Is this the house where you were born? Yes. Without the plaques of course.
Was it the happy house? Yes. Crowded and happy. Not all of the time, of course. No, not all of the time. But most of the time. Some of the time at any rate. There were ten of us. I was the only boy. So naturally we quarrelled occasionally. Quite a lot of the time in fact. They ganged up on me, nine of them and only one of me. I think a lot of my problems in later life stemmed from this. Marjory, my eldest sister, could actually be a bit of a bully. Yes. A bit of a Maggie Thatcher at times. But then she had a lot to contend with I suppose. As did Maggie Thatcher of course.
What sort of things did she have to contend with?
Your sister. What did your sister have to contend with?
Oh Marjory. Well, she was sometimes left in charge. In fact after mother left Marjory more or less had to take her place and I think that made her irritable, easily upset.
If it’s not too delicate a question, why did your mother….leave?
I see. And then your father took you all up North. To Shetland.
To this house.
And were you happy there?
It was haunted. We all saw the ghost of the lady who had owned the house just before the outbreak of the First World War. But such a nice ghost. Always knocked before entering a room even though she could just walk through the door. Usually did in fact. Knock, that is. You would look up and call, ‘Come in!’ and she would appear on your side of the door. Strange but you got used to it. Never spoke. Smiled a lot though. A happy ghost. Quite pleased I think to have so many people to haunt. She and Marjory used to go for long slow walks round the garden and I could hear Marjory talking away thirteen to the dozen even though she got nothing in return.And of course it formed the basis for my first novel, ‘Knock Knock’.
And this is your present house?
Yes. For the last 20 years. Ever since I got married in fact. We love it. Well I love it. Dawn finds it a bit isolated – she’s a townie really, misses Tesco and Harvey Nichols I think. But it’s just right for me – no ghosts or sisters to distract me, sort of Yeats’ Innisfree country. And of course it was here that I wrote ”The Sisterhood’ and ‘The Happy House’.
Thank you, Eric. I look forward to reading ‘Writers’ Houses’. When is it out?
April the seventh. Thank you, Elizabeth.