Having drawn on my own childhood for part of the Ghost Girl at Angel Cottage, I thought it only fair to relate one of the events that led me to write this story in the first place.
It was a warm summer’s day back in the early sixties. I was probably about 6 years old or perhaps younger, playing on the stone steps set in my Grandparents’ back garden, in the village of Writtle. Cottages lay either side of us. My grandparents’ house was set back from the road, behind wrought iron railings.
(A sad tale (tail) occurred here, during the war when the railings were removed for the war effort. My mother’s young dalmation pup, got out of the house and ran straight into the road and under a car – no railings to stop him. She was devastated and I still find it a sad tale to relate.) But I digress!
On this particular day, I was exploring the garden a little, my sisters having disappeared indoors. As I wandered around, I looked up at the tall stone wall that shielded us from the neighbour’s garden. That neighbour’s children, a boy and a girl, would sometimes drape themselves over the wall and talk to me. Today, they were not there, alas.
I continued to play a solitary game in my imagination when, suddenly, a figure appeared beside me. The girl looked familiar and I assumed she had sprung from next door. We played a while and spoke. We sat down on the steps and giggled at our own jokes.
At some point, I was alone again and went indoors, full of my afternoon’s escapades and eager to tell. The adults were speaking in hushed tones. I caught the words, “so sad” “drowned” and, in my childish way, wanted to bring some cheer to the conversation, so I began relating the games I had just been playing with the girl from next door.
After a while, I realised they were staring at me a little oddly. My mother shook her head, “Don’t be silly Debbie,” she said, “you and your imagination!”
It was only later that I learnt that the little girl I had thought I had been playing with, had drowned while she was on holiday, a short time time before our visit.
Yes, I could have imagined the entire episode but it also made me think, even back then; the girl had seemed so happy and so real…was it the girl who had drowned or had it been another girl entirely, from another time and place?
I shall never know. However, thankfully, The Ghost Girl at Angel Cottage will not leave you dangling!