Dick Sturch remembers Millwey before Hugh's Chicken Run
PUBLISHED: 09:19 19 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:37 15 June 2010
ONE of the very early characters of Millwey Rise, or as then known the Camp, was Suzanne. I think she was French, but how she found a home there or what history accompanied her, I have no idea. (Perhaps someone from Millwey could provide this.)
One of the very early characters of Millwey Rise, or as then known the Camp, was Suzanne. I think she was French, but how she found a home there or what history accompanied her, I have no idea. (Perhaps someone from Millwey could provide this.) Her normal attire was Wellington boots, long khaki shorts, an ex-army blouson shirt, sleeves most times, rolled up, and a coloured bandana knotted over a head of black hair. Her skin was very dark and tanned, no doubt coloured by her place of birth and the manual outdoor life she led. To my young eyes, she always reminded me of a pirate (minus the eye patch), matching the many pictures from the books I read. When she spoke in her broken English the meaning was usually lost in a very thick accent. If you failed to understand her, you normally received a lengthy tirade in her native tongue which, if translated, was probably something quite rude.She lived in a Nissen hut tucked into the shadow of a tall hedge and, when the front door was open, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were staring into the mouth of a cave. The immediate surroundings were cluttered with an assortment of pens and shelters for her livestock and other paraphernalia in various stages of dilapidation that she had collected and deposited where she could find a space.For Suzanne, the whole of the camp was her farm. No matter where you went, if there was a piece of open ground, you would come across her goats tethered up to a stake. Normally, you could either smell or hear them long before you ever saw them. When you did come across a goat, you gave it a very wide berth - otherwise you were liable to receive a painful butt, to which I can bear full testament. Apart from the goats, she also kept chickens, ducks and geese on the land around her hut.One of our early pastimes was teasing the goats. First you made sure how far the goat's chain would stretch, and having done so stand just inside the chain's limit - until the goat charged. Then, as late as possible, bravely skip out of reach. Even this could become dangerous, if the stake securing the chain was not far enough into the ground. Then goat, chain and stake would end up chasing the antagonists. You could always be assured, though, just at that very moment Suzanne would appear, as if by magic. Then we would run even faster, with her threats ringing in our ears! When you returned home, the usual greeting from your mother was "I've had Suzanne here, ranting at me. She's going to call the police next time". Whether she ever did I don't know, but it never stopped us from doing it again.I will always remember her geese. It was rather unfortunate that the connecting path between our Nissen hut and the road skirted the land where she let her geese roam free. When ever I walked along the path, a dozen or more of these vicious birds would make a beeline, wings flapping, half running half flying, beaks snapping, squawking, shrieking and calling to others to join the attack.Then, to make matters worse, as I was trying to fend them off with stones or a stick or the last resort, my boot, Suzanne would appear, waving and cursing at me. "I vill get ze poleez. You keelz my geezes. I vill teld yor mutter. You is bad kid." I was so pleased when we moved to another part of Millwey.I received more tongue lashings and bruises on my legs from Suzanne and her fearsome livestock than I did in 35 years of playing football. They were the bane and fear of my very early life on The Camp.
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