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The strange case of the English clerk at the British base on Gan, Addu atoll in the 1960s
as told by Hassan Saeed, Hithadhoo, Addu atoll 1998
translated by Maldives Culture

One British clerk spent most of his time alone. He seldom spoke to anyone, but he specialised in writing letters in a beautiful script. He often prayed in the Christian church at the base.

One day another clerk, a Maldivian, asked him why he behaved in this manner, and kept himself apart from his fellow Englishmen. He was surprised to be asked this sort of personal question, but answered quite willingly.

He explained that eighteen years before he had married an Englishwoman in the Philippines. They postponed their honeymoon while he made a naval voyage. As he was returning to port he was informed that his new wife had died. He was heartbroken and had never fully recovered his interest in life.

Later the Maldivian had to get him to sign a form. He went to the clerk's private room and knocked but the no-one answered. Others told him they had seen the man enter the room and as far as they knew he was still in there.

The Maldivian returned and knocked again - still no answer, so he gently opened the door.

The room's walls were covered in woman's underclothing, and the Englishman was sitting naked on the edge of the bed, crying. The Maldivian closed the door without comment.

Later he was told that the man went every year to Africa to a certain witchdoctor.

After paying his fee of 75 pounds, the witch doctor would lead him to a darkened cardboard carton. Inside the carton was a dim light. The Englishman would sit in front of the carton and stare into the light. Then he would see his dead wife.

She was only about three inches high but she would speak to him and he would record her words in a small notebook. As she finished speaking she would come forward and kiss him on the lips. Over the years her words had filled a large section of the notebook.

At lunchtime on Gan base, the Englishman would sometimes push the clerks' tables together and lie on them under the fan. There he would read the notebook.

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