Sunday, December 04, 2016

Six of the Best 647

Richard Morris shows that the argument that people do not vote against their own economic interests is wrong because it relies upon an inadequate understanding of human psychology.

He witnessed Kristallnacht and then had to suffer Jonathan Ross. Roger Lewis on the harrowing, inspiring life of Andrew Sachs.

The Gentle Author mourns the closure of Whitechapel Bell Foundry: "Every time I walked past the ancient foundry walls (the oldest manufacturing company in the land – founded in 1570), I wondered about the alchemical mystery of bellfounding taking place inside."

"This is a grim tale, with its sweaty, dirty, horror brought home to us perhaps more than any other Doctor Who story by the raw emotion of our heroes." Alex Wilcock is our guide to An Unearthly Child, the first ever Doctor Who story.

Christopher Beanland remembers the maglev trains that once served Birmingham Airport.

What did Market Harborough children play with in the 16th and 17th century? Colm on Irish Archaeology has the answer.

Talk Talk: Today

Another choice inspired by the repeats of Top of the Pops from 1982.

This still sounds good, and has a very early-1980s sound and even a meaningful video - though it's hard to say quite what it means.

Later Talk Talk dropped their synthesiser player and changed their musical style, even having Steve Winwood play Hammond organ on a couple of album tracks.

A Guardian piece on them by Graeme Thomson from 2012 said:
Confusing, mysterious, beautiful and – at least until recently – largely overlooked, Talk Talk's journey from early 80s synth-pop to late 80s post-rock has resulted in a diffuse and tangled legacy. 
Tracing the line from perky hit singles such as Today, Talk Talk, It's My Life and Life's What You Make It to their final albums, 1988's Spirit of Eden and 1991's Laughing Stock, is to discover that a clearly defined path has gradually disappeared into a thicket of brambles and honeysuckle.
But he also said:
It's taken two decades, but their music has started permeating the wider culture.

Advent Calendar 4: Market Harborough

Little Bowden, actually.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Write a guest post for Liberal England

This is a reminder that I welcome guest posts on Liberal England.

And as you can see from the list of the 10 most recent guest posts below, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects.

If you would like to write a guest post yourself, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Advent Calendar 3: Jericho, Oxford

This is St Barnabas Church in Jericho, Oxford, and the Oxford Canal.

Despite what Inspectot Morse and Lewis would have you believe, it is a desirable part of the city.

I was there a few years ago, and I think the fence was there because of the controversial redevelopment of Jericho's boatyard, See Paul Kingsnorth's Real England for more on this.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Peter Ackroyd on A Box of Delights

Thanks to Phil Norman for tweeting this earlier in the week.

Porn DVD man is new national UKIP welfare spokesman

Congratulations to Leicestershire's David Sprason on being appointed UKIP's national spokesman on welfare and social policy.

Regular readers will recall that, while still a Conservative, he stepped down as deputy leader of the county council after a DVD entitled She Likes It Rough was found in his council-issued PC.

David Mackintosh MP under new pressure in Northampton South

I have covered the saga of David Mackintosh (Conservative MP for Northampton South and former leader of the Borough Council) and the town's Sixfields Stadium before.

See these posts from November 2015 and July of this year.

Now comes news that, in the worlds of the Northampton Chronicle & Echo:
Executive committee members of Northampton South Conservative Association say MP David Mackintosh’s role in the bungled Sixfields loan deal and his “refusal to accept criticism” has damaged the reputation of the local party.
Tonight the executive committee of the association is debating this motion:
“The Executive Committee meeting expresses its disappointment and its concerns over the conduct of...David Mackintosh in respect to the loan made whilst Leader of Northampton Borough Council to Northampton Town Football Club and to Mr Mackintosh’s refusal to accept criticism of his conduct contained in the PwC report.”
The paper says Mr Mackintosh has issued a short statement saying: "I am happy to answer any questions the local party might have about the loan."

Yesterday, it also printed the forceful front page you see above.

Advent Calendar 2: Boughton, Northamptonshire

He stands atop of the gate pillars at Boughton Hall, on the edge of the village.

The other pillar has an equally fine griffin.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Disused railway stations in Highland

The poet Burns writes:
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

In praise of Beat the Street

Before the cool kids tired of Pokemon Go I wrote:
It is good to see children out on a summer evening exploring the streets and seeing things the adults around them cannot.
I had similar feelings when reading this story on the Guardian website today:
It is drizzling and cold in Salford, but a class of eight- and nine-year-olds from Lewis Street school in Patricroft are buzzing as their teachers lead them down the streets of terraced houses between classes. They stride through a park, dodging an abandoned car seat, to swipe lanyards against three street sensors before returning to lessons. 
It’s called “going fobbing” in Salford – walking or cycling to sensors on lampposts all round the city and swiping them to get points. It’s part of a health and community building scheme called Beat The Street ... and it’s taken Lewis Street by storm.
In short, Beat the Street is an urban equivalent of geocaching.

The Guardian goes on to quote Rachael Hall, the school’s sports coach:
"I’ve never known anything like it – children are going out walking every evening and weekend. Teaching assistants take the children out at lunchtime three times a week and take whole classes out twice a week. I’ve had parents telling me how happy they are to be spending time with their children going fobbing rather than sitting in front of the TV."
And the evidence isn't just anecdotal.

A case study from Public Health England says:
Beat the Street projects deliver meaningful changes in population physical activity levels with more than 200,000 people participating in 2016 so far. 
On average, across all Beat the Street projects, the proportion of people meeting the physical activity guidelines increased from 40% to 50%. In 2015, 1 out of every 7 adults said they were inactive at the start of Beat the Street. By the end of Beat the Street, 78% of these people reported that they had become more active. After about 6 months, we estimate that about half of the people who became more active continued to be more active.
Beat the Street is welcome, not only because it encourages children and adults to be more active, but also because, as Pokemon Go did, it normalises the idea that children should be out exploring their local community.

As I once argued in a published essay - The Problem with Children Today - child obesity and their lack of freedom to roam are linked problems. Beat the Street tackles both.

World chess championship: A rare 2016 defeat for Vladimir Putin

The European referendum and the American Presidential election went his way, but last night Vladimir Putin's man failed to win the world chess championship.

After their 12-game match was tied, Magnus Carlsen retained his title by beating the challenger Sergey Karjakin in a four-game play off at a much faster time limit.

It led to exciting chess - Carlsen finished the play off by sacrificing his queen to force mate - but that is like settling a drawn Ashes series with a Twenty20 game.

The play in the match proper was not exciting, and this was because it was too short. If you lose one of the early games in a 12-game match, it is hard to come back. The result was that neither player was willing to take risks.

Think of football, where the 'golden goal' (a rule change under which the first game in extra time ended the match) led to defensive play because conceding would knock you out of the tournament.

A 24-game match, which is what Fischer and Spassky played in the most famous world title contest ever, would be more likely to lead to aggressive chess.

Roger Daltrey's fish farm was in Rutland

We know that Lord Bonkers was an early champion of the Rutbeat sound and that the real David Watts (the one we all wish we could be like) came from Rutland.

Now, thanks to Ned Rutland on Twitter, comes further evidence of the little county's central place in musical history.

The other day I pointed out that "Roger Daltrey didn't die before he got old: he bought a fish farm."

And that fish farm, or at least one of the fish farms Daltrey, owned was Horn Mill Trout Farm on the Gwash in Rutland.

Advent Calendar 1: White Grit engine house

In my day we didn't get chocolates in our Advent calendars. We got little pictures - perhaps a drum or a ball - with the highlight being the Holy Family behind the final (double) window,

And we were happy.

Inspired by that I am doing a Advent calendar with my own photographs this year. Some will have appeared here before, but I shall also use it as a chance to present new ones.

We begin with an old favourites - I just wish I had taken it as a landscape shot.

It shows the ruined engine house at White Grit in Shropshire, with the crest of Bromlow Callow behind it in the distance.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Six of the Best 646

"During moments of national trauma, the public turns to the BBC for shared experience and understanding," says Ioan Marc Jones He examines the different ways the corporation handled Aberfan and Orgreave.

No one should be given a psychiatric diagnosis at a distance, argues Hannah Jane Parkinson - not even Donald Trump. And she's right.

Gillian Mawson blogs about her new book on evacuees during World War II: "Newspapers described court cases involving families, who, for various reasons, refused to keep evacuees. The Stockport Advertiser stated, ‘Mr and Mrs Jones of Offerton were charged with refusing to accept an evacuee. The clerk pointed out to the couple that it was unpatriotic of them and they were fined.'"

As I write this, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin are deciding who is world champion with a series of speed games - it's like settling the Ashes with a Twenty20 match. Anyway, Carol Matlack examines the sport's inability to lose its political ties to tyrants.

"There’s a whole swath of early tracks that are missed by an audience that we think started at Dark Side of the Moon." Pink Floyd's Nick Mason is interviewed by Frank Mastropolo.

Benjamin Breen reads The Star Rover, the strange last book by Jack London.

Zac Goldsmith is hit by his own car and loses his trousers

From the Evening Standard today:
Zac Goldsmith limped into the last hustings of the Richmond Park by-election an hour late after being struck by his own car. 
The former London mayoral candidate was not badly hurt but his trousers were “shredded” when a volunteer driving his car clipped him while they were out canvassing. 
The collision in New Malden happened as he was due on stage at the Richmond Society’s hustings - his last chance to debate publicly with his by-election rival, 
Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney. Arriving an hour late after going home to change, he said he was “so sorry” for missing the start of such an “extraordinarily important event”.
Like Tim Hall, I am reminded of Monty Python and the Upper Class Twit of the Year Show.

"And Oliver has run himself over. What a great twit!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The secret of Lord Bonkers' long life

Lord Bonkers attributes his continued rude health to his annual trips to bathe in the Spring of Eternal Life that bursts from the hillside above the former headquarters of the Association of Liberal Councillors in Hebden Bridge.

That, and a cordial sold to him by the Elves of Rockingham Forest.

But maybe it also has something to do with being born in Rutland?

A report in the Daily Mail today begins:
Rutland is the place to be if you want a long healthy life, according to new figures. 
Baby boys born in the quiet East Mids county can expect to be in good health for more time than anywhere else in the country.
It also ranks fifth for healthy life expectancy among girls, though they do best to be born in Orkney.

Why are we so surprised that Kate Bush likes Theresa May?

A wealthy woman in her late fifties approves of Theresa May.

It is hardly a shock, is it?

But because we are used to people in the creative arts expressing identikit left-wing views, Kate Bush's comments today shocked many.

Should they have been such a surprise?

Rock has been around a long time. Older artists have audiences that have grown up and grown old with them. All concerned are now a bit too long in the tooth to be worried about sticking it to The Man.

Roger Daltrey didn't die before he got old: he bought a fish farm.

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood re-established their musical alliance after two decades when they played at a Countryside Alliance event.

So I still think Kate Bush is wonderful even if she thinks Theresa May is wonderful.

Ukip AM wants the Irish government to apply for EU funds to improve roads in Wales

Oh dear. Even among the ranks of Ukip elected representatives, David Rowlands AM stands out for his foolishness.

But he is right about one thing. Road improvements in one country can help the economy of another.

Which is why Britain should belong to the European Union.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Free archive of World War II films

Moving Image Archive has a remarkable collection of films from the Second World War.

Click on the still above to view a film of US sailors in Kirkwall, the largest town in Orkney, on that site.

No, Top Gear did not win the referendum for Leave

The New European has an article arguing that Top Gear paved the way for Brexit.

I've not read it - "To read it would be to condone it," as F.R. Leavis said when he was challenged over a book he had dismissed - but I suspect it is wrongheaded.

First, because as I blogged during the referendum campaign. the best case for Remain was made by Jeremy Clarkson - if you don't believe me, see the quotes from him in that post.

Second, because I fear that it as an example of the tribalism of liberal politics in Britain today.

In 1975, Britain voted by two-to-one to remain in the European Economic Community.

That means that lots of people who voted Conservative, liked fast cars and were known to make jokes at the expense of foreigners voted Remain.

If today we make support for Europe part of a bulky package of right-on policies and dismiss anyone who does not accept every item in it, then the forces of light will lose every time.

On that bombshell, I'll end this post.

Sarah Olney exposes the nonsense of Zac Goldsmith's resignation

Good stuff from Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat candidate in this week's Richmond Park by-election:
"Zac Goldsmith's idea that this was going to be a referendum about Heathrow has turned out to be nonsense because there is no pro-Heathrow candidate standing. 
"Actually, what people really want to talk about is Brexit." 
Mrs Olney called his decision to resign "ludicrous". 
"He doesn't need a further mandate to oppose Heathrow," she said. "He already had that twice over."
These wise words come from the Press Association, via the Daily Mail.

Springer canal boats from Market Harborough

Peter Watts has an article on Waterfront, the website of the Canal & River Trust, about Springer canal boats, which were built here in Market Harborough.

They were very much at the bargain end of the market, but Peter writes:
Belying their reputation, Springer boats also appear to be impressively hard-wearing with thousands still in use despite the fact the company closed down in the mid-1990s. 
And Springer boats aren’t just confined to the English waterways – in 1990, the boatyard built the Typhoo Atlantic Challenger, a 37-foot craft shaped like a bottle that crossed the Atlantic from New York to Falmouth. 
Not bad for a company whose first boats were made from a scrapped gasometer.
For more about Springer boats, see my post on Mill Hill and the canal basin, Market Harborough, in the 1970s.

There you will find a video one of them being built, transported to the town's canal basin and then fitted out and decorated.

And for more than that, consult Bob Hakewill's Boatbuilders of Market Harborough, which is a recondite volume even for my bookshelves.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Nine, Dalmuir West (1962)

Two years ago I fell in love with The Elephant Will Never Forget - John Krish's ridiculously moving account of the last day of London's trams in 1952.

Nine, Dalmuir West, made by Kevin Brownlow, shows the last day of Glasgow's trams 10 years later. (Click on the still above to view it on the British Film Institute website.)

Brownlow was obviously inspired by Krish: in fact he gets a mention in the opening titles.

The BFI site says:
Kevin Brownlow's portrait of the last days of Glasgow's tram system centres on the last tram to run in 1962, accentuating the mood of the final journey by contrasting shots of the event to the funky sounds of Joe Meek and The Tornados' Telstar, a symbol of the modern world to which the tram no longer belongs. 
As with his feature Winstanley, Brownlow tempers the elegiac qualities of the film with brutal reality. There is no nostalgia in this portrait. Regret at the passing of this form of transport is balanced by the description of the city it served: a harsh, poverty-stricken environment in which a tram was one of the more available pleasures.
Glasgow was the last British city to lose its trams - the Blackpool system continued as a tourist attraction. Trolleybuses lasted in Bradford until as late as 1972.

The following year saw massive increases in the price of oil. If these systems had survived only a few more years, they might never have closed.

Princess Beatrice 'accidentally sliced open Ed Sheeran's FACE with a sword while pretending to knight James Blunt'

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Mirror.

Well done to all involved.

Leyton Buzzards: Saturday Night (Beneath the Plastic Palm Trees)

The BBC's repeat of Top of the Pops from 1982 - or at least of those episodes that have not been Yewtreed - is one of the highlights of the week.

The show recently featured the forgettable Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White by Modern Romance.

But there was something notable about it, because Modern Romance evolved out of the far more interesting Leyton Buzzards  - a great band name for a start.

I was convinced that Saturday Night (Beneath the Plastic Palm Trees) had been a bit, but in fact it reached only no, 53 when it was released in 1979. It just shows how closely you follow the charts when you are a teenager.

Other teenage memories are evoked by the great couplet in Saturday Night:
I was cool drinking rum and black
And then felt sick on the journey back.
This is a reminder of the strange things we sometimes consumed before drinks aimed at teenagers came in early in the 1980s. Which was rather late for me.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Following the Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway 2

This is the other half of Holden Webster's exploration of this interesting little line. (Part 1 is here.)

I visited Ditton Priors years ago and once blogged my memories of the visit:
Ditton Priors, incidentally, is a strange place. My theory when walking is the more remote the place, the more certain you are of finding accommodation. In town a B&B proprietor will simply turn you away. In the country they feel more responsible and do not want you frightening the animals, so they volunteer to phone someone down the road who takes in walkers sometimes. 
My theory did not work in Ditton Priors - this is some years ago now. The pub said it had accommodation, but no one answered when I knocked. Eventually, as it came on to rain, a pretty red-haired girl opened an upstairs window and told me they did not do it any more. 
So I tried the only bed and breakfast place in the village. They said they were full and made no effort to find me a bed somewhere else in Ditton Priors. Instead, they suggested I should walk to Burwarton. "It's only a mile," they said, when I could see from the map that it was three.... 
I once read that they were still persecuting witches in this part of Shropshire until relatively recently. 
About 1978, I should imagine.
The comment on that post about a wicker man... I have always tried to convince myself it was a joke.

Six of the Best 645

"Trump’s behavior, if successful, would supply proof of concept that he can destroy norms unimpeded. He has already dismantled the twin guardrails against presidential kleptocracy, tax disclosure and personal divestment, in quick succession." Jonathan Chait fears that the US constitution provides few curbs to Donald Trump's apparent intention to behave like a Russian oligarch.

"Worker-directors would increase boardroom diversity – not least by bringing ground truth to the table – and thus improve decision-making. The more intelligent fund managers see this." Chris Dillow is disappointed that Theresa May has gone back on hre promise to put workers on company boards.

Mikhail Zinshteyn says the problem with higher education in the US today  is that colleges are operating more like businesses and less like a social good.

Christopher Klein on how a photographed of a flogged slave went viral in 19th-century American and influenced public opinion in the northern states.

The influential post-war Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin is rediscovered by Nakul Krishna.

When it was built in the 1840s Osmaston Manor in Derbyshire was the most technologically advanced house in the world. Ian West introduces us to a surprising building that was demolished in 1965.

The sexual abuse of boys in football was exposed back in 1997

Years ago I contributed a book chapter arguing that the abuse of children is rarely a new discovery. History shows that it is regularly discovered and then forgotten again.

So I was not too surprised to discover that the scandal of Barry Bennell, and of the sexual abuse of boys in football more generally, was exposed in this Dispatches documentary back in 1997.

Perhaps people are regularly surprised to learn that abuse exists because of the assumption that if only the authorities knew, they would do something about it.

Sadly, that is often not the case.

Take the account of Hamilton Smith, a former director of Crewe Alexandra, in the today's Guardian:
After leaving the club, Smith was still so concerned about the set-up at Crewe he says he spoke about it on several occasions with Gwyneth Dunwoody, then the Crewe MP. 
In April 2001, he says he arranged to meet Tony Pickerin, the FA’s head of education and child protection, at Lilleshall and requested a wide-reaching investigation into the care of children at Gresty Road as well as asking about possible compensation for Bennell’s abuse victims. 
Three months later, having not had a response, he contacted the FA, believing the delay meant a long, complex inquiry must be under way. 
After requesting an update a three-line letter, seen by the Guardian, arrived in the next few days from Pickerin saying the FA had “investigated the issues and is satisfied that there is no case to answer.”
This is why it is important to secure lasting reforms while public attention is being paid to the problem of abuse.

If you don't, it will soon be forgotten again.