Whatever they might think inside the M25, life is never, ever dull in the country. Our neighbour six fields away was visited by detectives last week because she had seen newspaper photographs of Steve Wright, following his conviction for the murders of the five Ipswich prostitutes, and recognised him as the man who attacked her in her home in west London in the mid-1980s. The police were interested because she lived close to where Suzy Lamplugh worked, and so, if her memory serves her correctly, she can place Wright in the same location at around the time Suzy went missing, in July 1986.
Our neighbour six fields away is Lindi St Clair, which is one of several aliases, the best-known being Miss Whiplash. Once a brothel-keeper only marginally less celebrated than Cynthia Payne, she has featured in this space before, but I make no apology for writing about her again. After all, she is the only dominatrix of my acquaintance – knowingly, at least – and where would a country-life column be without the odd reference to whips and nipple clamps?
I was going to visit Miss Whiplash last Wednesday – not an admission every respectable family man would make – but she advised me not to because the police were coming. She had phoned a couple of days earlier to tell me not about the Steve Wright connection, but that someone is dumping unwanted, emaciated cockerels on her land, and somewhere inside me I think there must be a reporter for The Sun trying to get out, because my first thought was that a story involving Miss Whiplash and spare, withered cocks was almost too good to be true.
I mustn't be flippant, though, because she's quite distressed about it. There have been six cocks, in varying states of health and one with a broken leg, dumped in her orchard. She's pretty sure she knows who's doing it, and thinks it's intended to wind her up, in which case, it's working. Not that she's exactly ornithophobic. She already has 400 ducks, geese and chickens, and tells me that keeping feathered creatures has been a hobby of hers since she was about 25, when she bought an elegant birdcage for her house in Earls Court, and decided that she ought to have something to put inside it.
She started with a couple of budgies, and wound up by making an aviary of an entire room, where 40 or so budgies, red-crested cardinals and zebra finches flew around freely. Never was the 1960s advertising slogan for Trill birdseed – "an only budgie is a lonely budgie", coined by the BBC's motor-racing commentator and advertising copywriter Murray Walker (which must be the first time the old boy has made it into a column with Miss Whiplash) – quite so superfluous.
Anyway, one might think that, with 400 birds already, Miss Whiplash wouldn't worry about a few extra. But she does. "I've got 17 cocks of my own," she told me. "I don't need any more. It's a source of great botheration."
There are many reasons why I enjoy talking to Miss Whiplash, and one of them is the word "botheration". Another is the insight she offers into a world of which I know so very little. When I asked whether her interest in birds and her job as a dominatrix had ever collided, she thought for a moment, then said, "Yes, I used to get my submissive slaves, who like to be given humiliating tasks, to dig up worms and then chew them up into a mash, to feed to the chicks".
I don't think that's an image you'll find in most common-or-garden property supplements.
Miss Whiplash, I should add, moved out of the city to rural north Herefordshire in 1999. She is mostly retired now, but still offers "personal services" once or twice a week, and claims to have a couple of former high-ranking politicians among her most loyal customers, "though I only see them about once a year". That her house is in the middle of nowhere, of course, suits them perfectly. "But please don't make too much of the sex angle," she implored me. "I want some coverage of the cockerel thing, because it might embarrass the person doing it into stopping. It's really getting me down."
I told her I'd do what I could, and encouraged her to keep her pecker up.Reuse content