Ghosts and builders

Little me in Room 17

Little me in Room 17 - about 1986

Monday February 20

I’m in Room 17 again. A builder let me in. He told me to be aware of tools on the stairs and loose wires in the corridor. They are afraid of getting sued I guess. He left the door wide open as he left but I wanted to be locked in. So when he’d walked all the way back down the corridor, I closed the door quietly, sat down on my old bed and cried.

I woke up this morning to the deafening sound of a drill. I had a terrible headache and I felt low. I wanted to get out of here. It wasn’t what I thought. I wanted to feel nostalgia not annoyance. And I didn’t want to destroy my memories.

The woman who runs the place is nice but seems a bit suspicious. I would be too. With me walking around taking photos as they are working hard to refurbish the place. I emailed the next bed and breakfast, where I’m moving to on Wednesday, and asked if I could get in today. I considered just leaving here without saying anything. I don’t like conflict. I will complain but only if it’s comfortable. Otherwise I will take the hit cash-wise and just moan about it after. They emailed straight back and said I could move there today. But, as I started to pack, something held me back. Room 17. Before I accepted the offer to move, I went and asked the owner here if I could go and sit in my old room for a while. Just an hour or so. She sent the builder to let me in and four hours later, I am still here.

Jane on bed Room 17

Big me in Room 17 (now Room 16)

I came up here in old leggings and no make-up. I wanted to feel bare I think. Closer to me as a kid. Before I became hung-up on being fat and spotty and unlike the other kids who were happy to run around in swimsuits. I wore baggy t-shirts and tried to pretend it was my style. Really I just hated my body. Like a lot of teenagers do.

It’s weird in here, room 17, because even though the furniture has changed, it is still placed in exactly the same way. So the wardrobe where Nana and I used to hang all our smart clothes for dinner is still there by the window. And the little bedside table, where I’d arrange my dolls and Nana would set up her travel alarm clock, is still there, between the beds (where else would you put a bedside table, I hear you say). The bathroom is so strange. Exactly the same layout, although perhaps the suite has changed. I’m pretty sure it was pink, back in the day.

Nana's bed

Nana's bed in Room 17

And the ceiling is the same. That weird paint effect. Swirly. And there’s a crack. Above my bed. That was always there. I think the carpet’s the same too. If it is, we kneeled beside each other on this very carpet, Nana and I, to make fancy dress costumes. I got down on the carpet earlier and put my face to the floor. I realise this sounds like odd behaviour. I don’t mind.

The view from room 17

The view then

Nana used to wake me every morning by opening the curtains and making a cup of tea with powdered milk. I remembered that when I put the kettle on this morning. The loud whooshing noise of the boiling water cut through the room and I was back there, aged 10, stirring. Opening my eyes to see Nana in her dressing gown, standing at the window, hands on her hips or rubbing her back, looking out to sea, her small silhouette cast against the August sun streaming in through the window.

The view now

The view now

I wonder what she was thinking as she stared out at the boats. Perhaps she was imagining the day ahead, wondering whether she had any change in her purse for a paper, deciding what she might have for breakfast. Or maybe she was thinking about her husband who never really had a holiday with her and their children. Perhaps she was wondering what it would be like to share Room 17 with him. They went to Skegness, before my auntie was born. I know that. Maybe she was remembering that. If she was, she never said.

From my bed by the wall, I am looking past Nana’s silhouette to the calm sea. A boat is going by as I write this. I wonder if it can see me, here in Room 17. Up against the wall. Wondering what it’s all about.

One thing’s for sure. I’m staying here. At least until Wednesday.

Find out more about my Making Tracks project – Finding Nana.