Posts Tagged ‘painting’

More pretty things

“Oo, those ones are nice,” said I, seeing some more of Kevin’s artwork.

“No, no, no,” said Kevin. “You don’t want to photograph those ones. They’re not real art.”

“And what on earth could you mean by that?”

“People know what real art is. These ones aren’t good enough.”

“Ok, it’s time for you to shhhh and give me the folder and let me photograph them,” said I.

And here they are, the ones he said weren’t “good enough.”

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Yeh, he’s right. They’re a bit rubbish, aren’t they?

Getting spooked in Ham House

A few days ago, I expressed an interest in becoming a tour guide at Ham House. As luck would have it, the very next day there was a training session on how to guide the ghost tours.

I jumped at the chance so the following morning, the training was due to begin at 10am. The house is generally kept quite dark, to avoid light damage to any of the delicate things in the rooms. This makes the whole place a bit spooky. My plan was to go into the house at 9.30am and have a little look around for some ghosts while the place was still quiet and dark.

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I went and stood in the chapel, where the Duke of Lauderdale’s body lay for a week after his death and where a woman dressed in black has been seen kneeling by the altar and where a handprint was found in the dust one morning, at the Duchess’ pew. I stared into the darkness and my heart beat fast and eventually I lit up my phone to scan the room for ghosties but didn’t see one.

Next I went to to the Round Gallery where, in the book I recently talked about, one of the main characters sees some ghosts. While I am not claiming this book is based on anything factual, I still thought I might come across something, given all the portraits on the wall.

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Nothing.

Back downstairs, I went into the Duchess’ bedchamber. This is the room where she spent the last years of her life, ridden with gout and feeling trapped. I can’t remember the exact quote but she writes about feeling imprisoned in her beloved Ham House. There have been ghostly sightings by room guides here, who’ve been so scared by what they saw, that they have been unable to return to the house.

I lingered around, looked in the mirror, looked at the portrait of the Duchess as a young woman and waited.

Nothing.

Undeterred, I went into the White Closet, a beautiful little room that was one of the Duchess’ private closets in which she entertained only her closest friends.

As I stared at a painting of the back of Ham House and the gardens, I remembered someone saying that this painting contains most of the people at Ham House who have been seen/heard as ghosts. So I started looking for them in the painting. And I heard a noise…..

Whirrrrrrrr…..

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Oo! Oo! It’s the ghosts! Through there! Up there! In the next room! I snuck along following the noise, with a beating heart, and found….

One of the staff members hoovering the floor in the Long Gallery.

Ah. Yes. Of course that was it. Silly me. Ghosts don’t whirr, everyone knows that.

I did tell him off, though, for hoovering while I’m looking for ghosts. How can they walk around or say hi to me if he’s busy hoovering them up? It takes them bloody ages to get back out of that hoover so I wouldn’t see them until much later in the day.

By this time, it was 10am and the training was starting so I went upstairs and complained about the lack of ghost sightings. We talked a lot about how a tour should run, then a few of the experienced guides did a sample tour for us around the house.

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I still didn’t see any ghosts on this tour but not for lack of looking.

Anyway, the training finished and I left, clutching my notes and dreaming about being the Best Ghost Tour Guide The World Has Ever Seen, and ran into my manager from the cafe, who told me about a name scratched into the kitchen window in one of the house steward’s flats upstairs in the house.

The story is, briefly, a young man called John McFarlane was at the house. He was in love with one of the kitchen girls but she was in love with the butler. He was super distraught about it and threw himself out of one of the upstairs windows and died. But not before scratching his name into one of the window panes – John McFarlane 1790.

So we went to see this name scratched in. I was really having to restrain my excitement. People have photographed this window before and seen an orb in the photo! I attempted to take a photo of the name but my phone was like, “There is no more space for photographs on your phone.”

Humph.

So I deleted some photos to make space and tried again. Same thing. I deleted some more and eventually I got one but I couldn’t take any more. After walking through the front room into the hallway, we decided to look around upstairs.

As we approached the stairs, Sarah said to me, “There are stories of a little boy ghost on these stairs,” then she turned the light on…

And the light popped and the bulb threw itself out of the socket and it hurtled down the stairs towards us and smashed on the ground, only just missing us. I tried to photograph the smashed glass but the phone was having none of it. Sarah checked the fuse box but nothing had blown….

Make of it what you will, my friends. Make of it what you will.

Odd things that have happened when abroad

When my friend and I were living in Namibia, we did various different things – mainly running a local newspaper and teaching in some of the local schools.

Lucy is an amazing artist. I was always finding the loveliest little doodles on bits of paper around the house. Even her writing was beautiful, like looking at a picture. At the creche where we spent a lot of our time, the teachers asked us to brighten up the playground area. The walls were painted white and the paint was peeling so we decided to paint some lovely colourful pictures on the walls.

Lucy drew these beautiful pictures, a different one on each section of wall. I obediently painted where she told me to, not being the best at drawing myself. One evening, we headed over to work on the walls and there was an adult evening class on. They were mostly parents who had brought their children along and left them in the playground area while they went into the class.

So Lucy and I are painting away, an underwater scene this time, the kids are mesmerised by our painting. They were perched on a climbing frame in silence, when suddenly, out of nowhere, we heard this….

“If you see me walking down the street, staring at the sky, dragging my two feet, you just pass me by, it still makes me cry, you can make me whole again…”

What?! They were singing Whole Again by Atomic Kitten!

It was probably the oddest moment of the whole year. Here I was, 18 years old, I had travelled from Liverpool, across the world and made a new life for myself in Africa… And then randomly, whilst painting a wall, ten Namibian children were singing a song by some girls from Liverpool.

They knew all the words as well. Five year old children, who mostly lived in townships and didn’t have an awful lot, still knew the words to Whole Again by Atomic Kitten! Even to the talking bit in the middle. We just carried on painting and laughing to ourselves.

Another time I was in Cambodia with friends. We were in Phnom Penh and had decided to visit the ‘killing fields’, which gave rise to the film of the same name. It was an extremely profound place, made more so by the fact that one of the friends and I had had a mini falling out. One of those things where there’s actually not anything wrong, you’ve just all been spending a long time in close quarters.

So when we got in, we all separated off and went round alone. I found a little bench on the edge of the fields, next to a tree with low branches, and hid from sun, thinking about everything I was seeing and about how silly the argument had been and how I’d tell my friend I was sorry and forget about it.

A noise from the tree interrupted my moment of profundity. There was a little boy sitting on one of the low branches of the tree. He smiled. I smiled back but my face said that I was having a moment and not to interrupt.

But interrupt he did.

“Where are you from?”

“England,” I said, but not in a way that invited further conversation. I turned back to the fields and tried to regain my moment of thoughtfulness. I saw my two friends in the distance, each looking around separately. I thought about how silly the argument had been, especially when faced with the enormous seriousness of a genocide.

That’s when it happened. There was I, lost in my thoughts, wondering about the meaning of life etc. And there was he, a little Cambodian boy, with far more important things on his mind. He had established that I was from England so the first question which entered his mind was this…¬†

“Do you know David Beckham?”

Do I know David Beckham?! Hilarious. I ended up getting into a big chat with him about the merits of different English football teams. So there we were, at the killing fields, the raw evidence of a recent  genocide plain for all to see, having a chat about David Beckham. He decided Manchester United were the best and we left it at that. Odd.