TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE- And other stories- From Alice

Worzel here–Beatrice feels very strongly, and readers may concur, that our book contains far too many references to toilets. Be things as they may, my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey did not seek out toilets, they found Godfrey, and he felt there could never be too many. 

Today, I napped until now, and garnered the strength to open sister Alice’s packet of writing, excerpts from her book, “Alice, A life in Praise Of Myself”. It was a facinating glimpse of her summer in Nova Scotia, with Nudge Giggleswick and The Outhouse Museum.

ALICE ACROSS THE WATER-   For ten roily days and nights oer the Atlantic steamed Nudge and I to far Nova Scotia , we wreaked havoc aboard,disrupted the nightly Bingo by cheating, and at every meal of herring, the folks at our dinner table were eating.

    “The Pride of Poland”was a thing of the past, to the age of steam ships glory, the warped faded deck planks, the ancient children’s nurse, in her proper starched smock and cap told a story. The ocean was calm as the rill back home, steady the old tub did ride, with Nudge who long claimed seafarers blood, spewing all over the side.

I kept Nudge alive reading lurid romance novels, to him as we lurched cross the sea, we oft could be found leaning over the bow, and herring was served breakfast, lunch and tea.

Nudge writes- Left were us in a cloud of dust, the taxi cab racing away, Alice and I at “The Outhouse Museum,”on a hill overlooking away. The weeds were tall, between them all, for summer was at its peaking, outdoor loos forlorn, abandoned, with doors blown open and creaking. And as Alice her beauty nap in the shade snored, I gathered stink-willies, made a daisy chain for she, Alice whom I adored.   And later looking over The Outhouse Museum, her brother’s legacy, Alice with medicinal brandy told me this story…

TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE-  Oh Alice, Oh Alice , come here!, come here!, there’s a troll in the outhouse, a mean one I fear!. Curled up warm, I ignored the loud plea, from the outdoor loo, of my wee brother Godfrey.

    For our humble cottage had an outdoor dunny, and in it I oft tormented my brother in ways I found terribly funny.  Oh Alice, Oh Alice come here, come here, there’s a troll in the outhouse and Ma no where near.Bring the cricket bat, call the dog, for I so need to use it, the cold outdoor bog.

With three rubber gloves, knitting wool, wooden spoon, and my brilliant mind, I rigged a creation so when Godfrey sat, slapped him square in the behind.” Oh Alice, oh Alice, it is deep in the hole, it reached up and slapped me  when I sat, I felt the furry old hands of a troll.”

My brother Godfrey was an odd little chap, believed everything I would say. “There’s a troll in our toilet'”he told his teacher, before the whole class the next day. Our Ma,who could not abide a phone, instead was surprised on a Tuesday, by a visit from teacher and district nurse at our home. I hid with Godfrey, as they chatted with Ma over tea..

“He dislikes beets, he is adamant there lives a troll down your toilet”, Nurse Commerford, (she spits when she talks) informed Ma. I heard the telltale clink of the teacher’s flask as she added to her tea, malt whiskey, I tried so very hard not to laugh, I tried to the stars of heaven, as I lay on the rug, behind the piano, as they all trooped outside to wee, they found my creation of gloves and wool, dropped it all down the hole, while calling, calling for me. But what of the troll?…as I fled cross the fields, what of the troll? I heard Godfrey”

BEACH BUM- From Nudge-Always modest is Alice, a proper old maid. When summer rain ceased, we found a remote beach, hung our wet things to dry. I wrote this  sonnet behind private rocks, a sunbeam caught me in repose, put a glow in my curmudgeon’s cheeks,  reddened my tender buttocks”.

VIKING- From Alice-    I want to go back in time when I expire, by reward to place and age of my liking, may I turn back the tide of pickled herring, may I be re-born a Viking. now yes, they were an uncouth lot, did not bathe regularly, plundered with sharp weaponry, but I would be a Viking bold, no trencher of herring before me, a velvet painting, a portrait would hang, bold of braid, horned helmet, wrapped about in Musk Ox hide. Alice “The Dreadful” it would hang in a gallery- “Of Herring she could not abide”.   

Worzel here, prepare for more later, my feet are cold, and Alice’s packet deep…

THE SNOW WHITE MOTEL- From Worzel

This story evolved from a chat with Beatrice, over regret..story of a story for another time. I recalled to Beatrice fondly the summers Godfrey spent with us. in more recent years, our friend the vagabond Hawken, when out west, joined us at our lakeside cabin retreat.  

“Bucolic”, Hawken described the journey by car, he was fine company, but had no interest in roadside attractions or stops at every bakery. This past holiday, on a narrow, divided stretch, I drove over a picnic cooler dropped middle of the road. It stuck fast under the car, with a dreadful screech. Pulling over, it was clear that Hawken would have to crawl beneath the vehicle and pull the mangled plastic thing out. He did so with ease, although getting very dusty, I drop kicked the cooler over a cliff, Hawken lay in the dirt, happily waving to passing traffic. I suppose, he mused someone in a hundred years will find that thing wedged down the mountainside, possibly containing beer, and wonder the how and why?…

There was more of Godfrey in our young friend than Hawken would ever know, and as we traveled on, I told him the story of our Island, and The Snow White Motel…

I regret, to this day, we never took the time to stay a night at the iconic eyesore- The Snow White Motel- a fixture roadside twixt Fanny Bay and Bowser, every unit named for a fairy tale dwarf, across from The Shady Lady Bar, and an oyster farm wharf.

Godfrey loved the long drive up island to our cabin nestled by Spider Lake. Before the widened highway lay waste to rural charms, was valley view and coastal towns, junkyards and dairy farms. He always tried to make me guess, how many folks would be fishing from a certain silver bridge. I never took his bet, something this day I still regret.

But I learned from Godfrey- that there was no point in “Hurry”. We passed the pet sanctuary of a renegade nun, Chemainus Bakery for doughnuts and cream bun, paused at low tide, and outside Sunbeam Bread for the smell, but never did we linger at The Snow White Motel.

Wind blown rubbish, faded screen door, greasy spoon cafe old, but oddly well kept. Great large sign a painted pie on the roof, always an old chap in the third booth slept. Once owned by” Dot” who moved on in 1973, this roadside diner was a magnet for Godfrey.

Orders were shouted through a hole in the wall, smell of fried onions and chip fat pervaded all. It is sad to drive by now- “Dot’s” is gone, replaced by an ugly shopping mall.

The toilets were turquoise at The Snow White Motel- we never stopped, it is what the legends tell.

Twas Ralph’s life’s dream, in blue and brown glass, built a castle did he, from bottles tossed from cars as they passed. Beets and antique stands filled Godfrey with quiet dread, but he cheered up immensely when Ralphs’ Glass Castle loomed ahead. It was barely a castle, and a complete waste of time but we always stopped to use the loo and chat and a tour with dungeon included was only a dime..lost sadly to time, even to me, I now longer recall where The Glass Castle stood when I now make the journey.

He was an odd young man, our Godfrey, and when on a long hill a hearse passed us he asked me, every politely, for good luck could we stop, so he could spit three times behind a fir tree.

Was barely a mile past The Snow White Motel, on a bad sloping curve, straitened now on the right, but long ago many wept when a beer truck flipped one winter night, and drowned old Verne Van Horne, in pumpkin ale in his bed as Verne slept.

Godfrey writes- “I recall the tiny villages lined along the sea, “Jinglepot Road” always good for a laugh, and the high wooden fence round the Doukobor Colony. we passed foreboding slag heaps, from coal mining days that reminded me of Wales long ago, but Worzel would not stop at The Snow White Motel, the slag heaps or any place passing through Nanaimo.”

When last we saw The Snow White Motel, the door to “Sneezy” was ajar, and a lone chamber maid pushed her cart of towels and bleach, down the walk as we passed in the car. We never stopped at The Snow White Motel, it was years after Godfrey was gone, that I noticed, so to was the tawdry old motel, now a fancy new inn, no more headless garden gnomes, no more plastic flamingos in the dried up, brown lawn…

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.

WITH ROGER ON THE GOOD ROAD- From Worzel

Here is a story, came in the post. I love these random letters, from people influenced by others influenced by those who met up with Godfrey.

“I was there, she wrote, that two weeks in Arthur’s Pass Youth Hostel when heavy rain washed out rail and road. I am the girl from Texas who found beer in a cupboard the 5th day of rain. Godfrey had been left in charge, an odd young man who kept the wood fire burning, and wrote these words in the hostel comment book. “daw haul Ar Fryn”- “Comes The sun To the Hill”, translated from the Welsh, it means- “It will get better”. 

I asked Godfrey, who spoke only in rhyme, and barely above a whisper for a Welsh swear word, he had honest eyes, behind the somewhat owlish glasses  worn since age five, and replied- “Cer i grafu, (Go and scratch).

My companion, Roger and Godfrey sat up late each night playing scrabble, from the vagabond, Roger learned there was nothing in life that could not be sung. Godfrey’s tuneless muttering as he went about hostel chores was his poetry. I remember, and always will, the pounding rain on sheet metal roof, the wind and fog swirling across the tussock grass. That time in Arthur’s Pass is now legend, as is Godfrey, but I was there, it is I made the awful pot of chili,  9th day of rain. 

Oh I am a poor rover from Valley Cleddau, I disliked beets then and do not like them now, but give me a kind horse, and reins of soft leather, then the wide Owen River at rains end, we shall cross together….such is what Godfrey sang as he cleaned the toilets. 

With Roger on The good Road- 

Was the good road with Roger, made it all worthwhile. From the hard, cold trek to Yahk. The long walk down Portage to a hitch-hiking spot, with shade enough to lean a heavy back pack.

Was the good road with Roger. To camp by the Owen River, blankets dew damp mornings, hands held to warm over the fire. Was the good road with Roger. In letters and laughter, in my memory forever. He collected words “RipRap””Rata””Ethelbert” and “Woollamaloo”. He wove them into stories and poetry as Godfrey inspired him to.

Time back then, truly did seem to wait, for this girl from Texas, and Roger, language scholar, son of an eastern city.

I will find that old and faded backpack, worn soft from sun and weather, take to that good road when I dream….Roger and I cross that wide Owen River together.

PRETTY LITTLE HOUSE-end of a dirt road- From Hawken

Worzel here, this odd winter, surly of storm and cold, I sleep away the dark days. Afternoon check of lottery numbers, lunch and a nap, some rubbish T.V. , and a session looking out the window, bustling today after week of fowl weather…I am ever grateful for the toilet that Godfrey repaired long ago, it gurgles and spews warm water, a pleasant spot these chilly days…

Time to tackle my morass of letters, stories from people who crossed paths with Godfrey, Alice’s dreaded packet, poetry and art related to beets, we still find offerings of beets at our shop door most Tuesdays. Our old building, “Tara” was renovated over the past two years, and re named “Le Chateau”, with fancy new lettering. It is when we last saw Hawken, young vagabond, a lad I called the son I forgot to have. Hawken stood in the gutter, battered hat shading his eyes, asking, “Why did they name it “The Cat’s Water”?….And in my heap of mail was this letter from him. 

Dearest of The Odds- Suppose you step on something rusty and die?, worried my dad. Old homesteads have wells with nettles and snakes, came this wisdom from Grandpa#3, third husband Verne my old gran has had. Mother was annoyed I left my suit and good shoes, down a low tract street for someone else to use. When last you saw me, I was bound for Albert’s Leap, and job in a small cheese factory.

Rather drew the place to me, as I understand oft did Godfrey. I turned cheese, wiped them with a towel, and turned them. 500 cheeses a day wipe and turn, in a dimly lit room of cheese and shelf, think of the money you can save I told myself, and whistled as I turned and wiped the cheese. And in my tent contented slept, and for once did not question why Albert leaped, for he must have turned cheese in his dreams.

Pretty Little House End of A Dirt road- Saw the sign and photo in the window of an office in town. I wiped and turned and with all I had put a payment down. This road so rough it has not been named, it’s a long hike out, I have that Appaloosa mare we talked about. Think I’ll let her just be, young, barely tamed….

Autumn- good time to kick about this old homestead, seeking clues in the old barns and soggy grass, of those who built it. Hand forged horse shoe I nailed above my door, mousey stack of”Family Herald”, from 1954, to the burn barrel up in flames, scratched on the hot water tank, must be a growth chart, Jack, Rose, George, Cynthia, faded names..

And I as over roof repairs paused to contemplate, came Pigface Roulade in his old truck to my gate. My pretty little house, end of a dirt road- observes my friend- “Will never be mistaken for gay Paree’. Pigface, with whom I wiped cheese reminded me.

But beauty is everywhere, in the old dry sheaf of prize  oats I found, tied with a blue ribbon  won by Jack, at Coombs Fall Fair the year I was born, in the buttery wodge of  dollar bills, hidden in a dented copper pan for popping corn.

Long un- mowed  the hay meadows chest deep on my pony, we follow the clear winding stream to far end of the property. Come summer I will tear out fallen fences, create for cows and horse open range, in the rusty barbed wire, I see something strange. They were threads of plaid wool…recall you once told me, threads of plaid wool is oft found, in the pathways of Godfrey.

Pretty little house end of a dirt road. Sheltered by the mountain I am told is called “Provider”. A humble cabin as befits a wayward cheese turner. Bobcat  tracks this morning in fresh snow, where she paused to drink at the stream. Wanted you all be first to know, all is well out here, at “Le Chateau”.

SPRAWL ON THE GRASS- a WISDOM

Worzel here,  He was an odd young man who disliked beets, a friend for 28 years, drifting in and out of my life, but never from my heart before choosing that overgrown fruit orchard back home in Wales, to continue on his way…

I wonder, this January morning, so long hence, what would Godfrey think of the “Whirled” as he called it, now?. Two thousand marched for peace and justice, marched bravely down Wharf street this day, we watched from our window, a decadent experience, redolent of our 70’s youths.

There passed rainbow flags, medi-chairs, all banners and flags, pets in strollers, (Feh, Godfrey would have wheezed). My kind husband, Garnet, reckoned with a squeeze of my shoulder, down there amid the stalwart, in spirit marches Godfrey…

In the park below our window, a hefty brown mutt, perhaps the great, great grand daughter of the dog Godfrey wrote of, pauses in her play, sprawled in the frozen grass, she watches as the marchers pass.

The deep cold now blessedly over, rare ice on the waterway has melted yet small stubborn patches still stick on stone, crusted shadow snow. I, dry and warm, sit and watch from my window. A thread of plaid wool remains of the sock, belonging to Godfrey we hung years ago, to remind folks below, doorbell broken, that we were in. I am feeling my age of late, yet remain assured the promise of spring.

“Souls adrift have always been drawn to harbors”..wrote Godfrey. Quiet the campers tenting in the park these winter nights. This morning the street dwellers played with their dogs, romped in defiance of order and by-law. I was reminded of a half wrote wisdom Godfrey left for to share, I found it on a bit of scrap paper, down deep in side my turquoise chair.

He wrote- “It was cusp of evening, brash ice had gone from the inlet verges, and low was the tide. Days work over, tedious the bus that I ride. And stopped were in traffic on Knockfollie’s Bridge, as habit I wiped off my window, looked out the side. A person, or more perhaps of minuscule mind, I don’t know, had thrown a shopping trolley, off of the bridge and down to the mud flats below.

Water and sky in what I call “Winterset” shades of platinum, orange and gray, and in its wild glory, a Great Blue Heron, had perched on the derelict shopping cart, looking south down the bay.

When troubling images I cannot avoid, and distant bells warn change or danger may near, I recall the beauty no one can take from me, the welcoming places Ive’ been, and know my words will never be silenced, nor will I cow down in fear.

To the Bampot Louts, who threw the cart out, on the mud flats to the park dwellers surviving in  snow, to you wearing fine shoes in the dim halls of power, may you understand what it means to be present …as the brown mutt who romps in sheer joy of living, and the Blue Heron, patient at Winterset, trusts  in the oceans giving.

Dry socks and coffee handed out from a van, round in circles the brown mutt ran, pursuing a stick her person had thrown away. She bowls over the lesser black lab who has joined her in play. I chuckle at the scene, wisdom only a street dog can know- “sprawl in the grass, fear not the bigot, the greedy, the arrogant, exalt in your freedom, remember the brown mutt, when you are weary -“Sprawl in the grass and pant”.

 

WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG- FROM Godfrey AND Worzel

Worzel here, When I was very young recall an empty, old tobacco tin filched from an uncle. It made a drum, and rattle for snake chasing, made tiered manure- mud cakes for baking pleasure, frog spawn in spring, wonderful tin for penny pirate treasure. If today, I walk a quiet country road,  a reminder of when very young, I still kick a stray tin along at my leisure…

Godfrey did not speak often of his very early years, most of the stories I have gleaned from Beatrice, or his sister Alice’s “Alice” versions. This is a rare work of Godfrey, set from age 4ish, to age 8 when his dad ran off.

When I was very young- It snowed heavily up our valley, in this vivid memory, we walked down to my grandparent’s cottage. They had gas for heat, and blankets piled deep for Alice, Ma and me. All about was dark and silent, but the crack of branches breaking off the trees as we made our way slow, snow above my churning knees. Snow was fun, when I was very young.

When I was very young- I got cow manure on the church pew from the long hem of my baggy kilt, dragged through puddles.Created a mess on the dress of Mrs Trimyn, who suggested to my sister Alice, I be paddled, and Alice complied before the end of the next hymn.

When I was very young- I found an ancient bicycle, buried in a field of hay, dad dragged it out, run over by the farmer it was bent, but dad hammered and tinkered, and fixed it up for me, then down the pub he traded for a painting, then again for a fat, gray pony. Out to the paddock every morning I’d run, when I was very young.

When I was very young- I was horrified of beets and terrified of The Pope, leery of the black dust mop, though I don’t know why, and most of the stories Alice told at bedtime made me cry. One day I found a chicken loose, lured the hen with crumbs inside, “We can have eggs, and feathers, I told Ma with pride, and build a coop”. Next day no pet, but all week a great pot of chicken soup…

When I was very young- Riding a city bus was was the biggest adventure, to visit aunts and uncles who had toilets down the hall. Indoor loos that flushed with a roar at pull of chain. “Alice said, “A Bog Troll is on the end of that chain, to catch nasty little boys and yank them down the drain”. In dread, I weed in the pansies of my aunties front garden, earning me a slap on the head”.

When I was very young- I trod to school with wet sweater cuffs, and old wool coat that tickled my chin, and never once passed teacher’s cleanliness inspection. By the coal stove she made me sit, with Abner Mulgrew. Now I realize Miss was being kind, as Abner was always wet and cold to.

When I was very young- Summer lasted longer, Father Christmas smelled familiar of cigarette and swore when she tripped on the dog’s paw. Hills were for rolling down the other side, I cheeked the odd looking old men, who wore Tams, and the bicycles they’d ride.

When I was very young- My sister threw a beet at me, it missed and Ma’s Barometer was knocked from the wall, the shards clipped an oil portrait of an ancient piper, shattering the front window pane. The beet hit nasty Uncle Lou, coming up the walk, it left a stain.

When I was very young- “Beets and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you”..Ma would oft repeat when I came home bruised, picking beet pulp out of my hair. Too young to fully grasp her meaning, I sought solace in the company of words time and again. Sought the company of words and rhyme, when I was very young..