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.

WAR AND BEETS- From Godfrey

Worzel here…yes, he was a dreamer, my vagabond, coming of age in the 1960’s, in a sheltered Welsh village. Godfrey’s school work was usually judged rubbish, the laugh of the teachers room, he expected to be paddled and sent home with a terse note for his Ma. “Mrs Wncomnco, your son is odd”.  This gem survived, in his sister Alice’s packet of writing, folded up in the wrapper from a cheese. From Godfrey at twelve…

I was terribly self concious, in my early teens, as I entered poetry. That summer Alice refused to journey with us, to visit with Ma’s family in Glasgow. “They eat herring daily, I will not wear a dress, their table is wobbly, I won’t be seen in that car with Godfrey”. Stomped for emphasis, did Alice. What of Ma?, “Righty O’ dear, it’s all okay…sister Alice stood in shock as the car roared away..

“Sit on your crate, shut up, no singing, do not breathe on my arm,” the extent of conversation Ma and I shared that day.

Uncle Hamish-  I barely knew the very old gent, in his chair before the fire sat, bent and cranky, hard of hearing was he, but uncle remembered me. He used an old ear trumpet, down which I blew- “Hello, I am Godfrey who dislikes beets, your nephew”. “He squinted- “Who the hell cut your hair with a knife and fork?” I yelled into the ear horn, “My sister Alice, she also painted me blue not long after I was born”.

Uncle Hamish napped, I lay on the carpet, Un hoovered for many a year, watching telly with no Alice to step on my face or interfere. Distant flitting figures, horses mired in mud, bodies in barbed wire of a long ago war. Bejasus, I swore, what a nightmare…indeed lad, replied uncle Hamish, indeed it was laddie, I was there.

My heart was still a fluther when called down to tea, beets and herring on the wobbly table, I did not eat, was not the beets that bothered me. I had learned a great deal from uncle Hamish, who was not as deaf as he pretended to be. All my aunts were a worry .. Ma told all,” when we get home, he has an appointment with Dr Uren, M.D”.

Doctor Uren M.D.- “Do not return Godfrey to school”, the headmaster wrote, until he sees Dr Uren and is given a signed note”. I was to stay home from class, and get stern lecture on my future, no more dreaming away the days, no impish sass.

I dreaded Dr Uren, looming over me, as trembling I hand him a sample of warm wee.Dr poked, he peered, made me take all but my drawers off, then cross my eyes and cough, show my tongue, when sure I could hear and see, Dr Uren took a ball peen hammer to my knee. I assured the doctor all my “tackle” worked, as the nurse Mary Mulgrew wrote it on a chart and smirked. Dr Uren had the longest nose hair I had ever seen, only doctor then in Batley, shooed the nurse out and asked, so what is troubling you so, Godfrey?

“I dislike beets, war, greed and bombs and bigotry, and am old enough now to comprehend the world around me. Soon I will be off to meet it, seeking wisdom and sowing random pathways for whirled peas through poetry. Yet I’m told it is too odd a vision, what do you think, Dr Uren?. “Granny Clatt is waiting,” came a shrill voice beyond the Dr’s room door. “Godfrey dislikes beets, guns, bombs, greed and inequality, needles in the arse, and all levels of authority, color him odd, I deem him fine, stalwart and healthy”..

Dr signed the note, I grabbed my kilt, hat coat and dignity, in the clinic waiting area as I fled by, was every lass in town who had ever caught my eye.  “Twmffat”, Betsy Oatley called me….

War and Beets-  Here is the essay that got him in such a “bovver”.

Oh makers and droppers of weapons and bombs, I ask, what would you do if such nasty things rained down on you? All who profit from missile and gun, ought be exiled to where there are none, and all wealth be of no use with nothing to spend it on. In place of weapons factory, plant beets as far as the eye can see, and if a people should disagree, set them chose sides in a hot, flat field where beets can be hurled.

Mother’s daughters and sons who march off to war will come home again only bruised and sore.”They ambushed us, the skies were red, the beets were buzzing past my head” “I rescued my buddies, pinned tharn in their cross hairs, but our beets were bigger and fresher than theirs”.

Beets hurled only in bunches of three, no flaming beets dropped on village or city, pickled beets must be drained if jarred, frozen slices only allowed if thawed. Imagine a vast plain, no poppies or crosses, no need for valor, no more tragic losses, inequality and anger will slowly cease, and no more cannons overhead on holidays, I implore, all weapons into tractors to cultivate beets, beets make great weapons for war.

Allivictus!  Allivictus!-Into the breach!, Eat a large bulb of garlic each, for when inevitable the beet battle looms, non violently take out your aponnant, at close range with the fumes.     My essay- From Godfrey.

OSCAR’S STORY- Long lived the cat- From Worzel

Tell us a story, I asked Mrs Gibberflat, Godfrey has never heard the one of Oscar- long lived the cat.

My stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat never threw very much out in her life, including our cat. They were making us a special treat, Croquembouche- Godfrey was cheerfully filling the shells. “I can hear that yowling even now Mrs Gibberflat said, every one yelling, oh how that awful cat smells!

The tom was decrepit, with missing green eye, a bent tail my dad had slammed in the door. Neither tabby or torty but a  fuzzy soot, with a voice like one may scrape off a boot. He shat on the stove top he shoved our Chihuahua down the stairs. He acted like he was being throttled, he left things about unspeakable, chewed up and mottled.

We had all stepped in gifts from darling Oscar wet and cold…he was old. “I decided it was time Oscar find eternal sleep, so of course the silly cat left home for a week. We all thought Oscar was long gone, it was early Autumn, brought a dead rat to the door, crack of dawn. He bolted inside when he saw his cat cage, his cat food and litter had been given away.

“I had to go to the store for more, and appointment with the Vet on Tuesday. Oscar climbed deep inside the settee’, I was not happy with the deep bite he gave me”.

“I dropped Oscar off on the sad day, at supper came the Vet’s truck up our long driveway. “Twas a bad power failure in town, said the Vet, sorry she could not put Oscar down. I trudged to the neighbor’s for litter and cat food, trudged home in the snow falling, in a foul mood.

Godfrey wore apron and hairnet when he baked at our place, my old dad watching the game on T.V., newspaper on lap, scowling at Godfrey, grumpy face. “Mrs Gibberflat reckoned, I will have another go, but got stuck in town two days, highway closed by deep snow. Two days spent with Oscar in the Super 8 Motel, I sat without a word as that rotten cat purred, curled up on the heater as  night fell.

The dusty T.V. had two nebulous channels, bowling, praying and golf. In an ancient magazine I read an article , “Why I Love My Pet”, at the end of our stay we heard from the Vet, heading off on holiday someplace warm.

Oscar came home to live out his days, in peace on the farm.  I found him expired, by the hole in the wall where he had for many years sat. The old man took six months before inquiring, “had we seen the cat?”.   The Croquembouche was a glory to behold- we ate it in twenty minutes flat, but Godfrey had excused him self to my turquoise chair , I knew he sought the higher wisdom in old Oscar..and his story, long lived the cat..


I was sorting through a shoe box, of letters, cards and bits of verse, that Godfrey had left with Beatrice. I asked of her, what became of his friend Sarah? She of hobo-stick and unread letter sealed with tears. He only spoke of Sarah as “One of those who light your path”..she went down to Greenham Peace Camp in the spring of her years.

Sarah wrote to Godfrey of the mud, the bean stew, the books she read by candle light, she wrote of a long walk home on a cold night. “A young British squaddy on the inside of the wire, walked me home round the base on a tar dark winter night. He shone his torch through the fence, lit my way in the wet, deep gullies and mire. We did not speak to each other, when we reached the main gate, he said “good night miss”..under the last arc light . I do not recall being as polite.

At our gate was little tolerance for tears, to think kindly of a young squaddy, destined for war in the spring of his years. I hope that those who light his pathway, see him home to love and peace and safety.

Godfrey writes- When I was a grotty wee lad, and trudged off to school in town. All the kids knew each other..I embarrassed my sister, got a slap from my mother. By the second day I barely spoke above a whisper. In special class, Mrs Kromplak did not laugh at my poetry. “The words you love will light your path” She encouraged me, when not sneaking a sip from her flask, I could ask of teacher things like- “Who created beets? And are butterflies from heaven?. How bright your path will be Mrs Kromplak, for I never had you holler, “Shut up Godfrey.

And when from beet bearing bullies I hid, cornered where boys were not allowed. In matted goat-hair cardigan, and out grown skirt you, Beatrice, stepped out from the sneering crowd to be my friend. Side by each we sat with great, thick wodges of homemade bread and margarine. I lost count of the amount of beets you had to eat on my behalf.

“Those who light your path will wait, pony at your side when we meet again at Shady Gate”    We patched together poems. We worked to bind his scraps of stories, for reading quiet mornings..for rainy afternoons and by the campfire, when curled up in times alone

Others so big it’s like they cried out to be sung. Alone? fair Worzel would say Godfrey “Those who light your path will walk beside, down the harbor with you to your worry stone”..