The Mad Affair of the Lost Mind (A Dad and John Story)

 A few years ago we were over in the West Indies in the Good Ship B and Dad flew out for a visit. Three generations of Halsalls in a 28 ft boat was always going to be trouble ..

Three Generations of Halsalls was always going to be trouble
.. having given Dad a few days to settle down into shipboard life in Antigua it was time to move on.

We checked out with Customs and Immigration in Nelsons Dockyard and sailed round the coast to Deep Bay where we BBQ’d on the beach and sat watching the sun set in front of a big driftwood fire.

The next day we sailed the 60 miles to St Kitts. It was a rollercoaster ride under clear skies with a poled out foresail, double reefed main and a lovely Atlantic swell helping us on our way.

At about 1700 we anchored off the east end of the island in White House Bay. We dropped the hook and jumped over the side for a swim ashore.

We were soon back on board and starting to think about dinner when Dad looked up and asked in an unconcerned voice .. 'where am I ?'

He's a bit tired we thought .. well we hoped. In truth we were as confused as he was!
White House Bay
We explained we were anchored in a remote bay on the east end of St Kitts .. we explained that he was on holiday with us and we explained we'd sailed over the year before. He was a bit surprised because although he knew we'd sailed over to the West Indies he had no memory of what he was doing here or how he'd got here.

We asked general questions about how he felt, checked his temperature, his pulse, asked about chest pains, nausea and headaches, we  looked for signs of a stroke, for any unpleasant rashes or unwanted swelling and then having run out of 'wellness' questions we concluded there was nothing wrong with him except for the fact that he had completely lost his marbles.

Dad interrupted our diagnosis ’This may be a strange question'  he asked …' but where am I?'

The situation was deteriorating, I quietly pushed the knife drawer shut .. and phoned step-brother Dr Alex in Blighty for advice. As ever with Alex it was to the point ..  ’pop him up to the hospital for a quick check up .. he might have had a stroke or something'; wise medical words indeed. The remote spot we had chosen wasn't quite so appealing now!

In the excellent Chris Doyle Pilot we found a number for ’Henry’s Taxi’s’ and it was Henry himself who agreed to pick us up 'on the road by the bay' in fifteen minutes. ‘Where’s Les?’ Dad asked 'and where are we?'. We ignored him.

Whilst we got the dinghy ready the kids probed Dad’s mind to try and root out the extent of the problem. ’D-o    y-o-u    k-n-o-w    w-h-a-t    a     m-a-r-i-n-a    i-s?’ asked Jack with a penetrating look. Dad refused to be taken in but Jack took this as a ‘don’t know’ response and pushed on .. ’d-o   y-o-u   k-n-o-w   w-h-a-t   t-h-i-s   i-s?’ he asked, waving a mobile phone in the air. I dragged Dad out of the boat and into the waiting darkness.


Whitehouse Bay was as silent as a grave ... you could have heard a fish fart. We clambered into the dinghy and started to row into the darkness and it was really dark. There was nothing to see anywhere. No stars or moon, no twinkling boat lights, no distant flickering streetlamp, no nothing ...  not even a white house.

As I rowed, heading roughly for where I thought the shore was, a voice broke the eerie silence ..'where are we?' and after a short pause ..  'and where's Les?'

Once on shore we clambered cross country up a hill through the darkness and found an old track which I presumed was 'the road by the bay' and after a worrying wait Henry rocked  up in his mini-bus.

The 30 mile ride to the hospital was unusual. Despite the fact that Henry knew he was driving us to a hospital and despite the fact that I had told him dad had lost some, if not all of his marbles and despite the fact it was pitch black and you could see next to nothing ... despite all of this Henry was determined that we should not miss out on the full tourist experience. ‘Welcome to St Kitts’ he said as we pulled away, ' you may know our island is located in the Leeward Islands towards the north of the Caribbean. It is 16 miles by 7 miles with a population of 39,000. This end of the island is not visited by tourists or locals or anyone.  In the distance over there you can see the flames of the sugar cane fields burning’ ... I had to ask;  ‘is that to clear the rubbish away after harvest’,  ‘no sir, somebody’s just set fire to them’.  Behind me Dad listened with interest ‘very strange’ he said. The tour continued for the whole journey. I said little but nodded a lot. Dad did the same.

We arrived at the hospital at about eight o’clock,. The spacious Waiting Room was full of people who looked incredibly well. In one corner of the room was a great big old telly  that everyone was watching intently. The atmosphere was carnival, it was just like a party in your living room.

The seeing-somebody-process was a bit bewildering. There was no signing in, no registration and no apparent way of queuing. I asked a healthy looking lady what I should do. ‘Sit down and they’ll call you when it’s your turn’ and got back to her telly.

The lady was spot on because a nurse soon shimmered up and we were ushered into a curtained cubicle for a chat. Dad sat down looking really quite well after 5 days sailing in the Caribbean. I tried to explain the situation, they thought I was mad. They ignored me and took Dad’s details, address, DOB, blood pressure, medical history and so on. Even I was impressed. He was like a medical encyclopaedia. They looked less and less convinced that there was anything wrong with him and increasingly convinced that I was up to no good. I mumbled an explanation 'he seems to know stuff that happened along time ago ..' I said. They looked unconvinced and a little bit hostile. Usefully, it was at this point Dad looked up and said quietly .. 'where am I’ and then to me ‘and where‘s Les?’. The effect was transformational .. the nurses immediately started calling him dear and only spoke to me. That's more like it I thought.

We were sent back to the Telly Room to join family and friends and I reminded dad where he was every few minutes. After about half an hour he suddenly glared at me ‘of course I know you’re not at work’ ... well, you didn’t know 15 minutes ago‘ I fired back - the evening was dragging a little bit. Things were, nonetheless, looking up.

The Doctor, Hyacinth, put Dad on a drip, blood was taken and a variety of tests completed, none of which suggested that anything was wrong. But as the hours ticked by Dad’s memory rapidly returned to the point where he was both remembering what he was told and could also remember up to the point of dropping the anchor that evening. He was going to be alright.

Hyacinth asked which hotel we were staying at. 'Its a boat actually not a hotel'. 'Oh, a cruise ship ?' she asked. 'Well like a cruise ship' I said ? 'Does it have a Doctor on board ?'. 'No, we have an engineer, a school teacher and two children'. 'How big is the cruise ship ?' ... '28ft' I said .. 'she's more of a ship that cruises really'.

Unfortunately, once Hyacinth found out the size of Brimble she refused to release Dad. But I really did need to get back to the boat so I said good bye to Dad and walked out of the hospital wondering how on earth I would get home.  'Yo mon'  Henry called out, 'I knew you'd never get back so I thought I'd wait'. It was three in the morning.

Dad stayed in hospital for 4 days. The medical profession and the insurance company were unhappy for the patient to return to the luxury of the good ship. They were not convinced that a super yacht was the same as a Super-Yacht and as such Dad was forced to rough it, with full board at the 5 star Mariott Hotel. This was not all bad news because the children hadn't had a bath (literally) for 9 months so we pretty much moved in to his room .. it was only one room but still bigger than the good ship. So that was alright then.

Dad fully recovered and was later diagnosed as having suffered from Transient Global Amnesia which sometimes occurs when you swim in cold water! There's no lasting damage.

 Next in the 'Dad and John Series' .. the Affair of The Brightlingsea Water Taxi

1 comment:

Marcelo said...

I don't know how long ago you wrote this, But your style is very good and entertaining!!
I am just reading this with a permanent smile on my face.