My friend the ghost

THERE isn’t much I miss about England but the shortage of ghosts I find worrying.

There doesn’t seem to be any here. Perhaps this is because the homes we live in were bare hillsides far from human activity not so long ago.

In my past life, by which I mean before leaving to settle in Spain rather than pre-birth, one never seemed far away from apparitions.

I was privileged to live in a 200-year old manor. It certainly had an illustrious history. If you must picture me then think of the TV sitcom; ‘To the Manor Born’ and you have it. Although on my own I was under no illusions; I shared. There was a female presence I knew as Casperette.

I kept my thoughts to myself but visitors often remarked; ‘did you see that?’ Yes I did and often hear her too.

A lady friend stayed overnight and you never heard a din on the landing like it.

My, a woman scorned indeed. No seaman to my knowledge dismisses the supernatural as he is repeatedly confronted by things beyond explanation.

As I overlook the Gibraltar Straits I am constantly reminded of sailing past on tramp ships.

Below the waterline on the MV Grecian a tool room with just the one door. Stepping inside late one night the donkey man clearly saw an Arab stowaway in the corner; he was sitting cross-legged on a 40 gallon drum.

The sailor soon realised it was an apparition.

Terrified he called the 3rd Engineer; he saw it too and both beat the retreat. The following day the ship’s heads took a look for themselves.

They found bare footprints leading to the oil drum but not coming back towards the door. On reaching London days later the skipper, the only seaman to have sailed on the Grecian before, confided it was a regular occurrence.

A young Arab on an earlier voyage had stowed away; been trapped in the ship’s hold and died. The apparition matched the appearance of the youth.

On a ship’s heaving foredeck is a bell. The lookout rings once if a ship to starboard (right) is spotted; twice if to port and three times if the other ship is ahead.

One night, during bad weather in the Channel, the ship’s bell repeatedly and accurately tolled warnings of ships nearby.

When dawn broke the ship’s officer realised there was no lookout on the fo’csle to ring the darned bell. He instructed a seaman to go forward and tie the free swinging bell.

On returning the sailor told the officer of the watch it was already tied. We learned it had been securely lashed down days earlier. Many have similar tales to tell; we hold recollections of things we know happened; we saw or heard but cannot explain.

Often we keep our thoughts to ourselves but why do so; we are hardly alone are we if you get my meaning. Perhaps we are not meant to understand, yet.

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