It’s nearly Christmas, and it’s cold. We live in a street in Cardiff that was built at around the turn of the century. The houses are old town houses – semi-detached or terraced, three-storied, with attic rooms and big bay windows that currently showcase Christmas trees, immaculately and tastefully decorated. These are the real thing, too – no plastic here – and most of them are at least six foot tall. There are plenty of cats in this neighborhood, most of whom are just as fat as Ozzie. Poppy, the previous occupant of the flat downstairs (with whom Ozzie had an unrequited love relationship) has recently moved out with her human. The new tenants, a couple in their twenties, have just had the jungle that was their garden cleared; it now resembles a wasteland. We haven’t had snow yet, but it has been rather frosty and (contrary to Greg’s instructions) I’ve started putting the central heating on in the mornings. I have resisted the urge to put fairy lights everywhere; I’m longing to try the method known as Christmas-decoration-via-circus-cannon but we don’t have the money. Ozzie is too big to climb our tree, but he likes playing with the wrapping paper tubes and is very affectionate, mostly for his own selfish purposes. I have woken up several times during the past couple of weeks wearing him like a hat, and he has pushed Greg out of bed at least once.
Like many old houses that are rented to tenants, ours is a little shabby and rough around the edges, though cosy. We have textured wallpaper and carpets in the bathroom; our kitchen was installed at some point during the 1980s and hasn’t been updated since. Everything’s peeling – the walls, the carpets, the laminated surfaces. Everything creaks. But we’re happy here; we have plenty of space, and Ozzie likes it.
So too apparently does our ghost. Yes – that’s right – we have a ghost. For, mysteriously, chocolate begins to disappear from the chocolate drawer in our kitchen. We have a bunch of miniature Cadbury’s fudges in little orange and purple wrappers, and one day they just aren’t there anymore. Firstly, we blame each other – but neither of us likes fudges very much. Ozzie doesn’t like them either, and though he’s a genius he can’t open these particular drawers. We speculate about sleep-walking and sleep-eating, but surely there’d be chocolate smears on the sheets, or wrappers underneath the pillows? Or perhaps a few inexplicable extra pounds?
The mystery intensifies one night when we are lying in bed and Greg feels me tap his shoulder forcefully. But it’s not me – I am lying next to him with my arms stretched behind my head, half-asleep. I have no idea what he’s talking about. Ozzie is tucked in between us, also apparently asleep.
Greg’s mum – who believes in ghosts – suggests that we put more fudges in the chocolate drawer, and see if the ghost takes us up on the peace offering. We’ve run out of fudges, so instead we put some chocolate oatcakes in there. I’m not normally one for chocolate biscuits (or product placement) but these chocolate oatcakes are amazing. Evidently, the ghost thinks so too because no further paranormal activity occurs, save for our compulsive viewing of old X-Files episodes. We forget about the ghost.
Naturally, this is when the ghost reappears. Ozzie takes to staring at corners, as animals commonly do when confronted with the supernatural in Paranormal Witness. We figure he can see something we can’t, but as long as there’s no more tapping on the shoulder, we don’t really mind.
One morning, however, we open the drawer to find the oatcakes half-eaten through their plastic packet. We remove the drawer and find the smallest of gaps between the kitchen unit and the wall. A ghost who appears from a hole in the wall? Hmmm.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a … oh, wait…
Happy Christmas everyone!