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Murphy's Lore

Number Twenty-five of the regular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.

Murphy’s Lore 25 - Tuesday 18 June 2019


What has the EU ever done for us?

Mytholmroyd and Europe

Thankfully, we can always trust Old Etonians to look after the old northern industrial towns.

The Thinker

You go 13.7 billion years without being here and then Capow!

Well, I didn’t know then how long it took, but when I was a nipper I wondered why people looked a bit bored with life. I didn’t get it. If I sometimes spoke too fast - well, there was so much to say. If I mumbled, it’s because there was too much going on in my head.

One day, my teacher took me aside and told me I had to take three girls to the town clinic, and told me to make sure they got there safely. Then I should ask for the 'speech therapy' nurse. I looked at the three girls. The older girls were elective mutes and the tiny girl from my class had a scratchy, grandma's voice.

At the clinic, I told the nurses in a clear, important voice, like a newsreader with a Merseyside accent, "These children have been sent to practise their talking."

I thought I was their chaperone.

The nurse was so struck by my confident manner that once a week, for the next 6 months, I sat in the corridor, drawing in a book with a photograph of Rodin’s The Thinker on the cover, wondering what he was thinking about (probably, "Who’s nicked me kecks?"), whilst sucking a reward lollipop - while the girls got their speech therapy.

It was only in the last week, when one of the mute girls gave the nurse a letter to say they were going to junior school after the summer holidays, that the nurse came out, stared at me for a while, and then asked how old I was. Then she rang the school.

That week I had my one and only lesson of speech therapy.

After the reading

In an upper valley school, a few years back, I watched the student teacher read aloud a mournful prayer. A native American chief called on his ancestors and the spirits of the sacred homeland to protect his people from the invaders.

Her reading was clear and heartfelt, and for a few magical moments afterwards, the Year 5 class were thoughtful and silent, rapt in a different time and place. Then she gave out printed copies of the prayer, and asked the children to go back to their places and underline all the adjectives and adverbs.

The gud owd daze

I was late learning to read, right up to Junior School. Which didn’t help when our homework every week was a list of spellings to memorise.
On Fridays, we had the Spelling Test, and then we marked each other’s sheets. Afterwards, Miss Pugh made us stand up and only sit down when she said our score.

She slowly counted down from twenty and I was always one of the shabby kids still standing when she got to the low numbers. Then she solemnly said, "All those standing, come out to the front."

Each week we each received a sharp whack with the edge of a ruler on each hand. I watched the other kids’ faces turn red, after their punishment. Sometimes, they had tears in their eyes. But when she got to me I had learnt to deaden my expression.

Afterwards, we traipsed back to our places, nursing our stinging hands under our armpits.

Butter Up Award

In the past few years, Burnley Road Primary school have coped with: the 2015 Boxing Day Flood; temporary accommodation; living next to a massive flood repair project; cuts to their budget and, not least, contaminated air from the unending traffic jam beyond the playground. Despite all of which, the head, teachers and staff have maintained a positive attitude, praising and rewarding pupils for their accomplishments, effort and friendly, considerate behaviour.

Both the grown ups and the children deserve medals - but I can only offer them this tribute and an imaginary slice of Murphy toast, butter side up!

*Joan, who spent too long on her phone…

(The story so far: Joan’s parents have banned her from using her phone during their visit to the zoo…)

…Until, at t’ Giant Reptile House,
Her parents chatting spouse to spouse,
Past giant ferns, all dank with heat,
Joan sneaked off to send a tweet.
Extremely bored and overheated,
"I want my parents dead!" she tweeted -
With both eyes on her phone she wandered,
On through steaming jungle blundered,
Past DANGER! signs she did not see,
All alone, but feeling free.
Till, by deep pools - that smelt unhealthy -
She paused, to send her friends a selfie.
When, a hungry Crocodile - or perhaps it was an Alligator -
PHOTO BOMBED … then promptly ate her!

Alerted by a noisy crunch
(A reptile having Joan for lunch)
The Zoo Keeper - a plucky feller -
Sacrificed his best umbrella,
And propping open t’ creatures jaws,
He dived inside to great applause.
For Joan’s father - a cautious chap -
Had bought a phone location app.
And t’ reptile’s dark insides wor braved …
And t’ Smartphone, though not Joan, wor saved!

So think on, put down that phone…
Or else you might end up like Joan!

House husband

That saying, "You can’t do right for doing wrong," rings true sometimes.

I was happily doing my ironing (lowish skill factor, but you can listen to Radio 4 with impunity) when I heard a scream from the cellar. Although loud, it was abruptly curtailed - a scream strangled at birth.

In Tom and Jerry cartoons, such screams are followed, moments later, by the black maid’s shout of ‘Thommm - masss!!!’ but in this instance it was my name that rang out. The open cellar door and the pregnant silence from below beckoned me.

I turned off the iron and the wireless and tried whistling It’s a hap, hap, happy day as I strolled downstairs. Present Wife was standing next to the large trunk freezer, with the lid open. Something was amiss. In fact, the food was amiss. That trunk freezer was almost empty.

Assuming an authoritative air, I explained that I had only thrown out food that was well past its SELL BY date. PW gave me a look in which Pity had a fleeting half life, immediately routed by the overwhelming forces of Derision.

So, I pointed out her good fortune - most of the food stuffs were well wrapped and uncontaminated, the binmen hadn’t been since my clear out and the expensive cuts of meat were easily rescued. Her eyes were still blazing. So I made a dignified retreat.

"Can’t do right for doing wrong," I muttered, quietly, as I returned to my ironing. Perhaps PW shouted "Pardon?!" below stairs, but I couldn’t be sure, because just at that moment I turned on Woman’s Hour.

Bernard’s Eye View

In 2012, the report into the Hillsborough Disaster by an independent enquiry not only highlighted police failings, it also exposed a massive cover up and falsyfying of witness statements. Mick Piggott wrote to HebWeb, arguing that Bernard Ingham should apologise for the false statements about the disaster he had reiterated over the years. Following the disaster, Ingham had written that "tanked up" Liverpool supporters had caused the loss of life. He said it was despicable that the families had attempted to blame the police. Despite the new findings, Ingham refused to apologise.

Hebden Bridge born Bernard, Margaret Thatcher’s former Press Secretary, had written his Bernard’s Eye View in the Hebden Bridge Times for 20 years, from his home in Surrey. When the newspaper refused to act, Pecket Well’s Jason Elliott set up a Facebook page entitled Remove Bernard Ingham as a Hebden Bridge Times columnist. 350 people joined the website and threatened to stop purchasing the paper.

Eventually, the Editor wrote to Ingham and asked him to apologise for his false statements, which he refused to do. And so Bernard’s one eyed view was no more


As the mini election for a new prime minister gets under way, it’s worth remembering that when the families of Hillsborough victims were pushing for a new enquiry into the disaster, Boris Johnson wrote that, along with an unfortunate addiction to Welfarism, the people of Liverpool "see themselves as victims, and resent their victim status, and at the same time they wallow in it."

* from Hippy Valley

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