The Walls Have Secrets

It was love at first sight with Lisa and Grant, they had met almost 2 years ago and with most modern young couples, it wasn’t long before they rented a little flat and moved in together. They were very happy and so were their parents, which is always helpful if you can skip the wicked stepmother syndrome. However they had reached a time in their relationship, they felt they wanted a home of their own and so the search had begun.

Houses in the town were a bit beyond their means and the best option seemed to be to get a small flat in one of the surrounding villages. With that in mind, much of their time had been spent in estate agents offices recently and they were beginning to despair of not getting somewhere suitable for the time being. Then by good fortune, one of their friends had mentioned one of the well known characters in a nearby village had died recently and that he thought there might be a possibility of his little home being put on the market. As far as anyone knew, he didn’t have any remaining relatives and that a solicitor was dealing with his estate. Both Lisa and Grant were quite familiar with the village and had a very good idea where the little flat was, so first thing the next evening, they both went to have a look to check it out and they liked the look of it so much, they decided to try to find the solicitor dealing with the old man’s affairs.

It took several phone calls but at last they tracked him down. He was a busy man and anxious to have the estate settled as quickly as possible. Arrangements were made for someone to be at the flat later that evening. It was well into the summer and the evening was warm and sunny; everything seemed just so perfect. Lisa and Grant arrived at the flat early, impatient to see inside, every minute seemed like an age. The front door was a bit tatty with signes of rotting at the bottom. The paint on the window frames were peeling and the place had an overall impression of being neglected for several years.

Just when they had begun to wonder if maybe this wasn’t the place for them, the solicitor’s clerk arrived. He was a bright, cheery young man, not someone you would normally associate with the legal profession, somehow the image expected is of sombre looking men in sombre suits and ties. Not this young man, his suit was sombre enough but his tie was more of a statement than a colour. It was almost as if he rebelled against the establishment’s image. His brown hair wasn’t slicked back with gel, it flopped about as he walked and he had an altogether air of cheerfulness about him.

“Sorry to have kept you, have you been waiting long?” before they had time to answer he continued “you’re the first people to see this flat, it hasn’t been advertised yet” By this time he was putting the key in the lock.

The hall was a bit dull, of course it hadn’t been decorated for years. The door on the left let into a little kitchen, so tiny it wasn’t much bigger than a cupboard. The next door led into the living room, it too was small but the original cast iron fireplace was still there and of course there was no central heating. The whole place looked as it it had been caught in a time warp. Although the place hadn’t been decorated in years, it had been kept scrupulously clean, that was what was so noticeable about it. The couple looked around, trying doors and looking in the rooms and cupboards again. There was one door at the end of the hall which was locked and the solicitor’s clerk said they didn’t have a key for it but thought it maybe a cupboard. It didn’t seem important at all because it was just what they wanted. They were told to contact Mr Anderson in the morning for further details if they were interested. Coming out of the door, their minds were made up, this was the house for them, depending of course on the price but they had been assured that because it hadn’t been moderised the price would be rock bottom.

Mr Harrison’s death had been quite sudden, he hadn’t been ill and had always kept reasonably healthy for his age. The newsagent had got concerned when he hadn’t collected his newspaper at his usual time and had gone to his house to check on him. He knocked on the door and when it wasn’t answered, he looked through the window. There he saw him, sitting on the chair with a book in his hand as if reading it. When he didn’t get any response to knocking on the window, he summoned the police. Within a short time they had arrived, had the door open and the amulance called. It was a sad day in the village, the day of his funeral, villagers and many outsiders had turned out to pay their respects.

In the morning, Lisa and Grant were making their way to Mr Anderson’s office, he was very business like although quite friendly. The flat had been surveyed for valuation and what was considered to be a fair price for such an old fashioned property, including the contents, was fixed. Everything seemed fine and the couple were delighted with the price. Mr Anderson had indicated that this price would be accepted should an offer be made. Lisa and Grant couldn’t wait to submit their offer and headed off, straight away to their own solicitor. Mr Smith was very helpful and guided them through all the red tape of buying a house.

Time seemed to drag but at the same time it wasn’t being wasted. Dreams were now materialising. The structure of the flat was sound but in time Grant would work installing some of the comforts, like double glazing and central heating.

Offers of help were coming in from friends and family, everything was going well and soon the day arrived and with the final arrangements, came the handing over of the key. Tension was high when they arrived outside the door of what was now their first home. They had arrived armed with measuring tapes, pencils, notebooks and even a light bulb in case it was needed. They set to work with their planning. They tried to open the locked door in the hall, they had brought a variety of old keys with them and as luck would have it, one of them worked.

They did not expect to see what lay before them. What they thought maybe an ordinary cupboard, turned out to be something quite different. Behind the door lay another room. It was fairly large, packed with boxes and all sorts of junk. Lisa and Grant stood for a moment apparently speechless then Grant made a move into the center of the room. He picked up a few items to look at them, then Lisa joined in, opening boxes, finding all sorts of treasures. There was hat boxes with top hats in them, button boots, opera glasses, various pieces of crockery and jewelery, clothes, mirrors, pictures and odd bits of furniture.

After they had had a look at some of the items, they decided to call their families. Half an hour later Grant’s parent arrived followed by Lisa’s parents. They all stood in the room with the same look of astonishment. They decided to call in the experts and various phonecalls were made to establish how the articles got there and who they belonged to. The archivist from the library was also called and soon the story was unravelled.

At the turn of the century, that building belonged to a pawn broker and after his death, the house had been divided into flats and Mr Harrison had at first rented one of them and when the landlord wanted to sell the flats to a property developer, Mr Harrison had been given the offer to buy and this was taken up by him. At this time he felt he was too old to go through and upheaval of modernisation, he was happy with things as they were and so was his wife. The flat had remained in it’s original state all these years. Because the flat was originally rented, Mr Harrison had never questioned whether he could have use of the ‘cupboard’ and as the years had passed, even after he had bought the flat, he never seemed curious as to what lay hebind the locked door.

Most of the goods had been sent to the antiques auctions and had raised substantial sums. Grant and Lisa kept a few of the items, and some of the money helped in renovating their little home. The secret room revealed a window and door both which had been bricked up, presumably to make the room safe for storage. Grant now had a new window installed and patio doors where the original door had been and now it looked out to a neat little garden. There were more surprises when they found the room also had access door to a basement. With Grant’s talent for DIY and Lisa’s skills in homemaking they now had a very comfortable little home, it even had room for expansion and looking at Lisa’s ultrasound scan of their first baby, it was just as well. As they sat in their warm centrally heated home in front of a highly polish cast iron fireplace, a framed photograph of Mr & Mrs Harrison hung on the wall. They knew somehow that this home was meant for them and that their years together would echo the happy years the Harrisons spent there.

The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane

Daisy sniffed the morning air. It smelled good – but she was scared. Her owner Tom Wilson had occasionally observed that Daisy Belle was afraid of nothing. But what did he know? She was SCARED right now, for sure. She had been out all night for the third time and she wanted to find her way back to Wilson.

Daisy looked around. She was in some sort of building, with stone walls on three sides, one incorporating a heavy door; the fourth side, by which she had entered, was open. Through it, she could see the rain falling outside, splashing on some strange grey stones – some upright, others leaning. There was a flagstone floor and a slightly musty smell, but it was dry. She thought it might be just part of a much larger building. DB was scared, but also exhausted; she stopped thinking, and fell asleep again.

Meanwhile, Wilson was still looking for her. She’d only been with the family a fortnight and he’d lost her already. They lived in Shady Lane, Moscombe, and they’d been walking at Glebe Farm when she’d run off. She had come via the rescue society, as her first owner had needed to move into sheltered housing and couldn’t take Daisy there. Daisy had loved her old home and her first owner, and so far she thought she loved the Wilsons too, until this crisis had come along. He’d let her run loose, off the lead, and she’d chased a rabbit and quickly disappeared. He wanted her back, so he could call her his Naughty Lady again. He’d received plenty of earache from Mrs Wilson and he knew he had to find Daisy – the alternative was unthinkable.

She wished he’d been there to cuddle up to when that badger had rushed at her with flailing claws and sharp teeth. It was only her natural ability to leap up quickly from a prone position that had enabled her to escape. Had she known, Wilson had been no more than fifty yards away and had seen the badger amble off in search of easier prey, along the line of poplars standing upright like soldiers. But Tom didn’t know DB was there and likewise, she was unaware of him.

On the second night she had encountered a fox, but it hadn’t tried to catch her like the badger had. Perhaps she was just a bit too big, but the incident had frightened her just the same. And then there were those two little plump deer, she had seen them before at Moscombe, what was it Wilson called them – chipmunks….? No, muntjacs, that was it. Anyway, it didn’t matter what they were called, and to be fair they hadn’t done more than sniff inquisitively in her direction. If she had been secure on the end of her flexi-lead, with Tom holding the other end, shed have run them off – badger, fox, deer and all-comers, with some loud barking. But she hadn’t got him now, so she kept quiet.

She had wondered, the first night, if letting her run free and get lost was some kind of punishment for those times when she’d stolen things around the house to take away and chew. But she didn’t think so; and she knew that Jack, the family’s other dog, would have said not. Jack had had to find a new home too, for the second time in his life, and he knew a lot of things. He said the Wilsons were pretty easy-going. Jack had once had an owner who took four-week holidays in France and left Jack in boarding kennels. He’d told Daisy, in no uncertain terms, that kennels were a no-no; and that the best thing about the Wilsons was that they took their dogs on holiday with them.

Tom was looking for her in the wrong place. He’d stayed out each night since she’d gone, and apart from a brief return home to grab a snack, had spent each day wandering around the fields of Glebe Farm. His reasoning, that she could still be in the immediate area, was understandable but flawed. Daisy had actually put a few miles between them, running along the river meadows and skirting the cricket field, then crossing and re-crossing it in a scissors movement before going over the hill into the nearby village of Ashton. There, she had caught a geriatric field mouse in the churchyard and eaten it, but it didn’t taste as good as the dog food that she got every night at home or the cold chicken which they often added to her dinner. She was hungry, but at least she could get a drink from the morning dew on the long grass. She had spent the third night in Ashton, and had been glad to snatch a few hours’ sleep in the church porch. Lying against the grey stone wall the little white dog, her curly coat now very dirty, was almost invisible.

So much so that Mrs Wilson’s friend Sally, who lived in the village and had gone to the church to do the week’s flowers, almost missed her. But just then a pheasant crowed and Daisy reacted automatically with a little bark, which alerted Sally. She carefully approached the dog, very slowly so as not to spook her. Daisy was certainly scared, and she didn’t know this lady, but she liked humans and this was the first one she’d seen for three days. She allowed Sally to hold her and check her collar tag, and Sally, disbelieving at first, read a phone number that she knew well. Struggling to get her mobile out of her bag without letting go of the dog, she made a call. Daisy, with the acute hearing that all young dogs possess, heard a familiar voice on Sally’s phone; at first anxious, then relieved, and finally delighted.

There was nothing to be scared of any more. The Naughty Lady was going home.

An overheard remark.

An overheard remark.
It’s strange how an overheard remark can sometimes set memories in motion that you thought were done and dusted a long time ago.
Such a remark permeated my tired brain during the train journey home from a particularly long day at the office.
I must have been in that semi conscious state between awake and asleep that a warm carriage combined with the gentle hum of the train over the tracks often induces.
In the seats opposite me across the aisle were a couple of well dressed elderly ladies, who had, judging by the names on the bags, been on an expensive money no object shopping spree.
Although I wasn’t intentionally listening it became obvious from the odd snippet I overheard, that they had been involved in some altercation with a shop assistant in one of the large well known high street stores.
“I fully intend to write to the management and tell them how badly we were treated” said one lady in that tone of voice that suggested she was used to being treated with some deference.
“I have no idea what the world is coming to” said her companion, lifting her face skyward in that way that suggested she was somehow offended “they should bring back the good old days”.
That last remark about the so called ‘good old days’ was the one that hit home and started my train of thought.
Although my travelling companions were total strangers to me I had a sudden urge to get up and cross over to where they were sitting and tell them some home truths about what life was like in the so called ‘good old days’.
I wanted to tell them how difficult life had been for me, coming as I did from a large not to well off family.
To tell them how we lived from hand to mouth, week in week out, and our idea of new clothes meant hand me downs that an older sibling had no more use for.
I wanted to tell them about the simple treats we were often promised but never received, as any spare money was handed over the bar at the local pub, or over the counter at the bookies by the so called breadwinner, which more often than not bode non to well for the rest of us if things had gone badly at either venue.
I very much doubted they had ever trudged to school come rain or shine in leaky shoes, and on a good day carry a packed lunch that consisted of a couple of thinly spread jam sandwiches instead of the usual bread and margarine.
By now the two well to do ladies opposite had gone from my mind, as I was now consumed with memories from what I thought was a long forgotten past, and as I watched the countryside roll by my thoughts gradually turned to the life I had made for myself despite my shaky start.
I had a well paid job, a nice house, and a devoted wife and children to go home to ,but somehow the overheard remark had started to take on a new meaning.
Though the so called ’good old days’ for me had meant a rough upbringing, it had also given me the strength to stand on my own two feet and look life in the face, and above all never take anything for granted and give thanks for what you had.
I gave my wife and children an extra long hug when I arrived home that evening.