JULIET BALCONY- From Godfrey and Worzel

There were years, and months Godfrey spent in deep retreat, I worried over him. Beatrice in Wales worried more, but we did not know each other back then..I never asked what was wrong in the time he writes of in “Juliet Balcony”. I only knew that for Godfrey, being knee deep in a cold, chuckling river, or baking cream buns was his best therapy…It was long ago, but I thank the residents of “The Old Nurses Home”, then and now for their kindness to our vagabond.  

In the mining town of Reefton tucked deep in the valley, the Inangahua River flows cold. Down narrow canyon her bends create deep pools, and there in the shallow bits Godfrey spent summertime panning for gold.

Twas during his hard times, his dark days, of a sadness he struggled to understand. Godfrey at heart was a blyth spirit- rare as the gem stones and gold flakes he gleaned from the sand.

It helped him feel better, this gurgling, clean water, wrote he..”Peaceful the Inangahua, in no hurry this river to join the wild Tasman Sea.” He had a plain, small room at “The Old Nurses Home” Godfrey did. Up the high stair, his room had a Juliet Balcony, and oft he just sat on an ancient cane chair- “Older than you or me”. Out on my Juliet Balcony”.

“I get the morning sun a bit late, as deep is this valley”. “It comes warming the sheep fields of small farms, and the steaming forest canopy”  I get the dawn chorus of sweet native birds, grinding gears of school bus starting up”. Scent toast and coffee , must go down for a cup- but linger a tad on my Juliet Balcony”

“Kneeling by the river, my kilt hangs safe and dry in a tree”. I wear the modest flowered shorts, from the flour sacks you sewed up for me”. “In late afternoon the rain comes in earnest, but dos not feel chilly”. For “The Old Nurses Home” has a great, deep bath tub down the hall, and later shelters the vagabond out on his Juliet Balcony”.

“Every cup in the cupboards a mismatch, all plates and bowls different”, Godfrey observed. As usual in times of wet weather, he baked. All the travelers and all the old nurses, yaffled the scones and cakes he served.

At eve, after supper in the lounge room below, the retired nurses gather round the piano. Tea and biscuits, laughter and song, everyone welcome to sing along, sing all the oldies.

“The Old Nurses Home had a vast wild garden of native plants let grow amok. Hidden corners with tables for quiet contemplation, borders of driftwood logs, and well placed river rock”. Pears grew, figs and Kiwi fruit to, grapes heavy on an arbor, a young apple tree”. Visitors added seashells, odd wrought iron pieces of old farm equipment…a tranquil space neath his Juliet Balcony

“In a place of joy, how trite seemed my worries- and retired nurses do have the funniest stories. “I shared the device I devised, for removing thorns from ones own derriere. They gave me a wonderful salve for the sand fly bites I itched everywhere”. “Gave me sage advice to avoid the chaos and noise of major city- as I baked them a batch of Anzac Biscuits…I oft wonder now who looks out, over my Juliet Balcony’.

“I strolled in the garden one hot afternoon, the wisest of old nurses joined me in welcome shade”. “With her blessing I left the gold I had panned as an offering to the garden, along with my fragments of garnet and jade”. “Of the many things we talked of, most vital is what I learned from this wisest and humble of nurses- forgiveness…

“I sought wisdom, and wisdom in the least likely places found me- from a retired nurse neath my Juliet Balcony”    From Godfrey.

 

CAUGHT IN THE RAIN-From Worzel and friends

Worzel here, I guffaw at romantic notions of being “Caught in the rain”. Lost to me in elderly dislike of rubbery outer wear and being blown home, with a griping wet ass and sodden grocery bags. Godfrey knew the rain, lived in harmony with it, being caught out wet made the deep, hot bath and tea more of a treat. 

He oft pondered the subject, rainy days spent blanket wrapped in my turquoise chair, as I am this Sunday, looking out over busy Wharf street. I asked friends, (and his sister Alice) for their stories of being “Caught in the rain”. This is an old one, from the late Larry, free Advice Wino….

Long ago, stormy morning, passed The Salvation Army, heard there playing piano, The Vagabond Godfrey. So wet, windy and cold the shelter opened early. Sodden gear spread to dry, smell of toast and hot coffee. Though I seldom dropped by,  stood and paused in the doorway, he was barely proffessinal on that battered piano, such peace was in the music from Godfrey.

Said he learned by ear from his sister back home in Wales. Hour by hour she practiced the notes and scales,” I know now she knew what I knew, when Alice did not think I could carry a tune in a pot, and if I dared touch her piano, risked being tossed headlong out in the rain if ever caught”

Sister Alice is a well known prankster in her home village, Skibbereen, in Wales.  

Fish and chips, pies, pastries and tea by the pot, tastes best after you have been caught. Caught doing what??, you ask, do you imply that I may avoid pranking, in order to stay warm and dry?.

There is joy in being caught in the rain, the town cop, Brian dislikes my stick, and soggy fur wrap, he holds getting his hat wet in some disdain. I push my step father Arthur in his chair through puddles, and once got the poor old chap mired axle deep in wet grass. Arthur shook his cane, and bellowed and swore that he had not been mired in deep grass since the war, When the firemen came, to lift Arthur out, we had good guffaws and handshakes all about. ..

Caught we were as the rain poured down, caught the jolly pranksters of Skibbereen Town. From “Alice- A life in Praise of Myself”.

Benny and Adelaide- They are a world roaming pair of elderly rogues, they have made themselves at home on Sonsie Farm, with Beatrice- Godfrey’s lifelong friend, with whom I am compiling his story. “Feh, wrote Beatrice- I was born caught in the rain”. Benny and Adelaide were happy to share-..

“On most every journey, save “The Nullarbor Plain”, we with our trunk have been caught in the rain. a useful shelter, our trunk, huddled under it many a bleak, gray dawn, and with purloined paddles, carried us, waving like the Royals I once served, down The River Avon.

“Our trunk was misplaced at a bus station once, we found it on a lost and found shelf, boldly, I Adelaide wrested it, from the arms, of a rascal claimed our trunk for himself.

We will seek yellow houses till we roll up and cark, though the weather be mizzling and dark our path. We shall dig a hole neath our trunk in the peat, build a smoky,  gypsy fire for heat, then bask for hours in luxury bath…when caught in the rain? Our old steamer trunk will shelter and warm us again…

Indeed, Benny and Adelaide’s decrepit plaid trunk is their cherished possession.  

Young vagabond, Hawken wrote- He was “The Son I Forgot To Have”, and a fine storyteller.  

By age 11, he wrote, I had worn out every “Billy and Blaze” book in our town library. Boy and horse adventures, fine artwork, how I longed for such a brave pony. A friend of my parents had a pony, they oft dropped by to complain about the neighbors– “Dirty Hippies”. The pony was a gift to their son from the hippies, in hope it would give him interest in something besides the violin. It did not, when dad and I checked out “Ralph”, the pony, he stood un groomed, definatley no “Blaze”, we could hear violin music from the house. Ralph regarded us with a world weary snort. He was perfect…

Horses are dangerous, you had a cousin once bitten on the head, no bare feet in the barn yard you’ll get worms, no drinking from the trough or hose, gracious the germs, warned my mother. “Don’t let him runoff, griped dad, you won’t be getting another’ Grandparents bickered over who fell off the mower back in 1922 and got dead, horses are dangerous, in chorus my family oft said.

Fond memory of a rainy day, first taste of freedom from school and family. A fine, cool morning early summer, heat held at bay by the rain, it tickled my bare feet, it damped the dust along the back road. We stopped and drank cool from a hose, scent of hot pine needles, deep green beyond the ditch in the shadows.

Ripe grew thimble berries tart, I gorged on wild black berries and apples by the river, Ralph grazed as I sat. I will always remember this day, the downpour we were caught in, sheltered neath the eave of a tumbledown homestead, long abandoned.

I held the wet reins of my chestnut pony, saw the bolt of lightning strike a tree across the valley, felt the mild shock of it pass through me…

Never told anyone this story. Caught in many a rain since, but this day I kept as my own. Trotted home late and hungry, used one of Ma’s good towels to rub down brave Ralph the pony.

“Where have you been?, mother shrilled. We were certain you were eaten, drowned or killed”. Covered in berry stains, torn shirt, “When I was your Age,” yelled dad. No lecture since would ever dampen my spirit of adventure- or take away the day I had had, caught in the rain….

 

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.

HE WROTE A SEA SHANTY- For Sandy

She was a Coleopterist..indeed, I pondered, how Godfrey would enjoy this mornings obituaries, which in his passing I adopted his hobby of reading. “Where ere I wander, said long ago Godfrey, I can find a paper with an obituary.”The life stories, the pathos, the love, and adventure, to the obits to learn I turn”

Yet oddly, he sat quiet, over the paper this summer morning, had not touched his “Sandwish, four types of toast, rye on top, layered with marmalade, was idly stirring his tea, which Godfrey never did, considering it bad luck. “I knew this chap in the obits, he nodded to me, briefly, long ago, he was a scholar and a hippie..

Since Godfrey could remember, he listened for the singing from dockside pubs, and songs of fishers calling cross the harbor. A boyhood dreaming of long journeys by sea, thus gleaning the wisdom he could weave one day, into a shanty.

So he waited, waited patiently, for the words to come to him with the tide. Godfrey did make that long, sea journey, and met the young Sandy while hitching a ride. “Was a Volkswagen Van stopped, space was made for me, all long haired chaps named Pete, Pat, Jack and Sandy, there was more than one Sandy and each one was a hippie”.

On a gulf island road, passing hay fields  hot and dusty, in the Volkswagen Van was crammed the vagabond Godfrey, there were apple trees laden, for it was late summer, cedar split rail fences silver with age. “We stopped for chips, so good and greasy, in the islands only small village”.

Every passing person who waved was a hippie, perhaps on this island I would find my sea shanty?

Godfrey notes…”On my right hind leg, just above the tattoo, is a ragged scar I once showed you. Nicked it deep on the door of the van, piling out end of the ride, only the tattoo artist asked the scars story, I told her the old tale of a great group of hippies, three of which were named Sandy”

Twas the week an old chap name of “Nixon” resigned,  allover the news were words “Liar” and “Crook”, free from such rubbish we camped on a wide bay, potatoes and porridge to cook. “I recall the damp morning, the chipped cup of instant coffee, bitter and smoky from a can, sitting on a log, talking with this kindly lad- Sandy, who drove the old Volkswagen Van.

“From a foothills town I learned came he, drifted out west, a scholar and a hippie. He encouraged me that I ,Godfrey ,could write that sea shanty.

Feel the warm, oily deck neath bare feet, convey in words the fear of swells higher than our mast”. Dodge squalls, wonder how long the run of fair seas will last”. Sing of picking weevils from the flour, eating old, cold cod tongues and rancid “Burgoo”. Smell the Tea-Tree as we fetch exotic lands, no home to long for or  return to…

Much as I glean from your obituary, twas was a good life, and peace be the rest of the journey, old friend from so long ago,Sandy.

Up a narrow island road, shadows still pass in that late summer sun, and through the split glass window of a Volkswagen Van

Dented, old, will barely hit sixty, none of that matters in Godfrey’s memory

driven by a young hippie, no, they are not all past and gone..

In the obit photo is no trace of youth used to be..clean shaven, professional, dressed rather tidy, posed neath an oak tree.

“I knew him briefly, we talked of scars, August shooting stars, and that Nixon, the summer I set out to pen a shanty …..

HARRIET’S PARK BENCH- As Told By Larry

It was the summer before Godfrey and I met, he was very young, penniless, and wishing to sit under a shade tree and talk, for he would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets. I have never actually been to the park where so much occurred, we do not get over to the mainland much, and his feelings were hurt for quite some time at being called, “A Nuisance”.  Stories still roll in though, all of them dear to his memory.  

Larry, “Free Advice Gentleman ” writes, “What turned Harriet bitter?, it’s not likely she was born mean, perhaps teachers hit her, perhaps her parents harbored anger over hard times, or Harriet was scarred by something nasty she had seen.   Harriet had a husband , he wore a hat and coat and had the same job all his life, left same time every morning, came home half past five, never spoke to me, when he walked the yappy dog that Harriet adored, in the park past where I sat neath the shade tree.  “Free Advice”, reads my sign, free advice from Larry, now and again I have my photo in the paper as a “Quaint old Nuisance”, or “Iconic Character of The City”.

One veteran reporter once even asked after Godfrey, he was a good friend to me.  “Godfrey would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets, that summer neath this tree, Godfrey and his table were taken away, but old Myra Hughes and I chose to stay”.  “Mrs Harriet Bridges-Shlunder still complained regularly, but those in authority oft brought coffee and donuts to Myra and me”. “They even, now and then, accepted my advice, after all, it was free”.  “Harriet had a full head of tall, white hair, she hit her nephew Bentely about the head with a shoe, she had the disposition of a hungry polar bear, but Bentely did what his Auntie told him to.”

“We saw several generations of yappy little dogs, and years of Harriet yelling at us cross the fence from her groomed lawn, then came a day stormy, thunder, lightning, hail, and word that Harriet had finally quit complaining about everything and had passed on”.   “The dog was still walked, three times a day, not two, then one mid-morning came along a city work crew”. “They stood about and chatted, they measured the ground, left for lunch, came back and stood around, spoke loudly of concrete, bolts and size of wrench, five watched as two men installed a nice, new park bench.”

“We gave the bench a try, Myra and I, it was placed to face the tree, it was easy on the old, arthritic back, Harriet’s husband came out next morning, with power drill, and a brass plaque”   “I watched as he carefully bored four holes, and screwed the plaque down with glue and rivet, when he was done we crept over to look, it said- HARRIET’S BENCH- SHE LOATHED THIS PARK AND EVERYONE WHO SET FOOT IN IT.    ” It had not been easy for me, to accept Godfrey’s advice all those years past, and give up the Wino ways that had been ruining my life”. “But I did, and with pride I have lived to see a small victory”.  We used a flat stone, cement we purloined, and a “loan” of tools, in Scrabble Tiles spelled his name”. “We set our plaque higher, Myra judged that a Great Dane could aim, and if you wander through this park, rest on Harriet’s Bench a minute, look up into Godfrey’s tree, our plaque reads- HE DISLIKED BEETS- HE LOVED THIS PARK- AND EVERYONE WHO SET FOOT IN IT.

MAUDSLEY HOSENBOLT- Only Spoke In Song Titles- From Worzel

Miss Maudsley Hosenbolt on a park bench she sat, with the Vagabond Godfrey, enjoying a chat.   “I do not like beets”, he told her cordially, “I only speak in song titles”, replied  Maudsley.

“May I refer to you as Maude? “have you been labeled odd?”         “Always,” “Crazy”, said she, just a “Girl on a Road”, “Ive’ Got To Be Me”. “What fun, I truly agree, laughed Godfrey.

It was the summer he had his table in the park- summer of song and poetry that he met Maudsley.   “The times they are A Changing”, Godfrey, “The Rain in The Park and Other things”, to “My Home On The Range”, soon “I’ll Fly Away”, “Remember Me” when “Autumn Leaves” fall, “All Things Must Pass” for us all.

Eunice, the artist sat by the campfire, drawing the song titles spoken by Maudsley. Old Myra Hughes, whose home was the park, slurped tea with a frown of worry. Larry, The Free Advice Wino, tapped a Scrabble Tile, a C. “Larry, said Myra, I need your advice, though Maudsley is annoying I wish her to stay”.What do you advise? “let It Be’, shrugged Larry..

“Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow-Wow”,” Long Ago and far Away”, “But it’s All Over Now,”sang Maudsley, soon I will touch “The Green, Green Grass of Home”, my “Feelings” no longer “Midnight Blue”, “My Favorites Things” will be “Remembering You”.

“Maudsley, dear Maudsley, how unique you be, brought mirth to our group here neath the shade tree, thanks from Godfrey.

“Rare is the poet who speaks in song titles, and dislikes beets as passionately”.   In lieu of a suitcase, Maudsley carried a pail, of all she owned, with a tight lid to seal it.  Sturdy and practical in all weather, made a handy chair, and no one was likely to steal it, wrote Godfrey.

“One last evening we camped out at the shade tree, “Red, Red, Wine”?, asked Larry of Maudsley”. Eunice said, “I Drew A Picture of Me without You”. “Do you Know Where you’re Going To?”, Myra inquired.  “This Land Is Your Land”, Myra, said Maudsley, “I was “Born Free”. “Que Sera, Sera”, replied  Myra.

“So Long, it’s Been Good To Know Ya”.  “It was rarely serious under the tree, as later on The Media  made it out to be….where are you now, Miss Maudsley Hosenbolt? since that long ago summer of poetic infamy…