December 15, 2011
When Paddy caught the ferry to Holland in December 1933, he was the only passenger aboard the Stadhouder Willem, a little steam-ship with ‘the Dutch tricolour beating damply from her poop,’ floating ‘in a mewing circus of gulls.’ Seventy-eight years later the experience couldn’t be more different – boarding a vessel the size of a small town and stumbling past shops, restaurants, bars, internet stations and cinemas, I eventually locate my cabin (number 10303) in a seemingly endless corridor of glittering lights and doors. This is the Stena Hollandica, but it seems to me that a ship so massive may as well not have a name.
Through trial and error in a strange labyrinth of duty free shops and safety signs, I manage to make my way out on deck to wave goodbye to my girlfriend. She’s there, the height of a towerblock down, a tiny conical shape waving in a sodium-lit wasteland of car-parks and cranes. We say our last words by mobile phone as the engine starts to churn. Just as I’m pulling out of port, a fishing boat full of whooping lads comes chopping and bouncing over the waves, their shouts apparently directed at me, though I must be invisible up here on deck: ‘You crazy bastard! You crazy son of a bitch!’
… and then silence.
It seems these words, and not my girlfriend’s words of love, will be my parting shot.
This piece, and the others to come, can be downloaded on the Ether Books app, available for free from the iTunes Store.