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….

Advertisements

COUSIN RICHARD MEMORIAL DONKEY SANCTUARY- And other stories- from Worzel

My word, I have not written much this winter- oh  arthertis, now a surge of business at our luggage shop. We average at least three customers a day, mostly horrified young persons returning suitcases from “That Old Fogey Store”. I watch them bolt, refund in hand up to the posh, new outdoor outfitters. “Feh”, Godfrey would have muttered.  

Jim, the bird guy still comes in Wednesdays to smell all the leather goods, never buys anything. Mr Agout, from the Turkish Corner Deli drops by to complain about snow, though we have had a mere dusting, I spend a lot of time daydreaming out the window, recalling the years Godfrey saved his fruit picking wages to winter down south- we always made a day of it taking him to the ferry. let us make that drive again…

Newspaper story of vague recall, run by a rogue nun..named for someones lost cousin. We passed it every fall, taking Godfrey in the car to the ferry terminal. A property un kept, faded red barns of bygone date, patched up fences, blackberries, lop sided gate. Donation box nailed to a Garry Oak tree, “Cousin Richard Memorial Donkey Sanctuary” Drawn to the place was my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey.

He always had us stop and park in the weeds as what money he had went into the box, for donkeys have simple needs. Grass, shade and rest, ginger snaps for a treat, trees low enough for a good scratch of buttocks, care for old hooves and teeth.

Donkeys brown and gray stared at me where they stood in thistles knee high. Two large mules dozed nose to nose, idly swishing the occasional fly. Four nuns, two old, two young chopped wood, one nun swung the axe other nuns stacked logs neatly. “Distawrwydd” said Godfrey in Welsh,  “Peaceful” I agreed with him completly.

Driving on, we pondered what came of Cousin Richard? Did sweet rain ever cool for him a cup of hobo coffee?. Did he labor in an office all his life in obligation, long to break free?, Had he a donkey cart or plow with mules as a boy as Beatrice did in Wales on “Sonsie?”Or did a donkey walk with Richard in his older years on a dusty pilgrim journey?. Perhaps his fortune went to the kindly rogue nun, as Cousin Richard had no one…

We concluded all his life Richard followed “The Rules”, lived abstemiously, left his estate to rescue  mules, perhaps to upset greedy family. Every year in fall we parked, neath the donation box in the weeds, nuns were about, busy with task. “Godfrey, said I, do not fear that nun with her axe, if you wish to know of Cousin Richard, go up and ask”. For he would talk to anyone, of anything but beets, but he oddly shied away, from kindly Sister Mary May.

Since…I have let the years and many questions pass, I recall the peaceful sight of contented long eared ass. Replaced now by sprawl, of parking lot and ugly modern mall. All gone but that one lone Garry Oak tree, someone has shot the old donation box from it, where the shards lay- faded letters can still be read-  “Thank You From Cousin Richard- “In God we Bray”

VALLEY OF PUMPKINS- Nuns, donkeys, the common vagabond and poet, all have their autumn , read my dear old husband Garnet. We left the city, took the long cut northeast, round that ugly mall, a drive we take now when we feel elderly, on Tuesdays.

   The latter weeks of fall, “when I pass, wrote Godfrey, as you ramble about, look out for me”. Look for my boot tracks in the snow down Pumpkin Valley . And oft we see him clearly, or hear the echo of him muttering “Feh”, over the menu of the cafe, out on the Pat Bay Highway. The old place across from the new Kingdom Hall, and a booth by the window looking over Pumpkin Valley.

It’s on a verdant peninsula, sheltered thus by coast range hills and sea. Before we walk we always stop for coffee and the loo. Godfrey eloquently described the view- “In umber manure pumpkins grew, frost has loosed them from the vine. Harvest gold, orange, conservative beige, green and gray, ground mist smoky blue”

Sneaky mist has purloined the colors from sea and sky, and whispers down the endless furrows where the pumpkins of long past summer still lie. Brown muddy boots crunch the frozen leaves and vines, tractor ruts to the packing shed in deep, straight lines.

In the car with Godfrey, we set out for coffee, and to walk Pumpkin Valley. On the way home, I’d think him asleep , but he always got me- sit up with a start- Oh, no, Oh Piddle, we have forgotten about Agnes Doolittle….Nothing was insignificant with Godfrey- and he never, ever forgot a story.

I FORGOT ABOUT AGNES DOOLITLE-   We forgot to have children, consequently I have only memories of family car trips endured in my youth- mainly cold, Christmas afternoons..

         It was only ten miles to Grandpa’s house, highway treacherous in the deep, cold gloaming. We passed a cafe where it seemed every year, the same old men sat bent over soup, same slope hipped waitress standing with her coffee pot, we never stopped. My sister, Fillipendula, teased baby brother Cudberth, telling him wolves chased our old car, causing Cudberth, who had eaten a lot of fruitcake to throw up.

Older brother Inkerman, who recieved a new gun every other year sat poised for escape soon as we parked, to run off shooting rodents with our cousins- all big girls. Conversation consisted of dad “Shut up while I drive the car”, and our stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat, after zipping Cudberth into a plastic travel bag- as we passed that lonely cafe- “Oh Ishkabbible- I have forgotten a gift for Agnes Doolitle”!

No one ever asked who Agnes was, not auntie or cousin, in law or spouse, but on every occasion a turkey was served we could count on Agnes Doolitle being at the house. She had perfected the art of seeming busy whilst contributing nothing at all. Oven broken, power out, no water in the well, dog ate the pies she so lovingly baked leaving only the shell. Phones failed to, when Agnes tried to call, she made us kids, sit at a wobbly card table in the hall.

Agnes Doolittle’s pure white hair was held in place with a comb, her eyes were piercing, she ate like a hawk, claimed to be an artist, but her true talent was a voice shrill as a seagull and the manners of a very large flock. Agnes Doolitle did little but loud and endlessly talk.

Awkward and shy, I could not escape the scrutiny  and personal questions when Agnes Doolittle cornered me. “Such an odd face, it’s a shame her teeth and skin, and that hair, and those dreadful baggy clothes Worzel chooses to wear”.

I dreaded Agnes Doolitle creeping up near, to reach up and check if I was wearing a brasserie. And when Inkerman clomped in, all ruddy from the cold and smelling of damp wool to fill his face, later joining the men watching hockey on T.V.Agnes Doolittle called Inky, ” a long haired Hippie type, doomed to National Disgrace “.

She wore a big blue dress, and should you pass by, the Doolitle house on Thursdays it would be hung out to dry. She wore her flimsies, to do the wash we had to guess, but it was years later Godfrey taught me, not to take much stock in how others chose to dress.

Full of roast goose and mashed potatoes Agnes, taking up the whole couch snored and sprawled. Under the Christmas tree,  in wrappings and ribbons, Cudberth and I crawled, to sleep on coats piled deep. When we were dragged out for oatmeal at dawn, Agnes Doolitle was gone.

When first I met Godfrey, I still lived at home in Ceylon, on the Saskatchewan prairies, and he delighted in Mrs Gibberflat’s Agnes Doolittle stories. I forgot Agnes Doolittle, until I met Alice, Godfrey’s sister,  curmudgeonly, and expert  on all behavior naughty. “You missed the higher wisdom of such finely honed eccentricity” Alice gravely informed me.” It takes skill at the craft, to come across a daft harmlessly.

Agnes Doolittle, in all family photos she is standing beside me, oh piddle, I will never forget you, Agnes Doolittle.

SUSPICIOUS MOLES- And other stories of Fog- Worzel and Friends

I came upon a diary of Godfrey’s wholey devoted to stories of fog. He did love a thick fog, fogged up bus windows were for random poetry, ground mist in a lowland pumpkin patch, foggy mornings in the city he would drag me out walking…

We sought “things in the fog”, the thrum of a wakening uptown, pie scented steam from the bakeshop mingling in air as the baker steps out in the alley, shift workers peering into the gloom for emerging buses, I once found a twenty dollar note in a rose bush, Godfrey swore roses smelled better in fog.   

Inspired thus, I asked Beatrice, Hawken and Alice to share their stories of fog. Adelaide, Benny, and Alice’s partner “Nudge” Giggleswick also chimed in. I included a fog story of my own- welcome the fog…

Fog- from Beatrice-   Godfrey and I were six when we met over beets on a tray. Mingled with coal smoke the fog in Wales where we lived oft hung low the whole all day. Godfrey believed there dwelt things in the fog, we walked to school and home together, that swish in the grass became to Godfrey- “A dragons tail roadside in the heather lurking, distant ring of a hammer in fog, trolls in a mine were working.

 

Fairies we knew, drank only from bluebells of foggy dew,and that signpost end of the street in fog, was a spooky old man in a hat, waiting to jump out and scare you. We knew in summer when fog burned away, came promise of a good, warm day, we roamed the beach from end to end- till evening mist filled bay and hills again.

We’d hurry our ponies home at a jog, for Godfrey believed there were things in the fog….

Benny and Adelaide wish to share-In fog we have hidden from police and justice, seeking sausage thieves, they have blundered past us. We love the fog for many a reason, and welcome it in any season.

George Street Fiddler- from Hawken- I once met a fair maiden down east, she was a George Street fiddler. Summer cool and foggy in the old harbor city, I wished time to get to know her.

I told her my story, down George Street we sat, I with knapsack, she fiddle and bow…told me her first love was bittersweet, not all that long ago. “Was a hockey player, had the scar on his chin, folks back in that prairie town knew he would skate to glory, and he did till a bad game, left him in deep pain, told at twenty four, “son you will not play ever again”.

She was a George Street fiddler in old St John- I a mere vagabond. But you asked of fog?, and Cape Spear the furthest point east I could go. Watched it roll in from The Grand Banks, to the lighthouse where I camped below.

Autumn back on George Street the haunting airs of the fiddle made it no chore to find her. Over coffee I asked, “What became of your bold hockey player”?. She said over a long year healing, he took up the fiddle encouraged by me. He went home, to the farm and town on the prairie, and  plays the fiddle, plays it well, at dances in town and festival. Rivers meet in Winnipeg’s city square, seek The Forks, oft he fiddles down there.

Settled I am now in Comox Valley, my horses snorted and stamped this morning, I being up late- they were hungry. Breath formed fog, and I noticed the coats of mare and colt getting shaggy. Warm coats the sign of impending winter, a reminder to write that George Street  Fiddler, invite her if she pleases journey way cross the country, to the fiddle festival happening next summer.

I hope she will reply with fiddle tune, we shall hope for fog, and full harvest moon, dance cross the fog neath harvest moon.

The Fog- From Alice- A life in Praise of Myself-  

The “Fog” it was a manky old club bar we played in the days of “The Uncle Lou Band”. Near London,   there was always a drunk got threw out the door, onto the Tillbury Docks when they got out of hand. Between songs I’d take a break most nights, while barkeeps cleaned up after the fights. I’d gulp fresh air and watch the lights of the Fish and Chip Shop across the street. Watch folks hurry home with paper wrapped dinner with perhaps battered sausage and mushy peas. The fish shop would be closed when we left “The Fog”- but the nasty old pub lives on, lives on in my curmudgeon memories.

Suspicious Moles- from Nudge Giggleswick-  When fog coated our Welsh village in gray, oozed Slibber Sauce like, cold colored  CullenSkink, moist as Walrus fur, I recall a warning from Dr Uren, “Beware of suspicious moles”, he warned our mother.

At night when I lay abed, dozing to the clink of whiskey glass, muttering of aunties, uncles guffaw…”Dr Uren told me,” watch for suspicious moles”, over all the other racket shrilled our Ma.

When we played in the forest, I avoided stream bank, fallen log, sandy soil where a mole may burrow. Not trusting the mole I may meet in dim light of fog. “Beware of suspicious moles, I told my teacher. “Oh Miss, I suspect a mole has run under the coal hod.” All I earned was a slap on the head, and a note home- Please see Dr Uren about Nudge, Mrs Giggleswick, he is odd”.

When fog obscures the outhouse, such a long, cold walk down the track. Drips when finally you get to sit, drips down your back. Things may there well be in the fog, ghosties and trolls, but I take advice from wise Dr Uren- “Beware Of Suspicious Moles”.

Hitchhiking in fog with our Mother- From Worzel  –  I’ve kept this one inside me. (Vital to keep a story of your own- wrote Godfrey) But it is time for sharing, so after years I will, recalling my mother, legendary “Three Mile Lil”.

It was before brother Cudberth was born. We set out Ma, Inkerman, Fillipendula and I. Large rumbling trucks passed us close in the fog, so thick we could not see the east bound freight train pass to, just the whistle moan, I held tight to my brother’s hand, in the warm coat Fillipendula had outgrown.

But my feet were chilled in gumboots, with newspaper stuffed deep down, I was five years old, on the Al-Sask  border in soup thick fog we hitchhiked to town. For me it seemed forever between lifts and stops, till we finally reached the warmth of the bright, noisy shops.

Out of the mist, like wayward ships, to the hotel cafe’s safe harbor, Lil treated us all to hot gravy on chips.  She sat with coffee and smoke as we ate, sneaking a bit now and then off my plate, a rancher two booths down paid our bill, well known character in those parts, I learned years later was my mother- “Three Mile Lil”.

NAME THAT HERB-A memoir from Dhilys Pugh

Beatrice here, Yes, it lives. My contributions to “The Saga” have indeed been skint of late. Worzel and I are back in concord, regarding Alice’s dreadful stories, she was Godfrey’s only sibling, and like her or not, adds a ridiculous verisimilitude to his story. 

Godfrey was my lifelong friend, and one of his favorite adventures was two weeks spent stranded among travelers, in a remote alpine hostel, road and railway cut off by flooding. Worzel has reported many persons writing, claiming they were there, that January, 1983. All recall the Chili Pot, the sheer intensity of the foul weather, and the odd young man who so disliked beets.  

This letter came from Wrexham, not far from here. Dhilys Pugh was there, in Arthur’s Pass so long ago…her daughter writes.” When our mother retired, she went daft, and decided to hitchhike alone about “The Far Antipodes”. Off before we could place her in a home, off with a backpack she went”. 

Mum lived her dream, returning fit and full of stories. “It were serious trampers, turned up in Arthur’s Pass, driven down by the rain from peaks and tracks. A Swiss couple, a Bongo Van full of Aussie girls, two dour Swedes, two Americans, Sally and Jim on bikes. Brian, the Canadian lad, always chopping wood. Barry, the “Whinging Pom”, with his own tea towels..and Godfrey- an odd looking character with a sign- “No Pasaran Beets”, which he propped by the kitchen sink.  

It merely rained the first day we spent stranded in high Arthur’s Pass. By mid morn the third day, safe to say it poured. On the fourth the wind blew 7 bells of crapaud, we began the chili, and played “Name that Herb”, from ancient packets and jars in the kitchen cupboard.

On the 5th day we had a contest- How many time was the “Mike Oldfield ” record played as it rained on the second? Godfrey won, the last banana- 8 and one half times he reckoned.

By day nine stranded in Arthur’s Pass, we completed a damp jigsaw puzzle- “David” missing the naughty bit. The chili was served again that night, a tin a creamed corn thrown in it. The Swedes baked bread, Godfrey loaned me his copy of “Naked Came I”, on the tenth day I curled up, close to the fire and read.

We played “Name that Herb”, from the odd smelling baggy, Sally from Texas found under her bunk. Godfrey’s deft scrounging produced ginger snaps, with cream for the coffee to dunk.

Should you ever be stranded in Arthur’s Pass, waterfalls appear like magic when mist clears over the tussocks and snowgrass. There is perfume of coal smoke and wood fire overall ,peaks loom, faded mural hangs on the hostel common room wall.

With Godfrey I walked to the roadside chapel, to pray that the rain may stop, we had a guffaw over diapers and pet food, all that was left in the only shop. In fun, we played Scrabble in Welsh just to baffle the Scrabble Champ, Brian, very earnest Canadian.

The Australian  girls were good humored, yet kept to them self. Dour Swedes and Swiss longed for to ski, Brian chopped wood, he had read all the moldy books on the dusty shelf. We all tried to add what we had to the chili, vegemite, an apple, half a bag of stale muesli. “No Pasaran Beets” Godfrey’s sign read,  seriously being the elder, guarding the pot and washing up fell to me..

We stumbled over tussock grass, down to the river, every morning for to stretch out and walk. Humbled by walls of stone, thick Rata clad in full crimson flower. We sought the green jade, washed from the flood water. I found a fine, small piece, Godfrey made a wee bag from one of his socks. (Knitting a skill he learned from his own Mother) I wear it round my neck, on a ribbon  he gleaned from another.

Godfrey said- “It will ease arthritic ache and pain”, cement friendship. “A gift from the gorge will carry you a journey, and home to Arthurs’ Pass one day again”.

Naked came I, from the shower stall on the 14th day of rain. There was hullabaloo outside the loo, with word that an east bound train had gotten through. Only Godfrey   remained last of the rain, his socks not quite dry hung by the fire, in silence I sat,  prodding an ember…trying to put thanks into words, that I would write fondly of Arthurs’ Pass, and would always remember..

For he’d trod from mud and knee deep clouds, down from the hut on Mt Ghoul, tramped alone. He was wringing his wet socks into a plant, whistling “Sweet Molly Malone”

In the tiny Hostel office, hear the warden complain, midnight in your bunk, waken to the drumming rain. Plan in your mind, the building of a raft if need be, remember being stranded, playing “Name that Herb ” and that dreadful pot of chili.

“I did not return to Arthurs’ Pass, many years later, back home walking one evening by “The Irish Times” pub, someone was singing “Sweet Molly Malone”. Round my neck, I felt for that green stone, recalled the large salad  I befriended, when back down in the city after two weeks of dubious chili. …

Here, Mum’s story ended. Restless back home, we built her a Donkey Cart, and with “Arthur”, a gentle beast, enjoyed her dotage hosteling, and prodding about in waterfalls. Mum remained adament, that feet must be kept warm and dry.

CREATING A NUISANCE- From Alice

From “Alice; A life In Praise Of myself”-  

Godfrey’s eccentric sister Alice, had been hard at work with her dreadful writing judging by the thick packet she presented to me upon leaving Wales. Home now to my turquoise chair, after tea and good look out the window, I was ready for Alice. Alice writes, “here enjoy to your delight the completed introduction to my book”. Between selling shoes and writing, I have had little time to prank, town folk look at me oddly as I hurry by, suspicious lot…I hope no one suspects that I have matured.”Indeed, Alice had not.  

Creating a Nuisance- Ma and I never worried about losing Godfrey when he was small, and we went to the shops. He was easily found drooling on the bakeshop window, and I could collect my brother before someone shooed him away with a mop. I told him raisins were bug-guts, told him the coconut cakes he loved were made of lamb daggs. Thus I had a pile of raisins picked from his scone- and lovely cakes to, here is a favorite bedtime story- I was studying Australia in school, and was rapt by their colorful idioms.

Rattle Your Daggs To Lamington Fair- Your tail still long, legs stubby but strong, said old ewe to lamb when they met at the billabong. Run, run wee lambkin, run  and hide, before the black wagon comes and you are thrown inside! trust not the sheep dog, in the grass she will crouch, then it’s off to the market at Clapper De Pouch.

Not Clapper De Pouch!   the lamb did shake, where innocent sheep folk are promised cake, lemonade, and Cracker Jack, where good sheep go and never come back. There are rumors of woolies for chilly feet, and greasy chops for the posh to eat, and innards cleaned then set aside with onions for the Haggis fried. “I don’t want to be a Haggis”, the poor lamb cried.

Said ewe to lamb, now now, be calm, escape to the east beyond the farm, over   distant Tor through the Blue Woods rare, will lead you safely to Lamington Fair. Where the water troughs are not slimy or green, and free sheep gamboll on the common clean, no human ever be cruel or unkind, and when sheep dance they rattle their daggs behind, all free sheep dance, rattling daggs behind.

I oft threatened Godfrey with the dreaded “Clapper De Pouch”

The Prankster In Autumn-    There is something in October puts the prankster in a mood. ..Beyond my garden over grown and wild, enjoy the cacophony  of someone screaming at her child. Curmudgeon sanctuary, enter at thy doom, trap door for the unwary, welcome to my room.

Stacked tins of lonely soup, placed in precise rings, set before a desk top fan, dry my dainty under things. I enjoy the golden days of fall, collection of sharpened sticks hang along one wall. No art work or living plant for me, no tatty knick- knacks on the shelf, just my window over the moat, framed photos of myself.

The prankster in October- purloined from the bank a money bag, strolled to the park with glee, with simple system of fishing lines tied it to a tree. I sat on a bench so innocent, threw bag into the duck pond, sat and watched the greedy, wade in duck mess to retrieve it.

The money bag it stayed afloat, as the silly thrashed about, without webbed feet or boat. Pursuing a sack filled with rubbish, not money, with ice-cream and stick, I found it l terribly funny. And before my causing an angry mob, along came the town cop-“doing his job”. Portly Brian, crisp uniform wearing, knew well that nothing in the world upsets me..but herring.

Now, who ever heard of police bearing herring? Brian needed not threat or weaponry, stood holding up that dreaded fish, as I untied the bank bag from it’s golden tree. There is something in October puts the prankster in a mood- stay up late, nap by day- curmudgeon attitude.

Creating A Nuisance- “I was conceived neath a rowboat, in Wales have achieved status of legend, and as an incorigable nuisance am oft mentioned”.  The quality prank is an art form, cleverly cultivated, “Harm no one in Prank well Created”. I allow myself to be swung cross dance floors, knowing my oversize drawers will go flying free, to land in the lap or dinner plate, of one who looks askance at the likes of me’.

A curmudgeon is oft judged in church, or corridors of polite society, I have no need for cute stories of tots, cats do not interest me, only my own company”. My brother was son of a son of a silvery fish, bright as sun on calm sea, he disliked beets, was born that way, and Godfrey believed every sisterly thing I would say. The only time we ever whined is when herring and beets were combined.

I used Godfrey for a door stop, when sweeping out our cottage with a broom, I stuffed him nappy end down, in the piano that filled our sitting room. When I told him the Vicar hid God’s treasures in the chimney, up he climbed. Godfrey slid down head first, before I could grab him, wound up near the front pew of the church.

Trailing soot and ash, he took off at a dash, bawling for home via the cemetery, upsetting our first funeral  of many- elders set down the box of old Lloyd Brown to chase after my brother Godfrey.

“Created A Nuisance”- we read printed bold in The Newsletter of the Parish- from Sunday school, to my joy they dismissed us, I received a lecture, and Godfrey only beets in our hamper for the needy that Christmas.

Allergic To Work-  Willing companion “Nudge”, forged for me a note of fudge. “Please excuse Alice from work today at the shoe shop”. “Alice awoke, alive but sneezing and we cannot get the wheezing to stop”.

Truth was, yes, I did wake up alive, lost track of the sneezes when they numbered past five, my seventh sneeze so loud and strong, set off a alarm bells two doors along. Figurines shattered, we heard the outside toilet door shake, my step-father Arthur fled to the street, ancient memories of battle and earthquake.

No one else seemed worried of it. “The racket is only that prank happy Alice, doing her “bit”. Truly I sneezed, sneezed till I had to set teeth aside, sneezed myself to tears, sneezed till Grandma Turner heard it, and Grandma Turner had not heard for years. I sneezed every day this year in fall, sneezed with worry over bladder control, when the sneezing ended, and I did not die, we set out creating nuisance, Nudge Giggleswick and I.

From Alice.   I am beginning to agree with Beatrice- this is dreadful- From Worzel.

WHERE WIND AND TIDE…Adelaide’s 4th Story- From Worzel

My late summer visit to Sonsie Farm, in Wales. Even with Beatrice annoyed with me, were busy times for all on the farm, and working late into the nights together on our book, “The Collected wisdom Of Godfrey”. The late vagabond had been Beatrice’s childhood friend, and she felt I was straying too far from Godfrey’s saga, by including Tugboats, Toilets, “Itinerant Nere Do Wells”, Horses, and his eccentric sister Alice’s dreadful writing.  

When I wove in Adelaide and Benny, who had settled uninvited on Sonsie, Beatrice almost raised her voice. She was not getting the connection..

The only day it rained, that last summer Godfrey spent with us in Canada, and though he feared antiques, my friend helped me drag home a battered, old plaid steamer trunk from outside a junk shop. When he quit muttering, and “Feh-Ing “over what may be inside, he peered in and gravely informed me- “Not empty Worzel dear, it is full of stories.

The trunk sat in our luggage shop window several years, until Adelaide and  Benny showed up, the odd old couple claiming it as their own. I happily sent them off with the trunk, aledgedly  bound for Wales, no one expected them to get there, much less move in with Beatrice, to her  dismay. It was berry picking time, Alice’s old car had been reported seen near Sonsie Farm, so it was I went out picking, Beatrice fearful to leave home with the prankster nearby..  

Adelaide and I set out at dawn, for the hills of Barafundle Bay, she former Chambermaid to The Queen,  parked her donkey cart in the shade, and I with a pat did the same, for I rode good Rowan, the brackety gray. Plunk went ripe fruit, into the old woman’s pail, before I had even begun, she hitched up her drawers, waded deep in the bushes, straw hat tied firmly against dust and the sun.

“I’ll go where wind and tide take me”, said Adelaide when asked how long they may stay at Sonsie. “We  have sought yellow houses since I left my employer The Queen”. The bantie sized rogue had a brittle dignity, indeed for the struggles and places she and her plaid trunk had been.

“We maids were not allowed ashore to cavort, when the Royal Yacht Britannia was tied up in port”. “One morning I chanced look out, out from the bed chamber door- in a narrow pass we were passing a fine, grand yellow house on the far shore”. “Had a wide verandah, finials atop, yellow paint fresh and bright, Betty the boss lady barked, as the ship turned sharp up a fiord out of sight”. “Someone waved, I waved back as the yellow house hove out of sight”..

Plunk went the berries into Adelaide’s pail, I waited knowing she could not be hurried in telling her tale. “There was a kerfuffell, a stramash, a paddy bordering on a  melee’, plunk, plunk…It were a bad day, maggoty butter was served at high tea. “The Queen did not butter her own scone, was a Lady in Waiting stood and looked on”. Royal decorum was lost at first bite, the hand maid swooned, the Prince did curse, Our Noble Queen was ill in her purse…..

“Oh bloody hell, the butler cried”, all butter on board was heaved over the side, floating off in a maggoty wake, we threw out a case of beets and some dubious fruitcake”.

Plunk, went Adelaide, far out picking me, though I judged her age roughly at least 83. “Why was it deemed your fault? I asked as we took a break neath a tree, intriqued by this version of her life story. “Twer height of summer, nasty flies a swarm, was my Marvin the butler’s lad, left the butter pats out in the warm”.

“He promised for a keek up my smock, he’d be a gentleman, he promised me a life of ease, when our time in service was done, he promised that he, Marvin, would be faithful evermore, he promised me a yellow house, in a field of Marram grass on the seashore”.

“But the butler’s lad lied, I and my trunk, cast with scorn and aspersions , dismissed  over the ships side.”. “My  trunk and I , set forlorn in a lonely gutter, blamed for maggoty butter”.  “in Flinder’s Street, urchins pelted me with ripe pear, seeking employment I strayed from the docks, told my sad story to kind wanderer Benny, who sought out Marvin, kicked him firm in the buttocks”.

“Benny promised no life of ease, no posh ring, Benny promised only one simple thing”. “That our lives be shared till the end, side by each- and we seek that yellow house of our own, yellow house on a remote beach”..

Lest I ramble, I left Adelaide to pail and bramble, the day quieted to, and portions of her story I know will be familiar to you. Not just the old tale of innocence lost, or betrayal by silver tongued voluptuary, not man enough to own up to maggoty butter, but even this vile young lout, is part of the odd way we, were happenstance brought together”.

Godfrey wrote this of beets- “I wish no ill of beets, or those who love them”. Had it not been for beets, I may never have left Wales, and still be selling manure by the roadside. Dislike of beets helped me make friends, from empty room, to so many lovely places…until our circle is complete- all hale kindness! all hale the beet!.

I hope when Beatrice reads this, she will understand the connections to…

 

I WAS A TATTERDEMALION- Ma Yelled- from Godfrey

Godfrey rarely spoke of his mother, laughed when he did. He wrote her often, Ma never replied. Godfrey’s sister Alice sent a card every three years on her birthday, scrawled in a corner sometimes we could read-“From Ma”.  

On my yearly visits to Wales, researching this book, I was never invited into the cottage, complete  with a moat, Alice shared with Ma and ancient stepfather, Arthur. We always met at the “Little Chef”, a dreadful roadside diner Alice had never been ejected from.

Godfrey’s Ma, I expected a raging harridan- Roly-Poly Ma was shy, and able to knit, read, demolish a large breakfast, and complain about everything in a soft, Scottish burr. Alice slid, rather than entered the lady’s room as I was checking my teeth for food. Filling her knitted poke with toilet rolls and hand soap, Alice explained that “Ma yelled herself out long ago”. “Created her own echo, did Ma, said Alice- “Ma Yelled”…   

In our small village was one corner shop, run by Mr and Mrs Mange, They lived behind a grimy drape in the rear. He wore a string vest with food stains cross his belly, Mr  Mange did not bathe or change, we could hear Mrs Mange in back, oft cursing cricket on their telly.

Ma forbid Alice and I, from entering the filthy old place, which only encouraged my bolder, older sister. I ‘d hide and burrow neath dry dog food sacks, and cases of corned beef tinned, Alice pinched sweets as I cried aloud, I was under the dog food and pinned. Mr Mange fell for it, dug me out a time or more, till the day no one came… and peeking out I was collared by an irate Ma, Alice fleeing out the shop door. Ma yelled.

Some mothers baked, our sewed pinafores and knitting to sell, our Ma chose to yell. Ma yelled, as had her Ma before her and her grannies Ma had to, a very large family who yelled at each other was all that Ma knew.

Ma yelled- when we were driven home backseat of a cop car, Ma yelled. Fished from a deep, muddy stream, stepped in a cow-pat drifting in day dream, Ma yelled. Some Mothers took to drink- ours really could scream.

Alice told me scary stories such as “Now You Are Wet”. Read tales of beets and a mean, haunted doll, I was very young then, and on stormy nights I would bawl. Along came Ma, cigarette a glow in the dark, scent of stale perfume if she had been out, sat with a sigh on the end of my bed- “Shut Up Godfrey,” she’d bark.  Alice laughed through the wall, Ma yelled, I told Ma that I disliked beets, and was it true that beets were how trolls smelled? Ma yelled.

The more sister Alice rebelled, Ma yelled. Alice’s voice rang above all others, singing in church, I laughed so hard that tears welled. Alice stuffed me under the pew, held the hem of my kilt down with her shoe, was clouted on the head by the handbag of high, mighty Miss Ingeldew…Ma would yell, after church, this I knew.

Ma yelled, when I brought home a sodden, wadded letter from school. “Mrs Llwtzst, your son is a Tatterdemalion”. Ma yelled, I could tell she was not happy, proud or thrilled, by how loud.

When Ma yelled, it oft echoed at low tide, down the harbor, past pubs and tearooms to the great Smythe Estate on the hill. All Smythes thought themselves better than each other, yet not even pompous Tenbrooks Smythe The First, could out shout my mother.

When I , Godfrey grew older, I was smitten by Clementine, a Peruvian fish monger’s daughter. Ma yelled at me, for hanging about the fish shop, and strolling home reeking of cod water. Ma yelled at poor Clementine, end of the pier when she caught her.

Ma yelled at Alice for fixing a big pot of soup  she called “Hearty Bogey”. I ate it, as it did not contain beets, Alice promised me.

I stayed out all night with Clementine, she told me of the stars, and the mountains of Peru, and a wee bit of what she desired to do, in her gumboots and large white pants, we danced. She talked as I baked, (though I’ll leave out some personal parts), and in cool of summer morning we had coffee and warm apple tarts.

Along came Ma in her dented Morris Minor, just as Clementine slung me over her large, firm shoulder, yelled at again was my innocent fish lady’s daughter….

The last time I heard Ma yell…I left her the key to my manure stand, with extra sacks, stacked for to sell, then I said goodbye, dared kiss Ma on the cheek, set out vagabonding, wisdom to seek. I glanced back as a customer stopped, Ma set down the sack of manure she held, too far away now for me to hear why…yet I knew that last moment, was Ma yelled. yes, Ma yelled.