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Friday, 26 March 2010

Not the ghost of a chance



Yesterday, Cristo and the Couple came up to my flat to discuss issues relating to the upkeep of the house. It was the first time we had all been together since we last took part in a local pub quiz late last year, which we had won hands down. However, I have not been back there due to a prominent sign on display banning the wearing of hats. As I was sporting a 1930s hat adorned with diamante clips at the time, I decided it was not a sufficiently appealing venue to persuade me to forgo my love of wearing vintage millinery in public.

Cristo was the first to arrive at my flat. To my surprise he claimed he had never been invited inside before. It was a genuine oversight on my part. I later realised he must have been abroad when we had held previous meetings here. As with all new guests to my home, I gave him a tour of my cabinet of curiosities. He said he was inviting himself back for the extended tour as I had had to stop when the Couple arrived.Voyage autour de ma chambre

Only moments before the meeting I had made a fresh cream strawberry and Cointreau Swiss roll to serve alongside a range of drinks: alcoholic and otherwise. Once the main business had been dealt with, we found ourselves telling ghost stories. Mine was about the inexplicable events that occurred in the Victorian house of my childhood as well as the “ghost” voice captured on video in my current bathroom.The ghost in my bathroom I also mentioned how I had once stayed on my own in a company house and was kept awake by the sound of a motorcycle apparently speeding towards the building only for the engine to cut out suddenly as it reached the front of the house. This sound was repeated over and over again until daylight. I refused to spend another night in that house and checked into a hotel the next day.

Mr Couple said when he had been on a night shift he  had spied what he took to be a woman dressed in white, before she vanished down what he knew to be a blind alley. He assumed that his eyesight was playing tricks on him and attributed it to the fact he had been extremely tired that day. His wife described how, as a child, she had stayed in a hotel with her parents. For some reason they were in a different room to hers. One night she had woken up to find a small boy standing at the foot of the bed and staring at her. She closed her eyes, hoping it was just her imagination but when she opened them again he was still there. At length he simply vanished.

In a street close to our house, Cristo had come across a gaunt young man, just as he was coming home from the gym. Even from a distance there was something about the young man’s strange loping gait and pale face that had unnerved him. Close to, when Cristo found himself reluctantly looking into the other man’s piercing colourless eyes he felt even more uneasy. A while later, Cristo had the same sensation when he was walking past a group of young people and one woman, with the same colourless eyes, suddenly held his gaze with her baleful stare.

We then spoke about palmists. As well as my experience at a theatrical garden party, which led me to forever forego the potential delights of hang-gliding or parachuting,  I described how I had been to a tarot reader whilst I was staying in California.Theatrical Palmist The woman made a tape of her reading which I played back with some interest on my return to England. What soon becomes clear is that the tarot reader is desperately trying to elicit responses from me but I am equally determined to give nothing away.  She made a number of comments about future colleagues which proved to be wide off the mark. Mr Couple said that when he had his future wife had separated for a while, he had been to see a male fortune teller in Thailand. Apparently the palmist had foretold he would be getting back together again with the woman who is now his wife. However, he admitted that the fortune-teller had wrongly described him as being a pilot. We all agreed that when it came to fortune-tellers, people had a tendency to only latch on to the parts they wanted to believe in and ignored those inconvenient elements which proved untrue. Likewise, although we were not convinced of the existence of ghosts, we were aware that we had all experienced incidents we would be hard pressed to readily explain away.

One event I was hard pressed to explain away at the time was the behaviour of a man, who had once lived in Cristo’s flat. After the fire, Alex stayed in touch whilst he lived in Birmingham and I rented a flat close to our house, which had been badly damaged in the conflagration. I had lost touch with Alex after he later emigrated from the UK to go and work in Australia. I heard on the grapevine that he had married and divorced in quick succession. Then, out of the blue, Alex started writing to me again, saying he had been inspired to do so by a strange dream he had had about me. Finally, he asked if we could meet up when he was next in the country on business. Intrigued by his dream I agreed. Although Alex did come over to England he abruptly stopped writing to me when I refused to agree to his bizarre proposal that he would come over to my flat, but that we were not to speak a word to one another. I later discovered the real reason behind his eccentric behaviour.  It seems after his marriage collapsed, he fell in love with a young woman who subsequently died. We had shared the same name. His dreams of her death had merged with his memories of seeing me trapped in an upper storey window whilst clouds of smoke billowed around me and a fire raged in the flat below. Apparently her best friend attempted to have an affair with him but a sense of guilt had meant he could not respond to her advances. Although our relationship had always been platonic I knew he carried a torch for me and considered me, in his own words, out of his league. As I later explained indignantly to a friend: Alex was attempting to use me to test whether he could still feel physical desire for a woman or whether it had died along with his late girlfriend. My indignation was tempered when the OF, who had briefly met up with Alex, said he had been shocked by how alarmingly overweight Alex had become. Perhaps it dawned on Alex that in his much altered state, I might not find him physically attractive and that was why he had bottled out from meeting up with me. Whatever the truth, I know I would never have dated Alex whilst we were still living in the same building. It always seemed a sensible rule to adhere to, although it not been quite so easy to follow ever since the arrival of the delectable Cristo.