THE ABSOLUTE AMOUNT OF JOY- From Worzel

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.

BALLAD OF THE BAKERY- From Worzel

Godfrey could be single minded, yes, claimed crimson vegetables gave him hives, the sight of beets made him itchy..but I never knew a time in 28 years, he would ever pass by a bakery.

“When I was a small scruffy lad, said he, I’d escape the grip of Ma’s large hand or when my wayward Dad was somewhere else, I’d run straight to the bakers on the High Street, drool on the glass at the treaties displayed on the shelf.

Oh the Eccles Cakes, the Neenish Tarts, biscuits, and Scones plump with currants! The two Krept Sisters ran the shop, four generations strong. Old Mother Krept swatted me with her broom if I fogged up her windows to long.

Several Mulgrews worked the bakery counter and were nicer to me. I’d charm Audrey Mulgrew to come to the door, and give me a broken ginger nut or whatever had fallen on the floor. How I loved Krept Bakery. Ma blamed herself for my love of sweets, she said, “When I was carrying Godfrey, I ate a half pound of fudge, intended for his Grandmother. “To cover my crime I cooked up another and ate half of that pan to, shared the fudge with Granny and nobody ever knew”

All things Yeast! Like hobo toast, over the fire charred on a stick, slice it thick, the bread homemade, slather with butter and marmalade.

“I was lucky said Godfrey, sister Alice oddly abhorred sugar, but rolled her holiday lollies in dog hair so I could not snitch them ever from her. My clever sister once made chocolates, truffles she filled with an onion boullion cube, she wrapped them for me pretty with a bow and a card, I gulped two at once, got a nosebleed from the gagging. Oh sister Alice and Ma laughed so hard”

..All things butter! Grandma taught me to bake at an early age, from the first sticky page of her Edmond’s Cookbook, we made Anzac Biscuits. She did not want me to hang about the bakery, having rowed with Mother Krept many years ago. She claimed Mildred Krept was a trollop, who kept a messy house, what Mildred thought of Granny I did not want to know”.

All things Spice! To woo my Clementine lovely  Fish Lady’s Daughter, I made a batch of doughnuts, rolled in icing, spiced with nutmeg, brought them to her warm in a greasy paper sack. So delighted was my Clementine she slung me over her shoulder, carried me dancing from the fish shop and out round the back.

Lamingtons!! The softest sponge cake filled with sweet cream, rolled in coconut. When I dream it is my first day in Melbourne Australia, city big and busy all about me. I must have eaten that day at least one dozen Lamingtons, washed down with a pot of billy tea.

In those heady, early days I owned a good shirt, and presentable kilt in my suitcase folded neat, when invited nice places, cautious of the rampant beet, when dinner was over out came The Pavlova, the crackle of the sweet crust, ooze of marshmallow, oh the raspberries tart. I learned to make Pavlova, this decedent work of art

All things sweet! I still gaze in bakeshop windows, though as Worzel will attest, I no longer drool or steam up the glass. On Tuesdays I buy Cream Buns to enjoy in the park, sing a ballad of the bakery, relaxing in the grass.