THE ABSQUATULATE- Nudge’s Chance to Shine- from Worzel

The atmosphere was of chewing, rending of teeth on toast, the aah’s of good tea. My pen kept rolling off the wobbly table I had attempted to steady with a wad of toilet roll. I abandoned my pen, no longer wanting a close look at the floor neath the table of “Little Chef’, a roadside service cafe where, on my recent summer visit to Wales, I always met with Godfrey’s eccentric sister, Alice…

To my dismay, Alice’s partner “Nudge Giggleswick’ joined us, with plates licked clean, Nudge produced a disreputable sock, shook it’s contents of coins out on the table, (they rolled everywhere), to sort and count them, earnings from a mornings singing down the market. Alice rummaged in her packet of writings, casting aside sweet wrappers, and a partial portion of cheese. I asked Nudge, a peculiar little man, “What do you, Nudge, actually do?..”Why, I play the “LaughPan”, I created, some call it the “Absquatulate”, would you like to hear my story now we have ate? “Feh” said Alice, indeed, I replied, oh joy! the cheerful Nudge Giggleswick  cried… 

As a child, said he, I was pummeled by the boys, played jump rope with the girls, spent a great deal of time alone in damp cloak room dunce cap on my curls, which were umber colored and Ma let me keep quite long. As a little chap, I was known for out bursts of racous song.

“Had my old mans lungs, said Ma, twas dad who bellowed “All Aboard”, from the train rang the bell with a clang, echoed down the small Welsh valley, where all we Giggleswicks sang. Ma loved a story, and oft told this tale, how I was born elbows first, you see. Ma gave a firm “Nudge” and out I popped wailing, though they wished for a she not their 11th he”.

At aged six- was reported, “It is sad, but that lad appears, to have been made up of spare parts” Miss Fondliver it was, Batley town nurse, “From those freckles to the crab like way that he walks”, she peered down pink nose, through glasses quite thick, noted “I do not see a rosy future for you, young Nudge Giggleswick”

Alice chimed in- From the worn out photos Nudge has let me see, he stood wet and bewildered quite often, as did my late brother Godfrey. While Godfrey was a poet, Nudge sang and whistled non stop, his brothers stuffed his mouth with mashed potatoes, and claimed Nudge came in a sack from the charity shop.

“All Aboard”! called Pa, all aboard everyone, clutching his knapsack, nearly grown now, Nudge waved goodbye as he set out for far off London. No more mashed potatoes, no brothers nasty feet in his face, no more bally-hoo, no more having to hide his musical creations, back of the cold out door loo. Sun crept round the mist as his train clacked along, he reckoned the winter warmth a sign- “I have invented the “Dust Pan Flute”, soon it will be my chance to shine”.

In a hostel dwelt Nudge, in a room with twelve others, the warden’s signs hung in the hall. “Be ye unwelcome loose women, waifs and strays, the itinerant musician” Beware the pickpocket and mini cab tout- Do Not slam The Door on Your Way out. ” as he walked the big city, Nudge sang for his supper of chips and the coins tossed his way, he oft sat in the park thinking long, long thoughts, of home and the music he was learning to play.

He purloined a dust pan from the hostel closet, attached a pilfered  rubber hose to it. He cut strategic holes the length and width, added an old tin cup so his lips would fit, Nudge could not sing as he played his Laughpan, but delighted in the racket it made, from the low drone of  distant cow afar, building to crescendo of  large herd of beasts, in a narrow corridor.

Nudge practiced in the streets everyday, the good folks of London soon paid him well to go away. “Free Music of Nudge” read his sign. Every night, over chips he told himself, indeed he was destined to shine.

Alice tells her version of events- Many years I traveled with “The Uncle Lou Band” we were booed off stage, we were chased off stage from Bristol to Finland…when dear Uncle Lou blew his last notes on trombone, I was cast to the streets on my own. “Let Inside Me Guffaw’ was a favorite tune, I sang ” Jack Neath The Pier”, sang the haunting “Old House Of Ill Repute I Called Home”.

“There she stood, on an apple crate, snow fell softly on her wooly hat, she sang as if straight to my lone heart, after wards I asked, “please join me, in the shelter of yon brewery cart”. She wore an old kilt over trousers, her boots were muddy and brown, her name was Alice, and she came from near my home in Skibbereen Town. Alice asked, “what ever is that odd instrument of mine?….then she joined me in song, oh how those cold coins did shine!.

Alice sang- “Rum Raisin The Tart” is what they called me, I wore no knickers beneath”. From aged 16 to 82, could be found down the stroll on Hampstead Heath”….”she stirred the stars in my heart, thought we could see naught for snow fell thickly”. “She strode, I waddled, walked Alice home to her hostelry’ . Twer much like mine- faded signs hung askew, “No trodding of mud or effluvium in, no singing oddly or loud, no cooking of Brussels Sprouts after 10:00, Beware Of The Curmudgeon.

Partnership did not catapult, Nudge and Alice to fame, she evolved into a prankster, rubbish  filled their dust pan, the cops laughed at his funny name. Still counting his coins I asked again, besides creating a nuisance  together, what else did Nudge like to do? “I awake with guffaw and a zest for life, spent morning looking out the window at folks below”. I play my “Absquatulate” in the bath tub, oft hours at a time”. Sing war songs with old Arthur Bosomsworth, thank Alice for my chance to shine…

Alice, never comfortable around words like “love” or “thine”, “Manners’ or “Couth” sat kilt hiked, inspecting a bony knee, her own. Nudge, who like Godfrey considered no meal complete without peas- covered his shyness by gobbling them through a straw..Peculiar old pair, not peculiar at all..

CINNAMON INNARDS-And Other Stories- From Worzel and Alice

Worzel here- Even now, years since his passing, I oft avoid bakeries, for the scent of venting ovens reminds me so of Godfrey…one summer, on a mission he sought the perfect cinnamon bun, and always gave me the outside bit, brown and crusty, when we were out for Tuesday coffee..

Cinnamon Innards!, he told all who would listen, for Godfrey talked of anything, but beets to all persons. “I dislike beets”, Godfrey did make clear in frequent chat, to all on the #50 bus, or bakery cafe’ when we sat .

“If beets be the laxative of love”, he did extol,” then cinnamon innards, warm, soft and doughy be loves soul”.

We tried them grilled in butter, and bacon fat, he burned his tongue. We tried them iced and plain, we tried cinnamon buns fat-free, day old, we tried them whole grain. We baked our own, a project without nuts, and avoided all raisins, as when very young, his sister Alice told Godfrey, “all raisins are are bug guts”.

Cinnamon Innards!, Sticky spiced spirals, evocative of ever lasting life, I surrender cried the poet, aroma of cinnamon innards on the wind, remember Godfrey, poet prepare to grease thy chin!…

WISDOM FROM ALICE- Godfrey’s sister, Alice was a band singer most of her youth, now a curmudgeon, she centered wholly on herself. When I asked Alice what she loved most, she replied two years later. “I love a good prank of wit, and stealth and quality”. I speak of others, never in ill, only jest, “The Grand Cattle Parade” was one of my best. 

      The happy crowd all thought that the big parade was over, dispersing off to picnics, to the show grounds. Through Batley Town, down the High Street, twirling a baton came I marching mid a large herd of cattle that I’d found.

       One made a very wet mess on the sidewalk, another located hours later in the Lady’s Wear Store, Two got in the post office, the rest found miles away, I was not allowed in the Batley Town Parade anymore…

CHASTISED AT WORK!-  “Last customer I sold that style of shoe, won “The Har-Lottery, and the bonus prize to”.Boss Miss Mellissa Thmot waved her fingernails at me.” Now, Alice, that was inappropriate of you”. Very silly thing of Miss Thmot to do.

For I feigned great upset, and Miss Thmot, had to help my friend Nudge Giggleswick with the ill-fitting rubber boots he bought. Nudge, though well kept and clean, had the worst smelling feet in all of Skibbereen. Born that way, he did not know why, crowds scattered from his path, when Nudge whom I adored, barefoot on the beach strolled by.

He washed his feet in my front yard neath the tap, then sprayed, powdered and dried, with a special towel kept hung in a tree he was welcome inside. Miss Thmot thought she’d smelled it all, in her career selling the shoe, we carried her, gagging out back of the shop, left the boss to recover alone in the Loo.

I thanked Nudge Giggleswick for his help, said Nudge, “What any fine prankster would do, my dearest Alice, what any fond prankster would do….

THE CURMUDGEONS LAMENT- Why did you sit next to me? 

You have many small children, all under three, weeing and eating the table salt, in empty Fish n Chip Shop, why do you sit next to me?    I chose a quiet corner, the water to view, far from him eating herring and no where near you, no wobbly table neath my mince-tart and tea, why do you sit next to me?

I rarely go out to a film or a play, and I chose mid-week or a noon matinee’. Pick a lone seat, where over no ones large head I cant see .Oh why do you sit next to me?.   On a walk in the gardens I rest on the grass, with my stick flick the ice-creams of tourists who pass. Idly I feed carrion bird and pigeon, nasty things, and still you sit down next to me, a grumpy curmudgeon?.

In the Doctor’s room, I wait in a chair, for step father Arthur, in Doctors care, sure enough down you plop, and tell me non stop, of every ailment and pain, when I do not reply, show  your skin rash again. No, I don’t wish to see where the stick was removed, oh why do you sit next to me? Why do you sit next to me?…

MORE ALICE, LOVE THAT ALICE- from Alice

From airport, bus, ferry and cab, I was disgorged onto the sidewalk outside “Tara”. For better or worse, home from summer in Wales. The window display of our dusty luggage shop was a visual delight. Garnet, my long suffering husband had placed a cowboy hat on Godfrey’s ancient globe, strewn about some old hiking socks, and written “There is a lot to See!”, on a chalkboard. We pecked hello, he was intent on his stamp collection, one customer browsed, smelling the assortment of long outdated hand bags…

I paused to acknowledge the doughty “Bug Chandelier”, the still partially burned fire escape, the ever present aroma of beefaroni and cats, the door of our oddest neighbor, Mr Ghostley’s room opened a crack, his way of welcoming me home. I could hear our landlady ranting at someone a floor above.   

It was good to see our toilet, that Godfrey had repaired years ago, still gurgling warm water like a wee geyser. A fresh baked pumpkin pie awaited me, with tinned whip cream and a fork. I was still clutching the air-sick bag, Adelaide’s jam sandwich, now a purplish wodge, and a packet of sister Alice’s latest writing…with pie, I curled up in my turquoise chair, ready to decipher Alice…  

At Home With My Love, Myself- From Alice.   The dreamy air of summer indeed reeks of a poem. It is a rare day, quietly I spend  at my home. Sitting out on the veranda hear the cursing and slap, of an intense  game of cards, Ma and stepdad Arthur playing “Snap”.

Dandelions thrive on lawn otherwise unkept, brown and dead. Hear the joyless cry of a nearby child who has fallen on his head. There is one less large rat in the neighborhood this morning, for Arthur’s cat brought it home, I can hear the crunch and gnawing, under the veranda where I sit with tea and poem. Dreamy airs of a quiet day at home.

Wedded Acrimony- My Early Years- from Alice.   Our parents were joined in wedded acrimony, granted quite young. I do not recall the ceremony, I was but eight months and three, but well recall at six, being presented with Godfrey.

He squinted up at me, his head the size and shape of an orange, bottom of the market discard pile. Miss Commerford the nurse, (she spits when she talks) told me, mind your new brother, let your Ma rest awhile. Wedded acrimony, they yelled, they fought, she threw bum trinkets at our dad that he bought.

Baby Godfrey disliked beets, but he loved sour pickles, I’d give him one to gum as a soother at night. Slip out the backdoor, drag him in a wagon to our Grandma’s, when Ma and Dad would fight. And oft we’d have to wait, for Gran outside the pub, I’d feed Godfrey chips, and we’d listen to the ships horns, and whistles heading to and from the sea. I vowed back then I would never live, never live, not me, in wedded acrimony.

Indeed, it is true, I did torment him with beets. A trusting toddler, soggy sour pickle in hand, he escaped my grasp as the May Day Parade passed, long before I did, Godfrey ran off with the band.  Leaning on a mop in pail, in ill fitting smock, and manner most weary, she stood, Godfrey in hand on the deck of a harbor ferry. “Is this yours?, she asked, “I replied yes, sadly, “though he is my brother, and sorely dislikes beets, I cannot yet ship him off to Norway on his own”. We trundled, with giggle and guffaw, back to wedded acrimony, our home.

Yakmess   – from Alice-  I spelled Oast-house. and rancid, I spelled correctly blubber and onion. if Yakmess was one word, in the spelling competition I’d have won. “You are disqualified!’ The nasty judge judged, with no argument over Yakmess, I be carried outside. Dragged out to the school yard, where spellers of naughty words were sat, and pervert Mr Verne Von Wanker stood guard.” I learned very young, I must sing  loud, over the rabble to be heard, and maintain to this day, that Yakmess is all one word.

Ma- Preneur- From Alice-  How did Ma manage? I was 14 when dad never came back, after that final row, his belongings sat for years in a corner of the shed, in a fertilizer sack. Lettuce, Turnip, The Beet, she grew a full garden, kept hens, a cow and pig, knitted every thing Godfrey wore several sizes too big. Ma sold her creations from a market stall in Batley, paid off our cottage, so it was no great worry, in modern parlance she was quite the “Ma- Prenuer”. Always gossiping, always busy, always yelling at Godfrey.

Beware of The Curmudgeon- From Alice.  Now in years of my “Dottage”, I sit summer day on my own cottage steps, shaded by stinging nettles deep and thick. Ma and Arthur are still playing “Snap”. I await my current beau, Mr Nudge Giggleswick. “Beware of The Curmudgeon”, Nudge stenciled on my gate, “Mind the Gap”, I wrote in return on his, and we delight of late, watching folks, peddling brushes and religious literature, look down for a gaping hole, or scurry past my dooryard, unsure.

Nudge has brought a tape recording, the sound of crocodiles in mate, we shall hide it by my fish pond, frighten passing children, I can’t wait. I shall hail the ice-cream truck, it brings them running in a pack, happily sit back when Nudge plays the gruesome snarling, and when they run!…they will not be slapped or yelled at, as Godfrey was, but consoled with dear, we warned you…”Beware of that old Curmudgeon”.

My word, I thought to myself, only partway into Alice’s packet, if this is what will help get “The Collected Wisdom of Godfrey” published…so be it. More Alice, love that Alice.

A CURMUDGEON IN SUMMER- From Beatrice

Since making themselves at home on Sonsie farm, little that aged wanderers Adelaide and Benny got up to surprised me anymore- and this summer morning, upon waking to the clinking of shovels, and Adelaide’s singing, I did get up to look. From my loft window, I could see them out in a paddock, industriously  digging a hole. Digging something up, or burying it?. .mild cacaphony drifted then oer the land. Benny and Adelaide dropped their shovels and legged it into the trees, goats queried, my turkey and her young huddled on the shed roof. Clattring through the gate in an ancient, black London Cab came Alice, Godfrey’s older sister. Alice invited herself every year, on a random date, to celebrate her birthday with me, bringing cake, only for herself, and her latest selection of poems….

      PRETTY THE GALAH- From Alice  

         Oft written in deep thought have I, and sat watching caged birds who perch watching the sky. As they cooed, pecked and quarreled, and merrily ate. Pretty a pink Galah, lived in a shop window, pecked seeds from a sack. But in her bird mind dos she dream a free Egret’s dream, eating bugs that eat bugs that attract other bugs on broad water buffalo’s back?  

Young, fledgling crow taken out neath the bus, her flock gathers round cawing, murder! Murder! of crows one of us taken out by a bus!. 

I once fed hens spaghetti, like rabble of ladies at a buffet, they gobbled and tugged and chattered as they ate. Yes, I have a soft spot for chickens, and the joy they provide on my plate.  

We had a town librarian, I called her “Old Miss Emu”. She had un-kept feathery grey hair, long neck and a manner quite haughty. Miss Emu at my urging, would sneak up on my brother Godfrey, peer over his shoulder, hope to catch him reading something vulgar or naughty. 

Learning to hunt prey, a young eagle, catches a steel head trout, it’s scales reflect sun in a rainbow spray. Heavy and awkward, he drops the fish, down, down, into the yard of a child just sent out to play. Twenty Five years later, the young man holds the framed photo, and headline- “Toddler With Catch of The Day.”  

And pretty the Galah, in the pet shop window caged, I pass by my work every day. 

BARNACLE- From Alice-  My dear brother Godfrey, wished return to life as a blade of grass. Not on a lawn, but tussock high on an alpine pass. My self wish to return as an all important barnacle. Rough and sharp on the outside, soft inside. I will cling to stone or piling, at one with storm, and tide and salt sea air. All who meet me will take caution, “Do not step on Alice with your feet bare!”  

CURMUDGEON SUMMER- From Alice-  In daily tedious task I oft meet, persons seeking shoes, their moist warm feet with ruler measure. Oh, despite my rudeness still they come, bell above the shop door rings, may I help you? I am Alice, a curmudgeon.  

      In curmudgeon season, summer, feet are bare, most often in the balmy air, I stroll the pleasant sea side strand, stout my pointed stick in hand, and when alone, fancy knock the top off staring passing persons ice-cream cone. I slip garlic in the urns of tea at cafe’s that refuse to serve me- not cake or bun to innocent curmudgeon. 

To enjoy a full day off, I recommend stock your shop with mice, listen to the screams and shouting, help your boss down from a box stack, be helpful, gently shoo the mice out the back.  

Picking Others Flowers is a Low Form Of Behavior”, read the sign in the dirt outside a posh office. I pick all that I please, for daisies make me sneeze, on the crowded bus I announce” I feel I have toast crumbs in my blood”, share the wheeze of allergies.  

Fair the summer season for The Skibereen Curmudgeon, wander down the airport runway during traffic on a holiday. I delight young and old with my stand selling spiked lemonade, fun for ages eight to eighty, watch them sleep it off in the shade. 

On a drive in the country, the road narrows tween stone walls, valley verdant and green. I enjoy the bellow, as a lonely bull calls, he has a wet, snot nose, has been wandering loose since dawn, he is uncouth, and that endears him to this curmudgeon.  

The annual church picnic, cheating at Croquet with charmer Nudge Giggleswick, was it cat food? was it tuna fish, the dish I brought talk of the town next day in Skibereen, I may be a curmudgeon in summer- but also a lady, and a lady reveals nothing…..

I must admit, there was an earnestness to Alice’s dreadful poetry. I sent her off with a stamped packet, of her work to send Worzel ,in Canada to read. Peace was restored to Sonsie, at sundown when Alice roared off, shouting back over her shoulder- “Tell those two, dig a proper hole, if you are to dig a hole at all”. Adelaide and Benny had still not returned the next day, but theirs is a whole other story…from Beatrice.

HERE’S A CANDLE- From Worzel

Godfrey was ill..He called it “FLUX O” BILE”. He was curled up in my turquoise chair, unhappy. Lest it be perceived that in telling his story, I have elevated Godfrey to sainthood- it was his own fault. Alone all day , he made a pan of vanilla fudge, promising to save me half, he then ate the whole pan, made another one, ate half of it so I
would not be cross…It happened that day, in the post came a letter from his sister, Alice, who wrote every three years on her birthday. He read the letter to me.

Drear Brother- I awoke to Ma and Arthur bickering   over the sink in the loo, four sets of teeth were soaking where the night before soaked only two. It is fun to play “Whose teeth belong to who.” Though retirement is sheer enjoyment I have had to seek employment in the distant village of Tuckware, Unlike Skibbereen, few persons know me there.

I remain a curmudgeon, a clerk in Klapp’s Shoe Warehouse and Repair.   “I bring a smelly lunch daily in the same greasy sack, plugged up the employee toilet in the back, made a mess out of the new stock, purloined someone named “Gloria’s”  name-tag and smock, I bring dust from home to waft over the shelves, gossip out loud while the customers help them selves, switched lids on the polish so the black you buy is white, and drive home still
a curmudgeon to Ma and Arthur every night.

Happy Birthday to me- From Alice..Unrepentant wee thing, Godfrey moaned, folding the letter, “I told him here is a story, may help you to feel better.
“Twas early days, I was new to the city, needed “sensible shoes” for my job in the library, a shop refused my business on grounds “I was a Hippie” Garnet Odd, we had recently just met was with me, our jeans were faded, I wore an old shirt of yours that I treasured, old boots were decent, ready to be judged for size and measured.

“I feel about shoes as you do the beet, never liked anyone kneeling at my feet.” “As we entered the shoe store, a wizened, scowling clerk was telling of the liver-burger, served on a bun the night before, the second rude clerk in cardigan-skirt ignored us as if we were not there, a third appeared out of nowhere, muttering loudly about Garnet’s long hair.

Behind a loafers display she lurked, shook skinny finger at me, and gasped exasperated, “Not another scruffy Hippie”…
“My goodness, Worzel, Godfrey cried, Alice is a prankster, always has been, but never oh so mean, do go on”. “In shock then I looked about, realized my Garnet Odd was gone..but not for long, from the shop next door he trotted, candle in hand, rainbow layers of wax, set in sand, the style of the day.

“He held the candle out to the nasty first clerk- “Here’s a candle, he spoke soft- may it help light your way, also good to heat baked beans, warm heart and hands on, a gift from a hippie, here’s a candle”.
The second rude clerk retreated to the phone, presumably to call the law, the third, clearly a curmudgeon almost smiled, I could tell by the telltale twitch in her jaw. “We left her holding the sand candle, laughed about it end of the day, I did not buy shoes, and it mattered very little anyway.”
“Perhaps, Godfrey thought, that in a stuffy shop, hemmed in by rubber and genuine cowhide, of liver burger dinner, and fading sales, joy had been shelved dusty, off to one side”. “I hope the message cast in sand was one at least the third rude clerk could understand. “Judge me not by my hair and old plaid shirt, I came seeking shoes, and your profound rudeness rather hurt”
Garnet later told me when alone, “It is not the memory of the candles Mum lit in our mountain cabin window, not of sunrise after heavy snowfalls, or its glow on sandstone canyon walls” “And over our long years together, when life has bumped or hurt me, I am reminded of the many candles he has held out, bold before others, or in quiet time privately, Here’s a candle..he would tell me. (For Ginger and Lonewolf)