Adelaide The Chambermaid’s story left off, on a cool autumn evening in Wales, as she and partner Benny, and their battered plaid steamer trunk, showed up in Beatrice’s farm yard. It was a sweaty, talkative delivery man who triggered the memory. He griped into our shop with a heavy load of light weight luggage, late on a Friday afternoon. Dripping that his wife wanted. “dinner out at a rustic country inn…don’t know why? she just loves yellow houses”…
“It tickles when you poke me in the side- Godfrey replied, quite gravely, my sister Alice used to do that, to make me wet myself when small, on a long car ride. “We were on the #50 bus, I was dreaming out the window, told him how I really liked the old farm houses painted yellow”. After much thought, Godfrey shared a story, from a journey on his pink bike long ago, “Was a wee place, Motupiko, three houses, all of them yellow, up a narrow valley, kindly people, living simply. There was an odd campground, and a bee apiary, a long way from the nearest town or city. “It is the “Sophrosyne”, when I see yellow houses, of dear Motupiko they remind me.
“There is one house, said I, a yellow house perched high on Galiano Island, a land mark for me when riding on the B.C. Ferry. No road in, just a track through snow or grass, where the ferry boats slow and turn into Active Pass. It is not a lonely house, keeping vigil oer the sea- and I shall buy that yellow house when I win the lottery.
Sonsie Farm, in Wales…It was Adelaide spoke up first, of course. On the roadway they stood, where it met the downhill path ,and her second story ended, off wafted my dream of quiet evening, and long, hot bath. She resembled a wee dumpling, stuffed in a cooking bag, smaller than I recalled, yet apricot tough. Benny, ever smiling, storm tossed as the coastline they had walked, sleeping deep in lemon-thyme and heather, Adelaide’s childhood home they sought, now a Tesco’s parking lot,they had been living rough.
We like yellow houses, why is your house Puce?. Beatrice, my friend, good humored, though shy, looked from the grubby faces, and old trunk in it’s wagon. “My house has been painted puce all my life, who may you two vagabonds be and why”? “I am Adelaide, the chambermaid, long ago I turned down bed-sheets for The Queen”. Worzel had our trunk, said when we got to Wales, drop by for a visit, now we have, what a long walk it has been”. The precious plaid trunk, was stowed neath the canoe in Beatrice’s lounge room, as the old pair fussed. It had a few more dents, a sticker, “Save The Whales and Wolves”, it had more rust. To a horrified Beatrice, I attempted to explain, Yes, I had their trunk, told them I visited , twice a year, never expected them to actually get here…or to recall your name.
“Across your Dominion, Adelaide cut in, I worked as a motel maid, Benny sang his songs of my tending The Queen, and all the places our plaid trunk had been, we crossed The Atlantic on a Polish ship- “Stefan Angeloff”, to Tilbury, London where we carried our trunk off, nicked tea and a bun each from the Brit-Rail Buffet, pinched the wagon to, and headed down the motorway”. “Although your home is painted puce, thank you for inviting us to stay”.
“We seek a yellow house of our own, sang Benny”…perhaps where a once a castle stood, now ruin, stones buried in the grass, garden overgrown” “Set our trunk before a warm fire, create a bed from old books, a yellow house for a home”. “Much as we enjoy, being here, Beatrice with you- a puce house simply will not do”.
Beatrice wrote- (For I could not stay in Wales forever, had to leave Adelaide and Benny with her). “Four times I have stubbed my toe on that @@#xx trunk, four times I have had to search for Adelaide and Benny in the fog out on the moor, five times today, I have desired to kick them out the door, that Ive’ removed now that summers come round”. “they are oblivious to the fact I prefer to live with goats, but they cheerfully repair bits of the house that threaten to crumble, or fall down” “They perform at the market- people seem to love them, and their trunk full of stories, on the streets of Batley town”.
“We like yellow houses”, they remind me frequently- when annoyed, as always, I return to our book, seeking wisdom from Godfrey. “Sophrosyne”…he would say, Beatrice dear, “Sophrosyne”…..