Worzel here- I have been asked if there is perhaps, a “sneck” of myth to what Beatrice and I are now comfortable calling  “The Collected Wisdom of Godfrey”. Indeed, any compilation of stories and blended memories, passed widdershins round the whirled will evolve into the mythic. This is a gem from the mildewed journal of Godfrey’s that Adelaide, the chambermaid found in a market bin. A rare work of a very young Godfrey, his first year on the road. We would love to hear from the elusive “Whiskey Woman”- if you are still out there….  

       Through the mid-nightly, silent city, Winchester, heart of winter we two trod. Drizzly, cobbled, icy sky vast, along a narrow canal lined with barges we passed. Born of a tarn on the high Hampshire moors, “Journey with me, said Whiskey Woman, come a journey, see the river doors”…

She beckoned the vagabond, I willingly followed her, River Itchen  meandered and chuckled in wonder, sidled round sad willows, through hamlets, across the common, to grand old Winchester.

I wore stout rubber boots, and warm layers of raw wool. The Cathedral’s shadow was misty and cold, we rested as many had sheltered before, seekers of the mystery, the Itchen’s river doors.

We two were so braw!, and so young. The world was ours to explore, have you ever knocked?, I asked as I looked up in awe.  She was a deft survivor, had purloined a canoe at dawn. I did not question why, rapt with the quest we were on.

We sat adrift before the river door, iron clad, thick, mere feet above the moiling water green, set hundreds of years ago, in the moss coated brick. I had to see where the river door led, braced on the frail gunnel I worked the latch pin, wedging it open, wide enough that we may peer in.

The warmth of my hands melted frost on the river door, the cold rivulet ran up  wool sleeves, we beheld a neglected orchard garden, neath a pear tree I spread my purple blanket, in a bed of dry leaves.

Peaceful the garden, hidden well by the river door, sunrise warmed my companion as cross-legged, sketching she sat. “Will you be my adoring spring Badger?, oh Whiskey Woman, I asked, and I ‘ll be your rollicking, daydreaming, free river Rat. “Oh vagabond lad, and friend true, she replied, “May always the river doors you seek be open for you”.  “Part soon we must, and sadly, but for now behind our river door, let us lay neath the winter ripe fruits of the pear tree.”

Canty and wise, hardened by years on her own, yet so young was she. And I a callow youth, a poet from Wester-lands..fruit drunk in the overgrown garden slept we.

I awoke as the sun slipped away over mossy canal wall. Woke with Whiskey Woman’s sketch in my hand. She was gone, through the river door, left me the purloined canoe, nothing more.

From Over-Wallop, up to Cheriton, I oft paddle in my dreams the River Itchen, asking after the artist, Whiskey Woman, hoping round grassy bend, I may find you.

I wished to be a poet as a lad, she was bonny, an artist, and though  years have  past, the world is still ours to explore. Be it fate, or folly, or sweet random encounter, hope to meet again, someday, pass together through that last river door…

8 thoughts on “THE RIVER DOORS- From Godfrey

  1. Whether ’tis myth or not there is truth in all myths and don’t we all pleas for those early fantasy women to come out of the mists and say ,”Remember me?”

  2. So lovely. I liked the eerie sense of night and myth that shrouded this piece. And a hidden garden. Wow. As one who read and reread The Secret Garden as a child, of course I loved it: “fruit drunk in the overgrown garden slept we.” I like the artist, Whiskey Woman, and wish I could spend some time with her again.

    • Someone sent me a photo of a canal door on The Itchen, I expect in your well travels, you have been to Winchester in England. Our camp was only about 20 miles from there, and there I to, met Whiskey Woman,I have some mud stained, charred about the edges drawings of hers, saved from a fire. she may return to, in Godfrey’s story. This one brought a tear in the telling, thank you, Janet.

    • Thank you, Diane, I grew up on Dylan Thomas, and have been compared a time or two, but if you listen to him reading…ah the brilliance, I would love to evoke time and place so well. I am glad you enjoy, and that the stories take you to that simpler place. He was an odd young man who disliked beets- but my, how his life was a triumph…

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