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

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.

KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH ALICE- From Worzel

  Godfrey’s elder sister, Alice, rarely showed interest in anything beyond her own”realm”. Thus, I was surprised in the delight Alice took in a postcard I had written her, the card pictured one of our “B.C.Ferries”, fording the calm Georgia Strait, towards the blue and white mountains of Vancouver Island. Alice demanded I send her anything I could about the ferries, as she had “only been on a ship that size in the dark”.  I mailed her off a packet, schedules, cafeteria menu, more gift shop post cards, an old photo of Godfrey, waving from the Promenade Deck of the “Queen of Tswassen”. I included the news paper report of a chap who leaped overboard once, and swam to shore, not wanting to miss a baseball game. I knew Alice would enjoy reading that he  “Injured his buttocks upon landing, and missed the game any way”. In return, Alice shared her, well, truly-Alice  poetry.  

   TEASING THE DOG-   Mrs Von Wackerbarth fancies she is my boss, every day bar Thursday brings her dog to the shoe store. It is ugly and old, cannot chew anymore, and sprawls in my way on it’s mat by the door. One day as I labored, alone in the back, I piled empty boxes on the dog as he slept. Never moving, I piled on the dog’s back quite a stack. All well, until someone rattled the dog food sack. Up, alert and awake, dashed ” Brownie” to the lunch room, where the bag was kept. One flung shoe-box broke the only window, I was buried neath a heap of debris..” teasing the poor dog”, Mrs Von Wackerbarth dared to accuse me!!.

TEN-THOUSAND EMPTIES-  Old Lloyd Knewit stood proudly in his door yard, waiting for the “Bin-Men” to come by. His many friends were  sitting  on the porch steps, drinking beer.   In the photo smiled Lloyd,” one thousand empty crates, are piled here.” “It is a photo I treasure, the joy and pleasure, of a harmless old sot, posing with pride”. “Six months supply, for my dear mates and I”- Quoth Lloyd Knewit, waiting with his recycling, when the news reporters happened by, ten thousand empties were stacked high.

GREAT BIG SPIDER-   I so enjoy my quiet room, where no one dares rap, on window or door to wake me from my beauty nap. I enjoy thinking up pranks and chaos, when relaxing under foam in bathtub deep. And I love knowing there is a very large spider, in my room, on the ceiling neath I sleep.

EATING SEAWEED IN THE CAR- My dear step-father, Arthur, was forced by advancing age to give up his posh car. I drive my parentals about now, with Arthur at my side, telling me how with a shout, yelling at each stoplight, waving his arms and cane about. He stomps the “imaginary brake”,yelling, “As a lad in the war I drove it all”. “I respond by eating crumbly seaweed snacks in the car, to drive old Arthur up the wall. I do not enjoy it, but the bits get in his tweed seats, and his whiskers if he sits in the back, we cheek each other, hear them griping at me from the street as we pass, Arthur Bosomsworth, and my dear grumpy mother.

BIRTHDAY CAKE-  Twas Godfrey and I, a year I well remember, we made our old Ma a cake for her birthday, 19th of November. We baked it in secret at the home of his friend, “Beatrice”‘, the goat girl, her mum was nice, made a real rose with a swirl, we ate frosting, and batter raw, Godfrey wrote on the cake top- Happy Birtday Akec four Ma. Home from neighbor’s house, my brother carried it proudly, small for his age, labeled a “Twit” Godfrey, halfway home tripped on the hem of his baggy old kilt, in a puddle of mud, and dropped our cake deep in it. Only the very top layer, I salvaged, as I plucked it and sobbing Godfrey out of the dirt. He feared a cuff on the head, but I left him unhurt, as he was my small brother. Nothing was ever said of the bent, lopsided cake…a ” birtday akec”for our mother… FRom Alice.

PART OF THE VILLAGE SCENE- By Beatrice.

When Worzel visited here in Wales, Godfrey’s aged Ma, refused to meet with her or to speak on the phone. Ma- short as she is wide, coal black hair now pure white, blue eyes that could still tool leather, she remains ever able to knit, chat, gripe, watch the telly and read a scandal magazine all at the same time. She and her Arthur have left outer Batley for a cottage with Godfrey’s sister Alice- Prankster of Skibereen, Ma has become part of the village scene…

    Ever cranky Ma, on a sunny day will usually be sitting on the cottage porch, intent on her knitting, or feigning  absorption in a book…but Ma misses little, she is always on the outlook for anyone she sees misbehaving. For any scrap of naughtiness, or news she can glean. Ma is now part of the village scene.

Godfrey’s step-dad, Arthur, sits to. Memories of being a lad in the war far behind him, in his 90’s now, Arthur is at peace, adrift in dream. They chuckle at an old joke, heads together, and an odd little town is Skibereen.  It is a village with two pranksters!, sister Alice and the nefarious Janice Kraime,  garden gnome missing? coin-box pilfered at the Launderette?, Outhouse shipped south on a train? Who to blame?  Two middle aged women , loose in Skibereen, though neither knew the other, only Ma knew that Alice knew what she did or did not do. “Obnoxious since birth Ma reported if asked, but never deliberately  destructive or mean”. Drive by and bet she will be out and about, Ma sees all as part of the village scene.

Knitting on the porch morning time when weathers fair, wheel Arthur twice round the park afternoons in his chair. Chat at the corner shop, pint at the pub, sweets from the bakery, home before Alice with fish and chips for tea.    Ma will talk to anyone, talk of anything but Godfrey.

Ma sees all, as part of the village scene, knows old Miss Commerford (She spits when she talks) stops out Tuesdays with young Dr Feodor. Knows the real reason Blanche Pudde-Combe left home. Knows the crumb cake at the bakery is made with sweepings off the floor, dos not buy her fish on Mondays anymore. Keeps an eye on the hard drinking ways, of reckless Janice Kraime. Tells Alice, “Do shut-up daughter, retirement from parenting has not changed me, and my sense of whimsy comes under strain frequently”. Ma berating the post-man for the rubbish in her mail, hollering at passers by, yelling at stray cats to no avail.   Heard far and wide by all who dwell in lovely Skibereen, love her or not Ma is now part, of the village scene.

HERE’S A CANDLE- From Worzel

Godfrey was ill..He called it “FLUX O” BILE”. He was curled up in my turquoise chair, unhappy. Lest it be perceived that in telling his story, I have elevated Godfrey to sainthood- it was his own fault. Alone all day , he made a pan of vanilla fudge, promising to save me half, he then ate the whole pan, made another one, ate half of it so I
would not be cross…It happened that day, in the post came a letter from his sister, Alice, who wrote every three years on her birthday. He read the letter to me.

Drear Brother- I awoke to Ma and Arthur bickering   over the sink in the loo, four sets of teeth were soaking where the night before soaked only two. It is fun to play “Whose teeth belong to who.” Though retirement is sheer enjoyment I have had to seek employment in the distant village of Tuckware, Unlike Skibbereen, few persons know me there.

I remain a curmudgeon, a clerk in Klapp’s Shoe Warehouse and Repair.   “I bring a smelly lunch daily in the same greasy sack, plugged up the employee toilet in the back, made a mess out of the new stock, purloined someone named “Gloria’s”  name-tag and smock, I bring dust from home to waft over the shelves, gossip out loud while the customers help them selves, switched lids on the polish so the black you buy is white, and drive home still
a curmudgeon to Ma and Arthur every night.

Happy Birthday to me- From Alice..Unrepentant wee thing, Godfrey moaned, folding the letter, “I told him here is a story, may help you to feel better.
“Twas early days, I was new to the city, needed “sensible shoes” for my job in the library, a shop refused my business on grounds “I was a Hippie” Garnet Odd, we had recently just met was with me, our jeans were faded, I wore an old shirt of yours that I treasured, old boots were decent, ready to be judged for size and measured.

“I feel about shoes as you do the beet, never liked anyone kneeling at my feet.” “As we entered the shoe store, a wizened, scowling clerk was telling of the liver-burger, served on a bun the night before, the second rude clerk in cardigan-skirt ignored us as if we were not there, a third appeared out of nowhere, muttering loudly about Garnet’s long hair.

Behind a loafers display she lurked, shook skinny finger at me, and gasped exasperated, “Not another scruffy Hippie”…
“My goodness, Worzel, Godfrey cried, Alice is a prankster, always has been, but never oh so mean, do go on”. “In shock then I looked about, realized my Garnet Odd was gone..but not for long, from the shop next door he trotted, candle in hand, rainbow layers of wax, set in sand, the style of the day.

“He held the candle out to the nasty first clerk- “Here’s a candle, he spoke soft- may it help light your way, also good to heat baked beans, warm heart and hands on, a gift from a hippie, here’s a candle”.
The second rude clerk retreated to the phone, presumably to call the law, the third, clearly a curmudgeon almost smiled, I could tell by the telltale twitch in her jaw. “We left her holding the sand candle, laughed about it end of the day, I did not buy shoes, and it mattered very little anyway.”
“Perhaps, Godfrey thought, that in a stuffy shop, hemmed in by rubber and genuine cowhide, of liver burger dinner, and fading sales, joy had been shelved dusty, off to one side”. “I hope the message cast in sand was one at least the third rude clerk could understand. “Judge me not by my hair and old plaid shirt, I came seeking shoes, and your profound rudeness rather hurt”
Garnet later told me when alone, “It is not the memory of the candles Mum lit in our mountain cabin window, not of sunrise after heavy snowfalls, or its glow on sandstone canyon walls” “And over our long years together, when life has bumped or hurt me, I am reminded of the many candles he has held out, bold before others, or in quiet time privately, Here’s a candle..he would tell me. (For Ginger and Lonewolf)

WHEN ALICE CAME STOMPING HOME- from Beatrice

As a toddler, Godfrey was odd looking, curious, already with a strong dislike for beets. Sister Alice took him with her to the market when she sang in the streets, standing on an up turned pail, above the shouting, the barter and din of the market, she sang for tossed toffees, and saving every penny she could get.

If any one dared jeer at Alice, or complain, she told them “He is not my snot nosed brother, but The Prince Of Aberystwyth, and I am Lady of Spain”.  Godfrey honed his waifish charms, propped on an apple crate throne, if all went well Alice bought him a Gob-stopper, to keep him quiet till they headed home.

Apparently the average small boy, asks several hundred questions a day, or more.  Godfrey at four asked his in rhyme, asked his mother a lot, received a swat behind. He asked his dad, who found everything funny, if bee-wee was honey as his sister Alice claimed, got blamed when she had him ask in church if beets were really made of manure, worms and dirt, if raisins were bug-guts, and was God the giant Alice said dropped snow from the sky and why were beets so low and grapes where he could not reach them, so high?.

At eight, Godfrey asked Alice, “why their dad left home and never wrote”. “Shut-up said his sister, or risk being smote.” “If I knew where the old man went I would tell, but I’m sorry, go brush what teeth you have, curl up and I’ll read a scary story”.

Godfrey never knew what Alice did at fifteen to be sent off so far away.  She had him hanging out the upstairs window by the threads of his horse-sweaters tail. Expelled was Alice from the village school- proudly calling it for a “Disgraceful Propensity”. Auntie Phyllis from America was over for a stay said, “I see no hope for Godfrey, but leave Alice to me”. “The Sisters of St Giles, down south near Newbury, will mold her into a proper lady”

Assured of an adventure, with music and singing every day, Alice in her new hat, ribbon hanging down, slapped Godfrey on the head as she waved from the train leaving town.     Gone was the smell of beets she cooked in the morning, gone to, in an odd way his fearless protector, sadly the nine year old wadded up and stowed away his much loved, knitted horse-sweater.

With Alice gone, solidified our bond, it was I, Beatrice, ate the beets for Godfrey, fished him from the dung pile and frozen pond, still speaking in rhyme he was bashed and teased every day, all the time.   Alice never wrote, but Godfrey did.  “Sister dearest- at the risk of being smote, are you well?” “Is dinner Gruel and Herring? Are you having fun, now that you are a nun? “Do the nasty nuns leave crumbs, bottom of the marmalade, are there any nun friends you have made”?

“Ma is spending all her time with Arthur Bosomsworth, we call him the grunting garden gnome, he wears nasty white shoes, he farts in our home, he threw my cat and I out in the rain- when I told him I was The Prince Of Aberystwyth, snot nosed brother to The Lady of Spain”.

From Godfrey.  Alice wrote- I still have the treasured note that came a month past his tenth birthday.  It was a Holy Card, a nun in a courtyard, finger raised in warning. “We eat herring and they make me get up early every morning”- from Alice.

Christmas came, and an ineptly sewn oven mitt, only one, embroidered with the word “Maw”.  For Godfrey another Holy card, “Help’ in Alice’s scrawled hand, and beets in a sticky old jar, home canned.    Alice stomped home in the spring of that year, on her own. Asked what was for tea, swatted Godfrey, handed Ma the second oven mitt, just as poorly sewn.

Alice ate, played her piano, gave singing lessons, to every tone-deaf Mulgrew dared come through the parlor door till Ma could not take the racket any more.  Auntie Phyllis, still in Wales told Alice, “Behave, and I will take you with me to New York when my ship sails”.

“Alice tried, kept a job in the fish shop, ate the herring Ma fried”.  She did let my goat chew Bosomsworth’s army coat though, when it was hung on the line washed and air dried.

Alice still sang for coins down at the market, a much older Godfrey by her side.  Alice dreamed of the New York stage, but it was not to be, Auntie ran off with old John Bald, they bought a chip shop down in Swansea.

Alice, never angry simply gave up on society, and all those who tried to mold her into a young lady. A first rate rebel she became who she was, a prankster, whom Godfrey in his innocence bore most of the blame.

For to Alice, he was the snot nosed Prince Of Aberystwyth, and she was Lady of Spain.

SISTER ALICE TELLS HER STORY- Interviewed By Worzel

I was nervous upon meeting Godfrey’s sister Alice, shocked when she agreed to meet up at the “Little Chef “near Skibbereen, Beatrice warning me she had been carried out of the better cafe’s. I found Alice oddly engaging, daft yes, she will probably be upset that I found her like able..

..  Your earliest memory, Alice- Long before Godfrey came, in a boat out fishing just me and our dad. Ma knitted a wool harness if I fell over side, I caught a wee salmon all slippery and bright. Dad whacked my fish, it died and I bawled but enjoyed it with beets and tatties that night.     Childhood Friends?- I had none, never bonded with anyone, not even you for I am an old curmudgeon.       Not Even A Pet- My only pet is a cactus, a mean one.    Vern Felonwort speaks kindly of you-  Vern Felonwort pointed with his Piccolo once at my behind, I hung it from the highest train trestle bridge I could find.

What Do You Enjoy, Alice- I like beets, and long walks on the beach with a stick to whack what pleases me, like to prod about under seaweed and debris.  I love to eat boiled eggs when in line at the bank, garlic cloves when chatting breathless to the police.     Like to upset children at the petting zoo, bring my plate, knife and fork, pick out a plump lamb and demand a Bar-B- Que.   Often pause and peer and point down a sewer grate, just to see how many others stop to peer and point with me.      I delight in watching Vultures on the nature T.V.

And You Dislike?- Herring, and the disturbing white shoes that chap across the room is wearing.    Hypocrisy, Bigotry in all forms, so called polite society.  Bum-Warm chairs offend me.   The ache in my chest when asked of my brother Godfrey, I’d consult the quack but dread being touched by gloved hand, no one touches me or gets to see “The Promised Land”.

Speak Of Godfrey, Alice if You Can- When I began school at three, all the kids climbed ropes and skipped, they were bigger than me.   I learned to read and write and fight, I chose to excel academically.  Then I was handed Godfrey, wrapped in a blue towel to hold, Miss Commerford the nurse (She spits when she talks) told me, “Here is a dear brother for you, one hour old” He peered up and blew a spit bubble at me, first memory age six I was, of Godfrey”    He was an odd, quiet baby but as he grew and learned to crawl, nothing contained Godfrey.  When I told him, “lick this ashtray, it is yummy, he did. His first toddling steps  were taken, tongue black, grimacing to me.   At a funeral he escaped my knee, crawled the length of the church, under every pew, stood at the alter with his gummy grin as the Vicar spoke of sin, dust coating him, he held up Mr Gaglee’s shoe and The Book Of Common Prayer, Ma claimed to have no children, it was I had to drag him down from there.

“I read him scary stories from the lurid magazines our Aunt Lefty left about for me, he believed in the beasties that ate beet loathing little boys named Godfrey.  Herring?– Why must you ask of herring, I  dislike herring, do not eat herring. When Godfrey was two, as you well know I painted him blue, due to the fact that he ate herring, put a herring in my piano if you must know.

When Did The Music Start?– I was conceived neath an over turned canoe on a mild, damp New Years Eve, Ma recalled the cold sand and the sound of the band playing loud in the hall up the hill. We always had music in the house, I sang before I could talk and would still rather sing than talk to you, I sang in Royal Albert Hall, you have heard of it no doubt? I sang in Sydney Opera House until the ushers threw me out…

Pranks?–As Godfrey did with poems, I left plastic sick strewn about.   It was I backstage at the famous Beauty Pageant let the box of mice out.  -It was I pulled that rat on a string, in the path of Mary Boggs as she prepared to sing.  –It was I , Alice claimed my treasured gold watch, fell down an out house, the one behind the  pub in Withersnea, the rude men who booed our band had to dig in deep nasty, to get it back for me.

“Uncle Lou never turned down a booking for the band as it meant he never had to go home”.  For years all I knew were tawdry hotel rooms, dance halls that smelled of pork, every banquet room in York” (we were popular there).  I sang from every makeshift stage, and mornings alone thought of all the naughty things I would get up to in my old age”.  “Then Uncle Lou ate fish n chips in the path of that train, the band dispersed,  I never saw them again.

…I bought Ma and step-dad Arthur the house in Skibbereen, where Ma can happy knit, and Arthur gabs on about the war, the old twit.    If Godfrey was Here?         I’d remind him of the day he first trotted off to school, with his poem to share, and tail of his ridiculous horse sweater trailing behind. When hit with beets hurled unkind, when chased home by bullies, or driven high into a tree, getting him down safe every time was up to me.  I alone could torment him with beets. He never got angry, simply waited for a herring he could hide. “We pranked each other until Ma could take no more, no more beets or herring, Ma was past caring.   She kicked us out, Godfrey took it in stride, when he left for Australia, Knowing it was forever it was I Alice, sat out on the steps and cried…