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Murphy's Lore

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

Murphy’s Lore 26 - Tuesday 25 June 2019



Treesponsibility volunteers planting trees. Photo: Treesponsibility

Treesponsibility volunteers plant on farmland skirting the moors. Walk up from these dizzying slopes, to where the tops level out to heathland and sheep shorn grasses, and if you wander long enough you may spot the limbs of ancient trees half buried in black bogs.

George Monbiot argues that our moors should be rewilded. "Walshaw Moor Estate is getting Higher Level Stewardship subsidies to continue a regime of cutting and burning that contributes to flooding in Hebden Bridge. What greater assault on the land can there be than burning land?" Finance should be switched from landowners who deplete the rich natural environment to enable grouse shooting. The trees and shrubs should be allowed to return.

I would worry, however, about the complete loss of a habitat which gives a home to larks, lapwings, curlews and butterfly enticing heathers. The natural predators for such habitats are harriers and other birds of prey, which have been driven to the edge of extinction by decades of gamekeeper persecution.

Meanwhile, the tree planters get on with their work, surrounded by beauty.

Barbie’s boyfriend

At a chain store in Brighton, dozens of men’s designer briefs were displayed on a table. Most had been picked at, partly unpacked and then discarded, because they lacked an aperture for necessary business, and a shop assistant was painstakingly pushing the pants back into their packaging. Now I know, where there’s a willie there’s a way, but this seemed crazy.

I said, "If you stocked proper underpants, designed for men - not Barbie’s boyfriend - your job would be a whole lot easier."

She didn’t pause from her task as she said, "Older customers often go to Marks and Spencers, sir - just round the corner."

Little and large

Bowes Museum has had an exhibition showing the works of famous fashion photographers, who captured famous models wearing the creations of famous designers. The attenuated models looked fierce, as if they could put your eye out with a stilletto. There were some more recent snaps of BIG models: bosomy babes with bosomy pals.

I‘m glad the ‘big is beautiful’ models have, at long last, been embraced by the fashionistas. But why is fat always funny? Something had made these gaggles of big girls giggle.

Perhaps they’d just seen this season’s underpants collection.

Now tha’s tawkin’

Performance poet Christine Renshaw writes to flag up Radio 4’s Tongue and talk: the dialect poets. You can still catch it on your iPlayer. Programme 3 features Yorkshire dialect poetry and Shaggy Dog’s very own Rod Dimbleby.

Rod’s the leading authority on John Hartley, who wrote the brilliant Clock Almanack. At its peak the 'almanacks' sold 100,000 copies each year. Hartley could certainly coin a shiny new phrase and Rod has listed some of them in Discovering John Hartley’s Clock Almanacks, 1867 - 1916:

He’s tottering about to save funeral expenses.

Ahhm so hungry ah can feel mi waiscoit buttons rubben agean mi backbooan.

it shone like a frozen pond wi t’ sun on it. (an ironed shirt)

Way he limped would a med a policeman shed tears

What’s use of a hankertchy when tha’s getten a coit sleeve?

Wi’ ‘er rings, necklaces and broaches, she shimmered like a chandelier

His hair wor as black as a top hat on a dark neet.

He’s no older nor you’ll be if you live as long.

I’m minded of a Hartley tale about a couple who did their courtship in a churchyard. When their baby was born it arrived in good condition, apart from the imprint from a gravestone on its bottom.

Butter up award

Hebble End Cafe

I like the new owners at Hebble End. They’re from Wheatley, Halifax. Early on, when the guy was away for the day and the lass couldn’t open the till, she threw it on the floor and it opened! Both are photographers and the caff has witty nicknacks and photos. So, in recognition of the bravery of new business start ups, I award the Murphy toast to Hebble End Coffee Lounge!

Four Faber Poets

Although in Three Men and a Boat, Jerome K Jerome cautions against self diagnosis, I recently read a list of Ten indicators for Attention Deficit Disorder and scored a perfect 10. So, I took myself off to the Festival poetry event at Northlight Studios, for an hour of concentrated concentration.

It helped that, by happy coincidence, I had just reread the exact same narrative poems chosen by local bard Zaffar Kunial from his first collection, Us. I sat next to Peter Riley who has spent a lifetime writing, reading and reviewing poetry with laser beam focus whilst always allowing the words to lift him into their world, if they’re fit for take off.

Although the venue was a former mortuary, and the pieces included sad elegies, the readings were full of life.

Fancy Man Stan

The repeat line in this song popped into my head one day, as I was watching couples strolling on the seafront at Llandudno. The story was based on the court cases I read in my parents’ News of the World, back in the 60s, as I was using the paper to bleaze up the fire. Here’s an extract …

Now to prove that first conquest worn’t just flash in t’ pan,
For Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan,
T ‘ next widow he courted wor Dowager Anne,
Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan.
At art of love makin’ he wor a magician,
He got parts workin’ long out of commission!
An’ she changed her will and got t’ reading o’t banns,
For Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan.

But soon after her church wedding began,
To Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan,
A furious woman across that church ran,
At Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan.
And her voice rang out hard,
In its echoing strife,
‘Stop this charade,
For I’m your true wife!’
And all stood like statues …
Except for one man,
Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan.

So off into legend that bad rascal ran,
Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan,
For wooing of widows wor his secret plan,
Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan.
For he had a scheme,
When digging for gold,
To help women dream,
They’d never grow old.
And that’s how he made them
Change their pension plan:
Stan, Stan, Fancyman Stan!

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