I always start this story about the house where I grew up the same way. Little Boundes was the Dower House to Great Boundes, that had long since burned down in a fire. It was early Georgian and legend had it built on the foundations of a monastery. You could still just see the tomb stones of some of the monks at the back of the house in a little recessed space for cars.
We moved there, when my little brother was a year old. I would have been four and we lived on the ground floor with a huge basement below. When it came time to leave the house five years later, I could not sleep for months, suffering from insomnia in anticipation of leaving my beloved Little Boundes.
The front garden, which the ground floor had access to, was huge, a wide gravel drive, a giant rhododendron bush in the middle of the lawn into the centre of which you could crawl and make dens, a centuries-old chestnut tree with a fallen split trunk over which you could clamber and survey the beautiful white house.
The front door was painted a deep blue by my father, who also attached a door knocker in bronze shaped like a dolphin. I don’t think I could reach it to begin with. The door opened onto a long hall, which led on the left, to wide stairs and a big window over looking the back garden ( which I always felt inferior to ours), from which the Methodist Johh Wesley was said to have preached and to the right, the hall led to steps down to a very big basement. On certain darker evenings it was necessary to roar for courage as I paseed the steps to the basement.
There was also a ghost, a Monk.
The Monk was a truly benign presence and when he was in my bedroom I felt, just a few times, as close to a sense of utter religious bliss as I have felt my entire life.
He would primarily appear to people who were in trouble or to soothe.
My rather pragmatic, down-to-earth great grandmother, who came to live with us for the last few years of her life, when asked if there was a ghost would say 'of course, whenever he is in the room, I smell wild flowers.' Indeed towards the end of her life, when my grandmother fell and broke her hip, my mother needed to go to hospital with her, but the neighbours were out. My brother and I were maybe seven and four by now and as she came into the room where the ghost was felt most frequently, she saw the figure standing by the window and it turned to her and she was filled with the certainty that we would be alright for a few hours. She got my grandmother settled and came home and my brother and I were still happily in our den eating cake and playing with our Action Men.
My aunt, my mother’s younger sister by seven years, came to stay with us when she was having a very hard time for various reasons. She was sleeping very badly at the time but at Little Boundes the Monk would come and sit at the foot of her bed and she would sleep eight hours of deep, blissful restorative sleep.
All these years later I still do not really know what to make of these stories deep in our family mythology. I have been in other places where the tingles down my spine suggested less benign presences, but even as I type this there is a feeling deep inside me of peaceful belonging, and the years since my Kent childhood in the 1960’s shimmer a little in the October gloaming, and time folds and sways, like a dark velvet cloak wrapping me against the night.