If this worries you then it's worth contacting them in advance.

Banking

There is only one actual bank on Sark, HSBC on Rue Lucas, you can't miss it. There is no ATM here but there is a counter service during the week, be aware, they close for lunch. Quite right too. I was told when I arrived that it would be two years before I'd be able to open an account, as it turned out this wasn't the case for me, I don't know if I was helped by the fact that one of the bank staff knew where I lived and that I was actually living here all of the time. Your mileage may vary.

Keep in mind that organising things such as broadband can be complicated by having just moved to the island and not having a bank account locally. That was fun.

In terms of changing address on existing accounts, my UK bank, Lloyds, were quite happy to change the address, though they did send forms to confirm where I would be resident. The problem was I couldn't give my TIN (as mentioned above under tax) as it's not issued until the Sark tax forms come out.

There used to be a NatWest branch on the island, counter services for this are now handled by the Post Office in Gallery Stores. However, I found when I was first looking at banking that NatWest in St Peter Port, would not allow me to open an account because I had a Sark address. They do have a fab view from their windows, worth a visit just for that.

Cards and things

All of my actual credit-card providers let me change my address. Yay.

If you have a Curve card, which I utterly loved, you are out of luck, you will try in vain to change your address, it won't accept it, so you'll call them and they will tell you you can't have it anymore as you are neither in the UK, EU or EEA. Fair enough.
Revolut may or may not be a problem, I'm currently trying to confirm my identity, and couldn't fully change the address as they had no Guernsey option. I might be coming back to this, a shame really as it's very useful for travelling. Not that we can travel at the moment...

PayPal will happily let you set the correct address, yay! eBay won't. Nor will Apple. Or Google. If you follow me on Twitter you will see my occasional rants at them, not just about VAT, but also setting addresses.

Medical

We have a small Medical Centre on the island, opposite Island Hall. Dental services are handled in a small room in Island Hall when the dentist is here. Normally there are morning walk-in sessions, but these are currently suspended owing to the on-going pandemic.

I will have to dig through my records to find out how much a consultation with the doctor is!

When you are thinking about medical insurance, there is no scheme on the island, then look for Island Insurance, the Medical Centre can give you details of companies that do such a scheme. The difference between this and normal medical insurance is that it takes in to account the fact that people get older and become unwell, this means that whilst it looks more expensive to begin with, it doesn't suddenly increase in the event of a problem, rather it rises relatively gently over time.

You will have to separately organise Marine Ambulance cover, this is handled by St John Ambulance in Guernsey and is currently £119 a year for an individual or £180 for a family. If you become ill and have to be evacuated to Guernsey then you would either be taken on the Flying Christine, or, if the weather is awful, the Guernsey Lifeboat. On the island the ambulances are, inevitably, pulled by tractor.

Prescriptions are subsidised by the Professor Charles Saint Sark Medical Trust and a great deal of island fundraising is aimed at supporting this. So get involved! Prescriptions are currently £5.50 an item. If you order a repeat prescription by either phone, SMS or email then they will be left in the conservatory at the front of the Medical Centre along with an envelope showing how much you need to pay, there is a small box where payments are posted.

Employment Law

There isn't any. Nor are there any unemployment benefits or any of the things you might be used to in a larger jurisdiction.

Government

You've probably heard of Chief Pleas, the Sark parliament. This is now democratically elected, however you can't vote until you've lived here two years. Similarly you can't stand for election until you have lived here two years.

As we are a Crown Dependency, all laws ultimately have to go to The Crown's Privy Council for Royal Assent.

I could write a book on my thoughts of Chief Pleas, so I won't bore you further.

Education

Sark School is the only school on the island and caters for children from 3 to 13. Beyond that Children would need to continue their education either in Guernsey or the UK, or wherever you decide to send them.

Law and Order

Constable

The Constable and their deputy, the Vingtenier, are volunteers elected each year by Chief Pleas for a year in the role. The two are on call twenty-four hours a day. They are supported by a number of Special Constables.

If there are any serious issues then Guernsey Police will be called in to assist.

Of course Sark also has the worlds smallest active prison. You really don't want to spend a night there, so behave.

Court

The Seneschal of Sark presides over the island court, the Seneschal sits alone. The actions of the court are supported by the Prévôt (sheriff) and Greffier (Clerk of the Court). In the event of more difficult matters, or where there is a conflict of interest, then deputies to the officers or Lieutenant Seneschals may be appointed.

Clameur de Haro

As Sark is steeped in Norman Law, Clameur de Haro still applies. It doesn't get used too often, but it's always there if you need it. If you're really interested in the local way of applying it then contact Paul Armorgie as he's used it in the past.

You'll need two witnesses...
Haro! Haro! Haro! À l'aide, mon Prince, on me fait tort. 
Notre Père qui est aux cieux.Ton nom soit sanctifié.Ton règne vienne.Ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel.Donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain quotidien.Et nous pardonne nos offenses, comme nous pardonnons à ceux qui nous ont offensés.Et ne nous induis point en tentation, mais délivre-nous du mal.
Failing that, there's a summary in Wikipedia.

Driving licence

Speak to the Constable about the process for getting a tractor driving licence.

If you have a UK licence then you must exchange it for a Guernsey licence within 12 months of moving here. As it is you won't be able to put your shiny new Sark address on a UK licence. Similarly, if you still own a car in the UK, then you can't change the registered keeper address to Sark.

The licence exchange process is fairly simple unless like me, you're over 45 and you have certain classifications on your licence that you'd like to keep. If so then you will need a medical from the doctor. There are two different medical forms, make sure you have the right one! If not, like me, you will end up making two trips to St Sampson to sort out your licence.

Deep joy.

Whilst we're on the subject, if you bring your car to Guernsey permanently, i.e. over six months, and you can find somewhere to store it, remember no cars on Sark, then you will definitely have to pay a First Registration duty (on a sliding scale depending on how many trees yours eats, mine eats trees and squirrels) but you may also have to pay a Customs Import Duty under some circumstances.

On the plus side, you will get a very cool registration number!

Facilities

If you have a need to hire a room for an event, you can find reasonably priced rooms at both the Island Hall and the Sark Sanctuary Centre.

Finding out more

Ask, there are plenty of people on the island who will happily tell you about life here. Of course there is an awful lot covered elsewhere around pubs, hotels and so forth, but that's not what this blog post was about.

When you're doing your research you will, inevitably also come across the so called Sark Newspaper, if you read it then please keep in mind it doesn't give anything like an accurate picture of island life, if anything you might find it puts you off because it paints an extremely negative and vexed view of the island. Which is a great pity.




Thursday, 31 October 2019

A reflection

They say a week is a long time in politics, this of course has been shown beyond any doubt in the events that have unfolded recently in a country I used to call home. But what of a year?

I've been reflecting a lot over the last few days, I do that, but especially at this time of year as it's an easy time to remember.

Of course looking back both the painful and good memories come flooding in, once again I've been glad I live alone so nobody else has to witness the mess. But it suddenly occurred to me; just what was I doing in the less memorable years? So I looked, rather inevitably I took advantage of Google photos and it turns out I could track back at least to 2010 to see exactly where I was on this day.

As I looked at the photos I realised something, the me of that day had no idea what the hell was coming next...

2010: London Zoo

Ah yes. At this point in time I'd scurried off to London to work as ends needed to meet and food needed to be on the table, it was a difficult time. I do remember that I was walking on eggshells, carefully following the line that separated one argument from another. But at this point I had no clue, no idea that it would be but a few short months before being rather unceremoniously informed that my marriage had reached the end of the road. It was, quite simply a path that I couldn't see. And yet with hindsight it was so obvious.



2011: The Crown, Victoria Park

When Monty met Bizzle. Obviously I was only there as Monty's chaperone, I know Bizzle was a bad bear likely to lead him astray. By now the events outline above had not particularly neatly unfolded and I was in a strange place. And I don't mean Barnes, though that was, of course, where I was living at the time.

Looking back through the previous months there were huge gaps which rather reflected the darkness.

I know I had plans, though I know the unravelling that was going on made them all singularly difficult, which is probably why I didn't see that a year later...



2012: Limehouse Cut

Rather unexpectedly I found myself sharing a flat with my best friend and Contrary Towers was born. We'd been there since March, which rather proves the point of not seeing what was coming next. And at the time I had no idea I would be there for the next 3+ years. Things were moving, changing, morphing. And more importantly in 2012 things were stabilising. After years, oh so many years, of being what others expected me to be, to do my duty, to conform, I became... Me.

Selfish, single minded, me.

At 45, I finally, well, nearly, got to do what I wanted to do.

Bitch.



2013: Limehouse Cut, again.

By All Hallows Eve 2013 I'd acquired a wand, given by the daft sod who would become my flatmate in 2016, but I didn't know that then. In fact, thinking about it, I was quite pissed off with him at the time, though not for the wand. I can't really think what it was all about. Not to worry.

Though looking at the picture now I'm wondering where the hell my boobs went.

What I do remember was I was home alone, missy was away somewhere or other and, as a result, she missed the fireworks that were either for an early Diwali or a very early Guy Fawkes. I didn't expect them. I was sitting on our balcony, a glass of wine in hand, when the first firework exploded. I put it down to kids. However, after about 20 minutes I decided that maybe it was actually organised...

I had no idea that the next year I would actually be in...



2014: Norfolk

Eh? To be fair it was half-term and was really trying to make an effort, contrary to what I imagine my ex would have been said and, almost certainly, is still saying, even though things aren't exactly being made simple. So I behaved. And carved a pumpkin. It must be said, these are a lot easier to carve than the turnips I used to do when I was young.

As memories go this was a bit of a non-time. This is almost certainly a bad thing as I'm really good at blanking that kind of nonsense. I just wanted to go home. I wasn't looking forward to the next All Hallows Eve, but then I didn't know that the next one would be...



2015: She, Soho

Well this beat being at home. I'd been working that day, things to finish, and afterwards I popped in to She for a cheeky cocktail before heading home, as you do. I can't remember exactly why I agreed to the whiskers and moustache, but it seemed like a really good idea at the time.

That night though, in context, felt like the end of an era, the last madness before a coming storm.

And I definitely didn't expect that the next year I would be in...



2016: New York

And then the storm hit. Or didn't.

Have you seem "The Crown" on Netflix? In series 1, episode 2, you see the young Elizabeth blissfully off on her Commonwealth Tour unaware that her father had died and her life had changed.

That was me, sort of. Mine had changed a few days earlier, on the 28th, when, unexpectedly, my partner died. Because he'd previously done disappearing acts I put not having replies down to that. I dutifully wrote messages, gave updates and said goodnight to somebody who didn't make it to the end of play on the Friday. And I had no idea. I took missy to the airport as she headed home, I packed, I faffed, I messaged, I boarded a plane and I flew to New York. It was another couple of days before I was tracked down and contacted.

I fell apart.

Yet in the same light that I had no idea I would be there, I had no idea on this day in 2016 that all of the plans I'd made, we'd made, had evaporated. Gone. No more.

What makes it worse, in hindsight, is that the friend that I was with then, well, she is no longer talking to me. And I have no idea why, nor would I get a reply if I asked. The kids apparently call this "ghosting". I can't begin to tell you how much this hurts.

However, what I can tell you is that I sat on that plane heading to JFK I really had no idea a year later I would be in...



2017: Brighton

Well, Woodingdean, just outside Brighton. A lovely private hospital having some major corrective surgery to fix a long standing problem. Go me! That evening I feasted on not very much and jelly whilst being completely horizontal and not allowed to move. It has to be said, my costume looked before authentic and scary.

I didn't think much about what would come in 2018 as to be honest I was falling asleep every three minutes, not making much sense and being even more spaced out than normal.

There was no wine that evening. Mind you, a mixture of general anaesthetic and morphine is guaranteed to make you a party animal! Sort of.

I can say though that this was a good reason why I had no idea that the next year I would be in...




2018: Epping Upland

Eh? I really shouldn't have been quite so doped up the year before, maybe I would have been able to predict me becoming so exasperated with London life that I moved out to a stupidly remote place to live mostly alone in an old farmworkers cottage. Definitely not Limehouse Marina. Oh, just realised, in 2016 and 2017, whilst I lived by Limehouse Marina I was never there on the evening of the 31st.

Whilst it had been a tricky year, a really tricky year, I was happy enough with the situation. I know it wasn't to everybody's taste, but I had emotional wounds to heal and it worked for me. In fact it was working so much that I'd checked with the agent to ensure that I'd be able to renew for another year, plans had been formed.

So once again, I had no clue that with a swift change of circumstance, I would find myself on this All Hallows Eve on...



2019: Sark

Sark. It's been 225 days since I moved here.


And yet; going back to my opening line, my feelings could have been very different this evening. Today was supposed to be the big day, according to the dogma driven politicians, that the UK would leave the EU. Unlike the politicians though, when I make an actual plan, I stick with it, I was determined to leave the UK before it left; of course the 29th of March came, went and the band played on.

Unlike the politicians I've learned that you can't predict the future, you can't state with certainty that something will happen. You can't stake your reputation on the unknown.

And I'm now sure I have no idea where I will be, or what I'll be doing on the 31st of October 2020.

Que sera, sera.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Watergate - an analogy

Not a bath.
If you've been following me on Twitter, you're probably aware of my ongoing problem with water. Or a lack thereof. The problem is fairly simple, my water comes from a well, though this in itself was contentious, the well fills from the ground water and an *electric pump draws the water up, pressurises a tank to 3.5 bar and is then delivered through the house by pipes.

A modern miracle.

The contentious part is that many people on the island believed that I am on a borehole, as most now are. But I'm not. To settle this, the lovely Aunty Helen called her brother to ask about it as he'd done the renovation work when her aunt and uncle lived here. Sure enough he confirmed that this work was done before the borehole that feeds other buildings in Mon Plaisir was sunk. In fact, it was done before the other buildings had been built.

During the conversation she pointed out, quite rightly, that originally there would have been no running water and it would have all been drawn by hand-pump from the well.

Ah, the good old days.

And that got me thinking. Surely running water is like the European Single Market.

Why? Well, as with the Single Market, and as hailed by brexiteers everywhere, we used to get on without it just fine. We can easily return to those times and there will be blue skies, girls in pinafore dresses, picnics and lashings of ginger beer.

Not to mention the sparkly unicorns.

The problem is this. Since the conversion the nature of the infrastructure changed.

A new fangled electric pump was installed along with pipes and taps to give just-in-time delivery. No more going out to the hand-pump, pail in hand, as the wind whistled by at 50mph with horizontal rain. A flushing toilet was installed, no need for an outhouse or for a chamber pot to relieve those middle of the night calls of nature. And a shower, what bliss, heated by an oil boiler, stored in a tank and delivered under pressure to make you clean and refreshed for the day ahead, those glorious bygone days of fetching the tin bath, boiling water on the range and spending a quick moment in an inch of lukewarm water.

Once a week whether you needed to or not.

Even the heating changed, instead of fires in each room a move could be made to a new fangled system, timer and thermostat controlled to ensure a house was cosy whenever you wanted it. Bliss.

Or at least it would be bliss so long as the frictionless movement of water from the well to the house was maintained.

Firemen showing me their hose...
And this is what has happened in the UK with the European Single Market, the infrastructure changed, the supply lines aligned with great efficiency to provide a seamless means of getting stuff from A to B when you wanted it without effort.

But if you take that away... Things break. My actual Wexit.

Suddenly the toilet no longer flushes, the shower doesn't work, the washing machine stands idle. I have neither a tin bath nor a tub and mangle to replace what I've lost, but even if I did I would have to schlep down the lane carrying endless buckets of water to boil very slowly in a range of pots and kettles to clean with. And my dishes are piling up.

Of course, I adapted, you have to, as the UK will adapt. But I can promise you that having to stroll across the island to the public loos when you wish to do more than spend a penny, is not pleasant in a storm. Neither is waltzing down that muddy lane with jugs for water to cook with. Or buying bottled water at a premium.

Fortunately I have plenty of wet wipes to keep myself clean. Ish. If I had a bath I could of course have taken a leaf out of the 1950s handbook and boiled water for that luxuriating one inch soak. But I don't.

It's a good job I live alone.

The analogy goes further. As a deal is struck to bring water back in to the system you will find things have changed. Dumping 600 gallons of water in to a few hundred year old well using a firehose is guaranteed to stir up the mud and sediment that lurks 28' below the surface. This isn't good.

So whilst some services return, I can flush the loo, the washing machine remains idle, the cooking water comes from down the lane, the shower is unused, dishes are unwashed and drinking water comes in a bottle. Over time the water settles and bit by bit I can use more of it. But the seamless integration that existed before Wexit is a distant memory. And all the while I'm aware that it's a matter of time before the water stops again.

Of course I'm hoping that I will find things better under the WTO (Well Turned Off) rules as a deal is forged with the borehole outside Mon Plaisir Stores. But even that is filled with uncertainty as I don't know when it might happen.

Island life.

* also an issue


Sunday, 19 May 2019

100 days...

As you walk along Rue du Sermon in Sark, heading from the Clos à Jaon crossroads towards Le Port, you'll see a little pink stone farmhouse nestled behind Mon Plaisir Stores. 100 days ago as I write this, I saw this cottage for the first time.

100 days.

In the far flung former colonies there is great play made of the first 100 days of a president in office, or, of course as it is now, the Wotsit in Chief. So when I realised it was 100 days I had to write. Let's face it, I've been threatening to write about the move itself as well as the realities of living on a rock in the middle of the sea.

Wet. Very, very wet.
I often fret that I've not managed to "do" much, let's face it, whenever I'm asked how I'm settling in I usually include the fact that I've still got three boxes to unpack. I have. They are being singularly stubborn and refusing to distract me from other things to get them done.

But it got me thinking, just what have I done? Well...

I visited Sark for the first time, I discovered just how wet and windswept I can get and still keep smiling. Location might have made a difference. I put in an offer for a place, arranged removals, slept little, panicked a lot, packed endless books, lost my marbles and yet somehow managed to get from there to here.

Not Sark.
In the 40 days between visiting and then moving here I also managed to squeeze in trips to Barcelona and Nice as well as forays to different parts of the UK to deal with various issues.

The funny thing with these trips, as well as my final bumble in to the West End for going away drinkies, was that they helped me realise that I really was ready to not being constantly surrounded by endless noise, chaos and... Anonymity.

Don't get me wrong, I love the experiences and no doubt I'll be travelling again soon, but for now I'm happy to adjust to a new way of life.

Un rock star.
The last trip to Nice was memorable for a couple of reasons, one because we stumbled on a fabulous little restaurant, Chez Moi, the other... turns out the Hotel had a dark past as the former Gestapo headquarters in Nice. I guess they liked how convenient it was for Gare de Nice Ville...

I did try not to dwell on the connection.

Ooh, what am I thinking, now we're talking about food... In Barcelona I rather inevitably went back to Bar Restaurant Victòria on Carrer dels Àngels, it's as good as ever, especially if like me you're allergic to tourists... Another highlight, foodwise and if you like dead things, was Arcano on Carrer dels Mercaders. The steak was really good and the view... *fans self*

Somebody will check the address and see that it's down a side street. Ladies, just go, you'll understand.

Bloody bear.
Finally, cocktails, I can't recommend Pura Vida, again on Carrer dels Mercaders, enough. A fantastic, if tiny, wee place.

I really need to do more blogging, I'm way behind on trips!

Where was I? Oh yes. Back in the realities of oh-feck-not-long-before-I-move I had three weeks after returning from Nice before I would be handing over the keys in Epping Upland. But here's the thing, as I will write at some point, to move to the Channel Islands requires a certain amount of logistics which means I had 16 days before the boys from R&R would be turning up to pack everything...

*shrieks*

Epping Upland
Wait, when did that happen? I must have booked them at some point in the previous few weeks. Keep in mind that it was 40 days between arriving on Sark and arriving on Sark to move in. Come to think of it there were a mass of things I organised. How did I do that and manage to keep working? Perhaps I'm not as hopeless as I think.

In this time I managed to also take a trip to see my surgeon for a check up to see if the prolapse repair worked (it did) and, more importantly, the travelling one rolled back to the UK for a couple of weeks so that she could organise her things and give me moral support. By organise things we mean sort out anything that needs to be dumped or taken to the charity shop, moral support though? Giggles, morning natters and evenings in the Traveller's Friend, my nearest pub in the next village.

Missy was sent packing the day before R&R turned up and I went from worrying about all the things I had to do to feeling helpless as they were now doing the actual move. And very impressive they were too.

For the avoidance of doubt, as you can see in the picture to the right, Epping Upland was lovely but quite isolated.

The packing went over two days. Well, a day and a half. Fortunately more moral support turned up in the form of my lovely friend Paul. Also handy as he would go to Epping in search of emergency supplies.

I never want to move again.

Way to stressful.

Somehow though I made it to handover day, said goodbye to Rosie next door, managed not to cry too much and then jumped in the SLK and headed to Yorkshire...

For fish and chips. As you do.

Here's another number.

60.

60 days since I moved to Sark. But there was one day in Guernsey.

After the fish and chips in Yorkshire it was an early start for the flight from Manchester. Monty was happy as there was fizz on the plane. Monty is always happy with fizz. I'd also arranged to meet up with a friend of mine and former flatmate of my former flatmate, like a friend of a friend but with more insider knowledge.

As my friend Ermin lives in Guernsey it meant I had a quick run down of things I should know, or not, and a brief tour of St Peter Port.

I also found my trusty boots had decided that they didn't want to be with me anymore, they heel developed a puncture and I was listing to one side. I'm sure there will be a few people that will wonder how this is even slightly different from normal. Fortunately, Millets were selling off their old stock so I picked up a pair of sensible rough walking shoes ideal for life on Sark. Goodbye slingbacks and ridiculous heels, I'll miss you.

The only fly in the ointment was I received a phone call... From R&R, only two of the three containers had made it to Sark...

After a fabulous evening in Da Nello as guests of Ermin and his brilliant and lovely wife Laura a good night's sleep was had before yet another early start.

Moving day.

February sea...
At least the rain was holding off and it was no way near as rough as it had been 40 days earlier in February. I was glad to see the removals guys on the boat.

I was slightly fretting, in the same way that the sea is slightly wet, about what the third container contained. I just hoped it wasn't my bed, or worst still, the kettle.

As is my wont, I spent the hour trip preparing plan B, there wasn't a lot else for me to do other than meet the estate agent and stand there telling people where to put things.

I'm bossy like that.

So what next? Well, over the next 60 days I've simply made a home. It took some effort as first I had to get past the enormous pile of boxes, the pile that grew when my neighbour Jimmy turned up with the missing container.

Eventually the scaffolding came down from the chimneys, the boxes were mostly emptied and, most importantly, I got back to work. At first I was in the lounge as the third bedroom which would be my study was, well, full.

Progress seemed interminably slow as, of course, I was also working during the days which meant I mostly did a sorting at weekends with a little in the evenings.

And Friday is meat draw.

And sometimes you just have to go for a little walk.

The lounge was made ready just in time for the littlest offspring to visit over Easter. It's not quite how I'd like it as the daybed is for my study for when I need thinking time. But it would do until I can afford another sofa.

The dining table, well that's currently my desk. And will stay so until I can manage to order the desk I'd like, which, this being Sark, is really tricky. But that's for another blogpost.

The important room though was pretty much sorted, the kitchen. As with Epping Upland when I first arrived I pretty much lived there.

Needless to say other things have happened. I've had visitors on four of the weekends, which has been lovely. One was written off after spending the entire day in the pub, something I just don't do.

I've explored a little, particularly when the littlest offspring was here. Friday's are the night I always go out-out as I love how busy the Bel Air becomes for the meat draw. It doesn't hurt that I've managed to have a winning ticket a few times.

Lunches have been had in the Island Hall or even a solo picnic on Port à la Jument beach. There have been pizzas at the Bel Air, fish and chips at AJ's and even supper at La Seigneurie were I was fortunate to meet some fabulous new people.

Closer to home I've bought a lovely British racing green bicycle called Imogen, the first I've had in years. She's not quite as quick as the SLK but she does have the advantage of being far easier to park. And cheaper on fuel (about a pie a week). I've baked lots and lots of bread and this has me pondering a mad idea.

I've also managed to re-discover my creativity. Maybe not with writing yet, I'll get there.

I also know there is no rush.

A photo.
For example, last week, I think, I did something I've not done in ages, I planned a photograph. On the perfect day, sun just right, windy and the tide coming the right way, as the Guerns were partying away on their Liberation Day I climbed down to Port à la Jument with my tripod and took a photo. And you know what?

I felt at peace.

I've even restarted running. Now I've not done that in ages owing to, well, injury, surgery and then moving somewhere where it was very difficult, ploughed fields are impossible. So I'm restarting and whilst I'm only at week three I can't think of a better place to go for early morning runs.

There are definite upsides. Whereas in London a 6am run means you have to deal with seeing all the really fit and toned people making like gazelles as I do my award winning interpretation of a hippopotamus wearing Nike, here all I have to deal with are the sheep laughing at me and occasional free range chickens executing their right to roam.

It's truly horrible.

Yes the roads are not perfect. And perhaps a little stony. None of that matters. The air is clear, the breeze keeps me cool and the view is calming.

Yesterday was momentous. At day 99 I discovered that the potatoes I'd planted had started to grow. This was a massive surprise as I wasn't sure whether I'd done things quite right. I'd wondered how best to deal with some sprouting potatoes and found an article that seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Time will tell.

So what next?

Well, more of the above. But none of it in any particular hurry. As I finally finish the last of the jobs needed to make the house just right I will have more time for activities other than just working and sorting. What direction these take I don't know and I'm not sure whether it matters. If you move to a place because you want a more peaceful life then why create artificial stresses?

I'm sure all will become clearer over the coming weeks and months. My days will continue to be punctuated by the rising sun as the birds, horse's hooves and occasional tractors provide a soundtrack.

In the meantime I shall sign off, I have bread to make, the rest of my washing to put on. And, of course, I need a cup of tea.

Oh.

And there are three boxes left to unpack...