Wednesday, 9 January 2019
This is the third of a regular column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 3
This year the cormorant has moved to Mytholmroyd. When it’s not on the river it sits on a roadside lamp post, watching traffic edging along Burnley Road, past the flood repair lorries, the giant cranes and drills.
Last year the cormorant was in Hebden. I was photographing it where the rivers meet behind Riverside school when a man who knew the technology showed me how to zoom in on my phone. I asked him if the bird was a cormorant or a shag, but he wasn’t sure. A local guy was passing. He announced, ‘It’s a cormorant. You only get shags at the seaside.’
‘Story of my life,’ muttered the photographer …
In the late 70s we lived in ‘the hippy terrace’, at Foster Clough. One cold bright morning I ran a bath before work, but the spring water had frozen in the pipes. That evening, back from work, I opened the front door and water ran out in a torrent. There’d been a thaw and I realised I must have left the taps full on and the plug in the bath. My neighbour Nick helped me to bail out, trying but failing not to laugh.
My present wife (PW) was surprised when she came home with Leah to see bucketloads of water flying though the open door and window. Fortunately, the bath was on the ground floor, so the ceiling hadn’t collapsed. The carpet had shrunk, but we got a much better one from the insurance company.
Come to think of it, PW has never thanked me for this home improvement. Just saying…
Eating out in Hebden, PW hears a woman say, ‘When my parents die, I’ll have to sort out selling the fuckin’ house!’
Now, our parents didn’t own their own homes. We didn’t receive an inheritance. We spent 30 years paying off our mortgage. When we had our first child PW stopped work, we sold off furniture and cashed in PW’s National Insurance payments to get by. Over the decades we’ve seen people lose their homes through debt, divorce, flood and fire. If you can, with a family to raise and a mortgage to pay you doggedly stick at the day job, whatever it throws at you.
You think to yourself, one day the kids will be grateful we’ve left them something.
After she retired, our friend Greta told me a guilty secret about her time as a much lauded, progressive headteacher in Mixenden.
On a school trip to Chester Zoo some of the infant boys climbed onto a wall to look down into the Polar Bear Enclosure. Greta ordered them down and lined them up, telling them just how dangerous Polar Bears were, when another little lad started scrambling up the wall to see what he’d missed. Before she could stop herself, Greta smacked his bottom and pulled him down.
His face crumpled as she told him off for being, in the words of Monty Python, ‘A Very Naughty Boy!’
Then one of the teachers said, “He doesn’t go to our school, Greta.’
The lad ran off to find his mum and dad and Greta spent the remaining hour of the trip in the carpark, hiding on the coach.
Working in Bradford, some of the British Asian drivers had car stickers that read, ‘Yes, This is My Car, Officer!’ But I was surprised when a police Land Rover started tailing me and then flashed its lights for me to pull over.
‘This your car is it, sir?’
‘And where do we live then?’
‘Hebden Bridge? We’re a long way from home then.’
I told him, I had once driven to France in that very same car.
Through his walkie talkie he relayed this revelation and details of the registration, make and colour of my jalopy to Bradford Police HQ. I could hear a garbled reply. Then I was allowed to go on my way.
When I got to work I mentioned this interrogation to a woman in the college cafe.
She said, ‘What colour’s your car?’
‘That’ll be it then. My nephew’s a policeman. They have to do spot checks on a certain number of cars each week, so they play a game called Car Snooker. Reds get stopped all the time.’
Belle Vue, Halifax
Having missed Peterloo, we decide to watch the next film we fancy asap. So we go to Belle Vue Cinema, Halifax.
Disappointingly, like motorways and airports - those other gateways to escape - Belle Vue tarnishes whatever follows. There’s no signposting to help you find the film you want to see. In fact, there’s little to show that this is in fact a cinema and not a candy store for hungry giants. The ticket queues are also sweety queues. Every mega bag of confectionary breaks the advisory limit on sugar consumption for the year. When we eventually find the venue for our film, the volume on the trailers and adverts makes our ears bleed.
Fortunately, The Favourite is a daft and delighful triumph, but we wish we’d waited a week to see it at The Picture House. Btw: the three leads are all great, but Rachel Weisz gets the best lines.
The Birds and the Bees
The Editor of this illustrious website has recklessly invited responses to these true tales. Now some one has sent us a postcard. The handwriting is shaky, but it appears to be from a Ms Anne Thrope (PW reckons it might be Thorpe). She writes, ‘These animal ditties, about rapacious and cannabilistic females - I’m sure there are some nasty males out there too! Just saying!’
Mmm…fair point. I do some further research:
The South American gaucho knows a trick or two,
But the Lake Duck has a trick that cowboys cannot do:
When pleased to see his Senorita,
His member grows to half a metre,
And if she flees it turns into a lasso!
If you would like to send a message about this piece or suggest ideas, email George Murphy