SISTER ALICE And her Teeth

Worzel here- This tale is about as far from wisdom as a tale can be- yet it begs to be told.On my yearly visits to Wales, spent in the peaceful folds of Sonsie Farm, working with Beatrice on Godfrey’s story, I had never been invited inside the cottage his sister Alice shared with her Ma, and aged stepfather Arthur.

Nor was I asked over this time- but to Beatrice’s dismay, have managed to piece together the story of Alice’s teeth, and her early years of pranking..

Let me tell you a true tale of my dear sister , a rare glimpse of Alice as a silly teenager, six years older than me- the future vagabond Godfrey.  Alice cared not for lads, or frocks or school, loved only her piano and what mischief as she could get up to.

When I was a baby we’d sit on the curb, Alice poked me in the spine till I’d cry, she would sing a long ballad, dirge of parents lost to shipwreck, extract coins from concerned passers by. Alice daubed me in beet juice a scarlet hue, it looked like I had the plaque, and made us the odd penny, but calls to the district nurse to…

I never questioned Alice, even when old enough to articulate thought, for she was my sister and always shared the cream buns and sweets her act bought. Chased away from the shops, all but the cluttered one of mean Mr Daggsmitt, there were great hiding places within it.

Grim man with a dirty neck, lived behind a beaded curtain, heard him shouting at the Telly, watching Cricket- his full set of teeth in a jar weighed down the newspapers, and as he chased me past the dog food sacks, sister Alice nicked it.

Alice writes- Between tormenting Godfrey, and being shipped off south to live as a nun, I had a full set of dentures one summer to prank everyone. I called on the Mulgrew Twins, handy with tools, to fashion a hinge and a spring. Fitted on the end of a retractable stick, the teeth with practice made a wonderful chatter and click.

I tried the teeth out on Godfrey, he fled for the hills at the sight of the them, chomping on beets where he usually sat. The dentures answered the door when a salesman rang, going door to door pedaling cheap tat. I took them to church where proudly the teeth sat beside me on my hat in the pew, laughed so hard she wet herself, did Sugar Mulgrew.

At an early age, I discovered by chance I could drive portly Brian, Batley Town cop up the wall. All year long he wore a thick, wooly vest, and threatened me when he saw the teeth with arrest. Told our Ma- “Alice is bound for social failure down the low track”. Brian loved his pie and chips, until the teeth crept up behind, and grabbed a big bite of his tea snack.

Beatrice, reluctantly added to the tale of the teeth, writes-” Alice oft was seen smiling, bicycling to town, teeth on their stick over her arm. She fished with the old dentures off Skibbereen Bridge, and to reach treats Godfrey had hidden for himself, deep in a high cupboard or rear of the fridge.” We used the teeth, they were handy rounding up stray ewes on the farm, nipped their scruffy heels better than a Corgi”, Beatrice years later told me.

Berry picking was a job Alice abhorred, yet this year of the teeth, and standing on a wide board over the thorns, she could reach the best fruit, have the teeth gently pluck it, plunk went the blackberries, filled Alice’s bucket.

She played piano twice a year in the town recital, Alice played well, and the forgiving folk of Batley always gave her a long ovation.When Alice smiled and played “Downtown” her favorite song, the teeth chattered atop her piano, to the music’s vibration.

Brian the town cop, called a public meeting to discuss “This Teeth Situation”. Even Margaret Tuttle brought her soapbox, began the gathering with a rant, tea was served, coffee to from an urn, everyone concerned about the dentures got to speak, everybody had their turn.

“She poked them teeth through the romance novel shelf and nipped me bum”. Reported Norris Maeve- new librarian.  Yawned  Alice and Godfrey’s  tipsy Uncle Lou, “she leaned oer the bridge with those teeth, snapped me up a fine trout”. Fail to see what all the fuss is about”.

Back then when at a bank, a teller sat high above behind a wicket, in his tie was so employed Kenneth Hind, reported Alice came in for her pocket money, and nasty old teeth snatched it from me with a snicket…

The owner of the dentures spoke last of the group, “Tis a dire wrong done me, my papers blew away and I gum down only gruel and soup.  Wealthy Tenbrooks Smythe The second, son of The First, father of The Third Tenbrooks, widely regarded as the worst, stood up wheezing to pontificate.

Ignoring Margaret’s soapbox his strode up on the stage…”Well let me tell you all Tenbrooks began..”I am certain…Alice hidden behind the curtain slid the teeth out where they clacked along with Tenbrooks Smythe The Second as he ranted on the “Dry Rot in the Youth of Today, and how” Alice ought be paddled on her Jenny Mule behind, in Batley Town Square on full display of all.”  And as he finally looked down on the teeth, what began as a soft snort soon grew to loud guffaw, till pandemonium swept the length of Batley Town Hall.

A pile up formed at the lady’s loo spilling out into lower High Street, the pub and chip shop next door, the town cop took chase after Alice, long gone minus the teeth on her bicycle for home, he called for more constables to come from Skibbereen, but was trampled by the toilet crowd, attempting to keep order on his own.

Before she bolted, Alice wisely, passed the teeth to loyal Godfrey, who strolled home that evening, quite innocently. He bit the heads of weeds and thistles with the teeth, all in fun, but a scant few days later…Alice was caught, sent off by train to be reformed as a fine young lady, and potentially a nun.

Did the dentures also make the long journey, down south to Newbury?..We shall let Alice tell of that in good time- for hers is a whole other story.

SNOW WET AND THE SEVEN WHARVES- Wharf Street Stories.

It has taken many friends to compile Godfrey’s story- for anyone new to the saga, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, yet considered no meal complete without peas.  He preferred a nest of old sleeping bags to sheets, landing in Canada a youthful, Welsh vagabond, the year before we met, and desiring “only to sit and talk, talk of anything but beets”. He set up a table in a city park, inviting all to join him. Join him they did, including the Original Bus Riding Poet, Ginger Alphonse and devoted partner, Lonewolf. It was a summer of joy, and poetic infamy, until the police took Godfrey away….Ginger has lived most of her life on Wharf Street, down from us, and we thank her for sharing these stories..

GINGER’S AERIE-  Snow wet? I asked Ginger over scones and Chai tea. Quoth she, ” I do not let it worry me, for in my house of many toilets is my woven aerie” Snow coned Olympic Range mere miles across the strait- so close, so out of touch a country, my narrow street of houses old..tussock grass gold on the bluffs below me.

My house of many toilets has a shiny, red tile floor, and when we are home knarled walking sticks wedge closed the door. For like any aerie it is buffeted by storm, snow wet?. Not I , curled up, pen in hand, my aerie warm.

THE SEVEN WHARVES- from Godfrey   – Ginger may have five toilets, but on Worzel’s street are seven wharves. In heavy gobs snow fell, no dainty flakes from sky drift pretty fluffs. With the huddled masses I waited for the #50 bus. Along it came, an hour late, splashed to a halt oer the sewer grate, and being slow to move away, up my kilt went the icy spray. Though I wore thick wooly drawers, chilled every crevice it could get- Snow Wet.

On my street are seven wharves, one a dock bolted to rock, by ancient hand forged rings. Oft we sit down on those rocks warm evenings. Two are considered piers, departure points, familiar with welcomes, partings, tears. Three wharves are down by the Hotel Grand, for great flash motor yachts to moor, and helicopters land.

Next wharf is a lowly wreck, washed by open sea, weathered elephant gray in age where the tumbled stones of a breakwater used to be. Reckless youth leap from the highest planks in bold daring. Old men ignore them, drink from tins of beer, cast their lines for a fat Grilse, rock cod or herring.

From the seventh wharf, a slip in it’s day, is from wence a proud tall ship sailed away. Long about 1953, bound for Melbourne, and Cape Horn round the southern sea. Across every school atlas page- they carried on, sailing into storm wise old age. Sailed into legend, look for the small brass plaque set in concrete- when next you wander down on Wharf Street.

THE PASSAGE OF MR CODD- From Ginger-  I was about 16, when first became aware of Mr Codd. Endless waiting while our parents stopped to chat, we laughed at the cardigan and bow tie he wore, pushing his old bike up Wharf street, with bottles and tins to cash in at Quonley’s Store.   He saved those dimes and pennies , for oars and a dory, took passage setting crab traps from Songhee’s to Rock Bay. Years later we heard the clatter, and sight of long haired hippies, push an old V.W. bus up Wharf Street, on Mr Codd’s  wedding day.

Became a teacher, he did. Long hair now more trim, we oft saw him walking with a troubled kid, or sitting reading on the steps down by the water. Mr and Mrs Codd had a son and daughter, he pushed them by pram up Wharf,  summer nights when festivals were on, with music, fireworks, and parades drum and roar. Mr V Codd, read the sign on his English classroom door.

Few remain from “The Summer of Poetic Infamy”. When Godfrey had his table in the park, he disliked beets, sought peace in a world that called him odd, and on the edge of the circle, not quite ready to engage, alone now late in middle age sat Mr Codd.

Legends will be legends, whispered still in teacher’s toilets by some, how Mr Codd dared to teach- “Off The Curriculum”. He spoke of wisdom, and delightful to me, told his students, alone is not the same as lonely, that he considered the moon a good listener, read to them from the early works of Godfrey…

Parental muttering, beets uneaten at home, and thrown at lunch break. Culprits hurling beets suspended, “Civil Disobediance”wrote Thoreau, quoting from it, Mr Codd’s teaching career was promptly ended.

Sticky, nasty stain from a rotten tangerine, marks the space above the door, where Mr V Codd’s nameplate had been. No gold watch or assembly, no speeches or send off, just a quiet meal of fish and chips, with Miss Shelley the librarian, at a Chinese cafe down on wharf.

Mr Codd’s children now grown. Lecture the old chap, “In a shabby room you live alone, eat noodles three times a day”. Beacon hill Old Man’s Home is not far from Wharf Street, a clean and cheerful place to stay.”There is a billiard table and book case, you will make friends”. So he went, and he did- in a place of ends Mr Codd was happy again.

I am Ginger- considered the patina to my younger sister Cedar’s brass. Roly-poly, always hired, fired over and over again, till my sister found her niche in The Beacon Hill Home For old Men. Mr Codd? Why it was he led “The Great Cheese Sandwich Rebellion”. Conned us into giving them aged cheddar on toast for tea, “The mass constipation that later swept the home was blamed on me”. Then Mr Codd went missing, found in his wheelchair mired axle deep in soft tar, outside Quonley’s on upper Wharf. Someone helped him get there, he refused to give a name, so I- Cedar Waxwing Mae took the blame.

Up on Wharf…in a bus shelter not too far from The Beacon Hill Old Man’s Home, a toilet brush in shiny steel holder, and black rubber plunger sit left all alone. I notice these objects for I to am a poet, take notice because I care, they sat for a week undisturbed, now folded trousers and a fork have joined them there.

Toilet plunger and brush, wheelchair tracks heading one last time up Wharf Street in the slush. When ere we see these tracks on days it snows, or a lonely figure neath the old blue bridge sharing lunch chunks with the crows, and ponder who lives in the dusty old rooms above Quonley’s shop, all mark the mystery of Mr Codd’s life’s passage, from the sea bluffs end of Wharf to its’ only bus stop.

WAYWARD DAUGHTER- An Alice Story

Beatrice hear, writing again. It began on a Tuesday, I love to awake slowly on Tuesday, my tenants, Adelaide and Benny, when not off roving tended the morning farm chores- fair arrangement for the elderly couples board, and the times I have collected them from the town cells, pinching things, cheeking the cops, yellow houses..and on my bedside table a gift they had brought home..

Presented with a curtsy by Adelaide, tiny, bowlegged former chambermaid to the queen, it is a hideous lamp. Old, carved of some black wood, Atlas we reckoned, holding up the world. I can only envision his grimace, as the head is broken off, he is starkers naked, Adelaide, knowing I am a woman of modesty has dressed him in a loin cloth, fashioned from one of her hankies.

Times when not sure whether to laugh or cry, I wonder what Godfrey would do..laughed till he sneezed did Godfrey. Worzel and I now five years working on his story . I had been annoyed with Worzel lately, feeling our project veering into idiocy, dignifying the contributions of Alice, Godfrey’s sister, and her dreadful companion, “Nudge”. Worzel has discovered this new “Computer’ thing. She reports that readers love Alice, and want to read more. My goodness..so dear friends ,this is what happened when Alice came home in the fall

Twas a hush over the little town, more subdued than plain pudding, soft as duck down the news whispered over cup of tea and bun. Egg and chips went cool, notice was sent to the only school…Alice had been seen. Getting into her old, black London taxi, Alice was home in Skibereen.

Quiet had passed summer with the prankster far away across the sea, at The Lawn Bowling Club, Verne Allbread stalwart stood guard, the grass was deep on the slopes of the moat Alice dug round her home. Church bells tolled, Curmudgeon!, Curmudgeon!, hark the curmudgeon, Alice draws near!. Cloud of dust on the main road, tipped over garden-gnome.  Could it be?

For Alice and Nudge were pranksters, never nasty or mean, tolerated by most in the town of Skibereen, from fire hall to the shoe shop that employed her, those with little or no sense of humor did their best to avoid her.

At an age a lady would never disclose was Alice in her hand knit wooly clothes, she wore daily rubber boots and the same flannel shirt  as a lad Godfrey did wear, and twice a day rolled her step dad Arthur, singing war songs round the park in his bath chair.

But where were they? Alice and friend Nudge, (the only one she had) no one knew, Always together, an odd pairing the two. Town folk warned- “I hear her stick was seen luggage deck of the Batley Bus”. She and Nudge’s matching suitcases clearly labeled – BEWARE OF US.  

There are two High Streets in the town of Skibereen, true High and Down low where the docks begin, there are backstreet pubs and dark, greasy shops , where seeking pork pies Alice and Nudge were known to go. Brian, the town cop hung about the statue of Tenbrooks Smythe The First, town benefactor, long dead. Alice twice a year dressed him up in a frock, and wee cloche hat on the bankers brass head. Brian lectured Alice’s Ma- “Twer a great man, Mr Smythe the first”, when Alice decked him out for all to see in bra and garter. “I’ll see her scraping up behind the pigeons,  when I catch your wayward daughter”.

There is a hush over the town of Skibereen this night, smell of coal smoke and pumpkins, the moon cradles moon, just a sliver, and like moon behind the clouds, silently home slips Alice..Full of new stories for her “Book of Common Prank”, the curmudgeon settles down to write.

We went on an adventure, a long one, afar, afar!, with fish boats and tides in the great Fundy Bay, tides that swept Nudge’s trousers away. We saw lobsters and outhouses, tall ships and a moose, Nudge lost his trousers again in the wind, they were too loose. We ate great meals, avoided all herring, and picnic lunches at our Outhouse Museum, we reckon Nudge’s trousers are halfway home to Wales, do write and let us know if you see them.

We heard of a sand island alive with wild horses, but were not allowed there, enjoyed songs and stories, bottles banged on kitchen table, legends as we knew from home in Wales, in the big city we replaced Nudge’s trousers, from a bargain bin at a “Back to School” sale. They are huge round his waist, expose both knobby knees, and cinch tight under his chest. “Saturday Night Green” in color, Nudge is proud to look his best. For we were on a grand adventure- afar! afar!.

And when we were hailed by the police car, were usually a large person, “Pierre” or “Dawn”…they wore boots and spurs, and took umbrage over the side of the road that I drove on. Long ago a calendar hung on our cottage wall, yearly gift from an aunt we never met from Montreal. Godfrey loved the photos of canoes and peaks of snow, I vowed one day, “Peggy’s Cove” in Nova Scotia is where I would go.

Peggy was not home, just a pathway to a lighthouse. Call of nature led Nudge behind a shed, bees a swarm sent him dashing for the ocean, shedding vest and trousers as he fled. It is well known fact why I carry a stout stick, for fending off advances and to prank. This day I used it to save Nudge and his socks, but he lost his nice new trousers for they sank.

All a hush the little town of Knockfollies Bridge, the girls sorting fish work diligently. On the only main street the only two shops owners face each other with a touch of acrimony. One swept dust into the dooryard of the other, kids ran at play, scallop boats head away to sea, Knockfollies Bridge- dear to the memory of my odd brother Godfrey.

A kilt was provided for Nudge to wear home, an old kilt folded, stored with care, Godfrey had left it, many years ago, on the back of some young ladies chair. And hush to, the fair streets of Skibereen, “Curmudgeon Spotted!, read the morning paper, printed in Batley, top of page three. “Pranksters Return!, with a dark blurry photo of Nudge and me.

I, Alice, do not suppose  will ever be asked, to speak to innocent Girl Guides on Canada’s fair wonders by anyone….or hear parade, see banner high, “welcome home wayward daughter, welcome home Alice , our curmudgeon”…    From Alice

DR ROACH’S SECOND LETTER- From Godfrey.

Worzel here, Mornings like this…with the world going awry, I miss Godfrey the most. He had a hobby of seeking out the absurd, took joy in it, and today as I read the newspaper, Dr Roach’s advice page was one he would have guffawed over….

He was a lifelong reader of all things newspaper, Godfrey read several daily did the crosswords, the puzzles, the obituaries. he perused the advice columns and even the dull business bits I did not understand, he read the golf scores, noted the price of lumber exports to Japan.

Dr Roach had  a medical page, amusing to Godfrey, old and wise in his white Doctor smock in section C-3. Godfrey wrote the good Doctor a letter quite frequently, he wrote in  rhyme of course, as Dr Roach advocated beets as a cure for all ills far and wide, Godfrey disliked beets, his letters were never printed, and Dr Roach never replied.

Yet, still Godfrey wrote, “Dear Dr Roach, I must broach the subject of beets you so fondly espouse”. “No Pasaran Beets”is a sign I hang any place I, a vagabond call home or house”. You doctor on bruises and mystery diseases, rashes and tapeworms, prickly heat, all you reckon repaired by the cold boiled beet”. Here is a story I learned as a lad, rooted in the rumptious childhood I had.

The beet is a story grown from myth unpleasant, an ancient conflict of thief versus peasant a story old Verne O’Dowd oft told, how beets were once shiny discs of buttery gold. Mangol Wurzels, they grew in the moon of night, those deeper the better to hurl, Godfrey wrote Dr Roach.

“The lowland people who dwelt with cranes, were strong of limb, had all their teeth, lived in peace and did not abuse alcohol, after harvest a mangol wurzel hurl, was held on the flats by the river each fall.

Lowfolk versus The Toews, who lived beyond in the warm sand caves.Trolls came to, up from the oak wood, they never bathed but were otherwise cheerful and good. As were the Phog families who drifted in slowly, welcomed by the Toews and crane dwellers lowly.

The prizes were pretty, ribbons of purple and pink, crow feathers coveted far and wide, a sack of gold beets, this year the Toews team won the hurl, on the Randen Riverside. Singing and dance carried on until Tuesday, with no warning that morning banditry lurked, “Sunset the Rogue “hired Ester and Lawrence The Slack, to rob the Toews their discs of gold, in the woods on the long journey back.

They accosted the Toews in a very rude manner, slapped a sticker  saying “You smell fowl”on Micah Toews back. His father was smote with something wet, bold granny Fennel was stuffed down a badger sett. Brassica Toews, just a young girl, had to hand over the ribbons and feathers she won; fairly in the wurzel hurl.

Old Burdock Toews, head of the pack, made a gesture of friendship to Ester and Lawrence the Slack, “do not be rude, and take from us so meanly, warm by our fire, would you like tea or coffee?..And what be this! cried Lawrence The Slack, tipped in the dry leaves the Toews gunny sack, out spewed the discs of gold, like honey- Coffee, please, replied Ester, then we shall be off with this low peasant money.  And they did!, left the warm sand cave folk destitute, took their joy, even took the youngest’s furry birthday suit.

Ester The Slack, a gambler and sneak, lost all her takings in a losing streak. Word slithered out the beets of gold meant wealth, a word unknown to the lowland folk, who who soon were so worried about this it ruined their health. For the Trolls it meant no dancing or cheer, they bathed now daily, camped neath bridges in fear.

The Lowland people who dwelt with cranes, had their beets pillaged to, when word of “wealth” was spread around, even the tiny shoots were torn from the ground. With no golden beets from verdant loam, in despair they began to consume alcohol, let elders wander from home.

On the stage in our village hall, Verne O’Dowd held me spellbound with this story, between swigs Verne took from his flask of sherry.

The tears of the gentle Toews and the lowland folk  vanquished and shamed, can to this day for the color of beets be blamed. For thereafter only beets nasty did grow, in the plundered pastures of sorrow. Beets the taste of dirt, red as the sun warm cave dwellers hurt, cod liver oil, so hard to swill down, dried beets spread on icy sidewalks of a northern town. Worm home soil, to keep for years in a jar, to find in the fridge when you have nothing else, never to spoil.

Over time, the old, old story was lost, to modern tales of daring and do, of the lowland people their decendents are few, lost to the Dreaded Black Shale Skadoots, and The Quenders Scourge of 1402. And if today down the oak woods you happen wood cutting to stroll, by the copper stained stream, in the grass, you may meet a troll, en route to his bath.

But I met there a Toews, from the warm sand caves, crouching stream bank, rinsing the clay she, “Oolong The Artist” had dug up that day. “Embarassing  it were indeed, we’d have shared our feathers and golden beets, with a polite wayfarer we met be in need”  In the language of The Phog families, the lowland dwellers, the Toews and Trolls knew no word for “Greed”

There stands an oak tree on a common I know, where a wish will be granted if you wish it by standing below and say thank you. And should I get there again to that wood, I shall wish the world wisdom set it back on the too trodden pathway to freedom from anger and fear. Only good, I wish you and Dr Roach only good- From Godfrey

Was the second letter to Dr Roach, the first one printed concerned a rabbit parasite…a heavily edited version of Godfrey’s letter, the last one to Dr Roach he would write. “He seems an odd young man, he dislikes beets, his letters to me are compelling..perhaps one day a poet will write his story, for I feel there is more than mere loathing of beets in the telling, Dr Roach.

PRETTY LITTLE HOUSE-end of a dirt road- From Hawken

Worzel here, this odd winter, surly of storm and cold, I sleep away the dark days. Afternoon check of lottery numbers, lunch and a nap, some rubbish T.V. , and a session looking out the window, bustling today after week of fowl weather…I am ever grateful for the toilet that Godfrey repaired long ago, it gurgles and spews warm water, a pleasant spot these chilly days…

Time to tackle my morass of letters, stories from people who crossed paths with Godfrey, Alice’s dreaded packet, poetry and art related to beets, we still find offerings of beets at our shop door most Tuesdays. Our old building, “Tara” was renovated over the past two years, and re named “Le Chateau”, with fancy new lettering. It is when we last saw Hawken, young vagabond, a lad I called the son I forgot to have. Hawken stood in the gutter, battered hat shading his eyes, asking, “Why did they name it “The Cat’s Water”?….And in my heap of mail was this letter from him. 

Dearest of The Odds- Suppose you step on something rusty and die?, worried my dad. Old homesteads have wells with nettles and snakes, came this wisdom from Grandpa#3, third husband Verne my old gran has had. Mother was annoyed I left my suit and good shoes, down a low tract street for someone else to use. When last you saw me, I was bound for Albert’s Leap, and job in a small cheese factory.

Rather drew the place to me, as I understand oft did Godfrey. I turned cheese, wiped them with a towel, and turned them. 500 cheeses a day wipe and turn, in a dimly lit room of cheese and shelf, think of the money you can save I told myself, and whistled as I turned and wiped the cheese. And in my tent contented slept, and for once did not question why Albert leaped, for he must have turned cheese in his dreams.

Pretty Little House End of A Dirt road- Saw the sign and photo in the window of an office in town. I wiped and turned and with all I had put a payment down. This road so rough it has not been named, it’s a long hike out, I have that Appaloosa mare we talked about. Think I’ll let her just be, young, barely tamed….

Autumn- good time to kick about this old homestead, seeking clues in the old barns and soggy grass, of those who built it. Hand forged horse shoe I nailed above my door, mousey stack of”Family Herald”, from 1954, to the burn barrel up in flames, scratched on the hot water tank, must be a growth chart, Jack, Rose, George, Cynthia, faded names..

And I as over roof repairs paused to contemplate, came Pigface Roulade in his old truck to my gate. My pretty little house, end of a dirt road- observes my friend- “Will never be mistaken for gay Paree’. Pigface, with whom I wiped cheese reminded me.

But beauty is everywhere, in the old dry sheaf of prize  oats I found, tied with a blue ribbon  won by Jack, at Coombs Fall Fair the year I was born, in the buttery wodge of  dollar bills, hidden in a dented copper pan for popping corn.

Long un- mowed  the hay meadows chest deep on my pony, we follow the clear winding stream to far end of the property. Come summer I will tear out fallen fences, create for cows and horse open range, in the rusty barbed wire, I see something strange. They were threads of plaid wool…recall you once told me, threads of plaid wool is oft found, in the pathways of Godfrey.

Pretty little house end of a dirt road. Sheltered by the mountain I am told is called “Provider”. A humble cabin as befits a wayward cheese turner. Bobcat  tracks this morning in fresh snow, where she paused to drink at the stream. Wanted you all be first to know, all is well out here, at “Le Chateau”.

WHEN I WAS VERY YOUNG- FROM Godfrey AND Worzel

Worzel here, When I was very young recall an empty, old tobacco tin filched from an uncle. It made a drum, and rattle for snake chasing, made tiered manure- mud cakes for baking pleasure, frog spawn in spring, wonderful tin for penny pirate treasure. If today, I walk a quiet country road,  a reminder of when very young, I still kick a stray tin along at my leisure…

Godfrey did not speak often of his very early years, most of the stories I have gleaned from Beatrice, or his sister Alice’s “Alice” versions. This is a rare work of Godfrey, set from age 4ish, to age 8 when his dad ran off.

When I was very young- It snowed heavily up our valley, in this vivid memory, we walked down to my grandparent’s cottage. They had gas for heat, and blankets piled deep for Alice, Ma and me. All about was dark and silent, but the crack of branches breaking off the trees as we made our way slow, snow above my churning knees. Snow was fun, when I was very young.

When I was very young- I got cow manure on the church pew from the long hem of my baggy kilt, dragged through puddles.Created a mess on the dress of Mrs Trimyn, who suggested to my sister Alice, I be paddled, and Alice complied before the end of the next hymn.

When I was very young- I found an ancient bicycle, buried in a field of hay, dad dragged it out, run over by the farmer it was bent, but dad hammered and tinkered, and fixed it up for me, then down the pub he traded for a painting, then again for a fat, gray pony. Out to the paddock every morning I’d run, when I was very young.

When I was very young- I was horrified of beets and terrified of The Pope, leery of the black dust mop, though I don’t know why, and most of the stories Alice told at bedtime made me cry. One day I found a chicken loose, lured the hen with crumbs inside, “We can have eggs, and feathers, I told Ma with pride, and build a coop”. Next day no pet, but all week a great pot of chicken soup…

When I was very young- Riding a city bus was was the biggest adventure, to visit aunts and uncles who had toilets down the hall. Indoor loos that flushed with a roar at pull of chain. “Alice said, “A Bog Troll is on the end of that chain, to catch nasty little boys and yank them down the drain”. In dread, I weed in the pansies of my aunties front garden, earning me a slap on the head”.

When I was very young- I trod to school with wet sweater cuffs, and old wool coat that tickled my chin, and never once passed teacher’s cleanliness inspection. By the coal stove she made me sit, with Abner Mulgrew. Now I realize Miss was being kind, as Abner was always wet and cold to.

When I was very young- Summer lasted longer, Father Christmas smelled familiar of cigarette and swore when she tripped on the dog’s paw. Hills were for rolling down the other side, I cheeked the odd looking old men, who wore Tams, and the bicycles they’d ride.

When I was very young- My sister threw a beet at me, it missed and Ma’s Barometer was knocked from the wall, the shards clipped an oil portrait of an ancient piper, shattering the front window pane. The beet hit nasty Uncle Lou, coming up the walk, it left a stain.

When I was very young- “Beets and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you”..Ma would oft repeat when I came home bruised, picking beet pulp out of my hair. Too young to fully grasp her meaning, I sought solace in the company of words time and again. Sought the company of words and rhyme, when I was very young..

LITTLE OTTER IN THE BAY-Bye Worzel

Godfrey…yes, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, even in middle age he disliked beets and was odd, but he could make friends in an empty room, or old lurching bus…never had my feet been so cold, never had I so longed for home.A broken water main had extended our twenty minute bus ride to a two hour nasty. I stood wedged near the door, prodded by a bundle of hockey sticks, blasted by arctic wind when some lucky soul was disgorged, and far too close to Mr Goldmoss Stonecrop, a very large man in a very wet fur coat, his name indelible in my mind as he bellowed it regularly to the poor driver, about the state of the bus, and fact he was bringing the wine.

I lost Godfrey in the morass, a bag of oranges had been dropped, and gentleman that he was, took up the task of rounding them up. The aroma of citrus penetrated the B.O. fug of cold #50 bus. Godfrey was under the dubious rear seats, rolling oranges out, some that may have been down there a long time. Finally, we were popped out at our stop. Godfrey had a cinnamon bun for me,(no nuts, raisins, or icing), a sun smooth stick from a beach in Panama, two holy cards, and tickets to a cat show.

“There was a lot of wet eck”, he reported, I nearly lost my kilt snagged on a rusty bolt, and feel somewhat decorticated”. “Let us go home Worzel, he took my arm, cake and pot of tea are long awaited”.

What I learned of living simply I learned long ago from Godfrey, though the wisdoms came slowly…as did this morning’s ferry, over bitter harbor water, and sky an oatmeal foam gray. All I need is good hot coffee, pen in hand, winter storms, Blue Heron, and my little Otter in the bay.

Oh, that I may return a wild creature, blade of grass, or the rollicking sea otter, she has found a tarped rowboat to use as a slide, down the snowy canvas otter plays over the side. Born to cold water, my little otter.

I learned stillness indeed not from otter, but from Heron, feathers blue, tall and stately he stands, perched on neighbors balcony, middle of the city. I’ve a new ache in my knee that was not there yesterday, hot coffee, pen in hand, winter storm, blue heron, and my little otter in the bay.

Errands over quickly, snow in harsh driven pellets, reminder of walking arm in arm with Godfrey. “He said, “one at a time, each step we take,brings us closer to warm home, turquoise chair and cake”.

There is a higher wisdom in the patient, wading heron, we can learn to take it slow by winters storm, Reckon it’s what Godfrey, if he was here looking out the window would say. It is turning of the year, I have pen in hand, good hot coffee, blue heron, and my little otter in the bay.