This is a true story, verified by my sisters –
Ellen Humber and Phyllis Fell.
KNOCK, KNOCK, WHO’S THERE?
– Leicester circa 1964
In 1962, my family –including Granny and the dog all moved from Scotland to live in Leicester in a rambling palisaded villa. Apart from my Granny, all the adults went out to work – Mother in one of the many shoe factories dotted around Leicester and Dad on a building site as a scaffolder. I was thirteen years old and my siblings ranged below me at eight, six and four years of age respectively. We were rarely alone in the house as Granny was there to welcome us home from school and to give us our evening meal before the adults arrived in from work.
There was something spooky about that house in College Avenue, it had a long dark corridor which led from the front door to the breakfast room, scullery and kitchen at the rear. Other doors opened off the corridor giving onto a sitting room and a gloomy dining room in turn. Once, the house must have been splendid, in a Gothic sort of way; high ceilings, marble fireplaces, deep cornices and even bells to ring for the servants in each room. But to us kids it was a scary place and we didn’t like to be left on our own. In fact, there were certain rooms which the dog wouldn’t enter – without its hackles rising.
One day Granny decided to visit her brother in London which meant leaving us alone for several hours until Mother returned from the factory. Granny was very unhappy with this arrangement, but eventually agreed to visit her brother – albeit with the proviso that all four children, plus dog locked ourselves in our parents’ bedroom and stayed there until Mother came home.
Granny left, and I locked us in our temporary prison with food, drink, comics, toys, radio, the dog and a chamber pot in case of emergencies! We watched Granny walk to the end of the street and then settled down for a boring couple of hours until Mother arrived home. Time passed slowly and we tried to guess where Granny was on her journey – Luton, Bedford, St Pancras, the underground . . .
Then, the strangest thing happened.
We heard Granny’s footsteps climbing the stairs and coming along the landing towards the bedroom. The door knob turned once and then sprang back to its original position. Being kids we thought nothing of it. Ours was an old house and things were always sticking and jamming. Then, stranger still, we heard Granny calling out my name: ‘Betty. Betty,’ in her unmistakable Scottish accent. I looked at my sister Ellen for confirmation of what I’d heard and then walked over to the bedroom door and tried the handle. The door was still locked and the key was on our side, just as I’d left it. I went to unlock the door, but remembering the promise I’d made to Granny to stay put until Mother came home, I changed my mind.
My sister and I sat down on the bed and looked at each other, more puzzled than frightened. When Mother came home, we were simply glad to be allowed to run outside and play and didn’t tell her about Granny’s voice, the footsteps or the door knob turning.
Years later I brought up the subject with my sister.
‘We did hear Granny’s footsteps and her voice, didn’t we?’ I asked.
‘We did,’ my sister Ellen replied, emphatically. ‘She called out your name, twice and the door handle turned.’
We exchanged a look and shuddered, knowing that, as adults, we were only just beginning to comprehend we’d seen and heard that day. Had Granny been so worried about us being in the house alone, that she’d projecting her anxiety across the miles from London to Leicester? Or was it something ‘else’; something which wanted us to leave the safety of the bedroom and venture out on to the landing where it was waiting?
The same nameless terror which made us run down the long dark corridor to the safety of the kitchen every time – and the dog refuse to enter the large cupboard under the stairs where we played? Or, was it the old lady my father (the least fanciful of men) purported to have seen on several occasions standing at the foot of his bed looking distracted and mournful?
My sister considers herself a ‘wee bit psychic’, while I consider myself a complete pragmatist. My other sister, Phyllis, told me recently that she’d seen the door handle turn on a couple of other occasions and had been too scared to leave her bedroom. I know there must be a logical explanation for what happened and I’d feel a whole lot better if someone experienced in this field could explain it to me.
Then I could finally lay this story to rest – where it belongs.
Thank you for reading this story. Next year, maybe I’ll tell you another true story … the one where my great-grandfather (who was ‘laid out’ in his coffin on the dining room table) ‘woke up; and joined the mourners toasting his memory with whisky in front of the fire in the next room . . .
Just for fun – work out what your Hallowe’en name is and leave it in the comment box below. Mine is . . . ICY RUNER!!
Many thanks to Emma for joining me on my blog and allowing me to share this fabulous post with you. If you like Men in Kilts and novels about Scotland (good or bad), read on . . .
One of the advantages of a Kindle is that the moment you’ve finished a good book, you can download the sequel, or more by the same author, right away. E-books can also be dirt-cheap, or even free, which gives me the impetus to explore genres and authors I wouldn’t previously have tried.
One of the downsides of the Kindle is the amount of (often self-published) weirdness out there…
I’ve been addicted to Diana Gabaldon’s fabulous ‘Outlander’ series since a friend recommended them last year. They hit every button for me – amazing settings, suspenseful plots, masses of fascinating historical detail, a strong-minded heroine and a frankly swoonworthy hero. The first book has just been made into a TV series (available on Amazon Prime) and though at first I had doubts about the casting of the book’s iconic Jamie Fraser, I’ve loved every minute. I’ve been saving the last (8th) book in the series to read later, because I’m pretty sure that either Jamie or the heroine Claire is going to die, and I’m not ready to lose them just yet… so I recently decided to browse on my Kindle for something similar.
Well, I have to say, I didn’t realise ‘Men in Kilts’ were such a big thing, if you’ll excuse the innuendo… I’ve always had a sneaking fondness for a man in plaid, ever since the Highlander film in the 1980s (my husband does a pretty good Christopher Lambert impersonation), but I had no idea that Gabaldon’s books had sparked such a surge of hormone-fuelled fantasy.
There are novels in every genre – from ‘Outlander’ time-travel copycats (though I haven’t found any as good as the original) to bodice-ripping drama and contemporary romance. As you’d expect, the quality varies hugely – I soon abandoned the ‘historical’ romances, which were often unreadably awful, with hideous ‘Forsooth, ma brae lassie’ dialogue and paper-thin characters. Authors, please note: a hero with a kilt, an accent and an improbably large sword does not make up for lousy writing.
Speaking of large swords, there is a frankly incredible amount of ‘Scottish erotica’ out there (don’t tell the Scottish National Party about this – they’ll only get ideas). It seems the Highlands are positively awash with passionate Celts who will tear off their tartan at the sight of a heaving bosom.
It’s not just ladies who like the idea of a laird – kilted gay erotica is particularly popular, though queerly enough, much of it is still written by women – for women?
There’s even a sub-genre of ‘Scottish Historical BDSM Fertile Erotica’, which is a very niche interest. Dearie me.
The contemporary women’s fiction scene is generally more wholesome (and rather better-written). Lizzie Lamb’s “Tall, Dark and Kilted” is a good, fun read with likeable characters, making great use of the romantic Scottish setting. I’ve also read a couple of entertaining supernatural stories where the kilted Highlander appears in ghostly form, to break a curse or charm the repressed English heroine.
If you’re more interested in the ‘real’ history of Scotland, you’ll find literary fiction re-imagining every era from the Picts to the 1960s, or you could venture into the murky realms of crime with Scottish Noir (though, to be fair, there’s not a lot of hot kilt-action in those).
There’s so much kilted-ness to explore – I’m quite intrigued by the sound of the ‘Kilts and Quilts’ cosy mystery series, and more so by the probably dreadfully-chafed Cowboys in Kilts (c’mon guys – even Jamie Fraser wears trousers on horseback).
I’ve found Vampire Scots (do they bleed Irn-Bru?), Scottish Fairies (harking back to the magic of the standing stones in Outlander), Scottish Dragon-Shifters (Oi! Bob! Help me shift this bloody great dragon!) and even Footballers in Kilts (now that would REALLY liven up Match of the Day).
Still, I think the prize for ‘freakiest kilt-related fantasy’ and possibly the oddest book title ever, must go to “Men in Kilts with Tentacles – and the women who love them”.
I am NOT going to download that one, BTW – some things are definitely best left unexplored…
Emma Seaman lives in Devon with her young family, and is a freelance Marketing & Social Media professional. She has been writing fiction for ten years, winning awards including the Jeremy Mogford Food & Drink writing prize and the Wells International Literary Festival Award.
Her short stories have featured in eight anthologies published by Legend Press, Exeter University, The Yeovil Prize and The Harrow Press (USA), with another due this October from the Bath Short Story Award.
She finds inspiration in long walks on Dartmoor, lazy days at the beach, from the people she meets and the fascinating minutiae of everyday life.
While we’re on the subject of Men in Kilts, dear reader, let me lead you gently by the hand towards my latest Scottish themed novel – Scotch on the Rocks which is available over on Amazon as a kindle download and as a paperback.
It doesn’t seem possible that two years have passed since I, and the other members of the New Romantics 4, decided to stop tweaking and editing our novels and publish them on amazon. Its been a whirlwind but worth it. So, here we are, published authors and working hard on our third novels and with a poster to prove it. We have a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and WordPress. launched our books in Waterstones and produced a video which will appear on YouTube and our blog in September. Added to that we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve done it ourselves – with a little help from our many, talented writer friends and supportive readers.
Thank you for buying our novels and for writing us a review on amazon or Goodreads
Other fledgling (and not so fledgling!) authors have asked me what my path to publication has been and how I became a published indie author from a standing start. I’ve covered that subject on the New Romantics 4’s blog and other sites and won’t go over it again on this page. To put it simply, once I’d broken free of the treadmill of honing a synopsis to perfection, endlessly polishing the first three chapters of my novel and sweating over the dreaded submission letter to agents, I freed myself to write the novel which had been clamouring in my head for a number of years. The one which I, as a reader, would like to read and which I – as an author – felt compelled to write.
That’s how (after a few incarnations) Tall, Dark and Kilted was born.
When writing Tall, Dark and Kilted I was able to transport myself to Scotland, meet a gorgeous, sexy laird Ruairi Urquhart and fall in love all over again. Luckily, it seems that the many readers who’ve made the journey with me feel the same. My hero is the starting place for my novels and if I don’t get him exactly right then the novel doesn’t take off. So, although I fell in love with Ruairi (seriously!) and adored my heroine brave, feisty Fliss, I had to move on and create a new set of characters for BOOT CAMP BRIDE. Believe me, it wasn’t easy to leave Tall Dark and Kilted and the gorgeous laird of Kinlochmara behind. But I managed it!
From the highlands of Scotland to the marshes of Norfolk – quite a contrast, you say? But the hero I created, Rafael Fonseca-Ffinch, is anything but flat or dull. He’s survived a kidnap attempt in the rain forests of Columbia and thinks life has thrown him every curve ball possible. But he’s WRONG. He meets boisterous, opinionated Charlee Montague, they go on an undercover mission together and their lives change – for the better. Do they find true love and have a happy ending in this novel? You betcha.
An added advantage in writing this novel is that I get to travel with Rafa and Charlee in their vintage VW Camper van. I’d quite like one myself if I had £25,000 to spare!
Better get writing that third novel, then, Lizzie.
I am currently 60,000 words into my next romantic comedy, but I’m going to tease you and not reveal the title – just yet. Suffice to say that in #3 you’ll be travelling with me to the west coast of Scotland where you’ll meet my new hero – BRODIE – an American who’s travelled to Cormorant Island to seek out his Celtic roots. But he is not all that he seems. Intrigued? So is my new heroine Ishabel Stuart who finds herself attracted to him but can’t quite bring herself to trust him. Honestly, the hoops we make our poor characters jump through!
So, keep an eye out for the new title in 2015 and find out what Brodie is up to!
For now, have a great summer holiday and thank you for all your support, emails and continued interest in what I’m up to. And – if you do go to the beach, take one of my novels with you on a kindle or as a paperback and don’t spill the suntan lotion all over it. And, if you haven’t got a holiday planned, download one of my novels and travel to the highlands of Scotland or the Norfolk marshes with my characters. As for myself, I’m off to spend two weeks in splendid isolation on the Isle of Wight in order to get the first draft of #3 finished. See you in September.