Everybody liked Robin, but ike all mankind, he had his quirks. An encyclopaedic knowledge of the luxuries chosen by castaways on Desert Island Discs. And he considered himself the world’s greatest experts on spatchcock chicken. And for years he talked about sailing alone round the world.
When he passed fifty-five he took a sabbatical, and bought a yacht. At the send-off party you could feel the tide of goodwill for his success. But months later a pod of sperm whales had other ideas.
Twenty-five days after they struck Robin was still getting used to life on a Pacific island. He had found a habitable cave; and he was learning modest survival skills. He caught the occasional fish, had yet to trap any animals, and found the birds tough and stringy.
Nightfall on the island was dramatic. Looking at the wondrous sunsets from the cave mouth Robin thought about cold beer, and pals to share it with. With no one to talk to, ideas bounced round his brain like pinballs. Imagination and reality blended in a strange sensory continuum. His saw footprints in the sand; mythical rescue planes circled overhead.
He dreamt he was the castaway on Desert Island Discs. Lauren Laverne asked him what his luxury item would be. Spatchcock chickens and a grill to cook them. It was against the rules, but she had heard he was a great guy, and she gave in.
For the next few days the ground near the cave mouth rose in a tiny hill. It grew sharp, square corners. Metal began to sprout from the earth, forming a shiny grill and a bottle of gas. In the depths of the cave, a video screen had descended, attached to a stalactite. When he switched on, again Lauren appeared, and warned him always to cook his chicken skin side down.
He was ecstatic. This run of events happened to saints and mystics, not to ordinary mortals. He danced for joy; sang to the clouds; wrote poems on rocks. If he had to live on a desert island, this was how to do it. Might a beer be possible?
Then he did a terrible thing. He put a chicken on the grill skin side up.
The ground shook. Lightning split the sky. Rain fell in torrents. Huge waves rent the sea. The cave entrance was flooded. The grill was ruined. The gas bottle was carried away. Robin hunkered down in the shadows of the cave.
Amid the storm’s rage the video screen pierced the gloom. Helen Willetts explained: “Palm trees will be uprooted by the hurricane, but anyone now on a tropical island who stays put throughout the storm will definitely be rescued…”
Robin squatted before the screen with his chicken leg, still short of a beer, and waited for the storm to pass.