Ruminations from Guernsey, Channel Islands

Cornwall Cogitations 19/197 Saturday 11 May 2019 To chew the cud, that’s one definition of ruminate. Also, to ponder, to meditate. Ah, ruminations.

Then there’s ruminant: an animal that chews the cud. Ruminant belongs to the cow. Ruminate I can do. In the colloquial sense I can chew the cud, too. My fascination with Guernsey, the island, took me there for a short visit. Indeed, I spread butter made from the rich, creamy milk of the Guernsey cow thickly on crusty bread while ruminating on island life, past and present.

My tug to visit Guernsey came some years ago after reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The novel, set in 1946, just after WW II, captures the human spirit of survival, of love and friendship, as people who experienced the brutality of Nazi Occupation share their stories. One today could hardly imagine the brutality and deprivation of the Occupation were it not for the museums, bunkers, memories, news accounts, and books, including wonders though The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

I’m re-reading the book. I’ll post photos and add a few captions that may bring past and present together. Our visit was too brief to visit the many historical and related sites on the Island. Let the photos tell a good share of the story.

The Island of some 60,000 residents is divided into 10 parishes each with a parish church. The Island exudes independence, a deep sense of history, pride, beauty, with flora and fauna and fields along country paths and cliffs that put zing in the word wonder.

I’ll leave it to Wikipedia to cover the details of The Bailiwick of Guernsey and all such assorted, but interesting matters concerning the administration and history of the island.
The Little Chapel, a work of art and a labour of love built by Brother Antoine Deodat in 1914. The chapel is decorated inside and out with seashells, pebbles and broken china. It measures 16′ by 9′. Restoration work is underway.

The Third Sunday of Easter

We attended Sunday services at the Parish Church of St Stephen. The Sung Mass was inspiring. The vicar challenged us to find new ways to express our faith in God with less ambivalence. A good number of people chatted with us after the service. The flowers below are blooming in the church garden.

If we were there on 26 May we’d sign up for the Rogation Sunday afternoon visit to Meadow Court Farm. The visit will include learning about the history and origins of the Guernsey cow, the local farming environment, the local dairy and why local milk is so popular, and farming in an environmentally friendly way.

German Occupation Museum

Map of major German Defense Works on Guernsey during WW II.

The Channel Islands were the only British territory to be occupied during World War II. The museum tells the story of the German Occupation from June 1940 to May 1945. One-half of the population and most of the school children were evacuated before the Occupation. More than 12,000 troops were stationed in Guernsey.

Our walking guide to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society locations will have to serve us in armchair reading at home. We covered some of the places, but many remain. We bought a new copy of the book.

Victor Hugo

The French writer Victor Hugo lived in exile on Guernsey from 1855-70. His home, Hauteville House, is jaw-droppingly opulent. Among the books he wrote here is Les Miserables. His house today is managed by the City of Paris and is the site of the French Consulate.

Our guide describes the features of Hugo’s bedroom, opening off from his studio.
Victor Hugo, champion of the indigent, poor children were regularly invited to his table. While often hostile to the institutional church, he was friends with individual priests. He took an interest in criminals, considering that many broke the law because of lack of education and poverty. “Hugo formed close friendships with a few Guernsey folk who share his values–a belief in progress, a love of education, a sturdy sense of independence, a strong code of principles (usually based on Christian faith).” Quote from Victor Hugo’s Guernsey Neighbours, by Gregory Stevens Cox, 2015
Garden of Hauteville House.

St. Peter Port, Town Church

The Town Church dates back to 1048. It has been rebuilt many times. John Wesley preached in the island in 1787 leading to the introduction of Methodism; the Town Church remained Anglican. Allied bombing of the harbour during World War II destroyed almost all of the church’s stained glass windows. The window below is dedicated to the Old Contemptibles, the British regular army troops in World War I.

Harbour front view of St. Peter Port from Albert Pier.

Time with friends

We had the pleasure of visiting Guernsey with friends Stanley and Marlene Kropf. So good to share stories, laughter, meals, sights together. After Guernsey, the four of us spent a day visiting the home in Chawton, Hampshire, where Jane Austen and her mother and sister lived after they left Bath. Jane wrote most of her books here. “Such art as hers can never grow old.”

Jane Austen’s writing table. During her lifetime none of her books carried her name. Thankfully, her name lives on.


Our time in the UK soon comes to an end. I anticipate continued cogitations/ruminations from walks, reading and activities elsewhere. For 2019 to date we’ve walked 570 miles.

We’ve had fine times with friends. Saw many sights. Followed the news online, via television and in print. Cooked at home and ate out. Attended worship services. Visited museums, galleries and gardens. Connected with the good people of the West Cornwall Footpaths Preservation Society. And, oh yes, on Guernsey we learned that a potato peel pie tastes awful, certainly not awe-full. Marty just put the kettle on for morning coffee. Cheers!


2 thoughts on “Ruminations from Guernsey, Channel Islands

  1. I have now put Guernsey on my bucket list. It first came to my attention with the movie “Potato Peel…” which I absolutely loved. So there’s a museum about the German occupation. Also the links to Victor Hugo and Jane Austen are interesting. Safe travels back to Indiana! Sorry we have to wait a whole year until your reports from the U.K.!


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