ANATIDAEPHOBIA- From Alice

This is the story of my friend, the Vagabond Godfrey, and how he lived and loved many years ago. He was Welsh, with a sister, Alice six years his elder. Alice wrote her brother every three years on her birthday. “I was too young to remember Alice painting me blue”, but do recall the shouting when she hung me, by my nappy out the window so we could watch the stars”, Godfrey reflected.  

Singer, shoe sales lady, curmudgeon, nuisance, I was warned before meeting Alice never use the words “Love”, “Herring”, or “Athourity” in her presence. We always met at “Little Chef”, a service cafe from which Alice had never been barred. The old character sat down across from me, shale blue eyes looked off far away, the diner went silent, she hiked up her kilt, scratched her knee in a mildly itchy kneed way…

Her book, “Alice- A Life in Praise Of Myself”,was dreadful , and she was proud to share with me her wodge of rejection letters, and thoughts jotted down that morning. Here is Alice- being Alice. 

The morning sun a voyeuer through my blind a bottle of cod liver oil did find. Gold and amber a prism it made, how pretty I thought as I rose and yanked down the shade.

I do not let things bother me, the trivial bits, the piffle I say, I say “Feh” to the snow in the streets, use my stick to prod all who get in my way. The sticky faced tot, clutching a bun, stares over the booth at the lone curmudgeon. Though some of my ilk, (we grow fewer by day) would snarl at the child to scare it away, I merely drool back over my tea, till the wee one gives up and runs back to his mummy.

Nudge Giggleswick, of some intellect, feared scary films like “I Was A Teenage Insect”. Why do we go then, I asked of him?. At the matinee’ quiet and dim, saw a picture with killer bees loose from a hive, and hyenas eating a gnu…because said Nudge, we can laugh at such nonsense, as not much bothers you.

Summers eve I take my step father, Arthur, out in his chair for a roll around the park.  We take a bag of crumbs for the mallard drake, in the pond of which Arthur is most fond. Oft out of the blue, “Anatidaephobia” Arthur shouts, when we pass an odd person at lurk in the grass where we pass…

Arthur is very old, he mutters as I strain, to push  him up the hill to the duck pond- Anatidaephobia! Arthur barks loudly again. Are you concerned about that fellow?, I set the brakes on his chair, ducks are coming down the path ahead, waddling in joy for their handout of bread. “Anatidaephobia”! the odd chap from the grass cries out, racing by knees up on a hoon. When I got Arthur home to lie down, I almost regretted my pranking had me barred from the only library in town.

For little bothers me, except not knowing everything, like what in the whirled is “Anatidaephobia” not even Nudge or Ma knew. Next day, out walking with Arthur both in jolly mood, singing old war songs, bawdy and rude. On the hill to the duck pond, part way to the top, came chuffing and panting, stout Brian- The Town Cop.

“Alice!, he huffed, you are going down, last warning this is for your singing lewd war songs in town”!. Oh Brian, oh Brian, what a learned young man, I love to sing loudly because I can. Before a crowd gathers, creating a scene, do tell me constable, what dos “Anatidaephobia” mean?.

Well Brian, he patted his bullet proof vest, eyed where I stood brave and bold, stood high on a picnic table used as a stage, Arthur laughing in his old age- “To Skibereen said Brian you are bound for a cell, but before we go, Alice- yes I will tell. Oft in my career with the law this has come up as an issue- “Anatidaephobia’- means fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is staring at you.

Wrote Alice- very few things bother me, not beets or badgers or rubbish on telly. Not naughty films of actors unclad, or getting arrested for singing in the park with my stepdad. But I do notice ducks more now, wild by the sea, duck dinner on a cafe ‘menu, ducks flying by in a vee. When out and about with my stick oft I wonder, if somewhere, somehow a duck is staring at me….

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SUSPICIOUS MOLES- And other stories of Fog- Worzel and Friends

I came upon a diary of Godfrey’s wholey devoted to stories of fog. He did love a thick fog, fogged up bus windows were for random poetry, ground mist in a lowland pumpkin patch, foggy mornings in the city he would drag me out walking…

We sought “things in the fog”, the thrum of a wakening uptown, pie scented steam from the bakeshop mingling in air as the baker steps out in the alley, shift workers peering into the gloom for emerging buses, I once found a twenty dollar note in a rose bush, Godfrey swore roses smelled better in fog.   

Inspired thus, I asked Beatrice, Hawken and Alice to share their stories of fog. Adelaide, Benny, and Alice’s partner “Nudge” Giggleswick also chimed in. I included a fog story of my own- welcome the fog…

Fog- from Beatrice-   Godfrey and I were six when we met over beets on a tray. Mingled with coal smoke the fog in Wales where we lived oft hung low the whole all day. Godfrey believed there dwelt things in the fog, we walked to school and home together, that swish in the grass became to Godfrey- “A dragons tail roadside in the heather lurking, distant ring of a hammer in fog, trolls in a mine were working.

 

Fairies we knew, drank only from bluebells of foggy dew,and that signpost end of the street in fog, was a spooky old man in a hat, waiting to jump out and scare you. We knew in summer when fog burned away, came promise of a good, warm day, we roamed the beach from end to end- till evening mist filled bay and hills again.

We’d hurry our ponies home at a jog, for Godfrey believed there were things in the fog….

Benny and Adelaide wish to share-In fog we have hidden from police and justice, seeking sausage thieves, they have blundered past us. We love the fog for many a reason, and welcome it in any season.

George Street Fiddler- from Hawken- I once met a fair maiden down east, she was a George Street fiddler. Summer cool and foggy in the old harbor city, I wished time to get to know her.

I told her my story, down George Street we sat, I with knapsack, she fiddle and bow…told me her first love was bittersweet, not all that long ago. “Was a hockey player, had the scar on his chin, folks back in that prairie town knew he would skate to glory, and he did till a bad game, left him in deep pain, told at twenty four, “son you will not play ever again”.

She was a George Street fiddler in old St John- I a mere vagabond. But you asked of fog?, and Cape Spear the furthest point east I could go. Watched it roll in from The Grand Banks, to the lighthouse where I camped below.

Autumn back on George Street the haunting airs of the fiddle made it no chore to find her. Over coffee I asked, “What became of your bold hockey player”?. She said over a long year healing, he took up the fiddle encouraged by me. He went home, to the farm and town on the prairie, and  plays the fiddle, plays it well, at dances in town and festival. Rivers meet in Winnipeg’s city square, seek The Forks, oft he fiddles down there.

Settled I am now in Comox Valley, my horses snorted and stamped this morning, I being up late- they were hungry. Breath formed fog, and I noticed the coats of mare and colt getting shaggy. Warm coats the sign of impending winter, a reminder to write that George Street  Fiddler, invite her if she pleases journey way cross the country, to the fiddle festival happening next summer.

I hope she will reply with fiddle tune, we shall hope for fog, and full harvest moon, dance cross the fog neath harvest moon.

The Fog- From Alice- A life in Praise of Myself-  

The “Fog” it was a manky old club bar we played in the days of “The Uncle Lou Band”. Near London,   there was always a drunk got threw out the door, onto the Tillbury Docks when they got out of hand. Between songs I’d take a break most nights, while barkeeps cleaned up after the fights. I’d gulp fresh air and watch the lights of the Fish and Chip Shop across the street. Watch folks hurry home with paper wrapped dinner with perhaps battered sausage and mushy peas. The fish shop would be closed when we left “The Fog”- but the nasty old pub lives on, lives on in my curmudgeon memories.

Suspicious Moles- from Nudge Giggleswick-  When fog coated our Welsh village in gray, oozed Slibber Sauce like, cold colored  CullenSkink, moist as Walrus fur, I recall a warning from Dr Uren, “Beware of suspicious moles”, he warned our mother.

At night when I lay abed, dozing to the clink of whiskey glass, muttering of aunties, uncles guffaw…”Dr Uren told me,” watch for suspicious moles”, over all the other racket shrilled our Ma.

When we played in the forest, I avoided stream bank, fallen log, sandy soil where a mole may burrow. Not trusting the mole I may meet in dim light of fog. “Beware of suspicious moles, I told my teacher. “Oh Miss, I suspect a mole has run under the coal hod.” All I earned was a slap on the head, and a note home- Please see Dr Uren about Nudge, Mrs Giggleswick, he is odd”.

When fog obscures the outhouse, such a long, cold walk down the track. Drips when finally you get to sit, drips down your back. Things may there well be in the fog, ghosties and trolls, but I take advice from wise Dr Uren- “Beware Of Suspicious Moles”.

Hitchhiking in fog with our Mother- From Worzel  –  I’ve kept this one inside me. (Vital to keep a story of your own- wrote Godfrey) But it is time for sharing, so after years I will, recalling my mother, legendary “Three Mile Lil”.

It was before brother Cudberth was born. We set out Ma, Inkerman, Fillipendula and I. Large rumbling trucks passed us close in the fog, so thick we could not see the east bound freight train pass to, just the whistle moan, I held tight to my brother’s hand, in the warm coat Fillipendula had outgrown.

But my feet were chilled in gumboots, with newspaper stuffed deep down, I was five years old, on the Al-Sask  border in soup thick fog we hitchhiked to town. For me it seemed forever between lifts and stops, till we finally reached the warmth of the bright, noisy shops.

Out of the mist, like wayward ships, to the hotel cafe’s safe harbor, Lil treated us all to hot gravy on chips.  She sat with coffee and smoke as we ate, sneaking a bit now and then off my plate, a rancher two booths down paid our bill, well known character in those parts, I learned years later was my mother- “Three Mile Lil”.

CREATING A NUISANCE- From Alice

From “Alice; A life In Praise Of myself”-  

Godfrey’s eccentric sister Alice, had been hard at work with her dreadful writing judging by the thick packet she presented to me upon leaving Wales. Home now to my turquoise chair, after tea and good look out the window, I was ready for Alice. Alice writes, “here enjoy to your delight the completed introduction to my book”. Between selling shoes and writing, I have had little time to prank, town folk look at me oddly as I hurry by, suspicious lot…I hope no one suspects that I have matured.”Indeed, Alice had not.  

Creating a Nuisance- Ma and I never worried about losing Godfrey when he was small, and we went to the shops. He was easily found drooling on the bakeshop window, and I could collect my brother before someone shooed him away with a mop. I told him raisins were bug-guts, told him the coconut cakes he loved were made of lamb daggs. Thus I had a pile of raisins picked from his scone- and lovely cakes to, here is a favorite bedtime story- I was studying Australia in school, and was rapt by their colorful idioms.

Rattle Your Daggs To Lamington Fair- Your tail still long, legs stubby but strong, said old ewe to lamb when they met at the billabong. Run, run wee lambkin, run  and hide, before the black wagon comes and you are thrown inside! trust not the sheep dog, in the grass she will crouch, then it’s off to the market at Clapper De Pouch.

Not Clapper De Pouch!   the lamb did shake, where innocent sheep folk are promised cake, lemonade, and Cracker Jack, where good sheep go and never come back. There are rumors of woolies for chilly feet, and greasy chops for the posh to eat, and innards cleaned then set aside with onions for the Haggis fried. “I don’t want to be a Haggis”, the poor lamb cried.

Said ewe to lamb, now now, be calm, escape to the east beyond the farm, over   distant Tor through the Blue Woods rare, will lead you safely to Lamington Fair. Where the water troughs are not slimy or green, and free sheep gamboll on the common clean, no human ever be cruel or unkind, and when sheep dance they rattle their daggs behind, all free sheep dance, rattling daggs behind.

I oft threatened Godfrey with the dreaded “Clapper De Pouch”

The Prankster In Autumn-    There is something in October puts the prankster in a mood. ..Beyond my garden over grown and wild, enjoy the cacophony  of someone screaming at her child. Curmudgeon sanctuary, enter at thy doom, trap door for the unwary, welcome to my room.

Stacked tins of lonely soup, placed in precise rings, set before a desk top fan, dry my dainty under things. I enjoy the golden days of fall, collection of sharpened sticks hang along one wall. No art work or living plant for me, no tatty knick- knacks on the shelf, just my window over the moat, framed photos of myself.

The prankster in October- purloined from the bank a money bag, strolled to the park with glee, with simple system of fishing lines tied it to a tree. I sat on a bench so innocent, threw bag into the duck pond, sat and watched the greedy, wade in duck mess to retrieve it.

The money bag it stayed afloat, as the silly thrashed about, without webbed feet or boat. Pursuing a sack filled with rubbish, not money, with ice-cream and stick, I found it l terribly funny. And before my causing an angry mob, along came the town cop-“doing his job”. Portly Brian, crisp uniform wearing, knew well that nothing in the world upsets me..but herring.

Now, who ever heard of police bearing herring? Brian needed not threat or weaponry, stood holding up that dreaded fish, as I untied the bank bag from it’s golden tree. There is something in October puts the prankster in a mood- stay up late, nap by day- curmudgeon attitude.

Creating A Nuisance- “I was conceived neath a rowboat, in Wales have achieved status of legend, and as an incorigable nuisance am oft mentioned”.  The quality prank is an art form, cleverly cultivated, “Harm no one in Prank well Created”. I allow myself to be swung cross dance floors, knowing my oversize drawers will go flying free, to land in the lap or dinner plate, of one who looks askance at the likes of me’.

A curmudgeon is oft judged in church, or corridors of polite society, I have no need for cute stories of tots, cats do not interest me, only my own company”. My brother was son of a son of a silvery fish, bright as sun on calm sea, he disliked beets, was born that way, and Godfrey believed every sisterly thing I would say. The only time we ever whined is when herring and beets were combined.

I used Godfrey for a door stop, when sweeping out our cottage with a broom, I stuffed him nappy end down, in the piano that filled our sitting room. When I told him the Vicar hid God’s treasures in the chimney, up he climbed. Godfrey slid down head first, before I could grab him, wound up near the front pew of the church.

Trailing soot and ash, he took off at a dash, bawling for home via the cemetery, upsetting our first funeral  of many- elders set down the box of old Lloyd Brown to chase after my brother Godfrey.

“Created A Nuisance”- we read printed bold in The Newsletter of the Parish- from Sunday school, to my joy they dismissed us, I received a lecture, and Godfrey only beets in our hamper for the needy that Christmas.

Allergic To Work-  Willing companion “Nudge”, forged for me a note of fudge. “Please excuse Alice from work today at the shoe shop”. “Alice awoke, alive but sneezing and we cannot get the wheezing to stop”.

Truth was, yes, I did wake up alive, lost track of the sneezes when they numbered past five, my seventh sneeze so loud and strong, set off a alarm bells two doors along. Figurines shattered, we heard the outside toilet door shake, my step-father Arthur fled to the street, ancient memories of battle and earthquake.

No one else seemed worried of it. “The racket is only that prank happy Alice, doing her “bit”. Truly I sneezed, sneezed till I had to set teeth aside, sneezed myself to tears, sneezed till Grandma Turner heard it, and Grandma Turner had not heard for years. I sneezed every day this year in fall, sneezed with worry over bladder control, when the sneezing ended, and I did not die, we set out creating nuisance, Nudge Giggleswick and I.

From Alice.   I am beginning to agree with Beatrice- this is dreadful- From Worzel.

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.

TELL A POET THAT- From Alice

I sat a long while with Godfrey’s sister Alice’s latest packet of writings..yes, her poetry remained dreadful,some of the worst she had ever shared, but I read it over with a strong sense that Alice’s summer in Nova Scotia had touched the curmudgeon in places no person had ever tried.. 

“The folks of Knockfollie’s Bridge recall my brother Godfrey with fondness,” Alice wrote, even having all beets removed from the only grocers in his memory. My friend, Nudge and I have been inviting ourselves to fish suppers, adding insighds to my book- “Alice- A life In praise of Myself”

Here in Canada, all of it, we drive “on the right”. Alice and Nudge thought this ridiculous, and in rental car, roared about as they would in Wales.

Alice indeed shares her “insighds”, with a brown boat to catch, and a lot of pranks left in her poke….TELL A POET THAT- from Alice-

I was recently informed- “Farmers do not plow, they cultivate”. We passed a field with such sweaty a chap,  on a day already warm. Sunrise of boysenberry swirls of hokey-pokey cream and crimson, tinged in wild mint. Tell  a poet that, tell a poet here down east, the summer nights don’t cool, the stars brighter than there. The poet may reply, I recall they are- “A blanket for the olders over heather, their fire, harbor home and safety to the bold navigator”.

Tell a poet, it is raining out, Nudge wear my hat. Cold the wet drips down spout, rusts the hinge, in the sodden apple tree bedraggled chickens cringe. don we boots and stalwart fourth, gather the hens in safe with me- and we shall pass the rainy eve over eggy toast for tea.

Tell a poet the delight of outdoor clothes line. “I ran to grab a passing verse, like laundry dry on end of day. Thunder in the hills a griping, storm is on her way. Scent of summer with first drops of rain, new mown hay, sweet on clean sheet splats…Ah tell a poet that.

Eau Duh Colon’- I’m oft asked of the perfume I wear, asked Alice is it sweet essence from France? From France do tell?  “I dab on baked beans, baked beans on fair skin, and behind my ears baked beans from a tin. Tell a poet how a poet may describe it- baked beans.

Tell a poet of Nudge and I as as two more “Tramps in Mudtime”. Squelch, did we squelch round Tinhorn Bay, with my stick moist things to slay, squelch flotsam flat. Squelch we muddy knee to hips, two tramps and greasy wrapped up fish and chips. Oh a good long walk with you, the snizz and crackle of hot deep fat, salt and malt vinegar, but tell a poet that.

Today in need to be alone, with my stick set out a stroll. I sat on a bench, wondering if I am thought of fondly back home. I waited for family or child come by so I could, with my stick quick flick to the sand their ice cream cone. And soon came a lad, (they always did) sticky of face, ignoring the warnings of his nit-picking dad.

As the wee brat drew boldly closer to me, I noted his rubber boots, odd haircut, the image at six of my late brother, Godfrey. I glared at the child in my best curmudgeon, such nerve, the young nipper not to take fright. What happened next left me in utter shock, he held out his ice cream to give me a bite….

No front teeth, dripping pink cone in grubby hand, I was not shocked or revolted, “No thank you my dear” came from some place deep inside me, I gathered my stick up and bolted.

Rundown Motel for the night?, tell a poet that. She may write- Rustic Roadside Inn steeped in history. Old couple down the hall inform me, “First sign of spring is a warm waft of Pig Farm cross the valley”. Hourly the train rattles by neath your rooms only window, tell a poet romantic the three a.m. trains roar. Wobbly table, one threadbare towel, someone has pried open the toilet door…

We re-bequethed The Outhouse Museum to one Domestos Harpic and her silent husband Edgar.  Fond friends of Godfrey, would weed and tend it. Our sojourn sadly soon over, we invited ourselves again to fried fish supper for to end it.. tell a poet of such an adventure we must end it…

And the ship we sail on, steam home to Wales on is painted brown. Give me a poet describe such a thing, from Melbourne to London town, a ships proper color be red, or silver to keep up with the clouds, our ship was brown.

I covet greasy life vest, should I consume herring, trip over a bollard and drown. the ship lists like Lloyd our village drunkard in Batley, it’s name on the bow changed, painted over and over yet again. The ship is crewed by wayward sailors, homeward bound like Nudge and me. What is not painted brown is worn away wood or rusty. Herring is served in some form breakfast, lunch and tea…Nudge feels an epic poem neath my pen, but Ah, tell a poet that again.. from Alice.

ADDICTED TO MERINGUE- And other Stories From Alice.

Worzel here, greetings, just home from an autumnal visit to Wales, Beatrice and I entering our 5th year working on Godfrey’s saga. I met also with sister Alice in town to spare Beatrice the strain, and as the eccentric Alice both intriqued and terrified Adelaide and Benny, elderly wanderers who had found home on Sonsie Farm. Beatrice did not trust leaving them alone, as they wished to paint her faded puce cottage a sunny yellow, and had the gear stashed for the job, provided by Alice…

Alice is writing her autobiography- “Alice, a Life In Praise Of Myself”. Here is her introduction. “I cannot abide human contact, Alice writes, but do enjoy the company of Nudge Nigel Neal Giggleswick, as a lad, a fumble of events involving a “Pogo Stick”, an Austin Somerset motor car, and picket fence ruined Nudge as a man. He swings one leg wide as we stroll, and knows he is only to hold my hand watching the sunrise together, or helping me down from plinth or statue, should I wish to climb one. Nudge appears to be composed of spare parts, but so loves a quality prank- we two have been “De- Pranked” only once, over Cherries Jubilee.

Cherries Jubilee-   Nudge had a lucky day at the races, so out for posh dinner went we, barred from every local eatery, as pranksters bold, all but one fairly new Inn, far a field down in Swansea. We took stepfather Arthur, and My old Ma, I looked forward to Cherries Jubilee.

I had my stick to prod Arthur awake, or jab Nudge neath the table if need be. Cherries Jubilee!!, I had admired the sticky photo, in the worn out cookbook Godfrey had left me. But no one looked askance as Nudge and I, lit our brandy and breathed flames at each other, no wait person, tray tripped on the large knitting bag, placed in the way by my mother.

When I flicked a beet at him, the Maitre’ D caught it, when I demanded meringue on my rack of lamb, he brought it. Delightful was the meal, and cherries a flamed, and over coffee, I entertained with stories and song, inspired by my brother Godfrey.

Beef Tongue- He was chased through the streets by Trevor the butcher’s lad, wielding a beef tongue. It ended badly, from the back sides of Batley, he hid neath a shelf, in Theology deep in the library. Godfrey got a thorough licking, from the tongue, and from ancient librarian Miss Wurmly, who later took the tongue home for her tea.

Nudge used the lady’s toilet, yet created not a stir, I flooded the gents, as befits a proper prankster. Still, we were not requested to leave, or carried bodily out the rear door, Ma knitted, Arthur talked of the beets he ate daily, “as a lad in the war”.

This Is My Hair!, My Hair!-   Deciding it was time to sing I stood high on a chair. A crown of glory, I did sing, the hair dealt my brother Godfrey. Thick was his head of wavy auburn, my own the color of a rusty farrier’s rasp. A cowlick topped the mop given me. This is my hair, my hair I sang boldly.

That was my hair!, my hair ! Nudge cried, oh it must have hurt. He lost an eyebrow over Cherries Jubilee, leaned over Arthur’s dish of flambe’ dessert.

Get out of my hair!, My hair!- Ma recalled in the telling, she was baking a cake, Godfrey chased me with herring, I chased him with beets on a fork in one hand, the other a net. Later Ma and I ate cake, rich and frosted, neath the tree where Godfrey hid, high up as he could get.

I was not prepared for the response to my floor show, not pulled from the table I used as a stage or told to go. Cheered and applauded, encored and thanked, for the first time ever, Nudge and I had been foiled, I Alice had been “De- Pranked”.

ADDICTED TO MERINGUE- From Alice- 

At my work, also works, when we work selling shoes Miss Pat Bamm- who will tell all who gather round tea urn or lunch table- “Unrepentant I am, addicted to meringue. “oh, my young years, allowed on my own to the bakers for bread and biscuits I ran, with the change I’d scarf a penny tart, by age eight I was addicted to meringue”.

I had never met a person addicted to meringue, for years I traveled with “The Uncle Lou Band “, oft pies were thrown at me when I sang, but it never occurred  to be addicted to meringue.

It was I, Alice, had to teach Pat Bamm to sell shoes. Oh, this pair is brown and white, she cried early on, they so look like meringue, And the clouds in summer sky, so fluffy and high, like meringue!. It crossed my mind, quietly occurred to me, she’d have made a fine match for my odd brother Godfrey. For though he disliked beets, was accepting of most others peculiaralities.

At dinner break, Pat ate a stack of pies , flipped them over, crust first, sucked the filling out as an aardvark may. She left the best bit inverted on her tray. I tidied the break room, vacuumed, threw rubbish away, put the tea things in place. Pat sat, on her prominent behind, enjoying meringue, ewe like smile on her face.

She said, “My parents had me tested, had my egg dealer arrested, when at eve I close my eyes I dream of pies”. “I was banned from speaking to a baker, not allowed to purchase sugar, hid my mixer, destroyed my hoarded cream of tartar.  “They dreaded the call in the night when the phone rang, or dawn knock on the door, ” your daughter is no more, she was addicted to meringue”.

“Old Dr Uren lectured. “All things in moderation”. So at noon, no more coveted pink macaroon”. “Avoid Pavlova, steer clear of Baked Alaska, let the Lady Fingers dissolve in a healthy herbal tea”. I spend my elder years selling shoes with an addict of meringue, it brings the “Sarchasm ” out in me.

SARCHASM- You describe a tepid moat, deep and dark round your heart, describe a leap from a plum tree. Mine is not moat, ditch Ismus or bog, it is sea of Sarchasm protects me.

My Sarchasm is a wild coast of black, volcanic sand. Lured to ruin many a stout hearted boat, offers scant shelter from sun and storm, and mangy seals there lay about.

My Sarchasm my own, never cold or bitter, just a strong reminder, tis folly to venture near, bandy words like “Romance”, “Mine”, or the dreaded “Dear”. Any given day I, Alice may be found, with Sarchasm to protect me, with my stick I wander, prodding the rubble, washed in from the sea…

Alice, unfiltered, from her Autobiography…