Gary Burgess: Letting off steam about a ruddy clock

Steam clock in St Helier
Credit: ITV Channel TV

It’s a knackered old folly of a landmark that’s more hassle than it’s worth.

That’s certainly one view of the steam clock in St Helier which Ports of Jersey this week proudly proclaimed it has fixed.

For yonks the clock was only accurate twice a day, as it sat there as a sad monument to the many landmarks and buildings across Jersey in public and semi-public ownership that have been allowed to fall into decay and dilapidation.

It’s not a uniquely Jersey problem, you see the same in many jurisdictions, where a government ends up with a property portfolio that just doesn’t make economic or practical sense in the 21st century.

That said, when you see the likes of Piquet House slowly withering away, it’s simply sad to see.

It’s also hard, in economically straitened times, to argue for the funding to maintain them, but I’d counter that by saying the dereliction of duty in not maintaining them, and then being landed with an even bigger restoration bill when you eventually attempt to flog them, is worthy of consideration.

But that’s also one of the realities of our four year political cycles: it’s never quite urgent enough for it to be anybody's top priority, and you can be sure it never ends being anybody’s responsibility.

And, so, back to the steam clock.

I got a bit of push back last week when I gently highlighted the absurdity of a politician calling for a full parliamentary debate to ask a government minister to ask the Ports of Jersey if they’d fix a clock.

Deckchairs and Titanic spring to mind.

To me, picking up the phone and asking “can you fix a clock?” would be a better use of everybody’s time.

Anyhow, the clock is fixed, without the need for a big debate. Though the actual faux steam mechanism bit still isn’t up and running. Again, to avoid another debate, could I politely ask Ports of Jersey to install some kind of giant kettle inside, and plug it into an hourly timer so, on the hour, we get a gentle plume of environmentally friendly steam?

The steam clock’s back telling the time but the government’s property portfolio is still a sprawling mess. Maybe, the next time one of those in charge notices it telling the correct time more than twice a day, they can add some urgency to proceedings and either flog off some assets to free up some desperately needed cash, or dig deep to take proper care of this island’s heritage.

There. It was good to let off steam!