Delapre continued

…In the front of the house two pillars supported a lead-roofed portico over the large front door.

A wide hallway ran straight through the middle of the house from the front door to the back door. A few metres in from the back door a glass-panelled door separated the kitchen area from the living area. Some years later, one of these glass panels was the cause of a nasty accident when my brother Nigel, eighteen months my junior, attempted a world speed record up the hallway on my first pair of roller-skates. The smash of breaking glass brought my mother rushing from the kitchen in time to pick up a neat chunk of Nigel’s wrist flesh from the floor. That was the last time we skated in the house.

Halfway along the hall there was a glass fronted box high up on the wall. It contained rows of small flags with the name of a room underneath each flag.  It dated back to the days when the lady or gentleman of the house would ring for a servant. When a bell was rung, the flag indicating that particular room would wave from side to side.

One day, when my mother was in the house on her own, she heard a bell ring. So she went to the front door, as one would. No one was there so she went to the back door. No one was there either. Puzzled, she walked back down the hallway and glanced up at the glass-fronted box. A flag was waving, but it was in part of the house that had been destroyed. It was an eerie moment. A call from the grave. The instance was put down to a wiring fault, but it made a good ghost story for a dark stormy night.

As a child I often felt other presences. Sometimes at night I would lie awake for hours, too scared to go to the toilet because I would have to walk past the dark attic stairs. Probably childish imaginings, because in daylight we loved the attics. My brother had his electric train set up there, not that I was allowed to play with it. But I did make little plastic kits of houses and stations to add to the layout.

On the attic walls were old signs and posters left from the wars, with slogans such as ‘Be like Dad, keep Mum’ and ‘Keep it under your hat’ and ‘Careless talk costs lives’, all of which puzzled us a bit. The windows, which we were forbidden to open, looked out on to a flat leaded parapet which Dad used to climb on to occasionally to clear the gutter or replace a slate. Inside the rooms there were openings into the eaves, which we discovered to our discomfort were floored with glass fibre insulation.


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