ANATIDAEPHOBIA- From Alice

This is the story of my friend, the Vagabond Godfrey, and how he lived and loved many years ago. He was Welsh, with a sister, Alice six years his elder. Alice wrote her brother every three years on her birthday. “I was too young to remember Alice painting me blue”, but do recall the shouting when she hung me, by my nappy out the window so we could watch the stars”, Godfrey reflected.  

Singer, shoe sales lady, curmudgeon, nuisance, I was warned before meeting Alice never use the words “Love”, “Herring”, or “Athourity” in her presence. We always met at “Little Chef”, a service cafe from which Alice had never been barred. The old character sat down across from me, shale blue eyes looked off far away, the diner went silent, she hiked up her kilt, scratched her knee in a mildly itchy kneed way…

Her book, “Alice- A Life in Praise Of Myself”,was dreadful , and she was proud to share with me her wodge of rejection letters, and thoughts jotted down that morning. Here is Alice- being Alice. 

The morning sun a voyeuer through my blind a bottle of cod liver oil did find. Gold and amber a prism it made, how pretty I thought as I rose and yanked down the shade.

I do not let things bother me, the trivial bits, the piffle I say, I say “Feh” to the snow in the streets, use my stick to prod all who get in my way. The sticky faced tot, clutching a bun, stares over the booth at the lone curmudgeon. Though some of my ilk, (we grow fewer by day) would snarl at the child to scare it away, I merely drool back over my tea, till the wee one gives up and runs back to his mummy.

Nudge Giggleswick, of some intellect, feared scary films like “I Was A Teenage Insect”. Why do we go then, I asked of him?. At the matinee’ quiet and dim, saw a picture with killer bees loose from a hive, and hyenas eating a gnu…because said Nudge, we can laugh at such nonsense, as not much bothers you.

Summers eve I take my step father, Arthur, out in his chair for a roll around the park.  We take a bag of crumbs for the mallard drake, in the pond of which Arthur is most fond. Oft out of the blue, “Anatidaephobia” Arthur shouts, when we pass an odd person at lurk in the grass where we pass…

Arthur is very old, he mutters as I strain, to push  him up the hill to the duck pond- Anatidaephobia! Arthur barks loudly again. Are you concerned about that fellow?, I set the brakes on his chair, ducks are coming down the path ahead, waddling in joy for their handout of bread. “Anatidaephobia”! the odd chap from the grass cries out, racing by knees up on a hoon. When I got Arthur home to lie down, I almost regretted my pranking had me barred from the only library in town.

For little bothers me, except not knowing everything, like what in the whirled is “Anatidaephobia” not even Nudge or Ma knew. Next day, out walking with Arthur both in jolly mood, singing old war songs, bawdy and rude. On the hill to the duck pond, part way to the top, came chuffing and panting, stout Brian- The Town Cop.

“Alice!, he huffed, you are going down, last warning this is for your singing lewd war songs in town”!. Oh Brian, oh Brian, what a learned young man, I love to sing loudly because I can. Before a crowd gathers, creating a scene, do tell me constable, what dos “Anatidaephobia” mean?.

Well Brian, he patted his bullet proof vest, eyed where I stood brave and bold, stood high on a picnic table used as a stage, Arthur laughing in his old age- “To Skibereen said Brian you are bound for a cell, but before we go, Alice- yes I will tell. Oft in my career with the law this has come up as an issue- “Anatidaephobia’- means fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is staring at you.

Wrote Alice- very few things bother me, not beets or badgers or rubbish on telly. Not naughty films of actors unclad, or getting arrested for singing in the park with my stepdad. But I do notice ducks more now, wild by the sea, duck dinner on a cafe ‘menu, ducks flying by in a vee. When out and about with my stick oft I wonder, if somewhere, somehow a duck is staring at me….

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COUSIN RICHARD MEMORIAL DONKEY SANCTUARY- And other stories- from Worzel

My word, I have not written much this winter- oh  arthertis, now a surge of business at our luggage shop. We average at least three customers a day, mostly horrified young persons returning suitcases from “That Old Fogey Store”. I watch them bolt, refund in hand up to the posh, new outdoor outfitters. “Feh”, Godfrey would have muttered.  

Jim, the bird guy still comes in Wednesdays to smell all the leather goods, never buys anything. Mr Agout, from the Turkish Corner Deli drops by to complain about snow, though we have had a mere dusting, I spend a lot of time daydreaming out the window, recalling the years Godfrey saved his fruit picking wages to winter down south- we always made a day of it taking him to the ferry. let us make that drive again…

Newspaper story of vague recall, run by a rogue nun..named for someones lost cousin. We passed it every fall, taking Godfrey in the car to the ferry terminal. A property un kept, faded red barns of bygone date, patched up fences, blackberries, lop sided gate. Donation box nailed to a Garry Oak tree, “Cousin Richard Memorial Donkey Sanctuary” Drawn to the place was my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey.

He always had us stop and park in the weeds as what money he had went into the box, for donkeys have simple needs. Grass, shade and rest, ginger snaps for a treat, trees low enough for a good scratch of buttocks, care for old hooves and teeth.

Donkeys brown and gray stared at me where they stood in thistles knee high. Two large mules dozed nose to nose, idly swishing the occasional fly. Four nuns, two old, two young chopped wood, one nun swung the axe other nuns stacked logs neatly. “Distawrwydd” said Godfrey in Welsh,  “Peaceful” I agreed with him completly.

Driving on, we pondered what came of Cousin Richard? Did sweet rain ever cool for him a cup of hobo coffee?. Did he labor in an office all his life in obligation, long to break free?, Had he a donkey cart or plow with mules as a boy as Beatrice did in Wales on “Sonsie?”Or did a donkey walk with Richard in his older years on a dusty pilgrim journey?. Perhaps his fortune went to the kindly rogue nun, as Cousin Richard had no one…

We concluded all his life Richard followed “The Rules”, lived abstemiously, left his estate to rescue  mules, perhaps to upset greedy family. Every year in fall we parked, neath the donation box in the weeds, nuns were about, busy with task. “Godfrey, said I, do not fear that nun with her axe, if you wish to know of Cousin Richard, go up and ask”. For he would talk to anyone, of anything but beets, but he oddly shied away, from kindly Sister Mary May.

Since…I have let the years and many questions pass, I recall the peaceful sight of contented long eared ass. Replaced now by sprawl, of parking lot and ugly modern mall. All gone but that one lone Garry Oak tree, someone has shot the old donation box from it, where the shards lay- faded letters can still be read-  “Thank You From Cousin Richard- “In God we Bray”

VALLEY OF PUMPKINS- Nuns, donkeys, the common vagabond and poet, all have their autumn , read my dear old husband Garnet. We left the city, took the long cut northeast, round that ugly mall, a drive we take now when we feel elderly, on Tuesdays.

   The latter weeks of fall, “when I pass, wrote Godfrey, as you ramble about, look out for me”. Look for my boot tracks in the snow down Pumpkin Valley . And oft we see him clearly, or hear the echo of him muttering “Feh”, over the menu of the cafe, out on the Pat Bay Highway. The old place across from the new Kingdom Hall, and a booth by the window looking over Pumpkin Valley.

It’s on a verdant peninsula, sheltered thus by coast range hills and sea. Before we walk we always stop for coffee and the loo. Godfrey eloquently described the view- “In umber manure pumpkins grew, frost has loosed them from the vine. Harvest gold, orange, conservative beige, green and gray, ground mist smoky blue”

Sneaky mist has purloined the colors from sea and sky, and whispers down the endless furrows where the pumpkins of long past summer still lie. Brown muddy boots crunch the frozen leaves and vines, tractor ruts to the packing shed in deep, straight lines.

In the car with Godfrey, we set out for coffee, and to walk Pumpkin Valley. On the way home, I’d think him asleep , but he always got me- sit up with a start- Oh, no, Oh Piddle, we have forgotten about Agnes Doolittle….Nothing was insignificant with Godfrey- and he never, ever forgot a story.

I FORGOT ABOUT AGNES DOOLITLE-   We forgot to have children, consequently I have only memories of family car trips endured in my youth- mainly cold, Christmas afternoons..

         It was only ten miles to Grandpa’s house, highway treacherous in the deep, cold gloaming. We passed a cafe where it seemed every year, the same old men sat bent over soup, same slope hipped waitress standing with her coffee pot, we never stopped. My sister, Fillipendula, teased baby brother Cudberth, telling him wolves chased our old car, causing Cudberth, who had eaten a lot of fruitcake to throw up.

Older brother Inkerman, who recieved a new gun every other year sat poised for escape soon as we parked, to run off shooting rodents with our cousins- all big girls. Conversation consisted of dad “Shut up while I drive the car”, and our stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat, after zipping Cudberth into a plastic travel bag- as we passed that lonely cafe- “Oh Ishkabbible- I have forgotten a gift for Agnes Doolitle”!

No one ever asked who Agnes was, not auntie or cousin, in law or spouse, but on every occasion a turkey was served we could count on Agnes Doolitle being at the house. She had perfected the art of seeming busy whilst contributing nothing at all. Oven broken, power out, no water in the well, dog ate the pies she so lovingly baked leaving only the shell. Phones failed to, when Agnes tried to call, she made us kids, sit at a wobbly card table in the hall.

Agnes Doolittle’s pure white hair was held in place with a comb, her eyes were piercing, she ate like a hawk, claimed to be an artist, but her true talent was a voice shrill as a seagull and the manners of a very large flock. Agnes Doolitle did little but loud and endlessly talk.

Awkward and shy, I could not escape the scrutiny  and personal questions when Agnes Doolittle cornered me. “Such an odd face, it’s a shame her teeth and skin, and that hair, and those dreadful baggy clothes Worzel chooses to wear”.

I dreaded Agnes Doolitle creeping up near, to reach up and check if I was wearing a brasserie. And when Inkerman clomped in, all ruddy from the cold and smelling of damp wool to fill his face, later joining the men watching hockey on T.V.Agnes Doolittle called Inky, ” a long haired Hippie type, doomed to National Disgrace “.

She wore a big blue dress, and should you pass by, the Doolitle house on Thursdays it would be hung out to dry. She wore her flimsies, to do the wash we had to guess, but it was years later Godfrey taught me, not to take much stock in how others chose to dress.

Full of roast goose and mashed potatoes Agnes, taking up the whole couch snored and sprawled. Under the Christmas tree,  in wrappings and ribbons, Cudberth and I crawled, to sleep on coats piled deep. When we were dragged out for oatmeal at dawn, Agnes Doolitle was gone.

When first I met Godfrey, I still lived at home in Ceylon, on the Saskatchewan prairies, and he delighted in Mrs Gibberflat’s Agnes Doolittle stories. I forgot Agnes Doolittle, until I met Alice, Godfrey’s sister,  curmudgeonly, and expert  on all behavior naughty. “You missed the higher wisdom of such finely honed eccentricity” Alice gravely informed me.” It takes skill at the craft, to come across a daft harmlessly.

Agnes Doolittle, in all family photos she is standing beside me, oh piddle, I will never forget you, Agnes Doolittle.

SUSPICIOUS MOLES- And other stories of Fog- Worzel and Friends

I came upon a diary of Godfrey’s wholey devoted to stories of fog. He did love a thick fog, fogged up bus windows were for random poetry, ground mist in a lowland pumpkin patch, foggy mornings in the city he would drag me out walking…

We sought “things in the fog”, the thrum of a wakening uptown, pie scented steam from the bakeshop mingling in air as the baker steps out in the alley, shift workers peering into the gloom for emerging buses, I once found a twenty dollar note in a rose bush, Godfrey swore roses smelled better in fog.   

Inspired thus, I asked Beatrice, Hawken and Alice to share their stories of fog. Adelaide, Benny, and Alice’s partner “Nudge” Giggleswick also chimed in. I included a fog story of my own- welcome the fog…

Fog- from Beatrice-   Godfrey and I were six when we met over beets on a tray. Mingled with coal smoke the fog in Wales where we lived oft hung low the whole all day. Godfrey believed there dwelt things in the fog, we walked to school and home together, that swish in the grass became to Godfrey- “A dragons tail roadside in the heather lurking, distant ring of a hammer in fog, trolls in a mine were working.

 

Fairies we knew, drank only from bluebells of foggy dew,and that signpost end of the street in fog, was a spooky old man in a hat, waiting to jump out and scare you. We knew in summer when fog burned away, came promise of a good, warm day, we roamed the beach from end to end- till evening mist filled bay and hills again.

We’d hurry our ponies home at a jog, for Godfrey believed there were things in the fog….

Benny and Adelaide wish to share-In fog we have hidden from police and justice, seeking sausage thieves, they have blundered past us. We love the fog for many a reason, and welcome it in any season.

George Street Fiddler- from Hawken- I once met a fair maiden down east, she was a George Street fiddler. Summer cool and foggy in the old harbor city, I wished time to get to know her.

I told her my story, down George Street we sat, I with knapsack, she fiddle and bow…told me her first love was bittersweet, not all that long ago. “Was a hockey player, had the scar on his chin, folks back in that prairie town knew he would skate to glory, and he did till a bad game, left him in deep pain, told at twenty four, “son you will not play ever again”.

She was a George Street fiddler in old St John- I a mere vagabond. But you asked of fog?, and Cape Spear the furthest point east I could go. Watched it roll in from The Grand Banks, to the lighthouse where I camped below.

Autumn back on George Street the haunting airs of the fiddle made it no chore to find her. Over coffee I asked, “What became of your bold hockey player”?. She said over a long year healing, he took up the fiddle encouraged by me. He went home, to the farm and town on the prairie, and  plays the fiddle, plays it well, at dances in town and festival. Rivers meet in Winnipeg’s city square, seek The Forks, oft he fiddles down there.

Settled I am now in Comox Valley, my horses snorted and stamped this morning, I being up late- they were hungry. Breath formed fog, and I noticed the coats of mare and colt getting shaggy. Warm coats the sign of impending winter, a reminder to write that George Street  Fiddler, invite her if she pleases journey way cross the country, to the fiddle festival happening next summer.

I hope she will reply with fiddle tune, we shall hope for fog, and full harvest moon, dance cross the fog neath harvest moon.

The Fog- From Alice- A life in Praise of Myself-  

The “Fog” it was a manky old club bar we played in the days of “The Uncle Lou Band”. Near London,   there was always a drunk got threw out the door, onto the Tillbury Docks when they got out of hand. Between songs I’d take a break most nights, while barkeeps cleaned up after the fights. I’d gulp fresh air and watch the lights of the Fish and Chip Shop across the street. Watch folks hurry home with paper wrapped dinner with perhaps battered sausage and mushy peas. The fish shop would be closed when we left “The Fog”- but the nasty old pub lives on, lives on in my curmudgeon memories.

Suspicious Moles- from Nudge Giggleswick-  When fog coated our Welsh village in gray, oozed Slibber Sauce like, cold colored  CullenSkink, moist as Walrus fur, I recall a warning from Dr Uren, “Beware of suspicious moles”, he warned our mother.

At night when I lay abed, dozing to the clink of whiskey glass, muttering of aunties, uncles guffaw…”Dr Uren told me,” watch for suspicious moles”, over all the other racket shrilled our Ma.

When we played in the forest, I avoided stream bank, fallen log, sandy soil where a mole may burrow. Not trusting the mole I may meet in dim light of fog. “Beware of suspicious moles, I told my teacher. “Oh Miss, I suspect a mole has run under the coal hod.” All I earned was a slap on the head, and a note home- Please see Dr Uren about Nudge, Mrs Giggleswick, he is odd”.

When fog obscures the outhouse, such a long, cold walk down the track. Drips when finally you get to sit, drips down your back. Things may there well be in the fog, ghosties and trolls, but I take advice from wise Dr Uren- “Beware Of Suspicious Moles”.

Hitchhiking in fog with our Mother- From Worzel  –  I’ve kept this one inside me. (Vital to keep a story of your own- wrote Godfrey) But it is time for sharing, so after years I will, recalling my mother, legendary “Three Mile Lil”.

It was before brother Cudberth was born. We set out Ma, Inkerman, Fillipendula and I. Large rumbling trucks passed us close in the fog, so thick we could not see the east bound freight train pass to, just the whistle moan, I held tight to my brother’s hand, in the warm coat Fillipendula had outgrown.

But my feet were chilled in gumboots, with newspaper stuffed deep down, I was five years old, on the Al-Sask  border in soup thick fog we hitchhiked to town. For me it seemed forever between lifts and stops, till we finally reached the warmth of the bright, noisy shops.

Out of the mist, like wayward ships, to the hotel cafe’s safe harbor, Lil treated us all to hot gravy on chips.  She sat with coffee and smoke as we ate, sneaking a bit now and then off my plate, a rancher two booths down paid our bill, well known character in those parts, I learned years later was my mother- “Three Mile Lil”.

MY NEPHEW- ICARUS- From Worzel

My younger brother, Cudberth and I have always shared a firm bond. Godfrey,  in the early days of our friendship helped Cudberth, a “Noctiphobe”, deal with his fear of the night sky.

It was ridiculous..our stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat sewed Cudberth a night hat with an umbrella on top, so he could not see up. Cudberth tripped in the pansies, chipping two teeth, and it was awkward in the car. Shades were drawn early, he boarded up his window, we missed any event after dark. “It is too wide and large ,the sky,” Cudberth sobbed. 

At harvest time,  Fillipendula, Inkerman and I rode with our dad on tractor or combine. Often he worked all night, the only time he and I ever talked, the stars touched the horizon at dawn, there was often distant lightning, the aurora danced in her green veils, my brother missed out.  

It was meeting Godfrey helped, the three of us sunk our canoe, and had to camp overnight in a farmer’s field. We dragged ourselves from the slough, built a fire and cooked “Spam”. We were having great fun, until Cudberth realized it was dark, we left him crawl under the canoe- but he was outside- a start. 

That summer with Godfrey, he learned slowly not to fear owls, bats, yip of coyote, stars, shooting stars, nights black of stars, burnt dinner, cleaning fish, smoke in his eyes, spiders, damp jeans, skunk odors, drowning and bulls.

Cudberth was a late bloomer, only leaving home the day our house was torn down. He pursued teaching as a career, married Miss Edith Carp, and fathered twins Cynthia and Maud. It was their youngest, Jack Thomas who grappled my heart. The children were read  “Godfrey” stories at bedtime, the twins kept in line by threat of sending them to sister Alice in Wales. To Jack Thomas, Godfrey was a folk hero, ” I want to go to sister Alice in Wales”, he stated, chin out.

Being educators, Cudberth and Edith with summers off, piled the family out adventuring, every two years visiting us. The girls were oddly shy- not Jack Thomas, and secretly I called him “Icarus”. 

He was ever looking upward, always asking- “Whats beyond the trees, Auntie?, whats above how far I can see?.  He disliked beets, loved riding on the #50 bus. I’d treat the little chap to cream buns at the bakery, as had Godfrey. He was fearless in the face of Mrs Feerce, our rude landlady.

At our lakeside cabin, Jack Thomas climbed the highest, dove the deepest, caught his first trout. He found chasing his mother with fish guts hilarious, stuck raven feathers in the cap he never took off, my nephew “Icarus”.

In school, Jack Thomas went full on Godfrey. His stories and reports, though not composed in rhyme, were “Glib beyond his years, and never pertaining to the subject matter being taught”. He wrote a poem in Welsh, used naughty idioms and was caught. Translated crankily by custodian Mr Hughes , He had to write one thousand times- “My Poem Failed To Amuse’.

Ever looking upward, “Jack Thomas Edelpilz, his next teacher would nag, “do not bring frozen dead things found by the road to class in your book bag”. His mother, Edith suggested music as an outlet for his creative energies. Eager, willing to go along, he asked for a brass gong to play. Well…thought Cudberth, what can possibly go wrong with his choice of a bright, shiny gong?.

Edith scolded Cudberth, “All we dreamed of was a normal family, he asked for Haggis on his birthday, his friends are found deep in books and poetry. Very bad influence, your Vagabond Godfrey”.

At twelve, Jack Thomas spent the entire summer with us. He wrote-

Nine old Men- Nine old men sat in a row discussing beets. Nine old men sat in a row. I wonder if ever there were ten old men?, Godfrey pondered with a frown, his voice polite and low.

The tenth old man sat on his own. For he grew beets, he knew beets, did not disbarge or eschew beets.

Nine old men sit watching out the cafe’ window. A boy totes  heavy gong home from school  through the snow, his boots squeak in it, and pelted with ice-balls, form tears on his chin frozen rime. He recalls raven’s feathers, dreams of summertime, the back roads west, the horse he will ride, sun on bareback, sea life in the tide pools ocean side.

Even when it poured, the lad was never bored, and though had never met Godfrey, read through tattered journals and faded old letters with me. He never tired of it, like Godfrey, I ‘d tip him from the comforts of my old turquoise chair, curled deep in that old chair he’d sit.

“When I an grown, said he, “I wish to be a poet and professional fig picker like Godfrey” My brother, Cudberth called, “Jack Thomas wrote a cheeky essay, was supposed to be about “Mussolini”. Yet he wrote of “The Blight Of Beets in Wartime Italy”. He was graded a double minus “D”. “I drew the line at the monk’s tonsure hair cut, kilt to be worn only on a Sunday, not to tease his sisters with Haggis, is his visit away helping Jack Thomas look at life more serious?”.

Not important, I replied, these are mere and minor things.  Just promise you will keep him from the lure of high flight on waxen wings.

My ranch raised husband Garnet, never “Sold His Saddle”, in the cluttered corner of our flat, among  our many books, it still sat. And the bridle he made at Jack Thomas age hung on our wall, I also often liked to feel the reins he wove of soft, braided leather. The city boy reckoned that “to ride a fine horse, must be close enough to wings of wax and feather”.

We have good friends with horses. Next family visit, Jack Thomas chose “Paddlefoot” the bold, blue roan for his own. I sat high on a dune, my arthritis paining me, with Edith complaining about her family.

Content to watch them gallop in the surf from bridge to bay, Cudberth rode like a sack of spuds, the twins on matching chestnuts racing past, and bounding in the surf last, the roan leaped, rode my nephew face to the sun, arms out swept..prepared to take flight as the boy of myth had done. Only to myself I call him “Icarus”.

Grown handsome and tall now, off to study in a big American city. Camera taped to helmet, on bicycle he races, reckless escaping from the maze of downtown hill and narrow alley. He takes flight with joy down the coast highway, raven feathers tied behind, he writes- “Do not ever worry over me, dear old Auntie. (old Auntie indeed)

Nine Things I Wish For when an old Man- wrote my nephew “Icarus’.

To swim with the stream, to Morris dance in purple socks with bells, to see “The Collected wisdom of Godfrey” in print, Hear my gong sound out one year of world peace, that my legs still pedal and thumb point, roast wieners on a Olympic Flame, smell every day cinnamon and demerara sugar, have crossed every page in my school atlas, to still not fear flying, that tad too close to the sun….

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.

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…