The BALLAD OF ALICE and OLD VERN THE PENSIONER

Hello from Worzel here is an up date on our saga, and of seeking a publisher for it, our grand work. Latest in rejection- “Miss Odd?, “Though your prose is amusing, we at Sheep’s End Book and Wyrd” do not currently embrace “Doggerel”. Your story of wit, pathos and utter stupidity is too much a condemnation of beets for us to categorize…

Nudge Giggleswick said it best- “Fel rhech pot jam” Welsh- Oh fart in a jam jar. Thank you, Nudge.  

Found this wee ad in my newspaper chip wrap when Alice provided dinner- LOST- Stolen or lost set of steps to house. Yellow in color, reward if returned- Vern in Bognar.  

Was Benny, of Sonsie Farm who wrote the song … Beatrice and I had spent glorious summer working on our book, “The Collected Wisdom Of Godfrey”.  Benny and partner Adelaide had been away roaming by donkey cart, seeking yellow houses, and any thing they could pinch or scrounge..

This   day from my seat in the rocker on Beatrice’s verandah all was at peace, sun slanting dusty down the fig arbor, hens scratching about, Beatrice cleaning harness, clink of buckles, slath of wet rag, tang of fresh saddle soap, idle thump of tail from ancient, dreaming sheepdog,   Beatrice whistling through her teeth as Godfrey had done…I watched the farm horses gang up, stare down the road, there was neighing and pacing. A donkey brayed…

Benny and Adelaide were home. The donkey cart was laden with cases of apples, lumber, a set of steps from someones house, books for the bed of books the old couple slept on…grinning Benny, with the heart of a balladeer, later that eve sang this one for us.

Beatrice knew well of Alice and Vern, did most of their bickering in Welsh, I will translate for you best I can.

” Oh sing, sing of Alice, Alice the prankster, just not in the presence of Brian the town cop or old Vern the pensioner”

I sing of Vern who lived on a pension, oft seen in white shoes mid the lawn bowling grounds down in Bognar.When Alice strode by stick in hand, the two chose to insult one another. “Fondle your groats” Alice shouts over the fence to Vern clipping the green. “Cachu hwch”, a reference to pig poo Vern called back. You nasty old pout worm, Alice chided him, that was mean.

“Ceri Grafu” ” Vern (Go and scratch) where the girdle you wear pinches you”.  Vern and Alice met up by chance, in line  at the same bank. Twixt ancient Miss Crapper and Sugar Mulgrew’s  nosy mother. Alice and Vern regarded each other, all went silent no one clacked on machine or counter. Alice produced from her poke fresh garlic, offered a plump clove or more to Miss Crapper.

Alice   knew well Vern could not bear the rank odor  . “A silent marauder be garlic” she happily ate it, did tiny Miss Crapper, retired school teacher, thank you demurely from my old bowels and liver. “Alice pranked Vern effectively , Vern tried but could not out guffaw Alice. They teased without out ire or acrimony, two old curmudgeons both born in Batley.

Poor old Vern with a churn gave up place in line, to gag in his hat outside. It was chilly December and all Vern knew, as Alice did to, all their lives they had caused chaos together. As a lad Vern cheeked Alice when she sang in the streets, he pelted her odd brother Godfrey with beets.

Years ago, Alice showed up at Vern’s wedding wearing rubber boots, wielding a fresh boiled Haggis, quite greasy. It burst when pierced by the brides hungry nephews, got Haggis on the ceiling, on Vern’s white shoes quite a bit on the vicar to…

At a Skibbereen pub, “The Slug and Lettuce” said Alice’s partner “Nudge” we would sing on stage when the landlady let us”. In the corner most Tuesdays sat old Vern the pensioner, retired now, family grown and gone. Vern, when not tending the bowlers fine lawn or down the cafe’ for beans on toast (Friday’s poached Kipper”. Vern knew only herring bothered Alice brought one to the pub on a string to torment her…

Nudge reported- “I was keeping time on a length of rubber hose, Alice sang.” Along came Vern leaned out with a pole, dangled rotten herring, under my loves  bulbous nose”. She was singing “I’d Rather be in Bognar”  as had her old Uncle Lou (sadly passed) Vern, silly Vern made egregious error..Alice when irked could really move fast.

Half the herring in hand, Alice chased after Vern, the pub crowd erupted in laughter. The sensible fled or hid neath the bar, down the steps, they ran, Vern in kilt hiked high, round and round his old car. Gasped Alice, “Vern when I catch you I have paint in my poke and shall paint your old buttocks blue”.

“Tumffat !! “Alice you sing as well as that herring before it was netted and died”. “Bampot !! both skidded to a stop, through the gathered crowd lumbered Brian, Batley, Skiberreen, and Bognar town cop.  “Fel rhech mewn pot jam ” cried silly Nudge Giggleswick holding Alice’s hat and coat, her heavy poke and precious stick.

“No worries Brian, harmless fun”, holding tattered herring stood stalwart Alice, fond sister of Godfrey, unrepentant curmudgeon. as agreed old Vern, with the fishes tail, winded he was and really quite pale …they got away with a fine for “Disturbing The Queen’s Peace a night in the cells, a lecture, that went in one ear and way past the other.

Alice to this day is a prankster, cheeky she is to old Vern the pensioner….

Adelaide ululated and clapped, proud Benny finally finished singing possibly the worst ballad I had ever heard…Beatrice had crept off to bed by the third verse. Guitar strings were carefully wiped down, beer produced all around  to contented belching. Impossible to categorize indeed…

THE ABSQUATULATE- Nudge’s Chance to Shine- from Worzel

The atmosphere was of chewing, rending of teeth on toast, the aah’s of good tea. My pen kept rolling off the wobbly table I had attempted to steady with a wad of toilet roll. I abandoned my pen, no longer wanting a close look at the floor neath the table of “Little Chef’, a roadside service cafe where, on my recent summer visit to Wales, I always met with Godfrey’s eccentric sister, Alice…

To my dismay, Alice’s partner “Nudge Giggleswick’ joined us, with plates licked clean, Nudge produced a disreputable sock, shook it’s contents of coins out on the table, (they rolled everywhere), to sort and count them, earnings from a mornings singing down the market. Alice rummaged in her packet of writings, casting aside sweet wrappers, and a partial portion of cheese. I asked Nudge, a peculiar little man, “What do you, Nudge, actually do?..”Why, I play the “LaughPan”, I created, some call it the “Absquatulate”, would you like to hear my story now we have ate? “Feh” said Alice, indeed, I replied, oh joy! the cheerful Nudge Giggleswick  cried… 

As a child, said he, I was pummeled by the boys, played jump rope with the girls, spent a great deal of time alone in damp cloak room dunce cap on my curls, which were umber colored and Ma let me keep quite long. As a little chap, I was known for out bursts of racous song.

“Had my old mans lungs, said Ma, twas dad who bellowed “All Aboard”, from the train rang the bell with a clang, echoed down the small Welsh valley, where all we Giggleswicks sang. Ma loved a story, and oft told this tale, how I was born elbows first, you see. Ma gave a firm “Nudge” and out I popped wailing, though they wished for a she not their 11th he”.

At aged six- was reported, “It is sad, but that lad appears, to have been made up of spare parts” Miss Fondliver it was, Batley town nurse, “From those freckles to the crab like way that he walks”, she peered down pink nose, through glasses quite thick, noted “I do not see a rosy future for you, young Nudge Giggleswick”

Alice chimed in- From the worn out photos Nudge has let me see, he stood wet and bewildered quite often, as did my late brother Godfrey. While Godfrey was a poet, Nudge sang and whistled non stop, his brothers stuffed his mouth with mashed potatoes, and claimed Nudge came in a sack from the charity shop.

“All Aboard”! called Pa, all aboard everyone, clutching his knapsack, nearly grown now, Nudge waved goodbye as he set out for far off London. No more mashed potatoes, no brothers nasty feet in his face, no more bally-hoo, no more having to hide his musical creations, back of the cold out door loo. Sun crept round the mist as his train clacked along, he reckoned the winter warmth a sign- “I have invented the “Dust Pan Flute”, soon it will be my chance to shine”.

In a hostel dwelt Nudge, in a room with twelve others, the warden’s signs hung in the hall. “Be ye unwelcome loose women, waifs and strays, the itinerant musician” Beware the pickpocket and mini cab tout- Do Not slam The Door on Your Way out. ” as he walked the big city, Nudge sang for his supper of chips and the coins tossed his way, he oft sat in the park thinking long, long thoughts, of home and the music he was learning to play.

He purloined a dust pan from the hostel closet, attached a pilfered  rubber hose to it. He cut strategic holes the length and width, added an old tin cup so his lips would fit, Nudge could not sing as he played his Laughpan, but delighted in the racket it made, from the low drone of  distant cow afar, building to crescendo of  large herd of beasts, in a narrow corridor.

Nudge practiced in the streets everyday, the good folks of London soon paid him well to go away. “Free Music of Nudge” read his sign. Every night, over chips he told himself, indeed he was destined to shine.

Alice tells her version of events- Many years I traveled with “The Uncle Lou Band” we were booed off stage, we were chased off stage from Bristol to Finland…when dear Uncle Lou blew his last notes on trombone, I was cast to the streets on my own. “Let Inside Me Guffaw’ was a favorite tune, I sang ” Jack Neath The Pier”, sang the haunting “Old House Of Ill Repute I Called Home”.

“There she stood, on an apple crate, snow fell softly on her wooly hat, she sang as if straight to my lone heart, after wards I asked, “please join me, in the shelter of yon brewery cart”. She wore an old kilt over trousers, her boots were muddy and brown, her name was Alice, and she came from near my home in Skibbereen Town. Alice asked, “what ever is that odd instrument of mine?….then she joined me in song, oh how those cold coins did shine!.

Alice sang- “Rum Raisin The Tart” is what they called me, I wore no knickers beneath”. From aged 16 to 82, could be found down the stroll on Hampstead Heath”….”she stirred the stars in my heart, thought we could see naught for snow fell thickly”. “She strode, I waddled, walked Alice home to her hostelry’ . Twer much like mine- faded signs hung askew, “No trodding of mud or effluvium in, no singing oddly or loud, no cooking of Brussels Sprouts after 10:00, Beware Of The Curmudgeon.

Partnership did not catapult, Nudge and Alice to fame, she evolved into a prankster, rubbish  filled their dust pan, the cops laughed at his funny name. Still counting his coins I asked again, besides creating a nuisance  together, what else did Nudge like to do? “I awake with guffaw and a zest for life, spent morning looking out the window at folks below”. I play my “Absquatulate” in the bath tub, oft hours at a time”. Sing war songs with old Arthur Bosomsworth, thank Alice for my chance to shine…

Alice, never comfortable around words like “love” or “thine”, “Manners’ or “Couth” sat kilt hiked, inspecting a bony knee, her own. Nudge, who like Godfrey considered no meal complete without peas- covered his shyness by gobbling them through a straw..Peculiar old pair, not peculiar at all..

THE FINE NAVIGATOR- From Worzel

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, his life’s desire was for “Whirled Peas”, to avoid all manner of discord, and beets. He feared little, only moths, antique shops, closed in spaces and waxed floors..but came in time to tolerate heights, wobbly tables and owls.

Godfrey did not “Gasconade”, was never prideful , yet was cheekily confidant with his navigation skills, I happily let him lead. I misplaced Godfrey in a large grocery store one day, deduced he would be far from beets as could be, and located my friend down the pet food aisle, behind several large bags of dog food, and a stack of tins, eating a can of vanilla cake frosting…the vagabond was happiest outside, he truly was a fine navigator, venturing off track a joy.  

“I am a fine navigator”, pompossed my vagabond Godfrey. For it was summer, early morning and we were off on an adventure. I brought water, and plums and cheese with crackers, (the ones that don’t crumble with sesame seed). “Feh”, said Godfrey,” Vegemite in ones pack is heavy, we shall forage in the wild, and drink from a muddy boot print if need”. “Feh”, I thought back, muddy boot print indeed…

We drove from the city, to a raffishy back road near a derelict homestead. As directed by Godfrey, “I shall navigate from here”, he assured me. We decended a forest track narrow and green, soaked still in dew, cool in the shadows, I could hear rushing water before it came into view.

I tried not to see neath his kilt as he clambered, nimbly over wet rocks shedding knapsack and coat, Godfrey sat to wait, for me on the boulder I gracefully fell off. Sank in icy cold water up to my throat- “Mind”, he said politely, fishing me out, “it is slippery”.

Beets nasty hot, beets nasty cold, beets nasty all the time, gone to mold. Beets with gizzard meat, beets and Bulgar  Wheat, rather eat from muddy boot print nine days old..

Godfrey sang this as we tramped, a nonsense song…I must state here the truth, the awkward lad I once knew was gone, over the stones he hopped, never once getting mis- matched socks wet. “Trust  my navigation, dear Worzel, laughed Godfrey, let us see how far up this sweet river we can get”.

No poet as he was, allow me to describe our journey. Excuse my verse if too “Esoteric”. We did forage berries, the tart, thimble shaped ones where brambles grew thick. I pointed  out skeeters and odd “Jesus” beetles, dragon flies, the still pools with very light dusting of pollen. He scampered, I crawled cross a natural bridge, the trunk of an ancient cedar long fallen.

I fell off it thrice, water twice then fine river sand, it wedged in every crevice, as I followed my fine navigator, cross farmer’s fields over land. “I am a fine navigator, learned neath the stars from an old sailor Verne Lipshimmer, (something of a tippler). Twas my first long  voyage as a lad, each night looking out for The Southern Cross,  respect for the sea, I learned from Verne, a fine navigator was he..”

“And sense of direction unerring, came from being tormented with beets when young, that and the odd knitted clothes I was wearing”. “Hid I did often from beets hard tossed, even on a moving train, got off before I was far away lost, Ma slapped my head when sister Alice told her…I survived my Welsh childhood, a fine navigator”. . .

We were now on a cow path, cows zigged, calves zagged, bulls ponderous lagged behind later. Round still steaming leavings, barely looking still singing, trekked cheerily  Godfrey, my fine navigator. We had hiked a “De-Hoop”, he called it, back to our clean flowing river.

“He never failed to find his way, rarely by passed a bake shop or cafe’. We sat outside, damp and hungry, my bony behind having endured, stone, bark, and burr..as Godfrey the charmer brought out laden tray- “Never Pass Up a Bun Offered Free”- said he, my friend, a fine navigator…

SAY YES TO NO- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here, While his distaste for beets is well documented, Godfrey was fond of most else, besides moths, closed in spaces, very loud children, wolves, and bottled cherry syrup, the shape of which he invariably dropped. 

He abhored violence and all forms of bigotry, – Godfrey loved words. He saw no need to contort words in rhyme, spelled them to suit his very basic thoughts, and oft confounded me with his ability to find wisdom, if not logic in utter nonsense.

My co-writer, Beatrice, back home in Wales, her tenants Adelaide and Benny, along with Godfrey’s sister Alice wished to contribute to this story, to Beatrice’s dismay- they do. 

Godfrey writes- Was a hot summer day, by the river I lay, clear water cooling bare feet. Say yes to no worries thought I, with a pack of warm Mirabel Plums for a treat. They were wrapped in newspaper- on a remnant I read- “Simon Bajak has fled”!.

Simon Bajak has fled, taking folks hard earned money left in his trust, Loose the hounds on Simon’s track, make him pay it all back. Say yes to no more bad behavior in future.

In your tropical clime, thought Godfrey, you may be sunburned the very first day, accosted by crabs and sand fleas on the shore, bonked in the head with a volleyball, have no where to spend that money but one dusty store. One shop with nothing but nappies and cat food to pay for.

A Blatherskite stood on her apple crate- a netter-cap. Voice bigger than she was spoke out over city honking and roar. A few paused to listen to her wisdom, as Godfrey did. Most hurried by, as Margretta urged all caring folk to say- “Yes To No More Weapons and War”

My Paludal a haystack, the sky my T.V. set, I am a fig picker- finest career a tatterdemallion can get. Say yes to no bruised fruit, no worms, no caterpillars the boss lady told me. Indeed, understood I replied from high in my Fig tree.

Say yes to no bruised figs or feelings say yes to full fig bins filled to the hilt. Say yes to no cold rain and wind swath cross the orchard, say yes to no cold, damp draft up my kilt.

Beatrice’s verse- She and Godfrey grew up together, lifelong friends- I cherish her friendship to. 

Quenders, Lues, Rawolfia to, all these afflictions I find wrong with you. An excess of Vril perhaps?….Yaws and a Wen, say yes to no checkups! young Godfrey cried, refused to ever see Dr Uren and his, scary old office again.

“We said yes to no”, wrote rogue rovers Benny and Adelaide. Came upon a penned pheasant one journey we made, for we sought yellow houses cool evening, quite late, we meandered onto a royal estate.

“Ate it we did”. For being hungry lit a gypsy fire, neath a broad young oak tree. We stuffed our plump bird with scone crumb and spices, fresh foraged herb, and sauce of sweetened heath berry. “Twas feasting and song till the law came along”. We said yes to their no”, cheeked elderly Adelaide and Benny.

Sister Alice would never be left out…

“What question is this for a full on prankster?, Alice slurped her tea when I asked her. Had she ever said yes to no?. Why every work day fitting shoes in the shop, and my hobby of tormenting Brian the town cop.

Brian came in for new shoes. I chose a fine pair for him, white leather “Winkle Pickers” two times his size. When he put them on, I told wee Brian they would make fine swim fins, if need did arise- they are lovely, do buy them.

I said yes to his no, Brian stood obdurate, a crowd gathered outside the shop in the High Street, he said no to my yes, shoes still on his feet. I said yes to to no and teased Brian to no avail. In white “Winkle Pickers- Obstruction of the Law! -he cried, hauled me off to Skibereen jail…

After dinner I drew on my cell wall, in denture paste someone left neath my cot underside. No artiste, I drew a portrait of myself, Alice, with words of curmudgeon pride.

“Say yes to no and no to yes and worry not over the state of your stockings and dress”. Let your heart let loose free chortle and guffaw, and mind where you step when chased over wet grass, fleeing from portly Brian wee arm of the law”.

Oh, Alice….my word. 

“Say yes to no beets” The vagabond Godfrey, read this on a sign post Quinquenium years ago. Wise words indeed, thought he. And in good Godfrey fashion, sought out ant free shade- found pen and notebook for to write and share it with me.

THE MIGHTY MYRTLE- IRENE. From Godfrey

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, Godfrey- my friend of 28 years..this is his story.  Summer times, when we journeyed to our lake side cabin with Godfrey along, we always stopped for ice-cream in a coastal, hamlet, little more than fuel pump, cafe and harbor.  

       To the east were the blue sillouttes of small, scattered gulf islands. “Tridentata” was the largest, rocky, narrow, desecrated by logging 80 years before, a haven for hermits, and “back to the landers”, “Dirty Hippies”, we were told when Godfrey asked, I knew he was drawn to such islands…and dubious boat rides, I feared never seeing him again when I dropped him off at the ferry boat- The Myrtle- Irene…

Oft in travels, I have sought wisdom, sought the good in folks I have met, and in places been. I did my best, but was sorely pressed, to find wisdom aboard the mighty Myrtle-Irene.

There is a tune I learned long ago, from a rider of boxcar and crosser of sea. Played the banjo did she. Nary a province this girl had not been, we met one summer morning on the Myrtle-Irene.

19 treacherous miles oer the Salish Sea, lies a mysterious island, avoided by polite society, her mud flats and high, stony hillsides intrigued me. The ferry Myrtle- Irene lay alongside the dock, in sketchy gray patches of paint stains and rust.  No low rumble or engine’s roar the good captain passed out on the wheelhouse floor, had left his ship in a young hippie’s trust,” no worries said he”, donning jacket and cap- this has happened many times before”….

Two milk cows were loaded on the sloping top deck, brave travelers the level below. Up in the bow , away from all chaos, a hobo girl sat alone plucking her banjo. I noticed that those in the know, seemed to know where to gather …along the rail on the leeward side, staked out space in a solid row.

A light in the sky above far Tridentata!, and promise of a fine summers day. The Myrtle-Irene set off with a belch and lurch, only knocking two fish boats out of her way.

The Mighty Myrtle- Irene had a list to port, and now I knew why no one leaned on the  rail, when the cattle above did what nervous cows do.. the Myrtle- Irene fair got her name from a pioneer woman ran sheep. With a “nere do well” husband, uncountable number of children and homestead to keep.

On moonlit nights folks heard Myrtle singing, bent digging clams down Spinster Bay, she carried deer home over strong shoulders, and oysters by damp heavy sack, she passed into legend way some 100 years back.

Captain Querus Slape ,  chap with odd sense of humor, named his ship with affection for her. All his years the filthy old character drank, the mighty Myrtle- Irene never grounded or sank. Above the door of Slape’s private cabin hangs a portrait of The Queen, another of the dog he owned at age four, and a faded photo of old Myrtle Irene.

In scant twenty minutes the break water cleared, the captain snoring, intoxicated, I noticed a chart, spattered with stains, older than me and quaintly outdated. yet oddly, I trusted the Myrtle- Irene, good ship in her day, up the greasy old bow I slid, to hear the hobo girl with the banjo play.

The sea this morning was a platinum platter, on a bountious seagull buffet, the gentle banjo roll, in time with ferry’s sway. The dented Myrtle- Irene rode sturdy and bold, though something clanked and rumbling- thunking came from deep below in a hold.

“I inquired as to the toilet”, wrote Godfrey. An alcove with bucket an hose for use of the “Gent”. Somewhere in the bilge, formed a line up of lady’s, I assumed that is where lady’s went.

Now the Myrtle Irene lies along side the dock, no longer chugs from island to main. Said Querus Slape- “Were no longer the 70’s, and someone was bound to complain”. For the captain, retirement years were unkind, his wife ran off, his trailer flooded with sewage, he shot himself by accident in the behind.

Replaced by a shiny, new ferry boat, it carries both cattle and car, with a toilet and captain at the helm, not once has she been found passed out, or dragged unfit to sail from the bar. And what of the girl with the banjo? Did she settle on Tridentata or roam as a hobo? ..”As I wandered the island, recalled Godfrey, “I listened in vain for to hear her play, for folk songs carry well on the wind, and a banjo will resonate quite some distance away”.

“He was an odd young man who disliked beets”, the island residents wrote of Godfrey- that’s all. “He sought wisdom, we were sad to see him go, when the first snows came that fall”. No beets grew on rugged Tridentata, none in the only shop to be seen, Godfrey stood on the stern waving, kilt to the storm- when he left on The Mighty Myrtle Irene.

His was a primitive, fearless joy that Godfrey never thought would be lost or undermined by age- I oft have to remind my self, how food tastes best cooked over a beach fire, and that since age 11- Godfrey asked himself upon waking- “What is good about today”He always found at least three things…From Worzel.

THE SPOOL- A Wharf Street Story- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here- In early days of my friendship with Godfrey- I sent him to the shop needing cream for the coffee. He set off on a bike, the quicker to be . The coffee went cold, as I disliked it black, about noon, grinning broadly Godfrey came back…

“Said I had cream in hand, heading out the shop door, my right buttock bumped a stack of pickled beets in a jar”. “The beets spread around me, I leaped through shattered glass, with a broom the old store owner hit my young ass”. “I took the long cut home on the Goose Trail Path.”

Twas long, rough and windy- but here is a carrot muffin and cream for the coffee. It may have been cream when he ran from the store, but what Godfrey brought home refused to pour, complete whipped solid from his round about journey. “He spooned it out- explaining gravely, that “Clotted cream, my dear is a delicacy”. Mornings like this one, looking out over Wharf Street, I truly miss The Vagabond Godfrey….

Godfrey Writes- It is morning on Wharf Street, from my window I see- a city rubbish truck disapear- lost to the odd, “Wall of Illusion” below me .Favorite trees barely budding for springs shyly late, the bridge is up and a line of cars wait.

Sun up is a promise, draft from the old windows cool, it is Sunday morning and down along Wharf, came a young man, he was riding a spool. A spool!, indeed thought I as he rumbled past. He was holding a cup of coffee aloft- or perhaps it was green tea..it occurred to me, balanced, rolling high on the spool so nimbly.

Watching over Wharf Street, I have seen many odd things pass by. Vintage taxis, Penny Farthings, all manner of rusted jalopy, often a cop on foot chasing after some guy. It’s a rumpity old street, narrow and busy, with tram tracks and pot holes twixt The Salvation Army, and a Mexican Cafe, thrice resurrected that burns down regularly.

I see cyclists pass in tight shorts and helmets with jackets that glow. Trailed by a street person, bike fully laden with bottles and cans, bound for the return it depot. But never anyone riding a spool, what a view he would see from up high as along Wharf he rumbled!. And what of the pain if the #50 bus came along, and by chance he tumbled?.

Worzel reckoned this chap was of simple needs, going back in time of the wheels creation. She said- “No doubt the first spool was built by a woman, toting laundry to water or large carcass home to hut or cave”. “Transport impractical at most, but think of the time waiting for a bus that spool would save”.

“But when did time become so vital a thing to “save,” when we are all allotted the same every day?. Asked I, turning back to the window in hope that the chap on the spool, with his beverage of choice chance again ride by.

Perhaps further down Wharf where the police oft lurk, arresting riders of spools, (all in a days work), the youth was questioned, and lectured again, and forced to walk home from whence he came, the spool taken as evidence of” Laws Blatant Disregard “, it sits to this day in the police impound yard.

Tis a Mardy Sunday morning down on Wharf Street…

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….

 

STRUTHIOUS- From Alice

Struthious, Godfrey was known to mutter, I was used to his grumbling in Welsh, and thought little of it- so long ago it was … “Struthious” was generally reserved for the card his curmudgeon sister, Alice sent every three years on her birthday. Godfrey collected his post at our address, so oft there were a couple of pieces from Alice- the card always the same silly Ostrich wearing a party hat, Alice berating him for being away a vagabond, and the burden it placed on her. This is a classic work from her biography- “Alice- A Life in Praise Of Myself”   

“No manner of insult worries me”, wrote Alice. “I only take umbrage at being called “Struthious”. Call me a maundering netter-cap, or witch or otter-pot, call me what you will, “Struthious” I am not.

“I do not possess a long, crepey neck, with wee head perched on the end, or eyes big and round for to stare cross the sand, and I do not race cross  desert brown. Dare call me “Struthious” if we meet on the street of Skibereen Town. My winter coat is a faded gray, as I have worn it many years, and if a few feathers poke motley from holes in the sleeve and the hem drags when I sit , call me a moultry curmudgeon shrew, it bothers me not one bit”.

“Struthious” I am not. My legs are strong from walking with Arthur in his bath-chair pushing him, I do not grow long claws, my feet are dainty and trim.  I merely prank those who are rude, especially the idle rich, call me as attractive as week old congealed Junket, call me a bat strayed on board a wayward bus, just never call me please, “Struthious”.

When I am hard at work selling shoes, or when arrested at dawn putting dresses on statues, oft hear the low muttering, “It was that Alice”, “Wore a feather boa as a tail in church”, unrepentant she is, daft and “Struthious”. I have a fond companion, Nudge Giggleswick, we play music together down the market. Nudge keeps time, on a length of rubber hose, and in the more lugubrious places Nudge knows…the only time he is serious, is when someone describes me as “Struthious”.

Argle-bargle, Dangwallet, Quenders to you, beets in broth and the jolly eel stew, let not” CER i grafu”ever come between us, Nudge sang neath my window with his hose- Dear Alice you are not “Struthious”.

I encouraged my brother,( Godfrey disliked beets) but apart from that would do as I say, when very small to march up to his teacher, and tell her- “Miss, you look very Struthious today”. A learned individual she understood what the wee chap said, learned though lacking in humor, as I hid neath the stairs Miss slapped Godfrey over the head..From Alice.

FRIEND OF Mrs COOPER -FRIEND OF GODFREY

Ah, to write again friends of Godfrey…Late winter, early spring has marked the passage of a fine chap. Gypsy, scholar, goat herd, hippie, part Swedish Chef, part John Wayne. He endured the worlds longest poetry reading on the ass-pinch chairs, across from the guy who spoke only to his teeth, (on a plate by his side with their own sausage roll). And then there was the Shakespeare actor, who performed a great death scene,during Charle’s endless Pantoum, blood and all. He was a friend of “Mrs Cooper”- a friend of Godfrey..  

Out in Knockfollie’s Bridge leans Knockfollie’s Town Hall, smells of cabbage and fish suppers, dance wax and Lysol. Two shops, Hotel, the wharf and fish plant, and our Outhouse Museum, on the hill top looking out overall.

“I liked it there”, Godfrey did write, danced kilt a twirl many a warm Saturday night. At the right rear table sat a tall, older man, mirth in his eyes, same battered cap. “May I have this dance Mrs Cooper?, he’d call, and they’d clear a swath across Knockfollie’s Hall.

“I asked of the girls I had met sorting fish”, “who  this odd couple be?. Was told, “he is long retired from the sea, she drifted up here as you did from the city”. Jackie and Laura sorted fish to, side by each, working one and the same. They told me, “Cooper” is not either of the old pairs name. Laurie concurred, nor do they imbibe alcohol, back of the hall like the rest of us all. “they drift through life in each others fond company, finding everything funny…

Back of the old dance floor, kids were sacked out on coats, the evening fun winding down. The janitor patiently tapped his broom, as The Coopers headed out last to town. C’mon, Mrs Cooper, he steadied her arm down the steps, she steadied his to, “we’ll make it , Mr Cooper, they would sleep neath the stars- by The Outhouse Museum, where the town cop could not see them.

Red headed Bill sorted fish, she did, said “come morning the cop wakes them up with a prod and coffee”. Then they totter off, arm in arm laughing, quite a hike to their shack by the sea. “Beware of the goats, if you dare to visit, last vagabond did , well the goats ate his knapsack, and basically everything in it”…

Godfrey would talk to anyone, talk of anything but the beet. He could make friends in an empty room, and befriend “The Coopers” did Godfrey, chatted in the shade at The Outhouse Museum, where oft they chanced to meet.

Ever curious, Godfrey ventured off course, found the muddiest route under bramble, neath gorse. Out past Whiffen Spit, a good hike to the reach, and down a fairly steep cliff side to Knockfollie’s Beach. “There, wrote Godfrey, enjoyed a fine Tuesday, heard goats bleating softly, and voices some distance away. “C’mon, Mrs Cooper, the old sailor’s call, half way down the track where it skirted the waterfall. “Okay, Mr Cooper, came her laughter through the fog- “dance me over this last fallen log’.

Miss Ebony Burl was an office girl, she did not sort fish, wear rubber boots or damp, fishy glove. Ebony admired a man in a kilt, strode up to Godfrey quite boldly. “Said, I fancy you may be the man for me, though you dislike beets, and befriend the fish sorter and aged common hippie”.

“That I do, the vagabond wrote, befriended “The Coopers” despite the fact, it was not their name and home was a driftwood shack”. A clever home gleaned from sea smoothed timbers, and with verdant garden of deep goat pellet and kelp. The outhouse was purloined from the museum, lowered down the cliff with a gang of stout fish sorters help.

“Oh dance, Mrs Cooper over Knockfollie’s Bridge, I’ll have table set and ready, be it soft summer night, or winter storm, take my arm, Mr Cooper, strong and steady. The ocean before us will never grow old, as we and the hills will above- all the outside world needs to know- in our passing, our path was simply of love….

ANATIDAEPHOBIA- From Alice

This is the story of my friend, the Vagabond Godfrey, and how he lived and loved many years ago. He was Welsh, with a sister, Alice six years his elder. Alice wrote her brother every three years on her birthday. “I was too young to remember Alice painting me blue”, but do recall the shouting when she hung me, by my nappy out the window so we could watch the stars”, Godfrey reflected.  

Singer, shoe sales lady, curmudgeon, nuisance, I was warned before meeting Alice never use the words “Love”, “Herring”, or “Athourity” in her presence. We always met at “Little Chef”, a service cafe from which Alice had never been barred. The old character sat down across from me, shale blue eyes looked off far away, the diner went silent, she hiked up her kilt, scratched her knee in a mildly itchy kneed way…

Her book, “Alice- A Life in Praise Of Myself”,was dreadful , and she was proud to share with me her wodge of rejection letters, and thoughts jotted down that morning. Here is Alice- being Alice. 

The morning sun a voyeuer through my blind a bottle of cod liver oil did find. Gold and amber a prism it made, how pretty I thought as I rose and yanked down the shade.

I do not let things bother me, the trivial bits, the piffle I say, I say “Feh” to the snow in the streets, use my stick to prod all who get in my way. The sticky faced tot, clutching a bun, stares over the booth at the lone curmudgeon. Though some of my ilk, (we grow fewer by day) would snarl at the child to scare it away, I merely drool back over my tea, till the wee one gives up and runs back to his mummy.

Nudge Giggleswick, of some intellect, feared scary films like “I Was A Teenage Insect”. Why do we go then, I asked of him?. At the matinee’ quiet and dim, saw a picture with killer bees loose from a hive, and hyenas eating a gnu…because said Nudge, we can laugh at such nonsense, as not much bothers you.

Summers eve I take my step father, Arthur, out in his chair for a roll around the park.  We take a bag of crumbs for the mallard drake, in the pond of which Arthur is most fond. Oft out of the blue, “Anatidaephobia” Arthur shouts, when we pass an odd person at lurk in the grass where we pass…

Arthur is very old, he mutters as I strain, to push  him up the hill to the duck pond- Anatidaephobia! Arthur barks loudly again. Are you concerned about that fellow?, I set the brakes on his chair, ducks are coming down the path ahead, waddling in joy for their handout of bread. “Anatidaephobia”! the odd chap from the grass cries out, racing by knees up on a hoon. When I got Arthur home to lie down, I almost regretted my pranking had me barred from the only library in town.

For little bothers me, except not knowing everything, like what in the whirled is “Anatidaephobia” not even Nudge or Ma knew. Next day, out walking with Arthur both in jolly mood, singing old war songs, bawdy and rude. On the hill to the duck pond, part way to the top, came chuffing and panting, stout Brian- The Town Cop.

“Alice!, he huffed, you are going down, last warning this is for your singing lewd war songs in town”!. Oh Brian, oh Brian, what a learned young man, I love to sing loudly because I can. Before a crowd gathers, creating a scene, do tell me constable, what dos “Anatidaephobia” mean?.

Well Brian, he patted his bullet proof vest, eyed where I stood brave and bold, stood high on a picnic table used as a stage, Arthur laughing in his old age- “To Skibereen said Brian you are bound for a cell, but before we go, Alice- yes I will tell. Oft in my career with the law this has come up as an issue- “Anatidaephobia’- means fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is staring at you.

Wrote Alice- very few things bother me, not beets or badgers or rubbish on telly. Not naughty films of actors unclad, or getting arrested for singing in the park with my stepdad. But I do notice ducks more now, wild by the sea, duck dinner on a cafe ‘menu, ducks flying by in a vee. When out and about with my stick oft I wonder, if somewhere, somehow a duck is staring at me….