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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 8: Lockdown diary
Monday, 29 June 2020

Monday, June 15th

Shopping and Father Ted

Lockdown has been loosened. The Express says it’s our patriotic duty to spend money on things we don’t need. Jude’s been desperate to visit HMV, so we did our bit by driving to oven hot Huddersfield, where we walked past a torpid crocodile of panting shoppers outside Primark.

Long before Covid-19 came along, retailers made people queue, knowing that people who queue spend more money. Marks and Sparks and TK Maxx have too few assistants on their tills because shoppers in slow moving queues assuage their frustration by making impulse purchases from handily displayed discount items.

InTales from the Mall, Ethan Morrison explained how retailers have redesigned department stores to make it easier for us to get lost. Escalators are distanced from each other to stop us whizzing to the items we desire. I call it the Father Ted model of retail practice, based on the episode where frantic priests got lost in the lingerie department. Apparently, male shoppers are particularly easy to ensnare. We set out in search of slippers and end up in bras and knickers.

Tuesday, June 16th

In Hebden, most of the non food shops are still shut. Vicky from Ruby Shoesday says she doesn’t think customers will be flocking back just yet, they think the government is easing lockdown too early.

Sarah Steele Yates shared a video of a tornado approaching her house on the tops; but, I’m wondering if that’s actually a worm hole through the space time continuum, allowing alien beings to travel to Todmorden, that well known mecca for space travellers.

An Oxford University professor claims aliens are already breeding with humans to create a new hybrid species that will save the planet. Dr Young-hae Chi, an instructor in Korean at Oxford’s Oriental Institute, thinks this new species will save Earth from annihilation caused by climate change. I wonder if they’ve started their breeding programme in Tod?

Wednesday, June 17th

Boris Johnson has done another U turn, extending the provision of free school meals over the summer holidays, after a campaign by the young footballer, Marcus Rashford. Although Labour has been banging on about it for months, Johnson says he wasn’t aware of the campaign till yesterday.

UFOs in Tod

Still photo of Alan Godfrey on Breakfast Time, in 1980]

UFO talk on BBCHere's former Todmorden PC Alan Godfrey on Breakfast TV, back in1980, talking about his abduction by aliens. He was joined on the sofa by those famous authorities on UFOs, David Icke and Dr Who. The policeman couldn't recall what happened to him after he reported encountering a spaceship on Burnley Road; but, as he told Frank Bough, UFOLOGISTS have been impressed by his genuine terror when he recounted the events under hypnosis. The BBC artist helpfully included some drawings depicting the policeman's examination by his alien abductors.  



Thursday, June 18th

Tai chi

It’s still quiet in town. It only took me five minutes to get to the front of the queue to buy fish in the market. Walking back, I noticed a Tai Chi group in the park. It’s good to see people cautiously doing Hebdenish things again.

Spotting enemy aliens

I’ve been thinking about those drawings of the humanoid in charge of the spaceship in Alan Godfrey’s abduction. That dastardly alien reminded me of a character in the TV series Flash Gordon, back in the 1950s. I wonder if a young Alan Godfrey ever watched it?

Friday, June 19th

Sometime before lockdown, I had a gig with Heather Wilson (aka H the Hatwoman) for a women’s group in Todmorden. I finished with The Todmorden Triangle, which features alien abduction. Afterwards, one of the audience asked locals if they remembered the futuristic flying saucer house that was situated in Tod back in 1980.

House on wheels

Saturday, June 20th

The mysterious death of Zigmund Adamski

In June 1980, Zigmund Adamski, a Polish born coal miner, who worked at Lofthouse Colliery, went missing from his home in Leeds. He left the house to walk to local shops, but was never again seen alive. Five days later, Zigmund’s body was found sprawled on a  mound of coal at Todmorden Railway Station. He was wearing a suit, but his shirt, wallet and watch were missing. His neck and shoulders were covered in burn marks and coated in a strange ointment that scientists could not identify. There were no other injuries, but his eyes were wide open. It’s been said that his face showed an expression of pure terror. The coroner, James Turnbull, said it was the biggest mystery of his career, although the cause of death was recorded as a stroke.

The policeman who was called to the coal yard when Adamski’s body was found, was PC Alan Godfrey. Five months later, at 5 am he was driving through Burnley Road in search of a herd of cattle that had gone missing from a farmer’s field, when he phoned the police station to report what seemed to be a spaceship hovering above the road. Psychologists have suggested we can experience hallucinations when we are suffering from trauma. Perhaps Alan had not recovered from finding the dead body on the coal in Todmorden Railway Station.

Later that day, the missing cows were found in Centre Vale Park. To add to the mystery, the park gates had been locked overnight - so how did the cows get there?

Sunday, June 21st

The longest day. I took this photo of Jude contemplating Crow Wood at 5 to 10. Tomorrow he goes back to his supported living accommodation after three months with us.

Monday, June 22nd

photo of 2012 flood by Andrea Turpin

Eight years ago we had a record flood and our neighbour, Andrea Turpin filmed this from her balcony. Now, eight years on, we’re expecting a heat wave.

Ones and twos

I call in on H the Hatwoman, who has reopened her shop in the mill. We agree that if they’re going to open shops, they also need to unlock public toilets. So far she’s had a one big order, so she’s feeling quite flushed, and a trickle of customers who’ve wandered in wondering where they can spend a penny.  

Tuesday, June 23rd

Home schooling during lockdown

Social studies students: discuss the issues arising from the following Case Study. Hebden pupils: you might like to photograph your parents’ tattoos, print them off and then create a collage as part of your Urban Art module (but ask their permission first).

Key Stage 3 Social Studies

Cautionary Tales for Adolescents

Fred, who had a tattoo on his head, but now hes dead.

Folks round here remember Fred,
He had Two Faces on his Head:
T’ Front Face wor set up in t’ usual way;
But t’ Face round t’ back wor a Bird of Prey.

He got his Head shaved (as wor t’ Fashion,
For young men in pursuit of Passion),
But his Facebook Friend, Beverley said,
He looked like Mr Potato Head.

So he had some Birthday money and He Blew It;
Took his Head to t’ Ink Parlour and said, “Tattoo it!”
And Beverley wor All Agog
When She saw his t’ Bird Phizzog.

They met in Blackpool, on a Weekender,
A Tattood Couple on a Bender.
“It’s Freddy the Eagle!” she said wit’ Grin.
His t’ Front Face said, “It’s a Peregrine.”

Fred wor short and Fred wor slim,
Beverley made two of Him.
They sat on t’ rail at t’ end o’t Pier,
With Fish Suppers and Cans of Beer,

When a flock of Seagulls swooped on Fred,
Attacking t’ Bird on t’ back o’ t head!
But even while her Fred wor Mobbed,
Bev made sure his Fish worn’t Robbed.

Fred fought on and gave No Quarter,
Until he toppled into t’ Water!
Then Onlookers rushed to t’ end o t’ Pier,
And saw Fred’s Bird Face disappear…

Then t’ Gulls flew off, quite Satiated.
Bev looked at t’ Fred’s Fish …
They say, she ate it.

So don’t choose a Raptor for your Head,
Why not a Budgerigar instead?

Wednesday, June 24th

I keep the air con on in the car and collect Jude from his supported living flat in Elland. We go on to Huddersfield, which is hardly bustling. It’s easy to park and parking is free till September. Jude bought a horror film from HMV. Watching the news is far scarier for Jude than watching actors on a film set getting covered in ketchup. When he was in his teens we took him to a party full of lecturers and artists. He joined one group sat round the scrubbed pine kitchen table, who were discussing films they’d enjoyed. Jude asked, “Have you seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre?”

Whilst Jude is in HMV, I nip into Waterstone’s and buy 1,2,3,4: The Beatles in Time, by Craig Brown, which has his signature inside. Tootling round the shop, I stop by the poetry section and remember Sophie Hannah’s poem, Before Sherratt and Hughes became WaterstonesI wonder if sheread it during a book signing, to embarrass the male assistants:

I have never been someone who strictly adheres
To what’s proper - I do as I choose.
(I go down very well with the male cashiers
On the ground floor of Sherratt & Hughes).*

* from Sophie Hannah, Selected Poems, (2006) Penguin

Thursday, June 25th

The hottest day of the year, so I rolled down the blinds after lunch and had a nap, which might become the new normal with global warming, despite Noel Coward’s claim that “The English detest a siesta.”

The Todmorden Triangle

Feeling refreshed, I recorded this piece of secret local history.

Saturday, June 27th

PondCome into the garden Claude

This is me keeping an eye on the pond we had made in our garden at Midgehole. I’ve always felt the mysterious lure of ponds. When I was little, I tried to walk across a lichen covered mere in Ellesmere Port and walked home looking like a miniature green man, but with squelchy pumps.

I used to think of Ted Hughes’s To paint a water lily and imagine Ted reading it to Claude Monet in his garden at Giverny, Hughes’s flat, unflinching, northern vowels challenging the great painter’s perception of the tranquil scene with his descriptions of meat eating dragon flies and - under Claude’s willow trees - ’battle-shouts and death-cries’ that humans can’t hear, but poets can imagine. Then there’s the pond floor, where ‘creatures with Latin names’ roamed about with ‘jaws for heads’. Finally, Ted would point to Claude’s easel and command, ‘Now paint the long necked lily flower … ‘whatever horror nudge her root.’

Clare Mulley

Since leaving North Halifax High School, Clare has been, amongst other things, Gracie Fields in a concert - which is where I first met her - an authority on chocolate on Radio 4, a London Laureate and a poet in residence at The Battlefields Trust. She likes her mum’s cakes and an occasional cocktail on the side. Her sister Vicky wins opera competitions. Now Clare’s poem is in this month’s Spectator.

By the ponds

by Clare Mulley

The day you got engaged
I went to the ponds
and counted dragonflies.
The water simmered
with boatmen, spittle-like bubbles
formed a lace

around the edges of the leaves.
Southern migrant hawker,
Keeled skimmer,
each one a minor miracle
- jointed greaves
like grass rods,

that exquisite tapering
half crooked finger,
half machinery,
The Emperor is the bulkiest of the species
but the larger of the two
is his empress

the huge anal appendages
on her tail dragging down
like uncut emeralds
so that she can hardly take off
from her gravity,
her body a tipped scale.

Sunday, June 28th

Today Jude is 32. Darling daughter is bringing granddaughter along to see him and it’s my turn to get the officially sanctioned hug from Rosie.

Thanks to Clare for allowing me to share her brilliant poem and remember that you can contribute your own thoughts on these lockdown diaries by reflecting on your own experiences so far. Stay safe!

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

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