steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Homes and Haunts

I mentioned in a recent post that my mother's care assisstant, Haawa, had encountered some racism in my birthplace (a small Hampshire market town). Specifically, she was carded in the local supermarket, despite being a 36-year-old mother of three.

Yesterday, I went to Waitrose with her. As we got to the till I was in the middle of telling her how I would be spending that night in a haunted house, and was taken by surprise when the cashier (who had been listening in to our interesting conversation) interrupted to ask Haawa for her ID. "But we're together," I pointed out - because, even if Haawa had been five years old there's no reason to refuse to sell us alcohol, given that I at least am clearly well past my prime. But Haawa - prepared for such an event by her previous experience - had her card ready and waiting, and got in before I could press the point. The assistant, satisfied, wished me luck in the haunted house and we went on our way.

In the car park I asked her why she'd shown her ID, when there was absolutely no need to do so, but she said that compared to the overt abuse she'd had from many of her care clients over the years a bit of small-town snarkiness was nothing. She wasn't going to waste her energy on it. I suppose it's her call - but I still feel like I should have done more myself. Or maybe I was just embarrassed for my home town.

But what about this haunted house, you ask? Well, you may remember that about a year ago I got to spend a very pleasant day in Hemingford Grey Manor, otherwise known as Green Knowe, the setting of Lucy Boston's books beginning with The Children of Green Knowe (1954). This year my friend Miho was staying there again, and it so happened that this weekend the owner, Lucy Boston's daughter-in-law Diana, was going to be away. So a few days ago I got a slightly plaintive invitation to come and spend the night there. I thought (and my suspicion was later confirmed) that this was because Miho wasn't especially keen to spend the night in a 900-year-old haunted house alone. I accepted of course, and said that we should treat it as a kimodameshi (肝試し) or test of courage.

I got there yesterday in the late afternoon. Some of Miho's Cambridge friends were visiting, and there was a rainbow over Green Knowe's topiary:

Green knowe tea with rainbow

As the long shadows pooled, though, and the other friends departed, the house took on a different aspect. Miho was sleeping on the ground floor, with the dog nearby to guard her; but I was billeted high above, in the attic that had (in the books) been Tolly's, along with the mouse that squeaked, the rocking horse that moved, and other haunted accessories.


Did I survive the night? Actually, I slept really well - but then, the ghosts of Green Knowe always were the benign kind. Perhaps you'd like to join me as I work my way downstairs this morning? Click below to see the video...


Quite friendly after all, n'est-ce pas? Kimodameshi - passed.
Tags: books, real life
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