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.

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FRIEND OF Mrs COOPER -FRIEND OF GODFREY

Ah, to write again friends of Godfrey…Late winter, early spring has marked the passage of a fine chap. Gypsy, scholar, goat herd, hippie, part Swedish Chef, part John Wayne. He endured the worlds longest poetry reading on the ass-pinch chairs, across from the guy who spoke only to his teeth, (on a plate by his side with their own sausage roll). And then there was the Shakespeare actor, who performed a great death scene,during Charle’s endless Pantoum, blood and all. He was a friend of “Mrs Cooper”- a friend of Godfrey..  

Out in Knockfollie’s Bridge leans Knockfollie’s Town Hall, smells of cabbage and fish suppers, dance wax and Lysol. Two shops, Hotel, the wharf and fish plant, and our Outhouse Museum, on the hill top looking out overall.

“I liked it there”, Godfrey did write, danced kilt a twirl many a warm Saturday night. At the right rear table sat a tall, older man, mirth in his eyes, same battered cap. “May I have this dance Mrs Cooper?, he’d call, and they’d clear a swath across Knockfollie’s Hall.

“I asked of the girls I had met sorting fish”, “who  this odd couple be?. Was told, “he is long retired from the sea, she drifted up here as you did from the city”. Jackie and Laura sorted fish to, side by each, working one and the same. They told me, “Cooper” is not either of the old pairs name. Laurie concurred, nor do they imbibe alcohol, back of the hall like the rest of us all. “they drift through life in each others fond company, finding everything funny…

Back of the old dance floor, kids were sacked out on coats, the evening fun winding down. The janitor patiently tapped his broom, as The Coopers headed out last to town. C’mon, Mrs Cooper, he steadied her arm down the steps, she steadied his to, “we’ll make it , Mr Cooper, they would sleep neath the stars- by The Outhouse Museum, where the town cop could not see them.

Red headed Bill sorted fish, she did, said “come morning the cop wakes them up with a prod and coffee”. Then they totter off, arm in arm laughing, quite a hike to their shack by the sea. “Beware of the goats, if you dare to visit, last vagabond did , well the goats ate his knapsack, and basically everything in it”…

Godfrey would talk to anyone, talk of anything but the beet. He could make friends in an empty room, and befriend “The Coopers” did Godfrey, chatted in the shade at The Outhouse Museum, where oft they chanced to meet.

Ever curious, Godfrey ventured off course, found the muddiest route under bramble, neath gorse. Out past Whiffen Spit, a good hike to the reach, and down a fairly steep cliff side to Knockfollie’s Beach. “There, wrote Godfrey, enjoyed a fine Tuesday, heard goats bleating softly, and voices some distance away. “C’mon, Mrs Cooper, the old sailor’s call, half way down the track where it skirted the waterfall. “Okay, Mr Cooper, came her laughter through the fog- “dance me over this last fallen log’.

Miss Ebony Burl was an office girl, she did not sort fish, wear rubber boots or damp, fishy glove. Ebony admired a man in a kilt, strode up to Godfrey quite boldly. “Said, I fancy you may be the man for me, though you dislike beets, and befriend the fish sorter and aged common hippie”.

“That I do, the vagabond wrote, befriended “The Coopers” despite the fact, it was not their name and home was a driftwood shack”. A clever home gleaned from sea smoothed timbers, and with verdant garden of deep goat pellet and kelp. The outhouse was purloined from the museum, lowered down the cliff with a gang of stout fish sorters help.

“Oh dance, Mrs Cooper over Knockfollie’s Bridge, I’ll have table set and ready, be it soft summer night, or winter storm, take my arm, Mr Cooper, strong and steady. The ocean before us will never grow old, as we and the hills will above- all the outside world needs to know- in our passing, our path was simply of love….

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….

CREATING A NUISANCE- From Alice

From “Alice; A life In Praise Of myself”-  

Godfrey’s eccentric sister Alice, had been hard at work with her dreadful writing judging by the thick packet she presented to me upon leaving Wales. Home now to my turquoise chair, after tea and good look out the window, I was ready for Alice. Alice writes, “here enjoy to your delight the completed introduction to my book”. Between selling shoes and writing, I have had little time to prank, town folk look at me oddly as I hurry by, suspicious lot…I hope no one suspects that I have matured.”Indeed, Alice had not.  

Creating a Nuisance- Ma and I never worried about losing Godfrey when he was small, and we went to the shops. He was easily found drooling on the bakeshop window, and I could collect my brother before someone shooed him away with a mop. I told him raisins were bug-guts, told him the coconut cakes he loved were made of lamb daggs. Thus I had a pile of raisins picked from his scone- and lovely cakes to, here is a favorite bedtime story- I was studying Australia in school, and was rapt by their colorful idioms.

Rattle Your Daggs To Lamington Fair- Your tail still long, legs stubby but strong, said old ewe to lamb when they met at the billabong. Run, run wee lambkin, run  and hide, before the black wagon comes and you are thrown inside! trust not the sheep dog, in the grass she will crouch, then it’s off to the market at Clapper De Pouch.

Not Clapper De Pouch!   the lamb did shake, where innocent sheep folk are promised cake, lemonade, and Cracker Jack, where good sheep go and never come back. There are rumors of woolies for chilly feet, and greasy chops for the posh to eat, and innards cleaned then set aside with onions for the Haggis fried. “I don’t want to be a Haggis”, the poor lamb cried.

Said ewe to lamb, now now, be calm, escape to the east beyond the farm, over   distant Tor through the Blue Woods rare, will lead you safely to Lamington Fair. Where the water troughs are not slimy or green, and free sheep gamboll on the common clean, no human ever be cruel or unkind, and when sheep dance they rattle their daggs behind, all free sheep dance, rattling daggs behind.

I oft threatened Godfrey with the dreaded “Clapper De Pouch”

The Prankster In Autumn-    There is something in October puts the prankster in a mood. ..Beyond my garden over grown and wild, enjoy the cacophony  of someone screaming at her child. Curmudgeon sanctuary, enter at thy doom, trap door for the unwary, welcome to my room.

Stacked tins of lonely soup, placed in precise rings, set before a desk top fan, dry my dainty under things. I enjoy the golden days of fall, collection of sharpened sticks hang along one wall. No art work or living plant for me, no tatty knick- knacks on the shelf, just my window over the moat, framed photos of myself.

The prankster in October- purloined from the bank a money bag, strolled to the park with glee, with simple system of fishing lines tied it to a tree. I sat on a bench so innocent, threw bag into the duck pond, sat and watched the greedy, wade in duck mess to retrieve it.

The money bag it stayed afloat, as the silly thrashed about, without webbed feet or boat. Pursuing a sack filled with rubbish, not money, with ice-cream and stick, I found it l terribly funny. And before my causing an angry mob, along came the town cop-“doing his job”. Portly Brian, crisp uniform wearing, knew well that nothing in the world upsets me..but herring.

Now, who ever heard of police bearing herring? Brian needed not threat or weaponry, stood holding up that dreaded fish, as I untied the bank bag from it’s golden tree. There is something in October puts the prankster in a mood- stay up late, nap by day- curmudgeon attitude.

Creating A Nuisance- “I was conceived neath a rowboat, in Wales have achieved status of legend, and as an incorigable nuisance am oft mentioned”.  The quality prank is an art form, cleverly cultivated, “Harm no one in Prank well Created”. I allow myself to be swung cross dance floors, knowing my oversize drawers will go flying free, to land in the lap or dinner plate, of one who looks askance at the likes of me’.

A curmudgeon is oft judged in church, or corridors of polite society, I have no need for cute stories of tots, cats do not interest me, only my own company”. My brother was son of a son of a silvery fish, bright as sun on calm sea, he disliked beets, was born that way, and Godfrey believed every sisterly thing I would say. The only time we ever whined is when herring and beets were combined.

I used Godfrey for a door stop, when sweeping out our cottage with a broom, I stuffed him nappy end down, in the piano that filled our sitting room. When I told him the Vicar hid God’s treasures in the chimney, up he climbed. Godfrey slid down head first, before I could grab him, wound up near the front pew of the church.

Trailing soot and ash, he took off at a dash, bawling for home via the cemetery, upsetting our first funeral  of many- elders set down the box of old Lloyd Brown to chase after my brother Godfrey.

“Created A Nuisance”- we read printed bold in The Newsletter of the Parish- from Sunday school, to my joy they dismissed us, I received a lecture, and Godfrey only beets in our hamper for the needy that Christmas.

Allergic To Work-  Willing companion “Nudge”, forged for me a note of fudge. “Please excuse Alice from work today at the shoe shop”. “Alice awoke, alive but sneezing and we cannot get the wheezing to stop”.

Truth was, yes, I did wake up alive, lost track of the sneezes when they numbered past five, my seventh sneeze so loud and strong, set off a alarm bells two doors along. Figurines shattered, we heard the outside toilet door shake, my step-father Arthur fled to the street, ancient memories of battle and earthquake.

No one else seemed worried of it. “The racket is only that prank happy Alice, doing her “bit”. Truly I sneezed, sneezed till I had to set teeth aside, sneezed myself to tears, sneezed till Grandma Turner heard it, and Grandma Turner had not heard for years. I sneezed every day this year in fall, sneezed with worry over bladder control, when the sneezing ended, and I did not die, we set out creating nuisance, Nudge Giggleswick and I.

From Alice.   I am beginning to agree with Beatrice- this is dreadful- From Worzel.

BROWN MUDDY BOOTS- From Godfrey

Worzel here, in old age, happy today looking back. A fond memory to share?. Well, one day at our luggage shop, a cake, sandwich and vegetable tray intended for a funeral  was dropped off by mistake. My husband Garnet, and Godfrey reckoning it was a surprise treat for their brave hunting down of a mouse that morning, ate it.  

When I got home, they were desecrating the carrot cake, oblivious of the purple writing- “Rest In Peace Muriel”…they had saved me the icing roses and soggy walnuts Godfrey had picked out. 

I had long promised never to torment my friend with beets, (he heartily disliked them). . I rang the Funeral Home before sending them off to apologise, explaining that just punishment would be to corner Godfrey on the subject of beets, and not let him leave. Garnet crept home late, without Godfrey, the vagabond reappearing three days later, claiming he had been lured into a corn maze.  

Our apartment building is old, the floors warped and splintery. To this day, one of Godfrey’s old boots wedges the toilet door closed, in lieu of a latch. To say the least, his memory is everywhere. 

Was a very young poet- “Do not hitchhike”warned my Ma- “you will be left with no shoes on the roadside”. Shrill rang her words as a beet grower pulled to the side. A high, shiny ute with a beet painted on the red door, I accepted the lift, despite worry over beets, it was raining and well after four.

As I settled inside the chap spoke of beets, across the ranges divide, beets on filled roll, beets in slibber sauce, beets in fine silver bowls, roasted on fire coals, beets stuffed in beets stuffed inside a fat goose, for dessert double beet, beet chocolate mousse.

With rare pause in telling how his crop covered many a hectare, he’d a house on a hill with gold plumbing in the loos, and every day wore a new pair of shoes. “Everyday because I can”. I do not suit the common, brown muddy boot”. He was a peculiar man.

When asked, I’d say in my pre-poet days, my background was in sales. “I ran a manure stand back home in Wales”. By pail, gunny sack, or shovel it yourself from the heap around back. And I tried to save every penny, dreaming of places my brown muddy boots would take me.

Oft in summer, early mornings when I stayed at Worzel’s home in the city. Young trampers were a plenty trail bound from bus and ferry. This is an island that calls to the bold and the ruggedy. With shiny new boots, flash gear in clean pack, I saw many set out, but none looked the same heading back. Sandy and hungry, sun, wind burned, wet and ruddy, you can bet those boots were now soft, scuffed and muddy.

Stories told round hostel table- tell of bear prints in sand, deep salal and bracken fern, Cape Scott, Mystic Susiat Falls, back home be it Hamburg or Melbourne, tell of the brown muddy boots they would earn.

On such a trek, Godfrey caught from the rocks with lucky cast a fat salmon for us three. We gave thanks, and stuffed it with thimble berries, cracker crumbs, dried onion, an apple, our last precious butter. We roasted the fish over clean alder fire. No royals or rich folk ever feasted finer, than we with murmur of out going tide, and slept deep neath the stars as our brown muddy boots dried.

Found a cow path came I, a vagabond strolling, from over the borders southwest, happy to be free of town living, I sat back neath a pear tree to rest. Kicked off my boots, (A tad muddy and damp), hung month old socks from a branch to air dry. Remember the feel of bare feet in soft grass? If not, I suggest you seek out a fresh patch and try…From Godfrey.

MY SECRET MOTHER-From Worzel

Godfrey and I were indignant with one another. Concerned with his wheezing, I had dragged him to a medical clinic. He sat, muttering in Welsh on an ugly, orange plastic chair, mine was itchy ass wicker. A lethargic goldfish stared at me from a lonely bowl. There were sticky magazines, and a grubby “Golden Book Of Bible Stories”. Two nurses behind glass discussed evening plans- “I’m seeing Pierre again tonight”…ooh, he’s big!’…

Across from Godfrey a chap sat bleeding, the result of cleaning a grill with a meat cleaver. An elderly lady asked us if we knew the lord. Godfrey’s reply in Welsh seemed to satisfy her. Finally his name was called, he stomped off, complimenting Pierre’s date on her smock. I waited, and waited, until coolly informed my vagabond had bolted out the toilet window. I found him two blocks away, feeding his face with doughnuts, pretending to admire a hedge.   

Over the years Godfrey spent with us, we delighted in observing the characters riding the #50 city bus. One we oft saw was a prim woman our age, always absorbed in the same book- “My Secret Mother”. The cover art featured a blond woman in pearls, a buck-toothed child eating bread and jam, a man is leaving out the saggy screen door, carrying plumbers tools. It was quiet on the bus this day, “I smell beets”, Godfrey griped, “Shut-up, I replied.

As he would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets, to my dismay, he introduced himself to the book reader, and asked if he could borrow “My Secret Mother” when she was done. She clapped it shut, stuffed it in her bag, and gravely informed Godfrey that, “Such a good book, I never want it to end!’…

All many years ago, today I rode the bus out to Devonian Park where still roams a multi generational flock of feral chickens I promised Godfrey I would feed on Tuesdays. Only the people on #50 have changed- sleepy Kevin has moved on, the clanking sweats of tired builders, the loud group of young women claiming to be “The Supremes”. And the book reader, who inspired me to write of my own “Secret Mother”… 

I had a secret mother, she was unafraid of thunderstorms or bees or cattle, or to join me in battle, an old blue blanket rumpled as the sage prairie, or oft a wild, roily sea.  No dolls, just tin ships and plastic horses once the school bus ate my siblings, she played all morning with me.

My secret mother, sent me outside in all weather, to happy dig for treasure with spoons, pennies hidden neath the pansies. Let me eat raw pie dough, and burnt ketchup on thick toast, chicken soup from a tin, and she never made me sit politely when her friend Mrs Vowel  dropped in.

I later learned from my sister, and Inkerman our older brother, we all had that year before starting school, without you or Cudberth, alone with our secret mother. “Lacking a working car she drove us once by tractor to the shops, down main street roared the rusty Massey- Ferguson, us waving and smiling to everyone.”

Afternoons we watched “The Edge of Night”, and “Galloping Gourmet”…came the day, end of summer, I was wedged into a cousin’s dress and shoes, our Aunt June took all of us to school. Teacher loomed, pointer in hand, told the class- “Worzel’s mother, Three Mile Lil, has left by train for the coast”. I had a self embarassing lunch that day, sister Fillipendula packed burnt ketchup on thick toast.

Most days I was sat in the old, cold cloak room, in company of others who did not listen or had wet themselves. I learned to hide a book to read, behind spare chalk on the high shelves. Hid it in my arithmetic work book cover, told any one who asked that indeed, I had a secret mother.

Three Mile Lil sent one birthday card when I turned eight, said she missed burnt ketchup on toast, and all the tinned soup that we ate. Inkerman, Fillipendula and Cudberth got the same card for years always on the wrong date.

I recall with odd fondness though, my wayward mother, who oft drank along with that “Galloping Gourmet”. And called on me to stash empty wine bottles, to shoo pixies away down the drain. All that hit a wobble, no more ketchup on toast, when stepmother Mrs Gibberflat soon came…

Yes so long ago, here I sit a silly old woman feeding chickens…and recall an early work of Godfrey-” Apricot Chicken”.