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.

 

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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.

EQUILIBRISTAT- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here- recently reminded of life’s fragility…

I was recently reminded, while out rambling in the city. Saw a young delivery driver, under the gun, in a big hurry. Juggling paper work and boxes, sacks of rice in heavy load, a moments inattention, a jar of liquid honey fell, and shattered in the road.

In an instant the labor of uncounted bees, was lost to glass and dust. It caused folks to glance over, a carriage horse to snort and shy. the #50 bus drove through the mess, do not trod in it, Worzel dear spoke Godfrey, as arm in arm we two strolled by.

I knew that he knew that I knew what he was feeling as we carried on a silent walk, was later that summer, out star gazing, he recalled that fallen honey in his own odd way, as we sat midnight at the lakeside on the dock.

Said Godfrey- “Back home in Wales, our Grandad was  a fisher.” “Took us out with him often, sister Alice and me”. “This time we hit a rock, or wreck, I do not know which, the boat began to fill, Alice to heave ill, “Grandad turned to me, “Go and make a pot of tea, Alice, shut up and hold fast, make the tea hot and strong lad, it may be our last”.

I did as told, he patched the hole, it was not in my destiny, or Alice’s to drown, we drank tea  and ate ginger biscuits as we puttered back to town. I was only eight, my first big awareness that life is precariously balanced on a dewdrop, a dewdrop on a dock leaf rooted in the earth, as autumn is meant to set adrift, eventually, as Grandad did , a fisher on the North Sea.

Equilibristat- Larry the Free Advice Wino told us once, in his years as a young rover, Said Larry,” I worked the Equilibristat, it measured the angle of the tracks curve, so trains could travel safe, not tip and fall over.”

Something so simple, bend or crack from frost, delicate balance upset, a mighty train would be lost.

I recall that long past summer, and the dropped jar of honey. Regret I never got to meet Free Advice Wino Larry. With ranting Meglomaniacs poised over the key, fear mongers shall not still my pen, my world is not ruled by weaponry.

Hold fast to our homes Equilibristat- no question I’d rather trust it to Free Advice Wino Larry.

ELDERFLOWER AND BAGMOUSE- from Worzel

On this, my 5th summer visit to Wales , I put off meeting with Alice, Godfrey’s older sister until last. Beatrice, fearing a ruse by Alice ,would not leave Sonsie Farm, fearing the prankster may double back, to tease her goats, or goad elderly tenants Adelaide and Benny into painting her puce cottage yellow. 

Alice would only meet me at a “Little Chef” roadside diner, she had been barred from every other cafe for miles. Alice and Godfrey’s doughty Ma filled one side of a booth, hands oddly lean and strong, knitting me a cardigan. Alice’s partner, “Nudge”, and stepfather Arthur crowded a table, counting a hat full of money, they had been down the market, singing war songs, Nudge keeping time on a length of rubber hose.  

Alice, as had Godfrey, considered no meal complete without peas, and was devouring a trencher full. A cranky, harried waitress slobbed a stained mug of tepid tea, the bag a wodge at the bottom, before me, and Alice the drinking straw she requested. Alice used the straw to fire peas at an innocent toddler two booths over….

Ma still refused to talk about Godfrey- even when I showed her our thick manuscript, even when I told her how he thwarted a robbery. “We heard screaming outside a pet shop, saw a youth running from the parking lot clutching a carry bag, the thief actually tripped over Godfrey’s big manly feet, headlong into a pole. Godfrey knelt and talked to the bandit about apples, until the cops arrived. The stolen goods were recovered, a bag of Gecko Food, he declined the local news interview…”Twer the beets turned him odd..is all I got from Ma.  

   I turned my attention to the packet of writing Alice brought along, delighted it seemed less “Alice” than usual.. from his old teacher, Mrs Kromplak, something of a “Tippler”.  

ELDERFLOWER AND BAGMOUSE- From Mrs Kromplak.

Godfrey never knew it, when very young I called him “Bagmouse” like the kangaroo, noble marsupial, he hopped about in baggy knitted horse sweater, with a pouch, long mane and tail behind to. His friend Beatrice was my “Wild Welsh Elderflower”, shyly sliding in late, wet and cold, the pair oft brought apples pinched from the market, or a stripy June-bug beetle for me to hold.

I had seen elder flowers bloom from cracks in old stone, tiny yet determined to endure against all odds and grow….and recall the mob of gray kangaroos, I met on main street of a dusty, distant town in my girlhood long ago.

In my desk I kept a flask, for all who asked why “Medicinal Whiskey” for my nerves not the same since the war, Elderflower and Bagmouse, to my dismay once sneaked a swig, perhaps more, found the two gagging halfway to the outside toilet door. “Your medicine burns like Oobleck, Godfrey, the only child I knew who could at the same time, speak in rhyme, laugh cry and spew…Now I am old as, “The Old Ladies’ Home “snores about me- I trust Alice will give to you this packet, remnant of Bagmouse’s story….

EIGHT PIRATES- From Godfrey-  aged ten- eight nasty pirates, in their dirty socks, out late drinking grog, falling from the docks. Seven  nasty pirates now, eating pickled herring, six fell ill, one pirates past caring.

Six nasty pirates, all with peg legs, made them late for mug-up, five got the dregs. five nasty pirates, swabbed the slippery plank, one fell overboard, into the deep he sank. Four nasty pirates, on a night so dark, when at dawn the storm eased, was one lost to a shark.

Three nasty pirates, all in one bed, slip of the cutlass, bad dream, Raoul lost his head. Two nasty pirates left, eyes on the horizon, missed the rogue wave from the aft, now there’s only one. One nasty pirate relaxing in the sun, conked by a coconut oer the head, no more pirates, all dead…From Godfrey.

SIR FRANCIS DRAKE- From Godfrey- At Grandma’s house when I happen to wee, I look up at her painting above the loo, “The Golden Hind” ship of sail, out on the oil paint blue. Sailors hang on the lines so bold, the cook peers out on deck grizzaled and old, the better the light of dawn to see, bugs in the mutton, and gruel so cruel and weevily.  Magesticley see the Galleon ride, see the back end of Ralph heaving over the side. And the fins of sharks above the wake, and no sign what so ever of Sir Francis Drake.

WALNUT DOWN- My  sister and I stayed up awake, when Ma prepared the Christmas cake, with fruit and nuts she kept hidden all year, and expensive sugar.We crowded her elbow to make a wish and stir, I recall Alice’s cry of Walnut Down! , if nut or raisin should jump from the basin.  We dove in unison for the treat, her great thick head bashed  my noggin, “Godfrey hit me in the head with his skull!, cried Alice, as under the sink I crawled, it may be cracked!. Alice bonked me on the head with hers, Ma, I bawled. We learned to stay well clear of Ma, at eve when she chose to bake, for our Ma had reflexes quick as a snake, snatched up the walnut as we rowed, threw it back in the cake with the cry- Walnut Down!.

CHOCOLATE COVERED SALT- From Godfrey-  Twas Alice in creative mood, oft tried to ruin my day with food. Knowing full well I abhor all beets, yet can not turn away from pastries or sweets. Melted chocolate did Alice, with tender care on the stove. Filled them with fondant, tied with a ribbon, “Happy Birthday dear Brother with Love”. I ought to have known, the first two sweets had a cherry inside, the third a cherry pit, the 4th sweet was a cube of salt, sent me racing outside for to gag and to spit. When I am bigger, and get up the daring, shall make Alice Bon- Bons filled with herring..

RUNNING- From Godfrey- Running, I ran across the far meadow.  Was chased by the bull, all snot nose and bellow. I cleared the stone wall with room to spare, chased by the bull on Alice’s dare.

Ran, I ran quick home from the shops, biscuits and cream sent to get. The biscuits were reduced to crumb, the cream by my jogging churned to a clot, Ma wacked me across the bum, and boxed my wee head a swat.

Ran, I ran from bullying louts, armed with beets and frozen sprouts, were times I truly wished that I, could summon a dragon from the sky. Flames green and gold, scales of brass in the sun. Tenbrooks Smythe The Third, his cohorts “Heavy” and “Whet”, would drop their beets in defeat and run…

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, he was my friend for 28 years..and  childhood defined his well developed love of the absurd.

MY SECRET MOTHER-From Worzel

Godfrey and I were indignant with one another. Concerned with his wheezing, I had dragged him to a medical clinic. He sat, muttering in Welsh on an ugly, orange plastic chair, mine was itchy ass wicker. A lethargic goldfish stared at me from a lonely bowl. There were sticky magazines, and a grubby “Golden Book Of Bible Stories”. Two nurses behind glass discussed evening plans- “I’m seeing Pierre again tonight”…ooh, he’s big!’…

Across from Godfrey a chap sat bleeding, the result of cleaning a grill with a meat cleaver. An elderly lady asked us if we knew the lord. Godfrey’s reply in Welsh seemed to satisfy her. Finally his name was called, he stomped off, complimenting Pierre’s date on her smock. I waited, and waited, until coolly informed my vagabond had bolted out the toilet window. I found him two blocks away, feeding his face with doughnuts, pretending to admire a hedge.   

Over the years Godfrey spent with us, we delighted in observing the characters riding the #50 city bus. One we oft saw was a prim woman our age, always absorbed in the same book- “My Secret Mother”. The cover art featured a blond woman in pearls, a buck-toothed child eating bread and jam, a man is leaving out the saggy screen door, carrying plumbers tools. It was quiet on the bus this day, “I smell beets”, Godfrey griped, “Shut-up, I replied.

As he would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets, to my dismay, he introduced himself to the book reader, and asked if he could borrow “My Secret Mother” when she was done. She clapped it shut, stuffed it in her bag, and gravely informed Godfrey that, “Such a good book, I never want it to end!’…

All many years ago, today I rode the bus out to Devonian Park where still roams a multi generational flock of feral chickens I promised Godfrey I would feed on Tuesdays. Only the people on #50 have changed- sleepy Kevin has moved on, the clanking sweats of tired builders, the loud group of young women claiming to be “The Supremes”. And the book reader, who inspired me to write of my own “Secret Mother”… 

I had a secret mother, she was unafraid of thunderstorms or bees or cattle, or to join me in battle, an old blue blanket rumpled as the sage prairie, or oft a wild, roily sea.  No dolls, just tin ships and plastic horses once the school bus ate my siblings, she played all morning with me.

My secret mother, sent me outside in all weather, to happy dig for treasure with spoons, pennies hidden neath the pansies. Let me eat raw pie dough, and burnt ketchup on thick toast, chicken soup from a tin, and she never made me sit politely when her friend Mrs Vowel  dropped in.

I later learned from my sister, and Inkerman our older brother, we all had that year before starting school, without you or Cudberth, alone with our secret mother. “Lacking a working car she drove us once by tractor to the shops, down main street roared the rusty Massey- Ferguson, us waving and smiling to everyone.”

Afternoons we watched “The Edge of Night”, and “Galloping Gourmet”…came the day, end of summer, I was wedged into a cousin’s dress and shoes, our Aunt June took all of us to school. Teacher loomed, pointer in hand, told the class- “Worzel’s mother, Three Mile Lil, has left by train for the coast”. I had a self embarassing lunch that day, sister Fillipendula packed burnt ketchup on thick toast.

Most days I was sat in the old, cold cloak room, in company of others who did not listen or had wet themselves. I learned to hide a book to read, behind spare chalk on the high shelves. Hid it in my arithmetic work book cover, told any one who asked that indeed, I had a secret mother.

Three Mile Lil sent one birthday card when I turned eight, said she missed burnt ketchup on toast, and all the tinned soup that we ate. Inkerman, Fillipendula and Cudberth got the same card for years always on the wrong date.

I recall with odd fondness though, my wayward mother, who oft drank along with that “Galloping Gourmet”. And called on me to stash empty wine bottles, to shoo pixies away down the drain. All that hit a wobble, no more ketchup on toast, when stepmother Mrs Gibberflat soon came…

Yes so long ago, here I sit a silly old woman feeding chickens…and recall an early work of Godfrey-” Apricot Chicken”.

THE ABSOLUTE AMOUNT OF JOY- From Worzel

I will share one of those simple city moments…homeward bound on a Friday afternoon, spat bug like from the humid maw of the #50 bus, and hitching up my drawers on the curb- observed two, seemingly “challenged” young men arguing over a rubbish bin. They were pointing into the trash, where one had dropped his bus pass, and working out what day tomorrow was,   “Verne, tomorrow’s Saturday, then Sunday, then tomorrow’s Monday and you need your bus pass…there  was joy in the working it out- as the two friends retrieved the grimy pass and hurried off- as I did, thinking of joy on my trudge home.  

My long suffering husband, Garnet reckoned talking to Godfrey about joy was “Akin to being handed an empty ice cream cone,” and happily munching on what he was given”. Godfrey never feigned joy, he truly disliked beets, had his share of blue/gray times, he grieved for an angry world, yet could create three scoops from an empty cone, and munched on life’s joys.  

I recall the last winter Godfrey spent with us- deep in my turquoise chair, with his journals, wrapped in a quilt against the chill. We had cinnamon scones in the oven, coast gobular snow falling wetly, darkening the days by 3;00. Peaceful, it was, knowing all I loved would always be with me in this small flat. Here are some of his writings on childhood joy. From Godfrey..

When my parents were not bickering, not shouting at each other, they would dance. Down the streets, pushing me in the pram  my sister Alice ran after, I recall their laughter, dad dancing Ma down the cobbles of Batley, down the foreshore to the sea.

We had countless aunts, all buxom in build, they wed men named Hugh, one after the other.  In the dim, smoky halls, pickled beets on trays of silver, shrill singing and tatty frock of my grandmother, an odd little boy, who disliked beets, learning the absolute amount of joy- so to I danced.

Cross the cow crowded paddock, I leaped chasing swallows, pirouetted  over dragons with the beets I was slaying, danced past my Uncle Lou, back of the pub when his band was playing.

With older sister Alice, at a slow, solemn funeral knee high in a sea of black. We got into the tea-cakes, (Sponge with cream fill)  I was quite ill, but Alice sicker, over the robes and shoes of the Vicar. There was yelling and calling on “Vim” for the stain, Alice grabbed up beets, and chased me round the graveyard again and again. I danced out of her reach, beyond range of the beets, laughing as I hid in the coal hod’s dark corners, was dragged out still laughing by the undertaker, and a large mob of disgruntled mourners.

Learning the absolute amount of joy….Racing down the sand on a sturdy pony, bonfire on a summer birthday, quiet riverbank to read by winding through our valley, bakeshop in the tiny village where everybody knew me. Doing, on occasion what I was told- “Godfrey shut up, go play in the road” ordered Alice- brought home coated in tar, first ever ride in a police car.

That icy swig of fizzy drink that Worzel grew up calling “pop”. Oh the joy of belches, long car journeys, racing off to wee when Ma chose to stop. I survived all, and grew bigger and danced kilt a twirl, yet too awkward ever dare speak with a girl.

The absolute amount of joy- that one friend who ate beets for you, crossed a pool of manure when you were in need of rescue. carried knapsack nimbly to  the Tor of high stone, stride for stride, twas Beatrice laughed at our squashed lunch packet, taught me to milk and goat and how to ride.

Windblown hair to your shoulders, sun warmed boulders, smell of wet, clean flannel, from the hike up, icy water in my hands cup, view over Sonsie meadow land, joy in new book open in my hand. And though Beatrice, you loathed it- would dance at the receptions of those oft married aunts.  There is absolute joy in you- solid as your puce cottage, dear as the memory of evensong on the pathway through the tall grass to your loo.

There is joy in the compiling of Godfrey’s story, even after five years. Beatrice, home in Wales still refuses to consider a “Computery thing” . Her letters come on valley time, today in her 1939 Royal Visit biscuit tin with what may be Neenish Tarts, now a sweet buttery wodge, I will post the tin back filled with Nanaimo Bars, which Beatrice’s tenants  Benny and Adelaide adore, and Alice claims expertise at concocting. Alice teases the pastry loving old pair by putting walnuts in every thing she chooses to share, knowing walnuts give both of them hives.

Beatrice writes- I am rarely invited into the yellow painted sleep out Benny and Adelaide occupy here on the farm. Only large enough for their bed of books, plaid steamer trunk, berry pails for chairs, and plank table, all cooking is done over a fire in the yard. On the wall hang framed photos of The Queen,( Adelaide’s former employer,) a view of the Yarra River dated 1956, and one of spirited women, pinny clad, racing with fry pans down the cold, February streets of Olney. Pancake Racing with joy, in 4th place, I recognize the youthful, though even then bow-legged Adelaide. Pancakes- Benny and Adelaide agreed- the absolute amount of joy.

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.