Saturday, June 10, 2023

Boris Johnson accuses conspirators: Exclusive video

The Joy of Six 1137

"There was never any reason to suppose Johnson could be a successful prime minister. Nothing in his record suggested he was fit for the job. His sole success came in living down to expectations. If he had been a tolerable success as mayor of London that was, in large part, simply because the mayoralty was, in his hands, little more than a PR job. As foreign secretary, rather more importantly, he was palpably out of his depth." Alex Massie says goodbye and good riddance to Boris Johnson.

Michael Crick argues that Keir Starmer will come to regret purging the Labour left.

"Her concerns stretched beyond monetary union. She voiced fears over the EU’s tendency to centralise and erode national barriers, warning that 'the rush to a Single Market … is corroding the social, employment, and environmental structure of our continent.' She even noted how EU freedom of movement would have a depressionary effect on wages." Richard Johnson reminds us that Caroline Lucas used to be a Eurosceptic.

Sarah Menkedick asks why American children are treated as a separate species.

Jonathan Meades reviews a book on heritage and conservation: "Seventy years ago, Augustus John advised in his autobiography Chiaroscuro that we ought not to admire hedges and drystone walls no matter how handsome the patchwork they form, for they are instruments of ownership. Stourton overlooks John. He comes up with the familiar justification that great estates have spared the country mass housing. Familiar but, frankly, bollocks."

Steven Smith, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne all played club cricket in England. Scott Oliver looks back to those days.

J.W. Logan was the first MP to hold both the Chiltern Hundreds and the Manor of Northstead

Despite what disaffected Conservative MPs are announcing, you cannot resign from the House of Commons.

Wikipedia explains:

To circumvent this prohibition, MPs who wish to step down are instead appointed to an "office of profit under the Crown", which disqualifies them from sitting in Parliament. 

For this purpose, a legal fiction is maintained where two unpaid offices are considered to be offices of profit: Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, and Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

But only one MP, to the best of my knowledge, has held both these offices.

Step forward this blog's hero J.W. Logan, who was Liberal MP for Harborough 1891-1904 and 1910-16.

His health was never the same after an accident in the hunting field, which was why he twice resigned his seat.

On the first occasion he applied to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead and on the second to be Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds.

Which, unless you know different, makes Paddy Logan the only MP to have held both these offices of profit under the crown.

Later. David Boothroyd has come up with two more MPs who have held both offices:

William Hall Walker - CH 3 December 1915, MN 18 August 1919

Sir Herbert Robin Cayzer - CH 27 November 1922, MN 29 June 1939

So Logan was the first, but not the only, MP to do so.

Friday, June 09, 2023

The fall of Boris Johnson: It was the Tory right who wanted to make it easier to get rid of MPs

Embed from Getty Images

It was Nick Clegg who gave voters the power to recall MPs. And it was the Tory right who complained bitterly that he didn't go far enough.

Here's a Guardian report from 2014:

Zac Goldsmith, the Tory MP for Richmond, said Clegg was entirely responsible for the bill, which is a "disgrace even by the standards of modern politics". 

And here, from the same report is Douglas Carswell:

"The truth is that on the Conservative backbenches there is strong support. Where there is kickback it's coming from people holding red boxes and people in the Cabinet Office. I wouldn't hold it against Clegg if he opposed he idea, but what's absolutely unforgivable is that he opposed it but pretends to be in favour."

So Boris Johnson has been brought down by a measure that his own supporters called for and wanted to be made even more demanding.

It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.

North Northamptonshire Council to sell historic Desborough site

From Harborough FM, which these days provides the best local news coverage, reports:

North Northamptonshire Council is to sell off a site in Desborough which has stood derelict for over 20 years.

The authority’s Executive has declared the former Lawrence’s shoe factory site as ‘surplus’ and it will now be put up for sale.

The council inherited the site off Harborough Road from the former Kettering Borough Council, which bought it in 2005 and says today’s decision follows an extensive review of options for it.

Various uses for the area, branded ‘a jungle’ by locals, have been considered over the years, including building a supermarket, community hub or council houses on the site, but none have ever progressed.

I've been over to Desborough a couple of times recently and have been rather taken by this site. The older building, according to my guide to the industrial history of Northamptonshire, dates from about 1860.

Whether the council finds a buyer, and whether the new owner is any more successful in finding a use for it, remains to be seen, but I'm glad I have photographed it in this state.

Neal Ascherson on women and the revolutions of 1848

Neal Ascherson reviewed Revolutionary Spring by Christopher Clark, a history of the revolutions that spread across Europe in 1848, for the London Review of Books last month.

Ascherson's paragraphs on the experience of women in those revolutions make the 1840s sound very much like the 1960s:

Women got absolutely nothing out of 1848. ‘It is difficult to decide what is more striking – the tireless advocacy of the women activists or the immovability of the patriarchal structure they were challenging,’ Clark writes. ‘Women were not enfranchised anywhere in Europe in 1848.’ 

And yet they fought and died, gun in hand, on the barricades of Paris, Berlin and Milan. In the Frankfurt Parliament, ‘the discussion of votes for women elicited guffaws and hoots from the deputies ... and was dismissed out of hand.’ This was to be branded a firmly male revolution, with women celebrated only for waving ribbons from windows at the marching men below. 

Some of the shrewdest and most detailed witness accounts of 1848 came from female observers – Marie d’Agoult and Margaret Fuller among them – and with their help, Clark’s coverage of women’s history in this period is the most sustained and exciting investigation in his book. 

He begins with the flame-throwing eloquence of Claire Démar in Paris in 1833: ‘There still exists a monstrous power,’ she announced, ‘a species of divine law ... the power of the father.’ Everything about marriage was unequal, she said, and marital love was little more than ‘a two-fold egoism’. ‘The liberation of the proletarians, of the poorest and most numerous class, is only possible through the liberation of our sex.’ 

Démar and other early French feminists such as Suzanne Voilquin and Jeanne Deroin had disillusioning contact with the utopian sects of the day, usually patriarchal and too often mistaking sexual liberation for submission to the lust of some bearded guru. 

The journalist Eugénie Niboyet asked why the stupidest man could vote when the most intelligent woman could not; why, indeed, should women pay taxes that they had not taken part in legislating? Everywhere, from France to insurgent Hungary, women came forward to act in the revolution and were met with degrees of male mockery. 

The ridicule (‘mannish blue-stockings and divorceuses’) ‘infiltrated the awareness of so many women, even the most politically active ones, who struggled to reconcile their activities with “inherited notions of womanliness”’.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

I may be related to one of the Tollesbury Cannibals

When Lord Bonkers was putting together a crew for the narrow boat Flower of Rutland five summers ago, he wrote:

Finally, we have a Well-Behaved Orphan as cabin boy so that (as is traditional) we have someone to eat in case of emergency - not that there is much meat on him if I am honest.

Where did Bonkers - where did I - get the idea that it is traditional for sailors to eat the cabin boy in extremis?

I suspect it was from a folk memory this case:

In 1884, the yacht Mignonette, on passage from Tollesbury, in Essex, to Sydney, Australia, met heavy weather in the South Atlantic. Caught by an enormous breaking wave, the yacht foundered, and her professional crew (which was delivering the boat to its new Australian owner) took to the 13-foot dinghy, where they drifted for three weeks on the empty ocean under a hot and cloudless sky. 
On the 24th day of their ordeal, the cabin boy, Richard Parker, 17 years old, accepted his fate as the first to go, and the captain did the deed. The survivors dined gratefully on the boy's remains.

That post from a Yachting & Boating World forum goes on to say that a German ship eventually rescued the three survivors and took them back to England. There, two were tried for murder and that trial was a sensation of the day:

The captain and mate of the Mignonette were found guilty of murder, sentenced to death, and then granted a royal pardon. It seems the sympathy of the court (and British public opinion) was with them, but a guilty verdict was required to prove that the long arm of the law can extend far out to sea.

This is not wholly correct: a paper about the case from the Saint Louis University Law Journal says:

The Home Office decided that the sentence should be commuted to six months imprisonment, but 'not at hard labour.'

I came across this case for the first time yesterday when I opened The Invention of Essex: The Making of an English County by Tim Brooks in Waterstones and looked up Tollesbury in the index, to be confronted with the entry 'Tollesbury Cannibals'.

Tollesbury, because one of my grandmothers (my mother's mother, who died just before I was born) came from there. Her maiden name was Carter.

The captain of the Mignonette on her voyage to Australia was Thomas Dudley. He had been born at Tollesbury, the home village of his mother, who died when he was six years old.

Her name? Susannah Carter.


I went back to Waterstones today, only to find that someone had bought the book.

You can hear Tim Brooks talking about Essex in a recent edition of Matthew Sweet's BBC Radio 3 programme Free Thinking.

Incidentally, there were also Tollesbury Pirates in the 19th century. It looks like I'm related to one of them too.

Another myth about the Victorians: the Frozen Charlotte doll

The Victorians didn't cover piano legs out of prudishness: that was a joke they told at the expense of straitlaced Americans.

They didn't pose their dead relatives in family photographs and there was no such thing as Brown Windsor soup.

I've just come across another example of spurious 19th-century history: the Frozen Charlotte doll.

Bonnie Taylor-Blake sets out the myth:

Innumerable websites, newspaper articles, magazines, and scholarly pieces tell us that 19th-century American parents gave their children small, rigid, pale-white porcelain dolls named after Charlotte, a vain young woman who rejected her mother’s advice to dress more warmly and who consequently froze to death in an open sleigh on her way to a ball. 
Further, the theme holds that Victorian children recognized the symbolism inherent in these small, corpse-like dolls and used them as playthings, sometimes even placing them in tiny coffins. 
In fact, we’re told that the motif of this particular frozen woman was so pervasive in the 19th century that our counterparts named a dessert after her and baked representations of her into cakes.

And then she demolishes it:

Today we accept these claims because this bizarre narrative fits with our perception of Victorians as moralising and obsessed by death. 
But this specifically modern belief falls apart when it becomes apparent that no one has provided contemporaneous evidence that Victorian parents and children viewed small china dolls as the fabled Charlotte. 
And a survey of American newspapers, magazines, and books of the period fails to find 19th- and early 20th-century mentions of dolls named 'Frozen Charlottes.'

She goes on to speculate on how this false history came about:

Once doll collectors in the mid-20th-century connected the stiff, pale-white female figurine of the 1850s with the 19th-century legend and ballad and casually introduced the consequent nickname to the public, we invented complex death-inspired histories for the doll, the adults who purchased her, and the children who played with her. 
In the end, while there is no real harm in referring to a penny doll as a Frozen Charlotte, we should at least be clear about the doll’s original place in American popular culture: for Victorians these were inexpensive, accessible playthings, easily lost and easily replaced, and not much more.

If you are interested in the theory that the Victorians were much less Victorian than we imagine, I recommend Matthew Sweet's Inventing the Victorians.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

"Make all the railways come to York!"

Jago Hazzard is our guide to York station and its history. It's noticeable that there are fewer platforms in use than there were in my students days in the city.

You can support Jago's videos via his Patreon page.

Munira Wilson backs Hope Instead of Handcuffs campaign

I blogged the other day about Hope Instead of Handcuffs, the campaign against the handcuffing of child in care when they are moved between placements.

In that post I asked if any Liberal Democrat parliamentarians had backed the campaign. 

This morning someone from the campaign been in touch to say that Munira Wilson, the party's spokesperson for education and MP for Twickenham. has given her support.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Lord Bonkers 30 years ago: The Duchess of Rutland showed me her Belvoir

I don't know if anyone else reads this feature, but Lord Bonkers certainly does. So it's time to go back 30 years and see what the old boy was saying in the June 1992 Liberator.

This news item may help you understand what he was on about. I can only apologise for the hellenophoia - besides Philip was more German than Greek.


I drop into Buckingham Palace this morning, as one does, to pay my respects to Her Majesty. Imagine my surprise when a surly Greek pounces on me and demands the sum of eight pounds for the privilege of a conducted tour.

I toy with the idea of pointing out that, having been a payer of taxes from more years than I care to remember, I am fully entitled to wander the corridors as I please, but I judge that the fellow's English would not be up to it.

I have to confess that the day proves most enjoyable and excellent value for money, and I manage to bag a brace of corgis for the pot. 

All in all, I have not enjoyed a visit so much since the Duchess of Rutland showed me her Belvoir.

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

Poverty isn't a lack of character: it's a lack of cash

Rutger Bregman begins his TED talk like this:
I'd like to start with a simple question: Why do the poor make so many poor decisions? I know it's a harsh question, but take a look at the data. The poor borrow more, save less, smoke more, exercise less, drink more and eat less healthfully. Why? 
Well, the standard explanation was once summed up by the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. And she called poverty "a personality defect." 
A lack of character, basically.
I'm suspicious of quotations that are so convenient for the speakers' argument, but Thatch really did say this. It was in a 1978 interview with the Catholic Herald.

But then large parts of the Labour Party are more interested in reforming the working class than liberating it too.

As I said of Blair's new government in a letter to the Guardian in 1997 (which I later found quoted in a book I had bought):
Labour is effectively recasting unemployment as a form of individual delinquency.
And Labour is still at it. Today Darren Rodwell, who is apparently a rising star of the party, was threatening to evict families from council accommodation if their children don't inform on people who commit knife crime.

So it's important that Liberals continue to discuss utopian ideas like basic income and a reduced working week. Most will probably prove to be unworkable, but where there is no vision the people perish.

Monday, June 05, 2023

The Joy of Six 1137

Caroline Lucas, Wera Hobhouse MP and Olivia Blake argue that the Climate and Ecology Bill is our best chance to tackle the climate crisis.

"The root of the asylum controversy in the UK is that our system for determining refugee status works so poorly. It should allow the country quickly to decide who is a refugee and who is not. But it is set up and operated so that most refugees do not have their claims properly recognised in a timely way." David Cantor sets out an alternative to the Illegal Migration Bill.

"From the bin crews in Cambridge Council to Citizens Advice, Dunelm, Atom Bank, some NHS trusts and Sainsburys, the idea is spreading and growing in popularity. Soon it may be the employers who have not tried this who are left behind." Mo Kanjilal asks if it's time we all moved to a four-day week.

"When the historian Nicolas Bell-Romero started a job researching Cambridge University’s past links to transatlantic slavery three years ago, he did not expect to be pilloried in the national press by anonymous dons as 'a "woke activist" with an agenda'." Samira Shackle on the backlash against research into slavery.

Nathan J. Robinson on a Jordan Peterson fan who lost his faith and the lessons we can learn about drawing people away from right-wing ideology.

James Brooke-Smith spent lockdown watching vintage chat shows: "Instead of the torrent of bile and invective and dark mutterings about secret paedophiliac plots orchestrated from pizza parlours in Washington - as the less salubrious corners of the internet would have it - I entered a halcyon world of charm and erudition, wit and glamour."

Surrey Conservatives have the blue wall blues

The Observer sent its policy editor - Michael Savage - to Darkest Surrey and discovered that the natives are no longer friendly to the Conservatives:

The fortress of Godalming is being besieged. The nearby village greens of Bramley and Brook are in the crosshairs. The gravelled drives of Hascombe and Chiddingfold are no longer safe. Suddenly, no Tory stronghold in the area is deemed out of bounds.

"If you didn’t know any of the politics, you would probably assume this was a hardcore Tory place," concedes Paul Follows, the beaming Liberal Democrat candidate, as he takes his latest tour of Godalming high street. "But almost all of these really clichéd Conservative places have not been so Conservative for a little while."

And some Conservatives fear the worst:

The talk among some Tories in parliament has become apocalyptic. "I’m more worried about the blue wall than anything," one former cabinet minister said in the Observer recently. 

"I really think there’s a chance that what happened to Labour in Scotland in 2015 could happen to us in the blue wall at the next election. What are we offering these voters now?"

Sunday, June 04, 2023

Floella Benjamin and Kenneth Williams

A typical diary entry from Kenneth Williams, which was tweeted today because it describes what the great man was doing exactly 47 years ago.

What intrigued me was that the person retweeting it added a note saying that 'Flo' here is Floella Benjamin.

Is this right? Was the Liberal Democrat peer a friend of Ken?

It seems she was, as here she is remembering him in 2018:

And the day after Floella sent that tweet, someone posted the programme of the production in which they both appeared:

Cross-party coalition aims to ban the handcuffing of children in care during transport

From the Independent:

A coalition of MPs and peers is calling for the "horrendous" practice of handcuffing children in care during transport to be banned.

Local authorities often use private firms when moving children between care homes or to hospital or court appointments, but concerns have been raised that in some instances restraints are used.

Because transport providers aren't required to record instances of handcuffing, no one knows how widespread the practice is.

The paper's report quotes Emily Aklan, the founder of a transport company that wants to end handcuffing:

"The practice remains unregulated and unmonitored, and this data gap puts vulnerable children at risk."

It also names the politicians involved in the coalition:

Former shadow children’s minister Steve McCabe, former shadow women and equalities minister Sarah Champion, and Baroness Wilcox are among those pushing for change. Eighteen politicians from Labour, Scottish Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives are so far supporting the campaign which is due to launch next week.

No Liberal Democrats?

Last autumn I blogged about the Welsh government's decision to ban the handcuffing of children in care during transport between placements.

Arrival: Friends

This is one of those songs I have always known without knowing what it was called or who recorded it.

Friends was written and first recorded by Terry Reid, who toured the US in support of Cream as a teenager and then supported the Rolling Stones.

Page wanted Reid to be the singer for his proposed group the New Yardbirds, which became Led Zeppelin, but his commitments with the Stones meant he couldn't take up the offer. Reid suggested that Page should look at Robert Plant as an alternative.

Arrival were a London-based vocal group most of whose members came from Liverpool and whose finest hour was the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.

Friends and its follow up I Will Survive (not the Gloria Gaynor song) both made the charts, but the hits dried up after that and Arrival's members later worked as session singers or session musicians.

Saturday, June 03, 2023

RNLI to leave Spurn Point for good

A couple of weeks ago I posted a 1965 television report on Spurn Point and the lifeboat station there. The image above is taken from it.

Now comes news that the RNLI is to close that station. Over to the Holderness & Hornsea Gazette:

Leaving a place pivotal to the 200-year history of the station and even a home to their families in the past has been difficult for the crews, but structural issues with the jetty make it essential to operate from elsewhere, the RNLI said.

Humber RNLI will continue to provide a vital lifesaving search and rescue service from Grimsby in well-practised arrangements.

Jamie King, area lifesaving manager for the RNLI, said ... "We have a long history with Spurn Point, where we have launched to many hundreds of rescues in the past 213 years - 33 of which led to medals for gallantry - and entire families even lived there to support their loved ones."

The Joy of Six 1136

Graham Lanktree explains how Boris Johnson sold out British farming: "Two prime ministers sat face to face across a grand Westminster dining room, the first ever free-trade agreement between their nations all but complete. On the table that evening were bottles of fine Australian wine, a rack of Welsh lamb - and the future of the UK farming industry."

"Speaking to locals in the town, there are plenty of reasons to doubt his optimism. The Mayor Ben Houchen is a 'provincial, parochial solicitor from Stockton' who is 'completely out of his depth'. Or, as one man told me, he's a 'poundshop Trump' who has 'delivered no jobs' and helped 'swindle the people of Teesside'." Fred Skulthorp says the Conservatives' Teesside freeport dream lies in tatters.

Annihilation in the red wall, an exit for a top leadership contender and a parliamentary party stuffed with southerners and Oxbridgers? Tim Bale and David Jeffery look at how losing the next election could shape the Conservatives.

Anne Longfield argues that the Department for Education has forgotten about the welfare of children and families in the pursuit of higher standards.

Mark Follman on how the AR-15, a civilian version of a gun designed for maximum killing in combat, is ever more popular with mass shooters in the US.

"How did you please a medieval English comedy crowd? Going by an extraordinary new discovery, you gave them killer hares, jousting bears, social subversion and toilet jokes - then insulted them and urged them to get drunk." Mark Bridge finds that comedy hasn't changed much since the 15th century.

Friday, June 02, 2023

A Desborough memorial to wartime bomber crew

This memorial. which remembers three Wellington bomber crew who lost their lives in a wartime training flight from RAF Desborough, can be found among new housing in the town.

The Northamptonshire Telegraph reported when it was unveiled in the town last autumn:

Pilot officer Reg Byrne, 23, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Air Force Voluntary Reserve (RAFVR) members Sgt Bill Barnett, 32, and Sgt Eddie Brisbourne,19, all died when their Wellington Bomber failed on September 5 in 1944.

The plane with six crew aboard crashed into a paddock on Feakin's Farm in Harrington Road, now a housing estate off Green Lane.

Two members of Desborough Civic Society, Steve Richards and Mike Maguire, negotiated for an area of a new housing estate to be used to remember the three casualties. The memorial also remembers all who served at the nearby Bomber Command airfield.

The paper described the unveiling ceremony:

Led by Rev Canon Neil Clarke, chaplain to Desborough Royal British Legion, more than 50 people joined in the service including a reading of The Kohima Epitaph, a two-minutes’ silence and the laying of wreaths.

Squadron Leader Luke Ridgway of the RAAF, who placed a poppy wreath, said: "I'm really humbled to attend on behalf of the Australian Government and the RAAF. It was a beautiful ceremony. I wasn’t expecting so many people - it’s the true British spirit."

85-year-old Jean Jones, Sgt Eddie Brisbourne’s sister was proud of her "lovely" brother and placed a wreath at the newly-unveiled memorial bearing his name.

I discovered RAF Desborough on an unseasonably warm April day 12 years ago.

Is the Lib Dem leadership being too timid?

There's a good piece in the Financial Times by Miranda Green today asking whether Ed Davey's determination not to talk about Brexit or post-election deals with Labour is damaging the Liberal Democrats:

The psephologist Sir John Curtice has pored over last month’s results in battleground areas, combined with how people voted in the 2016 referendum and what they now think about it. He is unconvinced: "It’s not obvious what the benefits are at the moment to the Liberal Democrats of staying schtum on Brexit."

Curtice can track even Rejoiners heading to Labour, despite the main opposition party’s even more extreme caution on the topic. He warns that the Lib Dems, in contrast to Starmer, have little to show for their reticence. 

And pressure is mounting on Davey as impatient activists, candidates and party grandees see public opinion turn against the decision to leave the EU. Selection hustings are peppered with critiques of "timidity".

It's not possible for the Lib Dems to fight the next election on a pledge to reverse Brexit. The European Union would have to be convinced there has been a fundamental change in public and political opinion in Britain before it would entertain the idea.

And the kamikaze campaign fought by Jo Swinson in 2019 was in nay case predicated upon absurdly optimistic opinion polling.

But we must be prepared to say at the next election that Brexit lies at the heart of many of the problems Britain faces. Until we can be honest about the causes of these problems, we won't be able to talk credibly about solving them.

Thursday, June 01, 2023

John Rogers shows us the enchantments of the City of London

The YouTube blurb explains:

We start at Bishopsgate and revisit St Andrew Undershaft before moving on to St Margaret Pattens with its magnificent spire by Sir Christopher Wren. From here we walk to St Margaret at Hill, said to have one of the most beautiful interiors of all the City Churches. 

Our next stop is the serene St Dunstans in the East church garden built within the footprint of the medieval church that was destroyed during the Blitz in 1941. We then visit the Monument to the Great Fire of London - also designed by Sir Christopher Wren. 

Our walking tour ends at St Magnus the Martyr that once aligned with Old London Bridge.

John has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.

Proof there are big cats living in the English countryside?

From Gloucestershire Live:

DNA from a black hair caught on a barbwire fence in Gloucestershire following a sheep attack has been offered as 'definitive proof' big cats are roaming the British countryside. The single strand was sent off for testing after being recovered from a farm where there had been some "unusual predatory" activity.

Suspicion was raised when video footage of a large black animal was also captured only a few miles away from where the sample was taken. And documentary-makers, who had been investigating sightings across the UK, say the test has now come back 'positive' and confirmed the existence of black panthers and other big cats living in the UK.

A forensic laboratory took on the species identification task and used mitochondrial DNA analysis to ascertain a 99 per cent match to a big cat species.

The same website has a piece by Rick Minter, who runs the Big Cat Conversations podcast:

Many landowners and farmers seem tolerant ... perhaps because the cats seem to prefer deer to sheep as their main large prey. "We have big cats - and have to learn to live with them" said a Gloucestershire farmer at one of my talks. 

On the next door farm, two people had separately reported a tan coloured puma drinking from a water trough. I asked the farm family if I could tether a camera trap there - the chance to film at strategic points on a large cat’s route should not be missed. Reluctantly, permission was declined.

The farm buildings were only a field away, and hosted a sensitive business with regular visitors. Like so many properties, these people felt that gossip on big cats was best avoided.

You can here the Liberal Democrat peer Paul Tyler interviewed on the Big Cat Conversations episode on Bodmin and Exmoor Beasts - the inside stories.