As suggested by Mr Cryptic Garland, fond friend and reader, I will talk a bit about “The Collected Wisdom of Godfrey”, for anyone else attempting to read it.
A story I never talked about- Aberfan- I was 7, a shy, yet astute little thing, in October 1966, and subjected to daily torture by Mrs Cox, her rage and abuse as a teacher legendary. In my hometown, divorce was unheard of, the fire chief was a peeping tom, and Mrs Cox taught. On this day she brought a newspaper to class, read us the tragic story of Aberfan, in Wales, where a mountain of coal slag gave way, wiping out a school house in the wee, remote village. She leaned over me, with her bat breath, and photo of a small boy and girl, found hand in hand in a doorway. “These children died because they were dirty and poor like you, she hissed”, scarred me for life, she did. I carry them in my heart when I write of Beatrice and Godfrey. When Mrs Cox finally retired, a collection was taken up, she was presented with a hideous, pink, phallic shaped vase.
Godfrey- Biblical rain was the norm, at Arthur’s Pass Y.H.A. hostel, in New Zealand in 1983. The warden bolted for Christchurch before the rail and road washed out, leaving me in charge, it was a cozy old place, no one else was there. Late afternoon, I looked out the office door to a ruckus in the hall, an odd looking character was wringing his wet socks into the potted plants. The vagabond, Godfrey. I soon learned that “He disliked beets, but felt no meal complete without peas”. In the common room, his plaid suitcase sat by the wood stove to dry, spread about were many soggy books, his spare kilt, and a tawdry pink negligee’ hung steaming, a safe distance from the fire.
Hostelers piled in, from Texas, Uruguay, Aussies in a mob, who already knew each other, the American kid on a bike, “I’m on a bike, he’d flex his thighs to anyone who would listen, a Canadian guy took charge of the woodpile, they always did, there was one Japanese boy, two Swiss couples who took turns looking out and muttering about “Powder in the Alps”. We had a whinging” Pom”, with his own tea towels, he requested a private room. Godfrey retreated to a corner to write.
The first day, most ventured out to the village chapel, which overlooked a waterfall, at Godfrey’s suggestion that we pray it stops raining. The only shop sold out of bananas and ice-cream. A communal pot of Chili was made. The fridge was cleaned out, the Aussies were suspected of hoarding Milo. Scrabble was played in Welsh, “Eagles” songs were re-written on the hostel guitar, the Texan found beer in a cupboard she volunteered to wipe clean. On the 12th day of rain, the road re-opened, all dispersed, last to leave was Godfrey.
I went to another hostel job, up the coast. On a hot afternoon, was vacuuming up dead flies, when I turned the Hoover off, came pad feet, and “Feh” from the kitchen- Godfrey, who was binning festered beets he’d found in the spare food box. Next day it began to rain, Biblical rain, the roads washed out, we learned each others stories, remained heart to heart the next 28 years.
Beatrice Wambe- Godfrey’s childhood companion, lifelong friend.Beatrice has spent her life on Sonsie Farm in Wales. She has always maintained, “I was a farm girl from a damp, Welsh valley, he was an adventurer, so full of poetry”. By fumble of events, when Godfrey passed away, under an apple tree, we began the saga together. Benny and Adelaide- Elderly rogues, they love yellow houses, and their old, plaid steamer trunk, and have made themselves at home on Sonsie.
Godfrey’s Ma-She was Scottish, and very practical. Ma did not speak Welsh, and thought Beatrice “Dim”, as they could not understand a word the other said. Uncle Lou- He was Trombone player in the worlds worst band, and tormented Godfrey’s childhood with beets. Godfrey painted his house puce, Uncle Lou met his end on the train tracks, after a dinner of Fish n Chips, nobody really knew how he was related…
Alice- Godfrey’s sister, older by 6 years, prankster, poet in her own right, curmudgeon, sang for years in the “Uncle Lou Band”, now sells shoes. Lives in Skibbereen, where being eccentric is the norm.
Peruvian Clementine- Fish mongers daughter, Godfrey’s first love, the whom he crossed continents for…a big, jolly girl, who loved to dance.
Worzel’s family, My stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat, my dad, who never moved from in front of the T.V., my siblings Cudberth, Fillipendula, and older brother, Inkerman, who went for a soldier. My long suffering husband, Garnet, who collects stamps and loves horses.
Hawken- Prairie boy, the “son I forgot to have”, young seeker who met up with Godfrey at a Manitoba truck stop. Intense, deeply sensitive, he never quite masters “How To Just Sit”. Always on the go, yet full of reserved joy is our Hawken.
The story drifts back and forth, between Godfrey’s childhood, and early youth, to wisdoms of mid-almost age. A biography in verse and vignette, part myth, part legend. Most of the characters are people we all knew growing up. Some names I have gleaned from the obituaries, which Godfrey read daily, the stories found there are amazing. I have also used names from “The Compendium Of Useful Herbs”. I trust there is no book of useless herbs. Thank you all for the read…Worzel Odd.