Apparently someone has taken a photograph of the Loch Ness monster which is claimed to be the most credible yet. Having been analysed by members of the US military it is declared definitely animate. Over the years there have been many claimed sightings, and photographs subsequently found to be spurious. Those of the Cottingley Fairies, taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two Edwardian schoolgirls, were closely studied by experts before finally all being declared fake. They demonstrated that the camera could, indeed, lie.
Having never seen a ghost, I remain sceptical. However, there are two family stories which make me wonder. I related these to Don this morning. My mother is far from gullible, as was my grandmother. Grandma died shortly before her ninety ninth birthday, disappointing great-grandchildren who had been looking forward to the Queen’s telegram. Her last nine months had been spent in a care home, simply because Mum could no longer keep picking her up from the floor. During her last weeks she spoke of a little blond boy who would visit her in her room. She got quite fond of him. One morning she told Mum about her uninvited but welcome visitor’s latest appearance. On that occasion he had simply smiled, beckoned, and walked away. Grandma died that afternoon. When Mum told a carer about this, she replied: ‘Your mother is not the first to have experienced this. Underneath the floorboards outside her room lies an ancient well. Many years ago, before this building existed, a four-year old boy drowned in it.’
A visitor to Lindum House about a dozen years ago described a similarly inexplicable phenomenon. We had already been told by the very practical down-to-earth man who lived on the other side of the fence at the bottom of our garden, of a woman he had seen in our orchard. She was wearing long black Victorian clothing. We naturally doubted his perception, joked about ‘The Lindum House Ghost’, and didn’t think much more about it. Some years later, a nine-year old boy and his family were spending the night with us. In the evening, he walked from the hall into the drawing room. This lad was, at the time, thought to have Asberger’s syndrome. He certainly possessed the extraordinary drawing ability which sometimes accompanies that condition. As he entered the room, he asked: ‘Who was that lady?’. The puzzled group asked what he meant. He proceeded to sit down on the sofa with pencil and paper, and produce a drawing which, to this day, lies in the Lindum House Visitors’ Book. It depicts, in perfect detail, the double front doors from the inside of the house. One door is ajar. Slipping through the gap is a woman in a long black Victorian dress. As she is half in and half out of the house, she is pictured in profile as if vertically bisected, only her rear section in view.
Why would our dog, Paddy, sometimes come to a halt and appear to follow, with her eyes, something we couldn’t see? There you have it; a woman near death; a boy with an unusual brain; and a dog. Were they aware of beings we cannot sense?
That is not quite all. My Dad died on Christmas Day, 1987. On Christmas Eve 1988, I decided to make a pastel portrait of him for Mum. I worked well into the night, unsuccessfully trying, time and time again, to get the mouth right. I was working from a photograph in which he was smoking a cigarette. I wanted to exclude the fag and therefore had to remember the full formation of his mouth. I kept erasing my markings until I feared for the paper underneath. In the small hours of Christmas morning, Dad’s live face appeared on the page. All I had to do was trace his lips. My four siblings all describe the final expression as ‘Dad winding himself up to tell a joke.’
Outside Le Code Bar this evening, Don and I shared a bottle of Chateau Hauts-Cabroles, Bordeaux 2009. As it made sense to eat something as well, he had an Oriental pizza and I had a Calzone. Both were delicious. After a while these had subsided enough for us to be able to squeeze in cremes brulees.