Monthly musings of the naughtily nice kind

It’s October. Hallowe’en. I have told you about the time I had a haunted cottage, haven’t I? Yes, I thought so. The ghost was called Doris and she once threw a briefcase across the room. I didn’t see it myself – the cottage was rented at the time – but the tenants reported it, and they were Australians. Australians! Could you possibly have a more sceptical nation?

But I’m not going to write about ghosts this time. I’m going to write about the fact that penny-farthings have come back into fashion.

Doris only haunted middle-aged women, by the way. Men and young people were spared her impertinent advances. She once tried to get into bed with me. I screamed slightly – I would have screamed more impressively if I’d been Italian – and ran out of the house. Weeks later I happened to bump into the woman who had lived in the cottage previously. ‘Did anything strange ever happen to you there?’ I asked.

‘Well, I did once feel as if somebody was trying to get into bed with me,’ she replied.

Anyway, the penny-farthings… oh by the way, Doris was actually seen, by Denise Coffey, the late lamented actor and singer, who was recording a radio programme at the cottage.

‘There’s a woman here who doesn’t understand what’s going on,’ she remarked casually. Of course, I assumed she was referring to me, as I never understand what’s going on. But Denise explained that the woman she’d seen didn’t understand what was going on in her house.

The renaissance of the penny-farthing… Oh, but later Denise revealed in an offhand way that she often saw ‘people in spirit’. For example, she’d been visiting a historic house once and saw a woman and child sitting in the hall, in Victorian clothes.

‘Isn’t that a good idea?’ she remarked to her companion, ‘having that woman and child dressed up as Victorians, sitting there.’

Where???’ exclaimed her friend. ‘I can’t see anybody!’ I hope chills are creeping up your spine. Although, of course, I wouldn’t want that to happen for a medical reason.

There’s a man in Whittlesey who dresses like a Victorian. He’s a proper living man, not a ghost, and rides his penny-farthing about everywhere – even to the supermarket, which he attends wearing a bowler hat in the daytime and a top hat in the evening. If ever there was a man in training to be a ghost, it’s Steven Payne.

Denise’s best story, incidentally, was about the time she was staying in a hotel and went back to her room after lunch. She opened the door and saw a woman sitting by the window. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry!’ said Denise, retreating hastily, assuming she’d gone into the wrong room by mistake. But it wasn’t a mistake. It was her room. And as she watched, the woman kind of floated away into the wall. Is your hair standing on end yet? (What happened to Jedward? Their hair was standing on end all the time.)

Did you know Churchill saw the ghost of Abraham Lincoln? He was staying in the White House, he’d just got out of his bath, and strolled stark naked into his bedroom. And there was Lincoln leaning against the mantelpiece. Churchill wasn’t fazed.

‘Good evening, Mr President,’ he said. ‘You seem to have me at a disadvantage.’ Lincoln smiled and faded away. Bloody marvellous! Imagine seeing famous people naked, unnerving them and then fading and floating away. It must be such fun to be a ghost. I expect we’ll all find out eventually.

I’ll write about penny-farthings another time.

Follow Sue on Twitter: @sue_limb