Continuing on from the previous post, I’ll recount my immediate impressions and thoughts as I started to explore my new home, the house on the seafront left to me by a distant relation I can’t ever remember meeting.
A bizarre sweeping swirl of emotions contested for attention as I stepped forward in the dark and somewhat dusty interior. There was a musty, dusty aroma of the unloved and of the forgotten in the air that lingered in my nostrils after I negotiated the threshold and closed the big old wooden door. The old flaking blue paint of the outside was carried through on the inside, although protected from the English Channel’s continuous onslaught, the shade was so much darker and therefore closer to what I imagine would have been the original colour when the first strokes were applied many years ago. I tried the light switch with little hope of illumination, yet my surprise was prodigious when a fraction of a second later a single old fashioned sixty watt bulb flickered into use. My eyes were immediately drawn to the long and rather impressive imposing staircase that was immediately in front of me, half way along this entrance hall. Sure it was dusty and even from this vantage point I could see some of the banisters were missing, yet its length and width were remarkable and evocative of times gone by when the size of your staircase was a symbol of your wealth. I had an urge, albeit a rather childish one, to run all the way up the five flights and slide down all the way, I resisted, but only just, yet in the back of my mind I made a mental promise to myself to give-in too such urges before too long. I further explored the hallway, there was a dark blue colour painted upon the walls below a dado rail that ran just below waist height on all walls. Above was a dark murky green colour that first appeared to be paint, yet upon close inspection was some kind of wallpaper or covering that’s surface had been dimmed and discoloured by age. ‘One day I’ll clean that up to its former glory’ I said to myself, yet even as the words played out in my mind I knew in reality that a day for me to be cleaning anything to its former glory was a day that would be a jolly long way off! The floor in the most part was left to bare floorboards, the wood was dark with age and decades of polishing or waxing, still managing to shine through a thick layer of dust. There was a runner carpet in the centre of the hall, this long thin strip of carpet was a deep dark red, with a swirling pattern of leaves, flowers and what appeared to be dragons. I let my eyes follow the hallway, to the bare wooden doors leading to who knew where and up to the ceiling. The colour was a rather non-descript mottled beige yellowish colour that could have been white or yellow originally. There were surprisingly few cobwebs, just a couple here and there in the corners and I wondered just how long the house had been empty. I knew nothing of this mysterious uncle of mine, so I had no clue how often he used this ‘summer’ house, it could have been every summer or once a decade for all I knew and it was this sense of the unknown that sent a shiver through me.
The first door on the left, like all the doors in the hallway had been left in its natural state, unpainted, unvarnished and unspoilt. The light wood grain showing through a thin layer of dust, for some reason my fingers trembled as I gripped the round knob and turned it gingerly. It opened freely yet with a slow yawning creek the like of which you hear in scores of horror films of a certain age that seemed to echo throughout the hallway. I was surprised that the room was appeared empty, save for a wooden sideboard along one wall and a bench seat in front of the window that overlooked the seafront. However as I stepped forward I noticed a row of hooks on the nearest wall behind the door, upon which were various coats, jackets and hats. Beside this row of outer clothing was a big brass bucket containing half a dozen or so walking sticks and umbrellas of various descriptions and styles. I allowed my fingers to stroke the back of some of the coats as I moved further into the room, noticing a row of shoes, boots and sandals on the floor under the coats as I did so. I think I may have even shivered slightly as the fabric tingled my fingertips, I was touching the past and perhaps it was a realisation that Uncle John had been a real person, that these were his clothes, his shoes, his belongings and that this was his house that caused me to take a sharp intake of breath. You see up until this moment, things had happened so fast that I had barely a second to consider this odd distant relative that I didn’t know or remember was more than just a name on a piece of paper, he was, or rather had been, a real person. He had had a life and part of that life had been here, in this house. I felt something well up deep inside me, I’m not exactly sure what, perhaps it was an ambiguous supposition that I didn’t completely belong here, that although I was now the official owner of the house, it wasn’t and would never really be ‘my’ house.
© 2014 Copyright Josh Jordan