When I was eight, I recalled to Beatrice, my younger brother Cudberth and I ran away from home, a spat with our stepmother, that resulted in “Mrs Gibberflat ” scorching the green beans. We were reported hitchhiking west of town, our few belongings in a lunchbox. Along came the entire family, to our dismay…but she was not angry, Mrs Gibberflat took us all for ice-cream…. Did you and Godfrey ever attempt running away?
Well, thought back Beatrice, the summer we two were eight, was full on ponies, and fun times exploring. Yes, we did run away, it was my bright idea to run off and be gypsies, my gentle mum’s greatest fear. “Lets run off, I suggested to Godfrey, “run off together to Appleby Fair.” “Our ponies will carry us safe over the hills, where gypsies gather each summer in Appleby, oh Beatrice, cried Godfrey, “I cannot wait, though Ma may notice I’m gone, and we are only just eight.”
“I packed a billy-pot, blankets, and bread to toast over the fire at tea. “Godfrey brought Haggis, stuffed in a sack, an onion, and left a note for his Ma” “Godfrey has gone with the gypsies, and will not be back.” “He left it where Ma sat to knit, so she’d find it”.
“Godfrey’s grey pony was eager to ride, my wily old mare refused to be caught”. “We bribed her with carrots, and chased her down the high hedge row, with the help of Old Man Pettigrew, we chased her up the low meadow, and when finally we caught the bay mare, thanked the deaf farmer for his directions, “Go far up the great north road” “Old Man Pettigrew knew, knew the way to Appleby Fair”.
” It rained, the rain ceased, the sun warmed shaggy coats and wet manes.” Our clothes also damp, by eve found a soft spot to camp, “we were not afraid, round the fire we made, toast and Haggis were fried” “We will build a gypsy “Bender”, dance nightly round our fire to high, soaring ember, and never have to do our own wash” “This in his sleep, dream muttered Godfrey”.
“I woke to warm pony breath in my hair, slightly less bold, as I weed in a field, in dawn cold”… “my bay mare was nowhere in sight, she had lit out for home in the night”. “We walked and rode, rode then walked, as Godfrey’s pony was not balky or mean”. “At hungry mid day, we found ourselves, on the High street of Skibbereen.”
“At Bagg, Greede, and Grab Grocers, the chap with a very large wen on his chin was quite surly” “I had twenty three pence in my grubby hand, he had no patience for children, and an accent we could not understand”. “He sold me a tin of Spam, and one dry bread roll, though I asked him for two”. “I cheeked him as we were shoved out the door, I believe he said, “I get the dog after you”.
On the steps of “The Swing In Inn” we sat, pony tied in the shade to a tree, we’d snitched apples and candy from a market stall, where the fruit seller chased after Godfrey”. “But mostly the town folk smiled and waved, we ate apples and Spam as they came and went from the bar”. “We laughed at the thought, of never doing our own wash, when down High street came the roar of “Garply”…”Godfrey’s mother’s Morris Minor, decrepit old car”.
Do you remember perhaps one day of childhood, an adventure golden, above any other? . “Sweet scent of first cut hay reminds me, of early summer on the road to Appleby Fair, and the fact that we never got there”. “Garply passed us raising dust, my mum sat on the crate seat beside”. “By instinct I climbed the nearest tree, Godfrey fled for to hide”. “Mum stood laughing beneath my tree, threatening to fetch a saw if I did not come down”. “Godfrey was dragged out from under the pub, we were the talk that day, of Skibbereen Town”.
“And thanks to Old Man Pettigrew, and return of the home loving mare, our parents knew where we could be found, on the road to Appleby Fair. “Also “The Mossman”, Father Flagonmore, reportedly saw us on the Batley River Shore, “removing stones, rather than throwing them in”-“Odd behavior indeed, he noted for two such urchin children”.
“My Ma said not a word to me, nary a slap I received”, years later, recalled Godfrey. “All Ma did was serve beets, in” Slibber Sauce” for the rest of summer, beets breakfast, lunch and tea”.
My mum walked the weary pony back, as we two were stuffed in that awful old car”. “Now, as I look back it only seemed a long way, everything when you are eight is so big and far”.
“Said Godfrey, many times since I have slept in snug “Bender”, danced round the fire to high, soaring ember, noted sidewalks are the same, be you hobo or posh, but I never did make it to Appleby Fair….and have always, always had to do my own wash”…