Ever since we were young children, our parents used to tell us not to be scared of ghosts and monsters as they didn’t exist. They told us they were inventions created by adults to frighten little children into behaving better. Now I myself have never personally seen a goblin, a bogeyman, a troll, or any other such mystical creature, I have in fact had direct contact with something altogether more interesting. I will explain my story of meeting the four old hags presently but suffice to say at this point, these creatures, who describe themselves as Tash Hagz rather than Hags, claim to have influenced artists and musicians all across the globe over many years. How did I come across the Tash Hagz? Because they appeared before me and my band many moons ago, just as they did my great, great grandfather’s shanty Irish folk band over 150 years ago.
So, who are these tash hagz? Well, according to folklore, these hags have been visiting the world from a mysterious parallel dimension called Tumb Rrias for hundreds of years.
People often confuse hags with witches, and whilst similar, the two are most certainly not the same thing. Nearly all witches are evil, yet as you will learn, most hags today are not. In fact, most of the hags who regularly visited our world died during the Great War and now the only portal for them to enter our world is by travelling through certain rivers. The legend goes that during times of extreme weather these evil old hags emerge from frozen rivers to ride on the chests of sleeping victims causing a sleep paralysis known as ‘Old Hag Syndrome’. The good news is that most hags that visit our planet are here to do good. These good hags have separated themselves from evil hags by referring to themselves as ‘hagz’. That’s not the only difference though. These old hagz have one distinguishing feature in common – they have very noticeable moustaches on their upper lips. Now that doesn’t mean that if you see a little old lady with a moustache then you have met one of these tash hagz, but you might have!
So tash hagz are known to be close descendants of regular hags, tash hagz have fantastic hearing abilities, along with fantastically creative minds, kind hearts, and a very deep sense of humour. They have a keen ear for music and a keen eye for creativity, which is why they have been visiting all sorts of creative folk in our world for hundreds of years. The Tash Hagz are comprised of four small old women, not taller than 5 feet in height, though with their hunched over posture they look decidedly shorter than that. It isn’t yet fully understood how they have sporadically visited our planet over the years, though their origins can be traced back several thousand years, so that gives you a rough idea of how long they live and just how fond of our planet they are.
What happened with my first encounter with the Tash Hagz? As I previously mentioned, the legend of the Tash Hagz can be traced back thousands of years, not to mention the fact that my great, great grandfather and his shanty Irish folk band encountered them whilst out camping in the woods in Eastern Europe during the 1800s. I’ll be recalling the story of that encounter a little later on, but for now, here’s my take on events which happened to me and my band personally about thirty years ago.
It was a typical Friday night for us, we were rehearsing in the old scout’s hut for a gig that we had coming up at our local Working Men’s Club. It was our first gig but we were convinced that things were finally starting to happen for us and that it would only be a matter of time before we debuted at number 1 in the pop charts with our classy rocker called, “Please Discard Your Bra.” Unfortunately, my dad came rushing down to say that Howard Hannaby from the WMC had phoned and he was cancelling our gig because we’d only managed to sell a measly two tickets over the last four weeks. Myself, Jon, and Pete were feeling pretty down and were ready to call it quits when suddenly, out of the blue, a fine mist crept its way under the closed door of the hut, the lights faded, and an eerie blue hue began to fill the room. Pete then pointed at the corner of the room and looked as if he’d seen a ghost. But it wasn’t a ghost, it was a Tash Hag, then another, then another, then another... Four Tash Hagz! They were hunched over, dressed in typical little old lady clothing – green cardigans, brown skirts, headscarves, and more walking sticks than a pensioners’ bingo night. Just then, the largest of the women spoke to us in a screeching, high pitched, yet strangely soothing voice: “Ere ducky” she screeched, apparently at me as I was closest to her:-
“I ain’t being rude or nuffin’, but you’s are pretty awful, and I’ve heard some awful noises in my time so I have, ‘ave ya heard some of them indie bands sing? Struth, they sounded like a flock of seagulls being dragged through a meat grinder, that’s why they ain’t around no more… they’ll never be mainstream. We’ve “convinced” ‘em all that music weren’t the right career choice for ‘em. If you go down to ya local Burger world restaurant you’ll see ‘em working in the back there, peeling spuds. You’s on the ovver hand, you’s is got summink, which is why we’re ere. We’re ere to show you’s what it takes to make proppa music, not that autotune pop rabble you’ll hear from Cher in a few years time, proppa music, music that touches ya soul… music that, well, we’ve shared with others in the past...”
I’m not ashamed to admit that I came precariously close to soiling myself, as did the other band members, yet even though we were bricking it, there still appeared to be a distinct calmness washing over all of us, which took from feelings of pure terror, to slight unease instead. Eventually I mustered up enough courage to address the four figures, which I now know as Tash Hagz, but at the time had no clue who they were, and just assumed, like everybody else who encountered them, that they were simply witches.
“W...what do you want from us”? I asked, trying to disguise the painfully obvious trembling in my voice. “If you’re looking for money, I ain’t got none, but Pete ‘ere, Pete’s loaded, I saw him carrying a fiver in his wallet earlier, he thinks I didn’t see him sneaking it out of his secret money stash behind the radio in his flat, but I did. He’ll only go and blow it down at the chippy anyways. ‘Ere, Pete, give these old bags that secret fiver you’ve got stashed away”.
Pete looked at me as if I’d just punched his own grandmother in the face and then reluctantly reached into his acid washed jeans pocket and pulled out a crumpled up five pound note.
“Puts that paper away ya daft apeth” screeched the portly TashHag, “what goods is that money nonsense gonna’ do me? I’ve just managed to materialize inside this very building ain’t I? When all the doors and windows were locked, if we wanted to we could be in and out of your local TSB bank faster than you can say ‘recession’. That money stuff’s the root of all evil, well, that and Terry Wogan, so you can keeps ya measly fiver young lad, ‘cos we’re ere to teach ya how to play proppamusic and get yourselves on Top of the Pops”.
“What ya goin on about ya stupid old bags”? asked Pete, who apparently became the bravest man in the Scout hut in a matter of seconds. “We’re already good enough to get on Top of the Pops, it’s all down to politics and Thatcher, it’s her fault we’re stuck in this pocksy Scout hut in Frodsham instead of down the local WMC, everyone’s bloody skint ‘cos of her closing down all the pits, no wonder we sold no sodding tickets, people can’t even afford a pint these days, never mind tickets to see the hottest band of the last decade”.
“No” screeched the main hag “I mean, yeah, Thatcher is to blame for pretty much all of the UK’s problems, but we can’t bash ‘er too much, she’s actually Ethel’s cousin, ain’t that right Ethel”. She pointed at the eldest and frailest looking hag hunched over in the corner of the room.
“Yeah” said Ethel, sniffing and clenching her teeth as she spoke “She ain’t a blood cousin mind”.
“You’ll have to excuse Ethel” said the main Hag, “she don’t like being associated with some of the more evil witches left in the world, plus her and Margaret don’t get on too well these days, ever since the unpleasantness in the House of Commons. Anyways, you’s, never mind setting me off on politics, this ain’t Question Time ya know, we’re ere to talk music. You’s are convinced you’re the hottest act since The Beatles, but when I heard ya rehearsing, the only Beatles I could think of were dung beetles. I’ll frank wiv ya ducky, ya terrible, I mean, truly, truly terrible. You’re so bad I want to rip me own ears off and seal the cavity left behind shut with superglue and vinegar”.
“Oh ta very much” said Pete, apparently sulking.
“Now come on ‘luv, don’t spit ya dummy out, I knows it’s a lot to take in but ya need to hear it now before you end up avin a pint pot launched at ya Swede when ya do get to play ya first gig, if ya ever get to that is”.
“So if we’re so terrible” asked Pete, “How comes Howard Hannaby’s calling us the biggest up and comers of the last decade”?
“Are you real, I mean, is this lad for real or what, Beryl”? Asked the main Hag, addressing the tallest and spindliest looking hag, that now appeared to be inexplicably crocheting some form of table cloth at the arts and crafts table. “Oh god, we’ve lost ‘er now, the last time she took up a hobby we didn’t see her for three decades. Anyways, assuming, young man, that you are indeed for real, Howard Hannaby has a business to run, and one of the main reasons why he agreed to hire you in the first place was so that you would hopefully help him to sell more tickets, and bring more punters into his WMC. I mean, he ain’t gonna’ tell everyone that you’re a bunch of spotty, talentless, wannabe’s that make Rick Astley look good. Oh and by the way, in about twenty five year’s time, they’ll be this fing comin out called the internet. If you want to play a hilarious prank on complete strangers, tell ‘em you’ve got an amazing video to show ‘em, but link it back to Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, you can call it, oh I dunno, Rick Rolling or summink”.
“What’s linking back”? Asked Jon.
“Never you mind, and will you stop distracting me, crikey, I’m tryin a’ show ya how to become famous musicians and you’re talking to me about Rick bleedin’ Astley!”
“But you started talking about Rick Astley first!” I protested indignantly.
“I most certainly did not. What, ya fink cos’ I’m over eight centuries old that I’m losin me marbles”? I’d give ya a thick ear if I could be bovvered. Just stop talking, stop goin on about rubbish pop stars and listen to what I’ve got to tell ya. Oh, and by the way”. She turned and looked at me dead on “You might want to pay special attention ‘cos this is exactly what I told your great, great granddad out in Europe, and look how great his band did”.
This got my attention, so I shushed the others, pulled up a chair, and opened my ears...
“What do you mean” I asked “how can you possibly have known my great, great grandfather back then, that will have been well over a hundred years ago”.
“Erm, ‘ello” the old bag said sarcastically, I’ve just told you that we’re hags wiv magical powers and all that noise, not to mention the fact that we bleedin’ managed to materialise in this very room right before your eyes, and you’re worried about how long ago it were? Blimey, I mean, it’s sweet ov ya to compliment me on my ever youthful complexion, but the fact is that we hags have been roaming this earth for many years now, and we’ll be around long after you’re gone. So, do you want to hear the story of how we helped your great, great granddad out, or not”?
“Yeah, sorry” I replied.
“You best be an’all” the main hag said “right pull up a pew and open your lug holes, ‘cos this tale will blow ya socks off.
“It all began back in Eastern Europe in the 1800’s. There were me, Ethyl and Beryl, out roaming the forests tryina’ snag us a bear, as you do. Remember, back then we din’t av no TV, no VHS or any of your newfangled gadgets and gizmos back then, oh no, all we had for entertainment back then were sticks and leaves. We’d been out patrolling the woods for most of the day, when in the distance, we erd what could best be described as a tone deaf cat giving birth to twenty different kittens at once. It were orrible this noise, I mean truly orrible, and remember, we’ve seen Cher live, so we knows a fing or two about orrible noises. Anyways, there’s this orrible noise in the distance, see, and it’s gettin’ louder and louder by the second. Obviously whatever it is that’s making this noise, is headin’ our way, which is a big problem for us, what wiv us tryina’ snag us a brown bear for tea, see. If we can hear it, so can the bears, and unless the bear’s are gonna do us all a favour, and savagely maul whatever it is that’s making this racket, chances are that instead, what’s gonna appen, is the bear’s gonna take of sharpish in the other direction. Well, I wer fuming weren’t I ethyl, so I snapped me fingers, and there I were, face to face with four of the scruffiest looking gents you’ve ever laid eyes upon. Their hair was long and tangled, they’d got a beard that would make a tramp look clean-shaven, and truthfully, they smelt, well, let’s just say that compared to those four, Daggenham sewage works all of a sudden don’t smell that bad.
‘Ere’ I shouted at ‘em ‘I’m tryina’ trap myself a bear for my tea, like. I’m starving bleedin’ hungry, I’m fed up to the back teeth of eatin fruits and bloody nuts, and here you four are, stinking like cow dung coated in burnt hair, pissed as farts, scaring every bleedin’ animal off within a 100 mile radius, what’s yer game’! Not surprisingly, they didn’t answer me, you get that a lot when you materialise right before people’s eyes you see, instead, they all just stood there, open mouthed, stinkin up the joint. Finally, one of ‘em, the biggest, he looks me up and down, all indignant, like and he says “Here you stupid old bag, I don’t know who you are, but you clearly don’t have a clue about music, do you? We’re O’Murphys Sprites, the greatest shanty Irish folk band in all the land’.
‘Ha’ I said, ‘don’t make me laugh, the only great find about yer band is when you finish your last song. Your rhythms all messed up duckie, your Banjo, Harp, Guitar, and Flute are all outta tune, and your voice, considering you’re sposed to be the lead vocalist, well, truthfully love, I dunno why you’re botherin? What do you reckon Ethyl, Beryl? You feelin inspired and uplifted by the gorgeous Irish folk songs you just heard? Nope? Didn’t fink so. See, Ethyl and Beryl agree with me.
Now, I don’t want yous to start cryin or nuffin, so I’ll be nice and give you the good news. The good news is that whilst you sound terrible, somewhere in there, deep, deep, deep inside, there is potential, you just need to know how to unlock this hidden potential. Music, you see, isn’t about having a nice voice, being able to play an instrument, or being incredibly handsome and attractive, which, sadly gents, from what we’ve seen and heard, you ain’t any of the above, music is about finding your inner voice, expressing yourself, and finding content that really matters to you. Instead of singing about a random girl you’ve never met before, sing about the girl you’ve always loved, that you want to settle down wiv and start a family wiv. If she’s shacked up wiv ya best mate, so what, take that pain, the pain of seeing the love of your life and your best mate, happier than ever with each other, and use it make beautiful music. Think about all of the times you’ve been hurt, all of the times you’ve wanted to give up, all of the times that people like us ‘av called you up on being rubbish, and use it. Use your emotions to make the music, go with the flow, get lost in the moment, and find lyrics and notes that you can really relate to. If you do that my friend, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll make it in the highly competitive world of shanty Irish folk bands. Oh, and whilst you’re at it, you might wanna cut back on the demon drink and soak yourself in this special wet stuff called water. I’m not being funny or nuffin, but nobody’s gonna wanna listen to a band that smells like a brewery submerged in a lake of human excrement, so get yourselves cleaned up, grab an instrument, start writing a song, and I’ll be back at sundown to see what you’ve come up with’.