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Third series, episode 16

All 108 episodes are available here on the HebWeb.

The latest episode includes, blue on blue warfare, a girl in white, a mouse at an ale house, folklore folk, pulp fiction and rambling on t' moors, two small baps, parking and Nobel prizes, folklore and Ufology, two men telling tales … and the perils of driving near Tod.

Autumn daze …

Ikea table

When I wrote on social media that it was great to live in a town so close to nature, master mountaineer and photographer Mick Ryan reminded me, "You are nature."

Blue on blue

At the start of the Conservative Party conference, I was struck by the responses of Conservative journalists to the mini budget.

Simon Clarke, a member of the new cabinet, had been spouting that we've all been 'living in a fool's paradise, in thinking we can enjoy a very large welfare state.' To which Libby Purves responded: 'Clarke, the new levelling-up secretary, forgets which fools have been running the country for the last 12 years.'

Purves argued that middle Englanders and traditional Tory voters will feel poorer when they 'lose the option of libraries, pools, parks, hospitals, surgeries. They still need 'post, roads, trains, town halls.' She yearns for a time, 'when we are allowed to vote for people with an actual mandate, rather than a quasi-coup cabal who believe the rich are deserving and the devil should take the hindmost.'

Jake Berry, the new Conservative Party Chairman, had loftily suggested that people should improve their own circumstances: "People know when they get their bills, they can either cut their consumption or get higher salaries or higher wages, and go out there and get that new job," and he threatened to take the whip from MPs who voted against the abolition of the 45% rate.

Clare Foges, (former speechwriter for David Cameron) scorned Berry's remarks, 'The lack of compassion alone would be enough to make you seethe … For when those millionaires enjoying a tax cut find themselves £50,000 better off each year, are they likely to spend it on the local high street? … Meanwhile, those who would have spent the cash locally, actually stimulating the economy, will be eating cardboard until next week's visit to the foodbank.'

And that was just the journalists! Soon, Conservative MPs and aggrieved former cabinet ministers waded in.

The nights draw in

And the tales get darker …
The girl in white

It was approaching twilight, and the road over the tops between Cliviger and Tod was clear of traffic, so when he got past the wind turbines and the rocks he put his foot down. Soon enough, he was glancing across at the white painted cottage that he used as a marker, thinking, 'ten minutes from home,' and was just pondering whether to order a home delivery pizza, when he saw the girl in white in the middle of the road. He steered hard right, heard a loud clump, then flew down a steep bank before smashing into the stout trunk of a scots pine.

At the hospital, they thought he was in a coma, but he could still hear his visitors, despite their reverential whispers, and he saw their looming faces; his sister over from the Wirral, wet cheeks glistening from her tears, his mate squeezing his hand, saying the next pint was on him. One evening his boss appeared, checking his phone, then telling his wife he wouldn't be staying long. But the face he couldn't stop seeing was the girl in white, at the terrifying moment when she saw his car speeding towards her.

Ironically, when he eventually came round, there was no-one there to witness it. So he dressed himself, grabbed his keys and set off in a hurry, without even alerting the nurses. He was surprised to see his car waiting for him in the carpark, done up and looking as good as new and he muttered thanks to his mate. He'd phone him when he got home, but first he had an urgent visit to make.

It was dusk when he knocked on the door of the white cottage. It was opened by a wary looking guy with a ring in his ear. He carefully said the words he had rehearsed, "Excuse me … sorry to disturb you. I believe there was an accident on the road out here a few weeks back?"

The guy looked him up and down, "Not a few weeks back, no. A year ago to the day as a matter of fact. Are you from the local rag, mate? Only we don't like to be remi…"

"No, I'm not a journalist, but … to be honest, I've come about your daughter. I need to know … was she killed … the girl in the white. Was she killed?"

"No, no, she wasn't. In fact, if you listen, that's her playing with her sister upstairs. No … our lass wasn't killed. The dog was though, the little scamp ran out on the road and our lass chased after him."

"Oh, that's such a relief."

"No … our lass wasn't killed, just the dog … and the driver of course."

A mouse at Stubbing Wharf

I mainly do readings these days, so it was a pleasure to sit back and enjoy the brilliance of expert tellers, and the gusto of others, at the revived Shaggy Dog club. Just the thing to warm the cockles on a gloomy evening. I particularly enjoyed Christine McMahon's mouse voice! The beer was good too.

Folklore folk

I set off through the icy rain to watch young historian Catherine Warr on '366 days of folklore in Yorkshire,' but ended up going to Hope Baptist Church by mistake, where the camera club were having a meeting. As Alan Fowler reminded me later. "Don't mix up your Baptists with your Methodists."

Reading the following day's account on HebWeb, I agreed with Warr that modern customs are just as much 'folklore' as ancient ones such as Pace Egg and Morris Dancing. 'The Oxenhope Straw Race, for which participants don extravagant fancy dress while running with the heavy bales, is just as meaningful and traditional to participants and spectators.'

As for folktales, 'Changelings left by child snatching fairies might be dark dramatic tales, thrilling us with our wildest nightmare,' but they might also have developed in reaction to disability. I would just add that this particular prejudice was often caused by the belated development of autism in tiny children.

Warr tells us not to underestimate our forebears. 'Stories might be widespread, but there was not necessarily widespread belief in supernatural explanations – sometimes stories are just good stories.' Well said.

Pulp fiction and the Bloomsbury group

Whilst they were cavorting about at Charleston, one sunny al freso day, the Bloomsbury bohemians were distracted by a cheap pulp fiction novel one of them had purchased at the local station. The original source of this story has never been found, but the group recorded enough of the fascinating tale for their biographers to patch its basic narrative together. I've decided to move the story up north and uphill in my version.

Frank's Ramble

When Frank went rambling up on't moors,
His venture seemed romantic.
But then a heavy mist came down,
Now Frank were feeling frantic.

He'd got no signal on his phone
And day had turned to night.
And moon and stars had disappeared,
But then Frank saw a light.

A coach lamp shone beside a door,
But t' house wor dark and shuttered.
"IS ANYBODY HOME?" Frank shouts...
"To ring for t' taxi?" mutters.

Three times he raps upon that door...
...Faint echoes each recall.
But as he turns to walk away,
Sharp footsteps resound in t'hall.

And t' door opens to DAZZLING LIGHT!
Frank feels himself inspected.
"Who is it, my dear?" a voice enquires.
"It's he whom we expected!"

Frank follows her, as if in thrall,
Mumbling apologies.
But as he turns into t' front room,
He's shocked by what he sees.

He looks at one face, then at t' other,
Then "Lord have mercy!" he begs.
No eyes, no nose, no mouth at all,
Their faces are smooth as eggs.

He stands transfixed before them both,
Then he hears an inner yell.
He concentrates, then hears more clear,
And t' words are, "RUN LIKE HELL!"

He staggers back down t' dazzling hall,
And sprints down t' gravel track,
Then plunges into t' mist and moor
And never once looks back.

But on some lonely moorland path,
Dipped headlights - at last - he spots.
And Frank strides out on t' tarmac road,
And t' car slows down … and stops.

T' car's engine purrs as they set off,
Frank states his destination.
In time, his hooded driver asks,
"What caused your perturbation?"

Relaxing then, Frank tells his tale,
And t' driver listens intently.
Then, smoothly slowing t' car to stop...
"No features at all?" asks gently.

When Frank turns to his rescuer,
His courage leaks its last dreg.
No eyes, no nose, no mouth at all:
His face is smooth as an egg.

Two small baps

Three elderly gentlemen met for a coffee in the Town Hall.

"Did you see that documentary on Jeremy Paxman?"

"Yes … He's got Parkinson's."

"Sad wasn't it?"

"Yes. He's in a bad way."

"A GP saw him on University Challenge and diagnosed it."

"I missed it."

"Tell you what though. People with Parkinsons have these vivid dreams … and the boffins made out that vivid dreams are like hallucinations, like a form of psychosis."

"Ha! I've had vivid dreams all my life!"

"So have I!"

"Yes - disaster movies in my case."

"I wouldn't say it's a form of psychosis though."

"We watch University Challenge every week actually. We're quite competitive."

"My wife used to watch it. She was brilliant."

"These days, we remember the answers, but we can't shout out the names like we used to. 'Orininoco!' 'Vera Lynn!' It's the names of things we forget."


After another coffee …

"PW has given me a task after this meeting. And at the time I thought, 'that should be easy to remember.' But what was it … Oh, now then, what's the name of that TV chef ?"


"Gordon Ramsey."

"No, no. It's a woman! Oh, you know …"


"No, younger. Talks in a sultry voice whilst caressing an aubergine …"

Brows were knitted.

"I know what it was now! PW wants two small baps!"

"What meal is it for?"

It's a kind of soup dish and we name it after the posh TV cook. Just forgotten her name. You know … she married that Saachi guy! The one that tried to strangle her."


"That's it!"


"That's a relief. Yeah, that's it: I have to get two small baps to go with the Nigella! Ha, that's why it was easy to remember!"

For a moment relief was felt all round, until …

"Hang on, hang on a minute, mate. Are you sure it was two small baps?"

Parking and prizes

Before we went along to a house warming for some charming new neighbours along the row, PW asked me to move our car a few feet over in order to let the newbies' mates find a temporary parking space. Which seemed a simple enough task, but with my mind on higher things - weighing the implications of those three scientists who have just won Nobel prizes for contradicting Einstein's theories as it happens - I managed to drive off to the junction of Station Road before I asked myself where I was actually going in space and time … and realised that the correct answer was back to the future.

Folklore and Ufology

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Paul Degman and I managed to attract an appreciative audience to the Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic in Todmorden. During the interval we all checked out the centre's library, which featured such brilliant art work I wanted to take the sculptures, pictures, books, furnishings and the whole caboodle home with me. Our delightful host Holly Elsdon appeared and told us a creepy story about the room's William Morris wallpaper, which we had in our bathroom back in the 1970s, but costs £100 a roll nowadays, despite the apparent danger of blood seeping through its captivating designs.

Most of our tales had a sunnier disposition, but towards the end we changed to darker tones. I loved Paul's shapeshifting badger story and ended my own contribution with tales of misadventures on t' tops. Here's a sample:

The Todmorden Triangle

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