By Martin Williams
Key Themes: fiction, drama, retirement
I like to think of the Pearl Diverís Saliva as a fairly light piece of writing albeit that it deals with some fairly serious issues. It is primarily a work of fiction and follows the events in the life of Bill Evans as he takes early retirement. The characters in the story are entirely fictional, that having been said I have drawn heavily on the mental health service and its users to produce a piece of social drama.
About the Author
Martin Williams was born on the 4th December 1960 in Southampton. Particularly in his early years his family moved around a lot but finally he settled in Bristol where he took his exams at Bristol Grammar School.
At the age of twenty one Martin was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia and the next twenty years were spend in and out of hospital but at the turn of the century he had a major breakthrough when using a new medication completely transformed his life.
Following that he attended Studio Upstairs in Bristol, a therapeutic Arts Community and began writing seriously.
The saliva of the Pearl Divers of Zanaghosti is both extremely rare and expensive. The saliva itself is more acidic than that found elsewhere and it would appear that this is a direct result of inbreeding amongst the islanders. Although quite how its acidity has any bearing on island life is not clear.
However its collection and use is perhaps better documented. All around the globe museum curators and picture restorers vie to purchase just a few ounces, which they then use to clean some of the world's most valuable art.
So it is that we find Bill Owen, a curator at the National Portrait Gallery, precariously balanced over a huge canvas by Botticelli working away with a tiny pot of Pearl Divers saliva and some cotton wool.
To say Bill Owen had a relationship with these fine works of art is to make an understatement in the n'th degree. After nigh on thirty years as a curator and restorer he still found himself immersed implacably in the beauty that surrounded him.
It goes without saying that there were other varieties of saliva available, but Bill prided himself on using only the best, and using it, he knew by instinct what was and was not the genuine article. For it goes without saying that there were those that would supply a lesser article, or, sin of all sins, water down the genuine substance. What drove such philistines was merely the tremendous amount of money one stood to make.
But while a passerby or some other person with an untrained eye may have perceived Bill working as well as on any other day, Bill knew himself his heart was not in it and he was struggling to concentrate. What kept popping in and out of Bill's brain were events that were to come some two weeks hence. Bill was retiring.
While Bill did not actually have to retire, the gallery would have been only too pleased to keep him on; he had decided to take early retirement. After all, he had paid ample into his pension fund and now he wished to reap the benefits. He couldn't take early retirement on health grounds; there was nothing wrong with him. But when the powers that be had started offering voluntary redundancies as a part of a cost cutting exercise without a momentís thought, Bill had put up his hand.
You may rest assured Bill Owen was a creature of habit, and so the thought of throwing up the whole of his life merely because there were countless other things to do had not come easily. Regular as clockwork he woke at six and, barring the weekends, his daily routine was set out in front of him. He would wash and shave, listen to the early morning news on the radio, fix himself a light breakfast that tended to rely more on toast than cereal, clean his teeth, straighten his tie and set off in search of a newspaper. It was with this newspaper, neatly rolled, that he would arrive a little after eight at his work station. Quite why Bill arrived at this early hour had been for some a matter of perplexity. The early start early leave working practice had originally been brought in to alleviate the pressure on people who travelled during peak rush hour; there was of course a sister scheme to start late and leave late. Quite how Bill had ever wangled his way onto the scheme had always been something of a mystery as he lived only a stoneís throw from the gallery and hence stood no chance of being caught in the rush hour as he usually walked.
On his way over to the gallery he would generally stop at a bakers that he knew only too well, having frequented it for what seemed to be an eternity. He could at this point supplement his breakfast, and had long since settled for the styrofoam coffee cup that could be taken away. He would stand just inside the door and pass the time of day with the proprietor.
"It'll not be long now then, Bill" the cheery baker concluded.
"I expect I will regret it when it comes."
"You don't want to think like that. You wait and see; you'll enjoy every minute of it, and if I may say so to, you are very deserving of it. Very deserving."
With that the conversation ended, and Bill finished up his coffee and made his way through the streets to work. As yet the newspaper had remained firmly rolled and would do so until Bill knocked off that evening.
This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 28 April, 2010.