Saturday, 23 June 2007

Memories of a place

I lived for a year or so in a small house in Northolt, Middlesex. I lived there with the girl I was seeing at the time, it was a nice area, just a corner pocket of Northolt which wasnt such a nice area, but this professed to be Northolt Village and my house was right near a small hill that led up to an old church, it always reminded me of the kind of church you would see in 'Little House on the Prairie', it looked American to me, white washed, maybe made of wood, a small steeple. You could see it as you drove West up the A40 leaving London. It was well placed. I liked hills like that, I felt they had a good energy.

I liked my little house too, it was the first time I had lived in one that I rented wholly, before then it was always rooms or flats if I could afford them. There was something odd about the house though; it had a good atmosphere but it was where my insomnia began. I used to wake in the early hours with the feeling there was light coming from somewhere, the light seemed to fizz, if that was possible, and it was the fizzing that stirred my mind to life and made me wake. It was some months before I realised I was waking in the dark and there was in fact no light. This bemused me. Where was this damn light coming from? I observed the next time it woke me and discovered that the light was in my head. Kind of in my forehead someplace. It was like my subconscious mind was conjuring up this light, convincing my conscious mind it was time to get up and once I woke that was it, I couldnt get back to sleep, the memory of the fizzing light remained and whatever chemicals my body used to wake me were all in effect. It became annoying and I found myself often tired and flopped out in that house at the end of a working day. Still, I liked the place, it's mood somehow calmed me.

The insomnia was sporadic and not enough to really effect my life so I just accepted it but I didnt forget it and I couldnt ignore it. It remained just a mystery. I mentioned it to my girlfriend one day. She just looked at me with that look that said - 'Don't start this shit with me today'.
I guess it did sound kind of cranky; a light in my head. But the source of this light was really starting to puzzle me, I no longer felt it was in my head but rather being presented in my head from someplace else. I decided not to enlighten her as to this new development.

Then a month before our contract was up and we were due to move to another place I had one of the strangest experiences of my life. I was woken in the small hours, not by a light, but by the face of a snarling brown bear that's teeth were literally upon my face, and I could see wild anger in it's eyes. The sense of being attacked literally threw me across the room in a panic. No sooner than I was up, the whole hallucination was gone. My fear dispelled very quickly but it had been as intense as it might have been had I really found a bear about to maul me in the night. I didnt mention it to her despite my waking her. I didnt think she would be interested and I wasnt sure how to describe it without sounding ridiculous.

Nothing else happened in that house. A month later we moved out. When I went to take the keys round to the land-lady I also took a lot of post, we had been collecting it but she never came by, so there was a lot of it and most of it was addressed to a guy. I handed her the keys, then the bag with the post.

'Maybe you could forward these on to him, we kept anything the whole year, I was surprised he never contacted you for it' I said.
'Oh he died' she replied matter of factly. She reminded me of a tough little bird, she was Indian, young, but rich and quite a stern business woman.
'Oh, right' I said, then as I was turning to leave it struck me that if he was dead and I was receiving his post, then that meant he probably died while living in my house. I turned back to her.
'Was he living there when he died?' I asked her
'Yes, he died there in fact' she said and then the phone rang in her office, she answered it. I felt a shiver go down my back. We had been sleeping in a dead mans bed. Jesus!

The whole incident got me to thinking about how often we must pass through places or stay in places where someone, sometime through the course of history had probably died, been murdered, or one way or another, exited the world. I began to wonder about that light which had kept waking me up. Christ, what if it had been him trying to get my attention, then there was the bear. That made no sense. I didnt know what to think. I put it all down to nightmares, drugs, madness, anything. I wasnt afraid, but I had no answer.

One day some years later I got to talk to an African shaman for reasons too long to explain here. I recalled the whole incident and mentioned it to him to see his take on it. He nodded all the way through my recount and then when I had finished paused a while and said,
'Yes that is right, the spirit of the man may do that, the memory of the place carries a charge you were picking up because you are sensitive to it.'
'But what about the bear?' I said
'What about the bear?' he replied
'Well we dont have bears in England so what do you think that was?' I said
'No, you dont' he said 'but once you did'

Ultimately the whole experience brought my view of life and death into question as well as the things we see for the briefest of moments out of the corner of our eyes before something snaps our reality back into place and we forget all about them. From then on I didnt dismiss them quite so readily.

I loved that little house in Northolt, I love to remember it, the overall mood of the place was one of calm, of peace. It had about it a sense of home I havent felt anywhere else. And I wonder sometimes if maybe the presence of the other world was more pronounced there, if such a thing is possible, and just sometimes something was able to push through a little stronger than it might anywhere else. I never thought too hard on it all, it isnt something we could ever hope to really answer, not yet anyway.

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