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.

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EQUILIBRISTAT- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here- recently reminded of life’s fragility…

I was recently reminded, while out rambling in the city. Saw a young delivery driver, under the gun, in a big hurry. Juggling paper work and boxes, sacks of rice in heavy load, a moments inattention, a jar of liquid honey fell, and shattered in the road.

In an instant the labor of uncounted bees, was lost to glass and dust. It caused folks to glance over, a carriage horse to snort and shy. the #50 bus drove through the mess, do not trod in it, Worzel dear spoke Godfrey, as arm in arm we two strolled by.

I knew that he knew that I knew what he was feeling as we carried on a silent walk, was later that summer, out star gazing, he recalled that fallen honey in his own odd way, as we sat midnight at the lakeside on the dock.

Said Godfrey- “Back home in Wales, our Grandad was  a fisher.” “Took us out with him often, sister Alice and me”. “This time we hit a rock, or wreck, I do not know which, the boat began to fill, Alice to heave ill, “Grandad turned to me, “Go and make a pot of tea, Alice, shut up and hold fast, make the tea hot and strong lad, it may be our last”.

I did as told, he patched the hole, it was not in my destiny, or Alice’s to drown, we drank tea  and ate ginger biscuits as we puttered back to town. I was only eight, my first big awareness that life is precariously balanced on a dewdrop, a dewdrop on a dock leaf rooted in the earth, as autumn is meant to set adrift, eventually, as Grandad did , a fisher on the North Sea.

Equilibristat- Larry the Free Advice Wino told us once, in his years as a young rover, Said Larry,” I worked the Equilibristat, it measured the angle of the tracks curve, so trains could travel safe, not tip and fall over.”

Something so simple, bend or crack from frost, delicate balance upset, a mighty train would be lost.

I recall that long past summer, and the dropped jar of honey. Regret I never got to meet Free Advice Wino Larry. With ranting Meglomaniacs poised over the key, fear mongers shall not still my pen, my world is not ruled by weaponry.

Hold fast to our homes Equilibristat- no question I’d rather trust it to Free Advice Wino Larry.

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.

DANCE THE POULTRY SPICE BLEND-from Godfrey

He was an odd young man who disliked beets..yet despite that, Godfrey made friends easily. He delighted in the company of women, yet at the first hint of possibly impending romance, retreated to the nearest kitchen to bake. His light, airy scones and delicate touch with carrot muffins passed into legend with him.  

And how Godfrey loved to dance, lacking elegance, saying “Feh” to tradition, he created his own works.”The Peruvian Armpit Waltz”, “The Beetroot Cloggeroo”, and the recently discovered “Poultry Spice Blend”..yes, he was a lifelong seeker of wisdom, yet nonsense remained at the core of his being. try this dance to a slow, folky tune suitable for a wide grocery aisle…   

Oh I danced with parsley and wisely with sage, danced with savory and rosemary in their old age, danced close with garlic, (no wish to offend), and with plump, fresh marjoram till evenings end.

When the gala was over and the hall was shut tight, we danced down the pathway on a hot summer night, the slow sunrise paprika from bush fires inland, smoky haze made me wheeze, but we danced through the fennel and the sweet bay leaves.

Coriander! Coriander! , bold pepper from the mill, cheeky root ginger I’ll dance if you will. But you are too strong for cornbread stuffing, let us pick ripe lemons for frosty iced tea after dancing.

Take off your woolen socks, put down that spoon, she said “fetch your guitar where it hangs in the book room, scent of dill weed, butter and chervil, rattle the spice rack as round the warm kitchen we twirl. Jealous basil, hot headed cayenne, keep time as we dance The Poultry Spice Blend.

Grow Walla Walla onions out the backdoor, dance down aisle 7 at the Thrifty’s store, on the harbor I sit as big crowds stroll by me, all headed for the waterside symphony.  A vagabonds evening out, free to attend, on the dry grass, neath the stars dance The Poultry Spice Blend, let the fireworks roar, we dance The Poultry Spice Blend…

ELDERFLOWER AND BAGMOUSE- from Worzel

On this, my 5th summer visit to Wales , I put off meeting with Alice, Godfrey’s older sister until last. Beatrice, fearing a ruse by Alice ,would not leave Sonsie Farm, fearing the prankster may double back, to tease her goats, or goad elderly tenants Adelaide and Benny into painting her puce cottage yellow. 

Alice would only meet me at a “Little Chef” roadside diner, she had been barred from every other cafe for miles. Alice and Godfrey’s doughty Ma filled one side of a booth, hands oddly lean and strong, knitting me a cardigan. Alice’s partner, “Nudge”, and stepfather Arthur crowded a table, counting a hat full of money, they had been down the market, singing war songs, Nudge keeping time on a length of rubber hose.  

Alice, as had Godfrey, considered no meal complete without peas, and was devouring a trencher full. A cranky, harried waitress slobbed a stained mug of tepid tea, the bag a wodge at the bottom, before me, and Alice the drinking straw she requested. Alice used the straw to fire peas at an innocent toddler two booths over….

Ma still refused to talk about Godfrey- even when I showed her our thick manuscript, even when I told her how he thwarted a robbery. “We heard screaming outside a pet shop, saw a youth running from the parking lot clutching a carry bag, the thief actually tripped over Godfrey’s big manly feet, headlong into a pole. Godfrey knelt and talked to the bandit about apples, until the cops arrived. The stolen goods were recovered, a bag of Gecko Food, he declined the local news interview…”Twer the beets turned him odd..is all I got from Ma.  

   I turned my attention to the packet of writing Alice brought along, delighted it seemed less “Alice” than usual.. from his old teacher, Mrs Kromplak, something of a “Tippler”.  

ELDERFLOWER AND BAGMOUSE- From Mrs Kromplak.

Godfrey never knew it, when very young I called him “Bagmouse” like the kangaroo, noble marsupial, he hopped about in baggy knitted horse sweater, with a pouch, long mane and tail behind to. His friend Beatrice was my “Wild Welsh Elderflower”, shyly sliding in late, wet and cold, the pair oft brought apples pinched from the market, or a stripy June-bug beetle for me to hold.

I had seen elder flowers bloom from cracks in old stone, tiny yet determined to endure against all odds and grow….and recall the mob of gray kangaroos, I met on main street of a dusty, distant town in my girlhood long ago.

In my desk I kept a flask, for all who asked why “Medicinal Whiskey” for my nerves not the same since the war, Elderflower and Bagmouse, to my dismay once sneaked a swig, perhaps more, found the two gagging halfway to the outside toilet door. “Your medicine burns like Oobleck, Godfrey, the only child I knew who could at the same time, speak in rhyme, laugh cry and spew…Now I am old as, “The Old Ladies’ Home “snores about me- I trust Alice will give to you this packet, remnant of Bagmouse’s story….

EIGHT PIRATES- From Godfrey-  aged ten- eight nasty pirates, in their dirty socks, out late drinking grog, falling from the docks. Seven  nasty pirates now, eating pickled herring, six fell ill, one pirates past caring.

Six nasty pirates, all with peg legs, made them late for mug-up, five got the dregs. five nasty pirates, swabbed the slippery plank, one fell overboard, into the deep he sank. Four nasty pirates, on a night so dark, when at dawn the storm eased, was one lost to a shark.

Three nasty pirates, all in one bed, slip of the cutlass, bad dream, Raoul lost his head. Two nasty pirates left, eyes on the horizon, missed the rogue wave from the aft, now there’s only one. One nasty pirate relaxing in the sun, conked by a coconut oer the head, no more pirates, all dead…From Godfrey.

SIR FRANCIS DRAKE- From Godfrey- At Grandma’s house when I happen to wee, I look up at her painting above the loo, “The Golden Hind” ship of sail, out on the oil paint blue. Sailors hang on the lines so bold, the cook peers out on deck grizzaled and old, the better the light of dawn to see, bugs in the mutton, and gruel so cruel and weevily.  Magesticley see the Galleon ride, see the back end of Ralph heaving over the side. And the fins of sharks above the wake, and no sign what so ever of Sir Francis Drake.

WALNUT DOWN- My  sister and I stayed up awake, when Ma prepared the Christmas cake, with fruit and nuts she kept hidden all year, and expensive sugar.We crowded her elbow to make a wish and stir, I recall Alice’s cry of Walnut Down! , if nut or raisin should jump from the basin.  We dove in unison for the treat, her great thick head bashed  my noggin, “Godfrey hit me in the head with his skull!, cried Alice, as under the sink I crawled, it may be cracked!. Alice bonked me on the head with hers, Ma, I bawled. We learned to stay well clear of Ma, at eve when she chose to bake, for our Ma had reflexes quick as a snake, snatched up the walnut as we rowed, threw it back in the cake with the cry- Walnut Down!.

CHOCOLATE COVERED SALT- From Godfrey-  Twas Alice in creative mood, oft tried to ruin my day with food. Knowing full well I abhor all beets, yet can not turn away from pastries or sweets. Melted chocolate did Alice, with tender care on the stove. Filled them with fondant, tied with a ribbon, “Happy Birthday dear Brother with Love”. I ought to have known, the first two sweets had a cherry inside, the third a cherry pit, the 4th sweet was a cube of salt, sent me racing outside for to gag and to spit. When I am bigger, and get up the daring, shall make Alice Bon- Bons filled with herring..

RUNNING- From Godfrey- Running, I ran across the far meadow.  Was chased by the bull, all snot nose and bellow. I cleared the stone wall with room to spare, chased by the bull on Alice’s dare.

Ran, I ran quick home from the shops, biscuits and cream sent to get. The biscuits were reduced to crumb, the cream by my jogging churned to a clot, Ma wacked me across the bum, and boxed my wee head a swat.

Ran, I ran from bullying louts, armed with beets and frozen sprouts, were times I truly wished that I, could summon a dragon from the sky. Flames green and gold, scales of brass in the sun. Tenbrooks Smythe The Third, his cohorts “Heavy” and “Whet”, would drop their beets in defeat and run…

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, he was my friend for 28 years..and  childhood defined his well developed love of the absurd.

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.

MY SECRET MOTHER-From Worzel

Godfrey and I were indignant with one another. Concerned with his wheezing, I had dragged him to a medical clinic. He sat, muttering in Welsh on an ugly, orange plastic chair, mine was itchy ass wicker. A lethargic goldfish stared at me from a lonely bowl. There were sticky magazines, and a grubby “Golden Book Of Bible Stories”. Two nurses behind glass discussed evening plans- “I’m seeing Pierre again tonight”…ooh, he’s big!’…

Across from Godfrey a chap sat bleeding, the result of cleaning a grill with a meat cleaver. An elderly lady asked us if we knew the lord. Godfrey’s reply in Welsh seemed to satisfy her. Finally his name was called, he stomped off, complimenting Pierre’s date on her smock. I waited, and waited, until coolly informed my vagabond had bolted out the toilet window. I found him two blocks away, feeding his face with doughnuts, pretending to admire a hedge.   

Over the years Godfrey spent with us, we delighted in observing the characters riding the #50 city bus. One we oft saw was a prim woman our age, always absorbed in the same book- “My Secret Mother”. The cover art featured a blond woman in pearls, a buck-toothed child eating bread and jam, a man is leaving out the saggy screen door, carrying plumbers tools. It was quiet on the bus this day, “I smell beets”, Godfrey griped, “Shut-up, I replied.

As he would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets, to my dismay, he introduced himself to the book reader, and asked if he could borrow “My Secret Mother” when she was done. She clapped it shut, stuffed it in her bag, and gravely informed Godfrey that, “Such a good book, I never want it to end!’…

All many years ago, today I rode the bus out to Devonian Park where still roams a multi generational flock of feral chickens I promised Godfrey I would feed on Tuesdays. Only the people on #50 have changed- sleepy Kevin has moved on, the clanking sweats of tired builders, the loud group of young women claiming to be “The Supremes”. And the book reader, who inspired me to write of my own “Secret Mother”… 

I had a secret mother, she was unafraid of thunderstorms or bees or cattle, or to join me in battle, an old blue blanket rumpled as the sage prairie, or oft a wild, roily sea.  No dolls, just tin ships and plastic horses once the school bus ate my siblings, she played all morning with me.

My secret mother, sent me outside in all weather, to happy dig for treasure with spoons, pennies hidden neath the pansies. Let me eat raw pie dough, and burnt ketchup on thick toast, chicken soup from a tin, and she never made me sit politely when her friend Mrs Vowel  dropped in.

I later learned from my sister, and Inkerman our older brother, we all had that year before starting school, without you or Cudberth, alone with our secret mother. “Lacking a working car she drove us once by tractor to the shops, down main street roared the rusty Massey- Ferguson, us waving and smiling to everyone.”

Afternoons we watched “The Edge of Night”, and “Galloping Gourmet”…came the day, end of summer, I was wedged into a cousin’s dress and shoes, our Aunt June took all of us to school. Teacher loomed, pointer in hand, told the class- “Worzel’s mother, Three Mile Lil, has left by train for the coast”. I had a self embarassing lunch that day, sister Fillipendula packed burnt ketchup on thick toast.

Most days I was sat in the old, cold cloak room, in company of others who did not listen or had wet themselves. I learned to hide a book to read, behind spare chalk on the high shelves. Hid it in my arithmetic work book cover, told any one who asked that indeed, I had a secret mother.

Three Mile Lil sent one birthday card when I turned eight, said she missed burnt ketchup on toast, and all the tinned soup that we ate. Inkerman, Fillipendula and Cudberth got the same card for years always on the wrong date.

I recall with odd fondness though, my wayward mother, who oft drank along with that “Galloping Gourmet”. And called on me to stash empty wine bottles, to shoo pixies away down the drain. All that hit a wobble, no more ketchup on toast, when stepmother Mrs Gibberflat soon came…

Yes so long ago, here I sit a silly old woman feeding chickens…and recall an early work of Godfrey-” Apricot Chicken”.