Message in a bottle? No -- recycle it instead

LONDON Thu Mar 8, 2007 5:24am EST

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Incurable romantic Stuart Conway has spent the last 10 years throwing messages in a bottle into the sea off Britain -- but now his local town council says it's time to recycle.

A quirky eccentric ever eager to spread a little happiness, he has a Website offering to print out people's innermost secrets, pop them in an empty bottle and hurl the lovelorn missives into the English Channel.

The self-styled "postman for emotions" has personally "mailed" almost 4,000 messages -- but only a sprinkling of them have washed up on beaches in France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.

"Most of them are looking for friendship or lamenting the mistakes they have made," Conway said of the messages delivered from around the globe to his www.conwasa.demon.co.uk/bottle.htm site.

"They are wishes in the form of prayers," he says of the messages that he propels into the sea off the southern English resort of Brighton.

But media attention for the offbeat service proved to be a doubled-edged sword. Brighton and Hove Ccuncil would like him to desist.

"We appreciate that historically sending messages in bottles can be seen as an exciting and romantic thing to do," a council spokesman said.

"But in reality it can cause serious injury when broken glass is washed up on the beach. We would suggest that Mr. Conway recycles his bottles and investigates some of the many other exciting ways to send messages overseas."

But Conway, who carefully studies the winds and tides before hurling into action, has no intention of stopping.

"The risk of a bottle risking injuring someone is extremely small. I have no immediate plans to stop," he told Reuters.

What intrigues everybody is Conway's motivation and what on earth possesses this 45-year-old retired data administrator to offer his service for free.

"I am an incurable romantic," he said. "The idea came to me when I was becalmed on a sailing catamaran with my foot dangling in the water. The service is free because the repayment mechanism would destroy the romanticism."

For this determined individualist perfectly echoes Sting singing the haunting Police hit "Message in a Bottle" with its lovelorn lyrics: "Seems I'm not alone at being alone...Hundred billion castaways looking for a home. I'll send an S.O.S to the world..."