The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Childhood Memories

The Purple Rose of Baffins
Paul Martin

In 1985 I moved house with my family to a street near Baffins Pond, Portsmouth. I was ten.
One day I noticed a particular house some way down the street, on the other side of the road from my own. What made it stand out was that it was almost completely purple.

It was a rather drab purple though, not really gaudy or eye-catching, but fading and dour. It was as if that was the only colour paint available and therefore what was used; it was thoughtless, unconcerned with outward appearances. Like the inhabitants perhaps? The curtains in all of the windows were a similar purple too, as was the front door.

As time went on I grew more curious about who might live in this house, if indeed anybody did. I’d still not seen anyone going in or coming out of there, and began to notice what an empty, uninhabited impression it gave off. In fact I couldn’t remember ever having seen any lights on through the windows or curtains, even in the evenings.

One afternoon during the summer holidays, I saw a huge caravan parked outside the house. It seemed odd that somebody living in such an apparently neglected house should own or even be able to afford such a luxurious vehicle. It was so big that it had obviously been parked in the street because it wouldn’t fit in the driveway at the side of the house.

My friend David Oxon and I were playing in the street. I can’t recall that we were playing anything in particular. We had our bikes and were just having as much fun as can be had from a kerb, a pavement and a row of forecourt walls. It was unusually quiet that afternoon, with very few other kids outside. I suppose people were out shopping or at the football or away on holidays.
"There’s that caravan", David suddenly said, letting his bike drop from beneath his legs.
"Where?" I said.
"Let’s go and see it", said David.
We were about fifteen houses away from the purple house and the caravan had just pulled up outside it, with the front facing away from us. I was apprehensive. Obviously I was curious about who would get out of the caravan, but in my mind I’d built up vague, unformed ideas about this person or people. Were they murderers? Child molesters? Monsters?
Two figures got out from either side of the caravan and went into the house. All we could make out from where we were was a rather elderly lady, probably sixty or seventy, but certainly not frail or slow. And the driver seemed to be a woman.
David was ahead of me, approaching the purple house and clearly intent on finding some answers.
"Let’s have a look down here", he called out to me, now standing at the opening to the driveway.
I was now with him and we were looking at the front of the house, perhaps expecting to see a light come on or a face appear at the window. But as usual there was no sign of life from within.
The next thing I knew David was up at the end of the driveway, climbing the metal gate that closed off the back garden.
"What you doing?" I asked, halfway between a shout and a whisper. Now I was worried, curious but worried.
"’s alright", he answered, with one leg over the other side of the gate and his t-shirt caught up halfway up his back.
"Let’s just go", I said, glancing nervously up the street and back. But he was already over the gate.
A moment later I heard a voice, a nasal, slightly posh voice that sent a shiver down my spine. It sounded female but deep, old but strong. I then heard a metallic scrape and the door opened. David ran out straight past me. Then this face appeared from behind the door. It was a woman. But it was a man. A man dressed as a woman. I felt like I was going to shit myself.
"Get away from my house", she or he said.
I stared at the face for about a second.
It was the nose I remember most, absurdly big and so obviously that of a man. And I noticed the hands, again obviously those of a man.
Then I turned and ran off.

It was the first time I’d ever seen a trans-sexual, although even then I didn’t know that word. It scared me to death. I stayed away from the purple house after that, although I saw her a few months later coming out of a shop in Fratton and going off on a bike. Since then I’ve come to feel quite sad for her. I think she’d been living with her mother in that house and so she was obviously a caring but maybe rather lonely character.

But if I ever see or hear her again I don’t know how I’d react.
And I know that the house is still purple.

© Paul Martin November 2006
Paul is studying for his Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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