COMES THE SUN TO THE HILL- From Worzel and Godfrey

Worzel here, Though at home most anywhere without beets, Godfrey loved the faded, little towns best. “I like to just sit”, he wrote. In ratty kilt, battered suitcase at his side, with the faded pink negligee’ plugging a tear, Godfrey enjoyed tea and pastries , wrote letters or journal, watched and listened as the whirled passed by..”.Daw yr haul i Bryn”, he muttered in Welsh if he felt I was rushing the given day….

I recalled this wisdom, translated for me with a rather wet “Feh” by Alice, his eccentric sister. “Comes The sun to The Hill”…like waiting for the tide, or Slibber Sauce to gel, or your birthday, especially if you fib like me, and enjoy it three times a year. eventually it will cease raining, said Alice- relax and wait.  

Today I climbed a hillock, not a mountain or a tor or crag, but climb I did up to the peak. And there I rested elder-knee, looked out across the vast sprawl of what once was farms, now city.

Comes the sun to the hill, to the little towns Godfrey made home in his travels. Like Ceylon in Saskatchewan where we two met, sun comes to the coulees of Ceylon town, where the kids play outside all year round. Hear the crack of ball bat summer evening sweet, scrape of hockey stick on the frozen street. The young will leave home but the town carry on, wish we all could know a little place like Ceylon.

Cowdown- nestled deep in a vale, we welcomed the warmth of the sun to the hill as we hitched a ride. So cold the carrot in my pocket froze solid, snow blew oer the valley        hiding a castle on the far river side.

I recall little of the lift that finally left us in Cowdown, only the chip shop, in the wee town. Hot slabs of good fish and chips, malt vinegar, no plates to be had, just spread out on newspaper.  Come the sun to the hills of Wiltshire so old, come the sun to Cowdown on days so cold, that the carrot in my pocket froze…a journey legendary, early days on the road for The vagabond Godfrey.

Comes the sun to the hills that cradle the mighty Buller. Steeped in mist, untamed in her splendor, one of Godfrey’s favorite places, is Inangahua, on a bend in the river.

One shop and fuel pump, pub and hotel, roadside forge, imagine riding on a coach, long ago down the Buller Gorge. Sun comes to the hills, stopped and rested a spell at the ruins of a “Pub with No Beer”, all that remains of “Lyell”. Wrote Godfrey, “I felt peace there, no ghosties feared I”, as the sun was gone, and stars bright over the Buller, feared only the swarms of the nasty biting sand fly…

I thought of how I missed Godfreys’ stories- of late summer afternoon, the sun bleached, peeling murals, hum and rumble of the highway, a place discovered in his youth called “Nar Nar Goon”- East of Melbourne can be found, this mural town.

In conditioned reflex the barman wields his rag, laconic story teller of a tiger snake he shot, behind the pan in the lady’s loo. On the pub walls, photos hang of rugby teams and race horses. In Nar Nar Goon, indeed the sun comes to the hill, seek out a shady spot to rest, rest as dos the gray Kangaroo….

Oh little town of” Ethelbert-“fond in my memory, clinging to the northern edge, of the Canadian prairie….gossip in the hotel bar tonight, laughter in the diner and take away counter of the “Chicken Delight”.

Comes the sun to the low hills, welcomes spring, old billboard on the one road in” 1971 Ethelbert Homecoming”. You may be told the story from one who was there, of chaos and coins, rolling everywhere. In the laundry-mat, Janice Krame put boots to the soap and bleach machine.

“Did the cops come all the way out from Grandview”? was there five police, or just the Ethelbert town two”?.  Janice went on with her laundry, – save the soap and bleach dispenser, no one was hurt and The cops did not arrest her, talk turns to crops,  and till the the sun will come to the hill… life will carry on in Ethelbert.

Home now, rested and warm- I sit at my window in turquoise chair, looking out at what Godfrey discovered long ago, my “Wall of Illusion”. When the trees are in full foliage, the wall is a wall of endless amusement. Today for example, a chap in a suit, carrying a bouquet of roses and purple wrapped box of chocolates from the posh store hurried down the wall. The illusion worked, he disappeared and a street person pushing his cart emerged, Godfrey would have loved it…

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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.