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Murphy's Lore

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

Murphy’s Lore 37 - Monday 9 September 2019

Brexit latest …

It’s rumoured that a Hebden Bridge time traveller, Herbert Bradley Makepiece, has set off to the 1960s, in a desperate bid to prevent the birth of David Cameron.

Bum notes

My parents didn’t swear in front of us. Me mom (bit of Scouse) didn’t even say ‘bum’ or ‘bottom’. Instead she said, ‘B-T-M’. We may have been working class, but we weren’t dragged up. Granddaughter, who has been known to watch American comic videos on our iPad, has recently been heard to use the word ‘butt’. I have banned this fundamentally objectionable transatlantic term forthwith.

“But grandad…”

“As the bard said, my dear: ‘but me no butts’.”

Arse will continue to triumph over ass in this household. Meanwhile, PW has started muttering, “Arsene Wenger!” when feeling exasperated.

Bottoms up.

Nincompoops and others


Walking down the slope behind the Little Theatre, two lasses were effing and blinding, and I reminded them that it was a shared space. They seemed somewhat bemused, but happily didn’t tell me to fornicate off.

Perhaps I should lighten up. From New York, expat Josh Glancy, has written a homesick, celebratory piece about the rich lexicon of British swearing; citing bollocks, git, sod, tosser and daft, ‘which sits so well with bugger’. Such expletives often have an ancient root. John Lennon cursed Sir Walter Raleigh for being ‘such a stupid get’. ‘Get’ being Gaelic for bastard.

Words such as pillock (old English for penis) have lost their original clout. My favourite is ‘Nincompoop’, defined in Francis Grose’s slang dictionary as: ‘one who never saw his wife’s ****.’ The asterisks are his own, but you’d be a nincompoop or stupid get not to see where he’s going with that one.

Bon mottoes

On Facebook, people post mottoes…

Masters of macabre humour, The Tiger Lillies, wrote:

“Don’t take yourself too seriously, no one else does.”

Which made me think of a Woody Allen joke.

“Would you say you were narcissistic?”

“Narcissus is not the Greek god I relate to.”

“Which one is?”


Floating poet, plate spinner and potato juggler (and so much more), Winston Plowes, has posted:

“We all die one day, but on all the other days we don’t.”

Which is inspiringly true (except for actors and comedians).

In an arts programme, David Hockney kept repeating that thing all landscape painters know, as they try to capture the changing light:

“It’s always now.”

So I’ve made it my motto. It is always now, but to avoid stumbling as we go forward, we need first to look back.

Once upon a time in Hebden


I watched the new Tarantino film at the Picture House, in which he skilfully plays with TV, pulp fiction and film genres. All of which allows him to tweak the horrible bits of 1960s history in a surprising, but artistically justifiable denouement. The acting, the script and the music are terrific. Buffy Saint-Marie sings Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game:

“And the seasons, they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captured on a carousel of time.
We can’t escape, we can only look behind from where we came
And go round and round and round in the Circle Game.”

But beware, Hebden Bridgers: in Tarantino’s latest, hippies are the bad guys!

I went to a Thursday morning showing and it was sad to leave the sunshine, for two hours and plenty. Fortunately, the free cuppa, fig biscuit and friendly staff were some compensation.

Winter’s on its way - so why not escape to LA, or the distant past or Fleabag’s cafe, courtesy of The Picture House, worthy winners of a sunny side up toast from me.

Foreign realms

To quote the often quoted: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

Tony Garnett is remembered for his association with Ken Loach on Cathy Come Home. I picked up his autobiography for less than a fiver in Just Books. In The Day the Music Died he tries to remember his life as a child in Aston, Birmingham during the war, when his mom played piano and entertained packed audiences. His father was renowned for fixing cars, clocks and other mechanical problems for his neighbours in his spare time. Relatives lived all around, doors weren’t locked and, despite the war, it was what people still call ‘the good old days’.

Then poverty drove Garnett’s mother to have an illegal backstreet abortion, which went wrong. She was too afraid of imprisonment to go to a doctor and died in agony from septicemia. No one explained to the little boy where his mother had gone. She just disappeared out of his life.

After the autopsy, his father was questioned by the police. Although a constable stood overnight outside his front door, Tony’s father managed to gas himself.

Pit boots

PW’s Nanna, Hilda Pigg, had a youthful relationship with a professional footballer. One day, her brothers put on their heavy pit boots, kicked her stomach and killed the baby she was carrying. “Piggs by name and pigs by nature,” she used to say.

Hilda’s first husband contracted TB and couldn’t do ordinary manual work. To get by, he became a bookies’ runner and worked behind the bar at the Miners’ Social. Hilda worked as a cleaner and took in washing. PW remembers that, even in the 1950s, her Nanna was terrified of being sent to the workhouse.

When courting John, her second husband, Hilda ‘fell pregnant’. One day, Belle, her daughter, came home and found her mother sitting motionless in a chair. On the floor were two foetuses. Hilda told Belle to wrap them in newspaper and put them on the fire.

No deal’s a big deal

NHS England have compiled a list of medicines it is impossible to stockpile without a deal with the EU, including drugs for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and epilepsy. As carers, we hope the ministers prioritise the maintenance of supply lines for vital drugs. A shortage of schizophrenia medications would lead to increased hospitalisation of sufferers who are presently living in the community.

On HebWeb discussion forum, there’s a letter from a couple who are Type 1 diabetics, who are worried about the threat to supplies of insulin. Politicians’ first priority should be looking after the most vulnerable people in our society. Are you looking into this, Craig Whittaker?

Readers write

In response to a previous item on PW’s Nanna, Chris Ratcliffe, the keeper of these sacred files, sent me a fond memory, which got us in kinks (a term we had to explain, but he can’t help being a southerner):

Your story about being questioned by Hilda Pigg, reminded me of when a couple of Elaine’s 101 aunts were due to visit one Sunday from Failsworth. Elaine spent the whole of the Saturday cleaning, dusting and sweeping her house on Victoria Road - we lived next door but one at the time. Aunt Lucy was no sooner sat down with her cup of tea when she said, “Well, I’ll say this for you, our Elaine, you’re not house-proud.”

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

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