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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
Episode 7: Lockdown diary
Monday, 15 June 2020

Lumbutts LaneMonday, June 1st

Scores of daytrippers tripped to Gaddings Dam this sunny weekend. Rosie Newton photographed vehicles parked the length of Lumbutts Lane.

Locals felt beseiged. In the snarl up, delivery vans couldn’t deliver - it was no go Ocado.Then, before visitors drove off into the sunset (leaving locals and litter behind them), police arrived and started towing vehicles away.

Tuesday, June 2nd

Key Stage 3: home schooling, Cautionary Tales for Adolescents

If you and your clothes have suffered sticky moments in the past, this tale’s for you. Or you could write your own Cautionary Tale! Read Hilaire Belloc to get the idea, he was parodying Victorian morality stories. I’ve chosen teenagers, but you could give dire warnings to children, parents or even your teachers (remember them?).

Tina Crumb, who met her end from chewing gum

Avoid the Fate of Tina Crumb
Who loved to Chew on Chewing Gum.
As Muscles in her Face Rotated
It made her Parents Irritated,
But they were told by Dr Hayes
‘Don’t rise to it, it’s just a phase.’

But when that Gum had lost its Taste
She did not seek a Bin for Waste
But Secretly, if she wor able,
Stuck Balls of Gum beneath the Table.
Till some adhered to Aunty Hilda -
On her Best Dress - she would have Killed Her!

But Mother, seeing t’ Situation
Banned forthwith Gum Mastication,
And banished Tina to her room -
A Punishment that Sealed her Doom.
For Tina had a Secret Hoard
And Chewed on it when she wor Bored

And in Self Pity Tina Wallowed,
Two Dozen Sticks of Gum she Swallowed.
But Chewing Gum, each time we Swallow,
Fills up Bits That Should be Hollow.
And after her Unhealthy Feast
Miss Tina Crumb was quite Deceased.

The Doctor told her Tearful Mum,
“Your Daughter’s all bunged up, by Gum.”

Wednesday, June 3rd

Mr Malaprop meets Miss Airedale

Before taking Jude for his daily tour, I reminded PW to watch PMQs and said, “Look out for Sir Steer Calmer.” For a moment we stood daftly stunned, by the Dickensian deftness of my slipped tongue.

Tod Market

Lockdown unlocks: Jude and I discovered the jazz CD stall on Tod market. The cultural pheromones must have taken wing, because the stall was also being buzzed by a passing Tod poet and Miss Airedale, who plays unusual instruments, is a deadpan singer and whimsical lyricist and is aka Pip - the bearded guy in my photo..  

Mary and Rob

Arts Prof Mary Krell and luthier Rob Collins came to see us, sharing alfresco company, cakes and Covid stories. I mentioned the photo of crowds on Lumbutts Lane and Rob said Mytholm Steeps had also suffered. At weekends, cyclists have been parking their jalopies and spending the day uphill time trialling. Woe betide anyone travelling downhill round those blind hairpins, they might end up with a cyclist splattered across their windscreen.

PW prompted me to recall the tale of my teaching observation in a college Beauty Salon that was set up like a hospital ward. I was filling in mundane details on my observation forms as the salon’s tea-time customers arrived and it was only when one of the trilling trainee students piped ‘Brazilian’ that I looked up from my clipboard. I mean, don’t mind me, but the clientele had stripped off their lower garments and were nonchalantly spread out on their beds! The tutor, who had invited me to do the observation, came over and smilingly asked if I’d accompany her whilst she supervised her trainees.

Now, at this point in my narrative, I should have waxed lyrical about the women’s reaction to waxing (which might have been a scream) or explained how I tore a strip off the FE tutor. Instead,  I confessed to Rob and Mary that I made my excuses and raced to the door, accelerating past the elderly, gobsmacked, Asian caretaker in the foyer.

PW said, “I bet he saw your beard and thought, ‘Well … they’ve not done a good job on her!”

Thursday, June 4th

Skin deep

The murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis policeman dominates the news.

In the minds of some people, being born black is a crime. Western literature abounds with stories of black children trying to wash themselves white. The dominant coda has been that black skin is a sign of wickedness.

In ancient times, Aesop’s Blackamoor fable told of a misguided slave owner who washed his black servant’s body every morning, thinking it was discoloured from previous ill treatment. All to no avail. As Aesop concluded, “no human means avail themselves to change a nature originally evil.”

Ironically, Aesop was a slave, and his moral tales weren’t always so comforting to the ruling elite. Eventually, as punishment for his ‘seditious’ stories, he was thrown from a precipice by the son of his slave master. They killed their slave, but his fabula lived on. 

The two wallets

Every man has two wallets, one he carries with him, one he leaves at home. Both wallets are full of faults. But the one he carries with him is full of his neighbours’ faults; the one left behind of his own faults. Thus it is that men are blind to their own faults, but never lose sight of their neighbours’.

Friday, June 5th

Swell guy

Finally got through to my GP, a friendly chap, fed up of working from home, but well informed about the side effects of tablets. He thought mine might be causing me to have swollen and discoloured ‘peripheries’. I think he meant toes.

When I told PW, she said, “I hope it won’t mean amputation.”

Saturday, June 6th

Today I hope the Black Lives Matter demos are peaceful and focus on present injustices, but also remind us of Britain’s historic culpability. If there are any flare ups, that’s what the press will focus on.

Mama Dot

by Fred D’Aguiar

Born on a sunday
in the kingdom of Ashante

Sold on monday
into slavery

Ran away on tuesday
cause she born free

Lost a foot on wednesday
when they catch she

Worked all thursday
till her head grey

Dropped on friday
where they burned she

Freed on saturday
in a new century

Monday, June 8th

J K Rowling has made the controversial claim that the word ‘women’ should still be used when referring to women, rather than ‘persons who menstruate’. I discussed this with a ‘person who used to menstruate’ and she agreed with JK.

Steering a different course

On a radio phone in, Steer Calmer said the Bristol statue should have been lawfully removed a long time ago. He also said people should abide by the law and by the rules on social distancing. How the Tories would love him to defend law breaking! I must admit, however, there was something rather eloquent about the toppling of the slave master’s statue into the harbour water. Watching it, I mouthed a silent cheer.

Tuesday, June 9th

Rummaged through some anthologies and found this.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

Wednesday, June 10th

Today, Neil Ferguson, the man who persuaded the government to start the lockdown back in March, told a select committee that if the government had started one week earlier they would have saved 20,000 lives.

Thursday, June 11th


A thing of beauty

Wow. I walked into the upstairs sitting room and this cactus had flowered. It lasted till …

Friday, 12th June

Weather report

A damp, doomy day with rain and lowering clouds, intermittent showers, some heavy; occasionally brightened by low swooping swifts.

Trump’s Minime Johnson has been blasting out pro statue, anti demonstrator tweets all day, secretly hoping the BLM groups will help him by breaking social distancing rules and attacking a few policemen, providing him with some supportive headlines after his disastrous record on dealing with the virus.

My turn to make the tea, but it was voted that I should get fish and chips from that portable chippy behind the Dusty Miller. Two councillors were also hunter gathering, and as we waited for our fish suppers to be boxed up, I found out that all the works affecting the main road should be completed by September.

Swifts swept fast and low over the car all the way home. The fish was scrumptious.

That law again

According to Google photos, the last foreign holiday we had was nine years ago, at our friends' house in France. So this year, as I hit 70 in December, we decided to make it my special  ‘Holiday Year’. Would it be Ireland, France or Italy?

Well, that’s another slice of Murphy’s well buttered toast that fell splat on its face.

Grim Grimm

Man’s span

God created the world, then asked each creature how long they should live. He offered ass 30 years, but ass said, “Why so long, Lord? I’ll only get hit by my master’s whip and worn out by carrying burdens all day. Please take 18 years off my time.”

So God decided ass should live 12 years.

Then dog appeared and God offered him a life span of 30 years. Dog said, “Master, why should I live so long? Once I can’t hunt and bark and bite I will only slink into a corner and growl. Please take away 12 years from my total.”

So God took a dozen years from dog’s life span.

Next came monkey. God thought monkey would willingly live thirty years, he had no work to do and he could just enjoy himself. “Excuse me, my Lord,” said monkey. “I will be expected to entertain man and play merry pranks and make funny faces to make children laugh. Really Lord, sadness will be hidden behind my grin. Please take ten years from my misery.”

So God made monkey’s lifespan 20 years.

Next man came forward and God offered him 30 years of life. Man said, “My Lord, that is far too short. By the time I have a family and built a house it will almost be time for me to die!”
“Well,” said God, “I will add the 18 years ass could have had to your allotted span.”
“That is not enough, my Lord.”
“Well then, you should have dog’s twelve years.”
“Still too little time, my Lord.”
“Then I will you give you monkey’s ten years and that will make 70 - and that’s quite long enough.”

So man was allotted three score years and ten. The first 30 he is healthy and merry and glad with life. Those are his human years.

Next he has his ass years, when one burden after another is laid upon him and his burden is to earn the corn to feed others, despite all the blows and kicks he receives.

Then come dog’s twelve years, when he lies in the corner, growling and grumbling, and no longer has teeth to bite with.

Finally he lives monkey’s ten years. Then man is weak headed and foolish and does silly things and becomes the jest of children.

Saturday, June 13th

In London, right wing demonstrators are attacking police officers who are protecting statues, because the demonstrators say they want to protect them. When they can’t protect their hero Churchill, who inspired the nation to defeat the Nazis, they make Nazi salutes.

A guy from the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, probably not a fan of Kick it Out, was most annoyed that Black Lives Matter demonstrators didn’t turn up to receive a good kicking.


Sunday, June 14th

Maya Angelou

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou Revisited from Skoll Foundation on Vimeo.

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