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Third series, episode 19

All 111 episodes are available here on the HebWeb.

In the latest episode, there's the Word of the Year, unicycling kids, wild life and domestic strife, an 80s band called The Strand, two Heathcliffes, expensive trainers … but no sleep.

Word of the year

Collins Dictionary has decided we're in 'permacrisis', it's their Word of the Year: "It sums up quite succinctly how truly awful 2022 has been for so many people."

Philosophers from Marx to Kuhn have viewed times of multiple crises as periods of great potential, for revolutions in politics and class dynamics, and for the emergence of new paradigms in scientific understanding. But a permanent crisis contradicts such expectations.

By way of example, Neil Turnbull, of Nottingham Trent University, reminds us of the recent demise of the Liz Truss premiership. 'The decision to resolve an economic crisis only heightened a self defeating political crisis - which then very rapidly further compounded the original economic crisis … Our crises have become so complex that our actions risk making them worse.' (From, The Conversation, November 11)

A permanent state of crisis is bad enough for us, but what do we say to the kids?

Steiner kids

Steiner kids unicycle along the street,
over Yorkshire stone pavements,
jazzing hands for balance,
jerkily nonchalant,
past shops and
stone soldier.

In the morning they congregate in rooms,
reading, writing and arithmetising,
three Lunas are in one class
(one a dog) and some are
registered as Wild.

Afternoons they flit to lush meadows
and sunlit abandoned quarries
high in south facing hills.
Tuesdays they learn
Circus Skills.

The lights change to green,
and as I drive past them -
their flitting shadows
slant against a wall -
I think ahead to
CVs and

Then spot them in the mirror
un uniformed, shrinking,
still partly unformed,
gravity defying,
jazz handing,
some Luna
or Wild
The Steiner kids unicycle along the Street.

Wild foul

A neighbour has been fined by the company policing the Co-op car park. Some of us thought the warning signs were just an idle threat, so I'm glad she's warned me. She admits she stayed past the one hour limit, but says she was rescuing a goose from the canal. I advised her to plead her case with the store management. "Show them your membership card. You've been a loyal customer for years!"

Then I quietly mention that we always get our goose from the butcher.

Wild life

'Storytellers ought not to be too tame. They ought to be wild creatures who function adequately in society. They are best in disguise. If they lose all their wildness, they cannot give us the truest joys.'
Ben Okri

Wild animals

The gloomy octopus

Did you know that octopuses can unscrew the tops off jars? They've also learnt to turn lights off in labs by squirting jets of water at the switches. And, in 2016, an octopus named Inky escaped through a lab drainage tube out to sea.

Another thing about octopuses, each tentacle can act independently. And they've been known to flood labs by holding their tentacles over outflow pipes. All of which suggests to me that they don't like confinement.

Now, researchers in Australia have discovered that females of a species known as Gloomy Octopus throw objects at males who try to court them. They use their tentacles to scoop up missiles, pile them up, then fire at their arsenal with a jet of water from a siphon just below the eye, blasting the material towards their target.

Boffins at Sydney University reckon the Gloomy Octopus is the only non mammalian species to launch projectiles. They change their skin to a darker tone when roused. Ninety percent of missiles are thrown by females, with one in six shots hitting their target. (Ten percent were aimed at researchers' static cameras). Gloomy Octopuses are loners. They tend to fight when they encounter each other and sometimes they eat each other. Male octopuses in the line of missiles tend to duck, or speed away. Can't say I blame them.

As it happens, octopuses are one of PW's favourite animals, although any comparisons in their characteristics are purely coincidental.

Rats like to boogie

Guardian Science Correspondent, Hannah Devlin, has reported on new research into animals' responses to music. A study has found that rats can't resist a good beat, and instinctively sway in time to music.

"Rats displayed innate beat synchronisation," said Dr Takahashi of the University of Tokyo. The study showed that rats and humans like their music in the 70 to 140 beats to the minute range.

I like the sound of Dr Takahashi. He says he researches into rats to find out what makes humans happy.

Domesticated humans

When we moved here from the wilds of Midgehole, PW said to me, "Can you take those old fashioned mops and brushes to the tip? I've bought some new ones."

So I ducked into the broom cupboard and took an armful of gaudy, spotty handled, 50s style, Barry Bucknell, Fanny Craddock, Festival of Britain era brushes and mops to the tip, thinking the previous owners had left them, and kept our sleek, minimalist pine ones in the cupboard.

Big mistake!

Turns out, PW hadn't informed me that I now disliked stripped pine minimalism. So I'd got rid of the wrong ones! I wonder if the Eastwood recycling team noticed my faux pas and clambered into one of the giant skips to fight over the discarded retro items as soon as I drove off?

Nowadays, when we visit our friends Sylvia and Pete, once of this parish but now residing in the Cotswolds, Sylvia introduces me to her arty friends with, "It's that man I told you about! You know, the brushes and mops man!"

The Strand at the Trades

A photo popped up on FaceBook, me in a crushed raspberry coloured suit, early 80s, fronting The Strand, which brought back a memory of how fine it feels to get an audience up on their feet to dance to my songs.

Here's an extract from The Cosmo Club,* the idea for the song came to me after glimpsing the tiled and luxuriously upholstered interior of a gentlemen's club in swanky downtown Bradford.

"Now he's a chauffeur with a car and a cap,
He takes her husband to his club for a nap.
She keeps him busy while her husband's away,
She ring his bell and he comes … (etc.)

*All rights reserved (but I'm open to offers).

Two Heathcliffes

I'm reading Michael Stewart's book, Walking the Invisible, which is worth reading by Brontë lovers for the chapter on Law Hill alone, with his reiteration of two possible sources for the Heathcliffe story, and a tantalising poetic suggestion that young teacher Emily Bronte found a soul mate in Southowram.

Stewart has a winning style, wearing his knowledge lightly, and providing wise weighing of evidence about the character of each member of the brilliant, star crossed family. He also adds plenty of wit to his accounts of yomping about wet moorlands with devotees. The walks are brilliantly illustrated by Hebden Bridge's master map-maker, Chris Goddard.

Whilst we're on the subject of Emily, I was struck by a poem from the website Emilyingondal, shared by local illustrator, Nina Oaken.

And neither Hell nor Heaven,
Though both conspire at last,
Can take the bliss that has been given,
Can rob us of the past.


That equivalence she gave to final destinations in the first line, reminded of the depiction of a free thinking, God questioning, Emily in the recent film. The young poet takes the side of the here and now loving and living, rather than repeating heavenly pieties about what awaits the dead.

£800 pound trainers

Being in possession of a wonky knee, I have finally responded to family demands by booking a trip to the Mytholmroyd health centre to get it checked. Friends have responded to my knee malady by telling me about the joys of acquiring a new knee, although I seem to recall that for weeks after their surgery they each complained about post op pain.

Now health chiefs are trying to cut down on expensive joint surgery by giving out £800 shoes, which not only cushion and protect against painful perambulation but send signals to the wearer to help them correct their balance, preventing falls. I must admit, I like the sound of these hi-tech trainers.

Hyper hypo

Taking my hypothyroid tablets every day has caused me to flip the other way and I've suddenly lost the ability to fall asleep. It's 1:56 am as I type, and last night I didn't manage to sleep till 5:30. So I might as well carry on reading Weird Calderdale by Paul Weatherhead, which has a fascinating account of the pre-war hysteria around the Halifax Slasher and also provides the most level headed account I've read of Todmorden's UFO events, circa 1980.

I also wrote a note to myself to stop sending emails to folk at 4 am then set off for a wild swim along the River Calder.

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