April 2014: Guernsey
Venue: Les Roquettes Hotel
Organiser: Jason Monaghan, assisted by Judith Rhodes
Report by Evonne Wareham
This was my first CWA conference. Being wet behind the ears I failed to duck in time and found that I’d somehow volunteered to write up the proceedings for Red Herrings. This onerous responsibility, plus the fact that travel to Guernsey involved a small aircraft, did not prevent me from looking forward to the trip. I was not disappointed. A comfortable hotel, friendly locals, a flower-filled island, some unexpectedly sunny weather, good food and good company – and I haven’t even touched on the conference programme yet. Early arrivals on Thursday were welcomed at a Vin d’Honneur, hosted at the museum by the Island’s Literary Festival. I gather the Festival is fairly new, but the enthusiasm of everyone I met seemed likely to ensure that it will continue to gather strength.
Friday afternoon brought registration and goodie bags, containing books and gifts from the sponsor Specsavers. Discussion about the purpose of the ‘gadget in the box’ was an icebreaker later, if one was needed. (It was a light to attach to a book.) Another reception, this time hosted by the Bailiff of Guernsey and including a look at the island’s Royal Court and a chance to hobnob with Guernsey’s Victorian Policeman, made way for an excellent dinner and entertainment by the Ukuladeez an (almost) all-girl ukulele band. Self-penned songs on topical themes, including one especially for the occasion about the last man hanged on Guernsey. If you want to see what you missed, [check them out on YouTube](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa2UdoGcH0I)
The really serious stuff began on Saturday, with a glimpse of island policing from former Chief Officer George Le Page QPM, followed by a dip into an as yet relatively unexplored facet of the war time history of the island when Dr Gilly Carr spoke on Resistance and Punishment during the German Occupation. There is a short film [‘Forgotten Heroes’ on YouTube](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHEHvUAI_B8).
Saturday afternoon involved military precision and ‘labyrinthine’ plans to get forty delegates to various stops on the island, in groups of ten, because of the accommodation limits of Victor Hugo’s house. Should the CWA ever contemplate the invasion of a small country, Jason is probably the man to do the organising. One of my high spots of the weekend came at the weapon handling session at the museum, when I got to examine the dagger of my dreams. A weapon I’d imagined, but didn’t think existed. Now I know, and have the pictures. Victor Hugo’s house, where he spent a long exile and wrote Les Miserables, among other things, was full of stairs, hidden doors and cupboards and heavily carved wooden panels. Great contrasts of light and dark and spectacular views from the upper floors.
The gala dinner brought out the posh frocks – and the men didn’t look too bad either. More fine food and a good-humoured look at the law, from Judge Russell Finch.
Sunday morning and almost over. Two informative sessions – on insurance fraud and financial crime from Steve Butterworth, former Superintendent of Insurance Business for the Guernsey FSA and Forensic Statement Analysis from Dr Isabel Picornell. The latter much more interesting than the compulsory module that was part of my undergraduate English course. Who knew then that linguistics could have such a fascinating practical application?
And that was it. I had a great time. The organisation from Jason Monaghan, assisted by Judith Rhodes, was impeccable.
And I’m already looking forward to next year in Lincoln.
By Robert Richardson
(Robert Richardson concocted a cunning competition for the conference as usual, but was unable to attend. In his absence it was administered by Jason Monaghan.)
The letter was made up from newspaper type. Its message read ‘You have only fifty words to live’. Heart racing, the detective acted immediately, but only had time to holster his ‘thirty eight’, put on his hat and coat and rush out of the door. He was never seen again.
The challenge was to write a thriller using exactly 50 words, excluding the title which may be up to 10 words. Extra credit was given for a story that in some way embraced the CWA and/or Guernsey.
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