Thursday, 7 February 2019
This is number six of a regular column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 6
One spring morning, when the sun shone after rain and the teeming brooks and mill races were thundering and gurgling, the fresh green leaves were glinting and the birds carousing, I went for a walk in Fiddle Woods. Happy after getting a new job, I scrambled down a bank to acquire a bin lid that had been swept downstream - one thing we were missing from our pretty, stream side cottage.
Walking back, a handsome, dog walking woman approached me along the narrow path, with sunlight, like shafts of pure, pale, cathedral rays, glinting on her raven black hair (the impression only partly impaired by her Yorkshire terrier's face, which bore a strong resemblance to Bernard Ingham) she looked directly into my eyes, sweetly smiling and yet unspeaking, as like two appreciative but spoken-for strangers we glided past each other in mesmerised motion until - unable to stop herself - she murmured … "Do you often take your bin lid for a walk?'
Strange that during the evenful 'Hippy Invasion' of the 1970s, the Hebden Bridge Times headlined its front page with:
BORED YOUTH KICKED TULIP
which was satirised by John Morrison in View from the Bridge with his, 'Man Creasotes Fence' piece, but it seemed that the disaffected Editor was himself satirising small town journalism. My friend Pat from Blackshaw Head kept me up to date with the latest HBT headlines when we moved away. Her favourite was:
POPE NOT COMING TO HEBDEN BRIDGE
But then, an incident occurred that got into the nationals: a passenger, perhaps gripped by valley fever, had hijacked a double decker and demanded:
TAKE THIS BUS TO BURNLEY!
I was teaching in a primary school at the time and the Deputy Head pronounced with great authority, 'It will be one of those hippies from The Albert - back on t' the black bombers again!'
Meanwhile, I was living in sleepy Mill Bank when the Evening Courier reported:
ROBBER SUPER GLUED POST MISTRESS
A thief had stuck our village post mistress to the Post Office counter before making off with (if my memory serves) cash, cigarettes and an armful of bubble wrap.
A few days later, it was Election Day and having a day off from my teaching job, I went to vote at the village school and came upon a Big Dog, Little Dog combo, making a terrible racket. They appeared to be adhered at their rear ends.
Big Dog - who bore a striking resemblance to that dog in the Tom and Jerry cartoons - kept trying to run off, barking basso profundo, which caused Little Dog (of indeterminate pedigree) to yap furiously whilst being scrabblingly dragged backwards. The pair looked like a badly designed pushmepullyou.
I beckoned a passing voter to inspect the dogs' rear ends with me. Somewhat hesitant at first, she eventually agreed that there was indeed no sign that ropes had been used.
'Do you reckon it might be Super Glue?' I suggested.
She nodded, in an uncertain manner, perhaps with a view to sidling off, but then Sir appeared.
The Headteacher had come in on his day off do some form filling and had been rudely interrupted by all the canine yowling. I reported our suspicions of foul play.
Sir inspected the mutts' butts, then marched off and returned in an authoritative manner and tied Big Dog to the school fence to save Little Dog from being torn asunder. He assured us over the dog noise that he would contact 'the correct authorities'.
I completed my civic duties by voting and returned just in time to see a large, no nonsense woman step through the now sizeable crowd before throwing a bucket of cold water over the conjoined, complaining critters. This had a miraculous effect. Little Dog shot off, piteously yelping and we all applauded.
Big Dog stayed, tied to the school fence post, seemingly cowed and embarrassed as we pointed to his incriminating, inflamed, but slowly deflating member. There was some discussion about what doggy style meant.
'They must have rolled down't bank and ended up arse about,' reckoned one ancient feller.
Just then the RSPCA van drove up. The uniformed driver wound the window down. 'Someone rang about an emergency?' he asked, in a taciturn manner.
The crowd parted and we all turned and pointed at Sir, who wore a hangdog expression - and probably would have happily hanged any dog that came into his orbit in the next few days. He ushered the officer into his office. Someone arrived and freed disgraced and disgruntled Big Dog, but the rest of us stayed to await further developments. After a brief interlude, the Inspector emerged, shaking his head. I held the van door open for him.
He paused, looked me in the eye and muttered, sotto voce, "Bloody teachers!'
'I know,' I said, patting him on the shoulder. 'I know …'
I received an invitation asking if I would perform for 'a small ladies group' in Huddersfield. I assured them that for me, size wasn't an issue.
Help the aged
I spent half an hour up a ladder trying to read the camouflaged, raised plastic instructions on a smoke detector, before realising that the key bit was a tiny, hidden lever that's not mentioned in the instructions. Meanwhile, I was kept sane by listening to Quote Unquote on Radio 4.
Peter Crouch was asked what he would have been if he hadn't been a footballer. He replied, 'A virgin.'
I liked the Frank Skinner quote, 'When my wife and I have a row, it's like a famous rock band at a gig. We start with the new stuff, but eventually we go back to the old favourites.'
Walking with some friends over from Shropshire one spring, on the heights above Hebden and Mytholmroyd, we noticed the wilfully abandoned black poo bags festooning the trees and hedges and I thought of Houseman's A Shropshire Lad,and wondered what he would think.
Loveliest of trees the cherry now / Is hung with dog dung along the bough.
Later I wrote a Cautionary Tale about Michael, who had a penchant for leaving litter and 'doggy do do' behind him, with a satisfying ending in which he is accidentally carted off in a bin lorry:
…they drove off past dog an' Vickie,
Who shouted, 'Stop, you're taking Micky.'
In't back o t' Dust Cart, Michael stirred
And shouted t' English word for 'Merde!'
But in that Dust Cart, high spec kit
Chewed up Michael, bit by bit.
And at a Land Fill, where they Recycle,
Dumped three parts Do Do to two parts Michael.
His Parents said, 'Well, we're one Lad fewer,
But at least he'll make a good Manure!'
If you would like to send a message about this piece or suggest ideas, email George Murphy