Monday, February 24, 2020

When Kettering Grammar School tracked Soviet satellites

Back in the 1960s, Kettering Grammar School was celebrated for its tracking of Scoiet satellites.

Click on the still above to watch a 1966 television report on the school's activities.

I recognise the school buildings because I used to play in the annual Kettering chess tournament there a decade later, but they have since been demolished.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Golden Earring: Radar Love

I walked into the Oxfam book and record shop in Harborough yesterday morning and this was playing.

Golden Earring are a Dutch band and Radar Love was a worldwide hit in 1973. It reached number 7 in the UK singles chart and I remember listening to it under the bedclothes on Radio Luxembourg.

A little boy's jacket from Blaby workhouse

I called in at Leicester's New Walk Museum and Art Gallery today to take in a couple of exhibitions.

There was Dissent and Displacement:
Contemporary printmaker Monica Petzal explores opposition, persecution and persistence inspired by her German Jewish refugee heritage and the German Expressionist collection in Leicester. Interweaving threads of family, politics, culture and art, the narratives range from the rise of National Socialism in 1930’s Germany to the life of a Syrian refugee doctor in Leicester today. 
Using original sources, it brings together contemporary collaged and painterly lithographic prints with accessible descriptive text, as well as German Expressionist work from the artist’s own collection, archive objects, photos and film.
And there was Dressing for Childhood, which features items of children's clothing from the museum's stores.

Among them was this much-mended little boy's jacket from Blaby Union workhouse, which dates from the 1830s. I am not the better for seeing it.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Cunards at Nevill Holt

The Medbourne Village website has a good page about the Cunards and their tenure of Nevill Holt,

Edward Cunard purchased the Nevill Holt estate in 1876. The following year it was inherited by his brother Sir Bache Cunard:
By 1886 Sir Bache found himself in constrained financial circumstances which caused him to mortgage the Estate to some clients of Peake and Company, Solicitors in London. By 1893 however the mortgagees wished to foreclose on the mortgage and Particulars of Sale were prepared. However, his marriage in 1895 to Maud Burke enabled the Estate to be maintained.
Maud Burke was yet another of those American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy in this era. And many of them, like Maud Burke, rescued the finances of the family they joined.

But it was not to last:
In 1911, after leaving her husband in Leicestershire, Maud moved to London with Nancy and became a leading light in London society becoming known as a lavish hostess. Later in 1911 the Cunards separated and Maud fell in love with Sir Thomas Beecham the conductor, becoming recognised as his companion. ... 
In the 1930’s she formed a friendship with Wallis Simpson the fellow American who had a liaison with Edward Prince of Wales. Thinking that Wallis would become Queen, Maud hoped to secure a position in the Royal Household but her dream was dashed when Edward abdicated in 1936.
His wife’s departure from Nevill Holt left Sir Bache in financial difficulties again and the mortgage was foreclosed in 1912. After the original purchaser of the estate died, it was auctioned again at the Assembly Rooms in Market Harborough on 19 August 1919.

The house itself and surrounding land were purchased by the Reverend C.A.C. Bowkler for use as a preparatory school. That horribly abusive establishment closed after a police raid in 1998.

Given that most scholars now accept that Nevill Holt is the model for Bonkers Hall, one has to wonder if the first Lady Bonkers was also American,

Friday, February 21, 2020

Luka by Suzanne Vega features Worrying YouTube Comment of the Day

On the first page of comments on this video you will find:
Well... My name is REALLY Luka b'cuz this song was playing when my parents first met.
Didn't his parents listen to the song?

Inside St Mary's, Cromford

In Cromford last summer I found St Mary's church open because Excellent Women were at work inside. So I took some photographs.

The church's Listing on the Historic England site gives its history:
The church was begun in 1792 for Richard Arkwright¿s industrial complex and residence at Cromford, and was prominently sited next to the cotton mill and River Derwent. It was designed by Thomas Gardner (c1737-1804), architect and builder of Uttoxeter, who was also employed on the reconstruction of Arkwright's Willersley Castle. The wide proportions of the nave are characteristic of the period, and Gardner's church probably had a small chancel of the kind that had become deeply unfashionable by the 1850s. 
The church was substantially rebuilt in 1858 by H.I. Stevens (1806-73), architect of Derby who built many churches in the East Midlands. Stevens enlarged the chancel, remodelled windows and added the tower and west narthex. The ambitious scheme of wall paintings and stained glass was undertaken by Alfred Octavius Hemming (d 1907), who had previously worked for Clayton & Bell and had completed a similar extensive mural scheme at Folkestone, Kent. The scheme at Cromford was completed in 1897 on the centenary of the church.
The wall paintings were damaged by water over years and underwent a serious restoration in 2002.

Thank you, Roland Hall: In praise of generous university offers

After I left Boxmoor and my good school reports, life was difficult. I had moved from a comprehensive that had recently been a very traditional grammar school to one (a middle school) here in Market Harborough that had been a secondary modern.

I was left by my new school to sink or swim. There was no pastoral care and no help coping with a very different curriculum. I suppose my problem was that, though I was poor, I could pass as middle class.

Most damaging, I found that if I did not work, no one was going to make me. I reacted like any 13-year-old boy would in such circumstances and stopped working.

When I moved to the upper school I found I had been put in a CSE set for maths. Having done mathematical aptitude tests in later life, I can say objectively that this was a crime.

Fortunately, I had an ally in the same situation and we fought and won a campaign to be moved up to an O level set.

Still, my O levels were not great - seven passes, two at grade B and five at grade C.

After that life got better. I was in the sixth form studying subjects I liked and was back on even keel academically.

I finally had a teacher (Mark Clay-Dove) who took a special interest in me and helped me with university entrance. I remember going to his house for coffee one Saturday morning, being introduced to his wife and looking over a statement about why I wanted to study Philosophy that one university had asked for. He told me it was fine and I don't think I changed a word before I sent it in.

I remember another conversation with him after school when I confided that I was worried about my A levels and what I would do if I didn't get to university. He told me not to worry and that I was bright enough to do a postgraduate degree.

One reason for my doing a part-time Masters in my thirties was to honour that conversation.

And he also told me that the school had given me a remarkably generous academic reference. It is now obvious to me that he had written it himself.

In retrospect, choosing a non-school subject like Philosophy was a smart move for someone with ropy O levels. It meant universities were more likely to rely on their own judgement and pay a less attention to exam results.

So when I went to Nottingham, was interviewed and wrote an essay while I was there, they responded by making me an offer of EE to read Philosophy with them. Delighted? You have no idea.

Another thing that made life good in the sixth form was my Saturday job in a secondhand bookshop. Yes, Market Harborough readers, there was once a bookshop in Nelson Street.

It was run by Mark Jacobs - an expert on the poet Laura Riding who still has letters published in the London Review of Books from time to time - and his wife Barbara.

When I told Barbara Jacobs (now a successful author) that I was off to the University of York for another interview, she told me that she had met a member of the Philosophy department there at a party while Mark was doing his PhD. He was called Roland Hall and was a very nice man.

I arrived at York to find that, sure enough, my interview was with Roland Hall. I was filled with a sense of confidence and wellbeing.

And he was a very nice man. We had quite a casual chat about Philosophy and why I wanted to study it, before he said: "What shall we say for an offer? Three Cs?"

Given that York accepted General Studies towards their offers in those days, this was generous yet challenging enough to ensure that I continued to work.

I still had to persuade my school to let me take A level General Studies. They said no at first - I am beginning to see a pattern here - but I persisted and in the end quite a few of us took it.

Since you ask, I got an A.

I am sorry to have written so much about my teenage self, because this post was meant to be a tribute to Roland Hall.

When I took it into my head to look him up a few months ago, I found he had recently died. I also found that he had lived a life that made his patience with spotty herberts like me remarkable:

Here are some extracts from an appreciate of him published in the journal Locke Studies:
In 1949 he joined the British Army for National Service. After basic training, which included touch typing, he was found a position where, in the words of one of his superiors, “his brain would not atrophy.” 
This was as Clerk to General Frank Simpson, the President of the Court at the British War Crimes Unit in Hamburg, during the four-month trial of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, regarded as Hitler’s greatest General Manstein had been taken prisoner by the British in August 1945. He testified for the defence of the German General Staff and the Wehrmacht supreme command at the Nuremberg trials of major Nazi war criminals and organizations in August 1946. 
Under pressure from the Soviet Union to hand him over, the British cabinet had decided in July 1948 to prosecute Manstein and several other senior officers held in custody since the end of the war. Roland’s job was to collate and safeguard all the written evidence for the Court, which he read in its entirety, and to keep track of the Court’s proceedings. 
This experience had a profound effect on Roland, only 19 at the time. It convinced him of the justification for war in the face of great evil, though, having seen the evidence against Manstein, he was amazed at the severity of the sentence passed upon him. 
When the sentence was given, he was able to hear it through the sliding doors of the room behind the court in which he was working and wondered whether he had misheard “18 years” for “18 months,” which would have made more sense to him.  
At the end of the trial, General Simpson was instrumental in Roland joining the British Forces Network, where he was responsible for producing classical music programmes at the Musikhalle for the Allied forces in Western Europe. 
He often ate at the Church Army cafe near the Alster and spoke with the German musicians playing there. One day he asked them about a particular piece of music they were playing. After that, they played Brüch’s Violin Concerto whenever he came in. 
Lest the impression have been given that his Army service was not very military, it should be added that Roland’s pay-book records that he was a first-class shot, meaning that he could hit the bullseye with a rifle at 300 yards.
And because I was taught by him, I am only two moves away from some of the greats of 20th-century British Philosophy:
He obtained the B.Phil under the supervision of two of the great names of linguistic philosophy, J. L. Austin and, briefly, Gilbert Ryle (when Austin was away in America). It was Austin who suggested that Roland should work on “a big word like ‘as’” when contemplating topics for his Bachelor’s thesis and who gave him a method, this being to “start with the dictionary.” 
Ignoring his supervisor’s sage warning against going into the academic profession - “There’s no money in it” - he took his first job in 1956 as Assistant in Logic at the University of St. Andrews. The next year he moved to Queen’s College, Dundee, as Lecturer in Philosophy, becoming Senior Lecturer in 1966. From 1961 to 1967 he was Assistant Editor of The Philosophical Quarterly. In 1967 he was appointed Reader in Philosophy at the University of York, where he remained until his retirement in 1994. 
Meeting Roland Hall and walking round York afterwards was enough to convince me that this was where I wanted to study.

So, thanks to his generosity and that of the department at Nottingham, my last university interview consisted of my gently breaking it to an academic at Bristol - a university that school rumour maintained would not even look at you unless you gave them your first preference - that I would not be studying with them.

In the first year at York I had to pass two papers: one on general philosophy and one on formal logic, which Roland Hall taught us. I passed both with an upper second mark, putting me in the top third or quarter of students on the course,

Thank you, Roland Hall.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Six of the Best 910

"The branding is painfully dated. That awful yellow ‘bird of liberty’ that was adopted in 1989 as the party logo should have been put down a long time ago." Otto English considers the Liberal Democrats' continuing lack of success.

Ferdinand Mount puts the 'low-tar fascism' of the new Conservative government in historical context.

Nick Tyrone says does not want to see any more referendums on anything at all. He is right (and right about the plural of 'referendum').

Emma Bartholomew listens to East End residents' memories of work and leisure by the Regent's Canal,

Seven years ago part of Ludlow's town wall collapsed. It has still not been rebuilt, reports Andy Boddington.

"The local authorities, mistakenly believing the dog to be dangerous, issue instructions to shoot it on sight. Recognising it a fellow misunderstood outsider, Sébastien shelters and befriends the dog, naming her Belle and enjoying a series of adventures." Tim Worthington on Belle and Sebastian, which the BBC showed in every school holiday when I was young.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Rediscovering the Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead line

One day it 1981 a university friend and I set off from Harpenden to follow this line. Without really intending to, we walked all the way to Hemel Hempstead.

On the way to the railway station there I passed the second primary school I had once attended in the town: Boxmoor.

It had been replaced by a new school a few years before, but was still standing. When I went back years later it had been demolished and replaced with a close of four houses.

I have started swapping emails with someone I was at Boxmoor with, even though this is a period of my life I have always shied away from. It was here that my father walked out on us when I was 11.

But there are good memories too - the school reports I got when I was 12 were the best I was ever going to receive - and there is something rather flattering about being remembered from 50 years ago.

Maybe I will go back again this year and lay some ghosts.

Anyway, nice railway pictures and a good tune.

Lord Steel 'facing expulsion from Liberal Democrats'

Embed from Getty Images

This morning's Telegraph reported that Lord Steel - the former Liberal Party leader David Steel - faces condemnation from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

It also said a committee of senior Lib Dem MPs and peers is being convened to discuss Lord Steel's future in the party once the inquiry's finding is made public.

The question at issue is Steel's failure to pass on Cyril Smith's alleged confession of abusing boys to the authorities.

After that the article quotes the inevitable 'friends' of Steel disparaging the inquiry.

As an antidote, let me point you to an interview with its chief psychologist, Dr Rebekah Eglinton:
Often we hear from survivors who disclosed the abuse as a child, but were met with disbelief or dismissal. This response is hugely damaging to self-esteem and trust in authority. 
Some survivors told us it took a long time to feel worthy of a Truth Project session, having internalised a sense of being ‘not good enough’ or of minimising the true nature of the abuse perpetrated against them. ... This self-doubt and low self-esteem is a common legacy of child sexual abuse.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and Niall Rogers pay their tribute to Ginger Baker

Last night a concert was held to honour the memory of the great rock drummer Ginger Baker.

Here Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and Niall Rogers play Can't Find My Way Home, the song Winwood wrote for the short-lived super group Blind Faith.

Baker, Winwood and Clapton formed Blind Faith along with Rich Grech from the Leicester band Family.

David Boyle on taking power locally

David Boyle has written an essay - Counterweight: How Big Local areas are levelling the scales of local power - for the Local Trust:
Great steps forward in community development often happen as a result of crises or disasters, like the earthquakes in Kyoto or Christchurch. We don’t normally have earthquakes in the UK, but we have had similar, and it was one of these that led to the start of community development in the UK: when poverty-stricken Stepney in east London was abandoned to its fate during the blitz in 1940. 
One of those who were there, who broke into the locked and shuttered council offices in Stepney borough, and who witnessed the way that the neighbourhood regrouped and organised makeshift police and social services for itself out of the chaos, was a young Quaker ambulance driver called Tony Gibson. 
It was his memory of this, and his sense of the right people have (when they feel abandoned by those who administer them) to take matters into their own hands, that led to the launch of the ground-breaking unit at Nottingham University, Education for Neighbourhood Change; his influential 1978 Pelican book People Power; and other projects which led to community development, community technical aid, and so forth.
You can hear David discussing his ideas in a Local Trust podcast.

Remembering Valerie Silbiger

I was very sad to read that Valerie Silbiger has died. The news is on the blog written by Mark Pack, and his post quotes the former Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone:
I am so sorry and sad to hear this news. Such a wonderful warm caring engaged human being. So kind to me and supportive from the very start. Love and thoughts to all the family.
Valerie was a friend to me, to Liberator and to many in the party.

I remember her proud claim to be "the world's only Jewish Methodist".

As a little girl in the second world war she had been evacuated from London to West Yorkshire. She remained in touch with the family that took her in for the rest of her life.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Keystone Crescent near King's Cross station

At Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham a year or two ago, I bought a copy of Curious King's Cross, which they had published themselves.

Curious London quotes a review of it from the International Times:
Recently a friend gave a me a copy of Curious King’s Cross by the broadcaster and social-cultural historian Andrew Whitehead. I immediately wondered if Bob Dylan’s gig at the KX pub The Pindar of Wakefield in 1962 was mentioned and blow me down here’s a chapter, Don’t think twice, which does exactly that. I was at that gig – the only time I’ve seen BD live – and here’s Brian Shuel’s famous photo of him in the corduroy cap and faux-suede jacket he wears on the sleeve of his first LP. 
This is a gem of a book which tells me all sorts of things I didn’t know about KX and reminds me of all sorts of things I’ve forgotten about its places and people. Want to know about Platform 9 3/4 for the Hogwarts Express, about Mary Wollstonecraft’s burial in Old St Pancras, what happened to KX’s gasometers, about cruising in St Pancras, ice wells, Grimaldi the clown, how a fish and chip shop was bugged by MI5, the history of Housmans’ radical book shop and its association with Peace News at ‘5 Cally Road’ (where you can undoubtably buy this book) and about the filming of The Lady Killers? Enough already – just buy it. It’s so teeming with info, energy, and enthusiasm I wish it had an index.
Another chapter looks at Keystone Crescent, which lies off the bottom end of the Caledonian Road.

Inspired by that chapter, I went to photograph it last summer.

The Mountain Goats: Pale Green Things

The Mountain Goats are an American band based in North Carolina, whose only permanent member is their singer and songwriter John Darnielle.

Pale Green Things comes from their 2005 album The Sunset Tree, which deals with Darnielle's childhood and in particular his relationship with his abusive stepfather.

The song deals with the stepfather's death and the memory of an occasion when things were alright between them.

I came across it on Twitter where someone compared it to the fishing scene near the end of Responsible Child.

Though whether that scene is a memory or the boy's attempt to imagine a better relationship from the meagre materials he has to hand, I don't know.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Herne Bay and Reculver in 1969

As the blurb on the British Film Institute website says:
John Clague's amazing film starts with the construction of new sea defences using heavy machinery. After a colourful hospital fete we see Archbishop Michael Ramsey in Reculver, presiding at an outdoor religious ceremony. 
Then we see repair work being carried out on the town’s pier before fire breaks out in the Grand Pavilion, reducing it to cinders. After artists exhibit their works on the sea front we see the pier before and after the fire with rainbows over the water.

Six of the Best 909

"Imagine the 8- and 12-year-old brother and sister who have found their place in a loving long-term foster family. Or the 16-year-old thriving in a children’s home." Yvette Stanley says it is not adoption or bust for children in care.

George Monbiot explains why burning the heather on the moors above Todmorden and Hebden Bridge have led to flooding, Led to the River Calder flooding, as it happens.

"You can’t be as neurotic as the BBC and cope with someone like me" says John Sweeney in a brilliant interview.

Nicholas Spice explains why he loathes Jacob Rees-Mogg.

"We’re listening to the lost opportunities of Ken Barlow, but what we’re watching are the lost opportunities of Roache. Like his character, Roache is trapped by the Street." Fergal Kinney on the 10,000th Coronation Street and William Roache.

"Charlotte Rampling, like her contemporaries Jane Birkin and Jacqueline Bisset, has managed to remain very British while also being undeniably European." Richard Luck profiles Rampling.

Council blocks bid to convert Bishops's Castle pub into housing

My chief memory of the Boar's Head is watching England lose the 2007 rugby world cup final on its televisions.

But the Shropshire Star has up-to-date news. The council has refused a planning application that would see the building used for housing instead.

The story is complicated by the fact that the local police had to apologise after wrongly naming the landlord as a paedophile because they had confused him with another man who bears the same name, but this has to be good news for one of my favourite towns.

When I was a councillor on Harborough District Council we refused a similar request concerning the Crown in Theddingworth. I believe we may have been the second council to do such a thing,

Don't get too excited. The Crown closed years ago.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Foxes stalk the Inns of Court

And so another week at Bonkers Hall draws not quite gracefully to a close.


Britain in 2020 is a nation in fear. Foxes stalk the Inns of Court armed with baseball bats looking for QCs to attack and giggle to one another about this “silk bashing”. If it were not for my narwhals basking on Rutland Water and my gamekeepers and their orchard doughties, I should feel afraid myself.

I am also comforted by the presence of PC McNally as he alternately clips youngsters round the ear and helps old ladies across the road. The other day I saw him forget himself and clip an old lady round the ear. She fetched him such a wallop with her duck-handled umbrella that I doubt he will make that mistake a second time.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Thomas Hardy, Henry James and Richard Jefferies

Over on Instagram, where I hang out with my fellow kids, the Richard Jefferies Society tells us:
Exactly 140 years ago, in February 1880, Richard Jefferies had dinner with Thomas Hardy and Henry James. 
He was described by Hardy’s wife, Florence, as "a modest young man then getting into notice as a writer, having a year or so earlier published his first successful book, entitled The Gamekeeper at Home".
Because he died young and without achieving popular fame, it is easy to see Jefferies as a fragile spirit who spent his days communing with nature.

But we should remember that he was an ambitious writer who worked hard to get himself known.