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 Godfrey the charmer brought out laden tray- “Never Pass Up a Bun Offered Free”- said he, my friend, a fine navigator…

SISTER ALICE And her Teeth

Worzel here- This tale is about as far from wisdom as a tale can be- yet it begs to be told.On my yearly visits to Wales, spent in the peaceful folds of Sonsie Farm, working with Beatrice on Godfrey’s story, I had never been invited inside the cottage his sister Alice shared with her Ma, and aged stepfather Arthur.

Nor was I asked over this time- but to Beatrice’s dismay, have managed to piece together the story of Alice’s teeth, and her early years of pranking..

Let me tell you a true tale of my dear sister , a rare glimpse of Alice as a silly teenager, six years older than me- the future vagabond Godfrey.  Alice cared not for lads, or frocks or school, loved only her piano and what mischief as she could get up to.

When I was a baby we’d sit on the curb, Alice poked me in the spine till I’d cry, she would sing a long ballad, dirge of parents lost to shipwreck, extract coins from concerned passers by. Alice daubed me in beet juice a scarlet hue, it looked like I had the plaque, and made us the odd penny, but calls to the district nurse to…

I never questioned Alice, even when old enough to articulate thought, for she was my sister and always shared the cream buns and sweets her act bought. Chased away from the shops, all but the cluttered one of mean Mr Daggsmitt, there were great hiding places within it.

Grim man with a dirty neck, lived behind a beaded curtain, heard him shouting at the Telly, watching Cricket- his full set of teeth in a jar weighed down the newspapers, and as he chased me past the dog food sacks, sister Alice nicked it.

Alice writes- Between tormenting Godfrey, and being shipped off south to live as a nun, I had a full set of dentures one summer to prank everyone. I called on the Mulgrew Twins, handy with tools, to fashion a hinge and a spring. Fitted on the end of a retractable stick, the teeth with practice made a wonderful chatter and click.

I tried the teeth out on Godfrey, he fled for the hills at the sight of the them, chomping on beets where he usually sat. The dentures answered the door when a salesman rang, going door to door pedaling cheap tat. I took them to church where proudly the teeth sat beside me on my hat in the pew, laughed so hard she wet herself, did Sugar Mulgrew.

At an early age, I discovered by chance I could drive portly Brian, Batley Town cop up the wall. All year long he wore a thick, wooly vest, and threatened me when he saw the teeth with arrest. Told our Ma- “Alice is bound for social failure down the low track”. Brian loved his pie and chips, until the teeth crept up behind, and grabbed a big bite of his tea snack.

Beatrice, reluctantly added to the tale of the teeth, writes-” Alice oft was seen smiling, bicycling to town, teeth on their stick over her arm. She fished with the old dentures off Skibbereen Bridge, and to reach treats Godfrey had hidden for himself, deep in a high cupboard or rear of the fridge.” We used the teeth, they were handy rounding up stray ewes on the farm, nipped their scruffy heels better than a Corgi”, Beatrice years later told me.

Berry picking was a job Alice abhorred, yet this year of the teeth, and standing on a wide board over the thorns, she could reach the best fruit, have the teeth gently pluck it, plunk went the blackberries, filled Alice’s bucket.

She played piano twice a year in the town recital, Alice played well, and the forgiving folk of Batley always gave her a long ovation.When Alice smiled and played “Downtown” her favorite song, the teeth chattered atop her piano, to the music’s vibration.

Brian the town cop, called a public meeting to discuss “This Teeth Situation”. Even Margaret Tuttle brought her soapbox, began the gathering with a rant, tea was served, coffee to from an urn, everyone concerned about the dentures got to speak, everybody had their turn.

“She poked them teeth through the romance novel shelf and nipped me bum”. Reported Norris Maeve- new librarian.  Yawned  Alice and Godfrey’s  tipsy Uncle Lou, “she leaned oer the bridge with those teeth, snapped me up a fine trout”. Fail to see what all the fuss is about”.

Back then when at a bank, a teller sat high above behind a wicket, in his tie was so employed Kenneth Hind, reported Alice came in for her pocket money, and nasty old teeth snatched it from me with a snicket…

The owner of the dentures spoke last of the group, “Tis a dire wrong done me, my papers blew away and I gum down only gruel and soup.  Wealthy Tenbrooks Smythe The second, son of The First, father of The Third Tenbrooks, widely regarded as the worst, stood up wheezing to pontificate.

Ignoring Margaret’s soapbox his strode up on the stage…”Well let me tell you all Tenbrooks began..”I am certain…Alice hidden behind the curtain slid the teeth out where they clacked along with Tenbrooks Smythe The Second as he ranted on the “Dry Rot in the Youth of Today, and how” Alice ought be paddled on her Jenny Mule behind, in Batley Town Square on full display of all.”  And as he finally looked down on the teeth, what began as a soft snort soon grew to loud guffaw, till pandemonium swept the length of Batley Town Hall.

A pile up formed at the lady’s loo spilling out into lower High Street, the pub and chip shop next door, the town cop took chase after Alice, long gone minus the teeth on her bicycle for home, he called for more constables to come from Skibbereen, but was trampled by the toilet crowd, attempting to keep order on his own.

Before she bolted, Alice wisely, passed the teeth to loyal Godfrey, who strolled home that evening, quite innocently. He bit the heads of weeds and thistles with the teeth, all in fun, but a scant few days later…Alice was caught, sent off by train to be reformed as a fine young lady, and potentially a nun.

Did the dentures also make the long journey, down south to Newbury?..We shall let Alice tell of that in good time- for hers is a whole other story.


Worzel here- Down home on Wharf Street, always random, season of the year rarely an issue, we enjoy the brief and spectacular “Irish Sunset'”, a term that Godfrey coined. For perhaps five minutes at eve the wending street of heritage brick buildings is washed in a brilliant orange glow.

The worn out grass and trees of the tent camp below our window are lit the most vivid green. Campers pause, look skyward and west cross the harbor.The cops and by-law officers relax. The young woman serving tables in the corner patio bar rests her tray, shares delight in the beauty until the boss barks her back to work…

Folks eating in the cool, dark sushi-bar miss out. Even the silvery fittings on the carriage horses’ harness glint in the light as she waits at the cross walk. City workers cease banging trash cans. Leaning from my window, I cannot hear “10 Men”, a lost soul who paces the waterfront most days shouting- “I am 10 men, I am the federal Government!”….IO Men is there, relaxing on the park steps, ever present plastic cup in hand, basking in the peace of “Irish Sunset”…

Time waits for us, despite all we remain awe inspired.

Wrote Godfrey on the subject- From the age I could waddle, nappy dragging behind, Grandma swung me to the sky, I was cherished and held, I loved how the baking in her warm cottage smelled, her songs as she worked, stepping out in her old frock to dance, never cranky or tired. Ma complained, “She is a drunken old sot” But she spoke in rhyme, taught me to stay awe inspired…

I keep a worn photo of the long past elders, deep in my suitcase where it stays flat and dry, they said Grandpa had scars inside, deep where no one can see. A limp in one leg, mild disrespect for authority. He was a fisher- job in itself awe inspiring, he took us out when I was big enough to float, set nets and bait lines. “Go when wind and tide tells you”, Godfrey, never turn your back on the swell, always respect the sea”. Grandpa said little else, yet never took a day on the water for granted, wisdom that awe inspired me.

Stocky legs deep in wet grass he stands, dappled back steaming dry after summer shower, he is wary. Eight years old, carrot in hand I am walking out to my new pony. He need not worry, for the hand that holds the treat, wiped clean on my shirt, will never hurt him.

The glossy coat I keep brushed free of dust and burr, will give way to winter guard hairs and fuzzy whisker.The adventures we share as I warm cold hands neath thick mane, bed the pony down in clean deep straw…awakens the poet growing in me, carries us places that inspire and awe.

I grew up believing in staying awe inspired- “Given to woolgathering, Godfrey,  I regret will amount to nothing”. Twas written in a letter sent from school to my old Ma. I strolled home most days,seeking treasure along the hedge row, from a distance could hear Ma shouting, and the music when my sister Alice played the piano.

I left home for vagabonding, was once left on my own with a heavy iron anvil, and two angry cats in the same box. Was on a remote track, with nebulous shade from one of those odd trees rooted in rock. We had lightened the load of the traveler’s horse drawn wagon, to spare him a uphill pull, feeling his oats Paddy took off at a trot, leaving me with the cats and anvil for to walk.

In my hitching career, was once picked up, the same day by three separate chaps named Verne in same make of car, a brown sedan. Never so welcome was the distant speck of gold, came Heidi, who drove a yellow Bongo Van.

Without question or qualm Heidi stopped, drove myself, the cats and anvil, following tracks and signs of horse to where they finally ended at our camp riverside. Inspired, and in awe of gypsy life, she stayed a month with us, befriended a horse who disliked everybody, down the Rakaia River they would ride.

For she grew up dreaming of being a hippie, defying, horrifying the parents who named her Heidi…Good on ya Heidi, long may you seek the wild mushroom, glean the wisdom from stream side plants, long may you live in joy and awe inspired, and on the bluffs of East Sooke may you dance.

Some thoughts from Godfrey..

TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE- And other stories- From Alice

Worzel here–Beatrice feels very strongly, and readers may concur, that our book contains far too many references to toilets. Be things as they may, my friend, The Vagabond Godfrey did not seek out toilets, they found Godfrey, and he felt there could never be too many. 

Today, I napped until now, and garnered the strength to open sister Alice’s packet of writing, excerpts from her book, “Alice, A life in Praise Of Myself”. It was a facinating glimpse of her summer in Nova Scotia, with Nudge Giggleswick and The Outhouse Museum.

ALICE ACROSS THE WATER-   For ten roily days and nights oer the Atlantic steamed Nudge and I to far Nova Scotia , we wreaked havoc aboard,disrupted the nightly Bingo by cheating, and at every meal of herring, the folks at our dinner table were eating.

    “The Pride of Poland”was a thing of the past, to the age of steam ships glory, the warped faded deck planks, the ancient children’s nurse, in her proper starched smock and cap told a story. The ocean was calm as the rill back home, steady the old tub did ride, with Nudge who long claimed seafarers blood, spewing all over the side.

I kept Nudge alive reading lurid romance novels, to him as we lurched cross the sea, we oft could be found leaning over the bow, and herring was served breakfast, lunch and tea.

Nudge writes- Left were us in a cloud of dust, the taxi cab racing away, Alice and I at “The Outhouse Museum,”on a hill overlooking away. The weeds were tall, between them all, for summer was at its peaking, outdoor loos forlorn, abandoned, with doors blown open and creaking. And as Alice her beauty nap in the shade snored, I gathered stink-willies, made a daisy chain for she, Alice whom I adored.   And later looking over The Outhouse Museum, her brother’s legacy, Alice with medicinal brandy told me this story…

TROLL IN THE OUTHOUSE-  Oh Alice, Oh Alice , come here!, come here!, there’s a troll in the outhouse, a mean one I fear!. Curled up warm, I ignored the loud plea, from the outdoor loo, of my wee brother Godfrey.

    For our humble cottage had an outdoor dunny, and in it I oft tormented my brother in ways I found terribly funny.  Oh Alice, Oh Alice come here, come here, there’s a troll in the outhouse and Ma no where near.Bring the cricket bat, call the dog, for I so need to use it, the cold outdoor bog.

With three rubber gloves, knitting wool, wooden spoon, and my brilliant mind, I rigged a creation so when Godfrey sat, slapped him square in the behind.” Oh Alice, oh Alice, it is deep in the hole, it reached up and slapped me  when I sat, I felt the furry old hands of a troll.”

My brother Godfrey was an odd little chap, believed everything I would say. “There’s a troll in our toilet'”he told his teacher, before the whole class the next day. Our Ma,who could not abide a phone, instead was surprised on a Tuesday, by a visit from teacher and district nurse at our home. I hid with Godfrey, as they chatted with Ma over tea..

“He dislikes beets, he is adamant there lives a troll down your toilet”, Nurse Commerford, (she spits when she talks) informed Ma. I heard the telltale clink of the teacher’s flask as she added to her tea, malt whiskey, I tried so very hard not to laugh, I tried to the stars of heaven, as I lay on the rug, behind the piano, as they all trooped outside to wee, they found my creation of gloves and wool, dropped it all down the hole, while calling, calling for me. But what of the troll?…as I fled cross the fields, what of the troll? I heard Godfrey”

BEACH BUM- From Nudge-Always modest is Alice, a proper old maid. When summer rain ceased, we found a remote beach, hung our wet things to dry. I wrote this  sonnet behind private rocks, a sunbeam caught me in repose, put a glow in my curmudgeon’s cheeks,  reddened my tender buttocks”.

VIKING- From Alice-    I want to go back in time when I expire, by reward to place and age of my liking, may I turn back the tide of pickled herring, may I be re-born a Viking. now yes, they were an uncouth lot, did not bathe regularly, plundered with sharp weaponry, but I would be a Viking bold, no trencher of herring before me, a velvet painting, a portrait would hang, bold of braid, horned helmet, wrapped about in Musk Ox hide. Alice “The Dreadful” it would hang in a gallery- “Of Herring she could not abide”.   

Worzel here, prepare for more later, my feet are cold, and Alice’s packet deep…


Worzel here- This gem is a favorite of Godfrey’s eccentric sister Alice, who reports, “Very true, I get to poke my brother and get him paddled for snooping all in one poem”. Alice writes- “Our olde Ma refuses to be included in your written “saga”, but has made this clear, “I will have little to leave you but fond memory, bury the purse with the torn strap beside me”, From Ma.

Rarely do I write of my dear hearted Ma, but reminded I was of her this rainy morning by someone I saw. No, it was not a rusty, dented old car, or child hiding as I used to, in the shoe department of a big, noisy store. It was not even Haggis on a restaurant menu, but a woman like Ma, three large purses she wore.

Ma carried three purses, when apparently ladies of her time were labeled “odd” if they toted more than one. I recall as a lad the three purses Ma had, one was angry, for when she rummaged for money she rummaged with curses, which was rare. Her other purse held clove scented sweets, her hands smelled of cloves and raw wool when she spit in her palm to slick down my hair.

Her brown purse had a leather strap, frayed and torn, she caught it in a car door, a firey accident soon after Alice was born. When I asked her about it, my sister Alice, slapped me about the head. “Said, no one was hurt, but for the purse, shut up and go back to bed”.

And what of the elegant lady I saw, wearing large dark glasses, a film star maybe?…Was her third purse like Ma had, a mystery?, Ma’s was knitted and bulky, gray and pink plaid, unsightly, one day Alice dared me open the purse, it took one quick peek in to reveal it, Ma carried within a great brick in a sock, lest some yobbo perhaps, wish to steal it…

Rarely I write of my sweet natured Ma, along the High Street our old car did rattle and lurch. With a swat with her purse, prod in the back, she sent me off to chip shop or church.

And even when older in the ladies wear shop, while discussing and fussing over girdle or hem, it was I, Godfrey, never Alice, left with the three purses, holding them.

Not oft I write of my beloved Ma, and when I do think of Alice and I, the children we were. Pocket knife, bills, knitting wool, change of smalls, the troubles I know now she bore, so much living, stuffed in the three purses Ma wore.

THE FOUND PRUNES- from Godfrey and Worzel

It was always fun, having Godfrey with us in summer. He helped with our yearly, ritual dusting of the luggage shop, there was camping up the lake, morning swims before the mist burned off the water, gorging ourselves on library books in the shade. There were marshmallows roasted fireside. 

On the weekend of Godfrey’s August birthday, we stopped en-route home at an outdoor market, there I, (rather without thought), had him close his eyes and hold out his hands. Expecting a treat, ever trusting, the vagabond did, but was hurt and indignant at the organic beets I placed in his palm. He refused to get in the car, bent on walking home, arriving three days later, all smiles again, with a 1 # bag of prunes someone had dropped in the hallway of our building. We set out seeking the prune dropper. Years later, when warned about Godfrey’s sister Alice before we met, I was told never speak the word “Prune” around her…and it all made sense.    

Most of my childhood stories, did not end happy, reflected Godfrey, as up the stairs we trod, room to room, both of us craving a found prune. “This is a story, embellished by Alice, I too little to remember, a day she was left to mind me”.

“We were in a big shop, Ma having a long chat, Alice let me crawl off as she paused to stare at wealthy, handsome Spencer Loverock. I slid under shelves, and into bins, finding things like rice and barley I could play in. I threw beans about that made a rattling sound, I tipped over tins of cocoa, rolled about in deep, brown powder on the ground”.

“I opened a box of something- they were black, and soft and sweet, I dragged a bag into a corner, for to eat, I ate my fill of pitted prunes”….”Ma had dressed me, apparently, in manner neatly for town, in white short pants that buttoned to my shirt, and knitted vest to look cute, visiting for tea in the afternoon. “But Alice let me wander off, and discover the plump prune”.

“Full of prunes, in time sleepy I grew. “I was snoring on a shelf when came shop owner, “Old Man Ingeldew”. “Then Ma, Alice, and the highly amused, wealthy and athletic Spencer Loverock, I was coated head to toe, in prune juice, wheat bran and the finest cocoa”. “Ingeldew provided an itchy, gunny sack, I was placed in it, trussed up, and left in the car, while Alice and Ma had tea and scones, they were a very long time in coming back.”.

“What happened when you got home?, rather mean to keep a baby trussed in a turnip sack, said I to Godfrey. We had knocked on the door of very, very odd Mr Ghostly, who never left his room, but accepted the prunes, silently opening his door a lonely crack.

“Oh, Ma had her methods”, Godfrey laughed. “She strung me on the clothes line, I was sprayed  with the hose, and as it was summer, let tear about the neighborhood till dry.”  Alice enjoyed a guffaw, until Ma punished her to for letting me stray, and having to pay for the havoc I did wreak-  Nappy Duty after Prune Binge  for One Week.. Was not longer after that, Alice painted me bright blue, story for another time, and I still love eating pitted prunes, Worzel dear, do you?”


It was an ancient T.V. set, in a corner of my sitting room. I was not even sure the thing worked, until coming in one day to find it, polished up and resurrected by my “Tenants in Crime”, Adelaide and Benny. The old pair had been two years now on Sonsie Farm, and I had long ago given up ever having my old life of solitude restored. They were always entertaining, never quarreled, and shared a Jackdaw like ability to drag home whatever they could scrounge, in donkey cart or old wagon. They had stood on their old steamer trunk, with some hocus-pocus, several twisted coat hangers, a horse shoe, and a ten foot garland of tinsel, had fashioned  an antenna, happily they sat before the T.V., watching The Queen’s Speech, munching on apples. Fzzwt, went a well aimed, gnawed core into the fireplace, slur-eech, of dubious teeth into another speckled Gravenstein. Times like this, I oft thought of Godfrey, the childhood we shared…how I wish he was here.  

We watched The Queen’s speech every year, had to listen on the radio when her Majesty had a chat. When a wee bit older, gathered round Godfrey’s Uncle Lou’s  telly we all sat. His family, all the cousins and mine, round the flickering telly we all sat.

I recall, on a bridge stood The Queen, with her purse and furry hat, a pebble she held, royal clean white gloves she had on. She tossed a stone, then another, into the water, Godfrey’s sister Alice called The River Avon. “That’s the bridge Romeo drowned Dickens , from, claimed Alice”.

“I knew of this nice lady, smiling demurely from school room wall and biscuit tin, but we did not comprehend why she stood tossing stones or the words she was speaking. Godfrey and I wrote the Queen a letter, casually inquiring of her castles and horses, ending our letter with the question of the wisdom we were seeking. “Why did you drop the pebbles in the water? Rather than kneel on the grass and scoop them out?.

We wrote a penny postcard to The Queen. Godfrey and I waited, for we were very young and believed we deserved a reply. And the Queen  wrote, despite the smeared seal, school girl typing, and Alice face down laughing on the setee, all excited Godfrey read the letter to me.

“To the naughty two children who dislike beets, and dare ask I, oh noble Queen,  why on such a cold day over bridge deck have me lean.” I, fine lady would not dare the stream bank, smell of trolls and eels that lurk, and risk like Juliet, be gulped and ate, to dredge a mere pebble from the murk”. Eat your beets, and Slibber Sauce, when heaped on your dinner plate- Love, The Queen.

It was addressed, “High Street, Pall Mall”, innocent, steadfast Godfrey hung The Queen’s letter on his wall. Twas Miranda the duck customer, as my Ma called her, gave us the answer, made it into sense for me. She sold duck eggs door to door, sometimes a fat mallard we plucked, roasted and ate. Miranda the duck customer, oft left her basket at the farm gate, rested by the pond on warm days with me and Godfrey.

She was wise, and kind to us, lived alone in her cottage hung with herbs, north of the farm, edge of the woods. She always had a tall, silver Lurcher dog, that never left her side, or seemed to age. Nor did Miss Miranda, for she wore a dark cape, strode when she walked, and the kids who teased and pelted us with beets feared her.

Wealthy Tenbrooks Smythe The Third claimed” cabbage nicked from her garden gave him warts”. “A most unpleasant child”, softly spoke Miranda, the duck customer. Tenbrooks heaved a turnip through the fish and chip shop window, “A most unpleasant child”, was stated by the fry cook in a newspaper quote. Miranda chose as I would, the company of her ducks, tame badger and goat.

“What did The Queen mean? Godfrey finally got to ask of Miranda. On such a winters day, dropping those pebbles in the water?. Said the wise duck customer- “The Queen dropped the stones for to show, how one wee pebble from that ripple she did disperse, never ceases to grow, affects in it’s tiny way the entire earth”.

Finally we had our answer, twas years later my Ma told me, duck customer  Miranda had been blind since birth. Godfrey and I , took note of the wonder of all things, like warm beach sand in summer, sugar crystals on sweet biscuits, sunlight that sparkled as ducks drifted, deep in simple contemplation.  “Be The Pebble, You And Godfrey” This is what Miranda the duck customer taught me. …

Plap, I awoke with a jolt, an apple tossed on my lap, Queen departing in a car, all pomp and glory. Adelaide and Benny in guffaw over my snoring, Beatrice dear, they begged, tell us a story….


Worzel here, of late banished to blanket and turquoise chair, felled by a mardy nettercap of a cold, now that I can again see, I have carried on sorting Godfrey’s sister Alice’s fertilizer sack of memoirs, here are a few gems…

AUNTS IN THE GRASS- All photos are old, Alice swore, by the time you get done a roll, and develop film where allowed in a store. In Godfrey’s story, he possibly mentioned we had many aunts, here is a photo from Empire Day, 1956, he was four, and our many aunts out on the grass.

There were “Tugs of War’, and bands and parade, medals on chests of silver and brass, on the sunny domain they posed in the grass.  “We had the buxom aunt, two bickering ones, we had the perpetually pregnant aunt, the deluded one with the angelic son, we had aunts Lefty and Blue, (not really aunties, who knew?).

I was ten, I chased my brother Godfrey with beets in a pan, seeking solace mid our aunts in the grass he ran. Passing aunt Mavis, a prankster like me, and Gertrude who oft put him over her vast knee, caught was Godfrey, squeezed by great aunt Dot, the one who got married a lot…

I chased my brother Godfrey with beets on Empire Day,  chased him with auntie Cynthia, same age as me, past our aunts in the grass, and into the outhouse, we chased Godfrey.

PLATYPUS-   As this life I have near lived out has been ridiculous, grant please that in the next, I may return as a Platypus. To paddle neath the moon in a warm southern pool, and if anyone dares grab my tail, surprise them with offensive, fishy Platypus stool.

SLIBBER SAUCE-From Godfrey -“I  could smell the loneliness of cats, in the reek of hot, dry grass, passing Pettigrew’s  place where little else grows. Knowing Ma was not home and tea would be- Prepared By Alice, beets and Slibber Sauce. Never Haggis or potatoes, or even over rabbit, Slibber Sauce, how did your older sibling prepare it?

Using oil from sardines as a base, fat from the lid of dog food tin if she dared it. Memories clatter inside me, now I am much older, those long walks home, on days that could not be wetter or colder, Alice in apron down to her knees, blending Slibber Sauce, with old morning oatmeal, and blue bits scraped from the cheese.

“She made me peel beets that were scalding hot, I’d try to sneak off, but always got caught.  “Slibber Sauce , said Alice, will make you healthy and tall, with curly hair like I  have, so eat, Slibber Sauce poured over the beet”.

“I am strong, healthy, and though no hair ever curled, avoiding beets I am a roamer of the world”.”I dislike beets, vociferously, with Slibber Sauce especially.

RAISED BY VOWELS- From Godfrey-“ Raised by vowels”…he oft chuckled, now I understand what he was trying to say…as I lay here wheezing, pen in hand this winter Sunday…  

       Godfrey told me once, ” I call out to anyone who was raised by vowels,”who learned their letters as Alice and I did when very young. From a calendar in our cottage hung- beyond smoke stained walls, and damp valley gray, the pictures on it places we would see “one day”, promised our old Ma.

“I spoke Welsh as a child, I was raised by vowels, oh, there were consonants to, verbitage all about me in song and poetry”. “The flap of wash hung to dry in the breeze, drumming of guttersnipes feet chasing me”. “Sitting on Grandma’s ample knee, tracing the letters on her tobacco tin, where my penny for sweets was hidden”.

“I stood before my class to read aloud, a poem I’d written. “Raised By Vowels”. Read, “I shall tell a story from Sunday School, my sister Alice brought home, of being raised by vowels in ancient Rome”. “Everyone laughed, teacher threw chalk at my eight year old head”. “A note was sent to my Ma- Mrs Dyzfbr, your son is odd, it read. “I would like to discus this matter with you”. Ma boxed my ears, sent a note in return,” Indeed he is odd, and raised by vowels, no point in discussing it with you”.

Godfrey spoke for all who were raised by vowels…now I understand, life spent pen in hand. He was an odd young man, his poems were pleas….for understanding..for whirled peas…


   When I was eight, I recalled to Beatrice, my younger brother Cudberth and I ran away from home, a spat with our stepmother, that resulted in “Mrs Gibberflat ” scorching the green beans. We were reported hitchhiking west of town, our few belongings in a lunchbox. Along came the entire family, to our dismay…but she was not angry, Mrs Gibberflat took us all for ice-cream…. Did you and Godfrey ever attempt running away? 

Well, thought back Beatrice, the summer we two were eight, was full on ponies, and fun times exploring. Yes, we did run away, it was my bright idea to run off and be gypsies, my gentle mum’s greatest fear. “Lets run off, I suggested to Godfrey, “run off together to Appleby Fair.” “Our ponies will carry us safe over the hills, where gypsies gather each summer in Appleby, oh Beatrice, cried Godfrey, “I cannot wait, though Ma may notice I’m gone, and we are only just eight.”

“I packed a billy-pot, blankets, and bread to toast over the fire at tea. “Godfrey brought Haggis, stuffed in a sack, an onion, and left a note for his Ma” “Godfrey has gone with the gypsies, and will not be back.” “He left it where Ma sat to knit, so she’d find it”.

“Godfrey’s grey pony was eager to ride, my wily old mare refused to be caught”. “We bribed her with carrots, and chased her down the high hedge row, with the help of Old Man Pettigrew, we chased her up  the low meadow, and when finally we caught the bay mare, thanked the deaf farmer for his directions, “Go far up the great north road” “Old Man Pettigrew knew, knew the way to Appleby Fair”.

” It rained, the rain ceased, the sun warmed shaggy coats and wet manes.” Our clothes also damp, by eve found a soft spot to camp, “we were not afraid, round the fire we made, toast and Haggis were fried” “We will build a gypsy “Bender”, dance nightly round our fire to high, soaring ember, and never have to do our own wash”  “This in his sleep, dream muttered Godfrey”.

“I woke to warm pony breath in my hair, slightly less bold, as I weed in a field, in dawn cold”… “my bay mare was nowhere in sight, she had lit out for home in the night”. “We walked and rode, rode then walked, as Godfrey’s pony was not balky or mean”. “At hungry mid day, we found ourselves, on the High street of Skibbereen.”

“At Bagg, Greede, and Grab Grocers, the chap with a very large wen on his chin was quite surly” “I had twenty three pence in my grubby hand, he had no patience for children, and an accent we could not understand”. “He sold me a tin of Spam, and one dry bread roll, though I asked him for two”. “I cheeked him as we were shoved out the door, I believe he said, “I get the dog after you”.

On the steps of “The Swing In Inn” we sat, pony tied in the shade to a tree, we’d snitched apples and candy from a market stall, where the fruit seller chased after Godfrey”. “But mostly the town folk smiled and waved, we ate apples and Spam as they came and went from the bar”. “We laughed at the thought, of never doing our own wash, when down High street came the roar of “Garply”…”Godfrey’s mother’s Morris Minor, decrepit old car”.

Do you remember perhaps one day of childhood, an adventure golden, above any other? . “Sweet scent of first cut hay reminds me, of early summer on the road to Appleby Fair, and the fact that we never got there”. “Garply passed us raising dust, my mum sat on the crate seat beside”. “By instinct I climbed the nearest tree, Godfrey fled for to hide”. “Mum stood laughing beneath my tree, threatening to fetch a saw if I did not come down”. “Godfrey was dragged out from under the pub, we were the talk that day, of Skibbereen Town”.

“And thanks to Old Man Pettigrew, and return of the home loving mare, our parents knew where we could be found, on the road to Appleby Fair. “Also “The Mossman”, Father Flagonmore, reportedly saw us on the Batley River Shore, “removing stones, rather than throwing them in”-“Odd behavior indeed, he noted for two such urchin children”.

“My Ma said not a word to me, nary a slap I received”, years later, recalled Godfrey. “All Ma did was serve beets, in” Slibber Sauce” for the rest of summer, beets breakfast, lunch and tea”.

My mum walked the weary pony back, as we two were stuffed in that awful old car”. “Now, as I look back it only seemed a long way, everything when you are eight is so big and far”.

“Said Godfrey, many times since I have slept in snug “Bender”, danced round the fire to high, soaring ember, noted sidewalks are the same, be you hobo or posh, but I never did make it to Appleby Fair….and have always, always had to do my own wash”…


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

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

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

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

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

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