I think I've blogged before about my family's stalwart efforts to remain sceptical and hard-headed despite all the yammering from the other world.
There's my cousin, for instance, Alan Hess. Studied chemistry, worked in the computer industry and is a man of science. When he lived on the Isle of
Man, and was told that, when crossing the Fairy
Bridge, you always have to politely wish 'good morning,' to the fairies -- or ill-luck will befall you.
Naturally, being a man of science, he scoffed. And the next time he drove across the Fairy Bridge, he called out -- well, this is a family-friendly blog, so I won't say what he called out. But he was dreadfully rude to the fairies.
And lost control of the car, skidded across the road and ended up in the ditch. After that, he was always very polite to the fairies. But ask him about it now, and he maintains that it was coincidence. Pure coincidence.
My friend Davy and I once went for a walk along the river Teem. It was August, and about as hot as August can be. We walked through pasture and cornfields, climbing stiles and crossing bridges over small streams. It was beautiful, but we became very thirsty.
It was a long trek back to the pub where we'd left the car, but I saw a church spire rising over the tree-tops. The
church was much nearer. "Where's there's a church, there's probably a village," I said. "Maybe a pub -- or a least a shop where we could buy a bottle of water."
So we walked on, and came to a wooden bridge that would take us across the river to the church. The banks were thickly wooded, so we couldn't see anything of the church, or any neighbouring buildings, except the spire.
Once over the bridge, we came on an oddly desolate scene. There was no village -- or any other building at all except the church.
But there had been a village. We could see the raised, roughly square and oblong platforms where the buildings had stood. You could see the streets that ran between them. Sheep wandered here and there, walking the sunken streets and clambering over what had been houses.
We wandered around the church, noting the changes to it, the walled up doors and windows. Davy said he'd like to see inside, so we went around to the porch.
I was struggling with the big iron door handle when Davy said, "Don't!" I looked over my shoulder at him, a bit puzzled. "There's a service going on," he said.
I was even more puzzled. I didn't think my hearing was that bad. I hadn't, and
couldn't, hear anything except the sheep and the river. I put my head close to the door and listened. I could hear nothing from inside the church.
"No, there's not," I said, and tried again to open the door.
"There's somebody practicing on the organ then," Davy said. "We shouldn't disturb them."
I gave him a funny look. Was he having me on? There was no organ playing, and no other
sound at all from inside the church. I opened the door -- and immediately forgot about everything except investigating the place.
The church was dim, cool, silent and completely empty. It was a beautiful old place, and plainly dated to before the Reformation, as it had an old rood-screen, and steps that had originally led up to the gallery above it. We had a good poke around, and then went outside and wandered over the vanished village, speculating about what had happened there, before trudging back to the pub through the heat, and finally getting that drink.
It was only hours later, when we were home, that I thought back over the day and remembered that conversation in the church porch.
I thought it over, remembering Davy's tone and manner. He hadn't been joking: I was certain of that. He had simply
been stating something obvious to him: a service or an organ practice had been going on in the church.
So I asked him about it. "There was someone in the church," he said. "I thought we shouldn't disturb them. But you never listen."
"But there wasn't anybody in the church," I said. "There wasn't a soul in there."
"Whoever it was must have gone out by the other door when we went in," he said.
I thought about that.
Nah. Not a chance.
There had been another door, but it had been big, old, heavy and closed. If, on hearing me push open the door, someone had jumped up from the organ and nipped out the other way, it would have been impossible for us not to have heard them. They would have had to scurry across a tiled floor, open a big, heavy door, and close it after them -- all in an eye-blink. And the organ would have groaned.
I put this to Davy. "I heard music playing in the church," he said -- again, a simple, plain statement of fact.
Knowing him as well as I do, I am completely convinced that he did hear a service or, at least, music playing. I am equally certain that there was no one in the church, and hadn't been for hours. I'm certain there was no music playing.
Davy will not countenance any idea of ghosts. As far as he's concerned, he heard someone playing the organ, who then, in a moment, silently left the church as we stepped through the door (since the music apparently continued until we entered.)
I think I will just mention that although born in Edinburgh and raised in the Lowlands, Davy is of pure Highland descent. Just saying.
When I told my brother about this, he said, "Davy must have tinnitus." Typical Price.