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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 Series Two
Epiisode 3: Lockdown diary
Monday, 20 April 2020


Don't gather round people

Well Bob, now the paranoid have a grip on reality and obsessive compulsion's in order, isolation's a social duty but the hand of friendship's an assault, the innocent are unwitting killers but a mass murderer is nature's nurse, what verities can we cling to in these a - changing times?

Monday, 6th April

Steve, part of our ukulele group at the White Swan, has died from COVID-19. He was an aficionado of UKE and loved meeting up with old pals who, like him, had plucked and sung on that chirpy little four stringed instrument for most of their lives. Steve's wife Penny would sometimes come along to the Swan with their solid, low to the ground beagle. A few weeks ago, Steve charmed us with an entertainingly daft home-made song about cheese. Next thing I heard, Penny had the killer virus and was on a life support machine. Next thing I heard after that, Steve had died.

Penny's condition has improved since then and her daughters have told her the news. Steve was a big Balou of a man and they chose I want to be like you as his funeral song.

Einstein and Liszt

The White Lion

A few years back I'd just finished reading a biography of Einstein and was thinking about his mind bending, time bending, thought experiments when I slipped into the White Lion and read about a famous composer who once spent the night there.

Uncle Herbert's Machine

"This pub", said our local landlady,
"Once accommodated Franz Josef Liszt."
I said, "What about Brahms, did he succumb to its charms?"
When an old chap behind me said, "Pssst...

Never mind talk of fancy composers,
Nor offcumdens of mighty renown,
Whilst tha drinks that sherbet, I'll tell of a Herbert
As wor born and brought up in this town...  
There have been some amazing inventions,
But t' greatest invention I've seen
Wor in 1905 - I wor t' first one to drive -
Uncle Herbert's Time Travel Machine.

T' contraption wor not much to look at:
Two seats and some levers and gears,
And a set of dials – not for counting miles –
But to show distance travelled in years.

Uncle said, 'Will tha be my co-pilot?'
And he helped me to set t' Target Date.
So I gave t' dials a tweak – month, year an' week –
And they stopped at 1968.

Now mother wor most disconcerted.
She said, 'Don't fetch him back late for his tea'.
But uncle just laughed, he said, 'Don't talk so daft! 
Think on Einstein's relativity.'

So we waved goodbye to all t' family
And smoothly moved up to top gear.
And to my surprise, when I opened my eyes,
We'd leapt forrard 63 year!

When all t' dust and smoke had quite settled,
I couldn't believe what I saw:
It worn't room I know - no carpets, nor lino -
Just cavemen sat round on our floor.

All t' men had hair down to t' shoulders,
And passed round an old cigarette.
And t' lasses' short skirts fair upset uncle Bert,
It's a scene I shall never forget.

Then t' leader o't cavemen came forrard -
Wearing bear skins, a right proper mess.
'Good trip man', he said. then, shaking his head,
'What's tha doin' in that fancy dress?'

Happen uncle wor proper offended,
For pushing on't levers right hard,
We leapt forrard fifty year, all t' way in top gear,
And landed outside in t' backyard.

Then uncle stared up at t' mill chimneys,
Saying, 'Look lad, no smoke's coming out!'
And all down our street, folks worn't using their feet,
Horseless carriages took them about.

And some dined at pavement cafes,
Or cruised on t' canal in a barge.
But t' best thing of all wor this hole in t' bank wall,
As wor giving out cash - free o' charge!  

'By - this is alreet!,' said my uncle.
But we'd promised we'd get back for tea,
And when we reappeared all t' family cheered,
For my uncle Herbert and me.

But nobbut three days later -
I'll tell thee summat that's weird -
Uncle Bert had a date wit' barmaid's best mate
And both of them – and t' machine – disappeared!

Still, there's been some amazing inventions,
But t' greatest invention I've seen
Wor in 1905 – I wor first one to drive –
Uncle Herbert's Time Travel Machine."

Tuesday, 7th April

On a day in which more than 700 hundred have died, the greatest number of COVID-19 deaths so far, the first 20 minutes of BBC News is focused on someone who's alive. Thus it has always been. We understand history through the lives of the high and mighty. The masses are many and in plain sight, so we miss seeing them. Mind you, it's rumoured on social media that Sir Ian Duncan Smith has told Boris he's fit for work.

Thursday, 9th April

My niece Nicola is a nurse who visits care homes. At the moment she's off work with what might be the virus, but she can't be sure because she hasn't been tested. The UK started testing when the Germans did. The Germans kept on testing - 100,000 people a day. They also tracked people who tested positive, whilst we told them to go home and get better. Now the German death toll is a quarter of ours.

A few years back, Nicola's mum was given a puppy that grew to be huge. She kept him in the kitchen, tied to a radiator, where he proceeded to eat the skirting board. If we asked for a cup of tea, our Chris would say, "Right, I'll just see if Benson will let me." Then she grabbed the sweeping brush she kept handy by the kitchen door and slipped inside. All hell broke loose as Chris fought off her monstrous pet, whilst trying to make us a brew. One day, Benson tore the radiator from the wall and Chris got him taken away. We never got to see him, but I imagine him as not unlike that dog that ate Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones.

Home schooling

(Note to Parents: get the kids to join in with Turpie's barking, but don't forget to show them the signal for STOP! Think of the neighbours, especially if you live near me.)

The Hobyahs and Little Dog Turpie

A little old man, a little old woman and a little girl lived in a turnip house. One night the hobyahs came and said, "Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the turnip house, eat the old man and the old woman and carry off the little girl!" But Little Dog Turpie barked so loud that the hobyahs ran away.  The old man said, "Little Dog Turpie barks so loud that I cannot sleep nor slumber, if I live till morning I will cut off his tail."

So in the morning the old man cut off Little Dog Turpie's tail.

The next night the hobyahs came again, and said, "Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the turnip house, eat the old man and the old woman and carry off the little girl!"  But Little Dog Turpie barked so loud that the hobyahs ran away. The old man said, "Little Dog Turpie barks so loud that I cannot sleep nor slumber, if I live till morning I will cut off one of his legs."

So in the morning the old man cut off one of Little Dog Turpie's legs.

And so it continued. Each night Little Dog Turpie's barking frightened the hobyahs away, but in the morning the old man came downstairs and chopped off another of Turpie's legs. Till one night the  old man said, "Little Dog Turpiie barks so loud that I cannot sleep nor slumber, if I live till morning I will cut off Little Dog Turpie's head!"

So in the morning the old man cut off Little Dog Turpie's head.

Next night the hobyahs came again, and said "Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the turnip house, eat the old man and the old woman and carry off the little girl!" When the Hobyahs discovered that Little Dog Turpie's head was off, they tore down the turnip house and ate the old man, but not the the old woman, because she hid under the bed armed with a hatpin.

Then the hobyahs put the little girl in a bag and ran off with her.

The hobyahs lived in a cave in Hardcastle Crags, where they hung up the bag with the little girl in it and every hobyah knocked on the top of the bag saying, "Look me! Look me!" And then they went to sleep until the next night (for hobyahs slept in the daytime) knowing that the little girl's salty tears would add flavour to tomorrow night's feast.

Well, next morning the little old woman crawled out from under her bed, found her needlework box and sewed Little Dog Turpie back together again. It took her most of the day, because the first time she sewed on the head where the tail should have been and Little Dog Turpie didn't know whether he was coming or going! Finally, she got it right and the little old woman and Little Dog Turpie went off in search of the little girl.

They walked up Hebden valley and it was just getting dark when they heard the little girl crying. So that's how they found the hobyah's cave!

That night the hobyahs took down the bag and knocked at the top of it, and said "Look me! Look me!" and expected to eat the little girl for their supper. But, when they opened the bag, Little Dog Turpie jumped out and ate them all up, every single one.

So now there are no hobyahs left in the whole wide world, apart from a few near Cornholme.

CulvertFriday, 10th April

Debbie from along the way has discovered a tunnel on the north bank of the river. I googled and found out that its the end of a 400 metre long culvert from the Mayroyd wheelhouse, an impressive piece of Victorian engineering. Once the Calder was 'the hardest worked river in the country' and this area close to the station, between the river and the canal, was dominated by massive textile mills.

I met Liz the landlady, enjoying the sun outside the White Swan. She complained that the BBC isn't featuring Good Friday in its scheduling, "People need good news at a time like this." She asked after Jude and Kath and I gave her the bad news about Steve from Ukulele Jam. Then I joined the long, slow moving, sunlit queue outside Boots.

Hancock's half hour

In the daily news briefing, Matt Hancock mentions that 980 people have died in the last 24 hours, then he brags about overcoming the logistical nightmare of providing PPE to doctors and nurses. Hancock loves this riff, making it sound as if Sat Navs haven't been invented, as if armoured vehicles are driving through dense jungle to provide equipment to hidden field hospitals in unknown locations. Then he verbally finger wags at front line staff and warns them not to waste their precious equipment. Hancock has been boasting about this 'logistical triumph' for the last three weeks, yet nurses, doctors and care workers are still obliged to create their own protective clothing from bin bags and swimming goggles.

Saturday, 11th April

Park life

Park View

The quietest place in town is the park. A teenage couple strolled past me, I guessed they were breaking the rules, because they're probably too young and poor to be living together. This romantic scene was spoilt for me by the lanky lad having his hand down his tracksuit trousers, playing underpants pool. I knew a lecturer once who wondered why his students murmured with suppressed giggles when he nonchalantly slid to his feet from his trendy half perch on a table, till one day he realised he'd been unconsciously cushioning his descent with one hand cupped under his assets. I'll spare his blushes by not naming him.

Later, a police helicopter buzzed town for ten minutes or so and hovered over the park, perhaps looking for sunbathers or non cohabiting couples. I expected to hear a loud hailer demand, "TAKE YOUR HAND OUT OF YOUR PANTS SUNSHINE. THIS IS A LOCKDOWN NOT A HOLIDAY!"

Sunday, 12th March

Terry Waite, breastfeeding and ostriches

In The Reunion on Radio 4, Sue MacGregor interviewed the former Beirut hostages. Terry Waite said, after months of captivity, he'd asked one of his more sympathetic guards if he could get him something to read. The guard, who couldn't read English, returned next day and left him a book. After the guard had gone, Waite took his blindfold off and discovered the book was Great Escapes. The following day he received Secrets of Successful Breastfeeding.

Some time after his release, Waite was Starter at the London Marathon. My mate Dave was running and his wife Lin was walking along afterwards when she saw the great man walking towards her. Lin introduced herself, explaining to her small daughters why the towering man was famous. When the smiling envoy departed, Janis, the youngest girl, said, "Mummy, was that man really an ostrich?"

Monday, 13th April

Somerset Capital Management, which Jacob Rees Mogg co-founded, in which he still owns a 15% stake, says market volatility offers a 'once or twice in a generation' opportunity to make 'super normal returns'. So that's alright then.

I've suspended my payments for Sky and BT sport and we've joined Netflix. We are hooked on The Crown. Tonight was supposed to be a non wine night, and would have been if after quaffing Sunday night's bottle, PW hadn't said the fatal words, "Shall we just have one more glass?" As usual the resulting half full bottle is the elephant in the room all evening, until I suggest it would be sensible to drink it now, so that we don't drink a bottle and a half tomorrow night. PW raised no objection to this suggestion.

Grim Grimm

The Grimm brothers gathered many grim folk tales in their travels, including stories intended to protect children by terrorising them.

Frau Trude

There once was a girl who was stubborn and inquisitive and wouldn't do her chores. She said one day she would love to visit Frau Trude's house because everyone said how odd it was. Her parents were furious and told her that Frau Trude was a wicked woman and if she went to Frau Trude's house she would no longer be their child. Her parents' warning did not discourage her. One day she slipped out of the cottage and went to Frau Trude's house.

Frau Trude said, "Why are you so pale, child?"

"I saw a black man on your cellar stair."

"Why, that was only the coal man, my dear."

"Then I saw a green man."

"Why, that was only the hunter bringing home his bounty for the kitchen."

"Then I saw a blood-red man."

"Well, and so you would, for that was the butcher come to prepare the meat."

"Frau Trude, I was most terrified when I looked through your window and saw the devil himself with a head of fire in that chair where now you sit."

"Well then girl, you have seen the witch in her true form. I have been waiting for you long enough  and now you will give me some light."

Then she changed the little girl into a block of wood and threw it onto the fire, where it made a proper blaze and lit up the whole room.

Tuesday, 14th April

I walked into our bedroom and PW screamed and fell back onto the bed.
Jude shouted "WHAT'S UP?!"

"It's alright Jude, I've lived with your mum for nearly half a century and she still forgets I'm here!' PW is holding her heart. "I didn't hear you coming. I thought you were on the top floor!"

I said, "D'you want me to ring a bell as I move around?"

We once parked up at our last house and when I walked round to the passenger side to help take in the shopping, PW shrieked and leapt back as if I was Nosferatu scenting blood. At Mill Bank in '88, she came in with the shopping, saw me, dropped her bags and went into labour. Mind you, I had shaved off my facial hair whilst she was out.

Perhaps these recurring abdabs were triggered in the summer of '73. I'd just finished my last shift of a summer job at Shotton Steelworks and it was a week before our wedding day. Steel working was a mucky job and I was just emerging from scrubbing myself down in the bathroom of our flat in Chester when I heard my future wife coming in. I pulled on the face mask I wore for work and the silky pink underpants the steelworkers had bought as a joke wedding present and I leapt out at her, shouting, "NIFF! NIFF! NIFF! NIFF!"

To my surprise, she screamed and leapt back in terror. She would have cancelled the wedding there and then, but she'd already paid the deposit on the catering.

Thursday, 16th April

I love to go a wandering - and take some decent photos close to home - but now the CPS and police chiefs have announced it permissible for people to drive out of town to uncrowded places to exercise. They stipulate that the exercise should last longer than the drive. So, next week I'll drive ten minute away from this walkers' hub to somewhere isolated, then ramble past swathes of bluebells or wander over deserted moorland, enjoying the vast vistas, untroubled by thoughts of illegality - or the chastisements of social media Stasi.

In the daily news briefing Dominic Raab announced that the lockdown will continue for at least another three weeks.

Friday, 17th April

From the towpath I chatted with two council gardeners who were weeding and replanting the park's wild flower gardens. A woman approached and offered to provide them with some more wildflower seeds. The younger women hope that the garden will look after itself in years to come, but what they're praying for now is some overnight rain.

A friend told Kath she's at her wit's end, she's received no funding to meet the costs of funding the women's refuges she manages. I suggested she should contact her MP. She said she has and she has also contacted the Labour leadership. She texted me later to say that the case has been passed on to Jess Phillips. Go Jess!


Einstein's holiday

The Mystery of Mr E

Said our tourism chief of renown,
When visitor numbers were down,
Albert Einstein once came to this town.
He didn't!
He did.
He didn't!
He did. He wor at Grand View B&B.
He worn't!
He wor.
He worn't!
He wor. And locals called him Mr E.

But mainly he used his vacation
To work on his Special Equation.

Well, what else did he do in these parts?
He wor a bit of a dab hand at darts.
He worn't!
He wor.
He worn't.
He wor. He scored a nine dart finish from t' ochie.
He didn't!
He did.
He didn't!
He did. For t' Railway against Horse and Jockey.

But mainly he used his vacation
To work on his Special Equation.

Mind - I only wish I'd had a ticket
To watch Mr E playing cricket.
He didn't!
He did.
He didn't!
He did. He wor a spin bowling sensation.
He worn't!
He wor.
He worn't!
He wor - bamboozled batsmen with his oscillations.

And he went on long peregrinations,
To off beaten track destinations,
Just to work on his Special Equation.

Mind, he took in a Music Hall Show,
Emceed by a comedy duo,
And t' Straight Man - being more sage -
Got Mr E up on t' stage.
He admitted on sporting occasions,
He made use of simple equations
But all this wor just a rehearsal,
For stating a Law Universal!

T' Comic Emcee said, 'By, he's clever -
He's got twice our brains put together!'
'BUT THAT'S IT!' Mr E declared …
An' he points to himself …
Then he points to Emcees …
He didn't!
He did.
He didn't!
He did. He said, 'E EQUALS MC SQUARED!'

Spooky science

Science has become a lot spookier since Einstein's made his equations. Mr E thought he had determined that nothing can move faster than the speed of light, so he'd be surprised that physicists have completed experiments in which they can change particles in the here and now and their actions affect particles emitted from stars so distant that they were in their death throes billions of years before earth existed. It seems it's time to have another think about time.

A physicist with the intoxicating name of Tipler has argued that when the universe collapses towards its final Omega Point, billions of years in the future, we will all be resurrected in a super computer simulation at the end of time and we'll wake up thinking we'd only just departed. So reader, if we don't all get through this present crisis, I'll see you there. I think the first question I'd ask is, "Are there still roadworks on Burnley Road?"

A hundred not out

Our friends' friend, Joan Pearce, 100 years old, is applauded by doctors and nurses as she is wheeled out of her isolation ward after recovering from COVID-19 to return to her home in Hebden Bridge.

Readers write

Bob Horne from Lightcliffe, enjoyed ML 2:2, "Thanks again, George. Glad you have the mistletoe sorted. Hairy toe as well. KBO, mate."

Mary Agnes Krell of Hebden, "I genuinely love these columns, and, in these uncertain times, look forward to them even more. Thank you so very much George Murphy."

Pam Dimbleby from Brighouse thanked me for including her mum's video. Which I should have pointed out made it onto news broadcast around the world.

Dave Jackson from Telford and Jenny Nicholson from York reckon the tree in the park that I photographed was not covered in mistletoe as the parasitic pompoms looked dead. Well I've updated the photo and the bulbous growths have now sprouted into life.

Rob Collins was probably right, who wrote that this looks like a case of 'witches broom', a disease that appears on distressed trees, which seems appropriate at this time.

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

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