A long lost, somewhat eccentric influence over young Godfrey and his sister Alice. I wish I could have known her, the notorious Margaret Tuttle.
It began with a tad louder whispering than usual. At bus stop, post office, chemist, and corner shop. Graying heads bowed close in knowing, “All who live in Batley Town beware and learn, the truth of Margaret Tuttle’s rumored, impending return.
It had been almost two years, since Margaret Tuttle rumbled off, north in her Ford Transit Van. It has been quiet in the tea rooms, the cafe’s, Margaret Tuttle not about, to chastise in shrill voice, the cheerful, whistling rubbish bin man.
And Godfrey, aged ten, is staring in wonder at the bakery display, he hears the subtle humor in the worrisome cross talk. Margaret Tuttle is coming!, in stalwart boots and sensible pinny, and with a big stick she strode the streets of Batley, yet struck no fear what so ever, in the biscuit loving heart of innocent Godfrey.
Margaret Tuttle whacked anyone idling in doorways, or drinking beer before noon on Sundays. There was no Welsh town that she had not been, no social ill her soapbox lectures could not cure. Margaret Tuttle made it clear, she strongly disliked beets to, and for this young Godfrey admired her.
It was a summer day, high noon, one could set a watch by Godfrey, jingling his pocket coins, down at the bakery. A clever boots with word and verse, he was inept at counting- urchin charms not working on Audrey Mulgrew, the clerk glaring down at him. Her hairnet itched, her shoes too tight, she disliked everyone, and was not giving Godfrey a free pastry or cream bun. Word came then Margaret Tuttle, was coming up the block, with her stick in hand, advancing on the bakeshop….
Audrey Mulgrew threw Godfrey’s cream buns in a box, took his damp pennies, shoved him out onto the street, and snecked the door locks. Margaret Tuttle is coming, Margaret Tuttle is coming!, some larrikin even pulled the fire alarm. Godfrey was left in her path, box of pastries neath his skinny arm.
Margaret Tuttle, parked her van and lived in it, down on the town domain, sunny side, far from the playground. We oft heard her singing, said Godfrey, just before dawn, to warm up her voice for the day. “River eels chilled at the sound”.
So, you are the lad who dislikes beets, Margaret Tuttle smiled warmly down at Godfrey. She was high up on her soapbox, speaking to the town assembly. “I will now, she spoke up, compare beets to weaponry”.”Best be they boiled in bog water, and stones for a full day, keep the stewed stones, throw the bombs and beet pulp away”.
First warm days of summer, heralded in Godfrey’s youth the return of Margaret Tuttle. South in winter like a plump goose she meandered, with soapbox and van, speaking out against war, often using beets as a metaphor.
Godfrey’s sister, Alice avoided the woman, notorious for her bad behavior, Alice lurked around corners when she heard Margaret Tuttle was coming. Alice could not outwit Margaret Tuttle, they were too much like each other.
Alice, many years later told me, “I actually learned a great deal from Margaret Tuttle, eat raw garlic when confronted by a cop, prod the indolent and rude, maintain at all times lady like decorum, through life keep a cheeky attitude”.
There came, of course the sad year, Margaret Tuttle did not return to Batley. Long since grown, and far away on the road was the Vagabond Godfrey. Alice, every summer creates havoc one day only, down town in a pinny she marches shouting, Margaret Tuttle is coming!, Margaret Tuttle is coming!. down the Batley Town streets, Margaret Tuttle is coming- No Pasaran Beets!, No Pasaran Beets, Margaret Tuttle.