Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Chair's Secret

   Old, tired and worn out, that is what I am.
My legs are not straight any more and my colour is fading. I don't know how old you are but if you are close to my age and also a male, your legs are probably not beautiful either!

   Legs are strange things, don't you think so? At the start mine were very elegant, even for me not being female. But at the time I was born, men were far more elegant than today with white silk stockings decorated with ribbons; and velvet trousers and jackets. And expensive white wigs and lots of jewellery to show their wealth and status. Their shoes... very elegant with silver, sometimes even golden buckles. Of course I never wore shoes or stockings. My legs were always bare, only covered in white paint with a golden glow in the groins.
I was dressed in brocade with gold thread. Can you believe how beautiful this was? Particularly when the sun shone on it or with candlelight. The flickering flames brought the gold to live. If... only if I was on my own and not used.
Yes, people used me. I hope you are not thinking that this is the same as being
abused.
   Maybe I have to explain that I am not a human being, I am a chair. These days an elegant chair as I am might not be too useful and only to show off but back then my fellow chairs were the same.

   Being a chair is quite eventful. There are so many different.... uhm .. bottoms that made use of me. Not everyone in the very old days was tiny or slim. At least not in my castle. The older they got the bigger their bottoms. I dreaded the huge matrons trying to wriggle them selves between my arms. They pretended to be slim but they were not, still they wanted to sit on me. Can you imagine how that felt? First of all you see her coming, her perfume floating miles ahead of her (perfume was used to hide the not so fresh body odour, another challenge for a chair...). You have good hopes that she decides I am too small but no. She stops in front of you, turns around and oh my.... Do I have to go into detail?

   It was not all misery. I (still) live in a grand castle and I am told there are or were, many more of me in many rooms. And all served numerous bottoms of generations of owners and guests. Fortunately once in so many years we were reupholstered and our seats refreshed with new horse hair and singles to carry another generation.
But then came the day that changed our lives......


   I already heard rumours going round about the great financial losses of my owner.
I need to say I wasn't too surprised; so much money was spent on gambling, drinking, parties and mistresses. The rows with his bookkeeper and wife got worse and worse. I never understood anything about his business but from the furious conversations in my presence, I knew that the money that was going out was a lot more then that what came in.
   His wife was often in tears; she did not get any credit any more at her suppliers and thought she already spent her life in poverty. Which I doubted, but I could not say anything of course.
But my owner did not listen and said he was going to earn all the money back, people owed him large sums. He did not mention however, that these people were also almost bankrupt due to their gambling addiction telling their wives the same story!
   I witnessed my owner from being a wealthy man with mistresses, a wife and children, becoming a desperate poor castle owner; his life at risk due to his debts.


   One evening, during one of the numerous meetings with his bookkeeper (a very loyal man who worked for the company and family much longer than he remembered), someone knocked at the door. Not a polite or gentle knock! It was more banging, driven by a huge anger....
The butler tried to stop the visitor but by the sound of his scared voice, the visitor made his way to our room. The door flung open and there he stood; the man who lend a huge amount of money to my owner and who wanted every penny back. Right now and here. And he was furious!!
Debts do strange things to people. Either they become cool blooded monsters to get their money back or they become crying desperate pathetic little men, not being able to pay back.
   Of course you want to know who the latter was.... it was the bookkeeper of all people. And it was not even his fault!
While the other two man challenged each other's anger and power, the bookkeeper crawled backwards to a corner, one hand in front of his face, the other pushed forward with wide spread fingers as to protect himself.
When he passed me, I noticed a terrible smell and saw that he wet himself in fear. I felt so very sorry for the man but also understood his fear, I too saw the two pistols in the hands of the other men and knew it was only a matter of time before we were going to hear the first shot.

 Again the door flung open and the butler catapulted himself into the room, the brave man.
It made the other two turn to the door and then, completely unexpected, one of the guns went of. It was such a chaos that I still don't know who's gun, but I still remember who got killed....
 I promised myself and everyone, never to mention a name or gender, never! But I can tell you that it was not the butler, not the bookkeeper (who fainted when he heard the shot) and not the two other men.

 The smell of blood competed with that of gunpowder and seemed extra strong in the one minute of complete silence in which everyone tried to come round with what happened. Then there was shouting and desperate whispering about what to do next. The butler was summoned to close and lock the door and he obeyed like he had done for 40 years.
 All three men now discussed what to do with the body of that very unfortunate intruder who (and this was accidentally very fortunate) would not be missed being one of the most unpleasant creatures walking on two legs in this part of the world.
   While the discussion went on, I looked at the bookkeeper and noticed his very strange pale complexion. I wanted to attract the attention of the other three men but nobody paid any attention to me and I sighed a very deep and desperate sigh, feeling old and useless.
   The men came to an agreement; my owner walked to the door in the corner of the room, more a cupboard door then a real door because it was made just above the panelling. I knew this door led to a very small room with a secret passage to deep inside the castle and only the owner of the castle knew about it's existence.
But this was a different situation and owing the other man so much money, he showed him where they could hide the body and where it most likely, wouldn't be found for a long time, if ever.

   The next hour the men were busy moving the body, pushing it through the little door and believe me, this wasn't an easy thing to do! The deceased was not very petite!
Finally they disappeared into the small room and it did not take long before all the sounds of huffing and puffing, faded away.
   By the time they returned I worked out myself that the bookkeeper was not 'amongst us' any more and most likely died because of a heart attack. Or just pure fear. Whatever the cause was, he was dead too.
You might think that this was a real shock to my owner but I underestimated his empathy. He watched the poor dead man for a while, then sighed in relief and fell backwards on top of me. And this is when my legs cracked but he did not notice it. He leaned forwards, thinking of what he was going to do next.
   At least I have to give him credit for wanting a descent funeral for the poor man who left a wife, children and grandchildren.
Before they carried him out of the room, my owner lifted me and put me in front of the little door he carefully sealed, mentioning me of not being of any use to anyone any more.
   I watched them walking away, carrying the bookkeeper who's dangling head and arms moved in the rhythm of the footsteps of the others; the butler holding his feet.

   Within a few months time, the family left the castle. Many of their belongings were sold to pay off the debts but some uninteresting items were left to keep me company.
   The last I heard was the lock of the door; I was on my own and remained this for ages until a few years back when a group of young people entered the long abandoned castle, calling themselves 'urban explorers'.
   They managed to open the door and entered the room, surprised to find the odd things but disappointed that it was not hiding any secrets.
And why moving an old chair with crooked legs when it was not in the way of the door to another room? They passed me on their tour through the rest of the castle, leaving me with that terrible secret I never learned to live with.


Photo: @marshallubx (Instagram)
   A secret like a monstrous lump, growing and growing in my memory and body. When it is going to burst? I don't know. Maybe you will find me one day, asking yourself why I look if I exploded.
   But even then you will not know it was that secret that finally came out. You will not stand still to listen to the name of the dead person, whispered by the horse hair sticking out of the large hole in my seat.....




Word of thanks: the photo of @marshallubx (Instagram)) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use the photo as an illustration for which I am very grateful. Thank you Marshall!

Links: please visit the beautiful Instagram account of @marshallubx

Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!

Helen

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mountfield House.... walls dó speak!!

   My name is Mountfield and I appreciate you to call me so. No first name, just Mountfield. Although I have a very posh background I prefer to be modest as I found out that beauty is corruptible; soon I might not be here any more.

   Of course I have been very proud of my looks! I was respected and loved, kept warm and comfortable with large fires in the hearths of all my rooms. My first owner had a great eye for detail without overdoing. My bay windows at each side of my majestic front door, my ceilings, staircase..... I can go on and on.
Still, I have not been a very happy home, people did not stay for long and the one who did in the end, suddenly disappeared......

   Real lives are lived within my many walls and how often do people say: “if walls could speak...”? But walls dó speak! If you ever visited me, you might have been too busy wondering about my current state instead of listening to me.
   I hope you don't mind me telling a bit more about myself and my occupants over the almost 200 years of my existence. Yes, I am that old, so old that I have forgotten in which year I was built. I remember it took some time before my first owners the Robinson's, moved in but I do remember the first new life within my walls when their first son baby John William was born. This was in January 1833, only two weeks before one of the wettest Winter months in history when the rain was gurgling through the gutters and flooding down the hills, flooding the muddy streets of Musbury. Horses walked slowly to avoid the mud spreading on the cloths of the poor servants that were sent out to buy food. The carriages of the delivery services were covered in mud and cleaned each day again after already a very long day for the men that drove them.

   When William was still a baby, Mrs. Robinson decided that she did not want to raise her child in this ancient but beautiful village and even before the Summer could change her mind, they put the house up for sale.
Another young family, the Cobham's bought it. The couple just married and hoped to raise a large family and I was with 13 rooms and definitely status, excellent for this. Thomas Cobham was addressed in all the letters to him as Esquire, a polite title appended to a man's name when no other title is used
. Yes, you will learn some history from me!
   And again new life screamed his lungs out right after birth: their first son in March 1834 and their second in May 1835. It left Mrs. Cobham with a weaker constitution and she talked about renting out the house to move to more comfortable and warmer places. Thomas Cobham agreed but not before he and his wife accompanied the Duke of Somerset to the a large party on November the 7th where all influential people were going to meet each other. You would call it 'networking' in this modern world.

   But it was not until November 19 – 1836 that I was advertised to rent out. I can assure you that the time between the party and the renting out, wasn't a happy one. The couple quarrelled. Thomas suddenly had more and more duties to fulfil outside his residence. I felt so sorry for his wife, but what could I do?


   The family left before a new tenant was found and I stood empty and cold on top of the ancient hill, overlooking the village of Musbury where the columns of smoke stood straight in the cold icy blue sky. People wrapped in their warmest cloths, walked by and only a very few stood still to look up to me and to feel sorry. The poor people in the village said it was a waist of money. The built of me had cost so much and had not been without danger; one builder fell of the roof and never received a compensation which left him and his family in great poverty. Another builder, nobody knew where he came from in the first place, disappeared completely. The story was that he left because he was not paid but rumours told something totally different......

   The Cobham's never returned and I was sold to a new owner in May 1837 who rented me out for a longer period, every time another tenant. No one stayed long enough and I felt cheated and lonely. I can assure you that at this early point in my life, I started to dislike people. Alas, maybe it was my dislike that chased them away again, who will tell after all those years...

   In 1851 I was sold to Mr. Mad Mrs. William Trelawney. Mrs. Trelawney gave birth to a son in 1855. Why is it that only sons are born between my walls? But they too sold the house to a very wealthy man called John Loveridge who also had a house in London where he stayed during the Winter. His elderly bones could not stand the cold in Musbury when the wind was hitting the house, chasing the snowflakes around the corner and making the journey down the hill dangerous, despite the servants cleaning the path.
   I have to admit that John (please forgive me for calling him by his first name) was someone I liked very much. During the months he left me alone, there were always people to warm me by keeping one or two fires burning. In return I gave John his much needed peaceful rest when he grew older.
Unfortunately, a few days after he arrived from London in March 1864, he died and I grieved for a long period. Nobody wanted the house or his furniture and everything was put up for sale in September that very same year.

   And again a young family moved in: Captain and Mrs. John Fryer Still and in November 1869 they got a son who unfortunately had a bad health I could not do anything about. After his premature death in January 1871, they rented out a part of the house to Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bourne. Their son was born May 1872. You might think that Mrs. Still would be jealous because her son died and now there was this healthy baby in their home. But this was not the case, she adored the baby and for the very first time there was true love in the house where both couples lived.
When Mrs. Still got badly injured due to an accident in September 1873, Mrs. Bourne helped her where ever she could during the recovery. Both women became very dear friends for the rest of their lives.

   Captain Still, who was a keen gardener like his lovely wife, was fully integrated in Musbury's society and was chosen board member of the local school in 1875. He took this very seriously; I witnessed many meetings where his wife was an excellent hostess.
   They managed to overcome the loss of their son and were socially very active in and around the village. Captain Bourne decided in august 1875 to look for an all round gardener and put an advertisement in the newspaper.

   My happiness with these two couples and all their joyful and busy life came to an end when the house was sold again. My new owner felt like an old friend, he was related to the previous Thomas Cobham and also called Thomas.
   And in 1879, for the very first time between my walls, a daughter was born on January 11, what a wonderful start of the new year! Born during one of the coldest Winters in history with temperatures far below zero.
Fortunately Thomas Cobham did not only inherit the name but also a fortune and managed to keep everyone warm and comfortable inside the house plus the poor people in the village. He and his wife helped where ever they could and were much loved.

   In 1885 they granted him to add the cricket field – locally called the 'Dipping-pan' - to his property but only when 10 acres were made free for local recreation and so it happened.
   But things do not always go according plan and financial problems caused the sale by auction of the complete livestock in March 1888. Used to selling livestock for a living turned out to be different than selling it all. To say goodbye to a part of your life and income was devastating. Everything changed and the house got up for sale again which I hated. Every time I had years of happiness, it came all to an end and I started to wonder if it was me who caused this. Was it the big secret I carried between my walls? The secret all other people managed to keep silent about until they passed away? Did they ever think about me as a witness who sooner or later was going to reveal what happened that dark and rainy night?
   For how much longer will I keep silent? The older I get and the more souls are moving in and out the house, the more difficult it is to find my own peace. My anger about the neglect of my feelings is building up and I am thinking of a plan to become well known in the end. Even after my final end, people will talk about me for years and years.....

  It was not until the end of the 19
th century that it was quiet in the house again. Like in the days of John Loveridge, again an elderly man lived between my walls: Major Lock. A man with an excellent military background and an honest heart that recognized true braveness. It was due to his efforts that a local villager received the Queen Victoria Medal. A party was planned but both military men were too humble to let that happen. They had done their duty and a party was out of place.
   Major Lock was much loved by everyone including me and his somewhat sudden death at the age of 70, just after he finished his breakfast on April 5 - 1909, was a shock to everyone.

   The years that followed were confusing and where my plan to become famous one day was put to a hold, it started to take shape again when all the furniture and outdoors effects were sold by auction. Again I was an empty shell, left alone with that gruesome secret.....

   I continue with my owners in 1921 when Mr. and Mrs. William McKinnel – true Conservatives – looked for 4 housemaids. Imagine, 4 housemaids in a household of 2 people! They lived a very social life and the house was very seldom empty. Meetings were held between my walls and I learned everything about the Conservative Party. Mr. McKinnel was chosen District Counsellor in February 1923 and had so much input that he managed to have the famous Sir (Arthur) Clive Morrison-Bell, 1
st Baronet, a British soldier and Conservative Party parliamentarian, to speak about Socialists Trenchant Criticisms. No, this was not a party! Let me explain: Criticism of socialism refers to any critique of socialist models of economic organization and their feasibility; as well as the political and social implications of adopting such a system. I told you before, I teach you some history!
   I liked Sir Arthur who was very intelligent though modest. His high forehead was the visible witness of his intelligence. The evening of his speaking he was 54 year of age. And although his red hair and light green eyes, he did not have the temper you expected. Either he learned to control it or was wise enough not to give in to it. I never found out.
   Not everyone in the village was happy with his presence and I have seen some dark figures wandering around my outer walls. I needed all my power to scare them off and I succeeded. Of course I knew about my power but got aware of the real strength that very night.

   William McKinnel died at the blessed age (for those day) of 81 on January the 5th 1934. He was dearly missed by his wife, their marriage had always been very good. Mrs. McKinnel and I had a good relationship too. She looked well after me. She also looked after her staff but the financial world was very unstable.
   Her cook and housekeeper both left in 1939, the dark and uncertain year of the beginning of the second World War and Mrs. McKinnel had to look for a cook/housekeeper. She could not afford two separate women any more.


   Please forgive me for this next big step towards my end.
I do not want to talk about the war nor the people that lived in my house after Mrs. McKinnel passed away. I have only once again been a residence for one family; so many different people moved in and out, died between my walls or even lived in poverty. It did not do me good and the signs of wear and tear became visible. My colours and grandeur faded and it was not until 1981 that I was promoted to a Grade II listed building in good hopes this would make me survive in a time that most people could not afford my maintenance any more.

   The last owner I want to talk about lived here with her husband until his death in 1996. His death which was even for me emotional, but it changed the whole life of his wife. She felt extremely lonely and struggled maintaining me. I have seen many tears in my long life and much grief and sadness but here was grief beyond my understanding as a house. Her whole world changed, she lost touch with the safe and loving base her marriage was. And she looked for ways to fill the emptiness.....

   She converted the house into 4 apartments, she lived in one of them. Although she loved me, she lost control over my safety regulations and did not have the energy nor the will to change this to benefit her tenants and herself. She received a fine which she could not pay.

   She also began to hoard a lot of – in my believes unnecessary – belongings.
The couple already loved antiques and inherited many precious items from their ancestors but now she also bought a lot of items in the charity shops. Most of it without any value. But some were worth money she better should have used for me.
  The tenants left and my rooms, first to enjoy living, were filled with her hoarding activities. My astonishment grew by the week by seeing all those items being piled up. In a way I understood her, believe me I did. Seeing her sadness I understood her hoarding but also knew it was not going to be fulfilling and that one day it would turn against her.... and that day would come sooner or later.....

Photo: sean_explore (Instagram)
Back to you Urbexers, the people who walk through me to explore my rooms, to touch the items left by my last owner who all of a sudden disappeared.
I know you treat the house with respect although some of you laugh about it. But many of you though feel the sadness of it all. Wondering how it got so far.
You have all one emotion and many question in common: where did the owner go and how could she leave everything that shows her emotions, behind.
When did she leave and how? Was there another car than the ones in the garage and the garden? Did she take clothes she needed leaving the rest behind? Why are there still so many items that clearly belonged to her husband and her? Very personal belongings like photo's, the WW1 uniform, letters, documents?

Still, none of you ever asked me what happened. No one touched my walls to feel the energy and to interact with me. To talk to me. Maybe you are afraid to hear too many voices, of all those people that lived here? Or are you afraid of the truth? To discover the story of the builder that disappeared in the middle of the night but who in fact, is still here? Afraid to explain me to you if he was found accidentally and that is why the last owner disappeared? Why no one wants to buy me again?

I am beyond restoration; my decay goes fast and that is what I want. I want to die famous and it is only after my total demolition that you will hear the true story.

Yours faithfully,

Mountfield.

Note from the author: the dates, and names attached to the dates, are real and found in archives, any mistakes are not my responsibility.
However... the characters, their feelings and thoughts are pure fiction, a figment of my imagination. So are the personal feelings of the last owner who has not been heard off but still might be alive. Please keep this in mind when you read my story or visit Mountfield; pay her your respect. She deserves this.


A big thank you
to my Instagram friend Sean who made a video of his exploration at Mountfield and who triggered my curiosity for it. I have been going through many files and websites and want to name the most important:
*1 www.genesreunited.co.uk births, deaths and newspaper articles
*2
www.revolvy.com information about Sir (Arthur) Clive Morrison-Bell
*3
http://www.pascalbonenfant.com weather in England from 1700 – 1849
*4
Sean Explores the video 'An Urbex Dream – Hoarders Mansion'
Please also visit both Instagram Accounts of Sean: Sean Explores and his Fan Page

Important
: if you want to use any information from my story, please contact me on forehand or refer to me in your article. Thank you :-)

Helen

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Love beyond Time, a Christmas story

   It is extremely cold and I ask myself why I gave in to my own hideous plan to explore the house in the middle of the forest.

   Of course I am dressed properly: a thick warm coat, warm boots with thermo-socks, gloves, a comfortable hood to keep my ears from freezing and even my photo bag is protected against the icy cold. Hopefully my camera isn't going to freeze. I know from experience that an empty abandoned villa is colder inside than the temperature outside indicates.
   I often thought about this phenomenon and the only answer I can think of, is that there is not only no heating but also the souls of the former inhabitants are gone. Even if there are warm memories, you can't feel it any more.
   This is my first visit to the house, I discovered it accidentally and are still surprised nobody ever mentioned it, nor have I ever seen photo's taken by fellow explorers. I am, to say the least, very curious.

  The first time I saw the house, the weather was more friendly, no snow. But I did not have the time to go inside after I discovered a door from the the stables to a hall. I hope the door from the hall to the house is unlocked, we'll see.
   At some places the snow is thick and comes above my boots but I continue my way to the villa. Meanwhile I admire the beautiful surroundings. Nothing is as quiet as a snowy forest absorbing every sound. Only occasionally you hear the quick flutter of a bird but most are gone to warmer areas. There is no wind to clear the heavy branches, sometimes you hear a soft cracking noise as if the weight of the snow is too much for the trees. But apart from that and my breathing causing little clouds, there is silence.

   Sooner then expected the house appears from between the trees, it's roof hardly visible under the weight of the snow. I do not dare to think what is going to happen when the temperatures rise, the roof must leak.
There are no footprints; I know I am on my own and for the first time I started the expedition, I wonder if this is safe. Too late; I have to be careful and cross my fingers.
I walk to the back, enter the stables that once housed horses and carriages but now the old decaying hay and straw are the only witnesses of a more glorious time.
   The door the hallway is still unlocked as is the door to the house. It makes a squeaking noise and in a reflex I stand still to listen. There are no other sounds, it is even too cold for the mice and rats.
I push the door further open and enter a large country style kitchen, covered in dust and cob webs but still fully equipped. Actually it looks like if the cook is going to return any moment, complaining the fires are not burning and dinner will not be ready in time. I imagine to smell the pies and cakes.
   Standing still makes me aware of this strange cold and I wrap my arms around my body. Before I am going to take photo's, I first want to explore the house. Everything will still be the same on my way back. And if the whole house is like the kitchen, I am ready for a few surprises, I can't wait.


   From the kitchen I enter a long, long hallway with many doors and I hesitate for a moment choosing one. I open the third at my right and enter a beautiful drawing room with high ceilings and large windows. The ingenious ornaments of the ceiling let go their paint although obviously reluctant to do so but the damp wins its nasty game. The grand curtains which must have cost a fortune, still wait to be closed to keep the cold out but there are no hands any more to do so. Cob webs hang down from the corners, catching flies although they too left the house.
   I walk slowly through the majestic room; the little clouds of my warm breath follow me as if the are reluctant to solve in the cold air.
The furniture is impressive and the dust can not hide the colours of the expensive upholstery and the once lovingly polished wood. The thick carpets muffle the sound of my footsteps. Despite all the glamour and beauty, the room does not look like it was used too often. At least not for cosy family gatherings.
   The enormous fireplace is black and in between the old ash from previous fires and the dirt let go by the large chimney now blocked by crow nests, there are still large logs. I feel tempted to lit them but know I will most likely set the house on fire.

In the panelling I notice a door that looks so small but is actually of a very normal size. I find it difficult to resist doors and walk towards it. The brass handle moves smoothly when I press it and the door swings open like it had been oiled yesterday. I enter a much smaller room and what I see takes my breath.

   Nothing here is dusty, I don't smell decay. On the contrary, I smell roses and a perfume that has not lost its strength. Strangely I am not frightened, it feels like coming home and although I do not understand this completely unexpected feeling, I give in to it and relax.
   The fireplace in this room is much smaller and the chimney looks very clean. I can't resist the feeling that I have been here before. Or that I belong here but decide not to think about this. The logs for the fire are stacked in a very large basket and in a reflex I put some in the hearth and light them with the matches on a small table next to a very comfortable sofa. I don't ask myself if I am doing the wrong thing or if someone outside will see the smoke coming from the chimney, there is something in this room that will protect me, I can feel this very clearly.
   It does not take long before the cold disappears, much sooner than expected it feels comfortable and warm. I take off my coat and hood and settle on the sofa, snuggled up between soft cushions that release the same scent of roses I smelled entering the room. I smile, a broad happy smile and think: “Why did it take me so long to come home?”
   I watch the flames dancing and spreading their welcoming heat and I feel my cheeks turning red. My whole body begins to glow; I take off my warm sweater; my blouse lighted by the flames. The atmosphere makes me sleepy and I doze off.

   When I open my eyes (I must have slept for only a few minutes because the fire is still burning as it did) I notice the little Christmas lights on top of the stone mantle. I am surprised but do not ask any questions. Instead I watch their soft glow in between the needles of the fresh branches of a pine-tree.
   The smell of pine is getting stronger and competes with that of the roses. I turn my head and see a beautiful very large Victorian style decorated Christmas tree which reflection in the large mirror above the mantle, had escaped my attention. Or wasn't it there before? I don't know. Everything in this room is not as I expected and I refuse to question my observations.
  
   Instead I give in to the wonderful feelings that overwhelm me. Feelings of being wanted, coming home, being loved beyond physical attraction. Never in my live have I felt so comfortable as today.
Photo: Helen Varras
   While sitting on the sofa, feeling the heat of the fire, I watch every detail of the room and everything in here is so familiar. I know the titles of all the books, I know the date of the whiskey in the crystal bottle. I know the feel of the soft materials of the cushions and curtains as if I had chosen them myself from a large variate of beautiful samples. I know how they feel against my cheek. I even know the name of the roses that spread their eternal smell and close my eyes again.

   Then I hear that beautiful voice I have been waiting for all my life; deep and warm, surrounding me, touching every nerve in my body, making me tremble. I feel the strong hands that hold me, their warmth reaches my skin through my clothes. I smell the masculine scent that matches so perfectly with that of my favourite roses.
   While I hide in the loving arms that surround me, I kiss the lips that tell me how much I am loved, that smile when they say: “What took you so long my love?”.
I smile too but do not answer, I do not need to; you read my feelings as you have always done over the past centuries. I am home, not only for Christmas but forever.


Helen

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Château Noisy (or Miranda) follow up

   A few weeks ago I published the story 'Château Noisy (or Miranda), her personal feelings'.

   A story not only close to my heart but also to a large amount of dedicated Urbexers (Urban Explorers). I received emotional feedbacks and viewed ever since, more photo's on Instagram in which Noisy is remembered.

   One of these Urbexers, my Instagram friend Sean, has a wonderful collection of photo's of this former beautiful Belgium Castle and he asked me if he could read my story in a YouTube production with his photo's.
I loved the idea from the first moment on. I am a frequent visitor of Sean's YouTube Channel and was also very, very curious how the story would be read out loud by a pure Brit.

   Every writer knows that the words he/she writes, also sound in his/her head. You write the intonation, the accents at the right place, etc. Never before have I heard one of my own stories read by someone and Sean is definitely the one I trusted to do it.


When he sent me the try-out two weeks ago, I was deeply touched. The whole (film, music and reading) was beautiful and complete. I even had a few tiny tears in my eyes (could also be my age of course ;-).

   On a serious note, I viewed his production a few times before he told me he deleted it again until it was ready for the definite upload. And this is today: Saturday December 16, 2017.

The link:Château Miranda Noisy Castle, THE STORY

   Please visit Sean's YouTube Channel, subscribe, like and leave comments. I am so proud of what he established! Can I adopt you as my grandson Sean?

   Sean also has an Instagram account: 'sean_explore' and 'exploressean'

Dear loyal, lovely readers have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas!

Helen

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Escape

   When they heard it on the news, they did not worry. It happened more than 100 miles from where they lived but the escape was countrywide news.

   They were not easily scared, otherwise they never had bought this house in the middle of nowhere. They fell in love with it as soon as they saw the photo in the window of the estate agency. It was not the romantic cottage they always had in mind. It was a mid sixties bungalow with at the time of the build fashionable glass cubes next to the black metal front door. The bungalow was plastered and painted white which meant maintenance surrounded by so many trees but not an obstacle for them. They wanted the house.

   They decorated it to their own taste and modern standards and felt very much at home. Both had a job in town and commuted; every day they looked forward going home.
   Within 6 years, they were blesses with two children; a boy John and a girl Susan. The children loved the big garden where they had so many toys to play with. Like their parents, they were always outdoors. They all adapted the country life and looked healthy and happy. So happy and careless that they never worried about the news of the escape two weeks ago.

   The most dreadful day of their lives started as usual. The mother was up early to cook breakfast, to wash, dress and feed the children. The father waited till the bathroom was empty and got ready for a new day at the office.
   Like all 5 days of the week, everyone was in a hurry by the time they had to drive to the village and to town. Leaving John at school and taking Susan to Kindergarten was the mother's job; she started an hour later at her office than the father.
   A lot of calling and 'hurry up's', running up and down the stairs for forgotten dolls, handbags and clothes. A normal tumultuous young household which all parents will recognize. Therefore non of the members of this happy family saw the man running through the woods and the garden, hiding behind every tree before he moved on. A man who wasn't from this neighbourhood and who did not want to be seen...

   Hiding in the closet under the slope attic, the parents did their very best to keep the children as quiet as possible. Fortunately they were tired after their playful day at school but soon, the parents knew from experience, they were hungry and asking for food. How on earth could they keep them quiet?
It would not take long before this so called Hide and Seek game was getting boring for them. But for now they leaned in the arms of their parents and tried hard to play the game the best they could.
   Above their heads, the parents looked each other in the eyes, just visible by the little light that shone through the small hole in the wall, and saw pure anxiety; they feared for the lives of their children and their own.
The father took the hand of his wife, very carefully not to alarm the man in the house. He noticed that her hand also shook and her fingers were cold as ice.
She squeezed his' softly to encourage him but both knew that courage was not their strongest emotion right now.

   It was amazing how their eyes got used to the little light and how well they could hear in the darkness. All their senses were sharpened. The stillness in the house was louder than their own heartbeat or the breathing of the children.
They knew he was there, the occasional shuffle they heard, told them he was still downstairs and they prayed he did not go upstairs but left the house instead.
   Suddenly there was a loud bang and all four of them were instantly very alert. John whispered: “Are they going to find us Mummy?” but Mummy pressed her fingers against his lips and said: “ssshhhh”. John obeyed.

   The silence after the loud bang was even worse than before; it told the parents he was indeed still in the house. And their car was parked in the driveway so they did not have the illusion the man thought there was nobody at home.
They wished they had gone outside instead of sneaking upstairs. But it was the fear of being seen by the man who stood there, staring at the house.
And for the very first time since they moved here, they wished they had locked the doors behind them.
   It took a while before they heard a soft shuffle and the recognisable noise of the door to the hall; they never came round to oil the hinges. Half way the noise stopped as if the man listened for a reaction somewhere from the house. Then the door was pushed open and footsteps moved to the kitchen.

   Holding their breath they hoped the man was going to leave the house through the kitchen door and they almost forgot to breath to listen his footsteps. But again there was only silence. A cold threatening silence that slowly walked down their spine and back to nest in their brains. To take over every other emotion and only leaving pure anxiety.
   They did not know that the fear tightened their muscles until Susan moved in her mothers arms, complaining that Mummy hurt her. And then that she was hungry and when the game ended. And who was the person in the house searching for them?
   The mother whispered it was someone with very good ears who loved games so they needed to be extremely quiet! John still thought it was exiting and smiled with his eyes wide open which. But in the spares light from the hole his eyes looked very big and scary. She only saw what could happen if the man found them in their hiding place. If he only left the house but he knew, she felt that so clearly, that there was a family and that he could smell their fear. She new by instinct that he was going to wait as long as needed. At the moment John said he needed to go to the loo they heard the sound of the tap; the man filled the water kettle. Never had they thought that this so familiar and homely sound was so extremely frightening!
   The parents looked at each other, knowing an escape was impossible; the man made himself at home. Where they were so very afraid, he sat there smiling with a cup of tea. Waiting.... as a lion for his prey........


Photo: @wpunkt_epunkt (Instagram)
   When you ever visit their house in the middle of no where, you will see that the once so white facade is now green and grimy. The driveway is overgrown with shrubs and the tracks of many police cars are buried under thick layers of brown leaves as if the trees wanted to cover the gruesome things that happened here years before.

   The black door is wide open and the wind and rain turned the hallway into a muddy place. There are no witnesses any more. No footsteps of the family that lived here, nor those of the serial killer. They and the car have never been seen again.

   Only the hasty left personal belongings like an open bag, a torn apart doll, shoes and a coat, might give a clue to what happened and why the house became unsellable. Why nobody wants to live amongst the horror of the past.


Word of thanks: the photo of @wpunkt_epunkt (Instagram) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use the photo as an illustration for which I am very grateful. Thank you Walburga!

Links: please visit the Instagram account of @wpunt_epunkt to view the beautiful photo's!

Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!

Helen

Monday, November 27, 2017

Floating Silence

   The little twigs crushed by his hasty feet, made a cracking noise that did not disturb the wildlife; the inhabitants of the forest were used to this man who lived here most of his life. His smell and posture were as familiar as the trees and large boulders. During the harsh winters there was always food near the red barn of which the white panelling glowed bright in the afternoon sun.
    The deer raised her head; it was unusual to see the man running. Her brown eyes watched him disappearing between the trees before she shook her head to chase the flies and continued eating.

    He did not slow down, he knew there was something wrong. His heartbeat went up, in pace with his breathing. His heart ached and not because of physical strain although it felt like wading through a swamp, facing a nightmare.
He heard stories about people who relived their lives in the last few seconds before they died; flashbacks. Of happy times is what he wanted, reliving the happy times. The face of the woman he loved with his whole heart, suddenly appeared in front of his eyes.
    A bruised face with hollow cheeks and eyes so tired that they remembered him of chased animals. She stood in a corner of his veranda when he woke up to watch the sun rise. She did not move but stood there, her eyes fixed at his face, her chin high, her arms down her side and her back straight. It shocked him and not because he did not expect any human being at his door. No, it shocked him because here was a woman that went through horrible times. Not an accident but brutal violence made her look the way she did.
   At the same time he felt a deep admiration for her courage because there was no fear in her eyes. Her whole body displayed courage and her eyes challenged him not to ask any questions.
   He invited her in and made sure he was not walking behind her and not blocking the doorway. He saw her looking at the breakfast table and in an impulse, licking her lips. His hand invited her to sit down but she remained where she was and stroke her hair. Although she did not say a word, he knew that her pride made her do this and he went to the stove to boil water so she could tidy herself up.
When it boiled, he left his house and walked to the shore of the lake to give her time and space.

    He lost track of time but returned from his deep thoughts about the mysterious woman when he heard footsteps. When he turned his head she stood next to him, dressed in one of his trousers and shirts held together with a string of rope. She carried two cups of hot coffee. He took both so she was able to sit down. She choose the boulder next to him but not close enough for physical contact. He returned one cup of coffee. She folded her hands with the broken nails round the cup and both listened to the sound of the lake, forest and wind.
Like he, she seemed at ease with nature and he wondered where she came from but knew he could not ask.

   In fact he never asked anything about her past after that day. She stayed and did not speak for two weeks. It was only when her bruisings healed that she spoke for the very fist time. Her voice was music to his ears. Not light and high as he expected with a young woman with blond hair and grey, almost transparent eyes that never failed to observe her surroundings, but deep and warm, a voice he could listen to for hours.
    She did not speak much, only when something needed the attention of both which was not often the case as she knew her way around the house perfectly well.
    The first nights of her stay, she slept in his bed and he on the couch. She slept for hours and hours but when she felt better again, she gave him back his bed and insisted to sleep on the couch.
   She was always up early, even before him and he knew she first walked to the lake to sit there taking in the peaceful silence that also healed her mental wounds.
She cooked his meals, washed his clothes, kept the house clean, milked the cow and fed the pigs and chickens while he worked in the forest and sold the timber like he already did for many years.

    He never thought he could live with someone else in his house; he was on his own since he left his parents when he was a young man and this was 20 years ago. He always felt at ease with no other company, he did not need people to entertain him. He was never bored; his hands were always busy.
   But this woman, he did not even know here name, was never in his way. She never disturbed him and never asked questions. She respected him for who he was and also never asked for a favour or for help.
   When he finally realized all this, it was too late for his heart that now not only belonged to him but also to her. It came as a shock that he was in love with her. It turned all his emotions upside down which made him feel slightly uncomfortable in her presence and he did not know how to handle this.
    She did not show any sings of other feelings than taking care of his household and looking after him.
Until the day he came home earlier than usually. He was very restless and wanted to be with her. He wanted to brake the silence regardless what the consequences were going to be. He could not go on like this. At the same time he was very afraid she was going to leave him when he told her about his feelings but it was a risk he had to take. It would brake his heart if she indeed left and his life would never be the same again, still....

   When he arrived home his feet guided him to the lake where she waded through the water, her long blond hair drifting on the surface. He stood still absorbing the view.
She must have felt his presence because she turned her head in his direction. He could only see her naked shoulders which took his breath. She did not move nor did she call him but her eyes showed an emotion he understood.
He did not hesitate, took his boots off and walked in her direction without caring about his clothes.
   When he stood in front of her, she raised her hand and unbuttoned his shirt and trousers. He did nothing to help her. He did not notice his clothes floating away with the hardly visible waves caused by her moves.
Then he lifted her in his arms until she folded her legs around his waist.

    All this crossed his mind when he ran even faster. Four years passed by, four years of love and intimacy. Years that were so very precious that he could not believe her when she said she knew she was going to die. Of course he noticed she lost weight but she never complained and when she finally mentioned it, it was too late. And now he was so afraid, so very afraid of coming home too late.

    He found her near the lake at their favourite spot. He noticed her smile but also saw how much energy this took of her. He kneeled behind her and held her in his arms. She leaned against his warm strong body, her lips touched the soft skin just under his ear and he felt more than he heard “I love you so much....”.
He continued where she stopped: “....beyond my life”.

  His cry of grief was answered by a crow and bounced against the trees, floated above the lake until it died at the shore at the other side.
He raised with her closely in his arms and walked to the lake. He did not stop but walked and walked until the last wave disappeared, leaving a perfectly smooth surface.


Photo: @pekamkinen (Instagram)
The visitor of this forgotten forest stood near the lake and watched the water reflecting the sky, wondering why someone abandoned the wooden cottage behind him. It was obvious it stood empty for a long time but it was left as if the owners could return any moment.

   Suddenly a cloud appeared above the water surface and stayed there. He did not know where it came from and could not take his eyes of it.
His heartbeat changed by the loud desperate scream of a crow and he watched the cloud coming down to be dissolved by the lake.


Word of thanks: the photo of @pekamkinen (Instagram) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use the photo as an illustration for which I am very grateful. Thank you Pekka!

Links: please visit the Instagram account of Pekka Mäkinen to view his beautiful black and white photo's!

Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!

Helen

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Faint Whisper

   They asked him to trust them. And to be very, very quiet, even more quiet than a mouse.

   He knew mice always wandered around. In the middle of the night when he could not sleep, he heard their little feet on the wooden floors or scratching the burlap to which the wallpaper was glued. He got used to their soft squeaks when they quarrelled or calling each other. And now they kept him company in his hiding place.

   He pulled his knees up as high as he could and rested his chin on them. Before he wrapped his arms round his legs to keep warm, he first pulled the blanket over his ears, thinking that if he did not hear them, they would not hear him. The old pillow his head rested on, smelled mouldy but he did not care, it was only for one or two days and nights they told him. Not that the pillow at his bed smelled much better. It was only every other month that the bed linen was refreshed. The amount of starch that was used made the linen crack as soon as you turned or moved but after a few nights it felt softer and the noises were gone.
    He hated the smell of starch. Some of the children said it smelled fresh like the wind blowing over the fields but they probably did not know the smell of Lavender.

    He blinked his eyes, he did not want to cry but the thought of Lavender, the smell from home, caused emotions he had almost forgotten about.
He was only 6 and did not remember any more why he was here and when he arrived. He did not remember the face of his mother but he remembered the smell of Lavender that always surrounded her.
   He pulled his arms tighter around his legs and imagined it were the warm and comfortable arms of her, the woman that held him when he had scary dreams or when he hurt himself when he fell. Or just because it was so nice to be in each others arms.
   He tried to remember her voice to expel the deafening silence in his hideaway.
Suddenly he remembered a few words of a poem that always made him laugh: '.... eating a Christmas pie. He put in his thumb....!'

    His brains worked hard to remember the whole song and in his head he started again: '.... sat in the corner....'
Little Jack!! He remembered again because that is what his mother called him... 'little Jack, my little Jack'.... Was this his real name? Where he lived now he was called Boy and the number of his bed at the large ward where he slept with numerous other boys his age. Here he was 'Boy Twelve Stroke Three', which meant that his bed was number 12 in the 3rd row.
Suddenly he knew the whole song: Little Jack Horner sat in the corner, eating a Christmas pie. He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum and said: “What a good boy am I!”'

    His name must be Jack, there were too many similarities. Why should he otherwise lay in a corner right now? A corner in a very dark space with walls so tight that he could not even see a glimpse of the candles that moved through all the rooms. He could hear the people holding the candles walking and whispering but there was no light at all.
   He held his breath when footsteps came his way. It sounded as if a hand stroke the panels behind he was hiding. Then there was a long silence in which he thought he could not much longer hold his breath and it was a relieve when the footsteps finally moved away from him. But still he did not dare to move. He kept his promise to the people who told him they were coming back to take him home.

    Although the dark space was big enough for two or three children, he was on his own and wondered if there were more hidden spaces like his. Hiding other children and if they too were told to be patient and of course very, very quiet.
    Because the sound of feet and whispers faded, he dared to breath normal again but he did not dare to move although his muscles cramped a little. He noticed how tight he held his arms around his legs and carefully loosened his grip.
    He was thirsty but wanted to wait till all the sounds in the large house were gone. He knew too that drinking the water they gave him, would cause him to go to the loo and he could of course, not go downstairs to the outbuilding where the dark and smelly buckets were.

    Being very tired, he had difficulties keeping his eyes open. He did not notice he fumbled a corner of the blanket in his little skinny fist, stroking his face with the tip in a slow and steady rhythm. He asked himself where the thought of a soft toy came from. A toy with brown eyes, fluffy ears and large feet. He did not know the name of the soft fluffy creature but he remembered it was always with him. He did not remember where it was now and if another child took it to bed or talked to it. He hoped so for the toy which must be cold an lonely without him. The same feelings he had now; cold and lonely.... cold and lonely....

    He woke up from a strange sound. It frightened him being so very afraid of them, the people with the candles and the whispering voices of which he knew that they were not the same people that hid him here. He listened but again the silence was of the same density as the darkness. He carefully stroke his face and noticed his cheeks were wet. He realized it was his crying that woke him up and all of a sudden he could not hold his tears any more.
   He cried and cried; his fist pushed into his wide open mouth to damp the sound of his desperate hiccups. He pushed his knees together not to pee in his pants, afraid of the painful punishments that always followed when it accidentally happened. But he failed.

    When he finally calmed down, he did not know for how long he was sitting there. His skin started to itch where his wet pants touched it but he did not dare to scratch. He wanted to be a good brave boy because, what if his mother came to collect him? He wanted to tell her he wasn't afraid in the dark. Not even for a few seconds. He was big enough to look after his mother, to earn money to buy food, and flowers that smelled like lavender.
    He was going to buy a beautiful house with large windows where the sun could shine through. And with a large garden with a pond with coloured fish he was going to feed together with his mother.
And in the bedrooms nice beds with shiny white sheets and soft blankets and heaps of pillows they could rest their heads on. And boxes full of fluffy toys.....

Photo: @daftintin_official (Instagram)
   
   The large estate is still standing in its dark grounds, surrounded by centuries old trees that keep the sunshine from reaching the windows. The crumbling outbuildings do not release their terrible smell any more; even the rats left it.
   The silence in the large house is still deafening and only occasionally disturbed by a few people that can not resist exploring it but who leave very quickly after a visit to the large hallway with the numerous doors.

   Only the brave look behind the doors but there is one they never open. They can not explain why they walk pass it as quickly as possible. Is it the sound of a soft cry? The smell of Lavender or the sinister faint whisper of a child's voice repeating a poem?


Word of thanks: the photo of @daftinitin_official (Instagram) inspired me to write this story and I was given permission to use the photo as an illustration for which I am very grateful. Thank you!

Links: please visit the beautiful Instagram account of @daftintin_official and visit his impressive YouTube Channel.

Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!

Helen