SISTER ALICE And her Teeth

Worzel here- This tale is about as far from wisdom as a tale can be- yet it begs to be told.On my yearly visits to Wales, spent in the peaceful folds of Sonsie Farm, working with Beatrice on Godfrey’s story, I had never been invited inside the cottage his sister Alice shared with her Ma, and aged stepfather Arthur.

Nor was I asked over this time- but to Beatrice’s dismay, have managed to piece together the story of Alice’s teeth, and her early years of pranking..

Let me tell you a true tale of my dear sister , a rare glimpse of Alice as a silly teenager, six years older than me- the future vagabond Godfrey.  Alice cared not for lads, or frocks or school, loved only her piano and what mischief as she could get up to.

When I was a baby we’d sit on the curb, Alice poked me in the spine till I’d cry, she would sing a long ballad, dirge of parents lost to shipwreck, extract coins from concerned passers by. Alice daubed me in beet juice a scarlet hue, it looked like I had the plaque, and made us the odd penny, but calls to the district nurse to…

I never questioned Alice, even when old enough to articulate thought, for she was my sister and always shared the cream buns and sweets her act bought. Chased away from the shops, all but the cluttered one of mean Mr Daggsmitt, there were great hiding places within it.

Grim man with a dirty neck, lived behind a beaded curtain, heard him shouting at the Telly, watching Cricket- his full set of teeth in a jar weighed down the newspapers, and as he chased me past the dog food sacks, sister Alice nicked it.

Alice writes- Between tormenting Godfrey, and being shipped off south to live as a nun, I had a full set of dentures one summer to prank everyone. I called on the Mulgrew Twins, handy with tools, to fashion a hinge and a spring. Fitted on the end of a retractable stick, the teeth with practice made a wonderful chatter and click.

I tried the teeth out on Godfrey, he fled for the hills at the sight of the them, chomping on beets where he usually sat. The dentures answered the door when a salesman rang, going door to door pedaling cheap tat. I took them to church where proudly the teeth sat beside me on my hat in the pew, laughed so hard she wet herself, did Sugar Mulgrew.

At an early age, I discovered by chance I could drive portly Brian, Batley Town cop up the wall. All year long he wore a thick, wooly vest, and threatened me when he saw the teeth with arrest. Told our Ma- “Alice is bound for social failure down the low track”. Brian loved his pie and chips, until the teeth crept up behind, and grabbed a big bite of his tea snack.

Beatrice, reluctantly added to the tale of the teeth, writes-” Alice oft was seen smiling, bicycling to town, teeth on their stick over her arm. She fished with the old dentures off Skibbereen Bridge, and to reach treats Godfrey had hidden for himself, deep in a high cupboard or rear of the fridge.” We used the teeth, they were handy rounding up stray ewes on the farm, nipped their scruffy heels better than a Corgi”, Beatrice years later told me.

Berry picking was a job Alice abhorred, yet this year of the teeth, and standing on a wide board over the thorns, she could reach the best fruit, have the teeth gently pluck it, plunk went the blackberries, filled Alice’s bucket.

She played piano twice a year in the town recital, Alice played well, and the forgiving folk of Batley always gave her a long ovation.When Alice smiled and played “Downtown” her favorite song, the teeth chattered atop her piano, to the music’s vibration.

Brian the town cop, called a public meeting to discuss “This Teeth Situation”. Even Margaret Tuttle brought her soapbox, began the gathering with a rant, tea was served, coffee to from an urn, everyone concerned about the dentures got to speak, everybody had their turn.

“She poked them teeth through the romance novel shelf and nipped me bum”. Reported Norris Maeve- new librarian.  Yawned  Alice and Godfrey’s  tipsy Uncle Lou, “she leaned oer the bridge with those teeth, snapped me up a fine trout”. Fail to see what all the fuss is about”.

Back then when at a bank, a teller sat high above behind a wicket, in his tie was so employed Kenneth Hind, reported Alice came in for her pocket money, and nasty old teeth snatched it from me with a snicket…

The owner of the dentures spoke last of the group, “Tis a dire wrong done me, my papers blew away and I gum down only gruel and soup.  Wealthy Tenbrooks Smythe The second, son of The First, father of The Third Tenbrooks, widely regarded as the worst, stood up wheezing to pontificate.

Ignoring Margaret’s soapbox his strode up on the stage…”Well let me tell you all Tenbrooks began..”I am certain…Alice hidden behind the curtain slid the teeth out where they clacked along with Tenbrooks Smythe The Second as he ranted on the “Dry Rot in the Youth of Today, and how” Alice ought be paddled on her Jenny Mule behind, in Batley Town Square on full display of all.”  And as he finally looked down on the teeth, what began as a soft snort soon grew to loud guffaw, till pandemonium swept the length of Batley Town Hall.

A pile up formed at the lady’s loo spilling out into lower High Street, the pub and chip shop next door, the town cop took chase after Alice, long gone minus the teeth on her bicycle for home, he called for more constables to come from Skibbereen, but was trampled by the toilet crowd, attempting to keep order on his own.

Before she bolted, Alice wisely, passed the teeth to loyal Godfrey, who strolled home that evening, quite innocently. He bit the heads of weeds and thistles with the teeth, all in fun, but a scant few days later…Alice was caught, sent off by train to be reformed as a fine young lady, and potentially a nun.

Did the dentures also make the long journey, down south to Newbury?..We shall let Alice tell of that in good time- for hers is a whole other story.

SNOW WET AND THE SEVEN WHARVES- Wharf Street Stories.

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.

DR ROACH’S SECOND LETTER- From Godfrey.

Worzel here, Mornings like this…with the world going awry, I miss Godfrey the most. He had a hobby of seeking out the absurd, took joy in it, and today as I read the newspaper, Dr Roach’s advice page was one he would have guffawed over….

He was a lifelong reader of all things newspaper, Godfrey read several daily did the crosswords, the puzzles, the obituaries. he perused the advice columns and even the dull business bits I did not understand, he read the golf scores, noted the price of lumber exports to Japan.

Dr Roach had  a medical page, amusing to Godfrey, old and wise in his white Doctor smock in section C-3. Godfrey wrote the good Doctor a letter quite frequently, he wrote in  rhyme of course, as Dr Roach advocated beets as a cure for all ills far and wide, Godfrey disliked beets, his letters were never printed, and Dr Roach never replied.

Yet, still Godfrey wrote, “Dear Dr Roach, I must broach the subject of beets you so fondly espouse”. “No Pasaran Beets”is a sign I hang any place I, a vagabond call home or house”. You doctor on bruises and mystery diseases, rashes and tapeworms, prickly heat, all you reckon repaired by the cold boiled beet”. Here is a story I learned as a lad, rooted in the rumptious childhood I had.

The beet is a story grown from myth unpleasant, an ancient conflict of thief versus peasant a story old Verne O’Dowd oft told, how beets were once shiny discs of buttery gold. Mangol Wurzels, they grew in the moon of night, those deeper the better to hurl, Godfrey wrote Dr Roach.

“The lowland people who dwelt with cranes, were strong of limb, had all their teeth, lived in peace and did not abuse alcohol, after harvest a mangol wurzel hurl, was held on the flats by the river each fall.

Lowfolk versus The Toews, who lived beyond in the warm sand caves.Trolls came to, up from the oak wood, they never bathed but were otherwise cheerful and good. As were the Phog families who drifted in slowly, welcomed by the Toews and crane dwellers lowly.

The prizes were pretty, ribbons of purple and pink, crow feathers coveted far and wide, a sack of gold beets, this year the Toews team won the hurl, on the Randen Riverside. Singing and dance carried on until Tuesday, with no warning that morning banditry lurked, “Sunset the Rogue “hired Ester and Lawrence The Slack, to rob the Toews their discs of gold, in the woods on the long journey back.

They accosted the Toews in a very rude manner, slapped a sticker  saying “You smell fowl”on Micah Toews back. His father was smote with something wet, bold granny Fennel was stuffed down a badger sett. Brassica Toews, just a young girl, had to hand over the ribbons and feathers she won; fairly in the wurzel hurl.

Old Burdock Toews, head of the pack, made a gesture of friendship to Ester and Lawrence the Slack, “do not be rude, and take from us so meanly, warm by our fire, would you like tea or coffee?..And what be this! cried Lawrence The Slack, tipped in the dry leaves the Toews gunny sack, out spewed the discs of gold, like honey- Coffee, please, replied Ester, then we shall be off with this low peasant money.  And they did!, left the warm sand cave folk destitute, took their joy, even took the youngest’s furry birthday suit.

Ester The Slack, a gambler and sneak, lost all her takings in a losing streak. Word slithered out the beets of gold meant wealth, a word unknown to the lowland folk, who who soon were so worried about this it ruined their health. For the Trolls it meant no dancing or cheer, they bathed now daily, camped neath bridges in fear.

The Lowland people who dwelt with cranes, had their beets pillaged to, when word of “wealth” was spread around, even the tiny shoots were torn from the ground. With no golden beets from verdant loam, in despair they began to consume alcohol, let elders wander from home.

On the stage in our village hall, Verne O’Dowd held me spellbound with this story, between swigs Verne took from his flask of sherry.

The tears of the gentle Toews and the lowland folk  vanquished and shamed, can to this day for the color of beets be blamed. For thereafter only beets nasty did grow, in the plundered pastures of sorrow. Beets the taste of dirt, red as the sun warm cave dwellers hurt, cod liver oil, so hard to swill down, dried beets spread on icy sidewalks of a northern town. Worm home soil, to keep for years in a jar, to find in the fridge when you have nothing else, never to spoil.

Over time, the old, old story was lost, to modern tales of daring and do, of the lowland people their decendents are few, lost to the Dreaded Black Shale Skadoots, and The Quenders Scourge of 1402. And if today down the oak woods you happen wood cutting to stroll, by the copper stained stream, in the grass, you may meet a troll, en route to his bath.

But I met there a Toews, from the warm sand caves, crouching stream bank, rinsing the clay she, “Oolong The Artist” had dug up that day. “Embarassing  it were indeed, we’d have shared our feathers and golden beets, with a polite wayfarer we met be in need”  In the language of The Phog families, the lowland dwellers, the Toews and Trolls knew no word for “Greed”

There stands an oak tree on a common I know, where a wish will be granted if you wish it by standing below and say thank you. And should I get there again to that wood, I shall wish the world wisdom set it back on the too trodden pathway to freedom from anger and fear. Only good, I wish you and Dr Roach only good- From Godfrey

Was the second letter to Dr Roach, the first one printed concerned a rabbit parasite…a heavily edited version of Godfrey’s letter, the last one to Dr Roach he would write. “He seems an odd young man, he dislikes beets, his letters to me are compelling..perhaps one day a poet will write his story, for I feel there is more than mere loathing of beets in the telling, Dr Roach.

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..

A POET PASSES BY-From Worzel

My friend, The vagabond Godfrey roamed with a genuine acceptance of all people, a lifelong aversion to beets, and fondness for the street we live on still, Wharf Street, with stories of it’s own- and where now, I am elderly, and in memory still walk with Godfrey.

It oddly was not bitter cold, as one expected mid November in Canada. I sweated to the bus stop in my bulky, old coat. The street lights in old town oft were burned out,so still vivid the stars, peaceful glowed the candles in the homeless camp tents, quiet the looming blue bridge and the harbor front bars.

Time waited for me this day, rain all night had rinsed the words in chalk a passing poet had left away.

IRISH  –Rambling the journey from home a far in Galway, cold the streets of Winnipeg to the shelter down Rock Bay. Outdoors in the park dwells “Irish”self described bard, hear him singing if you listen, above the city din, his old sad songs echo, from posh hotel cross the water to junkyard.

  DES-  Most mornings when about Des chats with me, keeps suitcase safe by her side though we both know it is empty. On her corner in summer, for a dollar she will share her poetry.

I read messages on walls, rude words imply that the poet Des is of “ill repute”and “Doubtful reputation” “A woman of the night”, seen around back of the old bus station. See her shoes on the path where they lie, below the sea bluffs, Des has shed them for to fly. On this fog blessed beach many a poet has passed by…

There is verse in the stooped, ancient couple on the curb across from us.Growing in even the most shrill child’s nursery rhyme chatter on the bus. Words ooze from the bookstore, not subdued by bag or shelf or cost..and headlines stop me in my tracks, report a poet passing, passed yet no, not lost.

Must have been him, in the warm wind I felt down on Wharf, a poet passing by, another icon gone, but never lost.

TELLING MARGARET STORIES- From Worzel

He disliked beets, did my friend, the vagabond Godfrey,I knew him 28 years, and the times he stayed in the city with us, remain with me daily in poem and memory, vivid to, the adventures we shared on the old #50 bus….

From windy Wharf Street to the wild lands of Sooke, and beyond, there was swearing and spewking, drinking and fighting, screaming children depending in number what stop you got on. Two elderly ladies road regularly, always sat near to me, and across from ever curious Godfrey.

” Margaret” was the main subject discussed on the bus, by these two old friends, in gossip legend and story.  We had lost a frozen turkey on the #50 bus, were aboard the wet morning when the door fell off, witnessed a woman throw her husband out the window, Margaret’s friends always caught the bus at the casino.

But Margaret herself never did…We learned she had an interest in old board games and Bison, and Margaret loved, loved beets with a passion, her home bore the tell tale stains if you looked, and Margaret put beets in most dishes she cooked. The beets horrified Godfrey, I stayed wedged at his side, watching the water logged blackberry bushes below 8 mile bridge, twas upper low tide, a warm morning ride…

When Margaret was a hairdresser, so it was said, a valued customer’s name she misread, “May I please speak to Jesus”?, it is Margaret calling, on the phone she bellowed cross the noisy salon. an abrupt guffaw sent poor Esters’s teeth flying, legend grew with the telling, those in for rinse and set, told of Margaret.

Proud of her talents in art, Margaret painted an Edwardian Lady, in verdant green meadow she poses on a boulder, but has only one leg. A handsome young stable lad climbs the hillside towards her, missing leg slung across his brawny shoulder. I prodded Godfrey, it had to be, a prank at the heart of Margaret’s story…

He would talk to anyone on the #50 bus,talk of all but beets, asking where Margaret was, never occurred to us. There  was vomiting, sobbing and language frequently coarse, once we sat behind a couple close to ninety, discussing divorcing, we met vagabonds  heading for western trails, we endured the smells, and at times really terrible singing.

A rat ran the length of the bus once, someones escaped pet, and it always got noisy when the two elder ladies, reached the climactic end to a story of Margaret. They smiled sideways at Godfrey, “Feh”, he would mutter at me, they get me every time, impish old ladies out a pranking deliberately…

Call it the passing of the years, as Godfrey was adamant that time waited for the bold, or the pains and vagaries that sneak in as we grow old, but every jolt and reek, every damp seat, every long wait at the stop, where in spring from above caterpillars drop, every bus trip he is still beside me. Recently, a tourist asked the name of the mountains we could see across the strait. Three young people riding did not know. Made me feel sad, for Godfrey did, and would have happily discussed the snowy peaks, would talk of any thing but beets…

OH BUT YOU LOVE ME..By Beatrice

Worzel here, this is a timely story from Beatrice in Wales, any new readers to “The Saga”, now nearly five years in the compiling, and in my recent absence, who may not know, it is the simple tale of a vagabond, and his lifelong search for wisdom…

Beatrice here, What can be lower than Turtle pat in a murky pond? Life devoid of humor, I informed the dour copper as I collected the elder pair Adelaide and Benny, from yet another spell in a village cell.

Harmless jackdaws, yet cheeky at avoiding laws, “We had to get them out of a pear tree”, the police explained with a tired sigh to me. “We thought they were apricots”, said Adelaide innocently,” by a lovely yellow house”, Benny always spoke softly.

We headed home, Adelaide and Benny’s wagon and steamer trunk behind the car in tow. “Your Godfrey’s wisdom stated, “when you find yourself arrested for creating a nuisance, thank the cops and offer apples before you go”. Knowing I was irked made Adelaide more obtuse- refused to get in the seat, hands on bony hips, steadfast, Oh, but you love us, I know belched the tiny old rogue.

“Do not bandy those words lightly with me- they are part of an a long old story”.

I warned Worzel, of trusting our book to a “Modern Computery Thingy,”..where I bank, the teller behind her wicket taps an adding machine, and updates my bank book by hand. I refuse to have a phone in the cottage, I enjoy the amusing verse written on the phone box walls, outside the pub.

“Grizzle De Mundy, Bockety Old Maid, Badger up Sonsie Hedge, I have heard muttered rudely these taunts as I pass, names do not worry me, for I was childhood friend, ate beets and faced bullies at the side of future vagabond Godfrey”.

Oh, but you love them, I know!. The dinner lady loomed above us, spoon full of beets, smiling down on six year old Godfrey. His faded, damp kilt was wrapped about him three times, defending his potatoes with one grubby hand, too shy to speak above whisper, “I DO NOT”…I ate a heap of beets, from then on this happened a lot.

Word spread through the “Nere Do Well”, bampot urchins in our small village, that odd little Godfrey indeed disliked beets and spoke only in rhyme. Oh but you love them the yahoos chanted while pelting him with beets in balls of snow.  Most days his rubber boots left a crimson trail of beet pulp, and oft the green tops were stuffed down his wooly shirt, or in the kilt he wore below.

Oh but you love beets, you do !, sneered cruel uncle Lou, rubbing Godfrey’s nose in garden dirt. Every school day for years, at dinner hour he’d ask, “excuse me Miss, are beets in this? they lurk in lentil soup and hide in Haggis”.

He had a sister, six years older, born a prankster, Alice wrote an essay. “For The love Of Beets”, and signed it with her brother’s name. Clever with words, it was printed in the local paper on the children’s page. So appealing was the story he was asked up to read it, at the Batley town pageant  on stage.

Oh, but you love them I know- Ma wedged Godfrey into itchy knitted outfits, as Alice made up songs of beets, to tease her brother, she played them loudly on the family piano. Those who never met Godfrey, often asked of us why he never, ever fought back…

Rolled he was in manure, forced to fetch his kilt from treetops, thrown down an open sewer. “I attribute in old age my healthy robust state, to the joy found hill walking, and all the childhood beets that I ate.” I ate beets Alice strung on the Christmas Tree, ate them every funeral and wedding we were dragged to. I ate them roasted on sticks, summer picnics by the sea, yes, he never lashed out. “I simply do not like beets”, was the first coherent thing, while spitting them out Godfrey told me.

I ate the beets, as I was brought up to be kind, to save him swat across his head or paddled behind.Who ate the beets as a child for you?, At your side boldly fought with sticks Autumn Apple Dragons?, Silver Top Trolls, the dreaded Outhouse Ogre Pokers?, Did it when dared to dash, and touch the bull’s snot nose?, Did someone hold your hand when teacher called you “Dim”?  Held his when boiled beets were dropped on him.

It was Godfrey built fine saddles from string, and imagination, broke trail beside me, who refused to wash dishes lest it harm the fairies in the foam only oddly he could see….

Worzel wonders why when I write, I oft begin at the end of a story..Oh I loved him you know, just a lifelong habit I learned long ago from Godfrey..