The Bowral Cottage
The Bowral Cottage
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
The old stone cottage was a testament to the stonemason’s craft; each stone lay perfectly, but weathered and grey with age. It was a two-story building with ornate gables and a high-pitched slate roof, each side displaying two dormer windows with flowerless boxes beneath. The slate was covered in lichen, its radiating round patterns adding to the homely feel of this simple cottage. Ivy grew over many of the stones, its searching tendrils running along the pointing lines and seemingly anchoring the home to the earth on which it stood.
It was midwinter and the icy cold breeze went straight through our clothing. We collected our bags and belongings and rushed inside. Beyond there was a small vestibule brimming with coat racks and a collection of hats, and then into a classic kitchen. It was steeped in country tradition with pots, pans and utensils hanging over the wood fired stove and bunches of lavender and dried herbs strung up over the single French window.
The floors were stone smoothed from years of fervent labour and the table, chairs and hutch all Baltic pine, scared with memories and its usefulness in life. A low tiffany style lampshade hung low over the kitchen table creating a soft ambient light.
Each room had a fireplace of blackened iron surrounded by dark stained cedar. Downstairs there were two other rooms: a lounge area with several reading chairs and a lounge plump with padding and an old Persian rug underfoot. The other room was a small dining room with a simple seven piece suit in colonial style.
We dragged our bags up a narrow stairway and alighted on a landing that opened to two bedrooms and a bathroom. The master bedroom contained a Victorian brass bed, a wardrobe and dresser all of cedar. The duvet was so plump with down is seemed to sit halfway to the ceiling and the cover looked hand-stitched.
The dormer window looked out over vast rolling hills and was edged by ethereal white curtains. The second bedroom for the kids had two double metal bunks and an old dresser, also with a window. The bathroom was tiled black-and-white, tiles up to the ceiling, with original fittings, an old iron tub and a simple shower curtain.
All the floors we Baltic pine with that pinkish yellowing that is so attractive in old homes. Years of wear and bumps just gave it even more appeal.
After packing away our clothes, the kids went exploring outside while my wife and I went to pack away our foodstuffs in the kitchen. The house was absolutely freezing and entering the kitchen even colder.
“It’s as cold as a grave in here,” she said, matter of fact.
I thought it was a strange thing to say but answered. “We just need to fire up the wood stove. It’ll be warm soon enough,” I replied.
I had just finished putting away the biscuits when I saw someone out of the corner of my eye pass behind me, and turned to realise that no-one was there. An internal chill swept over me and I went into the lounge to light a fire, trying to ignore the fact.
My wife was sitting on a lounge chair. “Don’t you think it’s creepy in there?” she asked, quite serious.
“I guess. It’ll feel better with some warmth.”
The fire helped a little but it was so cold I almost burnt myself trying to feel its ineffectual warmth.
A few hours later I had cooked a stew and was standing by the stove sipping a glass of red. My wife was skimming an old cookbook she’d found on the kitchen table. I turned to stir the stew but the stirring spoon was gone. I had put it next to the stove on a small plate.
“Have you seen the stirring spoon?” I asked, confused.
‘Next to the stove,” she replied without looking up.
“But it’s gone.”
I noticed a small squeaking sound and we both looked toward the door. There, swinging gently on one of the free coat racks was the spoon hooked over it, as if someone had just thrown it there. There was a short period of confusion and then denial.
Not a word was spoken about it afterwards and after some fire time we got into bed, with flannelette pyjamas, double socks and the kids even wore their gloves. Under a mound of down we snuggled up for warmth, the soft luminescent bluish glow of moonlight imbuing the room.
The next day we went into town to shop and explore the quaint little rows of shops filled with memorabilia and county charm. We drove around all day and arrived just as the sun was setting. It was nearly freezing but thankfully the pipes were still working and hot water was plentiful. I was cooking a curry in the kitchen and hovering over the stove, trying to soak up the warmth when I was startled by a stiff breeze. It parted the back of my hair and I turned to go and shut whatever was open, but found both door and window locked tight. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach.
From then on we decided to eat out as much as possible. The kids would not come in to the kitchen, rather stand at the doorway and ask whatever. When we’d leave the house everyone rushed through the kitchen to get out. It was weird, but what else could we do.
If we weren’t out driving, the kids played with the Shetland ponies in the adjoining paddocks and we stayed reading in the lounge room in front of the fire. On the last day of our stay the kids were packed and ready downstairs before breakfast. We cleaned and tidied up and packed up the car.
I was standing in the kitchen writing a note to the owners of the property, when I felt another whoosh of icy cold air behind me. This time it reverberated throughout my body, my nerves on edge. There was something there and it was obvious our presence wasn’t appreciated. Then a sound started to buzz in my ear and as it got louder I felt my heart pounding faster and faster. I rushed for the door and as I went through it a wall of voices, growling with discontent followed me. “Get out!” it said, the door slamming shut after me.
I quickly locked it and jumped in the car. I didn’t even lock the front gate; we were out of there.