The House That Cried
By GLEN S PERRY
Rockley Point House was as magnificent an example of early 1930's exuberance as one could ever wish to find.
Yes! It had Hollwood glamour...but somehow it remained very, very English.
Of course it was actually situated in England. The South coast of England to be precise.
And it stood proudly atop the ever-receding cliff below, looking out (as it had done for nigh on 90 years) across the picturesque bay.
Many a previous owner, the rich and famous and the ridiculously rich and not nearly so famous, had happily whiled away whole days (whole weeks even!) just gazing out at the dazzling water that seemed to stretch out forever. Basking in the glorious, golden sunshine that blessed this part of the world as they did so.
Those lucky enough to have spent time at Rockley Point House often regaled stories of the timeless days when the sun never stopped shining and the troubles of the outside world were all but forgotten.
Oh! And the parties. Ones that began on the cusp of a warm Summer's night...and went on long into the small hours of the next morning. Where the sounds of jazz music and playful chatter merged into a harmonious cacophony. Where sharp edges blurred into an all-embracing fuzziness.
Rockley Point House was a truly mystical place. It's nearest neighbour, a dwelling of equal grandeur and age, was fully two miles further west along the solitary road that hugged the magnificent coastline.
At one time there was, in all, half a dozen properties like the one at Rockley Point within 10 miles or so of each other. Most, if not all, had millionaire owners. And most of them were either film stars, authors, impresarios or someone connected to the Arts.
It was not an uncommon sight for the great and good of the day to land in the bay below and emerge amazingly uncrumpled from one of those new-fangled flying boats that seemed to be all the rage.
These showbiz alumni created a kind of Hollywood By The Sea. Golden times for the whole area. Golden times indeed!
That was all a very long, long time ago now.
Five of the old houses had long since been demolished and Rockley Point House, the sole survivor of a glittering past, was next in line for the wrecking ball.
As times changed, and old film stars and famous writers had died, developers had leapt all over these so-called monuments of the past.
Their clientele now were the overpaid footballers and so-called celebrities of the day.
And they had no interest in the past. In the history of a house. In its soul!
So the customer got what the customer demanded.
Brand new ultra-modern shoe-box style abodes. Huge, upside-down living spaces. All with the latest design in swimming pools and, not forgetting, those fabulous sea views.
And you could add a nought or two onto the asking price as well!
Rockley Point House was indeed the last of its kind.
Sitting in the overgrown garden, under the shade of a lime tree, Clarissa (Clarrie) Parker-Taylor knew her days at the grand old house were numbered too.
Her friend, Laura Thompson, sensed that Clarrie was in one of her reflective moods.
'Thinking about it won't make it go away' said Laura
'We've had a good innings, Clarrie'
'I know that, L...but where will we go?'
Laura, always the more out-going one of the two, didn't like to ponder too long about such things. She'd always lived for the moment.
'I've always been so happy here, L...even on dark days. This place has always provided so much comfort to me...to everyone'
Laura remembered the 'dark days'. When a god awful war had seen so many good men and women blown away...by the storm-force winds of such a cruel, cruel conflict...so many dreams shattered...the end of an era! Death had called time and time again in those years to rob so many of their loved ones. Parents, husbands, lovers, relatives, friends...children...babes in arms even!
But dear old Rockley Point House had always been there for them both...and others like them.
Come the morning of the demolition, Clarrie and Laura retreated to a point where they could watch proceedings...without drawing any unwanted attention on themselves.
It was an unusually sombre day. Grey clouds, heavy with rain, hung over the whole area.
'It's hard to fathom where the sea ends and the sky begins' mused Laura, who was looking out across the shrouded bay, as she had countless times before, only for the first terrible crunching sound to draw her focus back on Rockley Point House.
'It's just too awful to watch' said Clarissa, holding back the first of the tears.
'I think it's expected of us, Clarrie...and when it's over we can all move on' placated Laura, who ever so calmly placed her arms around Clarissa, as if cradling her somehow protected her from the devastation they were both witnessing.
And then a piercing cry cut through the solemn air. So shrill was it that it could have been mistaken for that of some giant seabird. Heaven knows the locale was known for its extraordinary range of coastal fauna.
But this was no albatross...no skua...no gull.
This was the very soul of Rockley Point House, crying out one last time from its fatally wounded heart!
The workmen who had begun to tear down the first of the walls stopped dead in their tracks.
One thought he'd heard the sobbing of a small child. Another, a raspy sound like that of a dying old man. The foreman even thought he'd heard a young girl calling for her 'Mama'!
Of course, they'd all been right!
Within the empty, once-splendid, rooms of Rockley Point House (with their flaked paint woodwork, peeled away wallpaper and rotten floorboards) something still remained.
Fragment upon fragment of all the memories that were ever made there. Layer upon layer of past events glued to the very walls. An invisible membrane no mortal could ever explain.
The first owner was Michael Parker-Taylor, who purchased the newly-built Rockley Point House – standing pride of place on the cliff-top so stunningly - in 1931. He'd cleverly invested what money he had made, from his earlier business forays, into the film industry...and, in one stroke, he'd propelled himself and his young family (wife Madeleine and daughter Clarissa) into a world full of glitz and glamour. One where they would all rub shoulders with the stars and luminaries of the day.
But although a teenage Clarissa had attended some of Rockley Point House's grandiose parties and coyly chatted with visiting starlets and budding young actors, she'd shunned the wafer-thinness of the lifestyle her parents seemed so determined to pursue. Preferring instead to hang out with her best friend Laura Collins, who was a local girl and lived on a farm nearby. Horse-riding on the beach and over the many fields round abouts, swimming in the bay and, best of all, sunbathing on the verandah or in the house's huge garden.
They had been through so much together, although they had eventually led very different and very separate lives.
Laura never married but she lived quite contentedly, working on her parents' farm, until she retired to live in a little cottage in the nearby village of Burrwood until her death in 1996 at the age of 79.
Clarissa had married at the age of 21. Her father and mother had arranged everything.
Except finding her a man who truly loved her!
He, however, was tragically killed in the war. A war that changed everything.
Following the death of her husband, Clarissa moved back to Rockley in 1940 and stayed there throughout the hostilities. For a while life was good again despite the constant knockbacks of the war.
But just when the clouds of war were beginning to lift, Clarissa caught pneumonia...and no-one could save her (not even the highly-paid doctors in London her parents had so desperately employed) from slipping peacefully out of this world at the tender age of 28.
Clarissa and Laura had always been happy at Rockley...and that was why their spirits had dwelt there these past few precious years.
They had both been reunited with loved ones, of course, and other people they'd known, since their passing. Things left undone or unsaid had been put to bed once and for all.
But here they were now on the threshold of the next stage of their spiritual lives.
It didn't take long for Rockley Point House to be reduced to a mass of rubble and splintered timber and, the very next day, large lorries arrived to take away any last trace of the grand old property.
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