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Third series, episode 20

All 112 episodes are available here on the HebWeb.

In the latest episode, there's the bizarre history of Miss Martindale of MacPhelah, spanking and caning, poetry collections about Angola, America and England's Green, a bungle in the jungle, entanglements in time and space, an unreliable reader, tales told in a cellar and the snows of yesteryear.

Miss Martindale of MacPhelah

Recently, local journalist Dave Himefield, in The Huddersfield Examiner, looked back on the career of Marianne Martindale, who brought her Madrian Order to Hebden Bridge in the 80s. They lived at MacPhelah House, worshipped a female god and shunned the modern world, calling it the pit. People from Hebden Bridge recall the women wearing all white clothes during their time here.

After a couple of years in the valley they moved to a house in Burtonport, a fishing port in Donegal, which had previously been occupied by a group known as 'The Screamers' for their use of primal screaming therapy. They changed their name to The Silver Sisterhood, and lived without electricity, dressing in medieval garb. Later they adopted early Victorian dress, but transformed into a Victorian style boarding school for adult women.

Martindale was the headmistress, and the staff used corporal punishment when pupils broke its rules. They also began to produce computer games, including the bawdy Secret of St Bride's and the gory, Jack the Ripper, the first video game to receive an 18 certificate. In 1992, Martindale was convicted of assaulting an adult pupil.

After the court case, Martindale returned to England and ran a society called Aristasia from a house near Epping forest. The house was a pseudo boarding school for girls and adults. Students who offended were spanked or caned by Miss Martindale. In the Independent (1995) Rosie Millard attended Marianne's book launch for The Female Disciplinary Manual, which purported to be 'a complete guide to the correction and chastisement of young ladies.' Millard later discovered from the landlords of the property that in 1993 they had seen Neo Nazi magazines lying in piles next to child-sized desks, and pictures of women in gas masks and suspenders next to price lists for leg irons and handcuffs.

Martindale later became the wife of John Guillerman, whose credits include The Towering Inferno (1974) and King Kong (1976). Today she lives in LA and works as a beauty and marriage therapist.

Wednesday writers

To the Golden Lion in Tod to hear Sammy Weaver read from Angola, America the winner of the Myslexia poetry pamphlet competition. The collection takes its name from the USA's biggest maximum security prison, known as 'Angola' after the former slave plantation on the territory of Louisiana State Penitentiary. Sammy acknowledged the UK based Lifelines charity, that supports and befriends prisoners on Death Row in the States by letter writing. Sammy became a letter writer. As for the poems, her pamphlet sold out during the interval. More on Ms Weaver soon.

After the main performer, there was great variety and quality from the other writers and I got a good reception for my Siren in a wig piece, ably assisted by the MC Theresa Sowerby in the role of my dresser.

Don't lend me your ears

One morning, PW told me her ears were 'screaming'. She's suffered from tinnitus since our son became psychotic. So, for part of each week, I live with two people whose ears are filled with discordant jangling and screeching or a cacophony of poisonous jibes from faceless fiends. They cling onto normal living and rarely complain. They're my heroes - and not just for a day.

Bungle in the jungle

At one of our lunch time meetings, Jude told me he loves eight out of ten of the staff at his supported living accommodation in Old Earth, and the other two he likes. He has a habit of asking them how they vote. One of his 'loved' carers told him Matt Hancock was actually OK, he wasn't at fault for the excess deaths during Covid. She said, "You don't know what you're talking about, Jude. I bet your parents are both lefties."

I said, "It's not me Hancock should apologise to, but the families who lost their loved ones in care homes and hospitals. And he fast tracked millions in tax payer money to rich Tory donors who wasted it on producing unusable PPE. Then he lectured us on keeping socially distanced, whilst he was caught smooching with his mistress in the House of Commons. ITV should be ashamed of itself for paying him £400,000 to show how brilliant he is at eating Wombat willies, when he should be working for his constituents."

Well, that got that off my chest.


A day out in Ilkley. At Grove bookshop, I bought Helgoland (2020), the best selling paperback by physicist Carlo Rovelli, about 'the strange and beautiful world of Astro Physics.'

Since childhood, I've been agog at the quite remarkable fact of being alive, at least for a short stint, in this 13.7 billion year old universe, but I could never figure out why most people seemed downbeat about this miracle, it was all quite 'normal'. Rovelli quotes from a speech he attended by the late Douglas Adams, "The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away, and this to be normal, is obviously a skewed perspective."

This year, physicists have been awarded Nobel prizes for showing that if we alter a proton arriving here from way back in time and from far out in space to make it black, its twin will simultaneously become white, out there in the vastness of spacetime. This is called entanglement. But Rovelli just points out that this knowledge will help us to manufacture quantum computers. Well yippee.

But, armed with this 'weird science', as Einstein called it, writers will want to add time travelling aliens, priests, the odd hapless human and androids to their tales, to take us to the jaws of heaven and hell and to boldly go … but hang on, they've already been there, this is just science catching up with science fiction.

The Oldie

This cartoon was in a collection from The Oldie back in 2015. So Health Ministers can't say the current crisis in the NHS is just down to COVID and Putin.

Returning from a storytelling night at the Rat and Ratchet in deepest Kirklees, Ingrid Burney advised me not to give up on getting my knee looked at. "Suddenly people are getting appointments," she said, "but don't just ring the surgery, call in."

Which I did, and a few days later I got chance to chat to a physio in Mytholmroyd health centre. Carl asked me when I first got the injury.

"May, 1978, after running a 20 miles race, I got picked for Yorkshire, but the next week I developed a pain around my patella, and had to decline the selection. After which my racing was somewhat handicapped by experiencing sudden jolting pains in my knee, causing me to leap in the air during road races, much to the bewilderment of my fellow competitors, before landing and trotting on again as if nothing had happened. There was, however, a good side to this story, because I read an obituary a few years later, about a Middlesbrough athlete called Tom, who collapsed and died after taking part in a cross country relay (this isn't the good bit). He'd just recovered from flu, but wanted to help his club team - and turned out when he hadn't fully recovered. The obituary said his proudest achievement was being picked at the age of 39 for Yorkshire in the Inter Counties 20 mile road race in 1978, when another runner had to pull out of the team because of injury."

Carl the physio listened to my tale and advised me to exercise the joint - he'd send me some pamphlets, but I should buy a walking stick too, "just to be on the safe side."

The unreliable reader

My hypothyroid tablet has been making me more hyper, and together with my nagging knee pain, the combo has kept me awake at night. So I read and write.

During the long hours of sleeplessness, I've been reading Zaffar Kunial's England's Green, having enjoyed his Us and Six! I've read a couple of his poems a night, before turning to books on history and sub atomic particles, and as with the latter, I don't always get the poems first time. As I've been trying to follow the ins and outs of Zaffar's verdant poetic wanderings, I've been reminded at times of an observation in Alan Bennett's latest diary, where he admitted he didn't understand a poem by Steve Eley, but was glad to see a reference to a Sheffield department store that he used to frequent with his grandparents. Fortunately, I do get some of Zaffar's poems, including a long narrative about Ings, 'an incomplete word' as well as a village, 'where the Lake District becomes Yorkshire,' and I also appreciated the tip off about looking out for the nearby speed traps.

5 am one morning, I checked The Sunday Times books of the year and saw a photo of our local hero, England's Green being touted as the best new collection of 2022.

Later that morning, Alex the pharmacist, advised me to take two ibuprofen and one sleeping tablet at bedtime. Since when I've slept for 7 hours a night. Bliss.

The word on the street

Just past the aqueduct, I'm smiling at a small dog leaning against a bar at the front of a pushchair, as he jiggles around, as its wheels cross the cobbles, and his owner is smiling at me in my dark blue coat and sky blue cap. She says, "Where's your hat?"

"Well, I like to go incognito," I lie, pleased to be recognised, but thinking I should perhaps return to my signature trilby and homburg, to cut more of a dash.

Coincidentally, the next cafe I go into, there's a foursome in the corner and I pretend not to hear when they look over and one says, "That's that guy." And my vanity is only partly dented when a woman says, "He's only little. I thought he was taller."

The fish stall was on in the market and the fish man and his wife are always generous with their banter. When I leave with my smoked haddock and cod, I'm met by Jim who touts for new members of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. I show him my stick and say, "I'm not much good in the great outdoors these days." But I take an old magazine he offers and promise to give him a mention. I pause on the way to the pub and look wistfully at the photos of sunlit Dales and coastal scenery.

At the White Lion, Jude says he met an old friend as he was walking past the old bridge and her mum chided him for having his mask on as he dodged through the day tripping throng. "There's no such thing as Covid, Jude," she said. "It's all a conspiracy!" But he's been spooked recently because the brother of one of his support staff has just died of the 'non existent' bug.

To Haworth in the fog

It was slightly misty passing through Pecket Well. But a mile further on and for a mile or two after that it thickened into fog. My passenger was H, who told two great tales in the cellar of a restaurant where tale tellers gather and I was also very taken by a true tale of a tragic young woman who fell to her death from a balloon, which was told with great fluency and panache by Adam who tells tales on ghost walks round the village. I'm immune to the terrors or delights of ghost stories - the poor woman in this story is said to haunt a local hostelry - but it was the real events that haunted me afterwards, and I sent a note later, asking Adam to send me his script.

During the interval, I mentioned that my 9 year old granddaughter had been over that afternoon, and she'd got us to watch The Mighty Boosh and the Tim Burton's The Adams Family. Both are brilliant. Turned out the Haworth gang were devotees of both programmes. When the talk turned to the death of Christine McVie, however, I recalled her as Christine Perfect in Chicken Shack and, get this, none of them had even heard of Peter Green!

I also told them to watch The English.

This time last year

I was quite surprised to discover that a year ago we were under snow. It's years though since we had a real blanket of snow that transforms the world overnight. In fact, I've stopped singing my song about winter weather, which I used to sing when the world was white.

Eee but it's grim down south

(To the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean)

A dusting of snow lies on Surrey,
With drifts almost half an inch deep.
And London has had a light flurry,
Now rush hour's been slowed to a creep.
Up North our bad weather's more chronic.
But we never get reet down in t' mouth,
(Down in t' mouth)
If we utter these words as a tonic.
Eee but it's grim down South.


Eee but …
Eee but …
Eee but it's grim down south, down south!
Eee but …
Eee but …
Eee but it's grim down south!

An' we dance the hootchy cooch,
North of Ashby de la Zouch,
Singin' "Eee but it's grim down south!"

And when Pennine snow's piled up to t' windows,
But TV News don't want to know,
'Cos backroom Nigels and Belindas
Say ours isn't "The right type of snow."
We summon our humour sardonic,
From Merseyside up to Tynemouth
(To Tynemouth)
Though our heating bills grown astronomic,
We say, "Eee but it's grim down south!"


Winter's long, but we'll get through it,
If we think on t' Inuit,
An' sing, "Eee but it's grim down south!"

I wor talking 'bout funding of London
An' all t' capital t' capital takes,
When a mate who's a London offcumden,
Said, "They've not got your hills an' lakes,"
An' I dreamt 'bout this new high speed rail,
An' all t' passengers sang with one mouth
(With one mouth)
As their train left King's Cross they all wail,
'Eee but it's grim down south!


An' as they ride forth, to t' glories up North,
They sing, "Eee but it's grim down south!"

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