I was awoken in the dead of night, in the early hours of 20th April to be precise, by someone whistling loudly outside of the cottage in the old fishing village, Port Isaac, where I was staying. Alert and fully awake, I lay in the darkness listening to the whistled refrain, an eerie, mournful tune made up of two long wavering notes, followed by several shorter ones. This disturbing refrain was repeated many times, over two to three minutes, gradually diminishing until it could no longer be heard, as the whistler presumably descended the steep and narrow lane of Dolphin Street down to the harbour. The building, a traditional fisherman’s cottage, dating from the 17th century, is located at the corner of Rose Hill, at the very top of Dolphin Street. As I lay in the dark, I presumed that I must have heard a fisherman heading to his boat, but I could not help but feel this to be a portent of some sort. The whole episode, which could fancifully be taken as the whistling of a drowned mariner, felt like something from a short story by M.R. James.
This strange episode seemed to dovetail in some way with a dream from which I had been awoken. The dream concerned a complicated dispute between two men, quasi-legal and in regard to an old house, at which I was an observer, but in no sense involved. Each of the men was to make a spoken deposition, but not in the context of a definitive judgement being taken. The first man made his statement, but of its content I can remember not one word. It was the second man’s turn to put forward his case, with a build-up of tension in the situation, and, at the exact moment he was about to speak, I was awoken by the whistling outside the cottage.