TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE- And other stories- From Alice

Worzel here–Beatrice feels very strongly, and readers may concur, that our book contains far too many references to toilets. Be things as they may, my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey did not seek out toilets, they found Godfrey, and he felt there could never be too many. 

Today, I napped until now, and garnered the strength to open sister Alice’s packet of writing, excerpts from her book, “Alice, A life in Praise Of Myself”. It was a facinating glimpse of her summer in Nova Scotia, with Nudge Giggleswick and The Outhouse Museum.

ALICE ACROSS THE WATER-   For ten roily days and nights oer the Atlantic steamed Nudge and I to far Nova Scotia , we wreaked havoc aboard,disrupted the nightly Bingo by cheating, and at every meal of herring, the folks at our dinner table were eating.

    “The Pride of Poland”was a thing of the past, to the age of steam ships glory, the warped faded deck planks, the ancient children’s nurse, in her proper starched smock and cap told a story. The ocean was calm as the rill back home, steady the old tub did ride, with Nudge who long claimed seafarers blood, spewing all over the side.

I kept Nudge alive reading lurid romance novels, to him as we lurched cross the sea, we oft could be found leaning over the bow, and herring was served breakfast, lunch and tea.

Nudge writes- Left were us in a cloud of dust, the taxi cab racing away, Alice and I at “The Outhouse Museum,”on a hill overlooking away. The weeds were tall, between them all, for summer was at its peaking, outdoor loos forlorn, abandoned, with doors blown open and creaking. And as Alice her beauty nap in the shade snored, I gathered stink-willies, made a daisy chain for she, Alice whom I adored.   And later looking over The Outhouse Museum, her brother’s legacy, Alice with medicinal brandy told me this story…

TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE-  Oh Alice, Oh Alice , come here!, come here!, there’s a troll in the outhouse, a mean one I fear!. Curled up warm, I ignored the loud plea, from the outdoor loo, of my wee brother Godfrey.

    For our humble cottage had an outdoor dunny, and in it I oft tormented my brother in ways I found terribly funny.  Oh Alice, Oh Alice come here, come here, there’s a troll in the outhouse and Ma no where near.Bring the cricket bat, call the dog, for I so need to use it, the cold outdoor bog.

With three rubber gloves, knitting wool, wooden spoon, and my brilliant mind, I rigged a creation so when Godfrey sat, slapped him square in the behind.” Oh Alice, oh Alice, it is deep in the hole, it reached up and slapped me  when I sat, I felt the furry old hands of a troll.”

My brother Godfrey was an odd little chap, believed everything I would say. “There’s a troll in our toilet'”he told his teacher, before the whole class the next day. Our Ma,who could not abide a phone, instead was surprised on a Tuesday, by a visit from teacher and district nurse at our home. I hid with Godfrey, as they chatted with Ma over tea..

“He dislikes beets, he is adamant there lives a troll down your toilet”, Nurse Commerford, (she spits when she talks) informed Ma. I heard the telltale clink of the teacher’s flask as she added to her tea, malt whiskey, I tried so very hard not to laugh, I tried to the stars of heaven, as I lay on the rug, behind the piano, as they all trooped outside to wee, they found my creation of gloves and wool, dropped it all down the hole, while calling, calling for me. But what of the troll?…as I fled cross the fields, what of the troll? I heard Godfrey”

BEACH BUM- From Nudge-Always modest is Alice, a proper old maid. When summer rain ceased, we found a remote beach, hung our wet things to dry. I wrote this  sonnet behind private rocks, a sunbeam caught me in repose, put a glow in my curmudgeon’s cheeks,  reddened my tender buttocks”.

VIKING- From Alice-    I want to go back in time when I expire, by reward to place and age of my liking, may I turn back the tide of pickled herring, may I be re-born a Viking. now yes, they were an uncouth lot, did not bathe regularly, plundered with sharp weaponry, but I would be a Viking bold, no trencher of herring before me, a velvet painting, a portrait would hang, bold of braid, horned helmet, wrapped about in Musk Ox hide. Alice “The Dreadful” it would hang in a gallery- “Of Herring she could not abide”.   

Worzel here, prepare for more later, my feet are cold, and Alice’s packet deep…

THE OUTHOUSE MUSEUM-From Godfrey and Beatrice

Tongue tracks in what once was the butter, last partial crust of bread, ineptly cut two inches thick at one end, left in a puddle of spilled tea, Tea pot empty, as is the marmalade tin, and missing it’s lid. Adelaide..elderly ex chambermaid to The Queen, and her partner Benny had breakfasted early, for it was summer and the two were away with wagon and plaid steamer trunk, “seeking yellow houses”, and whatever else they could scrounge. 

I was looking forward to peace and quiet on the farm, a read in the hammock, a ride on my mare cool of evening. But panicking hens and looming dust cloud, clang of gate, in her old black London Taxi- came Alice, Godfrey’s prank happy sister, Alice. She was clad in bathrobe and gumboots, stomped in waving a thick letter, “Those two old rogues of yours dove into the ditch when they saw me”, Alice shrilled,” but before you go pull them from under their wagon- read this.” Nothing upset Alice…ever, but I had to guffaw, when I read what she had been bequeathed.. 

Godfrey writes- Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, under the clothes line- to where the weathered old outhouse stands vigil over the sea.

I’ve done many a job since wandering from Wales as a lad. Turning cents to dollars, learning the vagabond way. Singing in the streets got me pelted with rubbish and beets, but my best job ever was in Knockfollie’s Bridge, the town on Knockfollie’s Bay.

Twas first summer in Canada, I came seeking work fishing lobsters or cod as my grandparents did. As a kid I did not throw up in the herring bait, as my sister would retch oer the stern. Every person I asked looked at me with my suitcase and kilt, they all in unison said-” Go talk to Verne”

Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, back through the cobbled town square. Ask anyone, for Verne Gergley’s Outhouse Museum is down there.  Verne was living his dream, it was not about money, but his passion was preserving the dunny. Vivid  his memories, a prairie boy, “The outhouse beyond the weeds and dad’s hives, twice shipped out of town by train as a prank, oft shifted three feet over, it was part of our lives”

“My friend Beatrice, I replied after handshakes, still believes a toilet indoors is nasty, only for the lazy and wealthy”. “A midnight skip to the loo in Welsh winter keeps her fit and healthy”

“We discussed outhouses we had known in fond recollection, and needing to wee from the copious coffee I’d drank, asked to see Verne’s collection”. “Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, Verne walked with me, “Ive 200 toilets and other mementos to see”.

“It began as a joke, and as jokes do, it grew.” “I wrote a book on design, construction, and how to best photograph the old loo”. “Folks east of town donated the barn, and outhouses they could not bear to tear down”. “This one is made from the bow of a boat a chap named for his much loved mother”. “Ive a Mongolian Outhouse, Ming Chamber-pots, Bric a Brac, and the writer Farley Mowat’s  dear long-drop outback, it has a bookshelf, help your self”

“My last hired helper, sadly said Verne, was a “Snollygoster”, jailed pinching toilet rolls from the one shop in town, so I lost her”. “You have knowledge of the back-house, are personable to and do not bloviate, though you dislike beets, I will hire you”.

“In the shade of the ancient shit-house, I sit down and write. I’ve a bunk of my own, and choice of toilet to use every night. Most have a moon, carved in the door, I have found scrawled poetry, words of love to youth gone for city and several to war. I met my love on the pathway where the brambles doth entwine. I waited for her to use the privy, sweet summer of 1939. 

Verne Gergley reports that, “old folk oft return yearly, to tend the  outhouses they still hold dearly, it is they plant tomatoes, ripe and red on the stalk, oh the stories they tell, of Knockfollie’s Bridge when we sit up and talk”.

Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly,” two happy years, I lived at the Outhouse Museum, wrote Godfrey.” “I greeted the visitors, played bagpipes special celebrations, an old pair we found in an outhouse being given away”. “And yes it was Verne and I stuck for two nights and a day, on a sandbar  with barge load of toilets, aground by the low tides of Knockfollie’s Bay.

“Verne had a small crane on back of his Ute, and a winch.” When the local “Privy Council” town ordnance demanded an outhouse be removed we were there in a pinch”. Across the vast province we drove on this dark, winter day, almost home when a sturdy old hut, painted purple fell off on the highway”. It landed intact, upright in the middle left lane, even the door stayed closed, as I waved my kilt to stop traffic, and Verne got it loaded again”. Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, I asked of Verne as we got underway, for I had to hold tight to the wayward crapper, on the winding roads home, to Knockfollie’s Bay.

Over the years, Verne built an iconic museum, “Latrine Enthusiast” magazine sent a writer to interview him. “Godfrey, he wrote, one day it will all be yours”, my children do not take my toilets seriously, but you do, from Verne Gergley.

Beatrice writes- “I settled Alice with Valerian tea, which she sniffed with disdain. The packet of legal papers, had come from Worzel, who still received mail for Godfrey.  Among it a copy of The Will and Testament of one, Verne Gergley- sadly passed, and a note from Godfrey-” Verne if I go before you, leave the Outhouse Museum in care of my sister, Alice, she will know what to do.” 

So he got the last laugh after all, Alice blew on her tea steam…”Somewhere in Nova Scotia, where I’ve never been is a shrine to the stinky latrine”. “Years of tormenting my brother the beets, my clever pranks, the paddlings he endured everyday”. He left nothing but a path of poems, a suitcase of moldy books, and 200 hundred toilets in an Outhouse Museum, down on Knockfollie’s Bay.  

I never knew, and in as much shock as Alice, had forgotten Adelaide and Benny, trapped in the ditch. perhaps it was a place I could send the two, perhaps old Verne left a yellow house for them there….we made our way slowly, slowly down the road to the overturned wagon…

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?…

THE PATHWAYS OF ALICE- from Alice and Worzel

Godfrey’s mildly eccentric sister, Alice, had “aquired” an ancient typewriter, delighted, despite the fact it was locked on capitals, and missing the letters “Q”, and “D”, Alice was only inspired to write more. The rubbish she churned out, and sent me to be included in “The Collected Wisdom of Godfrey”!….neatly addressed, empty envelopes, candy wrappers, the contents of her waste paper basket. Oddly, though there were times, as I sorted “The Classical works of Alice in Couplet and Prose”, she showed me the good hidden deep in the beets of her heart, very deep in the heart of Alice. 

PUNISH ME WITH HERRING-from Alice-Punish me with herring, sit me at a wobbly table, fill my bath with things gelatinous, turn the lights out, lock the door. Place me on a school bus full of teenage girls singing. Just don’t tell me that you love me anymore.

Punish me with herring, ban me from guffaws and pranking, tell me I must wee now in the hedge over the street.Replace the greasy chips on which I gorge myself with celery, but oh, never say aloud that you love me. Punish me with herring, put the fish oil in my tea, but oh never let on that you love me.

NEBUCHADNEZZAR- From Alice- I pulled my small brother, by the shirt collar, down the church basement steps to Sunday School. “Do not embarass me, do not scream or holler, do not grizzle over beets or wet yourself, hang up your hat and coat, or risk being smote”.

Godfrey was happy, promised tea and cream cake after, sat stoic through scary stories, of harlots and lions, he was only four. Happy up until teacher, beak like a parrot, yelled out Nebuchadnezzar, for some reason the name made Godfrey bolt in terror….

Perhaps as it had no Welsh translation…I tried to catch him, but all I grabbed was kilt, as full tilt Godfrey fled. Screaming, good shoes clatting down the hallway, out the doors, past the Renshaw twins who were digging a hole, for someone newly gotten dead.

The Renshaw twins downed shovels, and joined in the chase, although they were well past sixty. Our nasty Uncle Lou guffawed by the font, he was always very mean with beets to Godfrey. Ma cuffed me oer the head with her purse, like it was my fault for Godfrey’s terror. He was found on a tractor, Swansea bound miles away, all because of Nebuchadnezzar…

THE HAUNTED THUMB- From Alice –I formed a thumb in art class, paper mache’, painted it in shades of leprosy, gangrene and grey. Teacher made it clear, she was not proud of me. But the haunted thumb served useful purpose, the brief time it lived, tormenting little Godfrey.

It emerged from his dinner, Haggis and Tatties, from my fish and Chips wrapper when he thought I’d not notice he had pinched more than his share. The haunted thumb was moonlit night, placed on his window sill with care. And tied to a fish line, chased him bawling to our Ma up the stair.

I knew our parents, despaired of never having a normal child after Godfrey, and Ma, when the thumb turned up on her knitting bag, disposed of it with a toss into the fire, sorry end to my profound, creativity.

TUESDAYS WITHOUT BRAD- From Alice- The shoe store echos, it’s lonely keening, it is Tuesday, oh where is my co-worker Brad?. Even the cob-webs hang lowly and sad. No fun in the dust I waft over display, no Brad’s great manly feet, to get in my way. No hard boiled eggs, to smell at midday.

We two share chips, all greasy and brown, and cold lemonade to rinse them down, and once at lunch, I lay in a planter box, pretending I had died. Elderly lady hat on the Marigolds, sensible shoes hanging over the side. Twas comfy, until I realized, no one passing wished attempt to revive me. Only Brad came running- chips falling, calling oh Alice- do not leave I will save thee!.

With “Kiss of Life”, courtesy of dear Brad, I emerged from the planter box, picking bits off my skirt so coy and shy. We oft played that prank on Tuesdays, with Brad in the plant soil, pretending to die. Without Brad, a more subdued Alice am I…

THE CHARMING BUILDERS- From Alice- A disgruntled customer hurled a clog, apparently it did not fit, through the front glass of the shop where I work, made a grand mess of it. I drew the short straw, waited for the builders, to come early morning and board up the crack. Oh, the foul language that I, Alice heard, while sitting alone in the back.

I learned many stories of how women behave in a place called “Nantucket”. Learned how to pull off an injury scam- “Drill a hole in yer effin hand, fall thirty feet to the ground when the boss aint the feck around”.  And Oscar, oh Oscar, you romantic you, had Deborah and her cousin at the company Bar-B-Que. And Nick, it seems, Deborah grilled his sausage to.

A dull, hours  quiet, seemed the lads brought the wrong screw, returned after lunch break , guffawing and cursing. Such charming chaps, the air was blue, fixing the window someone hurled a clog through.

GRAY WAS HIS PONY- From Alice-When summer wafts, as manure will, in the air, and in my memory journey there, I recall my dear brother Godfrey, and his pot-bellied, grubby gray pony.

He was dappled as if the creator of all things equine, threw white paint at a scudding storm cloud. Idly scratching his ass on stone wall or gate, every school day patiently wait, pony waited for boy, or joining Beatrice’s black mare, in mutual grooming and fly swishing share, deep in the orchards shade.

A ruggedy thing, of Welsh Mountain breed, diluted a tad somewhat, Grubby disliked me  and if given the chance, blew on my blouse pony snot. His  forelock resembled our rickety Uncle  Hamish’s moth eaten toupee’, and in faded gray kilt was hard to tell, at times Godfrey from Grubby Pony on a snowy day.

Greedy thing to, with skinny legs, big feet, and uncanny penchant for cheek. Ma fed him raw beet bits in my “Bunnykins” bowl, I’d eaten from no other dish, since I learned to chew. She set the bowl down, Grubby stepped in it, the bowl given to me by Granny Dypew- crushed it was, beyond help or glue.

Godfrey’s brief life was spent in search of higher wisdom…I chose to pursue lesser wisdom, the daft and inane- this is my story- Alice be thy name.

GIVE ME A NUDGE- From Alice- Give me a Nudge, back onto the pathway when I stray into serious thought. Lest a day go by I do not recall Godfrey, my odd lost brother and the wisdoms he sought. Give me a Nudge, a reminder that the toilet seat you plastic wrap, may be the one on in haste you doth squat.

Give me a Nudge, as a reminder that my Ma and step dad Arthur, are too old for the Ukelele Chorus loud at dawn, how I will miss the bickering, and warm knitted socks when the two are gone.

Give me a Nudge, for the extra oyster he pretends not to want from the Chippy. When he shows up for a date, wearing “Winkle Picker Shoes”, a cravat, and faded flowered vest, kept since Nudge Giggleswick was a young hippie.

Give me a Nudge, showing me around his job, all day he places stickers on pill bottles, that read- Do Not Take With Milk Or Alcohol. “Nudge is our best sticker putter ever”, boss lady Miss Gooley smiles proudly.  Give me a Nudge, lest I stray from my Alice path, and under no circumstance- ever say aloud you love me.

WHEN ALICE CAME STOMPING HOME- from Beatrice

As a toddler, Godfrey was odd looking, curious, already with a strong dislike for beets. Sister Alice took him with her to the market when she sang in the streets, standing on an up turned pail, above the shouting, the barter and din of the market, she sang for tossed toffees, and saving every penny she could get.

If any one dared jeer at Alice, or complain, she told them “He is not my snot nosed brother, but The Prince Of Aberystwyth, and I am Lady of Spain”.  Godfrey honed his waifish charms, propped on an apple crate throne, if all went well Alice bought him a Gob-stopper, to keep him quiet till they headed home.

Apparently the average small boy, asks several hundred questions a day, or more.  Godfrey at four asked his in rhyme, asked his mother a lot, received a swat behind. He asked his dad, who found everything funny, if bee-wee was honey as his sister Alice claimed, got blamed when she had him ask in church if beets were really made of manure, worms and dirt, if raisins were bug-guts, and was God the giant Alice said dropped snow from the sky and why were beets so low and grapes where he could not reach them, so high?.

At eight, Godfrey asked Alice, “why their dad left home and never wrote”. “Shut-up said his sister, or risk being smote.” “If I knew where the old man went I would tell, but I’m sorry, go brush what teeth you have, curl up and I’ll read a scary story”.

Godfrey never knew what Alice did at fifteen to be sent off so far away.  She had him hanging out the upstairs window by the threads of his horse-sweaters tail. Expelled was Alice from the village school- proudly calling it for a “Disgraceful Propensity”. Auntie Phyllis from America was over for a stay said, “I see no hope for Godfrey, but leave Alice to me”. “The Sisters of St Giles, down south near Newbury, will mold her into a proper lady”

Assured of an adventure, with music and singing every day, Alice in her new hat, ribbon hanging down, slapped Godfrey on the head as she waved from the train leaving town.     Gone was the smell of beets she cooked in the morning, gone to, in an odd way his fearless protector, sadly the nine year old wadded up and stowed away his much loved, knitted horse-sweater.

With Alice gone, solidified our bond, it was I, Beatrice, ate the beets for Godfrey, fished him from the dung pile and frozen pond, still speaking in rhyme he was bashed and teased every day, all the time.   Alice never wrote, but Godfrey did.  “Sister dearest- at the risk of being smote, are you well?” “Is dinner Gruel and Herring? Are you having fun, now that you are a nun? “Do the nasty nuns leave crumbs, bottom of the marmalade, are there any nun friends you have made”?

“Ma is spending all her time with Arthur Bosomsworth, we call him the grunting garden gnome, he wears nasty white shoes, he farts in our home, he threw my cat and I out in the rain- when I told him I was The Prince Of Aberystwyth, snot nosed brother to The Lady of Spain”.

From Godfrey.  Alice wrote- I still have the treasured note that came a month past his tenth birthday.  It was a Holy Card, a nun in a courtyard, finger raised in warning. “We eat herring and they make me get up early every morning”- from Alice.

Christmas came, and an ineptly sewn oven mitt, only one, embroidered with the word “Maw”.  For Godfrey another Holy card, “Help’ in Alice’s scrawled hand, and beets in a sticky old jar, home canned.    Alice stomped home in the spring of that year, on her own. Asked what was for tea, swatted Godfrey, handed Ma the second oven mitt, just as poorly sewn.

Alice ate, played her piano, gave singing lessons, to every tone-deaf Mulgrew dared come through the parlor door till Ma could not take the racket any more.  Auntie Phyllis, still in Wales told Alice, “Behave, and I will take you with me to New York when my ship sails”.

“Alice tried, kept a job in the fish shop, ate the herring Ma fried”.  She did let my goat chew Bosomsworth’s army coat though, when it was hung on the line washed and air dried.

Alice still sang for coins down at the market, a much older Godfrey by her side.  Alice dreamed of the New York stage, but it was not to be, Auntie ran off with old John Bald, they bought a chip shop down in Swansea.

Alice, never angry simply gave up on society, and all those who tried to mold her into a young lady. A first rate rebel she became who she was, a prankster, whom Godfrey in his innocence bore most of the blame.

For to Alice, he was the snot nosed Prince Of Aberystwyth, and she was Lady of Spain.

ALICE’S SONG- From Worzel

Beatrice waited, worried when I returned home late to the farm from Skibbereen…she made her famous “Clergy Tea”, a blend of soothing herbs, laced with plenty of aged brandy.   I’d spent the day with Alice, Godfrey’s sister, and was not yet ready to tell her story.

In the easy camaraderie of women our age, we sat feet up by the fire with tea and scone. It was summer and come donkey’s bray, Beatrice set out to feed and tend to her pets at dawn.

In spare boots and Godfrey’s old, worn fleece I tagged along.   “Well, we did not get carried out of the “Little Chef”, I reported to Beatrice as we watched the sunrise from her barn gate.  “We arrived at the same moment, Alice griping I was late”.

“I only knew Alice from a tatty old photo or two” “She brought the sandwich tray she snitched from Godfrey’s wake, told me to say thank you” “She said, I dislike wobbly tables, cannot abide tables that wobble, so we sat at the only  one that did not wobble, (and where the floor was not a vulgar color) “Yes said I, Godfrey disliked wobbly tables to, said they gave him “Grue”, set his poetry askew.

At his name she tapped her chest, said “clear a path if I should wheeze, as my brother was I to am allergic to daisies.     Like Godfrey, Alice dressed eclectically, in a kilt with a lacy hem, sewn ineptly on, sensible shoes, wooly knee socks, and a name tag belonging to “Mrs Cox, Bank clerk.

”  I never trusted Alice with my goats, Beatrice shook her head, mixing tubs of sweet feed and oats”.  She teased our old Billy, got butted in the backside, she teased Mulgrew’s bull, had to run for her life, leap the fence into the pig-pen”   “She teased Godfrey with beets, but it was he saved her from the goat and bull back then, she must have long forgotten.

“I hope you never have to laugh, in cool of early morn, after all night up drinking “Clergy Tea’.   I barely made it down the overgrown path, wet with dew, to Beatrice’s long drop loo, there I sat….crying until I laughed, laughed for Alice, cried for Godfrey, for when we parted Alice said, “take this book, it is my poetry”.

“COLOR ME UNREPENTANT”- BY  ALICE.   Was the title.  I stood, gob-bound in the parking lot, Alice scrutinizing me, said, “I dislike wobbly tables, precarious piano stools, herring, gelatin, most laws and all rules, but I don’t mind you”   Then changing her mind about the sandwich tray, with a shrug tossed it into the back seat of her black London Cab and sped away.. I am delighted to share some of Alice’s poetry-

STREETS OF HOME- Our wee town was called “Simpler’s Joy”, I chased across wet, cobbled streets. I chased my younger brother with beets, I rubbed his face with a moth. Always laughing, we two ran, to fetch our alcoholic Gran, out of the pub, out of the pub and home for tea, down to the pub we ran, home we sang with our Gran.- By Alice.

WHAT UTTER CRAP, MY DEAR- Due to behavior that harmed no one, I was sent away at 15 to live as a nun.   Sister Mary Santa Gertrudis hit me with a wooden spoon as she drew near, called my efforts at art work, “What utter crap my dear”.

Old Sister Agnes Paul heard me singing in the hall, “If I had a Hammer”, strident and clear. Got another nun to pin me as she only had one arm, crying “that is inappropriate, utter crap my dear.

Mother Superior The Bent, as we called the boss nun, towered in her clacky shoes over everyone, called me a vessel of holy pride, until I refused to go to Mass, was caught passing naughty pictures in maths class. “She lectured, Alice, you cannot remain here” “How delighted I was put on the train for home, thinking what utter crap my dear- By Alice.

VERN- Greasy Vern doth broke my heart, oh I fell for Vern’s charm, I landed hard. He combed his hair with Pole-Cat Lard, he’s long gone to Australia.   Oh weep no more now Alice bold, grieve no more and learn, make your own way in this world, you need not follow greasy Vern. – By Alice.

  STATUE IN TOWN SQUARE- A statue there is in my hometown square, of a greedy man- Tenbrooks Smythe the Second. I dressed him in a frock, a frilly blouse, and a smock, wore panty-hose when he was alive, I reckon..

THE WOBBLY TABLE- Color me an old bat, for I dislike wobbly tables. I would rather sit on a sliverey herring crate. Color me unrepentant, no one will ever know lest I share this verse, that I without question, Alice given a choice over hate, chose love ,chose mirth..By Alice.

SISTER ALICE TELLS HER STORY- Interviewed By Worzel

I was nervous upon meeting Godfrey’s sister Alice, shocked when she agreed to meet up at the “Little Chef “near Skibbereen, Beatrice warning me she had been carried out of the better cafe’s. I found Alice oddly engaging, daft yes, she will probably be upset that I found her like able..

..  Your earliest memory, Alice- Long before Godfrey came, in a boat out fishing just me and our dad. Ma knitted a wool harness if I fell over side, I caught a wee salmon all slippery and bright. Dad whacked my fish, it died and I bawled but enjoyed it with beets and tatties that night.     Childhood Friends?- I had none, never bonded with anyone, not even you for I am an old curmudgeon.       Not Even A Pet- My only pet is a cactus, a mean one.    Vern Felonwort speaks kindly of you-  Vern Felonwort pointed with his Piccolo once at my behind, I hung it from the highest train trestle bridge I could find.

What Do You Enjoy, Alice- I like beets, and long walks on the beach with a stick to whack what pleases me, like to prod about under seaweed and debris.  I love to eat boiled eggs when in line at the bank, garlic cloves when chatting breathless to the police.     Like to upset children at the petting zoo, bring my plate, knife and fork, pick out a plump lamb and demand a Bar-B- Que.   Often pause and peer and point down a sewer grate, just to see how many others stop to peer and point with me.      I delight in watching Vultures on the nature T.V.

And You Dislike?- Herring, and the disturbing white shoes that chap across the room is wearing.    Hypocrisy, Bigotry in all forms, so called polite society.  Bum-Warm chairs offend me.   The ache in my chest when asked of my brother Godfrey, I’d consult the quack but dread being touched by gloved hand, no one touches me or gets to see “The Promised Land”.

Speak Of Godfrey, Alice if You Can- When I began school at three, all the kids climbed ropes and skipped, they were bigger than me.   I learned to read and write and fight, I chose to excel academically.  Then I was handed Godfrey, wrapped in a blue towel to hold, Miss Commerford the nurse (She spits when she talks) told me, “Here is a dear brother for you, one hour old” He peered up and blew a spit bubble at me, first memory age six I was, of Godfrey”    He was an odd, quiet baby but as he grew and learned to crawl, nothing contained Godfrey.  When I told him, “lick this ashtray, it is yummy, he did. His first toddling steps  were taken, tongue black, grimacing to me.   At a funeral he escaped my knee, crawled the length of the church, under every pew, stood at the alter with his gummy grin as the Vicar spoke of sin, dust coating him, he held up Mr Gaglee’s shoe and The Book Of Common Prayer, Ma claimed to have no children, it was I had to drag him down from there.

“I read him scary stories from the lurid magazines our Aunt Lefty left about for me, he believed in the beasties that ate beet loathing little boys named Godfrey.  Herring?– Why must you ask of herring, I  dislike herring, do not eat herring. When Godfrey was two, as you well know I painted him blue, due to the fact that he ate herring, put a herring in my piano if you must know.

When Did The Music Start?– I was conceived neath an over turned canoe on a mild, damp New Years Eve, Ma recalled the cold sand and the sound of the band playing loud in the hall up the hill. We always had music in the house, I sang before I could talk and would still rather sing than talk to you, I sang in Royal Albert Hall, you have heard of it no doubt? I sang in Sydney Opera House until the ushers threw me out…

Pranks?–As Godfrey did with poems, I left plastic sick strewn about.   It was I backstage at the famous Beauty Pageant let the box of mice out.  -It was I pulled that rat on a string, in the path of Mary Boggs as she prepared to sing.  –It was I , Alice claimed my treasured gold watch, fell down an out house, the one behind the  pub in Withersnea, the rude men who booed our band had to dig in deep nasty, to get it back for me.

“Uncle Lou never turned down a booking for the band as it meant he never had to go home”.  For years all I knew were tawdry hotel rooms, dance halls that smelled of pork, every banquet room in York” (we were popular there).  I sang from every makeshift stage, and mornings alone thought of all the naughty things I would get up to in my old age”.  “Then Uncle Lou ate fish n chips in the path of that train, the band dispersed,  I never saw them again.

…I bought Ma and step-dad Arthur the house in Skibbereen, where Ma can happy knit, and Arthur gabs on about the war, the old twit.    If Godfrey was Here?         I’d remind him of the day he first trotted off to school, with his poem to share, and tail of his ridiculous horse sweater trailing behind. When hit with beets hurled unkind, when chased home by bullies, or driven high into a tree, getting him down safe every time was up to me.  I alone could torment him with beets. He never got angry, simply waited for a herring he could hide. “We pranked each other until Ma could take no more, no more beets or herring, Ma was past caring.   She kicked us out, Godfrey took it in stride, when he left for Australia, Knowing it was forever it was I Alice, sat out on the steps and cried…