Chaotic comedy of a crowded house, to sinister tricks inside a London enclave

The heat has sent everyone a little loco. My sanity has been all over the place following a mad-cap five days with my parents. Don’t get me wrong: it was a lovely five days, spending time with most of my family, including QT with my niece and nephews and watching my two girls getting to know their cousins much better (although they still can’t tell the difference between my twin nephews). Comedic chaos filled my parents’ house from dawn until dusk, starting with my nephews’ noisy 3am feasts in the kitchen ahead of their fast, followed by the second wake-up call at 6am curtesy of my girls; followed by general hysteria and mayhem at breakfast, lunch and dinner on account of my 14 month old daughter’s demands to ‘feed’ herself. I say ‘feed’, but it was more like missile throwing of anything she could lay her hands on – yogurt, peas, potatoes, fish fingers – sent flying in the direction of her mouth or the poor person who pulled the short straw to feed her. Caveman-like yells of delight or frustration also accompanied these mealtimes – not exactly music to one’s ears. After two days of crowded living, I had to get out. For a treat I took my niece out for the day, leaving my sister and mum in charge of my daughters. Far from the disorderly antics of my parents’ home, we had a brilliant time. When we returned, both my sister and mum sported wild hair, wearing the pallor of exhaustion on their faces.

“How was it?” I asked.

“Oh, it was great fun,” said my sister. “One of them passed out on the floor; the other sprayed mum with yogurt.” That really summed up the whole stay: food fights and general passing out from exhaustion. Yes, it was a bit crowded and a bit chaotic, but such was the energy at home that a great time was had by all.

And that brings me to the aspect of negative energy and the curious story of a tiny central London enclave. It’s a leafy part of London; certainly more than up-and-coming with its wealth reflected by the cars parked outside their respective homes. The architecture of the area dates back to the nineteenth century, typified by four or five-storey Georgian townhouses which people fall in love with, only to realise the pain of trudging up and down several flights of stairs once they move in. On first glance, it’s a pretty place – not exactly chocolate box sweet, but it certainly has its charm. Dig a little deeper, however, and a different story emerges. It’s a story which revolves around the residents: let’s just say they’re a mix of establishment, aristocracy and new money – celebrities, bankers, lawyers, with a smattering of people who prefer to keep their careers under wraps. Yet even with this melting pot of people, there’s something provincial about the place. Curtain twitching is rife and during periodic coffee mornings, gossip floats through the air like an idle spirit. Everyone knows everything about everyone and when I say know, they really do – warts and all. Sure, residents pretend to ignore the secrets whispered into their ears, but as the tales accumulate, they can’t help feeling that something sinister taints this area of theirs.



Take, for example, the story of the German family: the husband was struck down by an illness affecting his kidneys and intestines; then, his wife was diagnosed with third stage ovarian cancer. They suddenly up-sticks and returned to Germany. After leaving, both of them made a full recovery. Then there was the lawyer and his wife who bought the house of their dreams.  After the birth of their first child, the wife was struck down by severe depression bordering on psychosis. When they left temporarily, the wife recovered and proclaimed she never felt better. She also demanded they never return to that house of theirs. Another resident went blind overnight and another couple went through the trauma of terminating their unborn child at 38 weeks. An acrimonious divorce followed, culminating in violent arguments which could be heard across the street. There are stories of drug addiction and reclusive residents, veiling themselves in mystery which keeps speculative tongues wagging. And lastly, one of the residents was recently uncovered as a mercenary, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in a certain war-torn country.

All of these stories are true and emerged more or less at the same time. It’s strange that they happened inside a microcosm of this capital city, and taken altogether it seems a dark shadow stalks the residents, marking them out one by one. Perhaps it’s the mercenary with his murderous antics who’s brought bad karma to this part of London; or perhaps it’s something far deeper, older; a place where diabolical events took the stage, leaving behind unrestful souls who seep bad luck into residents’ homes. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s good old coincidence playing the fool.

In my novel, The Silent Children, the house Max Gissing inherits is a beautiful turn of the century house sitting on the hilltop of Ober St. Veit, Vienna. From the outside, it’s picture perfect. Once Max steps inside, however, things begin to change.

Until next time.


The Silent Children  - Amna K. Boheim