Winter on Sonsie Farm, was quiet time for Beatrice, Godfrey’s lifelong friend, and I enjoyed my visits there, in the years we compiled “The Collected Wisdom Of Godfrey”. Sonsie is located in South-West Wales, up one side of a smallish valley. Like a roly-poly, green robed trollop after her bath, always a bit damp, mysterious, smoky, with a deceptive, deep rill running through her. (I have never, and forgive my cheek, described her beloved home so to the very modest Beatrice) She wore several jumpers when hill walking, removing layers when warm, leaving them on gate or stile for the cooler trek home. Thus, muddy boots on, we shared a daily hike, my chub city legs clomping behind. Beatrice did not walk, she strode, and as did Godfrey she climbed over gates and fences, rather than open them and walk through. It was November, sunny, yet brisk, I gulped air that was heady as biting a frozen grape, in the shelter of a roofless Sheppard’s hut, on a hillside already snow dusted, we shared a flask of hot “Clergy Tea”- Earl Gray laced with brandy..”Tumblehome, Tumblehome, Beatrice sang softly….
Tumblehome, was a game the creative Godfrey and I played when very young, along with “hide and seek”, in the stone circle on the valley crest. He was very clever, the plaid knit-wear he wore blending with gorse and heather. So small he could burrow deep in Badger sett, or wedge into cracks in the stone, but the game I always bested him at was “Tumblehome”. High on the hill top, I raced Godfrey down it he raced before me, down over the deep grass and sheep path, we’d race, the loser being first to fall flat on their face. “Godfrey tumblehomed over and over, he scraped on rocks, bounced, lost his kilt oft it landing on dung, it was such fun”. “His stern Ma would rollick him if we were caught being silly, it worried him not, and laugh till we’d cry, most times he and I.”…”We walked the tops of fences and the stonewalls that surrounded Batley Town, once the ragged hem of Godfrey’s over sized kilt snagged on a nail, left him hung upside down, suspended high, his behind for all to see, as the funeral procession for old Father Flagonmore, “The Mossman” solemnly, passed by…
A long disgraced Priest, known only as “The Mossman”, all year round wore old raincoat and scruffy Tam O’ Shanter, even sister Alice, did not tease “The Mossman”, shuddered when I asked her. “He had one bushy eyebrow, rode an odd old ladies bike with roses painted on the frame, nobody called him by his given name, just “The Mossman”. He lived in a room above the “Holiday Cafe”, of him Godfrey was both cheeky, curious and scared, it was nasty, wealthy Tenbrooks Smythe the Third dared, knocked over the old bike as it leaned outside the bakery, as emerging was Godfrey, face first in a cream bun. “BOO!, shouted The Mossman, Fleb! squirted his treat, kilt lifted, eight years old and innocent, Godfrey and I ran, my jam donut, clutched in sticky hand. Tumblehome, tumblehome, down a slope we had not run down before, panic blinded him to a passing bus, that missed both of us, we skidded on gravel, across the roadside, and landed together, unscathed but in the river, cold and wide. “Old Bill, the town cop, called away from his tea, used a herring rake and on his fourth sweep hooked out me, and having lost kilt and cream bun- Godfrey. His Ma slapped his head over the boots he also lost when the cop drove us home. Tenbrooks years later said, watching from the river bank, bike by his side, was “The Mossman” dejected and alone.
Ever after, we were cautious of “The Mossman” when we set out off the farm to play. We avoided his bike, we never begged chips from “The Holiday Cafe”. He ate all his meals there, and when he did not, Mr Chan the cook, took a look the third day- “Father Flagonmore The Mossman had passed away…Just an old loner, he collected moss in the forest, sold his wreaths to the florist, and the undertaker, also scary, Tyle street in Batley. Mr Chan’s son, Edward, propped the bike about at random, beets in the basket, over many years just to torment Godfrey.
Winter evening in Wales, slides on her dark cloak, no fanfare or shout, she dims the lights, awaits her dance partner, mist, and a chance her old love Jack Frost may drop by. Quiet and tired, trek home Beatrice and I. “Was it the story? was it perhaps the “Clergy Tea”? Far below on the ribbon of road came trace of song. One last shaft of sunlight glinted on an old plaid steamer trunk, being pulled in a wagon, as a determined old couple trudged along. It had been years since I had met them, and in my joy in life at Sonsie- neglected to tell Beatrice, one day she may expect odd company….