Knock knock… Who’s there?

There’s no escaping: Football, the World Cup. England won’t win. England will win (if a pig flies past my window). 15mn viewers tuned in to see them lose against Italy, including my older daughter’s (second favourite and not as well loved) sheep, Lucy. Here she is after that goal from Italy:

Lucy the Sheep B&W

Football brings out the weird and wonderful in people. With regard to my (Austrian) better half, he has switched allegiance to Germany. It’s no wonder Austria slipped so easily into that Anchluss. Moving on swiftly…

Following my last blog, Whisperings & a place called Fischer’s, a good friend of mine who once lived in the same apartment building dropped me an email. She reminded me that the couple who used to live directly beneath us reported seeing a ghost. The wife – let’s call her Mrs. M. – was quite disturbed, and the next day, in a flood of tears mixed with a bit of hysteria, told my friend the next day. Now Mrs. M. also had a toddler who didn’t sleep and as a result she was sleep deprived. Faced with these three things: hysteria, tears, sleep deprivation, my very rational friend dismissed this visitation of hers. Until, that is, Mr. M. – let’s just say he’s the the Yin to Mrs. M.’s Yang – reported in a more matter of fact way that he had experienced the same thing. What is it that they had both seen/heard? A gentleman coming up behind them and whispering, ‘hello’ in their ear. Funny that? Perhaps after they moved out, the said gentleman felt lonely and decided to float upstairs to keep the Boheim Family company instead. Whether or not he has, in the spirit of my mum who christened our holiday djinn, Djinn Mamu (see inaugural post), I have decided to call this so-called ghost, The Man Who Said Hello.

Now just the other week a neighbour currently living beneath us wrote a polite, albeit lengthy note querying the source of an on-off knocking noise which he believed came from our apartment. Along our street there’s the constant clamour of building work, but he was sure the noise emanated from our place. Overall, he was quite apologetic about complaining. And so he should, thought my better half, being the model neighbours that we are. My reaction differed. I was at a loss. Then a bit perturbed. Then a bit scared. Was there something, someone lurking in our home? Was it The Man Who Said Hello deciding to up his game and make some noise? This quandary of mine was soon interrupted by my one year old daughter bobbing into the living room. I say bobbing because she does this bottom shuffling thing and from a few metres away, all you can see is her head bobbing up and down as she shuffles (at high speed) towards you. How does she propel herself forward? She uses her hands and legs to create momentum. In fact, her feet thump along our wooden floor as she makes her way from A to B… Yes, the mystery of the knocking noise lay at the ‘feet’ of my younger daughter.

Since this neighbour left a polite note on our doorstep, I decided to follow his example and write one in response, apologising for my daughter’s way of getting around. Assuming he was bored of writing notes, he wrote me a text message saying that he had to Google bottom-shuffling and now understood. No doubt he’s praying that our younger daughter learns to walk soon. I don’t have the heart to tell him that bottom shufflers don’t walk until the age of two. In my younger daughter’s case, he has another 11 months to wait.

What was nice about this episode was the whole note writing thing. In an age where emails, texts, tweets, ping back and forth with abbreviated spellings, acronyms and typos, a handwritten note or letter is like a piece of treasure. There are no abrupt beginnings or endings, no hurried messages. There’s something more personal about them – the handwriting, the paper, the pen which add to the content of the letter. Just the other day I wrote a couple of letters. It’s nice to take the time to think about what you’re going to write. At the same time, it’s a little strange to hold a pen and be at pains to avoid making mistakes. But there’s always been something romantic and a little bit magical associated with a letter. I also think my renewed interest comes from my older daughter’s excitement over the act of posting one. And I do get excited when I receive a (proper) letter. Albeit, it’s usually from my dad with a life lesson tagged at the end. But I love to see his familiar handwriting, his dedication to the fountain pen. And I keep hold of every single one. Because that’s one of the few things we have left in the end. Sure, emails can be stored and printed out, but they’re not the same.

In The Silent Children Max Gissing receives a letter out of the blue from his estranged mother. He thinks it’s a formal and distant way of getting in touch with him. But then again, he thinks, that’s just her style. I’m not sure whether Max would think to pick up a pen and write a letter to anyone let alone his own mother. He’s too busy, too lost in his own world at times.

Call me old fashioned, but I hope letters will never die out. So here’s a challenge for those of you who still like the idea of writing a note: get some paper, get a pen and write (don’t type!) a letter to a loved one…

Until next time


PS: I was shortlisted for The Literary Consultancy 2014 Pen Factor Award (for unpublished authors). I didn’t win, but I want to congratulate the three winners: Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown, Lucy Yates and David Spon-Smith. Very well deserved!

The Silent Children