What happens when you take a small island and start telling its secrets? Find out in our brand-new serial, The Secret Diary of Island Wives. Each week we will be bringing you the latest instalment of a behind-the-scenes tale of island lives.
Fact or fiction? Truth or dare? Your guess is as good as ours …
Everyone lives in glass houses; some of us just have bigger windows.
The Channel Islands may have more than your average number of mansions, however, the windows here are just as fragile as anywhere else. Perhaps even more so.
In summer, when the sun turns the sea into a glitter bay of yachts and jet ski foam, you could believe you are in the South of France, at least, that’s how some people sell the place.
Lubricated with rosé and sun lotion, everyone relaxes. Swimming pools become turquoise party pads. Windows open wider, and you get a glimpse of a world that looks so perfect, you can’t help becoming entranced.
“Should we move here?” Visitors ask. “How much would it cost? What’s the internet like? The schools?”
You make check lists for relocation, plan how to turn fantasy into reality, scanning job adverts, signing up with recruitment agencies, looking at selling a business, buying a business, or even setting up a business.
And then it starts getting serious. You wonder; could you really do it? Move there? Give up the hairdresser you’ve been going to for 10 years who has finally got your colour right? Leave the golf club where you know every hole. Abandon the children at university, the parents who are ‘getting on a bit’, the friends you’ve made. The places you know. The life you’ve built.
Could you really leave it all to start afresh on a small island? Maybe the nicer your life, the easier it is to move in theory, but the harder in practice. Everything involves comparisons, some fair, some less so.
By autumn, the shimmer starts to wear off. The sky gets greyer. The air becomes colder. Umbrellas replace sunshades, Barbours, bikinis.
The windows start to close, Islanders retreat indoors. An island is at its most insular in the winter when transport becomes trickier, when strangers can’t blend in as tourists. “Why are you here? What are you doing?”
You try to come back, and the flight has been cancelled. Fog.
A week or two later, perhaps you try again, and this time make it over. The Island is quieter, alfresco is al freddo. People scowl at your H plates when you cause a jam on a Green Lane. You get lost five times driving less than a mile between two main roads.
You go for a walk on the cliffs and nearly get eaten by an evil sheep. Everyone you meet is South African or sounds like they are. You see litter on a street. Graffiti on a wall. You see people who are not wearing designer sunglasses or drinking champagne.
You go for your job interview, or you meet lawyers and accountants. You view one of the houses you saw on Instagram. The manicured lawns now a quagmire of leaves. You ask where everyone is, and the agent looks blank. The photos on the wall indicate Barbados is a good guess.
There are over 108,000 people already in Jersey and 67,000 in Guernsey, some who will welcome you, others who will think you are directly, personally, responsible for overpopulation. If you’re poor, you’ll be regarded as an immigrant, ‘putting demands on Island services.’ If you’re clever and come to fill a job, you’ll be blamed for every failure. If you’re rich, whatever you contribute will never be enough.
You’ll think you’re being scammed by every tradesperson who comes to your house … until you realise, they’re the honest ones. Your new BFF is your lawyer or accountant. Your bank invites you to parties. Everyone wants to make money off you or make you make money for them. Paradise is purgatory if you are poor!
So maybe you move. Maybe you don’t. The windows are now shut, but your eyes are hopefully open.
Of course, it’s different if you are born here. Then people only want to know whether your grandmother was one of the de la whatsits of de la whatsit, or if your sister’s husband’s father is really now running the xxx, because they can remember him at school, and he certainly didn’t seem very good at maths back then.
So, here’s my diary. My life in the Channel Islands. You’ll meet my friends and frenemies. There’ll be people you might know, and people you might not. Fiction is stranger than truth, or whatever ‘truth’ a scriptwriter in London or a camera crew in St Helier can conjure up.
Join the Island Wives again next Friday.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, or actual events is purely coincidental.