Beatrice here, Yes, it lives. My contributions to “The Saga” have indeed been skint of late. Worzel and I are back in concord, regarding Alice’s dreadful stories, she was Godfrey’s only sibling, and like her or not, adds a ridiculous verisimilitude to his story.
Godfrey was my lifelong friend, and one of his favorite adventures was two weeks spent stranded among travelers, in a remote alpine hostel, road and railway cut off by flooding. Worzel has reported many persons writing, claiming they were there, that January, 1983. All recall the Chili Pot, the sheer intensity of the foul weather, and the odd young man who so disliked beets.
This letter came from Wrexham, not far from here. Dhilys Pugh was there, in Arthur’s Pass so long ago…her daughter writes.” When our mother retired, she went daft, and decided to hitchhike alone about “The Far Antipodes”. Off before we could place her in a home, off with a backpack she went”.
Mum lived her dream, returning fit and full of stories. “It were serious trampers, turned up in Arthur’s Pass, driven down by the rain from peaks and tracks. A Swiss couple, a Bongo Van full of Aussie girls, two dour Swedes, two Americans, Sally and Jim on bikes. Brian, the Canadian lad, always chopping wood. Barry, the “Whinging Pom”, with his own tea towels..and Godfrey- an odd looking character with a sign- “No Pasaran Beets”, which he propped by the kitchen sink.
It merely rained the first day we spent stranded in high Arthur’s Pass. By mid morn the third day, safe to say it poured. On the fourth the wind blew 7 bells of crapaud, we began the chili, and played “Name that Herb”, from ancient packets and jars in the kitchen cupboard.
On the 5th day we had a contest- How many time was the “Mike Oldfield ” record played as it rained on the second? Godfrey won, the last banana- 8 and one half times he reckoned.
By day nine stranded in Arthur’s Pass, we completed a damp jigsaw puzzle- “David” missing the naughty bit. The chili was served again that night, a tin a creamed corn thrown in it. The Swedes baked bread, Godfrey loaned me his copy of “Naked Came I”, on the tenth day I curled up, close to the fire and read.
We played “Name that Herb”, from the odd smelling baggy, Sally from Texas found under her bunk. Godfrey’s deft scrounging produced ginger snaps, with cream for the coffee to dunk.
Should you ever be stranded in Arthur’s Pass, waterfalls appear like magic when mist clears over the tussocks and snowgrass. There is perfume of coal smoke and wood fire overall ,peaks loom, faded mural hangs on the hostel common room wall.
With Godfrey I walked to the roadside chapel, to pray that the rain may stop, we had a guffaw over diapers and pet food, all that was left in the only shop. In fun, we played Scrabble in Welsh just to baffle the Scrabble Champ, Brian, very earnest Canadian.
The Australian girls were good humored, yet kept to them self. Dour Swedes and Swiss longed for to ski, Brian chopped wood, he had read all the moldy books on the dusty shelf. We all tried to add what we had to the chili, vegemite, an apple, half a bag of stale muesli. “No Pasaran Beets” Godfrey’s sign read, seriously being the elder, guarding the pot and washing up fell to me..
We stumbled over tussock grass, down to the river, every morning for to stretch out and walk. Humbled by walls of stone, thick Rata clad in full crimson flower. We sought the green jade, washed from the flood water. I found a fine, small piece, Godfrey made a wee bag from one of his socks. (Knitting a skill he learned from his own Mother) I wear it round my neck, on a ribbon he gleaned from another.
Godfrey said- “It will ease arthritic ache and pain”, cement friendship. “A gift from the gorge will carry you a journey, and home to Arthurs’ Pass one day again”.
Naked came I, from the shower stall on the 14th day of rain. There was hullabaloo outside the loo, with word that an east bound train had gotten through. Only Godfrey remained last of the rain, his socks not quite dry hung by the fire, in silence I sat, prodding an ember…trying to put thanks into words, that I would write fondly of Arthurs’ Pass, and would always remember..
For he’d trod from mud and knee deep clouds, down from the hut on Mt Ghoul, tramped alone. He was wringing his wet socks into a plant, whistling “Sweet Molly Malone”
In the tiny Hostel office, hear the warden complain, midnight in your bunk, waken to the drumming rain. Plan in your mind, the building of a raft if need be, remember being stranded, playing “Name that Herb ” and that dreadful pot of chili.
“I did not return to Arthurs’ Pass, many years later, back home walking one evening by “The Irish Times” pub, someone was singing “Sweet Molly Malone”. Round my neck, I felt for that green stone, recalled the large salad I befriended, when back down in the city after two weeks of dubious chili. …
Here, Mum’s story ended. Restless back home, we built her a Donkey Cart, and with “Arthur”, a gentle beast, enjoyed her dotage hosteling, and prodding about in waterfalls. Mum remained adament, that feet must be kept warm and dry.