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Murphy's Lore

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

Murphy’s Lore 35 - Tuesday, 27 August 2019

We’re made up

I’m reading The Brain by David Eagleman. Turns out that smells don’t exist, our brains make them up. Colours don’t exist, our brains make them up. And there’s no such thing as the self - we make ourselves up.

Our selves are fragile creations. Slightly alter the chemical balance in our brains and we hear voices - and they’re not the voices of celestial choirs. The chemically unbalanced brain turns maliciously, ranting and raving against the delicate, half formed self we have invented. Eagleman compares paranoid schizophrenia to dreaming, a state in which we lose contact with reality. Nightmares are a better analogy.

I put The Brain down on the table with some trepidation. Tables are fooling us, they’re actually full of holes. According to physicists, the holes in tables only close up when we touch them.

Knowing someone who hears voices, I pick up Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. Damaged from childhood, Eleanor gradually recreates herself, thanks to the support of ordinary people (and a cat).

Tourist enquiry

A woman stopped me on the towpath and asked if I knew why there were so many tall chimneys round here. I explained that Hebden Bridge used to have a cloth industry.

She said, “Yes, but what were the tall chimneys for? My husband says it was to keep the workers warm.”

It is cricket…

Well, it was quite entertaining watching Smith with his elaborate twitches and flourishes and his successive hundreds, but he was gradually turning our hopes to … well, ashes. Then a young gun came to the rescue.

It reminded me of that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Harrison Ford is confronted by the assassin with the dazzling swordplay. Then Bang!

Smith, like the assassin, hit the dust, the testosterone level of England supporters doubled and the search for the lost Ark/Ashes was back on again. Who said sport is war without weapons?

Thursday night, some guys from the Hare and Hounds said they were off to Headingley. I thought, I just hope we don’t have a batting collapse …

Turkish torture

In line wit’ t’ Present Wife’s motto, ‘What’s the point of money if you don’t spend it’, we’ve got workmen in.

PW popped out to the hairdresser’s, for three hours of trim, colour control, Hello! magazine, Radio 2 DJs and spending a fortune. Men are much thriftier about such things. I told the gang, it costs me £3.50 for a haircut and 15 minutes of my time. The bald guy said he paid nowt.

The Gaffer chimed up, “The best haircut I ever had was a Turkish one from a female barber. It cost me £45 and it wor worth every penny. In fact, it wor an haircut, massage and beard trim. She even tipped me head back over a wash basin and shampood and rinsed me hair and massaged me scalp. It wor lovely.”

We paused for a moment, to imagine such pampering. The only thing he didn’t like, was when she got two cotton buds and dipped them into hot wax.

“What d’yer think she did with them?”

I shook my head.

“She shoved them up me nostrils and pulled out me nose hair.”


“It wor agony. I wouldn’t go back to her for a back, sac and crack, I can tell yer.”

Turbines and teacakes

InnovationIt’s high time I acknowledged Innovation cafe.

Sometimes we’ve opposed David Fletcher’s plans for the town, but you only have to read about the ‘Hippy Invasion’ in the 1970s to recognise the importance of his support for ‘off cumdens’. Not least, he renovated an ancient mill and it provides business premises for a host of independent retailers.

In the cafe, I like the history boards and the waterwheel. Outside, I don’t mind the water power gadget, although it seems to have scared the kingfisher away from its old haunts. We like the support for customers with special needs, the dog free zone, the toasted teacakes - and the staff. One of whom - Nigel - reckons a couple travel all the way from Hull for the teacakes.

So it’s a Murphy toast from me - butter side up - to Innovation cafe!

Hilda Pigg

PW’s Nanna on her mum’s side was Hilda Pigg. She’d had a hard life. Her first husband had died of TB. In her 50s she had her bed put in the living room and she stayed there for decades. Her second husband would have waited on her singlehandedly - he’d lost one hand down the pit - but, fortunately Belle, Hilda’s daughter, lived next door and did most of the chores.

In ’73 I was presented to Hilda as Kathleen’s intended.

“Has he got a car, our Kathleen?”

“No Nanna.”

“Well, is he any good about the house. Can he put up shelves?”

“No Nanna.”

“Has he got any money?”

‘No Nanna.’

Hilda turned and inspected me. Although I had on my best fur coat, and I’d brushed my shoulder length hair, she shook her head sadly, no doubt thinking Kathleen had chosen the runt of the litter.

WeddingThe groom wore white

We were married opposite Durham prison. I wore a white, corduroy suit, pink shirt and white dicky bow. As we went into the registry office a woman commented, “Which one’s the bride?”

We smiled a lot during the ceremony, until the stern female Registrar said, “This is a serious matter.” The papers said the wedding of the year was Princess Anne to Captain Mark Phillips, but there weren’t as many smiles at that do.

Afterwards, we had dinner and speeches at the Miners’ Working Man’s Club and then we all got changed and had dancing and singing at The Greyhound and Hare. My only regret was missing out on the late night soccer match between students and coal miners, played under Bowburn street lights, because of duties elsewhere.

The C word

“Do you mind if I still call you PW?”
“Ha! Why? Don’t you think I’ll survive?”

Some of the language around cancer annoys us. The tabloids push the line that someone is fighting ‘a brave battle’ against cancer. Well, people are often brave, but this language can give the impression that sufferers should be jolly and upbeat and if they die perhaps they just weren’t ‘brave’ enough.

Nevertheless, it makes sense to demystify cancer. Survival rates are improving, treatments are more targetted and for many patients, at low risk levels, it’s helpful to stay confident and positive.

People round here go to Leeds for radiotherapy and the consecutive days of travel can seem as tiring as the treatment. Thanks to Pat from Hebden Bridge who was on the same regime of treatments as PW and passed on useful information about buses to and from the station.

When she gave her patient feedback, PW suggested the jaunty pop music should be toned down and turned down in the waiting room. It was quite difficult to hear when she was called for treatment. If the radio has to be on, why does the receptionist choose a commercial channel? Do patients really need to have adverts for double glazing and Co-op funeral plans blasted at them? Apart from that, staff were always properly supportive.

We still love the NHS.

Slow Dancing

Here’s an anniversary song I wrote for PW. She said she couldn’t hear the words properly because the ukulele was too loud:

On the coast there’s a dance hall,
I think that it’s seen better days.
When the band strikes a tune up
I notice you’re starting to sway.
And the couples are dancing
And it’s lovely to see.
Though work owns their daytimes,
Their nightimes are free.
And I hold out my hand …
And you start slow dancing with me

Though the band are beginners,
Tonight they can do nothing wrong.
Though we don’t know the words,
We’re certain they’re singing our song.
And everyone’s dancing,
In this fine company.
And like others before us,
Our dance sets us free.
And I’m glad that you’re dancing …
Glad you’re slow dancing with me.

And far below our dancing feet
The Earth’s a fiery ball.
But your lips are soft and sweet
As Eve’s before the Fall.
And every footprint on the beach
The tide will wash away.
But the love that we can reach
Should last until the day…

Outside on a hoarding
The words say our ending is nigh,
But tonight we don’t care,
Cos you’re my girl, I’m your guy.
And if we’re on Titanic
And there’s ice in the sea,
If the band’s playing on,
We know our destiny.
And I’m glad that you’re dancing …
Glad you’re slow dancing with me.

Sunday: how does that song go … ?

I don’t like cricket. Oh no. …

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