Friday, March 23, 2007
More haunting than Poe's heart
When I first moved to the UK I was still on good terms with my ex-boyfriend at the time, his new girlfriend, Liz was house hunting at a ferocious level , as being a teacher she took advantage of the summer vacation to try and see as many properties as possible so she could move in before term started again. She was a warm homely girl and I got on very well with her. Many a time she and I would go off looking at various properties for the potential des res that fit the criteria. Eventually we found this quite 1920s house with a huge back yard that fitted her price range. Granted there was a lot of work that needed doing, the décor was in a time warp of the 50s , laminated chip wood all over the house, nylon orange flame carpets throughout and all rewiring and plastering would have to be essentially carried out. The couple who showed us the house explained to us that it was the lady’s late fathers house. He had entered a retirement home in the early 1980s with dementia and stayed there some 15 years before he died and it being the family home would never rent it or lease it out because it seemed wrong to make any decision until the inevitable had happened with her father. When showing us around she related a lot about her childhood and the united parents she had. They where a funny couple to listen to, she would say something and she would get her husband to repeat it. For example she would say ‘I told him, I said I’m not selling for less than the asking price, what did I say Peter?’ and he would jump straight it and say ‘she’s not selling it for less than the asking price’. This went on for the entire tour of the house and gardens. Anyway Liz loved the property and put in an offer which they took and asked if they could visit after so they could see what she had done with the place. I suppose in a way for the woman it was like giving away a pet you couldn’t care for any longer but you just want to make sure that its okay and you’ve made the right decision in letting it go. All of us mucked in with the work, the gardens where thick with the neglect of 15 years and many an evening I would return home scratched , sweaty and scarred of nettle stings. With the gardens tackled it was inside with the painting and sanding of walls, skirting and floorboards.
Upstairs there were 3 bedrooms and a bathroom . After the walls and ceilings were painted we began with the sanding of the floors, the wood looked nice enough for them to scrub up beautifully and coat of varnish would positively dance on them. There were five of us helping , two in each of the larger rooms and one in the small bedroom , the latter I set to work on. One of the floorboards in the corner was loose when I took the sanding block to it, the knot in the wood actually fell out of the panel and into the dark abyss that lay below it. The hole in which the knot fell out of was large enough to put your finger through, then it just suddenly dawned on me that the floorboard was loose for a reason and I put my theory to the test. Sure enough when I put my finger in the knotless hole the floorboard lifted with ease and there underneath lay a small blue leather holdall. I looked at it, the curiosity and fear of the unknown battled within me, I wouldn’t open it, because items hidden under the floorboards can either mean two things - money or something unsavoury and foul. There was a smell emanating from there , subtle but there was a noted change it the fragrance of mustiness .So the following sentence sang from my lips ’Liz, everyone, you better take a look at what the fuck I just discovered’. The skipped with curiosity into the room.
‘What the fuck is that’ Ray asked
‘I don’t know but I’m not going to do the honours of opening it’ I said
Liz went into teacher mode and with an air of ridiculousness said ’give it here’ she sat the bag on the bed , unzipped it and held the bag by the bottom corner and tipped out its contents. A blue wad of material fell out. Again using her hand like a pincer she unravelled to see what secrets the blue nylon/chiffon bundle held. In that split second I think everyone was prayed for the sight of money, counted and banded like it was stolen in a heist. I don’t think anyone of us prepared ourselves for what we where about to see. A small plastic battery box with half a yard of cable attached to a small wooden connector of sorts. A blonde wig, lipstick , bra, couple of pairs of nylon panties, 1950s porn magazine and a few perished rubber attachments for the ’wooden connector’( It was a vibrator of sorts I since learned this when touring Prague‘s sex museum ), and last but not least a jar of Vaseline. A chorus of ’Ewwwwuh’s ’ resonated around the room. It was quite clear the previous owner had a penchant for transvestism and this was his dirty secret we had uncovered. Now the shock was just hilarious for all of us and over lunch we where still talking about it when a knock to the door came. Liz answered the door and the familiar voice filtered through to the kitchen. It was the chatty vendor and her parrot of a husband in tow. What were the chances??? I quickly told the others who they were before they where shown through and we sat there bug eyed trying to take in the events of the last couple of hours and who was about to come through the door. Thankfully Liz had binned everything and she shot straight through the kitchen and beckoned the couple outside to see the cleared jungle. Again, what were the chances of them calling to see the property on the heels of that revelation? Liz gave them a tour to show them all the changes and renovations that were made and they eventually made their way back to the kitchen where we sat steadfast listening to how much Liz was holding it together .
‘I was telling peter what a marvellous job Liz and yourselves have done to the place wasn’t I peter ? what did I say peter’ ‘ She did a top job’ he said like a nodding dog.
‘Oh Liz I nearly forgot’ she reached into her bag ‘Remember I was telling you how my father planted that rambling rose that grows over the shed, well here’s a picture of dad and I when I was five years old beside it , Look how small it is’ I knew what Liz was looking at ; she was picturing the dude in his blue nylon and chiffon negligee ,complete with blonde wig and shocking pink lipstick. Her eyes started to glaze and she struggled to smother her swelling laughter. Thankfully Liz’s cat Guinness decided to make an appearance which drove the couple out of the place like bats out of hell as they where both extremely allergic. But Liz made sure she trust the photo into everyones face making sure we got a good mental image of ‘the woman under the floorboards‘.