Rest in peace
Grandad’s photo clattered off the back of the Strictly
Come Dancing. The frame glanced off their boxer,
Alfonso, who woke up with a loud woof and
lumbered towards the kitchen in search of biscuits.
‘How on earth did that happen?’ said David.
‘Shh,’ snapped Julie, who was lying sprawled across the sofa in her onesie. ‘The scores are in.’
David got up from his armchair and picked the photograph up from the rug. ‘Lucky the glass didn’t break. Really odd. It’s never done that before.’
‘It’ll be a vibration from the lorries outside. Move out the way; it's Anton Du Beke.’
‘Anton Du Lally, more like.’
The Viennese waltz was drowned out by a crash in the upstairs bathroom. This time, even Julie looked up.
‘That can’t be a lorry’ said David pulling on his slippers.’ I’ll go and have a look.’
He returned a few minutes later. ‘Well, there's a funny thing. The shaving set your Grandad bought me for my fiftieth was lying on the floor, and the taps were running full pelt. I wonder if he’s trying to make contact?’
‘Don’t be daft. Why would he wait for two years before deciding to haunt us? You’re making too much of it.’
The lights flickered above them, followed by a loud click as the TV switched itself off.
‘You see,’ said David. ‘I knew that old bugger wouldn’t leave us in peace.’ The lights went out completely, plunging them in darkness and Alfonso ran back from the kitchen and stood in the doorway whimpering mournfully.
‘Grandad?’ said Julie. ‘If it is you, please turn on the lights. You know I never liked the dark.’
As if answering her plea, the lights returned to their former brightness. The TV switched on again, but this time the channel had changed to an episode of Dad’s Army. ‘We’re doomed,’ said Private Frazer.
‘That was Grandad’s favourite programme,’ whispered Julie.
‘Well, that proves it, doesn't it? Your Grandad’s come back. But what on earth for?’
‘I haven’t a clue, but I hope this doesn’t go on all night.’
The noises gradually died down, but in the morning, Julie woke up and heard a torrent of water gushing from the taps. ‘Not again,’ she sighed. She went into the bathroom and turned them off.
‘David did you leave these taps on?’
‘I’ve not been out of bed yet.’ David called from the bedroom. ‘Turn ‘em off will you. Those taps sound like they are running for their lives.’ He chuckled and was about to return his dreams of Tess Daly when Julie screamed ‘Quick come and look at this!’
David leapt out of bed and ran to the bathroom. His reflection in the mirror was obscured by two words written on the mirror in shaving foam.
Julie stood shaking like a pair of maracas. ‘The mirror was clean when I came in. What do you think it means?’
David grabbed a wad of loo roll and started wiping the foam off. ‘It’s obvious, isn't it? He wants us to come and see him by the little pond. In Fornham, where we sprinkled his ashes.’
Two loud knocks echoed through the walls as if Grandad agreed.
‘Ok, Ok,’ said Julie, ‘I can’t put up with all this nonsense. We’d better go and see him before he causes any more trouble.’
David nodded. ‘You’re lucky I’ve got the day off. Although I can’t say I planned to spend it searching for Grandad, or at least what’s left of him.’
‘You never did like my family,’ said Julie. ‘Let’s go before he floods the whole house.’
They drove the short journey to Fornham St Michael, where Grandad enjoyed his courting days wooing a multitude of sweethearts with poetry and kisses. Julie had sprinkled Grandad’s ashes across the surface of the pond, remembering how he always insisted on dipping his toes in freezing water. No wonder he'd always got chilblains.
‘This roundabout’s new’, said David, giving way to an empty road. ‘What’s that sign say? Three hundred luxury homes and exclusive retail outlets?’
‘Oh no,’ said Julie. ‘I hope this isn’t what I think it is.’
Unfortunately, it was. Julie and David got out of the car and recoiled in horror at the building site in front of them. An army of builders swarmed about the site pouring concrete and dodging under rows of scaffolding. A young man in a shiny suit and an orange hard hat jogged over to them, waving his iPad. ‘Excuse me; you’re not allowed beyond this point. The site won’t be ready for months yet.’
Julie pointed to a row of bulldozers. ‘Excuse me, but my Grandad’s buried here, or rather, we sprinkled his ashes by the pond. It looks like it’s disappeared.’
‘Sorry Madam, but that’s where we’re putting the Tesco Local. We had to fill that pond in I’m afraid. At least we didn’t find any newts.' The man grinned, and Julie stifled an urge to knock off his hat.
‘My Grandad hated Tesco’s,’ she said. ‘He’d only do his shopping at Waitrose.’
‘I’m sorry Madam, but you need to leave now - health and safety and all that. We’ll have the retirement homes available for viewing as soon as we can. Oh, and I’m sorry for your loss.’
‘Grandad died two years ago,’ said David, ‘but now the beggar seems to…’
‘Come on, David,’ interrupted Julie. ‘We best be off.’ She pushed David back towards the car. ‘We don’t want that man thinking we’re crazy.’
‘Maybe we are mad,’ said David. ‘But no wonder your Grandad’s angry, with that lot trampling all over him. I hope he understands there’s nothing we can do.’
Grandad didn’t understand. On the car journey home, he conducted a symphony of tappings and rappings. Julie was particularly annoyed by the windscreen wipers, which sprang into life in five-minute bursts, (although David kept pretending, he knocked the switch by mistake.)
The couple arrived home to find every light in the house switched on, and every cupboard in the kitchen wide open. Poor Alfonso sat squashed under the kitchen table, too scared to even think about scavenging.
‘Tell us what to do, Grandad. It isn’t our fault,’ said Julie, as the cut flowers in her vase wilted in front of her. ‘How can we make it right?’
They heard a series of thumps repeating in quick succession from the spare room above them. They ran upstairs and found the wardrobe door swinging open. They watched in amazement as the door slammed shut, then opened again.
‘Of course!’ cried David. ‘The urn! I’d forgotten about the urn.’
‘What do you mean? Grandad’s urn? I was wondering where that had got to. I thought we must have left it by the pond.’
‘No, we bought the urn home with us. Kath phoned to say her waters had broken and you rushed off to the hospital. That’s why you don’t remember it.’
‘So, you stuffed him in the wardrobe? That’s hardly a fitting resting place for a man who won medals for his country. How disrespectful.’
‘It was only his urn. But you never know, there might be a bit left.’
‘Of Grandad? Oh, David.’
‘It's worth a shot, isn't it? We could rebury the urn someplace else and hope he's satisfied with that.’
David rummaged around in the back of the wardrobe and extricated the urn. Julie opened the lid and gave it a little shake. ‘Yes, it sounds like there’s a bit of grit left in the bottom, but I’m not sure there’ll be enough.’
‘It’ll have to work. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days hearing him blunder about. Why don’t we try that picnic place you took us last year?’
‘That might work. Grandad used to drive us there in his camper van. We’d light a big fire and cook sausages. I lost count of the times the wardens told us off.’
‘That sounds perfect for your Grandad, and it's not as far as Fornham. We can be there and back before dark.’
Picking up a shovel from the garden, they put it with the urn in the boot of the car and drove to the picnic area. It was mercifully empty. They found a secluded spot under a tree for the burial, and when Julie had finished smoothing over the earth, she said a little prayer. ‘Goodbye, Grandad, I love you.’
The house was silent when they got home. No photos somersaulted from the walls, and Alfonso returned to his cherished spot in front of the fireplace. Life carried on as before - until the morning David opened his paper and read a terrifying headline.
‘Julie, will you look at this,’ he called out. ‘Hell, this is the worst news ever.’
Julie came down the stairs, rubbing her wet hair with a towel. ‘What’s going on?’
‘Look at this! ‘Third Runway given the green light’. And guess where they are going to put it – slap bang in the middle of the place where we buried that urn.’
‘You’ve got to be kidding me’, said Julie reaching for the paper. ‘Whatever will Grandad think about this?’
The ceiling light above them exploded, raining glass down upon them like sparks from a firework. ‘I think we know exactly what Grandad is thinking,’ said David.