I’ve had many bedrooms in my life. Our mother moved us quite a few times while we lived in America, then we moved to London where I had six different bedrooms, then to West Malling where I met my husband and we shared another four or so before moving to the seaside. I’m not counting all the times I’ve slept in hotels, summer camp, b&b’s, family overnights and hospitals. Below are some of the more interesting things I have seen, or thought about, from one or other of those bedroom windows.
My present bedroom looks out over our back garden to the fronts of the houses behind where there is a road in a dip with houses built on the far side. There is a house there which fascinates me and sets my mind imagining all sorts of stories. It is the right hand side of a semi-detached pair, built in the fifties or sixties, I believe. I know from looking up that type of house on the internet, that it has three bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor and a lounge, kitchen-diner and hallway with stairs downstairs. There are no signs of life from one year’s end to the next. I can see windows belonging to two of the upstairs rooms. Each room has curtains but they never close, nor do they open in any other fashion than they are open in the photo below.
My first thoughts were that the people living there were on holiday when I first noticed the curtains. I made up very short stories about the people who live there (away on a cruise in the Caribbean, flown down to Madeira, on a trek in the Himalayas), then I came to the conclusion that it is a holiday home for Londoners (there are quite a few of those here, though not many that are a ten minute walk from the beach) but, seasons have come and gone and no one has used those two bedrooms. My snoopiness has led to my looking out in the evenings and in the dead of night (insomnia!) to see if there are any lights on. I have walked past and the little front garden doesn’t give a clue as it is is covered with the kind of pebbles people use to make their gardens easy to look after and, though there are one or two plants growing through, I can’t tell if they are deliberate or not.
Recently, I have realised that my mother, who used to live in a smaller but similar house couldn’t manage the stairs during her last two years there so she used only the downstairs. Solved, I thought! But, I still don’t know! I could just go and ask the people in the left-hand side about the house but they would probably think I was some sort of scammer and not just an old lady with an imagination.
Before I slept in that room, I slept in the front bedroom with Julian. The window there looks out onto a very quiet road with relatively few cars going past and not much happening except before and after school when I can see mums (or dads) escorting their young ones to and from the various schools nearby. Across the road is a very nice detached house which is rented out to a young family with a lovely dog called Betty. Before they lived there, there was another family of mum and many growing boys, and before that it was owned and lived in by a single man with a sweet little staffie.
When we moved into our house, the one across the road, which is sideways on to ours because there is a right hand bend in the road just there, had a long garden behind a wall. Then, one day, the man who lived there sold much of his garden to a builder who built a very well-built modern but traditional house and then put it on the market.
The gossip is that the man had bought the house with money he won on the Lottery. Also gossip says that he was a drug dealer and though it is only gossip that would explain the night it was raided by police! The man seemed to come and go; sometimes he would not be seen for several months at a time, then he and his dog would return, sometimes in a different car than the one he had been driving before.
Before we lived at the seaside, we lived above our antique shop/furniture restoration business in West Malling High Street for around seven years (photo above) Our bedroom was at the top of the building and a tiny window with opened outwards. Sometimes it was noisy outside, being the High Street and the hub of night time entertainment in the small town.
One night, or rather early one morning, I was awoken by a strange noise. At first I just lay there thinking about what the noise could have been but then there were even louder noises coming from outside. I got out of bed and went to the window which I opened as far as it would go and stuck my head out. Now – remember I was only just awake – when I looked out I saw an enormous monster attacking a building up the road! I tried to work out what was happening, knowing full well, even in my half-asleep state, that monsters don’t attack buildings. I thought maybe it was an irate husband attacking a love-rival or some such nonsense before it finally dawned on me that it was thieves trying to break into a building.
Our phone was in the living room of the flat so I ran down a flight of stairs and dialled 999. The operator asked me which emergency service I was ringing and I said, “Police, please,” (always polite, me, even at four o’clock in the morning.) The operator dialled the police from her end and we both waited – and waited – and waited. While we waited for what must have been ten full minutes, the operator and I chatted. I told her what was happening, she told me that she couldn’t understand why no one was answering the emergency call. Eventually she dialled another number – and there was no answer from that one, either!
While all this chatting and waiting was going on the noise outside was continuing. I looked out the window several times to see what was happening and then reported back to the operator. Eventually, from the other direction, I saw a police car silently approaching, presumably hoping to catch the thieves unaware. The car stopped almost outside my window and I told the operator that the police had arrived — only then would she allow me to hang up.
I couldn’t see all that happened after the two young police women emerged from their car so I will switch to telling you what I found out afterwards.
The ‘monster’ was a JCB and it was attacking the service till in the wall of our local branch of Nationwide. The crooks operating the JCB had managed to remove the till, money and all, and were in the process of moving it to their Land Rover when the police arrived. In their hurry to escape from the police, the crooks tried to escape in the JCB but it was too wide to go down the little road they attempted so they jumped into their Land Rover, minus the till, and escaped to try another service till another night, somewhere else.
The attack on the building, built in the seventeenth century when no one had envisaged such punishment, meant that the entire building had to be evacuated then shored up and repaired. The Nationwide and the people who lived above had to vacate for some months but, eventually were able to return to a stronger, still seventeenth century, building.
That the police didn’t answer the 999 call has never been explained, though questions were asked. We did find out that the two young policewomen were notified by the fire service which had, presumably, been alerted by another phone operator or perhaps by a family friend who lived in the High Street and knew a direct number to the nearby fire station.
Only a few months later I was again woken by noises. This time it was a young man who had taken it into his head that one of our favourite restaurants, several doors away from the Nationwide, was an enemy and needed to be ‘broken’. Now, this restaurant had just been renovated with new, small-paned windows. The woodwork surrounding each pane had been beautifully painted. The young man found a scaffolding pole and proceeded to smash each toughened glass pane until it broke, breaking, in the process, most of the newly painted wood-work. Luckily, before he decided to attack any other building, the police came and took the young man away.
My bedroom window in Chiswick looked out over Chiswick High Road which was, and is, a very busy thoroughfare. We lived there in the sixties and nothing comes to mind that would interest the reader, except, maybe, that Jo Grimmond (leader of the Liberal party at that time) used to get on a bus at the bus stop across the road.
My bedroom in Queensway looked out onto windows of the ‘inner’ flats in the court. The only window of any interest might be that of ‘Old Naked’! Judy, the naughty devil, who was about fourteen, looked out one evening to see the young man in a flat across the way, lying on his bed with the curtains open and the lights full on, pleasuring himself! I couldn’t bring myself to look but Judy looked out most evenings to see if he was ‘putting on a show’ and if he was, she would call out, “Old Naked’s at it again!”