Emily has recently returned to the island after doing a Masters in Journalism, War and International Human Rights in Lincoln. She has been back and forth to Jersey over the years in between living in London and abroad and hopes to return to the Northern Territory before heading to South America.
Jersey, London and the Northern Territory are just a few of the places I call home. Whether there are 8 million, 100,000 or 100 people, I have been lucky enough to create a new life everywhere I have lived, surrounded by incredible people from all over the world.
I always thought Jersey was tiny but growing up in an island of 100,000 had definite benefits. Jersey was a safe training ground for the inevitable partying of my early years, where hitching, drinking and dancing til dawn were the norm. Having lived in many other places, I cannot imagine a better place as a youngster, to explore the islands nightlife and meet many great people. Nights at the splash in the days of ska, indie and ‘foxy lady’ and the numerous after parties to choose from were the highlight of my teenage years.
But by the time I turned of legal age it was time to find a new playground, London. As most people who’ve lived there know, London is so vast and unlimiting; in people to meet and things to do, try and see, that it takes two years just to get to grips with it all. Over five years, I lived across most of north, east and south of London and entered into a world of punks, anarchists and squatters. Of course I could relay the usual offers of London; incredible nightlife, galleries, museums and events but London for me was quite different.
As the financial crash had left employment options almost non-existent, days were spent at our squatted social centre, Ratstar. Whilst the CVs went out, most of the time was spent helping with the gardens, the free-shop, bike and printing workshops, the free vegan café, and fundraising gigs, raves and events, like the tattoo circus. Protests – like stopping the forced deportation of Iraqi Kurds to Baghdad, were fairly common and we often went to demonstrations across Europe, with days on protests, evenings at gigs and nights spent at illegal raves with sound systems the size of lorries. Considering the extreme lack of money, I have never been so busy or travelled so often. Only through meeting such a diverse group of people and being open to previously undared ways of doing things could I have had so many new experiences.
London is the only place on earth where out of a community of about 80 people, only six were British. Everyone else was from around the world and there was a constant stream of people staying from all over Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand. For a city of strangers, London truly is a place where every kind of community thrives and a certain freedom comes from the lack of attention paid to any and all the multicultural differences that eight million people can provide.
The only reason I headed to Australia was because of the people I’d lived with in London. I drunkenly bought a one-way ticket to Melbourne and was quite surprised to find around 30 people who I’d lived with at one time or another, all out the first night I arrived. It didn’t take long to know the rest. The only real difference between the London and Melbourne scene were that activists were environmental and spent a considerable time up trees, defending against logging companies, and instead of a illegal raves after gigs, 90’s britpop and cheesy classics blared. The throw away culture of the still wealthy Australia provided us with enough steaks and food to hold BBQs for 40 odd people, which we organised at our home weekly. I loved it, but I had friends in Adelaide to see.
By strange coincidence and a missed freight train, I woke up in a park in Darwin, but by mid morning I had a bar job 100km from the city in a place closely resembling the film ‘texas chainsaw massacre‘. In a community of around 100, whose trailers and dongas encircled the pub, I have never met such an incredible number of weird and wonderful characters. Out ‘bush‘, shotgun ‘burnout’ bogans, helicopter station cowboys, toothless old-boy bikers and pyromaniac firefighters all came to drink at the only pub for 100km in each direction.
For all the vastness of nature and the tranquility of the national parks and wetlands, drama and extremes were as normal as the hot dry heat of the summer season and the cyclonic rains of the wet season. Nights were spent on tray-utes watching the vast bush fires, or shining torches on the red eyes of crocs whilst drinking in the lagoons, firing off guns and fireworks for no reason at all. Everyday was frankly hysterically weird and I’d live there again in a heartbeat.
Ultimately, you chose who you surround yourself with, whether the population be in the millions or the tens of thousands. Yet living in a rural madscape of 100 people gives you the chance to feel wholly part of a community, perhaps one which would not be initially chosen from the outset, but nevertheless the most insane home I can’t wait to return to.
WHO COULD YOU MEET IN A TOWN OF 100:
Caveman Caveman had changed his name by deed poll (his second name a legal necessity), and literally wore nothing more than a pair of short shorts and a back brace, he was a walking encyclopedia of dirty jokes.
Woody dressed like a cowboy but wasn’t allowed whiskey as he’d once driven the lawn mower into the pub and destroyed the floor.
Ida, originally from Papua New Guinea, played an imaginary trumpet when drunk, and once stole the leftover pig from the spit, greasing up his door so much he couldn’t get in, passing out on the floor. He’d also accidentally set fire to his room, and his most constant phrase was “shut the **** up” before he’d let out a cracking laugh. A true gem of a fella.
Chippy had only one tooth, chipped. He’d spent some time in prison after a random stolen car chase with the police had accidentally driven through his field of cannabis.
Colgate had almost no teeth, but was always in a great mood, even though he’d recently lost a large chunk of his backside in a car accident.
Bunta and Ben (who laughed like a goat) were best friends, and, as they found out later, were related. Their friend Shane made the national news after a neighbour shot up his car and house. Weirdly enough we were on speakerphone with Ben at the time, with shotguns going off in the background, we headed straight over with my paramedic friend after Ben had shouted “he’s hit the deck, he’s shot him!”. All was fine, but the YouTube news report is fun to watch.
Sam, one of the helicopter pilots was perhaps a little bit mental. He had a wardrobe full of fancy dress outfits (think male stripper) and one night forced a Japanese visitor to eat an extremely hot chilli before trying to lock him in a meat fridge. He was alone on a massive station most of the time where he argued with his cat ‘Meowsy’.