Jul 18 2012

Hanging baskets, murder and ghosts somewhere near Pendle Hill

It is ruined and it is perfect. Prettily  greenly ruined and without the unpleasant detritus ruins often attract such as suspiciously sodden and bulbous looking condoms, smashed Vodkat bottles and colour bled Walkers crisps bags shoved into ancient crannies.

And there are so many ghosts here that I can’t breathe for fear of inhaling a Grey Lady.  There is obscenely good homemade cheese and onion pie, mushy peas and gravy for £3.50.

I am now suspicious. This is too good to be true and thus I am probably annoyingly dead, smashed under a Vauxhall Vectra in an embarassing part of town and not even wearing clean pants.  I am sad about this but appreciate the irony of an afterlife full of ghosts from another dimension written about enthusiastically on plastic covered information boards.

Then the badness comes. ‘Is there a pub?’ ‘No.’

Fuck. I am clearly in Hell.

But such a lovely hanging basket bedecked one. Wycoller is a village prettily planted deep in East Lancashire, the perennially dark hump of Pendle Hill nearby. But Wycoller is ablaze with flowers, Cotswold grey stone quaintness and death, murder and vandalism.

It is a place that is mired in tradition, village life and industry but where high heels from Burnley replace the tired clip clop of centuries of  weavers heels and dark dark deeds still occur at night.

Wycoller Hall is paradise in decay. A ruined manor house is the epitome of smugness to an alive and financially broken viewer-ha ha you are dead and someone has had sex and a Snickers bar in your fireplace. It makes the Conservatives’ evil financial thrust almost bearable. Almost.

Yes, the fireplace in your hall that servants had to knock to timidly enter now has the working class from industrial towns poking about in short skirts whilst drinking Pepsi Maxx whilst you are dead, dead, dead.

Oh how I love it. There are the most worn steps in the world (and you can quote me on that) leading to nothing and well worn steps leading to nothing are probably my most favourite thing on earth (I would not be good at speed-dating) and you have to envisage what once was by looking at grand heraldic shields where the emblems on the shields have dissolved due to time and East Lancashire weather and nothing but the generic shield shape remains, truly the most ludicrously lucid and stonily obvious sign of wealth, fame and mortality being so pathetically transient.

Ha! You are still dead! And I am alive and poor and laughing because I can.

Despite the peach tiles in my small bathroom, you now envy me because I am alive and you are not except in a weird way because all the dead in Wycoller are now ghosts. It said so on the well displayed laminated board in the barn. Even the animals.

Yes! If I thought a well priced quaint tearoom (although sadly unlicensed) selling the aforementioned cheese and onion pie with glistening metal trophy-like tureens of pickled red cabbage, raw onion, mushy peas and gravy (it’s a Lancashire thing) for £3.50 was not quite wondrous enough, now here is a man who is a manager or owner or something (I forget easily these days) who tells me in a no nonsense Lancashire way the story of how a regular at the tearoom sensed the bad vibe in the backroom where we are now stuffing chocolate fudge cake down our gullets and would never enter.

When the renovations were over and the bull keep was uncovered, from a previous farmer notorious for his ill treatment of his animals, she walked in and without knowing what had happened, said she felt she could be in this room again. This is an appalling third hand transcript and I can see you rolling your eyes from here. I am not good at relaying anecdotes and my badly recollected memory has made you all now disbelieve in ghosts. Sorry. But if you were in that tearoom, listening to the dark haired, dark eyed owner/whatever talking soberly about That Experience you would be shitting yourself every time you ate a Big Mac. Good.


The barn next to Wycoller Hall is donated to information and harking at well kept beams.  A woman talks sourly about vandalism. There is so much vandalism we can only wonder at what was ‘chucked into the river’ to a Greek chorus of sighs. There is an animal missing from the wicker garden. The inner globe is missing from the Atom, a top of the hillside sculpture, all eyes and mirrors of the encompassing four dimensional landscape with the inner globe for you to gaze upon, witchlike to see all the countryside reflected in its mirror sheen, Well, you would of, it had had not been merrily broken and stolen.  Again.

But Wycoller is multicultural when it comes to its ghosts – there is also a West Indian lady, a bride of a Wycoller who chose her in her native country, married her and then thought ‘fuck that’ and threw her overboard. We’ve all been there…


But rather than just be dead or have a whine on Mumsnet, she followed him home and apparently still haunts the place. I would go back to where it’s warmer, love.


More ghosts! This one is spectacular as it is not just a ghost. Everyone gets a bit bored of just one ghost misering about the place. Wycoller Hall has a ghost murdering another ghost and you can hear him kill her and her scream and die and everything! This is pure ghost porn!

It apparently happens but once a year upon the darkest most appallingly weathered day of the year and that ghost must be really suffering right now studying the long term forecasts or just be prosaic and pop out doing a light stab every week or so when the sky is yet again black and cold. I suspect he was not counting on global warming or just does not want an audience.


There is a Grey Lady too who flits about sadly, the epitome of passive aggressive, “I was wronged, I am sad, I hope you are scared when you see me, that’ll learn him…”


The Neolithic slab bridge in the village is a gloriously slumped and sturdy ancient rare thing and is said to be where Druids lead their human sacrifices over but I think the Romans used the whispered rumours of face eating chanting Druids in some kind of propaganda method to hide their own barbarity. I still quite want the Druids to have existed though. They are such romantic sounding murderers. And I do love a good ritual.

But hark! Dear reader, Wycoller has yet more tricks up its heraldic Druidic Romantic well priced cheese and onion pied sleeve- There is yet another ghost and it is the spectre horseman who goes galloping along that ancient packhorse bridge by the ruins of Wycoller Hall and that self same bridge and Hall is also said to have been the inspiration for Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Make of that what you will. A man imprisons his mentally ill wife in the attic then lies about it and has an affair. That is no romance, that is sordid but the best a woman could possibly ask for.

Apart from a well-priced cheese and onion pie whilst gazing misty eyed out at ancient misery.

It was a good day.

Jul 13 2012

Sizergh Castle

I am looking at the excellent breasts of dead women whilst making polite conversation with retired genial couples.

I can see why people join the National Trust. My partner had a panic attack in the car park when seeing the amount of well groomed cars and the fact that some people were drinking tea from fold up tables by their car (surrounded by 30 acres of parkland)

A Land-Rover  driver does not hold up a hand in the traditional thank you greeting when we swerve to avoid him which nearly sends us hurtling back to the nearest friendly working class ex industrial town but we resist. Then look at the entry prices and grimace. I was actually more interested in Levens Hall nearby but the entrance fee there made me want my name on the deeds.

There is a hard sell on the door which makes me grimly upgrade from eight pounds entrance fee to nine pounds due to ‘optional’ gift aid. A nasty hard part of me wonders why I am paying more to be charitable to an organisation which owns hundreds of lofty mansions dripping in ornate walnut carved four poster beds whilst I live in a small house with a bathroom with peach tiles we cannot afford to replace. Then I berate myself for my smallness of mind and am concerned how I keep adding up the extra cost of the gift aid whilst looking blankly and joylessly at the kitchen gardens hours later.


We are ever so politely but in a steely way told about the joy of being a National Trust member. I smilingly say we are poor and point to the baby currently chewing a wire which he has pulled out of the carboot pushchair but the woman at the counter still thrusts a flurry of papers at us saying that ‘circumstances might change’ in the grim determined voice that makes me think that my parents might be found dead tomorrow in mysterious circumstances next to a will that has been written in their blood.


And of course I am only in this for the ghosts.
I have heard about the unearthly screaming from the poor starved to death woman of yore locked in a tiny room and left to die. I saw there was a YouTube clip about ghosts at Sizergh castle although I may have not have been so enthusiastic if I had actually looked at it and seen it was a still photograph of an ‘orb’ with the soundtrack of the Ghostbusters theme.

The grounds to the castle are indeed splendid and if one can ignore the occasional incongruous hum of the motorway, would be a splendid way in which to pass away a day relaxing under the orchards, parkland, lake (maybe not under that to be pedantic) and rock garden. Unfortunately we still have the toddler. Two hours later and some excited people are even now telling people about the unearthly screams they heard from within the bowels of the castle.

It is a good castle as it goes. I just find the whole National Trust experience leaves me slightly cold. Nothing is left to the imagination. Everything is so well recreated, remade, well signed, and busy that you cannot let your imagination run riot and imagine the past because the past is there before your eyes in vivid 3D and whilst an over enthusiastic volunteer tells you about a family you don’t much care about and some rare but quite unpleasant sub B and M Bargains vases you had not even noticed.
There are portraits of rich dead people which make you feel a bit smug because when when briefly perusing the laminated sheets in each room you notice how brief their privileged life was compared to the antiquity of the building, something to reflect upon if your child was not trying to pull dBown a stuffed kookaburra off the wall. At least they didn’t have peach tiles in their bathroom.


Nothing on the laminated sheets mentions ghosts, death or murder. It’s lucky there are good boobs. It is a lovely building and I am glad I came. I would though quite like to see it smashed up and dishevelled, stripped of all its laminated sheets, eager knowledgable volunteers and chairs that have signs on saying if you can sit on them or not. I prefer a ghastly old hag of a ruin, plundered and piteous and without photographs of the owners beaming brightly and richly from the parlour.

I like the National Trust and am glad that this building is here and not owned by some oil magnate and kept private. I have had a lovely day in beautiful surroundings and am glad a replica of the past is kept to show people what used to be (unless you were poor of course, nobody wants to be reminded of that unromantic element of history abounding in dead babies, filth and servitude to the people of the manor, that is not nine pounds well spent when you could instead be admiring rhododendrons)
But next time I go somewhere I do not want a laminated sheet, just an old old memory and my imagination. Oh and that sells well priced house red.

Jul 6 2012

The Kirkstone Pass Inn and the potentiality of ghostly Wotsits

A lone pic shot on a camera phone to follow…

I want to go to the Kirkstone Pass Inn because someone tragically died there of course but long enough ago to make it romantic and nice not all horribly miserable and actually deathy. It is up a squizzle of a road through the Lake District, which is surprisingly not too hideously filled with middle class children, crammed into people carriers with an unfeasible amount of mountain bikes carried proudly and smugly aloft. On one such occasion we worked out there were two bikes per winsomely grinning face (we were in a queue and bored)

The rain is of course pouring down because it has never ever ever stopped.

So the woman who died trying to traverse the Kirkdale pass with her baby many years ago, long enough to make the suffering romantic is of course a ghost. I am bored and would like to see a ghost to brighten up conversational gambits I occasionally have to make and also because its raining and I can’t think of anything more interesting than to see a ghost and a large house red in hospitable surroundings. Instead of going to reduced bit at Asda again. And I already have far too much slightly rancid but well priced tzaiki.

I am by nature slightly credulous, hence the guilty library rental of local ghost books with their unfailing belief in Bogarts and bad photographs of gateposts to old manor houses but before the arrival of our Kia in the car park I was thinking ‘how could anyone die two hundred or so (the library book has gone back and I have a vague memory) years ago in a place where there is English Lakes Ice-cream for sale every few miles?

Then I nearly died walking from the car park to the pub.

It is enticingly windswept, grey stoned and ancient looking and I look forward to meeting a tragic ghost clutching a baby to a cold cold breast and letting her know that mother to mother, she is not a bad parent for giving up her life going to see her sick father and nearly so nearly killing her beloved babe in arms and that I have left mine in the car asleep with his neck at a unfortunate angle and his father murmuring crossly at the cricket on an appallingly tuned radio.

But then the chilling realisation that I will not see a ghost in a pub which sells key rings, has a rhyming poem telling people not to use the toilet unless they are customers and where some loud women are cackling about how they thwart the school packed lunched rule by hiding chocolate in lunchboxes underneath sandwiches. There is no magic left anymore in the world, dear reader.

Until my second glass of wine by the fireplace, the discovery that there is no phone signal and the finding of The English Book Of Ghost Stories by the fireplace.

In fact I am still there now.

If you, dear reader, ever travel up that squizzling zigzag path to the Kirkstone Inn, look out for the ghostly red dented Kia from which the sounds of an ancient cricket game can still be heard. And give the baby a packet of Wotsits.

I’m on the house red. Ta.