Number Nineteen of the regular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 19 - Tuesday, 7 May 2019
Spooky stuff …
Serendipity, coincidence, precognition … psychic powers? Alexei Sayle’s right that coincidences are bound to happen occasionally and we should think of the millions of times when they don't. But I enjoy them.
In a dream I was asked what I remembered from my GCE exams. So I started reciting The Solitary Reaper, but I couldn't recall the last two verses.
The radio alarm came on and we woke up... Jack de Manio or Brian Redhead chatted for a minute or so as we came round.
Suddenly, an actor was reading … ’Will no one tell me what she sings? ... and read two verses …then, "And that was from Wordsworth’s The Solitary Reaper, one of your listener requests on These you have loved …"
And spookily, those verses the actor read were the two verses I had failed to recall in my dream.
The Yorkshire Ripper
I’ve ruefully enjoyed Liza Williams’ BBC 4 series, The Yorkshire Ripper, for its methodical uncovering of the inept, blinkered, mysogynistic investigation by West Yorkshire Police and also for providing an opportunity for victims of Sutcliffe’s assaults to have their stories heard.
10th April, 1979: we’d been to a friend’s flat in Bell Hall, Halifax and I hadn’t managed to fit in my usual training run. It got past half ten, so I didn’t go for a late trot round Savile Park. Next morning, I did a lap on my way to work and noticed that police were marking out an area for investigation. I got stopped and questioned. There was a body on the ground with a coat over it.
It turned out that Josephine Whitaker, The Ripper’s latest victim, was the daughter of infant teacher, Avril Highley, who worked just across the playground from where I taught. How often I’ve wished I had gone training that night - my run would have coincided with the exact time and place where the murder occurred. I sometimes imagine I might have scared Sutcliffe away. Thing is - and most runners will recognise this - I could have kept a safe distance between myself and the fleeing - or chasing - attacker until I raised the alarm.
Spooked on ice
In response to my Facebook request for spooky coincidences or precognition, this is from Lizzie Nicholson, who went on to become a model and an actress, but to us she will always be our friends’ sweet daughter …
"For your precognition stories! I was in Victoria Centre in Nottingham with a friend telling her about my very awkward first kiss (balancing on rollerblades) which had happened years before and in front of us materialised the said boy of that first kiss - Daniel Pink - memorable name, memorable kiss, for all the wrong reasons!"
Before the Winterfell battle commences in Game of Thrones, the men and Ser Brienne get drunk and Tyrion asks if anyone knows a good old folk song. One character strikes up an ‘ancient’ lament about lost love. Gradually, they fall under its spell.
Observing the folk sessions recently at local pubs and at Todmorden Festival, I understand that folk folk enjoy witty monologues and admire new songs - especially if there’s a good chorus. Most of all, however, they like good old tunes with time tested lyrics and ancient truths and it’s moving to sense, when they join in with the singer - their communal solidarity against the enemy at the door.
Present Wife (PW) regretted dropping her surname when we got married, but we weren’t enamoured of double barrel names in those days. Nowadays, I might have started a new trend and adopted her surname as my own. ‘George Elliott’ has a certain ring about it.
The Elliott clan were a fierce tribe of border raiders and, as they all shared the same surname, they adopted colourful nicknames to avoid confusion. According to Alistair Moffat’s The Reivers, the out and proud brother of one Clan Chief gloried in the nickname ‘Buggerback Elliott’.
Murphy, however, was the Gaelic name for Sea Warrior, as I remind myself when catching the Birkenhead to Liverpool ferry before a rough crossing. Little known fact: Mauriccio Pochettino, the personable Spurs manager, hails from the town of Murphy, in Argentina - which might explain why trophies fall out of his grasp at the last moment.
(PW having to undergo some medical procedures soon, I ask if I should call her a different name in these reports. She laughs and says, ‘Why? Do you think it’s tempting fate?’ So PW it is.)
Butter up award
The Murphy toast landed face down last week when Antoinette and Lisa told me that The Coffee Station, the deserving winners of a national award won’t be able to stock national newspapers in future, due to a hike in charges (presumably by the train operators). So I’ll broaden this week’s award to all at the station and especially The Friends of Hebden Bridge Station, who do so much to make the surrounding area more pleasant for commuters and and those like me who just idle past and admire their deeds.
Mel Gibson and the librarian
This month at Shaggy Dog Storytellers at Stubbing Wharf, we have Liz Weir MBE over from Northern Ireland. This is my retelling of a true story she once told us.
Anne is a Senior Librarian, who (according to my friend Liz) looks like a librarian and acts like a librarian and went on to become Senior Librarian in that impressive new library in Birmingham. Her most striking feature was her beautiful, long, brown hair but, perhaps the one really unusual fact about Anne was her membership of the Mel Gibson Fan Club.
Now did you know, Mel Gibson filmed Braveheart in Ireland, because of the generous tax breaks? That scene where the Scots lift their kilts to show their contempt for the English army - well, those extras were all members of the Garda.
Now Anne got a tip off from a mate that Mel was having a break from filming and would be in Dublin that coming weekend. Well, wouldn’t you know, but didn’t Anne’s husband come home that night and say to her, as it was her 40th birthday that weekend, she should name any capital city in Europe and he would get tickets for them both to fly there. Wasn’t he taken aback when she said, "Dublin! I want to go to Dublin!"
So, on that hot summer’s weekend, they traipsed around Dublin checking out the bars and cafes in the hope of bumping into the famous actor director. Anne’s husband was amazed to see all the outside dining going on, saying when he was a lad in Dublin, if you saw furniture out in the street it meant the bailiffs had been round. Eventually, he could take no more of the tramping about and he sat down at one of those cafe tables and pointing to the glossy menu said, “I’m not walking a foot further till you get me one of those Knickerbocker Glories!’
Well, Anne couldn’t budge him and so she went into the cafe and wouldn’t you know, who did she find sitting at the counter but Mel Gibson himself! And didn’t her face turn a vivid pink at that moment? Now, there were two ways of playing this. She could have run up to Mel and said, ‘Mel, Mel, I’m your biggest fan!’ Or she could have played it cool. She decided on the latter, but to be sure she swished her hair about as she sashayed up to the counter.
She asked the assistant for two Knickerbocker Glories and, being back in the day before the Euro, she was told that would cost her 6 punt. "6 punt?" she exclaimed, temporarily losing her cool facade. Anyway, being as Himself was watching her, she handed over the money and couldn’t wait to rush out to tell her feller.
"Aaaaaah!" she cried, "Mel’s in there, Mel’s in there!"
"Never mind that," said her husband. "Where’s my ice cream?"
Well, that stopped her in her tracks. "Why, she’s only giving me the one ice cream, and didn’t I pay 6 punt for the two!"
So Anne stormed back into the cafe - not even swishing her lovely, long brown hair - and the punters fell silent as she confronted the assistant.
"I paid 6 punt for two Knickerbocker Glories and you’re only after giving me the one. So, where’s my other ice cream?"
At which, Mel Gibson leaned over and said, "I think you’ll find, darling - you put it in your handbag."
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