SAY YES TO NO- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here, While his distaste for beets is well documented, Godfrey was fond of most else, besides moths, closed in spaces, very loud children, wolves, and bottled cherry syrup, the shape of which he invariably dropped. 

He abhored violence and all forms of bigotry, – Godfrey loved words. He saw no need to contort words in rhyme, spelled them to suit his very basic thoughts, and oft confounded me with his ability to find wisdom, if not logic in utter nonsense.

My co-writer, Beatrice, back home in Wales, her tenants Adelaide and Benny, along with Godfrey’s sister Alice wished to contribute to this story, to Beatrice’s dismay- they do. 

Godfrey writes- Was a hot summer day, by the river I lay, clear water cooling bare feet. Say yes to no worries thought I, with a pack of warm Mirabel Plums for a treat. They were wrapped in newspaper- on a remnant I read- “Simon Bajak has fled”!.

Simon Bajak has fled, taking folks hard earned money left in his trust, Loose the hounds on Simon’s track, make him pay it all back. Say yes to no more bad behavior in future.

In your tropical clime, thought Godfrey, you may be sunburned the very first day, accosted by crabs and sand fleas on the shore, bonked in the head with a volleyball, have no where to spend that money but one dusty store. One shop with nothing but nappies and cat food to pay for.

A Blatherskite stood on her apple crate- a netter-cap. Voice bigger than she was spoke out over city honking and roar. A few paused to listen to her wisdom, as Godfrey did. Most hurried by, as Margretta urged all caring folk to say- “Yes To No More Weapons and War”

My Paludal a haystack, the sky my T.V. set, I am a fig picker- finest career a tatterdemallion can get. Say yes to no bruised fruit, no worms, no caterpillars the boss lady told me. Indeed, understood I replied from high in my Fig tree.

Say yes to no bruised figs or feelings say yes to full fig bins filled to the hilt. Say yes to no cold rain and wind swath cross the orchard, say yes to no cold, damp draft up my kilt.

Beatrice’s verse- She and Godfrey grew up together, lifelong friends- I cherish her friendship to. 

Quenders, Lues, Rawolfia to, all these afflictions I find wrong with you. An excess of Vril perhaps?….Yaws and a Wen, say yes to no checkups! young Godfrey cried, refused to ever see Dr Uren and his, scary old office again.

“We said yes to no”, wrote rogue rovers Benny and Adelaide. Came upon a penned pheasant one journey we made, for we sought yellow houses cool evening, quite late, we meandered onto a royal estate.

“Ate it we did”. For being hungry lit a gypsy fire, neath a broad young oak tree. We stuffed our plump bird with scone crumb and spices, fresh foraged herb, and sauce of sweetened heath berry. “Twas feasting and song till the law came along”. We said yes to their no”, cheeked elderly Adelaide and Benny.

Sister Alice would never be left out…

“What question is this for a full on prankster?, Alice slurped her tea when I asked her. Had she ever said yes to no?. Why every work day fitting shoes in the shop, and my hobby of tormenting Brian the town cop.

Brian came in for new shoes. I chose a fine pair for him, white leather “Winkle Pickers” two times his size. When he put them on, I told wee Brian they would make fine swim fins, if need did arise- they are lovely, do buy them.

I said yes to his no, Brian stood obdurate, a crowd gathered outside the shop in the High Street, he said no to my yes, shoes still on his feet. I said yes to to no and teased Brian to no avail. In white “Winkle Pickers- Obstruction of the Law! -he cried, hauled me off to Skibereen jail…

After dinner I drew on my cell wall, in denture paste someone left neath my cot underside. No artiste, I drew a portrait of myself, Alice, with words of curmudgeon pride.

“Say yes to no and no to yes and worry not over the state of your stockings and dress”. Let your heart let loose free chortle and guffaw, and mind where you step when chased over wet grass, fleeing from portly Brian wee arm of the law”.

Oh, Alice….my word. 

“Say yes to no beets” The vagabond Godfrey, read this on a sign post Quinquenium years ago. Wise words indeed, thought he. And in good Godfrey fashion, sought out ant free shade- found pen and notebook for to write and share it with me.

ANATIDAEPHOBIA- From Alice

This is the story of my friend, the Vagabond Godfrey, and how he lived and loved many years ago. He was Welsh, with a sister, Alice six years his elder. Alice wrote her brother every three years on her birthday. “I was too young to remember Alice painting me blue”, but do recall the shouting when she hung me, by my nappy out the window so we could watch the stars”, Godfrey reflected.  

Singer, shoe sales lady, curmudgeon, nuisance, I was warned before meeting Alice never use the words “Love”, “Herring”, or “Athourity” in her presence. We always met at “Little Chef”, a service cafe from which Alice had never been barred. The old character sat down across from me, shale blue eyes looked off far away, the diner went silent, she hiked up her kilt, scratched her knee in a mildly itchy kneed way…

Her book, “Alice- A Life in Praise Of Myself”,was dreadful , and she was proud to share with me her wodge of rejection letters, and thoughts jotted down that morning. Here is Alice- being Alice. 

The morning sun a voyeuer through my blind a bottle of cod liver oil did find. Gold and amber a prism it made, how pretty I thought as I rose and yanked down the shade.

I do not let things bother me, the trivial bits, the piffle I say, I say “Feh” to the snow in the streets, use my stick to prod all who get in my way. The sticky faced tot, clutching a bun, stares over the booth at the lone curmudgeon. Though some of my ilk, (we grow fewer by day) would snarl at the child to scare it away, I merely drool back over my tea, till the wee one gives up and runs back to his mummy.

Nudge Giggleswick, of some intellect, feared scary films like “I Was A Teenage Insect”. Why do we go then, I asked of him?. At the matinee’ quiet and dim, saw a picture with killer bees loose from a hive, and hyenas eating a gnu…because said Nudge, we can laugh at such nonsense, as not much bothers you.

Summers eve I take my step father, Arthur, out in his chair for a roll around the park.  We take a bag of crumbs for the mallard drake, in the pond of which Arthur is most fond. Oft out of the blue, “Anatidaephobia” Arthur shouts, when we pass an odd person at lurk in the grass where we pass…

Arthur is very old, he mutters as I strain, to push  him up the hill to the duck pond- Anatidaephobia! Arthur barks loudly again. Are you concerned about that fellow?, I set the brakes on his chair, ducks are coming down the path ahead, waddling in joy for their handout of bread. “Anatidaephobia”! the odd chap from the grass cries out, racing by knees up on a hoon. When I got Arthur home to lie down, I almost regretted my pranking had me barred from the only library in town.

For little bothers me, except not knowing everything, like what in the whirled is “Anatidaephobia” not even Nudge or Ma knew. Next day, out walking with Arthur both in jolly mood, singing old war songs, bawdy and rude. On the hill to the duck pond, part way to the top, came chuffing and panting, stout Brian- The Town Cop.

“Alice!, he huffed, you are going down, last warning this is for your singing lewd war songs in town”!. Oh Brian, oh Brian, what a learned young man, I love to sing loudly because I can. Before a crowd gathers, creating a scene, do tell me constable, what dos “Anatidaephobia” mean?.

Well Brian, he patted his bullet proof vest, eyed where I stood brave and bold, stood high on a picnic table used as a stage, Arthur laughing in his old age- “To Skibereen said Brian you are bound for a cell, but before we go, Alice- yes I will tell. Oft in my career with the law this has come up as an issue- “Anatidaephobia’- means fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is staring at you.

Wrote Alice- very few things bother me, not beets or badgers or rubbish on telly. Not naughty films of actors unclad, or getting arrested for singing in the park with my stepdad. But I do notice ducks more now, wild by the sea, duck dinner on a cafe ‘menu, ducks flying by in a vee. When out and about with my stick oft I wonder, if somewhere, somehow a duck is staring at me….

MY NEPHEW- ICARUS- From Worzel

My younger brother, Cudberth and I have always shared a firm bond. Godfrey,  in the early days of our friendship helped Cudberth, a “Noctiphobe”, deal with his fear of the night sky.

It was ridiculous..our stepmother, Mrs Gibberflat sewed Cudberth a night hat with an umbrella on top, so he could not see up. Cudberth tripped in the pansies, chipping two teeth, and it was awkward in the car. Shades were drawn early, he boarded up his window, we missed any event after dark. “It is too wide and large ,the sky,” Cudberth sobbed. 

At harvest time,  Fillipendula, Inkerman and I rode with our dad on tractor or combine. Often he worked all night, the only time he and I ever talked, the stars touched the horizon at dawn, there was often distant lightning, the aurora danced in her green veils, my brother missed out.  

It was meeting Godfrey helped, the three of us sunk our canoe, and had to camp overnight in a farmer’s field. We dragged ourselves from the slough, built a fire and cooked “Spam”. We were having great fun, until Cudberth realized it was dark, we left him crawl under the canoe- but he was outside- a start. 

That summer with Godfrey, he learned slowly not to fear owls, bats, yip of coyote, stars, shooting stars, nights black of stars, burnt dinner, cleaning fish, smoke in his eyes, spiders, damp jeans, skunk odors, drowning and bulls.

Cudberth was a late bloomer, only leaving home the day our house was torn down. He pursued teaching as a career, married Miss Edith Carp, and fathered twins Cynthia and Maud. It was their youngest, Jack Thomas who grappled my heart. The children were read  “Godfrey” stories at bedtime, the twins kept in line by threat of sending them to sister Alice in Wales. To Jack Thomas, Godfrey was a folk hero, ” I want to go to sister Alice in Wales”, he stated, chin out.

Being educators, Cudberth and Edith with summers off, piled the family out adventuring, every two years visiting us. The girls were oddly shy- not Jack Thomas, and secretly I called him “Icarus”. 

He was ever looking upward, always asking- “Whats beyond the trees, Auntie?, whats above how far I can see?.  He disliked beets, loved riding on the #50 bus. I’d treat the little chap to cream buns at the bakery, as had Godfrey. He was fearless in the face of Mrs Feerce, our rude landlady.

At our lakeside cabin, Jack Thomas climbed the highest, dove the deepest, caught his first trout. He found chasing his mother with fish guts hilarious, stuck raven feathers in the cap he never took off, my nephew “Icarus”.

In school, Jack Thomas went full on Godfrey. His stories and reports, though not composed in rhyme, were “Glib beyond his years, and never pertaining to the subject matter being taught”. He wrote a poem in Welsh, used naughty idioms and was caught. Translated crankily by custodian Mr Hughes , He had to write one thousand times- “My Poem Failed To Amuse’.

Ever looking upward, “Jack Thomas Edelpilz, his next teacher would nag, “do not bring frozen dead things found by the road to class in your book bag”. His mother, Edith suggested music as an outlet for his creative energies. Eager, willing to go along, he asked for a brass gong to play. Well…thought Cudberth, what can possibly go wrong with his choice of a bright, shiny gong?.

Edith scolded Cudberth, “All we dreamed of was a normal family, he asked for Haggis on his birthday, his friends are found deep in books and poetry. Very bad influence, your Vagabond Godfrey”.

At twelve, Jack Thomas spent the entire summer with us. He wrote-

Nine old Men- Nine old men sat in a row discussing beets. Nine old men sat in a row. I wonder if ever there were ten old men?, Godfrey pondered with a frown, his voice polite and low.

The tenth old man sat on his own. For he grew beets, he knew beets, did not disbarge or eschew beets.

Nine old men sit watching out the cafe’ window. A boy totes  heavy gong home from school  through the snow, his boots squeak in it, and pelted with ice-balls, form tears on his chin frozen rime. He recalls raven’s feathers, dreams of summertime, the back roads west, the horse he will ride, sun on bareback, sea life in the tide pools ocean side.

Even when it poured, the lad was never bored, and though had never met Godfrey, read through tattered journals and faded old letters with me. He never tired of it, like Godfrey, I ‘d tip him from the comforts of my old turquoise chair, curled deep in that old chair he’d sit.

“When I an grown, said he, “I wish to be a poet and professional fig picker like Godfrey” My brother, Cudberth called, “Jack Thomas wrote a cheeky essay, was supposed to be about “Mussolini”. Yet he wrote of “The Blight Of Beets in Wartime Italy”. He was graded a double minus “D”. “I drew the line at the monk’s tonsure hair cut, kilt to be worn only on a Sunday, not to tease his sisters with Haggis, is his visit away helping Jack Thomas look at life more serious?”.

Not important, I replied, these are mere and minor things.  Just promise you will keep him from the lure of high flight on waxen wings.

My ranch raised husband Garnet, never “Sold His Saddle”, in the cluttered corner of our flat, among  our many books, it still sat. And the bridle he made at Jack Thomas age hung on our wall, I also often liked to feel the reins he wove of soft, braided leather. The city boy reckoned that “to ride a fine horse, must be close enough to wings of wax and feather”.

We have good friends with horses. Next family visit, Jack Thomas chose “Paddlefoot” the bold, blue roan for his own. I sat high on a dune, my arthritis paining me, with Edith complaining about her family.

Content to watch them gallop in the surf from bridge to bay, Cudberth rode like a sack of spuds, the twins on matching chestnuts racing past, and bounding in the surf last, the roan leaped, rode my nephew face to the sun, arms out swept..prepared to take flight as the boy of myth had done. Only to myself I call him “Icarus”.

Grown handsome and tall now, off to study in a big American city. Camera taped to helmet, on bicycle he races, reckless escaping from the maze of downtown hill and narrow alley. He takes flight with joy down the coast highway, raven feathers tied behind, he writes- “Do not ever worry over me, dear old Auntie. (old Auntie indeed)

Nine Things I Wish For when an old Man- wrote my nephew “Icarus’.

To swim with the stream, to Morris dance in purple socks with bells, to see “The Collected wisdom of Godfrey” in print, Hear my gong sound out one year of world peace, that my legs still pedal and thumb point, roast wieners on a Olympic Flame, smell every day cinnamon and demerara sugar, have crossed every page in my school atlas, to still not fear flying, that tad too close to the sun….

WHERE WIND AND TIDE…Adelaide’s 4th Story- From Worzel

My late summer visit to Sonsie Farm, in Wales. Even with Beatrice annoyed with me, were busy times for all on the farm, and working late into the nights together on our book, “The Collected wisdom Of Godfrey”. The late vagabond had been Beatrice’s childhood friend, and she felt I was straying too far from Godfrey’s saga, by including Tugboats, Toilets, “Itinerant Nere Do Wells”, Horses, and his eccentric sister Alice’s dreadful writing.  

When I wove in Adelaide and Benny, who had settled uninvited on Sonsie, Beatrice almost raised her voice. She was not getting the connection..

The only day it rained, that last summer Godfrey spent with us in Canada, and though he feared antiques, my friend helped me drag home a battered, old plaid steamer trunk from outside a junk shop. When he quit muttering, and “Feh-Ing “over what may be inside, he peered in and gravely informed me- “Not empty Worzel dear, it is full of stories.

The trunk sat in our luggage shop window several years, until Adelaide and  Benny showed up, the odd old couple claiming it as their own. I happily sent them off with the trunk, aledgedly  bound for Wales, no one expected them to get there, much less move in with Beatrice, to her  dismay. It was berry picking time, Alice’s old car had been reported seen near Sonsie Farm, so it was I went out picking, Beatrice fearful to leave home with the prankster nearby..  

Adelaide and I set out at dawn, for the hills of Barafundle Bay, she former Chambermaid to The Queen,  parked her donkey cart in the shade, and I with a pat did the same, for I rode good Rowan, the brackety gray. Plunk went ripe fruit, into the old woman’s pail, before I had even begun, she hitched up her drawers, waded deep in the bushes, straw hat tied firmly against dust and the sun.

“I’ll go where wind and tide take me”, said Adelaide when asked how long they may stay at Sonsie. “We  have sought yellow houses since I left my employer The Queen”. The bantie sized rogue had a brittle dignity, indeed for the struggles and places she and her plaid trunk had been.

“We maids were not allowed ashore to cavort, when the Royal Yacht Britannia was tied up in port”. “One morning I chanced look out, out from the bed chamber door- in a narrow pass we were passing a fine, grand yellow house on the far shore”. “Had a wide verandah, finials atop, yellow paint fresh and bright, Betty the boss lady barked, as the ship turned sharp up a fiord out of sight”. “Someone waved, I waved back as the yellow house hove out of sight”..

Plunk went the berries into Adelaide’s pail, I waited knowing she could not be hurried in telling her tale. “There was a kerfuffell, a stramash, a paddy bordering on a  melee’, plunk, plunk…It were a bad day, maggoty butter was served at high tea. “The Queen did not butter her own scone, was a Lady in Waiting stood and looked on”. Royal decorum was lost at first bite, the hand maid swooned, the Prince did curse, Our Noble Queen was ill in her purse…..

“Oh bloody hell, the butler cried”, all butter on board was heaved over the side, floating off in a maggoty wake, we threw out a case of beets and some dubious fruitcake”.

Plunk, went Adelaide, far out picking me, though I judged her age roughly at least 83. “Why was it deemed your fault? I asked as we took a break neath a tree, intriqued by this version of her life story. “Twer height of summer, nasty flies a swarm, was my Marvin the butler’s lad, left the butter pats out in the warm”.

“He promised for a keek up my smock, he’d be a gentleman, he promised me a life of ease, when our time in service was done, he promised that he, Marvin, would be faithful evermore, he promised me a yellow house, in a field of Marram grass on the seashore”.

“But the butler’s lad lied, I and my trunk, cast with scorn and aspersions , dismissed  over the ships side.”. “My  trunk and I , set forlorn in a lonely gutter, blamed for maggoty butter”.  “in Flinder’s Street, urchins pelted me with ripe pear, seeking employment I strayed from the docks, told my sad story to kind wanderer Benny, who sought out Marvin, kicked him firm in the buttocks”.

“Benny promised no life of ease, no posh ring, Benny promised only one simple thing”. “That our lives be shared till the end, side by each- and we seek that yellow house of our own, yellow house on a remote beach”..

Lest I ramble, I left Adelaide to pail and bramble, the day quieted to, and portions of her story I know will be familiar to you. Not just the old tale of innocence lost, or betrayal by silver tongued voluptuary, not man enough to own up to maggoty butter, but even this vile young lout, is part of the odd way we, were happenstance brought together”.

Godfrey wrote this of beets- “I wish no ill of beets, or those who love them”. Had it not been for beets, I may never have left Wales, and still be selling manure by the roadside. Dislike of beets helped me make friends, from empty room, to so many lovely places…until our circle is complete- all hale kindness! all hale the beet!.

I hope when Beatrice reads this, she will understand the connections to…

 

ADDICTED TO MERINGUE- And other Stories From Alice.

Worzel here, greetings, just home from an autumnal visit to Wales, Beatrice and I entering our 5th year working on Godfrey’s saga. I met also with sister Alice in town to spare Beatrice the strain, and as the eccentric Alice both intriqued and terrified Adelaide and Benny, elderly wanderers who had found home on Sonsie Farm. Beatrice did not trust leaving them alone, as they wished to paint her faded puce cottage a sunny yellow, and had the gear stashed for the job, provided by Alice…

Alice is writing her autobiography- “Alice, a Life In Praise Of Myself”. Here is her introduction. “I cannot abide human contact, Alice writes, but do enjoy the company of Nudge Nigel Neal Giggleswick, as a lad, a fumble of events involving a “Pogo Stick”, an Austin Somerset motor car, and picket fence ruined Nudge as a man. He swings one leg wide as we stroll, and knows he is only to hold my hand watching the sunrise together, or helping me down from plinth or statue, should I wish to climb one. Nudge appears to be composed of spare parts, but so loves a quality prank- we two have been “De- Pranked” only once, over Cherries Jubilee.

Cherries Jubilee-   Nudge had a lucky day at the races, so out for posh dinner went we, barred from every local eatery, as pranksters bold, all but one fairly new Inn, far a field down in Swansea. We took stepfather Arthur, and My old Ma, I looked forward to Cherries Jubilee.

I had my stick to prod Arthur awake, or jab Nudge neath the table if need be. Cherries Jubilee!!, I had admired the sticky photo, in the worn out cookbook Godfrey had left me. But no one looked askance as Nudge and I, lit our brandy and breathed flames at each other, no wait person, tray tripped on the large knitting bag, placed in the way by my mother.

When I flicked a beet at him, the Maitre’ D caught it, when I demanded meringue on my rack of lamb, he brought it. Delightful was the meal, and cherries a flamed, and over coffee, I entertained with stories and song, inspired by my brother Godfrey.

Beef Tongue- He was chased through the streets by Trevor the butcher’s lad, wielding a beef tongue. It ended badly, from the back sides of Batley, he hid neath a shelf, in Theology deep in the library. Godfrey got a thorough licking, from the tongue, and from ancient librarian Miss Wurmly, who later took the tongue home for her tea.

Nudge used the lady’s toilet, yet created not a stir, I flooded the gents, as befits a proper prankster. Still, we were not requested to leave, or carried bodily out the rear door, Ma knitted, Arthur talked of the beets he ate daily, “as a lad in the war”.

This Is My Hair!, My Hair!-   Deciding it was time to sing I stood high on a chair. A crown of glory, I did sing, the hair dealt my brother Godfrey. Thick was his head of wavy auburn, my own the color of a rusty farrier’s rasp. A cowlick topped the mop given me. This is my hair, my hair I sang boldly.

That was my hair!, my hair ! Nudge cried, oh it must have hurt. He lost an eyebrow over Cherries Jubilee, leaned over Arthur’s dish of flambe’ dessert.

Get out of my hair!, My hair!- Ma recalled in the telling, she was baking a cake, Godfrey chased me with herring, I chased him with beets on a fork in one hand, the other a net. Later Ma and I ate cake, rich and frosted, neath the tree where Godfrey hid, high up as he could get.

I was not prepared for the response to my floor show, not pulled from the table I used as a stage or told to go. Cheered and applauded, encored and thanked, for the first time ever, Nudge and I had been foiled, I Alice had been “De- Pranked”.

ADDICTED TO MERINGUE- From Alice- 

At my work, also works, when we work selling shoes Miss Pat Bamm- who will tell all who gather round tea urn or lunch table- “Unrepentant I am, addicted to meringue. “oh, my young years, allowed on my own to the bakers for bread and biscuits I ran, with the change I’d scarf a penny tart, by age eight I was addicted to meringue”.

I had never met a person addicted to meringue, for years I traveled with “The Uncle Lou Band “, oft pies were thrown at me when I sang, but it never occurred  to be addicted to meringue.

It was I, Alice, had to teach Pat Bamm to sell shoes. Oh, this pair is brown and white, she cried early on, they so look like meringue, And the clouds in summer sky, so fluffy and high, like meringue!. It crossed my mind, quietly occurred to me, she’d have made a fine match for my odd brother Godfrey. For though he disliked beets, was accepting of most others peculiaralities.

At dinner break, Pat ate a stack of pies , flipped them over, crust first, sucked the filling out as an aardvark may. She left the best bit inverted on her tray. I tidied the break room, vacuumed, threw rubbish away, put the tea things in place. Pat sat, on her prominent behind, enjoying meringue, ewe like smile on her face.

She said, “My parents had me tested, had my egg dealer arrested, when at eve I close my eyes I dream of pies”. “I was banned from speaking to a baker, not allowed to purchase sugar, hid my mixer, destroyed my hoarded cream of tartar.  “They dreaded the call in the night when the phone rang, or dawn knock on the door, ” your daughter is no more, she was addicted to meringue”.

“Old Dr Uren lectured. “All things in moderation”. So at noon, no more coveted pink macaroon”. “Avoid Pavlova, steer clear of Baked Alaska, let the Lady Fingers dissolve in a healthy herbal tea”. I spend my elder years selling shoes with an addict of meringue, it brings the “Sarchasm ” out in me.

SARCHASM- You describe a tepid moat, deep and dark round your heart, describe a leap from a plum tree. Mine is not moat, ditch Ismus or bog, it is sea of Sarchasm protects me.

My Sarchasm is a wild coast of black, volcanic sand. Lured to ruin many a stout hearted boat, offers scant shelter from sun and storm, and mangy seals there lay about.

My Sarchasm my own, never cold or bitter, just a strong reminder, tis folly to venture near, bandy words like “Romance”, “Mine”, or the dreaded “Dear”. Any given day I, Alice may be found, with Sarchasm to protect me, with my stick I wander, prodding the rubble, washed in from the sea…

Alice, unfiltered, from her Autobiography…

TELLING MARGARET STORIES- From Worzel

He disliked beets, did my friend, the vagabond Godfrey,I knew him 28 years, and the times he stayed in the city with us, remain with me daily in poem and memory, vivid to, the adventures we shared on the old #50 bus….

From windy Wharf Street to the wild lands of Sooke, and beyond, there was swearing and spewking, drinking and fighting, screaming children depending in number what stop you got on. Two elderly ladies road regularly, always sat near to me, and across from ever curious Godfrey.

” Margaret” was the main subject discussed on the bus, by these two old friends, in gossip legend and story.  We had lost a frozen turkey on the #50 bus, were aboard the wet morning when the door fell off, witnessed a woman throw her husband out the window, Margaret’s friends always caught the bus at the casino.

But Margaret herself never did…We learned she had an interest in old board games and Bison, and Margaret loved, loved beets with a passion, her home bore the tell tale stains if you looked, and Margaret put beets in most dishes she cooked. The beets horrified Godfrey, I stayed wedged at his side, watching the water logged blackberry bushes below 8 mile bridge, twas upper low tide, a warm morning ride…

When Margaret was a hairdresser, so it was said, a valued customer’s name she misread, “May I please speak to Jesus”?, it is Margaret calling, on the phone she bellowed cross the noisy salon. an abrupt guffaw sent poor Esters’s teeth flying, legend grew with the telling, those in for rinse and set, told of Margaret.

Proud of her talents in art, Margaret painted an Edwardian Lady, in verdant green meadow she poses on a boulder, but has only one leg. A handsome young stable lad climbs the hillside towards her, missing leg slung across his brawny shoulder. I prodded Godfrey, it had to be, a prank at the heart of Margaret’s story…

He would talk to anyone on the #50 bus,talk of all but beets, asking where Margaret was, never occurred to us. There  was vomiting, sobbing and language frequently coarse, once we sat behind a couple close to ninety, discussing divorcing, we met vagabonds  heading for western trails, we endured the smells, and at times really terrible singing.

A rat ran the length of the bus once, someones escaped pet, and it always got noisy when the two elder ladies, reached the climactic end to a story of Margaret. They smiled sideways at Godfrey, “Feh”, he would mutter at me, they get me every time, impish old ladies out a pranking deliberately…

Call it the passing of the years, as Godfrey was adamant that time waited for the bold, or the pains and vagaries that sneak in as we grow old, but every jolt and reek, every damp seat, every long wait at the stop, where in spring from above caterpillars drop, every bus trip he is still beside me. Recently, a tourist asked the name of the mountains we could see across the strait. Three young people riding did not know. Made me feel sad, for Godfrey did, and would have happily discussed the snowy peaks, would talk of any thing but beets…

THE PATHWAYS OF ALICE- from Alice and Worzel

Godfrey’s mildly eccentric sister, Alice, had “aquired” an ancient typewriter, delighted, despite the fact it was locked on capitals, and missing the letters “Q”, and “D”, Alice was only inspired to write more. The rubbish she churned out, and sent me to be included in “The Collected Wisdom of Godfrey”!….neatly addressed, empty envelopes, candy wrappers, the contents of her waste paper basket. Oddly, though there were times, as I sorted “The Classical works of Alice in Couplet and Prose”, she showed me the good hidden deep in the beets of her heart, very deep in the heart of Alice. 

PUNISH ME WITH HERRING-from Alice-Punish me with herring, sit me at a wobbly table, fill my bath with things gelatinous, turn the lights out, lock the door. Place me on a school bus full of teenage girls singing. Just don’t tell me that you love me anymore.

Punish me with herring, ban me from guffaws and pranking, tell me I must wee now in the hedge over the street.Replace the greasy chips on which I gorge myself with celery, but oh, never say aloud that you love me. Punish me with herring, put the fish oil in my tea, but oh never let on that you love me.

NEBUCHADNEZZAR- From Alice- I pulled my small brother, by the shirt collar, down the church basement steps to Sunday School. “Do not embarass me, do not scream or holler, do not grizzle over beets or wet yourself, hang up your hat and coat, or risk being smote”.

Godfrey was happy, promised tea and cream cake after, sat stoic through scary stories, of harlots and lions, he was only four. Happy up until teacher, beak like a parrot, yelled out Nebuchadnezzar, for some reason the name made Godfrey bolt in terror….

Perhaps as it had no Welsh translation…I tried to catch him, but all I grabbed was kilt, as full tilt Godfrey fled. Screaming, good shoes clatting down the hallway, out the doors, past the Renshaw twins who were digging a hole, for someone newly gotten dead.

The Renshaw twins downed shovels, and joined in the chase, although they were well past sixty. Our nasty Uncle Lou guffawed by the font, he was always very mean with beets to Godfrey. Ma cuffed me oer the head with her purse, like it was my fault for Godfrey’s terror. He was found on a tractor, Swansea bound miles away, all because of Nebuchadnezzar…

THE HAUNTED THUMB- From Alice –I formed a thumb in art class, paper mache’, painted it in shades of leprosy, gangrene and grey. Teacher made it clear, she was not proud of me. But the haunted thumb served useful purpose, the brief time it lived, tormenting little Godfrey.

It emerged from his dinner, Haggis and Tatties, from my fish and Chips wrapper when he thought I’d not notice he had pinched more than his share. The haunted thumb was moonlit night, placed on his window sill with care. And tied to a fish line, chased him bawling to our Ma up the stair.

I knew our parents, despaired of never having a normal child after Godfrey, and Ma, when the thumb turned up on her knitting bag, disposed of it with a toss into the fire, sorry end to my profound, creativity.

TUESDAYS WITHOUT BRAD- From Alice- The shoe store echos, it’s lonely keening, it is Tuesday, oh where is my co-worker Brad?. Even the cob-webs hang lowly and sad. No fun in the dust I waft over display, no Brad’s great manly feet, to get in my way. No hard boiled eggs, to smell at midday.

We two share chips, all greasy and brown, and cold lemonade to rinse them down, and once at lunch, I lay in a planter box, pretending I had died. Elderly lady hat on the Marigolds, sensible shoes hanging over the side. Twas comfy, until I realized, no one passing wished attempt to revive me. Only Brad came running- chips falling, calling oh Alice- do not leave I will save thee!.

With “Kiss of Life”, courtesy of dear Brad, I emerged from the planter box, picking bits off my skirt so coy and shy. We oft played that prank on Tuesdays, with Brad in the plant soil, pretending to die. Without Brad, a more subdued Alice am I…

THE CHARMING BUILDERS- From Alice- A disgruntled customer hurled a clog, apparently it did not fit, through the front glass of the shop where I work, made a grand mess of it. I drew the short straw, waited for the builders, to come early morning and board up the crack. Oh, the foul language that I, Alice heard, while sitting alone in the back.

I learned many stories of how women behave in a place called “Nantucket”. Learned how to pull off an injury scam- “Drill a hole in yer effin hand, fall thirty feet to the ground when the boss aint the feck around”.  And Oscar, oh Oscar, you romantic you, had Deborah and her cousin at the company Bar-B-Que. And Nick, it seems, Deborah grilled his sausage to.

A dull, hours  quiet, seemed the lads brought the wrong screw, returned after lunch break , guffawing and cursing. Such charming chaps, the air was blue, fixing the window someone hurled a clog through.

GRAY WAS HIS PONY- From Alice-When summer wafts, as manure will, in the air, and in my memory journey there, I recall my dear brother Godfrey, and his pot-bellied, grubby gray pony.

He was dappled as if the creator of all things equine, threw white paint at a scudding storm cloud. Idly scratching his ass on stone wall or gate, every school day patiently wait, pony waited for boy, or joining Beatrice’s black mare, in mutual grooming and fly swishing share, deep in the orchards shade.

A ruggedy thing, of Welsh Mountain breed, diluted a tad somewhat, Grubby disliked me  and if given the chance, blew on my blouse pony snot. His  forelock resembled our rickety Uncle  Hamish’s moth eaten toupee’, and in faded gray kilt was hard to tell, at times Godfrey from Grubby Pony on a snowy day.

Greedy thing to, with skinny legs, big feet, and uncanny penchant for cheek. Ma fed him raw beet bits in my “Bunnykins” bowl, I’d eaten from no other dish, since I learned to chew. She set the bowl down, Grubby stepped in it, the bowl given to me by Granny Dypew- crushed it was, beyond help or glue.

Godfrey’s brief life was spent in search of higher wisdom…I chose to pursue lesser wisdom, the daft and inane- this is my story- Alice be thy name.

GIVE ME A NUDGE- From Alice- Give me a Nudge, back onto the pathway when I stray into serious thought. Lest a day go by I do not recall Godfrey, my odd lost brother and the wisdoms he sought. Give me a Nudge, a reminder that the toilet seat you plastic wrap, may be the one on in haste you doth squat.

Give me a Nudge, as a reminder that my Ma and step dad Arthur, are too old for the Ukelele Chorus loud at dawn, how I will miss the bickering, and warm knitted socks when the two are gone.

Give me a Nudge, for the extra oyster he pretends not to want from the Chippy. When he shows up for a date, wearing “Winkle Picker Shoes”, a cravat, and faded flowered vest, kept since Nudge Giggleswick was a young hippie.

Give me a Nudge, showing me around his job, all day he places stickers on pill bottles, that read- Do Not Take With Milk Or Alcohol. “Nudge is our best sticker putter ever”, boss lady Miss Gooley smiles proudly.  Give me a Nudge, lest I stray from my Alice path, and under no circumstance- ever say aloud you love me.

LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW- from Alice, as heard by Beatrice

I shall harken back to Godfrey’s wake, by the second afternoon most everyone who wished to speak, or sing, or share took a break for the last of my Invincible Fruitcake. I had not heard, nor had it occurred to me where Godfrey’s sister Alice may be.

A notorious prankster, she refused to mature, her shenanigans legendary as the poetry was of her brother. It was getting late, when came a brash clang of gate and a dust cloud. From a black London Cab, sister Alice did alight, set the crowd on their feet and my chickens to flight. Wearing purple turban, and Pashmina horse-slobber-green, she stepped deftly round a heap of goat droppings and scrutinized me.

I saw through her display, for I knew that she knew that I knew, she loved Godfrey, but could express it only in her own odd way.  We all had to wait, as Alice had her fill of cake and her coffee cooled..still nibbling more cake, with a deep belch Alice read, a poem of her own at Godfrey”s wake.

..LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!! Never let it be said I must chortle, look down at your shoes in silence, titter me not or meekly mutter using someone else’s breath. LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!! It was I ate all the biscuits in ettiquete class, slurped the insipid tea was handed me, I balanced the plate on spread knee and ample lap, hollered and whistled when told” lady’s shyly clap.” LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW! The group sat silent, not believing what a sight they heard and saw, there ranted Alice, long past middle age, she had filched a pair of gumboots and was wearing Godfrey’s woolly knitted dragon hat on stage.

LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!! Godfrey took it on the chin for every prank and mess that I made, but I held my brother up so he could see the parade. For what I learned from Godfrey’s life I celebrate in dance and song- Don’t eat dinner on the tracks lest the train come along, Never miss an opportunity to wee, or pass up a free sample on the counter at the bakery. AND LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!!.

.In the old puce house, that night in my bed beneath the eaves. I felt the warmth of higher wisdom in what Alice believed. Alice herself without fanfare or thanks, returned to Skibbereen to carry on her life of pranks. She took all the pickle sandwiches, she also took the tray, took the gumboots and his dragon hat, in her Black London Cab and drove away.

LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!! Distant voices from the paddock campfire, tuning of guitar, darkness out my loft window, one lone star. World, I asked before I sleep, LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!!. Godfrey took it on the chin for every mess  Alice made, but yes she held her brother up so he could see the parade… LET INSIDE ME GUFFAW!!.