I will share one of those simple city moments…homeward bound on a Friday afternoon, spat bug like from the humid maw of the #50 bus, and hitching up my drawers on the curb- observed two, seemingly “challenged” young men arguing over a rubbish bin. They were pointing into the trash, where one had dropped his bus pass, and working out what day tomorrow was,   “Verne, tomorrow’s Saturday, then Sunday, then tomorrow’s Monday and you need your bus pass…there  was joy in the working it out- as the two friends retrieved the grimy pass and hurried off- as I did, thinking of joy on my trudge home.  

My long suffering husband, Garnet reckoned talking to Godfrey about joy was “Akin to being handed an empty ice cream cone,” and happily munching on what he was given”. Godfrey never feigned joy, he truly disliked beets, had his share of blue/gray times, he grieved for an angry world, yet could create three scoops from an empty cone, and munched on life’s joys.  

I recall the last winter Godfrey spent with us- deep in my turquoise chair, with his journals, wrapped in a quilt against the chill. We had cinnamon scones in the oven, coast gobular snow falling wetly, darkening the days by 3;00. Peaceful, it was, knowing all I loved would always be with me in this small flat. Here are some of his writings on childhood joy. From Godfrey..

When my parents were not bickering, not shouting at each other, they would dance. Down the streets, pushing me in the pram  my sister Alice ran after, I recall their laughter, dad dancing Ma down the cobbles of Batley, down the foreshore to the sea.

We had countless aunts, all buxom in build, they wed men named Hugh, one after the other.  In the dim, smoky halls, pickled beets on trays of silver, shrill singing and tatty frock of my grandmother, an odd little boy, who disliked beets, learning the absolute amount of joy- so to I danced.

Cross the cow crowded paddock, I leaped chasing swallows, pirouetted  over dragons with the beets I was slaying, danced past my Uncle Lou, back of the pub when his band was playing.

With older sister Alice, at a slow, solemn funeral knee high in a sea of black. We got into the tea-cakes, (Sponge with cream fill)  I was quite ill, but Alice sicker, over the robes and shoes of the Vicar. There was yelling and calling on “Vim” for the stain, Alice grabbed up beets, and chased me round the graveyard again and again. I danced out of her reach, beyond range of the beets, laughing as I hid in the coal hod’s dark corners, was dragged out still laughing by the undertaker, and a large mob of disgruntled mourners.

Learning the absolute amount of joy….Racing down the sand on a sturdy pony, bonfire on a summer birthday, quiet riverbank to read by winding through our valley, bakeshop in the tiny village where everybody knew me. Doing, on occasion what I was told- “Godfrey shut up, go play in the road” ordered Alice- brought home coated in tar, first ever ride in a police car.

That icy swig of fizzy drink that Worzel grew up calling “pop”. Oh the joy of belches, long car journeys, racing off to wee when Ma chose to stop. I survived all, and grew bigger and danced kilt a twirl, yet too awkward ever dare speak with a girl.

The absolute amount of joy- that one friend who ate beets for you, crossed a pool of manure when you were in need of rescue. carried knapsack nimbly to  the Tor of high stone, stride for stride, twas Beatrice laughed at our squashed lunch packet, taught me to milk and goat and how to ride.

Windblown hair to your shoulders, sun warmed boulders, smell of wet, clean flannel, from the hike up, icy water in my hands cup, view over Sonsie meadow land, joy in new book open in my hand. And though Beatrice, you loathed it- would dance at the receptions of those oft married aunts.  There is absolute joy in you- solid as your puce cottage, dear as the memory of evensong on the pathway through the tall grass to your loo.

There is joy in the compiling of Godfrey’s story, even after five years. Beatrice, home in Wales still refuses to consider a “Computery thing” . Her letters come on valley time, today in her 1939 Royal Visit biscuit tin with what may be Neenish Tarts, now a sweet buttery wodge, I will post the tin back filled with Nanaimo Bars, which Beatrice’s tenants  Benny and Adelaide adore, and Alice claims expertise at concocting. Alice teases the pastry loving old pair by putting walnuts in every thing she chooses to share, knowing walnuts give both of them hives.

Beatrice writes- I am rarely invited into the yellow painted sleep out Benny and Adelaide occupy here on the farm. Only large enough for their bed of books, plaid steamer trunk, berry pails for chairs, and plank table, all cooking is done over a fire in the yard. On the wall hang framed photos of The Queen,( Adelaide’s former employer,) a view of the Yarra River dated 1956, and one of spirited women, pinny clad, racing with fry pans down the cold, February streets of Olney. Pancake Racing with joy, in 4th place, I recognize the youthful, though even then bow-legged Adelaide. Pancakes- Benny and Adelaide agreed- the absolute amount of joy.


ON THE SLOPES OF NGAURUHOE- The 39th Wisdom of Godfrey

Was a Dr Uren, gave Godfrey a ride, across the Rangipo Desert’s volcanic plateau. He cautioned the young vagabond, mind how  you go, it’s no country for the foolish, this wild Tongariro..

  I’d asked Beatrice about the odd pumice stone, who for my feet at the end of a long hike gave me. Twas in Godfrey’s suitcase said she, from the slopes of far Ngauruhoe, sit back and I’ll tell you the story.

I felt fit and ready he wrote me, after months of tramping the steep and the muddy, getting sand in every crevice below, it was time I tramped the wild Tongariro.

To seek the lonely wisdom of the great wet volcano.. In the high mountain hut, enjoying sleep in my bunk, and despite the dirty dishes piled there, I awoke from the deep, warm fingers not my own, were gently stroking my hair. Thinking, who in here has gone mad?? I reached for my torch, all rabble broke loose, was a Possum had chewed her way in through the screen on the porch. (It was licking a pan of baked beans)

It caused a loud scene, 6 Swedish chaps in their underpants helped me chase poor Poss out the window again. When all was calm, I laid my head, among the scattered dishes and went back to bed.

Nose very cold on my pre-dawn trek out to the toilet. It was raining hard, but I longed for to tramp, and could not let the Possum, the dishes or sleepless night spoil it.

Deep into the park steep I climbed in wind driven, sideways rain. The track a trench of slippery stone, gullies awash over tussock clump, gold the snow grass, I painted my face with red volcanic mud.   My kilt was burgundy and fawn, the day light shifty mist and gray rain, soon it soaked through the warm layers I had on.

A shadow world hidden by the sky, my wet volcano.  And Dr Uren’s words of wisdom, “unforgiving this wild Tongariro”.

..In frozen tent at day break I woke, again desperate for a wee. Out in the frost I stood, the storm had passed, I stood in awe my friend, at the foot of Mt Nguruhoe, lost to the sunrise and her black cinder cone, silent she towered above me.

I had no desire, to climb any higher, wrote Godfrey. He wrote, in all honesty, I have never been soaked as wringing wet as I was on that track. All my gear I spread to dry on the rocks before, sadly heading back.

Usually, I take nothing free, there was naught I desired but the wonder Ngauruhoe gave me, with thanks for her blessing, and piece of pumice stone, as the rain began to fall, I set out a wiser, damp vagabond on my own.

Now oft when warm and dry, I watch the rain and go, drifting in dream to the wild Tongariro…down through the mud to my bunk in the hut, so exhausted was I, I sacked out ignoring the unwashed dishes piled nearby..awoke once again amid soup bowls and pans, to the feel in my hair of furry, wee hands.

..And the 39th wisdom of Godfrey states- In a crowded hut, wash your dishes with care, lest a Possum lick them clean and dry her paws in your hair. Not all Swedish climbers of great, high rocks, sleep in night shirts or wooly socks, in a crisis you may see their bare buttocks.. From Godfrey.

THE POET’S FAREWELL- I Will Carry You, Bye Godfrey

A Vagabonds Farewell- is a check on the weather, and last look about. You shoulder your pack, I will look for your name in dust by the road or scrawled in the hut book on the high Heaphy Track. There is no goodbye- no words will do, for the grand time we shared, carry the joy always, as I will carry you.

The Pony’s Farewell- In retirement I grow fat and shaggy. You grew up as I could not help but grow old. On school days I would patient wait, for you alone I’d crowd the gate..I see by the signs you will leave soon for the city. I would carry you there on my back willingly. But it’s gentle whicker farewell tonight, soft nuzzle, farewell from pony.

The Peace Woman’s Farewell- We have halted the convoy, as we set out to do. Muddy boots and tattered cuffs, I shall pass them on to you. One last, long night’s chat neath the ancient, giving oak tree. One last long look down the fence, I turn away forever, carry you and all you are away in memory.

A Sailors Farewell-  Do not waste a grain of sand on worry for me. There is mutual respect between I and the sea. A sturdy ship “My Lute”, a living thing. My farewell words will carry back to you. For as I clear away the bounds of land and shore- I will sing.

The Poet’s Farewell- It’s along the same lines as the Vagabond’s and all, though generally written as a note, left neath the tea-bags with a number to call. But the best farewell is one from a friend- thank you for being the best you could be. On those weary days and dark nights, your love carried me, farewell to my friend, farewell from Godfrey.