The Map Problem (IP)
I was woken up at about 6.30 in the morning by a hammering on my door.
“Come in,” I shouted down to Alun, “put the kettle on, I’m just getting dressed.”
“We’re on the map Jed,” he said by way of greeting.
“I’ve just met the boatman and he showed me the new edition of the mainland map. Our island is on there for the first time Jed.”
“On the map? Thank goodness for that, people will be able to find us.”
“It’s not good news Jed. It means we’ll get visitors.”
“Well that would be nice. I never get to see any of my friends.”
“Not people we’d want to see Jed. Tourists. It’s summer season and all the tourist will start hopping on the boat from the mainland. It happens in other countries Jed, people spot an idyllic tranquil island just off the mainland coast and they flock there in their thousands. Especially this year, Jed, they’ll all be trying to escape the Olympics.”
“You’re exaggerating Alun, there won’t be that many visitors, and it will be nice to see a few people for a change.”
“It’ll be chaos Jed, you just mark my words. Nothing ever good ever came of being put on a map – look what happened to the Isle of Wight.”
Later that day there was a gentle knocking at my door. I knew it wasn’t Alun as it was a gentle knocking, not a bloody great hammering.
I opened the door to a pair of backpackers, whose foolish attire and bemused expression identified them as Europeans.
“Hallo,” the first one said in a strong German accent, “my name ist Jens, I am here as a tourist.”
“Yus,” said his identically clad and accented colleague, “we are loving your island. The display of abandoned fridges is one of the finest in Europe and the smokers’ graveyard is a moving memorial to those who sacrificed their lives to warn us of the dangers of smoking.”
“Good,” I said distractedly, as I was busy losing the will to live. “How can I help you exactly?”
“We were wondering if we could have any refreshment. We have come from the mainland for the day and find that there is nowhere here to buy refreshments, you know snacks, drinks, maybe a sausage in a bun.”
“A sausage,” I said, “in a bun?”
“Yus, any kind of sausage will do. A snackwurst, a knackwurst, a frankenfurter wurst, all of these things would be good.”
“In a bun?” I knew that the European Union housed an astonishing array of cultures and ways of life, but here, at my very door, were people who wanted sausages placed inside buns, and had travelled all the way from Germany to our little island in order to request such a combination.
“Or maybe you have burger?” he asked hopefully.
“Burger?” I said cautiously, “You mean a normal hamburger in a bap or roll, or do you want it in the middle of a donut or something?”
The two backpackers looked at each other then back at me. In unison they said: “Yes, two donut burgers please.”
I decided that arguing with them would just confuse things further. It so happened that my week’s supply of donuts had arrived that morning and as it was lunchtime I cooked burgers for the three of us, with three glasses of geeps’ milk to accompany them.
Eventually the Germans left and the rest of my afternoon passed without incident. However, early that evening I was interrupted by a hammering on my door. It was Alun.
“Twenty-five pounds Jed, I made twenty-five pounds.”
“Twenty-five pounds? How on Earth did you make that sort of money?”
“From the tourists Jed. They were willing to pay ready money for water and coffee.”
“Oh,” I said, “I had a couple of tourists call round wanting donut-burgers and geeps’ milk. I didn’t think to charge them though.”
“You didn’t charge them Jed? But they’re tourists, you have to charge them for everything. You could charge £5 a head for a donut burger and a pound a glass for the milk. We could become rich Jed. As word of the island spreads, more and more people will come here, desperate to fling their money at us.”
“But we don’t really have the facilities to feed and water large numbers of tourists.”
“Yes we do Jed. The empty house. We could convert it into a Tourist Centre.”
Luckily I had just finished my latest novel (I write New York murder mysteries) and had plenty of free time on my hands. I helped Alun convert the empty house into a Tourist Centre, complete with gift shop and snack area. In the gift shop we sold bottles of Alun’s home-made turnip wine, postcards of abandoned fridges on Refrigerator Bay and of the graves of the fallen smokers on Smokers Bay. We also sold bottles of island spring water, and those that wanted fresh water could pay an extra 50 pence per bottle to watch me or Alun fill the bottle straight from the stream.
Part of the empty house was rented out to visitors who wanted to spend more than just a day on the island and we turned West Bay into a campsite.
Business was booming. With several hundred tourists on the island at any one time we began to receive complaints that there wasn’t much to do here, so we created new attractions. I opened a children’s zoo, charging 50p to pet my geep and Alun organised historic tours of the island, which included the site of the fall of the Roman invader (a Roman had apparently visited the island very briefly before deciding it wasn’t a very interesting and Alun showed them the very rock he tripped over while he was here).
Then one day I was woken at 6.30 a.m. by a hammering on my door. “It’s Adventure Island Jed,” he shouted up the stairs by way of greeting. “I’ve just seen the latest edition of the mainland map and they’ve included Adventure Island. Nobody will want to come here now, Adventure Island is much more exciting.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic,” I said, “We’ve got a loyal group of regulars who love coming here time and time again. And there’s plenty to see and do here, there’s Refrigerator Bay, Smokers’ Bay and one of the finest geep petting facilities in Europe.”
“That’s nothing Jed, Adventure Island is the most exciting island off the entire mainland coast. It makes our island look as dull as the Isle of Wight.”
Alun proved to be right. The next morning I was woken at 6.30 a.m. “The boat’s empty,” Alun shouted up the stairs. The mid-morning boat was also empty of tourists, as were the lunchtime, tea-time and supper-time boats. Nobody came in the following weeks and months and we had to close down the Tourist Centre as island life returned to its normal routine.
The island is still there, on the map, and if any one of you wanted to come here it would be a simple matter of hopping on the next boat. Do come and visit, it gets very lonely here. The boatman will even give you a 10% discount if you mention this story.