Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Ghost Story from England

It's that time of year when I share a ghost story with my readers.  I look forward to Halloween almost as much as I look forward to Christmas.  We never had "store bought" costumes as children, we made our own.  Our imaginations went wild with the many ideas for disguises.  And we always ended the night with a good ghost story.  We still do.  I would love to regale you with a ghost story that is true in every regard.  It took place at our hotel, the Tudor Lodge in West Ruislip England .  The month was October, of course.  The year was 1978.
The Tudor Lodge is a lovely old hotel that started life as a manor house, then a hotel, became a Hospital during several wars, including WWI, then back to a hotel again. We knew we were not going to be put up in a 4 star hotel, but I've read some of the recent reviews of the Tudor Lodge and I hardly think it deserves some of the awful comments that were made about it.

The staff ,when we were there ,were always helpful and eager to tell us about the history of the place. That is what I found to be the most enjoyable, the history of the Tudor Lodge. We had a wing of the hotel to ourselves, with two rooms and a set of stairs leading down to the dining room. They only served breakfast, but what a plus that was for a young family getting kids off to school. They offered several selections of cereals, including Wetabix, which our older son, Wallace, really liked. They had Marmite, a bread spread that apparently is an acquired taste (which we never, any of us, acquired) and the best bacon in the world. The first time I asked for bacon and eggs and they brought out these lovely scrambled eggs and two slices of what looked like wide thin strips of ham, I wasn't sure they had understood my order. I was assured by the young lady who delivered the plates to the table that this was, indeed, bacon. The toast, made from Mother's Pride Bread, I believe, was also bigger than the slices of bread we're used to at home. So, the boys had a good breakfast before leaving for school every morning and we were quite happy with the hotel accommodations.
Every night, we would watch the news (hoping for good news on the hostage situation) then we'd watch the BBC. One of the first shows I found I enjoyed was Dad's Army. But Mac kept saying, "what did he say?" and I had to translate. I work with accents very well, I grew up with Ricky and Lucy on TV and at dad is from Ecuador as most of you are aware and so his attempts at English pronunciation rivaled those of Ricky Ricardo's.  My mother was every bit as zany as Lucille Ball with a Southern Accent that needed a knife to cut through.

 So, I would translate and Mac, finding the line funny would laugh. The boys didn't have to hard a time picking up on the language, it was after all, basically the same as the language they already spoke. But more on that later. One morning after getting the boys up for school, Michael was telling me that I didn't have to check in on them in the middle of the night. I told him that I hadn't been and immediately came the description of the lady in the long white dress whose hair was put up funny (being no hair dresser, my hair was often "put up funny"). So, I told them maybe it was someone with the hotel.

I was sitting in the dining room enjoying my coffee and the Daily Mail after getting the boys on the bus. One of the Hotel managers came over and asked how everything was going, if we were enjoying our stay and what had I planned for the day. I was gracious in my compliments because frankly, they were gracious hosts and I was enjoying my stay quite a lot. I happened to mention that Michael had seen some lady checking in on him and the lady's face went absolutely white. She told me that there were stories about a Nurse who haunted that wing of the hotel (remember, the hotel had been a hospital in several wars) but she had never actually seen her, just heard the stories. I wondered if she was concerned that we might think someone was sneaking in the room at night for some nefarious reason, but that really wasn't the case at all. I knew that everyone who worked in the hotel knew that we would be there for several weeks and really did think it was just an employee checking on the children. (This was, of course, before the disappearance of children became an everyday event to scare every parent world wide.) But later on, I found that the other employees were eager to talk of the "Lady in White" with someone who didn't appear to think it was a laughing matter. A couple of the ladies had actually seen her in the room the boys slept in and were never frightened by her. She always seemed to be bending over the beds as though adjusting blankets, according to them. So I decided I was right all along, someone was checking on the children, making sure they were alright. I can remember standing in the middle of the room and looking around, hoping I would see her. I told her thank you, can never have too many eyes checking on the welfare of your children.  I'm pretty sure  she heard me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Because a Bet's a Bet

I love Baseball.  I have always loved Baseball and once kept scrapbooks with lineups of the Yankees and the Cubs and oh yes, my beloved Tigers.  Until my cousin Buck was born when I was 14, I was my granddad's only grand son.  I was a tomboy extraordinaire who climbed trees and fought boys and played ball.  I sat at his feet on Saturday mornings while we watched the game and listened to Dizzy Dean explain the plays.  I hated the Umps as much as Daddy Dwight (unless they called the play in our team's favor).  I pulled for the damn Yankees with a passion and still do.  I love the Cubbies because they are underdogs and deserve my concern.  But back to the 1958 Billy Martin was my favorite...perhaps I was influenced by my Grandfather's roaring his name.  Perhaps.  And then there was Sparky Anderson, one of the best managers in baseball in my opinion.  But I'm not here to sing the praises of the, I bow to the fates of the field and give all honor to the Red Sox. 

Just so we all are clear here, my buddy Suldog presented me with a wager.  If the Tigers won to advance to the series he would post about it, if the Sox won, well the job fell to me.  I have never rooted for the Red Sox.  I am also a Yankees fan.  It galls me to admit that the Tigers fell to the Sox but there you have it...they played better.  If they hadn't played better, then you would be reading Suldog's post about the Tigers.  And mind you, I got up off my sick bed (I have the flu) to uphold my end of the bargain.   So this post is for  because he is a pal and I made a promise.  Homage to you Red Sox...and I'm not gagging because I said your name.  I have the FLU for cripes sake.  Now get out there and show them Cards how the game is played!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Once Upon a Time

I have been having a love affair with books since before I can remember.  The printed page has called to me even in my dreams.  I have read books that I couldn't wait to finish and books that I wished would never end.  I read mysteries and thrillers, comedy and historical, why I even read westerns.  When I was a little girl we were not allowed to watch a lot of TV.  Of course with only three networks there wasn't a lot to watch.  (My friends would argue that there isn't a lot to watch now, even with 375 channels.  They could be right.)  I still have a book my grandmother gave me when I was twelve years old.  She loved Kipling's work and had come across this book at an original flea market in Morven NC called Lina's...of course we pronounced it Liners.  It was a Sunday afternoon outing that involved the Aunts Pat and Margaret and the cousins.  We all enjoyed the excursion that was akin to dumpster diving.  Huge  eighteen wheelers with the logo of Brooklyn New York on the sides would haul in goods that had been discarded from the far away and magical Brooklyn.  There was furniture and clothing (Mammy replenished her rag bag and button can from this wealth of raw material) but most importantly of all there were books.  So Mammy found this little red book in remarkably good condition called "Thy Servant a Dog".  She put it in her little treasure bag of "I'll take this" items.  I always came home with books of course and can still hear Daddy Dwight's voice saying "that youngun's got her nose in a book again".  I can remember him running a finger down my nose and saying "checking for ink."
So on this one Sunday Mammy has this little red book in her reticule and I am eyeing it , crazy with want.  I had read Mr Kipling's Jungle Books (1 and 2) the tale of Gunga Din which transported me to India and all her glory and his poems were always magical.  I am feeling the pull of this little book til I can concentrate on nothing else.  Our summertime visit will soon come to an end and we will be going home with Mama and Daddy to Cleveland, Ohio.  Our time is short and I know that before I go I must read this book.  So we get to Mammy and Daddy Dwight's house this particular Sunday and the little red book goes into hiding.  I know that Mammy is reading it and I began to monitor her progress.  I judged how far into it she was by the Bible Tract about the man with no feet she used as a book mark.   It was now two days away from our departure.  I knew that if she were to finish it today, I could sit up all night and read it.  I asked her if she had finished it and she said, not quite.
Our bags were packed and ready to load into the trunk for the long trip home.  I had written down the title of the book so that I could see if the library had it.  The book had by now become an obsession.  I knew that when we came back to Chesterfield in the following summer that the book would be on Mammy's long bookshelf and that it would be available to read then.  But the burning longing to know the story of the little dog in the book was undeniable. The trunk was loaded, we all stood in the side yard hugging goodbye, Mama had big tears in her eyes, Daddy was saying "hurry up, hurry up!" and Mammy pressed a little package into my hands.  I looked down and red bindings stained my hands and hot tears poured.  I hugged her and thanked her and she whispered in my ear "it made me cry, too."  I held that little book in my hands for first two hundred miles, turning it over and examining the bindings and the the title, the little black dog imprinted upon the cover and then I punished myself by not opening it to read the title page.  I wanted to savour the moment without the blur of travel and annoyance of voices.  I wanted to be in the privacy of my own room, tucked up in bed, flashlight in hand if necessary, to enjoy the intimacy of the greatest gift my Grandmother ever gave me.  It was worth the wait to finally know his name.  "Please may I come in?  My name is Boots"