Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Bye, Bye Blackbird

In the woods near here there was once a lodge house. It burned down over half a century ago, and now only a few clues remain - a fragment of walling or a step overgrown with ivy. The house was once the weekend retreat of a titled gentleman from the city, who used to come down for weekends accompanied by girls of doubtful respectability, setting local tongues wagging and provoking ribald speculation in the village.

One summer evening before the war a farm hand was walking home up the lane past the entrance to the Lodge's lower drive, when he noticed a pile of women's clothes on the verge. They were of good quality and agricultural wages were low, so he gathered them up in case they could be altered to fit his wife.

A little further on, where a track led through the woods to the rear of the house, he heard cries. He hid the clothes behind a tree, and went to investigate. Tied to a white painted five-bar gate was an hysterical girl, butt naked and blacked with boot polish from head to toe. He untied her, perhaps taking a little longer than was strictly necessary, and she fled, sobbing, not towards the Lodge but away into the depths of the wood, in the general direction of London, thirty miles away.

For some months after local people would stroll out on fine weekends to view the smears of boot polish on the gate, and a new song, sung to the tune of 'Bye, Bye, Blackbird', became a favourite in the pub. It began, "Old Sir so-and-so, he's no good, he blacked his girl in Old Lodge Wood."

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