Godfrey would have ‘fehed’ and ‘poo-pawed’ the leaden grief I shouldered, long years ago now, once the reality of his passing grew heavier every day. suddenly, I felt every ache, saw every cobweb and crumb as up the stairs from our luggage shop I plodded. This day, however, came noise from our apartment, muttering in Welsh, pad of bare feet on cold tiles…could it be?, my long suffering husband Garnet hurried out, with a very large, hairy, black Wolf Spider, hanging from a drag line, on my writing shirt, which was wrapped about a stick. “It was behind the toilet”, he called back, after letting the spider out the one hall window that refused to close.  

Proudly, he shook out my shirt, “only rag I could find”. He who could not abide spiders beamed. “Not a rag my dear, I took it from him, thank you, but so not a rag…

It is my writing shirt, left by Godfrey, it has a well worn, checkered history. I was wearing the shirt when the letter came from Beatrice, a stranger then, with words of Godfrey’s passing. Morning cold, susurrus of passing buses in the snow, I sat alone till afternoon when storm broke and sky struggled to clear. One sympathetic ray of winter sunlight lit up as I paused neath it, “The Bug Chandelier.”

All week I wore the shirt, rarely left my turquoise chair. The shirt was sewn of thick, brown cotton, now all softness nub worn. Shoulder seam torn, right sleeve longer than the other. “I dipped it in hot bacon fat,” explained Godfrey. “I cut it off at the cuff, lest it attract hungry varmint or bear”. “The other sleeve, but for hole in the elbow, promises many more years of long wear”.

Godfrey had used the shirt to rub a newborn foal dry. He wrote, “A bonny wee thing she was, chestnut with crooked blaze, bonded we did, the foal and I”.

He believed in the shirt, that it guided his pen, and when I wear the tatty thing, indeed I to feel the inspiration. It is oddly cool on hot summer days when we camp, warm by the drafty windows, with the heater on low. For a romantic, cozy night dress it is great, I am loathe to wash the shirt, lest it disintegrate.

“The shirt cost 50 pence, from a charity shop in Newbury”. His journal read,” my long trek by back road down to Dover  nearly done.””On  long, ocean voyage to Australia, the shirt hung off the ship’s stern, for it reeked of lavender and onion”. “The writing shirt bleached in the sun, I re- enforced the shoulders where backpack rubbed the fabric thin, it was even large enough when she was chilled, to wrap my daring Clementine in”.

“And the summer of long, recovery from knee surgery, in my hostel bunk, mattress ever damp and sandy, with persons breaking wind below, snoring above me, travelers talk in their sleep in Finnish and Urdu”. “I had stitches in my knee, places still to see, heaps I wanted yet to do.” “Making a pillow from my shirt at night, I stayed awake late as I could to write”.

Sun, salt and age have turned the once brown writing shirt, a distinguished “Horse Slobber Green”, faded to sage. One pocket is long gone, with stout dental floss he has sewn the remaining pocket on. The writing shirt, did the literary greats wear such a shirt? Those who roamed the Outback, broke trail with nothing to lose, where first to sail or go, the intense ones who threw paper and typewriter out the window. Did any of the lucky or who basked in wealth and glory, include a ratty shirt in their story?.

“Please keep this writing shirt”. Said Godfrey when last that October day we parted. Pulling over shaggy head, he presented it to me. It held that odd warmth, hanging baggy to my knee. “You will need the shirt to write, wear the shirt, while time waits for it to help you tell my story”.  Godfrey, dearest friend, I implored him take it back, for we will guffaw again, and I could not write my way out of a wet paper sack”.

His ferry boat was docking, another one going, his final words lost to the ship’s whistles blowing. Wind gust drove autumn leaves past, swirled them to the guttering. He was laughing, calling down something, it may have been, “I will wait, as I know you would wait for me, at that distant shady gate”. “But it was probably “The walnuts were nasty in those last 6 butter tarts I ate”.

I wore the writing shirt my first ever flight,  first ever, bittersweet trip to Wales. A middle aged ragamuffin, boarding the plane. Though nearly lost to Beatrice’s goats, the writing shirt and I made it home again. And, as is now well reported, eventually, I did take up my pen….

29 thoughts on “THE WRITING SHIRT- From Worzel

  1. I’m moved to tears and I don’t have words to say why. “I will wait, as I know you would wait for me, at that distant shady gate”. I’m remembering when Beatrice found Godfrey under the tree, and I had tears then. Sheila, a reader can feel your love for Godrey, in a story about his shirt.

  2. I read your comment to Janet, “when writing I put myself deep in to it”. Yes, you must or you couldn’t cause such emotion in others. Authentic….that’s the word I’ve searched for as I’ve read your story of Godfrey. Authentic.

  3. My friend Mercy couldn’t have better expressed how I, too, feel about the writing of our friend, Sheila. This one is too meaningful, emotional, and fresh for me to respond to it well. It will take some mulling. It is a lovely bit or writing, Sheila. Lovely.

    • Dear Aunt Beulah, susurrus ’twas perfectly used! Our Sheila knows, and uses, language in the most delightful & delicious of ways! And we get to savour the flavour of them!

  4. Worzel,
    blessings be that Godfrey chose
    you to whom his shirt would go.
    Though his precious Clementine the shirt would fit,
    I’m pleased he presented you with it.
    His words expressed through you since then have proved that shirt inspires pen!

    • Good evening, my Dear, what a delight- a true bus traveler’s poem, thank you so much. I think this story has many people contemplating their literary wardrobes. Shirt indeed inspires pen.

  5. So now readers, Run down to the Salvos and look and wander and stroll and ponder for I’m sure you will find a writing shirt before someone throws it away into the rag bag.

  6. I feel sheepish to admit I went to the Goodwill store yesterday and bought a shirt. It’s a men’s XX large, dark blue, and soft from many washings. It doesn’t have the character of Godfrey’s shirt, but if it inspires my writing to a fraction of worzel’s ability, it’s worth it’s weight in gold. (I had to look in the dictionary for susurrus.)

    • Dear Mercy, we are indeed starting a literary revolution from Sally Anne’s to Goodwill, I hope your new, old shirt brings joy and happiness. My little story has created much fun response. Thank you, look forward to your use of “Susurrus”

      • OK, so now I’ll admit I prefer to write in a much-washed, gold, Snow College Badgers sweatshirt I purchased when nineteen and cut the long sleeves off as was the trend. It has assorted stains that have resisted the laundry detergent, and each one tells a story. Out of consideration for my husband, I don’t wear it every day.

    • How absolutely delightful … your trip to the Goodwill, your successful purchase, the inspiration to write … and your use of the dictionary … Kudos to you, and Eeeehaaaw!

      • Good morning Ms Marcia- This is indeed wonderful, as I picture Mercy, down in Nevada, enjoying her new/old comfy writing shirt. And what a huge part of the saga you and Lonewolf will always be- this is hilarious.

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