Uri Geller's night on treasure island
URI Geller likes ketchup. He has already squeezed four sachets on to the baked potato he is shovelling into his mouth as he enthuses about Scotland in general and his own little Scottish island in particular.
• Calling a spade: Geller hopes to uncover the treasure of Tutankhamun's sister Scota. Photographs: Phil Wilkinson
And now his fork is covered in globs of Heinz. Which is a problem. Because he wants to do the trick that made his name.
"Let me show you what I do," he tells me, leaping up from his seat at North Berwick's Scottish Seabird Centre and dashing for its kitchenette to find some clean cutlery to bend. He rumbles through the drawers and reappears with an old tea-stained spoon.
Centre staff start to gather, sensing the show is about to begin. And so it does. "I want you all to come closer," he smiles out loud. "Everyone." Then Geller does his thing. He gently rubs the neck of the old teaspoon until it starts to bend, a little at first, and then more.
He hands it to me and ushers a dozen or so people around to look at the utensil in the palm of my hands. It keeps bending. "You see it is still going and I am not even touching it," exclaims Geller, as if he too was seeing his act for the very first time. Everyone gasps.
The Israeli-born paranormalist – he prefers to style himself as a "mystifier", an entertainer – had arrived in the genteel East Lothian town an hour before. He was chatting to Scotland on Sunday yesterday lunchtime as he prepared to spend his first night on Lamb Island, the tiny basalt outcrop he bought last year.
Geller said he was already sensing the buzz about North Berwick. But I can't help feel he has brought that with him. Ferociously chewing his baked potato, he explained what he meant. "I am not trying to be nice to the locals," he said. "There really is a powerful energy here. There is something about the ambience, the atmosphere. And I am not just talking about the uniqueness of the buildings, the houses, the churches. It is something else. It could be because of the geological forces. It could be because there is something mysterious here. I don't know. I just feel it."
Geller had integrated with North Berwick as soon as he arrived. He tore up The Law, the hill that overlooks the town and the islands off its coast, including the Lamb. (Did he get puffed out, I asked? "No," replied the 62-year-old. "I am in good shape . . . that is what positive thinking does for you.")
From the summit he was rewarded with his first sight of the island. "I was thrilled," he said. "It was quite amazing. I thought, 'What did I buy?' I can't believe that the Scottish Government let it go. But it's mine now!"
Geller already has a favourite North Berwicker. It's "mentalist" Drew McAdam. Geller and McAdam, who is something of an apprentice of the great mystifier, have been pals for a decade and a half. Geller, however, said he didn't realise that McAdam was from the town when he bought Lamb. He was in Tokyo when he decided to buy, from a Hebrew-speaking Brazilian-Scottish baron (Geller paid 30,000 for Lamb, well below the asking price of 75,000, but he pointedly denied using his powers to get a discount).
The fact that McAdam, inspired by Geller's historic 1973 spoon-bending on the BBC, had spent his youth practising the trick on the island had nothing to do with the sale, Geller claimed.
"I used to go over and sleep on the island," said McAdam as Geller stretched an arm around him. "That is where I used to go with my friends. I used to go out there and do some mindreading or spoon-bending. You might actually find some of my bent spoons there."
Geller has a word for such coincidences. He calls them "synchronicities", a term he has borrowed from Carl Jung, the Swiss thinker. They are chance correlations, he explains, with meaning.
And there are plenty of synchronicities on Lamb. First up, it is already a favourite place to spot UFOs, an enthusiastic Geller preoccupation.
Then there is the legend of Scota. She was a sister of the Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun, who fled her homeland and, the story goes, gave her name to a windswept land far to the north-west of Europe.
Geller has a theory that Scota moored her ships off Lamb Island. He suspects she may have left some treasure behind her.
Last night Geller, accompanied by Andy "Islandman" Strangeway, was set to camp on the tiny rock.
Today he plans to use the ancient art of dowsing to see if he could figure out where the hoard might be.
"I won't keep the treasure," he said. "And I won't go and start digging things up. I will see if I can feel where something might be. And if I get a sense I shall come back with the proper permission and dig. If I find anything I shall give it to a Scottish museum."
Geller was yesterday worried about the fate of another little treasure, a bent and signed teaspoon given to Scotland on Sunday. "I don't want to see that on eBay," he warned with a laugh. And he won't.
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