ALICE SPILLS THE INK- on Herself- from Beatrice.

Worzel here, I encouraged Beatrice’s writing, and came to delight in her work. Their is a brittle dignity to Beatrice’s life, wishing only to live in peace with her pets, and ignore the world, Beatrice has found herself surrounded by eccentrics..she shares these gathered vingettes.. 

Alice writes- “I do not bloviate- am a lady of refinement, I hide high on the bank rooftop, drip droplets of hot chip frying fat on the pompous, passing below. What fun, to watch them duck and hide”.”I am a lady, deep inside”.

My Miss Spent youth, I traveled with the band, headed by my trombone playing Uncle Lou Gland. Having seen this land over, from John”O Groats to those chalky cliffs where sorry souls launch themselves into the sea, I have a special method so that no ones sits near me.

“I pad my behind with flannel blankets, my front with velvet cushions, book two seats, but sprawl across three, leave my teeth nearby, wrap in a bright pink cardigan, use myself as a pillow so no one sits near me”.

All went well until the day I met Nudge Giggleswick…on the train to London Town, then on to Kent. Rolled up, all set to nap, I ignored the large suitcase wedged in the train doorway, it bore an odd flag, and was heaved in by Nudge who introduced himself as being born in Norway…

To my horror-  with a flourish and flap, he spread a table cloth, across his ample lap, another on his suitcase on the floor by mine- took out a large jar of herring fish in brine! He had a great wheel of Rye Crisp Crac’l Brot- I had laughed at in the shops for years that no one ever bought.

Nudge had Danish Lurpak Butter in a tin, he invited me to join him.   I had a brother Godfrey, told him, six years younger than me. In the shops, when he asked about the Rye Crisp Crac”L Brot, that no one ever bought, I told him it was troll bread, ground from old troll bones and beets, which he abhorred, memories flooded in as Nudge listened, munching on his smorgasbord.

In the dusty, Welsh corner shop, sat for years the Rye Crisp that no one ever bought. Every time we went, I bet Godfrey his sweets it would be there, in yellow and red wrap, lost his sweets every time, he was a silly wee chap..

“I do not bloviate, nor do I date, remain for life a spinster, a merry old prankster, maintained aloof bearing, in a rocking, overheated train that reeked of herring.” Our eyes met over the Danish Lurpak Butter in a can. Nudge spoke impishly of his home in Norway- Flam. “A place of charm, with a river running through, pretty, and far removed from Fiord and city”. I was encouraged to pack up my bag of tricks and scram, a prankster is not welcome in Flam…

“And you Alice, Nudge asked, why this train and where do you go?” I told him I am enroute, to create havoc at a Cat Fancier’s Show. “In an old black dress, I will pose as a judge, I have a bag of catnip up my sleeve to cause chaos”.

“I used myself as a pillow, rolled up and even snored, but Nudge from Flam refused to be ignored. “We changed trains in London, had great fun at The Cat Show, were thrown out rear of the hall late in the day”. “Why don’t we, suggested Nudge, on the long trip home to Batley, combine our talents for pranking, be immature and silly”?.

“I Alice, against my superior judgement, could not help but agree, found on that train what I never sought, a partner in nonsense, and the Rye Crisp Wheel of Crac ‘Brot that no one all my life had never bought…

PLUM TREE AND MOAT- From Beatrice-When young, I built a moat around my heart, a path of tumbled stone and several bridges that I never finished. An impossible to reach place, the fruit I guarded hanging heavy. “No moat will ever defer me, said he, from sun warmed plums”, the moat of my heart breached only by the vagabond Godfrey.I recall the bandanna he held out, laughing, full of purple gems…will write more..hear Alice at my door.

Alice Writes- In my cottage yard have dug a moat, seeded with deep, lush grass around my plum tree. Very cold water, is neath those ditch weeds plum pilferers can not see. The fruit hangs, ripening sweetly , late summer bountiful and fair. On my verandah sit with stick, and Nudge Giggleswick in easy-chair. We bet biscuits what passers by plums be tempted to snitch, I the “No they won’t”. Nudge the “This one, will not be able to resist”Oh, what a delight, my moat, my cold water ditch!.

Beatrice Concludes-   Benny shivered wrapped in my good wooly shawl, indignant Adelaide wrung out her granny pants, hung them to dry in full view of all. “The yellow house Adelaide described, you know the yellow house south of Wrexham? Some insensitive sod has built a moat around it, we fell full in foraging firewood and plum. “Tempting golden plums, cold the nasty water to my aged thighs, cane waving, rude old man, from the steps of his yellow house, shouting- “surprise”!

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THE BRAIDED RIVER- From Godfrey to Worzel

A letter came, tattered, stained, stamp stuck askew, I opened it carefully, lest it tear. For I knew, he had reached the far Westland, had written by firelight, far from the big city- “Preparing to tramp up The Braided River”, wrote Godfrey.

“Upper middle of nowhere is where I’ll spend summer, where gold is washed down to the rip-rap at Celebrate Bar, in the shallows I’ll pan for the jade or gold flakes or a nugget to mount for you, to wear on a chain, when we meet again.  “And at Dream Big Bar, where river meets sea is a best place to fossick for gem-stone. There sand and water form a natural tumbler, and the days pass peaceful as I am here quite alone.   Indeed, I dream big on the Braided River, no human rubbish, or shout or sign, in the white, squeaky sand the only bare foot prints are mine.

Treasure Bar, on the great river wide, higher up into the mountains the light from the snow fields, by day and the night sky…cause me to recall the wet, dirty streets left below.                      Was where a ring of gold I found, painted on the tar-mac- words chalked near to washed away- “Someone has lost their Halo”….why the vision stayed with me at that time, I could not know.  “If there existed, such a place to find it again, it may be up Treasure Bar on the shingle bend.   “Just one last pan, and a look at the sky, for the rain was coming, summer done. “One last one before I go, panned a perfect wee nugget of gold in the shape of a halo.  Dream big, treasure, celebrate, where the river was shallow, and current slack, I stood knee deep in thanks. For the gold I had gathered.; bent low to the water, emptied my tin of dust and nuggets and gave it all back.”   ” I kept the wee piece in the shape of a halo- shall have it set on your choice of a chain, when we walk arm in arm, those wet city streets, for you when we meet again..                 (With Thanks To Lonewolf)

THE HAGGIS IS GONE- And Beatrice’s Song- From Worzel

They teased him about his dread of beets, they teased him about his lack of teeth, they teased him about his ragged clothes, they teased him about the dented car his grouchy mother drove…Beatrice spoken softly of the childhood she and Godfrey shared as we explored the Welsh countryside in her equally decrepit vehicle. I was a prairie girl, knew the cold, but never the cold of the piercing, damp wind off the mountains, that cleared the fog and coal smoke, the blowing snow just long enough to reveal the magic of a castle, then veil it again, this modest and mystic treasure of a land. It was not until my third visit to Sonsie Farm, and the old puce house, that Beatrice shared more of herself. Propped against the canoe in her sitting room, and two dead plants was Godfrey’s old “Chupa Street Guitar”, dusted, with shiny new strings. Beatrice explained, “Sugar Mulgrew has taught me three chords, “I have always sung while shoveling manure, and have written a bit down, would you care to hear it? “indeed , yes, I told her, indeed.

  THE HAGGIS IS GONE- The haggis is gone, for there is no more, only beets and sardines, in the country store. And the store is far, far miles away, no haggis left, now many a day. The haggis is gone. Oh the track it climbs, round roots and stone, over ridges it winds, my boots are worn, the nights are cold, and though I dislike towns, it’s where haggis is sold.    Now down to the meadow, in the shady lea, where the cows have been, comes sweet memory..on the summer green, rest your bonnie head, as I spread cold haggis, over fresh rye-bread.       But the haggis is gone!, still I recall your face, the poems, the stories, and your old suitcase, and our childhood shared, love was all we knew, we could not be broken, me and you. But the haggis is gone, and the trail ends to, and I’m at a crossroads, it is winter dawn, with this dented guitar, for the haggis is gone, for the haggis is gone….

( The cows like this one, Beatrice smiled)  BEATRICE’S SONG- When was it you last saw Godfrey, was he up the high country when summertime came?  Asleep in the sun or did you pass on a switch-back?, or a cold morning campsite heading out bound again…Was it in autumn you last walked beside him?, down to the orchard the crisp, fallen leaves. Sit on his strong shoulders to reach those last apples, frost melts on the branches, runs cold up your sleeves.             Was it deep winter you last laughed together? Late nights over coffee by wood fires glow, let the snowdrifts fill in our tracks to the highway, talk of places he’d been and new places to go. Mt Thimbleweed, Smell Fox, Yampa Valley, Dragon’s Bay, all the way to the wild Otago.  What of the mornings I still hear his singing? And as hot afternoons fade dusty to eve, trout rise lazy in the cool of the stream bed, their ripples his laughter, I have to believe.    When was it you last saw Godfrey? was he up the high country when summertime came?  Turnberry Canyon, Holyoak Clearing, the rough scramble down to the wild Tasman Sea.    (I to, enjoyed it Beatrice, I to).    From Worzel.

BEATRICE was BORN AT BATLEY- By Worzel

She was born at Batley..In the old house known back then as “Outlaw Cottage” 1721 carved deep over the door sill.  Down by the winding duck weed rill. When you drive through tiny Batley over Flumerfelt Bridge, look left for the same two sheep , always together on the same second hill.

She was born at Batley…just a step off the High Street, hidden well is poverty, but not of spirit.   Elderly lady’s gather and gossip. Above the traffic clatter at the bus stop you will hear it.

She was born at Batley…Fellow farmers know her, touch their caps as they pass.   She writes often, sends me photographs. Her tumble home, puce house under shady summer sky. Goat in doorway open to the air, herbs and garlic hung to dry. Black and white ponies dream nose to nose in autumn oak wood. Winter gloaming, dinner cooking on the campfire of P.T.The Good.

She was born at Batley, on a snowy night 1953. Never has journeyed more than one hundred miles away. .    She has old world knowledge, can  plait straw to make a hat if need be. Knows the name of every plant, and grass and tree on her land. She makes exquisite cheese, taught me how to milk a cow and nanny-goat by hand.

She was born at Batley…her world is stone walls and styles, riding horse back miles to town along Cardigan Bay.   Mince Tarts, hot baked scones, Cats’mint tea. At the old desk by the fire, settle in with plate and mug to write. Above the hearth still hangs the photo of a photo of a painting done of Godfrey, still a mystery.

A fine dear friend is Beatrice…and she was born at Batley.

WHAT IS GOOD ABOUT TODAY- From Godfrey and Worzel

We had never made a big event of Christmas…Godfrey spent most winters in Southern climes,it was quiet times when we lived on the ranch. One odd year he was there with us, I wallowed in wrapping paper and tape. Godfrey, in my turquoise chair attempted to winnow his thoughts down to one hundred words for a seasonal story contest I’d found in our local paper. He was inept at wrapping gifts, but used the words as his contest entry.

..What is good about today- How would I wrap thee? Of all the blessings I accept with grace and for reasons not yet understood..I rejoice in the fact I wake up each morning still able to ask- of this day, what is good?.

And how would I wrap the gift of friend that is you? wrap you in the colors of the sunrise on Waiheke. I would wrap you in the pages of your poetry. Tie you with a bow formed from ribbons of white cloud. Pluck twenty eight  tail hairs for a braid if my gentle horse allowed…to keep the braid forever on your shrine, amid the clobber I have sent you and all the odd treasures of mine.

How would I wrap thee? old friend..and does such a word matter in the end? Perhaps with wooly strands of many shades, to remind me of your strength yet never to hold captive or bind.

We are the threads, Worzel dear. I feel you beside me on the loneliest stretch of sand, on the steep bits of a slippery track it is your hand keeps me from falling. It is the line of forgiveness when time passes by without my writing or calling.

How would I wrap thee? weave about you new mowed hay or a soft quilt of down, for you are finer than any fancy tinsel or colored cloth or paper bought from town. And I would stoke the fireplace to warm you where you lay..and we would know without question..what is good about today?..

HAND MADE OUTFIT- of Horse Slobber Green- Bye Worzel

Today I posted off a letter, from a small shop selling faded greeting cards, what-nots and stamps, they also did Dry-Cleaning. As I waited for the clerk enjoying a smoke out back, I saw a garment of great meaning hanging unclaimed on a rack.

As happened at random, I felt my shadow child beside me, leaning laughing on my shoulder- Godfrey. In the stuffy, grimy shop I was once again Gob Smacked by a memory….   Unlike Godfrey in high school, I was quite the academic, wrote fine essays on the infamous and obscure. I understood the past participle of the verb “Avoir”, impressed all in biology with my knowing, my downfall, sadly was home economics, my muffins had tunnels, I was incompetent at sewing.

No, teacher was not mean, yet I cowered over my machine, an ancient treadle one, in the rear of the room, set apart, from where the posh girls sewed pretty outfits that fit, giggling over back stitch, button hole and dart. Happy when ignored I labored, made the one piece apron , and flannel nightgown great and wide. It had only one arm hole, seams which somehow I sewed together, leaving the rear exposed and collar off to one side.

I hoped Mrs Heikila would give up on me, and send me off to typing class, Despite my “Fail” in nightgown she ignored my plea, and brought in a pattern from “Simplicity”.

It was a jacket and skirt, of modest length to the knee, the type of jacket a career girl may wear. Mrs Heikila had buttons in a drawer for it, and a roll of material she deemed appropriate. Not bile or Avocado, somewhere in between, which when he saw it Godfrey explained the odd shade- Horse -Slobber- Green.

To make short story long, I worked all year leaning over that sewing machine. I sewed and shed tears, I picked out every seam, I put a zipper where no zipper went. I stayed after class as the posh girls laughed . On weekends I endured Mrs Gibberflat , shaking dissapointed finger when I broke her precious Singer, sewed on each button in a row. I vowed to give the outfit to Goodwill if ever it was done, dreamed of the day I would never again have to sew.

“What became of the jacket and skirt?, Godfrey asked. (Years Later) Was on his summer visit as I planned my wedding day, I believe he was somewhat shocked I chose to wed, but he liked my quiet cowboy, his horses and the books that he read.

Well, I told Godfrey, sitting in my turquoise chair, Mrs Gibberflat hid the outfit, I know not where. As you well recall, she never throws anything out. I knew he could not be there when I journeyed up the long aisle to my groom, but he had a way with Mrs Gibberflat and later that day, the awful sewing project hung, freshly ironed on a hangar in my room.

My teacher, years before had lectured, “Worzel, you cannot hide in sweatshirts and baggy jeans forever” I had lived to prove her wrong, but went and put the outfit on, I put it on for love, it fit like a rubber glove. I thought of the girls who made fun of me, were snide about my sewing, critical and mean. For Godfrey on my wedding day I trod up the aisle, in my handmade outfit of horse-slobber-green.

That was long ago, still I laugh about it all, looking back. There, unclaimed on the dry cleaners rack was an outfit the same pattern, in conservative beige. Same jacket, same buttons from a bygone age. Same skirt of modest length, hem very straight,” kralharfleph’!, coughed the clerk, waving away a smoke ring as she strolled in from her break, sorry dear she choked, for making you wait.

So many years come and gone, so much joy since Godfrey persuaded me to put the outfit on.  “It is only looking back, said he”, that taught me to appreciate those who’s prodding I rebelled against at the time” “For it is how I learned persistence, found the humor and the courage, to envision a peaceful world of rhyme”.

LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW- from Alice, as heard by Beatrice

I shall harken back to Godfrey’s wake, by the second afternoon most everyone who wished to speak, or sing, or share took a break for the last of my Invincible Fruitcake. I had not heard, nor had it occurred to me where Godfrey’s sister Alice may be.

A notorious prankster, she refused to mature, her shenanigans legendary as the poetry was of her brother. It was getting late, when came a brash clang of gate and a dust cloud. From a black London Cab, sister Alice did alight, set the crowd on their feet and my chickens to flight. Wearing purple turban, and Pashmina horse-slobber-green, she stepped deftly round a heap of goat droppings and scrutinized me.

I saw through her display, for I knew that she knew that I knew, she loved Godfrey, but could express it only in her own odd way.  We all had to wait, as Alice had her fill of cake and her coffee cooled..still nibbling more cake, with a deep belch Alice read, a poem of her own at Godfrey”s wake.

..LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!! Never let it be said I must chortle, look down at your shoes in silence, titter me not or meekly mutter using someone else’s breath. LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!! It was I ate all the biscuits in ettiquete class, slurped the insipid tea was handed me, I balanced the plate on spread knee and ample lap, hollered and whistled when told” lady’s shyly clap.” LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW! The group sat silent, not believing what a sight they heard and saw, there ranted Alice, long past middle age, she had filched a pair of gumboots and was wearing Godfrey’s woolly knitted dragon hat on stage.

LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!! Godfrey took it on the chin for every prank and mess that I made, but I held my brother up so he could see the parade. For what I learned from Godfrey’s life I celebrate in dance and song- Don’t eat dinner on the tracks lest the train come along, Never miss an opportunity to wee, or pass up a free sample on the counter at the bakery. AND LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!!.

.In the old puce house, that night in my bed beneath the eaves. I felt the warmth of higher wisdom in what Alice believed. Alice herself without fanfare or thanks, returned to Skibbereen to carry on her life of pranks. She took all the pickle sandwiches, she also took the tray, took the gumboots and his dragon hat, in her Black London Cab and drove away.

LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!! Distant voices from the paddock campfire, tuning of guitar, darkness out my loft window, one lone star. World, I asked before I sleep, LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!!. Godfrey took it on the chin for every mess  Alice made, but yes she held her brother up so he could see the parade… LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!!.