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The snows of yesteryear (September 2013)

(September 01, 2013)

But, where are the snows of yesteryear? *

Boyd Clack (Photo- Ben Hussain)Boyd Clack (photo - Ben Hussain)

My mother was born, and spent her early life, in India. Her father worked for a British company that had interests there. They weren’t millionaires but they were wealthy by local standards. Once, when she was 10 years old, she went to stay with an aunt who lived nearby. My mother slept on a couch in the living room. The night was hot and uncomfortable and she woke several times. On one such occasion she saw the bead curtain that led to the kitchen moving and the fridge door ajar. Then there was tinkle of the glass water jug being moved. There was a net over it to keep the flies away. The same thing happened the next night. She mentioned it to her Aunt who made no comment until my mother was about to leave when she told her that a previous owner of the house had died there and his body had been found dehydrated in the room in which my mother had slept.

The Aunt had a son the same age as my mother and on one occasion, when he was five years old, as his mother was leaving the house to play bridge with some friends, the boy asked her if she was going to the theatre. It was a strange question. The child was a child and no theatre was in the area where they lived and there had never been mention of theatres in the family. It seemed to come from nowhere. When she asked him what he meant he told her that he had been to the theatre many times in his other life. He described riding there in a carriage at night, the clip clop of the horses hooves on the cobblestones, the faint, golden glow of streetlights being masked by low lying smog. He said that he often took his lady friends along. He was clearly describing London - a city, in a country, to which he had never been. This was the early twentieth century; there was no television, no cinema, no discernible way that he could have acquired such knowledge. He described his clothing, evening wear, and the dresses of his lady friends. Inside the theatre he and his companions sat in a box and watched a man with a long pole turning down the gas lamps high up on the walls in preparation for the commencement of the performance. He not only described the practical details of the visit, but spoke of the pleasant company, the joy and the excitement he felt, the great pleasure that he got. He described the texture of the velvet seats, the gentle hubbub of the audience, the tastes and smells, the laughter. His mother was concerned by this outpouring of unknowable information and took the child to a local Indian doctor who examined him and concluded that such incidents would dissipate with the passage of time. He would grow out of it. He said that, as a Hindu, he believed in reincarnation and was in no doubt that the boy was describing something from a previous life. The boy on reaching the age of six or seven never mentioned anything of the type again and the incident was forgotten.

I was alone in the house, my mother and father had gone to London, to my Cousin Edna’s wedding. She didn’t want me there, we never got along. I was in bed. It must have been midnight, or thereabouts. Anyway, I was lying there in semi-sleep when I heard a floorboard creek on the landing. I opened my eyes. There was another creek, the muffled, scraping sound of footsteps approaching my door. Then they stopped. I turned my head and looked at the door handle, there was an ice cold, terrible stillness … then the handle began to turn. Slow, but … strong and deliberate. I felt the blood trickling down my veins. I was unable to move … and, when the handle was fully turned, there was a dreadful pause and I knew that whoever, whatever it was standing there on the landing outside my door was … thinking. That was the most horrible thing … it was deliberating its next action. A heartless, dead logic was at work. Then the handle was loosened and … and the thing shuffled away … back to where it had come from.

I knew what it was you see. Mister Pitt, the previous owner of the house, had lived on there by himself for many years after his wife’s death. He had nursed her as she suffered the agonies and madness brought on by cancer of the brain. He held her hand throughout the final twilight. He became a recluse after she’d gone and his body wasn’t discovered for many months after his own death. They say he died of starvation; deliberate starvation. It was him. It was his unsleeping tormented soul lingering on there in the house, in the attic with the trunks full of his wife’s clothes and possessions where they found him. That was who it was paused in inhuman thought outside my door that night. That was when I realised that I was right to fear the darkness. I don’t fear it now; I’d welcome the company now. At least his desires were plain, his motives uncomplicated. I’m not afraid of anything any more. Let them do their damnedest …

Boyd Clack, 1 September 2013

* Mais, où sont les neiges d'antan? (But, where are the snows of yesteryear?) taken from Ballade des dames du temps jadis (Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past), a poem by François Villon (c. 1431–1463)

 

Also from Boyd Clack:
     Requiem; June 2013

     Mother to her son; March 2013 (with Kirsten Jones)

     The snows of yesteryear; December 2012

     The snows of yesteryear; September 2012

     The snows of yesteryear; June 2012

     Interview with Boyd Clack; September 2011

Boyd's new website is www.boydclack.com

Boyd Clack's latest album, Labourer of Love is available in Tesco and ASDA stores now, or online from Amazon - as a CD at £8.99, or mp3 at £5.99.

 

Boyd Clack - Labourer of LoveBoyd Clack's latest album, Labourer of Love

 

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