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Third series, episode 22

All 114 episodes are available here on the HebWeb.

In this festive episode, there's bats and a creepy Claus, Jack and Jill in the kitchen and jammers in jumpers, Father and Mother Christmas, a girl in a sock, a sleep talking guy, a George with 2 mums, lionesses and shaggy dogs, Hebden Bridge in the sunshine and on the telly.

Taking note

400 bats live under the eaves in next door's cottage. I looked out on the shortest day at 4.34, just as they flittered out and Canada geese flew in formation overhead.

On R4: Ryanair only allow South African passengers on their planes if they've passed a language test in Afrikaans, a language spoken by just 12% of the native population!

Barely reported: the government's target date for stopping the release of sewage into UK rivers has been put back from 2027 to 2067.

This is a first. One day, I tried to shift the text in a printed book by dragging a paragraph with my fingers. Ironically, the book was Seven brief lessons on physics, (2016) by Carlo Rovelli.

Jingle bells, Santa smells

Annoyed by the syrupy vocals to Santa Claus is coming to town in a town centre café, I realised that they were used to disguise the disturbing message in the lyrics …

"You better watch out/ You better not cry/ You better not pout/ I'm telling you why/ Santa Claus is coming to town/

He's making a list/ He's checking it twice/ He's going to find out/ Who's naughty and nice" – and so on.

Ho, bloody, ho! No wonder this guy is having a laugh. "He knows when kids are sleeping,  and he knows when they're awake!"

I mean, who needs Krampus, when Claus is on his rounds?

Mince Pie meeting

I bumped into Diana Monaghan, from Neighbourhood Watch, delivering mince pies door to door, as she does every year. Diana was featured in a HebWeb Interview and she told me she particularly enjoyed recent ones with Jill Liddington and Chris Goddard, both of whom she knows. 

I said, Chris recalled that the Castle Carr fountain that Leeds Council rescued from a reclamation yard, has two Talbot hound heads, which I'd quite forgotten, even though he hadn't seen it and I had. And when I perused his annotated maps, I was intrigued by a waterfall below the reservoirs in Cragg Vale, that was given stone platforms in the 2nd World War, allowing forces personnel to bathe on hot days.

Diana had suggested Canal and River Trust's Andrew Leatherbarrow as an interviewee, and Andrew explained to me that soldiers were sent up to the moors during the war to create false targets for Luftwaffe bombers who were heading towards Manchester. 

Jack and Jill in the kitchen

The week before Christmas, a group of Cambridge University philosophers offered a theory to explain why women are more likely to react to housework tasks than men. They call it "affordance theory." And I'm not sure women would have thanked them for it.

"When Jill enters the messy kitchen, she sees the dishes to be washed, the floor to be swept, the refrigerator to be restocked, the counter to be wiped, the recycling bin to be taken out, the ripe bananas on the counter to be used up.

"Jack, of course, sees that there are dishes in the sink, that the bananas are more brown than yellow, the refrigerator is empty. But these perceptions do not 'tug' at him – they do not present as tasks to be done."

Professor Paulina Silva drew from neuroscience to explain that the brain's responses to such stimuli can range from "a slight urge - to overwhelming compulsion." And when it comes to household tasks, MRI scans show that men are usually at the "slight urge" response level, but, then again, if some women aren't afforded an opportunity to act, it can "lead to tension."  Silva's colleague Dr Tom McClelland, reckons that social conditioning can actually cause housework tasks to be "invisible' to men.

Thursday before Christmas, I popped into the Swan to meet old mates at the Ukulele Jam, where they were singing both a Capella and accompanied carols - and held a Christmas jumper competition.

The run up to Christmas 

One of my contributions at this time of year has been sending the Christmas cards off. OK, it's not hard labour, and despite the postal strikes, I managed to send some good charity cards this year, although I'm not sure which year they will arrive. 

A few years back, people would let their friends know, 'We're not sending cards this year,' but I tried that once and realised that a Christmas card was the only token I had to show some people I care for, but rarely see, that we hadn't stopped thinking about them. 

I'm against the consumerism of Christmas, and PW for one tells me not to spend too much on her, then goes out and buys half a dozen things for me. Despite what they say, the women I know just seem to be more into Christmas than us men. And Roald Dahl wasn't just thinking of the guy in the red suit when he wrote this - although I'm not sure if this rhyme confirms the theories of the Cambridge philosophers or not.

Mother Christmas

A festive poem by Roald Dahl

Where art thou, Mother Christmas?

I only wish I knew,

Why Father should get all the praise

And no one mentions you.


I'll bet you buy the presents,

And wrap them large and small.

While all the time that rotten swine

Pretends he's done it all.


So Hail to Mother Christmas

Who shoulders all the work!

And down with Father Christmas,

That unmitigated jerk!'

Charity Cheer

Among the many charity shops in Hebden Bridge, here's a shout out for the council supported one on the marina, which has recently accepted preloved clobber from PW, and provided me with a stout pair of shoes at a knock down price. I'm also the proud owner of an OFFCUMDEN T shirt from the Kindness shop. 

I was pleased to see an item on James Wilthew, of the Afghan Rug Shop, in the Times Christmas Appeal. I met him a couple of times last summer, when he was preparing to move his business into the old Barclays Bank building. Despite the Taliban takeover, he has managed to maintain his Fairtrade support for crafts people in the country where he once served. 

On the radio one morning, a woman was saying that it's difficult for people to escape from the Taliban regime, because you have to get to a different country before you can apply for UK refugee status.

Who am I?

This year we celebrated Christmas Day at Darling Daughter's house, and invited the Miller family to join us. I got thermal underwear and boxer shorts from PW (romance isn't dead). And Rosie Murphy Miller showed us the presents St Nick had delivered to her, including this Sensory Sock. 

At noon the men were sent out in the cold drizzle to the pub, whilst the women prepared the feast, only to discover that all the pubs in Royd were shut. After the triumph of the meal, which was worth waiting for, I was "afforded' the opportunity to do the washing up, only to be thwarted half way through when my presence was demanded for The Forehead Game!

Rosie was new to this stick the name on the forehead contest, but when people came close up to read what she'd stuck on my head, they all laughed. Other Miller and Murphy members managed to guess the identities of their celebs and politicians in good time. No such luck for me. After a promising start … 

"Am I human?"


"Am I alive?"


"Am I male?"


I started to stall …

"Am I a babe magnet?"

" … No!" 

By dint of shrewd questioning, however,  I also gathered (after a clue from daughter Leah) that my geezer  was actually in the room! But after suggesting each of the masculine chaps in turn, and getting a rising chorus of "NO!" each time, I gave up, and tore off my Post It in exasperation. 

It read … `Grandad George.' 

Sleep talking guy

Somewhere not far away and not long ago, I had a health check and mentioned to the medic that I was only getting 4 or 5 hours sleep a night. I didn't anticipate his response.

"You're lucky. I only get two or three hours!"

The nurse told me that because his partner is deaf and sleeps like the proverbial chunk of chopped timber, he is able to distract himself from his worries by putting the bedroom TV on, which doesn't disturb his Mrs. He'd tried sleeping tablets, but, no, they didn't work.

At which point the receptionist put her head round the door and told him his next patient had cancelled, due to ill health. That's when I could have asked him about his 'worries'. However,  as it happens, my daughter Leah reckons I'm a rubbish counsellor, a verdict which is given more authority because she's a professional Counsellor, although she perhaps based her damning judgment on my comment to her younger self, after breakups with boyfriends, "There are plenty more fish in the sea, darling." After which encouraging words, she says I returned my attention to The Guardian.

Maybe she had a point.

Before Leah was born, when I was a student teacher, early 70s, I happened to share the largest and best room in an Edwardian house on the Chester College campus with my mate Rich. Other students tended to call in to drop off their stuff, cadge a drink and hang out, staring out of the big bay window of our first floor sitting room passing judgments on the attractiveness of students who came by on the path below.

One day, I was alone in there with Jo, a shy 1st year lass, who was skinny enough but too short to call Twiggy, and had Cathy McGowan hair, through which Little Jo squinted out. I was reading On the Road, as I recall, and she was swotting up on the Swiss child development theorist, Jean Piaget, when suddenly, she threw her Piaget primer across the room and then put her hands over her face. 

An awkward silence ensued, during which I dimly remembered that her fiancé had recently given LJ the elbow.

Did I go over and put my arm round her before delving into her troubles? No. But I did walk over and put Bless your pea picking heart, by Tennessee Ernie Ford, on the turntable - and turned it up to full volume - to lighten her mood. This proved to be an ill-judged strategy. Little Jo burst into tears, grabbed her bag and coat, looked fiercely at me and then dashed out of the room, despite me shouting after her, "Don't forget your Piaget!"

True to form, 50 years on, I didn't delve further into my medical practitioner's worries; however, I did pass on some useful advice about coping with insomnia.

Telling Tales

I've been fascinated by the revelations surrounding recently elected Republican Congressman George Santos, who has been backtracking on the CV he offered New York voters in his recent campaign.

According to George, his parents were Jewish. "My parents changed their name from Zabrovsky. We don't carry the Ukrainian last name, for a lot of people who are descendants of World War 2, refugees or survivors of the Holocaust, a lot of names or paperwork were changed in the name of survival. My mom was a white immigrant from Belgium."

It turns out, however, that George's mother is Brazilian. His family have lived there since the late 1800s.

As for his schooling, George sadly recalled, "I began Horace Mann Preparatory school in the Bronx, however, I did not graduate due to financial difficulties."

The school have no record of George ever attending the prestigious and expensive private school.

Strangely, George's mother appears to have died twice. In July 2021, George stated that his mom had perished in the twin tower attack, "9/11 claimed my mother's life." But, 5 months later, George posted to his followers, "December 23rd marks the 5 years I lost my best friend and mentor. Mom you will live forever in my heart."

Perhaps George had two mothers? 

One of George's mothers, was a top executive. As his website boasted, "George's work ethic comes from his mother, who came from nothing, but worked her way up to become the first female executive at a major financial institution."

Whereas, investigative reporters have discovered that George's real mom was a domestic worker or housekeeper.

In his campaign, George claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, but George now admits he used a "poor choice of words" when describing his employment history. He was actually a Call Centre Worker before the GOP  adopted him as their candidate.

TV awards!

SeriesWhite Lotus: satisfyingly plotted, right to the end. (PW also loved the opening title sequence and music).

One off Christmas SpecialThe Detectorists, which could have been a feature film with its brilliant cinematography and cleverly pitched finale. What I liked most though, was the reminder of how small clubs and societies can bind people together.

Old Film: South Pacific (1958) Rodgers' and Hammerstein's magnificent, anti-racist reworking of James A. Michener's award winning Tales of the South Pacific short story collection. Great songs, and colleagues claim that Rogers wrote some of them in ten minutes, when he was finally handed the script.

Sport: The Lionesses, of course, but also the gripping last 40 minutes of the men's World Cup Final, and the reminder that sport as unscripted drama is hard to beat.

Almost equally riveting for me, was the World Heavyweight Boxing clash between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, part three. But boxers fight, they don't play, so maybe boxing needs its own category.

Looking forward to: the final series of Happy Valley – we've been catching up with series 1 and 2, and marvelling again at Sally Wainwright's ability to keep the tension and raw power of the script at full throttle. We've also enjoyed complaining that if the cops are in a hurry, why do they go to Wadsworth to get from Sowerby Bridge to Norland, then double back through Elland and West Vale  to catch someone in King Cross?

Not only but also: The Gallows Pole. My main worry is, how am I going to find a quiet place for a drink in town after both series are smash hits?* 

Best Comedy Dogs behaving badly. Don't ask.

Shaggy Dogs Playing Away

I drove through the murk to a large, packed church hall in Brighouse, to celebrate Rod Dimbleby's 80th. I've often been half of The Rod and George Show, and it was great to perform with fellow Shaggy Dog storytellers Christine McMahon and Ursula Holden Gill, after the audience had noshed the sit down banquet.  We left the floor for Pam to sing and Rod to translate from German a lieder about Peace, before Pam – the organiser of the whole shindig – gave the floor to the star of the night, who told a true tale from his childhood about the appropriation of a large pair of ladies bloomers, which came in handy when Rod and his mates dressed that year's Penny for the Guy. 

First footing

For probably the 65th time in my 72 years, after we'd watched the mouldy oldies on Jools's Hootenanny, I was sent outside at 5 minutes to midnight on New Year's Eve, though no longer a dark haired first footer, and without even a piece of coal or silver in my hand, and on re-entry was given a glass of Prosecco, a kiss and a hug. We couldn't quite manage a circle of interlocked hands to sing Auld Lang Syne, Jude being already in bed, so we danced in a slow circle and wished for the best whilst fearing the worst for 2023.


Today, not one  table was available in any of the cafes and pubs in this part of Happy Valley. I blame Sally Wainright.

Happy New Year.

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