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Murphy's Lore

Number Thirty-two of the regular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.

Murphy’s Lore 32 - Monday, 5 August 2019


Is child birth tougher for men?

This photo shows the exhausted father falling asleep standing up, not noticing that his fly is undone. Soon he will be challenged to open a celebratory bottle of champagne in the loo to prevent firing the cork at his 1 day old son. This complicated task will cause him to pull the emergency cord instead of the cord for the light, which will set off a siren... which will cause nurses to run noisily along corridors into the room, before making condescending comments about fathers.

Meanwhile... the mother sits around all day and gets congratulated and cosseted and given flowers!

If men gave birth

I’ve heard Christine McMahon, of Blackshaw Head, tell this tale …

Mary’s waters have broken. At the hospital she panics, because she’s heard about the dreadful pain of childbirth.

Clive mocks her, “Women are wimps! You wouldn’t get this fuss if men gave birth.”

The midwife tells him that, fortunately, there’s a new treatment being trialled, where the pain of the delivery can be transferred from the mother onto the baby’s father.

“That sounds like a great idea!” says Mary.

Now it’s Clive’s turn to panic, but frightened of losing face, he signs the consent form.

Soon Mary’s contractions start and, sure enough, she doesn’t feel any discomfort. The midwife asks Clive how he’s feeling. Clive’s sweating and red faced, but he says, “I’m fine … I really don’t know why women make so much fuss.”

The contractions arrive more rapidly and the midwife tells Mary she can start to push. Then she checks Clive again to see how he’s faring - does he want an epidural? Clive looks a bit faint now, and he’s gripping the arm of his chair, but he says, “No, no … if this is as bad as it it gets, I’ll be just fine. You won’t catch me screaming and all that carry on.”

Finally, the baby is born and Mary hasn’t felt any pain at all. Clive’s a proud dad, but as they take their new born daughter home in the taxi, he can’t help boasting about how brave he’s been. “I told you men wouldn’t make as much fuss as women,” he says.

They pay the fare and walk down the garden path. It’s twilight and they nearly fall over the milkman lying dead on the doorstep.

Lucky for some …

Zillah and her partner tried for a baby and were successful a dozen times. But a dozen times she miscarried. Twelve times she felt a new little creature living and growing inside her. Twelve times, in the 13th week, her body rejected the little being and expelled it, a woeful and bloody severing.

One day, her mother told Zillah she’d read about a new treatment to help women keep their babies. So money was paid and injections were made. In its own good time, love had its way and Zillah was pregnant once more. She felt her new little creature moving and growing inside her. Until, after 13 weeks, the baby stopped moving.

Zillah’s mother took her to the hospital. In the waiting room, they waited and waited. At his work, Zillah’s partner waited and waited. At her parents’ house, her father waited and waited. In the hospital, Zillah’s mother marched up to the woman at the reception desk and said, “This could be an emergency.”

But when she returned, Zillah was laughing and crying at the same time. Her mother thought, “Oh great, now my daughter’s hysterical!”

Zillah smiled through her tears and told her mother that she could feel the baby kicking inside her. She took her mother’s hand and held it against her rounded belly and her mother felt the little bumps against her palms.

The telephone rang at last and Zillah’s father picked it up.

To tell the truth, I was expecting the worst …
Eating Huimans is good

By about Thursday, neither of us fancy cooking. I don’t do most of the meals, to be honest, although, I have to say, I do make a mean scrambled egg on toast.

If it’s not a Thai, we usually get a Chinese, from Huiman take away on Crown Street. There’s a new family in there and I’m getting to know the proprietor slightly. Her girls are always exuberant and playful, and I can’t help thinking I should have what they’re having.

This week I admired the patience of the young lass behind the counter, who managed to good naturedly play a repetitive game with the giddy girls whilst dealing efficiently with her customers. She even managed to take my cash, give me the correct change and then, when my food was ready, reminded me I’d already paid when I reached for my wallet..

So this week I’ll award a Murphy toast - butter side up - to Huiman take away!


I’ve been re reading Paul Barker’s book about Hebden.*

…There were plenty of mills, so there were plenty of fires. Sometimes these were genuine accidents. Always there was the suspicion that it was a way for a failing business firm to get rid of the buildings and claim the insurance. I never remember anyone getting prosecuted. The slander remained at the level of gossip, a knowing smile and a tap on the nose, in pubs, chapels or bowling clubs … The mills went up like a Fifth of November bonfire, though without the sparklers and bangers.”

Well, there aren’t many mills left now - and after the fire at Walkley’s Clog Factory, there’s one less.

Dildo, diddly aye doh**

PW is travelling to St James’s in Leeds every day for 3 weeks, so I searched for the  journals of Anne Lister, to help her pass the time on the train. Opening the book at random, the first entry I see is on page 50: Sunday 14 Nov.,1824, when Anne is courting Mrs Barlow, a widow …

“Sapphic love was again mentioned. I spoke rather more plainly. It was something Mrs Middleton had said that made her (Mrs Barlow) comprehend what I had said about artifice [editor’s note: the use of a phallus?]. I mentioned the girl at a school in Dublin that had been obliged to have surgical aid to extract the thing.”

At which point, I decided I needed to read the diary again, as part of my research into social aspects of Georgian Society. Also, I didn’t want PW to over-excite her fellow passengers, who might happen to look over her shoulder.

If life was a Carry On film

(based on a true story)

The scene: a bedroom in summer. The room has windows on two sides, affording beautiful Pennine vistas. The camera pulls back to reveal Dirk Adonis in pyjamas, lying on top of the duvet, reading The Guardian, partially masking his Present Wife (PW), who is reading Sense and Sensibility on the window side of the bed.


(Sounds off, a metal bucket clanks on a pavement, a metal ladder is metallically racked up against a wall, an unseen Window Cleaner whistles a tune)

Camera: close up of Dirk and PW’s faces as they read.

Dirk: Sounds like the window cleaner.

PW: It’s too early for the window cleaner.

Dirk: Why don’t you put the blinds down, just in case?

PW: It’s Saturday. The window cleaner doesn’t work on Saturdays. Anyway, it’s too early.

Dirk: Well, why don’t you put your pyjama trousers on, just in case?

PW: It’s too hot. Anyway, the window cleaner never comes round at the weekend.

(A ladder appears at the window)

PW: Bugger! What’s he doing working on a Saturday, and at this hour?!

PW leaps from bed and on tip toe reaches up to frantically wind down the roller blind and almost completes the task, but …

Camera pulls back: for a few moments we see a bare bottom and realise that PW’s privvy parts and the Window Cleaner’s face (Camera: hold shocked expression) are in perfect alignment.

Camera holds the shot for a moment …

PW emphatically shuts the blind and turns (Close up of face) red faced … mouthing a silent profanity.

Camera pulls back: Dirk slowly emerges from under the duvet.



* Hebden Bridge, A Sense of Belonging, Paul Baker (2012) Francis Lincoln Publishers

** No Priest but Love, Helena Whitbread, (1992) Smith Settle

Readers Write

Arts guru, Mary Agnes Krell, took time out from her busy schedule to write, “George, I loved Murphy’s Lore again this week. We are so lucky to have you and your witty writing in this town.”

Thanks also to Glenda George, from the Highlands, who let me know she liked My daughter’s darling daughter - also for her excellent plastering of the Foster Clough (‘hippy terrace’) house she sold us forty years ago.

(The usual cheques will be in the post)


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