As children my best friend and I lived in each others homes. Her Mum quickly became friends with my Mum and our families were very close from 1987 until 1999 when her family moved. In adulthood my friend and I grew apart. We'd become very different people. We never fell out, we simply drifted apart.
Today I view our friendship as one of the most important ones in my life, as it re-enforced how I already viewed the paranormal world. In essence I believe her family's influence prolonged my paranormal 'early sensitivity phase' well into life as an adult.
Get a load of this house: Their home was situated in forest terrain of an outer city suburb. It was a built up area, suburban but deep in the heart of nature. Their house was built sometime in the late 1970's or early 80's. It was a new home at the time. But you would NEVER know. This family were crazy about everything old fashioned, much like I am today.
My friend's Granddad, a carpenter by trade, and the rest of her family built this house themselves. It was gnarly; single story, cottage style, stained weather board the colour of deep chestnut, which was elevated from the front and looked double story from the street. That's if you could see it from the street. Which you couldn't, unless you squinted through the canopy of her Mother's dedication to gardening.
The evergreen on their front lawn must have been there when they built. This fella was a million feet tall to me. He shouldered the entire house and created a micro-climate perfect for getting bogged in their muddy driveway. Their front lawn was mostly moss, it was divine.
The back garden consisted of many, many tall trees just like him. In the long multi-leveled tiered garden was an orchid which her Mother planted, a vegetable patch, humongous glass house her Granddad built, a herb garden, huge higgledy piggledy BBQ made from bricks and bits and bobs. All covered in the canopy of those silent giants.
Inside, the house was like those you visit on historical tours. Including their furniture. This was no modern day nod to the past re-imagining. Not in the slightest. It was an unofficial replica of something 100 years plus in the opposite direction of time. This was not your average modern home. It wasn't built by your average builders. It was crafted by a family who embraced folklore.
Her Mother, an artist, filled their home with paintings and sculptures of fairies and goblins. My Mother, a lover and collector of folklore entities since childhood, did exactly the same in our home. My friend and I felt like sisters because our Mothers were so similar. It was her maternal Granddad who helped to build this home, this man was equally enchanted with folklore. Both my friend and I had strong familial ties to England, her on her Mother's side, and me on my Father's.
This magical day takes place sometime in the late 1980's or early 1990's. We were the same age, around 7 or 8 at the time.
At my friend's place, out in her back garden one afternoon. Business as usual. Playing make believe, as always, laughing our faces off at anything and everything. We were always finding something to laugh at, and I mean belly ache, lose your breath, pull a muscle, stream of tears laughter! Today was no exception.
We were mucking around in the orchid. I don't remember how or why but we were both looking in the same direction at the same time. Nothing drew our attention I don't think, at least not consciously. Nothing seemed unique. We were talking, though I don't recall the topic. Then, about 5 or so meters away from us, a small man runs into the herb garden! Quick as you like! My friend and I look at each other, then she says in a slow silly nasal voice, "Gnooooooommmme." We wet ourselves laughing.
For us, who were somewhat normalised to this, thanks to our Mothers and Jim Henson, this was like finding a stray kitten. We approached the herb garden without a second thought. Rummaging through the thick dense herbs he ran into, we simply could not locate him. All the while distracted by how funny saying "Gnooooommme" was. We giggling gerties continued to rummage while saying "Gnooome", it got funnier and funnier. Our jokes soon turned obscene and we mocked about kicking him over the fence. Well, this was just too funny. Our laughter prevented us from further inspection.
Today instinct tells me we both knew he was unfindable.
My memory of this man is very vague and our glimpse very brief. He looked like a miniature old man, roughly 2ft tall. I don't recall his clothes too well, they were muted in colour. He had rough weathered skin. I remember the last of his boot as he disappeared within the thick yarrow.
Later that evening we were laying on the lounge floor talking and playing Sega. My friend yelled out to her Mum, who was in the kitchen, "Hey Mum, Tweed wanted to kick one of your Gnomes over the fence!"
We both laughed. Her Mum didn't catch the full sentence and probably thought she was yelling about the highly religious neighbours who were none too pleased with the parties thrown at this house. My friend yelled out again, "Hey Mum! We saw one of your bloody Gnomes!"
Her Mum came in and we told her what happened. When we told her he ran into the herb garden her reaction was one of realisation. She looked up and appeared to ponder something. Then said something like "Wait 'til Granddad hears."
By now we were 11. Her parents had purchased an enormous block of land out in the country. A few acres of bushland. It was here they were eventually moving. Once again building their own home. They did this over 8 years while continuing to live in their original home back in the suburbs. A resourceful family, very self reliant, needing not much more than what nature provided to be content.
During the holidays I stayed at their land for a week. It took hours to drive there. On the way we stopped in on my friend's maternal Grandparents. I knew them well from over the years but had never been to their home before. It was filled with family made folklore art of all mediums. While there the adults talked about the spirits in the garden. When we were kids this was normal. Now, as an adult, I long for the commonplace of this topic in my early years.
We arrived at the land, up a long driveway to an established camp site. A large dining area around a central camp fire with a huge cauldron-style stew pot under a wide tin roof. They had a few generators for power and an overhead fluro light. This was makeshift accommodation but it was far from camping. We slept in caravans which circled the dining area like walls trapping in heat under the tin on those cold country nights.
In the daylight we roamed around playing make believe, laughing it up as always. There were about ten people coming and going throughout the week, all family and friends I was familiar with. We weren't allowed on the house site while the adults were working there because it was dangerous. The house site was about a ten minute walk from camp.
There was another area we were warned not to venture into. This was a forest thicket off the driveway near the entrance to the property. Her Granddad mentioned it was home to a name of an entity I've long since forgotten. My friend said it was strange going down there. Being the fearless youngsters we were, especially as a duo, eventually curiosity got the better of us.
On our last day we decided to explore the forbidden thicket. We approached discussing what we would do once we were in it. The thicket had an abrupt entrance. It was unlike the rest of the forest. We were met with old logs covered in moss and lichen, the soil felt loose. But most striking was how dark it was.
We peered in over a moss laden log into a large dark clearing a couple of feet lower to our ground level. It reminded me of a stage. A cool air emitted from within brushing our faces like the breath of consciousness. All was still and silent. We wanted to climb in, we had every intention of climbing in. But we could not. We could feel eyes on us, eyes that didn't want us there.
I attempted to climb in and as I did was pricked by a nettle. All week I had avoided nettles while everyone exclaimed how painful they were. I didn't notice that nettle beside me and until then had no idea a plant could sting like an insect. Well that was enough to brandish all enchantment. We took it as a sign and headed back to camp.
That night we lay awake in the caravan while the adults partied long into the night. Every other night we would sing along to Zeppelin and The Stones and laugh at the adults' most inventive use of swear words. But on this night we were sucked back into that brief mysterious moment before the nettle's rude interception. What was that place? How did it get like that? Why was it so quiet? Where were the wildlife? Who was there, watching us?
"Short sighted business men, nothing lasts for long" - Joni Mitchell.
The years rolled by and before we knew it they had moved. My friend visited one afternoon with photos of the new place. It was another unofficial historical replica cottage in every way possible. Equally as impressive as their home I'd half grown up in.
I'd become good friends with my friend's cousin over the years. The cousin had taken up temporary residency in the old home in the suburbs. Finally the dreaded day came when the home was sold and none of us would step foot inside again. This home had become like a friend to so many who knew it. Its future absence in our lives hit a lot of us hard. A few of us from the suburbs held a small farewell party for ye home o' ole. The house seemed to mourn with us as we sat around the table exchanging the ghost and faerie encounters had in this place.
While all were outside firing up the BBQ one last time I had a quiet moment inside. Bidding farewell to each room individually. Running my fingertips along its walls as I slowly walked, savouring every moment. All that artwork painted onto walls and up door frames, every nook and cranny, every window view so familiar. How could this be the last time? I still can't answer that.
In reminiscing about those years, I looked up the old place on Google Earth. It pains me greatly to tell you ye home o' ole no longer stands. Where once was magic now a popular modern contemporary design. The silent giants slain, the moss now paving, the land completely levelled. The only garden tiers left are the ones in my eyes.
Some call redevelopment culture 'progress', I call it greed.
Pastorius fills the room with his lilting harmonics, magnetising my conscious from past to present as I reminisce in my hybrid American circumstance. Knowing there's a place out there, somewhere, where the faerie folk flock. Today I'm surrounded by old world settings and home made folklore art, the garden a natural rustic ode to the faeries. Some things never change.
Thanks for reading.