Number Twenty-nine of the regular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 29 - Tuesday, 16 July 2019
This week, I almost got lunch at Marco’s, but I couldn’t remember the word ‘Pizza’. Apparently, as long as I know I’ve forgotten a word, I don’t need to worry. I got two cappuccinos instead.
The Calder Poets have been offered a gig, first weekend in November. I said I’d check with Present Wife first, as her birthday is on the 5th and she might want family round that weekend. PW reminded me her birthday is on the 25th - and always has been. I’m sure something else must happen on the 5th.
Plenty of Baby Boomers have forgotten the Industrial Revolution ever happened, and brightened up Hebden for the weekend. So this week’s toast - butter side up - goes to Steam Punkers, young and old!
At the White Swan, a friend tells me about unfair questions she’d been asked at a job interview. We agree she’s dodged a bullet and to cheer her up, I tell her about my interview at the BBC.
The job was Researcher for Schools Programming. Struck me I’d have to wear a suit for the interview and I hadn't worn mine for years. So I took my brown suit along to the dry cleaners. I wore chinos and a T Shirt on the hot, sticky, train journey and hung my suit from the luggage rack, protected by the dry cleaners' plastic cover. This annoyed a guy who got on at Peterborough, so I took it down and cradled it for the rest of the sweltering journey. I arrived two hours early at Ealing Broadway Studios, above the tube station - you can never be too careful.
I was told I couldn’t take my bag to the gents to change into my suit, in case I had a bomb. No problem - they’d sent me a map of London and it looked like dad's flat was just round the corner. So I got a taxi. After 10 minutes in the taxi I realised the BBC had sent me a small scale map. Turned out dad's flat was miles away, above a shop on a roundabout in Wembley. When I got there I had just over an hour left before my interview.
I ran past my dad, had a quick wash, ran into the spare bedroom and - tearing the drycleaning cover off - got changed into my smart brown suit. When I pulled my trousers up, I couldn’t fasten them. They had a 32 inch waist and I no longer did.
On piano, Charles Hawtrey
After the BBC interview, dad took me to his local. To put my travails into perspective, I asked him about his wartime experiences in Burma. He hadn’t responded to this request in the past, but that night he relented. He said, when a Japanese attack was imminent, the troops were given an extra alcohol ration. One morning they traipsed out from their Base Camp huts, a bit worse for wear, and found carts had been pushed into their parade ground overnight. Neatly stacked along the carts were the young squaddies who’d been sent as reinforcements, minus their heads.
An old, sandy haired guy in a striped jacket, with a camp voice, thin framed, circular glasses and a look of Charles Hawtrey, started playing sing-along tunes on the stand up piano. Everyone gathered round, like extras from an Ealing comedy, and sang Rag Time Cowboy Joe and other old songs, including Nice work if you can get it …
Walls have ears
I went for an internal post at my Higher Education institution. I sat in the corridor alongside Ron, the other candidate, a brilliant but maverick, argumentative type. They asked him in first, which was good for me, in two ways:
I’d forgotten everything I'd revised;
I could hear every word of Ron’s interview - and the comments by the panel afterwards.
That evening, the Equal Opps woman rang to offer me the post, saying “Off the record, I thought you were the stronger candidate.”
A few weeks into my new post, I offloaded my guilt onto a colleague. She didn’t look up from her computer.
“So, you thought they didn't know you could hear everything - and they were just blown away by your word perfect answers?”
Friends drove us to Norland, below the stone edged, community owned heath, past the Children’s Holiday Home, where the council once sent sickly children to escape smoke filled Halifax air, and on to The Moorcock. Six out of seven of our sharing dishes were scrumptious - and they didn’t charge us for the seventh.
We got talking about Ireland and I told Jack Lynch’s tale of a man who turned up at his local with a black eye. He said he’d been standing in church behind a lovely lass in a tight fitting blue dress. It was a hot day and her dress had gathered between her bum cheeks, so he kindly leaned forward and gently pulled it out. She turned and lamped him one for his troubles.
Next week he turned up at the pub again, but now he had two black eyes. He said he’d been in church, and he was standing behind that same comely lass in the blue dress, only this time it wasn’t tucked between her bum cheeks. So, remembering how angry she was the previous Sunday, he leaned forward and gently poked the dress between her bum cheeks, the way she liked it.
It was still light as we sailed back down Cragg Vale - thanks to Beryl for drinking water all evening and being our chauffeur.
Two women in the England World Cup team were grieving for their recently deceased fathers. So Phil Neville called them into his office. He said he knew how they felt. His dad, Neville Neville (so good they named him twice), had died a year or two back. Phil put his arms round the players shoulders and said, “You know what, when we beat Scotland, I bet the three of them were up there, drinking a pint and smiling down on us.”
I spent a few moments imagining how celestial boozers might operate (Would they allow dogs? Would drunken angels get barred? Did they have a BBC licence - or just Sky?), when I was diverted by the arrival of that glossy free magazine about life in the upper valley. I especially enjoy the articles by the Hebden woman who gets guidance from dead people. She can tune into their wavelength and this month she has helpfully included illustrations of two of her long dead ‘Spirit Guides’.
I visited my friend Peter at Overgate Hospice. One of the support staff came in and started talking to him in a loud, cheerful voice.
“Peter, you’ve let me down again! We made you a lovely Full English Breakfast and you didn’t touch it. What are you like?!”
My German friend was in too much discomfort to respond, but he put his thumb up when I said, “Peter is a cordon bleu chef.”
She said, “Oh, I didn’t know that. Do you want some fish for breakfast, Peter?”
He put his thumb up again.
Peter was the second worst darts player in the world, but he always beat me. I reminded him of the time we played arrows in a pub near old Elland bridge. Our match of 501 was dragging on and on, but we were enjoying the banter. A guy had come in and was hanging around, spooking us slightly, no doubt clocking how useless we were at darts. When Peter finally nailed a double to end the game, the stranger challenged us to a match. If he lost, we could carry on playing each other.
By some miracle, Peter and I went into the zone. Suddenly, we couldn’t miss: trebles, bulls eyes and doubles. It’s a good job we didn’t place bets because the stranger would have thought he’d been stung by a couple of old pros. As soon as he sloped off with his tail between his legs (although I didn’t check), and titanium darts in his pocket, we reverted to type: the worst two darts players around, but enjoying the crack.
Peter leaned over and lifted a bottle of claret from under his bed. As well as being a great chef, he imported wines. We each drank a small plastic beaker full and it was highly quaffable stuff, but I told him I couldn’t drink any more because I was driving. As I left I put my hand on his shoulder and he said, “Don’t get sentimental.”
Back home I realised I should have kept drinking with Peter, then phoned for a taxi and picked the car up next day. There are times when rules should be broken. He died a few days later.
An interview at a school in a posh suburb: three of us after the Deputy Headship (I had a smart black suit now - and it fitted). The other candidates were a shy, conscientious Miss and a funny, live wire Ms. Ms had an unusual first name - she said it sounded like a type of Canadian pond weed, but her mum liked it.
After her interview, Ms came back, flopped down and said, "I feel really strange after that. I’m all on edge. I’m feeling jangly. There’s something I could really do with, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. … Oh my god, I know what it is … I could just do with a really good shag.”
After a few moments of stunned silence, Miss said, “I thought you were going to say a nice cup of tea.”
I said, “Well, I’m a bit busy now, but…” The guy from the interview panel popped his head round the door and said, “Mr Murphy please.”
Pond Weed got the job.
Unlike live performers, writers send out musings from their garrets and hope someone out there is tuned to their wavelength. So, thanks for supportive messages from Maura (‘I love your column’) and Jim Wilson and Fay (“it makes me smile”), Pete and Sylvia (ex Hebden now Cotswolds), Jean from Liverpool (“always entertaining”), Hayley from Marsden, Dave from Dawley (“brilliant - as ever”), new friend Mary and old friend Diane. Your fivers are in the post.
Also Mavis - who I used to know - and the lovely people who separately approached Mr HebWeb and I as we sat on the Town Hall terrace for one of our ‘planning meetings’ - your kind words are much appreciated.
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