Note; In the following story, the names and relationships have been changed to protect people’s privacy. However, the place names, and all of the events are totally genuine………
A lovely young lady that I know well, Rosie, and her boyfriend Jim, had moved back west to the country, from which they had both originally come, to try to escape their partying, city lifestyle, and the endless, awful, damp, structurally dangerous flats that they had been forced to rent in downtown Bristol. They had loved Bristol, but they knew that the hectic social life that they led amongst other young, energetic, sociable people had to slow down sometime. They were fast approaching their mid- twenties but still partying hard like they were first year uni students. It came with a price all that raving. Their limited funds just couldn’t keep up with the demands put on them.
Rosie and Jim, like so many other young people in Cameron’s Britain, were struggling to make ends meet. There were so few jobs available, and the jobs that they were able to get never paid well, plus it didn’t help that they were regularly taken advantage of by unscrupulous, selfish employers. So they had headed west, into the sunset, to seek a quieter, healthier, cheaper lifestyle, and hopefully get a couple of good jobs too! It wasn’t too much to ask for was it? Did they get it? Well eventually, thankfully, yes they did. But they were to have one more big hurdle to leap over first, and that hurdle was called Bideford Rectory!
Bideford is in Devon, and it’s about three hours west of Bristol. It’s Jim’s home turf, he’s a Devon boy through and through. It is a quiet, pretty estuary town on the Torridge river, on the north coast. They thought it would be a good place to withdraw from city life and start a better, more wholesome, more tranquil life. They didn’t want to lose their Bristol based friends, as they were all lovely people, (I know, because I met a fair few of them), but they wanted to put some miles between them, so that they would only see them when it suited their new life’s purpose and direction. They desperately wanted to get decent jobs, save some money, and build a new, improved life for themselves.
After looking at the usual delapidated rental stock, of dire, damp, cramped apartments with crumbling walls, (it was just the same in Bideford as it had been in Bristol), they had eventually found a half-decent place that they thought would make them a reasonable home.
The first floor rectory flat (apartment) had seemed like a decent enough place to live. It was in a nice residential area not that far from the Torridge river bank, on the edge of the little town. It was a part of a large Victorian house, tucked away and very private, down a long meandering, mature wooded drive. I’m sure that in its day, when the rector lived there, it had been a high class property. Their part of this big, sprawling red-brick bit of old England was actually a more recent ugly extension. It was a modern, (possibly 60s), rectangular wing abruptly stuck on to the once lovely, but now decrepit, old building.
All around the building were scruffy, tired old caravans, and old buses and vans. They appeared to be lived in by people down on their luck who had also once seen better days. There were little bits of everyday rubbish just strewn about here and there, spent beer cans, old pizza boxes, and discarded, water-logged, ripped furniture, that sort of thing. Never a good sign. But on the plus side, their flat was HUGE and it had plenty of light. It had once been used as a classroom by the local council, it was where, in the 80s, they had taught young adults with learning difficulties. It had a long line of big windows all down one side, and also down at the far end. It had very high ceilings and there were various sheets, blankets and old curtains hanging from the curtain rails, acting as make-shift curtains, (not that they were over-looked by anything except a few old oaks).
The kitchen, such as it was, was totally dwarfed within this much larger room, and their king-sized bed was situated right up at the far end, where the shorter line of windows were, on top of a three feet high stage platform. To get to the showers, which they had to share with several other tenants, (some cleaner and tidier than others), they had to leave this big room and go through a pair of double doors to a dark and dingy connecting corridor, to the older, original part of the building. I visited them a few times and I never felt very comfortable at the old rectory, especially the bit through the swing doors towards the shower block. It had a very unsettling energy that would make me feel giddy and breathless.
When Rosie and Jim first moved into the old rectory everything seemed to be just fine, they had lived in more than a few rough places before, and with Rosie’s undoubted artistic flair, and Jim’s muscle, they knew that they could make it their own ‘home’, well, at least until something better came along anyway.
All was going fairly well, but slowly their disillusionment began to set in as little things began to go wrong, one way and another. They couldn’t get decent jobs in Bideford, and money, despite spending much of their time not going out socialising, was tighter than ever. Jim was frustrated and depressed, and because Jim was down, Rosie was a little bit down too. When I visited the old rectory it always depressed me, I wanted better for them. They both deserved better. I thought back to myself at their age and how easy it had been for me and my generation. We were able to walk out of one well paid job and straight into another, and we still had some basic employment protection and rights back then too. I was angry at the successive governments, all responsible for running, (and frankly ruining), our country, and, in so doing, dealing so many youngsters like this such a crap hand in life.
I had a worrying drive one wet winter’s evening, from Bude up to Bideford, along the awful, winding A39, having received a tearful call from Rosie on the telephone. (They were both estranged from their parents, and had looked upon me as a sort of ‘unofficial’ Dad for a few years by that time.) I turned off the main road to Barnstaple and headed over towards the old rectory.
I drove up the long, meandering, wooded drive. There was a nasty, tough looking bloke, with very little hair, fiddling with an old motor. He was in his early thirties I would guess, and his cold, steely blue eyes were watching my arrival. He was giving me one of those hard ‘stare back at me if you dare’ looks. So I stared right back. Two can play at that game. He didn’t nod, he didn’t smile, he didn’t wave, and I knew immediately, right there and then, with my expert in-built, arsehole spotting antenna, that he was, well….. how can I put this? Well, that he was an arsehole. I was right of course, it rarely fails. I pulled up, locked my car doors, and walked up towards their flat. I could feel Mr Personality’s eyes drilling into the back of my head.
As soon as they opened their door to me, I could tell straightaway that they were having an awful time, and were at their ‘wits end’. Jim was at the end of his tether, and Rosie was doing her best to keep him calm. He was pacing the room and very argumentative, not at all like his usual self. Tensions were high. Rosie explained that they wanted to be out of the flat as soon as possible as they were in some trouble. “What trouble?” I asked. She then told me what had been going on for the last few days. The landlady, (who was about as dodgy as a six pound note), had asked them to leave. She had claimed that they were behind with their rent. It turned out that they weren’t, she had wanted them away for an entirely different reason.
Jim, it had transpired, (only two days earlier), had happened to walk past the downstairs flat when the door was fully opened. He couldn’t help himself and he had quickly glanced into the flat. He had seen the near bald thug, stood within the room, with the landlady stood slightly behind him, and she had been trying, unsuccessfully, to slip out of Jim’s line of sight. They were both surrounded by cannabis plants on every surface. The thug looked up and saw Jim. He wasn’t happy. He glared at Jim, then quickly walked forward towards him and slammed the door closed. As Jim walked away he could hear raised voices talking animatedly. They were clearly worried that their illegal activities had been exposed.
The next day the landlady had come around and given them a hard time about the rent that she said they owed. Jim, under some pressure, had, without thinking it through, in the heat of the moment, said “Oh, so it’s ‘O.K’. for a tenant to grow weed here, but you would have us kicked out for owing you a few quid!” Jim had known as soon as the words had left his mouth that he had made a mistake. (They later heard rumours that the landlady was defrauding the local authorities over council tax, and that she and the little thug had gangland connections around the town and up-country). Don’t ever be taken in by the ‘quaintness’ of small country towns, as in my experience I have found that there are usually at least a few nasty ‘low-lives’ living in those places too!
It had got far worse on the day Rosie rang me. The grass growing tenant from downstairs had paid Jim a visit. He had threatened to kill him if he ‘grassed him up’ to the police. I don’t think he was bright enough to realise quite how funny his choice of words had been. He went on to say that ‘the river was very deep, and they would never find his body if he talked to the cops’. So no wonder then that Jim, and lovely Rosie, were in such a terrible mental state that night I drove up to Bideford.
I had a lovely little modern flat which had just recently become vacant, it was in a pretty location a few hours drive away. I offered it to Rosie and Jim and they happily accepted. I advised them to leave the old rectory as quickly, and as quietly, as possible, and to not tell anybody that they were leaving, or where they were going. I had a few sleepless nights myself until I was able to finally hire a big Transit van and help them move away.
and now…….the very weird paranormal bit……..
‘The Rolling Stone’s Track That Wasn’t!’
On one of their last days in the old rectory, Rosie and Jim had a ghostly, but very positive experience. They were listening to Jim’s retro 90’s C.D. 5 disc changer in the huge room. The C.D. player worked well enough but the radio had ‘died’ many years earlier. They were both getting ready to go out together with some friends. There was only the one disc in the machine. It was ‘Let it Bleed’, a Rolling Stones album. It had just finished, and Jim, (unknown to Rosie), had turned the C.D. player off, by its switch to the ‘Off’ position, as he had walked by it on his way to the dingy bathroom. He was heading there on his own to have a quick wash, leaving Rosie all alone in the big room. Rosie was picking through her clothes, working out what to wear.
When Jim came out from the shower, only a few minutes later, and walked back through the double swing doors, there was a beautiful ballad playing on the C.D. player. (Rosie hadn’t put it on, and she hadn’t known that Jim had turned the C.D. player off. She had quite naturally assumed that the track was on the C.D. that they had already been listening to). Later, both Jim and Rosie would say that the song offered them hope, and told them that everything would work out well for them in the end. They said it was as if the song was purely aimed at them, and them alone. They said it sounded like Mick Jagger singing a Stones acoustic ballad, but one that they had never heard before. (They are both Stones fans and have a fairly good knowledge of their songs, and not just the popular, more commercial songs).
They both felt that they were temporarily in an other-worldly dream-state. They had felt tingles all over as they tearfully hugged and swayed to the gentle, beautiful music. Jim asked Rosie what the C.D. playing was, assuming that she had put on another C.D. while he had been in the shower room. Rosie said “Well, I haven’t changed it, so it must be on the same C.D.” Jim then told her that he had turned the C.D. player off when he had left the room. It then dawned on both Rosie and Jim, at about the same time, that if Jim had turned it off, and, if Rosie hadn’t put on another C.D., then frankly, who had? They had both got ‘the chills’, the hairs on the back of their necks had stood up. They got very emotional and clung to each other. Then the song abruptly ended, and as it did so, the C.D. player made a very loud clunking noise, as if the disc was changing, and then the C.D. player turned itself off.
Immediately after that, there had been a strange whooshing, howling gale sound. They turned around and watched spellbound as all of the curtains, along the 60 foot plus long wall, had blown up, one after the other, in a sort of ‘Mexican Wave’. The five really long windows were all closed, as were the top fanlights, and there were no draughts that could have caused the sudden movements or noises. Tears streamed down their faces. Throughout all of this they had continued to cuddle. Rosie said it was the most amazing ‘rush’ that either of them had ever had, as it was so intense, so beautiful and so spiritually meaningful.
When they had calmed down, they checked that there was only the one C.D. in the player, and there was. They then searched through that Stones C.D. for the beautiful track that had so affected them both, to hear it again, but it just wasn’t on the C.D. They even waited at the end of the last listed track, (‘You can’t always get what you want’), to see if it could have been a ‘hidden track’. It wasn’t. There were no hidden, or bonus tracks on their C.D. Half an hour later a friend had arrived to pick them up to go to Barnstaple. He, seeing their dazed expressions, had said “Hey, what’s up with you guys? It looks like you just saw a ghost!” They told him their story, and he knew by their red eyes, and their low, tearful voices that they were being genuine. Something odd had definitely happened.
Over the next few weeks they listened to that C.D. again, and again, and again, to try and find that one extra special beautiful track again. But they never could. They also went online and went through every Stones track that they could possibly find. I wonder if that Stones track had somehow slipped through from a parallel dimension into our world? A dimension where maybe Mick and ‘Keef’ hadn’t written ‘Fool to Cry’ or ‘Angie’, but maybe they had written an even better song? A dimension where perhaps Mick didn’t have those big lips, but perhaps he does have huge ears?! A dimension where they actually are ‘the Strolling Bones’ and not the Rolling Stones. Now, there’s a thought.
To this day, if I ask Rosie and Jim about that early evening at the old rectory, they still get very emotional, and they will say “I’ve got the chills just thinking about it!” They both feel that it was somebody, or something, some other kindly intelligence that was looking out for them, from some other place, call it ‘Heaven’ if you want, who knows? They felt that whoever, or whatever it was, was just saying “Hey guys, keep your chins up, you will pull through all of these difficult times, and there are better days just around the corner”. Strangely enough they had recently lost a close friend, a much older guy in his sixties, just a few months earlier, and he had been a musician…………….. and, wait for it, a massive Stones fan.
There were better days ahead. They are still living in my lovely cosy little flat, with its gorgeous sea views, in the most beautiful part of this country. They have both got jobs, are slowly building some savings for the future, and they have a healthy, happy life together. When they are not working they like to laze around on the beautiful local beaches, surf, kayak, swim, walk the coast path, or sit amongst the huge granite boulders on local hills having picnics, and checking out the wonderful vistas. They have made lots of new friends too, and their other older friends, from elsewhere in the country, still occasionally visit them too, but only when they are invited. But most of all they still have each other.
There is a small extra add-on to this strange, roller coaster of emotions story. A week or so after their strange encounter, I took them both up to a village near Aldershot, (about 300 miles away from where they now live, to the southern edge of London), to stay with my eldest sister in her lovely home for the weekend.
They were sleeping in the usual guest’s spare bedroom. There are two single beds in the room with a small gap between them. Rosie and Jim were both in the same bed, the one opposite the outside wall. During the night, in the early hours, they had both woken up simultaneously and had seen a darkish, smokey shape, just floating above the other bed. They weren’t at all frightened by it, as they both felt it wasn’t hostile, and that it was just observing.
The next morning they shyly, almost reluctantly, told us their story at breakfast. My sister, a lovely lady who would probably prefer not to think about such things, said “Nobody else has ever said that, and lots of people have slept in that room”. Well, that was very true, I had slept in there many times myself, and I had never had a problem. (As I often tell my sister, it is without any doubt, the finest ‘hotel’ in Aldershot.) But I could tell that Rosie and Jim were wary of something that they had seen, and so I agreed to swap ‘my’ sofa downstairs for their upstairs bedroom the following night.
I woke up in the early hours, and yes, I did see something very odd too. The dark, smokey shape that I saw reminded me of the Kellogg’s chicken head, but upside down, strangely enough. What was it? I have absolutely no idea. I laid there looking around the room trying to convince myself that it was just some sort of shadow, a trick of the light maybe. But I knew that it wasn’t. Like them, I didn’t feel at all threatened by it. In fact it seemed to be filling my head with the feeling that it was ‘friendly’. In fact, it bothered me so little that I actually just got bored looking at it, and had eventually said, “Goodnight whoever you are, I’m going to sleep now”. (I’m not joking). Weird? Yes, very weird. I have been back there many times since and I always sleep in that little room, and ‘it’ has never been there since. Were these two strange events linked? Yes, I believe so, something benevolent was looking after Rosie and Jim, perhaps it was somehow attached to one or other of them, and maybe it was just a little bit curious about me too.
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All written work by Mark Anthony Wyatt, Bude, Cornwall. February, 2016.
Note; Any written work, music, images or videos that Mark Anthony Wyatt has created, remains his personal intellectual property! But any other images, videos, quotes etc., that were NOT created by me remain the intellectual property of those who created them, and NOT me!
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