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…