A Matter Of Record

Thursday evening. It’s not quite weekend yet, but it has that loose feel about it.

I was at The Royal Exchange in Manchester, to watch the play The People Are Singing, directed by Ukranian Tamara Trunova on her UK debut.


The play deals with war, and war was the subject before the doors opened. There was a man pontificating in the middle of the room, drinking wine with a matching scarlet cravat.

“America won’t do anything to Syria. They won’t do a thing-because of Russia. It’s posturising, that’s all.”

He ventured further into global politics until the doors opened and he ceded the stage to the professionals. The play was good, Cora Kirk shining on her professional debut. As it closed we were sang out by a Ukranian choir, following us out into the mild, Manchester air. Then my phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Is this Andrew Murray?”

“Yes.”

“This is ***.” (It’s a clinic I’m set to take part in a medical trial for.) “Can I ask if you are still taking medication for penile dysfunction?”

“Pardon?”

“We have your records from your GP. Is your penile dysfunction still ongoing?” 

“Penile . . . ?”

“Dysfunction.”

“I’ve never been to the doctors about that.”

“It says here you went to the doctors on the 22nd of December 2009 about it.”

Of all the random things to be asked. I thought it was a mate winding me up. But, as the conversation went on, I asked:

“Are you sure you’ve got the right records?”

She asked my date of birth. I told her.

“Yes it’s you. The doctors want to know if you’re on medication for it.”

“Well I have absolutely no recollection of suffering from that.”

“It says here that you have.”

“Well if that’s the case I can definitely verify that I’ve never had medication for it.”

“What about now?”

“No.”

“Okay, thank you. See you tomorrow.”

She hung up. I stared at my phone in disbelief, then began to doubt myself. I googled ‘penile dysfunction’ on my phone to see if it can mean anything else apart from impotence. Penile dysfunction . . . erectile dysfunction . . . Nope.

I called the clinic back to see if they had the right records for me. I didn’t want to make the journey by train to my appointment for it all to be in vain. A different member of staff assured me that they had.

I called my wife but, by mistake, I told her that my doctor claimed on my medical records that I’ve suffered from penile malfunction.

“Penile malfunction? What the hell is that? How did it malfunction?!”

“No, I mean penile dysfunction. They say I’ve had penile dysfunction.”

“And what’s that?”

“Impotence!”

It was at this point that I realised I was speaking quite loudly on a busy Manchester street, and was attracting a few glances.  My wife was finding it all hilarious. She said “They probably think you’ve rang them back in denial. ‘I’m a man! I have no problems in that department at all!'”

I told her that I’d speak about it later and put my phone away. It was then that a man, handing out flyers for a club, approached me.

“Would you like to go and see the Dreamboys?”

I felt then that someone must have spiked my drink, sending me off onto some kind of Freudian trip.

In the morning I’d probably wake up pregnant.

** In the morning, alas, my cravat wearing friend would have found that America did indeed take action against Syria.

**At the screening test at the clinic today, there was no sign of penile dysfunction on my records. Hope it’s not a sign. An Inspector Calls comes to mind.


To View A Mockingbird

Earlier this week we went to the opening night of To Kill A Mockingbird at the Lowry Theatre. The Lowry is in Salford. I always think, a little irrationally, of Salford as Manchester. But Salford is Salford, separated from Manchester by the river Irwell. Some think this fact important, not least half of the local football fans.

But anyhow, we are neighbours.

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I must have have been attending the play with the only two people in the audience, if not the world, who have not read the book: my wife and a friend. So I gave them a brief synopsis on the way, checking in the rear view mirror for the slightest hint of any eye-rolling, telling them that I would ask questions afterwards. Hard task master that I am.

On reaching the theatre, I asked my wife what the name of the family cook and housekeeper was. I figured that ‘Calpurnia’ was unusual and exotic enough to either stick in her memory, or be totally beyond her recall. Her reply gave me something to greet the usher with as she took our tickets at the door:

“Hi, this is my wife. She is very cultured and has read the book six times. She would like to know who is playing Pocohontas?”

I received a dig in the ribs ( from the wife, not the usher), and we took our seats. Thankfully, the play was true to the book, the cast members even reading passages from paperback copies throughout. I guess if the book is considered such a masterpiece, why risk changing things? The only thing added, quite effectively, was a folky soundtrack by Phil King, who sang several pieces accompanied by acoustic guitar and harmonica.

The child actors were good, and the guy who played Atticus deserves particular mention. It was a great production, and the courtroom scenes were quite powerful, with Atticus addressing us, the audience as the jury. He convinced me. When poor Tom Robinson was found guilty I was tempted to jump to my feet and demand a retrial. Either that or another drink.

At the end, my friend took a surreptitious snap of the cast receiving deserved acclaim.

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Feeling like he had broken the law, this is the first time that he doesn’t want a photo credit on my blog. No problem, Derek.

One last little connection on the late journey home: what do you think we listened to on the car radio? Why, Wake Up Boo! by the Boo Radleys, of course. If you don’t understand this, it is high time you read the book. And remember: I will ask questions.

And keep those eyes still.

A Scuttlin’ We Shall Go

One of the very first posts I did on this blog was about this book that I read:

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It was about the 19th Century Manchester gangs, described as the very first youth cult, known as Scuttlers. (Search on my blog Gangs Of Manchester, as I still can’t work out how to post links on an iPad.)

Last night my wife and I went to the Royal Exchange to watch a play entitled Scuttlers, the initial inspiration for the writer being, of all things, the Manchester riots of 2011.

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It was the first time I had been in the Exchange since I visited with my English Literature class, back in ’88, to watch To Kill A Mockingbird, and I loved it. I think I could really get used to sitting there in the round.

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It was a great cast and a great production. I loved how, at the end of the play, the story linked those young gang members with the young people of today. After one of the characters dies in a clash, a girl implores the everyday people going about their business on the streets not to walk in the spot that he lost his life.

That is someone’s blood! A man died there! 

But nobody pays any heed, they continue to walk along the path where the victim had lay. Then, as the girl continues in vain to stop them, her voice decreases as those 19th Century pedestrians gradually become people wearing backpacks and hoodies, attention fixed upon their mobile phones and iPods, the setting morphing into the present day.

People still tramp those same Ancoats streets, unaware of those in whose footsteps they walk in, and as in this case, the very spot that they died in. It was very effective.

After the play ended, we left the theatre, and as we descended the steps the immediate sight that greeted us was a group of teenagers at a bus stop, shouting and kicking out at each other.

“Look-it’s the Twenty First Century Scuttlers!”

The connection worked. There is continuity.

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