Guernsey – Not an Island Run by Cows

by Bowen Craig

Whenever Athens Uncharted gets a hit from a country that sounds more interesting than the one I’m currently in, I want to write about it. So far, it’s just Martinique and Somalia, and I’m kind of wavering on Somalia. Other than the higher-than-I’m-comfortable-with likelihood of my bloody death, it sounds wonderful. Beaches. pirates. decent cost of living. What’s not to love?

We got a brand new one last week, so new in fact that I’d never even heard of it.

 Mark Katzman, the co-founder of this crazy endeavor, emailed me, saying that someone from the country of “Guernsey” had checked out Athens Uncharted.

I was relatively certain that there was no such thing as the country of Guernsey, so I was intrigued. I knew there was a type of cow called Guernsey, but since cows are both stupid and notoriously bad at seceding from their home countries, I was convinced that either bovines are much smarter than I had thought and have now figured out how to use the Internet, or that I was just wrong and it was, indeed, a country. In my lifetime there have been a few new countries, mainly those former Soviet “Named-After-Some-Ethnic-Group-Pretty-Much-No-One-Knew-Existed-Before-The-New-Maps-Came-Out-A-Stans.” Rand McNally should not have this power. It’s possible that I missed the creation of Guernsey…and Heiferland, maybe Porkchopastan.

Mark told me that Facebook says it’s a country. Who am I to argue with Zuckerberg-logic? Other than fomenting riots and making us all drop 20 IQ points to the point that we think anything on Facebook is actual news, I have no problem with Facebook. However, one of the only trustworthy stops on the Information Superhighway, Wikipedia, seems legitimate to me, so that’s where I turned to solve this cartographic dilemma.

Anyway, from what I can tell Guernsey runs itself, except when England feels like overriding them. The Guernsish leader is called the Bailiff, and he’s the head judge, the head of state and also cuts ribbons at store openings with oversized scissors. Essentially they have a king, but at any moment his royal edicts can be vetoed, which isn’t very kingly, if he doesn’t piss off Parliament, I’m sure England lets him keep his scepter most of the time. To the Bailiff’s credit, his job title presumably looks quite bad-ass on a business card.

Their judicial system is just sixteen people, the Jurats, who are elected and serve as the juries for everything, civil cases, doling out penalties, and other judicial nonsense, and have been doing so since 1179. Probably not the same guys.

Like everyone else in the British Empire, this island paradise might declare independence at any moment. Then again, they might not. Ask Scotland. Ask The Falkland Islands. Read a history book. Everyone’s always at least somewhat conflicted about leaving the rigid arms of Mother England.

It’s hard not to love a national economy that can make your bathroom smell better and is one-third of a pizza.

Bowen Craig

Guernsey’s economy was once based mainly on tomatoes and freshly-cut flowers. It’s hard not to love a national economy that can make your bathroom smell better and is one-third of a pizza. But, of course, it’s also one of those places where rich people hide their money when the Caymans are busy and the Renaissance art is on loan to a museum for poor people. Oh, and they also have rock quarries, a sure tourist attraction if there ever was one. “Honey, look. It’s a rock. Get a picture of me in front of this Guernsey rock. My sister will be soo jealous.” Nothing says exotic vacation like a good rock quarry.

Their post office boxes are pretty cool. Called “pillar boxes,” they look like a blueish mix of a World War II Nazi sniper hideout and a headless Pez Dispenser. The oldest British pillar box still in use in the Empire is on Guernsey, on Union Street in St. Peter Port. It’s been around since 1853, back when mail might not be have consisted only of bills and mildly ironic offers of faster Internet service.

They’ve got their own state-owned airline, Aurigny Air Services. Their Wikipedia airplane picture looks suspiciously like a Jazz Age airmail prop plane that William Boeing might’ve found futuristic, but now looks more likely to kill an off-duty rock star than an actual means of human transportation.

All things considered, Guernsey looks all right. As long as I can boat there, I’d like to visit. Since this “article” has an intended audience of one (I’m talking to you Guernsey Guy), log back on a few times so we know you’ve read this and be certain that, should you ever decide to secede from the British Empire, we at Athens Uncharted will have your back. We’re not so much a militia as a few impoverished, unarmed peacenik writers in Northeast Georgia, but if you need a modern Thomas Paine, we’ll write you one hell of a pamphlet. We’ll send it directly to that pillar box on Union Street…and then the Revolution will commence.

Categories: soundings

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