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Third series, episode 30

All 122 episodes are available here on the HebWeb.

In episode 30 of Murphy's Lore Season 3, there's the word on the street, Sat Nav meanders, mini breaks and manor houses, two Mr Bigs and one Little John, an Android Hospital, asbestos updates, John Cooper Clarke and much more.

The cruellest month

'The blossom is out, the swifts are on the wing, but most days are wet and cold, and spring isn't yet in full swing.' Thank you, the patient strong.

The word on the street

Out walking her daughter's toffee coloured dog, an energetic friend of ours who has a painful disc displacement in her lower back confided, she fell recently, 'even though people warned me that was a bad thing to do!' The NHS has been wonderful in supporting her husband, but after she'd had X Rays on her back she received no feedback. I commiserated.

Two things I enjoy, tiny kids greet strangers, with 'Hiya,' for which naturalness they receive smiles from all around. And kids strike up conversations. Like the girl in a shopping queue asking PW how old she was.


'Er, thirty nine?'

On Victoria Bridge I met Nicola Jones, a tireless worker for good causes. When I said I was hoping to post an interview with a local solicitor, a key figure in gaining compensation for victims of asbestosis, she told me the sad tale of a woman who got mesothelioma from working in a Manchester theatre. The cause was asbestos linings in the fire retardant stage curtains. A sad tale I'll write about in future.

Dogs sometimes react with fury when they see me approaching, but stop their complaints in a stupefied manner if I doff my cap, perhaps suspecting I've done the nifty trick of taking the top of my head off.

The Sat Nav and Gordon

The storytelling group in Huddersfield are a small but talented lot. I usually get a lift to their Rat and Ratchet den from a storytelling buddy, but this month he'd gone down with the lurgy. Sat Nav got me to the venue but not to the carpark, which is on the other side of a dual carriageway, so I had to circle round a few times. Once inside, I was impressed by a young lad who not only had good comic timing, but also kept us entertained between turns with his knowledge of not many people know that facts and newly spun and suitably corny puns.

When it was my turn, I stepped away from ancient tales and announced, 'And now, a short monologue entitled My Neighbour Came Back as a Slug,' which provoked laughter that bubbled along for a while before I could get started. The club supremo suggested I could quit right there if I wanted to. They are indeed a supportive bunch at the Rat and Ratchet. After singing Acre Mill, I was told to 'Get copywrite,' and afterwards Gordon from Lindley drove ahead of me till I was safely on Halifax Road.

I read the news today, oh bro!

From America came news that Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, friends and actors in the original True Detective, are considering having DNA tests. Matt's mum told them she once had a fling with Woody's dad, Charles, when he was out of jail. So the co-stars might turn out to be brothers.

Harrelson's dad was an armed robber and contract killer, who was eventually given two life sentences for assassinating a district judge. McConaughey is wary of taking the DNA test because it would mean the father he's known for 53 years isn't his biological father. I also reckon he might not fancy learning that his `real dad' was a triple murderer.

What surprised me most in this true life tale from the States, is that Matt's mum got it on with Woody's dad after he was released from serving just five years in jail following his first contract killing, on the grounds of 'good behaviour.'

The robber and the real Mr Big

Perhaps the early release of Charles Harrelson could be explained by the man in charge of the state penitentiary being in the pay of a local Mr Big. But in England, medieval justice was sometimes based on the really big Mr Big.

After Geoffrey Chaucer was robbed of his horse and purse whilst on the king's duties, Richard Berelay, a member of the highway robbers, was captured. Berelay offered to give evidence against his companions if the charges against him were dropped.

When the other robbers were rounded up, one of them offered to prove his innocence through trial by battle. Berelay was defeated in the fight, which was taken to show God's judgement on his guilt and Berelay was duly hanged, whilst the better fighter went free.

Mini break meanders

We went off on our first Mini Break of the year. PW set the Satnav, I drove.

Question: is Kirklees the easiest place to get lost when using a Sat Nav?

PW's Satnavigator is Charlotte, who has an annoying habit of telling you to turn half a second before you get to a junction. After which she demands, 'Return to the route' at three second intervals, despite us having a ten tonne truck filling our rear screen window.

I made a point of not commenting on the wisdom of PW's decision to take a short cut through Stainland when she gave Charlotte her orders, although I might have exuded a sense of smugness by referencing a meandering series of towns and villages in a short ditty I recited.

The King of Kirklees

There was a young man from Kirkheaton,
Who did it and got soundly beaten.
In Denshaw, Diggle and Delph,
They reckon it's bad for your health.
But in Honley and Holmfirth
And places refined,
They say `Don't do it.
You're sure to go blind!
But grandad knows one place will allow it.
Since he wor a lad,
He's done it in Slaithwaite.
So, give him a big hand,
Come, join in with me:
To grandad, who first dunked his Hobnob in tea!

The George, Hathersage

The food was 'quite good' on the PW rating at this Elizabethan pub and our room was large and comfortable. We completed a stroll round the village in under an hour, with a bit of a climb up to the church, where campanologists were practising with muffled bells as we entered. Little John is said to be buried in the churchyard. A guide for children states that the grave was opened in 1784, where a 7ft long skeleton was discovered.

Charlotte Bronte used to travel to the village by coach, without aid of Satnav, to visit her friend Ellen Nussey, who lived in the vicarage with her brother, the vicar, who had a marriage proposal rejected by the soon to be famous novelist.

After breakfast next day, I was waiting in reception and managed not mentioning, to the fit, bald, thirty something guy standing next to me, 'You are Andrew Strauss,' reckoning that he might already know.

Haddon Hall

To Haddon Hall, a manor house first mentioned in the Domesday Book, which starred as Rochester's pad in a TV version of Jane Eyre (1996). It's a fact that no grand house incites the interest of the paying public unless its owners have ancestors with tragic or romantic histories.

At Haddon a local legend describes the elopement of John Manners, second son of the protestant Earl of Rutland, with young Dorothy Manners, daughter of the Roman Catholic, Sir George Vernon of Haddon after Sir George forbade their union. It was once a celebrated scandal. A late 19th century novel and an opera with music by Arthur Sullivan premiered in 1892, and popularised the tale.

An American novel, Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1902) followed, and became a best seller, closely followed by a play on Broadway. In 1924 Mary Pickford starred in a film version. All of which fame and notoriety died down long before our visit.

Nowadays, Haddon Hall is somewhat ignored, as crowds flock to nearby Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall. Which was fine by us and the scattering of fellow tourists.

Chatsworth's charms

We had good weather again for our trip to Chatsworth, where there is far too much to see in one afternoon. PW was on camera duty and got this snap of me on the grand staircase. When I put it on Facebook, Roger Munday pointed out that I seemed to have an exotic pet on my shoulder. Perhaps it's what Philip Pullman would describe as my daemon, although I always imagined that was a lion.

I bought The Pursuit of Love from the bookshop, where our visit was interrupted by a call from Huddersfield Hospital, telling PW that because of a cancellation, she should visit the following afternoon, when she would be given the results of her recent test.

So we drove home with that hanging over us (don't ask how the journey went) and next day made it in good time to the hospital in Lindley in expectation of receiving her results. Only to be told that the test results hadn't arrived, despite them ringing Bradford Hospital all morning. But the nurse and doctor reassured us that they would definitely pass the test results on to us the following day.

Next day, they didn't ring. Instead, PW received a text telling her she'd get a phone message in May.

Monologists unite!

A few years back, I got a note asking me to invite people to a new tour by the Vagina Monologue performers. That week I'd started writing a piece which weirdly coincided with the hacking of hospital computers in the UK by a group from North Korea. So I plugged the VM lot and then performed this new rhyme at the Trades Club open mic.

Android Hospital

Some o ' t lads went to t' Android Hospital,
It wor set in t' near future, not far.
There wor Maurice, our John, and young Jamie,
And they went in a driverless car.

Now Maurice had an ingrowing toenail
And young Jamie had signed up for t' snip,
And our John, he wor after a bionic foot,
To go with his bionic hip.

These treatments wor proper expensive,
But they've managed to claim t' money back,
'Cos that night when they went down to t' theatre,
Wor t' night of a cyber-attack!

When Maurice came out of sedation,
His foot wor quite pain free; although,
When he took his surgical sock off,
He discovered he wor minus a toe.

An' our John, who wor one for his dancing,
A dapper old chap, quite sweet,
Has had to give up on his hobby,
Now he's literally got two left feet.

But I won't hear a word against androids,
It's humans as wants to attack us,
An t' surgeons at Android Hospital
Had their programs hacked into by hackers!

But spare a thought for young Jamie,
His treatment's quite scrambled his head.
He went in for a vasectomy,
But he got a vagina instead.

The adventures of Hilda Pigg

In his wallet, Jude carries a photograph of a great grandmother he never met. His mum has told him Hilda Pigg had a tough life and one night she fought off an attacker with a hat pin. Each week Kath agrees to watch his latest DVD. Recently they watched The Last of the Samurai. Half way through the film he asked, 'What would Hilda Pigge say if she met a Ninja?'

This week we watched the first Godfather film, and I was reminded of the way in which the director carefully lures us into each climactic incident, Michael at the café, his wife in the car, Sunny at the bridge crossing.

News from home

Whilst away, I caught up with the discussion on HebWeb around a specific case, which I'm still following, but if you haven't done so, reading Dave Boardman's post on HebWeb and the views of other readers might help to make my response to his post more coherent.

First of all, I don't like people to be intimidated by mobs, although I can't judge if this is what happened in this case. Often, we don't know both sides of a story, and it's fair for those of us not directly involved to talk in general principles.

Social media tends to drown out nuance and reflection and not being one hundred per cent sure in one's own mind can be pounced on and belittled. Like most people, I want safe refuges and changing places for women, and for women's sport to flourish. I also want women to be called women, but I support the right of transgender women to adopt that label or others and be patient with members of the public who stumble over new gender labels. I also want transgender people to feel comfortable using toilet facilities (as many have done for decades).

I don't see this as the major policy issue in British politics at this time of falling living standards, and failing health care, although it's desperately important for people who are directly affected.

I don't pretend to have clear cut views on all these matters. I do respect those politicians and others who try to recognise the rights of minorities, as in this area the Women's Institutes have calmly done over the last three decades. And I'm wary of politicians who try to exacerbate divisions, preventing the evolution of a calm, caring and respectful approach.

Hair today

On the telly, hair is everywhere, apart from on the lower regions of women on Naked Attraction, that programme where exhibitionist men are assessed by whether their wanglers hang lower than their danglers by women who think this is a good test for finding their one true love. After the commercial break the gender dynamics are reversed.

Now a new programme called Naked Education, compered by the same presenter, is showing blushing kids that Naked Attraction is actually rubbish, by parading unclad and unshaven adults in front of giggling and goggling 11 year old kids. Now, 'Hair down there is healthy' is the message. And 'Throw away your razors girls!'

All of which dodges the most important grooming message for older men, at least according to their partners: 'Cut your bloody nose hair!'

Asbestos news

Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson has obtained statistics from the Office for National Statistics that there have been 147 deaths from mesothelioma sufferers among health and education workers since 2017. This is thought to be an underestimate because of the way in which occupations are recorded on death certificates. Now the Health and Safety Executive are inspecting how schools are managing risks, after statisticians detected a rate of mesothelioma 'that borders on statistical significance for teachers born between 1955 and 1974' (The Observer, 16th April).

Unfortunately, just removing asbestos might exacerbate the problem, as disturbing the material can lead to the greatest exposure.

Let's talk talc

In the same week as the disclosure of fatality figures for professionals working in UK public buildings, I caught up with a court ruling from 2020. Hannah Fletcher, aged 45, can bring a mesothelioma claim against the makers of Estee Lauder face powder and Clinique loose face powder, ruling against the claim by the firms that the cases would be easier to litigate in England. 'Unlike the American tort system, English courts almost exclusively deal with occupational exposure' (Leighday, 4th May 2020). Now the Supreme Court in the USA has declined to hear an appeal by Johnson & Johnson over a $2.1 billion pay out to women. Almost 20,000 women in the US have filed claims so far. The firm's baby powder is still sold in the UK.

Trades open mic

Back from our break, I went to the Trades Club Open Mic. Many of the musical turns were good and all were well supported by the audience.
H the poet has found her natural audience. Perfectly capturing his intonation, she did three linked poems in praise of John Cooper Clarke, including his two line rhyme:


Forget foreplay and all that palaver,
Have a cadaver

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