WHEN THEY DREAM AT THAT AGE…From Worzel and Godfrey

Worzel here- It occurred to me,  that long first year of Godfrey’s passing, I had not seen the odd, elderly chap who came into our luggage shop on Wednesdays, to smell the suitcases and satchels, never buy anything, and politely get on his way.

When Godfrey minded the shop, the two would converse, study maps and the globe, play scrabble in Welsh- “John understands Welsh”, he explained. Then came this morning, there he waited, in a blue and white van by the curb, waiting as I opened the shop, John strode in, smelled the mid sized plaid suitcase on display, paid in cash, ” I am for the road”, he bid me farewell, later in the year I learned his story.  

Godfrey would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets- and I have included one of his “lost” poems, in honor of Peace Woman Hazel Rennie, and one for the #50 bus driver, who stopped the bus to help a fledgling crow out of the road.   

Hazel- Brave and Wise- I feel strongly, without question, that Hazel’s bold spirit is still down on The Common. Bending low over smoldering twig fire, damp to the knee, I recall her worn red jacket, squinting in the smoke, handed me a great wodge of fruitcake, and a chipped mug of dubious billy tea.

Hazel’s brown, muddy boots broke trail that man will never pave or the gorse grow over. May her name long be spoken where Peace Women gather, her poetry and story told till justice prevail. Round the fire at Aldermaston, in our memories of her laughter, long ago and across the ocean, Hazel is still down on The Common.

Stillwater Rookery- Wrong side of the tracks, on the banks of the inlet, where tall cedars still grow, lives a Rookery of Crows. And of that great rabble, crows of the mid city, one wears a red band, he likes who he pleases, and should you be chosen, he will  sit, gently crow footed, on your shoulder or hand.

“I seek higher wisdom, and in my seeking, it more often finds me”, it came  as did”Canuck” from Stillwater Rookery, scooped from doom on the street, raised by hand, never caged he is free. Still he brings shiny objects, ribbons, keys, bells and nails, he loves cool bathwater, he takes delight knocking over my iced-tea.”

In the heart of the city is a Rookery of crows, one has ridden on the Sky Train, he has been interviewed on T.V.  There is a higher wisdom in “Canuck”, crow of the Stillwater Rookery.

John on The Road-It made the headlines – “Missing Seniors- Two elderly women and a man, 73, wandered off from their retirement village- “One lady had joined the passing Gay Pride Parade, and was located safe at their rally, the other collected from a pub several miles away. The elderly man simply left a note- “John has gone, on the road”.   

He was caught, up early, in private watching travel shows. Taking an interest in trains, and books written by hobos.Dumped the nuts and bolts, and old coins from the tin Sierra Cup he bought some thirty years ago…John embarrassed his adult children, drove his golf cart on the highway, waving to all and sundry.

Spent his time with curmudgeon mates did John, over coffee in that greasy doughnut cafe’.

On a Sunday drive the family mentioned, a retirement residence with “view across the rose bushes.” Much more appealing than the ramshackle “Old Mans Home”, where roast beef was served each Monday, and he’d never be alone. John sideways smiled, he was quite contented on his own.

Farewell to the other old fellows he Yarned with. Fred by the window slowly stirs his cup, without looking up,” well John, we hate to see you go.” Bill, of Lading, always late for work, hurried by wearing safety vest, clapped him on the shoulder, wished his friend the best.

Captain Mudd was always angry, he built a float home of crates, pallets and rubbish, anchored his raft in a cove on the bay, lived at peace until told was not allowed to, angry since his comfy floating shack was towed away.  Captain Mudd asked, perhaps if I come along on the road with you, may find a better harbor, build my raft anew.

Shirtless Bob sat down,” I lost my shirt”, he’d tell anyone, my job, then home and family down the drain”. “When you get there, stop in Dauphin, I’d like to see pictures from my hometown again…

Pat, the baker, glazing doughnuts on a tray in her jaded manner thought,” he’ll be back in a week, when they dream at that age, they never get very far away”.  When they dream at that age, John pondered, he had always been the responsible one, man of integrity…

Easing the old, newly purchased camper van down the off ramp of the ferry, it is springtime, the roads rain slick, but he is in no hurry. Clearing sprawl of city, he heads her east up the green Fraser Valley.

Ahead is “Seldom Come By”, “Spuzzum”, “Balongy”, places noted on his map many years before by Godfrey. Directions to a waterfall, middle of the Manitoba prairie. John has all he needs, and by the fire that night reads from a boyhood book of poetry. Come morning he writes on fresh journal page…words of wisdom..when they dream at my age.

Wee Packets of Honey-I will share this memory, of when myself and Godfrey, stopped off in our rambling for cream scones and coffee. On our way out he would snitch the wee packets of honey set out by the tea urn. I’d slap his wrist, Godfrey did not worry or learn. Even when the honey pack leaked in his pocket, he was sticky, but unbowed, unconcerned when the coffee shop cashier scowled.

Wee packets of honey filled up a jar and a full kitchen drawer. “When older and cranky, may you have something sweet, always to remember by me when you dream”, Wrote Godfrey, and indeed, I do, still have snitched honey Sunday mornings with cream scones and coffee.


ALICE SPILLS THE INK- on Herself- from Beatrice.

Worzel here, I encouraged Beatrice’s writing, and came to delight in her work. Their is a brittle dignity to Beatrice’s life, wishing only to live in peace with her pets, and ignore the world, Beatrice has found herself surrounded by eccentrics..she shares these gathered vingettes.. 

Alice writes- “I do not bloviate- am a lady of refinement, I hide high on the bank rooftop, drip droplets of hot chip frying fat on the pompous, passing below. What fun, to watch them duck and hide”.”I am a lady, deep inside”.

My Miss Spent youth, I traveled with the band, headed by my trombone playing Uncle Lou Gland. Having seen this land over, from John”O Groats to those chalky cliffs where sorry souls launch themselves into the sea, I have a special method so that no ones sits near me.

“I pad my behind with flannel blankets, my front with velvet cushions, book two seats, but sprawl across three, leave my teeth nearby, wrap in a bright pink cardigan, use myself as a pillow so no one sits near me”.

All went well until the day I met Nudge Giggleswick…on the train to London Town, then on to Kent. Rolled up, all set to nap, I ignored the large suitcase wedged in the train doorway, it bore an odd flag, and was heaved in by Nudge who introduced himself as being born in Norway…

To my horror-  with a flourish and flap, he spread a table cloth, across his ample lap, another on his suitcase on the floor by mine- took out a large jar of herring fish in brine! He had a great wheel of Rye Crisp Crac’l Brot- I had laughed at in the shops for years that no one ever bought.

Nudge had Danish Lurpak Butter in a tin, he invited me to join him.   I had a brother Godfrey, told him, six years younger than me. In the shops, when he asked about the Rye Crisp Crac”L Brot, that no one ever bought, I told him it was troll bread, ground from old troll bones and beets, which he abhorred, memories flooded in as Nudge listened, munching on his smorgasbord.

In the dusty, Welsh corner shop, sat for years the Rye Crisp that no one ever bought. Every time we went, I bet Godfrey his sweets it would be there, in yellow and red wrap, lost his sweets every time, he was a silly wee chap..

“I do not bloviate, nor do I date, remain for life a spinster, a merry old prankster, maintained aloof bearing, in a rocking, overheated train that reeked of herring.” Our eyes met over the Danish Lurpak Butter in a can. Nudge spoke impishly of his home in Norway- Flam. “A place of charm, with a river running through, pretty, and far removed from Fiord and city”. I was encouraged to pack up my bag of tricks and scram, a prankster is not welcome in Flam…

“And you Alice, Nudge asked, why this train and where do you go?” I told him I am enroute, to create havoc at a Cat Fancier’s Show. “In an old black dress, I will pose as a judge, I have a bag of catnip up my sleeve to cause chaos”.

“I used myself as a pillow, rolled up and even snored, but Nudge from Flam refused to be ignored. “We changed trains in London, had great fun at The Cat Show, were thrown out rear of the hall late in the day”. “Why don’t we, suggested Nudge, on the long trip home to Batley, combine our talents for pranking, be immature and silly”?.

“I Alice, against my superior judgement, could not help but agree, found on that train what I never sought, a partner in nonsense, and the Rye Crisp Wheel of Crac ‘Brot that no one all my life had never bought…

PLUM TREE AND MOAT- From Beatrice-When young, I built a moat around my heart, a path of tumbled stone and several bridges that I never finished. An impossible to reach place, the fruit I guarded hanging heavy. “No moat will ever defer me, said he, from sun warmed plums”, the moat of my heart breached only by the vagabond Godfrey.I recall the bandanna he held out, laughing, full of purple gems…will write more..hear Alice at my door.

Alice Writes- In my cottage yard have dug a moat, seeded with deep, lush grass around my plum tree. Very cold water, is neath those ditch weeds plum pilferers can not see. The fruit hangs, ripening sweetly , late summer bountiful and fair. On my verandah sit with stick, and Nudge Giggleswick in easy-chair. We bet biscuits what passers by plums be tempted to snitch, I the “No they won’t”. Nudge the “This one, will not be able to resist”Oh, what a delight, my moat, my cold water ditch!.

Beatrice Concludes-   Benny shivered wrapped in my good wooly shawl, indignant Adelaide wrung out her granny pants, hung them to dry in full view of all. “The yellow house Adelaide described, you know the yellow house south of Wrexham? Some insensitive sod has built a moat around it, we fell full in foraging firewood and plum. “Tempting golden plums, cold the nasty water to my aged thighs, cane waving, rude old man, from the steps of his yellow house, shouting- “surprise”!

KEVIN SLEPT THROUGH IT- The 57th Wisdom of Godfrey

Worzel here- The #50 bus comes along oft in Godfrey’s story- it runs the main city corridor here, he and I rode the bus often, Godfrey considered it a “Microcosim of the whirled”. I saw it as a red and white lozenge dispenser that spewed me out at rides end somewhat tattered round the edges. Only Godfrey could find wisdom on that wayward bus, and he did…

He was industrious for a committed Vagabond, my friend Godfrey, enjoying outdoor work, providing beets were not served or cultivated on the job, he always asked. Thus Godfrey was usually employed places that did not require an interview, and paid cash end of day. This odd, late summer, before heading south, he rode the #50 bus every morning, to join a crew painting a lighthouse.

“We are painting a lighthouse”, he wrote Beatrice. Out on the Fort Rodd Cape, high above the sea, I stand on scaffolding, wind up my kilt and scrape. Every morning Kevin, in same shirt and baggy shorts, (He works with us), races down the sidewalk for the #50 bus. He sleeps all the way, slack jaw agape, no matter how crowded the ride, I give him credit, Kevin sleeps through it.

There is oft loud quarreling about us on the bus one must endure, the smell of Egg breakfast, reek of stale alcohol in excess, riding the bus complaing because your life is a mess, freeloaders begging a ride at the door, in the early morning morass, see Kevin in the third row, oblivious in snore.

There was paint to be mixed, fish to buy on the docks, their were tourists Godfrey spied aground on the rocks. Kevin slept through it.

Kevin slept through the whales and seals passing, below the high lighthouse we were painting, slept till knock off time end of the day, Kevin slept the whole jolting ride from town, slept through Vinnie falling from the lighthouse all the way down. Kevin slept through free pizza on Friday, he slept while old Harry doled out our pay.

Kevin was asleep when old Harry paid him twice- he shared with the rest of us who rode that #50 bus. Kevin once asked of me,” Have you always been a poet?, Godfrey?. .”Indeed yes, I told him, since I was a boy” I have always slept, Kevin replied, a hobby that I truly enjoy”.

Kevin was asleep when the #50 bus, careened off the road suddenly, avoiding stray cattle, hitting lightly up against a tree. Builders tools, potatoes, cold coffee rained down on me, we carried Kevin out unhurt, using my kilt as a stretcher, and set him still asleep in the shade on the dirt.

Years later, Kevin wrote- “Yes, I remember Godfrey, and recall the wisdoms he taught me”. “I slept through my youth, woke on the #50 bus, wearing  lop sided name tag of a greasy hardware store, I awoke at 24. “We were painting a lighthouse, Godfrey insisting there was poetry all about , in the waft of seagull’s wings, the kelp beds at low tide, the morning sun climbing up the lighthouses side..he taught me to look beyond beets to the poetry in all of us, “For in this life we all ride a #50 bus”.

Finally awake, I took pen in hand, and oft am inspired on the path to Fort Rodd Cape, the lighthouse I never painted still stands vigil oer the strait. And warm days for memories sake, will find me napping in its shade, our names can be seen there, etched tiny in the paint, beginning now to fade, Vinny, Teresa, Godfrey, Harry, Kuldeep, Kevin…September, 1983. Although I slept through it, was Godfrey made sure they included me.

THE 57th WISDOM OF GODFREY STATES- We all ride a #50 bus called Earth, we all have a story, this Kevin taught me. “Only the sun and moon and stars can look down and choose to judge us”. For in this life we ride the same #50 bus”.

THE OUTHOUSE MUSEUM-From Godfrey and Beatrice

Tongue tracks in what once was the butter, last partial crust of bread, ineptly cut two inches thick at one end, left in a puddle of spilled tea, Tea pot empty, as is the marmalade tin, and missing it’s lid. Adelaide..elderly ex chambermaid to The Queen, and her partner Benny had breakfasted early, for it was summer and the two were away with wagon and plaid steamer trunk, “seeking yellow houses”, and whatever else they could scrounge. 

I was looking forward to peace and quiet on the farm, a read in the hammock, a ride on my mare cool of evening. But panicking hens and looming dust cloud, clang of gate, in her old black London Taxi- came Alice, Godfrey’s prank happy sister, Alice. She was clad in bathrobe and gumboots, stomped in waving a thick letter, “Those two old rogues of yours dove into the ditch when they saw me”, Alice shrilled,” but before you go pull them from under their wagon- read this.” Nothing upset Alice…ever, but I had to guffaw, when I read what she had been bequeathed.. 

Godfrey writes- Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, under the clothes line- to where the weathered old outhouse stands vigil over the sea.

I’ve done many a job since wandering from Wales as a lad. Turning cents to dollars, learning the vagabond way. Singing in the streets got me pelted with rubbish and beets, but my best job ever was in Knockfollie’s Bridge, the town on Knockfollie’s Bay.

Twas first summer in Canada, I came seeking work fishing lobsters or cod as my grandparents did. As a kid I did not throw up in the herring bait, as my sister would retch oer the stern. Every person I asked looked at me with my suitcase and kilt, they all in unison said-” Go talk to Verne”

Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, back through the cobbled town square. Ask anyone, for Verne Gergley’s Outhouse Museum is down there.  Verne was living his dream, it was not about money, but his passion was preserving the dunny. Vivid  his memories, a prairie boy, “The outhouse beyond the weeds and dad’s hives, twice shipped out of town by train as a prank, oft shifted three feet over, it was part of our lives”

“My friend Beatrice, I replied after handshakes, still believes a toilet indoors is nasty, only for the lazy and wealthy”. “A midnight skip to the loo in Welsh winter keeps her fit and healthy”

“We discussed outhouses we had known in fond recollection, and needing to wee from the copious coffee I’d drank, asked to see Verne’s collection”. “Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, Verne walked with me, “Ive 200 toilets and other mementos to see”.

“It began as a joke, and as jokes do, it grew.” “I wrote a book on design, construction, and how to best photograph the old loo”. “Folks east of town donated the barn, and outhouses they could not bear to tear down”. “This one is made from the bow of a boat a chap named for his much loved mother”. “Ive a Mongolian Outhouse, Ming Chamber-pots, Bric a Brac, and the writer Farley Mowat’s  dear long-drop outback, it has a bookshelf, help your self”

“My last hired helper, sadly said Verne, was a “Snollygoster”, jailed pinching toilet rolls from the one shop in town, so I lost her”. “You have knowledge of the back-house, are personable to and do not bloviate, though you dislike beets, I will hire you”.

“In the shade of the ancient shit-house, I sit down and write. I’ve a bunk of my own, and choice of toilet to use every night. Most have a moon, carved in the door, I have found scrawled poetry, words of love to youth gone for city and several to war. I met my love on the pathway where the brambles doth entwine. I waited for her to use the privy, sweet summer of 1939. 

Verne Gergley reports that, “old folk oft return yearly, to tend the  outhouses they still hold dearly, it is they plant tomatoes, ripe and red on the stalk, oh the stories they tell, of Knockfollie’s Bridge when we sit up and talk”.

Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly,” two happy years, I lived at the Outhouse Museum, wrote Godfrey.” “I greeted the visitors, played bagpipes special celebrations, an old pair we found in an outhouse being given away”. “And yes it was Verne and I stuck for two nights and a day, on a sandbar  with barge load of toilets, aground by the low tides of Knockfollie’s Bay.

“Verne had a small crane on back of his Ute, and a winch.” When the local “Privy Council” town ordnance demanded an outhouse be removed we were there in a pinch”. Across the vast province we drove on this dark, winter day, almost home when a sturdy old hut, painted purple fell off on the highway”. It landed intact, upright in the middle left lane, even the door stayed closed, as I waved my kilt to stop traffic, and Verne got it loaded again”. Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, I asked of Verne as we got underway, for I had to hold tight to the wayward crapper, on the winding roads home, to Knockfollie’s Bay.

Over the years, Verne built an iconic museum, “Latrine Enthusiast” magazine sent a writer to interview him. “Godfrey, he wrote, one day it will all be yours”, my children do not take my toilets seriously, but you do, from Verne Gergley.

Beatrice writes- “I settled Alice with Valerian tea, which she sniffed with disdain. The packet of legal papers, had come from Worzel, who still received mail for Godfrey.  Among it a copy of The Will and Testament of one, Verne Gergley- sadly passed, and a note from Godfrey-” Verne if I go before you, leave the Outhouse Museum in care of my sister, Alice, she will know what to do.” 

So he got the last laugh after all, Alice blew on her tea steam…”Somewhere in Nova Scotia, where I’ve never been is a shrine to the stinky latrine”. “Years of tormenting my brother the beets, my clever pranks, the paddlings he endured everyday”. He left nothing but a path of poems, a suitcase of moldy books, and 200 hundred toilets in an Outhouse Museum, down on Knockfollie’s Bay.  

I never knew, and in as much shock as Alice, had forgotten Adelaide and Benny, trapped in the ditch. perhaps it was a place I could send the two, perhaps old Verne left a yellow house for them there….we made our way slowly, slowly down the road to the overturned wagon…


Here in elder-hood, to Beatrice’s dismay, and the memory of Godfrey’s muttered “Feh”, I am learning to Goolgley on a computery thingy…Googley the balladeer in this story, muck about with wee pictures until you see one of this chap, and lauded poet, heads bowed together, listening intensely . Afternoon tea detritus is strewn on their table, in the background, caught in camera flash, and looking somewhat owlish- cheeks a bulge is Godfrey.  

For reasons I never fathomed, he would oft fill his face with ginger snaps, then as he gazed deeply into my eyes, ever so slowly, begin drooling…thus he was caught, pre-drool, as he recognized the two chaps sitting across from us.    

Twas indeed, if memory serves, a Tuesday, Godfrey wrote, in the company of Worzel, splashing out for High Tea- I wore my best kilt, she brought a fan from Chinatown, to wave like a coquette, down the harbor we strolled, splashing out in puddles, the cool July wet.

“My cotton shirt was faded, worn thin cross cuff and shoulders from the knapsack of books I was never without and hand-bound diary.”Arm in arm I escorted my fine friend to our table, by the fireplace where our socks would dry- two hobos at High Tea”.

Ladies daubed lips puce from “Dewberry Preserves” we had grown up calling jam. I snitched Worzel’s ginger snaps as was my habit, as she poured the Oolong, “Pinkies up she said, Madam”.

Was then I saw them, two tables over, intent on private conversation, poets I knew from book and record album cover. One chap was a balladeer, one a literary laureate, the dessert cart came, almond tarts, biscuits for dunking, tiny, coiled iced cinnamon innards, I could not hear the poets for it’s clunking.

Worzel saw the two- “Why I grew up on his music!, I passed it on to you, bold songs of struggle, gentle observations written in winter solitude, railways and ships sinking, as ships in all songs seem to. Even my dad listened when he put out a new album, as did Mrs Gibberflat, out step-mum.

“Use my fan if you get the vapors, do not choke on crumbs or gawk, whatever do great minds discuss when they talk?”.  “Perhaps shared memories of festivals or stages, small town tales, that writing cottage in Muskoka, paddles deep in dark waters, urban wilderness, years lost to back pages and the Gutter Press”.

Our reverie’ interrupted only by the maitre’d- inquiring politely – in the company of legends we sat- “Long ago  at The Empress, sat two hobos at High Tea.”


What I have learned on this life’s journey? If anything I learned it best from Godfrey…Dustsceawung, he solemnly reported, when I noted it was getting deep in his, our loft spare room. “Dust, said Godfrey, was once a grand thing like the stone of a Welsh castle”. Like fine glacial silt, imagine this the dust of sod homes and cabins that the settlers built, dust ash is from wood fire twice has warmed you, it’s the fine warning wafting from the volcano…I learned from Godfrey, patience is a good thing, and much more when he took me for a weeks “Expeditioning”   

He had always found home, returning full of stories and sunburn, seashells, polished beach glass and rocks. From my tongs and good tweezers, and the help of two mirrors, Godfrey could remove thorns from his own buttocks.

“Expeditioning, as taught by Godfrey- “Wear your brown muddy boots, on the steep bits never trust your life to foliage or roots”We headed off, into the coastal fog zone, behind damp right away, sliding down the track of mud and over sandstone.

“Put on stoutest under things, beware where you sit and rest for nettle stings”. The foot of the cliff was thick with Thimble Berries, warm for us to gorge, we clambered over dunes, Godfrey said we sought an old friend, “son of son of son of the sand  spit, George.

My vagabond made fine use of his skills in the gypsy craft. For us to cross the estuary, up the big river we built us a raft. From the raincoat he never wore, (it made him perspire), elastic pulled from his drawers and an old rubber tire. It bobbled a tad as I crawled aboard, used our cooler lid as a paddle, his kilt for a sail, an old beer sign worked for a mast, it was floating past.

I paddled and smiled, and waved like the Queen Mum, as folks pointed from fast moving cars on the bridge and the highway above. A goods train rolled slow, two crew from a freight wagon tipped hats and wiped sweaty brows, we journeyed up river till turn of the tide, and camped on a grassy bend, twixt two herds of milk cows.

“Cow paths zig, said Godfrey, cows wander at will with a zag in the middle, for meditative pause, a drink or a piddle”.  “Expeditioning”- night so quiet we could hear the cow’s stomachs gurgling. Godfrey wrapped thrice round in kilt and purple blanket, dreamed in warm cocoon, I sat up late by the fire as moon cradled moon.

Morning coffee, Eggy toast, and down the coast over nasty, straddled dead tree Godfrey called “The Nancy  Log”, laughing at me. I said not a thing, we were  Expeditioning. “Beware the posh house here of very, very bad Verne Bumb”. Mr Bumb looks down  lowly on us vagabond type, I found out when I asked him once, “May I feel your plums?”. Only wanted to know if they were ripe…

“Yet Miss Cord -Green, other end will give us a cold drink, and let us wash our feet in her sink” …”the feral horses roaming here are loathed by old Verne Bumb, kids still ride horseback to school days they can catch one”.  We were seeking son of the sand spit George, and found him Mystic End, near the waterfall, on the steps of a house made of driftwood, deep in cedar shade. We found George the younger, the elder down in the city, selling the carvings he made”.

“The day we headed home, not even the #50 bus would stop, to let us inside so dusty were we”. Picked up hitching, in a van full of wet dogs was a wonderful thing…for it was joy I learned from Godfrey- “Serendipitous Expeditioning”.

When Godfrey left, it was a long time till I hiked again, solitary, bereft, eventually I’d go for a day, catch the #50 bus, out past the ferry terminus, or by car west to “Whiffen” or “Goose” spit.( “Geese do not spit, but they oft Whiffen at me” once noted Godfrey) Back then the spit was divided into an island at high tide,on the eastern tip stood a lighthouse where he camped, sheltered from the wind by it’s side. 

Red cheeked I was, from spray rime through winter’s bitterness, the tussell that is spring, indifferent late summer we called “Fog-aust”. No one worried over me, when I stayed out autumn nights below that lighthouse. I met the loners, the coast dwellers who recalled Godfrey, met The Digger, and his Wise Woman who gave me lettuce and zucchini….finally met George the Carver, son of the son of the sailor and sand spit, hauling crab trap from the sea..”.Dustsceawung”…knew one day would use his word in a story…

RANDOM ELDER PERSON- A thought lost Wisdom of Godfrey

It was Beatrice, when I mentioned this incident, recalled something Godfrey had scrawled in a book of his early “Thots”. I myself, wondered if Maria Adora Cuabangbang had returned…but no, it was a wisdom and an oddity in one.  

I had hired a young woman, to mind our luggage sales, as intent I was on Godfrey’s saga, and prepared for an autumn trip to Wales. She cheerfully learned the rounds of dusting, stamping invoices, even sold a suitcase or two, yet after a time asked me curious one evening, “who is that old lady comes for tea every morning?, is she related to you?

”  Every week day at 10:00 am, the cow bell high above the shop door clats, in she limps with her cane to the back room, puts the kettle on full even if it is hot, uses the expensive tea bags, always makes a fresh pot”. The random elder never speaks, but scrutinizes me as she drinks from the saucer, never steals the sugar or cream, she drinks it black, I thought she was your mother as she limps in every day, rinses her saucer, uses the loo, then with clump of cane gets on her way..

I assured her I was certain that the silent, random elder was not “Three Mile Lil”, my long lost mother.” She shook a finger at me once, reported our young clerk, when she caught me reading, instead of doing paper work”

“Hide the tea bags tomorrow,   I will lurk, for I have never had a random elder person, wander in for a cuppa when I work”. Twas only our young clerk saw our random elder person, never I or Garnet, my long suffering husband. I lurked waiting for the cowbell, and cane, but never did our tea granny show up…seems as though she swiped the toilet paper rolls, but always nicely rinsed her saucer and cup…

Here is the unusual fragment of wisdom Beatrice found-

THE THOUGHT LOST WISDOM OF GODFREY STATES- “Every shop ought have a Random Elder Person, to wander in freely, to inspire the bored and tired. To break works monotony, with a touch of mystery.  

Still, it is no excuse to pinch toilet rolls, and if you choose to, know that one day, in your deepest need, some one may have pinched the roll from you.      From Godfrey..

WAR AND BEETS- From Godfrey

Worzel here…yes, he was a dreamer, my vagabond, coming of age in the 1960’s, in a sheltered Welsh village. Godfrey’s school work was usually judged rubbish, the laugh of the teachers room, he expected to be paddled and sent home with a terse note for his Ma. “Mrs Wncomnco, your son is odd”.  This gem survived, in his sister Alice’s packet of writing, folded up in the wrapper from a cheese. From Godfrey at twelve…

I was terribly self concious, in my early teens, as I entered poetry. That summer Alice refused to journey with us, to visit with Ma’s family in Glasgow. “They eat herring daily, I will not wear a dress, their table is wobbly, I won’t be seen in that car with Godfrey”. Stomped for emphasis, did Alice. What of Ma?, “Righty O’ dear, it’s all okay…sister Alice stood in shock as the car roared away..

“Sit on your crate, shut up, no singing, do not breathe on my arm,” the extent of conversation Ma and I shared that day.

Uncle Hamish-  I barely knew the very old gent, in his chair before the fire sat, bent and cranky, hard of hearing was he, but uncle remembered me. He used an old ear trumpet, down which I blew- “Hello, I am Godfrey who dislikes beets, your nephew”. “He squinted- “Who the hell cut your hair with a knife and fork?” I yelled into the ear horn, “My sister Alice, she also painted me blue not long after I was born”.

Uncle Hamish napped, I lay on the carpet, Un hoovered for many a year, watching telly with no Alice to step on my face or interfere. Distant flitting figures, horses mired in mud, bodies in barbed wire of a long ago war. Bejasus, I swore, what a nightmare…indeed lad, replied uncle Hamish, indeed it was laddie, I was there.

My heart was still a fluther when called down to tea, beets and herring on the wobbly table, I did not eat, was not the beets that bothered me. I had learned a great deal from uncle Hamish, who was not as deaf as he pretended to be. All my aunts were a worry .. Ma told all,” when we get home, he has an appointment with Dr Uren, M.D”.

Doctor Uren M.D.- “Do not return Godfrey to school”, the headmaster wrote, until he sees Dr Uren and is given a signed note”. I was to stay home from class, and get stern lecture on my future, no more dreaming away the days, no impish sass.

I dreaded Dr Uren, looming over me, as trembling I hand him a sample of warm wee.Dr poked, he peered, made me take all but my drawers off, then cross my eyes and cough, show my tongue, when sure I could hear and see, Dr Uren took a ball peen hammer to my knee. I assured the doctor all my “tackle” worked, as the nurse Mary Mulgrew wrote it on a chart and smirked. Dr Uren had the longest nose hair I had ever seen, only doctor then in Batley, shooed the nurse out and asked, so what is troubling you so, Godfrey?

“I dislike beets, war, greed and bombs and bigotry, and am old enough now to comprehend the world around me. Soon I will be off to meet it, seeking wisdom and sowing random pathways for whirled peas through poetry. Yet I’m told it is too odd a vision, what do you think, Dr Uren?. “Granny Clatt is waiting,” came a shrill voice beyond the Dr’s room door. “Godfrey dislikes beets, guns, bombs, greed and inequality, needles in the arse, and all levels of authority, color him odd, I deem him fine, stalwart and healthy”..

Dr signed the note, I grabbed my kilt, hat coat and dignity, in the clinic waiting area as I fled by, was every lass in town who had ever caught my eye.  “Twmffat”, Betsy Oatley called me….

War and Beets-  Here is the essay that got him in such a “bovver”.

Oh makers and droppers of weapons and bombs, I ask, what would you do if such nasty things rained down on you? All who profit from missile and gun, ought be exiled to where there are none, and all wealth be of no use with nothing to spend it on. In place of weapons factory, plant beets as far as the eye can see, and if a people should disagree, set them chose sides in a hot, flat field where beets can be hurled.

Mother’s daughters and sons who march off to war will come home again only bruised and sore.”They ambushed us, the skies were red, the beets were buzzing past my head” “I rescued my buddies, pinned tharn in their cross hairs, but our beets were bigger and fresher than theirs”.

Beets hurled only in bunches of three, no flaming beets dropped on village or city, pickled beets must be drained if jarred, frozen slices only allowed if thawed. Imagine a vast plain, no poppies or crosses, no need for valor, no more tragic losses, inequality and anger will slowly cease, and no more cannons overhead on holidays, I implore, all weapons into tractors to cultivate beets, beets make great weapons for war.

Allivictus!  Allivictus!-Into the breach!, Eat a large bulb of garlic each, for when inevitable the beet battle looms, non violently take out your aponnant, at close range with the fumes.     My essay- From Godfrey.


I should have known, but I knew that if Godfrey knew that I knew, he may not have set out home to Wales. He was tired, that last summer. Often too tired even for Daft Tuesdays, I caught him up once, winded on the landing, told me a spider had startled him..I should have known, but I let it go.

One last daft Tuesday- On Wharf Street, corner of Woebegone and Neglect, an art gallery had folded, replaced by a high end liquor store. Mid morning, Godfrey and I headed out, to see where the days daft may waft us. A beer crate laden tippler, looking the other way, as we passed, stepped on the insensitively located bowl of dog drinking water out side the shop. The cold contents splashed up Godfrey’s kilt..it was “feh” and” poopah”on the #50 bus with a wet behind…

“Dog water indeed”. So for lunch I introduced a new treat- Hummus, he ate an entire pint, “A savory he noted, unmarred by the intrusive beet”. His humor could be droll, yet he was never unkind, as he boarded the bus with a sodden behind. “Said, “I am sorry to the driver for the two dampish seats, he well knew us this chap, knew that Godfrey disliked beets.

At Fresh-Co’s- “I dislike beets, he told the young clerk, in produce who had not been long at the work. But he said it in Welsh, and more idioms silly, I warmed him, Welsh words will backfire on you Godfrey….

Was it the dog water?, The spinach dip at lunch?, an odd plant or biting bug he touched?. for he broke out in hives half way home on the bus, and though crowded, nobody sat near us. Godfrey itched, he itched like a pony at a fence post, itched deeper than a Chinese Mine, itched far worse than his sister drove, itched longer than Jaques Cousteau dove.

He itches, I told our odd neighbor, Mr Ghostley, peering out his door a crack. Of Mr Ghostley you ask? Our Land – lady Mrs Feerce once whispered to me, that he had not left his room since 1953. “He lowers his rubbish, by way of a contraption to the bin, and allows no one in, not even his  cousin Father Paul. Father Paul once a week leaves groceries out in the hall. “I had peeked in his door, very tidy, many books, a cactus, and nothing more.’

Mr Ghostley and Godfrey played Scrabble, Godfrey stretched on the hall floor, Mr Ghostley reaching one long arm out the door. He refused to come any further out, I never asked what the two talked about.

This itches, squirmed Godfrey, as I scoured the loo, for the “Margo Alive” he bought when I had the flu, we mixed it with green flecked, herbal balm, and he slathered it on. As the welts go worse, came a rolling “clink” and tap at the door, an ancient dried up bottle of Calamine Lotion- kind cat-lady Miss Pettigrew’s contribution.

I gave Godfrey cornstarch to sprinkle in private, and an old sheet to cover my turquoise chair, he looked like Quasimodo in Kabuki makeup, sheet wrapped about him, curled up in despair. My husband took one look- said” should your breathing stop, run get me I will be down in the luggage shop”.

He was no buffoon, but had an unbridled sense of the absurd. And as was Godfrey’s way in times of pain, resorted to music and word.  It itches, he strummed his guitar, I have the dreaded dog water itch, twas my morning to be caught up the kilt by a splash. A reckless chap carrying beer, water pan placed too near. Now I sit in the turquoise chair, in a sheet with hives I have here, here, and there. OH, I be allergic to many Naff things, rabbit dander, daisies, and all the small bug stings, I dislike beets, fear moths, dolls and old antique shops , yet only beets beat the misery the dog water rash brings.

By dawn the rash passed, it occured then to us- perhaps not poodle or soup-hound slobber caused it, it was all the hummus he ate, the hummus, the hummus, never after did Godfrey indulge in that deli. On our burnt fire escape, he sang all night in chorus, wrapped sticky in a sheet, had a boot thrown at him, twas the hummus…

All so many years past now…there are nights I’d sit up awake, on that partially burnt fire escape, knowing that letting him go was not about me, but fulfillment of his destiny. It’s been a rough summer, changes at the corner of Woebegone and Neglect, our crumbling character of a building” restored” to modern, clean and quiet . With paint dry, and scaffolding down, new owners came, Mrs Feerce has left town. Shed a tear for “The Bug Chandelier”  And early this morning, without warning or say, a committee from the city came…and took Mr Ghostley away…

CINNAMON INNARDS-And Other Stories- From Worzel and Alice

Worzel here- Even now, years since his passing, I oft avoid bakeries, for the scent of venting ovens reminds me so of Godfrey…one summer, on a mission he sought the perfect cinnamon bun, and always gave me the outside bit, brown and crusty, when we were out for Tuesday coffee..

Cinnamon Innards!, he told all who would listen, for Godfrey talked of anything, but beets to all persons. “I dislike beets”, Godfrey did make clear in frequent chat, to all on the #50 bus, or bakery cafe’ when we sat .

“If beets be the laxative of love”, he did extol,” then cinnamon innards, warm, soft and doughy be loves soul”.

We tried them grilled in butter, and bacon fat, he burned his tongue. We tried them iced and plain, we tried cinnamon buns fat-free, day old, we tried them whole grain. We baked our own, a project without nuts, and avoided all raisins, as when very young, his sister Alice told Godfrey, “all raisins are are bug guts”.

Cinnamon Innards!, Sticky spiced spirals, evocative of ever lasting life, I surrender cried the poet, aroma of cinnamon innards on the wind, remember Godfrey, poet prepare to grease thy chin!…

WISDOM FROM ALICE- Godfrey’s sister, Alice was a band singer most of her youth, now a curmudgeon, she centered wholly on herself. When I asked Alice what she loved most, she replied two years later. “I love a good prank of wit, and stealth and quality”. I speak of others, never in ill, only jest, “The Grand Cattle Parade” was one of my best. 

      The happy crowd all thought that the big parade was over, dispersing off to picnics, to the show grounds. Through Batley Town, down the High Street, twirling a baton came I marching mid a large herd of cattle that I’d found.

       One made a very wet mess on the sidewalk, another located hours later in the Lady’s Wear Store, Two got in the post office, the rest found miles away, I was not allowed in the Batley Town Parade anymore…

CHASTISED AT WORK!-  “Last customer I sold that style of shoe, won “The Har-Lottery, and the bonus prize to”.Boss Miss Mellissa Thmot waved her fingernails at me.” Now, Alice, that was inappropriate of you”. Very silly thing of Miss Thmot to do.

For I feigned great upset, and Miss Thmot, had to help my friend Nudge Giggleswick with the ill-fitting rubber boots he bought. Nudge, though well kept and clean, had the worst smelling feet in all of Skibbereen. Born that way, he did not know why, crowds scattered from his path, when Nudge whom I adored, barefoot on the beach strolled by.

He washed his feet in my front yard neath the tap, then sprayed, powdered and dried, with a special towel kept hung in a tree he was welcome inside. Miss Thmot thought she’d smelled it all, in her career selling the shoe, we carried her, gagging out back of the shop, left the boss to recover alone in the Loo.

I thanked Nudge Giggleswick for his help, said Nudge, “What any fine prankster would do, my dearest Alice, what any fond prankster would do….

THE CURMUDGEONS LAMENT- Why did you sit next to me? 

You have many small children, all under three, weeing and eating the table salt, in empty Fish n Chip Shop, why do you sit next to me?    I chose a quiet corner, the water to view, far from him eating herring and no where near you, no wobbly table neath my mince-tart and tea, why do you sit next to me?

I rarely go out to a film or a play, and I chose mid-week or a noon matinee’. Pick a lone seat, where over no ones large head I cant see .Oh why do you sit next to me?.   On a walk in the gardens I rest on the grass, with my stick flick the ice-creams of tourists who pass. Idly I feed carrion bird and pigeon, nasty things, and still you sit down next to me, a grumpy curmudgeon?.

In the Doctor’s room, I wait in a chair, for step father Arthur, in Doctors care, sure enough down you plop, and tell me non stop, of every ailment and pain, when I do not reply, show  your skin rash again. No, I don’t wish to see where the stick was removed, oh why do you sit next to me? Why do you sit next to me?…