The flying Dutchman

One of the alcoves of my (much too large) childhood bedroom was inhabited by the ghost of the flying Dutchman. He had come home with me after a visit to the maritime museum in Amsterdam, where I had begged my mother to see a film about his legend. She had given in, even though it was rated far above my age category. In the film, the flying Dutchman was not the ship (the official version, I since learned) but its captain, a fearsome fellow with tattered clothes and a wild beard. The story was that he had been impatient to wait for a favourable wind and stubbornly sailed out anyway; in punishment, he was cursed to sail against the wind for all eternity. But such curses always overestimate the stability of things. When the age of sail ended, his sentence was converted to eternal house arrest, specifically, as I mentioned, in the alcove of my bedroom. There the captain, even more cantankarous than was already his natural disposition, bid his time waiting for the right moment to come out and keelhaul me or nail me to some masthead. Luckily I slept in a high sleeper. The old captain was afraid of heights, I was afraid of him, and so the two of us lived in perfect harmony.

© 2009–2024, Martijn Wallage