THE FINE NAVIGATOR- From Worzel

He was an odd young man who disliked beets, his life’s desire was for “Whirled Peas”, to avoid all manner of discord, and beets. He feared little, only moths, antique shops, closed in spaces and waxed floors..but came in time to tolerate heights, wobbly tables and owls.

Godfrey did not “Gasconade”, was never prideful , yet was cheekily confidant with his navigation skills, I happily let him lead. I misplaced Godfrey in a large grocery store one day, deduced he would be far from beets as could be, and located my friend down the pet food aisle, behind several large bags of dog food, and a stack of tins, eating a can of vanilla cake frosting…the vagabond was happiest outside, he truly was a fine navigator, venturing off track a joy.  

“I am a fine navigator”, pompossed my vagabond Godfrey. For it was summer, early morning and we were off on an adventure. I brought water, and plums and cheese with crackers, (the ones that don’t crumble with sesame seed). “Feh”, said Godfrey,” Vegemite in ones pack is heavy, we shall forage in the wild, and drink from a muddy boot print if need”. “Feh”, I thought back, muddy boot print indeed…

We drove from the city, to a raffishy back road near a derelict homestead. As directed by Godfrey, “I shall navigate from here”, he assured me. We decended a forest track narrow and green, soaked still in dew, cool in the shadows, I could hear rushing water before it came into view.

I tried not to see neath his kilt as he clambered, nimbly over wet rocks shedding knapsack and coat, Godfrey sat to wait, for me on the boulder I gracefully fell off. Sank in icy cold water up to my throat- “Mind”, he said politely, fishing me out, “it is slippery”.

Beets nasty hot, beets nasty cold, beets nasty all the time, gone to mold. Beets with gizzard meat, beets and Bulgar  Wheat, rather eat from muddy boot print nine days old..

Godfrey sang this as we tramped, a nonsense song…I must state here the truth, the awkward lad I once knew was gone, over the stones he hopped, never once getting mis- matched socks wet. “Trust  my navigation, dear Worzel, laughed Godfrey, let us see how far up this sweet river we can get”.

No poet as he was, allow me to describe our journey. Excuse my verse if too “Esoteric”. We did forage berries, the tart, thimble shaped ones where brambles grew thick. I pointed  out skeeters and odd “Jesus” beetles, dragon flies, the still pools with very light dusting of pollen. He scampered, I crawled cross a natural bridge, the trunk of an ancient cedar long fallen.

I fell off it thrice, water twice then fine river sand, it wedged in every crevice, as I followed my fine navigator, cross farmer’s fields over land. “I am a fine navigator, learned neath the stars from an old sailor Verne Lipshimmer, (something of a tippler). Twas my first long  voyage as a lad, each night looking out for The Southern Cross,  respect for the sea, I learned from Verne, a fine navigator was he..”

“And sense of direction unerring, came from being tormented with beets when young, that and the odd knitted clothes I was wearing”. “Hid I did often from beets hard tossed, even on a moving train, got off before I was far away lost, Ma slapped my head when sister Alice told her…I survived my Welsh childhood, a fine navigator”. . .

We were now on a cow path, cows zigged, calves zagged, bulls ponderous lagged behind later. Round still steaming leavings, barely looking still singing, trekked cheerily  Godfrey, my fine navigator. We had hiked a “De-Hoop”, he called it, back to our clean flowing river.

“He never failed to find his way, rarely by passed a bake shop or cafe’. We sat outside, damp and hungry, my bony behind having endured, stone, bark, and burr..as Godfrey the charmer brought out laden tray- “Never Pass Up a Bun Offered Free”- said he, my friend, a fine navigator…

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.

APRICOT CHICKEN- from Godfrey

Worzel here, ever try to duplicate a much loved dish from your travels?,  Godfrey did , when he pined it was for the Australian food he gorged on.” I believe, he wrote, it was redolent of sun and soil and simple life always outdoors”. I oft make apricot chicken now, on Tuesdays of course. 

I have always loved chickens, as a lad all about our home they ranged free, they gobbled the beets I threw out the window each morning, provided fine, fresh eggs perfect for chippy tea.

Landing up in Australia, I was hungry for adventure, the pies, peas and damper, the bully beef I scoffed left the memory of beets and herring, far away back home cross the sea.

I was smitten by her beauty, the bonny, sunburned faces, the brown, rolling hills, the folks welcomed me, I gloried in Vegemite, fresh fish, roast pumpkin, and every corner I roamed there was Apricot Chicken.

Boiled and broiled , sour and sweet, twice just the apricots, once just the chicken feet. I had it with sauces, chunky and smooth,even tough old rooster full of pin feathers barely removed.

I have always loved chickens…running for the food scraps, fighting over tinned spaghetti, enjoying a dust bath, hot itchy afternoons. Try it baked in Russian Dressing, or freeze dried in a packet for to camp. And shared with friends, neath the southern stars, round the fire at the fruit pickers camp..

Of course, I also learned early how deftly beetroot could be hidden in burger and sandwich roll…indeed I learned.

RAINWATER COFFEE- from Godfrey

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This is the story, in verse and vingette of my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey- he described himself as “A poet and professional fig picker”. Always blithe with money, yet paying his way. I found this poem in his “Urban Pentimento” journal, on a laboring job, Godfrey had given the okay for the on site “Port-A- John” be strapped shut, hoisted onto a truck, and driven away, not knowing the boss man was sitting inside…he indeed was adrift, seeking a new job.   

Tonight, I hurried for home in a spring shower, weighted down with sundries. I grabbed a quick coffee to enjoy as the rain eased, leaning on the harbor wall for that first, hot sip. Water had pooled cup’s lid rim, tasting both sweet and cool before the hot, bitter richness…now I knew what Godfrey meant when he muttered about craving rainwater coffee…and watching ships head out. If you dislike coffee, any other hot beverage will do..

Godfrey writes-  Still cold and dark mid April morning. And here I am, adrift in the city. In line at a cafe’ came a sailor clad for foul weather, he spoke softly- said “I can tell by the cuffs of your coat that you come from away”. Indeed so, I replied, are you bound for warmer shores this rainy day?”

When I bid him farewell cup in hand I returned to the street. The first sip I took was of rainwater coffee, I was wet chilled through as the good brew  warmed me …recalled from lost youth a vivid memory.

Rainwater coffee, kneeling in the sand, fire coaxed from damp drift wood, scrape the last grounds out, bottom of the tin. Great, fat rain on hissing twigs, fog bound the sheltered bay I camp in.

Lonely,  concrete  tub entombed city tree, at the bus stop crows perch, check me out with unfiltered cheek, crow curiosity.  Spring rain pours from the nebulous roof, of a decrepit shelter, where sodden religious literature has been scattered, it sweetens the rim of my paper cup of coffee. My coat cuffs worn and tattered in the wearing. I drink rainwater coffee mid the bitter eyed, waiting, shift workers swearing.

My ship, the #50 bus, lurches from the curb, bow on into the storm it pulls away. I close my eyes as we set sail, remember the line squalls, recall the Southern sky at night, and the taste of rainwater coffee in the gale…

HAWKEN’S VIGNETTES- from Worzel

As dear to me as the son I forgot to have, Hawken is the young vagabond who met up with Godfrey- one fateful day at a Manitoba truck-stop. His tidy letters rarely arrived creased or tea stained, or written on scrolls of petrol station paper towel roll, or lunch bag as Godfrey’s had. ..but he had fully embraced my old friends spirit, and we looked forward to hearing of his latest adventures.

I woke today, he wrote, under three inches of snow, yet snug neath my blanket, which I lifted off, frozen, as Godfrey would have- after a “Dingo’s Breakfast”- a wee and a look around, I sat down to think of life’s blessings..here are some thoughts.

Blessed are they who know the awn of ripened grain, the blue in summer of flax in flower, the shy coming of springtime on the high plain. Fortunate the odd ones in- they see and hear in poetry and art- create music born of wind in seashells- unprejudiced of heart.

Blessed the Curmudgeon- I read a story of “The Shannon One”- At 82 she’s out on the runway, in orange coveralls, waving her cane. She stands in protest of cruise missile and warplane.

Blessed wake the sleepers on beaches- morning bedding cool and damp, glup and plamp of porridge, driftwood fire, good hot tea, limber up- long day ahead we shall tramp.

Blessed are the kind- A racing horse, a braw young stallion, was led up to an elder chap. Once robust to, now in a wheelchair confined. The tall bay colt, and retired horseman, they regarded one another, the colt lowered slowly his handsome head- gently rested velvet nose on the old man’s shoulder. If, indeed time waits, it was in private exchange spoken in horse between the two, an old, old, language, it contains no questions, understood it is by very few.

Fortunate the bold- For they will see true, wild Flamingos. Will venture up the back roads, marvel at the distant sight of Rocky Mountain Sheep, and cross the cable swing bridge in stride, will alone hear the music, know the secrets of the canyons deep and wide.

Blessed the mischief makers- the seekers, the keepers of the stories. For they shall understand “Werfesterria”, “To wander the forest searching out it’s mystery” Will ask of, and be provided shade and warmth from the oak tree.

Blessed the teachers- “I was but a sweaty tramper, muddy, weary to the knees, I sat down where the pathway forked, taking my ease. I’d laughed at my teachers years before, “a poem to memorize, why it did not even rhyme!, Lectured Mrs Bentley- “You, Hawken, will understand in time”. “Yes, now as I chose the climb, up the trail less worn, but much more ruggedy…the words I memorized hike with me- and I give silent thanks for the companionship of poetry.

DOUBLE SET OF CORNERS-Bye Worzel

When Godfrey set off a tramping, out beyond the Imber Ranges, he left at cool of morning hitching…..was out on the roadside as the dawn chorus sang.    He was headed up the track known as “Double Set of Corners”, from a town so remote folk still peered out the drapes at passing strangers, and still got excited when their telephones rang. ..As it worked out a shepard gave Godfrey a ride, and days work moving sheep up valley side, he rode on the truck with skinny, eager collies, and another week of labor in the lamb shearing shed- now again was mid morning , deep bracken fern trail side, hours of pleasant climbing , Double Set Of Corners Hut miles ahead.

He found poetry in the pace  of his boots in sand and shingle, the clink and jingle, of something deep inside his pack, and the map he brought to follow, to the spring at Fugitive Hollow, a mere formality.  For Godfrey’ venturing off trail was not a risk, but joyous discovery.       He tramped the track known as “Double set Of Corners”, legend has it named by drovers herding cattle to the coast. And on narrow Fernhill Saddle, a steep, stony bend, with another just below,  long ago send a reckless, young cowhand to his end….

On those high, lonely ridges the wise tramper knows- stay warm in the hut, write in your journal, read a book when the cold, wet, cruel Southerly blows.   Godfrey stood on the summit of the lovely Imber Ranges, sweat cooled his back, he shook a pebble from his boot, in no hurry on this warm day to complete the long trek down, down from the track known as “Double Set Of Corners”, to the next beautiful track, beyond the next remote town…

THE BRAIDED RIVER- From Godfrey to Worzel

A letter came, tattered, stained, stamp stuck askew, I opened it carefully, lest it tear. For I knew, he had reached the far Westland, had written by firelight, far from the big city- “Preparing to tramp up The Braided River”, wrote Godfrey.

“Upper middle of nowhere is where I’ll spend summer, where gold is washed down to the rip-rap at Celebrate Bar, in the shallows I’ll pan for the jade or gold flakes or a nugget to mount for you, to wear on a chain, when we meet again.  “And at Dream Big Bar, where river meets sea is a best place to fossick for gem-stone. There sand and water form a natural tumbler, and the days pass peaceful as I am here quite alone.   Indeed, I dream big on the Braided River, no human rubbish, or shout or sign, in the white, squeaky sand the only bare foot prints are mine.

Treasure Bar, on the great river wide, higher up into the mountains the light from the snow fields, by day and the night sky…cause me to recall the wet, dirty streets left below.                      Was where a ring of gold I found, painted on the tar-mac- words chalked near to washed away- “Someone has lost their Halo”….why the vision stayed with me at that time, I could not know.  “If there existed, such a place to find it again, it may be up Treasure Bar on the shingle bend.   “Just one last pan, and a look at the sky, for the rain was coming, summer done. “One last one before I go, panned a perfect wee nugget of gold in the shape of a halo.  Dream big, treasure, celebrate, where the river was shallow, and current slack, I stood knee deep in thanks. For the gold I had gathered.; bent low to the water, emptied my tin of dust and nuggets and gave it all back.”   ” I kept the wee piece in the shape of a halo- shall have it set on your choice of a chain, when we walk arm in arm, those wet city streets, for you when we meet again..                 (With Thanks To Lonewolf)

THE HAGGIS IS GONE- And Beatrice’s Song- From Worzel

They teased him about his dread of beets, they teased him about his lack of teeth, they teased him about his ragged clothes, they teased him about the dented car his grouchy mother drove…Beatrice spoken softly of the childhood she and Godfrey shared as we explored the Welsh countryside in her equally decrepit vehicle. I was a prairie girl, knew the cold, but never the cold of the piercing, damp wind off the mountains, that cleared the fog and coal smoke, the blowing snow just long enough to reveal the magic of a castle, then veil it again, this modest and mystic treasure of a land. It was not until my third visit to Sonsie Farm, and the old puce house, that Beatrice shared more of herself. Propped against the canoe in her sitting room, and two dead plants was Godfrey’s old “Chupa Street Guitar”, dusted, with shiny new strings. Beatrice explained, “Sugar Mulgrew has taught me three chords, “I have always sung while shoveling manure, and have written a bit down, would you care to hear it? “indeed , yes, I told her, indeed.

  THE HAGGIS IS GONE- The haggis is gone, for there is no more, only beets and sardines, in the country store. And the store is far, far miles away, no haggis left, now many a day. The haggis is gone. Oh the track it climbs, round roots and stone, over ridges it winds, my boots are worn, the nights are cold, and though I dislike towns, it’s where haggis is sold.    Now down to the meadow, in the shady lea, where the cows have been, comes sweet memory..on the summer green, rest your bonnie head, as I spread cold haggis, over fresh rye-bread.       But the haggis is gone!, still I recall your face, the poems, the stories, and your old suitcase, and our childhood shared, love was all we knew, we could not be broken, me and you. But the haggis is gone, and the trail ends to, and I’m at a crossroads, it is winter dawn, with this dented guitar, for the haggis is gone, for the haggis is gone….

( The cows like this one, Beatrice smiled)  BEATRICE’S SONG- When was it you last saw Godfrey, was he up the high country when summertime came?  Asleep in the sun or did you pass on a switch-back?, or a cold morning campsite heading out bound again…Was it in autumn you last walked beside him?, down to the orchard the crisp, fallen leaves. Sit on his strong shoulders to reach those last apples, frost melts on the branches, runs cold up your sleeves.             Was it deep winter you last laughed together? Late nights over coffee by wood fires glow, let the snowdrifts fill in our tracks to the highway, talk of places he’d been and new places to go. Mt Thimbleweed, Smell Fox, Yampa Valley, Dragon’s Bay, all the way to the wild Otago.  What of the mornings I still hear his singing? And as hot afternoons fade dusty to eve, trout rise lazy in the cool of the stream bed, their ripples his laughter, I have to believe.    When was it you last saw Godfrey? was he up the high country when summertime came?  Turnberry Canyon, Holyoak Clearing, the rough scramble down to the wild Tasman Sea.    (I to, enjoyed it Beatrice, I to).    From Worzel.

THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE- From Godfrey

Well, it’s no enchanted cottage, the exhausted tramper thought, but it will do. His heavy pack rain soaked through, his feet felt made of bone and badger bristles from the chill. And it had been a very long, hard, steep climb over rocks, up to the high land of Holyoake Clearing Hill.

Twas a small, sheet metal hut, with rain barrel well, a long drop loo down a grassy path nearby. Godfrey stood alone amid the drifting mist and darkening sky. Canvas covered bunk, hot supper on the stove. A candle stub for light, Godfrey settles in to write.

Writes on the ratty pages of the hut book left for all who shelter there, looks for messages in Welsh or perhaps someone he knew passed by before. The floor is planks worn smooth by years of boots, damp wooly socks and sand tracked in. There is sign of possum’s rude midnight intrusion.

‘Enchanted Cottage’ it is not, a Canadian has written neatly, “So hot and dry, do not rely on stream beds for your water along the inland track” “There is half a copy of “Naked Came I” on the mantel in paperback, wrote another. Weather bound by snow nearly a week, the other half is in the hut down in Torrent Bay, the newish one built by the creek.

Godfrey had read “Naked Came I”, but not the tawdry “No Other Love” a tramper so kind had left behind. It was a warm and grateful vagabond read “No Other Love” until sleep in the tiny, dark hut. Firelight aglow, and soft rain that thrummed on the tin roof above..No other love, he had since a lad in Wales, dreamed of finding an enchanted cottage, the lure of walking paths and secret trails, drew him up the inland route  un- fearing, scrambling over boulders up to Holyoake Clearing.

Morning dawning, already hot, looking out the hut door, all was a glow, gorse bushes, snow grass, the ocean and islands, golden beaches so far below. Even the tank water shimmered now, full to the brim. And the shabby old hut, painted horse-slobber-green seemed to speak to only him. “Enchanted cottage I may never be, but vagabond bold, where you roam, speak well of me.

For up Holyoake Clearing where waits time, I shelter all who believe- I keep safe the rugged who dare the climb, I shelter the seeker who make the climb….