There were years, and months Godfrey spent in deep retreat, I worried over him. Beatrice in Wales worried more, but we did not know each other back then..I never asked what was wrong in the time he writes of in “Juliet Balcony”. I only knew that for Godfrey, being knee deep in a cold, chuckling river, or baking cream buns was his best therapy…It was long ago, but I thank the residents of “The Old Nurses Home”, then and now for their kindness to our vagabond.
In the mining town of Reefton tucked deep in the valley, the Inangahua River flows cold. Down narrow canyon her bends create deep pools, and there in the shallow bits Godfrey spent summertime panning for gold.
Twas during his hard times, his dark days, of a sadness he struggled to understand. Godfrey at heart was a blyth spirit- rare as the gem stones and gold flakes he gleaned from the sand.
It helped him feel better, this gurgling, clean water, wrote he..”Peaceful the Inangahua, in no hurry this river to join the wild Tasman Sea.” He had a plain, small room at “The Old Nurses Home” Godfrey did. Up the high stair, his room had a Juliet Balcony, and oft he just sat on an ancient cane chair- “Older than you or me”. Out on my Juliet Balcony”.
“I get the morning sun a bit late, as deep is this valley”. “It comes warming the sheep fields of small farms, and the steaming forest canopy” I get the dawn chorus of sweet native birds, grinding gears of school bus starting up”. Scent toast and coffee , must go down for a cup- but linger a tad on my Juliet Balcony”
“Kneeling by the river, my kilt hangs safe and dry in a tree”. I wear the modest flowered shorts, from the flour sacks you sewed up for me”. “In late afternoon the rain comes in earnest, but dos not feel chilly”. For “The Old Nurses Home” has a great, deep bath tub down the hall, and later shelters the vagabond out on his Juliet Balcony”.
“Every cup in the cupboards a mismatch, all plates and bowls different”, Godfrey observed. As usual in times of wet weather, he baked. All the travelers and all the old nurses, yaffled the scones and cakes he served.
At eve, after supper in the lounge room below, the retired nurses gather round the piano. Tea and biscuits, laughter and song, everyone welcome to sing along, sing all the oldies.
“The Old Nurses Home had a vast wild garden of native plants let grow amok. Hidden corners with tables for quiet contemplation, borders of driftwood logs, and well placed river rock”. Pears grew, figs and Kiwi fruit to, grapes heavy on an arbor, a young apple tree”. Visitors added seashells, odd wrought iron pieces of old farm equipment…a tranquil space neath his Juliet Balcony
“In a place of joy, how trite seemed my worries- and retired nurses do have the funniest stories. “I shared the device I devised, for removing thorns from ones own derriere. They gave me a wonderful salve for the sand fly bites I itched everywhere”. “Gave me sage advice to avoid the chaos and noise of major city- as I baked them a batch of Anzac Biscuits…I oft wonder now who looks out, over my Juliet Balcony’.
“I strolled in the garden one hot afternoon, the wisest of old nurses joined me in welcome shade”. “With her blessing I left the gold I had panned as an offering to the garden, along with my fragments of garnet and jade”. “Of the many things we talked of, most vital is what I learned from this wisest and humble of nurses- forgiveness…
“I sought wisdom, and wisdom in the least likely places found me- from a retired nurse neath my Juliet Balcony” From Godfrey.