A couple of years ago, Martin and I were planning a trip to Chillingham Castle (way up in Northumberland, where the north turns nice again). Turns out we were essentially planning a long weekend in the car, as I live in Battersea and Martin lives in Nottingham, but that's a detail. It was the castle's reputation for ghosts that attracted us - not the ghosts themselves, as neither of us is that credulous, but the possibility of sighting some choice fruitcakes on the midnight spooky tour.
It may seem like I'm rambling, but to pull these two strands together: I invented an imaginary BBC radio comedy show called "Ghostly Goings-On" to liven up that long, long car journey. Here is a fragment:
BBC RADIO ANNOUNCER:
And this Sunday lunchtime we have a brand new series of "Ghostly Goings-On", starring:
Angus Deayton as HECTOR PLASM
David Tennant as MANNY FESTATION
Catherine Tate as MADAME ZIGGY BLAVATSKY
[Sound of knitting. A door opens.]
HECTOR: Hello, Madame Blavatsky. You look as if you've seen a ghost.
MADAME B: Why you no go bake you' eayd?
[Audience laughter at silly foreign accent.]
HECTOR: I think you mean boil my head.
[Audience laughs again, not having realized that was what she meant.]
HECTOR (contd): Unless we get a case soon, I won't have to. My head will just fall off for lack of money.
[Cautious tittering from surrealist contingent in audience.]
MADAME B: Wait! I senses a presence tryin' to communicate...
[Clatter of letterbox flap. Thud of letter dropping onto mat.]
MADAME B: It ees a message from da other side!
[A knock at the door.]
MADAME B: Rap once for-a yes, twice for-a no!
HECTOR: Oh good grief.
[Sound of door opening.]
MANNY: Hello you spooky people. Did I just see the postman?
HECTOR: Kevin Costner will be delighted.
[Single laugh from sole audience member who recalls the movie; he turns the laugh into a cough.]
[Sound of letter being ripped open.]
MANNY: What is it, man? You've gone as white as a sheet.
[Long, tense pause. ]
MANNY: Sheet, Madame Blavatsky. Not shit.
MADAME B (with relief): Oh-kay doke!
[Audience roars with loudest laughter so far.]
HECTOR: It's a laundry list from Chillingham Castle! Oh no, wait...
[Sound of paper rustling.]
HECTOR (contd): On the other side - a note scrawled in very red sticky ink.
MANNY: Give it here, let me see.
[Sound of paper being snatched.]
MANNY (contd): That's not ink, it's... Oh no, it is ink. I've got a pen like that. They're rubbish.
MADAME B: Ze note, what does eet say?
MANNY: "Help, I have been given a fatal poison and have only minutes to live."
HECTOR: You look perfectly fine, old chap.
MANNY: Not me, you fool; the note. And there's a P.S.
MADAME B: A peees?
MANNY: "Come at once and catch my murderer!"
HECTOR gasps loudly.
HECTOR: I left the teabags in the pot. It'll be stewed!