Dr A.W.Watt was Scot, tiny, almost to emaciation, with large eyes and a long thin face that could crease with humour. We sat in the front room of a house in Hove, Brighton's elegant neighbour in an avenue leading to the sea front. It could have been the sparsely furnished room in any home with a tiny gas fire which I never saw unlit and inclined towards it were two identical chairs. He sat in the one with his back to the light. One could either look at the fire or at him. I chose the latter.
"Well Doc, why am I here?" "Suppose you tell me." I had no difficulty in explaining a frenetic lifestyle and impatience with trivialities. It seemed that most people irritated me and he asked me why. I was well aware that he was one of the most eminent psychologists in Southern England but why did he not even hint at what was wrong with me? If anything. He looked at his watch; my hour was up. It had seemed but a short time. I was to see him every day that week, twice the following few weeks and once a week thereafter, later reduced to 30 minute sessions.
I was aware that he was gently prompting me but there was no apparent direction. My energy, it seemed was endless. Those around me could not or would not grasp the fact that, to me, everything was urgent. After a month or so of this I asked him if he thought I was in the wrong job and if not, what would be most suitable for whatever talents I had. (This, just as he was seeing me out of the front door.) There was something birdlike as he cocked his head on one side and his eyes twinkled wickedly - "Council for the defence?" Touché! The old devil knew me but where was I going? He had already made me face the fact that 'Little Johnny' was not the only one in step but as yet there was no indication as to who was.
I was starting to see the humour of my position in society but still had to force myself to be more patient. It was difficult because others could not immediately see what I was trying to do. I felt more alien than ever. After a month or two he said "How would you like to try Sodium pentathol? (The so called, truth drug). I trusted him completely and said "Whenever you like?" It was obvious that he was quite ready! He motioned me up onto the examination couch across the window. [Stupid of me not to notice that the curtains were already drawn]. He slid the needle into a vein in my inner arm and we continued chatting. After a time I said "Oh! No, the damned stuff isn't working". That slightly evil chuckle and "If you don't think so, look at your watch." I was completely conscious but twenty minutes had vanished. It was quite amazing, there was not a glimmer of recognition or recollection of time passed.
"What did we learn?" (So completely did I trust him that it was 'our' quest.)
He shook his head gloomily and said "Nothing Edward, nothing, excepting that you admire your great grandfather and that you have a condom in your pocket!" My great grandfather was much of a 'loner' and lived to a hundred and three.
There was a subconscious block of daunting proportions. The first question was always. "Any dreams Edward?" He would then extract any matter of interest and discuss the significance. One day I answered that I had a most puzzling and embarrassing dream. "Go on." "Well, we were sitting as we are now and I had an erection." This was getting difficult. "Well, I had an ejaculation". I hesitated for too long and he said "Do you want me to finish it for you?" I just looked at him stupefied as he continued. -- "It hit me in the head didn't it? "How the hell did you know?"
"Quite obvious.' 'Your considerable nervous and physical energies are sublimated in your also considerable sexual drive.' 'What more natural than that you would want to stop me probing further by concentration on my head which you see as my power base." It was a turning point. From then on we could go ahead with the process of deconstruction and from there to reconstruction. It took about eighteen months and just tailed off to the occasional visit. My frenetic life became blunted and even if less interesting as a person I became at least less abrasive as a person.
I got hold of a copy of the paper and went to the address therein. It was a large block of luxury flats. As soon as I got out of the lift I found myself faced with a long queue of people who were reading newspapers or just waiting patiently. My confidence was considerably enhanced by an excellent meal accompanied by a very acceptable bottle of Paulliac. I strode confidently to the head of the queue and rapped on the door. It was opened by an anxious lady who made no objection as I slipped inside and closed the door behind me. I said "You look as though you need help here." "Oh! I do, I do!" She answered. I said "Right let's get organised" I opened the door and pushed a desk across it. There was a pad of paper and pencils so I took the name and address of each person and asked their purpose. Brief details were duly entered and I promised that they would hear in due course. As soon as there was a free moment I wrote on a piece of paper that the island was sold and any further queries or applications should be made in writing to the above address. All this time she sat in an armchair wringing her hands.
"Oh! Thank you' she said 'but who are you?" I admitted that I too had come about the advertisement in The Times. She laughed and asked me if I wanted a drink, she slopped some Scotch into a glass and poured herself a Gin and Tonic. We ignored the odd knock on the door and she unburdened herself. It appeared that they put the advertisement The Times in six weeks ago and that she was completely overwhelmed when it appeared that day with her husband away for some days. On top of that her son was in a sanatorium and it was impossible to get him fruit. I assured her that I would see to it that there was a basket of fruit delivered to him the following day. It was no difficulty for me to get anything that I wanted from Covent Garden Market but it was closed down for the day. At last she started to relax. Her husband had won the island in what must have been a desperate game of poker but they later realised that it was more of a liability and they decided to sell it.
She was more than happy to give me an option to purchase for £3,000 for the period of one month for the sum of £1 (Hereby confirmed as received) all on a sheet from the same pad as the other requests. I felt quite elated as I drove down 'Timbers' and was probably well over the limit. As I drove in the phone was ringing. A voice said "This is the United Press in New York, we hear that you have bought Stranger's Cay" (pronounced 'Key'). It is odd but the cable repeaters in use those days made it sound as though the message was traversing tides and hissing shingle.
The following morning every London newspaper carried the news on the front page only to be repeated when they had a few photographs. It was obviously during a news drought. "Tired Fighter Pilot Buys Dream Island". It was repeated with every possible nuance. Admittedly it was good copy. We had just come through a World War and foreign travel was nonexistent. I tried my best to damp it all down but it just would not go away. Then - the letters. At the height the postman just handed me the mailbag. There were two local papers, The Worthing Herald and The Worthing Gazette. The photographer for the former lived in our village so he was the first in and oddly enough it was the only cutting that I still have dated 24th June 1946. His photograph became the one most used.
I even had phone calls from friends abroad asking if "it was true!" I also knew the reporter on the Gazette. He and I sat on the floor in the living room nearly wetting ourselves with laughter as we went through the mail. Interestingly enough, every letter without exception on that first day, was from females, followed by the adventurous of both sexes and at the end by people with ideas of developing the island. The girls who answered first were usually out for adventure and my ideas of morality were in for a change. Here they were offering to share the life of a man whom they had never seen just because the idea of a tropical island was quite enough. Romance beckoned. The island came first and after that the "tired pilot" with whom they were offering to share their lives.
After the first rush came a fair proportion of ladies with that noble idea of guiding a lost soul back to health and the altar. There was even a man who had the idea that the island could be used for growing 'pit props' to alleviate a post war shortage in the mining industry. The possibilities of developing a business proposition seemed to the writers to be endless, from producing fruit to developing a yacht marina. Approximately 80% of the letters came from women who offered carnality although there were a few who wished to delay their offer until we were 'better acquainted!'
I sold my option.
(Lloyd's Register of Yachts 1947 includes the M.Y Saga with myself as owner!)
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Edward Sparkes ©1998-2002