THE SPOOL- A Wharf Street Story- From Godfrey and Worzel

Worzel here- In early days of my friendship with Godfrey- I sent him to the shop needing cream for the coffee. He set off on a bike, the quicker to be . The coffee went cold, as I disliked it black, about noon, grinning broadly Godfrey came back…

“Said I had cream in hand, heading out the shop door, my right buttock bumped a stack of pickled beets in a jar”. “The beets spread around me, I leaped through shattered glass, with a broom the old store owner hit my young ass”. “I took the long cut home on the Goose Trail Path.”

Twas long, rough and windy- but here is a carrot muffin and cream for the coffee. It may have been cream when he ran from the store, but what Godfrey brought home refused to pour, complete whipped solid from his round about journey. “He spooned it out- explaining gravely, that “Clotted cream, my dear is a delicacy”. Mornings like this one, looking out over Wharf Street, I truly miss The Vagabond Godfrey….

Godfrey Writes- It is morning on Wharf Street, from my window I see- a city rubbish truck disapear- lost to the odd, “Wall of Illusion” below me .Favorite trees barely budding for springs shyly late, the bridge is up and a line of cars wait.

Sun up is a promise, draft from the old windows cool, it is Sunday morning and down along Wharf, came a young man, he was riding a spool. A spool!, indeed thought I as he rumbled past. He was holding a cup of coffee aloft- or perhaps it was green occurred to me, balanced, rolling high on the spool so nimbly.

Watching over Wharf Street, I have seen many odd things pass by. Vintage taxis, Penny Farthings, all manner of rusted jalopy, often a cop on foot chasing after some guy. It’s a rumpity old street, narrow and busy, with tram tracks and pot holes twixt The Salvation Army, and a Mexican Cafe, thrice resurrected that burns down regularly.

I see cyclists pass in tight shorts and helmets with jackets that glow. Trailed by a street person, bike fully laden with bottles and cans, bound for the return it depot. But never anyone riding a spool, what a view he would see from up high as along Wharf he rumbled!. And what of the pain if the #50 bus came along, and by chance he tumbled?.

Worzel reckoned this chap was of simple needs, going back in time of the wheels creation. She said- “No doubt the first spool was built by a woman, toting laundry to water or large carcass home to hut or cave”. “Transport impractical at most, but think of the time waiting for a bus that spool would save”.

“But when did time become so vital a thing to “save,” when we are all allotted the same every day?. Asked I, turning back to the window in hope that the chap on the spool, with his beverage of choice chance again ride by.

Perhaps further down Wharf where the police oft lurk, arresting riders of spools, (all in a days work), the youth was questioned, and lectured again, and forced to walk home from whence he came, the spool taken as evidence of” Laws Blatant Disregard “, it sits to this day in the police impound yard.

Tis a Mardy Sunday morning down on Wharf Street…


Worzel here..another summer on a wane. Renovations to our aged building “Tara”drag on, the decrepit stonework exterior now getting a spruce up. Godfrey would have enjoyed a guffaw at the sight of a pink “Port-A- John” high on the scaffolding outside our land lady, Mrs Feerce’s window.

I look forward to autumn, backward to Godfrey, tinged as the maples are in somber passage, in fall he liked to sit down by the rocks, where the homeless camp is we call “Steinbeck’s Half Acre”…he enjoyed watching the tugboats heading out at dawn. Oft, they would silently churn up the phosphoresence in their wake,”The Lightning of the Sea’, Godfrey called it. His favorite small tug was The Peggy Mckenzie.  

May the winter sun pierce the sky over the city this morning. Frost chills brown grass down on Steinbeck’s half acre, as we watch the tugs leaving. Oh the Peggy Mckenzie cares only where the work day will take her.

For the good ship went tugging, tugging, tugging, the little jackpot went tugging off down the long harbor.

Stalwart and trim, shining black, white and green, nary a bay or spit she’s not seen, smell of coffee wafts cross the water, with gracking call heron glides low. No fanfare or farewells the tugboat, Peggy Mckenzie is ready to go.

With a soft rumble she sets out a tugging, tugging, under the blue bridge a tugging. With cold hands and chilled feet, we of Steinbeck’s half acre, on cold autumn morning watched the ships head out tugging.

Oh the Peggy Mckenzie’s hauled scrap cars and dredges, nudged high bowed, haughty cruise ships away from posh berth. Roiled in their wake as they thankless steam south, they its off with log booms oer the treacherous Fraser’s mouth.

And snecked tight together, see docked neath the blue bridge are tugs “Venture”, “Storm”, “The Doreen Roskelley”. They seem to be chatting, like old friends round kitchen table, a drink and a toast to the Peggy Mckenzie !

For the good ship went tugging, tugging, tugging, no rogue wave or reef would take her. The old workhorse and I went tugging, tugging, trailing diamonds behind she chugged down the long harbor.

No old mans home please, when I retire, a cabin on Mayne Island, coffee and hot fire. Lace curtains for her wheel house, no scrap heap or cruel cutting torch. Watch the tug boats passing, her deck for my porch, heading in from open sea, recall the shelter of Mutton Cove, and waiting for the tide off Lasqueti.

No need for grand tales of valiant rescue, no feats of bravery written. Through October gales or joyous summer swell, the Peggy Mckenzie went tugging, tugging, where and with what she was bidden.


It has taken many friends to compile Godfrey’s story- for anyone new to the saga, he was an odd young man who disliked beets, yet considered no meal complete without peas.  He preferred a nest of old sleeping bags to sheets, landing in Canada a youthful, Welsh vagabond, the year before we met, and desiring “only to sit and talk, talk of anything but beets”. He set up a table in a city park, inviting all to join him. Join him they did, including the Original Bus Riding Poet, Ginger Alphonse and devoted partner, Lonewolf. It was a summer of joy, and poetic infamy, until the police took Godfrey away….Ginger has lived most of her life on Wharf Street, down from us, and we thank her for sharing these stories..

GINGER’S AERIE-  Snow wet? I asked Ginger over scones and Chai tea. Quoth she, ” I do not let it worry me, for in my house of many toilets is my woven aerie” Snow coned Olympic Range mere miles across the strait- so close, so out of touch a country, my narrow street of houses old..tussock grass gold on the bluffs below me.

My house of many toilets has a shiny, red tile floor, and when we are home knarled walking sticks wedge closed the door. For like any aerie it is buffeted by storm, snow wet?. Not I , curled up, pen in hand, my aerie warm.

THE SEVEN WHARVES- from Godfrey   – Ginger may have five toilets, but on Worzel’s street are seven wharves. In heavy gobs snow fell, no dainty flakes from sky drift pretty fluffs. With the huddled masses I waited for the #50 bus. Along it came, an hour late, splashed to a halt oer the sewer grate, and being slow to move away, up my kilt went the icy spray. Though I wore thick wooly drawers, chilled every crevice it could get- Snow Wet.

On my street are seven wharves, one a dock bolted to rock, by ancient hand forged rings. Oft we sit down on those rocks warm evenings. Two are considered piers, departure points, familiar with welcomes, partings, tears. Three wharves are down by the Hotel Grand, for great flash motor yachts to moor, and helicopters land.

Next wharf is a lowly wreck, washed by open sea, weathered elephant gray in age where the tumbled stones of a breakwater used to be. Reckless youth leap from the highest planks in bold daring. Old men ignore them, drink from tins of beer, cast their lines for a fat Grilse, rock cod or herring.

From the seventh wharf, a slip in it’s day, is from wence a proud tall ship sailed away. Long about 1953, bound for Melbourne, and Cape Horn round the southern sea. Across every school atlas page- they carried on, sailing into storm wise old age. Sailed into legend, look for the small brass plaque set in concrete- when next you wander down on Wharf Street.

THE PASSAGE OF MR CODD- From Ginger-  I was about 16, when first became aware of Mr Codd. Endless waiting while our parents stopped to chat, we laughed at the cardigan and bow tie he wore, pushing his old bike up Wharf street, with bottles and tins to cash in at Quonley’s Store.   He saved those dimes and pennies , for oars and a dory, took passage setting crab traps from Songhee’s to Rock Bay. Years later we heard the clatter, and sight of long haired hippies, push an old V.W. bus up Wharf Street, on Mr Codd’s  wedding day.

Became a teacher, he did. Long hair now more trim, we oft saw him walking with a troubled kid, or sitting reading on the steps down by the water. Mr and Mrs Codd had a son and daughter, he pushed them by pram up Wharf,  summer nights when festivals were on, with music, fireworks, and parades drum and roar. Mr V Codd, read the sign on his English classroom door.

Few remain from “The Summer of Poetic Infamy”. When Godfrey had his table in the park, he disliked beets, sought peace in a world that called him odd, and on the edge of the circle, not quite ready to engage, alone now late in middle age sat Mr Codd.

Legends will be legends, whispered still in teacher’s toilets by some, how Mr Codd dared to teach- “Off The Curriculum”. He spoke of wisdom, and delightful to me, told his students, alone is not the same as lonely, that he considered the moon a good listener, read to them from the early works of Godfrey…

Parental muttering, beets uneaten at home, and thrown at lunch break. Culprits hurling beets suspended, “Civil Disobediance”wrote Thoreau, quoting from it, Mr Codd’s teaching career was promptly ended.

Sticky, nasty stain from a rotten tangerine, marks the space above the door, where Mr V Codd’s nameplate had been. No gold watch or assembly, no speeches or send off, just a quiet meal of fish and chips, with Miss Shelley the librarian, at a Chinese cafe down on wharf.

Mr Codd’s children now grown. Lecture the old chap, “In a shabby room you live alone, eat noodles three times a day”. Beacon hill Old Man’s Home is not far from Wharf Street, a clean and cheerful place to stay.”There is a billiard table and book case, you will make friends”. So he went, and he did- in a place of ends Mr Codd was happy again.

I am Ginger- considered the patina to my younger sister Cedar’s brass. Roly-poly, always hired, fired over and over again, till my sister found her niche in The Beacon Hill Home For old Men. Mr Codd? Why it was he led “The Great Cheese Sandwich Rebellion”. Conned us into giving them aged cheddar on toast for tea, “The mass constipation that later swept the home was blamed on me”. Then Mr Codd went missing, found in his wheelchair mired axle deep in soft tar, outside Quonley’s on upper Wharf. Someone helped him get there, he refused to give a name, so I- Cedar Waxwing Mae took the blame.

Up on Wharf…in a bus shelter not too far from The Beacon Hill Old Man’s Home, a toilet brush in shiny steel holder, and black rubber plunger sit left all alone. I notice these objects for I to am a poet, take notice because I care, they sat for a week undisturbed, now folded trousers and a fork have joined them there.

Toilet plunger and brush, wheelchair tracks heading one last time up Wharf Street in the slush. When ere we see these tracks on days it snows, or a lonely figure neath the old blue bridge sharing lunch chunks with the crows, and ponder who lives in the dusty old rooms above Quonley’s shop, all mark the mystery of Mr Codd’s life’s passage, from the sea bluffs end of Wharf to its’ only bus stop.


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..

MISS EMILY’S STATUE- And other Wharf Street Stories- from Godfrey

I will bow to poetic license for Godfrey, for he knew I would wet myself seeing a cougar on our street..the shy and majestic cats  how ever, oft find them selves cornered in the neighborhoods about….

Cougar Nearby!!   Out on the sidewalk- gun a wary, see nervous the kneeling cop. Where the guts of what once was an urban deer lie, entrails in the posh neighborhood, lock up the poodle dogs- Cougar nearby!

Cool of morning or early eve, they move so quickly, did you see ?, along the fence rail?,  just a tan blur, very long, thick tail. Skinny cat, young and bewildered, wanders forest of narrow streets, rests in public park after he eats, hunkered down, safe in the brush from hunter and hound.    In the poshest neighborhood hear the cry! Lock up the Chihuahua, cougar nearby!

  Roll On Wharf Street- Deft wee paws lift the rubbish bin lid, over the top. Masked rascal, city raccoon at the bus stop. Drags the garbage bag along Wharf Street, Crows, Seagulls, Rodents and more Coons, everybody eat!. I walk up-town lest the bin man see. (Short Handed Dupree, he is cranky) the carnage spread about, and shout at me.

And at the same bus stop, met up with old “Dot”, famous long ago for her trucker’s cafe’. She passed it to her daughter, the wisdom her old Ma, and Ma’s Ma had taught her.When  the four lane highway came,  it swept the old truck stop trailer  away…there’s a fancy new place, but they talk of Dot’s still-“Was best burger, pie, chips and gravy in Parksville”. I worry for Dot, with her cart, watching snow geese and ducks heading south from impending cold, tough as she is, this street is no place for a fine, fry cook to grow old.

Mrs Williams- We call her,” Mrs Williams”, oft seen riding the #50 bus. She has been reading the same book for years, never looks up from it, no matter how crowded, knows her stop by heart, gets off same one as us. The book is covered by neat, brown paper, tucked tween her purse, and business suit lap, she reads the book over and over, and next week on the bus ride, reads it again. Worzel reckons-” Mrs Williams” is a naughty librarian…I would talk to anyone, talk of any thing but beets…perhaps one day if I can, will discuss books with Wharf Streets Naughty Librarian…

Coho Ferry- Ruggedy ship of grey and red, always on time, she will not wait, rumbles off in summer, several trips a day, over the water to Washington State. I had never ridden on The Black Ball Ferry, not ridden it yet- but recall when she took out the float plane dock, as close to disaster as Coho could get. We were watching “Coronation Street”, Worzel and I, we heard a crunching sound, a warning cry. I thought a roller skater, had fallen on his head, looked out the window, in case the chap was dead.

Purple prose, from the ferry deck arose, words lacking couth, like “Fez” “Shice”, and “Holy Fock Tooth”. Down below our window high, the wayward Coho drifted by. Off out the harbor, we watched her go, foul language and dock planks in ships wake churned-  back to our T.V. show we turned, Slibber Sauce, not on our evening dare  intrude, rough sailing for The Coho, dramatic interlude.

Miss Emily’s Statue- Monkey, Woo, on your shoulder, Griffon Dog at oddly shod brass feet..A statue of you is insensitively placed, near a posh hotel, foot of Wharf Street. There was darkness, humor, sorrow, genius, in your eccentricity. Instead of facing ivy covered walls, I wish your statue was not misspelled, and had been placed facing forest and sea. We fossicked about, in the tall grass, the wild part, of the old cemetery….and in the wind, sat back neath the summer skies you painted, in the wind we lay back, to hear your poetry.

ARRESTED FOR SWIMMING- More Wharf Street Stories-From Godfrey.

Perhaps, it was because he would talk to anyone, talk of anything but beets, Godfrey collected more stories in a weekend down here on Wharf Street, than I could over several years.

Arrested For Swimming- Proudly Helen told me, “I am 93 and still live on my own” It was Sunday afternoon, I paused to chat where Helen sat, down by the water on Worzel’s worry stone. On the edge of the city harbor, I enjoyed sitting quietly with her.

Twas on a hot morning, the water not bad, Helen dove into the harbor, fully clad. Twixt blue bridge and a passing tug towing barge load of cement, Helen went. Somebody called the law when they saw. Two cops came, stood on the worry stone, as Helen cavorted, salmon like all alone, I heard denizens of the park, watching clap and cheer, when she refused to climb out when the copper demanded of Helen- “Stop that splashing and come here”.

Soon arrived a woman cop, as Helen flung her trousers and top to the shore, landing at the boots of the 4th cop with a plop. She shed  her bra, with a wave and a guffaw, wearing her bathing cap and little more, no one knew what to do with, “Our Lady Of The Harbor”…Now there were 6 serious officers in black, an ambulance came, they pulled a stretcher from the back, there were attendants in rubber gloves, “Helen is doing what she loves”, said I, “shut up Godfrey”, snarled the cop, (somehow she knew me?)

They had weaponry, muscles and clout, but none could persuade my friend Helen to come out, and none would. “All in good time, she sang, all in good time”, shrilly and bold, she was wrapped in a blanket, driven off in a cop car, waving, arrested for swimming at 93 years old.

JACK RUSSELL TERRORIST- He hangs his beige head out the window of her shiny, blue pickup. I can hear them the length of Wharf Street, since Ruckus was a wee pup. A dreadful, loud whingeing, whine, mizzle and cry, when Worzel’s friend “Robinder” and her dog came by.   “A wire haired terrorist, Godfrey bar the door, was the cry when we saw them headed to the luggage store”. “Ruckus ate the handle from a satchel, ate a travel wallet to, I will not describe the mess on my floor, no dog allowed in here anymore. “He dislikes Wharf Street”, Robinder defended her pet, as growling , she left him, offended in the truck. “He starts to bark at Chinatown, when we turn off onto Store, barks at the crows and gulls along the shore, the whole time we walk where dogs on leashes are allowed”. “he dislikes the moil of geese’ and smells among the crowd”

“He is eating manure”…I whispered to Robinder as she stood gazing over the passing parade of tourists’ in amazement. How fast he gobbled what a passing carriage horse had left on the hot pavement. “We sneaked him neath my kilt, into the Sushi Bar loo, to wash his mouth out neath the tap. “Worzel reported later, over dinner, in disgust- “Was the only time ever, with a mouth full of shice, that wire haired terrorist did not yap..

BLUE BRIDGE-    Not quite part of Wharf Street, yet in clear view, not long, wide or high, it is Robin’s egg blue, faded though, mottled, rusty in hue. Soon it will be replaced by something shiny and new. The city had paint leftover, from lampposts, and fence around the petting zoo, just enough leftover for the bridge to. Last night a crowd gathered, on Wharf Street in Old Town, and lined the deck of the blue bridge, as oft folks do at sundown. Blackberry and Butterscotch, woven with the smoke in air of bushfire. Cool of summers end- a peaceful evening had by all..on a bridge that as youthful summers do will soon to, pass into legend.

THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF HELEN-  “Born on the homestead south of 5 Rivers. Left us peacefully in her sleep at 93″ “The family and friends of Helen invite all who knew her to a “Come and go Tea” “I kept the notice printed in the newspaper for Godfrey” “She was a founding member of the “Vocal Voice Of Women”. “She, as I do disliked beets, Helen walked every day, down the harbor, to feed the crows and geese and enjoy swimming”. “Ever cheeky to the police when they’d meet..we shall miss Helen”. “Think of her wild spirit when we watch the sunsets, down on Wharf Street.