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Murphy's Lore

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

Murphy’s Lore 43 - Monday 21 October 2019

Johnson pulls it off

Dazzled by the superlative footwork of their star player, nicknamed The Greased Pig by Cameron, his former captain (an expert on porcine matters), Leave supporters from traditional working class communities cheered on Johnson, as he sidestepped through Remain defences and finally placed the ball over the Remainers’ try line. A great cheer went up.

As the fog slowly cleared, his poorer fans saw Johnson in his true colours, and they realised that he wasn’t on their side after all. Then they asked themselves, how could they have thought that he was?

Off the rails

I thought Extinction Rebellion were trying to encourage more people to use public transport? So why would they want to stop trains from running?! And was it a great idea to run into Morrisons in Tod shouting, “Hit the floor!” causing shoppers to think they were being attacked by terrorists, rather than a bunch of Eco Warriors playing sleeping lions in front of the freezer cabinets?

Different wavelengths

In Sowerby Bridge (‘Strawberry Bridge’ as kids call it) PW got fitted with expensive hearing aids. As well as helping her hearing and dampening the effects of tinnitis, she can now tune into radio programmes. So when I talk to her, she might not be tuned to me at all, she might be receiving Woman’s Hour.

Well, I suppose if you’re going to use savings for anything, health’s a good option. We’ve had to take out extra insurance: PW’s ears are now like Betty Gables legs. If we were exhibits on Antiques Roadshow, the expert could fool Fiona Bruce and the audience.

“Sorry, you’re all wrong. The most valuable antique is this Durham miner’s lass with the bionic ears. You might get a fiver for this other old relic - if it comes with a trilby.”

Of course, these high spec hearing aids aren’t available on the NHS. Before we reach for the credit card, I remind PW of that old joke about the guy who gets a vasectomy. Turns out PW is the only person in our generation who doesn’t know this ancient gag …

“You know, after his snip he’s asked to give a specimen?” … (she looks nonplussed) …

“So he goes off to the toilet and they give him some soft porn magazines?” (looks blank).

“Finally, he returns with his little phial and he sees this other vasectomy patient getting a helping hand from a nurse?” (not a flicker)

“When he complains, she calmly replies, ‘It’s alright sir, he’s in BUPA’.” (all lost on her)

I say, “How come you don’t remember that? That joke’s as old as that one about Tony Blackburn and the hitch-hiker.”

She looks puzzled. I cannot believe it.

So, then I have to tell her the one where the radio DJ picks up a hitch-hiker (which dates it) and it ends where she leans over Tony Blackburn’s Little Tony and says, “Can you hear me mother?”

PW looks back at me in a slightly quizzical manner.

It’s only when I go off on a walk that I start to think about that wide eyed, slightly absent look on Present Wife’s face during my energetic retellings - me acting it all out - and I wonder if she wasn’t listening to me at all, but to ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’.

Pass it on

Peter Chand told this tale, then children from Cornholme told it to Shaggy Dog people.

A Roman soldier, posted to England, heard that the country only boasted ale and cider. He took a small vine with him and, finding a bird’s skull, packed it with earth and planted the vine and kept it in his satchel. It soon grew too large for the bird’s skull. Then he found the skull of a lion and packed it with earth and planted the vine in it, where it grew and thrived.

When he arrived in England the vine was so heavy, two men had to carry it. It had out grown the lion’s skull. So he found a great skull of a donkey and packed it with earth and grew a vine in it. And from that vine they sent fine wine to all the Roman soldiers in our region.

So that’s why they say, “If a man has a glass of wine he sings like a bird, if he has two glasses of wine he roars like a lion. If he has three glasses of wine he makes an ass of himself.”

(Mind, global warming would have to be pretty bad to get wine from Cornholme)

Saturday evening, Hebden

By late Saturday afternoon, Hebden is crawling with pub crawlers. PW drove along a lane and saw a drunken man peeing into a bush. He turned his piddling tiddler towards her and his friends all roared with laughter, (The bar is set very low for humour in gangs of drunks).

She drove round the corner and another gallant walked towards her in the middle of the road. She locked the door and still he walked towards her. She braked. The sozzled guy laughed to see her discomfort and his friends roared too.

How much better In storybooks. A siren would have sounded ‘hee haw, hee haw, hee haw,’ and Mr Plod would have apprehended the befuddled culprits.


No more Nigels

One Tuesday, there were no newspapers in Hebden Bridge! At Innovation, Nigel reckoned the guy forgot to throw them out of the delivery van before he drove off. I mentioned the recent news item about a landlord called Nigel who invited other Nigels to a party (I wonder if Nigellas were allowed?). Nigel said he didn’t go because Nigel Farage might have turned up.

David Fletcher mentioned - you heard it here first - that his middle name is Edwin and he had only met two Edwins in his whole life. I tell him I’d met an Edwin the day before and he was only 7 weeks old.


Tuesday night I went to Pencilvania at the Fox and Goose. One of the great pleasures of these sessions is listening to Jim, the Bard of Luddenden Foot. Imagine a present day more surreal version of the Goon Show, delivered in an avuncular, West Riding accent. It’s a warm, weird, mind expanding experience to go with Jim’s flow.

Musical hell

This is from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

“There is no such thing as Hell, of course, but if there was, the soundtrack to the screaming, the pitchfork action and the infernal wailing of damned souls would be a looped medley of 'show tunes' drawn from the annals of musical theatre. The complete oeuvre of Lloyd Webber and Rice would be performed without breaks, on a stage inside the fiery pit, and an audience of sinners would be forced to watch - and listen - for eternity.”

I asked friends what music would be played in their musical hell.

Dot Sadowski: “The musical hell is bang on! Kate Bush (Wuthering Heights sounds like she’s rolfing), a box set of Eurovision and ‘Elaine Paige on Sunday’.”

Greg Nixon: “Opera, Kate Bush, cheesy Europop and lift muzak.”

Glen Tatton: “incessant hateful rap”

Jenny Nicholson: “improvised jazz played on a loop would be hell”

I bumped into Mel Fox on Bridge Gate. She said she couldn’t stand jazz singers, Cleo Laine in particular.

Well, the thing is, I rather like Kate and Cleo. If hell existed I’d probably spend eternity trying to escape from a high decibel loop of Christmas singles in an Arndale Centre with no EXITS. I’d batter desperately at the windows like a helpless insect, or that Tantalus chap.

Outside, it would always be a heavenly, benign summer’s day. Occasionally, PW with angel wings, would glide past on the handlebars of a bike pedalled by Paul Newman and she’d turn to give me a nonchalant, care free wave as she tuned her bionic ears to Burt Bacharach or I'm sorry, I haven’t a Clue.

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