Wednesday, 2 January 2019
This is the second of a regular column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 2
Out walking near Mayroyd and I come across a large black dog lying motionless on the track. I sidle up and take a good look at the beast. He stays motionless, apart from opening one eye to look back at me. Ahead of him, on a flat stone, there’s an expensive looking phone in a pink case. I look round and I’m exasperated to see no sign of the owner of dog or phone.
Suspecting foul play, I tentatively start to explore the adjacent woody knoll, dodging between bushes and branches. Suddenly I get an overwhelming sense that someone, or something, is close by. Slowly lifting a branch of a fir tree, I see the unblinking eyes of a woman staring back at me and I’m filled with the terrible certainty that’s she’s having a wee.
Baths, bikes and philosophy
As a kid of 7 or 8, I tried to learn to swim by floating in the tub during my weekly bathtime. I‘d seen dead bodies floating in the sea in Sink the Bismark and The Cruel Sea, so I tried emptying my mind of thoughts and acting dead. This caused tidal waves of bath water to splosh out of the bath, but I never fully floated. Always a heel or an elbow anchored itself to the tub.
20 years later, I was running along Heights Road with my mate Dave when I told him about my childhood attempts at buoyancy. Dave said my philosophy was, ‘I sink: therefore I am.’
I got boxing gloves one Christmas, but my sisters chose bikes. When everyone was out of the house, I tried to learn to ride on my big sister’s bike in the hall. I tried to learn stationary balance first, before all that tricky going forward bit. With a bit of practice, I could stay perfectly balanced, with both feet on the pedals, for at least a hundredth of a second. Then I toppled sideways into the wall. But, after some months, I took the bike out onto the road. I pressed a pedal with one foot and tried to get the other foot onto the spare pedal as the bike moved forward, but ended up sitting between the handlebars and the seat. But, even in that ignominious position, I’d seen a glimpse of the future.
Momentum was the way forward.
The facts of life
What to tell the children…
My friend Eileen had explained to her son why pregnant ladies have big bellies. But getting off the bus one day, and finding himself behind a large female passenger, he shouted back, ‘Mummy, this lady’s got a pregnant bottom!’
The Birds and the Bees
Continuing my detailed research into the Birds and the Bees, it’s striking how often females are partial to a second helping from their hapless partners…
I’m glad I was not born a Praying Mantis,
Though he is half her size he takes his chances.
But after he has pleasured her
She says, ‘You haven’t got a prayer!’
And then bites off the parts of him She fancies.
In a Greetland pub, a middle aged local was playfully chatting up a lass half his age.
"Ask me a question. Go on. You won’t catch me out on General Knowledge, ‘specially sport or geography an’ that."
She said, "I’m good on songs. Say any name and I’ll sing you a song with that name in it!"
He said, "Alright…Ray…no, wait…Raimundo!"
She said "Mmmm, that’s a tough one…" She thought for a bit then said, "I know: Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…"
This year I’ve read a couple of gripping accounts of the 2015 Boxing Day floods by local writers, Ben Myers in Under the Rock and Clare Shaw in Flood.
Back in June 2012 I read a George Monbiot article about the moors above Hebden. Natural England were due to prosecute the landowners for damaging blanket bog - bog that holds and slows the flow of rainfall. Instead, the government minister (a major landowner himself) had stopped the prosecution and awarded millions to the Bannister family to ‘manage the moorland’.
I wrote a letter to Hebweb (Forum, June 2012) asking for readers’ views on these developments. One said heather had always been burnt and we should ‘live and let live’. Another said it was the blanket bog that was being damaged, not the surrounding heath and aerial photos showed massive destruction.
Around Midsummer’s day, 2012 it rained continuously for 36 hours and we suffered the first of the 2012 floods. Properties and shops along the valley were swamped. Some businesses never recovered.
There was a protest march up to the moor on 'the glorious 12th'. Local groups felt that the government and the Bannister family, the owners of Boundary Mills, were prioritising the needs of their grouse shooting friends rather than the people in the valley. The destruction of ancient bog, the building of roads and fast flow ditches, were causing a faster run off of rainfall onto the towns below.
I wrote a Monologue about a Bog in which the local boggart - a fearsome untamed Troll-like creature - saw off the shooters and the bog burners. It ended:
And don’t dismiss this fantasy,
Because folklore and mystery
Connect us to our history.
And back down t’ hill
Each Jack an’ Jill -
Shopkeepers with empty tills,
Home owners with insurance bills,
And waiters who’d stopped earning -
Said, “That’s our bog they’re burning!”
An’ scientists with detailed log,
An’ you and I are going to dog,
All those who desecrate our bog.
If you would like to send a message about this piece or suggest ideas, email George Murphy