I was woken at 6.30 in the morning by a hammering on my door.
“I’ve got mail Jed.”
I rushed downstairs, it was unusual for anyone to write to the island. Even the mainland council sends its bills electronically these days, yet Alun was clutching no less than three letters.
Alun opened the first letter.
“It’s from Mary Beard, she’s agreed to open the history museum.”
Alun had been gathering all the island’s historic records into a collection and they were now on display in the empty house, which had been rather grandly rechristened. Alun had written to Professor Mary Beard asking her to officially open ‘the museum’ on 25th June.
“That’s great,” I said, “I’ll issue a press release, see if we can get the mainland paper interested. It might generate some interest in the museum. What are the other letters?
A second envelope fell to the floor. “It’s from Sting,” Alun said after staring rudely at it for a few minutes, “he’s agreed to open the museum.”
“But I thought Mary Beard’s doing that.”
“I asked them both Jed, I wanted to increase the chances of getting one of them, I didn’t expect them both to say yes.”
I looked at the third envelope in Alun’s hand. “Did you write to any other celebrities by any chance?”
“Oh my god Jed.” He tore the letter open. “It’s from Seb Coe, he’s agreed to come as well.”
“Seb Coe, isn’t he busy with the Olympics?”
“I know Jed, I didn’t think he’d come to the opening of a history museum, so I told a little white lie?”
“An untruth Jed. He’s coming to open our Olympic Stadium.”
“Our Olympic Stadium?”
“I panicked Jed, I thought Mary Beard and Sting would say no, and it was the only way I could think of getting Seb to come.”
“Well you’ll have to cancel him Alun, he’ll spot right away that it isn’t an Olympic stadium, besides we can’t have Sting, Seb Coe and Mary Beard all opening a history museum together.”
“Don’t worry Jed, I have a plan.”
Rather than cancel anyone, or even try to get them to come another day, Alun simply arranged to timetable the three celebrities so that they didn’t clash. He contacted Mary Beard’s PR team and asked for her to arrive on the early boat. Seb Coe would arrive at lunchtime and a special evening boat was being laid on for Sting.
“They’ll never know Jed, it’s the perfect plan.”
“But Lord Coe thinks he’s opening an Olympic stadium.”
“Oh that’s easy Jed, we’ll tell him it’s for the Olympic archiving event.”
“Olympic archiving? But archiving isn’t a sport, it’s a hobby.”
“You could say that about dressage Jed, or canoeing. Most of the things they do at the Olympics aren’t proper sports. There are so many events he’d have no idea archiving isn’t one of them.”
The day of the 25th arrived. I was woken at 5.00 a.m. by a hammering on my door.
“I want you to join the official welcoming committee Jed, for Professor Beard.”
The professor was very courteous and said she was delighted to be opening our museum. I took photos of her cutting the ribbon and then Alun showed her around. She showed an extraordinary interest in the historic documents.
“So the papers really date back 2,000 years,” she said.
“To the day Jed Christ himself visited the island.”
Mary took so much interest in the historic documents that lunchtime was soon approaching.
“We’ll have to get rid of her,” I whispered to Alun, “Seb Coe will be here at any moment.”
“It’s too late Jed, it’ll look suspicious if we bundle Mary Beard onto the boat as Lord Coe’s getting off. You’ll just have to take care of him.”
“Take care of him? But if I bring him here he’ll find Mary Beard rustling around.”
“You’ll just have to improvise Jed. Find another part of the island that could be an Olympic stadium.”
Improvise. As I walked down to the boat I tried to think of other parts of the island I could convincingly pass off as Olympic stadia. After considerable effort I eventually came up with an idea.
“So this is the Olympic Stadium,” Lord Coe said as we stood looking down over Refrigerator Bay.
“Yes,” I said, “this is the site of the 1,000 metre refrigerator hurdles.”
“It takes me back,” said Seb, “I started out as a hurdler before switching to flat racing.”
“Why was that?”
“I kept falling over the hurdles. But these fridges look the perfect height. I’m going to have a go.”
Before I could stop him, Seb had stripped down to his underpants and was sprinting around Refrigerator Bay leaping over the fridges. What a different image he projected from the eminent Peer who had single-handedly secured the Olympic bid for the mainland.
Eventually he collapsed in an exhausted heap, a contented smile on his face.
“That must be the most fun I’ve had since Munich,” he said.
We gathered Seb’s clothes together and I took him back to the boat. Alun was there, just saying goodbye to Mary Beard. In our original plan their meeting would have been a disaster, as it was both were breathless with enthusiasm telling the other about the Olympic stadium and the history museum.
“That went well Jed, just Sting to go.”
Sting’s boat arrived just as the first of the Commuter Birds were returning from the mainland. It wasn’t the boatman’s boat, it was a private yacht, the like of which had never been seen on our lands before.
A man got off.
“That must be Sting Jed.”
“It doesn’t look like StingI shouted out a greeting. “Hello,” I said. “We were expecting Sting.”
He stuck out a hand. “Hi, I’m Damian, I’m pre-security.”
“Just checking it’s safe for the full security team. It got pretty nasty in Dustledorf. Just the two of you?” I nodded. “That should be fine.”
He gave a signal to the boat and a dozen more well-built men got off. These in turn scouted the area for signs of danger and eventually, convinced of the absence of peril, gave a signal to the boat and another forty or fifty people got off.
One of the men came up to us.
“Hi, I’m Chad,” he said, “Sting’s PA. So where’s the gig?”
We pointed in the direction of the empty house. As we were walking down I tried to spot Sting amongst the crowd, but I was surrounded by Jan, Fran and Yaaan, three of Sting’s Public Appearance team, who wanted to know all about the museum.
We reached the empty house, but there were so many people around I couldn’t see what was happening. I was assured that Sting had cut the ribbon, at which point the crowd applauded and dispersed towards the boat.
“Well that went well Jed,” Alun said afterwards, as we were relaxing at my house with a glass of wine.
“I suppose, but I didn’t even get to see Sting.”
“Neither did I Jed, but you can’t expect him to meet everyone, he’s a busy man.”
“But he didn’t meet anyone, we’re the only people on the island and he didn’t meet either of us. What was the point of his coming here?”
We were interrupted by Alun’s phone ringing. After a few minutes Alun said goodbye to whoever was on the other end of the line and put his phone away.
“Who on earth was that at this time of night?”
“It was Seb, Jed.”
“Seb?” I said.
“Lord Coe. He says he enjoyed himself so much today he’s coming back for the Olympics.”
“He’s coming back for the Olympics? But there isn’t an event, I made up the whole refrigerator hurdles.”
“Well you may have, but now they’re real Jed. Seb issued a press release as soon as he got to the mainland and 87 countries have already agreed to send athletes to the event. Over 150 competitors altogether.”
“150 people. Where on earth will they all stay?”
“The empty house Jed. We’re turning it into an Olympic village to house the fridge jumpers.”
“But there isn’t an empty house. It’s the history museum now.”
“It was the museum Jed, but things change. We didn’t expect the museum to stand forever, it was great while it lasted.”
“It lasted less than a day. It’s a real shame, after Mary Beard travelled all that way.”
We’re a small island Jed, we have to adapt. Besides, Mary Beard’s coming back. Seb was so enthusiastic on the boat back that’s she’s entering the leaping over fridges event herself.
And so Professor Beard visited the island a second time that summer and would have won the gold medal in refrigerator hurdles, had it not been for “the incident” five yards from the finish line. But that’s another story.