ONE NIGHT last week I sat up in my hotel bed and and saw that what had awakened me was the creaky bedroom door being opened to admit some crazy woman dressed in a green ballgown who kept banging into things and swearing not quite under her breath as she did so. She said she had been on her way to the Hunt Ball at Denholm Hall when she realised she had forgotten her spectacles, couldn’t see a thing without them, had turned back to get them, was sure she had left them on the table beside the bed, had run into a group of enemy troops, been taken prisoner and executed as a spy, but because of the missing spectacles she was doomed to roam the earth looking for them and only when she had found them would she be released and had I seen them anywhere?
I asked her how she had been executed. She said she had been shot at dawn against the wall of the church, blindfolded (which was sort of ironic) and that it had been extremely painful and she didn’t want to talk about it.
I asked her what it was like being dead and she said there wasn’t much to it, you got used to it after a while and was I sure I hadn’t seen her spectacles anywhere? All this while she was lifting things up and putting them down again, looking under chairs and tables and beds, even lifting up my book from the bedside table and giving it a good shake, losing my bookmark in the process.
I was feeling sleepy and disappointed in her impatient replies to my genuine questions, so I turned over and in spite of her thumps and effing and blinding, quickly fell asleep again.
I woke up just as the sun was rising and was relieved to see that there were no overturned chairs or broken vases left to mark the stumbling passage of my myopic night visitor. At least she had had the decency to tidy up before she left for wherever these nocturnal peripatetics go to during the day.
But my very expensive spectacles which I distinctly remember leaving on the bedside table were gone.
I looked for them everywhere without success, on the duvet, under the pillow, getting on my hands and knees to look on the carpet but beginning to come to a very unwelcome conclusion. Yes, my night visitor (I tend to blame other people when things go wrong) !
However once again I searched the duvet, the pillows, on and under the chairs, the bedside table, then peering one last time under the bed, out they popped from the breast pocket of my pyjama jacket where I now remembered I had put them for safe keeping before going to sleep. But my bookmark was between page 41 and 42 whereas I had read up to page 147 before carefully marking the place and switching off the bedside lamp.
When I went downstairs, I mentioned the woman to the receptionist who said yes there was a Denholm Hall which I must have passed on my way to the hotel but otherwise I don’t think he believed my story one little bit so I wrote a full account of my nocturnal encounter in the guest book and on flicking back to see if previous occupants of my room had experienced anything similar was relieved to read that on the night of June the 24th, a Mary Martin had been awakened by a group of soldiers looking for a woman who they claimed was a spy in the pay of the French. No mention was made of the green ballgown or the spectacles however.