A true story …
I know the following happened – because it happened to me.
OK, as I said in an earlier entry (It Was Dark And Stormy) – I’m not wholly sure what I think about ghosts. The rational part of me wants to assume that they are the perfectly normal response of humans when trying to explain something they otherwise don’t understand. Up there with thunder being the sound of God putting out his dustbins or there being huge sea monsters in the oceans just over the horizon.
But then my own experience comes along and disrupts my sensible self. To explain:
The other day I was walking along Hemdean Road and noticed Victoria Rd. It’s the dead-end just by the side of Caversham Primary School. I know it from my youth, but prior to a visit during the recent ‘lockdown years’ (when we weren’t supposed to travel far), I’d not been there for yonks. And walking by it again reminded me of an incident way back when.
In summary, I was living on Rotherfield Way. A good friend was living on Hemdean Road. I would sometimes take my sister’s dog with me when I visited in the evenings. The dog in question was a classic ‘Dulux’ Old English Sheepdog. Now he – normally – was a wonderfully good natured old boy but as we walked by the end of Victoria Rd he would simple freeze. Solid. As in, he really, really, really wanted to go back the way he’d come. I’d have to drag him – no mean feat with a dog that size – until we’d gone beyond the turning.
The question, obviously, is what was making a dog behave this way. The answer I concluded at the time was Caversham Cemetery. Or, rather, whatever ghostly things lurk in there among the grave stones.
Because yes, Caversham Cemetery is on Victoria Road. Most people think of the local cemetery as being the one at the end of All Hallows Road, off the Henley Road. But that is the unimaginatively named Henley Road Cemetery (and Reading Crematorium).
And ghosts seemed – and, I guess, still seem – a reasonable conclusion. The only other things down that road are a couple of houses and the school – none of which are likely to spook an otherwise very placid dog.
This wasn’t a one-off thing. It’s a fair old time ago, but I’d place a small wager that it happened at least twice. And I’m sure in my recollection that, after wrestling with a spooked dog a couple of times, I took to walking back and forth to my friend’s house by going over Balmore Park and using the steps up/down to Hemdean Road that are a short way along from Victoria Rd.
Visiting the cemetery now, on a spring day, I didn’t find anything creepy there. I did find a rich crop of bluebells, including some of the rarer (and threatened) native English variety. And there’s a lot of what I’d call benign neglect. That’s all fair enough. I think it’s been a long time since there were new burials there and only a couple of graves look recently visited.
Of course, it’s good that nature can benefit from being left in peace. But that does leave one question open: are ghosts natural, and hence benefactors too?
PS. As a rational footnote to the above, a friend just told me about a dog that would not go down a particular path. It eventually transpired that there was an electrical cable beneath the path that had been damaged – the ground was, as it were, ‘live’. The dog was aware of it before any humans were. But don’t ever let the truth ruin a good story. And besides, there may not have been any stray electricity in Victoria Rd.