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Murphy's Lore

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

Murphy’s Lore 48 - Monday, 25 November 2019

Dream on

How greedily the bloated world
Consumes our dreams.
Painstaking and ponderous
The earnest artist's brush and writer's pen
Try to resurrect the worlds
Dreams flared to life -
Palpable and true -
Our beating heart's
Soon extinguished fantasies.

(Better get up then)

Nice try


The Tories are targetting Rugby League towns in the coming elections.

In ’92, when Michael Heseltine announced his plan to close the pits with one week’s notice, I was at the Lions versus Kangaroos match at Wembley when the Miners’ Protest March arrived and received a standing ovation.

Near the end of Bringing it all Back Home, Ian Clayton - an authority on League - describes a painting he owns which depicts the day soldiers shot at miners and their families to break up a picket at Featherstone colliery in 1893 after the Riot Act was read. Two men were killed.

I have this fancy: 11th December … the clocks tick up to midnight in Workington, Warrington and Wigan; in Featherstone, Wakefield and Castleford; in Hull and Halifax, and folks hear a faint rumbling noise in their dreams, that grows louder and more insistent, then clarifies into the half forgotten clatter of clogs on cobbles.

When the clamour stops, folks rush from their beds to open their curtains and see, packed into their narrow, terraced streets, a ghostly tableau of former players in old fashioned kit and long lost family and fans, all standing still as Gormley figures, each one looking up at them … silent, but stern, needing to say nowt.

When Heimlich manoeuvred

In Calder Holmes Park a little boy, mouth agape, was chasing a bouncing rubber ball. I told his mum that, back in the 1980s, an infant in Sowerby gagged and died playing that game; the ball bounced up and lodged in his throat.

Around that time, the sale of detachable rubber erasers, each one a brightly coloured rubber creature, was banned after several children choked. As teachers we were taught to use the Heimlich manoeuvre. Fortunately, I never had to use it with kids. But here's Peter Heimlich aged 96, who finally got to use his own technique, and saved the life of a resident at his nursing home.


Killed with a kiss

Montaigne in his Essays, wrote that death can surprise us at any time. He listed Aeschylus, killed by the shell of a tortoise dropped from the claws of an eagle, another who choked to death from a pip, his own brother hit on the temple by a tennis ball and famous men who ‘died between the legs of women, including one of our popes’.

In Canada, in 2012, Miriam Lemay, who had a peanut allergy, kissed her boyfriend, not realising he had just eaten a peanut butter sandwich. She didn’t have her epipen with her and, although an ambulance arrived within 8 minutes, she died due to a shortage of oxygen to the brain.

The dinner party

Just before the millennium, at a dinner party in Wadsworth, I made our hostess laugh, she gagged on her food and rushed to the loo. At first we thought she’d drunk too much wine, because she swayed and held the wall on her way to the bathroom. An awkward wait followed. She didn’t reappear.

We found her collapsed on the bathroom floor. Her husband got Kath to use her tweezers, to try to ease out the meat he could see jammed in his wife’s throat. It wouldn’t budge. We hoisted her to her feet and her daughter’s new boyfriend administered the Heimlich Manoeuvre.

There was no dramatic Casualty stylemusic to accompany our efforts. At a time of crisis our brains granted us a banal, grounded perspective. We methodically did what we had to do, but within a few minutes of her leaving the table, our hostess died.

When the paramedics arrived, they told us we did all we could have done. Heimlich himself couldn't have dislodged the slice of veal - as long as a hand - they eventually wrenched from her throat. 

Later that night, two men walked back along the unlit riverside path from the Blue Pig. Halfway to Hebden, one turned to urinate into the river, but instead slid from the bank into the cold, dark, hurrying waters and drowned.
Out, out, brief candle

At the Fox and Goose, I performed my monologues* and read works by local writers, including Keith Hutson, causing unplanned for hilarity by singeing the corner of Keith’s Troupers pamphlet on a tea light.

Clever Bugger

(i.m. Bob Monkhouse 1928 - 2003)

Why did we laugh, but never love you, Bob?
Some say you came across as insincere.
So what? Your weren’t the pope.
Perhaps that calculated gulp
Before each punchline, patter too precision made,
Anecdotes too pleased with one another,
Plus your business acumen and tan, said
Clever Bugger never National Treasure

till, with weeks to live, bloated and slow, from
drugs, you begged all men, on Parkinson,
to take a prostrate test. Too late for you,
But what a warm performance, funny too -
it won us critics over there and then:
smart move, Bob: dying, such a decent man.**

Leila’s Kitchen

At the Persian cafe in Albert Street, my Editor and I had a jovial and satisfactory meeting, agreeing on crucial measures to save the planet and the NHS and the necessity of banning dogs from cafes. Fortunately, there were no dogs in Leila’s. Our soups were first rate and an erudite fellow diner passed on important information about Love Hotels in Japan - in case the need ever arises.

On the proviso that they provide a wider range of dippy bread for soup eaters, I declared the beautifully appointed Leila’s Kitchen, a worthy winner of Murphy’s Butter Up Award.

My fifteen minutes

In 1969 I had my 15 minutes (well 14 minutes 11 seconds) of fame at Port Sunlight, on the track they later used to film Chariots of Fire. I won the Cheshire Schools 5000 metres, breaking Ian Stewart's European Junior 5000m record. At least that’s what the tannoy announcer said.

Some time later the tannoy boomed into life again and announced a correction to the Senior Boys result. I’d only run 3 miles. Someone had blundered.

Actually, my main memory of that day was getting a lift from a discus thrower and her 6th form girlfriends. In the days before seatbelts, four of us successfully squashed onto the backseat of a Mini and spent the entire journey singing tracks from the White Album.

So that was my fifteen minutes … although, there was that time at the Trades, with The Strand, in my crushed strawberry suit, back in the early 80s …


* Hippy Valley (2018) - a new stock has arrived at The Bookcase, just in time for Christmas.

** from Troupers, by Keith Hutson, (2018), Smith/Doorstep

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