Number Twenty of the regular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 20 - Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Caviar and chihuahua
Stephen, up from Chelsea, shared a tale about a former colleague who was invited to a posh party. Failing to recognise anyone amongst the gaggles of wine quaffing Sloanes and with the Four Seasons blasting out, she sidled through one of the packed rooms and flopped down on a vacant couch. She heard a distinct crunch.
Raising herself, she discovered she had crushed the life out of the family’s pet chihuahua. She lifted the pooch’s limp, lifeless body. In front of her was a wall of backs. No one had witnessed her innocent but lethal act. So she shoved the mutt down the back of the sofa and sloped off to the gleaming hi-tech kitchen to refill her glass.
Rebel songs and words
I was invited to Rebel words and songs at the White Swan, organised by Extinction Rebellion (ER). The local group are presently campaigning against the desecration of Walshaw Moor. So I read, A Monologue about a Bog. There were lots of good turns and some powerful and accomplished performers. I haven’t always agreed with the group’s tactics, but realise they can’t afford to be too timid. Afterwards, I said to Present Wife (PW) that ER need to broaden their appeal, to become more mainstream. She said, ‘No, groups like that need to be provocative and take the lead, or they won’t get noticed.’
In the audience at the Swan was James Clegg, who introduced himself after I’d sung The ballad of Acre Mill. In Rochdale’s radical Rap newsletter and through trade union presses, James and others exposed the lies of the employers at Turner and Newall, the Rochdale asbestos factory. The factory owners knew about the toxicity of their product from the 1930s. Rap also gave a voice to Rochdale youths who were abused by the paedophile MP Cyril Smith - crimes that were covered up by the establishment.
Smith always defended Turner & Newall, saying that the estimated global figure of 4,000 deaths per year from inhalation of asbestos fibres in factories, schools, hospitals and homes and in South Africa, where the raw material was mined, was ‘quite low really’. Rap revealed that Smith had thousands of shares in the company. James acknowledged the support of Pickering’s, the Hebden Bridge solicitors.
No way out
As an item of my undergarments has been called old fashioned - and even caused the granddaughter to hoot when she helped granny hang up my not so smalls on a recent drying day - I went along to a certain chain store situated close to the medieval bridge, determined to acquire a more figure hugging look. The items were sold in a sealed plastic package.
I was pleased with the snug, uplifting feel of my purchase until I needed to answer a call of nature. In the crush and hubbub of the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield, with my uke in one hand, stood at the urinal with impatient and overbeveraged men tutting and sighing behind me, I searched frantically with my free hand and failed to find the necessary aperture in my new garment. My underpants are designed by Mrs Bobbitt!
I lived to tell the tale to PW after the show, who seemed to find the whole episode hilarious. But why are men’s undies designed for men without willies?
I know of a child who has developed asthma and other pollution exacerbated ailments, whose parents received a note from a Calderdale Welfare Officer. He recognised that their child suffered from these distressing conditions, but this meant she was having too many absences from school and in bold capitals declared - ‘THIS MUST NOT CONTINUE!’ Their poor child was ill more often than the officially permitted limit.
Perhaps ‘THIS MUST NOT CONTINUE!’ means that this caring Welfare Officer will campaign to slap fines on motorists who leave their engines idling in Mytholmroyd - and for an end to the sale of diesel cars and buses. Bravo!
Butter up award
This week I was at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield. A toast goes to Hebden’s human dynamo, Mary Agnes Krell, Festival Director! Special mentions to Rob and the rest of Mary’s team. This year they had Hawaii virtuoso, Jake Shimabukuro heading the bill - the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele - and it was an unforgettable experience to witness his performance.
More spooky stuff… Once, we were roving south and stayed overnight in a pretty town on the Welsh border. I dreamt about a Hugh Massingberd, but I can’t remember anything about the dream apart from his name and a vague impression of people in posh drawing rooms making bon mots.
After breakfast, we had time to explore the town and wandered past quaint shops and cafes and discovered a bookshop which was hosting a display of what looked like deadly boring stuff about Burke’s Peerages, by a single author: Hugh Massingberd!
This week, I researched brief details of Massingberd’s life. Turns out he wasn’t a boring writer at all. He died in middle age and - ironically - he is credited with changing the genre of obituary writing to include ‘a sympathetic appraisal of someone’s foibles and faults.’ Massingberd referred to the 6th Earl of Carnarvon, a deceased man who’d had a habit of indecent exposure, as ‘an uncompromisingly direct ladies' man”.
Nymphs - and buskers come away!
We had a pleasant Hebden evening (after the Festival crowds had left) with scousers Jean - my long lost cousin - and Chuck. It was good to hear they can manage to enjoy my Hippy Valley dialect stories. I told them the definite article always attaches to the preceeding word, except when it’s not vocalised at all before a word beginning with a vowel although old timers might sound it as part o’t next word - as exemplified in the final line of the second verse below. I think that cleared things up.
(I’ve found out there’s a secret plan to eradicate the scourge of noisy, over-amplified buskers)
Now you know about nymphs and their mania,
From Greece to Mesopotamia,
But nymphs Anglo Saxon got just as much action,
That’s why our nymphs chose to remain here.
It’s buskers they like to attract,
But each cull is done with great tact,
Nymphs say, ‘You’re so cool,’ to each amplified fool,
Then wrap t’ amp lead around t’ vocal tract.
But you don’t need to witness this crime,
Nymphs sneak through a snicket in time.
As you sip your latte at some riverside cafe,
They take out young men in their prime.
Some say it’s a monstrosity,
That young men’s curiosity,
At nymphs voluptuosity,
Should lead to such atrocity.
But I just shake my head and shrug,
Say, ‘Do they think about our lugs?
If amplifiers they’d unplug,
Then would-be Dylans and Jake Buggs,
Might get more generosity.’
Thanks to Wuthering James and Keith Donnelly and others who have contacted me. I will post a collection of your spooky coincidences in the near future. Apologies to Lizzy Nicholson - I realise now that your story of your first kiss at a rollerblade park in ML 19 probably didn’t happen on ice. Sorry for the slip.
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