Denham Hall Students visit to the Rickmansworth Museum of Fine Arts.
It was the first week back at college after the summer break and Mr Crisis the Science teacher had been seconded to help Miss Pringle look after the sixth form Girls on a visit to the Rickmansworth Museum of Fine arts. Mr Crisis purpose was to ‘control’ the girls and was the word I was searching for that first escaped me.
It was after leaving the section on the works of the great Italian Masters we returned to the main body of the museum. We then climbed the stairs to level two of the gallery where Tamsin told us she had noticed a light on in the painting of the ‘scary old house’; she said the light was not on when they entered the Museum.
We were all aware that Tamsin had a heightened sense of the imagination so no-one paid much attention to her. Her thought patterns were also extraordinary; perhaps weird is a better description. It was Tamsin who pointed out that Elspeth, Phaedra, Rhonda, Patience and I stuck together like ones fingers after eating a Treacle sandwich. I would have never thought of that in a hundred million years.
The six of us walked back up to level two to the gallery where the painting hung that Tamsin had referred to and sure enough there was the painting of a Gothic Mansion with a light burning in the window. We explained to Tamsin it was the artists desire to show a light in the window, as he did with headstones in the garden so they must have had some significance to the painter, but the light in the house did not switch on by itself. Tamsin said it did, so that was the end of the matter or so we thought…. or hoped.
Rhonda had approached Mr Crisis and asked to be excused while she went to look for a Ladies; Elspeth and Phaedra said they would join her to keep her company. Meanwhile Tamsin sidled up to Mr Crisis and asked him when they are going to get something to eat.
The interests in Fine arts were quickly diminishing. Tamsin then out of curiosity and for the sake of conversation asked Mr Crisis if Miss Pringle had a Christian name. Tamsin was told that was a personal question that should be directed to Miss Pringle, and yes they would be having something to eat soon.
Elspeth Phaedra and Rhonda re-joined us as we headed for the restaurant leaving Mr Crisis talking to Miss Pringle. On the way down the stairs we paused again to look at the painting. Tamsin insisted “A light did come in, it did”.
As I stepped forward and peered closer to look at the lit window I heard the crunch of gravel under my feet. I also felt a hint of a soft breeze on my face. I looked down and realised we were not standing on the museum floor anymore but on the paving of the garden path that led to the house. In a panic Tamsin cried out “what’s happened, where are we? Quick let’s go back to the gallery”. Patience replied “This is bizarre, I don’t know what has happened but I think we are on the garden path in the painting”.
Extreme panic was setting in among the girls. Patience who was keeping a cool head calmly suggested “let us go to the house and ask how we got here and how we can return to the museum.”
With trepidation we followed the path up to the house, Phaedra knocked on the door. There was no reply. She gently pushed the door open and in single file we all nervously entered the house. A black cat briefly appeared and fled out of sight. I noticed that the curtains needed cleaning and that cobwebs and dust lay everywhere. The old house and the headstones in the garden completed the picture of a dark, foreboding and impermanence of an abode. A mouse scuttled over Tamsin’s feet, her scream would have wakened the dead. Perhaps it did.
A voice called out “so you have finally come to visit me”. An old lady appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Hello miss” said Tamsin.
The old woman said sternly “Young lady it is not Miss it is Mrs and it is my husband Harold, Mr. Mountjoy God bless ’im that lies dead under the headstone in the garden. If I am still officially married to 'im then I am Mrs Mountjoy and I assure you it is most unlikely I am not going to find myself another husband here. You are the first people to visit me. Many people just stand and stare at my house, but no-one ever speaks to me, I get very lonely”.
“But you live in a painting Miss…sorry Missus” replied Tamsin “we are just passing visitors we live in a different world. Mr Crisis would say we live in different realities. A Painter painted your reality”
Elspeth said “we must not stay too long Mrs Mountjoy because Miss Pringle will be hopping mad if she cannot find us as we have to back in college in time for tea, but we can come and visit you occasionally.”
“That would be nice. In the future I will leave the light on in the window to signal that I am at home. Now girls stay awhile and talk to me.”
It was a difficult conversation, at one point I was forced to tap Tamsin on her foot when she asked Mrs. Mountjoy if she had lived here long and had she any children. I whispered to Tamsin “it’s pretty obvious isn’t it?” Mrs Mountjoy said she had always lived here and ignored the question about children. I was terrified of the question Tamsin might ask next.
It was really lovely talking the Mrs Mountjoy. It seemed as though we had talked for ages and ages and I wondered if it was the last time we will ever have the pleasure of another visit. It was cut short by a knock on the door.
Rhonda went to answer the knock and returned followed by Mr Crisis. Slightly bowing and at the same time nodding a courteous greeting to Mrs Mountjoy Mr Crisis said “well girls how are you going to extricate yourselves from of this?”
He continued “What has happened has nothing to do with ‘warps in the fabric of space time’ or rubbish like that; if you understand Holograms it might help you to understand we have slipped into another reality, one accepts that what they see on birth as true reality and for us it is, but it is not the only reality, there are many. Realities are experiences of different species in the universe but this should never have happened”
He explained moving through realities time and space do exist; moves from one reality to another are instant as will our return to our own reality. Mr. Crisis himself an inter-dimensional traveller said it would be too long and difficult to explain in detail.
Mr Crisis said “right girls we have to get back to the museum I want you all to follow me, don’t look back. Looking back into the painting will keep you here and will prevent you from leaving.”
We said our goodbyes to Mrs Mountjoy, thanked her for a lovely afternoon adding we loved her house and that we really looked forward to visiting her again but could not promise anything.
Mr Crisis led us back to the garden path, hopefully it was the path that would take us back to the Museum and that our return would be instant.
It was, in an instant we were back in the Museum. We were not even missed by Miss. Pringle.
As we were leaving the Museum of Fine Arts Tamsin pointed out that the light in the window was now off. We really must take Tamsin more seriously in the future.