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Millsy (left) with his friend Paul White, the builder, at the Whitchurch, Morcombelake and Ryall Flower Show
Millsy (left) with his friend Paul White, the builder, at the Whitchurch, Morcombelake and Ryall Flower Show

Millsy’s Jacket

I needed a nail; a nice long nail so I could make a crucifix-style armature on which to build a scarecrow. Not only was I feeding my 11 hens, I was also nourishing a fine population of crows. Jeff recommended that scarecrows are an effective, humane solution and Jeff is always right.

I ventured into the Black Hole (the garage) for wood and nails. Wood presented no problem and I found a jar of screws. I found washers (whatever they’re for), I found bolts and plaster board tacks, an allen key, a rounded Philips screwdriver, a length of copper wire and a Brillo pad but, of course, no suitably long nail.

Quite rightly, I gave up, knowing full well that The Amazing Sabre, who comes for a few hours on Wednesdays, would make mincemeat of such a colossal task and duly turned my attention to the more familiar territory of “what to wear?”

This scarecrow had to be effective. I ransacked my wardrobe, being mindful of a win/win opportunity: the Sue Ryder charity shop would get a welcome influx of dated Jaeger and I’d cherry-pick suitable attire for my scarecrow.

Not so. Power dressing may have been effective in the 80s but padded shoulders made little impression on the crows, other than providing a comfortable place to perch. It was back to the wardrobe knowing now that a feminine approach wouldn’t work. I needed something masculine, no messing and truly formidable.

I experimented with my ex-husband’s pink fedora (now that’s another story), then his defunct yachtsman foul weather protection but neither extreme cut it. I toyed with forfeiting my own outdoor protection but realistically, that was still very much in service.

I was almost at a loss, when I remembered and dashed to the cloakroom.

When Millsy — the former head cheese maker at Denhay — went off to Australia to make (and is making) his fortune, he left his beloved, well worn shooting jacket hanging in the porch at The Five Bells in Whitchurch Canonicorum. It remained there for months. He said, rather philosophically, “the right person will claim it and put it to good use.”

I’d put it to jolly good use when I’d worn it back from the pub in a downpour some months before. I continued to wear it on occasion but it was bulky and it made me — it made us all — rather miss him.

Tentatively, I hung it on Sabre’s cleverly-jointed, fleshed armature. It fitted perfectly — uncannily so — and with some old muddied trousers and the sparkly hat that he’d wear (having borrowed it from his daughter; it was in the jacket pocket), my scarecrow became the formidable embodiment of Millsy.

“It looks just like him!” beamed Sabre, remembering pointedly that Millsy still owed him a pint. I directed one of its rubber-gloved hands towards the wallet pocket.

“Don’t look like him now!” Sabre guffawed, but hand in, or hand out of pocket, the crows certainly knew Millsy and I’ve had no problem since.

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