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Murphy's Lore

Continuing the second series of the offbeat HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.

In Lockdown Diary, Episode 23, there's dreams unreal and surreal, underground poems, trouble with toilets, trying to find Todmorden, bad news and good news, a flood avoided,  CND & C&W. 

Murphy’s Lore Series Two
Episode 23: Lockdown diary
Monday, 25 January 2021

Monday, January 11th

I dreamt I was younger and belonged to a writers’ group. It was all happily humdrum and Covid free, then one of the members died.

Dream girl

Dreaming she died, I woke in mourning.
Finding she never lived, I mourned my waking.

I asked PW what she’d dreamt about. She said she was lying on her back on the floor in a room somewhere and miniature horses were leaping to and fro about her face. In the world of dreams, PW inhabits a surreal country.

On my walk, the sun was slanting across the flood plain. Just past the horses’ heads seat, in a one gallon hat and high viz coat, 'one of the leading pastoral poets in England' paused for a roll up, and acknowledged me with a wave of his stick. Nodding towards sunlit Mytholm Steeps, he said, "I’m off to Stiperden Stones with my walking bubble, then towards Bridestones. Then we’ll head back over Jack Bridge." I looked wistfully towards the Steeps, thinking that forty years ago, when I was Mike Haslam’s next door neighbour, I sometimes ran around that route.

In the Co-op, I bought a Big Issue, its sellers having been banished from the streets till further notice. Dodging slow thawing, ice crudded pavements on my return, I thought of a rhyme by Mary Darby Robinson, whose short, eventful life could have inspired a series such as Brotherton.

January, 1795,

Pavement slippery, people sneezing;
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing.

Near home, I met Mel Fox and bubble. We discussed the dangerous condition of the towpath last week and Mel suggested employing the ‘penguin  walk’ as the safest means of locomotion on icy days. Having watched plenty of penguin perambulation in documentaries over the years, I reckon I could manage the tippy toe shuffle, hands flapping like flippers, on flat routes, but might struggle replicating the penguin technique by sliding down icy slopes on my belly.

Tuesday, January 12th

I had another death dream, but this time I was the deceased. “Excuse me!” I protested, “It’s not my turn yet!” To which devil or deity I made my complaints, I’m not entirely sure.

Today the sun shone.

Wednesday, January 13th

A good read

Poems on the Underground

This anthology was given to me by Gerard Benson, one of the founders of poems on the tube. Like a commuter turning into one carriage instead of another, I opened the book at a random page:

Her anxiety

Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.
All true love must die.
Alter at the best
Into some lesser thing.
Tell me that I lie.

Such body lovers have,
Such exacting breath,
That they touch or sigh.
Every touch they give,
Love is nearer death.
Prove that I lie.

W.B. Yeats (1865 - 1939)

Thursday, January 14th

Suddenly it’s a winter wonderland.

To lose two loos

We had a friend who lived in an Edwardian mill manager’s house which still had the original tiles, bath tubs and toilets. He always scoffed at the poor durability of modern utilities. Yesterday, our son, having pushed the chrome ‘flush button’ on the loo in the prescribed manner, was surprised to see it spiral through the air and land in the flushing waters of the toilet bowl, from whence it disappeared.

Today, returning from a shopping expedition, I found PW securing a substitute flusher into its rightful place. So I nipped upstairs to our other loo, and (what are the odds?) after completing my business, I lightly depressed the flush button, which immediately plunged out of sight into a cavity in the boxy bit beneath the cistern. 

Saturday, January 16th

Something mysterious is happening with our road signs and tourism information maps. Why are the powers that be preventing people from going to Tod? I think we should know.

Monday, January 18th

I stopped to chat to the proprietor at Hebble End Cafe, who was giving it another makeover. I hesitated before mentioning that there was talk of a storm on the way.

Tuesday, January 19th

Hebden Bridgewas on the early morning news. The presenter had met up with Barry, the Beeb’s go to man for River Calder flood related items. At that stage, the piddling rain wasn’t even puddling, which must have annoyed the early rising presenter, if not our man on the spot, Barry.

Wednesday, January 20

The bad news 1: research in Israel suggests a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine might be ineffective for most people, although it’s thought this result this could be due to lax policing of Orthodox Jewish ceremonies.

The bad news 2: The rain has been persistent, but spasmodic. We spent the day checking reports of river levels from the Environment Agency.

The good news: Trump has left office!

I enjoyed the inauguration speeches and Amanda Gorman’s poem. Perhaps only Americans can speak with such grand lack of cynicism and unsullied hope. Mary Krell sent me a note saying perhaps that’s because Amanda’s only 22. True, although Biden’s knocking on a bit and his speech showed that he still has a dream.

Thursday, January 21st

Well, it could have been worse.

Rain, by Mary and Bryan Talbot, Cape

Storm Christoph swerved and unloaded over the borders, North Wales and Cheshire.

This evening we watched Long lost family. PW enjoys the moment when I stealthily reach for a tissue as the grown up orphans meet once more the mum they haven’t seen since they were babies.

Friday, January 22nd

Going against national trends, as we often do, Hebden Bridge has recorded its lowest number of new Covid cases in months.

Neighbours have celebrated a new treaty which requires ratifying nations to never 'develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices’. I at least hope there will be cuts in nuclear stockpiles, although I can’t see a rush from the 9 countries possessing nuclear weapons to ratify the treaty.

The arguments around nuclear disarmament have not changed much from my childhood, when my favourite teacher joined the protest marches to the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston. In France, the social democrat philosopher Raymond Aron set out the contrary argument: “The threat of massive retaliation is inoperative once it is reciprocal. Similarly, the threat of using atomic weapons in localized land battles would be inoperative once the potential enemy had the same capacity.”

As Clive James pointed out in Cultural Amnesia, the lifting of the Berlin blockade in the  50s and Kruchev’s withdrawal of weapons to end the Cuban missile crisis in the 60s seemed to confirm Aron’s analysis.

Saturday, January 23rd

Jude recently bought a Country and Western compilation CD. We’ve been inspired to serenade his mum (not a country fan) with our version of Tammy Wynettte’s Stand by Your Men and that Dolly Parton classic, “Kathleen, Kathleen, Kathleen, Kathlee-e-een.”

Sunday, January 24th

There’s lots of talk in the papers about the challenges facing the new world order following the departure of Donald Trump. This cartoon in The Economist sums it up quite neatly.

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