Friday, 9 May 2008

WILLY-THE-WITCH....BABY-KILLER.

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Willy – The – Witch.

YES, every village has to have one, and we had ours.
This little old lady, always dressed in black as I recall, with long flowing dresses and coat. She used to ride her old lady’s ‘sit-up-and-beg’ black bike with a basket on the front almost everywhere. (You’d seldom see her walking.)

As a very young child I found her very scary indeed. Especially as somewhere in the background of ‘grown-up-talk’, I’d here the rumbling that some old lady dressed in black was going around pricking babies with a big needle and killing them. I know I used to have nightmares about this, but more to the point, I thought this little old lady on her bike was the culprit.

With her bent over posture, and large hooked nose, peddling furiously around the village, she was the prime suspect in my very young eyes. Her image engraved on my memory for the rest of my days.

As I grew older and able to explore more of the village, I found out that she lived in a ‘shanty shack’ right down the other end of Loddon Drive. Having found this out, I’d entice a few other kids including my younger brother and sister to accompany me down there to ‘spy’ on her. I was going to solve this ‘murder mystery’ all on my own. (With a little help from my friends of course. ‘coward’)

We’d creep about behind bushes, whispering to each other and making coded hand signals to tell each other she was on the move. Though most of the time she’d sit either in the garden around a fire she’d keep going. Or on hot sunny days, she’d sit on her veranda reading books. She never seemed to have visitors, and struck a very lonely figure.

Because she wore black all the time, had a bent over posture, a raggedy face with a large hooked nose and sat around a fire most of the day and evenings, we decided she must be a ‘WITCH’, and duly christened her ‘Willy-The-Witch’.

Now Willy loved her own company and was a very private person indeed. So whenever she caught us ‘snooping’ for clues to the child-murders I was convinced she was guilty of, she’d start shouting and screaming at us to get away from her house, and the area itself. Often chasing us up the drive with her big stick.

It got to the point (I’m now ashamed to say) where we’d bait her, calling her ‘Willy-the Witch, baby killer’ as she rode past us in the village on her bike. Or as we were running away from her screaming outbursts when she caught us spying on her at her ‘shanty shack’.

To compound our theory that she was a witch, you’d often see her visiting the graveyard below the Piggott C of E junior school. (Bottom of the old chalk pit). Where she would vanish for ages into the little ‘baby-cottage’ that was in the grounds. (Sadly no more, just a memorial bench)

We were convinced this was her ‘other house’ and maybe she cast spells in there, being that it WAS in the corner of the graveyard. Some of us would creep down there as it started to get dark, to see if we could catch her up to no good. But often scarpering hot-foot away from there as fast as we could the moment we’d hear some strange noise, or feel the bats winging past our heads. (Naturally believing what our Mum’s & Dad’s had told us about bats getting tangled in your hair if you stayed out after dark).

Willy-The-Witch had such a profound impression on my life as a child, that when I’d tell my youngest daughter Corrinne bed-time stories, they would always be about ‘Willy-The-Witch’. I would cast my mind back to a particular adventure in my life as a youngster, then adapt it around Willy. Always with a BIG! SURPRISE! at the end as Willy did something really scary.

I know. Some of you are saying I was cruel. But Corrinne absolutely loved them, and I used to have to come up with a FRESH story every night, from about eighteen months, right up until she was about five years old. If I started to repeat myself somewhere along the line, she’d remember and tell me so in no uncertain terms.

How did I manage it? I guess I had a remarkably adventurous childhood as they were all ‘truth-based’ stories. But sadly, as is usually the case, a couple of older girls who used to come round and play with Corrinne decide to tell her that there was no such person as Willy-The-Witch, and that I was ‘lying’ to her.

She told me she didn’t want to hear any more Willy-stories and denied ever being enthralled by them. Though now that she’s grown up. (All of sixteen years old) She reluctantly admits that maybe she ‘does’ remember them more fondly than she let on. (So I didn’t damage her for life as some of you may be thinking).

Willy-The-Witch obviously wasn’t a baby-killer, but later on in life I did read in our local rag, The Evening Post, that in the early fifties there WAS a ‘notorious’ Reading woman who was discovered as a baby-killer. So it’s likely that the gossip I was hearing from the ‘grown-ups’ about a woman dressed in black killing babies, was actually about her.

The moral of the story?
Don’t encourage your children to eavesdrop on your gossip. Their interpretation of what you’re talking about, might not be as accurate as you’d think, and could affect THEM for the rest of their lives. (Only joking).

Catch you later,

Pete.

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