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Murphy's Lore is back: third series, episode 3

All 95 episodes are available here on the HebWeb.

In this episode there's a joke untold, Cafe Culture, the price of gas, World War 3, the immortal Miss Groby, Marjorie Dexter Schools' Inspector, a local disaster and Readers Write.

The joke

PW has to wait half an hour of a morning after taking her tablets before she's allowed a hot drink. One morning she checked the clock and said, "Time for coffee!" I was just about to empty the dishwasher, and knowing PW would get in the way, said, "I'll make it."

Emptying the dishwasher, I thought of a joke I once made up. I put my joke on FaceBook, and received laughing emogis and a 'Perfect'. I tried it out successfully on an audience and put it in my next book. I was proud of my joke.

"You haven't forgotten my drink have you?"

I got the water filter jug out of the fridge, sorted the cutlery into drawers and thought about Ardal O'Hanlon telling my joke on TV the other night at The Apollo. I finished putting the steak knives in the tidy tray, before filling the kettle.

"I don't mind making it myself."

We watched a Sean Lock tribute programme last year and they played a clip in which he told my joke, but this clip was from 2007 - 10 years before I even thought of it. People might think I nicked my joke off Sean Lock.

"I can't hear the kettle."

I put the plates and bowls from the dishwasher into the cupboard, each at the bottom of its matching pile, so that every item would get its turn for a wash - and hence keep its patterns for longer.

"I'm dying of thirst here!"

I looked round and … the kettle had disappeared, the water filter jug was hanging out where the kettle usually resides. I found the kettle chilling out in the fridge.

"No hurry, like!"

PW can be quite sarcastic. I made her drink, and placed it on the coaster I'd bought her from The Arts Mill (£2.50 - it pays to shop locally).

She said, "I asked for coffee."

PW bustled off into the kitchen before I could make good my mistake. I looked at PW's tea, made the way I like it, and thought, "Well, waste not want not."

ADHD for adults

There's been a steady flow of articles about women with ADHD, and on social media a friend says she's losing count of the number of female colleagues who have been diagnosed. In adults the term can cover a restlessness of mind, periods of hyper-activity and extreme focus in order to complete tasks, followed by periods of extreme procrastination when tasks seem too daunting. Apparently, men get it too.

Cafe Culture

I met some former colleagues at No 1 The Square and we agreed that Mini Magnums are dangerous. The advertising lure is the word 'mini'. "It's only a small sin," says the devil on your shoulder. Me mom used to buy us snacks and treats when my sisters and I were kids, then left them to fester in the cupboard for days, saying "If you eat them there won't be any left."

These days PW tells me, when she notices me sneaking over to the freezer, "If you eat all the Mini Magnums, there won't be any left for me." I say, "Well eat one then!" She says, "I don't fancy one just now, thank you very much." Then a few days later there's only one left and she hasn't had any. PW watches her TV programmes with an air of someone who isn't even thinking about choc ices. I avoid such tense situations by having the last one whilst she's out of the house.

You're beautiful

One sunny Saturday, tourists were occupying the tables round the square and along the riverside. I managed to find a spare table at a cafe I occasionally frequent. The regular staff must have been on their holidays, or sidelined with Omnicrom. A middle aged substitute waiter, who seemed sure of himself, was working solo. I asked for a cappuccino. He brought me an instant Nescafe. I ordered a fried egg sandwich, on brown. He brought me a large white bap.

"I ordered brown."

"You said white."

"I said brown!"

A couple were settling at the next table, so he leaned close to my ear, pointed to a flecking on the surface of the bap and said, "It's granary."

As he turned away to take the couple's order, I lifted the top half of the bap to discover bread as white as Alpine snow, surrounding a runny egg. After three bites of eggy bread I rubbed my face with my napkin, put my coins down on the table and stomped off. PW would have calmly complained, or demanded a refund, but I made my point by not leaving a tip.

To get rid of the taste of weak instant coffee, I walked on to Marco's, met my mate John on the way and persuaded him to join me. A full bosomed new mum had pulled her top up in unashamed Hebden Bridge fashion to feed her pink faced baby and I started to relax into the sunkissed ambience. I told a pony tailed waiter about my recent dining experience and admitted I should have complained.

"You should have suggested that perhaps the coffee machine hadn't done its job properly. That would have allowed him to save face, whilst you could feel assertive."

I told him the guy brought me white bread when I ordered brown and he said I ordered white.

"That's bad, the customer is always right, even when he's wrong."

The coffees - latte for John, cappuccino for me - were just right. For twenty minutes or so, John and I put the world to rights, especially Ukraine, then he stared intently at me.

"You've got egg on your face."

"Not for the first time," I riffed.

I was using my phone selfie-fashion as John directed me to seek out and destroy specks of yellow, when new mum came by and paused from pushing her pram.

"You're beautiful!" she said.

I nursed myself with her words when later I walked back through the throngs of day trippers, wallowing in the first stirrings of spring, although my contentment was slightly marred by the persistent earworm of a James Blunt song.


I met my new friend Sydney at Lovegrows Cafe, which used to be his office, till George Osborne closed down funding for outfits that supported the public sector. He'd never met the proprietors, Mike and Moira Stedman before. They are retiring this Easter from a decade of meeting people's needs (especially mine) at their award winning cafe. So there's just time to pop in and thank them for their years of quality nosh and good humoured service.

Moira and Mike with award

The price of gas

In Price Wars (2022), Rupert Russell discusses the enormous gas reserves that were recently discovered under Ukraine's share of the Black Sea.

'Russia tried to negotiate access to the deposits, but the talks fell through. Then, in January 2013, Ukraine struck a deal with Royal Dutch Shell to start drilling in Eastern Ukraine, where another major deposit of natural gas had been discovered. In April 2013, the Ukrainian energy and coal industry minister declared the projects in Eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea around Crimea would soon start producing so much natural gas that the country would no longer need to import it from Russia or anywhere else. In fact, Ukraine would become a net exporter to Russia - by 2020.'

Putin had no intention of allowing Ukraine's plans to come to fruition. The annexation of Crimea happened in 2013, followed by the fight to gain control of Donbas and the southern coastal region from the Russian border to Odessa.

World War 3

In Politico magazine, a few days after the start of the invasion, Fiona Hill from Bishop Auckland, daughter of a coalmining father and midwife mother and former ambassador for Donald Trump, wrote, "We are already in the middle of a third World War, whether we've fully grasped it or not." She believes Putin envisages a return to a re-gathering of all the Russian-speakers in different places that belonged historically to the Russian tsardom. In order to achieve his goals, it's clear that nuclear is on the table.

Hill was at the summit between Trump and Putin when the Russian leader boasted about his new intermediate nuclear weapons 'in a menacing fashion,' (Later she gave testimony for ten hours at Trump's impeachment proceedings, and was called a 'liberal traitor in our midst' by his supporters). In Politico, she pointed out that the Russians have already used a weapons-grade nerve agent in Salisbury. Novichok killed Dawn Sturgess, because the assassins stored it in a perfume bottle which was discarded into a charity donation box. "There was enough nerve agent in that bottle to kill several thousand people."

Over the years, Putin has engineered a situation in which the west are literally fuelling Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Despite which, Hill insists that Russia can be contained if the western powers can gain support from countries around the world. That process has already started.

Miss Groby lives on

Whenever I see headlines about a new National Curriculum for English, I think of Here Lies Miss Groby, James Thurber's 1942 New Yorker story about his old English teacher:

'It's hard for me to believe that Miss Groby ever saw any famous work of literature from far enough away to know what it meant. She was forever climbing up the margins of books and crawling between their lines, hunting for the little gold of phrase, making marks with a pencil … she hunted for the figure of speech.

'Night after night, for homework, Miss Groby set us to searching in Ivanhoe and Julius Caesar for metaphors, similies, metonymies, apostrophes, personifications and all the rest. It got so that figures of speech leapt out at you, obscuring the sense or pattern of what you were trying to read.'

How we've moved on. Miss Groby taught Thurber more than a hundred years ago. It's not just the Gradgrind approach to teaching I dislike. It's also the public vilification and scornful listing of schools in league tables. Before she retired, a Headteacher friend of mine told me that OFSTED, the schools inspectorate, have dropped the 'Satisfactory' grade and replaced it with 'Must Improve', thinking that 'Satisfactory' must mean schools were coasting. Imagine if this type of score counting and public scorn happened in other parts of life.

Marjory Dexter, Schools Inspector

(To the tune of the Pizzicati from the ballet Sylvia, by Delibes)

Richard Perkins, most parts working,
Looking for late romance joined a dating agency.
Met Marjory Dexter, Schools Inspector,
She gave ratings after datings in five categories…


Your manners and opinions I endorse: Grade 4s!
Your country house and cars deserve applause: more 4s!
But sex was only satisfactory: Grade 3!
So really, Richard, don't start boasting,
Friends agree that you've been coasting,
On this website I am hosting!

If we should date again by any chance, Dickie!
You really ought to think of ambience, Dickie!
So stir my fires down below,
You'll never make my embers glow,
By playing tracks by Barry Manilow, Dickie!


Marjory Dexter, Schools Inspector,
Thank you for your ratings in all 5 categories.
You say our mating was deflating,
Satisfaction calls for action, but you're hard to please.

Although your charms I find hard to resist, Marjory!
Every move I made you ticked a list, Marjory!
And then you put on t' Ride o t' Valkyries, Marjory!
And it did not increase my pleasure,
Contemplating parts I treasure,
When you took out your tape measure.

Your website says that you admire restraint, Marjory!
But when I saw your whips I felt quite faint, Marjory!
At bravery I'm not a champ,
I draw the line at Nipple Clamps,
In fact, I'm Satisfied I scored Grade 3, Marjory!

Old Town disaster

An enquiry has discovered that Cape, one time owners of Acre Mill in Old Town, withheld information on risks posed by the carcinogenic material, played down its dangers and successfully lobbied governments for warnings to be tempered. It failed to warn users of the danger from the fatal carcinogen mesothelioma. In 1976, a booklet from The Asbestos Information Committee, of which Cape was a member, claimed, "The normal use of asbestos products should not be a cause for anxiety."

All forms of asbestos have been banned in the UK since 1999, yet it still continues to kill thousands every year. The forum arose because insurers wanted to recoup their costs after claims from sufferers. Cape went to the Supreme Court in a 3 year battle to resist disclosure.

Harminder Bains, partner at Leigh Day and pictured right, whose father died of mesothelioma, said she felt anger and revulsion when going through the documents. As a result of Cape's greed, "many men and women, including my father, have lost their lives."

The Acre Mill song

Update on Shaggy Dog Storytellers

The new managers at Stubbing Wharf will be renovating the pub after Easter. The first storytelling night has been pushed back to the last Friday in June, and the visiting performer will be award winning Hugh Lupton. Details will follow nearer the time.

Readers write

Thanks to kind folks who have written to say they are enjoying the return of Murphy's Lore. Including …

Sarah wrote regarding Fable for Friends in the last episode:

Absolutely George, I am with you, why aren't your and my (socialist) friends bombarding Putin for his cruelty and 'Evil Empire' tactics ?

Possibly, apart from reading ill informed sites they have misunderstood Prof. James (can't remember surname) of the University of Chicago who lectures in some kind of Conflict theory.  It is precisely that, a theory …. Naughty Nato moves this way or that and therefore Poor Vladimir has to protect his vast fiefdom ….   Like a Chess game.

His own behaviour within Russia and without over a considerable period, seems to have got rather lost in all of this -  I suspect most people are just plain ignorant.  Have your mates also mentioned the neo-Nazis, Zelinsky's Israeli links, how he made his money etc.?   Having checked all this, I now refuse to talk to some people as it's quite impossible !!!

From Dave Jackson

Entertaining as always. Thinking of automatic lights, have you got any Alexa or Google stories yet? I've built a water feature in our garden. You turn on a cascade by saying, "Alexa sidelight on." Lin now has to get out of her chair and reach behind the settee to switch her reading light on rather than asking me to tell Alexa which often used to annoy her.

Murphy's Lore, the book is available to order here

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

More Murphy's Lore

See the Murphy's Lore home page for all 95 episodes.