THE SPOOL- A Wharf Street Story- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here- In early days of my friendship with Godfrey- I sent him to the shop needing cream for the coffee. He set off on a bike, the quicker to be . The coffee went cold, as I disliked it black, about noon, grinning broadly Godfrey came back…

“Said I had cream in hand, heading out the shop door, my right buttock bumped a stack of pickled beets in a jar”. “The beets spread around me, I leaped through shattered glass, with a broom the old store owner hit my young ass”. “I took the long cut home on the Goose Trail Path.”

Twas long, rough and windy- but here is a carrot muffin and cream for the coffee. It may have been cream when he ran from the store, but what Godfrey brought home refused to pour, complete whipped solid from his round about journey. “He spooned it out- explaining gravely, that “Clotted cream, my dear is a delicacy”. Mornings like this one, looking out over Wharf Street, I truly miss The Vagabond Godfrey….

Godfrey Writes- It is morning on Wharf Street, from my window I see- a city rubbish truck disapear- lost to the odd, “Wall of Illusion” below me .Favorite trees barely budding for springs shyly late, the bridge is up and a line of cars wait.

Sun up is a promise, draft from the old windows cool, it is Sunday morning and down along Wharf, came a young man, he was riding a spool. A spool!, indeed thought I as he rumbled past. He was holding a cup of coffee aloft- or perhaps it was green tea..it occurred to me, balanced, rolling high on the spool so nimbly.

Watching over Wharf Street, I have seen many odd things pass by. Vintage taxis, Penny Farthings, all manner of rusted jalopy, often a cop on foot chasing after some guy. It’s a rumpity old street, narrow and busy, with tram tracks and pot holes twixt The Salvation Army, and a Mexican Cafe, thrice resurrected that burns down regularly.

I see cyclists pass in tight shorts and helmets with jackets that glow. Trailed by a street person, bike fully laden with bottles and cans, bound for the return it depot. But never anyone riding a spool, what a view he would see from up high as along Wharf he rumbled!. And what of the pain if the #50 bus came along, and by chance he tumbled?.

Worzel reckoned this chap was of simple needs, going back in time of the wheels creation. She said- “No doubt the first spool was built by a woman, toting laundry to water or large carcass home to hut or cave”. “Transport impractical at most, but think of the time waiting for a bus that spool would save”.

“But when did time become so vital a thing to “save,” when we are all allotted the same every day?. Asked I, turning back to the window in hope that the chap on the spool, with his beverage of choice chance again ride by.

Perhaps further down Wharf where the police oft lurk, arresting riders of spools, (all in a days work), the youth was questioned, and lectured again, and forced to walk home from whence he came, the spool taken as evidence of” Laws Blatant Disregard “, it sits to this day in the police impound yard.

Tis a Mardy Sunday morning down on Wharf Street…

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.

 

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.