(10 August 2004) Today I bring you an adventure story from the South Seas, a tale of ancient derring-do, but with a modern twist!
The tiny Pacific island known as Scottish Bank Holiday is idyllic. There are multi-hued parrots, and feathery palm trees, and a small bar, called Hernando's. It is perhaps the most peaceful island in the Pacific, and has been ever since it was first spotted and named by Captain Cook.
(He had been in too much hurry to land and explore, but according to the custom of the times he had glanced in his diary and named it after the day on which it was first sighted.)
Nothing much had ever happened there, except in the Year of the Great Japanese Rumour, in 1973. The rumour had been that the Japanese wished to buy the island and build three golf courses. It turned out to be true, and the islanders were allowed to vote on it. But by the time they had worked out how to conduct a referendum, the Japanese had grown tired of waiting for their decision and had bought another island, called Boxing Day Island, then renamed it St Andrew's Island and charged people $10,000 a year to be members. So Scottish Bank Holiday had remained undiscovered.
One day Hernando was looking out of the bar he had named after himself when he noticed a boat coming in through the surf towards the harbour. It was being rowed by 16 men. They rowed raggedly, and occasionally one of the rowers fell over backwards to great shouts of laughter from the others.
"Look," said Hernando to the only drinker in the bar, who was called Lorenzo and was Prime Minister of the island, as well as being the island's chief mechanic. "There is a boat coming through the surf. Being rowed. We have not seen anyone arrive by rowing boat since about 1850."
"Well, perhaps they are making a film," said Lorenzo, who was one of the few people on the island with a television set and therefore had seen programmes about what happened to places which had served as the location for films. (They were always made rich in the process, though ruined in every other way.)
"I don't think they are making a film," said Hernando. "I think they are just drunk."
As they watched, the boat crashed on to the beach. The 16 rowers clambered out of the boat and fell about in the sea. At first sight it looked as if they were all naked, but then it dawned on the horrified Hernando and Lorenzo that they were wearing giant nappies. And all had baby's dummies in their mouths. They started climbing up the beach, clearly very drunk and very amused by everything that every one of them said and did.
"Oh, my God," said Lorenzo, who had seen such things on his TV. "It's a British stag party."
"What does that mean?" said Hernando. "Are they going to invade us and take over the place?"
"Nothing like that," said Lorenzo. "They will drink as much as they can and take their clothes off and make very rude suggestions to our womenfolk which they would be incapable of fulfilling, and after two days they will leave, having spent all their money."
"Do you suppose," said Hernando, looking out of the window as the lads crawled up the beach, "if we held on to them for ransom, we could get any money from their families in return for their return ?"
"Do you think anyone in their right mind would pay good money for their return?" said Lorenzo. "Well, perhaps they would pay us to keep them here," Hernando said.
He never heard Lorenzo's answer to this, for at that moment the first of the stag party had arrived at the bar and was trying to locate the front door. Failing to do so, he came in through the window and fell flat on his face. Everyone else roared with laughter.
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