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Murphy's Lore is back - for a third series.

All 93 episodes are still available here on the HebWeb.

Episode One includes Ukraine and overdosing on news, going live and staying alive, dancing hares and voice hallucinations, the landscape artist of the year and Don the Drone, free will and the politics of faeces, a news junkie confesses and Joan is illustrated!

Episode One

Spring arrives and the Canal and River Trust are dredging the lock next to the park.

Ukraine, 2022

I recently met Jonathan Timbers for a coffee and confessed I'm waking every morning wondering what the latest news is from Ukraine. Jonathan's sure the Russians will win by sheer weight of armaments. Simon Sharma is emphatic that they won't, because of the spirit of the Ukrainian people. I'm guessing it will end with jaw jaw and the Russians will get land (most of which they had before the conflict) whilst Ukraine will keep its weapons whilst pledging to stay neutral.

Later I read a piece by Misha Glenny. He believes we should make clear to ordinary Russians that it is not them we condemn, 'after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we encouraged the free-for-all transition to a free market economy, aptly described as 'gangster capitalism,' which led to dictatorship. If Russia loses, and Putin is displaced by popular demand, we'll need to help the Russian economy to recover from sanctions, "We must not repeat the mistakes of Versailles in 1919," which led to the rise of Hitler.

'The Mothers'

Woodcut by Kollwitz, arts of the Weimar republic, 1922.

Going live

How did previous generations cope through years of war, when we weren't just watching the conflict on the news but were actively involved? In The Times Weekend supplement, mental health gurus tell us to limit our Ukraine news bingeing - it's not good for us. So, I've managed to forget the news for a while by going to gigs.

I found an 'ice-breaker' for the Moonraker Festival in Kirklees in 2018, which I didn't use in case I offended the locals …

There was a young man from Kirkheaton
Who did it and got soundly beaten.
In Denshaw, Diggle and Delph,
They reckon it's bad for your health.
In Harrogate, Honley, and places refined,
They say, "Don't do it, you're sure to go blind!"
But Grandad knows one place will allow it.
Since he wor a lad, he's done it in Slaithwaite.
So give him a hand. Come - join in with me:
To grandad, who first dipped his Hobnob in tea.

Staying alive

I've recently checked how I'm doing on three measures scientists recommend for a longer life:

1) Drink 3 coffees per day.

2) Lose weight by lying in bed for an extra hour.

3) Sit on the floor and then stand - without kneeling or putting a hand on floor or furniture on the way up.

Well, I'm ace at the first two, and one day I might manage the third, if I can master the getting down on the floor bit first.

Hare Piece

Wednesdays, are our 'care free' days. One Wednesday we went to the Sophie Ryder, Dancing Hares exhibition at the Piece Hall, despite the pouring rain. Sophie wants people to 'walk under and through' the exhibits. So PW sheltered from the rain under a giant hare.

John Billingsley went the following day and the sun blazed down. He dropped into the Information Office, followed soon after by an old guy who had a complaint, "It's disgusting. Such a display! Disgraceful! Naked buttocks, down on all fours in front of you! I wouldn't want my grandchildren to see that!" (Btw, he was commenting on the sculptures, not on John).

Voice hallucination

In her brilliant new book, The Rag and Bone Shop, Maggie O'Keane reminds us that people with psychosis hear voices as clearly as we hear ordinary speech. Our son says paranoia is worse than hearing voices. Our counsellor daughter says for most people voices and illusions aren't negative experiences.

Apparently, a fair number of us experience voice delusions. For instance, a few times over the years, I've heard a woman whisper "George" in a caring, protective manner, but when I've looked round discovered I was alone. Friends have also experienced 'voice hallucinations':

Freda Davies, Triangle:

"I attended a conference once about hearing voices. One presentation was about research tracking movement of the eardrum. People who heard voices regularly were found to have action in the eardrum when they heard a voice."

Tom Murphy, Chester:

"Once I was alone while walking at night and I couldn't identify the source so it weirded me out slightly. There were no nearby cars … no people … I feel like this was likely to be a true voice hallucination. And the other time was less remarkable as it was in a busy sports bar, but I could have easily misheard my name from any of the surrounding conversations going on. The only reason it stuck in my mind was because it sounded like an unfamiliar female voice, and there weren't many women in the place …"

John Billingsley, Hebden:

"Back around 1973, The Old Sun Inn at Haworth had a new landlord who wanted to make a dining pub out of it … The locals told him the pub was haunted by a disembodied voice. I talked to a chap (a Bradford Museums Curator) who had heard it speak over his shoulder when he was in an empty bar … some of the locals advised him to get one of those old-style carved stone heads above the doorway, the archaic ones that don't like anybody much. So he did, and I've not heard reports of any spectral voice there since. And it became a dining pub."

And so to bed:

Linda Hodges, Hebden:

I distinctly heard voices that seemed to be coming from my pillow once, like people talking but I couldn't quite make out what they were saying. There was nobody around. It's a fascinating subject."

Dave Jackson of Telford:

"I've had times in my life where I had a lot Lucid dreams, where you're conscious of being in dreams, but the voices are less vivid than the visions. This stuff is fascinating."

Jenny Nicholson, York:

"A girl's voice has woken me at dawn on quite a number of occasions … she is quite clear, natural and very close … saying 'Mamma". It's rather shocking but the memory is very lovely. I wouln't class it as a dream. None of my three daughters were in earshot btw.

Glenda George from Scotland:

"George you are embarking into an area close to my heart … I am pretty sure I became a poet because words seem like people to me with a life of their own, separate from me. The brain can play us false in so many ways but when it comes right down to it, instinct always seems to reach back to the way of experiencing the world that is much more basic and primitive …"

Landscape artist of the year

On Sky Arts, we've been watching the unfolding heats of Landscape artist of the year. The eventual winner was commissioned to base her painting on The Rochdale Canal, and she travelled from Sowerby through some familiar places.

On Wednesday 9th March, we went to see the new painting in Machester Art Gallery, but a sign said it was being put on display from the 10th.

Folk tales for our times

I tried this new story in Zoom time storytelling at the Rat & Ratchet, Huddersfield, but my audience was dismayed by its sombre ending. So, like Pandora, I don't want my audiences to lose Hope, and I've changed the ending …

Don the drone

One evening a mother said to her son, "Boy, go and tell Don the Drone to turn it down a bit."

So Boy put his cap on and went outside. It was quite cold, but Boy had his cap on. It was quite late, but there was a full moon. Boy set off, plod, plod, plod, along the lonely lane. To cheer himself up, he sang a song.

"I wish I was a bird, I'd fly up in the sky, and I would never worry as I watched the world go by."

Then he heard music from a house with all its lights on. Boy went up to the front door, stood on tip toe and rang the bell. A man opened the door and looked around, but didn't see anyone. Then he looked down.

He said, "Hello boy. What are you doing out all on your own at this time of night?"

"Excuse me, sir. Mother said, go and tell Don the Drone to turn it down a bit."

"I'm not Don the Drone. I'm Ricky the Rave."

A woman's voice shouted inside the house, "Come on Ricky! There's a party going on!"

Ricky the Rave shut the door and Boy walked on, plod, plod, plod, along the lonely, moonlit lane. To cheer himself up he sang his song.

"I wish I was a bird, I'd fly up in the sky, and I would never worry as I watched the world go by."

Then he could hear shouting and laughter and he saw a house with all its lights on. Boy went up to the house and reached up on tip toes and rang the bell. A man opened the door and looked out. He was dressed in black and had an axe in his head and tomato ketchup on his face.

The man looked down and said, "Hello boy. What are you doing out all on your own at this time of night?"

"Excuse me, sir. Mother said, go and tell Don the Drone to turn it down a bit."

The man said, "I'm not Don the Drone. I'm Gary the Goth."

A woman's voice shouted inside the house, "Come on, Gary! There's a party going on!"

So Gary the Goth shut the door and Boy walked on, plod, plod, plod, along the lonely, moonlit lane. To cheer himself up, he sang his song.

"I wish I was a bird, I'd fly up in the sky, and I would never worry as I watched the world go by."

Then he saw a little house with a lamp shining beside a partly open door. A sign said 'Cuckhold's Haven', but Boy couldn't read, so he walked along the little path to the little house. A small mongrel dog ran out. The name on its collar said 'Scamp', but Boy couldn't read it. He stroked the dog and then he followed him up to the door. Scamp was barking and wagging his tail as if he wanted Boy to go into the house. Through the open door, Boy could hear a man's voice.

"I'd have done anything for her, and for that little 'un. Anything." Boy shyly followed Scamp along the hallway. The man was sitting all on his own in a chair with wheels on, in a moonlit room. Scamp ran ahead and barked excitedly to the man. The man stopped talking to himself, turned his chair with wheels round and looked in wonder at Boy.

Boy said, "Excuse me, sir. Are you Don the Drone?"

The man nodded. "Mother said, can you turn it down a bit?"

Don the Drone nodded, slowly. He said, "See that you get home safely."

When Boy walked back down the hallway, he saw a framed photograph near the door. The woman in the photograph looked like Mother. She was holding a baby and next to her was Don the Drone in smart clothes, and he was standing, not sitting in a chair with wheels. He was giving a salute with one hand and resting his other hand on Mother's shoulder. They were both smiling and even the baby was smiling.

Boy walked all the way home, plod, plod, plod along the lonely lane, but his cap and his thoughts kept him warm. He walked past Gary the Goth's house. He walked past Ricky the Rave's house. When he got to his own house there were no lights on downstairs, but all the lights were on upstairs. There was a stretch limousine parked beside the gate.

"Oh no," said Boy, "Uncle Peter has come back from his tax haven!"

He heard Mother and Uncle Peter laughing through an open window. Then, do you know what he did? Boy started to walk back along the lonely lane, plod, plod, plod!

The lights had gone out in Ricky the Rave's house. Plod, plod, plod. The lights had gone out in Gary the Goth's house. Plod, plod, plod. Boy started to smile and he walked faster, plod, skip, plod, skip, plod. He started singing his song.

"I wish I was a bird, I'd fly up in the sky and I would never worry as I watched the world go by."

Just as he approached Cuckhold's Haven, a giant Bubu bird flew down and grabbed Boy by his T shirt and flew off with him!
Scamp ran barking outside and found Boy's cap next to a giant Bubu feather. Scamp ran straight back into the house and dropped the cap at Don the Drone's feet. Don the Drone looked inside the cap and read it aloud.

"This cap belongs to … Don Junior."

Meanwhile, Giant Bubu bird flew over the cold moonlit landscape, towards his nest, and Boy sang.

"And now I am a bird, I'm flying in the sky and I will never worry as I watch the world go by."

And then Boy wondered if Giant Bubu bird was taking him home to a lovely warm nest, where he hoped he would meet little Bubu birds who could be his special friends.

The End

Do we have free will?

Neuro-scientist Read Montague, put participants in a brain scanner, then showed them photos of feaces, dead and rotting bodies and insects devouring food. After which, he asked them questions about gun control, abortion and premarital sex. Mapping the brain's reactions, he found a striking correlation in people's political opinions. Right-wingers reacted to the images with disgust. Liberals were much more relaxed. After tabulating the readings, Montague was 95% accurate in his predictions of people's political leanings. So don't pooh pooh it.

News junkie confesses …

During lockdown I've started every day by reading The Guardian online, followed at lunchtime by The Times and the shrunken version of the Independent (once owned by a pal of Bojo, who is reckoned by secret services to be distinctly dodgy). As our fuel bills are going up £100 in April, I might just stick to the i.

One bit of news that hasn't attracted attention, is from Tom Ball* in The Times (12/3 p.9), who reported that some pundits on state controlled Russian TV channels have recently spoken out against the so called 'special military expedition'.

"If you don't take cities you achieve nothing. Not a single [Ukrainian] city has been taken," complained Yakov Kedmi, Moscow born former Isreali diplomat. He suggested that the Kremlin had sacrificed the lives of young Russian soldiers in vain. "Was this all started just to get Zelenskiy to recognise Crimea?" he asked.

Karen Shaknazarov, a state TV pundit, said, "People are shocked by the masses of refugees, the humanitarian catastrophe, people start to imagine themselves in their place. It's starting to affect them … We would need to bring in 1.5 million soldiers to control [Ukraine]." He said that the Russian leadership had been mistaken in its apparent belief that Ukrainians would surrender, or greet Russian troops as their liberators.

Well, the fact that such views were allowed on a government controlled channel could be the first sign that influential people are recognising that this conflict will be a disaster, and not just for the Ukrainians. I only wonder, however, why this report has not been confirmed by other reputable sources?

*Tom Ball is a graduate trainee news reporter. Before joining The Times he lived in Russia and was a freelance journalist and magazine writer.

Joan and her phone, a Cautionary Tale:

Illustrated by J. Craig Melia

I'm proud to announce I have found an illustrator! This monologue appears in Hippy Valley which is still available in at least two reputable bookshops.

Joan, who only had eyes for her phone and wor eaten …
Her Parents wor Quite Fond of Joan
And they bought her a Mobile Phone,
So she could do her Homework speedier,
Copying chunks from Wikipedia.
But Smartphones have Magnetic Powers,
Joan Fiddled on her Phone for Hours.
Until One Day she wor Offended,
On Facebook she had been Unfriended!
And she cried, 'It isn't Fair,
I wor just about to Unfriend her!'

Her Father pondered 'What's To Do?'
Till Mother said, 'Let's go to t' Zoo.'
And Father said, 'To enjoy us stay,
Put that Blessed Phone Away!

Now Joan had once LOVED Animals,
But sometimes childhood passion dulls.
She trudged through all t' Best Parts o t' Zoo,
Past Tiger, Lion, Kangaroo,
Whose Glories wor all Lost on Joan:
Who Could Not Use Her Mobile Phone!
But got Revenge upon her Kin,
By looking Miserable as Sin.
Until, in t' Giant Reptile House -
Her Parents chatting Spouse to Spouse -
Through Jungle 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 t' Phone she wandered,
On through steaming Jungle blundered.
Past DANGER! signs she did not see,
Alone at last, 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)
A Zoo Keeper - a Plucky Feller -
Sacrificed his Best Umbrella.
And propping open t' Creature's 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!

Russian TV editor Marina Ovsyannikova interrupts Russia's state Channel One main news programme shouting 'Stop the war. No to war!'

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