28 September 2009

The House that Sunlight Forgot

Deep within the darkest of woods, a huge French chateau cast its shadow over the land and a lone figure waited within.

At dusk, an English family approached and the mother knew immediately that she’d made a grave mistake.

“Wow” said Accountant, “it’s massive!”

“BATS!” squealed Chickie as we got out of the car, pointing towards the third floor of our accommodation where a steady stream of winged silhouettes were firing from the roof.

Suddenly, I longed to curl up like a hedgehog and roll myself back across the Channel.

Arthritic trees contorted towards the fading light, their sad swooshing, the only reprieve in the quietest of quiets.

The spindly caretaker arose from the front steps, beckoning us inside.

Positioned beneath a stuffed moose, opposite the stuffed deer and to the right of the medieval weaponry, I smiled weakly at Madame Cadiet as she demonstrated the shutters. My eyes crept over the brass devil faces with their hollowed out eyes and horns.

“It smells like a church” whispered Accountant. His unexpected breath on my neck, the cause of a mild heart attack. Clutching my chest, I tippy toed further into the nightmare.

A complex labyrinth of bedrooms, bathrooms and corridors followed adorned with menacing little dolls, giant crucifixes and paintings of hangings. The third floor was cordoned off. Madame pointed upwards, barking “non” and shaking her head vigorously.

“Non?” I queried, keen for expansion.
“NON!” came the reply.

“Anything you need?” she asked upon leaving.
“My daddy” sprang to mind but I shook my head until she became just another shadow.

“I love this boo-ti-ful house mummy!”
“It’s the perfect haunted house!” added Accountant enthusiastically.
I glared at him. “What?” he squeaked, wide eyed and gormless, as only men can be.
“I’m not keen” I whispered without moving my lips so as not to alert Chickie to my distress.
“You don’t like it? Why?” Accountant boomed.
“Mummy?” Chickie’s bottom lip wobbled.

I glared at Accountant. He stared back, wide eyed and gormless.

Later, I sat down with the guest book, eager for reassurance that others had survived their holiday. Thank you to Claude from Belgium as, without him, I might never have known that Monsieur Litoux died in the house in 1983.

That night, lying rigid atop the 130 year old mattress and the kitchen knife I’d tucked underneath, I listened to the trees whispering about me outside the window.

Whilst Chickie and Accountant snored away the longest night of my life, I pondered whether it was the first time that all the occupants of a nine bedroom house had wedged into one bed. Then I pondered the padlocked third floor. And the padlocked cellar. And the wardrobe in our room, big enough to comfortably house a lion, a witch and a serial killer.

A day earlier than planned, Accountant drove his twitching wife back across the Channel, all curled up in her seat, just like a hedgehog.

05 September 2009


One of the great things about family is that you can write about them in the local paper and they still have to love you!

So, Daddykins, despite your inheritance withdrawal threats, I’d like to discuss last Wednesday.

Here’s what happened.

Approximately five years ago, my mother and I had a conversation a bit like this:

Mum: “Your father’s got high cholesterol”
Me: “How high?”
Mum: “High” (accompanied by a suitably grave look and a muttered disclaimer that she warned him not to eat so many custard tarts)

When dad returned from the golf course, he found me waiting, eager to discuss the lifestyle changes I had planned for him.

“Right” I began, “they’ll be no more bacon butties or pudding of any kind. No cheese and no butter on your toast anymore”. I paused to think, “In fact, no more toast! You can eat muesli”. Dad remained silent, still clutching his golf bag.

“No sausages, no crispy duck, no fatty cuts of meat. You can kiss goodbye to whole-milk dairy products too”. I looked up to assess absorption levels. “Mum, write this down!” I snapped as I caught her glancing at dad with sympathy in her eyes. “And no muffins, no cookies and no pastry!”

Dad stared bleakly back at mum which I took as his acceptance to my terms. “I’ll be back in a week to review your progress” I stated, marching out in a self-righteous huff, having badgered him for years about his relationship with saturated fats.

To be fair, initially, he was good and I was pleased. But then he fell off the wagon and just kept on rolling. Pleas, sleepless nights and Heart Foundation pamphlets did nothing.

Which brings us back to last Wednesday when I was invited round to dinner. Upon arrival, I handed him a ‘please stop eating’ letter I’d written, confident that all the love and fluff enclosed within its five pages would surely pull at those clogged heartstrings. He read it, in silence.

Seated for dinner, the anticipation of dad’s new child size portion brought peace to my soul.

Until I saw five roast potatoes making their descent towards the table, set off beautifully by two large portions of crackling.

He avoided eye contact as he quietly positioned himself before them.

I waited until his fork was but a breath away before whipping the hardened lumps of pure pork fat off of his plate, confiscating them indefinitely. I glared at mum, who should have known better. Then I glared at dad.

Now I have no choice but to ask for the public’s help.

So, if you see a white haired Ken Barlow look-a-like around town, who looks like he could be about to tuck into anything other than a rice cake, please inform the Worthing Herald immediately.

Together we will stop him!