NAME THAT HERB-A memoir from Dhilys Pugh

Beatrice here, Yes, it lives. My contributions to “The Saga” have indeed been skint of late. Worzel and I are back in concord, regarding Alice’s dreadful stories, she was Godfrey’s only sibling, and like her or not, adds a ridiculous verisimilitude to his story. 

Godfrey was my lifelong friend, and one of his favorite adventures was two weeks spent stranded among travelers, in a remote alpine hostel, road and railway cut off by flooding. Worzel has reported many persons writing, claiming they were there, that January, 1983. All recall the Chili Pot, the sheer intensity of the foul weather, and the odd young man who so disliked beets.  

This letter came from Wrexham, not far from here. Dhilys Pugh was there, in Arthur’s Pass so long ago…her daughter writes.” When our mother retired, she went daft, and decided to hitchhike alone about “The Far Antipodes”. Off before we could place her in a home, off with a backpack she went”. 

Mum lived her dream, returning fit and full of stories. “It were serious trampers, turned up in Arthur’s Pass, driven down by the rain from peaks and tracks. A Swiss couple, a Bongo Van full of Aussie girls, two dour Swedes, two Americans, Sally and Jim on bikes. Brian, the Canadian lad, always chopping wood. Barry, the “Whinging Pom”, with his own tea towels..and Godfrey- an odd looking character with a sign- “No Pasaran Beets”, which he propped by the kitchen sink.  

It merely rained the first day we spent stranded in high Arthur’s Pass. By mid morn the third day, safe to say it poured. On the fourth the wind blew 7 bells of crapaud, we began the chili, and played “Name that Herb”, from ancient packets and jars in the kitchen cupboard.

On the 5th day we had a contest- How many time was the “Mike Oldfield ” record played as it rained on the second? Godfrey won, the last banana- 8 and one half times he reckoned.

By day nine stranded in Arthur’s Pass, we completed a damp jigsaw puzzle- “David” missing the naughty bit. The chili was served again that night, a tin a creamed corn thrown in it. The Swedes baked bread, Godfrey loaned me his copy of “Naked Came I”, on the tenth day I curled up, close to the fire and read.

We played “Name that Herb”, from the odd smelling baggy, Sally from Texas found under her bunk. Godfrey’s deft scrounging produced ginger snaps, with cream for the coffee to dunk.

Should you ever be stranded in Arthur’s Pass, waterfalls appear like magic when mist clears over the tussocks and snowgrass. There is perfume of coal smoke and wood fire overall ,peaks loom, faded mural hangs on the hostel common room wall.

With Godfrey I walked to the roadside chapel, to pray that the rain may stop, we had a guffaw over diapers and pet food, all that was left in the only shop. In fun, we played Scrabble in Welsh just to baffle the Scrabble Champ, Brian, very earnest Canadian.

The Australian  girls were good humored, yet kept to them self. Dour Swedes and Swiss longed for to ski, Brian chopped wood, he had read all the moldy books on the dusty shelf. We all tried to add what we had to the chili, vegemite, an apple, half a bag of stale muesli. “No Pasaran Beets” Godfrey’s sign read,  seriously being the elder, guarding the pot and washing up fell to me..

We stumbled over tussock grass, down to the river, every morning for to stretch out and walk. Humbled by walls of stone, thick Rata clad in full crimson flower. We sought the green jade, washed from the flood water. I found a fine, small piece, Godfrey made a wee bag from one of his socks. (Knitting a skill he learned from his own Mother) I wear it round my neck, on a ribbon  he gleaned from another.

Godfrey said- “It will ease arthritic ache and pain”, cement friendship. “A gift from the gorge will carry you a journey, and home to Arthurs’ Pass one day again”.

Naked came I, from the shower stall on the 14th day of rain. There was hullabaloo outside the loo, with word that an east bound train had gotten through. Only Godfrey   remained last of the rain, his socks not quite dry hung by the fire, in silence I sat,  prodding an ember…trying to put thanks into words, that I would write fondly of Arthurs’ Pass, and would always remember..

For he’d trod from mud and knee deep clouds, down from the hut on Mt Ghoul, tramped alone. He was wringing his wet socks into a plant, whistling “Sweet Molly Malone”

In the tiny Hostel office, hear the warden complain, midnight in your bunk, waken to the drumming rain. Plan in your mind, the building of a raft if need be, remember being stranded, playing “Name that Herb ” and that dreadful pot of chili.

“I did not return to Arthurs’ Pass, many years later, back home walking one evening by “The Irish Times” pub, someone was singing “Sweet Molly Malone”. Round my neck, I felt for that green stone, recalled the large salad  I befriended, when back down in the city after two weeks of dubious chili. …

Here, Mum’s story ended. Restless back home, we built her a Donkey Cart, and with “Arthur”, a gentle beast, enjoyed her dotage hosteling, and prodding about in waterfalls. Mum remained adament, that feet must be kept warm and dry.

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DERELICT BOATS- Hauled away!- from Worzel and Godfrey

Worzel here, I grew up in a tiny, landlocked prairie town. Our stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat never threw anything away, our dad, only interested in tractors and T.V. sports. Mrs Gibberflat brought with her an old, Finnish built fishing trawler she had traded for, we celebrated it in song as “The Bumtrinket”. The boat sat in our back field, and my siblings Inkerman, Fillipendula ,Cudberth , and I played unfettered aboard. 

No worry over rusty nails, Mrs Gibberflat soaked us in “Dettol”, fear of little Cudberth being locked in a hold?, her axe hacked him free whenever it happened. Our open sewer created a tall, lush green meadow we considered the prairie sea. Godfrey loved my story of “The Bumtrinket”. He loved old boats- “Honest companions, a boat will always tell you how things are going”.  

My late friend, the Vagabond Godfrey , considered morning time vital, and was always out early gathering bakery treats and newspapers. He would have muttered and “fehed” over a recent front page photo in our local rag- DERELICT BOATS HAULED AWAY- 

Life is change, storm, adventure, patience and joy. As we all must return to the round, so to do old boats.That odd ripple cross the water on a calm day?, gentle breeze that springs up, unexplained?, weather beaten plank sticking out of the mud flat?, the waiting heron understands that these mark the tracks of the Doubty Venture, the pretty Jaqueline T, and many others heading out a seeking. “Feh”, Godfrey would say, behind his paper and pile of tea-buns. 

Godfrey wrote- There was grumbling mongst the well off in the Bay neighborhood, “Blots on the landscape, disgrace to the place where our children paddle and play”. Two old, rotten boats by storm washed ashore, we demand them promptly be hauled away and gone”. “They are rubbish, to no one they belong”.

There was a spark of life left in both the dory, “Venture”, and once fine sloop, “Jaqueline T”. Side by each, cast upon the sand, Venture told her story. I was built by hand, for a family. Part of a childhood memory, with a good inboard motor and breezes kind, the following seas they tickled my behind, I laughed at danger,  fish lines heaving, and brought them safe home with salmon many a summers evening.

Twas the middle girl, always caught a fat Grilse to roast over the fire. Strings sewn to her sweatshirt lest she pitch overboard could be grabbed, and patient I bobbed adrift while my folks fished the shallow bits and crabbed.  Too soon sped the years, my girl left life by the sea for big city, but I know that deep in this old heart of oak, she will never forget me…

The Jaqueline T spoke to, but softer and more genteel. “Twas strength in mind when the builders laid my keel, perfection in every rib and strake, my bottom copper, sails and rigging brand new,  excitement for  round the globe voyage we would take.”

South to “The Happy Isles”, bold crossings of Bass and of Cook Strait!, no yacht more gallant than me, happy years until my sailor fell for one she loved beyond storm and sea. Anchored down Pelorus Sound, eager for quiet, Sunday cruise, proud of baggy-wrinkle visiting ocean wanderers shared stories and vagabonding news.

I was sold, then swapped, sold and sold again, sailed back to cold, northern climes, my name was changed, in shame to “LURCH”, when my last owner fell upon hard times. Posh boats called out as they sailed past me, can that be you?, the once noble Jaqueline T?.

Now known only as “LURCH”, stripped of my finery, children are  bellowed at if they wish to climb upon me  play, Pirates or Popeye, any time now, dear Venture, we shall be hauled away..

Cried Venture- I to, my people outgrew, never sold or renamed, I sat on blocks in the yard when my fishing days were through. Now a “Blot On The Landscape”, but I did have second chance to roam, taken from the driveway, decked over, I plied familiar waters, of Georgia Strait as a beachcombers home. From Deep Bay to Bowser, only an October gale could stop The Bold Venture.

Was a rogue wave swamped me…high aground that autumn, over a week, I sheltered a poet in my battered lee, by firelight, this young chap sat back against me to write.

Yes, I suppose sighed Jaqueline T, we are traded for sheep farm up many a valley, photos fade, hearts mend, travels pass into memory”.

Early afternoon the tractors came. “They laughed one last time at the name” LURCH” in faded paint, as I was torn from the comfort of sand, hauled off to a dump inland. Venture, ever stubborn resisted, tougher by far than me, when force of louts broke her apart, tide snatched a stout timber- with a rumble of victory, part of Venture headed back, forever back to sea.

WHITE PEACHES And GREAT GIANT SQUASH- From Worzel and Godfrey

Walking home tonight, maundering in the autumn drizzle that was oddly tepid,  My favorite tree, gifted me with a twenty dollar bill, floating neath it in a puddle, of the tree Godfrey, in a naughty mood once wrote- “She is robed in tatty harvest gold, like stained shag carpeting torn from a 70’s trailer”. “Demurely, she sheds three leaves at a time, daring and teasing old, cold winter’s groping, trembling hands”… 

The harbor water tonight is the same shale blue as Godfrey’s eyes were, Autumn, season for letting go. We used to lean here and play “What smells Is This?”. Waft of carriage horse “Tallsocks” passing by, wet winter coat, fish fat, Godfrey’s stock answer if he sensed I was winning- “Some kind of soup”.  

White peaches, oft in the grocery store he sought the fruit out, never bought any, just buried his face in the piles, dreaming of them, sun warmed. Sadly, we have few photos of Godfrey, who claimed not to photograph, but once told a grocery clerk, he had his picture taken with the worlds largest squash. This ballad from his early years on the road pays homage to white peaches, squash, and autumns letting go…

Oh mudslide, lightning, pestiferous rain, on my pink bicycle from the coast road I came, back then still a rough track, I meandered round potholes, and slippery bits, walked when the going was slow, each view point a pleasure as my bike rattled down, out of cool forest for the dry heat of Central Otago.

I felt I had yet to find voice as a poet, but the sunset past dark lit pink Mt Aspiring, a sight that I found awesome and inspiring. And hoped my track would pass that of “The Shiner’, old rogue, the legends still tell, and I fancied moiling about for gold, in the  diggings  round Old Cromwell.

One day, in wander a note caught my eye, “Pickers Needed”, penciled in scrawl. White Peaches and Apricots, pinned on the launderette wall. I picked white peaches for “Old Pickled Paulsen” , paid by the un- bruised bin, he oft saw double and thought I was two chaps, depending how deep in the sherry “Old Pickled” was in…

Up in a peach tree picked a lass rode a push bike like me. An odd, thin scar marred one side of her face, and her accent was from somewhere Ma warned me of- “A Wild North Place”. She knew prairies and snow, and I met Cedar, picking white peaches, way down south in Otago.

“I wish to tramp high country few boots have trod on said she, want to see it and feel it, let the rain and wind soak me before its all gone”. Cedar told me of her scar, (though I did not Inquire),  she was thrown from a pony into rusty barbed wire, when young. “You have fine strength of character”, said I as we picked white peaches till the knock off time call rung.

At evening we’d gather on “Old Pickled’s verandah, in cane chairs and sagging setee’, if he was not too deep in his flask we enjoyed song and story. How he bush-whacked  from the coast with mate Jim, “The Shiner”, bitter winter of 33′, cleared off the land where we all labored, a dream of growing the lovely white peach tree.

Pickled, yes, a dreamer he was, more than he’d ever show, he bade us join him, secret in his veg patch, end of an overgrown row. No, it was not beets, we beheld a sight, nor was it pumpkin or marrow…or turnip, was a squash the size of a motor car, “Old Pickled” stood grinning beside it, flask forgotten on his lean hip.

“Behold, many years of labor and trial and manure from the finest Merino ewe, me thinks Ive’ the worlds biggest squash, still it’s growing so time will tell. “I grafted the vine to a half “G” of sherry, from the pub on the road to Old Cromwell. We stood speechless before the great squash, feeling then the first autumn’s chill, and oft I wonder what came of the squash, and possibly always will.

Oh tell me, Cedar, if you may, more of your “Wild North Home” far away, for soon I am bound for The Wairau’s wild reaches, away from Central Otago, when we are done with white peaches. We did not work on Sundays- Cedar talked as upward we climbed, seeking distant snow, there were sturdy sheep, and tumble down huts, high above the cannery. White peaches were stacked in wooden bins, waiting for tins, come Monday.

We picked white peaches till seasons end, and last night round the fire with my “Wild North” friend, her land was of midnight sun, and falling star shows, long summer days and cow paths to the creeks deep shadows.

Said Cedar, “Where ere I go, I shall remember you fondly and the hills of Otago, where we picked white peaches till summers end, our golden cliffs on The Clutha River bend, sun warm on my back from the old stone, tumble down hut, and eating warm white peaches, from deep in your bottomless knapsack”

“I never crossed paths with Cedar again, or met “The Shiner” of lore, even the orchard and Old Cromwell town are no more. But if you journey down there, may hear cheeky whistle, not “Pickled or “The Shiner”, just wind in the canyons fooling you…”Pickled and his mate “Jim” passed long ago, in The Old Man’s Home down Oamaru…

 

 

CREATING A NUISANCE- From Alice

From “Alice; A life In Praise Of myself”-  

Godfrey’s eccentric sister Alice, had been hard at work with her dreadful writing judging by the thick packet she presented to me upon leaving Wales. Home now to my turquoise chair, after tea and good look out the window, I was ready for Alice. Alice writes, “here enjoy to your delight the completed introduction to my book”. Between selling shoes and writing, I have had little time to prank, town folk look at me oddly as I hurry by, suspicious lot…I hope no one suspects that I have matured.”Indeed, Alice had not.  

Creating a Nuisance- Ma and I never worried about losing Godfrey when he was small, and we went to the shops. He was easily found drooling on the bakeshop window, and I could collect my brother before someone shooed him away with a mop. I told him raisins were bug-guts, told him the coconut cakes he loved were made of lamb daggs. Thus I had a pile of raisins picked from his scone- and lovely cakes to, here is a favorite bedtime story- I was studying Australia in school, and was rapt by their colorful idioms.

Rattle Your Daggs To Lamington Fair- Your tail still long, legs stubby but strong, said old ewe to lamb when they met at the billabong. Run, run wee lambkin, run  and hide, before the black wagon comes and you are thrown inside! trust not the sheep dog, in the grass she will crouch, then it’s off to the market at Clapper De Pouch.

Not Clapper De Pouch!   the lamb did shake, where innocent sheep folk are promised cake, lemonade, and Cracker Jack, where good sheep go and never come back. There are rumors of woolies for chilly feet, and greasy chops for the posh to eat, and innards cleaned then set aside with onions for the Haggis fried. “I don’t want to be a Haggis”, the poor lamb cried.

Said ewe to lamb, now now, be calm, escape to the east beyond the farm, over   distant Tor through the Blue Woods rare, will lead you safely to Lamington Fair. Where the water troughs are not slimy or green, and free sheep gamboll on the common clean, no human ever be cruel or unkind, and when sheep dance they rattle their daggs behind, all free sheep dance, rattling daggs behind.

I oft threatened Godfrey with the dreaded “Clapper De Pouch”

The Prankster In Autumn-    There is something in October puts the prankster in a mood. ..Beyond my garden over grown and wild, enjoy the cacophony  of someone screaming at her child. Curmudgeon sanctuary, enter at thy doom, trap door for the unwary, welcome to my room.

Stacked tins of lonely soup, placed in precise rings, set before a desk top fan, dry my dainty under things. I enjoy the golden days of fall, collection of sharpened sticks hang along one wall. No art work or living plant for me, no tatty knick- knacks on the shelf, just my window over the moat, framed photos of myself.

The prankster in October- purloined from the bank a money bag, strolled to the park with glee, with simple system of fishing lines tied it to a tree. I sat on a bench so innocent, threw bag into the duck pond, sat and watched the greedy, wade in duck mess to retrieve it.

The money bag it stayed afloat, as the silly thrashed about, without webbed feet or boat. Pursuing a sack filled with rubbish, not money, with ice-cream and stick, I found it l terribly funny. And before my causing an angry mob, along came the town cop-“doing his job”. Portly Brian, crisp uniform wearing, knew well that nothing in the world upsets me..but herring.

Now, who ever heard of police bearing herring? Brian needed not threat or weaponry, stood holding up that dreaded fish, as I untied the bank bag from it’s golden tree. There is something in October puts the prankster in a mood- stay up late, nap by day- curmudgeon attitude.

Creating A Nuisance- “I was conceived neath a rowboat, in Wales have achieved status of legend, and as an incorigable nuisance am oft mentioned”.  The quality prank is an art form, cleverly cultivated, “Harm no one in Prank well Created”. I allow myself to be swung cross dance floors, knowing my oversize drawers will go flying free, to land in the lap or dinner plate, of one who looks askance at the likes of me’.

A curmudgeon is oft judged in church, or corridors of polite society, I have no need for cute stories of tots, cats do not interest me, only my own company”. My brother was son of a son of a silvery fish, bright as sun on calm sea, he disliked beets, was born that way, and Godfrey believed every sisterly thing I would say. The only time we ever whined is when herring and beets were combined.

I used Godfrey for a door stop, when sweeping out our cottage with a broom, I stuffed him nappy end down, in the piano that filled our sitting room. When I told him the Vicar hid God’s treasures in the chimney, up he climbed. Godfrey slid down head first, before I could grab him, wound up near the front pew of the church.

Trailing soot and ash, he took off at a dash, bawling for home via the cemetery, upsetting our first funeral  of many- elders set down the box of old Lloyd Brown to chase after my brother Godfrey.

“Created A Nuisance”- we read printed bold in The Newsletter of the Parish- from Sunday school, to my joy they dismissed us, I received a lecture, and Godfrey only beets in our hamper for the needy that Christmas.

Allergic To Work-  Willing companion “Nudge”, forged for me a note of fudge. “Please excuse Alice from work today at the shoe shop”. “Alice awoke, alive but sneezing and we cannot get the wheezing to stop”.

Truth was, yes, I did wake up alive, lost track of the sneezes when they numbered past five, my seventh sneeze so loud and strong, set off a alarm bells two doors along. Figurines shattered, we heard the outside toilet door shake, my step-father Arthur fled to the street, ancient memories of battle and earthquake.

No one else seemed worried of it. “The racket is only that prank happy Alice, doing her “bit”. Truly I sneezed, sneezed till I had to set teeth aside, sneezed myself to tears, sneezed till Grandma Turner heard it, and Grandma Turner had not heard for years. I sneezed every day this year in fall, sneezed with worry over bladder control, when the sneezing ended, and I did not die, we set out creating nuisance, Nudge Giggleswick and I.

From Alice.   I am beginning to agree with Beatrice- this is dreadful- From Worzel.

WHERE WIND AND TIDE…Adelaide’s 4th Story- From Worzel

My late summer visit to Sonsie Farm, in Wales. Even with Beatrice annoyed with me, were busy times for all on the farm, and working late into the nights together on our book, “The Collected wisdom Of Godfrey”. The late vagabond had been Beatrice’s childhood friend, and she felt I was straying too far from Godfrey’s saga, by including Tugboats, Toilets, “Itinerant Nere Do Wells”, Horses, and his eccentric sister Alice’s dreadful writing.  

When I wove in Adelaide and Benny, who had settled uninvited on Sonsie, Beatrice almost raised her voice. She was not getting the connection..

The only day it rained, that last summer Godfrey spent with us in Canada, and though he feared antiques, my friend helped me drag home a battered, old plaid steamer trunk from outside a junk shop. When he quit muttering, and “Feh-Ing “over what may be inside, he peered in and gravely informed me- “Not empty Worzel dear, it is full of stories.

The trunk sat in our luggage shop window several years, until Adelaide and  Benny showed up, the odd old couple claiming it as their own. I happily sent them off with the trunk, aledgedly  bound for Wales, no one expected them to get there, much less move in with Beatrice, to her  dismay. It was berry picking time, Alice’s old car had been reported seen near Sonsie Farm, so it was I went out picking, Beatrice fearful to leave home with the prankster nearby..  

Adelaide and I set out at dawn, for the hills of Barafundle Bay, she former Chambermaid to The Queen,  parked her donkey cart in the shade, and I with a pat did the same, for I rode good Rowan, the brackety gray. Plunk went ripe fruit, into the old woman’s pail, before I had even begun, she hitched up her drawers, waded deep in the bushes, straw hat tied firmly against dust and the sun.

“I’ll go where wind and tide take me”, said Adelaide when asked how long they may stay at Sonsie. “We  have sought yellow houses since I left my employer The Queen”. The bantie sized rogue had a brittle dignity, indeed for the struggles and places she and her plaid trunk had been.

“We maids were not allowed ashore to cavort, when the Royal Yacht Britannia was tied up in port”. “One morning I chanced look out, out from the bed chamber door- in a narrow pass we were passing a fine, grand yellow house on the far shore”. “Had a wide verandah, finials atop, yellow paint fresh and bright, Betty the boss lady barked, as the ship turned sharp up a fiord out of sight”. “Someone waved, I waved back as the yellow house hove out of sight”..

Plunk went the berries into Adelaide’s pail, I waited knowing she could not be hurried in telling her tale. “There was a kerfuffell, a stramash, a paddy bordering on a  melee’, plunk, plunk…It were a bad day, maggoty butter was served at high tea. “The Queen did not butter her own scone, was a Lady in Waiting stood and looked on”. Royal decorum was lost at first bite, the hand maid swooned, the Prince did curse, Our Noble Queen was ill in her purse…..

“Oh bloody hell, the butler cried”, all butter on board was heaved over the side, floating off in a maggoty wake, we threw out a case of beets and some dubious fruitcake”.

Plunk, went Adelaide, far out picking me, though I judged her age roughly at least 83. “Why was it deemed your fault? I asked as we took a break neath a tree, intriqued by this version of her life story. “Twer height of summer, nasty flies a swarm, was my Marvin the butler’s lad, left the butter pats out in the warm”.

“He promised for a keek up my smock, he’d be a gentleman, he promised me a life of ease, when our time in service was done, he promised that he, Marvin, would be faithful evermore, he promised me a yellow house, in a field of Marram grass on the seashore”.

“But the butler’s lad lied, I and my trunk, cast with scorn and aspersions , dismissed  over the ships side.”. “My  trunk and I , set forlorn in a lonely gutter, blamed for maggoty butter”.  “in Flinder’s Street, urchins pelted me with ripe pear, seeking employment I strayed from the docks, told my sad story to kind wanderer Benny, who sought out Marvin, kicked him firm in the buttocks”.

“Benny promised no life of ease, no posh ring, Benny promised only one simple thing”. “That our lives be shared till the end, side by each- and we seek that yellow house of our own, yellow house on a remote beach”..

Lest I ramble, I left Adelaide to pail and bramble, the day quieted to, and portions of her story I know will be familiar to you. Not just the old tale of innocence lost, or betrayal by silver tongued voluptuary, not man enough to own up to maggoty butter, but even this vile young lout, is part of the odd way we, were happenstance brought together”.

Godfrey wrote this of beets- “I wish no ill of beets, or those who love them”. Had it not been for beets, I may never have left Wales, and still be selling manure by the roadside. Dislike of beets helped me make friends, from empty room, to so many lovely places…until our circle is complete- all hale kindness! all hale the beet!.

I hope when Beatrice reads this, she will understand the connections to…

 

I WAS A TATTERDEMALION- Ma Yelled- from Godfrey

Godfrey rarely spoke of his mother, laughed when he did. He wrote her often, Ma never replied. Godfrey’s sister Alice sent a card every three years on her birthday, scrawled in a corner sometimes we could read-“From Ma”.  

On my yearly visits to Wales, researching this book, I was never invited into the cottage, complete  with a moat, Alice shared with Ma and ancient stepfather, Arthur. We always met at the “Little Chef”, a dreadful roadside diner Alice had never been ejected from.

Godfrey’s Ma, I expected a raging harridan- Roly-Poly Ma was shy, and able to knit, read, demolish a large breakfast, and complain about everything in a soft, Scottish burr. Alice slid, rather than entered the lady’s room as I was checking my teeth for food. Filling her knitted poke with toilet rolls and hand soap, Alice explained that “Ma yelled herself out long ago”. “Created her own echo, did Ma, said Alice- “Ma Yelled”…   

In our small village was one corner shop, run by Mr and Mrs Mange, They lived behind a grimy drape in the rear. He wore a string vest with food stains cross his belly, Mr  Mange did not bathe or change, we could hear Mrs Mange in back, oft cursing cricket on their telly.

Ma forbid Alice and I, from entering the filthy old place, which only encouraged my bolder, older sister. I ‘d hide and burrow neath dry dog food sacks, and cases of corned beef tinned, Alice pinched sweets as I cried aloud, I was under the dog food and pinned. Mr Mange fell for it, dug me out a time or more, till the day no one came… and peeking out I was collared by an irate Ma, Alice fleeing out the shop door. Ma yelled.

Some mothers baked, our sewed pinafores and knitting to sell, our Ma chose to yell. Ma yelled, as had her Ma before her and her grannies Ma had to, a very large family who yelled at each other was all that Ma knew.

Ma yelled- when we were driven home backseat of a cop car, Ma yelled. Fished from a deep, muddy stream, stepped in a cow-pat drifting in day dream, Ma yelled. Some Mothers took to drink- ours really could scream.

Alice told me scary stories such as “Now You Are Wet”. Read tales of beets and a mean, haunted doll, I was very young then, and on stormy nights I would bawl. Along came Ma, cigarette a glow in the dark, scent of stale perfume if she had been out, sat with a sigh on the end of my bed- “Shut Up Godfrey,” she’d bark.  Alice laughed through the wall, Ma yelled, I told Ma that I disliked beets, and was it true that beets were how trolls smelled? Ma yelled.

The more sister Alice rebelled, Ma yelled. Alice’s voice rang above all others, singing in church, I laughed so hard that tears welled. Alice stuffed me under the pew, held the hem of my kilt down with her shoe, was clouted on the head by the handbag of high, mighty Miss Ingeldew…Ma would yell, after church, this I knew.

Ma yelled, when I brought home a sodden, wadded letter from school. “Mrs Llwtzst, your son is a Tatterdemalion”. Ma yelled, I could tell she was not happy, proud or thrilled, by how loud.

When Ma yelled, it oft echoed at low tide, down the harbor, past pubs and tearooms to the great Smythe Estate on the hill. All Smythes thought themselves better than each other, yet not even pompous Tenbrooks Smythe The First, could out shout my mother.

When I , Godfrey grew older, I was smitten by Clementine, a Peruvian fish monger’s daughter. Ma yelled at me, for hanging about the fish shop, and strolling home reeking of cod water. Ma yelled at poor Clementine, end of the pier when she caught her.

Ma yelled at Alice for fixing a big pot of soup  she called “Hearty Bogey”. I ate it, as it did not contain beets, Alice promised me.

I stayed out all night with Clementine, she told me of the stars, and the mountains of Peru, and a wee bit of what she desired to do, in her gumboots and large white pants, we danced. She talked as I baked, (though I’ll leave out some personal parts), and in cool of summer morning we had coffee and warm apple tarts.

Along came Ma in her dented Morris Minor, just as Clementine slung me over her large, firm shoulder, yelled at again was my innocent fish lady’s daughter….

The last time I heard Ma yell…I left her the key to my manure stand, with extra sacks, stacked for to sell, then I said goodbye, dared kiss Ma on the cheek, set out vagabonding, wisdom to seek. I glanced back as a customer stopped, Ma set down the sack of manure she held, too far away now for me to hear why…yet I knew that last moment, was Ma yelled. yes, Ma yelled.

 

BROWN MUDDY BOOTS- From Godfrey

Worzel here, in old age, happy today looking back. A fond memory to share?. Well, one day at our luggage shop, a cake, sandwich and vegetable tray intended for a funeral  was dropped off by mistake. My husband Garnet, and Godfrey reckoning it was a surprise treat for their brave hunting down of a mouse that morning, ate it.  

When I got home, they were desecrating the carrot cake, oblivious of the purple writing- “Rest In Peace Muriel”…they had saved me the icing roses and soggy walnuts Godfrey had picked out. 

I had long promised never to torment my friend with beets, (he heartily disliked them). . I rang the Funeral Home before sending them off to apologise, explaining that just punishment would be to corner Godfrey on the subject of beets, and not let him leave. Garnet crept home late, without Godfrey, the vagabond reappearing three days later, claiming he had been lured into a corn maze.  

Our apartment building is old, the floors warped and splintery. To this day, one of Godfrey’s old boots wedges the toilet door closed, in lieu of a latch. To say the least, his memory is everywhere. 

Was a very young poet- “Do not hitchhike”warned my Ma- “you will be left with no shoes on the roadside”. Shrill rang her words as a beet grower pulled to the side. A high, shiny ute with a beet painted on the red door, I accepted the lift, despite worry over beets, it was raining and well after four.

As I settled inside the chap spoke of beets, across the ranges divide, beets on filled roll, beets in slibber sauce, beets in fine silver bowls, roasted on fire coals, beets stuffed in beets stuffed inside a fat goose, for dessert double beet, beet chocolate mousse.

With rare pause in telling how his crop covered many a hectare, he’d a house on a hill with gold plumbing in the loos, and every day wore a new pair of shoes. “Everyday because I can”. I do not suit the common, brown muddy boot”. He was a peculiar man.

When asked, I’d say in my pre-poet days, my background was in sales. “I ran a manure stand back home in Wales”. By pail, gunny sack, or shovel it yourself from the heap around back. And I tried to save every penny, dreaming of places my brown muddy boots would take me.

Oft in summer, early mornings when I stayed at Worzel’s home in the city. Young trampers were a plenty trail bound from bus and ferry. This is an island that calls to the bold and the ruggedy. With shiny new boots, flash gear in clean pack, I saw many set out, but none looked the same heading back. Sandy and hungry, sun, wind burned, wet and ruddy, you can bet those boots were now soft, scuffed and muddy.

Stories told round hostel table- tell of bear prints in sand, deep salal and bracken fern, Cape Scott, Mystic Susiat Falls, back home be it Hamburg or Melbourne, tell of the brown muddy boots they would earn.

On such a trek, Godfrey caught from the rocks with lucky cast a fat salmon for us three. We gave thanks, and stuffed it with thimble berries, cracker crumbs, dried onion, an apple, our last precious butter. We roasted the fish over clean alder fire. No royals or rich folk ever feasted finer, than we with murmur of out going tide, and slept deep neath the stars as our brown muddy boots dried.

Found a cow path came I, a vagabond strolling, from over the borders southwest, happy to be free of town living, I sat back neath a pear tree to rest. Kicked off my boots, (A tad muddy and damp), hung month old socks from a branch to air dry. Remember the feel of bare feet in soft grass? If not, I suggest you seek out a fresh patch and try…From Godfrey.