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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COMES THE SUN TO THE HILL- From Worzel and Godfrey

Worzel here, Though at home most anywhere without beets, Godfrey loved the faded, little towns best. “I like to just sit”, he wrote. In ratty kilt, battered suitcase at his side, with the faded pink negligee’ plugging a tear, Godfrey enjoyed tea and pastries , wrote letters or journal, watched and listened as the whirled passed by..”.Daw yr haul i Bryn”, he muttered in Welsh if he felt I was rushing the given day….

I recalled this wisdom, translated for me with a rather wet “Feh” by Alice, his eccentric sister. “Comes The sun to The Hill”…like waiting for the tide, or Slibber Sauce to gel, or your birthday, especially if you fib like me, and enjoy it three times a year. eventually it will cease raining, said Alice- relax and wait.  

Today I climbed a hillock, not a mountain or a tor or crag, but climb I did up to the peak. And there I rested elder-knee, looked out across the vast sprawl of what once was farms, now city.

Comes the sun to the hill, to the little towns Godfrey made home in his travels. Like Ceylon in Saskatchewan where we two met, sun comes to the coulees of Ceylon town, where the kids play outside all year round. Hear the crack of ball bat summer evening sweet, scrape of hockey stick on the frozen street. The young will leave home but the town carry on, wish we all could know a little place like Ceylon.

Cowdown- nestled deep in a vale, we welcomed the warmth of the sun to the hill as we hitched a ride. So cold the carrot in my pocket froze solid, snow blew oer the valley        hiding a castle on the far river side.

I recall little of the lift that finally left us in Cowdown, only the chip shop, in the wee town. Hot slabs of good fish and chips, malt vinegar, no plates to be had, just spread out on newspaper.  Come the sun to the hills of Wiltshire so old, come the sun to Cowdown on days so cold, that the carrot in my pocket froze…a journey legendary, early days on the road for The vagabond Godfrey.

Comes the sun to the hills that cradle the mighty Buller. Steeped in mist, untamed in her splendor, one of Godfrey’s favorite places, is Inangahua, on a bend in the river.

One shop and fuel pump, pub and hotel, roadside forge, imagine riding on a coach, long ago down the Buller Gorge. Sun comes to the hills, stopped and rested a spell at the ruins of a “Pub with No Beer”, all that remains of “Lyell”. Wrote Godfrey, “I felt peace there, no ghosties feared I”, as the sun was gone, and stars bright over the Buller, feared only the swarms of the nasty biting sand fly…

I thought of how I missed Godfreys’ stories- of late summer afternoon, the sun bleached, peeling murals, hum and rumble of the highway, a place discovered in his youth called “Nar Nar Goon”- East of Melbourne can be found, this mural town.

In conditioned reflex the barman wields his rag, laconic story teller of a tiger snake he shot, behind the pan in the lady’s loo. On the pub walls, photos hang of rugby teams and race horses. In Nar Nar Goon, indeed the sun comes to the hill, seek out a shady spot to rest, rest as dos the gray Kangaroo….

Oh little town of” Ethelbert-“fond in my memory, clinging to the northern edge, of the Canadian prairie….gossip in the hotel bar tonight, laughter in the diner and take away counter of the “Chicken Delight”.

Comes the sun to the low hills, welcomes spring, old billboard on the one road in” 1971 Ethelbert Homecoming”. You may be told the story from one who was there, of chaos and coins, rolling everywhere. In the laundry-mat, Janice Krame put boots to the soap and bleach machine.

“Did the cops come all the way out from Grandview”? was there five police, or just the Ethelbert town two”?.  Janice went on with her laundry, – save the soap and bleach dispenser, no one was hurt and The cops did not arrest her, talk turns to crops,  and till the the sun will come to the hill… life will carry on in Ethelbert.

Home now, rested and warm- I sit at my window in turquoise chair, looking out at what Godfrey discovered long ago, my “Wall of Illusion”. When the trees are in full foliage, the wall is a wall of endless amusement. Today for example, a chap in a suit, carrying a bouquet of roses and purple wrapped box of chocolates from the posh store hurried down the wall. The illusion worked, he disappeared and a street person pushing his cart emerged, Godfrey would have loved it…

CAUGHT IN THE RAIN-From Worzel and friends

Worzel here, I guffaw at romantic notions of being “Caught in the rain”. Lost to me in elderly dislike of rubbery outer wear and being blown home, with a griping wet ass and sodden grocery bags. Godfrey knew the rain, lived in harmony with it, being caught out wet made the deep, hot bath and tea more of a treat. 

He oft pondered the subject, rainy days spent blanket wrapped in my turquoise chair, as I am this Sunday, looking out over busy Wharf street. I asked friends, (and his sister Alice) for their stories of being “Caught in the rain”. This is an old one, from the late Larry, free Advice Wino….

Long ago, stormy morning, passed The Salvation Army, heard there playing piano, The Vagabond Godfrey. So wet, windy and cold the shelter opened early. Sodden gear spread to dry, smell of toast and hot coffee. Though I seldom dropped by,  stood and paused in the doorway, he was barely proffessinal on that battered piano, such peace was in the music from Godfrey.

Said he learned by ear from his sister back home in Wales. Hour by hour she practiced the notes and scales,” I know now she knew what I knew, when Alice did not think I could carry a tune in a pot, and if I dared touch her piano, risked being tossed headlong out in the rain if ever caught”

Sister Alice is a well known prankster in her home village, Skibbereen, in Wales.  

Fish and chips, pies, pastries and tea by the pot, tastes best after you have been caught. Caught doing what??, you ask, do you imply that I may avoid pranking, in order to stay warm and dry?.

There is joy in being caught in the rain, the town cop, Brian dislikes my stick, and soggy fur wrap, he holds getting his hat wet in some disdain. I push my step father Arthur in his chair through puddles, and once got the poor old chap mired axle deep in wet grass. Arthur shook his cane, and bellowed and swore that he had not been mired in deep grass since the war, When the firemen came, to lift Arthur out, we had good guffaws and handshakes all about. ..

Caught we were as the rain poured down, caught the jolly pranksters of Skibbereen Town. From “Alice- A life in Praise of Myself”.

Benny and Adelaide- They are a world roaming pair of elderly rogues, they have made themselves at home on Sonsie Farm, with Beatrice- Godfrey’s lifelong friend, with whom I am compiling his story. “Feh, wrote Beatrice- I was born caught in the rain”. Benny and Adelaide were happy to share-..

“On most every journey, save “The Nullarbor Plain”, we with our trunk have been caught in the rain. a useful shelter, our trunk, huddled under it many a bleak, gray dawn, and with purloined paddles, carried us, waving like the Royals I once served, down The River Avon.

“Our trunk was misplaced at a bus station once, we found it on a lost and found shelf, boldly, I Adelaide wrested it, from the arms, of a rascal claimed our trunk for himself.

We will seek yellow houses till we roll up and cark, though the weather be mizzling and dark our path. We shall dig a hole neath our trunk in the peat, build a smoky,  gypsy fire for heat, then bask for hours in luxury bath…when caught in the rain? Our old steamer trunk will shelter and warm us again…

Indeed, Benny and Adelaide’s decrepit plaid trunk is their cherished possession.  

Young vagabond, Hawken wrote- He was “The Son I Forgot To Have”, and a fine storyteller.  

By age 11, he wrote, I had worn out every “Billy and Blaze” book in our town library. Boy and horse adventures, fine artwork, how I longed for such a brave pony. A friend of my parents had a pony, they oft dropped by to complain about the neighbors– “Dirty Hippies”. The pony was a gift to their son from the hippies, in hope it would give him interest in something besides the violin. It did not, when dad and I checked out “Ralph”, the pony, he stood un groomed, definatley no “Blaze”, we could hear violin music from the house. Ralph regarded us with a world weary snort. He was perfect…

Horses are dangerous, you had a cousin once bitten on the head, no bare feet in the barn yard you’ll get worms, no drinking from the trough or hose, gracious the germs, warned my mother. “Don’t let him runoff, griped dad, you won’t be getting another’ Grandparents bickered over who fell off the mower back in 1922 and got dead, horses are dangerous, in chorus my family oft said.

Fond memory of a rainy day, first taste of freedom from school and family. A fine, cool morning early summer, heat held at bay by the rain, it tickled my bare feet, it damped the dust along the back road. We stopped and drank cool from a hose, scent of hot pine needles, deep green beyond the ditch in the shadows.

Ripe grew thimble berries tart, I gorged on wild black berries and apples by the river, Ralph grazed as I sat. I will always remember this day, the downpour we were caught in, sheltered neath the eave of a tumbledown homestead, long abandoned.

I held the wet reins of my chestnut pony, saw the bolt of lightning strike a tree across the valley, felt the mild shock of it pass through me…

Never told anyone this story. Caught in many a rain since, but this day I kept as my own. Trotted home late and hungry, used one of Ma’s good towels to rub down brave Ralph the pony.

“Where have you been?, mother shrilled. We were certain you were eaten, drowned or killed”. Covered in berry stains, torn shirt, “When I was your Age,” yelled dad. No lecture since would ever dampen my spirit of adventure- or take away the day I had had, caught in the rain….

 

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….

SUSPICIOUS MOLES- And other stories of Fog- Worzel and Friends

I came upon a diary of Godfrey’s wholey devoted to stories of fog. He did love a thick fog, fogged up bus windows were for random poetry, ground mist in a lowland pumpkin patch, foggy mornings in the city he would drag me out walking…

We sought “things in the fog”, the thrum of a wakening uptown, pie scented steam from the bakeshop mingling in air as the baker steps out in the alley, shift workers peering into the gloom for emerging buses, I once found a twenty dollar note in a rose bush, Godfrey swore roses smelled better in fog.   

Inspired thus, I asked Beatrice, Hawken and Alice to share their stories of fog. Adelaide, Benny, and Alice’s partner “Nudge” Giggleswick also chimed in. I included a fog story of my own- welcome the fog…

Fog- from Beatrice-   Godfrey and I were six when we met over beets on a tray. Mingled with coal smoke the fog in Wales where we lived oft hung low the whole all day. Godfrey believed there dwelt things in the fog, we walked to school and home together, that swish in the grass became to Godfrey- “A dragons tail roadside in the heather lurking, distant ring of a hammer in fog, trolls in a mine were working.

 

Fairies we knew, drank only from bluebells of foggy dew,and that signpost end of the street in fog, was a spooky old man in a hat, waiting to jump out and scare you. We knew in summer when fog burned away, came promise of a good, warm day, we roamed the beach from end to end- till evening mist filled bay and hills again.

We’d hurry our ponies home at a jog, for Godfrey believed there were things in the fog….

Benny and Adelaide wish to share-In fog we have hidden from police and justice, seeking sausage thieves, they have blundered past us. We love the fog for many a reason, and welcome it in any season.

George Street Fiddler- from Hawken- I once met a fair maiden down east, she was a George Street fiddler. Summer cool and foggy in the old harbor city, I wished time to get to know her.

I told her my story, down George Street we sat, I with knapsack, she fiddle and bow…told me her first love was bittersweet, not all that long ago. “Was a hockey player, had the scar on his chin, folks back in that prairie town knew he would skate to glory, and he did till a bad game, left him in deep pain, told at twenty four, “son you will not play ever again”.

She was a George Street fiddler in old St John- I a mere vagabond. But you asked of fog?, and Cape Spear the furthest point east I could go. Watched it roll in from The Grand Banks, to the lighthouse where I camped below.

Autumn back on George Street the haunting airs of the fiddle made it no chore to find her. Over coffee I asked, “What became of your bold hockey player”?. She said over a long year healing, he took up the fiddle encouraged by me. He went home, to the farm and town on the prairie, and  plays the fiddle, plays it well, at dances in town and festival. Rivers meet in Winnipeg’s city square, seek The Forks, oft he fiddles down there.

Settled I am now in Comox Valley, my horses snorted and stamped this morning, I being up late- they were hungry. Breath formed fog, and I noticed the coats of mare and colt getting shaggy. Warm coats the sign of impending winter, a reminder to write that George Street  Fiddler, invite her if she pleases journey way cross the country, to the fiddle festival happening next summer.

I hope she will reply with fiddle tune, we shall hope for fog, and full harvest moon, dance cross the fog neath harvest moon.

The Fog- From Alice- A life in Praise of Myself-  

The “Fog” it was a manky old club bar we played in the days of “The Uncle Lou Band”. Near London,   there was always a drunk got threw out the door, onto the Tillbury Docks when they got out of hand. Between songs I’d take a break most nights, while barkeeps cleaned up after the fights. I’d gulp fresh air and watch the lights of the Fish and Chip Shop across the street. Watch folks hurry home with paper wrapped dinner with perhaps battered sausage and mushy peas. The fish shop would be closed when we left “The Fog”- but the nasty old pub lives on, lives on in my curmudgeon memories.

Suspicious Moles- from Nudge Giggleswick-  When fog coated our Welsh village in gray, oozed Slibber Sauce like, cold colored  CullenSkink, moist as Walrus fur, I recall a warning from Dr Uren, “Beware of suspicious moles”, he warned our mother.

At night when I lay abed, dozing to the clink of whiskey glass, muttering of aunties, uncles guffaw…”Dr Uren told me,” watch for suspicious moles”, over all the other racket shrilled our Ma.

When we played in the forest, I avoided stream bank, fallen log, sandy soil where a mole may burrow. Not trusting the mole I may meet in dim light of fog. “Beware of suspicious moles, I told my teacher. “Oh Miss, I suspect a mole has run under the coal hod.” All I earned was a slap on the head, and a note home- Please see Dr Uren about Nudge, Mrs Giggleswick, he is odd”.

When fog obscures the outhouse, such a long, cold walk down the track. Drips when finally you get to sit, drips down your back. Things may there well be in the fog, ghosties and trolls, but I take advice from wise Dr Uren- “Beware Of Suspicious Moles”.

Hitchhiking in fog with our Mother- From Worzel  –  I’ve kept this one inside me. (Vital to keep a story of your own- wrote Godfrey) But it is time for sharing, so after years I will, recalling my mother, legendary “Three Mile Lil”.

It was before brother Cudberth was born. We set out Ma, Inkerman, Fillipendula and I. Large rumbling trucks passed us close in the fog, so thick we could not see the east bound freight train pass to, just the whistle moan, I held tight to my brother’s hand, in the warm coat Fillipendula had outgrown.

But my feet were chilled in gumboots, with newspaper stuffed deep down, I was five years old, on the Al-Sask  border in soup thick fog we hitchhiked to town. For me it seemed forever between lifts and stops, till we finally reached the warmth of the bright, noisy shops.

Out of the mist, like wayward ships, to the hotel cafe’s safe harbor, Lil treated us all to hot gravy on chips.  She sat with coffee and smoke as we ate, sneaking a bit now and then off my plate, a rancher two booths down paid our bill, well known character in those parts, I learned years later was my mother- “Three Mile Lil”.

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….

NAME THAT HERB-A memoir from Dhilys Pugh

Beatrice here, Yes, it lives. My contributions to “The Saga” have indeed been skint of late. Worzel and I are back in concord, regarding Alice’s dreadful stories, she was Godfrey’s only sibling, and like her or not, adds a ridiculous verisimilitude to his story. 

Godfrey was my lifelong friend, and one of his favorite adventures was two weeks spent stranded among travelers, in a remote alpine hostel, road and railway cut off by flooding. Worzel has reported many persons writing, claiming they were there, that January, 1983. All recall the Chili Pot, the sheer intensity of the foul weather, and the odd young man who so disliked beets.  

This letter came from Wrexham, not far from here. Dhilys Pugh was there, in Arthur’s Pass so long ago…her daughter writes.” When our mother retired, she went daft, and decided to hitchhike alone about “The Far Antipodes”. Off before we could place her in a home, off with a backpack she went”. 

Mum lived her dream, returning fit and full of stories. “It were serious trampers, turned up in Arthur’s Pass, driven down by the rain from peaks and tracks. A Swiss couple, a Bongo Van full of Aussie girls, two dour Swedes, two Americans, Sally and Jim on bikes. Brian, the Canadian lad, always chopping wood. Barry, the “Whinging Pom”, with his own tea towels..and Godfrey- an odd looking character with a sign- “No Pasaran Beets”, which he propped by the kitchen sink.  

It merely rained the first day we spent stranded in high Arthur’s Pass. By mid morn the third day, safe to say it poured. On the fourth the wind blew 7 bells of crapaud, we began the chili, and played “Name that Herb”, from ancient packets and jars in the kitchen cupboard.

On the 5th day we had a contest- How many time was the “Mike Oldfield ” record played as it rained on the second? Godfrey won, the last banana- 8 and one half times he reckoned.

By day nine stranded in Arthur’s Pass, we completed a damp jigsaw puzzle- “David” missing the naughty bit. The chili was served again that night, a tin a creamed corn thrown in it. The Swedes baked bread, Godfrey loaned me his copy of “Naked Came I”, on the tenth day I curled up, close to the fire and read.

We played “Name that Herb”, from the odd smelling baggy, Sally from Texas found under her bunk. Godfrey’s deft scrounging produced ginger snaps, with cream for the coffee to dunk.

Should you ever be stranded in Arthur’s Pass, waterfalls appear like magic when mist clears over the tussocks and snowgrass. There is perfume of coal smoke and wood fire overall ,peaks loom, faded mural hangs on the hostel common room wall.

With Godfrey I walked to the roadside chapel, to pray that the rain may stop, we had a guffaw over diapers and pet food, all that was left in the only shop. In fun, we played Scrabble in Welsh just to baffle the Scrabble Champ, Brian, very earnest Canadian.

The Australian  girls were good humored, yet kept to them self. Dour Swedes and Swiss longed for to ski, Brian chopped wood, he had read all the moldy books on the dusty shelf. We all tried to add what we had to the chili, vegemite, an apple, half a bag of stale muesli. “No Pasaran Beets” Godfrey’s sign read,  seriously being the elder, guarding the pot and washing up fell to me..

We stumbled over tussock grass, down to the river, every morning for to stretch out and walk. Humbled by walls of stone, thick Rata clad in full crimson flower. We sought the green jade, washed from the flood water. I found a fine, small piece, Godfrey made a wee bag from one of his socks. (Knitting a skill he learned from his own Mother) I wear it round my neck, on a ribbon  he gleaned from another.

Godfrey said- “It will ease arthritic ache and pain”, cement friendship. “A gift from the gorge will carry you a journey, and home to Arthurs’ Pass one day again”.

Naked came I, from the shower stall on the 14th day of rain. There was hullabaloo outside the loo, with word that an east bound train had gotten through. Only Godfrey   remained last of the rain, his socks not quite dry hung by the fire, in silence I sat,  prodding an ember…trying to put thanks into words, that I would write fondly of Arthurs’ Pass, and would always remember..

For he’d trod from mud and knee deep clouds, down from the hut on Mt Ghoul, tramped alone. He was wringing his wet socks into a plant, whistling “Sweet Molly Malone”

In the tiny Hostel office, hear the warden complain, midnight in your bunk, waken to the drumming rain. Plan in your mind, the building of a raft if need be, remember being stranded, playing “Name that Herb ” and that dreadful pot of chili.

“I did not return to Arthurs’ Pass, many years later, back home walking one evening by “The Irish Times” pub, someone was singing “Sweet Molly Malone”. Round my neck, I felt for that green stone, recalled the large salad  I befriended, when back down in the city after two weeks of dubious chili. …

Here, Mum’s story ended. Restless back home, we built her a Donkey Cart, and with “Arthur”, a gentle beast, enjoyed her dotage hosteling, and prodding about in waterfalls. Mum remained adament, that feet must be kept warm and dry.