I will share one of those simple city moments…homeward bound on a Friday afternoon, spat bug like from the humid maw of the #50 bus, and hitching up my drawers on the curb- observed two, seemingly “challenged” young men arguing over a rubbish bin. They were pointing into the trash, where one had dropped his bus pass, and working out what day tomorrow was, “Verne, tomorrow’s Saturday, then Sunday, then tomorrow’s Monday and you need your bus pass…there was joy in the working it out- as the two friends retrieved the grimy pass and hurried off- as I did, thinking of joy on my trudge home.
My long suffering husband, Garnet reckoned talking to Godfrey about joy was “Akin to being handed an empty ice cream cone,” and happily munching on what he was given”. Godfrey never feigned joy, he truly disliked beets, had his share of blue/gray times, he grieved for an angry world, yet could create three scoops from an empty cone, and munched on life’s joys.
I recall the last winter Godfrey spent with us- deep in my turquoise chair, with his journals, wrapped in a quilt against the chill. We had cinnamon scones in the oven, coast gobular snow falling wetly, darkening the days by 3;00. Peaceful, it was, knowing all I loved would always be with me in this small flat. Here are some of his writings on childhood joy. From Godfrey..
When my parents were not bickering, not shouting at each other, they would dance. Down the streets, pushing me in the pram my sister Alice ran after, I recall their laughter, dad dancing Ma down the cobbles of Batley, down the foreshore to the sea.
We had countless aunts, all buxom in build, they wed men named Hugh, one after the other. In the dim, smoky halls, pickled beets on trays of silver, shrill singing and tatty frock of my grandmother, an odd little boy, who disliked beets, learning the absolute amount of joy- so to I danced.
Cross the cow crowded paddock, I leaped chasing swallows, pirouetted over dragons with the beets I was slaying, danced past my Uncle Lou, back of the pub when his band was playing.
With older sister Alice, at a slow, solemn funeral knee high in a sea of black. We got into the tea-cakes, (Sponge with cream fill) I was quite ill, but Alice sicker, over the robes and shoes of the Vicar. There was yelling and calling on “Vim” for the stain, Alice grabbed up beets, and chased me round the graveyard again and again. I danced out of her reach, beyond range of the beets, laughing as I hid in the coal hod’s dark corners, was dragged out still laughing by the undertaker, and a large mob of disgruntled mourners.
Learning the absolute amount of joy….Racing down the sand on a sturdy pony, bonfire on a summer birthday, quiet riverbank to read by winding through our valley, bakeshop in the tiny village where everybody knew me. Doing, on occasion what I was told- “Godfrey shut up, go play in the road” ordered Alice- brought home coated in tar, first ever ride in a police car.
That icy swig of fizzy drink that Worzel grew up calling “pop”. Oh the joy of belches, long car journeys, racing off to wee when Ma chose to stop. I survived all, and grew bigger and danced kilt a twirl, yet too awkward ever dare speak with a girl.
The absolute amount of joy- that one friend who ate beets for you, crossed a pool of manure when you were in need of rescue. carried knapsack nimbly to the Tor of high stone, stride for stride, twas Beatrice laughed at our squashed lunch packet, taught me to milk and goat and how to ride.
Windblown hair to your shoulders, sun warmed boulders, smell of wet, clean flannel, from the hike up, icy water in my hands cup, view over Sonsie meadow land, joy in new book open in my hand. And though Beatrice, you loathed it- would dance at the receptions of those oft married aunts. There is absolute joy in you- solid as your puce cottage, dear as the memory of evensong on the pathway through the tall grass to your loo.
There is joy in the compiling of Godfrey’s story, even after five years. Beatrice, home in Wales still refuses to consider a “Computery thing” . Her letters come on valley time, today in her 1939 Royal Visit biscuit tin with what may be Neenish Tarts, now a sweet buttery wodge, I will post the tin back filled with Nanaimo Bars, which Beatrice’s tenants Benny and Adelaide adore, and Alice claims expertise at concocting. Alice teases the pastry loving old pair by putting walnuts in every thing she chooses to share, knowing walnuts give both of them hives.
Beatrice writes- I am rarely invited into the yellow painted sleep out Benny and Adelaide occupy here on the farm. Only large enough for their bed of books, plaid steamer trunk, berry pails for chairs, and plank table, all cooking is done over a fire in the yard. On the wall hang framed photos of The Queen,( Adelaide’s former employer,) a view of the Yarra River dated 1956, and one of spirited women, pinny clad, racing with fry pans down the cold, February streets of Olney. Pancake Racing with joy, in 4th place, I recognize the youthful, though even then bow-legged Adelaide. Pancakes- Benny and Adelaide agreed- the absolute amount of joy.