The Wanderlust Lady and the Door to Door Salesman - 12
September 8, 2012
Later that day, I was sitting in the living room when it suddenly struck me that when I was outside looking for hidden treasure, I'd vaguely noticed a window in the back of the roof – one of those velux ones that follows the roof line. So there was an attic in this house. I supposed there must be roof space of some sort, but if it contains a window, that meant that it is at least partially finished, with floor boards, one might assume. So where was the entry? – it must be in the back of the house, since the living room and dining room overlooked the front of the house. Sure enough, rather well concealed by the polystyrene tiles, there was an outline of a trap door in the hallway just outside the bathroom. And in the corner there was a stick. I'd not seen it when I had been here before, but even if I had noticed it, I probably would've just thought it was there to give support to Minnie when she was walking. But now taking the stick, I looked for somewhere to connect it to the trapdoor, and found a small ring on the very edge. It looked as if it hadn't been opened in a very long time. However, I attached the hook on the stick to the ring and stood well back and gave a huge pull. Down came the trap door on hinges, and behind it could be seen a fold down staircase, made of metal and looking very flimsy. With my pole, I hooked one of the rungs and again pulled, and the stairs unfolded down beside me. I wondered if I'd need a torch, but there was some light coming from above, no doubt due to the velux window although it was a dull day and there wasn't much daylight left. I put down the stick, and started up the staircase – testing it with my weight before I took each upward step. But the ladder seemed strong enough, and even if I'd fallen from the top of it, it wasn't a huge distance, and I wasn't worried about things like that. When I got to the top, I pulled myself over the edge and into the room.
It was surprisingly large – and I could easily stand upright. There was a proper floor, and in the room were a small single bed – not made up – a small chest of drawers and a bookcase full of books. I also saw a large old fashioned trunk. There was evidence of mice having spent quite a lot of time here too – with bits of torn paper and the inevitable droppings. I didn't see any electrical sockets or switches up here – so I supposed that whoever lived here must have had to use a torch during the times of darkness. I walked towards the window, and looked out. It was very dirty – I wondered if anybody had been in this room for 20 years or so – and the cobwebs were very thick in the corners and hanging from the roof. There wasn't a ceiling, so it had a very sort of rough look about it – but it obviously was a room that was at some stage considered a usable bedroom. I knew I'd need some time to explore this room properly, but I also knew that I would feel much more comfortable about doing it if it were cleaned up. I thought that the next day, when there would be very little to do anyway, would be the time to make a start at searching through this room – but I felt excited that there were bound to be mysterious objects of interest to be found – maybe more sovereigns – maybe loads of money of one sort or another – although if nobody had been up for along time it might all be in old money.
I came back down, replaced the stairway, and put the stick back where it had been. Then I made myself another cup of tea and sat down in the living room to think what this new discovery might mean.
I recalled that Minnie had talked about me coming here to live – and up until now I hadn't really realised that having a one bedroomed house was not the sort of place that one took lodgers in. And even the couch as an alternative to a bedroom was not the sort that opened up into a bed. So she had been thinking of the attic, when she said she might let me live here. She also said something about the baddies might want to use the house as a bolt hole – a place to hide out. Again, the house didn't lend itself to that – but the attic room did. Not that I was doing too badly at hiding out at the moment. I was quite pleased with the fact that having been here most of two days plus the one earlier, nobody had made any attempt to challenge my right to be here.
I wonder, I thought, if this is the house that Minnie's parents owned before her. And I wonder if that was her bedroom up there. It was a pretty bleak idea – having that as your living space for many years. Let's see, I thought, I would guess this bungalow was built in the 60's. Minnie is now about 70, so would have been born around 1942. So she wouldn't have lived here all her life. In fact by 1960 which I thought was the earliest it could have been built, she would have been grown up – 18 or so.
Judging from the numbers of books, her parents were probably bright people – but not very successful – or there would be more items of value in the house to show for it. Unless Minnie flogged it all, of course. I have no idea if she ever worked, or what she did. I'll have to ask her when she comes back. I felt a bit guilty, because usually when I thought about Minnie it was in the past tense – as if she were dead – not just off visiting friends. But if she had died – somebody would be nosing around this house – some social work person would be assigned to find out from her papers who to give the body to – and somebody would have to arrange the funeral and burial. But she could be in the hospital and not dead – but if she was conscious, there would be no reason for her to have anybody come around here. There was no pet to feed – or anything else to worry about. Her bills were paid automatically from the bank.
Thinking again about nosing around the place, I decided that I best remove the sovereigns from their hiding place. If Sadie or one of her bunch ever decided to follow up on my note – she would probably take a look in the coffee container – and if I was out at the time, as I was expecting to be - they would just then assume that the idea of the roll of bank notes was a fantasy.
I got the coins from the container. I'd need to find a new hiding place. The attic was a possibility – but I wanted them where I had easy access to them for the time being. I took them out one by one and put the big ones in order of monarch and date on the coffee table. What I found rather surprised me. All the coins were in very good condition – mint condition – I thought – which made them much more valuable. But the interesting thing was that the dates were in order. The sovereigns ranged from 1890 to 1911 with one for each year, and the half-sovereigns were from 1942 to 1963. I would guess, I thought that these were birthday or Christmas presents – the first lot being for her mother or father – and the second lot – being for her – from birth up until the person was 21. That would make one of Minnie's parents to have been born in 1890 – which would mean that in 1942, when she was born, that person would be 48 – a bit late for a woman to have a child – although I'd heard of a few very old births – but I thought it more likely that the coins had belonged to her father – Mr. Jones.
Going to the filing cabinet, I found a writing pad and a pencil in the bottom drawer – along with lots of other handy small items for use around the house – a screw driver – a hammer, things like that.
The sovereigns were the more valuable ones – and there were four of them that were Jubilee coins. Then there were eight that were the old Victoria picture, and eight for Edward VII, and one for George VII in 1911.
The half-sovereigns were for George VIII, for the first 10 and then Elizabeth II for the next 11. Those would be worth the least.
I knew a bit about family history stuff – one of my friends had done a project on it at school – and I knew that there were some bits of the ancestry site that anybody could access for free. I thought the one for births before 1910 or something like that was one of them. It was only a rough guess – but maybe Mr. Jones was born in Marple and maybe I could find out where he lived before he lived in this house. It would give me something to do at the library anyway. I liked the idea of there being a mystery in this whole situation.