Spooked

Towards the beginning of the year, Adi and I were house hunting. While it is a most enticing prospect to find a house that you will want to live in and call yours, the search is exhausting. But this post not being about the house hunt, I will take you right away to Lambertville, a small town filled with antique stores by the Delaware river. It was one of those chilly February days when the wind pierced your bones and thoughts. It made you ache for home, to be wrapped up in a cosy throw with a book. But we were out. Following an early morning of property viewings, we took leave of the estate agent and I suggested to Adi that we step into Lambertville for a spot of browsing. We could do with some distraction.

Reaching town we grabbed cups of coffee, and cowering in the face of the cold, scurried into one of our favourite antique places in town. It is a big store with three levels filled with old junk, mostly European antiques sourced by the owner from his travels through Europe. Every time we enter the store, I feel like I am in a curiosity shop. I am filled with wonder at the kind of objects that existed once, and have now in this age been delegated to the status of mere curiosities. We were browsing, me rifling through pages of old books that begged to be taken home, when I overheard a woman comment to her companion as they were on their way out. “Where did the time go? I never realised it was so late,” she said. I smiled. Whoever enters the store falls through a rabbit hole.

Climbing the store’s creaky wooden stairs, we found that the store had curated a small museum-style experience. However, the difference was that one could buy items from the collection. My eyes were immediately drawn to a Victorian hallstand, dark mahogany and heavy of make, as most furniture from the yesteryears are. The hallstand had the patina of age. I spent time examining it, then proceeded to check the paraphernalia around. “Come on over,” I said, whispering and beckoning Adi to join me in checking out a small table that belonged to Arthur Conan Doyle. No ordinary piece this. We beheld a ouija table. Adi took a peek and grew pale. Having been exposed to a barrage of horror films over the years, he has been conditioned to my (bizarre, according to the man) fascination with eerie stories. For the sake of honesty, let’s say almost conditioned.

The table came with a note along (with a price tag of $7,500). It was bound to have a story given that it belonged to Dr. Doyle. He was a founding member of a research society in Hampshire and known for his fascination with spiritualism. Doyle collaborated with a fellow mystic in a research on poltergeists in Devon. When his son died of pneumonia in the mid 1900s, the bereaved author was even keener to believe in another realm of existence. He embarked on a collection of talking boards in an attempt to reconnect with his son. His daughter Jean, a British military officer, sold the talking boards to an English antique dealer, who in turn donated it to the Lambertville store for its museum.

“This is too creepy for words,” said Adi.

“But I am getting the hatstand, just so you know,” I told him seriously. One’s gotta rise to the occasion when one needs to needle the husband. And it almost always elicits a reaction most precious from my beloved.

Around the corner, Gothic memorabilia awaited us. For the most part, it was vampire-themed stuff. A plethora of long wooden trunks, beautifully made and kitted up with hinged lids, which opened to reveal wooden stakes and mallets, pistols and crucifixes, vials of garlic powder. Vampire hunting trunks. I wondered about it. Whoever might invest in them? Maybe ones off their rocker? But the truth is that travellers did purchase these trunks that were made in the 1800s for wealthy people on a voyage to Eastern Europe, specifically Transylvania, enthused by the myth of blood-sucking creatures after Bram Stoker published Dracula. One of the travelling vampire kits from the 1870s that we saw, belonged to the Spanish actor Carlos Villaria who played the role of vampire in Dracula, the 1931 version.

If that was not enough, we found more ouija boards, hand-carved, religious wooden sculptures of angels, stakes, holy water bottles, French vampire-hunting oak cabinets circa 1837, an alcove full of puppets with chains barring the way, even a chair that was used to perform exorcisms in Germany in the 1800s. Now all this was way too much for the husband to handle. At one point, he just gave up. He sat himself on a bench and refused to indulge me by looking at anything else in this small museum of strange objets d’art. For my part though I found it highly engaging, and am thinking I shall convince him to give it another go, another day. Wish me luck!

The Victorian hall stand that Did Not have my husband’s attention.
Vampire hunting cabinets
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ouija table
A French vampire hunting trunk, circa 1880s.
More ouija tables
The vampire hunter’s preferred weaponry
Alcoves stuffed with puppets and dire warnings. Stay away.

Book AVAILABLE

Hello hello hello,

How’s your Friday going?

The geese are outside gaggling and giggling as I write. Ramblers in Cornwall is live and both ebook and paperback versions are now available on Amazon world-wide (yoohoo!). The links are up on my website under the ‘Book’ section in the menu. It should be available on Barnes & Nobles soon and is in the works.

There seems to be a glitch however which I was happily unaware of earlier. It seems Amazon does not publish paperbacks for the Indian market. And that I cannot bear. To my Indian friends and family, I am working on it even as I take a little time off to jot this down here. So I shall not sit and ramble on as I am wont to do every time I pop into the blog. Instead, I shall swan off to do some research and get this gig underway.

If you grab a copy of the book, I shall look forward to reading your reviews on Amazon/Goodreads.

Springy vibes and smiles,

Arundhati

I am back!

With news of my book release. Would you save the date for the upcoming Friday, the 12th of March, dear readers? The book is privately printed and due to be released on the portal that is every man’s friend, Amazon. First up is the e-book version, but I cannot hold back on a paperback, can I? There is hardly any sensory pleasure to be had when you do not have a book to hold, a cute bookmark to mark where you left off the book, or maybe dog ear pages. The paperback should be released shortly after the e-book.

If you had told me as a teenager that I would write a book someday, I would’ve said, you were hopped up on spliffs. The latter ref. connects up with our current living conditions in the apartment building, we moved into last year. The odour of marijuana hangs in thick veils around the corners of the corridors and has even started seeping into our apartment. The entire affair odious. So yes, we live in Weed Central, and nothing can be done about it except for us waiting on our own house that should be ready to move into, in a few months from now.

Are you reassured now that I have not lost my rambling ways during my long absence from the world of blogging?

What a strange time it still is though. My mind seems like it has been stretched beyond its call, to fit in the memories of last year and the beginning of this. It is all too much for the brains to handle. As for all the years preceding the last one, they seem to have faded into a Before Covid compartment.

I want Before Covid life back. More than anything, now that spring is here. Isn’t there a feeling of hope and joy in the air? The birdsong, the sun without its hat, the flawlessly blue skies, the children in the park, the starlings with their iridescent colours that have started arriving in flocks. I want to put on a flowery dress and go dance in a meadow filled with long grass and wildflowers. I have been struggling with fits of low phases — as I imagine have many of you — and bursts of happiness. But then I suppose it is okay to be low, for without it could I appreciate the highs?

In all of this, getting the book ready to be out has probably kept me sane. That and my art. Without the twain, I might as well have pulled all my hair out. Which reminds me, in an aside, about my husband yanking almost all my hair out (but with great love) of late. What happened is this. Adi wanted to oil my hair. He took out a massive Costco jar of coconut oil from the pantry, extracted fistfuls and steeped my hair in it. Then I was rewarded with a solid “massage” that by the end of the session had resulted in clumps of my hair all over the floor, in my hand, and all over Adi’s tee.

It was a revelation. It made me realise two important things in my life. One, that I have much less hair on my head today than I did before. And two, my husband is not going to be allowed anywhere near my hair in the future.

Anyway, before I send you scurrying for cover, for fear of having to read a sinfully long post, I will keep coming back with more. About the book, the entire process of privately printing books, the people one needs to make it happen, and more about my life. In particular, I have to tell you stories of a snowy owl who came visiting us in Bayonne.

Now tell me your news, dear friend. And I shall find my way to your blog to update myself with accounts of your life. I have missed you all way too much. My conversations with you have been the water to my soul.