Wednesday, 13 February 2019
This is number seven of a regular column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.
Murphy’s Lore 7 - Valentine Special
The hall was dark, I saw the top of the girl's head, then heard a snort of suppressed laughter as I edged towards her. It was Jeanette, from the class below ours. Despite shutting my eyes, my lips docked at the right place.
Ted Hughes wrote to Sylvia Plath that when they made love it was as if brandy had coarsed through his veins. Well, there was something intoxicating in the soft warmth and wetness of my first kiss that melted through me. With my senses miraculously heightened, my hand on the small of her back intimated the big of her body.
I chose a number and then waited for my number 2 girl to emerge. As Jeanette returned to the party the voices got louder than Martha and the Vandellas and there was an explosion of laughter. Had she mocked my snogging technique?
I waited, but Girl Number 2 didn't appear. So I found my jacket on the coat rack and let myself out.
The music was still earworming as I walked home, 'Nowhere to run baby, nowhere to hide…'
Next day, my friend Michael called round. 'What happened to you? We were all looking for you.'
'Sounded like you were all having a right good laugh.'
'Gaynor brought the food in on a trolley and all the lasses ran into each to get some. They found it hilarious. We all just forgot you were out there.
'You should have stayed. With women you have to wait till they've eaten - after that's when the fun really starts!'
'Love is short'
Valentine's Day makes me think back a few years to when I taught a poetry appreciation course. One divorced, embittered, and traditionally dressed British Asian student borrowed some translations of Neruda's love poems...'love is so short and forgetting can be so long'.
She called him Pablo and I got her to watch The Postman, where the exiled poet befriended the man who delivered parcels of books. I told her the eponymous actor had died a few days after filming and that in time Neruda was probably murdered by Pinochet.
She learnt the poems by heart and at graduation she told her new man I had changed her life - and so had Pablo!
Sex is best!
When sex eventually happened, I was surprised to discover that it was as good as everyone said it was, especially when done with someone else: better than a fast run on a day when it all feels easy; better than a long hot soak in the bath when the water is just the right heat; better than a chip butty.
I even had that Lawrentian feeling that sex was a mingling of souls, as well as other bits. Until one time I asked a lass, 'How was it for you?'
She said, 'I was just wondering where those pipes come from above that wash basin…'
Union Jack Shorts
It's 40 years since I got mortal. I only had 4 pints at pub, but I hadn't put the training in. Weirdly, I woke up in the spare room and then was sick outside under a flowering currant. My Present Wife had no sympathy.
PW had caught the jogging bug and she'd hung her sports bra and Union Jack shorts over the radiator in our room. In the night she'd been woken by a drumming noise on the floor boards. She said I'd mistaken her bra for a urinal. She shouted, 'Yer dirty bugger!' and chased me from the room. I got a pained flashback. She said the colours had run on her Union Jack shorts.
Since then I've drunk little and often, just to be responsible.
Not all Georges are daring and dashing.
'Eve' was married to George but she had a special relationship with 'Adam', a Senior Inspector.
Adam got Eve a job tending to the new Reading Centre, looking after reading scheme books, many of the slender books were written by Adam, who had a deal with the publisher.
In those days, Kath worked at the special school in the grounds. On a sunny day, she saw Adam and Eve behind the centre, sipping wine. One summer, Eve booked to go on a cruise with Adam and George.
In September, Eve told me her George had tripped on the gangplank, broke his leg and spent a fortnight in Southampton General. But her and Adam sailed on and had a wonderful time.
Phone Call 1
It's the phone calls in the early hours that disturb you.
Bob and Belle had died in a house fire. Drowsy from her medication, she'd fallen asleep and her cigarette had fallen into the newspaper rack, The People's Friend and The Sun had set alight and then the foam cushions and the nylon carpet. A neighbour was woken by the sound of roof tiles popping and crashing.
The firemen found Bob in the hallway. When Bob crossed the hallway from his bed he could have survived if he had opened the front door. Instead, he opened the door to the sitting room and the fierce blaze. Then the black smoke from the nylon carpets and non flame retardent furnishings filled his lungs.
Phone Call 2
In the early hours, Tom's dad rings to say Tom has died at the children's hospital.
At the funeral I help to carry the coffin. I'm on first with a speech Kath has written. Behind the family pews, rows of Tom's classmates stand facing me. Unable to take full part in sport, Tom's hero was Solskjaer and he wears his red shirt in the coffin. How often he must have wanted to be called from the subs bench to be a Super Sub, like his hero. He had a go too - taking up drama, starring in Bugsy Malone and bringing the house down when he got up onto a chair to kiss the tall heroine.
I manage the first few lines, but flounder over the hospital bit where Tom knew he wouldn't survive and he said to his parents, 'I'll never have a girlfriend…'
I can't speak French, but I like the chanson tradition. I'm enchanted by La Mer by Charles Trenet, even though the words seem a bit naff in translation and the orchestration is too lush at times. The English version doesn't capture Trenet's magic. Eric Satie also hits the spot.
I must be in holiday mood for the sunshine and perhaps for Normandy. I've written a song about a beautiful couple: Gerard, Jeanette.
Her hair red as the sunset
And the blood that Ireland's bled,
Gerard's hair black as midnight
And the glasses on his head…
Next day the Sunday painter
Gives his cobalt blue a squeeze
And though he can't think who to thank,
Gives thanks for days like these…
Try not to forget,
Despite Sinatra and Piaf,
Some things you will regret…
Jeanette's alone, she rings my phone,
But who's the guilty party?
Gerard plays golf while we make love
To tunes by Eric Satie…
If you would like to send a message about this piece or suggest ideas, email George Murphy