In which a one-armed
farmer teaches Becky Jacobs a lesson.




Wicked Chicken and the
One-Armed Farmer


My primary school wasn’t a dump but it was pretty rough
round the edges. Nestled in a backstreet in Streatham it was pretty far removed
from anything green or rural. Memories of those school days are bitter sweet.
From afternoons freezing in vest and pants for PE to steel band lessons from
the most incredible South African music teacher. School dinners stank. Beef
crumble is just wrong.


Every once in a while the local council gave our school a
bit of cash to take us on a trip. These days out were looked forward to with
open mouthed anticipation. A few hours away from learning our times tables from
a teacher we kindly referred to as Concorde, or falling asleep in sister
Jessie’s religious education class, sounded like heaven. A day trip. On a
coach. Out of London.


One summer morning we lined up outside the school gates
waiting for Barry the misery guts to rock up with one of his soon to be
condemned coaches for hire. Barry had rules for his coach trips. No eating, no
standing up, no laughing, no throwing, no I-spy, no moonies, no stops, no
matter what. Thankfully our back of the bus card games were a long way from his
(and Miss Concorde’s) wrath. The bus chugged its way through the less
attractive landmarks of South London, Norbury,
Thornton Heath, and Selhurst until it broke free of the SW postcodes and hit
the motorway. Outside the windows was a new view and it was green. Ah, England’s
garden. The Sussex


A couple of sticky hours later, thirty-five pent-up kids
from Streatham were released at our destination, Home Farm. Home Farm was owned
by a farmer who would not look out of place in some 80s horror movie. He could
have starred in Deliverance and to
make him even more scary he only had one arm. Many of the kids had not stepped
a Nike Air Jordan out of London before, and here we
were face-to-face with cows, pigs and Mr. Benson, the terrifying one-armed


Despite the appearance of Farmer Benson and his stump, it
wasn’t long before the excitement of the day and the heat of the sun got to us
and a bit of a scuffle broke out. The one-armed farmer was demonstrating how he
milked his prized Jersey cows, which was quite
impressive considering the limbs available to him.


Now, I hold my hands up-it was kind of my fault. The way I
remember it, Jason cussed my trousers and said I bought them in Oxfam, so me
telling him his mum shagged Mr. Helene the school caretaker was a fair
comeback. A push and a shove later Jason Jones had pushed me into a milk pail,
and Dolly the Jersey’s creamy nectar was all
over the floor. 


I will never know if it was agreed with Concorde that it was
up to Farmer Benson to discipline us, but minutes later we were being lead into
a shed. A man of few words the farmer looked me and Jason up and down and
muttered under his breath something about teaching us a lesson. The shed was
huge and dark and full of feathers and bird shit. A couple of distressed
looking chickens were running about at the farmer’s feet. Suddenly he bent
down, picked up one of the birds by the throat and shook it with all the might
his lonely limb had in it. The bird quacked and quivered in his hand and then
dropped to the floor with a thud. It ran aimlessly about flapping its wings.


The bird was dead and I didn’t piss about on a school trip
ever again.



Becky Jacobs sings and
plays melodica for UK
band Tunng. The new Tunng album,
…And Then We Saw Land, is issued April 13 on Thrill Jockey. Visit
the band’s official website here.



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