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Murphy's Lore

Welcome again to the second series of the popular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.

Murphy’s Lore Two: 2 - Monday, 6 April 2020

Tales from an offcumden

When I moved to Halifax in the 70s, it quickened my pulse to hear lasses say, "See you later …"

See you later

(inspired by Robb Wilton)

I was leaving a Halifax cafe one day,

When the waitress said, "See you later,"

Well, being a recent offcumden,

I thought that she'd asked me to date her.

But when I nipped back before closing time,

"We've stopped serving," the manager said.

I said, "I've come to pick up your waitress."

He said, "My girlfriend?! I'll punch your head!"

I said, "Whose?" He said, "Thine!"

I said, "Mine?" He said, "Yes!" I said "Oh?"

He said, "Want a fight?"

I said, "Who?" He said, "Thee!"

I said, "Me?" He said, "Yes!" I said, "No!"

When the waitress came over,

I said, "Haven't we got a date?

Will you kindly tell him it's so!"

She said, "I think I'd rather stick forks in me head."

So then I took that as a No.


Monday, 23rd March

10 million of us watch the tea-time briefings. The experts hope the belated 'Suppression' strategy will mean 'only' 20,000 will die. Then the politicians are asked why we lack beds, protective clothing, testing kits.

Austerity is reaping its whirlwind.

On one thing at least experts from Wuhan to the west agree: it's best not to eat pangolin coated with bat urine.

Wednesday, 25th March

On Radio 4's Today, a Care Home Manager demonstrated a face mask her staff have improvised. They've cut out transparent plastic shields and secured it to their heads with knicker elastic.

On Radio 4, a Bradford doctor said his hospital ordered 2000 masks from a builders' merchants. They've also phoned a gin distillery and asked for a few gallons to help make hand sanitisers. It was 93% pure alcohol, so they've watered it down to 70%. A quarter of their staff are in self isolation.

At Hebden Bridge Co-op, customers do a 2 metres apart quick step as they pass in the aisles. In the narrower confines of One Stop and Oasis, social distancing is harder. Shop assistants are also on the front line.

Last month, we were due to welcome a Scottish storyteller to Stubbing Wharf. Strange how Scotland, a small, magnificent country, has already achieved many of the things the outgoing Labour leader promised if elected. And yet nobody calls its leader an extremist.

It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it. That's what gets results.

Under the Scotsman's Kilt

Jamie had drunk more than his fair share at the Ceilidh and he stumbled along on his way home till he fell down in the grass beside a stream. Next morning two lasses came along and found him there.

The one said, "See that handsome fine built man there, let's see if it's true what they say about what a Scotsman doesn't wear beneath his kilt!"

So they sneaked up on him and lifted his kilt and saw nothing there except what he was born with.

So then the other lass said, "Let's give him a surprise when he wakes. Take that blue ribbon out of your hair and tie it round that whiskery, slumbering, wee selkie of his!"

So they tied the blue ribbon to him, pulled his kilt back down and hurried away, laughing. When the young Scotsman awoke he felt nature calling and stumbled towards the nearest tree to relieve himself. Imagine his surprise when he looked down and saw the blue ribbon.

He said, "Well laddie, I don't know where you've been, but I see you've won first prize!"

Thursday, March 27th

Our granddaughter has a peanut allergy. We've been assured by our MP via his secretary that EpiPens, which had been unavailable due to 'a problem in the supply chain,' are available again. So our daughter contacts all the suppliers and eventually finds a private firm who charge £97 for the life saving gadgets.

We're officially allowed a short drive to avoid crowds when we exercise. So I drove up to Slack and walked along that wide, high road, well away from other ramblers, then sauntered round the cemetery, where there was nobody about, except me and the folks under ground.

Reading the headstones, I came to the conclusion that people a hundred years ago, with the Great War, Spanish flu, high infant mortality and mass poverty had it a lot worse than we do now.

A food shop has been told to stop selling Easter eggs because they're 'not essential' and in Derbyshire the police tipped black dye into a lagoon to deter visitors, even though visitors had got the message and stopped going there.

Freda from Triangle, who I've known going on 40 years, reckons police should be checking on Amazon warehouse and looking into working conditions rather than stopping dog walkers.

In any case, I can police myself and I'll walk from home for the time being. Sylvia, who once lived along here, says her and Pete used to walk up to Old Chamber, 'but it's hard on your knees'. So I'll use my feet instead.

Tonight I received a bad news email and at 8 o'clock went out onto the balconies and into the gardens and clapped at the dark woods opposite to celebrate our NHS heroes and vent my anger that a big man had been laid low by a tiny, invisible killer.

Death in the isolation ward

The wolf

"The Wolf is coming!
The Wolf is coming!"
The young girl said.
"Run!' said her mother,
"Run! Run!
Or else we'll both be dead."
"The Wolf is coming!
The wolf is coming!"
The young girl said.
"It's alright," said her mother,
"It's got grandma instead."

Those that die young make the news: a daughter 21, a dad 34. Meanwhile, the fragile old die isolated from friends, family and the camera's eye. Then one day it happens to someone you know. Emails don't have black borders to warn of their contents and I've just received that email.

The good news

Earth is having a breather and thousands of lives are being saved by a drop in traffic pollution.

All around Hebden Bridge, stuck at home folk are noticing the big bees bumbling about their buildings. Turns out they're mortar bees, reminding people their houses need pointing, "But not just now while we're finding a nest thank you." They love to come indoors and I waft at them, big as they are, to stop them bumbling against windows that don't open, until they find one that does.

On our What'sApp neighbourhood hotline, we help each other with grocery requirements, but we also notice the butterflies and song birds and look up their names. I spot a dipper and Beryl reports a tree creeper near the cycle track.

And out in the countryside, for this year at least, toads and hedgehogs can take their time crossing the road.


Home schooling

The hairy toe

An old woman went out in the cornfield and she found a hairy toe. She had a good look around and was mighty surprised when no else came looking for it. So she took it home.

That evening, the little old woman threw the hairy toe into a cooking pot. Then she mixed in some chopped carrots and potatoes and stirred in some pepper, till it was just right. Then she had it for supper.

"Mmmm … delicious!" she declared.

That night she was sleeping all snuggled up in her bed when the wind woke her with a great whoosh! But she soon rolled over and went back to sleep again. Then she had the strangest dream. She dreamt that the wind was talking to her. "Who's got my hairy toe? Who's got my hairy toe?"

She woke up again and thought she'd only had a nightmare. She was just settling down once more when she heard the wild wind WHOOSH right up to her front door.

"It's fixing for a storm," she told herself. She pulled the bedclothes up to her chin and was just settling down again when she heard a WHOOSH!!! much louder than before. Then, "Who's got my hairy toe? Who's got my hairy toe?" said a voice, just as clear as if it was inside her house.

"Well that stew hasn't agreed with me at all," she thought.

Then WHOOSH!!! the wild wind seemed to rush right up the stairs to her bedroom door. "Who's got my hairy toe? Who's got my hairy toe?" The wind seemed to say. The old woman scrunched right down in her bed and pulled her pillow tight round her ears.

WHOOOOOSH!!!!! went the wild wind and the door to her little chamber was flung open. "Who's … got … my hairy … toe? Who's … got … my … hairy … toe? Who's … got … my … hairy … toe?
YOU'VE got it!"

The old woman peeked out from her pillow and saw a big, shadowy, angry creature with narrow, piercing eyes.

She said, "I'm sorry, but I've eaten it … And very nice it tasted too."

"Then I'll eat YOU!" came the reply.

And that little old woman was never seen again.

Thursday, 2nd April

In the park there's a tree laden with what I thought was mistletoe. So I took a photo and suggested online that when this virus has petered out people should congregate there and kiss the one they love.

The folk singer Keith Donnelly took it for birds' nests and said how clever the birds were with their social distancing, building their nests two metres apart like that.

Jenny Nicholson said if it's mistletoe, and it's harvested, someone could make a fortune.

Paul Degnan from Old Town offered to organise the event.

Rob Collins, of Mytholm Steeps, who is right about most things, said it looked like witches' broom to him.

And so it did to me when he said it. Readers: who is right?

The Birds and the Bees

A song

(Now honey bees we like, but here's the sting,
why is there a queen but not a king?)

Male honeybees when mating feel foreboding,

Their privy parts are famous for exploding.

The Queen thinks all her males are fools,

She gets a grip of their crown jewels …

And tears them off just after their uploading.


These facts of life will teach you how to please,

When you learn about the birds and bees.

The sex life of giraffes is quite a staggerer,

On dates her urine flows just like Niagara.

Her handsome beau says, "What the heck!"

She answers "Get it down yer neck!

A pint of that and you won't need Viagara!


I'm glad I was not born a praying mantis.

With females twice his size he takes his chances.

But after he has pleasured her,

She says, "You haven't got a prayer!"

And then bites off the parts of him she fancies.


The South American gaucho knows a trick or two,

But Lake Ducks know a trick that cowboys cannot do.

When pleased to see duck Senoritta,

His member grows to half a metre,

And if she tries to flee becomes a lasso.



Saturday, 4th April

So many gardeners in so many gardens and so many garden centres shut. Sarah Raven is still taking online orders for flowers, but Tommy Topsoil has stopped delivering the soil and compost to put them in.

Even the Tory press are complaining that we've still only tested 2 percent of front line medical staff. The left was accused of crying wolf when they said hospitals were overloaded and the system wouldn't be able to cope in a crisis. Well this is a crisis alright.

Today Sir Keir Starmer was elected Labour Leader. PW voted for him and he was once her cousin Val's boss! Hugh Grant modelled himself on Keir in Notting Hill. So he's got all that going for him. Good luck with the rest.

Butter Up Award

This time my toast goes to the workers and home owners at Leedham Court, where Rod Dimbleby and I performed recently. Also, heartfelt best wishes to an Old Earth supportive living team - residents and staff. They've given great support to our son, but now he's at home with us till this pandemic dies out. If it ever does.

Nora goes viral

For the first time in 25 years, there was no Shaggy Dog club this month. So here's our most famous member, who usually wraps up the show for us. 96 year old Nora was filmed by the police and fire brigade people in West Yorkshire (before the virus put paid to such gatherings) where they discussed the needs of citizens like Norah, who has severe dementia.


Readers write about Murphy's Lore 2.1: The C word

Pete Jackson from Shropshire enjoyed the children's rhymes.

"Great stuff … Made me think of

Davy Jones with wriggly bones sailing down the river
Up came a shark and bit his bum and made his belly shiver. "

Paul Walsh of Luddenden Foot, "Well made me laugh, George - as you usually do. I'll buy you a pint if we ever get out.

Bob Horne, writer and award winning publisher, "Thanks for this George Murphy, and hope you're well. Enjoyed starting my day with it.

Campbell Malone, from Todmorden, a retired solicitor and a famous fighter against injustice, "Thanks George Murphy, very enjoyable and I was genuinely proud to be referenced."

Jenny Nicholson, retired librarian, provided one of the stories and commented on my mugshot. "Lovely cheerful photo George. Well, I think that's a start of a grin. Think you must have had Covid-19 on your shoulder!"

Actually I was glancing back at Rod.

Jean Smith, (lost and now found again cousin, Liverpool) "That is a bumper edition, George. I feel like you must have been bursting with all that material."

I assured Jean that I had indeed read the monster sized biography of Oscar Wilde!

Finally the sagacious, multi-tasking Professor Mary Agnes Krell of Sussex University: YOU ARE THE BEST.

Three virtual hugs with accompanying kisses to Mary and the rest of the above. And a wish to my readers:

If you would like to send a message about this piece or suggest ideas, email George Murphy

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