Number Thirty-six of the regular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 36 - Monday 2 September 2019
Here are some Shaggy Dog storytellers at Stubbing Wharf, an hour before a packed Stories from the Floor night. The stories ranged across the ages (I sang a song about global warming). This month is the club’s 25th anniversary.
Lend me your ears
As Plato said, “Those who tell the stories rule society.” I was listening to some workmen this week:
“Have you heard that Boris is shutting down Parliament and the Queen is letting him do it?”
“Yeah. It’s stopped Corbyn from forming a caretaker government.”
“Caretaker - that’s about all he’s good for.”
In these strange times, Old Etonians proclaim themselves ‘champions of the people’ and the billionaire Trump tells a similar tale - to great popular acclaim. An election is probably on the way.
Meanwhile, the waters keep rising.
Back to school
One Indian Summer, I donned my linen suit, sunglasses and sun hat and went to collect my son from his primary school. Arriving early, I sat on a grassy slope beyond the playground, ready to cut a dash when the young mums arrived.
A pre-school toddler toddled through the gates into the playground, then turned and stopped in his tracks when he saw me. He shouted excitedly to his mother, as she came into view, “Look mummy, it’s a scarecrow!”
Granddaughter, who I hadn’t seen for a while, held her arms out and asked, “Hug?” Which I readily did, but now I need a top up.
Birchcliffe fitness tutor, Bryony Mylroie-Smith, has written about the health boosts of hugging and I reckon one of the more successful imports from France in the last few years has been the Greeting Hug - although we English haven’t fully embraced it.
Except in sport, man on man hugs are still regarded as unBritish and effeminate. Perhaps Brexit is the British way of saying, ‘That’s quite enough of that, thank you’.
Missing me Mrs
In the 1970s, I collected tiny daughter from the childminder and returned to our terraced house in Halifax. Some time later, I noticed something was missing. I waited a good while before ringing the police.
“I want to report a missing wife.”
Embarassingly, a few minutes later, PW rolled up, with three bags of shopping. I was about to embark on a really satisfying strop, when she said, “I told you this morning I was going to Tesco’s after my driving lesson.”
Then she might well have started a riff about me never listening to a word she said, but I turned a deaf ear. Some time later, I’d just got dinky daughter off to sleep (as PW was finally making the tea) when I heard a knock at the front door. Then a female voice.
Damn, I’d forgotten I’d phoned the fuzz!
I hurried downstairs. PW was looking at the officer on the doorstep, but had temporarily lost the power of speech. In a masterful manner, I brought the WPC inside and quietly apologised for my wife being alive.
She said, “No worries! False alarm! It happens all the time.”
She told me she’d recently responded to an urgent call from a guy in Pellon. When she got there, this feller looked quite distressed. He said, “I’m sure my Mrs has been abducted. She’s usually home by now.”
So the WPC went into the kitchen to make him a brew. When she returned with his calming cuppa she handed him a note she’d found stuck to the fridge:
“I’VE LEFT YOU JOHN, YOU BASTARD.
MAKE YOUR OWN FUCKING TEA!”
Crow Hill CROWS
I used to love running and walking on the footpaths and packhorse trails around here and recently, the Community Rights of Way Service have been clearing overgrown paths just up from me.
So, inspired by the efforts of these Crow Hill CROWS, I’ve decided to buy some new walking shoes and hit the trails again. Meanwhile, I’ll award these public minded folks with a Murphy toast - butter side up, of course.
Read the article, Dick Braine
Try reading the following list aloud:
The Old Town bus and the Heptonstall bus
The Owl and the Pussy Cat
The BBC and the ITV.
Now, if you’re a native English speaker, you probably pronounced the definite articles in that list as ‘thee’ before a vowel and ‘the’ before a consonant. Although, if you’re from round here, you might legitimately have said, “t' ‘Eptonstall bus”. Chances are you did this quite naturally, you weren’t taught it as a rule whilst sitting on your mum’s lap, or getting a Chinese burn from your mates.
As you were reading the list you probably weren’t even aware that your brain was slyly looking ahead to the next word before selecting the appropriate ‘thee’ or ‘the’ to use (pardon me if I don’t break off to go into t’ intricacies o’ t Yorkshire definite articles at this point). Adults learning English as a second language, who need a more explicit knowledge, can often explain the rules of our language better than we can.
As with most rules, there are exceptions to definite article rules, but even a Dick Braine, leader of The Ukip party, might work out why it’s not correct to say ‘Thee’ Ukip Party.
Here endeth the lesson.
The road to Lancashrie
Our brains miss things …
In order to keep tourists wondering around, completely lost and spending money, The Canal and River Trust have produced some signposts. One of them sends walkers the wrong way to Mytholmroyd and another directs them towards the mythical kingdom of ‘Lancashrie’, where everyone counts (and some can spell too).
Don’t despair, CART people, to err is human. For example …
The Mars Climate Orbiter cost $125 million. The very clever people at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory used the metric system for calculating the rate of entry into the Martian atmosphere, forgetting that the very clever people at Lockheed built the spacecraft using Imperial measures.
obit: Orbiter didn’t orbit.
Hit the road Jack
At the Fox and Goose, I was reading Fiery Jack, to the Pencilvania writers group. The happy ending was looming. Jack was about to fall on one knee and propose to a kitchen maid when …
Frank appeared, where Jack should have been.
There he was, in black and white. The publishers of Hippy Valley had missed him, I’d missed him, PW, friends and family and readers and reviewers had missed him. Yet there he was, on the page, in plain sight, at the climax of the story. Instead of Jack, Frank was getting a piece of the action.
Frank was my dad’s name and now Frank had come back to haunt me. Ah well, even Homer nods - as fans of The Simpsons might grudgingly admit.
A Reader Writes
Stephen Ashley, up from that London, told us the true tale of a miniature dog - which appeared as Caviar and chihuahua in Murphy’s Lore 20. Now he writes to say, ‘I enjoyed Hippy Valley very much’. So much so that he has written a dialect version of his tale. It turns out that Fu Fu was actually a thoroughbred pekinese. Here’s an extract:
The Tale of Sue and Fu and Others Too
(somewhat in the style of G.F. Murphy)
… Oh how the party reeled and rocked.
They almost missed the New Year clock.
They danced to Sweet and Boney M,
Bucks Fizz and KC’s Sunshine men.
Yes, all the latest hottest hits,
It were a very Ballroom Blitz.
They rode white swans and rocked the boat.
Soon Becky’s head began to float
From drinking tumblers of pink gin.
She thought the room did whirl and spin.
So Becks succumbed to great fatigue
From dancing to the Human League
And looking for a place to flop
She spied the couch and there did drop
Upon a tawny cushion plump
That looked a comfy, welcome lump.
Old Becks went down wi’ such a crack,
She thought she’d bust the sofa’s back,
But think how desperate she felt
When she touched on a canine pelt.
Poor Fu Fu’s head did roll and loll.
He were as lifeless as a doll.
Thought Becks: “Oh no, oh flippin’ heck!
I’ve gone and busted Fu Fu’s neck.”
Now Becks were big but she weren’t thick.
In fact her brain were fly and quick … "
(Dear reader, Becky stuffed Fu Fu down the back of the sofa and made good her escape. In reality, this happened in a posh part of London, rather than Heptonstall, but if you’re down that way, don’t let on.)
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