Cautionary Tales for Adolescents: Michael

Michael, who always made a mess,

But now his Family are one Less!


Michael, like some other Boys,

Never tidied up His Toys!

And Outdoors, when Eating Sweets,

Threw their wrappers down in t’ Streets!


He grew to be an Uncouth Youth –

His Sweetheart Vickie wor Far More Couth.

But on a Country Walk, her Poodle

Made a Pile of Doggy Doo Doo…


Wit’ Special Glove on, Swift and Deft,

She Scooped it Up till Non wor Left.

But in a Test of Michael’s Love,

She Handed Him that Dog Poo Glove!


Now, some way off there wor a Bin

For putting Doggy Poo Bags in,

But Michael had hoped for a Canoodle,

Not a Parcel of Poo, Pood by a Poodle!


And so he reached up, Brazenly,

And Hung that Poo Bag FROM A TREE!

Well, this wor Seen by Farmer Kath,

Who muttered, ‘That Michael’s Having a Laugh!’


And on Patrols, it wor Kath’s Habit,

To take a Gun to Shoot at Rabbits.

She didn’t want young Michael Dead –

But FIRED A SHOT above his Head!


Then back Down t’ Hill ran Little Lulu –

And Vickie raced to Catch her Poodle.

But Michael ran and leapt in t’ Bin,

Where Good Folks put their Poo Bags In.


But by a Strange Coincidence –

T’ Odds on which wor Quite Immense –

Bin Men drove up, Young and Strong,

And Did Not Hang About for Long!


They’d been Parked Up, Reading t’ Sun,

And thought Kath Fired at Them wit’ Gun!

They ran wit’ Poo Bin Double-Smart,

And tipped its Contents in their Cart.


Then they Drove Off, past Dog and Vickie.

Who Shouted, ‘STOP! You’re Taking Micky!’

In t’ back o t’ Dust Cart, Michael stirred…

And Muttered t’ English word for Merde!


But in that Dust Cart, HIGH SPEC KIT

Chewed up Michael…BIT by BIT!

And at a Landfill, where they Recycle,

DUMPED: 3 Parts Poo to 2 Parts Michael!


Michael’s Parents said, ‘We’re One Child Fewer,

But at least he’ll make a Good Manure!’










(Reports suggest that a slight rise in the local birthrate

 occurs after sightings of UFOS in the Todmorden area)

Gordon had a calm demeanour,

Rarely had he been serener,

Night time driving over t’ valley,

One hand steerin’, casually.

Unaware, so he worn’t bothered,

Overhead a Space ship hovered.

But Gordon didn’t want for nowt,

Until his engine just cut out.


This circumstance made Gordon groan,

But when he tried his mobile phone,

And found that that had also quit,

He gave 3 buggers…one Brad Pitt.

When sudden luminosity,

Aroused his curiosity.

A dazzling light inspired his awe,

An’ Gordon opened t’ driver’s door.


If we’d been there we all would shout,

‘For god’s sake, Gordon, don’t get out!’

For we all know, though he forgot,

Round here’s a UFO hotspot,

An’ joggers, doggers, cows an’ cops,

Have all been rounded up on t’ tops.

But in a trance, as if instructed,

Ginger Gordon, wor abducted!


Now every Sci-Fi student knows,

Space aliens watch our TV shows.

An’ Gordon’s lot had special powers

To make their features look like ours.

An’ one that knew soap operas well –

Transformed into a femme fatale –

Stood first in line, Gordon to greet,

As Gail from Coronation Street!


What happened next, his mind repressed,

Though tabloid journalists have guessed,

That driven by some desperate need,

Gail an’ Gordon did the deed.

Despite this speculation, tawdry,

No one spoke to his wife, Audrey.

Until, at her car maintenance class,

She told her secret to our lass.


When Gordon One went off on t’ drive,

Another Gordon had arrived…

Identical in every way,

Except he asked about her day!

An’ after bleeding’ t’ radiators,

Made Coq au Vin, wi’ mashed potatoes.

But only winked when she demanded,

‘Gordon, how come tha’rt left handed?


That Gordon had his wicked way,

By use of summit called ‘foreplay’.

An’ Audrey thrilled at each sensation,

Especially use of levitation.

That night when Gordon One returned,

Wi’ stories of what he had learned

About celebrities from space,

Audrey had to keep straight faced,

For inside her, all a’tinglin’,

Wor two genomes, intermingling’!


An’ nine months later, Gord and Aud

Announced t’ birth of daughter, Maud.

Now 3 years old, wi’ auburn locks;

Pink o’ cheek an’ dress an’ socks.

An’ Gordon says, wi’ certainty,

‘My daughter’s t’ dead spit o’ me.’

An’ asks said toddler what she thinks,

An’ Maude looks at her mum, an’ winks!


So those as wor born near Stoodley Pike,

Should pay full heed to this story:

Tha might be one part Lancastrian,

One part Tyke…

An’ one part Alpha Centauri!

An’ on some world in outer space,

A child – wi Gail from Corrie’s face –

Is starting off a ginger race!























Fancy Man Stan (Song)

On a beautiful morning in Llandudno, I was sitting watching people go past and mentally working on Le Grand Depart, when the repeat line and the tunes for this song popped into my head. I’d first heard the phrase ‘fancy man’ used in the north east, visiting Kath’s family in a mining village, about a tall, skinny, trilby hatted, pencil moustached, dapper old chap who was courting a little, elderly, poshly dressed, over made up lady. The Stan in my song is more worldly and youthful. I got most of the song as I sat there. A day or two later it was finished. The plot was based on typical court cases in The News of the World in the 50s.

[I sing this song as a bawdy, humorous and rousing piece. But, I’ve wondered how it would sound sung more dramatically, in a Jacques Brel style, slowly upping the volume and the dark satire!]

I’ll tell thee a tale of a singular man,

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

For wooing of widows wor his secret plan,

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

His voice like molasses, and golden his tan,

He didn’t chase lasses, he went after grans.

And soon a rich widow wor his biggest fan.

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.


Well she gave him employment as her handyman,

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

And hands on enjoyment wor part of her plan,

For Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

And when that old dame, shuffled off t’ mortal coil,

He’d 10 grand to his name, when he laid her in t’ soil.

An’ that’s how pursuit of rich widows began,

For Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.


Now, to prove that first conquest worn’t just flash in t’ pan,

For Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

T’ next woman he courted wor Dowager Anne,

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

At t’ art of lovemaking he wor a magician,

He got parts working long out of commission.

An’ she changed her will an’ got reading o t’ banns,

For Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.


But soon after her church wedding began,

To Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

A furious woman across that church ran,

At Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

An’ her voice rang out hard, in its echoing strife,

‘Stop this charade, for I’m your true wife!’

An’ all stood like statues…except for one man:

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan!


So off into legend that bad rascal ran:

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

For wooing of widows wor his secret plan:

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.

For he had a scheme, when digging for gold,

To help women dream, they’d never grow old!

An’ that’s how he made them change their pension plans,

Stan, Stan, Fancy Man Stan.








Cautionary Tales For Adolescents: JOAN

Joan, who only had eyes for her phone and wor eaten.

Her Parents wor quite Fond of Joan,

And they bought her a Mobile Phone

So she could do her Homework Speedier,

Copying Chunks from Wikipedia.

But Smartphones have Magnetic Powers,

Joan Fiddled with her Phone for Hours.

Until one day she wor Offended,

On Facebook she had been Unfriended,

And she cried, ‘It isn’t fair,

I wor just about to Unfriend her!’

Her Parents pondered, ‘What’s to Do?’

Till Mother said, ‘Let’s Go to t’ Zoo.’

And Father said, ‘To enjoy us stay,

Put that Blessed Phone Away!’


For Joan had once LOVED Animals,

But sometimes Childhood Passion dulls.

She trudged through all t’ Best Parts o’ t Zoo,

Past Tiger, Lion, Kangaroo,

Whose Glories wor all Lost on Joan –

Who Could Not Use Her Mobile Phone!

But got revenge upon her Kin

By looking Miserable as Sin.

Until, in t’ Giant Reptile House –

Her Parents chatting Spouse to Spouse –

Through Jungle Ferns all Dank with Heat,

Joan Sneaked Off to make a Tweet!


Feeling Bored and Overheated –

‘I want my parents dead!’ she Tweeted –

Wi’ both eyes fixed on t’ Phone she wandered,

And on through Steaming Jungle blundered.

Past DANGER! Signs she did not see,

Alone at last and Feeling FREE!

By Deep Pools  – that Smelt Unhealthy –

She Paused…to Send her Friends a Selfie.

When a Hungry Crocodile – or perhaps an Alligator –

PHOTO BOMBED…then promptly Ate her!


Alerted by the Noisy Crunch

(A Reptile having Joan for Lunch),

A Zoo Keeper – a Plucky Fella –

Sacrificed his Best Umbrella.

And Propping open t’ Creature’s Jaws,

He Dived inside to Great Applause!

For Joan’s Father – a Cautious Chap –

Had bought a ‘Phone Location App’.

And t’ Reptile’s Dark Insides wor Braved…

An t’ Smartphone, though not Joan, wor Saved!


So Think On: Put Down That Phone –

Or Else you might End Up Like Joan!





Le Grand Depart (or Mrs Pomfret’s pomme frites)

Yorkshire Day tomorrow. Here’s my tribute from an offcumden!

(Sung words in italics)

Officials at t’ Tour de France bike race,/ Said they’d run out of roads around France./So our tourism chap, with a straight face,/ Said, ‘Why not give Yorkshire a chance?’/

(Chorus) Oh, When we had our Grand Depart,/On your bikes, au revoir, big Ta ra!/ Le peloton went past in a glance,/ some folks took t’ chance for a weekend romance,/ But we all said that Yorkshire wor t’ star,/ When we had our Grand Depart.

All t’ lamp-posts wor bendin’ wi’ buntin’/An’ skies wor all cloudless an’ blue./ An’ yellow bikes hung from shops frontin’/ On t’ streets where big bike race or due,/ An’ Mrs Veronica Pomfret,/Castin’ off her widow’s kit,/ Frenchified her pub menu for passing’ French men who/ Might fancy their cod piece on a bed of pommel frites!


Well he stood out in t’ crowd, bronzed an’ healthy,/ Till someone said, ‘Here’s t’ peleton!’/ Then Bernard turned round for a selfie/ But when he turned back, t’ bikes had gone!/ So he walked on to t’ pub in his beret,/ Wi’ his hooped shirt an’ handlebar ‘tache/ Though he looked like a cliche, from t’ Champs Elysee,/ Mrs Pomfret admired his Gallic panache!


That night wor our Anglo-French Ball,/ An’ we all wore celebrity masks/ T’ French DJ wor General De Gaulle,/ Alan Bennett played all t’ English tracks/ An’ we danced to La vie en Rosie/ An’ boogied to bat out of hell/No one noticed our pair as they slipped upstairs,/ Norah Batty wi’ Sasha Distel!


(Middle 8) Oh my Veronique,/ Yorkshire’s magnifique/ Across those contours,/ I would be a wanderer./I would spend an hour/ At your Lady Bower/ Those hills and dales/double entendre!

Then he drove her to une, deux, trois peaks,/ Smoked an e cigarette, an’ then,/ She lay in his arms, cheek to chic,/Saying, je ne regret rien./But after depart, he sent a postcard,/ An’ she wor surprised what he put./ He said, I’m not Bernard, from south of Dinard,/ I’m Bernard from Luddenden Foot!






Why the Sirens Stopped Singing

This story recalls when Nymphs at Lumb Falls/With their Siren Song could ignite passions strong/ Nymphs loved young men if they could catch ’em/ Then they’d love them again, then despatch ’em!/These rum goings on seem properer, set to classical music and opera.

[To the tune from The Blue Danube]

Our beauty is rare, ‘Come in! Come in!/And we’re very bare, ‘Come in! Come in!/Oh don’t be afraid, ‘Come In! Come in!/Come in! No, we’re not mermaids, Come in! Come in!/Your passion won’t fail, Come in! Come in!/We’ve not got fish tails. Come in! Come in!/And then we will go,with the flow, and we’ll show you all we know!

Well, they got a young woodman besotted,/And then they went for his carotid/In a watery embrace, passion spread ‘cross his face,/ He wore lured, then loved, then garrotted.

Poachers’ wives lost their men in addition/And they got up a humble petition,/ “With their senses confounded, our men were all drownded,/ In most compromising positions!”

Then three bachelors, Tom, Dick and Harry,/ Past their best with no time to tarry,/Said, they’d risk debauchery/ And fast track to t’ mortuary/For a chance of a match they could marry.

Next morning, across water skimming,/Those stout hearted lads swam wit’ women./ They’d stuffed their ears full wi’ tar and rams’ wool/Thus preventing their senses from dimming…

[To a tune from the Overture of The Barber of Seville]

Tom said, ‘I’ve got one. She’s got a strop on/ A captivating niaid wi’ no top on!/ She won’t give in to me, but I’ll show sympathy/ Come on then lass, for thee an’ me wor meant to be!

Then Dick his brother, had grabbed another/ Her beauty quite the equal of that other/ With an almighty yank he hurled her onto t’ bank/ And said, ‘I’ll be your soul mate and your lover!

Then t’ youngest brother, grabbed hold o t’ mother/ But she wore different challenge he’d discover!/ For she wore much to strong, an’ she kneed him in t’ thong!/ And swam away before he could recover.

And so, thanks to t’ plans they had hatched, two to’ brothers or matched./Though young Harry would say, ‘T’ biggest prize got away!…

Crying: ‘Infamy! Infamy!…(Wait for it!)…I’ve not got a nymph for me!’

And one morning, when out on a ride/ Dick’s nymph jumped in t’ cesspit and died!/ And Dick in his hurry, fell into t’ same slurry./ And they wor interred, side by side.

From water Dick kept his nymph away/ For t’ requisite year and one day./ And their offspring, day tripping, all loved skinny dipping,/ A tradition that last to this day!




Nymphs! (And buskers come away!)

In the small Pennine town where we live/ Our religion’s gone alternative/ We say rivers and trees have their own deities,/ And we worship the beauty they give…

Now there’s not many people’s seen Nymphs,/ Except in museums on plinths,/ But if they want to see ’em outside a museum,/ They should drive around here for a glimpse.

Now they know about Nymphs and their mania,/ From Greece to Mesopotamia,/ But Nymphs Anglo Saxon got just as much action,/ That’s why our Nymphs chose to remain here.

It’s buskers they like to attract,/ But each cull is done with great tact./ Our nymphs say, ‘You’re so cool!’/ To each amplified fool,/ Then wrap amp lead around t’ vocal tract.

But you don’t need to witness this crime,/ Nymphs sneak through a snicket in time./ As you sip your latte, at some riverside cafe,/ They take out young men in their prime.

Some say it’s a monstrosity/ That young men’s curiosity/ At nymphs’ voluptuosity,/ Should lead to such atrocity.

But I just shake my head and shrug,/ Say, ‘Do they think about our lugs?/ If amplifiers img_1587.jpgthey’d unplug/ Then would be Dylans and Jake Buggs might get more generosity!

This is an introduction to Why the Sirens Stopped Singing…(to be continued…)




Thoughts for the day…


On Monday I received a positive response from a reputable publisher to the sample of writing I sent them. On Wednesday I sent the ms off. On Thursday I discovered it hadn’t got to the publisher. I sorted out something called iOS which everyone else in the world knows about. I think my manuscript has gone now: the whole of the ebook Hippy Valley and the new writing I did this year. The number of outlets for light verse is very narrow and it is treated with suspicion, compared to the dozens of outlets for other types of poetry.

The Suit

In the 90s, I got an interview for an Education Researcher’s job at the BBC. I’d have to wear a suit. I hadn’t worn a suit for years. So I sent my brown, woolly suit to the dry cleaners, partly to get the free plastic cover. On the train journey I hung my suit from the rack, while I revised my notes. I got to Ealing Studios early. I’d never felt better prepared for an interview. They wouldn’t let me take my bag into the gents to get changed, because of the bomb threat. But I had the map of London they’d sent me and my dad’s flat was nearby. After 20 minutes in the taxi, I realised the map just showed major roads. My dad’s flat was miles away above a shop in Wembley. 90 minutes before my interview, hot and harassed, I ran past my dad into his bedroom to get changed. When I tried my suit on I couldn’t fasten the trousers. My suit didn’t fit.  TBC!


Dixie Dean was still a legend in the 1950s. I read a cartoon strip about him in the Liverpool Echo, then I modelled my hair on his: centre part, with lots of Brycreem. When it was hot, I used my nails to scrape brown, greasy welts off my neck. On the way home from school one day, a bin man admired my style…even calling my mates over for a special look. After retirement, Dixie became Landlord at The Dublin Packet in Chester. As a lad, he was sent to Borstal, but later he told reporters his dad had wangled him a place there because the Borstal had its own playing fields!


Lovely Lavinia

Out walking, I often call in at a hostelry or a pint, as I did one swelteringly hot evening in early summer in the early 90s, at The William 2nd in Sowerby Bridge. Choosing my pint, I became aware of a charged atmosphere. A group of 20 or so locals had formed a semi-circle around couple, the old black people in the pub. There are times when a Guardian reading man has to stand up to be counted. So I took my pint over and sat next to the couple, like the sympathetic cowboy in a new wave Western. The couple stared at me, surprised. Then the Landlord’s voice boomed out, ‘And now, the moment you have all been waiting for, Page 3 favourite, Lovely Lavinia is here to entertain you!’ music suddenly blasted out. The young black lass stood up, turned her back to the audience and her front to me, undid her top and revealed small, but perfectly formed breasts, adorned with tassels, which she swung around with increasing speed a few inches from my pint to Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.

Learning to Swim

As a kid, 7 or 8, I tried to learn to swim by floating in the tub, during my once a week bath. I’d seen dead bodies floating in Sink the Bismarck and The Cruel Sea, so I tried emptying my head of thoughts and acting dead. This caused tidal waves of water to slop out of the bath, but I never fully floated. Years later, out running with my mate, Dave Jackson, I told him about this. He said my philosophy was, ‘I sink, therefore I am!’

Water Green

The Director of God’s Own Country was inspired by his childhood in Soyland, where we lived in 1980. I used to eat two doorsteps of too thick for a toaster toast and then run up onto the moors, only occasionally forgetting to turn the grill off and filling the kitchen with smoke. I remember one glorious run in early spring, when the birds were riz, and the air was full of lap wing and curlew call and a lark rose high and sang its rapturous song. On my return my present wife was waiting to greet me at the gate. I was inspired to call out, ‘Oh jocund harbinger of the spring!’ She said, ‘You left the bleeding grill on!’


Game of Thrones: although the good guys tend to have blunt but honest Northern accents, it’s true to say that the programme hasn’t done much for the tourist trade up here, especially wit’ permafrost and constant threat from The Undead. It looks like we’re being set up for eventual dictatorship by Danaerys and John Snow in a benevolent version of the 3rd Reich, with order maintained by dragons rather than the SS. However, the programme has prospered by surprising our expectations. When the main protagonists finally meet, perhaps Cersei, played by Huddersfield lass Lena Headey, borrowing from the old Boddingtons ad, will say “Eee John Snow, yer Bastard, what kept thee lad, I’ve had to mek do wi me own brother!’ She’ll fling her arms around him, and reveal that she wore a Stark all along and from now on The North will start at King’s Landing. Meanwhile, dragons are poisoned off and Danearys is caged in a living hell of flames, without her kit on, t’ job’s a good un.

Of Mice and Men

Staying with a poor, elderly couple one night in our younger years, when I’d taken up running again, I scratted around in the kitchen for something to assuage my late night starvation (a familiar feeling for runners) and found a box of Ritz crackers. We were both reading in bed, whilst I munched on handfuls of crackers I lifted from the box. After lights out, Kath said ‘What’s that noise?’ I said, ‘It’s just next door, putting a plug in.’ But the small, scrabbling noise carried on…and it gradually became obvious that it was coming from the Ritz cracker box. There are times when men have to be men. I got Kath to open the window and…pulling a discarded sock over my naked hand, I grasped the cracker packet shut and flung it in one hurried movement out into a dark corner of the garden… causing some scratching of heads from our hosts when they opened the curtains in the morning.

IT was a dream…In Diary of a Nobody, Lupin tells his father that other people’s dreams are always boring. However, several times over the decades My Present Wife has described dreams I have found quite striking in their content. In fact, I have sometimes listened to her narrative all the way through (which is more than she’s managed when listening to my accounts). She once dreamt that she had stolen the word IT, and managed to make a safe getaway in a taxi before she could be apprehended. People felt quite lost without…[..]!

Next morning, MPW was relieved to find that this wasn’t true. Except, I have sometimes imagined learned English Professors being forced to have a World Seminar about IT, at which they decide in future that IT should belong to the whole English speaking world. If one of my students had ever asked me, why can’t there be a possessive apostrophe in ITS? I could have explained about my wife’s dream and the world seminar. But I’d probably have said, ‘Well…that’s just the way it’s always been.’

The Beauty Salon

During my first two thirds of a century, I have managed to avoid learning anything of any practical use to anyone. Strange then, that in my fifties my job partly involved supervising people who had managed to earn livings from their practical expertise. So I went to Manchester to observe a trainer from L O’riel instruct her trainees, used an observation sheet to grade an expert builder as he instructed his apprentices and was sent to a Beauty Salon to check on a Beauty Therapist. It was an early evening session and I said Hello to Joe, the Caretaker before he clocked off. Little did I know I was about to discover a secret and surreal sanctum of the Female World that was previously unknown to man! I entered what appeared to be a hospital ward. Two long rows of beds stretched out before me, with the familiar pull back privacy curtains around – although these were all kept open throughout my stay. Trainee Students, skilled in the necessary trilling vocalisation, dressed in matching uniforms sat beside each bed. Armed with my clip board, I kept my head down, filling in the first bit of the recording sheet, until my attention was drawn to the conversations at the nearby Reception desk as women from the local community came in. ‘And what do we require this evening, Madam?’ ‘Nails…fingers and toes…and a Brazilian.’ Now, I have occasionally been accused of naivety, but even I knew that these woman didn’t require a nail polish followed by a quick visit from Ronaldinho. This was confirmed when I looked up from my clip board and noticed that the customers, a mixture of white and Anglo Asian women, had taken no time to loll on the beds in a relaxed fashion unencumbered by their lower garments. I raised my clipboard till it partly covered my face. At this point, Sandra, the object of my observation came to see me and handed me a check list of what to look for during my inspection. For one moment, I noted some of the criteria to do with bedside manner and hair-trimming technique. She said, matter of factly, ‘Right George, do you want to accompany me as I patrol round, supervising the trainees?’ She seemed taken aback when I made my excuses and left. I zoomed past the caretaker on the way out. It wasn’t Joe, it was a white haired Asian chap in traditional clothes. Never have I seen a face whose flabber looked more gasted. ‘Bye’ I waved, breezily.

Life-style coaching

1. Worried about your weight? Try moving the bathroom scales onto another tile. By this simple expedient I lost 5lbs. in a few seconds.

2. Want to improve your memory. Once I returned from a successful supermarket trip, having ticked off every item on the shopping list I had been given by my present wife, only to find that I had left my wife behind, She has never let me forget this.

Cautionary Tales for adults…I’ve always loved Matilda – who told such dreadful lies – but now I’ve just reread the one about Jim being eaten by a lion. I love the lackadaisical reaction to catastrophe. Albert and the Lion and the rhyming alphabet by Edward Gorey picked up on that. Earlier there was Peter Strewelpeter in the 19th century. All these sent up more religious and plodding cautionary tales, especially beloved by the Victorians.


Their variety show that the form can be adapted…Daunting though, these little gems are so perfectly formed.

10th July, 2017: Advice for men contemplating a vasectomy…

Be prepared for a visit from a barber, possibly someone on work experience. I recognised my barber as a chap I sometimes met in the queue at our local chippy.

After your op, be prepared for a few nights of disrupted sleep. Your partner may scoff at your cries of distress, when you turn over in your sleep, before she quickly falls back into a deep sleep.

You will be asked to provide a sample a few weeks after your surgery. If you are assisted in this procedure by a cooperative partner, tell them not to dance around with the bottle as if they’re participating in an exciting new game of catch.

Get precise details of the hospital sperm bank where your deposit will be examined. At Halifax Royal Infirmary I went into a waiting room full of elderly ladies. A woman in a white coat at reception, unwound the tissue I had coyly wrapped around the little bottle, and shouted, ‘Mary, are you expecting some spermatozoa from a Mr Murphy?’

She wasn’t. Sperm was just down the corridor, first on t’ left.


7th July, 2017

Short Term Memory…I went to collect the car from the garage after its service. I got the keys and I was shown the details of the work they’d done. I stroked my chin sagely as the items were explained to me, trying not to show that I hadn’t the foggiest idea about car engines. Looking at the final total for the work, I suppressed the temptation to scream, ‘How much?!’ I got the keys and was almost home, comforting myself by thinking that after a service the brakes always feel sharp. Then I realised: I wasn’t in the car, I’d walked back.


27th June, 2017.

As old age creeps on, I get asked if I’ve got a Bucket List. This usually seems to mean climbing mountains, or jumping out of aeroplanes. I’ve decided to start an alternative list…things that might be quite interesting, but aren’t worth the hassle. The Working Title involves substituting an F for the B in Bucket List. I’ll think of a few items…when I can be bothered.

21st June, 2017

Solving crimes: a dog on a lead lay motionless on a rough path. Beside the black mongrel an abandoned mobile phone had been left on a flat stone. I could easily have walked on by. Instead, I went into the woods, half expecting to find a mangled corpse. However, on this occasion, it was a woman having a wee. I retreated, apologising as I went…


First Memory

I was trying to draw a horse on the living room door and it kept coming out as scribble. Each time I rubbed it out with the cuff of my sleeve. Then, ponderously, as if trying out a new limb, I down-stroked a curved blue line. A horse’s foreleg appeared. I pressed on a wedge of torso, three more legs bent contrariwise into a gallop, a strong neck and, raising my own chin in equine affinity, a proud horse’s head. I signed off with a flourish of tail. A blue stallion galloped across a creamy plain.

I walked portentously outside. We lived in Dunkirk Street, where the ruddy-bricked houses encompassed small twin fields. It was a street like an amphitheatre to a young child. I ran onto the nearest little field, smacking my backside, like a composite Roy Rogers and Trigger.The heat stopped me.

The road was dancing at the top of our street. The sun, the size of a half sucked sweet, vibrated with effort. An aeroplane droned fitfully somewhere, as if invisible hands clamped on and off my ears in that game we sometimes played. I searched the huge sky, too blue for crayoning, until I saw at last the tiny silver flash, impossibly high. Then I heard the twinnies laughing.

They were playing with big Clifford on their front lawn and they’d taken all their clothes off. They were hollow-backed, with little pot bellies, faint with veins like the rivers on a map. Big Clifford was 6. He leaned over me, red faced…his ears suffused with sunlight. He said, ‘Why don’t you take your clothes off, George?’ So I did.

When I took my underpants off it was like taking off a layer of skin, I felt so bare. Then we ran around the twinnies little lawn patting our hands against our mouths and shouting ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!’ like the Indians in cowboy films. Till Clifford said, ‘I know. Why don’t youz put some grass up yer bums?’ So we did.

I cropped a wadge of grass from the twinnies’ trim lawn and tucked it between my buttocks. It tickled. Nicely. Then we danced around our circle again, ululating wildly and feeling more savage than ever, till I spun around and around and around with me arms outstretched and then stopped! Suddenly, catching the world out…until it pulled me to the ground. And the twinnies fell laughing, too.

Then we heard our entry gate, the gate between the wash house and our house, scrape open. We dived for cover behind the twinnies’ variegated privet. Between the bare legs of the little hedge we could see me mum walking down our path. She shouted, ‘Ge-orge, your dinner’s ready!’

The twinnies snorted with suppressed laughter and me and Clifford hit at them to be quiet. My mum surveyed the shimmering street.

Then she shouted again, ‘Ge-orge, your dinner’s ready!’ The street was silent in reply. I wanted to rush out to her and shout, ‘It’s alright, mum. Here I am!

But I couldn’t, because I was stark naked with grass up me bum.

[I told this tale at my first ever storytelling session, at Halifax in 1989. The session was led by Betty Rosen. She taped it and used it in her ‘Shapers and Polishers’ book in 1991. I had more of my Merseyside accent in those days]



















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