Chris and the White Lady

IS there a ghost?

IS there a ghost? Maybe. Who’s asking? Look, if you wanted to visit Tretower Court between ten and four, Tuesday to Thursday, you had to come and see me and pay. Six quid for adults, sixteen twenty for a family, concessions four twenty. As long as I didn’t see you, or if we were closed, you could hop over the gate down the lane and make your own way for free, but you wouldn’t get a leaflet. It looked like the easiest job in the world and Mum was on at me to do something so I did it. Easy hours and I quite enjoyed the ride home on the bike - it’s downhill most of the way back to town. I thought it was going to be extremely boring, which was fine, I could spend the time messaging Marie and daydreaming, and reading if I felt the need for selfimprovement, but I was wrong. If you have ever studied the kind of people who visit
ancient monuments you will have noticed that some of them are more than slightly mad. Not you - I’m sure you’re not - but some of them. First day, lady asks me what the birds are called. There’s a flock of geese by the pond sometimes. “Geese, madam,” I said. “Yes but what are they called?” She was a wobbly looking bird herself with a bit of wattle and eyes you might call beady. “Their names, you mean?” “Yes, yes, what are they called?” “Well,” I said, there’s Cedric, Roderic, Alaric, Constantine, Jez, Patroclus, Lepidus, Jim, Hephaestus, Hero, Norm, Ankor Wat, John, Paul, Ringo, George, Divina, Marshall Mathers the Third, he’s the one with the limp…” “I mean the breed!” “Oh, African Geese,” I said, “and they’re malicious. Don’t go in there with them, you’ll never come out. They’ll mount you - they’ll mount your head on a plaque like they did to that poor Korean girl.”

There were actually quite a few Koreans that summer

There were actually quite a few Koreans that summer. Some of them took pictures
of me with their phones, and some got other visitors to take pictures of them with
me. I bet that went down a storm in Seoul – ‘Look, here’s us with this git in a hut
who charged us six quid for a leaflet we couldn’t read.’ It’s the first thing you see
when you land in Korea, a massive photograph of me with these Korean girls in
braces, in front of a hut, in the rain. I should have put a sign up saying ‘There Is NO
TEA ROOM.’ The number of times I got asked where the tea room was. “Don’t tell
me it’s gone again,” I’d say,
“Where did you last see it?” I had a school group, little ones who had all been told that if they were good they could have hot chocolate. They were all ran around madly screaming, which I guess was what they understood being good to mean. At least they left the nine hundred year-old castle pretty much the way they found it, and at the end the teacher came up and said “Where’s the tea
room? I owe this lot thirty hot chocolates.” And I said, “We haven’t got one” and she said, “Oh terrific, there’s going to be a riot now.” And just as she was telling them a barn owl flew out of the battlements and muted, I believe is the correct term, right on the head of a little boy called Jack. He took it very well but half the class had hysterics.

Then one afternoon

Then one afternoon, gorgeous it was, mid summer, swallows everywhere and a long hot day which I spent outside the hut and smiling, working on my tan, listening to the cricket on my radio and pretending it was 1903, because you really can’t tell what time you’re in on a day like that in that valley, this woman comes up and says ‘Where’s this ghost then?’ She was from Birmingham; I love that accent and she was beautiful actually, tall with her hair cut quite short, smart, and big sort of jumpy bright eyes like really smart people have sometimes, and I just wanted to hear her talk really so I said, “What ghost?” “The White Lady of Tretower,” she said, “The ghost of Margaret Vaughan, who stares out towards Chepstow waiting for her husband to come back.” “Roger Vaughan. Oh dear,” I said, “Playing away in Chepstow is he?” “No!” she goes, laughing, “He was beheaded there by Jasper Tudor and so she waits for him.” “Oh her!” I said, “Yes, up the corner stairs there, which is second on your left at the top. If you go really quietly you’ll see her. If you find yourself in a tiny room with a hole in the floor that’s the garderobe, you won’t find her in there except first thing in the morning.” So off she goes with her mate, laughing, and I dared myself to ask for her number when she came back - it didn’t work out with Marie - and when they came back I did ask and she gave it to me. She said her name was Keeley but she was laughing and I think it was a fib. She must have been 28 or something, too old for me really, but you’ve got to ask, haven’t you? After she’d asked for a refund and I said no off they went and then it was four o’clock and time for me to close up.

I liked closing up, but it was a bit spooky

I liked closing up, but it was a bit spooky. The swifts screaming and the smell of warm wood and stone and the strong feeling that you could easily be wearing a doublet or whatever and go round the corner and see a woman in a pointy hat tuning a harp or something. Anyway I went round and when I got to the solar I just put my head inside before I was going to pull the door shut and there she was. A lady in white. Just standing there. Every hair on my arms stood up, and on my neck, and I got this prickly rush like you wouldn’t believe, She was half turned away from me, over by the window, and I could see part of her face. She was beautiful. Just right there. Old clothes, long white robes, really old, but not tatty or anything, embroidered. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t even shut the door. I wasn’t scared she was going to hurt me or anything, I didn’t feel any kind of threat, I just knew that I was staring at a ghost, I was in the same room as a ghost and I could see it - see her. I just legged it. Got out, locked the big door, trembling, jumped on my bike, went like mad until I got to town, went straight to the Brit and drank three pints. I texted Keeley after, told her - you’ll never guess what I saw in the solar but she didn’t text back. I thought about not going back or asking for a raise or something, danger money, but instead I just made sure that I closed up with the last people there and went out with them. No, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I did see one, as clear as you see me.

Horatio Clare 2016


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