Thursday, 21 February 2019
This is number eight of a regular column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 8
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Along with a packed audience at Stubbing Wharf, I enjoyed Ursula Holden Gill’s brilliantly portrayed cast of characters. I was proud to be her Bottom.
In Hebden Bridge, 12 years ago…
‘Can you offer some support strategies, Doctor Smits?’ asked the patient’s father.
‘The Child Psychiatrist always talked to him about his voices … and the Children’s Service offered him strategies for coping. We’ve seen you twice now and you’ve only really talked about his medication.’
A fuse was lit. The locum turned from his screen and looked the father in the eyes.
‘According to UN studies, this condition has the worst statistics for recovery. Did you know that, by the way? … No? Well, take it from me, I have researched into it.’
His Afrikaans accent was more marked now. ‘These people plummet down through society… right to the bottom!’ He jabbed his finger downwards.
‘It has the greatest incidence of suicides for any illness!…Oh yes. Did you know that?’
The father did not respond.
‘My son was a brilliant student. He was twenty two years old. Twenty two! And my son killed himself … Yes! So, what do you say to that? What do you say?!’
The father did not say anything. Neither did his wife. She gently squeezed the hand of her son - the doctor’s patient.
Running across Savile Park a huge dog bounded towards me, reared up and placed its front paws on my shoulders. A posh voice shouted, ‘Murphy! Get down!’
For one moment, the dog and I looked into each other’s eyes, wondering whether to obey.
Andrea Levy has died, aged 62. Her parents were part of the Windrush generation.
I remember the first black man I saw: a binman working on top of a bin lorry, on a side road next to Cambridge Road Infant School. Behind me, the twinnies started chanting what we now call ‘The N Word’. It’s the first time I’d heard it, so I started chanting it too. I was hoping the man would turn and wave to us, but he kept on working and didn’t even smile. He didn’t acknowledge us, no matter how hard we shouted.
At home, when I told my mum, she said, ‘They don’t like to be called that word.’
I looked for the man the next week, when the bin lorry parked beside the playground, but he wasn’t there amongst the other men. I never saw him again, so I couldn’t say I was sorry.
Play for today
The scene: a domestic interior in Hebden Bridge
Joan*: What’s the name of that airport where that drone attacked?
Joan: No, it’s not Stansted.
Joan: Cat wee?!
George: Fucking Gatwick!
Joan starts laughing. Her shoulders heaving, she wipes tears from her eyes. She finally calms herself, but when Frank tries to say something else she looks at him and that starts her off again. After several attempts, Frank gives up.
*The character known as Joan points out that she has a slight hearing loss and might ask the esteemed Editor of HebWeb to name and shame ‘Frank’, if he doesn’t watch his step.
Fight v flight
One gorgeous evening in the late 70s, I was running above Luddenden Valley, wondering whether to apply for the Deputy Head’s job at the idyllic village school, when a white, furiously barking, low to the ground dog, shot out from the nearest cottage of a delapidated terrace and ran straight at me.
I instinctively employed my dog bite prevention strategy, ran at the furry attacker and roared, ‘Aaaaggghhh!
Ankle Biter did a nifty about turn and raced back to where he came from - yelping with fear all the way.
I paused, quite heartened by the success of my strategy - which can also be used to deter attack from wild bears - when the dog’s owner appeared from behind his garden wall.
I said, ‘It’s alright mate, he didn’t bite. No harm done.’
Shirtless man shook his head in disbelief. ‘You’ve just kicked my dog … You bastard!’
I was about to persuade him that no actual violence had occured, when I took in the open lager can in his hand, his domed belly and the L.O.V.E / H.A.T.E tattoos on his fingers.
A boy appeared, in school uniform, with the kind of smirk on his face we junior teachers back then often thought worthy of reprimand.
Big Belly suddenly lurched towards me. I was faced with that classic Fight versus Flight dilemma.
I’m proud to say that I rose above it all and chose the flight option - even putting in a bit of a sprint, if I’m honest, to make up for lost time.
My get away was accompanied by shouted warnings about what would happen to my spleen if I ran past there again and also by a series of high bouncing, but poorly directed missiles.
Smirky Kid bellowed, ‘Coward!’
As I ran on towards idyllic Castle Carr, I realised I might be teaching young Smirk Face in the near future and Parents’ Evenings might be unusually interesting…if I really wanted a job in what was, let’s face it, a rural backwater…
I enjoyed the packed book launch in Huddersfield: several encores, books sold and signed and a free pint.
There was just one awkward bit when the MC announced, ‘And now, to perform his own monologues, we’re proud to announce the bawdy, famous round here, George Kelly!’
‘Hippy Valley: a Secret History,’ a series of monologues and songs inspired by round here, sold 88 copies in its first week. The Hebden Bridge launch is at The Bookcase on Wednesday, 27th February from 7pm. Entry is free. Readings from 7.30, signings from 8.00
Spot the Poet Competition
If you would like to send a message about this piece or suggest ideas, email George Murphy