Places: the Grey House attic

“As Simon’s head emerged through the hatch at the top he caught his breath just as Barney had; ‘Aah—ah—‘ and sneezed enormously.  Clouds of dust rose, and the ladder shook.

“’Hey,’ said Barney protestingly from below, drawing his face back from his brother’s twitching heels.

“Simon opened his watering eyes and blinked.  Before him and all around was one vast attic, the length and breadth of the whole house, with two grubby windows in its sloping roof.  It was piled higgledy-piggledy with the most fantastic collection of objects he had ever seen.

“Boxes, chests and trunks lay everywhere, with mounds of dirty grey canvas and rough-coiled ropes between them; stacks of newspapers and magazines, yellow-brown with age; a brass bedstead and a grandfather clock without a face.  As he stared, he saw smaller things: a broken fishing rod, a straw hat perched on the corner of an oil-painting darkened by age into one great dark blur; an empty mouse-trap, a ship in a bottle, a glass-fronted case full of chunks of rock, a pair of old thigh-boots flopped over sideways as if they were tired, a cluster of battered pewter mugs.

“’Gosh!’ said Simon.

“Muffled noises of protest came from below, and he hauled himself out through the opening and rolled sideways out of their way on the floor.  Barney and Jane came through after him.

“For half an hour they poked about in happy dusty dream, through the junk and broken furniture and ornaments.  It was like reading the story of somebody’s life, Jane thought, as she gazed at the tiny matchstick masts of the ship sailing motionless forever in the green glass bottle.  All these things had been used once, had been part of every day in the house below.  Someone had slept on the bed, anxiously watched the minutes on the clock, pounced joyfully on each magazine as it arrived.  But all those people were long dead, or gone away, and now the oddments of their lives were piled up here, forgotten.  She found herself feeling rather sad.”


This post is a Place Description quoted from Susan Cooper’s Over Sea, Under Stone.  I intend no slight to the author in using this excerpt, in fact I recommend that you visit your nearest library or bookstore and get your hands on the real thing.

This passage captures the feeling I had wandering around my grandparents’ house last weekend. 

One response to “Places: the Grey House attic

  1. This is a very poignant excerpt. Especially as I contemplate the dismantling of my mother- and father-in-laws live, and by extension, my own.

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