It is always good to hear from Beatrice, back in Wales…She writes- Elderly rogues, Adelaide and Benny are still here, four years now on “Sonsie Farm”. It has been a rough month for Adelaide, felled by “The Quenders”, what I believe you refer to it as “Flu” or “Gripe”.
Tough as eel skin, yet clearly ill, refusing to leave her bed made of books, or see old Dr Uren, who still made house calls, her only complaint was having nothing to read. From the bundle of magazines Worzel sent us from Canada were several issues of “House Beautiful”, with enough glossy photos of yellow houses to set Adelaide and Benny dreaming of a return journey to America…
Recovery from “The Quenders” is slow, and the old pair feared only Godfrey’s sister, Alice, a prankster who tormented them by repeated, mock forays to snitch their beloved, ancient plaid steamer trunk. Alice meant little harm, but was determined to learn what they kept in it. Benny never left his partners side, sleeping by day on the trunk top.
The morning she was well enough to invite both of themselves to Breakfast, Adelaide ate her weight in scones. It was snowing, we bundled in by the fire, they asked for a story, with a yellow house in it, please. Alice recently reminded me of this one- with her usual “Alice-ish” embellishments. Adelaide and Benny never knew Godfrey but credited him with the recovery of their precious trunk, and in that odd way we were all connected.
A VERY LOUD POEM- Godfrey and I were odd little kids, we disliked beets ,we struggled to understand adults and why they were so shrill. Godfrey in particular, he only spoke in rhyme, barely above a whisper, so when teacher instructed us to write a story, and read it ALOUD to the class, Godfrey took the lesson to heart. Miss called on Godfrey first, as his work was often creative, and frequently had him sent to sit alone in the hall.
The dinner lady, in her pinny stands in a cloud of steam and foam, I smell the beets a boiling, I duck and run for home, Too late, caught by my neck , set before beets on a tray, oh listen to the Very Loud Poem I wrote today.
When the dinner bell tolls and we line up with our bowls, give me the iggly bits or pig’s feet. Than bear the cruel torture of the hot and slimy beet. Tis a Very LOUD Poem, I shout above the rumble of the north sea, from beets please spare me. And hear him they did, his Very LOUD Poem, from Wrexham down through Skibereen, it echoed off the valleys green, past castles old and meadows sweet, words born on wind, that Godfrey did not like, one single thing about the beet.
Teachers paused in the hallways…cisterns went silent in the cold, concrete loos. Secretaries, in important shoes, typing side by each, paused in gossip to. Igor, the custodian rinsed out his mop, thinking “I dislike beets as much as you”. Six older girls, faking gas, to be excused from gym class, included Betsy Oatley who told the nurse, she “often threw beets at that silly Godfrey.” Miss Commorford, the nurse, (she spits when she talks), told Betsy wryly, “Your parents must be of you so proud”. The snickering group listened..it was not a long poem,but indeed it was Very LOUD.
Old Uncle Hamish on a visit down from Glasgow, sat awaiting Godfrey’s mother to collect him from the train. No need of his ear trumpet the din of cars and station, Uncle Hamish could hear Godfrey clear and plain.
From busy High street, to the market baggy shorts, grubby of knee, boys gather beets a ready to throw at little Godfrey. But this day amid the rabble of the market crowd, all paused- for the poem they could hear was Very LOUD.
“I dislike beets!, he recited strong and terse. The fish lady heard, as did old Moriarity , driving west of town in his Hearse. This will not turn out well, was discussed over tea break at the bakery. It was decided, out of kindness, to set aside an extra nice cream bun for Godfrey.
I, Beatrice, praying never to be noticed sat well in the back of the room. Our teacher was a “Tippler”, Mrs Kromplak. Godfrey took it on the chin – beets at dinner, seat in the cold, drafty hall. Poem torn to bits, thrown in the bin. But he got that special cream bun which he shared with me, and we ran the long cut home avoiding beet hurling bully.
He was undersized, in rubber boots and patched up kilt, wrapped about three times, held on by a cord. Poem in hand he stood before the chalkboard. He earned no credit for creative effort when he read, everyone laughed when he was cuffed over the head. “I still do not like beets”, he avowed. And the poem I recall was Very LOUD.
I concluded my story to groggy nods from Adelaide and Benny, rose to boil up a fresh pot of tea. Adelaide wheezed to Benny- my that Godfrey was a cheeky young fellow…I wonder was that old country school house painted yellow…