Lately, I’ve been reading a critique on Radcliffe, Lewis and Maturin, and classic Gothic literature between 1790 and 1820 in Carol Ann Howells’ Love, Mystery ad Misery. It’s a fascinating read on a genre I’m particularly interested in and, I have to say, one that kind of informs my own writing. A bit of darkness always lightens my creations. But looking at Ms Howells in-depth analyse of these, and a few other, authors has influenced my thinking in other ways too.
As I said yesterday, my job took me out into the wilds of Kent and East Sussex and I found myself steering my chariot down a narrow lane behind Lewes FC’s Stadio Del Cuilfail – their football ground by the railway station. This area of Lewes, for those who don’t know, is where a college and school are situated and a large swath of the site is given over to sporting endeavour (not just those of the mighty Lewes FC), and next door to the Household Waste site (every educational campus should have one, in my opinion) someone has placed the ground-staff’s… place. Or, as I called it yesterday, Grounds-Keeper Willie’s Shack.
It was perplexing. I arrived in my van to find a car parked by the office. The shutters over the window were open but clearly no-one was around. A veritable Mary Celeste cliche! Investigations revealed the office door to be locked and all other doors on the site were also in a state of unopenness… or locked as well. All, that was, except for the cabin containing the toilet.
I had rather a large amount of gear to deliver and was keen to get it off my van. However, with no-one in the vicinity I was kind of snookered. My delivery sheet shed no light on contacting these people as no phone numbers had been supplied. So, I called my depot. My colleague got on to some other colleagues who in turn asked other colleagues to find some means of communicating with the ground staff on site. This took time. While I waited a need overcame me. Not cripplingly so, but a need nonetheless. So, in that period of time while I waited, I decided to avail myself of the facilities. The door was unlocked after all.
Now, it must be borne in mind that not a soul was abroad in that little haven for grass-cutters and line-painters when I sauntered off to the loo with my mind armed with images of dark mystery and horror. I stepped into the cabin set aside for ablutions and immediately I was greeted by a locked cubical door. The red “engaged” sign screamed at me and Radcliffian images from Odolpho and Montoni’s seductive prowess crowded my vision. My imagination ran like a tractor over a playing field. I had to check under the door to make sure I was still quite alone. Satisfied there wasn’t a corpse on the throne, I answered my call of Nature. Then, as I washed my hands, a noise erupted behind me. More images of terror and misery poured forth into my over-active creative brain. Tentatively, I glanced over me shoulder not really expecting to see a ghost/vampire/zombie/one-of-the-four-riders-of-the-apocalypse, and saw… absolutely nothing. The sound was the cistern automatically flushing the urinals.
I stepped from that nightmare world of my own creation that amounted to, well, nothing, and back into a reality equally matched by the one I had left behind in the cabin. The delivery remained unresolved and I was left with no option but to continue on with my journey, and admire the football stadium as I passed.
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Photo Credit: Malek Montag, 2005