Mantlepiece circa 1982
Oh god I just wrote 2500 words and lost them… can I bear it?Live and learn eh?It went something like this…
There's a little rubber dinosaur next to the clock with a tag on it's wrist and a rolled up ‘refreshers’ sweet wrapper stuffed down his throat. My little drug joke. Anyway, I was rummaging through a small box of ancient stuff at my x husbands house and I found him, tag and sweet wrapper intact. All the other things on the mantlepiece have been swallowed up by time. Funny the things that survive the journey. This mantlepiece was in my bedroom in a lovely old neglected vicarage in Islington where I lived for a couple of years. When I moved in it had the loveliest wild wallpaper. Enormous pink roses with gold highlights. It had to go though. territory thing. I painted it white. Also the floor was carpeted with hundreds and hundreds of dead bees. This house was so spooky, particularly the cellar, that the coalman, who was Big, bearded and burly, refused to go down there alone after the first time. Now I know that cellars are supposed to be spooky and, before I got to know it, I tutted derisively at a friend when he peered down there and proclaimed it “nasty”. He was right however, though nasty might have been a bit harsh. Three spooky/inexplicable things that I remember happened down there.
1. The cellar had three rooms, a small one to the left, a coal hole ahead and a big room to the right. The big room was the only one with a light in it….. We kept chopped wood for kindling in the little room. I went down to get some once and it felt so bad going towards that room that I decided I'd rather chop fresh wood in the big room . As I was doing it I noticed the door to the small room was swinging. “oh, I must have knocked it” thinks I , unconvincingly. As I chopped wood the door carried on swinging, the arc of it's movement never got smaller so I think “ okay. very funny” and I chuck a few V's in the direction of who/whatever is doing it. I'm not afraid. Not at all. I think perhaps we have a witty ghost. I have to walk horribly close to it to leave the cellar, I grit my teeth and leave. When I get upstairs I start to tell my housemate and suddenly I am overcome with fear, my knee's buckle and I refuse to go down there again for months.
2. A few months later we rather rashly decide we want a dark room and we want it there. We spend days setting it up, lots of rubble down there, we find a meat cleaver… we hang it recklessly on a hook in the room, we find a perfect skull shaped piece of cement buried in a corner, that rattled us for a while and when we realised our mistake we laughed too loud.. we found a pair of old boots, they are always haunted. the Boys went off with a wheelbarrow to empty and I thought for a laugh I would get some ketchup and play dead with the meat cleaver. I was alone in the house and the moment I thought it I got spooked and had to run out of the cellar, out of the house and wait for them to come back. A few days later Graham needs to do a print for a magazine so off he goes, all excited to be the first to use it… not long after he comes back up and says with a high voice “ It's a bit spooky down there, can you come with me?” I laugh at him and oblige. he's having trouble, the prints keep coming out with blotches or fogging, he's tried different paper, He's being extra careful, he's turning off the enlarger which is old an maybe it's leaking? The meat cleaver is swinging, the door keeps coming open…. So He gets Fresh piece of paper, he exposes it turns off enlarger and we watch as it develops. Great no blotches, this one looks perfect and then……… Bing.. it solarises ….. “Oh Fuck” we both think “ Impossible” we both know. My turn for the high voice “ Shall we go and get a cup of coffee?” I squeek. “Yes” squeeks Graham, “let's”. We never used it again….
3. A strange one this…. Me and my sister were down in the big room, We were going to have a party down there. A Zombie party…. so we were working out where to put stuff and feeling relaxed when out of the corner of both our eyes we saw something drop from the ceiling. It clattered on the (lovely) stone floor. We investigated. It was a knife, an ordinary knife, a familiar knife. with three daisies on the handle, just like, exactly like the ones we grew up with. Now I know I have not got any of those knives and I know that above the unplastered ceiling, the floorboards through which, with a big stretch, you could imagine a knife could maybe slip through, are covered with three layers of carpet. We stare at it for a while. We don't discuss it. We try and make sense of it. we see that we can't. The room feels bland and ordinary, no atmosphere at all. I pick up the knife, we carry on discussing the party. When we go upstairs I put it in the cutlery draw where it stays. kind of expected it to disappear one day but it never did. I loved that house. Missed it for years and every now and then I still dream of it.
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