Guernsey is blessed in many ways, not least in the many charitable organisations that exist here. From the Hospice movement to the Children’s Charities to the generic all encompassing “Just Let’s do Good” clubs, they keep doing their much needed work because of kind and generous people.
For me, however, some questions come to mind every time I see the Tree of Joy or some kitten rehoming scheme. The first question is, of course, “Does the Round Table have just one chairman or does it have four matching ones?” Another is “Why does the Dyslexia Society have such a difficult name to spell?” But in a more philosophical frame of mind I wonder “If nature likes to keep an equilibrium (as I’m told it does), does all this good being done on the island get cancelled out and if so, how?” Obviously shoe shop assistants, people who won’t let you turn round in their drive, civil servants who lose your file and one or two politicians are doing their best but they can’t do it all. Somewhere there are people who are putting back the misery and I think I have found them. They are the Men in Hats
The Men in Hats come into their own in the afternoon. This is because they are almost all over seventy. It is one of the few occasions where physical infirmity is seen to be an advantage and the sole purpose of this group of people is to wind the public up into a screaming ball of fury. They and their sisters - White Haired Lady Talking To A Friend - achieve this very successfully time and time again using nothing more complicated than a small car and all the time in the world.
You will come across Men in Hats on any of the small lanes at any time after lunch and on the bigger roads in the rush hour. They are easy to spot because all you can see is the hat peeping over the steering wheel as its owner strains to navigate complicated bits of completely straight road. You will also spot them because they will be firmly and unavoidably in front of you. The chance of meeting up with one is related to how late you are and how important the meeting you are rushing to, is.
They do their evil work by never ever reaching speeds greater than 15 miles an hour. This is on a clear road with the wind behind them. They may or may not be indicating with no intention to turn and sometimes they slow down suddenly to walking pace. You quickly realise that this is because of a bend, or because another car is coming towards them, or for no particular reason. Sometimes White Haired Ladies talking to a Friend will slow to a crawl to hear a bit of gossip or if lost in a mild argument about whether something happened before or after Fred died. Unfortunately this decrease in speed never ever coincides with a place where it is safe to overtake so you are left to take the decision whether to sit still and explode or to risk all, pull out and get plastered on the bonnet of an on coming lorry.
It may seem churlish to criticise our senior citizens like this but if it seems so to you it will be because you don’t get out much. They may be old but don’t be fooled into thinking they are totally impotent - Men in Hats are dangerous and are out to get you.
First published in GAP no. 46, Spring 2001