SISTER ALICE And her Teeth

Worzel here- This tale is about as far from wisdom as a tale can be- yet it begs to be told.On my yearly visits to Wales, spent in the peaceful folds of Sonsie Farm, working with Beatrice on Godfrey’s story, I had never been invited inside the cottage his sister Alice shared with her Ma, and aged stepfather Arthur.

Nor was I asked over this time- but to Beatrice’s dismay, have managed to piece together the story of Alice’s teeth, and her early years of pranking..

Let me tell you a true tale of my dear sister , a rare glimpse of Alice as a silly teenager, six years older than me- the future vagabond Godfrey.  Alice cared not for lads, or frocks or school, loved only her piano and what mischief as she could get up to.

When I was a baby we’d sit on the curb, Alice poked me in the spine till I’d cry, she would sing a long ballad, dirge of parents lost to shipwreck, extract coins from concerned passers by. Alice daubed me in beet juice a scarlet hue, it looked like I had the plaque, and made us the odd penny, but calls to the district nurse to…

I never questioned Alice, even when old enough to articulate thought, for she was my sister and always shared the cream buns and sweets her act bought. Chased away from the shops, all but the cluttered one of mean Mr Daggsmitt, there were great hiding places within it.

Grim man with a dirty neck, lived behind a beaded curtain, heard him shouting at the Telly, watching Cricket- his full set of teeth in a jar weighed down the newspapers, and as he chased me past the dog food sacks, sister Alice nicked it.

Alice writes- Between tormenting Godfrey, and being shipped off south to live as a nun, I had a full set of dentures one summer to prank everyone. I called on the Mulgrew Twins, handy with tools, to fashion a hinge and a spring. Fitted on the end of a retractable stick, the teeth with practice made a wonderful chatter and click.

I tried the teeth out on Godfrey, he fled for the hills at the sight of the them, chomping on beets where he usually sat. The dentures answered the door when a salesman rang, going door to door pedaling cheap tat. I took them to church where proudly the teeth sat beside me on my hat in the pew, laughed so hard she wet herself, did Sugar Mulgrew.

At an early age, I discovered by chance I could drive portly Brian, Batley Town cop up the wall. All year long he wore a thick, wooly vest, and threatened me when he saw the teeth with arrest. Told our Ma- “Alice is bound for social failure down the low track”. Brian loved his pie and chips, until the teeth crept up behind, and grabbed a big bite of his tea snack.

Beatrice, reluctantly added to the tale of the teeth, writes-” Alice oft was seen smiling, bicycling to town, teeth on their stick over her arm. She fished with the old dentures off Skibbereen Bridge, and to reach treats Godfrey had hidden for himself, deep in a high cupboard or rear of the fridge.” We used the teeth, they were handy rounding up stray ewes on the farm, nipped their scruffy heels better than a Corgi”, Beatrice years later told me.

Berry picking was a job Alice abhorred, yet this year of the teeth, and standing on a wide board over the thorns, she could reach the best fruit, have the teeth gently pluck it, plunk went the blackberries, filled Alice’s bucket.

She played piano twice a year in the town recital, Alice played well, and the forgiving folk of Batley always gave her a long ovation.When Alice smiled and played “Downtown” her favorite song, the teeth chattered atop her piano, to the music’s vibration.

Brian the town cop, called a public meeting to discuss “This Teeth Situation”. Even Margaret Tuttle brought her soapbox, began the gathering with a rant, tea was served, coffee to from an urn, everyone concerned about the dentures got to speak, everybody had their turn.

“She poked them teeth through the romance novel shelf and nipped me bum”. Reported Norris Maeve- new librarian.  Yawned  Alice and Godfrey’s  tipsy Uncle Lou, “she leaned oer the bridge with those teeth, snapped me up a fine trout”. Fail to see what all the fuss is about”.

Back then when at a bank, a teller sat high above behind a wicket, in his tie was so employed Kenneth Hind, reported Alice came in for her pocket money, and nasty old teeth snatched it from me with a snicket…

The owner of the dentures spoke last of the group, “Tis a dire wrong done me, my papers blew away and I gum down only gruel and soup.  Wealthy Tenbrooks Smythe The second, son of The First, father of The Third Tenbrooks, widely regarded as the worst, stood up wheezing to pontificate.

Ignoring Margaret’s soapbox his strode up on the stage…”Well let me tell you all Tenbrooks began..”I am certain…Alice hidden behind the curtain slid the teeth out where they clacked along with Tenbrooks Smythe The Second as he ranted on the “Dry Rot in the Youth of Today, and how” Alice ought be paddled on her Jenny Mule behind, in Batley Town Square on full display of all.”  And as he finally looked down on the teeth, what began as a soft snort soon grew to loud guffaw, till pandemonium swept the length of Batley Town Hall.

A pile up formed at the lady’s loo spilling out into lower High Street, the pub and chip shop next door, the town cop took chase after Alice, long gone minus the teeth on her bicycle for home, he called for more constables to come from Skibbereen, but was trampled by the toilet crowd, attempting to keep order on his own.

Before she bolted, Alice wisely, passed the teeth to loyal Godfrey, who strolled home that evening, quite innocently. He bit the heads of weeds and thistles with the teeth, all in fun, but a scant few days later…Alice was caught, sent off by train to be reformed as a fine young lady, and potentially a nun.

Did the dentures also make the long journey, down south to Newbury?..We shall let Alice tell of that in good time- for hers is a whole other story.

SNOW WET AND THE SEVEN WHARVES- Wharf Street Stories.

It has taken many friends to compile Godfrey’s story- for anyone new to the saga, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, yet considered no meal complete without peas.  He preferred a nest of old sleeping bags to sheets, landing in Canada a youthful, Welsh vagabond, the year before we met, and desiring “only to sit and talk, talk of anything but beets”. He set up a table in a city park, inviting all to join him. Join him they did, including the Original Bus Riding Poet, Ginger Alphonse and devoted partner, Lonewolf. It was a summer of joy, and poetic infamy, until the police took Godfrey away….Ginger has lived most of her life on Wharf Street, down from us, and we thank her for sharing these stories..

GINGER’S AERIE-  Snow wet? I asked Ginger over scones and Chai tea. Quoth she, ” I do not let it worry me, for in my house of many toilets is my woven aerie” Snow coned Olympic Range mere miles across the strait- so close, so out of touch a country, my narrow street of houses old..tussock grass gold on the bluffs below me.

My house of many toilets has a shiny, red tile floor, and when we are home knarled walking sticks wedge closed the door. For like any aerie it is buffeted by storm, snow wet?. Not I , curled up, pen in hand, my aerie warm.

THE SEVEN WHARVES- from Godfrey   – Ginger may have five toilets, but on Worzel’s street are seven wharves. In heavy gobs snow fell, no dainty flakes from sky drift pretty fluffs. With the huddled masses I waited for the #50 bus. Along it came, an hour late, splashed to a halt oer the sewer grate, and being slow to move away, up my kilt went the icy spray. Though I wore thick wooly drawers, chilled every crevice it could get- Snow Wet.

On my street are seven wharves, one a dock bolted to rock, by ancient hand forged rings. Oft we sit down on those rocks warm evenings. Two are considered piers, departure points, familiar with welcomes, partings, tears. Three wharves are down by the Hotel Grand, for great flash motor yachts to moor, and helicopters land.

Next wharf is a lowly wreck, washed by open sea, weathered elephant gray in age where the tumbled stones of a breakwater used to be. Reckless youth leap from the highest planks in bold daring. Old men ignore them, drink from tins of beer, cast their lines for a fat Grilse, rock cod or herring.

From the seventh wharf, a slip in it’s day, is from wence a proud tall ship sailed away. Long about 1953, bound for Melbourne, and Cape Horn round the southern sea. Across every school atlas page- they carried on, sailing into storm wise old age. Sailed into legend, look for the small brass plaque set in concrete- when next you wander down on Wharf Street.

THE PASSAGE OF MR CODD- From Ginger-  I was about 16, when first became aware of Mr Codd. Endless waiting while our parents stopped to chat, we laughed at the cardigan and bow tie he wore, pushing his old bike up Wharf street, with bottles and tins to cash in at Quonley’s Store.   He saved those dimes and pennies , for oars and a dory, took passage setting crab traps from Songhee’s to Rock Bay. Years later we heard the clatter, and sight of long haired hippies, push an old V.W. bus up Wharf Street, on Mr Codd’s  wedding day.

Became a teacher, he did. Long hair now more trim, we oft saw him walking with a troubled kid, or sitting reading on the steps down by the water. Mr and Mrs Codd had a son and daughter, he pushed them by pram up Wharf,  summer nights when festivals were on, with music, fireworks, and parades drum and roar. Mr V Codd, read the sign on his English classroom door.

Few remain from “The Summer of Poetic Infamy”. When Godfrey had his table in the park, he disliked beets, sought peace in a world that called him odd, and on the edge of the circle, not quite ready to engage, alone now late in middle age sat Mr Codd.

Legends will be legends, whispered still in teacher’s toilets by some, how Mr Codd dared to teach- “Off The Curriculum”. He spoke of wisdom, and delightful to me, told his students, alone is not the same as lonely, that he considered the moon a good listener, read to them from the early works of Godfrey…

Parental muttering, beets uneaten at home, and thrown at lunch break. Culprits hurling beets suspended, “Civil Disobediance”wrote Thoreau, quoting from it, Mr Codd’s teaching career was promptly ended.

Sticky, nasty stain from a rotten tangerine, marks the space above the door, where Mr V Codd’s nameplate had been. No gold watch or assembly, no speeches or send off, just a quiet meal of fish and chips, with Miss Shelley the librarian, at a Chinese cafe down on wharf.

Mr Codd’s children now grown. Lecture the old chap, “In a shabby room you live alone, eat noodles three times a day”. Beacon hill Old Man’s Home is not far from Wharf Street, a clean and cheerful place to stay.”There is a billiard table and book case, you will make friends”. So he went, and he did- in a place of ends Mr Codd was happy again.

I am Ginger- considered the patina to my younger sister Cedar’s brass. Roly-poly, always hired, fired over and over again, till my sister found her niche in The Beacon Hill Home For old Men. Mr Codd? Why it was he led “The Great Cheese Sandwich Rebellion”. Conned us into giving them aged cheddar on toast for tea, “The mass constipation that later swept the home was blamed on me”. Then Mr Codd went missing, found in his wheelchair mired axle deep in soft tar, outside Quonley’s on upper Wharf. Someone helped him get there, he refused to give a name, so I- Cedar Waxwing Mae took the blame.

Up on Wharf…in a bus shelter not too far from The Beacon Hill Old Man’s Home, a toilet brush in shiny steel holder, and black rubber plunger sit left all alone. I notice these objects for I to am a poet, take notice because I care, they sat for a week undisturbed, now folded trousers and a fork have joined them there.

Toilet plunger and brush, wheelchair tracks heading one last time up Wharf Street in the slush. When ere we see these tracks on days it snows, or a lonely figure neath the old blue bridge sharing lunch chunks with the crows, and ponder who lives in the dusty old rooms above Quonley’s shop, all mark the mystery of Mr Codd’s life’s passage, from the sea bluffs end of Wharf to its’ only bus stop.

WAYWARD DAUGHTER- An Alice Story

Beatrice hear, writing again. It began on a Tuesday, I love to awake slowly on Tuesday, my tenants, Adelaide and Benny, when not off roving tended the morning farm chores- fair arrangement for the elderly couples board, and the times I have collected them from the town cells, pinching things, cheeking the cops, yellow houses..and on my bedside table a gift they had brought home..

Presented with a curtsy by Adelaide, tiny, bowlegged former chambermaid to the queen, it is a hideous lamp. Old, carved of some black wood, Atlas we reckoned, holding up the world. I can only envision his grimace, as the head is broken off, he is starkers naked, Adelaide, knowing I am a woman of modesty has dressed him in a loin cloth, fashioned from one of her hankies.

Times when not sure whether to laugh or cry, I wonder what Godfrey would do..laughed till he sneezed did Godfrey. Worzel and I now five years working on his story . I had been annoyed with Worzel lately, feeling our project veering into idiocy, dignifying the contributions of Alice, Godfrey’s sister, and her dreadful companion, “Nudge”. Worzel has discovered this new “Computer’ thing. She reports that readers love Alice, and want to read more. My goodness..so dear friends ,this is what happened when Alice came home in the fall

Twas a hush over the little town, more subdued than plain pudding, soft as duck down the news whispered over cup of tea and bun. Egg and chips went cool, notice was sent to the only school…Alice had been seen. Getting into her old, black London taxi, Alice was home in Skibereen.

Quiet had passed summer with the prankster far away across the sea, at The Lawn Bowling Club, Verne Allbread stalwart stood guard, the grass was deep on the slopes of the moat Alice dug round her home. Church bells tolled, Curmudgeon!, Curmudgeon!, hark the curmudgeon, Alice draws near!. Cloud of dust on the main road, tipped over garden-gnome.  Could it be?

For Alice and Nudge were pranksters, never nasty or mean, tolerated by most in the town of Skibereen, from fire hall to the shoe shop that employed her, those with little or no sense of humor did their best to avoid her.

At an age a lady would never disclose was Alice in her hand knit wooly clothes, she wore daily rubber boots and the same flannel shirt  as a lad Godfrey did wear, and twice a day rolled her step dad Arthur, singing war songs round the park in his bath chair.

But where were they? Alice and friend Nudge, (the only one she had) no one knew, Always together, an odd pairing the two. Town folk warned- “I hear her stick was seen luggage deck of the Batley Bus”. She and Nudge’s matching suitcases clearly labeled – BEWARE OF US.  

There are two High Streets in the town of Skibereen, true High and Down low where the docks begin, there are backstreet pubs and dark, greasy shops , where seeking pork pies Alice and Nudge were known to go. Brian, the town cop hung about the statue of Tenbrooks Smythe The First, town benefactor, long dead. Alice twice a year dressed him up in a frock, and wee cloche hat on the bankers brass head. Brian lectured Alice’s Ma- “Twer a great man, Mr Smythe the first”, when Alice decked him out for all to see in bra and garter. “I’ll see her scraping up behind the pigeons,  when I catch your wayward daughter”.

There is a hush over the town of Skibereen this night, smell of coal smoke and pumpkins, the moon cradles moon, just a sliver, and like moon behind the clouds, silently home slips Alice..Full of new stories for her “Book of Common Prank”, the curmudgeon settles down to write.

We went on an adventure, a long one, afar, afar!, with fish boats and tides in the great Fundy Bay, tides that swept Nudge’s trousers away. We saw lobsters and outhouses, tall ships and a moose, Nudge lost his trousers again in the wind, they were too loose. We ate great meals, avoided all herring, and picnic lunches at our Outhouse Museum, we reckon Nudge’s trousers are halfway home to Wales, do write and let us know if you see them.

We heard of a sand island alive with wild horses, but were not allowed there, enjoyed songs and stories, bottles banged on kitchen table, legends as we knew from home in Wales, in the big city we replaced Nudge’s trousers, from a bargain bin at a “Back to School” sale. They are huge round his waist, expose both knobby knees, and cinch tight under his chest. “Saturday Night Green” in color, Nudge is proud to look his best. For we were on a grand adventure- afar! afar!.

And when we were hailed by the police car, were usually a large person, “Pierre” or “Dawn”…they wore boots and spurs, and took umbrage over the side of the road that I drove on. Long ago a calendar hung on our cottage wall, yearly gift from an aunt we never met from Montreal. Godfrey loved the photos of canoes and peaks of snow, I vowed one day, “Peggy’s Cove” in Nova Scotia is where I would go.

Peggy was not home, just a pathway to a lighthouse. Call of nature led Nudge behind a shed, bees a swarm sent him dashing for the ocean, shedding vest and trousers as he fled. It is well known fact why I carry a stout stick, for fending off advances and to prank. This day I used it to save Nudge and his socks, but he lost his nice new trousers for they sank.

All a hush the little town of Knockfollies Bridge, the girls sorting fish work diligently. On the only main street the only two shops owners face each other with a touch of acrimony. One swept dust into the dooryard of the other, kids ran at play, scallop boats head away to sea, Knockfollies Bridge- dear to the memory of my odd brother Godfrey.

A kilt was provided for Nudge to wear home, an old kilt folded, stored with care, Godfrey had left it, many years ago, on the back of some young ladies chair. And hush to, the fair streets of Skibereen, “Curmudgeon Spotted!, read the morning paper, printed in Batley, top of page three. “Pranksters Return!, with a dark blurry photo of Nudge and me.

I, Alice, do not suppose  will ever be asked, to speak to innocent Girl Guides on Canada’s fair wonders by anyone….or hear parade, see banner high, “welcome home wayward daughter, welcome home Alice , our curmudgeon”…    From Alice

THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING AWE INSPIRED- From Godfrey

Worzel here- Down home on Wharf Street, always random, season of the year rarely an issue, we enjoy the brief and spectacular “Irish Sunset'”, a term that Godfrey coined. For perhaps five minutes at eve the wending street of heritage brick buildings is washed in a brilliant orange glow.

The worn out grass and trees of the tent camp below our window are lit the most vivid green. Campers pause, look skyward and west cross the harbor.The cops and by-law officers relax. The young woman serving tables in the corner patio bar rests her tray, shares delight in the beauty until the boss barks her back to work…

Folks eating in the cool, dark sushi-bar miss out. Even the silvery fittings on the carriage horses’ harness glint in the light as she waits at the cross walk. City workers cease banging trash cans. Leaning from my window, I cannot hear “10 Men”, a lost soul who paces the waterfront most days shouting- “I am 10 men, I am the federal Government!”….IO Men is there, relaxing on the park steps, ever present plastic cup in hand, basking in the peace of “Irish Sunset”…

Time waits for us, despite all we remain awe inspired.

Wrote Godfrey on the subject- From the age I could waddle, nappy dragging behind, Grandma swung me to the sky, I was cherished and held, I loved how the baking in her warm cottage smelled, her songs as she worked, stepping out in her old frock to dance, never cranky or tired. Ma complained, “She is a drunken old sot” But she spoke in rhyme, taught me to stay awe inspired…

I keep a worn photo of the long past elders, deep in my suitcase where it stays flat and dry, they said Grandpa had scars inside, deep where no one can see. A limp in one leg, mild disrespect for authority. He was a fisher- job in itself awe inspiring, he took us out when I was big enough to float, set nets and bait lines. “Go when wind and tide tells you”, Godfrey, never turn your back on the swell, always respect the sea”. Grandpa said little else, yet never took a day on the water for granted, wisdom that awe inspired me.

Stocky legs deep in wet grass he stands, dappled back steaming dry after summer shower, he is wary. Eight years old, carrot in hand I am walking out to my new pony. He need not worry, for the hand that holds the treat, wiped clean on my shirt, will never hurt him.

The glossy coat I keep brushed free of dust and burr, will give way to winter guard hairs and fuzzy whisker.The adventures we share as I warm cold hands neath thick mane, bed the pony down in clean deep straw…awakens the poet growing in me, carries us places that inspire and awe.

I grew up believing in staying awe inspired- “Given to woolgathering, Godfrey,  I regret will amount to nothing”. Twas written in a letter sent from school to my old Ma. I strolled home most days,seeking treasure along the hedge row, from a distance could hear Ma shouting, and the music when my sister Alice played the piano.

I left home for vagabonding, was once left on my own with a heavy iron anvil, and two angry cats in the same box. Was on a remote track, with nebulous shade from one of those odd trees rooted in rock. We had lightened the load of the traveler’s horse drawn wagon, to spare him a uphill pull, feeling his oats Paddy took off at a trot, leaving me with the cats and anvil for to walk.

In my hitching career, was once picked up, the same day by three separate chaps named Verne in same make of car, a brown sedan. Never so welcome was the distant speck of gold, came Heidi, who drove a yellow Bongo Van.

Without question or qualm Heidi stopped, drove myself, the cats and anvil, following tracks and signs of horse to where they finally ended at our camp riverside. Inspired, and in awe of gypsy life, she stayed a month with us, befriended a horse who disliked everybody, down the Rakaia River they would ride.

For she grew up dreaming of being a hippie, defying, horrifying the parents who named her Heidi…Good on ya Heidi, long may you seek the wild mushroom, glean the wisdom from stream side plants, long may you live in joy and awe inspired, and on the bluffs of East Sooke may you dance.

Some thoughts from Godfrey..

RAINWATER COFFEE- from Godfrey

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This is the story, in verse and vingette of my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey- he described himself as “A poet and professional fig picker”. Always blithe with money, yet paying his way. I found this poem in his “Urban Pentimento” journal, on a laboring job, Godfrey had given the okay for the on site “Port-A- John” be strapped shut, hoisted onto a truck, and driven away, not knowing the boss man was sitting inside…he indeed was adrift, seeking a new job.   

Tonight, I hurried for home in a spring shower, weighted down with sundries. I grabbed a quick coffee to enjoy as the rain eased, leaning on the harbor wall for that first, hot sip. Water had pooled cup’s lid rim, tasting both sweet and cool before the hot, bitter richness…now I knew what Godfrey meant when he muttered about craving rainwater coffee…and watching ships head out. If you dislike coffee, any other hot beverage will do..

Godfrey writes-  Still cold and dark mid April morning. And here I am, adrift in the city. In line at a cafe’ came a sailor clad for foul weather, he spoke softly- said “I can tell by the cuffs of your coat that you come from away”. Indeed so, I replied, are you bound for warmer shores this rainy day?”

When I bid him farewell cup in hand I returned to the street. The first sip I took was of rainwater coffee, I was wet chilled through as the good brew  warmed me …recalled from lost youth a vivid memory.

Rainwater coffee, kneeling in the sand, fire coaxed from damp drift wood, scrape the last grounds out, bottom of the tin. Great, fat rain on hissing twigs, fog bound the sheltered bay I camp in.

Lonely,  concrete  tub entombed city tree, at the bus stop crows perch, check me out with unfiltered cheek, crow curiosity.  Spring rain pours from the nebulous roof, of a decrepit shelter, where sodden religious literature has been scattered, it sweetens the rim of my paper cup of coffee. My coat cuffs worn and tattered in the wearing. I drink rainwater coffee mid the bitter eyed, waiting, shift workers swearing.

My ship, the #50 bus, lurches from the curb, bow on into the storm it pulls away. I close my eyes as we set sail, remember the line squalls, recall the Southern sky at night, and the taste of rainwater coffee in the gale…

DR ROACH’S SECOND LETTER- From Godfrey.

Worzel here, Mornings like this…with the world going awry, I miss Godfrey the most. He had a hobby of seeking out the absurd, took joy in it, and today as I read the newspaper, Dr Roach’s advice page was one he would have guffawed over….

He was a lifelong reader of all things newspaper, Godfrey read several daily did the crosswords, the puzzles, the obituaries. he perused the advice columns and even the dull business bits I did not understand, he read the golf scores, noted the price of lumber exports to Japan.

Dr Roach had  a medical page, amusing to Godfrey, old and wise in his white Doctor smock in section C-3. Godfrey wrote the good Doctor a letter quite frequently, he wrote in  rhyme of course, as Dr Roach advocated beets as a cure for all ills far and wide, Godfrey disliked beets, his letters were never printed, and Dr Roach never replied.

Yet, still Godfrey wrote, “Dear Dr Roach, I must broach the subject of beets you so fondly espouse”. “No Pasaran Beets”is a sign I hang any place I, a vagabond call home or house”. You doctor on bruises and mystery diseases, rashes and tapeworms, prickly heat, all you reckon repaired by the cold boiled beet”. Here is a story I learned as a lad, rooted in the rumptious childhood I had.

The beet is a story grown from myth unpleasant, an ancient conflict of thief versus peasant a story old Verne O’Dowd oft told, how beets were once shiny discs of buttery gold. Mangol Wurzels, they grew in the moon of night, those deeper the better to hurl, Godfrey wrote Dr Roach.

“The lowland people who dwelt with cranes, were strong of limb, had all their teeth, lived in peace and did not abuse alcohol, after harvest a mangol wurzel hurl, was held on the flats by the river each fall.

Lowfolk versus The Toews, who lived beyond in the warm sand caves.Trolls came to, up from the oak wood, they never bathed but were otherwise cheerful and good. As were the Phog families who drifted in slowly, welcomed by the Toews and crane dwellers lowly.

The prizes were pretty, ribbons of purple and pink, crow feathers coveted far and wide, a sack of gold beets, this year the Toews team won the hurl, on the Randen Riverside. Singing and dance carried on until Tuesday, with no warning that morning banditry lurked, “Sunset the Rogue “hired Ester and Lawrence The Slack, to rob the Toews their discs of gold, in the woods on the long journey back.

They accosted the Toews in a very rude manner, slapped a sticker  saying “You smell fowl”on Micah Toews back. His father was smote with something wet, bold granny Fennel was stuffed down a badger sett. Brassica Toews, just a young girl, had to hand over the ribbons and feathers she won; fairly in the wurzel hurl.

Old Burdock Toews, head of the pack, made a gesture of friendship to Ester and Lawrence the Slack, “do not be rude, and take from us so meanly, warm by our fire, would you like tea or coffee?..And what be this! cried Lawrence The Slack, tipped in the dry leaves the Toews gunny sack, out spewed the discs of gold, like honey- Coffee, please, replied Ester, then we shall be off with this low peasant money.  And they did!, left the warm sand cave folk destitute, took their joy, even took the youngest’s furry birthday suit.

Ester The Slack, a gambler and sneak, lost all her takings in a losing streak. Word slithered out the beets of gold meant wealth, a word unknown to the lowland folk, who who soon were so worried about this it ruined their health. For the Trolls it meant no dancing or cheer, they bathed now daily, camped neath bridges in fear.

The Lowland people who dwelt with cranes, had their beets pillaged to, when word of “wealth” was spread around, even the tiny shoots were torn from the ground. With no golden beets from verdant loam, in despair they began to consume alcohol, let elders wander from home.

On the stage in our village hall, Verne O’Dowd held me spellbound with this story, between swigs Verne took from his flask of sherry.

The tears of the gentle Toews and the lowland folk  vanquished and shamed, can to this day for the color of beets be blamed. For thereafter only beets nasty did grow, in the plundered pastures of sorrow. Beets the taste of dirt, red as the sun warm cave dwellers hurt, cod liver oil, so hard to swill down, dried beets spread on icy sidewalks of a northern town. Worm home soil, to keep for years in a jar, to find in the fridge when you have nothing else, never to spoil.

Over time, the old, old story was lost, to modern tales of daring and do, of the lowland people their decendents are few, lost to the Dreaded Black Shale Skadoots, and The Quenders Scourge of 1402. And if today down the oak woods you happen wood cutting to stroll, by the copper stained stream, in the grass, you may meet a troll, en route to his bath.

But I met there a Toews, from the warm sand caves, crouching stream bank, rinsing the clay she, “Oolong The Artist” had dug up that day. “Embarassing  it were indeed, we’d have shared our feathers and golden beets, with a polite wayfarer we met be in need”  In the language of The Phog families, the lowland dwellers, the Toews and Trolls knew no word for “Greed”

There stands an oak tree on a common I know, where a wish will be granted if you wish it by standing below and say thank you. And should I get there again to that wood, I shall wish the world wisdom set it back on the too trodden pathway to freedom from anger and fear. Only good, I wish you and Dr Roach only good- From Godfrey

Was the second letter to Dr Roach, the first one printed concerned a rabbit parasite…a heavily edited version of Godfrey’s letter, the last one to Dr Roach he would write. “He seems an odd young man, he dislikes beets, his letters to me are compelling..perhaps one day a poet will write his story, for I feel there is more than mere loathing of beets in the telling, Dr Roach.

TELL A POET THAT- From Alice

I sat a long while with Godfrey’s sister Alice’s latest packet of writings..yes, her poetry remained dreadful,some of the worst she had ever shared, but I read it over with a strong sense that Alice’s summer in Nova Scotia had touched the curmudgeon in places no person had ever tried.. 

“The folks of Knockfollie’s Bridge recall my brother Godfrey with fondness,” Alice wrote, even having all beets removed from the only grocers in his memory. My friend, Nudge and I have been inviting ourselves to fish suppers, adding insighds to my book- “Alice- A life In praise of Myself”

Here in Canada, all of it, we drive “on the right”. Alice and Nudge thought this ridiculous, and in rental car, roared about as they would in Wales.

Alice indeed shares her “insighds”, with a brown boat to catch, and a lot of pranks left in her poke….TELL A POET THAT- from Alice-

I was recently informed- “Farmers do not plow, they cultivate”. We passed a field with such sweaty a chap,  on a day already warm. Sunrise of boysenberry swirls of hokey-pokey cream and crimson, tinged in wild mint. Tell  a poet that, tell a poet here down east, the summer nights don’t cool, the stars brighter than there. The poet may reply, I recall they are- “A blanket for the olders over heather, their fire, harbor home and safety to the bold navigator”.

Tell a poet, it is raining out, Nudge wear my hat. Cold the wet drips down spout, rusts the hinge, in the sodden apple tree bedraggled chickens cringe. don we boots and stalwart fourth, gather the hens in safe with me- and we shall pass the rainy eve over eggy toast for tea.

Tell a poet the delight of outdoor clothes line. “I ran to grab a passing verse, like laundry dry on end of day. Thunder in the hills a griping, storm is on her way. Scent of summer with first drops of rain, new mown hay, sweet on clean sheet splats…Ah tell a poet that.

Eau Duh Colon’- I’m oft asked of the perfume I wear, asked Alice is it sweet essence from France? From France do tell?  “I dab on baked beans, baked beans on fair skin, and behind my ears baked beans from a tin. Tell a poet how a poet may describe it- baked beans.

Tell a poet of Nudge and I as as two more “Tramps in Mudtime”. Squelch, did we squelch round Tinhorn Bay, with my stick moist things to slay, squelch flotsam flat. Squelch we muddy knee to hips, two tramps and greasy wrapped up fish and chips. Oh a good long walk with you, the snizz and crackle of hot deep fat, salt and malt vinegar, but tell a poet that.

Today in need to be alone, with my stick set out a stroll. I sat on a bench, wondering if I am thought of fondly back home. I waited for family or child come by so I could, with my stick quick flick to the sand their ice cream cone. And soon came a lad, (they always did) sticky of face, ignoring the warnings of his nit-picking dad.

As the wee brat drew boldly closer to me, I noted his rubber boots, odd haircut, the image at six of my late brother, Godfrey. I glared at the child in my best curmudgeon, such nerve, the young nipper not to take fright. What happened next left me in utter shock, he held out his ice cream to give me a bite….

No front teeth, dripping pink cone in grubby hand, I was not shocked or revolted, “No thank you my dear” came from some place deep inside me, I gathered my stick up and bolted.

Rundown Motel for the night?, tell a poet that. She may write- Rustic Roadside Inn steeped in history. Old couple down the hall inform me, “First sign of spring is a warm waft of Pig Farm cross the valley”. Hourly the train rattles by neath your rooms only window, tell a poet romantic the three a.m. trains roar. Wobbly table, one threadbare towel, someone has pried open the toilet door…

We re-bequethed The Outhouse Museum to one Domestos Harpic and her silent husband Edgar.  Fond friends of Godfrey, would weed and tend it. Our sojourn sadly soon over, we invited ourselves again to fried fish supper for to end it.. tell a poet of such an adventure we must end it…

And the ship we sail on, steam home to Wales on is painted brown. Give me a poet describe such a thing, from Melbourne to London town, a ships proper color be red, or silver to keep up with the clouds, our ship was brown.

I covet greasy life vest, should I consume herring, trip over a bollard and drown. the ship lists like Lloyd our village drunkard in Batley, it’s name on the bow changed, painted over and over yet again. The ship is crewed by wayward sailors, homeward bound like Nudge and me. What is not painted brown is worn away wood or rusty. Herring is served in some form breakfast, lunch and tea…Nudge feels an epic poem neath my pen, but Ah, tell a poet that again.. from Alice.