A Day at the Races
By Tracey Horn
In 1967, at the age of six, we moved house. My Dad was a Trinity House Lightships man, and was away at sea every other month. To make ends meet whilst he was away, mum opened up as a Seasonal Guest House. From that early age I served the visitors their breakfasts and evening meals. I got to know some very well through the years and a few of them came to stay two or three times a season, specifically for the Horse Racing.
I did this for 10 years, right up until I left school. Mum at this point decided to call it a day, it was too much for her to do it alone. Life went on...
Forward a few years to 1980. I was 19, working as a Bus Conductor on the Corporation Buses. I lovedthis job, working every hour I could. I didn’t see much of home, I was far too busy enjoying myself.This particular day I remember vividly, the events staying in my mind as fresh as the day it happened.
It was September, the Summer Season nearing its end. I had been working nights, it was my day off, but I got called in to work a middle shift, it finished at 9.30 pm, which was handy, as I had an “early”the next day so I had to be up around 5.30 am. I did my work and then went home to bed. My bedroom was in the modified cellar, where my early alarms didn’t disturb my parents orbrothers. I was up at 5.00 am, had a cuppa and sorted myself out. I opened the cellar door - where the coats were hanging - to grab my jacket. As I closed the door I jumped a little; a familiar figure stood just the other side of the door, at the foot of the stairs. It was odd, but not unheard of, for my mum to let past regular visitors back for a visit. I said, “Oh hello Mr Hammond, I didn’t know you were here. Can’t get enough of mum’s cooking eh?” Hesmiled and nodded in agreement. As I was fumbling about getting my jacket on, I said to MrHammond, “Off out for your morning walk? It’s a lovely day.” “Yes” he said. I chirped up, “Leave the door open, I’m now coming out”. I checked my appearance in the mirror and turned towards the door; it was shut! It was all of five seconds I was behind Mr Hammond, but he was nowhere to beseen. The road we lived on was long and straight. Bewildered, I thought, “Crikey, he can move for an old boy”, and I plodded off to work. After my shift, I was asked to do another, so I was doing adouble, I wasn’t tired and of course I said yes. I phoned mum to tell her not to do a dinner as I wouldn’t be home, she said she’d wait and do something when I got in. Lovely! I got home around 12.30 am, mum was doing my food as promised. Hanging my jacket up, Imentioned I’d seen Mr Hammond, and asked why she hadn’t said he and his wife were visiting. I looked at mum as she handed me the plate of food, she had an odd expression. I said, “Well, are they here or not?” She said I’d made a mistake and that Mrs Hammond was here. I quipped up,“Well how would I know, unless I’d seen Mr Hammond”? Mum said, “Did he speak?” Naturally I toldher what had happened, then she said I couldn’t have seen him, it must have been Mrs Hammond Isaw. I argued that I saw Mr Hammond - I know the difference - and he said he was going for his morningwalk (he said “yes” to my asking), and it was only ever Mr Hammond who got up early. Then mum dropped a bombshell I wasn’t expecting... It couldn’t have been Mr Hammond, as he’d died. MrsHammond was here alone!!! I felt the colour drain from my face. I usually sense spirit, but I had no feelings what-so-ever when I saw and spoke to Mr Hammond. I wasn’t tired, I was fully awake. Thesun was just up, it was a typical summer day, bright and dry. I know I saw and spoke to the late Mr W Hammond that day. There is no other explanation. In Memory of Mr and Mrs Hammond - RIP.