MY NEPHEW- ICARUS- From Worzel

My younger brother, Cudberth and I have always shared a firm bond. Godfrey,  in the early days of our friendship helped Cudberth, a “Noctiphobe”, deal with his fear of the night sky.

It was ridiculous..our stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat sewed Cudberth a night hat with an umbrella on top, so he could not see up. Cudberth tripped in the pansies, chipping two teeth, and it was awkward in the car. Shades were drawn early, he boarded up his window, we missed any event after dark. “It is too wide and large ,the sky,” Cudberth sobbed. 

At harvest time,  Fillipendula, Inkerman and I rode with our dad on tractor or combine. Often he worked all night, the only time he and I ever talked, the stars touched the horizon at dawn, there was often distant lightning, the aurora danced in her green veils, my brother missed out.  

It was meeting Godfrey helped, the three of us sunk our canoe, and had to camp overnight in a farmer’s field. We dragged ourselves from the slough, built a fire and cooked “Spam”. We were having great fun, until Cudberth realized it was dark, we left him crawl under the canoe- but he was outside- a start. 

That summer with Godfrey, he learned slowly not to fear owls, bats, yip of coyote, stars, shooting stars, nights black of stars, burnt dinner, cleaning fish, smoke in his eyes, spiders, damp jeans, skunk odors, drowning and bulls.

Cudberth was a late bloomer, only leaving home the day our house was torn down. He pursued teaching as a career, married Miss Edith Carp, and fathered twins Cynthia and Maud. It was their youngest, Jack Thomas who grappled my heart. The children were read  “Godfrey” stories at bedtime, the twins kept in line by threat of sending them to sister Alice in Wales. To Jack Thomas, Godfrey was a folk hero, ” I want to go to sister Alice in Wales”, he stated, chin out.

Being educators, Cudberth and Edith with summers off, piled the family out adventuring, every two years visiting us. The girls were oddly shy- not Jack Thomas, and secretly I called him “Icarus”. 

He was ever looking upward, always asking- “Whats beyond the trees, Auntie?, whats above how far I can see?.  He disliked beets, loved riding on the #50 bus. I’d treat the little chap to cream buns at the bakery, as had Godfrey. He was fearless in the face of Mrs Feerce, our rude landlady.

At our lakeside cabin, Jack Thomas climbed the highest, dove the deepest, caught his first trout. He found chasing his mother with fish guts hilarious, stuck raven feathers in the cap he never took off, my nephew “Icarus”.

In school, Jack Thomas went full on Godfrey. His stories and reports, though not composed in rhyme, were “Glib beyond his years, and never pertaining to the subject matter being taught”. He wrote a poem in Welsh, used naughty idioms and was caught. Translated crankily by custodian Mr Hughes , He had to write one thousand times- “My Poem Failed To Amuse’.

Ever looking upward, “Jack Thomas Edelpilz, his next teacher would nag, “do not bring frozen dead things found by the road to class in your book bag”. His mother, Edith suggested music as an outlet for his creative energies. Eager, willing to go along, he asked for a brass gong to play. Well…thought Cudberth, what can possibly go wrong with his choice of a bright, shiny gong?.

Edith scolded Cudberth, “All we dreamed of was a normal family, he asked for Haggis on his birthday, his friends are found deep in books and poetry. Very bad influence, your Vagabond Godfrey”.

At twelve, Jack Thomas spent the entire summer with us. He wrote-

Nine old Men- Nine old men sat in a row discussing beets. Nine old men sat in a row. I wonder if ever there were ten old men?, Godfrey pondered with a frown, his voice polite and low.

The tenth old man sat on his own. For he grew beets, he knew beets, did not disbarge or eschew beets.

Nine old men sit watching out the cafe’ window. A boy totes  heavy gong home from school  through the snow, his boots squeak in it, and pelted with ice-balls, form tears on his chin frozen rime. He recalls raven’s feathers, dreams of summertime, the back roads west, the horse he will ride, sun on bareback, sea life in the tide pools ocean side.

Even when it poured, the lad was never bored, and though had never met Godfrey, read through tattered journals and faded old letters with me. He never tired of it, like Godfrey, I ‘d tip him from the comforts of my old turquoise chair, curled deep in that old chair he’d sit.

“When I an grown, said he, “I wish to be a poet and professional fig picker like Godfrey” My brother, Cudberth called, “Jack Thomas wrote a cheeky essay, was supposed to be about “Mussolini”. Yet he wrote of “The Blight Of Beets in Wartime Italy”. He was graded a double minus “D”. “I drew the line at the monk’s tonsure hair cut, kilt to be worn only on a Sunday, not to tease his sisters with Haggis, is his visit away helping Jack Thomas look at life more serious?”.

Not important, I replied, these are mere and minor things.  Just promise you will keep him from the lure of high flight on waxen wings.

My ranch raised husband Garnet, never “Sold His Saddle”, in the cluttered corner of our flat, among  our many books, it still sat. And the bridle he made at Jack Thomas age hung on our wall, I also often liked to feel the reins he wove of soft, braided leather. The city boy reckoned that “to ride a fine horse, must be close enough to wings of wax and feather”.

We have good friends with horses. Next family visit, Jack Thomas chose “Paddlefoot” the bold, blue roan for his own. I sat high on a dune, my arthritis paining me, with Edith complaining about her family.

Content to watch them gallop in the surf from bridge to bay, Cudberth rode like a sack of spuds, the twins on matching chestnuts racing past, and bounding in the surf last, the roan leaped, rode my nephew face to the sun, arms out swept..prepared to take flight as the boy of myth had done. Only to myself I call him “Icarus”.

Grown handsome and tall now, off to study in a big American city. Camera taped to helmet, on bicycle he races, reckless escaping from the maze of downtown hill and narrow alley. He takes flight with joy down the coast highway, raven feathers tied behind, he writes- “Do not ever worry over me, dear old Auntie. (old Auntie indeed)

Nine Things I Wish For when an old Man- wrote my nephew “Icarus’.

To swim with the stream, to Morris dance in purple socks with bells, to see “The Collected wisdom of Godfrey” in print, Hear my gong sound out one year of world peace, that my legs still pedal and thumb point, roast wieners on a Olympic Flame, smell every day cinnamon and demerara sugar, have crossed every page in my school atlas, to still not fear flying, that tad too close to the sun….

Advertisements

WHERE WIND AND TIDE…Adelaide’s 4th Story- From Worzel

My late summer visit to Sonsie Farm, in Wales. Even with Beatrice annoyed with me, were busy times for all on the farm, and working late into the nights together on our book, “The Collected wisdom Of Godfrey”. The late vagabond had been Beatrice’s childhood friend, and she felt I was straying too far from Godfrey’s saga, by including Tugboats, Toilets, “Itinerant Nere Do Wells”, Horses, and his eccentric sister Alice’s dreadful writing.  

When I wove in Adelaide and Benny, who had settled uninvited on Sonsie, Beatrice almost raised her voice. She was not getting the connection..

The only day it rained, that last summer Godfrey spent with us in Canada, and though he feared antiques, my friend helped me drag home a battered, old plaid steamer trunk from outside a junk shop. When he quit muttering, and “Feh-Ing “over what may be inside, he peered in and gravely informed me- “Not empty Worzel dear, it is full of stories.

The trunk sat in our luggage shop window several years, until Adelaide and  Benny showed up, the odd old couple claiming it as their own. I happily sent them off with the trunk, aledgedly  bound for Wales, no one expected them to get there, much less move in with Beatrice, to her  dismay. It was berry picking time, Alice’s old car had been reported seen near Sonsie Farm, so it was I went out picking, Beatrice fearful to leave home with the prankster nearby..  

Adelaide and I set out at dawn, for the hills of Barafundle Bay, she former Chambermaid to The Queen,  parked her donkey cart in the shade, and I with a pat did the same, for I rode good Rowan, the brackety gray. Plunk went ripe fruit, into the old woman’s pail, before I had even begun, she hitched up her drawers, waded deep in the bushes, straw hat tied firmly against dust and the sun.

“I’ll go where wind and tide take me”, said Adelaide when asked how long they may stay at Sonsie. “We  have sought yellow houses since I left my employer The Queen”. The bantie sized rogue had a brittle dignity, indeed for the struggles and places she and her plaid trunk had been.

“We maids were not allowed ashore to cavort, when the Royal Yacht Britannia was tied up in port”. “One morning I chanced look out, out from the bed chamber door- in a narrow pass we were passing a fine, grand yellow house on the far shore”. “Had a wide verandah, finials atop, yellow paint fresh and bright, Betty the boss lady barked, as the ship turned sharp up a fiord out of sight”. “Someone waved, I waved back as the yellow house hove out of sight”..

Plunk went the berries into Adelaide’s pail, I waited knowing she could not be hurried in telling her tale. “There was a kerfuffell, a stramash, a paddy bordering on a  melee’, plunk, plunk…It were a bad day, maggoty butter was served at high tea. “The Queen did not butter her own scone, was a Lady in Waiting stood and looked on”. Royal decorum was lost at first bite, the hand maid swooned, the Prince did curse, Our Noble Queen was ill in her purse…..

“Oh bloody hell, the butler cried”, all butter on board was heaved over the side, floating off in a maggoty wake, we threw out a case of beets and some dubious fruitcake”.

Plunk, went Adelaide, far out picking me, though I judged her age roughly at least 83. “Why was it deemed your fault? I asked as we took a break neath a tree, intriqued by this version of her life story. “Twer height of summer, nasty flies a swarm, was my Marvin the butler’s lad, left the butter pats out in the warm”.

“He promised for a keek up my smock, he’d be a gentleman, he promised me a life of ease, when our time in service was done, he promised that he, Marvin, would be faithful evermore, he promised me a yellow house, in a field of Marram grass on the seashore”.

“But the butler’s lad lied, I and my trunk, cast with scorn and aspersions , dismissed  over the ships side.”. “My  trunk and I , set forlorn in a lonely gutter, blamed for maggoty butter”.  “in Flinder’s Street, urchins pelted me with ripe pear, seeking employment I strayed from the docks, told my sad story to kind wanderer Benny, who sought out Marvin, kicked him firm in the buttocks”.

“Benny promised no life of ease, no posh ring, Benny promised only one simple thing”. “That our lives be shared till the end, side by each- and we seek that yellow house of our own, yellow house on a remote beach”..

Lest I ramble, I left Adelaide to pail and bramble, the day quieted to, and portions of her story I know will be familiar to you. Not just the old tale of innocence lost, or betrayal by silver tongued voluptuary, not man enough to own up to maggoty butter, but even this vile young lout, is part of the odd way we, were happenstance brought together”.

Godfrey wrote this of beets- “I wish no ill of beets, or those who love them”. Had it not been for beets, I may never have left Wales, and still be selling manure by the roadside. Dislike of beets helped me make friends, from empty room, to so many lovely places…until our circle is complete- all hale kindness! all hale the beet!.

I hope when Beatrice reads this, she will understand the connections to…

 

I WAS A TATTERDEMALION- Ma Yelled- from Godfrey

Godfrey rarely spoke of his mother, laughed when he did. He wrote her often, Ma never replied. Godfrey’s sister Alice sent a card every three years on her birthday, scrawled in a corner sometimes we could read-“From Ma”.  

On my yearly visits to Wales, researching this book, I was never invited into the cottage, complete  with a moat, Alice shared with Ma and ancient stepfather, Arthur. We always met at the “Little Chef”, a dreadful roadside diner Alice had never been ejected from.

Godfrey’s Ma, I expected a raging harridan- Roly-Poly Ma was shy, and able to knit, read, demolish a large breakfast, and complain about everything in a soft, Scottish burr. Alice slid, rather than entered the lady’s room as I was checking my teeth for food. Filling her knitted poke with toilet rolls and hand soap, Alice explained that “Ma yelled herself out long ago”. “Created her own echo, did Ma, said Alice- “Ma Yelled”…   

In our small village was one corner shop, run by Mr and Mrs Mange, They lived behind a grimy drape in the rear. He wore a string vest with food stains cross his belly, Mr  Mange did not bathe or change, we could hear Mrs Mange in back, oft cursing cricket on their telly.

Ma forbid Alice and I, from entering the filthy old place, which only encouraged my bolder, older sister. I ‘d hide and burrow neath dry dog food sacks, and cases of corned beef tinned, Alice pinched sweets as I cried aloud, I was under the dog food and pinned. Mr Mange fell for it, dug me out a time or more, till the day no one came… and peeking out I was collared by an irate Ma, Alice fleeing out the shop door. Ma yelled.

Some mothers baked, our sewed pinafores and knitting to sell, our Ma chose to yell. Ma yelled, as had her Ma before her and her grannies Ma had to, a very large family who yelled at each other was all that Ma knew.

Ma yelled- when we were driven home backseat of a cop car, Ma yelled. Fished from a deep, muddy stream, stepped in a cow-pat drifting in day dream, Ma yelled. Some Mothers took to drink- ours really could scream.

Alice told me scary stories such as “Now You Are Wet”. Read tales of beets and a mean, haunted doll, I was very young then, and on stormy nights I would bawl. Along came Ma, cigarette a glow in the dark, scent of stale perfume if she had been out, sat with a sigh on the end of my bed- “Shut Up Godfrey,” she’d bark.  Alice laughed through the wall, Ma yelled, I told Ma that I disliked beets, and was it true that beets were how trolls smelled? Ma yelled.

The more sister Alice rebelled, Ma yelled. Alice’s voice rang above all others, singing in church, I laughed so hard that tears welled. Alice stuffed me under the pew, held the hem of my kilt down with her shoe, was clouted on the head by the handbag of high, mighty Miss Ingeldew…Ma would yell, after church, this I knew.

Ma yelled, when I brought home a sodden, wadded letter from school. “Mrs Llwtzst, your son is a Tatterdemalion”. Ma yelled, I could tell she was not happy, proud or thrilled, by how loud.

When Ma yelled, it oft echoed at low tide, down the harbor, past pubs and tearooms to the great Smythe Estate on the hill. All Smythes thought themselves better than each other, yet not even pompous Tenbrooks Smythe The First, could out shout my mother.

When I , Godfrey grew older, I was smitten by Clementine, a Peruvian fish monger’s daughter. Ma yelled at me, for hanging about the fish shop, and strolling home reeking of cod water. Ma yelled at poor Clementine, end of the pier when she caught her.

Ma yelled at Alice for fixing a big pot of soup  she called “Hearty Bogey”. I ate it, as it did not contain beets, Alice promised me.

I stayed out all night with Clementine, she told me of the stars, and the mountains of Peru, and a wee bit of what she desired to do, in her gumboots and large white pants, we danced. She talked as I baked, (though I’ll leave out some personal parts), and in cool of summer morning we had coffee and warm apple tarts.

Along came Ma in her dented Morris Minor, just as Clementine slung me over her large, firm shoulder, yelled at again was my innocent fish lady’s daughter….

The last time I heard Ma yell…I left her the key to my manure stand, with extra sacks, stacked for to sell, then I said goodbye, dared kiss Ma on the cheek, set out vagabonding, wisdom to seek. I glanced back as a customer stopped, Ma set down the sack of manure she held, too far away now for me to hear why…yet I knew that last moment, was Ma yelled. yes, Ma yelled.

 

BROWN MUDDY BOOTS- From Godfrey

Worzel here, in old age, happy today looking back. A fond memory to share?. Well, one day at our luggage shop, a cake, sandwich and vegetable tray intended for a funeral  was dropped off by mistake. My husband Garnet, and Godfrey reckoning it was a surprise treat for their brave hunting down of a mouse that morning, ate it.  

When I got home, they were desecrating the carrot cake, oblivious of the purple writing- “Rest In Peace Muriel”…they had saved me the icing roses and soggy walnuts Godfrey had picked out. 

I had long promised never to torment my friend with beets, (he heartily disliked them). . I rang the Funeral Home before sending them off to apologise, explaining that just punishment would be to corner Godfrey on the subject of beets, and not let him leave. Garnet crept home late, without Godfrey, the vagabond reappearing three days later, claiming he had been lured into a corn maze.  

Our apartment building is old, the floors warped and splintery. To this day, one of Godfrey’s old boots wedges the toilet door closed, in lieu of a latch. To say the least, his memory is everywhere. 

Was a very young poet- “Do not hitchhike”warned my Ma- “you will be left with no shoes on the roadside”. Shrill rang her words as a beet grower pulled to the side. A high, shiny ute with a beet painted on the red door, I accepted the lift, despite worry over beets, it was raining and well after four.

As I settled inside the chap spoke of beets, across the ranges divide, beets on filled roll, beets in slibber sauce, beets in fine silver bowls, roasted on fire coals, beets stuffed in beets stuffed inside a fat goose, for dessert double beet, beet chocolate mousse.

With rare pause in telling how his crop covered many a hectare, he’d a house on a hill with gold plumbing in the loos, and every day wore a new pair of shoes. “Everyday because I can”. I do not suit the common, brown muddy boot”. He was a peculiar man.

When asked, I’d say in my pre-poet days, my background was in sales. “I ran a manure stand back home in Wales”. By pail, gunny sack, or shovel it yourself from the heap around back. And I tried to save every penny, dreaming of places my brown muddy boots would take me.

Oft in summer, early mornings when I stayed at Worzel’s home in the city. Young trampers were a plenty trail bound from bus and ferry. This is an island that calls to the bold and the ruggedy. With shiny new boots, flash gear in clean pack, I saw many set out, but none looked the same heading back. Sandy and hungry, sun, wind burned, wet and ruddy, you can bet those boots were now soft, scuffed and muddy.

Stories told round hostel table- tell of bear prints in sand, deep salal and bracken fern, Cape Scott, Mystic Susiat Falls, back home be it Hamburg or Melbourne, tell of the brown muddy boots they would earn.

On such a trek, Godfrey caught from the rocks with lucky cast a fat salmon for us three. We gave thanks, and stuffed it with thimble berries, cracker crumbs, dried onion, an apple, our last precious butter. We roasted the fish over clean alder fire. No royals or rich folk ever feasted finer, than we with murmur of out going tide, and slept deep neath the stars as our brown muddy boots dried.

Found a cow path came I, a vagabond strolling, from over the borders southwest, happy to be free of town living, I sat back neath a pear tree to rest. Kicked off my boots, (A tad muddy and damp), hung month old socks from a branch to air dry. Remember the feel of bare feet in soft grass? If not, I suggest you seek out a fresh patch and try…From Godfrey.

BROKE YOUNG ADULT- The 57th wisdom of Godfrey

I had misjudged the tidal crossing of the inlet on a long, hot, sandy tramp. Secure in the knowledge I was not to drown, crawled like a sodden sheep safely spewking up the shore, where a kindly chap in a wayward bus, like this happened every day, dropped me off in the next nearest town..

I was a broke, young adult, by societies standards of acceptability, a tad below it. I preferred to consider myself a “Vagabond, Professional Fig Picker and Poet”. Was hitching down Central Otago way, no shade there was, no passing car, hot wind in the canyons, goo of melting tar.

Out of the mirage a hearse appeared, a dour old man in black rolled  down the window, he said, “I will take you on down to Clyde..yet we are not alone you know”. I shivered in the chilly hearse, he drove so very slowly, did not look back at the box behind that rattled all the way to Clyde, I counted cows, although there were none, at the funeral home thanked them both for the good ride.  I was a broke, young adult. The undertaker shook my hand, pressed into it a five, said he rarely got to journey with someone still alive.

I was a broke, young adult. whiskers now growing in, hair long and bleached by sun and sea. Still cut in the style a monk may wear, last parting gift my sister Alice gave me. I had always feared high, wobbly places, could not abide beets, or cramped closed in spaces. In the brown, muddy boot prints of the bold I set out. “You will perish in the cold, or nasty cable swing bridge will pitch you over-side”, I was told.

At the first cable swing bridge, my knees knocked, at the sight of the river roiling brown in flood, so I sat in the mud, thought one step at a time, up the ladder to the bridge, hold the cables, look ahead not down, you will live to see the treats in the bakery case, far down the wild coast in Westport Town.

I was a broke young adult- taking shelter neath a rock ledge when the storm came, not far from that last cable swing bridge. And as it poured, I had chocolate for reward, located notebook and pen, watched lightning over the mountain, did not fear it or the closed in space of my snug den.

A broke young adult was I, far from home down in Sydney on the harbor quay. she wore a pale grey dress, same shade as her long hair, and from where I sat looked as though her head was no longer there…Elegantly she did glide, rather than walk past The Salvation Army, intent I remained on my writing, until the strange looking woman stopped before me.

She had a head- smiling introduced herself as Miss Lucerne Swish, from Manly. Miss Swish  said my kilt stood out, in the sun on the harbor wall, and the way I was bent over writing, looked as though I had no head at all. We  chatted as new aquaintence ships do, of bush-ballads, vegemite, books wise and ridiculous, talked of anything but beets, was a day I recall time paused for us.

As a broke, young adult, Godfrey’s early years on the road meant facing his fears, he never forgot the swing bridges, or the night he spent huddled in a remote ladies concrete loo as lightning struck all about, and flood waters rose. He never learned to abide moths or antique shops. Now with this “Computery Thing”, I have attempted to locate Lucerne Swish, whom must be very elderly now. In my search, I did locate Mrs Hortensis, landlady of the Woolamaloo boarding house where Godfrey resided in Sydney…another story…here is the simple wisdom he learned that day, so-long ago.  

The 57th Wisdom Of Godfrey states  –    By chance you happen be, Down Under on a  summers day, and observe a person who seems to have no head, passing along the quay, do not gawk. For it is entirely possible- that they may see you too, without a head and feel the same way. Take that time to just sit, time out to just sit and talk.

RED LEATHER JACKET- From Worzel

We endured the dust and chaos of a years renovation, to our home building- “Tara”. The round, scorch hole in the hallway floor from an errant pot of broccoli, the fire escape also partially burned repaired. The “Bug Chandelier” we rescued by night, with help from our friend Hawken, is now in a corner of our cluttered living room.

Tara will always reek of brussels sprouts, we still maintain our luggage shop downstairs, and even with some of her characters gone, there remains a certain whimsy in the old place, and stories found down my turquoise chair….this one features Mrs Feerce, who terrified Godfrey – my friend of 28 years, and something of a vagabond.  

Our home building was modern in 1913, a grand row of saloons turned to flats and small rented rooms. Now below is our shop, an art gallery, Golden Fez Turkish Coffee Maker, and one street over, park and homeless camp, we have come to call “Steinbeck’s Half Acre”.

Was a red leather jacket, found it one summer morning, folded with care at the door, of “Godfreys’ Luggage and Leather Repair “. Odd offerings indeed have been left over the years- beets foul and fair, poetry, cards and photos from many who had met up with Godfrey.

I looked it over carefully, old yet well made, a jacket of soft red leather, styled to fit a lady. Slight smell of bakery, when expected lavender or stale closet-moth- the cuffs a bit worn in a manner that reminded me of Godfrey.

In the wool coat my vagabond wore, he sewed a pocket called his “Secret Hole”, in it went bus fare, address book, the spectacles he had not worn since age five, his all important pen. No “Secret Hole” in this red leather jacket I could yet see….with a barefoot thud, like a barge on the harbor, our landlady Mrs Feerce loomed before me.

Vacabon! Vagabon! Bugular!Bugular!, Mrs Feerce- every other person in her mind was a hippie or intruder, it oft was a challenge being patient with her. Had “she who missed nothing” seen who left the red leather jacket at our door?, Mrs Feerce kept the two cents that dropped from a pocket when she shook it, Haggis!- she waved a cranky finger at me, “Stink in house when you cook it”! Lint in dryer cause fire!, Hippies be dammed!’. Mrs Feerce was gone, the door slammed. Godfrey reckoned she was born of a “Whiskey Keg and Polecat”. I think she was Maltese but never confirmed that.

I have hung the red leather jacket in the window of our shop, checked it over and over for secret hole, for hidden “Snuv” or private pocket. it shows fading from sun and weather, wear of backpack has thinned the leather on the shoulders just a tad, and a tear on the left sleeves inner lining has been ineptly mended using threads of wool- plaid.

For over a year now the red leather jacket has hung in our window, down on “Steinbeck’s Half Acre” the drifters come and go. No one has claimed it, the jacket stays a mystery, somehow I feel that perhaps long ago, it crossed paths with Godfrey.

Godfrey needed little prodding to sing an old song he learned of a place he called “Shady Gate”. Promised me when the time came he’d be there neath the cedars, be there long as waiting would take. Last night I dreamed the red leather jacket was a pillow for my head when I awoke on damp heather, in lieu of my warm bed.  Berries placed by me on a dock leaf clean with dew, and spelled out in the sand by the track- words of welcome to “Shady Gate”…. old friend I welcome you.

With thanks to Ferron” for the life long inspiration. Your jacket, perhaps?

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.