The run down old cottage was ominous enough to look at.
Ivy carpeted it's white-washed stone walls; the glass in its sash windows was yellowed from the smoke of the open fire; and the rickety, wooden front door, looked set to fall out on anyone who dared to knock upon it.
The overgrown briers and bushes, which framed the sorry site, also seemed set to swallow up any fool who strayed too close, and the broken up path, with its loose flagstones, clumped weeds and grass, was a terrible hazard.
When we were kids, my brother and I would rush passed this ramshackle of a place because there always seemed to be a dark cloud of hostility hanging over it, as if it hated us, as if it hated the world.
Anyway, me ,my younger brother Mossie, were never brave enough to peek through a window to see the man who apparently lived there all alone.
We'd heard it said that he was as old and as strange as the hills, possibly well into his hundreds, and that he was rarely seen outside - not even to sniff the clear country air.
Then, there came the day when I had to pass that cottage on my own, because Mossie was down with the flu and I was forced to make the lonely trek to school by myself.
It had started to snow heavily that morning and as I headed into the bitter North wind, it clawed at my bare face like a ferule cat.
As I reached the cottage, I noticed that the shaky old door was open wide and I could clearly see the great open fire, over which hung a pitch-black, lidless cauldron, whose contents bubbled and broiled and spilled over onto the blazing turf beneath.
The resulting steam and smoke mingled and although most went up the flueless chimney, some billowed out into the room and wormed its way across the ceiling and out the door.
The old man was nowhere to be seen and I wondered what the hell he was cooking so early in the morning. We'd normally eat porridge for breakfast, but it wouldn't be cooked in a pot as big as that.
I even remember thinking that it...