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Bill Mills

  Like an old Fool

by  Bill Mills

               Like the time I had been working on board a puffer tied up in an inner basin some distance away from the harbour entrance.  The skipper kept me company and was chatting while I worked.  After a time I said  ‘ Quite warm tonight.’  And took my jacket off while the skipper looked at me sideways and said  ‘ Well – it’s not really cold.’  Not long afterwards I had taken off my light jumper and rolled up my sleeves and loosened my tie.  The skipper kept talking away but by then he had a hint of a smile across his mouth and kept drawing on his stumpy pipe that discharged copious clouds of old-socks tainted smoke. 

          As sweat rolled off my bald head and down my face the skipper said - ´I thought you were a keen sailing man?’.  I affirmed that I was.

‘ Well do you not know that you are sea sick?’. He was right.- Tied up in that sheltered inner basin I had been attacked by the subtle remains of an old swell. 

          One of the older puffers was tied up astern of us and their skipper came aboard to tell that ‘Big Maggie’ was up the road in the Harbour Bar and that if the two skippers went up there they were sure to have good night.  Both men were well over sixty.  My skipper puffed his pipe and told the other that he was well past that kind of thing and anyway he thought too much of his wife.

          The other, much rougher skipper, did his best to entice the other up to see Big Maggie.  Eventually our skipper got so angry that he snatched the pipe from his mouth, turned to the other and said ‘You stupid old fool –are you daft –you with one foot in the grave and the other on a bar of soap!!’ 

          That did it – the old rascal stumped off in bad humor.  And I had forgotten about my mal de mer.

Bill Mills