Eddy was a strong character, full of bravado and often wanting to be at the centre of events. But I saw a different side to him when we were leaving the island one time. Edsel and I headed back to the UK, and Edsel was going to stay with me for a couple of days before going home to Nashville. Eddy had been invited to a conference in Gibraltar and was to be a guest of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK beforehand. He was full of life as usual on the ship, although he got a nasty bout of vertigo as we were getting off at Ascension Island. To be honest, it was not his fault. As usual the rollers were rocking the ship and the barge roughly, and the ladder on which we were descending was rolling back and forth and occasionally becoming detached from the platform before banging straight down on it. The staff were trying their best to help the passengers to get safely from the ladder to the barge and on to the launch, but one lady was getting more and more frightened by the ladder jerking around. Unaware of the hold up, the ship’s crew had let several other people onto the ladder. Eddy started screaming at me to move and I had to scream back that it was out of my control. We got off safely but I still have visions of the ladder breaking free of the ship and bashing on to the barge, dropping everyone into the rough seas below.
Eddy had worked at the airstrip in Ascension for a while and he spent the couple of days waiting for the plane going round all his haunts. But then I learnt that he had never been any further in his life. This well read, social animal had only ever been in St Helena and Ascension Island. He flew with us to Brize Norton where he was supposed to be being met by someone from RSPB but nobody turned up. His other friends were heading in all sorts of other directions, mainly to Swindon and London where there were concentrations of Saint populations. We had a rental car and I offered to drive the north side of the M25 and drop Eddy off at a train station so he could get up to the RSPB headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire.
As we drove along the winding B road up to Witney, I realised Eddy was tensing up in the passenger seat next to me. He said “I’ve never seen so many cars”. He was not prepared for the steady increase in vehicles we then saw on the A40, the M40 and by the time we got to the M25 he just tightly shut his eyes. En route on the M40 we passed Stokenchurch, a location famed for the concentration of the re-introduced Red Kites. With his bird knowledge, I thought he might be fascinated to see them circling overhead, twitching their huge tail feathers this way and that to control their direction. He said, peering out through one eye, ” I can see them, you keep your eyes on the road”.
We turned off the motorway at Potters Bar. If it had been almost anyone else I would have dropped him at the station entrance, said farewell and gone on our way. But of course, Eddy had never seen a train in his life before, had never bought a ticket from a machine, and I had visions of him catching the wrong train and ending up in Peterborough, or worse, Scotland. So we parked up and walked him through the whole process. As we sat on Potter’s Bar for about twenty minutes waiting for the local train to Sandy to arrive, I pointed out the expresses passing through at 120 miles per hour. He cringed in the seat and was worried about my safety as they approached. Finally we put him on his train, told him the number of stops to count and got reassurance from another passenger that he would help Eddy get off at the right station. The doors slid shut, Eddy waved like a little boy going to boarding school for the first time.
The next year when we went back to St Helena, Eddy was full of his trip, in a typical Eddy way. He soon had mastered the British rail system, flown to Gibraltar, presented his paper and now was a king of storytelling of his amazing adventures in Europe to people in his local pub in Jamestown. You can’t cow Eddy’s spirit for long.