Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Beast Of New Street

Oakham is a pretty little market town in the East Midlands of England. It is the county town of Rutland, Britain's smallest county. In the market place there are a set of stocks where petty criminals were pelted with bush chocolate as punishment for various minor misdemeanours such as poking fun at Henry the Eighth's tummy or coveting his neighbours wife's ass. The town's old water pump is there too, and when my male staff lived there it still worked. You pumped the great iron handle up and down a few times and the thing gurgled a bit before spewing a satisfying stream of dirty water onto your best shoes. It still stands in front of the post office which had a letter box in the wall. My male staff would always plead with his mum to lift him up so that he could post her letters and holler "I am a mole and I live in hole" into the letter box. The echo that this produced amused the boy no end for some reason. It was hard work for his mother though because my male staff was twenty five at the time.

 The stocks at Oakham, where petty criminals were pelted with bush chocolate.

Don't worry, I'm pulling your leg of course. He would have been four or five years old, rather plump and with somewhat formal manners which had been drummed into him by his mum and dad.  His mother earned a little extra money by cleaning the huge old farmhouse in New Street owned by Auntie Mary and Uncle George, while his dad was out doing mysterious things for the Royal Air Force. They weren't Auntie and Uncle at all, but my male staff was told to call them that. They were brother and sister actually. Auntie Mary was a pillar of the local community, "doing" the church flowers and acting as scorer for the local cricket team, while Uncle George took care of the farm. The house was huge and full of ghosts which lurked in its many dark corners and at the top of the wide, sweeping staircase, or so my male staff thought anyway. It was both an exciting and a frightening place to be, but the kitchen was always warm and inviting and full of delicious smells.

In the farmhouse's lounge room with a blazing fire in the grate on January 30th 1965 my male staff  sat in one of the commodious armchairs, munching chocolate digestive biscuits and guzzling orange juice while he watched Winston Churchill's state funeral on Auntie Mary's black and white television.
It was this event that inspired my male staff to give his hamster Jenny a military funeral when she passed away a few months later, as described in my earlier post.

My male staff now suspects that the hamster he buried that day was not in fact the same hamster that Auntie Mary was given to look after when the family went on holiday one summer. He thinks that Jenny escaped in that big farmhouse and was never seen again. He'll never know for sure. Why does he suspect this? It might be something to do with the fact was Jenny was white when she was left with Auntie Mary and golden when my male staff picked her up again. For a while he believed Auntie Mary when she told him that Jenny had simply grown a new coat, but now, almost fifty years later he's not so sure.  Anyway, he likes to think that Jenny is still alive, but has mutated into a monstrous white rodent from licking the lead paint on the walls in the cellar of the old house. He believes that she is now approximately the size of a leopard and at night she ventures into the street to terrorise the local cats, dogs and pensioners on their way home from the pub. Personally I think that my male staff has watched the movie "Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-rabbit" too often. He insists though that Jenny is acting in revenge for the knocking down of the beautiful old New Street farmhouse and it's replacement with a hideous supermarket and a bland housing development.
"Quite possibly the best film ever made." - My male staff.

Uncle George was a gruff, but kindly fellow, portly and always dressed in a flat cap and muddy wellington boots. Nothing else, and for this reason he was well acquainted with the local constabulary. (I'm joking again.)  One day he asked my five year old male staff if he'd like to go with him to see the new lambs. Off they toddled, hand in hand on that chilly spring morning and having inspected the lambs satisfactorily Uncle George decided that he should go and see how the chickens were doing. Big mistake! Little did he know that my male staff had an unusual phobia - pteronophobia. Yep. A fear of feathers. Into the barn they strode. A hundred or so chickens were there doing chickeny things. It was all quite peaceful apart from the soft "buk buk buk buk buk" of the birds. Unfortunately a white feather wafted on a gentle draught toward my male staff and settled on his shoulder. He let out such a sudden high pitched scream that poor Uncle George thought the boy had at the very least been pierced through the groin by a pitchfork. Not totally unsurprisingly the scream upset the chickens who started to fly about in panic, and very soon there was a veritable blizzard of white weathers. More screams from my male staff, who by now was hyper-ventilating in fear. Uncle George grabbed my male staff's pudgy little hand and led him through the blizzard towards the door of the barn, which was practically invisible through the howling storm of screams and feathers. Uncle George must have looked like Scott of the Antarctic as he fought his way to the safety of the door, which he walked into in the poor visibility and his desperation to get the screaming child away from the chickens.

I wish I had been there in the cosy kitchen with Auntie Mary and my male staff's mum when Uncle George and my male staff returned from their adventure. "How were the lambs?" Asked Auntie Mary before she looked up to see Uncle George covered in feathers, flat cap missing, red faced, flustered and with a bloody nose from the firm contact with the barn door.
 "Oh, they were fine, weren't they Peter?" He replied, looking down at my male staff. At that moment my male staff noticed on his arm a small white feather that Uncle George had failed to brush off after they'd escaped from the chicken barn. There was a sharp intake of breath, followed by a shrill scream.

I have a fear of dirty feet, but some people have a general fear of feet. (Podophobia) This includes their own feet. What a terrible affliction to have because no matter how fast you run, the bloody things will always keep up with you.

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