We didn’t know what to do with the day, and then Lizzie said ‘Let’s go to that ruined house.’
We’ve driven past it several times over the years and most times we’ve gone past we’ve said ‘you know, we’ll have to stop and look at it one day.’ So, we did. It’s set back from the main road down a long track and we’ve seen it slowly getting a little bit less each time we’ve passed. Bit less roof. Bit less wall. It’s not often that you get to explore a ruined house, so we all said ‘yes’.
What struck me about this one was just the quietness of it. The roof had gone and the doors and floors too. There were trees growing up through it. I stood in the shell of the rooms and wondered what it had all been like, and what the people who’d lived there would think of it all now if they could see it. There were all those thoughts – about Christmases, winters, summer days etc – but the thought that kept coming back to me was a wondering what it had been like that day that the last people had left, had closed the door behind them and never gone back. That very moment that the slow decline into empty ruin had begun. I wondered what it had actually sounded like from inside the house as they walked away. When our children were small we used to read together The Hidden House by Martin Waddell – a lovely lyrical picture book about a house being deserted and years later brought back to life again. I couldn’t help but think of that story as we walked around.
It’s Halloween this time next week. I was asked to write a story for it, and sat down scratching my head for a large part of the day, and then finally thought ‘I know what I’ll do!’ And I wrote it all out really quickly. I was quite pleased with it. And then I hit ‘save’ and where the story went to from there I’ve no idea because it just vanished from my laptop. Even Jack, my fabulously helpful son with a pile of retrieval software, couldn’t find it again. So, I had to write it again from scratch. And you can never write something exactly the same as it was before, the best you can do is something that sort of feels the same. So, if you see the story on next week’s Guardian Halloween website you’ll know that that version isn’t necessarily quite how it started out. And the moral to that story is save often and check that your writing has saved, because sometimes computers hate you.
And while I’m thinking of my son Jack, let me mention this – he and another very talented chap by the name of Dan Pearce have just released a game titled ‘Castles in The Sky’. This is their first release. It’s a very beautiful story about a boy and a red balloon, and I’m so proud of them both. You can find it here.