The ghosts are playing football in the back garden again…


I’m sat here on my first real workday of the year looking out of my workroom window and I’m amazed at the rain. The cottage is literally taking a battering from all sides as the weather has turned and I feel I’m right in the middle of it. I walk into the kitchen to make myself a warming tea and just watch the fight with the elements that’s going on in the back garden whilst the kettle boils…

The large walnut tree so beautiful in the summer with its canopy of leaves seems to be in full combat. Its branches are swaying angrily yet gracefully as it protects its trunk. The laurel hedge with its tightly packed leaves stands firm as a wall and shelters the birds hopping onto the old mill stone that we use to put food on. I notice the lamb bone has gone too. The robins pecked at it the day before but something large has dragged it off. I wonder if I’ll see the bone barely hidden in the earth again. The footballs from yesterday’s play are moving. Slowly at first and then as a huge gust takes them they fly across the grass this way and that and as I tilt my head to the side I see the ghosts playing football. They are taking advantage of the fight for the garden to have a little play and joke. The walnut tree won’t have noticed them but I have.

As I walk through the cottage the wind whistles down through the chimneys. It makes the same rumbling sound of the sea’s waves crashing on the shore and if I shut my eyes I could be next to the beach with the rain on my face piercing my skin. I worry for the chimneys, one is quite lent over but there’s nothing I can do this minute.

The front door bangs and startles me and I turn to look. For a split second I assume someone wants to come in. Maybe they do and I have misunderstood. Maybe the ghosts have finished their game and want to come in…

This cottage is filled with nooks and crannies, strange notches in the beams and stories untold. Who lived here before me? Who watches and listens as my family plays amongst the rooms of the 3 little cottages that are now one? There is a calm serene feel to the cottage even as the darkness came and I have not felt, ever, that I should be frightened. Sometimes though if I turn a corner at night and look through the solid wall of darkness that touches my face and if I really look for just a few seconds more I may catch them and they might turn to look at me.

I love it that the walls aren’t straight, that the beams are in the strangest of places and that 2 of the front doors are still in place one even with its original door bell. I can’t find the third front door though I think I know where it was but the brickwork has been painted and it’s hard to make out any blocked up doorways especially as a rose has been planted possibly to cover it all up. I can’t find the staircases upstairs though there are notches cut out of the beams that point to where they might have been. There are 2 chimney pots on one chimney yet only one fire place and no possibility of a second -where has the other one gone? The new cellar trap door in the path of the backdoor with its modern ladder leading you down is in the wrong place as the original steps to the cellar as still there covered up by the new floor holding the new table and chairs. I think it’s just as well the ghosts are calm as they may become lost in the new cottage as although it bears some relation to the cottages before these similarities are slowly disappearing over time. They will soon be lost in their own home…

Some things will never change. The click of the latch as I open the sitting room door and as I push it back across the 2 steps down it suddenly becomes very wide and heavy and the smell of the wood fire hits me and if I shut my eyes it could be any period in history. Wood smoke is unique and with it there is a direct link to the ancestors who lived here before. This inglenook fireplace may have had a different fire in it but the bread oven (minus the cast iron door) is still there, though aged. The space for the salt shows the different ways of cooking that bear little relation to the modern convenience in the now separate kitchen far away from this fire. This fire is now for pleasure though still sometimes for warmth. The inglenook is barely attached to the cottage (being an outside inglenook that is added onto a space cut out of the end wall) one day the cracks will open more and daylight will shine through into a space that hasn’t see the sunlight in centuries. Maybe it will be fixed by then though…

I think the future is solid and the face of the cottage will now not change despite what happens inside. The different chairs and beds with the future paintwork and wallpapers will be absorbed by it as it strides into new chapters and creating its next history. I think new ghosts will stay as ghosts aren’t just of the Victorian ‘in the past’ variety. There may be wartime ghosts before the house was converted into one but I am convinced there are a few from when it was built around 300 hundred years ago.

If you ever visit the cottage and the weather takes a turn for the worst you may hear the whistling of the chimneys and there may be a loud knock at the door when you know no one’s there. Don’t be afraid as it’s just the ghosts playing games with you. The banging window upstairs and the flapping curtain are just the ways they get your attention. Are the flashing lights really a fault in the electricity? I will probably never know but I am comforted by the knowledge that the ghosts are happy to share with us as I know they mean us no harm. But on those very wild days as the wind whips up from the field below moving from the bottom of the garden, through the old and gnarled branches of the walnut tree and batters the cottage as you stand at the kitchen window; look for 5 mins and watch the ghosts playing football again…

(The picture shows the damage caused by these winds in January. You can see the broken 30 foot pergola that had stood for years that snapped like twigs. The walnut tree is in the middle to the left also lost a branch.)

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About littlewhitecottage

Emma is a qualified teacher with 14 years of teaching in many different settings. From teaching adults and children at a music school to choosing to work in a demanding primary school that was failing (which meant moving from an outstanding school – her colleagues were aghast!) to running her own sewing business for the last 5 ½ years teaching all ages how to sew: Emma loves to teach.
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