THE FINE NAVIGATOR- From Worzel

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, his life’s desire was for “Whirled Peas”, to avoid all manner of discord, and beets. He feared little, only moths, antique shops, closed in spaces and waxed floors..but came in time to tolerate heights, wobbly tables and owls.

Godfrey did not “Gasconade”, was never prideful , yet was cheekily confidant with his navigation skills, I happily let him lead. I misplaced Godfrey in a large grocery store one day, deduced he would be far from beets as could be, and located my friend down the pet food aisle, behind several large bags of dog food, and a stack of tins, eating a can of vanilla cake frosting…the vagabond was happiest outside, he truly was a fine navigator, venturing off track a joy.  

“I am a fine navigator”, pompossed my vagabond Godfrey. For it was summer, early morning and we were off on an adventure. I brought water, and plums and cheese with crackers, (the ones that don’t crumble with sesame seed). “Feh”, said Godfrey,” Vegemite in ones pack is heavy, we shall forage in the wild, and drink from a muddy boot print if need”. “Feh”, I thought back, muddy boot print indeed…

We drove from the city, to a raffishy back road near a derelict homestead. As directed by Godfrey, “I shall navigate from here”, he assured me. We decended a forest track narrow and green, soaked still in dew, cool in the shadows, I could hear rushing water before it came into view.

I tried not to see neath his kilt as he clambered, nimbly over wet rocks shedding knapsack and coat, Godfrey sat to wait, for me on the boulder I gracefully fell off. Sank in icy cold water up to my throat- “Mind”, he said politely, fishing me out, “it is slippery”.

Beets nasty hot, beets nasty cold, beets nasty all the time, gone to mold. Beets with gizzard meat, beets and Bulgar  Wheat, rather eat from muddy boot print nine days old..

Godfrey sang this as we tramped, a nonsense song…I must state here the truth, the awkward lad I once knew was gone, over the stones he hopped, never once getting mis- matched socks wet. “Trust  my navigation, dear Worzel, laughed Godfrey, let us see how far up this sweet river we can get”.

No poet as he was, allow me to describe our journey. Excuse my verse if too “Esoteric”. We did forage berries, the tart, thimble shaped ones where brambles grew thick. I pointed  out skeeters and odd “Jesus” beetles, dragon flies, the still pools with very light dusting of pollen. He scampered, I crawled cross a natural bridge, the trunk of an ancient cedar long fallen.

I fell off it thrice, water twice then fine river sand, it wedged in every crevice, as I followed my fine navigator, cross farmer’s fields over land. “I am a fine navigator, learned neath the stars from an old sailor Verne Lipshimmer, (something of a tippler). Twas my first long  voyage as a lad, each night looking out for The Southern Cross,  respect for the sea, I learned from Verne, a fine navigator was he..”

“And sense of direction unerring, came from being tormented with beets when young, that and the odd knitted clothes I was wearing”. “Hid I did often from beets hard tossed, even on a moving train, got off before I was far away lost, Ma slapped my head when sister Alice told her…I survived my Welsh childhood, a fine navigator”. . .

We were now on a cow path, cows zigged, calves zagged, bulls ponderous lagged behind later. Round still steaming leavings, barely looking still singing, trekked cheerily  Godfrey, my fine navigator. We had hiked a “De-Hoop”, he called it, back to our clean flowing river.

“He never failed to find his way, rarely by passed a bake shop or cafe’. We sat outside, damp and hungry, my bony behind having endured, stone, bark, and burr..as Godfrey the charmer brought out laden tray- “Never Pass Up a Bun Offered Free”- said he, my friend, a fine navigator…

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JULIET BALCONY- From Godfrey and Worzel

There were years, and months Godfrey spent in deep retreat, I worried over him. Beatrice in Wales worried more, but we did not know each other back then..I never asked what was wrong in the time he writes of in “Juliet Balcony”. I only knew that for Godfrey, being knee deep in a cold, chuckling river, or baking cream buns was his best therapy…It was long ago, but I thank the residents of “The Old Nurses Home”, then and now for their kindness to our vagabond.  

In the mining town of Reefton tucked deep in the valley, the Inangahua River flows cold. Down narrow canyon her bends create deep pools, and there in the shallow bits Godfrey spent summertime panning for gold.

Twas during his hard times, his dark days, of a sadness he struggled to understand. Godfrey at heart was a blyth spirit- rare as the gem stones and gold flakes he gleaned from the sand.

It helped him feel better, this gurgling, clean water, wrote he..”Peaceful the Inangahua, in no hurry this river to join the wild Tasman Sea.” He had a plain, small room at “The Old Nurses Home” Godfrey did. Up the high stair, his room had a Juliet Balcony, and oft he just sat on an ancient cane chair- “Older than you or me”. Out on my Juliet Balcony”.

“I get the morning sun a bit late, as deep is this valley”. “It comes warming the sheep fields of small farms, and the steaming forest canopy”  I get the dawn chorus of sweet native birds, grinding gears of school bus starting up”. Scent toast and coffee , must go down for a cup- but linger a tad on my Juliet Balcony”

“Kneeling by the river, my kilt hangs safe and dry in a tree”. I wear the modest flowered shorts, from the flour sacks you sewed up for me”. “In late afternoon the rain comes in earnest, but dos not feel chilly”. For “The Old Nurses Home” has a great, deep bath tub down the hall, and later shelters the vagabond out on his Juliet Balcony”.

“Every cup in the cupboards a mismatch, all plates and bowls different”, Godfrey observed. As usual in times of wet weather, he baked. All the travelers and all the old nurses, yaffled the scones and cakes he served.

At eve, after supper in the lounge room below, the retired nurses gather round the piano. Tea and biscuits, laughter and song, everyone welcome to sing along, sing all the oldies.

“The Old Nurses Home had a vast wild garden of native plants let grow amok. Hidden corners with tables for quiet contemplation, borders of driftwood logs, and well placed river rock”. Pears grew, figs and Kiwi fruit to, grapes heavy on an arbor, a young apple tree”. Visitors added seashells, odd wrought iron pieces of old farm equipment…a tranquil space neath his Juliet Balcony

“In a place of joy, how trite seemed my worries- and retired nurses do have the funniest stories. “I shared the device I devised, for removing thorns from ones own derriere. They gave me a wonderful salve for the sand fly bites I itched everywhere”. “Gave me sage advice to avoid the chaos and noise of major city- as I baked them a batch of Anzac Biscuits…I oft wonder now who looks out, over my Juliet Balcony’.

“I strolled in the garden one hot afternoon, the wisest of old nurses joined me in welcome shade”. “With her blessing I left the gold I had panned as an offering to the garden, along with my fragments of garnet and jade”. “Of the many things we talked of, most vital is what I learned from this wisest and humble of nurses- forgiveness…

“I sought wisdom, and wisdom in the least likely places found me- from a retired nurse neath my Juliet Balcony”    From Godfrey.

 

THE MIGHTY MYRTLE- IRENE. From Godfrey

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, Godfrey- my friend of 28 years..this is his story.  Summer times, when we journeyed to our lake side cabin with Godfrey along, we always stopped for ice-cream in a coastal, hamlet, little more than fuel pump, cafe and harbor.  

       To the east were the blue sillouttes of small, scattered gulf islands. “Tridentata” was the largest, rocky, narrow, desecrated by logging 80 years before, a haven for hermits, and “back to the landers”, “Dirty Hippies”, we were told when Godfrey asked, I knew he was drawn to such islands…and dubious boat rides, I feared never seeing him again when I dropped him off at the ferry boat- The Myrtle- Irene…

Oft in travels, I have sought wisdom, sought the good in folks I have met, and in places been. I did my best, but was sorely pressed, to find wisdom aboard the mighty Myrtle-Irene.

There is a tune I learned long ago, from a rider of boxcar and crosser of sea. Played the banjo did she. Nary a province this girl had not been, we met one summer morning on the Myrtle-Irene.

19 treacherous miles oer the Salish Sea, lies a mysterious island, avoided by polite society, her mud flats and high, stony hillsides intrigued me. The ferry Myrtle- Irene lay alongside the dock, in sketchy gray patches of paint stains and rust.  No low rumble or engine’s roar the good captain passed out on the wheelhouse floor, had left his ship in a young hippie’s trust,” no worries said he”, donning jacket and cap- this has happened many times before”….

Two milk cows were loaded on the sloping top deck, brave travelers the level below. Up in the bow , away from all chaos, a hobo girl sat alone plucking her banjo. I noticed that those in the know, seemed to know where to gather …along the rail on the leeward side, staked out space in a solid row.

A light in the sky above far Tridentata!, and promise of a fine summers day. The Myrtle-Irene set off with a belch and lurch, only knocking two fish boats out of her way.

The Mighty Myrtle- Irene had a list to port, and now I knew why no one leaned on the  rail, when the cattle above did what nervous cows do.. the Myrtle- Irene fair got her name from a pioneer woman ran sheep. With a “nere do well” husband, uncountable number of children and homestead to keep.

On moonlit nights folks heard Myrtle singing, bent digging clams down Spinster Bay, she carried deer home over strong shoulders, and oysters by damp heavy sack, she passed into legend way some 100 years back.

Captain Querus Slape ,  chap with odd sense of humor, named his ship with affection for her. All his years the filthy old character drank, the mighty Myrtle- Irene never grounded or sank. Above the door of Slape’s private cabin hangs a portrait of The Queen, another of the dog he owned at age four, and a faded photo of old Myrtle Irene.

In scant twenty minutes the break water cleared, the captain snoring, intoxicated, I noticed a chart, spattered with stains, older than me and quaintly outdated. yet oddly, I trusted the Myrtle- Irene, good ship in her day, up the greasy old bow I slid, to hear the hobo girl with the banjo play.

The sea this morning was a platinum platter, on a bountious seagull buffet, the gentle banjo roll, in time with ferry’s sway. The dented Myrtle- Irene rode sturdy and bold, though something clanked and rumbling- thunking came from deep below in a hold.

“I inquired as to the toilet”, wrote Godfrey. An alcove with bucket an hose for use of the “Gent”. Somewhere in the bilge, formed a line up of lady’s, I assumed that is where lady’s went.

Now the Myrtle Irene lies along side the dock, no longer chugs from island to main. Said Querus Slape- “Were no longer the 70’s, and someone was bound to complain”. For the captain, retirement years were unkind, his wife ran off, his trailer flooded with sewage, he shot himself by accident in the behind.

Replaced by a shiny, new ferry boat, it carries both cattle and car, with a toilet and captain at the helm, not once has she been found passed out, or dragged unfit to sail from the bar. And what of the girl with the banjo? Did she settle on Tridentata or roam as a hobo? ..”As I wandered the island, recalled Godfrey, “I listened in vain for to hear her play, for folk songs carry well on the wind, and a banjo will resonate quite some distance away”.

“He was an odd young man who disliked beets”, the island residents wrote of Godfrey- that’s all. “He sought wisdom, we were sad to see him go, when the first snows came that fall”. No beets grew on rugged Tridentata, none in the only shop to be seen, Godfrey stood on the stern waving, kilt to the storm- when he left on The Mighty Myrtle Irene.

His was a primitive, fearless joy that Godfrey never thought would be lost or undermined by age- I oft have to remind my self, how food tastes best cooked over a beach fire, and that since age 11- Godfrey asked himself upon waking- “What is good about today”He always found at least three things…From Worzel.

CAUGHT IN THE RAIN-From Worzel and friends

Worzel here, I guffaw at romantic notions of being “Caught in the rain”. Lost to me in elderly dislike of rubbery outer wear and being blown home, with a griping wet ass and sodden grocery bags. Godfrey knew the rain, lived in harmony with it, being caught out wet made the deep, hot bath and tea more of a treat. 

He oft pondered the subject, rainy days spent blanket wrapped in my turquoise chair, as I am this Sunday, looking out over busy Wharf street. I asked friends, (and his sister Alice) for their stories of being “Caught in the rain”. This is an old one, from the late Larry, free Advice Wino….

Long ago, stormy morning, passed The Salvation Army, heard there playing piano, The Vagabond Godfrey. So wet, windy and cold the shelter opened early. Sodden gear spread to dry, smell of toast and hot coffee. Though I seldom dropped by,  stood and paused in the doorway, he was barely proffessinal on that battered piano, such peace was in the music from Godfrey.

Said he learned by ear from his sister back home in Wales. Hour by hour she practiced the notes and scales,” I know now she knew what I knew, when Alice did not think I could carry a tune in a pot, and if I dared touch her piano, risked being tossed headlong out in the rain if ever caught”

Sister Alice is a well known prankster in her home village, Skibbereen, in Wales.  

Fish and chips, pies, pastries and tea by the pot, tastes best after you have been caught. Caught doing what??, you ask, do you imply that I may avoid pranking, in order to stay warm and dry?.

There is joy in being caught in the rain, the town cop, Brian dislikes my stick, and soggy fur wrap, he holds getting his hat wet in some disdain. I push my step father Arthur in his chair through puddles, and once got the poor old chap mired axle deep in wet grass. Arthur shook his cane, and bellowed and swore that he had not been mired in deep grass since the war, When the firemen came, to lift Arthur out, we had good guffaws and handshakes all about. ..

Caught we were as the rain poured down, caught the jolly pranksters of Skibbereen Town. From “Alice- A life in Praise of Myself”.

Benny and Adelaide- They are a world roaming pair of elderly rogues, they have made themselves at home on Sonsie Farm, with Beatrice- Godfrey’s lifelong friend, with whom I am compiling his story. “Feh, wrote Beatrice- I was born caught in the rain”. Benny and Adelaide were happy to share-..

“On most every journey, save “The Nullarbor Plain”, we with our trunk have been caught in the rain. a useful shelter, our trunk, huddled under it many a bleak, gray dawn, and with purloined paddles, carried us, waving like the Royals I once served, down The River Avon.

“Our trunk was misplaced at a bus station once, we found it on a lost and found shelf, boldly, I Adelaide wrested it, from the arms, of a rascal claimed our trunk for himself.

We will seek yellow houses till we roll up and cark, though the weather be mizzling and dark our path. We shall dig a hole neath our trunk in the peat, build a smoky,  gypsy fire for heat, then bask for hours in luxury bath…when caught in the rain? Our old steamer trunk will shelter and warm us again…

Indeed, Benny and Adelaide’s decrepit plaid trunk is their cherished possession.  

Young vagabond, Hawken wrote- He was “The Son I Forgot To Have”, and a fine storyteller.  

By age 11, he wrote, I had worn out every “Billy and Blaze” book in our town library. Boy and horse adventures, fine artwork, how I longed for such a brave pony. A friend of my parents had a pony, they oft dropped by to complain about the neighbors– “Dirty Hippies”. The pony was a gift to their son from the hippies, in hope it would give him interest in something besides the violin. It did not, when dad and I checked out “Ralph”, the pony, he stood un groomed, definatley no “Blaze”, we could hear violin music from the house. Ralph regarded us with a world weary snort. He was perfect…

Horses are dangerous, you had a cousin once bitten on the head, no bare feet in the barn yard you’ll get worms, no drinking from the trough or hose, gracious the germs, warned my mother. “Don’t let him runoff, griped dad, you won’t be getting another’ Grandparents bickered over who fell off the mower back in 1922 and got dead, horses are dangerous, in chorus my family oft said.

Fond memory of a rainy day, first taste of freedom from school and family. A fine, cool morning early summer, heat held at bay by the rain, it tickled my bare feet, it damped the dust along the back road. We stopped and drank cool from a hose, scent of hot pine needles, deep green beyond the ditch in the shadows.

Ripe grew thimble berries tart, I gorged on wild black berries and apples by the river, Ralph grazed as I sat. I will always remember this day, the downpour we were caught in, sheltered neath the eave of a tumbledown homestead, long abandoned.

I held the wet reins of my chestnut pony, saw the bolt of lightning strike a tree across the valley, felt the mild shock of it pass through me…

Never told anyone this story. Caught in many a rain since, but this day I kept as my own. Trotted home late and hungry, used one of Ma’s good towels to rub down brave Ralph the pony.

“Where have you been?, mother shrilled. We were certain you were eaten, drowned or killed”. Covered in berry stains, torn shirt, “When I was your Age,” yelled dad. No lecture since would ever dampen my spirit of adventure- or take away the day I had had, caught in the rain….

 

FRIEND OF Mrs COOPER -FRIEND OF GODFREY

Ah, to write again friends of Godfrey…Late winter, early spring has marked the passage of a fine chap. Gypsy, scholar, goat herd, hippie, part Swedish Chef, part John Wayne. He endured the worlds longest poetry reading on the ass-pinch chairs, across from the guy who spoke only to his teeth, (on a plate by his side with their own sausage roll). And then there was the Shakespeare actor, who performed a great death scene,during Charle’s endless Pantoum, blood and all. He was a friend of “Mrs Cooper”- a friend of Godfrey..  

Out in Knockfollie’s Bridge leans Knockfollie’s Town Hall, smells of cabbage and fish suppers, dance wax and Lysol. Two shops, Hotel, the wharf and fish plant, and our Outhouse Museum, on the hill top looking out overall.

“I liked it there”, Godfrey did write, danced kilt a twirl many a warm Saturday night. At the right rear table sat a tall, older man, mirth in his eyes, same battered cap. “May I have this dance Mrs Cooper?, he’d call, and they’d clear a swath across Knockfollie’s Hall.

“I asked of the girls I had met sorting fish”, “who  this odd couple be?. Was told, “he is long retired from the sea, she drifted up here as you did from the city”. Jackie and Laura sorted fish to, side by each, working one and the same. They told me, “Cooper” is not either of the old pairs name. Laurie concurred, nor do they imbibe alcohol, back of the hall like the rest of us all. “they drift through life in each others fond company, finding everything funny…

Back of the old dance floor, kids were sacked out on coats, the evening fun winding down. The janitor patiently tapped his broom, as The Coopers headed out last to town. C’mon, Mrs Cooper, he steadied her arm down the steps, she steadied his to, “we’ll make it , Mr Cooper, they would sleep neath the stars- by The Outhouse Museum, where the town cop could not see them.

Red headed Bill sorted fish, she did, said “come morning the cop wakes them up with a prod and coffee”. Then they totter off, arm in arm laughing, quite a hike to their shack by the sea. “Beware of the goats, if you dare to visit, last vagabond did , well the goats ate his knapsack, and basically everything in it”…

Godfrey would talk to anyone, talk of anything but the beet. He could make friends in an empty room, and befriend “The Coopers” did Godfrey, chatted in the shade at The Outhouse Museum, where oft they chanced to meet.

Ever curious, Godfrey ventured off course, found the muddiest route under bramble, neath gorse. Out past Whiffen Spit, a good hike to the reach, and down a fairly steep cliff side to Knockfollie’s Beach. “There, wrote Godfrey, enjoyed a fine Tuesday, heard goats bleating softly, and voices some distance away. “C’mon, Mrs Cooper, the old sailor’s call, half way down the track where it skirted the waterfall. “Okay, Mr Cooper, came her laughter through the fog- “dance me over this last fallen log’.

Miss Ebony Burl was an office girl, she did not sort fish, wear rubber boots or damp, fishy glove. Ebony admired a man in a kilt, strode up to Godfrey quite boldly. “Said, I fancy you may be the man for me, though you dislike beets, and befriend the fish sorter and aged common hippie”.

“That I do, the vagabond wrote, befriended “The Coopers” despite the fact, it was not their name and home was a driftwood shack”. A clever home gleaned from sea smoothed timbers, and with verdant garden of deep goat pellet and kelp. The outhouse was purloined from the museum, lowered down the cliff with a gang of stout fish sorters help.

“Oh dance, Mrs Cooper over Knockfollie’s Bridge, I’ll have table set and ready, be it soft summer night, or winter storm, take my arm, Mr Cooper, strong and steady. The ocean before us will never grow old, as we and the hills will above- all the outside world needs to know- in our passing, our path was simply of love….

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.