The BALLAD OF ALICE and OLD VERN THE PENSIONER

Hello from Worzel here is an up date on our saga, and of seeking a publisher for it, our grand work. Latest in rejection- “Miss Odd?, “Though your prose is amusing, we at Sheep’s End Book and Wyrd” do not currently embrace “Doggerel”. Your story of wit, pathos and utter stupidity is too much a condemnation of beets for us to categorize…

Nudge Giggleswick said it best- “Fel rhech pot jam” Welsh- Oh fart in a jam jar. Thank you, Nudge.  

Found this wee ad in my newspaper chip wrap when Alice provided dinner- LOST- Stolen or lost set of steps to house. Yellow in color, reward if returned- Vern in Bognar.  

Was Benny, of Sonsie Farm who wrote the song … Beatrice and I had spent glorious summer working on our book, “The Collected Wisdom Of Godfrey”.  Benny and partner Adelaide had been away roaming by donkey cart, seeking yellow houses, and any thing they could pinch or scrounge..

This   day from my seat in the rocker on Beatrice’s verandah all was at peace, sun slanting dusty down the fig arbor, hens scratching about, Beatrice cleaning harness, clink of buckles, slath of wet rag, tang of fresh saddle soap, idle thump of tail from ancient, dreaming sheepdog,   Beatrice whistling through her teeth as Godfrey had done…I watched the farm horses gang up, stare down the road, there was neighing and pacing. A donkey brayed…

Benny and Adelaide were home. The donkey cart was laden with cases of apples, lumber, a set of steps from someones house, books for the bed of books the old couple slept on…grinning Benny, with the heart of a balladeer, later that eve sang this one for us.

Beatrice knew well of Alice and Vern, did most of their bickering in Welsh, I will translate for you best I can.

” Oh sing, sing of Alice, Alice the prankster, just not in the presence of Brian the town cop or old Vern the pensioner”

I sing of Vern who lived on a pension, oft seen in white shoes mid the lawn bowling grounds down in Bognar.When Alice strode by stick in hand, the two chose to insult one another. “Fondle your groats” Alice shouts over the fence to Vern clipping the green. “Cachu hwch”, a reference to pig poo Vern called back. You nasty old pout worm, Alice chided him, that was mean.

“Ceri Grafu” ” Vern (Go and scratch) where the girdle you wear pinches you”.  Vern and Alice met up by chance, in line  at the same bank. Twixt ancient Miss Crapper and Sugar Mulgrew’s  nosy mother. Alice and Vern regarded each other, all went silent no one clacked on machine or counter. Alice produced from her poke fresh garlic, offered a plump clove or more to Miss Crapper.

Alice   knew well Vern could not bear the rank odor  . “A silent marauder be garlic” she happily ate it, did tiny Miss Crapper, retired school teacher, thank you demurely from my old bowels and liver. “Alice pranked Vern effectively , Vern tried but could not out guffaw Alice. They teased without out ire or acrimony, two old curmudgeons both born in Batley.

Poor old Vern with a churn gave up place in line, to gag in his hat outside. It was chilly December and all Vern knew, as Alice did to, all their lives they had caused chaos together. As a lad Vern cheeked Alice when she sang in the streets, he pelted her odd brother Godfrey with beets.

Years ago, Alice showed up at Vern’s wedding wearing rubber boots, wielding a fresh boiled Haggis, quite greasy. It burst when pierced by the brides hungry nephews, got Haggis on the ceiling, on Vern’s white shoes quite a bit on the vicar to…

At a Skibbereen pub, “The Slug and Lettuce” said Alice’s partner “Nudge” we would sing on stage when the landlady let us”. In the corner most Tuesdays sat old Vern the pensioner, retired now, family grown and gone. Vern, when not tending the bowlers fine lawn or down the cafe’ for beans on toast (Friday’s poached Kipper”. Vern knew only herring bothered Alice brought one to the pub on a string to torment her…

Nudge reported- “I was keeping time on a length of rubber hose, Alice sang.” Along came Vern leaned out with a pole, dangled rotten herring, under my loves  bulbous nose”. She was singing “I’d Rather be in Bognar”  as had her old Uncle Lou (sadly passed) Vern, silly Vern made egregious error..Alice when irked could really move fast.

Half the herring in hand, Alice chased after Vern, the pub crowd erupted in laughter. The sensible fled or hid neath the bar, down the steps, they ran, Vern in kilt hiked high, round and round his old car. Gasped Alice, “Vern when I catch you I have paint in my poke and shall paint your old buttocks blue”.

“Tumffat !! “Alice you sing as well as that herring before it was netted and died”. “Bampot !! both skidded to a stop, through the gathered crowd lumbered Brian, Batley, Skiberreen, and Bognar town cop.  “Fel rhech mewn pot jam ” cried silly Nudge Giggleswick holding Alice’s hat and coat, her heavy poke and precious stick.

“No worries Brian, harmless fun”, holding tattered herring stood stalwart Alice, fond sister of Godfrey, unrepentant curmudgeon. as agreed old Vern, with the fishes tail, winded he was and really quite pale …they got away with a fine for “Disturbing The Queen’s Peace a night in the cells, a lecture, that went in one ear and way past the other.

Alice to this day is a prankster, cheeky she is to old Vern the pensioner….

Adelaide ululated and clapped, proud Benny finally finished singing possibly the worst ballad I had ever heard…Beatrice had crept off to bed by the third verse. Guitar strings were carefully wiped down, beer produced all around  to contented belching. Impossible to categorize indeed…

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OLD PAINT, WEE CANVAS, And odd unkind remarks.

Worzel here, in Wales late summer, apologizing once again to Beatrice,elderly tenants on her farm, Adelaide and Benny were my fault…years before, they had shown up at our luggage shop in Canada claiming the ancient plaid steamer trunk in the window display as their own. 

I had given them the trunk, and Beatrice’s address in Wales where they were vaguely bound, never expecting the two thieves to get there, much less make “Sonsie” home. Beatrice had collected me from the train , we hared off, as she suspected Adelaide and Benny were “Up To Something” . They were indeed…

Beatrice’s garden yard was obscured by smoke, grinning Adelaide tending the smoldering fire under an ancient, claw footed tub set over a hole. with full view of the road Benny sloshed, singing a bawdy song, enjoying his bath…

“At least they are bathing”, I reassured Beatrice…still indignant the next morning, muttering “Feh” as we watched Benny and Adelaide set off in donkey cart, steamer trunk battened down, “Seeking Yellow Houses”read the tattered sign on their sleep-out door. 

Said Beatrice with a sigh- “They live wholly without judgement no need for unkind remarks, Adelaide and Benny” .”It is their lone redeeming quality, lacking in many”.

Visiting Beatrice’s farm was like coming home to me, for 5 years now we two had been compiling the life story and collected wisdom of our friend, “The Vagabond Godfrey.”  under a pear tree on “Sonsie” he had passed, after forty years a wander…

Beatrice and I trekked. She strode I chugged behind, (rather felt I had a futon tied to my ass). Up her sheep paddock where standing stones made a fine rest stop at the summit. She produced a wodge of biscuits, baked by Godfrey’s eccentric sister “Alice”. Mine contained chunks of boiled egg, Beatrice’s a penny coin and remnant of a used tea bag. “Do you ever worry about Alice?”, I asked- “No” She replied. I watched one of those odd breezes that can be seen not felt, ripple across the grassy hill side, as if soothing it with a great hand…felt Godfrey with us on this land where he played as a child.

Beatrice rarely spoke of Godfrey’s homecoming. “He was wind burned and thin with a wheeze in his chest – yet still a lad at heart, too full of poetry to rest much, content to nap by day”. “Out on the verandah went his battered old suitcase, patched by that dreadful, pink negligee.”

Home, my old puce house, we feasted on figs and blueberries, both aquired a taste for bock beer.  He baked us bread, baked us Taffaty Tart in tender pastry, true ginger snaps, loved his sweets did our vagabond Godfrey.  “I miss autumn afternoons peeling apples for to can, he ate the parings intended for the hens as we’d talk”. “Miss his muttering about the outdoor loo, down the path through tall grass, bit of a walk at night even for me”.

“And at eve when I’d retire, leave him writing by the fire…”Goodnight Old Paint” I’d call down..”Nos da” Godfrey replied softly…

“No sadness in Puce Cottage from Beatrice’s reminiscence- but in quiet times we both felt our old friends presence. On her sitting room mantel hangs a photo of a photo of a painting, it’s origins a mystery, seated horseback a youthful Godfrey. With it a tatty postcard, a cheerful young couple, sit side by each gazing fondly. Gazing rather ewe like  those in love may in public parks, they wear matching knitted vests vivid turquoise, pink and lavender, it read “They Were Often The Target For Unkind Remarks”.

” Oh Beatrice said I, “I bought him this. “We found it on a Tuesday, buying sweets and stationary”. “Feh!, I could hear Godfrey two aisles over, made my way through the clutter to stand by his side, the card that upset him so absurd I laughed till he cried”. We bought the silly picture before Godfrey caused a scene, the clerk eyed my vagabond askance, as he pretended to admire a plastic religious figurine”.

“The dear couple on the postcard wore crocheted hats, in a color Godfrey drolly called “Horse Slobber Green”. Many years he carried it, felt it brought him good luck, as a lad you well know he endured remarks unkind and mean.”.

Wrote Godfrey, “I recall running hard in a vivid pink cardigan, Ma knitted all I wore and dabbled some in “Tat”. “Sister Alice would declare she would go about bare than in a knitted outfit, would have none of it”. Ma, unfazed passed it all on to me, though half Alice’s size and height”.” I became the target of unkind remarks,  of beets and urchins itching for to fight”. “I wore woolly swimming togs when summer came, have always felt for others, hearing unkind remarks about their rubber boots or odd sounding name”…

I gently placed the faded card back, next to the framed picture of Godfrey. All beings this good day were at peace on “Sonsie’. Time waited for us…thought of him down that pathway to the outhouse after dark, heard his laughter as he told of his sister Alice butted by the goat and her unkind remark. “Beatrice says, “infrequently I dust that old photo of a photo of a painting, may it remain mysterious”. “You  were an odd young man, old paint, I tell him”.. and he whispers back, indeed I was ,To Rah, wee canvas…

TAFFATY TART- From Godfrey

Worzel here,  Summer rolls  too quickly down on “Steinbeck’s Half Acre”..bittersweet days, my memories oft ebb and at times, tears have mingled with the ever present, cool breeze over the harbor. 

Inspired this day to cheer up, I decided to bake a “Taffaty Tart”, from the sticky old cookbook Godfrey treasured. The book never stayed flat, it always opened to page 67, and I noticed the tart recipe, scrawled on a bakery bag, and glued down with barley malt syrup, had come loose, was crumbling with age…

Gently I peeled the paper free, found remnants of nutmeg and poppy seeds, and there on the back of the bag, this poem. Leaving my apples to brown, I snecked in my turquoise chair, gob smacked by Godfrey once more…

An “Amaranthine”…she was, with doe like  grace, feet bare, eyes blue as flax flowers grew on the Manitoba Prairie.

She placed a firm hand on my shoulder, and a sun warmed plate of Taffaty Tart she set before me.

The pastry was of golden crumb butter sweet and salty. Apples picked that morning ..Pippens from her cottage glade. Layers of apple baked with fresh spice and brushed with marmalade.

Each pie had a sugared top, heart shape cut in the center, I watched her forage the garden edge, pick wild strawberries for her own pleasure. From a handmade, ancient cup, she spooned for us fresh cream…she baked for me a Taffaty Tart..my friend, my “Amaranthine”..

The remainder of this poem was sadly illegible, as was the missing page 86, left too close to an open flame. Godfrey was hopeless as a romantic chap, loved with all heart, yet preferred to be the one doing the baking. I would love to know who this lovely woman was, the bag remnant was from a bakeshop in “Watrous”…

THE ABSQUATULATE- Nudge’s Chance to Shine- from Worzel

The atmosphere was of chewing, rending of teeth on toast, the aah’s of good tea. My pen kept rolling off the wobbly table I had attempted to steady with a wad of toilet roll. I abandoned my pen, no longer wanting a close look at the floor neath the table of “Little Chef’, a roadside service cafe where, on my recent summer visit to Wales, I always met with Godfrey’s eccentric sister, Alice…

To my dismay, Alice’s partner “Nudge Giggleswick’ joined us, with plates licked clean, Nudge produced a disreputable sock, shook it’s contents of coins out on the table, (they rolled everywhere), to sort and count them, earnings from a mornings singing down the market. Alice rummaged in her packet of writings, casting aside sweet wrappers, and a partial portion of cheese. I asked Nudge, a peculiar little man, “What do you, Nudge, actually do?..”Why, I play the “LaughPan”, I created, some call it the “Absquatulate”, would you like to hear my story now we have ate? “Feh” said Alice, indeed, I replied, oh joy! the cheerful Nudge Giggleswick  cried… 

As a child, said he, I was pummeled by the boys, played jump rope with the girls, spent a great deal of time alone in damp cloak room dunce cap on my curls, which were umber colored and Ma let me keep quite long. As a little chap, I was known for out bursts of racous song.

“Had my old mans lungs, said Ma, twas dad who bellowed “All Aboard”, from the train rang the bell with a clang, echoed down the small Welsh valley, where all we Giggleswicks sang. Ma loved a story, and oft told this tale, how I was born elbows first, you see. Ma gave a firm “Nudge” and out I popped wailing, though they wished for a she not their 11th he”.

At aged six- was reported, “It is sad, but that lad appears, to have been made up of spare parts” Miss Fondliver it was, Batley town nurse, “From those freckles to the crab like way that he walks”, she peered down pink nose, through glasses quite thick, noted “I do not see a rosy future for you, young Nudge Giggleswick”

Alice chimed in- From the worn out photos Nudge has let me see, he stood wet and bewildered quite often, as did my late brother Godfrey. While Godfrey was a poet, Nudge sang and whistled non stop, his brothers stuffed his mouth with mashed potatoes, and claimed Nudge came in a sack from the charity shop.

“All Aboard”! called Pa, all aboard everyone, clutching his knapsack, nearly grown now, Nudge waved goodbye as he set out for far off London. No more mashed potatoes, no brothers nasty feet in his face, no more bally-hoo, no more having to hide his musical creations, back of the cold out door loo. Sun crept round the mist as his train clacked along, he reckoned the winter warmth a sign- “I have invented the “Dust Pan Flute”, soon it will be my chance to shine”.

In a hostel dwelt Nudge, in a room with twelve others, the warden’s signs hung in the hall. “Be ye unwelcome loose women, waifs and strays, the itinerant musician” Beware the pickpocket and mini cab tout- Do Not slam The Door on Your Way out. ” as he walked the big city, Nudge sang for his supper of chips and the coins tossed his way, he oft sat in the park thinking long, long thoughts, of home and the music he was learning to play.

He purloined a dust pan from the hostel closet, attached a pilfered  rubber hose to it. He cut strategic holes the length and width, added an old tin cup so his lips would fit, Nudge could not sing as he played his Laughpan, but delighted in the racket it made, from the low drone of  distant cow afar, building to crescendo of  large herd of beasts, in a narrow corridor.

Nudge practiced in the streets everyday, the good folks of London soon paid him well to go away. “Free Music of Nudge” read his sign. Every night, over chips he told himself, indeed he was destined to shine.

Alice tells her version of events- Many years I traveled with “The Uncle Lou Band” we were booed off stage, we were chased off stage from Bristol to Finland…when dear Uncle Lou blew his last notes on trombone, I was cast to the streets on my own. “Let Inside Me Guffaw’ was a favorite tune, I sang ” Jack Neath The Pier”, sang the haunting “Old House Of Ill Repute I Called Home”.

“There she stood, on an apple crate, snow fell softly on her wooly hat, she sang as if straight to my lone heart, after wards I asked, “please join me, in the shelter of yon brewery cart”. She wore an old kilt over trousers, her boots were muddy and brown, her name was Alice, and she came from near my home in Skibbereen Town. Alice asked, “what ever is that odd instrument of mine?….then she joined me in song, oh how those cold coins did shine!.

Alice sang- “Rum Raisin The Tart” is what they called me, I wore no knickers beneath”. From aged 16 to 82, could be found down the stroll on Hampstead Heath”….”she stirred the stars in my heart, thought we could see naught for snow fell thickly”. “She strode, I waddled, walked Alice home to her hostelry’ . Twer much like mine- faded signs hung askew, “No trodding of mud or effluvium in, no singing oddly or loud, no cooking of Brussels Sprouts after 10:00, Beware Of The Curmudgeon.

Partnership did not catapult, Nudge and Alice to fame, she evolved into a prankster, rubbish  filled their dust pan, the cops laughed at his funny name. Still counting his coins I asked again, besides creating a nuisance  together, what else did Nudge like to do? “I awake with guffaw and a zest for life, spent morning looking out the window at folks below”. I play my “Absquatulate” in the bath tub, oft hours at a time”. Sing war songs with old Arthur Bosomsworth, thank Alice for my chance to shine…

Alice, never comfortable around words like “love” or “thine”, “Manners’ or “Couth” sat kilt hiked, inspecting a bony knee, her own. Nudge, who like Godfrey considered no meal complete without peas- covered his shyness by gobbling them through a straw..Peculiar old pair, not peculiar at all..

THE FINE NAVIGATOR- From Worzel

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, his life’s desire was for “Whirled Peas”, to avoid all manner of discord, and beets. He feared little, only moths, antique shops, closed in spaces and waxed floors..but came in time to tolerate heights, wobbly tables and owls.

Godfrey did not “Gasconade”, was never prideful , yet was cheekily confidant with his navigation skills, I happily let him lead. I misplaced Godfrey in a large grocery store one day, deduced he would be far from beets as could be, and located my friend down the pet food aisle, behind several large bags of dog food, and a stack of tins, eating a can of vanilla cake frosting…the vagabond was happiest outside, he truly was a fine navigator, venturing off track a joy.  

“I am a fine navigator”, pompossed my vagabond Godfrey. For it was summer, early morning and we were off on an adventure. I brought water, and plums and cheese with crackers, (the ones that don’t crumble with sesame seed). “Feh”, said Godfrey,” Vegemite in ones pack is heavy, we shall forage in the wild, and drink from a muddy boot print if need”. “Feh”, I thought back, muddy boot print indeed…

We drove from the city, to a raffishy back road near a derelict homestead. As directed by Godfrey, “I shall navigate from here”, he assured me. We decended a forest track narrow and green, soaked still in dew, cool in the shadows, I could hear rushing water before it came into view.

I tried not to see neath his kilt as he clambered, nimbly over wet rocks shedding knapsack and coat, Godfrey sat to wait, for me on the boulder I gracefully fell off. Sank in icy cold water up to my throat- “Mind”, he said politely, fishing me out, “it is slippery”.

Beets nasty hot, beets nasty cold, beets nasty all the time, gone to mold. Beets with gizzard meat, beets and Bulgar  Wheat, rather eat from muddy boot print nine days old..

Godfrey sang this as we tramped, a nonsense song…I must state here the truth, the awkward lad I once knew was gone, over the stones he hopped, never once getting mis- matched socks wet. “Trust  my navigation, dear Worzel, laughed Godfrey, let us see how far up this sweet river we can get”.

No poet as he was, allow me to describe our journey. Excuse my verse if too “Esoteric”. We did forage berries, the tart, thimble shaped ones where brambles grew thick. I pointed  out skeeters and odd “Jesus” beetles, dragon flies, the still pools with very light dusting of pollen. He scampered, I crawled cross a natural bridge, the trunk of an ancient cedar long fallen.

I fell off it thrice, water twice then fine river sand, it wedged in every crevice, as I followed my fine navigator, cross farmer’s fields over land. “I am a fine navigator, learned neath the stars from an old sailor Verne Lipshimmer, (something of a tippler). Twas my first long  voyage as a lad, each night looking out for The Southern Cross,  respect for the sea, I learned from Verne, a fine navigator was he..”

“And sense of direction unerring, came from being tormented with beets when young, that and the odd knitted clothes I was wearing”. “Hid I did often from beets hard tossed, even on a moving train, got off before I was far away lost, Ma slapped my head when sister Alice told her…I survived my Welsh childhood, a fine navigator”. . .

We were now on a cow path, cows zigged, calves zagged, bulls ponderous lagged behind later. Round still steaming leavings, barely looking still singing, trekked cheerily  Godfrey, my fine navigator. We had hiked a “De-Hoop”, he called it, back to our clean flowing river.

“He never failed to find his way, rarely by passed a bake shop or cafe’. We sat outside, damp and hungry, my bony behind having endured, stone, bark, and burr..as Godfrey the charmer brought out laden tray- “Never Pass Up a Bun Offered Free”- said he, my friend, a fine navigator…

JULIET BALCONY- From Godfrey and Worzel

There were years, and months Godfrey spent in deep retreat, I worried over him. Beatrice in Wales worried more, but we did not know each other back then..I never asked what was wrong in the time he writes of in “Juliet Balcony”. I only knew that for Godfrey, being knee deep in a cold, chuckling river, or baking cream buns was his best therapy…It was long ago, but I thank the residents of “The Old Nurses Home”, then and now for their kindness to our vagabond.  

In the mining town of Reefton tucked deep in the valley, the Inangahua River flows cold. Down narrow canyon her bends create deep pools, and there in the shallow bits Godfrey spent summertime panning for gold.

Twas during his hard times, his dark days, of a sadness he struggled to understand. Godfrey at heart was a blyth spirit- rare as the gem stones and gold flakes he gleaned from the sand.

It helped him feel better, this gurgling, clean water, wrote he..”Peaceful the Inangahua, in no hurry this river to join the wild Tasman Sea.” He had a plain, small room at “The Old Nurses Home” Godfrey did. Up the high stair, his room had a Juliet Balcony, and oft he just sat on an ancient cane chair- “Older than you or me”. Out on my Juliet Balcony”.

“I get the morning sun a bit late, as deep is this valley”. “It comes warming the sheep fields of small farms, and the steaming forest canopy”  I get the dawn chorus of sweet native birds, grinding gears of school bus starting up”. Scent toast and coffee , must go down for a cup- but linger a tad on my Juliet Balcony”

“Kneeling by the river, my kilt hangs safe and dry in a tree”. I wear the modest flowered shorts, from the flour sacks you sewed up for me”. “In late afternoon the rain comes in earnest, but dos not feel chilly”. For “The Old Nurses Home” has a great, deep bath tub down the hall, and later shelters the vagabond out on his Juliet Balcony”.

“Every cup in the cupboards a mismatch, all plates and bowls different”, Godfrey observed. As usual in times of wet weather, he baked. All the travelers and all the old nurses, yaffled the scones and cakes he served.

At eve, after supper in the lounge room below, the retired nurses gather round the piano. Tea and biscuits, laughter and song, everyone welcome to sing along, sing all the oldies.

“The Old Nurses Home had a vast wild garden of native plants let grow amok. Hidden corners with tables for quiet contemplation, borders of driftwood logs, and well placed river rock”. Pears grew, figs and Kiwi fruit to, grapes heavy on an arbor, a young apple tree”. Visitors added seashells, odd wrought iron pieces of old farm equipment…a tranquil space neath his Juliet Balcony

“In a place of joy, how trite seemed my worries- and retired nurses do have the funniest stories. “I shared the device I devised, for removing thorns from ones own derriere. They gave me a wonderful salve for the sand fly bites I itched everywhere”. “Gave me sage advice to avoid the chaos and noise of major city- as I baked them a batch of Anzac Biscuits…I oft wonder now who looks out, over my Juliet Balcony’.

“I strolled in the garden one hot afternoon, the wisest of old nurses joined me in welcome shade”. “With her blessing I left the gold I had panned as an offering to the garden, along with my fragments of garnet and jade”. “Of the many things we talked of, most vital is what I learned from this wisest and humble of nurses- forgiveness…

“I sought wisdom, and wisdom in the least likely places found me- from a retired nurse neath my Juliet Balcony”    From Godfrey.

 

SAY YES TO NO- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here, While his distaste for beets is well documented, Godfrey was fond of most else, besides moths, closed in spaces, very loud children, wolves, and bottled cherry syrup, the shape of which he invariably dropped. 

He abhored violence and all forms of bigotry, – Godfrey loved words. He saw no need to contort words in rhyme, spelled them to suit his very basic thoughts, and oft confounded me with his ability to find wisdom, if not logic in utter nonsense.

My co-writer, Beatrice, back home in Wales, her tenants Adelaide and Benny, along with Godfrey’s sister Alice wished to contribute to this story, to Beatrice’s dismay- they do. 

Godfrey writes- Was a hot summer day, by the river I lay, clear water cooling bare feet. Say yes to no worries thought I, with a pack of warm Mirabel Plums for a treat. They were wrapped in newspaper- on a remnant I read- “Simon Bajak has fled”!.

Simon Bajak has fled, taking folks hard earned money left in his trust, Loose the hounds on Simon’s track, make him pay it all back. Say yes to no more bad behavior in future.

In your tropical clime, thought Godfrey, you may be sunburned the very first day, accosted by crabs and sand fleas on the shore, bonked in the head with a volleyball, have no where to spend that money but one dusty store. One shop with nothing but nappies and cat food to pay for.

A Blatherskite stood on her apple crate- a netter-cap. Voice bigger than she was spoke out over city honking and roar. A few paused to listen to her wisdom, as Godfrey did. Most hurried by, as Margretta urged all caring folk to say- “Yes To No More Weapons and War”

My Paludal a haystack, the sky my T.V. set, I am a fig picker- finest career a tatterdemallion can get. Say yes to no bruised fruit, no worms, no caterpillars the boss lady told me. Indeed, understood I replied from high in my Fig tree.

Say yes to no bruised figs or feelings say yes to full fig bins filled to the hilt. Say yes to no cold rain and wind swath cross the orchard, say yes to no cold, damp draft up my kilt.

Beatrice’s verse- She and Godfrey grew up together, lifelong friends- I cherish her friendship to. 

Quenders, Lues, Rawolfia to, all these afflictions I find wrong with you. An excess of Vril perhaps?….Yaws and a Wen, say yes to no checkups! young Godfrey cried, refused to ever see Dr Uren and his, scary old office again.

“We said yes to no”, wrote rogue rovers Benny and Adelaide. Came upon a penned pheasant one journey we made, for we sought yellow houses cool evening, quite late, we meandered onto a royal estate.

“Ate it we did”. For being hungry lit a gypsy fire, neath a broad young oak tree. We stuffed our plump bird with scone crumb and spices, fresh foraged herb, and sauce of sweetened heath berry. “Twas feasting and song till the law came along”. We said yes to their no”, cheeked elderly Adelaide and Benny.

Sister Alice would never be left out…

“What question is this for a full on prankster?, Alice slurped her tea when I asked her. Had she ever said yes to no?. Why every work day fitting shoes in the shop, and my hobby of tormenting Brian the town cop.

Brian came in for new shoes. I chose a fine pair for him, white leather “Winkle Pickers” two times his size. When he put them on, I told wee Brian they would make fine swim fins, if need did arise- they are lovely, do buy them.

I said yes to his no, Brian stood obdurate, a crowd gathered outside the shop in the High Street, he said no to my yes, shoes still on his feet. I said yes to to no and teased Brian to no avail. In white “Winkle Pickers- Obstruction of the Law! -he cried, hauled me off to Skibereen jail…

After dinner I drew on my cell wall, in denture paste someone left neath my cot underside. No artiste, I drew a portrait of myself, Alice, with words of curmudgeon pride.

“Say yes to no and no to yes and worry not over the state of your stockings and dress”. Let your heart let loose free chortle and guffaw, and mind where you step when chased over wet grass, fleeing from portly Brian wee arm of the law”.

Oh, Alice….my word. 

“Say yes to no beets” The vagabond Godfrey, read this on a sign post Quinquenium years ago. Wise words indeed, thought he. And in good Godfrey fashion, sought out ant free shade- found pen and notebook for to write and share it with me.