Ross on Wye. Ross Angeles. Somewhere near Wales. I’m lying on a seven foot four poster bed in a haunted house. Downstairs people have written advice on the walls such as “Never summon anything you can’t banish.” There’s a mural to my right on the shutters of naked dryads hugging a tree. Lou is running the huge bath next door. I’m taking a moment to recover from having eaten everything in the whole world. I’m sprawled under the damask drapes, watching my breath condense in the night air.
After the drive we went for a walk in the woods. Mushrooms and toadstools aplenty including a panther cap, deceivers, oysters and a lovely branch covered in birch polypores which I thought about making into tea before I remembered my rule of three positive identifications before consumption is allowed. A black cat stalked us throughout, flanking us as we walked, approaching to yowl at us and bang its head on our hands as we gathered chestnuts or inspected fungus. I half expected it to suddenly transform into a twenty foot being of fire and time howling with the breath of the void between dimensions. It remained a cat, sat on Lou, purred a lot. We decided it was a she, and asked the keeper its name. “Cats don’t have names,” Duncan chided us. I call it Bertie but I could call it anything and it would still only care about food.
We went on a mini break. We aren’t the only guests here. It’s Duncan’s family home – huge and old and strange and definitely haunted. Duncan himself is a little bit fae – a little bit possessed – but boy oh boy he squeezes a hell of a meal out of that Aga. We sat at a table downstairs and gradually pushed it all into our faces sitting opposite the two other guests.
The two other guests… Not what you’d expect of a place like this. They’re both metropolitan policemen called Steve. One of them is retired and the other is still active. They’re here for the fishing. Conversation at the table was lively and unfamiliar. I don’t regularly hang out with coppers, although I got involved in training detectives at Hendon for a few years back in the earlier noughties. I’d pretend to be an arsonist and they’d interview me. It was refreshing to sit and talk with people who have seen the things they’ve seen. Their worldview is so different to much of what is familiar to me as an artistic type in privileged London. Retired Steve was talking about Thomas Tallis and his favourite piece of classical music. Then he put on Led Zeppelin and insisted that there are some humans that are just unremittingly evil.
We can’t easily go anywhere far away from the UK, so we might as well go to the Welsh borders and hang out in a haunted house full of pagans and cops and with a demon cat on a Sunday and Monday. There are definitely worse ways to spend an actor’s weekend. Tomorrow we’ll likely wander into more woods for fun and forage. Right now I’m gonna warm up in the bath…