Ghosts on the Fell – Sheila’s Story

1961

I can’t remember how long I slept on the air bed at  my Grandma’s house.

I didn’t see too much of my mam while I was there because she worked as much as she could to get some money together to support us. She did odd jobs for different people, from cleaning to styling their hair. All the while looking out for something permanent that would put a roof over our heads and food on the table. My story continues in the early sixties.

This photo is how I remember 1961. Hairstyles changed and girls looked glamorous. I remember my mam and my Aunty Jeannie going to some fancy ball in dresses similar to this.  They looked gorgeous.

Back to the story though…..

My Grandma kept me amused during the long summer of 1961. We sat on her front step a lot, talking to the neighbors, who were all elderly because they were ‘old people’s bungalows’.They loved having a four-year old around and spoiled me a little.

Gran and I went for walks along the fell and in lower Butterknowle. She told me stories about her younger days and some of the trouble she got into. It was funny thinking that my Grandma ever got into trouble, or was ever young. It was during one of these walks that I felt like we had company.

The sun was getting low in the sky and the shadows were long. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if someone was there. There was no one. I started looking around to see if there was a dog or fox following us. Still nothing.

‘Grandma do you think someone is following us?’ I asked.

My Grandma looked at me with her blue eyes, the bluest eyes I have ever seen and said “Its your granddad. He comes to keep me company every time I walk along here.  That is why I come.”

Some one was walking with us

“But Gran, he is in heaven isn’t he?”

“Most of the time, apart from when he comes and walks with me”

“Gran, why can’t I see him?” I asked

Gran didn’t reply. Instead she stopped and sat down on a low broken stone wall. I sat next to her and started talking.

“Hush, don’t talk, sit quiet” she told me, and I did.

It wasn’t completely dark yet, but almost. We were close to home, and in the distance I could see the lights from my grandma’s back kitchen, so I wasn’t scared about getting lost in the dark. I was hungry though. I was about to tell my grandma I was getting hungry. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out, instead my mouth hung open as I looked at the man who had joined us. I didn’t see or hear him arrive, but he was sitting on the broken stone wall next to my Grandma. He looked about fifteen years younger than her. I felt like I was looking at fuzzy image in an old black and white photo. I knew it was my Granddad!

He didn’t speak. No-one did. He was with us for less than a minute and then he was gone, he just seemed to fade away!

“Come on hinny, let’s get home and get a bite to eat” my grandma said as she took my hand. I still couldn’t speak. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if my granddad was still there, but he had gone.

When we got back to my Grandma’s house it was dark so the street light was a welcome sight. Gran looked down at me as we walked along her garden path.

“Did you enjoy your walk?” she asked with a mischievous smile on her face.

“Yes Grandma, I did”

We never walked that way again, and I never to got to see my granddad again, but I will always remember him.

Butterknowle from Cockfield Fell

Two Novella’s available  as e-books for  99 cents about other ghostly experiences:

On the buses – Sheila’s Story

My mam and I stayed with my Aunty Gwen and Uncle Bob for about a week. They were good times. Aunty Gwen made a big fuss over me and let me bake with her. Uncle Bob liked to drink beer, but it made him happy, not angry like it made my dad. My mam started to relax. We went for walks to the park and to the sweet shop, we ate ice cream every day, even 99’s with the Cadbury’s flake in them. We did all the things we weren’t able to do when my dad was around! Aunty Gwen paid for everything. My mam tried to pay, but she didn’t really have any spare money and Aunty Gwen knew that so she told her to put her money back in her pocket.

We took the bus to Etherly

Eventually we had to leave the comfort we had enjoyed with Aunty Gwen and Uncle Bob and move on to my Uncle Billie’s house. Uncle Bille was too busy to pick us up so we took the bus, it wasn’t a very long ride. Uncle Bille was always working, he had a taxi firm and a garage. My mam said he would work himself into an early grave.

I think he drove buses too because there were always buses parked outside his house. His wife Aunt Vera didn’t work so much, I think she took care of the paperwork for his garage, but she never looked well. She smoked a lot too, my mam said that’s why she wasn’t well. She coughed a lot.

Short rides on buses were fine, long ones made me sick, so I was glad when the bus pulled up outside Uncle Billie’s house. He had a nice house, it was new and my mam said it had all of the ‘mod cons’, I didn’t know what that meant, but I think it was good.

The bus driver helped my mam and I get off the bus with our bags. We still didn’t have all of our clothes with us, but we had a lot to carry. We were hoping Uncle Billie was going to make a trip back to Shildon to pick up the rest of our things.

We walked across to the front door, my mam walked briskly and I walked as slowly as I could, dreading the door opening. The door did not open. It was a frosted glass front door, divided into four panels, with little letter box right in the middle. I could see an image at the other side of the door, an image about my height. It had to be Julian. The letter box opened and a hand came out, a hand making obscene gestures.

My mam put her arm around me and hugged my tight. “It will be alright pet” she said.

The door opened and Uncle Billie stood there looking dishevelled and tired, his wild curly hair falling over his face. My mam said my Uncle Billie ate lots of burnt toast and thats what made his hair curly.  He opened the door and welcomed us. My mam loved her brother, and I knew he loved her back, and wanted to make her safe. Behind him we could see his son standing in the shadows with a smirk on his face. I hoped we wouldn’t stay there long!

To purchase my first short story ‘Girl on the Beach’ click on the links below. Available in paperback and as an ebook.

Girl on the Beach (Smashwords)

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Sheila’s Story – A Birthday Party

There was no furniture in the sitting room of the little terraced house where Sheila lived.  Times were hard and the furniture had been either re-possessed or sold. The empty sitting room was perfect for a birthday party though, and on January 17th 1961 it was full of balloons. It was exciting!

Balloons for Sheila's fourth birthday

For her birthday, Sheila got her first bike, with little training wheels on the back. It wasn’t new, but bought at a second-hand store. Sheila didn’t know that, and if she had she wouldn’t have cared. She rode her little bike round and round the back yard of the little terraced house, happy as can be, until her mam called her in to have a bath before her party.  The house didn’t have a proper bathroom, the bath (believe it or not) was in the kitchen, which was a little extension at the back of the house.  There was no door to shut the kitchen off from the dining room, just a curtain.  The dining room (called the back room) had a coal fire in it, with a sofa and chairs in front of the fire.  There was a dining table set by the back wall, and a big sideboard on the other wall.  It was a small cosy room, and the room a family would gather.

The house would have looked something like this, but with a garden at the front.  

Our House

After bathing, Sheila was dressed in a beautiful yellow dress, with a big bow at the back.  All of her clothes were made by her very clever mammy. As Sheila’s story unfolds, I am falling back into the local dialect, and Sheila did not say mum back then, it was mammy or mam. 
On the dining room table was a beautiful pink birthday cake with roses in the middle of it.  Sheila could not take her eyes off it. She had never seen such a pretty cake.  Her mam had ordered it from the cake shop down the road, and was paying sixpence a week for it.  You got everything on ‘never never’ back then.  

My Birthday Cake

The back gate opened and Stella, who live about three houses up, appeared with her brood of kids, she didn’t knock, just came in.  The kids were an unruly, untidy trio aged from about four to seven.  Sheila ran off with them into the empty sitting room and opened the gifts they gave her.  A couple more kids arrived and the party games began ‘pass the parcel’ and ‘musical chairs’ being the favorites. Sheila’s man laughed and re-invented ‘musical chairs’ calling it ‘musical flop’ (they had no chairs, so the kids had to flop on the floor when the music stopped, it was hysterical). Sheila’s mam and Stella watched the kids play, whilst enjoying a glass of sherry, and giggling (Sherry did this to ladies). 
Everyone sang happy birthday and the Cake was cut. The pretty roses in the middle were a bit of a disappointment to Sheila, they didn’t taste good at all and were so hard they were almost impossible to bite, but they had looked pretty. Everyone was having a grand time……until the back door slammed. 

Sheila’s mam and Stella looked at each other, but didn’t speak. The kids (who were now playing giants) all froze. Then the lights went off.

Timing is sometimes strange, the lights went off just after the door slammed, but the two things weren’t related, it just happened that way.  All the kids screamed! The sitting room door opened and a menacing figure stood there in the dark.  If it hadn’t been for the door slamming, and the lights going off, this figure may not have been menacing, but it was.
Russel (one of Stella’s brood) started crying.
The menacing figure in the doorway was Sheila’s dad, who was drunk as usual.  “Who forgot to feed the bloody electric meter?” he yelled.  Now Sheila started crying.
 
The party was over, Stella took all of  the kids home, they all lived on the same street so it was easy. Sheila’s mam fumbled in her purse to find money for the meter, her hands shaking, wondering when and where the first blow was going to land. 
Sheila sat in the dark and played with her toys, scared to say anything.  Phoebe (Sheila’s mam) had no luck finding money to feed the meter in her purse and in a shaky scared voice, told Sheila’s dad, who violently knocked the purse out of her hand and left through the front door, slamming it so hard that the house shook.
 
Used to this, Phoebe composed herself and groped around in the darkness to find candles, which she lit and then placed around the livingroom. 

Cozy by the coal fire

There was also the light from the coal fire, so it was cosy.  She sat on the sofa, with Sheila snuggled up beside her, and talked about her childhood, and happier times (wishing she could escape from the life she had now). It wasn’t long before Sheila fell asleep. Her mam put her to bed, and then sat in the candle light, dreading the return of her husband.