- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Friday, 30 November 2012
At the beginning of last week, I was quite happy with my lot. I had just started a new job and everything was looking rosy.
Then out of the blue I received that text message from my friend regarding the interest that a man from the past had shown in me. My human heckles went up. I didn't quite know what to do about it all, as it has been a while since anyone has shown any interest in me.
I went off on that first date with no preconception at all as to what it may bring, but it ended up delivering more than I ever thought was possible for someone like me.
It also gave me back something. It gave me the small gift of hope with the promise of more to follow.
It was like a dream that I didn't want to wake up from. I couldn't believe my luck. At my age, the buses do not appear to arrive as quickly as they once did in my youth.
Then the rescue. I didn't ask for that. I didn't ask for the intimacy, but I welcomed it will open arms as that is the sort of person I have always been and probably will remain so for the rest of my life.
It was perfect.
I made the most fatal error of all in sharing this news with a few close friends. I am glad that I didn't hire a biplane a with a message attached to its tail now reporting my good fortune, as it then it all began to go horribly wrong.
We are due to meet a few days after our perfect evening. When I arrive, I am not an idiot and I realise straight away that something isn't right with him.
His beautiful face carries an unremitting sadness that is beyond repair. I sense that this isn't going to go well. I ask him if he is okay as he looks like an animal in pain. He says no, he is fine.
We walk, he asks me a few questions. I gabble on, trying to fill the space that is increasing between us.
And then I realise that he is crying. It is just the most awful thing in the world. I
I cuddle him and ask him what is wrong and he tells me.
It is his children. In the event of his recent unexpected break-up, he is devastated by the affect it is having on them.
I say all I can to support him. I do not know what to do. I am sadden by his pain. It isn't nice.
We leave the park and he drives me home. I am uncomfortable as to know what to do. There is an air of loss and brevity about all that follows.
I make him a cup of tea. He cries again. I wipe away his tears and hug him.
He leaves and tells me that he really likes me, but wants our times together to be happy. I say I agree. He cuddles me and I also start to cry as something is flagging up in my mind about all of this. Something I have encountered all too often.
He is saying one thing, but what he is really saying, isn't that clear. As I realise he has realised that he has taken on too much.
He cuddles me and I start to cry. I don't want to cry, but I know that there is a sense of an ending about all of this and once again another man is leaving me.
I hear nothing from him.
And when I do. My worst fears are realised.
I am not a selfish person. And I should really know better than to wear my heart on my sleeve. And if he had just taken a moment to consider all of this before he blew up my emotional balloon, if he had only thought it through, maybe I wouldn't be so devastated now.
I realise that he has a journey to go on and a new foundation to build for his children. I am not an idiot, but I feel like one.
I will not doubt move on. What choice do I have in the matter?
He has apologised and ended it with me via a text. I would have hoped that I was worthy of a call or a visit to deliver this news, but at least I know now.
I wish him well. He isn't a bad person, just one that is lost in an emotional sea of turmoil and unpleasantness.
I hope he works it all out, I really do.
Me, well I guess, I should really learn something from all of this, but what that is, I couldn't possibly say.
Just like that bull called Ferdinand from the children's story called The Story of Ferdinand The Bull, I shall just go and sit back under that mental tree in a field and smell the flowers and be quiet.
I don't actually know what else I can do.
As a parent I have strived for the past twenty plus years to ensure that the well being of my children was paramount on my agenda. I have feed and watered them both, ensured that their clothes were clean and that their shoes were polished. I have created a stable environment for them both to grow up in. I have watched over them when they have been ill, helped them learn to tie their shoes, put plasters on their cuts and have tried to keep them free from harm.
To be honest with you, I have winged most of this parenting stuff as throughout most of it, I haven't the foggiest idea what I was doing. Children do not come with instruction manuals or handbooks explaining their individual requirements, so it has been a learning curve for all three of us.
At the best of times, it has been incredible. At the worst of times it has been heartbreaking. But if there is one thing that I have learnt, it is that you must always be there for them, no matter what.
I am endlessly proud of both of them in all they do, say and act. I honestly couldn't have nicer children and my heart is full to bursting with equal amounts of love for each of them.
In life we encounter many transitions especially as we are growing up. There are little leaps to and from one destination to another and sometimes these aren't as easy as they could be for our children. And as a parent I am emotionally bleeding for the journey that my son in currently on.
He is a lovely child. Easy and charming with no malice or anger within his soul. He is caring and solid. He has never been in trouble or the cause of any.
Throughout his primary education he learnt and grew with the same group of children. They were a very special class. They all supported each other through all of their ups and downs throughout the years they spent in each others company.
This year they were all disbanded to various secondary schools and this was met with immense sadness by all of them.
Thirty plus kids all put out to tender and heading off in different directions.
My son was one of four from his class to be accepted into his next school.
He has found this transition incredibly difficult. At first, he embraced the newness of it all with an open mind and heart. He loved it so much (after his initial worries), that he wanted to know why he could not attend at the weekends as well.
But then, it all began to dawn on him that these new children that he was mixing with were not the same as those he had left behind.
This has left him with mixed feelings with regards to how he should deal with it all.
Not only has he had to deal with an overload of new responsibilities, he has also had to deal with children who are motivated by unacceptable social behaviour.
He doesn't understand this mindset or how it works. And that is causing issues for him.
He has been called names, had money demanded from another child and has been the subject of ridicule.
I remember quite clearly my daughter going through the same process during her first year at secondary school. Two rather nasty social misfits decided that they would make her life hell. It wasn't just in school that they carried out their evilness as they started to call at our home. I approached her year tutor regarding this matter and was told that I didn't understand as these two children came from troubled homes. I found that unacceptable and moved her.
I wonder sometimes if that was the beginning for this nanny state that we now find ourselves living in.
Although I have every sympathy for children who are having a bad time, I found it diabolical that my child should suffer because she had to make allowances for those that didn't have a parent or an upbringing like she did.
Is that what we do? Excuse at our own cost? I don't think so.
A bully is a bully.
I recall a fantastic song from the underrated Everything But The Girl called Little Hitler.
There is a lyric in that song that goes
Little Hitlers, little Hitlers
Grow up into big Hitlers
Look what they do
I am not happy that my son is not happy and will do all I can to ensure that the affects that those driven my a malevolent streak is dissipated as quickly as possible.
I have always worried about him more in this sense than my daughter.
You worry about your daughters, because you feel that they are more vulnerable to other unsavoury social elements. But as she grew, I realised that women form stronger bonds and are more apt at looking after each other in the process.
Boys are a different kettle of fish all together. I think they are much more at risk from these elements. And as I am aware of this, I shall be making sure he isn't targeted or harmed in any way shape or form by those with less favourable intentions.
And, I might add, who do not have a parent like my children do.
Thursday, 29 November 2012
I have never been the subject (or the object for that matter of a rescue). I should imagine this is due to the fact that I do not recognise the need to be rescued (due to years of self-sufficiency) and therefore just plod along aimlessly falling over stationary items or down the stairs of buses without any outside inquiry as to the state of my general well being.
Just like the words of that chipper little number I just " pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again" without a second thought. It is what I am used to, being the carer as opposed to the cared for.
But, there was something in that kiss that ignited a sequence of events that led to my first (and only) rescue and this is how it all occurred.
It is raining and I am tired from work. I just want to go home and see Child Two. I board the bus. It is a good hour to and from work, which is long enough to be held captive in a condensed windowed brightly lit space with a load of random strangers.
I split the journey in my head into three equal sections that last twenty minutes. Once I have completed one of these sections I know that I am a third of the way home.
However, as I am just about the enter the second section the bus halts. At first I think it is just traffic. But then after an unreasonable amount of stationary gridlock, I ask the driver if there has been an accident. He replies that there has and I realise that this bus isn't going anywhere any time soon. So I ask him if I can get off and he kindly opens the doors and I start to walk.
It is raining. Not drips, but big rain. Still I think to myself at least I am in charge of making my own way home even if I do have to walk. I am not alone. A young girl has also jumped ship. She and I start a conversation based upon the distance to the nearest station from where we are. We walk together. As a lone walker, I am not phased by the task ahead. But it is dark and she is unfamiliar with the area and tells me that she is glad that we are making the journey together.
As I vacated the bus, I send a text message to my date and tell him of my plight. I think nothing of it as we have kept in contact via a stream of messages recounting our activities since our date. I like it. I like sharing with him.
I know that whatever has halted the bus will be up ahead at some point. I do not want to bare witness to any human horror that may be there, as it will upset me and so I brace myself.
As my companion and I round the bend we see blue lights and mayhem up ahead. Two buses have tried to pass each other in opposite directions and have managed to get stuck in the process. There appears to be no death or injury, only a queue of cars behind each bus that stretch back quite a distance. I realise at this moment that I have made the right choice. As we pass the accident, I do not look to see beyond my first impression of the scene. I don't want to.
We carry on walking and eventually we reach the station and she thanks me and heads off and then my phone rings.
My date asks me where I am and I tell him. He says that he isn't far and if I wait, he'll come and find me and drive me home.
In the time it has taken my companion and myself to walk to the station, the buses have started to run again. I think to myself that I could actually get the bus and head home under my own stream, but I can't wait to see him.
I am soaking wet and shattered from work. But I don't care.
I wait and he calls and tells me to cross over to a better spot for collection. I do. I wait a few minutes and there he is my knight is his uniform at the wheel of his car coming to rescue me.
I look at his beautiful tired face and feel suddenly shy. He drives me home and admits to being a little self-conscious of his post work state after the day he has endured (he is a paramedic).
I tell him not to worry as we are equally unprepared for our impromptu meeting. I just like being in his car with him, I just like being with him.
As we arrive at mine I ask him if he'd like to have dinner with Child Two and me. He answers straight away with a positive yes and we go in.
I make supper, it is nothing amazing, while he chats with my son.
I like hearing the low reassuring hum of their conversation while I prepare the meal.
We all eat and my son heads off for his night time ablution and bed.
We just cuddle as if it is were the most natural thing in the world. I toy with the idea of keeping him captive like that with me for all the time that will follow on from that moment.
He is a very peaceful soul and a kindred spirit.
I like him quite a bit.
I like him quite a bit because I sent him an unintentional S.O.S on a wet rainy Monday in November and because out of the blue he answered that by rescuing me.
And no one ever did that for me before.
I feel like Mary in It's A Wonderful Life pointing at the picture she has had made for George and saying "George Bailey lassos the moon."
But I think I'll wait.
However, there is a post script to these events, which I cannot add at this present time, as I do not have any words.
All I will say is, that each journey starts with one step followed by another and then another. The destination may not be clear, but the intention is good. And that, my friends, is what it looks like on the map of the human heart that I am reading right now.
Sunday, 25 November 2012
It's been a while since I was kissed.
I don't mean in the fond sentimental way that your children will kiss you or the way in which you say hello to your friends with a quick peck on the cheek.
No, I am talking about one of those kisses that ignites your sensual recall and reminds you of something that you haven't encountered for a very, very long time.
When I think about it, I would have to say that it has been quite possibly years since I was kissed like that by a man, and it was in all probability one of the best kisses I have ever had.
And I shall tell you this for nothing. It has woken me up and it has rebooted my emotional hard drive.
The kiss is the deal breaker isn't it? It's where it begins. It's the litmus paper test of a promise of the possible passion that may follow later.
If the kiss isn't right, something instinctive tells you that the person delivering that kiss is holding back in some way or that they just aren't on the same primeval wave length as you.
I have kissed a few men like that and I can tell you this for free, my instincts were correct. Those kisses delivered nothing. They weren't exceptional in any way and neither were the men that gave them.
It is quite an important moment that first kiss. It cannot be repeated so the moment it happens, it must be savoured. It must be special. It is a gift as long as it contains all the essential elements required to make it so.
So way was this kiss so special.
Well here's the thing.
I wrote about all that I looked forward to in Hope. Since I wrote that (and in the time that led up to it), I became aware of the fact that I had come so far, but that the one thing that was missing from my life was the shared intimacy of another person.
I had become accustomed to my single life. It is fine. Time passes pretty quickly, life moves on and I am happy with it all. I pat myself on the back at all I have achieved. I meet old friends and I make new ones and pretty soon the idea of ever meeting another soul like me fades.
It doesn't fade in a sad way, it just dissipated and its void is consumed by my day to day life.
That was until I received a text message and that was how it all began.
The text was from a friend of whom I hold in great esteem. She asked me how my new job is going and casually throws in to the body of the texts the fact that my name had been mentioned.
I reply with avid curiosity as to whom the mentioner of my name might be. She replies with his name and I am blown away.
A man from the past and one of whom I had always had a soft spot for. She asks me if she would like me to adopt a Cilia Black guise and instigate further proceedings. I think she is being funny, but the following day he contacts me.
I suddenly realise that it is real and I am so flattered that he has. He asks me if I would like to meet up. A date I think? He is only the second man to ever ask me this question. I mentally blush and accept.
The following day it all dawns on me that I have a date. Not a cyberspace date, but an actual date with someone I had liked. My excitement buffer starts to fill up and I get it all straight in my head with regards to the reality of it all.
It has been over twenty years since I have seen this person. We are both older and have been through those life mills. I worry about all those stupid self deprecating things I worry about like looking older and fatter. I start to stress a bit. But then I tell all of those negative thoughts to do one and just relax and decide to just go with the flow.
I think to myself “Look, if it is nothing, then you have seen an old friend. If it something, then deal with that as and when.”
I put that thought in my pocket and focus on the positive.
On the day, I end up with some time to myself. I am excited and I want the day to pass so I can go and meet him.
The latter part of the day speeds up and eventually I am ready to go. I realise I am slightly flustered as I leave.
My fears start to return. I tell them to sod off and tap my pocket and walk forward.
I meet him and it is easy and comfortable. We talk about recent life events. We laugh about the nonchalant dog that my family had had.
We are having great evening and I think to myself I really want get out of this pub and to be alone with him as I want to kiss him.
We leave and he offers me his arm. It is a nice gentle thing to do. We walk and we find a spot. We sit. It is cold. He puts his arm around me. It feels familiar and right. And then he kissed me. And then he kissed me some more. And then a bit more.
It wasn't odd or weird or out of context. It was perfect. He is just lovely and he takes my breath away. I feel dizzy.
We conclude the evening with him walking me home and with the joint agreement that we shall meet up again for a second date.
Before he goes. I am torn as I actually don't want him too. I just want to kiss him all night. I like the way he touches me. It feels right. It isn't about sex, it is something much more intimate than that. It is something I think we have both missed.
I'd like to be alone with him, away from the world, just us, but I realise that I must be satisfied with the kissing for now as I don't want to spoil the moment. I want to look forward to the next kiss rather than let the first overwhelm me.
We are both older and a little raw. Life has left it's scars on each of us. Life can affect sensitive people like that, I know this for a fact and I think he may well know this too.
But those kisses. They were quite incredible. They kept me warm throughout the night. I embraced them and so did he and I am glad that we both did. And I can't wait for the next date and more of those kisses.
Saturday, 17 November 2012
Once upon a time a long long long time ago, there lived in the peaceful sleepy realm of Hushaby Land a gentle townsfolk who were ruled by a kind King called Hector.
King Hector was married to Queen Hilly and they had twin boys called Hank and Harry.
King Hector was kind and loving and as such, he made sure that all of those that lived within his kingdom were happy of heart and kind in spirit and that they all looked after each another.
The only thing that King Hector insisted upon in his Kingdom and that he was pretty strict about, was that all of his people slept well each and every night, and that they dreamt of only of joyful things.
And for many years the good people of Hushaby Land had slept these wonderful sleeps uninterrupted by fear, worry or stress, until one spring morning, when a stranger arrived.
As Hushaby Land had no gatekeeper and as King Hector had no reason to believe that there were people in the world unlike those he ruled over, the stranger was welcomed to enter Hushaby Land without question or quibble.
But when washing started to vanish from washing lines and goods were taken from stalls in the market place, the good people of Hushaby Land started to have very bad dreams indeed.
Their sleeps weren't restful and as a result, they grew tired and stressed and grumpy.
One day King Hector said to Queen Hilly “Do you hear that?” “Hear what my love?” she answered with another question (which is always really annoying).
“I can’t hear any laughter in the streets or the sound of good cheer coming from the townsfolk. Something must be wrong!”
King Hector put on his best cloak and headed off to the village to find out what was going one.
The first person he met was Hooky the local historian.
“Hooky, what is wrong in Hushaby Land?” The King asked.
Hooky yawned and said “Oh Your Majesty, a stranger arrived, but has since departed. But while he was here, there appeared to be some issues, which in turn cause some upset. Since then,the townsfolk haven't be sleeping at all well."
“What?" The King asked in surprise “Why wasn’t I told of this?”
Hooky said “Well nobody wanted you to have a bad nights sleep as well, so we thought it best not to tell you Sire."
This made the King very sad. “Hooky this makes me very unhappy indeed. Whilst I may be the King of this land, I am still the same as every other living souls that resides here. As such, I understand the importance of a good night's sleep. Now, what I need you to advise me of, is how you think we can make sure this never happens again?”
Hooky stifled a yawn and rubbed his eyes and said “Well, these are modern times Majesty and I would say as such, although we should always welcome new visitors to Hushaby Land, we should also be aware that not everyone is to be trusted. I have heard that most Kingdoms nowadays now have a Gatekeeper, to ensure that each arrival is welcomed as well as scrutinised, prior to entering. My advice to you, is to hire one to ensure that this never happens again.”
“A Gatekeeper you say?” The King pondered.
“It should be a very special and responsible person who watches over these arrivals to the realm Sire.” Said Hooky.
The King rubbed his chin in thought and then replied “Well then a Gatekeeper we shall have! For I will never sleep well again, until I know that everyone that resides in Hushaby Land sleeps well too”.
With that, King Hector wearing his favourite cloak, returned to the Palace to think of whom would be most suitable for the post.
Now Hank and Harry were very happy to be Princes, but sometimes (and don’t let King Hector know this) they were a little bored.
They also knew it would be ages until any swanky Princesses were likely to arrive in the Kingdom (thousands of years in fact) and in the meantime they needed something to keep themselves busy. So when King Hector raised the idea of the Gatekeeper during dinner that night with the Princes, they jumped at the opportunity and said that they felt it was only right that they should fulfil their duty to their King and Kingdom by acting as the joint Gatekeepers to Hushaby Land.
At first King Hector wasn’t at all convinced, but when Queen Hilly said “Oh Hector, they only watch the Royal Telly all-day everyday and play HRX-Box, I think it will be the making of them!”
And so it was that Hank and Harry became the joint Gatekeepers of Hushaby Land.
And as there were two of them, one worked the day shifts, whilst the other took the nights so that the realm was always guarded and secure twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
And no one ever had a bad dream again.
Night night and sleep well.
Thursday, 8 November 2012
In remembrance of my Great Grandfather George Frederick Frost 1873 - 1937, who went to war and then came home. And for all of those that did not.
In 1920 it was decided the poppy should be adopted as the symbol to commemorate all of those that who had died as a result of war.
This adaptation is thought to derive from two sources; one, due to the fact that the poppy was the only flower that grew in the churned up battlegrounds that had once been innocent and unassuming fields in Ypres, Belgium prior to World War I. And two, due to John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields which he wrote on May 3 1915 after attending the funeral of his friend Lieutenant Alex Helmer, who had been killed a few days prior to the Second Battle of Ypres.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
When I was a truculent youngster, I dismissed the wearing of a poppy as I felt that its very affectation only supported the unremitting and ugly acts of warfare that have blighted humanity, at an unforgiving cost. I do no support war, as the repercussions of its very being, just creates scars that cannot ever be healed for all of those that have ever been affected by its consequence and of the haunting echoes that its evil presence leaves behind.
My opinion changed however when I worked with the World War 1 soldier's documents at The National Archives in Kew. Whilst I still, and never will support any war, I began to examine the brutal and devastating loss of life that was attributed to its futility which in turn brought home to me the shocking reality of those that lost their lives and why wearing a poppy is so important.
It is quite beyond belief that there were over 37 million military and civilian deaths and casualties during World War 1. Over 16 million deaths and over 20 million casualties. It was one of the most deadly conflicts ever seen in our history.
And so with the knowledge of these heart-breaking statistics, I will always pin a poppy firmly to my lapel in the latter week of October every year and until the 11th of November has passed.
It is the very least I can do.
It is quite inconceivable to comprehend those numbers. Boys as young as 15 signed up and were lost forever. Men witnessed such horrors, that they returned home to their families, shells of their former selves devoid of all emotion and the capability to discuss it. Or after returning home from a tour of duty, they had deserted as a consequence of what they had witnessed and were shot simply because they could not cope.
And let's not forget those animals that were enlisted as well.
I remember quite clearly reading Kate Atkinson's first novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum on a train journey and crying openly as I read a passage set in WW1, where Jack, a character who trains dogs for special military missions and who has grown so attached to one, that he is killed when he leaves his trench as he tries to rescue the poor wounded creature as it lays dying in no man's land.
Or those brave men who dug and spent hours in those claustrophobic tunnels that ran from their trench to their oppositions, with the precarious knowledge hanging over them like The Sword of Damocles that the tunnel may well collapse at any moment, burying them.
It is all too much to even imagine.
A few years ago, I decided that I would explain to my son why I wear a poppy. I also wanted him to be aware of the consequences of war and so I took him to Westminster on Remembrance Sunday. It was a cold harsh early November morning and as we climbed the stairs to exit the station entrance that lies adjacent to Big Ben, we were met with a sea of humanity.
Thousands of people lined the streets waiting for Big Ben to strike the eleventh hour. We found a space at one of the barriers and waited along with them. I had explained to him the procedure, that at 11 o'clock everyone would be still for two minutes to show their respect for all of those that had died as the result of conflict.
There was a sombre atmosphere as the minutes ticked away as we all headed towards the hour. Then as Big Ben began to sound out, I looked at my son and said “Take off your hat son.” And we stood together in silence with all of the thousands of other people there for the duration. I have never known London to be as quiet as it was on that November morning. And when the eleventh bell had sounded and we had heard the riffle salute that heralded the end of the two minutes silence, my son looked up at me and asked “Is it all right to speak now?” I smiled at him and ruffled his hair and them kissed him gently and told him yes it was.
We took a tour around Westminster and stopped to look at all the statues and wreaths of poppies that had been laid at their feet. We saw elderly servicemen emblazoned with their medals and the weary look of the remembrance that war had etched into their faces.
Then we returned home.
Those two minutes of silence are the most personal and yet intensely emotional I have ever collectively shared or spent with other people. The emotive pathos of it all, is almost beyond explanation but one I shall never forget, more so, because my son was there with me. And I hope he will always remember it and tell his children about it, because no one should ever forget such atrocities ever took place.
And for me, wearing a poppy has never been a jingoistic thing. It is a humanistic thing and my respect and very crippling personal and emotional response to all the life that has been lost and my reminder of that.
Wearing a poppy reminds me of just how lucky and fortunate I am, and of those who weren't as blessed.
Lest we forget.
Recently I went to view a function room for a forthcoming family event. It was part of a rugby clubhouse and on the wall there was a wooden plaque that listed all of the team captains that had ever played for the club. Between 1914 - 1918 there were none listed. I pointed it out to my son and asked him why there was a gap, to which he replied "Because of the war."
The next summer the soil, fertilised by twenty thousand corpses, broke forth into millions of poppies.
Thursday, 1 November 2012
I will not watch scary films full stop. I will not watch them, simply because my imagination will just keep me awake throughout the night thereafter taunting me endlessly with the prospect that something supernatural is bound to happen to me during the course of that night.
Neither will I read scary books for the very same reason. I have learnt from past experiences, that for me, this is the best course of action.
But of course before I was aware of this, I endured many sleepless nights of pure and unequivocal fear at my own hand because I just couldn't stop myself from watching that film or simply because I just couldn't put down that damn book.
For example, after watching the Bob Hope in 1939 version of The Cat and the Canary as a child, I just couldn't sleep as I kept replaying the hands appearing from the headboard of bed scene over and over in my head. I didn't live in a spooky old mansion and nor did I sleep in a four poster bed through which a pair of hands might have emerged. But what that sequence had managed to do, was to implant in my mind the fear of the impossible through the implausible. And when you are scared by mere suggestion, your mind will believe anything.
For days after seeing that film, I would check the wall behind my bed to ensure that the possibilities of those hands appearing was beyond remote.
Even though I have made a pact with myself never to watch a film or read a book that may scare me again, the remembrance of all the times when I did, has literally haunted me ever since. And like a suppressed mental spectre can creep up on me when I least expect it to like Bela Lugosi biding me welcome to his home.
Many years later I went to stay with my Dad in his house in Ireland. It was my first visit and I didn't know what to expect. His house was situated in a secluded place outside of town that was surrounded by woodland with a river to the rear of the property.
I eventually arrived from London after a very long coach and boat combo that had left me exhausted, so on my first night there, it is safe to say, that I was asleep before my head even hit the pillow on the makeshift bed I was sleeping on in a room downstairs.
However, on the second night, it was a very different story.
It was dark, so dark in fact, that when I opened my eyes, I thought I must have gone blind. And, it was also far too quiet, all except that was, for an unidentifiable noise. As I lay in the dark listening to the noise, no amount of rational thinking as to what it could be could quell my unease.
I reached for the light, but was unable to find it. It was then that I felt a sense of panic. I reasoned that the light switch couldn't be too far away and scolded myself for not being able to find it. I tried again and this time, I was successful and found it. It was in the exactly the same place that I had tried only a few moments before.
Light flooded the room, but the noise continued and I didn't sleep at all.
The following morning I explained the previous nights events to my Dad and he said he thought it was probably a badger drinking from the rainwater trough outside the window of the room I had been sleeping in. So it was decided that I should move my bed upstairs to an open landing space, that nestled between the two occupied bedrooms.
In was a nice space and I was happy enough.
But, there was something not quite right about that house. It was very old, over 500 years old in fact and I always felt as though I was being watched or that someone was standing behind me, when it fact neither were true, or was it?
I dismissed both notions as ridiculous and never spoke of them to my Dad or my Step Mum. I just put it all down to being a city dweller in the country.
Then one night we had a storm and all of the power was cut. The house and all of the surrounding areas were pitch black. My step Mum and I were near the front door when it happened and we screamed as we tired to find our way back to the house.
My Dad appeared and told us off for making such a fuss, but later she told me that in Ireland the evil spirits play tricks on you and maybe they had turned us around to make us lose our bearings.
We laughed in the face of it all and went to bed.
Then a few nights later it happened.
I was laying in my bed on the landing. It was dark, but all of a sudden the darkness became unbearable and I felt as though I was being smothered by it. Again, I felt a sense of sheer panic and without hesitation I sat up and proceeded to get out of bed to switch the light on. As I did so, something met me in the dark, It was cold, ice cold and swooshed passed my face, just like when another person passes by you.
I cannot tell you how scared I was and when I eventually found the light switch, the sensation of fear remained and so did the feeling that I was not alone.
The light remained on and I didn't sleep at all well that night as the fear of what had happened had found its way into the very bones of me.
Years later, on another visit to Ireland, we were talking about that house and I happened to mention that event and how uneasy I had felt in that house.
My step Mum agreed and said that she had often felt like she was also being watched and that she though it was Holy Kate who had lived there for years before they had taken it over.
She recounted her own story of reading a letter that they had found during their work on the house and the sensation that someone was standing behind her whilst she had read it.
I shivered when she told me that as I thought it had just my imagination playing tricks on me all alone in the dark, when in fact it was something else.