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.

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..

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.

TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE- And other stories- From Alice

Worzel here–Beatrice feels very strongly, and readers may concur, that our book contains far too many references to toilets. Be things as they may, my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey did not seek out toilets, they found Godfrey, and he felt there could never be too many. 

Today, I napped until now, and garnered the strength to open sister Alice’s packet of writing, excerpts from her book, “Alice, A life in Praise Of Myself”. It was a facinating glimpse of her summer in Nova Scotia, with Nudge Giggleswick and The Outhouse Museum.

ALICE ACROSS THE WATER-   For ten roily days and nights oer the Atlantic steamed Nudge and I to far Nova Scotia , we wreaked havoc aboard,disrupted the nightly Bingo by cheating, and at every meal of herring, the folks at our dinner table were eating.

    “The Pride of Poland”was a thing of the past, to the age of steam ships glory, the warped faded deck planks, the ancient children’s nurse, in her proper starched smock and cap told a story. The ocean was calm as the rill back home, steady the old tub did ride, with Nudge who long claimed seafarers blood, spewing all over the side.

I kept Nudge alive reading lurid romance novels, to him as we lurched cross the sea, we oft could be found leaning over the bow, and herring was served breakfast, lunch and tea.

Nudge writes- Left were us in a cloud of dust, the taxi cab racing away, Alice and I at “The Outhouse Museum,”on a hill overlooking away. The weeds were tall, between them all, for summer was at its peaking, outdoor loos forlorn, abandoned, with doors blown open and creaking. And as Alice her beauty nap in the shade snored, I gathered stink-willies, made a daisy chain for she, Alice whom I adored.   And later looking over The Outhouse Museum, her brother’s legacy, Alice with medicinal brandy told me this story…

TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE-  Oh Alice, Oh Alice , come here!, come here!, there’s a troll in the outhouse, a mean one I fear!. Curled up warm, I ignored the loud plea, from the outdoor loo, of my wee brother Godfrey.

    For our humble cottage had an outdoor dunny, and in it I oft tormented my brother in ways I found terribly funny.  Oh Alice, Oh Alice come here, come here, there’s a troll in the outhouse and Ma no where near.Bring the cricket bat, call the dog, for I so need to use it, the cold outdoor bog.

With three rubber gloves, knitting wool, wooden spoon, and my brilliant mind, I rigged a creation so when Godfrey sat, slapped him square in the behind.” Oh Alice, oh Alice, it is deep in the hole, it reached up and slapped me  when I sat, I felt the furry old hands of a troll.”

My brother Godfrey was an odd little chap, believed everything I would say. “There’s a troll in our toilet'”he told his teacher, before the whole class the next day. Our Ma,who could not abide a phone, instead was surprised on a Tuesday, by a visit from teacher and district nurse at our home. I hid with Godfrey, as they chatted with Ma over tea..

“He dislikes beets, he is adamant there lives a troll down your toilet”, Nurse Commerford, (she spits when she talks) informed Ma. I heard the telltale clink of the teacher’s flask as she added to her tea, malt whiskey, I tried so very hard not to laugh, I tried to the stars of heaven, as I lay on the rug, behind the piano, as they all trooped outside to wee, they found my creation of gloves and wool, dropped it all down the hole, while calling, calling for me. But what of the troll?…as I fled cross the fields, what of the troll? I heard Godfrey”

BEACH BUM- From Nudge-Always modest is Alice, a proper old maid. When summer rain ceased, we found a remote beach, hung our wet things to dry. I wrote this  sonnet behind private rocks, a sunbeam caught me in repose, put a glow in my curmudgeon’s cheeks,  reddened my tender buttocks”.

VIKING- From Alice-    I want to go back in time when I expire, by reward to place and age of my liking, may I turn back the tide of pickled herring, may I be re-born a Viking. now yes, they were an uncouth lot, did not bathe regularly, plundered with sharp weaponry, but I would be a Viking bold, no trencher of herring before me, a velvet painting, a portrait would hang, bold of braid, horned helmet, wrapped about in Musk Ox hide. Alice “The Dreadful” it would hang in a gallery- “Of Herring she could not abide”.   

Worzel here, prepare for more later, my feet are cold, and Alice’s packet deep…

WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG- FROM Godfrey AND Worzel

Worzel here, When I was very young recall an empty, old tobacco tin filched from an uncle. It made a drum, and rattle for snake chasing, made tiered manure- mud cakes for baking pleasure, frog spawn in spring, wonderful tin for penny pirate treasure. If today, I walk a quiet country road,  a reminder of when very young, I still kick a stray tin along at my leisure…

Godfrey did not speak often of his very early years, most of the stories I have gleaned from Beatrice, or his sister Alice’s “Alice” versions. This is a rare work of Godfrey, set from age 4ish, to age 8 when his dad ran off.

When I was very young- It snowed heavily up our valley, in this vivid memory, we walked down to my grandparent’s cottage. They had gas for heat, and blankets piled deep for Alice, Ma and me. All about was dark and silent, but the crack of branches breaking off the trees as we made our way slow, snow above my churning knees. Snow was fun, when I was very young.

When I was very young- I got cow manure on the church pew from the long hem of my baggy kilt, dragged through puddles.Created a mess on the dress of Mrs Trimyn, who suggested to my sister Alice, I be paddled, and Alice complied before the end of the next hymn.

When I was very young- I found an ancient bicycle, buried in a field of hay, dad dragged it out, run over by the farmer it was bent, but dad hammered and tinkered, and fixed it up for me, then down the pub he traded for a painting, then again for a fat, gray pony. Out to the paddock every morning I’d run, when I was very young.

When I was very young- I was horrified of beets and terrified of The Pope, leery of the black dust mop, though I don’t know why, and most of the stories Alice told at bedtime made me cry. One day I found a chicken loose, lured the hen with crumbs inside, “We can have eggs, and feathers, I told Ma with pride, and build a coop”. Next day no pet, but all week a great pot of chicken soup…

When I was very young- Riding a city bus was was the biggest adventure, to visit aunts and uncles who had toilets down the hall. Indoor loos that flushed with a roar at pull of chain. “Alice said, “A Bog Troll is on the end of that chain, to catch nasty little boys and yank them down the drain”. In dread, I weed in the pansies of my aunties front garden, earning me a slap on the head”.

When I was very young- I trod to school with wet sweater cuffs, and old wool coat that tickled my chin, and never once passed teacher’s cleanliness inspection. By the coal stove she made me sit, with Abner Mulgrew. Now I realize Miss was being kind, as Abner was always wet and cold to.

When I was very young- Summer lasted longer, Father Christmas smelled familiar of cigarette and swore when she tripped on the dog’s paw. Hills were for rolling down the other side, I cheeked the odd looking old men, who wore Tams, and the bicycles they’d ride.

When I was very young- My sister threw a beet at me, it missed and Ma’s Barometer was knocked from the wall, the shards clipped an oil portrait of an ancient piper, shattering the front window pane. The beet hit nasty Uncle Lou, coming up the walk, it left a stain.

When I was very young- “Beets and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you”..Ma would oft repeat when I came home bruised, picking beet pulp out of my hair. Too young to fully grasp her meaning, I sought solace in the company of words time and again. Sought the company of words and rhyme, when I was very young..

“THE RAFTERS”-On The Road To Rotorua- From Godfrey

Yes, Godfrey could be,  gormless. It was a simpler time, the years Godfrey roamed the whirled. All was not beautiful, this he understood, not all faces friendly and welcoming, but a kindness prevailed, and the vagabond found it in some odd places. 

On the winding road to Rotorua, town of volcanic wonders, boiling pools of water and mud, the air was sulph0urous and eggy, many years ago, set out to see it, on a pink bicycle road the vagabond, Godfrey.

He wrote, “twas summer on the gentle road rolling, I sang as I pedaled  sheep looked up from their grazing, and may I add, though not complaining my word how hard it was raining.

“Now being on a bicycle rugged and damp, I usually sought a flat, dry spot to camp, this day however, coming on dark, I stopped at what looked like a grand old hotel on the edge of a forested park.”The Rafters, A Place Of Peace”- said the sign set a slant in the ground, there was nobody around.

At reception sat a gloomy woman in black, she regarded me oddly when I asked for a room, (not unusual for me at all), for a very small fee, she gave me a key, and gestured to a room down a cool, silent hall.

Mist and steam swirled through the evening air, my room was clean, quiet and bare, of fancy trappings, but had a soft bed, and a large thermal bathtub, I wallowed delighted in there. A different gloomy woman early eve, tapped with dinner and tea on a tray, clad only in a dry towel, I again gave thanks for the fine place to stay.

Morning came, it had not ceased to rain, at reception sat a dour fellow in black, “farewell said I, off to Rotorua, he of few words,said he hoped one day I’d be back. The first gloomy woman, with a large clump of feathers was silent, dusting an urn, again she regarded me oddly, when I promised one day, indeed to return.

Down the long drive from “The Rafters” I rode, down a  grand hill to that thermal town, Rotorua, famous in postcards, geysers and smell, I learned that “The Rafters, A Place of Peace, was not a hotel but a Funeral Home-” how folks laughed at me, when I told them,” in his journal wrote Godfrey.

It’s no wonder the morticians looked at me odd, showing up soaking wet but alive, had I ventured out behind in the dark, would have blundered into an old cemetery, and yard for the hearses to park. The stay I paid so little for, and spread wet gear to dry cross the clean floor, soaked in the tub until wrinkled like prune, was part of their home, not a hotel room.

“They are a polite lot”- town folk informed me, mid guffaw. Now years later, I to look back in laughter, and if to Rotorua you roam, perhaps you will also find it, “The Rafters, Place of Eternal Peace”- a Funeral Home…