Friday, September 22, 2017

The making of The Innocents (1961)

Christopher Frayling is our personable guide to the making of Jack Clayton's masterly adaptation of Henry James's story The Turn of the Screw.

There is also a good discussion of the film, complete with Peter Wyngarde, on the BBC Radio 3 site.

Liberal Democrats gain Oadby Uplands ward from Labour

Congratulations to Lily Kaufman and the Liberal Democrat team in Oadby and Wigston for winning the Oadby Uplands ward by-election yesterday.

The full result:

Lily Kaufman (Lib Dems)  435
Labour                              384
Conservative                    295

This was the seat held for Labour by Gurpal Atwal until his resignation in the summer.

Oadby Uplands is a two member ward. The Lib Dems already held the other seat.

The result is particularly gratifying because Oadby and Wigston has been run by the Liberal Democrats since 1991.

The Leicester Mercury quotes John Boyce, the leader of the council:
"I’m extremely pleased. We perform well as a council and the residents have recognised that."
The Conservatives put a lot of effort into the by-election but could not improve on their third place from last time.

Loughborough gardener grows 4ft carrot bigger than his grandson

The Loughborough Echo wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Well done to all concerned.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The old railway station at Much Wenlock

Opened in 1862, Much Wenlock station stood on the line between Wellington and Craven Arms.

The line to Craven Arms closed in 1951, but trains continued to run between Much Wenlock and Wellington until 1962.

Today the old station building is a private house.

I have previously posted four videos by Holden Webster that follow the line from Wellington to Craven Arms today:

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Not a member of the Dimbleby family in sight

And so another week with Lord Bonkers draws to a close. If I come across the notes from this discussion I shall certainly post them here.


Yesterday evening we held a ‘Question Time’ at the village hall. (The building, complete with a library and billiards room, was erected by my grandfather and the front boasts a modest statue of him accepting the tribute of the grateful widows and orphans of Rutland.)

What a panel we had! There was our own Vince ‘High-Voltage’ Cable; the Wise Woman of Wing; the High Queen of the Elves of Rockingham Forest; and the Professor of Hard Sums from the University of Rutland at Belvoir.

I was prevailed upon to join the panel myself and, best of all, there was not a member of the Dimbleby family in sight. The Revd Hughes took the chair.

Enjoyable as the evening was, I feel that what happened next was the more important. I invited my fellow panellists back to the hall. There, over a snifter or two of Auld Johnston (the most prized of Highland malts), we put the world to rights and mapped a route back to power for the Liberal Democrats. I just hope someone was taking notes.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

£40m plan for derelict International Hotel rejected: Flats 'too small for wombats'

The Leicester Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award by a distance.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The remains of Derby Friargate station

Leicester is not the only East Midland city with the site of a major railway station lying derelict.

This slideshow illustrates the remains of Derby Friargate, the old Great Northern station, which closed to passengers in 1964.

There is now hope that the Grade 2 Listed warehouse will be restored.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A chilled Don Foster sherry

Even when he stays at home in Rutland, Lord Bonkers is hard at work.


The morning’s post brings a letter from a young reader asking how he can break into radio comedy. In reply I say there are two sure ways of getting your own series on BBC Radio Four. The first is to go to Cambridge and take part in the Footlights show. The second is to join the Socialist Workers Party.

A lady asks which drink she should serve her guests before they go into dinner. I recommend a chilled Don Foster sherry.

Finally, a Liberal Democrat MP who lost his seat in 2015 asks me for help in finding a room. I promise to put in a good word for him at the Home for Distressed Canvassers, Herne Bay.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Bishop's Castle doorway

One more glimpse of my favourite Shropshire town.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The sycamores are looking distinctly nervous

The Bonkers Hall Estate is noted for its coverts and hangers, so it is no surprise that Lord Bonkers should take a dim view of Labour policy in Sheffield.


To Sheffield to weigh our prospects of regaining the Hallam Division at the next election. I am shocked at the scenes of desolation I find: street after street with stumps but no trees. Oak, ash and thorn are all felled, and the sycamores are looking distinctly nervous. Squirrels tug at my tweeds as I pass and beg for nuts.

"I expect the socialists have decided that trees are bourgeois." I say to a sound woman with a placard. "Or have the larch and firs been heard giggling at Jeremy Corbyn?"

She tells me that it is all down to some agreement the council has made with a private company – a 'PFI'. Anything that gets in the way of repairing tarmac – trees, parked cars, children on the way to school – is for the chop.

“I’m not surprised no one buys PFI furniture anymore,” I tell her as we part.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Local papers shed more light on the resignation of Blake Pain

Last night Blake Pain, the Conservative leader of Harborough District Council, announced his intention to resign his position at the end of a full meeting of the council.

The Leicester Mercury quotes my old friend Simon Galton, a Liberal Democrat councillor:
"It was bizarre the way it happened. It got right to the end of the meeting and then the chairman said there was one more bit of urgent business - a statement from the leader. And then he resigned. I think only one or two people knew about it in advance. 
"He said the Tories want a change of direction so I looks like he didn’t want to go."”
But it is the Harborough Mail that gives us a clue to the politics behind his resignation:
Signs of strain within the ruling Conservative group on the council were evident in July, when half a dozen Conservative councillors criticised their own leadership in a public meeting. 
They claimed that council funds were distributed unevenly round the district, with Market Harborough getting more than its fair share. A council team is now looking into the claim.
You heard the claim that all the money is spent in Market Harborough back when I was a member of the council.

In part that is because you hear such charges in many of the large rural districts the Conservatives created in the early 1970s. Their reorganisation yoked together many communities that had no particular connection with one another.

And in part it was because the rural councillors, or at least the rural Conservatives and the rural Independents who were Conservative Party members on the quiet, were not very good at organsising themselves to press for the spending they wanted.

They tended to wait until something was planned for Market Harborough and then complain that it was not being built in their ward.

Anyway, it's good to see such an informed report in the Harborough Mail.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lord Bonkers' foreword to the new Liberator Songbook

Down in Bournemouth the Glee Club at the Liberal Democrat Conference is underway. So it is time to share with you Lord Bonkers' foreword to the new Liberator Songbook.

Bonkers Hall
Tel. Rutland 7

What with so many people joining the Liberal Democrats in the past year, it occurs to me that many of you will be attending the Glee Club for the first time.

So let me address myself to you ‘virgins’ in particular. Don't worry: It's Meant To Be Like This.

If you wish to enjoy the evening to the utmost, my advice is that you should buy a songbook from the amusing young people at Liberator magazine, furnish yourself with a pint of Smithson & Greaves' Northern Bitter and join in the singing lustily.

You may see impressionable young journalists wandering around the hall. If you do, please be gentle with them.

Newspapers publish horrified exposés of the Glee Club ever year. I think there must be some sort of legal requirement upon them, so it is best not to worry about it too much.

A particular feature of the evening will be comic turns by our MPs and other party bigwigs.

I recommend these as a good opportunity to go to the bar.

Finally, a word on health and safety, which is such a concern nowadays. (I am currently engaged in correspondence with the local authority, which has decided the unfenced mineshafts of Stilton country are a hazard. What nonsense!)

I would, however, counsel you to note where the exits are, given that we are meeting beside the sea in Bournemouth.

How well I recall an early Aldeburgh Festival! Halfway through the concert, the hall was inundated by the North Sea because of an unusually high tide.

Having looked about myself in the way I have just recommended to you, I was able to snatch up a passing double bass and paddle my way to safety – accompanied by Benjamin Britten on the piano.


Blake Pain, Tory leader of Harborough District Council, resigns

At a meeting of the council this evening, Blake Pain has resigned as leader of the ruling Conservative group.

It sounds as though he jumped before he was pushed.

Here are tweets from two Liberal Democrat councillors at the meeting:

The Ghost of Jimi Hendrix at Stokesay Castle

Jimi Hendrix, aged only 27, died on this day in 1970.

Eighteen years later John James published a slim pamphlet of poems with the irresistible title The Ghost of Jimi Hendrix at Stokesay Castle.

Irresistible to me at least. I bought his Collected Poems just to get hold of the poems it contained:
you can't believe everything you see & hear can you
the old heroes of desire sleeping where Handel slept
it's a long way from the surf
& the sign for victory equals peace
the River Onny & its mood of total calm 
when you're dead you're made for life
James may be the first poet since A,E. Housman to mention the River Onny. Unlike Housman, he spells it correctly.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Burying Matron in the sand

Shooting in Rutland sounds more challenging than elsewhere. Perhaps we should introduce the Rutland partridge to North America?


I did not take part in the Glorious Twelfth this year as it clashed with the Well-Behaved Orphans’ annual holiday at Trescothick Bay in Cornwall. Bathing, running barefoot across the sand, burying Matron... I had a high old time of it.

In any case, shooting grouse is not to my taste as the activity is now so commercialised. Grouse are bred in enormous numbers, overfed and then have little lead weights tied to their feet so they cannot fly too high.

I am happier here on my own moors. Open fire at a Rutland partridge and it will take cover and fire back at you. Now that’s what I call good sport!

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Mountain rescue plea after man's Snowdon climb in pants

BBC News wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The wacky decoration of houses in Bishop's Castle

One of the things that made Bishop's Castle perfect when I first visited it was that it wasn't too perfect.

Yes, there were fine Georgian houses, but there were always a couple of them patched up with corrugated iron. My mother says Bath was like that in the 1950s.

Time moves on and the town has grown neater. There is now a fashion for decorating those houses' external plaster in a wacky fashion.

The bubbles have been there for years, but there was a lot that was new this summer.

The trailing creeper is rather lovely and the jigsaw pieces are witty, but I thought the zip fasteners are in danger of going too far.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Night-time cricket against the Elves of Rockingham Forest

Lord Bonkers sees history made at Edgbaston and gives us a further insight into his uneasy relationship with some prominent local inhabitants.


Here in Rutland night-time cricket is well established thanks to the Elves of Rockingham Forest and their torches, even if I will swear they shine more brightly when the Elves are batting. Still, it is best not to fall out with these fellows, as I found when I suggested they were achieving reverse swing by underhand means. ”High Elven Magic” my foot! They were using a bottle top to lift the seam.

Where was I? Ah yes, it is best not to fall out with the Elves: last time I did it took simply ages to persuade them to turn my gardener Meadowcroft back into Meadowcroft from being a frog.

Day-night cricket is, however, a new venture for the England test team, so I thought myself something of a pioneer when I had myself driven to Edgbaston for its first such test. I was delighted that a whole row in the Hollies Stand was dressed as me, complete with false moustaches, even though I was in dressing gown and pyjamas myself. I was proud to lead them in many choruses of… well, of the songs played by my stables carillon, as it happens.

The only trouble is that I could have sworn the ball was a lurid pink, which clearly cannot have been the case. I have therefore made an appointment to have my eyes examined. (Could it be that Nanny was right after all?)

The general view was that I should see an optometrist, so that is what I am going to do this afternoon. It will be a pleasure to meet someone who always looks on the bright side of things.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Timon: Now She Says She's Young

From this 1968 track, a later version of which was released as a single under the title And Now She Says She's Young, you would think Timon was a star child - a sort of Liverpudlian Nick Drake - who faded with the decade.

Not a bit of it.

In the early 1970s Timon, born Stephen Murray and by then known as Tymon Dogg, move down to London and became a part of the underground scene. He shared a Westbourne Grove squat with and went busking with a young Joe Strummer.

Tymon Dogg played on a couple of Clash tracks and was later a member of Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros.

And he is still around today. Here is Tymon Dogg at a 2012 William Blake festival.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Inside the old Dainite factory, Market Harborough

Don't try this at home kids.

There are some notes about the building on the Historic England site.

Six of the Best 725

Will Tanner dissects the Conservative Party's problem with young voters.

"Across the country, students are being taught a narrow version of economics where real-world economic issues barely feature." Ten years on, Laura Bannister and Daniel Lapedus wonder if today’s economics graduates could predict and prevent another Northern Rock.

Sarah Carr and Danny Taggart ask if we need a truth and reconciliation process for psychiatry.

"The Holodomor has become a totemic symbol in Ukrainian nation-building efforts; Russian oppression has consolidated a nation once internally divided by dialect, political culture and religion. For the first time in history, Ukraine (however corrupt and impoverished) seems a viable state." Donald Rayfield reviews Anne Applebaum's book on the Ukranian famine.

adragonsbestfriend describes the launch of the Cambridge women’s branch of the Young Liberals’ League in 1910. It elected Eglantyne Jebb as its first president.

"Historians are at a loss to explain why the village suddenly appeared, much less why it was equally as suddenly deserted." The Abergavenny Chronicle on the mystery of a lost village on the slopes of the Sugar Loaf.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Muhammad Ali vs Tubby Anstruther

Today the old boy remembers his success as a boxing promoter.


Did you see the fight between Mayweather and McGregor? While it was not as one-sided as the pundits predicted, I was painfully reminded of the night I arranged for Muhammad Ali to fight the heavyweight champion of Rutland, Tubby Anstruther.

That one didn’t go the distance either, but it did put the Empire Pool, Oakham, on the map as a venue for boxing.

What great nights they were! Henry Cooper. Alan "Boom Boom" Minter. Vanessa Redgrave.

Above all I remember Sugar Ray Michie, a tasty welterweight who later won Argyll and Bute for the Liberals. We Liberal Democrats could do with some of her fighting spirit today.

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Friday, September 15, 2017

Half Teletubbies, half The Prisoner: The Wintles, Bishop's Castle

Half Teletubbies, half The Prisoner, The Wintles stands on the edge of Bishop's Castle. It was developed by a decade ago by The Living Village Trust:
We thought the best way of proving that it is possible to design a new village with the ambiance and attractiveness of a well loved place was to build it. We were very clear that we didn’t want to create a pastiche of an old village which would be a pointless exercise. We wanted to build a contemporary village with a very human feel to it.
It is not a village. It is part of the town - Bishop's Castle is too small to have suburbs.

And wandering around the town to kill time before for dinner, I explored The Wintles. It came on to rain, so I spent a while there sheltering.

In all that time I saw no one. It was the summer and people will have been on holiday, as I was.

But there was something odd about it's quietness. I had the same experience and feeling in Leicester's new suburb of Hamilton.

Maybe I just grew up in an age where children played out and have lived into one where they do not..

I can remember there being signs up in Bishop's Castle protesting against the development at The Wintles, though it may not have been this scheme in particular the writers had in mind.

Looking through my files I do not have photos from that era, but - as the last one here shows - I do have photos of these houses being built.

How I foresaw the European referendum campaign (with some help from Stanley Unwin)

There has not been a Liberal Revue at the Liberal Democrat Conference for a while now, but in a couple of its later appearances I did a Stanley Unwin tribute act.

The first of these explained Vince Cable's taxation policy when he was our shadow chancellor.

The second tackled Ming Campbell's call for a referendum.on Britain's membership of the European Union.

I forget why he made it - it's all a long time ago.

Anyway, my explanation went something like this.
I have been asked – all polite and requesty – by Ming the Merciflold to explain to you our new polytito on the European Unibode. 
Though confdentimost, conference, if there’s a mercifold one in that marriage, it’s Elspeth. Indeedy-ho! 
Now historibold, which is of the oldest, we have the European wars. Schlesswig versy Holstein. Alsace versy Lorraine. And all huffalo dowder until the Congress of Viennit with the replay at Villy Park next Tuesday. 
In 1945 there is a new thorcus. All the natiomost of Europe join together in a peacy.
And from this we have the joy of the Eurovision song contest. All boom and bangit with Sandy Shore, Cliff Richibold – there’s a falolloper – and the Bucksy Fizz. 
This, of course, is the home of the Norveige nul points – and sulky up the fijord ever since. 
Fundamold to this new Europe is the swap and trade it. At first we have it all back and forward across the borders with “please have your passy portit open for inspection”. 
And this is of a great waste of time, with estimate have it and 20 billion Euro a year – and that’s without the countit and the declimly point in the wrong place! 
Unfortumost – all shame and sobit – the Britly people are not keen and soldy. What they ask of the Britly passport? What of the pound and perch and of the Queen and reignit herself? 
Hear their cryimost: give me bendy bananas or death and end it! 
For this Ming has a new thorcus – ingenimost though it is. We have the referendium. 
A refererndium – moreover and extramost – not on the Constitutioner but on the whole goddam Euroimost shooting match. 
In or out, matey? That’s the question. We can’t shakeabout any longer, despite the poply song with the knees up and bunting. 
So how is run and work it, this referendium? All puzzlibod, I hear you. 
Here in Britly we have a tradition of the firsty past the post. Or as we say, the cross and stuffit. 
We Libby Dems have a prefer of the PR. And not only that, but the single and transfer it in the multimember too. 
Here we have the long ballot and the placey of the one with the favourite and two and threep – and add 07 if you want Brian to stay in the kitchy, indeedy ho! 
With the referendium the words on the bally paper – the precise and askit of the question – becomes of the importimost. 
And conference I can reveal to you – alone and exclusimost – the verbatim and word for word of it. 
And I quotey: 
“Have you stopped beaty of the wife and stay in Europe. Or do you want to lose your job and employit with the folly of a no?” 
If we don’t mention of the bendy banana we’ll be home and squeakit with that one. 
No questions? Deep joy.
And that was pretty much how the campaign turned out. Except that someone did mention bananas and we lost.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Instead of Big Ben

The arrival of a new Liberator does not just mean a few tempting morsels from Radical Bulletin. It also means it is time to spend another week in the company of Lord Bonkers.

I'm very sorry, but there is nothing I can do about it.


When I heard that Big Ben was to be silenced for four years, I wasted no time in telephoning the Director General of the BBC to suggest they broadcast the chimes from St Asquith’s instead. Their tone is certainly distinctive and, though the clock is apt to run a little slow, that can easily be remedied by adding pennies to the pendulum (or is it by taking them off?)

I fear, however, that I received short shrift from the DG: "It’s not in London, is it?" After giving him my opinion of Simon Mann’s cricket commentaries and John Humphrys’ disinclination to retire, I put the phone down on him.

Incidentally, a more radical choice would be the stables clock here at the Hall. It is complete with a small carillon and plays tunes such as 'The Land,' 'Woad' and 'Hurrah for Lord Bonkers!' on the quarter. (The horses seem to like it.)

Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A flythrough of the bone crypt at Rothwell

I have never found the courage to enter it, but the crypt is open to the public on Sundays from 2.30pm to 4.30pm from Easter to the end of September.
That's what I wrote a year ago in a post about the slightly unnerving news that some of the bones in the crypt under the church in Rothwell, a small town between Kettering and Market Harborough, date from as recently as 1900.

But now you don't have to travel to the church to view its bone crypt. You can just watch this flythrough of a 3D model produced by the University of Sheffield.

Understanding the appeal of Donald Trump

Embed from Getty Images

I have just got back from London and a lecture by Professor Steve Reicher. It was a joint event put on by the British Academy and the British Psychological Society.

Professor Reicher's argument that if we are to understand the appeal of Donald Trump (and of other authoritarian populists) we have to get away from the idea that the people who voted for him are merely wicked or stupid.

An audio recording of the event should appear on the British Academy site soon. I will post the link when it does.

In the mean time, I recommend an article Steve Reicher wrote for the Scientific American with Alex Haslam, which covers much of the same ground.

They conclude:
When we put it all together, these figures tell us something important about leadership in general and about the 2016 leadership contest. They underline the point that leadership is never about the character of individuals as individuals. 
This is the "old psychology of leadership" that our own theoretical and empirical analysis has called into question. Instead leadership is about individuals as group members -whose success hinges on their capacity to create, represent, advance and embed a shared sense of "us." 
Reflecting on the implications of this analysis for the specifics of this election, we can see that many Trump voters knew full well that their man was a reprobate, that they deplored his crudities and that they saw him as a risky choice. 
And yet in a world where the system is seen to be against "us" and where things appear to be driven in the wrong direction by "them," the really irrational thing to do is to vote for the conventional candidate who represents sticking with that system.

Liberator on the departure of Tim Gordon and other party gossip

The new Liberator has arrived, so it is time for a taste of the gossip in Radical Bulletin.

There is a piece on tensions in London between new Liberal Democrat candidates, who thought their job was to increase the Lib Dem vote in their own seats, and the party's ruthless targeting strategy.

And one on the departure of Tim Gordon:
His political experience extended little beyond having unsuccessfully contested an Islington council seat in 2006, and while Gordon won genuine plaudits for his financial management - keeping the party afloat while it might well not have - his touch was less sure on political matters. 
Among the problems at HQ were that Tim Farron never put his stamp on it. It has largely been run by Clegg-era holdovers without any sense that Farron had his own people there to deliver what he wanted.
You can subscribe to Liberator online or by going along to our stall at the Lib Dem Conference.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

James Fox and Richard Ayoade

As a senior member of a theatrical dynasty, James Fox has an unofficial role as father-in-law to the stars - Billie Piper for a while and Richard Ayoade.

The other day I found this film that Fox and Ayoade made for a development charity. It shows Fox sending himself up admirably.

Campaign to save former railway weighbridge at Bishop's Castle

I have read that nothing remains of Bishop's Castle station - the terminus of a wonderfully eccentric line that ran from Craven Arms and necessitated reversal halfway through the journey.

But when I was in the town a few years ago I thought that this building looked as though it might have been something to do with the railway. It was in just the right part of the town too.

And I was right, because the Shropshire Star reported last month:
A drive to save one of the only remnants of an ill-fated Shropshire railway line is to be launched. 
The former weighbridge building in Bishop's Castle is one of the only signs that there was ever a railway line linking the town with nearby Craven Arms, which was closed and mostly torn up in 1935. 
Today that building is crumbling, but now a historical society want to get a campaign underway to save it for posterity, with a meeting to whip up interest scheduled for next week.

The Lib Dem establishment does not want an anti-Brexit motion debated at Conference

A post on Liberator's blog yesterday began:
After 400+ party members signed a petition to trigger a special conference to debate a Stop Brexit policy, the powers that be in the Liberal Democrats agreed to a compromise where they would enable the policy to be debated at autumn conference in Bournemouth in exchange for the petition being withdrawn. 
But now, at the last minute, it seems that the party’s Federal Conference Committee (FCC) has broken a promise to remain neutral in a crucial conference vote this Saturday and will now oppose the attempt to suspend standing orders to allow a Stop Brexit policy motion to be debated in place of a scheduled “consultation” session on Brexit.
You can read the full story in a post by Andrew Hickey on his blog Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

What all those members who joined the Lib Dems because they are against Brexit will think, I tremble to think.

It seems that even with our opinion poll rating in single figures (and low single figures across much of the country) the party establishment is still most concerned with not upsetting the votes by being too controversial.

Dancing around in a bra in front of your neighbours may be weird but it's not a crime, court rules

The Daily Telegraph wins our Headline of the Day Award.