It was our last year of school, well Godfrey’s anyway, studying the Romantic Poets. He was smote by the words, and by Peruvian Clementine, to whom he wrote his own sonnets, as the aptly named Mr Lord pontificated. Godfrey well knew Mr Lord could not see all the way to where we sat, rear of the room, and so moonstruck by the rumbustious Clementine, just kept on writing as Lord threw his work in the rubbish. It was a time of change, and I feared we were drifting apart…
“Idly fondle my neck, you fool”! so wrote Godfrey in English Class, last year of school. Thoughts of romance had swept over, this daydreaming wildwood rover. And instead of waiting about for me, he would lope off at bell clang, down to the bakery. Would buy two cream-buns, for to share with Clementine, notorious daughter of Maria, the fish lady. She was older than we were, a very large person, wild passion exuded and i felt excluded when Godfrey ate pastries with her.
(And after all the beets I had endured for my wildwood rover) She taught him to filet, and gut the fish without gagging. She helped at his road-side manure sales stand, shoveling and bagging. They danced neath the moon, she wore the chain of stink-willie daisies he wove her, he was cuffed on the head for sleeping all day at his desk, wayward and smitten my wildwood rover.
Oh Beatrice, Oh Beatrice, Oh Beatrice, he wrote, and passed it over the aisle in maths class, a note. Hidden in his text book, inside the front cover- “I remain your adoring Whelk, we shall be friends forever”- From Godfrey. That was late Spring, I walked home alone deep in thought. There were lambs on the green hills, bees in new clover, and wrapping herring in The Fish Shop, was my wildwood rover.
Oh Godfrey, Oh Godfrey, Oh Godfrey you twit. Next day I passed a note back in the maths book and made sure he read it. “As sure as the fresh sole she sells is from Dover, she will make fish-cake of your heart, my wildwood rover. Oh Beatrice, Oh Beatrice, fear not for me, for love and heartache is written in my destiny. No pain exists which I shall not rise up stronger from…rise again laughing and one day, recover. “The footprints I leave will be those set in verse, the verse of your wildwood rover.