JULIET BALCONY- From Godfrey and Worzel

There were years, and months Godfrey spent in deep retreat, I worried over him. Beatrice in Wales worried more, but we did not know each other back then..I never asked what was wrong in the time he writes of in “Juliet Balcony”. I only knew that for Godfrey, being knee deep in a cold, chuckling river, or baking cream buns was his best therapy…It was long ago, but I thank the residents of “The Old Nurses Home”, then and now for their kindness to our vagabond.  

In the mining town of Reefton tucked deep in the valley, the Inangahua River flows cold. Down narrow canyon her bends create deep pools, and there in the shallow bits Godfrey spent summertime panning for gold.

Twas during his hard times, his dark days, of a sadness he struggled to understand. Godfrey at heart was a blyth spirit- rare as the gem stones and gold flakes he gleaned from the sand.

It helped him feel better, this gurgling, clean water, wrote he..”Peaceful the Inangahua, in no hurry this river to join the wild Tasman Sea.” He had a plain, small room at “The Old Nurses Home” Godfrey did. Up the high stair, his room had a Juliet Balcony, and oft he just sat on an ancient cane chair- “Older than you or me”. Out on my Juliet Balcony”.

“I get the morning sun a bit late, as deep is this valley”. “It comes warming the sheep fields of small farms, and the steaming forest canopy”  I get the dawn chorus of sweet native birds, grinding gears of school bus starting up”. Scent toast and coffee , must go down for a cup- but linger a tad on my Juliet Balcony”

“Kneeling by the river, my kilt hangs safe and dry in a tree”. I wear the modest flowered shorts, from the flour sacks you sewed up for me”. “In late afternoon the rain comes in earnest, but dos not feel chilly”. For “The Old Nurses Home” has a great, deep bath tub down the hall, and later shelters the vagabond out on his Juliet Balcony”.

“Every cup in the cupboards a mismatch, all plates and bowls different”, Godfrey observed. As usual in times of wet weather, he baked. All the travelers and all the old nurses, yaffled the scones and cakes he served.

At eve, after supper in the lounge room below, the retired nurses gather round the piano. Tea and biscuits, laughter and song, everyone welcome to sing along, sing all the oldies.

“The Old Nurses Home had a vast wild garden of native plants let grow amok. Hidden corners with tables for quiet contemplation, borders of driftwood logs, and well placed river rock”. Pears grew, figs and Kiwi fruit to, grapes heavy on an arbor, a young apple tree”. Visitors added seashells, odd wrought iron pieces of old farm equipment…a tranquil space neath his Juliet Balcony

“In a place of joy, how trite seemed my worries- and retired nurses do have the funniest stories. “I shared the device I devised, for removing thorns from ones own derriere. They gave me a wonderful salve for the sand fly bites I itched everywhere”. “Gave me sage advice to avoid the chaos and noise of major city- as I baked them a batch of Anzac Biscuits…I oft wonder now who looks out, over my Juliet Balcony’.

“I strolled in the garden one hot afternoon, the wisest of old nurses joined me in welcome shade”. “With her blessing I left the gold I had panned as an offering to the garden, along with my fragments of garnet and jade”. “Of the many things we talked of, most vital is what I learned from this wisest and humble of nurses- forgiveness…

“I sought wisdom, and wisdom in the least likely places found me- from a retired nurse neath my Juliet Balcony”    From Godfrey.

 

STRUTHIOUS- From Alice

Struthious, Godfrey was known to mutter, I was used to his grumbling in Welsh, and thought little of it- so long ago it was … “Struthious” was generally reserved for the card his curmudgeon sister, Alice sent every three years on her birthday. Godfrey collected his post at our address, so oft there were a couple of pieces from Alice- the card always the same silly Ostrich wearing a party hat, Alice berating him for being away a vagabond, and the burden it placed on her. This is a classic work from her biography- “Alice- A Life in Praise Of Myself”   

“No manner of insult worries me”, wrote Alice. “I only take umbrage at being called “Struthious”. Call me a maundering netter-cap, or witch or otter-pot, call me what you will, “Struthious” I am not.

“I do not possess a long, crepey neck, with wee head perched on the end, or eyes big and round for to stare cross the sand, and I do not race cross  desert brown. Dare call me “Struthious” if we meet on the street of Skibereen Town. My winter coat is a faded gray, as I have worn it many years, and if a few feathers poke motley from holes in the sleeve and the hem drags when I sit , call me a moultry curmudgeon shrew, it bothers me not one bit”.

“Struthious” I am not. My legs are strong from walking with Arthur in his bath-chair pushing him, I do not grow long claws, my feet are dainty and trim.  I merely prank those who are rude, especially the idle rich, call me as attractive as week old congealed Junket, call me a bat strayed on board a wayward bus, just never call me please, “Struthious”.

When I am hard at work selling shoes, or when arrested at dawn putting dresses on statues, oft hear the low muttering, “It was that Alice”, “Wore a feather boa as a tail in church”, unrepentant she is, daft and “Struthious”. I have a fond companion, Nudge Giggleswick, we play music together down the market. Nudge keeps time, on a length of rubber hose, and in the more lugubrious places Nudge knows…the only time he is serious, is when someone describes me as “Struthious”.

Argle-bargle, Dangwallet, Quenders to you, beets in broth and the jolly eel stew, let not” CER i grafu”ever come between us, Nudge sang neath my window with his hose- Dear Alice you are not “Struthious”.

I encouraged my brother,( Godfrey disliked beets) but apart from that would do as I say, when very small to march up to his teacher, and tell her- “Miss, you look very Struthious today”. A learned individual she understood what the wee chap said, learned though lacking in humor, as I hid neath the stairs Miss slapped Godfrey over the head..From Alice.

LISTENING TO AN OCEAN-That you can’t see for the dark- From Worzel and Godfrey

“Hey Happy”, though he never flew, Godfrey wrote words of encouragement on vomit bags, located on ferries, and train seat pockets. Here I was, boarding my plane home from Wales, over a vast ocean I could not see, or hear in the dark. I was mardy of heart, full of new stories, and stuffing the special jam sandwich Adelaide had given me for the journey, into an air-sick bag, for the desperate  hours of dawn…

Hey Happy”!, was written on the unused sack. A Godfrey message, I took it as a sign. It reminded me of his joy, in the third year of his travels, an epiphany  one cool morning picking raspberries, convinced him indeed, that that vagabond life was a wise choice. From that year, came these three stories.  

Listening to An Ocean-     Here I am, stretched on a log bunk, underneath a roof of cedar beams, waning of the moon, I light no lantern lest it lure a bat or moths into my room. The cabin is on pilings, so the crabs I hear scratching cannot climb up the smoothed bark, and I lie listening to an ocean that I can’t see for the dark.

The “come hither” beckons, every few seconds from gentlest of waves on the sand, and hear the grumble of gravel, disturbed  by the surfs flirtatious ways. That low murmur?, it is time trying to trick me. Soft as gulls feather, wafting by too quickly. I hear to, the thork and puff, of Orca whales , in the sound passing through. imagine the tremble of the salmon, about to meet the hungry moon whales off Port Renfrew.

I keep in memory a hut  on the high, remote Gouland Down. The ocean two days tramp, beech forest, muddy ground, cable swing bridge.On a ridge, at midnight feel the seas salty breath, as she meets river mouth in full moon rendezvous, parted only by demanding tide, to reunite at dawn, slip behind tides back, I heard the Tasman Sea calling, in the dark on that old, long Heaphy track.

In old man dreams I will ask, “oh sandy pathway carry me down, to the work worn streets of Westport Town. She’s a place rough and tumble, alright. Out on the dunes I will sleep,  and let my lullaby be the echo of the wild Paparoas, and  the dark, unseen Tasman’s rumble in the night.

Quinney’s Bush-   All you road weary travelers bound for the west coast, look for the farm gate  with a box nailed to the post. In peaceful Motupiko break your journey, as long ago I did, wrote Godfrey.

Ray Quinney made his river section, where it meanders through the trees, a place to camp for families, a home for hippies. Instead of rules or fees, all donations in the box went to aid The Red Cross, Arthritis, even Leprosy. All very rustic, the best shower ever, in a wee hut stand on a drain, pull one rope for hot water, one for cold, let it pour down from a boiler above. He had flying foxes, and wood for the fire, and Ray Quinney dragged the kids behind his tractor on a tire.

Sweet the Motupiko River, with deep bends, and tiny clear pools in which to bath, end of hot days picking raspberries up the valley. In the river I’d float, at evenings hush, hear distant singing from the campfires, down stream at Quinney’s Bush.

Last time I stopped by Quinney’s Bush…I knew on sight that the old man must be gone, no more box on the gate for the poor, “Manager”s sign on a new office door. Fancy new shower, his odd old contraptions gone, grid of campsites, no more hippies, no deep random grass to pitch a tent on. It was raining steady, the Motupiko wild and brown, I said a silent thank you to Ray Quinney for the memory, and hitched on to Murchison Town.

But that rain and wind will calm, turn the hills of Motupiko verdant green, and all who knew Ray Quinney, will not forget his goodness, or the medal he received, for creating Quinney’s Bush from The Queen.

And all you modern travelers , heading weary to the coast, keep an eye out for Godfrey, peddling down the Buller Gorge, listening for the sound of ocean, unseen in the dark, down that winding road that he loved most.

A Very Good Year-    Perhaps, looking back, I ought have listened to Ma and wore a sun hat more. Focused thoughts on career, than spending days fishing in roily surf, or off pier. But what a good year! I rode a pink bike with the basics of gear for life outside. I dragged us up some steep bits, down the back blocks, and beach stretches in fearless youth we’d ride.

Oh, the characters I met, like the old chap who showed me in a jar his pickled piglet. another who gave me a ride in a cattle truck, across the hot, flat plain. He handed me $10.00 and a recipe for raisin scone, when we parted cool  of evening and I peddled on alone.

I tended chickens and goats, mucked about in boats both grand, and sinking. Was first time I had my poetry called “What Utter Crap”, by a decrepit old professor, showed up at the hostel, as I was working. We rarely spoke, and the elderly grouch did not think much of me, he would fall asleep in the shops  of the small town, and we’d get a call to fetch him home, myself and  the bosses son, Brenty.
Lest I awake dead,  Ma warned me-” Do not hitch-hike a ride”.This day a car older than we are, pulled off to my side. The roof was caved in, it was missing vital parts like windows and side door. On the back seat slavered three hunting dogs, the driver shoveled rubbish from beside him to the rusted out floor.It was once a Morris Minor. The dogs amused themselves by tearing up the fellows groceries, as we hared along at 70, he told me his sad story. ” The cops took all my weaponry, but I got my sharpened screwdriver!”. This he proudly waved about,” it’s lovely”, said I, at the crossroads where  he let me out, roaring off in a cloud of oily smoke, I oft wonder what became of that young bloke…

What a very good year!, Invited to a wedding, wrote my sister, Alice of it. For the beauty of the singing, homemade guitars were played, rain hammered on the sheet metal roof of the pub, and I was asked to sit with Grandma, lest she strayed. Ancient and tiny, well into the sherry, not as daft as she pretended to be, with a twinkle in her eye, let her hair down, whipped off cardigan, and danced the night away with me.

On the pubs veranda, seeking cool, moist air, was joined by the bride, quiet by my side. We did not see the ocean for the dark, but could hear it, the bride told me how her Grandma summoned whales to the boat with stick and song. She grieved for that wisdom, lost and gone. The rain had eased, I told the proud young bride, that I felt she had the wisdom in her, time would wait, show her how to pull it from that sheltered place inside.

It is the midnight ferry sailing,  the Arahura riding laden with boxcars, and trailer loads of sheep, all quiet now, about to disembark. Farewell, never goodbye, I cry over the railing, and listen one last time, to that ocean that I can’t see for the dark…

REMEMBER VINNIE- From Worzel- The 37th wisdom of Godfrey

“Vinnie’s Legacy”, crudely made, the sign hung askew, in a tall pine by the highway…. 

Look for the plaque to, simply worded, “Remember Vinnie”. On a statue  carved from a cedar log, set in concrete outside the liquor store. It is customary in the tiny town, to pat Vinnie on the shoulder as you exit out the door.

A hatchet faced chap, features hewn by chainsaw with care, jeans and work shirt, boots and cap, beer can raised in the air, enshrined forever by the town he loved is Vinnie, reluctant celebrity,  millionaire..

Summers  and holidays, when Godfrey joined us at our cabin up the lake, we stopped partway for loo and coffee break. Godfrey, for fun would play the lottery, “When I win, he proclaimed, I will follow in the footsteps of Vinnie”.

For Godfrey, with his odd disregard for money, had a facination for the remote town, and sought out the story of the hard drinking Vinnie. Years ago, the humble logger won a million in the big lottery.

“I’m gonna blow it, in six months”, headlines read of Vinnie, and he did. “Fluff and Fold” at Vinnie Memorial Launderette”, he bought them new dryers, every kid in town got a dirt bike, or a pony. Vinnie built a new porch for his trailer with the money.

It’s a town hanging on, old men in red suspenders limp to the coffee shop. The hills about forever clear cut logging scarred, pungent fug of pulp mill, the place depressed me, still I had to chuckle over Vinnie’s legacy.

“We remember him fondly” (all but the Mayor) said to Godfrey.” He built a trailer park where all could live for free, we all got new couches, and cars recalled Mrs Rose Buskey”. He bought equipment for the bingo hall, and ice rink for the kids to play hockey. Indeed, Vinnie did spend it all.

Vinnie went back to logging, for he had worked the big woods since leaving school. Up in the coast mountains, driving truck on switch back bend, “I did what I felt like doing” Vinnie said before his liver gave out in the end.

Now we still stop in the little town, en route to our cabin, stop for loo and ice cream, play the lottery…pat the shiny shoulder of dear, departed Vinnie. No, wealth did not bestow sainthood on Vinnie ,but he left a joyous legacy, “I’m gonna blow it”, said he.

And the 37th wisdom of Godfrey states- “Should by chance fortune befall you- take care that it not change you”. Wherever dreams take you, stay the whom you be- Remember Vinnie”

CANADIAN THANKSGIVING-(Was Worzel Lost it)

   Worzel here, well most years we went camping over Thanksgiving Weekend, delighting in the warmth of our cabin, cutting firewood, morning paddles, our canoe gently parting the cold, platinum lake. This year, however, we delayed our camp out, Godfrey was with us, normally he would cheek our land-lady, Mrs Feerce when she yelled at him on the stairs, but not on Thanksgiving…ours was an old building, small apartments, tired rooms, our neighbors an eclectic lot. Godfrey invited all to a Thanksgiving Feast- he had won a 40# turkey, in a store raffle, the very shop we were escorted from most Tuesdays. “Nothing is better than free- No Pasaran Beets” read the invitation, From Godfrey. All we had to do was head out and collect the bird.  

      It was at first, rather foreign to Godfrey, our autumn holiday  to give thanks for our living, in peace and plenty, with friends to share, in our flat above the shop, thanks for the good life we had built there.   October also meant parting, as with the fall gales, Godfrey set sails most years for warmer climes, “Oh bugger me days!, oh Godfrey I cried, what will become of us?, we have misplaced our turkey, ruined Thanksgiving, I have left our turkey on the #50 bus!”

The bus was manky, and crowded, and smelled of fried fat, we left our turkey on the luggage rack, we were wedged to the back. A fellow argued with his sister, although she was not there, and not from water the only vacant seat was wet, we bailed off laughing, before our stop, twas Godfrey’s wet behind caused me to forget…”we rang “lost items”, no turkey”.                “I stood hours in the rain, said Godfrey, flagging down every #50 bus, no lost turkeys. “We sent Garnet to the shops, no turkeys left, just parts like feet, innards, gizzardy bits, and bagged guts”. “We had company coming, and lost our dinner on the #50 bus”.

“Godfrey writes-  to the nasty old bus yard we slogged, in the rain to the “Lost and Found”. “I said hello, I am Godfrey, we have lost our turkey”, to the first bored clerk I tracked down.  “Two others sat, betting pennies on raindrops that trickled along the window, the fourth chap, a driver was nicer, (Worzel sought out a loo”) I will not bear describing the things I found,  that people lost on the buses, to you. ” “Worzel appeared, “Yes, said she, a turkey, I lost it, was too cold to hold, and that was the worst toilet I ever have seen”. “A study in bilious green how many years has it been since that ladys’ was clean?

“Silent we walked, her hand in mine, knowing full well where it had been”. Worzel and I walked home turkey-less, long ago on Canadian Thanksgiving. “It dripped that evening, fog beyond harbor wall. We kicked ourselves through the sodden leaves, early days yet of golden fall. “I thought as we walked, said to Worzel, “many who ride the #50 bus, are much less fortunate than us”. “I hope that the whom found our turkey and took it, has good friends to share, and an oven to cook it”. Indeed,” we are blessed with plenty, said she, we lost a 40# turkey, and gained a good story”.

“We had clams, and cabbage rolls, salmon with stuffing, sausage from a deer Mrs Feerce’s daughter had shot, we had french onion soup from the slow cooker pot, no one noticed we had no turkey that Worzel forgot”. “Old Miss Pettigrew brought apple sauce, Mrs Feerce, pickles, we had pumpkin pie, and cake, lemonade and brandy, Godfrey played his guitar, charmed our dragon-land-lady. Even Mr Ghostley, oddest neighbor of all, accepted a plate, I left outside his door, in the hall.  “Lonewolf gave the blessing, in soft spoken word, he and partner Ginger were old friends of Godfrey,” Ginger, something of a binger on pastries, relaxed in my turquoise chair, the two of us discussed toilets, and her trip to Iceland, shared photos of toilets they found there.

Godfrey concludes- “I dislike beets, thus reminded my Ma, when given her advice, long ago upon leaving home”    “She said, “don’t fall on that head, I painfully bore, or knock out those teeth, those teeth I paid for”. “seek the reason for the beets you abhor”….”So I did, collected wisdom, now I know, such good friends I have had chance to meet, all because of the dreaded beet”    “I stood this night at the harbor window, looking out where tug, towing barge was passing slow. Gave silent thanks for the #50 bus, and Happy Thanksgiving,  to all the good people I know..Thank you from Godfrey.

JEWEL IN THE ROAD- From Worzel

Oddly in it’s way, it beckons,come and sit . Neath the high, stained vaulted ceiling, by the sunny harbor window, still squats my turquoise chair.  Plenty of stories left deep, as crumbs seem to also find a home in it. The word came to me, as standing on our landing, avoiding the most recent missing stair, I paused at our door- “Velichor”….”The wistful quiet found in a used, old book store”

Memory came unbidden, of a passage I once read, “Together, as the hills did, they grew old” Though he claimed to dislike  the chair, my life’s partner would be found there, reading. Sock feet on the radiator, for beyond carpet there be splinters from floorboards worn and cold.

It was Godfrey taught him, the simple method of draining noodles, and other boiled things like eggs under the shower. Shared same sly delight in squeaky bed springs, and the unerring ability to choose the worst motels, with crime scene tape across the doors, and warnings of (“Peeping-Toms, and of ” the last room we got, where died poor old man Green, but don’t worry bout nothing, Marlene got it clean”)

“I have never known my Garnet not deep in a book, or map, or globe, time and age has spared his fine features the heart break I have had to endure- “Craquelure” …He told me once, “I know that you know that I know that you- laugh yourself to sleep many a night”. “And I know that you still do”.

Neither you, nor Godfrey ever in your two blessed lives, not once screwed the lid down proper on the brown sugar. Learned not to leave Marmalade bits in the butter, drank from the carton with whiskery gob, considered all things toilet, “my job”.

It was Godfrey, defined it, for many gifts of wisdom he gave me, and was on an early morning, he and I driving north, out of the city.     “He pointed where the sunrise hit, reflected off front windows of a posh house in the distance, built on a rock cut high above.  Godfrey said, “I wonder if who built that house, built it with love”. “you, my friend have found that most elusive gift of light too, sung of in ancient ballad, read in sonnet, Haiku, written in bad novel, opera and ode, you have it in your Garnet Odd, that glint in the sand of gold, rarest gem of all, he is your jewel in the road”

BADGER- From Godfrey

Near a stream bank, on The Common, through the thick ancient clay, a badger dug her burrow on a stormy spring day.

Rain swept in across the oak woods, a cruel wind blew, ruffed her coat as she dug where the holly tree grew. Badger dug a deep burrow for the kits she would bear, and all summer on The Common she nurtured them there.

I to, lived on The Common, and often we lay, in hiding along the stream, watched the badgers at play. Round the bracken and heather they’d wrestle and run, we shared dreams of peace, as badger to, snoozed in the sun.

It was so long ago, and I’m a great, wide ocean from there. But oft in spring, recall mother badger, her wisdom to share.

“Burrow warm by moving water, remember to love, romp and play; It is the finest and only thing time will not wear away.”.

THE WORLDS GREATEST PLUMBER- And Other Stories By Godfrey

Godfrey oft enjoyed recalling the time, “I hitch-hiked with an anvil up quite a steep incline” “Those sweet days with Jasper, my gypsy friend, out on the high Pigroot road. We lightened the wagon there to ease Paddy’s load up the climb. “I with the anvil hitch-hiked behind, with her cat in a crate, a bale of straw and my suitcase off to the side. “Had any cars passed, I may have quick caught a ride, but none did all day”. Until I met Carlotta the climber, heading the other way.

“She did not question the anvil or the cat, or the bale of straw upon which I sat..in the back of her Bongo Van strewn with blankets soft, “I was a happy vagabond when Carlotta dropped me off”.

Ernest Lee Sincere believed in The Lord , he talked of Him for hours, and though very rarely bored, it was the longest hitching ride I have ever survived..”I was ready to repent my loathing for beets when Ernest finally pulled off to the side” “With a handshake and smile, he handed me a $10.00, and said “Thank you for listening to a boring old man”.

..On a rainy evening, south of Omarou, stopped for me a Morris Minor- a 1952. The nice lady driving, Willadee, turned to me and asked, “Godfrey, are you afraid to die? She explained that her brakes often failed and she did not know why”

“It was quite a ride, with a one lane bridge, fuel tankers, a loose horse and several tunnels”. Indeed no one died, we got safely to her house which had an odd car shaped dent in the side.

When I traveled with my pink bike, I meandered off track, seeking a lighthouse miles from anywhere. I met The Worlds Greatest Plumber at such a spot remote, there was no one else there.

“Worlds Greatest Plumber” I read in faded paint on his truck door. Ward Rambutan introduced himself as plumber no more, I am retired and wander free like you. “No more leaky pipes, no nasty blocked up loo. “He asked me do you like pears or tinned Spam meat? “Will you join me for Penguin Eggs boiled on the beach?

“No thank you said I,( Penguin eggs and beets make me reechh”) “so I shared the Haggis I had brought from town, and The worlds Greatest Plumber and I sat on a log and watched the sun go down”.

“I found a higher wisdom in people I meet, out on the open road, avoiding all things beet. Plenty to do while waiting for a ride, like snoozing in the shade, or drawing with a stick in the dirt by the roadside.”Find a warm place to sneck in for winter. Dream of the warm nights of summer,

“I remember with affection Carlotta the climber, and my deep conversation with the Worlds Greatest Plumber.  From Godfrey.