BROWN MUDDY BOOTS- From Godfrey

Worzel here, in old age, happy today looking back. A fond memory to share?. Well, one day at our luggage shop, a cake, sandwich and vegetable tray intended for a funeral  was dropped off by mistake. My husband Garnet, and Godfrey reckoning it was a surprise treat for their brave hunting down of a mouse that morning, ate it.  

When I got home, they were desecrating the carrot cake, oblivious of the purple writing- “Rest In Peace Muriel”…they had saved me the icing roses and soggy walnuts Godfrey had picked out. 

I had long promised never to torment my friend with beets, (he heartily disliked them). . I rang the Funeral Home before sending them off to apologise, explaining that just punishment would be to corner Godfrey on the subject of beets, and not let him leave. Garnet crept home late, without Godfrey, the vagabond reappearing three days later, claiming he had been lured into a corn maze.  

Our apartment building is old, the floors warped and splintery. To this day, one of Godfrey’s old boots wedges the toilet door closed, in lieu of a latch. To say the least, his memory is everywhere. 

Was a very young poet- “Do not hitchhike”warned my Ma- “you will be left with no shoes on the roadside”. Shrill rang her words as a beet grower pulled to the side. A high, shiny ute with a beet painted on the red door, I accepted the lift, despite worry over beets, it was raining and well after four.

As I settled inside the chap spoke of beets, across the ranges divide, beets on filled roll, beets in slibber sauce, beets in fine silver bowls, roasted on fire coals, beets stuffed in beets stuffed inside a fat goose, for dessert double beet, beet chocolate mousse.

With rare pause in telling how his crop covered many a hectare, he’d a house on a hill with gold plumbing in the loos, and every day wore a new pair of shoes. “Everyday because I can”. I do not suit the common, brown muddy boot”. He was a peculiar man.

When asked, I’d say in my pre-poet days, my background was in sales. “I ran a manure stand back home in Wales”. By pail, gunny sack, or shovel it yourself from the heap around back. And I tried to save every penny, dreaming of places my brown muddy boots would take me.

Oft in summer, early mornings when I stayed at Worzel’s home in the city. Young trampers were a plenty trail bound from bus and ferry. This is an island that calls to the bold and the ruggedy. With shiny new boots, flash gear in clean pack, I saw many set out, but none looked the same heading back. Sandy and hungry, sun, wind burned, wet and ruddy, you can bet those boots were now soft, scuffed and muddy.

Stories told round hostel table- tell of bear prints in sand, deep salal and bracken fern, Cape Scott, Mystic Susiat Falls, back home be it Hamburg or Melbourne, tell of the brown muddy boots they would earn.

On such a trek, Godfrey caught from the rocks with lucky cast a fat salmon for us three. We gave thanks, and stuffed it with thimble berries, cracker crumbs, dried onion, an apple, our last precious butter. We roasted the fish over clean alder fire. No royals or rich folk ever feasted finer, than we with murmur of out going tide, and slept deep neath the stars as our brown muddy boots dried.

Found a cow path came I, a vagabond strolling, from over the borders southwest, happy to be free of town living, I sat back neath a pear tree to rest. Kicked off my boots, (A tad muddy and damp), hung month old socks from a branch to air dry. Remember the feel of bare feet in soft grass? If not, I suggest you seek out a fresh patch and try…From Godfrey.

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THE PEGGY McKENZIE- From Godfrey

Worzel here..another summer on a wane. Renovations to our aged building “Tara”drag on, the decrepit stonework exterior now getting a spruce up. Godfrey would have enjoyed a guffaw at the sight of a pink “Port-A- John” high on the scaffolding outside our land lady, Mrs Feerce’s window.

I look forward to autumn, backward to Godfrey, tinged as the maples are in somber passage, in fall he liked to sit down by the rocks, where the homeless camp is we call “Steinbeck’s Half Acre”…he enjoyed watching the tugboats heading out at dawn. Oft, they would silently churn up the phosphoresence in their wake,”The Lightning of the Sea’, Godfrey called it. His favorite small tug was The Peggy Mckenzie.  

May the winter sun pierce the sky over the city this morning. Frost chills brown grass down on Steinbeck’s half acre, as we watch the tugs leaving. Oh the Peggy Mckenzie cares only where the work day will take her.

For the good ship went tugging, tugging, tugging, the little jackpot went tugging off down the long harbor.

Stalwart and trim, shining black, white and green, nary a bay or spit she’s not seen, smell of coffee wafts cross the water, with gracking call heron glides low. No fanfare or farewells the tugboat, Peggy Mckenzie is ready to go.

With a soft rumble she sets out a tugging, tugging, under the blue bridge a tugging. With cold hands and chilled feet, we of Steinbeck’s half acre, on cold autumn morning watched the ships head out tugging.

Oh the Peggy Mckenzie’s hauled scrap cars and dredges, nudged high bowed, haughty cruise ships away from posh berth. Roiled in their wake as they thankless steam south, they its off with log booms oer the treacherous Fraser’s mouth.

And snecked tight together, see docked neath the blue bridge are tugs “Venture”, “Storm”, “The Doreen Roskelley”. They seem to be chatting, like old friends round kitchen table, a drink and a toast to the Peggy Mckenzie !

For the good ship went tugging, tugging, tugging, no rogue wave or reef would take her. The old workhorse and I went tugging, tugging, trailing diamonds behind she chugged down the long harbor.

No old mans home please, when I retire, a cabin on Mayne Island, coffee and hot fire. Lace curtains for her wheel house, no scrap heap or cruel cutting torch. Watch the tug boats passing, her deck for my porch, heading in from open sea, recall the shelter of Mutton Cove, and waiting for the tide off Lasqueti.

No need for grand tales of valiant rescue, no feats of bravery written. Through October gales or joyous summer swell, the Peggy Mckenzie went tugging, tugging, where and with what she was bidden.

BROKE YOUNG ADULT- The 57th wisdom of Godfrey

I had misjudged the tidal crossing of the inlet on a long, hot, sandy tramp. Secure in the knowledge I was not to drown, crawled like a sodden sheep safely spewking up the shore, where a kindly chap in a wayward bus, like this happened every day, dropped me off in the next nearest town..

I was a broke, young adult, by societies standards of acceptability, a tad below it. I preferred to consider myself a “Vagabond, Professional Fig Picker and Poet”. Was hitching down Central Otago way, no shade there was, no passing car, hot wind in the canyons, goo of melting tar.

Out of the mirage a hearse appeared, a dour old man in black rolled  down the window, he said, “I will take you on down to Clyde..yet we are not alone you know”. I shivered in the chilly hearse, he drove so very slowly, did not look back at the box behind that rattled all the way to Clyde, I counted cows, although there were none, at the funeral home thanked them both for the good ride.  I was a broke, young adult. The undertaker shook my hand, pressed into it a five, said he rarely got to journey with someone still alive.

I was a broke, young adult. whiskers now growing in, hair long and bleached by sun and sea. Still cut in the style a monk may wear, last parting gift my sister Alice gave me. I had always feared high, wobbly places, could not abide beets, or cramped closed in spaces. In the brown, muddy boot prints of the bold I set out. “You will perish in the cold, or nasty cable swing bridge will pitch you over-side”, I was told.

At the first cable swing bridge, my knees knocked, at the sight of the river roiling brown in flood, so I sat in the mud, thought one step at a time, up the ladder to the bridge, hold the cables, look ahead not down, you will live to see the treats in the bakery case, far down the wild coast in Westport Town.

I was a broke young adult- taking shelter neath a rock ledge when the storm came, not far from that last cable swing bridge. And as it poured, I had chocolate for reward, located notebook and pen, watched lightning over the mountain, did not fear it or the closed in space of my snug den.

A broke young adult was I, far from home down in Sydney on the harbor quay. she wore a pale grey dress, same shade as her long hair, and from where I sat looked as though her head was no longer there…Elegantly she did glide, rather than walk past The Salvation Army, intent I remained on my writing, until the strange looking woman stopped before me.

She had a head- smiling introduced herself as Miss Lucerne Swish, from Manly. Miss Swish  said my kilt stood out, in the sun on the harbor wall, and the way I was bent over writing, looked as though I had no head at all. We  chatted as new aquaintence ships do, of bush-ballads, vegemite, books wise and ridiculous, talked of anything but beets, was a day I recall time paused for us.

As a broke, young adult, Godfrey’s early years on the road meant facing his fears, he never forgot the swing bridges, or the night he spent huddled in a remote ladies concrete loo as lightning struck all about, and flood waters rose. He never learned to abide moths or antique shops. Now with this “Computery Thing”, I have attempted to locate Lucerne Swish, whom must be very elderly now. In my search, I did locate Mrs Hortensis, landlady of the Woolamaloo boarding house where Godfrey resided in Sydney…another story…here is the simple wisdom he learned that day, so-long ago.  

The 57th Wisdom Of Godfrey states  –    By chance you happen be, Down Under on a  summers day, and observe a person who seems to have no head, passing along the quay, do not gawk. For it is entirely possible- that they may see you too, without a head and feel the same way. Take that time to just sit, time out to just sit and talk.

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