My late summer visit to Sonsie Farm, in Wales. Even with Beatrice annoyed with me, were busy times for all on the farm, and working late into the nights together on our book, “The Collected wisdom Of Godfrey”. The late vagabond had been Beatrice’s childhood friend, and she felt I was straying too far from Godfrey’s saga, by including Tugboats, Toilets, “Itinerant Nere Do Wells”, Horses, and his eccentric sister Alice’s dreadful writing.
When I wove in Adelaide and Benny, who had settled uninvited on Sonsie, Beatrice almost raised her voice. She was not getting the connection..
The only day it rained, that last summer Godfrey spent with us in Canada, and though he feared antiques, my friend helped me drag home a battered, old plaid steamer trunk from outside a junk shop. When he quit muttering, and “Feh-Ing “over what may be inside, he peered in and gravely informed me- “Not empty Worzel dear, it is full of stories.
The trunk sat in our luggage shop window several years, until Adelaide and Benny showed up, the odd old couple claiming it as their own. I happily sent them off with the trunk, aledgedly bound for Wales, no one expected them to get there, much less move in with Beatrice, to her dismay. It was berry picking time, Alice’s old car had been reported seen near Sonsie Farm, so it was I went out picking, Beatrice fearful to leave home with the prankster nearby..
Adelaide and I set out at dawn, for the hills of Barafundle Bay, she former Chambermaid to The Queen, parked her donkey cart in the shade, and I with a pat did the same, for I rode good Rowan, the brackety gray. Plunk went ripe fruit, into the old woman’s pail, before I had even begun, she hitched up her drawers, waded deep in the bushes, straw hat tied firmly against dust and the sun.
“I’ll go where wind and tide take me”, said Adelaide when asked how long they may stay at Sonsie. “We have sought yellow houses since I left my employer The Queen”. The bantie sized rogue had a brittle dignity, indeed for the struggles and places she and her plaid trunk had been.
“We maids were not allowed ashore to cavort, when the Royal Yacht Britannia was tied up in port”. “One morning I chanced look out, out from the bed chamber door- in a narrow pass we were passing a fine, grand yellow house on the far shore”. “Had a wide verandah, finials atop, yellow paint fresh and bright, Betty the boss lady barked, as the ship turned sharp up a fiord out of sight”. “Someone waved, I waved back as the yellow house hove out of sight”..
Plunk went the berries into Adelaide’s pail, I waited knowing she could not be hurried in telling her tale. “There was a kerfuffell, a stramash, a paddy bordering on a melee’, plunk, plunk…It were a bad day, maggoty butter was served at high tea. “The Queen did not butter her own scone, was a Lady in Waiting stood and looked on”. Royal decorum was lost at first bite, the hand maid swooned, the Prince did curse, Our Noble Queen was ill in her purse…..
“Oh bloody hell, the butler cried”, all butter on board was heaved over the side, floating off in a maggoty wake, we threw out a case of beets and some dubious fruitcake”.
Plunk, went Adelaide, far out picking me, though I judged her age roughly at least 83. “Why was it deemed your fault? I asked as we took a break neath a tree, intriqued by this version of her life story. “Twer height of summer, nasty flies a swarm, was my Marvin the butler’s lad, left the butter pats out in the warm”.
“He promised for a keek up my smock, he’d be a gentleman, he promised me a life of ease, when our time in service was done, he promised that he, Marvin, would be faithful evermore, he promised me a yellow house, in a field of Marram grass on the seashore”.
“But the butler’s lad lied, I and my trunk, cast with scorn and aspersions , dismissed over the ships side.”. “My trunk and I , set forlorn in a lonely gutter, blamed for maggoty butter”. “in Flinder’s Street, urchins pelted me with ripe pear, seeking employment I strayed from the docks, told my sad story to kind wanderer Benny, who sought out Marvin, kicked him firm in the buttocks”.
“Benny promised no life of ease, no posh ring, Benny promised only one simple thing”. “That our lives be shared till the end, side by each- and we seek that yellow house of our own, yellow house on a remote beach”..
Lest I ramble, I left Adelaide to pail and bramble, the day quieted to, and portions of her story I know will be familiar to you. Not just the old tale of innocence lost, or betrayal by silver tongued voluptuary, not man enough to own up to maggoty butter, but even this vile young lout, is part of the odd way we, were happenstance brought together”.
Godfrey wrote this of beets- “I wish no ill of beets, or those who love them”. Had it not been for beets, I may never have left Wales, and still be selling manure by the roadside. Dislike of beets helped me make friends, from empty room, to so many lovely places…until our circle is complete- all hale kindness! all hale the beet!.
I hope when Beatrice reads this, she will understand the connections to…