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I know the house and its ghosts – final post from The Hurst’s writer-in-residence

Deb Alma signs off her writing residency at The Hurst

“Strangely as relief centre assistant at The Hurst before it closed for refurbishment in March last year, I was the person to lock the doors behind the last visitors, before the work started, and I love how that has felt: watching it shift from a place of noise and energy to a very ghostly, empty space, through to watching it come back to life again.

I have attempted in the residency to reflect this and also to allow other voices as well as my own, speak of these changes; through John and Helen Osborne’s words, people with close links to the house and  to the staff that have worked there and those about to.

My biggest challenge was not to be intimidated by ghosts and it has been a great challenge to be writing for an establishment that values good writing.

I feel like I know the house and its ghosts intimately and not yet the house back to life. I hope to see…”

Hurst final grid


Passing-places. Stages. Pause.
There are bags in the hall,
the long-life bulb’s dim
and yellow light, getting brighter.

Spindle. Spiral. Twist.
The staircase and hallway all shining with polish
and look at it now,
heartbreaking it is.

Here is hush, and the footsteps of a stranger, far-off;
There were some huge cracks inside,
Helen would be turning in her grave.

There’s fear, then warmth,
the gush and tremor of water in pipes,
of movement, of anticipation,
and arrival.


words in italics are taken from interview
with Sue Mercer, housekeeper
for John and Helen Osborne


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