notes from the borderlandZom and I have talked many times in many articles about the fact that our mother used to work as a TV producer and how the company she worked for was, like so many production companies in the late seventies, situated in Soho. It was an old, thin building with an editing suite in the basement and her office at the top – a scary environment, full of weird adults. — —— used to hang out, drug addled, in the second floor editing suite where my brother and I were once offered cocaine by his pal and the in-house director/company director’s personal rent boy – needless to say, the offices of –TV was no place for children.

It was also haunted.

We were told how, in the old days, the building used to be a brothel, as if our child brains knew what to do with that information. This was a world even more adult than the one currently occupying the tiny, narrow spot in a cranny of central London where the production company had its base. All we knew was it must have been the site of enormous, incomprehensible grown up suffering. Our mother sensed a woman who would not leave, deranged, dressed in red. The presence was particularly strong on the third floor, but above it, in Mum’s office, the atmosphere would clear again. She never made herself felt up there. Just a few feet away and you were safe. When we had to stay late and the building emptied, my brother and I would shut the door between Mum’s office and the stairwell that led down to where the woman waited and sift through the video cassettes, any stray thoughts of ghostly, bloodied women washed away on the tide of Carry on England’s canned laughter or by the boisterous playground jostle of Rhubarb and Custard’s theme music.

Speaking to my Mum about it now, she doesn’t remember the red woman, and I have to admit it could have all got a bit confused in my pre-teen head. The point is, though, my Mum was always going on about ghosts. There was her first flat where her disbelieving housemates got a terrible, poltergeist style awakening one evening when the lights began flashing on and off of their own accord, doors opened with no one behind them and one girl accidentally sat on whatever it was, its arms furling around her, all of which saw the lot of them barricaded in one of the bedrooms when, one day, Mum, vindicated, returned from work. Then there was her boss’s house, the aforementioned director, where plates skidded across tables, books were found strewn over the floor of supposedly tidy rooms and where my mother’s bedside received frequent nocturnal visitations from disturbed, hostile entities silently demanding she leave and never return. Finally there was our family home in ——- and the old lady who would come to Mum in times of extreme sadness or stress in order to comfort her. My Mum’s always been haunted it seems. It’s like the Sixth Sense or something.

And we all know how that turned out.

The elephant in the corner of all these spooky fireside tales is somewhat less thrilling I’m afraid. Astute readers will already realise there’s a common element to all of this, the thing quite possibly causing it all, my mother herself. To say my mum had a happy time of it in 80s would be pushing it. She had a good job doing creative, rewarding work, but she was overworked, often stuck in that fucking edit suite for nights on end with no break, only to see her producer credit given to the rent boy. She was in a relationship with the same man who gave him the credit too. A highly abusive relationship. When she finally returned to our East Sussex home, often around midnight or later, sleep deprived, frazzled and terrified for her two boys because her boss/lover had decided, on a whim, to fire her that day, or some such everyday evil shit like that, she was a nightmare. Like her mother before her, my Mum was frequently a volatile mess, and, as much as i love her, and i do, i have to admit I spent a good part of my childhood genuinely frightened of her. It’s easy now to see that the ghosts in question were probably just her own pain, or, in the case of the old woman, its antidote, displaced into the places she inhabited.

My mother was the red woman, and, I tell you, there were times when you could practically see the frenzied demon peering out from beneath the mask she wore up to London every day.