Ghosts Of My Life

“Just when I think I’m winning
When I’ve broken every door
The ghosts of my life blow wilder than before
Just when I thought I could not be stopped
When my chance came to be king
The ghosts of my life blew wilder than the wind”

Ghosts – David Sylvian

My Granny was terrified of the Cooneen Ghost, or Coonian as she called it. And as I was only 6 or 7 when she first told me about it, I was terrified too. She never referred to a single other ghost story, and didn’t suffer fools gladly, but when she relayed that story you could tell that she believed every single word of it. She grew up in the foothills of one side of Sliabh Beagh and the story occurred on the other side in 1913, a few years before she was born.

There is a good account of it here, from Sir Shane Leslie’s book where he interviewed three of the priests involved in trying to remove the poltergeist. My favourite line about the ghost is from Fr. Keown “ It showed a Protestant hostility to holy water which seemed to infuriate it…”

The ruins of the house are still there, people sometimes visit on a dare .I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but, even now writing this I can see my Granny’s heartfelt fear and passion in telling that story, I would not set foot in that house for all of the tea in China.

My ghosts are people and events from my own past life. Things I’ve done, or haven’t, things others have done , or didn’t. They haunt me sometimes.

I had a childhood friend who lived in a wonderfully weird house. It was huge compared to ours, and seemed to be two houses at the same time, a nice friendly part where you took your shoes off, and the ‘good rooms’ which were full of dark expensive furniture and gold clocks that you were once allowed to look at from the doorway, but never allowed to enter. Even as kids, if we had the house to ourselves, no one dared enter those rooms.

I spent many, many happy weekends in that house, friends with all of the family, and felt very welcome…until I wasn’t.

At one point my childhood friend went away one summer on a student exchange to France. They had a cousin that stayed with them that summer and I was encouraged to come over and entertain that cousin, which I duly did. I cycled to their house every afternoon and stayed until twilight. We had great fun , doing nothing , but doing it well. And then one day the oldest sister in the house took me aside and asked me not to call over as often, that the mother was finding it difficult to be herself with me as a guest there all of the time. I was too shocked to remind her that I’d been asked to call. I was told that they’d call me when ‘I was needed’. I was 13. I cycled home, my cheeks burning, angry tears flowing…and yes, perhaps the odd snot or two. I was gut punched, betrayed, bewildered. It wasn’t just the good room that I wasn’t good enough for.

I didn’t tell my parents, as they were friends. When my childhood friend came back to school after the summer I did try to explain it to him, but it didn’t really make sense to me, so was difficult to explain to him. We drifted apart. There was no hostility, we just didn’t visit each other’s houses any more.

A few years passed , we got friendly again, I was again welcome in their house and banished any thoughts of times past, comforting myself that it had been a misguided , but healthy, sense of injustice on my part.

Another few years passed.

I flirted with his sister. She flirted with me.

I was taken aside by my friend and told that ‘this’ would not do. His mother was not happy. Without saying it in so many words, and yet not saying anything else, her daughter was destined for better things than …, well, me. I think I laughed. He was taken aback. I laughed because if I hadn’t I’d have told him exactly how I felt. But I didn’t. I was 19 this time. I dove home, my cheeks burning, angry tears flowing…and yes, perhaps the odd snot or two.

And that was that, sort of. We bumped into each other occasionally, but increasingly rarely, and then twenty years have passed and there’s a funeral. The father of the house had passed away. I was conflicted. Should I go and pay my respects ?

I went anyway. I walked across that burning bridge.

The oddest thing was, well odd for an Irish wake, when I arrived at the house, there was no one there except family. Normally at any wake you are queuing with your friends and neighbours for at least 30 minutes before you even get into the house.

The older sister met me at the front door, asked who I was. She knew who I was. I introduced myself anyway. I was brought into the good room where the father was laid out. I was left there on my own for a moment. I said a prayer for him, he’d always been decent and quiet.  The mother came in. Any hostility I thought I’d had melted in front of this little grieving lady. She held out her hand , I gave her a hug instead. She brought me into the other good room where my friend was on his own, talking to someone on the phone. He smiled and held out his hand. Coffee was brought in for us both, his call finished and we caught up on where we each were in life. I stayed for half an hour until someone else arrived. I made my goodbyes and left. We didn’t exchange phone numbers.

Ghosts fade when exposed to light.

I hadn’t thought of those ghosts in a while until I randomly came across a tweet by a wonderful lady , wonderfully named Kerry O’Shea Gorgone. She’s a good friend of a great friend of mine, Batman, aka Chris Brogan. She wrote :

“I hope you find this freeing, but most people aren’t thinking about you. Like, at all. So if you’re thinking that someone’s mad/sad/snooty/absent because of you…they’re probably not. They 100% have their own things happening.”

I did find that freeing.



Author: paul

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