When our family of four lived in England, we moved into 1/3rd of a Manor House that had been divided into separate living quarters. The house was in a village in the Cotswolds on the edge of Wychwood Forest. It was U-shaped, and our wing had been built in the 18th century. The base of the U was built in the 16th century, and the other arm had been built in the 19th century. We lived on a lane off the main road from Whitney to Charlbury. There were also two small cottages on the lane that were occupied by retired farm laborers from the Estate.
The boys were 12 years old and 6 years old. We joked when we moved that maybe we would share the house with a real ghost.
We settled in nicely – my older son took the school bus to the American Air Force Base because he was in Junior High. My younger son went to the village school. Al and I became regulars, several nights a week at the Plough, one of the two pubs in the village.
Some new people have moved into the big house. They seem to be nice. I wonder if they can see me.
My younger son became good friends with his classmates and began to learn how to play “football” or soccer. He taught himself ball control by kicking the ball against the stone wall that surrounded our garden.
There’s a kid who lives here now, and he’s learning to play football. I remember I used to be pretty good. Of course, the best part was the beer at the end of the games.
As we settled in to village life, I began to hear strange noises in the house – footsteps in the hall, and bumping downstairs. Occasionally, I would catch sight of someone, or something out of the tail of my eye, and the boys started to remark on noises.
“Never mind,” I said, “It’s only the ghost we hoped would live us. Let’s call him Fred.”
I love parties, and these Americans have great ones.
We had a tradition of hosting a Christmas party every year. We invited everyone we knew – from the base, from the village, from the bridge club, etc. They may or may not have had anything in common, but they all enjoyed the free liquor, and the pates and sweets.
I think I’ll go and see all the folks from the village at the Christmas Party.
The first Christmas, there was a knock on the door, and when I went to answer it, there was no one there, but a cold breeze blew past me. One of my guests said, “Who was at the door?”
I replied, “It’s only Fred.”
The room got deathly quiet, and the guest said, “Oh, you know about Fred, do you?”
I said, “Fred is just what we call the noises in the house.”
The guest replied, “Fred Pratley was killed in your lane trying to cross the highway, about 40 years ago.”
I guess since they know about me, they aren’t scared.
* * *
The time came to leave England. We packed up all the household goods and shipped them back to the United States.
The evening the movers left, Al and I walked across the fields to the next village. As we crossed the stile and started down the footpath, I thought I heard someone behind us. Al and I both tuned to look and there was one of the farmers from the village on the hill. He waved at us.
I couldn’t let them leave without saying goodbye…
We waited, but no-one ever joined us. “Must have been Fred,” Al said, and I nodded.