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

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TELL A POET THAT- From Alice

I sat a long while with Godfrey’s sister Alice’s latest packet of writings..yes, her poetry remained dreadful,some of the worst she had ever shared, but I read it over with a strong sense that Alice’s summer in Nova Scotia had touched the curmudgeon in places no person had ever tried.. 

“The folks of Knockfollie’s Bridge recall my brother Godfrey with fondness,” Alice wrote, even having all beets removed from the only grocers in his memory. My friend, Nudge and I have been inviting ourselves to fish suppers, adding insighds to my book- “Alice- A life In praise of Myself”

Here in Canada, all of it, we drive “on the right”. Alice and Nudge thought this ridiculous, and in rental car, roared about as they would in Wales.

Alice indeed shares her “insighds”, with a brown boat to catch, and a lot of pranks left in her poke….TELL A POET THAT- from Alice-

I was recently informed- “Farmers do not plow, they cultivate”. We passed a field with such sweaty a chap,  on a day already warm. Sunrise of boysenberry swirls of hokey-pokey cream and crimson, tinged in wild mint. Tell  a poet that, tell a poet here down east, the summer nights don’t cool, the stars brighter than there. The poet may reply, I recall they are- “A blanket for the olders over heather, their fire, harbor home and safety to the bold navigator”.

Tell a poet, it is raining out, Nudge wear my hat. Cold the wet drips down spout, rusts the hinge, in the sodden apple tree bedraggled chickens cringe. don we boots and stalwart fourth, gather the hens in safe with me- and we shall pass the rainy eve over eggy toast for tea.

Tell a poet the delight of outdoor clothes line. “I ran to grab a passing verse, like laundry dry on end of day. Thunder in the hills a griping, storm is on her way. Scent of summer with first drops of rain, new mown hay, sweet on clean sheet splats…Ah tell a poet that.

Eau Duh Colon’- I’m oft asked of the perfume I wear, asked Alice is it sweet essence from France? From France do tell?  “I dab on baked beans, baked beans on fair skin, and behind my ears baked beans from a tin. Tell a poet how a poet may describe it- baked beans.

Tell a poet of Nudge and I as as two more “Tramps in Mudtime”. Squelch, did we squelch round Tinhorn Bay, with my stick moist things to slay, squelch flotsam flat. Squelch we muddy knee to hips, two tramps and greasy wrapped up fish and chips. Oh a good long walk with you, the snizz and crackle of hot deep fat, salt and malt vinegar, but tell a poet that.

Today in need to be alone, with my stick set out a stroll. I sat on a bench, wondering if I am thought of fondly back home. I waited for family or child come by so I could, with my stick quick flick to the sand their ice cream cone. And soon came a lad, (they always did) sticky of face, ignoring the warnings of his nit-picking dad.

As the wee brat drew boldly closer to me, I noted his rubber boots, odd haircut, the image at six of my late brother, Godfrey. I glared at the child in my best curmudgeon, such nerve, the young nipper not to take fright. What happened next left me in utter shock, he held out his ice cream to give me a bite….

No front teeth, dripping pink cone in grubby hand, I was not shocked or revolted, “No thank you my dear” came from some place deep inside me, I gathered my stick up and bolted.

Rundown Motel for the night?, tell a poet that. She may write- Rustic Roadside Inn steeped in history. Old couple down the hall inform me, “First sign of spring is a warm waft of Pig Farm cross the valley”. Hourly the train rattles by neath your rooms only window, tell a poet romantic the three a.m. trains roar. Wobbly table, one threadbare towel, someone has pried open the toilet door…

We re-bequethed The Outhouse Museum to one Domestos Harpic and her silent husband Edgar.  Fond friends of Godfrey, would weed and tend it. Our sojourn sadly soon over, we invited ourselves again to fried fish supper for to end it.. tell a poet of such an adventure we must end it…

And the ship we sail on, steam home to Wales on is painted brown. Give me a poet describe such a thing, from Melbourne to London town, a ships proper color be red, or silver to keep up with the clouds, our ship was brown.

I covet greasy life vest, should I consume herring, trip over a bollard and drown. the ship lists like Lloyd our village drunkard in Batley, it’s name on the bow changed, painted over and over yet again. The ship is crewed by wayward sailors, homeward bound like Nudge and me. What is not painted brown is worn away wood or rusty. Herring is served in some form breakfast, lunch and tea…Nudge feels an epic poem neath my pen, but Ah, tell a poet that again.. from Alice.

TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE- And other stories- From Alice

Worzel here–Beatrice feels very strongly, and readers may concur, that our book contains far too many references to toilets. Be things as they may, my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey did not seek out toilets, they found Godfrey, and he felt there could never be too many. 

Today, I napped until now, and garnered the strength to open sister Alice’s packet of writing, excerpts from her book, “Alice, A life in Praise Of Myself”. It was a facinating glimpse of her summer in Nova Scotia, with Nudge Giggleswick and The Outhouse Museum.

ALICE ACROSS THE WATER-   For ten roily days and nights oer the Atlantic steamed Nudge and I to far Nova Scotia , we wreaked havoc aboard,disrupted the nightly Bingo by cheating, and at every meal of herring, the folks at our dinner table were eating.

    “The Pride of Poland”was a thing of the past, to the age of steam ships glory, the warped faded deck planks, the ancient children’s nurse, in her proper starched smock and cap told a story. The ocean was calm as the rill back home, steady the old tub did ride, with Nudge who long claimed seafarers blood, spewing all over the side.

I kept Nudge alive reading lurid romance novels, to him as we lurched cross the sea, we oft could be found leaning over the bow, and herring was served breakfast, lunch and tea.

Nudge writes- Left were us in a cloud of dust, the taxi cab racing away, Alice and I at “The Outhouse Museum,”on a hill overlooking away. The weeds were tall, between them all, for summer was at its peaking, outdoor loos forlorn, abandoned, with doors blown open and creaking. And as Alice her beauty nap in the shade snored, I gathered stink-willies, made a daisy chain for she, Alice whom I adored.   And later looking over The Outhouse Museum, her brother’s legacy, Alice with medicinal brandy told me this story…

TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE-  Oh Alice, Oh Alice , come here!, come here!, there’s a troll in the outhouse, a mean one I fear!. Curled up warm, I ignored the loud plea, from the outdoor loo, of my wee brother Godfrey.

    For our humble cottage had an outdoor dunny, and in it I oft tormented my brother in ways I found terribly funny.  Oh Alice, Oh Alice come here, come here, there’s a troll in the outhouse and Ma no where near.Bring the cricket bat, call the dog, for I so need to use it, the cold outdoor bog.

With three rubber gloves, knitting wool, wooden spoon, and my brilliant mind, I rigged a creation so when Godfrey sat, slapped him square in the behind.” Oh Alice, oh Alice, it is deep in the hole, it reached up and slapped me  when I sat, I felt the furry old hands of a troll.”

My brother Godfrey was an odd little chap, believed everything I would say. “There’s a troll in our toilet'”he told his teacher, before the whole class the next day. Our Ma,who could not abide a phone, instead was surprised on a Tuesday, by a visit from teacher and district nurse at our home. I hid with Godfrey, as they chatted with Ma over tea..

“He dislikes beets, he is adamant there lives a troll down your toilet”, Nurse Commerford, (she spits when she talks) informed Ma. I heard the telltale clink of the teacher’s flask as she added to her tea, malt whiskey, I tried so very hard not to laugh, I tried to the stars of heaven, as I lay on the rug, behind the piano, as they all trooped outside to wee, they found my creation of gloves and wool, dropped it all down the hole, while calling, calling for me. But what of the troll?…as I fled cross the fields, what of the troll? I heard Godfrey”

BEACH BUM- From Nudge-Always modest is Alice, a proper old maid. When summer rain ceased, we found a remote beach, hung our wet things to dry. I wrote this  sonnet behind private rocks, a sunbeam caught me in repose, put a glow in my curmudgeon’s cheeks,  reddened my tender buttocks”.

VIKING- From Alice-    I want to go back in time when I expire, by reward to place and age of my liking, may I turn back the tide of pickled herring, may I be re-born a Viking. now yes, they were an uncouth lot, did not bathe regularly, plundered with sharp weaponry, but I would be a Viking bold, no trencher of herring before me, a velvet painting, a portrait would hang, bold of braid, horned helmet, wrapped about in Musk Ox hide. Alice “The Dreadful” it would hang in a gallery- “Of Herring she could not abide”.   

Worzel here, prepare for more later, my feet are cold, and Alice’s packet deep…

THE OUTHOUSE MUSEUM-From Godfrey and Beatrice

Tongue tracks in what once was the butter, last partial crust of bread, ineptly cut two inches thick at one end, left in a puddle of spilled tea, Tea pot empty, as is the marmalade tin, and missing it’s lid. Adelaide..elderly ex chambermaid to The Queen, and her partner Benny had breakfasted early, for it was summer and the two were away with wagon and plaid steamer trunk, “seeking yellow houses”, and whatever else they could scrounge. 

I was looking forward to peace and quiet on the farm, a read in the hammock, a ride on my mare cool of evening. But panicking hens and looming dust cloud, clang of gate, in her old black London Taxi- came Alice, Godfrey’s prank happy sister, Alice. She was clad in bathrobe and gumboots, stomped in waving a thick letter, “Those two old rogues of yours dove into the ditch when they saw me”, Alice shrilled,” but before you go pull them from under their wagon- read this.” Nothing upset Alice…ever, but I had to guffaw, when I read what she had been bequeathed.. 

Godfrey writes- Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, under the clothes line- to where the weathered old outhouse stands vigil over the sea.

I’ve done many a job since wandering from Wales as a lad. Turning cents to dollars, learning the vagabond way. Singing in the streets got me pelted with rubbish and beets, but my best job ever was in Knockfollie’s Bridge, the town on Knockfollie’s Bay.

Twas first summer in Canada, I came seeking work fishing lobsters or cod as my grandparents did. As a kid I did not throw up in the herring bait, as my sister would retch oer the stern. Every person I asked looked at me with my suitcase and kilt, they all in unison said-” Go talk to Verne”

Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, back through the cobbled town square. Ask anyone, for Verne Gergley’s Outhouse Museum is down there.  Verne was living his dream, it was not about money, but his passion was preserving the dunny. Vivid  his memories, a prairie boy, “The outhouse beyond the weeds and dad’s hives, twice shipped out of town by train as a prank, oft shifted three feet over, it was part of our lives”

“My friend Beatrice, I replied after handshakes, still believes a toilet indoors is nasty, only for the lazy and wealthy”. “A midnight skip to the loo in Welsh winter keeps her fit and healthy”

“We discussed outhouses we had known in fond recollection, and needing to wee from the copious coffee I’d drank, asked to see Verne’s collection”. “Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, Verne walked with me, “Ive 200 toilets and other mementos to see”.

“It began as a joke, and as jokes do, it grew.” “I wrote a book on design, construction, and how to best photograph the old loo”. “Folks east of town donated the barn, and outhouses they could not bear to tear down”. “This one is made from the bow of a boat a chap named for his much loved mother”. “Ive a Mongolian Outhouse, Ming Chamber-pots, Bric a Brac, and the writer Farley Mowat’s  dear long-drop outback, it has a bookshelf, help your self”

“My last hired helper, sadly said Verne, was a “Snollygoster”, jailed pinching toilet rolls from the one shop in town, so I lost her”. “You have knowledge of the back-house, are personable to and do not bloviate, though you dislike beets, I will hire you”.

“In the shade of the ancient shit-house, I sit down and write. I’ve a bunk of my own, and choice of toilet to use every night. Most have a moon, carved in the door, I have found scrawled poetry, words of love to youth gone for city and several to war. I met my love on the pathway where the brambles doth entwine. I waited for her to use the privy, sweet summer of 1939. 

Verne Gergley reports that, “old folk oft return yearly, to tend the  outhouses they still hold dearly, it is they plant tomatoes, ripe and red on the stalk, oh the stories they tell, of Knockfollie’s Bridge when we sit up and talk”.

Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly,” two happy years, I lived at the Outhouse Museum, wrote Godfrey.” “I greeted the visitors, played bagpipes special celebrations, an old pair we found in an outhouse being given away”. “And yes it was Verne and I stuck for two nights and a day, on a sandbar  with barge load of toilets, aground by the low tides of Knockfollie’s Bay.

“Verne had a small crane on back of his Ute, and a winch.” When the local “Privy Council” town ordnance demanded an outhouse be removed we were there in a pinch”. Across the vast province we drove on this dark, winter day, almost home when a sturdy old hut, painted purple fell off on the highway”. It landed intact, upright in the middle left lane, even the door stayed closed, as I waved my kilt to stop traffic, and Verne got it loaded again”. Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, I asked of Verne as we got underway, for I had to hold tight to the wayward crapper, on the winding roads home, to Knockfollie’s Bay.

Over the years, Verne built an iconic museum, “Latrine Enthusiast” magazine sent a writer to interview him. “Godfrey, he wrote, one day it will all be yours”, my children do not take my toilets seriously, but you do, from Verne Gergley.

Beatrice writes- “I settled Alice with Valerian tea, which she sniffed with disdain. The packet of legal papers, had come from Worzel, who still received mail for Godfrey.  Among it a copy of The Will and Testament of one, Verne Gergley- sadly passed, and a note from Godfrey-” Verne if I go before you, leave the Outhouse Museum in care of my sister, Alice, she will know what to do.” 

So he got the last laugh after all, Alice blew on her tea steam…”Somewhere in Nova Scotia, where I’ve never been is a shrine to the stinky latrine”. “Years of tormenting my brother the beets, my clever pranks, the paddlings he endured everyday”. He left nothing but a path of poems, a suitcase of moldy books, and 200 hundred toilets in an Outhouse Museum, down on Knockfollie’s Bay.  

I never knew, and in as much shock as Alice, had forgotten Adelaide and Benny, trapped in the ditch. perhaps it was a place I could send the two, perhaps old Verne left a yellow house for them there….we made our way slowly, slowly down the road to the overturned wagon…

MANDRIA’S CONCH- From Godfrey

“She drove Mandria home to get her Conch”- said he. The boss in her smock, like a great angry bat loomed over Godfrey.

She sought a wayward employee. He chuckled as she griped, and jotted down the words sensing in them a story. “Twas back when I worked in the Wort Hotel Cafe’, our dishwasher oft spoke fondly of her east coast home. We worked opposite shifts but liked to share our thoughts over coffee, a good laugh or a poem.

She wrote well of her small hometown, friends lost too young, blessing the fishing fleet heading out, the cabin she loved built for her by her dad, the good, happy childhood that she had. Mandria spoke of her family with respect and dignity, and a painting promised to her one day, autumn colors on a back road  up the Annapolis Valley.

She hid her light under a bushel, quite well, pausing in our prairie town, heading west, deep in her backpack wrapped in a towel she kept a Conch Shell.    “Jamie drove Mandria home to fetch her Conch Shell”, explained Godfrey to the supervisor- please do not chastise her, for they have not been gone long”  “She wants to set it by the dishwasher, have us all put the shell to our ear to hear it’s song. Mandria’s connection to home and hearth dear, it is her Grandfather’s Conch she’s bringing here”.

“The boss tapped her watch, still annoyed about the Conch, reported Godfrey, “came then a crash and thuds on the Wort Hotel staircase.

There Mary and Lillian, chamber maids, holding toilet brushes whacked one another across the face!!. “She chased me with the brush over how to clean a can”, cried Lillian”. “I broke my toe in the door and knocked the vacuum down the stairs as I ran”, we heard Mary yell.

In the melee’ all was forgotten, that Jamie drove Mandria home to get her Conch Shell. To this day, above the dish sink in the old Wort Hotel, there sit a Conch Shell…