As a toddler, Godfrey was odd looking, curious, already with a strong dislike for beets. Sister Alice took him with her to the market when she sang in the streets, standing on an up turned pail, above the shouting, the barter and din of the market, she sang for tossed toffees, and saving every penny she could get.
If any one dared jeer at Alice, or complain, she told them “He is not my snot nosed brother, but The Prince Of Aberystwyth, and I am Lady of Spain”. Godfrey honed his waifish charms, propped on an apple crate throne, if all went well Alice bought him a Gob-stopper, to keep him quiet till they headed home.
Apparently the average small boy, asks several hundred questions a day, or more. Godfrey at four asked his in rhyme, asked his mother a lot, received a swat behind. He asked his dad, who found everything funny, if bee-wee was honey as his sister Alice claimed, got blamed when she had him ask in church if beets were really made of manure, worms and dirt, if raisins were bug-guts, and was God the giant Alice said dropped snow from the sky and why were beets so low and grapes where he could not reach them, so high?.
At eight, Godfrey asked Alice, “why their dad left home and never wrote”. “Shut-up said his sister, or risk being smote.” “If I knew where the old man went I would tell, but I’m sorry, go brush what teeth you have, curl up and I’ll read a scary story”.
Godfrey never knew what Alice did at fifteen to be sent off so far away. She had him hanging out the upstairs window by the threads of his horse-sweaters tail. Expelled was Alice from the village school- proudly calling it for a “Disgraceful Propensity”. Auntie Phyllis from America was over for a stay said, “I see no hope for Godfrey, but leave Alice to me”. “The Sisters of St Giles, down south near Newbury, will mold her into a proper lady”
Assured of an adventure, with music and singing every day, Alice in her new hat, ribbon hanging down, slapped Godfrey on the head as she waved from the train leaving town. Gone was the smell of beets she cooked in the morning, gone to, in an odd way his fearless protector, sadly the nine year old wadded up and stowed away his much loved, knitted horse-sweater.
With Alice gone, solidified our bond, it was I, Beatrice, ate the beets for Godfrey, fished him from the dung pile and frozen pond, still speaking in rhyme he was bashed and teased every day, all the time. Alice never wrote, but Godfrey did. “Sister dearest- at the risk of being smote, are you well?” “Is dinner Gruel and Herring? Are you having fun, now that you are a nun? “Do the nasty nuns leave crumbs, bottom of the marmalade, are there any nun friends you have made”?
“Ma is spending all her time with Arthur Bosomsworth, we call him the grunting garden gnome, he wears nasty white shoes, he farts in our home, he threw my cat and I out in the rain- when I told him I was The Prince Of Aberystwyth, snot nosed brother to The Lady of Spain”.
From Godfrey. Alice wrote- I still have the treasured note that came a month past his tenth birthday. It was a Holy Card, a nun in a courtyard, finger raised in warning. “We eat herring and they make me get up early every morning”- from Alice.
Christmas came, and an ineptly sewn oven mitt, only one, embroidered with the word “Maw”. For Godfrey another Holy card, “Help’ in Alice’s scrawled hand, and beets in a sticky old jar, home canned. Alice stomped home in the spring of that year, on her own. Asked what was for tea, swatted Godfrey, handed Ma the second oven mitt, just as poorly sewn.
Alice ate, played her piano, gave singing lessons, to every tone-deaf Mulgrew dared come through the parlor door till Ma could not take the racket any more. Auntie Phyllis, still in Wales told Alice, “Behave, and I will take you with me to New York when my ship sails”.
“Alice tried, kept a job in the fish shop, ate the herring Ma fried”. She did let my goat chew Bosomsworth’s army coat though, when it was hung on the line washed and air dried.
Alice still sang for coins down at the market, a much older Godfrey by her side. Alice dreamed of the New York stage, but it was not to be, Auntie ran off with old John Bald, they bought a chip shop down in Swansea.
Alice, never angry simply gave up on society, and all those who tried to mold her into a young lady. A first rate rebel she became who she was, a prankster, whom Godfrey in his innocence bore most of the blame.
For to Alice, he was the snot nosed Prince Of Aberystwyth, and she was Lady of Spain.