Friday, October 31, 2014


We were walking along here the other week. As you can maybe tell, it was once a railway line and the raised bit at the side was once a platform, or at least I assume that it was. Now the line makes a good cycle track / footpath, like so many of the discontinued railway lines in the city. It's a peaceful place these days.

I don't believe in ghosts (even at Hallowe'en) but I can't help imagining those trains, thundering up and down where now we walk or cycle; and the passengers on them, sitting on ghostly seats much higher than the current path, reading their newspapers. Wouldn't it be interesting if we could somehow see shades of the people who were once there, or in our houses - or even see our younger selves in places that we still go? For example, can you almost see the spectral Mr L, some years ago, cycling along the platform on the left? - or to be more accurate, cycling off that platform on the left and tearing his shorts, stem to stern, on the spectral bushes. He had to cycle home again in what had effectively become a mini kilt.

In my teens and early twenties, we lived in what had been a farmhouse. It was about 100 years old when my parents bought it in 1963 and I used to think about the Douglas family, who were the farmers when my parents were children. The land around had been sold off for housing by the time we were there, but I would look out of the windows and imagine shadowy horses and cornfields and farm workers among the modern lawns and bungalows. I always wondered who had had my bedroom and whether they'd perhaps died there. Not that there was a spooky feeling in the house. It was just our home, decorated by my parents, but I was very aware that it was only ours for the moment. For some years now it's been someone else's home and I don't suppose that they're aware of my young self, hanging nebulously around in the right-hand back bedroom, gazing out of the window - when I was supposed to be doing my homework - and thinking about a tall young man with black hair (yes, the future Mr Life!)

Our current house was built about 1930. The other day, a chap who used to live in it passed down the street and chatted to my neighbour. We've been here for 25 years and the previous people lived in it for 20, so his family must have been in residence before that. I've met him too, years and years ago. I was gardening and he came and looked at the house from the street. We talked and I invited him in but he didn't take me up on it. According to my neighbour, he lives in Cumbria (which I remembered him saying) and occasionally, if he's in Edinburgh, he checks on the house. Just as well the garden was tidy.

We're so temporary, we humans. Strange. Just as well, really. We need to make room for the young ones. But goodness, it doesn't seem long at all since we were the young ones.


  1. My daughter lives in a very small house built in about 1700. According to records it once housed three separate families and was later a boarding house. Hard to imagine so many people crammed in: cooking on open grates and without running water and one man even running a carpentry business and housing his apprentices! Plenty of shadowy lives there if we could but see them.

  2. We've been here 34 years and sometimes I feel as though every day more things came in than went out....But I'm having fun giving away and throwing away lots of "stuff" nowadays. Life is very short. I'll be 70 in January and think about this often...Like the woman who writes the Weaver of Grass blog, I feel as if I have no real answers to life and it doesn't bother me much anymore. Life is good.

  3. Have you ever walked the Tissington Trail in Derbyshire? That's on an old railway line, too, and it did feel strange, as though any minute some roaring monster could come from behind us. It's also quite a long walk, one of my husband's 'it should only take us an hour' walks which turns out to be a lot, lot longer.

  4. I am always thinking about houses, and who lived in them. Ours was built in 1925, and what I do know is that it used to belong to a rabbi. His two-car garage is now the cottage we live in, and we rent out the front house in order to afford the mortgage. The rabbi's maid lived above the garage, which explains why the only bathroom in the cottage is upstairs. I wonder who lived in the house before him...

  5. Awww Isabelle, you always have the best posts. How fun that a former occupant checks on your house sometimes. When I'm out in our yard and think of the big changes that have occurred, I often wonder what the former owners would think if they were here.

    And just last weekend, I drove by the little house that we had built and lived in for 9 years when the kids were little. It was looking a little worse for wear, but the new owners were outside working in the yard -- cutting down big trees (hopefully because they succumbed to the ash borer) and burning the wood. Or, perhaps the fires were from the wood fence we installed that's now gone. It hardly seems like enough time could have passed for that fence to have rotted, but I suppose it has. {Sigh}