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.

WHEN FIRST I BIT A LAMINGTON- From Godfrey

Worzel here, indeed, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, but oh how Godfrey loved cakes and pastries. Over the years, when it rained, or was Sunday, we baked our way through my “Purity”, and his beloved “Edmond’s” cookbooks. But we never conquered the Lamington, just never quite got it right…Godfrey’s Australian travels fill many journals, many too time worn to decipher…I will try with this favorite.

When only a lad, long ago, I remember lived nearby a fellow my Grandmother knew. He had an odd accent, this chap he loved to sing, and laugh in the pub where Grandma drank, sang late at night after he had had a few.

I oft lay awake as he went clomping home, past our house belting out every word. He sang with a longing I felt even back then, and “Waltzing Matilda” was the loveliest song I’d ever heard.

Indeed, it is true, I abhor the beet root, and all things beet related, rendered or grown. From Ma’s iron paw, beets, bullies and school, I’d escape knees up running down the High street to drool. Pressing my face to the bakeshop window case, my innocent, waifish charm often earned me a biscuit that had fallen on the floor, but more often a swat and a shoo with a broom from the door…

Mrs Kromplak, my teacher kept a flask in her desk, she had dab aim with thrown chalk, but as I grew older, Miss and I would look through the Atlas, look through dodgy old text books about Australia and talk. So distant from Wales, as if in dream, so bonny and wild, Australia fair, perhaps beets were unheard of there?

Mrs Kromplak retired, Australia bound!, Oh the beer, the Wombat, her family history, great giant red rock, gone was Miss across the ocean, wrote to me of her first Lamington.

In parting, Mrs Kromplak, she gave me a journal, red leather stitching, bound by hand. Save I did, every coin I made from my roadside manure stand, but in truth, a major amount of my manure money, I spent on sweets down at the bakery.

Oh, but when first I bit a Lamington…was outside the tearooms in Katoomba, bit a Lamington, was on a stone wall I sat, looking down the blue canyon. The tender outer coconut, chocolate adhered to the finest sweet sponge, wrapped in a dream squelch of freshest cream. I had a whole tray my first day, no longer thought of beets, or home in Wales far away.

When first I bit a Lamington…hitched from the big city, to a job in the country, a Tiger Snake in Mildura chased me high up a fruit tree. I did not worry, thought of tea and a Lamington waiting in town, until the snake was dispatched, and I clambered safely down.

When first I bit a Lamington, many happy miles I peddled my pink push-bike, dodging the odd tinny, or juice carton aimed at my head from passing ute. Cheek of Emu while camping, thump of wombat outside my tent at night. The Southern Cross in that warm woven blanket of starlight.  Country roads, undulating between the little towns, I passed farms with names, “Coldstream”, “Dunwhinging”, “Schitt’s Creek”, and the rather rustic, debris strewn, scenic “Panty Downs”.

But when first I bit a Lamington, it was farewell Ma’s shortbread, so long Neenish Tart, good to know you Spotted Dick, it was fun, you remain in my heart, Pavlova and Cream Bun, for Godfrey has been seduced by the Lamington.

At a Malacoota Burger Bar, burger large and slovenly, aroma muttoney, onions, pineapple ring, fried egg, great heap of slaw, saw a vague hint of beetroot, disguised by piccalilli, being suffocated tenderly by thick tomato sauce. A passing gull gulped the beets I threw, grateful for the scran, I was tossed by wind and sun, safonsified by a burger, and of course a Lamington.

And when asked, how’d  you like her? (I was asked frequently) said I, since a lad I have wished to explore your country. Long ago, a lonely for home, singing larrikin inspired me, to seek that wide, green river, ride the sandy pathways of “Clancy”. To dip my kilt hem in the Indian Ocean, misspend my youth with balladry and a Lamington.

Serendipitous discovery, included for me both bush and bakery, when first I bit a Lamington.   I watched Cricket, played Toilet Seat Ping Pong, was escorted from the Sydney Opera House stage, the ushers did not like my song. In the dust of the station yards, got personal with what I later learned was called a “Dagg,” accidently was wormed twice, nearly dipped for lice. All was forgotten, when sunset at end of day,  that first journey I’d gladly do again…back when first, I bit a Lamington.

 

NEW SHOES FOR ADELAIDE / UNAFRAID- From Beatrice and Godfrey

Beatrice here, I suppose I must be the “Serious” part of Godfrey’s saga, I who have taken in Adelaide, The Chambermaid and her Larrikin partner, Benny, and yes, their beloved old plaid steamer trunk. It is the 4th year since Godfrey’s passing, Adelaide spends most of her time, when not down the market, cleaning. I have forbidden her throwing anything out, or touching the framed photo of a photo of a painting – a youthful Godfrey, on horseback, hanging above my hearth. In tattered wrapping, it came in the post, from Australia, long ago, not even Godfrey knew who sent it….a missing piece of his early years away. I had dreaded Godfrey’s prank happy sister, Alice, meeting up with the odd Benny and Adelaide, they did, however, and found each other delightful…Alice sold Adelaide her new red shoes.  

“I wear important shoes, I do, they clack on wet, clean floors of the cafe’, so special they ensure me the table by the window, it won’t be wobbly, or sticky, or drafty from the doors, my tea and bun will be hotter than yours”  “The sales girl, Alice promised to sell me shoes of splendor, ” A Pommegranite shade of leather, soft as a meeting of three wallabies, resting in the shade together”  “Hello, Forever! Time will never wear away the thick, and sturdy laces I choose, for my new red shoes.

Adelaide- sang as she worked, sang of her shoes in a voice so far off key as to be a key unknown. When not down the market, she insisted on cleaning up my old puce house they have made home. As I feared, she revived my dead plant, she obliterated cob-webs, old friends disappeared. Benny and I built a “Sleepout” for the two, a humble hut twixt chicken coop and pathway to the outdoor loo. They painted it yellow, first dry day of spring, dragged their plaid trunk out from neath my canoe, I no longer knee-capped my self on the thing.

I was writing today…Adelaide came in, this canty, old survivor, bowlegged with joy, no longer so annoying to me, came to show off her new shoes, and to ask, “Who indeed was Godfrey?…(She had never shown slightest interest before).   Feather duster in hand, she had torn up for rags, a shirt I had kept that Godfrey wore. I was learning as the years passed, to let go of dead plants and ragged shirts, but it came slow. “He was an odd little boy who disliked beets, grew into an odd young man, who still disliked beets, a vagabond like you and Benny, he made the great transition in 1985, neath my pear tree, Worzel and I are keepers of his story” “Well, spoke Adelaide, down the market as as you know, we oft scrounge old books from the jumble stall barrow, haul them home in our wagon, (though the way is fair steep), we are building a bed of books on for to sleep” “Today I found this very old, hand bound diary  in the heap”. “Journal on The Road to Dover”- by Godfrey”

Adelaide held out the leather bound book to me. Gobsmacked, I sat back, indeed it was his first, part of the missing years spent a wander, seeking wisdom, over the sea to Australia. “Said Adelaide, Worzel had my trunk in her window display, we were meant to locate it as we were this ratty book in the bargain bin today”. “If I did not have my new red shoes to wear, I would not have been, down to show them off in the market square”,. “Full circle works in odd ways yes, thank you Adelaide, and I opened  Godfrey’s journal, browned with age.

Unafraid- By Godfrey-       “I never knew Borscht, Godfrey wrote. thought I’d seen the last of beets when I left my valley home. I’ve a world to explore, a long, ocean crossing to be made, so I say, trust in life, face bowls of Borscht and beets unafraid. Unafraid- of the sea it is not in my destiny to drown. Unafraid- I have nothing to tempt thieves  should I stray to a lugubrious part of town. Unafraid- what is in the dark is also present in the open light of day. Unafraid- of  nasty things I’m sure to meet- let the beet grow where it may.  Unafraid- of caves, cable swing bridges, moths, pinchy bits of seaweed that tickle my behind, I ruck my kilt to the wind- Unafraid, that it be torn asunder, for I am not ashamed of what lies under”

Unafraid…a very early work of Godfrey, written as a shivering 16 year old, his first night on the road, somewhere south of Tharn. “I slept under a tractor in a hay barn, he wrote, a long nights wisdom, one of many I discovered early on..   And the future is yet another story… thank you from Beatrice. .

HE PLAYED “ERES ALTA” FOR ME-From Worzel

I was riding on the city bus, third year since Godfrey’s passing…the compiling of his story filled some of the space he left, not all. Those who wrote with poetry, or tales of meeting up with him, reminded me of his boundless joy in Serendipitous discovery.

The bus was not too crowded, yet it smelled of socks and seemed to hit each pothole as it crawled , scraped the sidewalk.  Two robed women, wearing head covering got on, sitting speaking quietly together. People around them began to sneer and talk, loud words of anger, ignorance and fear.”Send em back where they came, we only speak English round here”.

Atmosphere rancid, waiting at a long red light, I joined the voices raised in defense of the girls, fearing a fight.     A young man sat alone across the bus aisle- clean yet patched trousers, shirt baggy and faded, knapsack of apples and books by his side. There was something familiar in his shy, sideways smile, he began picking out notes on a scratched, blue guitar, he was good, very good, the harsh tension round us calmed, he played “Eres Alta” softly as the bus moved along.

I sat, gob-smacked, for this had been Godfrey’s favorite song.  People piled on, the lad quickly exited before I could to, and was gone.

Our old apartment building home-( my Garnet called it “Tara”) The doorbell is located down four flights of stairs, yet rings in every flat.  My husbands idea was to hang something out the front  window indicating that we were home, so we do, Godfrey’s old, spare wooly hat.

Landlady, Mrs Feerce has a paramour who sings neath her window night and day, Dagmar the hoarder peeped from his doorway, outside 204 reeked of cat, there was often religious pamphlets strewn about, the day after my encounter on the bus, all was normal in “Tara” as once again, I headed out.

Stepping past some rubbish, through the fug of Beefaroni, at the door he stood, contemplating that drat bell, the boy from the bus who played his guitar so well. Bowlegged, I stood, all I thought of to say was,  “Who may you be? “Who taught you that old song you played to quell the troubles on that nasty bus yesterday”?

Laughed then, nearly till I cried, for here was The Vagabond Hawken, who’s dream was of a life lived outside.

Guitar, books, apples, he gathered it all, he was amused by Mrs Feerce’s ineptly spelled signs in the hall. Sneck of lock from our hoarder neighbor’s door, we could hear a pile of debris fall in there, I told Hawken, “welcome, do sit in my old turquoise chair”. Over coffee, very strong, he told me his story, of meeting up with Godfrey, who indeed had taught him the old song.

“I knew him briefly, no more than a day, but gave me this address should I journey this way, said to seek the luggage shop, main street west of downtown, look for the old wooly hat hanging down”

“Godfrey learned “Eres Alta”, he told me, long ago, from a friend, Larry, “The Free Advice Wino”.  “It soothes all situations tense, a good diversion, advised Larry, “Play the gentle Weaver’s version”.

Since Godfrey fixed the tap in our loo the hot ran cold, and the cold water for the bath was hot, as was our toilet. Our tub claw footed, dented and old, was luxury to me, above it hung Godfrey’s old painting of Sir Francis Drake at sea.

Garnet had his study as a private lair, I had the corner window, looking over the harbor, and my turquoise chair….Hawken made himself at home,     ” I said, my stepmother found the chair by the road, in a ditch on the prairie, he said, “I have learned I love to write, but not yet poetry, something of this chair reminds me to, of home, the big skies and the things I have seen, indeed this chair is inspiring”.

Hawken and Garnet shared books, and love of horses, talked late into the night of whirled peas, and some deep philosophy. He and I became good friends,he was a seeker as Godfrey had been,  we walked arm in arm about the city,and I showed him my worry stone,our favorite bakery, he sought passage to Australia, with restless intensity.

Before Hawken sailed, early the next year, I made him call his parents, and play “Eres Alta” once more for me….”It was a cold spring morning  when moon cradled moon, we bid farewell to Hawken, who promised to write soon. Walked home together, back to “Tara”, passed under the ladder, upon which Mrs Feerce’s paramour climbed to croon, retreated to my chair, Garnet to the quiet of his stamps across the oddly empty living room.

He writes, as he said he would, works at a Bat Sanctuary, and up the Tully River he trains as a Rafting Guide. Writes with humor of the beets in Aussie food. Hawken writes bush ballads, and the joy he has found in poetry, “Says it is the free life outside, and help from that old turquoise chair that continues to delight and inspire me”.

“The joy of Serendipitous Discovery”..

REMEMBER MISS HAGTHORN, FROM THARN- By Godfrey

Worzel writes, We shared a laugh at the bus stop, Godfrey and I, a pack of private school girls had been ejected from the city bus- an issue with their raccous singing..Oh, to be thirteen, 8th grade, I told this story to him as we strolled. ” My stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat, removed the backseat of our battered car, lined it with straw and used it to transport my brother Inkerman’s two calves. “How very kind, Godfrey replied.”  Well, she also chose to pick me up at school with the calves in the car, pulled right up to the front entrance, smiling and waving like The Queen Mum, my social outcast-ness sealed by the head of Inkerman popping up, yelling, “Dibs on the front seat, Pretzel, you gotta sit with the calves”    I endured the laughter, and mooing in the halls four more years..Besides beets, what horrors did you endure in Wales at thirteen? 

 ” Feh, he began, by thirteen Beatrice and I were less shy, a bit of a cheeky pair, still bullied by beets every day of our lives, then Beatrice’s gym teacher was felled by Post Quender’s Hives.  I was writing poetry each day, writing by candle neath my covers at night, writing on unpaid bills Ma left lying around, on the scrolls of fibrous loo roll in the gent’s that I found. My old, special teacher, Mrs Kromplak , off on holiday sent me my first real journal as a gift from Australia. Hand bound,Mrs Kromplak wrote of the pubs she had been all the Koalas and Wombats she had seen, dusty, friendly little towns, all the rich, abundant cakes and ice-cream.

Meanwhile as I wrote and dreamed, Beatrice endured gym class where Miss Hagthorn from Tharn did shout and scream.  Miss wore her whistle round the clock, and an ill-fitting gym slip that scritched when she walked. She did nothing in class but yell at Beatrice – “hurry on and climb that rope!’   She kicked anyone out who answered back or spoke, of course Beatrice fell from the rope with a thud, knocking over Betsy Oatley as she landed, there was blood. Both were taken to Miss Commorford, the spitting nurse, sadly for of us later in the day it got worse.

..Maths teacher, Mr Gates was the next one scathed by the dreaded Quenders. Miss Hagthorn from Tharn stomped in as a substitute to class, whistle round her several necks, face cheerful as a slapped ass. Beatrice at her desk, as always by my side, held a large text book up behind which to hide.  Said, “While you composed verse, the spitting nurse, touched my tongue that I bit  when I fell ” Then asked if all at home were well, like I could even talk”  Past my head whizzed a whole piece of chalk, hurled with force by Miss Hagthorn from Tharn,  just missing me, “I warned Beatrice, I feel she dislikes poetry”.

“Don’t attract her attention, do not giggle or look, pretend to be absorbed in that tatty maths book” “Oh I hear her cleated feet and gym-slip way far down the hall, she is subtle as a coal tram hitting the mine wall. “Could there be a cheese, bottom of that mannish purse? “Miss Hagthorn from Tharn is as lovely as a hearse”    “Ask if you may borrow, her important shoes”   Godfrey passed this poem to Beatrice in an effort to cheer her and amuse…”Said Godfrey, I truly though Miss was facing the other way, when I passed my poem to Beatrice and was caught out right this silly day”

“Sing a song of cranky teacher, standing on a hardwood bleacher, ordering Godfrey up and down, a poet picking up rubbish with a stick, in the snow, until late, on the school ground.”    Oh no, I drooled said Beatrice, ” Miss Hagthorn, please don’t make me explain Godfrey , with this wad of cotton-wool where I bit my tongue”   We cried till we laughed afterwards, he and I, such a cheeky pair back then, long ago when he and I were young.

  In the compiling of Godfrey’s story, Beatrice reports, ” I have never needed to climb a rope, ever in my life”   The legend states that Godfrey wrote “You Remind Me of Haggis”- at sixteen, no, he gave me his signature poem at that age. “he wrote it at thirteen, but that is a whole other story. Indeed I remember Miss Hagthorn from Tharn.

THINGS THAT WARM YOU TWICE- From Godfrey and Worzel

When first I knew Godfrey, we were both young, he was all ready fearless, (But for beets, moths and high places) from years on the road. I had not yet found my way.

It is October, best time of the year for such a journey, Godfrey writes. The crops are in from the fields we must cross. I grip the fine wooden paddle she hands me, and the back end of her red canoe, Worzel and I set off beyond the slough.There are many things that warm you twice, like having breakfast out, and stacking firewood you cut and chop. Smell of coffee, plop of porridge cooking, warm wild honey drizzled on it from a spoon.

There is something special in an autumn prairie afternoon on the edge of freeze-up. It takes me back to Valley River and that little red canoe. Wearing wooly bloomers under kilt, borrowed mitts, (I can never keep a pair) Wearing my warm dragon hat Ma knitted long ago. I shall not romanticize the slough, as many poets do.

The bank was grassy, steep and muddy, stubble frosty crunched neath gumboots chilly as we carried our canoe through. It smelled of scorched grain , there were geese overhead in a skein, heading south in good time as I would head to..but not yet. Mist oer the river, clouds scuzzing boldly low. Last paddle Worzel reckons, before the first snow.

I kneel in reverence to the river in the bow. She steers out to the deep bit where the blue water pooled, the sweat I have worked up now cooled.Fall wind fools with us as it plays in and out of the shade along the water’s course. At Ginick’s Bend pass open farm land, pass the Tarzan Swing and a small bar of clean, pure white sand.

Worzel Writes Now- I could paddle to forever, softly speaks Godfrey. Said I, warmed twice by his thoughts, I must agree. When I am old. when we meet again on the other side, I hope to have a canoe or horse with me.

Things that warm you twice, hand written letters, received from far away, we had our own odd code- stamp slanted up means happy, all okay, stamp slants down, wet and cold, wish you were here today, stamp stuck straight, only his Ma wrote that way, Alice refused to use a stamp if she had to pay, stamp upside down meant Godfrey was Australia bound.

Things that warm you twice. Hauling out from the river to a gravel back road, hitching a truck ride home early evening with our load. He had unwavering faith someone nice would come along, “patience said Godfrey, vital requirement for the humble vagabond”

Things that warm you twice..a deep hot bath with lots of fragrant rose foam. A big mug of tea, Godfrey sits on his own, pen in hand by the window. “I am thinking of Wales, he says, look out, it is starting to snow, and it was to.

“When I was a lad I would run about outside until chilled well through and through. Dodging Ma”s whack in the head, burrow deep in my bed watch the fire burn low. I could never stay awake for the first snowflake out the window. In the cold, silent morning, smell of bacon and toast would waft up the stairs to me, warms me twice that boyhood memory..warmed me twice, made me laugh, all his life did the vagabond Godfrey.