APRICOT CHICKEN- from Godfrey

Worzel here, ever try to duplicate a much loved dish from your travels?,  Godfrey did , when he pined it was for the Australian food he gorged on.” I believe, he wrote, it was redolent of sun and soil and simple life always outdoors”. I oft make apricot chicken now, on Tuesdays of course. 

I have always loved chickens, as a lad all about our home they ranged free, they gobbled the beets I threw out the window each morning, provided fine, fresh eggs perfect for chippy tea.

Landing up in Australia, I was hungry for adventure, the pies, peas and damper, the bully beef I scoffed left the memory of beets and herring, far away back home cross the sea.

I was smitten by her beauty, the bonny, sunburned faces, the brown, rolling hills, the folks welcomed me, I gloried in Vegemite, fresh fish, roast pumpkin, and every corner I roamed there was Apricot Chicken.

Boiled and broiled , sour and sweet, twice just the apricots, once just the chicken feet. I had it with sauces, chunky and smooth,even tough old rooster full of pin feathers barely removed.

I have always loved chickens…running for the food scraps, fighting over tinned spaghetti, enjoying a dust bath, hot itchy afternoons. Try it baked in Russian Dressing, or freeze dried in a packet for to camp. And shared with friends, neath the southern stars, round the fire at the fruit pickers camp..

Of course, I also learned early how deftly beetroot could be hidden in burger and sandwich roll…indeed I learned.

RED LEATHER JACKET- From Worzel

We endured the dust and chaos of a years renovation, to our home building- “Tara”. The round, scorch hole in the hallway floor from an errant pot of broccoli, the fire escape also partially burned repaired. The “Bug Chandelier” we rescued by night, with help from our friend Hawken, is now in a corner of our cluttered living room.

Tara will always reek of brussels sprouts, we still maintain our luggage shop downstairs, and even with some of her characters gone, there remains a certain whimsy in the old place, and stories found down my turquoise chair….this one features Mrs Feerce, who terrified Godfrey – my friend of 28 years, and something of a vagabond.  

Our home building was modern in 1913, a grand row of saloons turned to flats and small rented rooms. Now below is our shop, an art gallery, Golden Fez Turkish Coffee Maker, and one street over, park and homeless camp, we have come to call “Steinbeck’s Half Acre”.

Was a red leather jacket, found it one summer morning, folded with care at the door, of “Godfreys’ Luggage and Leather Repair “. Odd offerings indeed have been left over the years- beets foul and fair, poetry, cards and photos from many who had met up with Godfrey.

I looked it over carefully, old yet well made, a jacket of soft red leather, styled to fit a lady. Slight smell of bakery, when expected lavender or stale closet-moth- the cuffs a bit worn in a manner that reminded me of Godfrey.

In the wool coat my vagabond wore, he sewed a pocket called his “Secret Hole”, in it went bus fare, address book, the spectacles he had not worn since age five, his all important pen. No “Secret Hole” in this red leather jacket I could yet see….with a barefoot thud, like a barge on the harbor, our landlady Mrs Feerce loomed before me.

Vacabon! Vagabon! Bugular!Bugular!, Mrs Feerce- every other person in her mind was a hippie or intruder, it oft was a challenge being patient with her. Had “she who missed nothing” seen who left the red leather jacket at our door?, Mrs Feerce kept the two cents that dropped from a pocket when she shook it, Haggis!- she waved a cranky finger at me, “Stink in house when you cook it”! Lint in dryer cause fire!, Hippies be dammed!’. Mrs Feerce was gone, the door slammed. Godfrey reckoned she was born of a “Whiskey Keg and Polecat”. I think she was Maltese but never confirmed that.

I have hung the red leather jacket in the window of our shop, checked it over and over for secret hole, for hidden “Snuv” or private pocket. it shows fading from sun and weather, wear of backpack has thinned the leather on the shoulders just a tad, and a tear on the left sleeves inner lining has been ineptly mended using threads of wool- plaid.

For over a year now the red leather jacket has hung in our window, down on “Steinbeck’s Half Acre” the drifters come and go. No one has claimed it, the jacket stays a mystery, somehow I feel that perhaps long ago, it crossed paths with Godfrey.

Godfrey needed little prodding to sing an old song he learned of a place he called “Shady Gate”. Promised me when the time came he’d be there neath the cedars, be there long as waiting would take. Last night I dreamed the red leather jacket was a pillow for my head when I awoke on damp heather, in lieu of my warm bed.  Berries placed by me on a dock leaf clean with dew, and spelled out in the sand by the track- words of welcome to “Shady Gate”…. old friend I welcome you.

With thanks to Ferron” for the life long inspiration. Your jacket, perhaps?

SOUND OF THE BLACKSMITH- From Godfrey

Worzel here, Finally a sunny Sunday, breezy out, my Arthurits  at bay, I am taking the day off to dust/shovel the flat. Even shifted a dead plant off to one side, found enough money down my turquoise chair to send out for chow-mein, and am now curled up in the thieving old chair, watching the cops watching a chap in the tent camp below. He has dragged a bunk bed down to the park, and is napping on the top half.

Days like this one, I miss Godfrey the most…he understood the wisdom in a song for every chore, and would have made his way down to the grass, to offer the cop apples and something to read. I have been saving one of his early journals for summer- here is a story from it.

Song lends itself to a vagabond’s rainy Sunday, many a fine ode has been penned by the wandering lonely. And I had tramped down from the wild Paparoa Range, steep muddy tracks, waterfalls- I return there when I dream of her low cloud mystery, the Paparoas and the small town of “Fairly”.

Twas Sunday morning, I’d stayed in a small hostel, sipping my tea looking over wet pavement. Usual grumbling and zipping of rain gear as travelers up early as they came and they went.

Leaned out the window, cool air to let in, for nothing smells fresher than a damp Westland garden, tinged with scent of coal smoke and the wild Tasman Sea, a ringing sound from somewhere distant intriqued me.

Donning hat and kilt, I sought out the sound of singing and hammering on steel, somewhere in the mist above Fairly. Now a vagabond always has plenty to do, like seeking sounds of a blacksmith, and noting on Sundays the chip shop opened at 2:00.

When the hammer bows paused, I diserned the faint singing,  noted horse tracks on the sandy verge, down one old side street, up the end of another, the doors were wide open and lop sided sign hung above read- “Banjo String  Forge”.

I was a young vagabond adrift in the Westland, bold were the blows from the smith’s daughters hand, rain it pounded on the shops iron roof, and the tethered gray cart draft held up muddy hoof. Intent on her work she did not see me, as waiting for her iron to heat, tied back golden hair with a grimy bandanna, sang in a voice low and sweet.

“Oh give me the spark and the slag and the tongs! and the worn leather apron left to me. I’d not trade a rusty file from my smithy, for all of the gold down away in your city”.

There was an iron bench outside the shop, where I sat- too shy in those years to intrude. Listened I did to her every verse, roar of the forge and her hammers drop.

“Ma, she sang was a blacksmith’s daughter, Pa a coal miners son, I hope my own will see the world, before I pass my hammer on- hope to pass my hammer on”.

The Paparoas too cloud shrouded to see, I knew looked down upon me. It showed no sign of clearing, so long I sat, happy, writing in time to the sounds I was hearing. Posh car passing, full of old ladies stare at me en route to church. Outside the pub on the corner, a drunk pair of laughing young mates lurch. From  The Old Man’s Home down the hill some chap has a nasty wet cough, deep patient sigh from the horse being shod, hiss of the quenching trough.

And I too shy in my younger day, to ask her name and tell her there was, beauty in her singing, down Fairly way on a wet summer Sunday. Too shy to ask her, “will you meet me at the chip shop, when it opens at 2:00?.  “For I seek higher wisdom and sense joy in the work that you do.”

I stayed a week in the little town, never saw the young woman again…I headed back out to pan for gold..in the streams of the Paparoas…was on a Sunday morning, in the cool of the Westland  rain…

 

 

WAYWARD DAUGHTER- An Alice Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING AWE INSPIRED- From Godfrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts from Godfrey..

RAINWATER COFFEE- from Godfrey

,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY BATTERED OLD MUG- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here writing, It was my 5th summer visit to Beatrice’s home in Wales, “Sonsie Farm”. Five years now, we two have worked compiling the story of our friend, The Vagabond Godfrey…it was a grand visit, Godfrey’s curmudgeon sister, Alice and her companion Nudge Giggleswick were away in eastern Canada.(Safely a continent apart from my home on Vancouver Island). They were at the “Outhouse Museum”, left to Alice by way of her brother, and no doubt creating some nuisance. 

Adelaide and Benny, elderly residents of the farm had taken to the road, with precious plaid steamer trunk and donkey cart. “Seaking Yelow Houses”read the note on their sleepout door, Adelaide only pretending she could not spell, they were a very literate pair, but still mistrusted me around the plaid steamer trunk. 

Blessed quiet time, to work on our book, to nap in the shade of the sunflowers Beatrice planted, Godfrey’s favorite plant. “I grow them where errant beets still come up every year”, Beatrice explained. This warm morning, doing the washing up, I noticed for the first time, Godfrey’s old, stainless steel mug hanging by a nail above the sink…recalling a story of his I will share here.

In the cool after sunset, I knelt by my fire. And mixed the batter for an evenings treat “Pikelets”, I had not a pan the wee cakes to fry, and I whistled as the beautiful Pelorus River rolled by.

But using my suitcase as a dining table, sweaty shirt to fan the flame, I set oer the  fire inverted my old mug, only cup I had to my name.Purchased back in Wales before leaving home, it only cost then a few pence, no longer shiny and new though, a story in it’s patina of scratches and dents.

Sweet scent of fresh Pikelets, summers evening, butter and jam bought in Canvastown, billy of tea keeping hot at my side, as the deep blue waters of the Pelorus chuckle down.

It’s the vagabond way to discard whats not needed, balanced against what gets lost naturally . Underthings forgotten on a hostel clothes line, or left behind a log by the sea. Stalwart, this battered old mug remains with me.

From the one lane bridge hear the  laughter, as  bold and reckless leap, into a pool so far below where the Pelorus eddies,  cold and deep.

Why do I sing the praises of such an old mug? not something a thirsty soul would nick, I hang it to clink on my backpack, to warn off fierce creatures where the tall grass is thick. Many a mug of hot coffee, warmed shaking hands in days of cold rain, and as I dip it to drink from the sweet Pelorus River, I dream of the time I will pass this way again…From Godfrey.