12 December 2004

The Ghost Ship

I suppose you might expect me to be rather old. And I am, of course. I'm at that point where my age defines how people respond to me rather than my personality. But neither you nor me know how old I am – or maybe I just prefer to forget.

Yesterday, I watched as a boat sailed from my neighbour's house.

It was early in the morning. I'd got up to watch the sun rise, and from the window, beyond the overgrown hedges and the weed-ridden path, I gazed at the ramshackle boat. Mr Greenly had been a sailor in his early years: he sailed the seventeen seas and visited all the wonderful lands you only hear about in stories.

His boat had been sat there, slowly rotting, ever since I'd lived here. It was a splendid little craft, although it was no longer fit for sailing. Holes were eaten into its hull, ivy creeped over its side, and a small family of nuthatches lived in its bow. You could tell from its shape and build that it had once been capable of marvellous things. It had survived many a beating, and I knew it had kept Mr Greenly safe through untold storms.

And that morning, as I sat and watched the glowing horizon, I saw the boat fizzle with a blue light, and a ghost ship lifted from the crumbling wreck. I sat transfixed at this strange sight. Suddenly, there was a sailor aboard the boat, a sail aboard its deck. And it moved. Drifting through the undergrowth, this boat was free. Its age and condition no longer held it to the earth. It drifted, slowly at first, but then its sails caught the wind and it sped off into the distance.

I learnt that Mr Greenly had died during that night. I hadn't spoken to him for a week or so, but whenever we bumped into each other, we'd talk and discuss the weather. You seem to do this more as you grow old, although Mr Greenly was more in tune with the elements than most. That following day had proved fine and clear, with a strong southerly wind. Mr Greenly had chosen his sailing conditions well.

There must have been wonderful stories and tales that sailed away that morning. I know I should have asked him more when I had the chance.