It has taken many friends to compile Godfrey’s story- for anyone new to the saga, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, yet considered no meal complete without peas. He preferred a nest of old sleeping bags to sheets, landing in Canada a youthful, Welsh vagabond, the year before we met, and desiring “only to sit and talk, talk of anything but beets”. He set up a table in a city park, inviting all to join him. Join him they did, including the Original Bus Riding Poet, Ginger Alphonse and devoted partner, Lonewolf. It was a summer of joy, and poetic infamy, until the police took Godfrey away….Ginger has lived most of her life on Wharf Street, down from us, and we thank her for sharing these stories..
GINGER’S AERIE- Snow wet? I asked Ginger over scones and Chai tea. Quoth she, ” I do not let it worry me, for in my house of many toilets is my woven aerie” Snow coned Olympic Range mere miles across the strait- so close, so out of touch a country, my narrow street of houses old..tussock grass gold on the bluffs below me.
My house of many toilets has a shiny, red tile floor, and when we are home knarled walking sticks wedge closed the door. For like any aerie it is buffeted by storm, snow wet?. Not I , curled up, pen in hand, my aerie warm.
THE SEVEN WHARVES- from Godfrey – Ginger may have five toilets, but on Worzel’s street are seven wharves. In heavy gobs snow fell, no dainty flakes from sky drift pretty fluffs. With the huddled masses I waited for the #50 bus. Along it came, an hour late, splashed to a halt oer the sewer grate, and being slow to move away, up my kilt went the icy spray. Though I wore thick wooly drawers, chilled every crevice it could get- Snow Wet.
On my street are seven wharves, one a dock bolted to rock, by ancient hand forged rings. Oft we sit down on those rocks warm evenings. Two are considered piers, departure points, familiar with welcomes, partings, tears. Three wharves are down by the Hotel Grand, for great flash motor yachts to moor, and helicopters land.
Next wharf is a lowly wreck, washed by open sea, weathered elephant gray in age where the tumbled stones of a breakwater used to be. Reckless youth leap from the highest planks in bold daring. Old men ignore them, drink from tins of beer, cast their lines for a fat Grilse, rock cod or herring.
From the seventh wharf, a slip in it’s day, is from wence a proud tall ship sailed away. Long about 1953, bound for Melbourne, and Cape Horn round the southern sea. Across every school atlas page- they carried on, sailing into storm wise old age. Sailed into legend, look for the small brass plaque set in concrete- when next you wander down on Wharf Street.
THE PASSAGE OF MR CODD- From Ginger- I was about 16, when first became aware of Mr Codd. Endless waiting while our parents stopped to chat, we laughed at the cardigan and bow tie he wore, pushing his old bike up Wharf street, with bottles and tins to cash in at Quonley’s Store. He saved those dimes and pennies , for oars and a dory, took passage setting crab traps from Songhee’s to Rock Bay. Years later we heard the clatter, and sight of long haired hippies, push an old V.W. bus up Wharf Street, on Mr Codd’s wedding day.
Became a teacher, he did. Long hair now more trim, we oft saw him walking with a troubled kid, or sitting reading on the steps down by the water. Mr and Mrs Codd had a son and daughter, he pushed them by pram up Wharf, summer nights when festivals were on, with music, fireworks, and parades drum and roar. Mr V Codd, read the sign on his English classroom door.
Few remain from “The Summer of Poetic Infamy”. When Godfrey had his table in the park, he disliked beets, sought peace in a world that called him odd, and on the edge of the circle, not quite ready to engage, alone now late in middle age sat Mr Codd.
Legends will be legends, whispered still in teacher’s toilets by some, how Mr Codd dared to teach- “Off The Curriculum”. He spoke of wisdom, and delightful to me, told his students, alone is not the same as lonely, that he considered the moon a good listener, read to them from the early works of Godfrey…
Parental muttering, beets uneaten at home, and thrown at lunch break. Culprits hurling beets suspended, “Civil Disobediance”wrote Thoreau, quoting from it, Mr Codd’s teaching career was promptly ended.
Sticky, nasty stain from a rotten tangerine, marks the space above the door, where Mr V Codd’s nameplate had been. No gold watch or assembly, no speeches or send off, just a quiet meal of fish and chips, with Miss Shelley the librarian, at a Chinese cafe down on wharf.
Mr Codd’s children now grown. Lecture the old chap, “In a shabby room you live alone, eat noodles three times a day”. Beacon hill Old Man’s Home is not far from Wharf Street, a clean and cheerful place to stay.”There is a billiard table and book case, you will make friends”. So he went, and he did- in a place of ends Mr Codd was happy again.
I am Ginger- considered the patina to my younger sister Cedar’s brass. Roly-poly, always hired, fired over and over again, till my sister found her niche in The Beacon Hill Home For old Men. Mr Codd? Why it was he led “The Great Cheese Sandwich Rebellion”. Conned us into giving them aged cheddar on toast for tea, “The mass constipation that later swept the home was blamed on me”. Then Mr Codd went missing, found in his wheelchair mired axle deep in soft tar, outside Quonley’s on upper Wharf. Someone helped him get there, he refused to give a name, so I- Cedar Waxwing Mae took the blame.
Up on Wharf…in a bus shelter not too far from The Beacon Hill Old Man’s Home, a toilet brush in shiny steel holder, and black rubber plunger sit left all alone. I notice these objects for I to am a poet, take notice because I care, they sat for a week undisturbed, now folded trousers and a fork have joined them there.
Toilet plunger and brush, wheelchair tracks heading one last time up Wharf Street in the slush. When ere we see these tracks on days it snows, or a lonely figure neath the old blue bridge sharing lunch chunks with the crows, and ponder who lives in the dusty old rooms above Quonley’s shop, all mark the mystery of Mr Codd’s life’s passage, from the sea bluffs end of Wharf to its’ only bus stop.