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.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Luciana Berger di Lammermoor

I suspect that what those attending the Festival of Liberalism at Bonkers Hall really need to worry about is being robbed by the Elves of Rockingham Forest on the way home.


The morning post arrives and with it a brochure for the Festival of Brexit Britain. I flick through it in a desultory way and find the programme pretty thin gruel – and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bonkers’ Home for  Well-Behaved Orphans I know a thing or two about thinning gruel. It turns you will be able to insult Belgians at the Empire Pool, Wembley, watch the Black and White Minstrel show at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom or attend the birching at the White City.

So I shall be holding my own Festival of Liberalism here at the Hall and flatter myself that I can offer a more attractive day out. There will be close-formation Focus delivering by a troop of crack activists from the West Riding of Yorkshire, a completion to find the dog that looks most like John Stuart Mill and a performance of Donizetti’s opera Luciana Berger di Lammermoor. Throw in a guest appearance by the Rutland Water Monster (I just hope she doesn’t eat any of those attending) and there is only one winner.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England. So if you have views on what the Liberal Democrats should do next, why not share them here?

As you can see from this list of the 10 most recent guests posts, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects beyond the Lib Dems

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

Boris Johnson's Caribbean Christmas holiday was paid for by the owner of the model for Bonkers Hall

From the Guardian:
Boris Johnson’s Caribbean holiday over the New Year was a £15,000 gift from a wealthy and controversial Conservative donor, newly released documents disclose. 
The prime minister and his partner Carrie Symonds accepted accommodation for a private holiday in St Vincent and the Grenadines. 
David Ross, a Tory donor who co-founded the Carphone Warehouse chain, provided the accommodation, which was reportedly on the private island of Mustique, one of the Grenadines.
David Ross, as regular readers will know, is the owner of Nevill Holt, which most historians now accept to be the model for Bonkers Hall.

Later. Or did he pay for it?

The Daily Mail says:
But last night Mr Ross – a Tory donor who co-founded the Carphone Warehouse chain – insisted he was not the owner of the villa and had not paid for Mr Johnson’s stay.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Alexandra Hall Hall Hall

It all seems so long ago now, but scholars from the University of Rutland at Belvoir agree that the old boy is referring to this news story from December.


To the village hall for a concert in aid of the Home for Distressed Canvassers in Herne Bay. I am always pleased to help this cause, not least because a number of Liberal Democrat MPs who lost their seats in 2015 are still living there.

At the hall I note that the new sign I ordered has been erected over the front door. You see, I was so impressed by that British diplomat who resigned her post rather than defend our new government’s lies that I gave the order for the place to be renamed in her honour. As the sign declares, it is now the Alexandra Hall Hall Hall.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Monday, February 10, 2020

Wingfield: One of the word's oldest station buildings

Wingfield station stands beside the Midland main line north of Amergate.

Dating from 1840, it is one of the world's oldest surviving railway stations. Like many stations, it closed in 1967.

At the end of last year came news that the building is to be saved and restored by the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust, Amber Valley Borough Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Enormous quantities of honey

Remember the bees that attached themselves to Jo Swinson's battle bus? Thanks to Lord Bonkers, we now know what was really going on.


“How is Vince coping with not being leader any more?” people asked me in the run up to the election. All I could tell them was that he was concentrating on his hobby of beekeeping – it is customary to tell them when there is going to be a by-election – but I feared there might be More To It Than That.

Word had reached that he was taking his retirement rather badly and that the bee fancy around and about Twickenham had expressed concern at his activities; there were dark murmurings about Cable taking delivery of steroids and monkey glands.

So I was not entirely surprised when the Swinson battle bus was assailed by giant bees after it had rolled up at a London youth centre. Whether this was a calculated attack on his successor as leader I do not know, but by good fortune no one was harmed and there may be an innocent explanation.

Cable later told me that you get enormous quantities of honey from the breed and this has set him up for his retirement.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Crofton Locks on the Kennet and Avon before restoration

Photo: Robert Shopland

Observant readers will notice that we have moved on to the March 1971 issue of the IWA Bulletin and that it cost me 20p.

The best photo in this one is on the cover, which shows one of the Crofton flight of locks on Kennet and Avon Canal. You will find it near Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire.

The whole canal is now navigable, which - as  you can see - was not the case in 1971.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Congratulations to the Duke of Sussex

A characteristically trenchant entry, which sheds unexpected light on the Whitechapel murders of 1888.


Congratulations to the Duke of Sussex for making it over the wall and quitting the Royal Family, together with his delightful wife and child.

In my experience his family are a ghastly crew – in my young day it was common knowledge that the Jack the Ripper murders had been committed by Queen Victoria – and he is well shot of them.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

The Jam: Disguises

Ultimate Classic Rock says of the original Who version:
The psychedelic era brought out some of the weirdest sounds in the British Invasion bands, and the Who were no exception. 
Pete Townshend ensconced the melodic, mid-tempo 'Disguises' with whooshing waves of metallic distortion. The effect is so prominent, if you heard the song on the radio, you'd be certain that the signal was fading in and out. 
The warped listening experience only enhances the confusion Roger Daltrey expresses about trying to recognize his girl, who's wearing the bizarre fashions of the day. Originally slapped on stop-gap releases (the 'Ready Steady Who!' EP in the U.K., 'Magic Bus: The Who on Tour' in the U.S.), the song was added to 'A Quick One' when it was remastered and expanded on CD.
Paul Weller chose a simpler approach, but it still sounds good. If you enjoy this you should also try his cover of the Beatles' And Your Bird Can Sing.

Woman dressed as celery ejected from Kerry polling station

Embed from Getty Images

The Irish news website The Journal wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Six of the Best 908

"Britain and America are in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis. They are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike. We are needlessly allowing our people to die early." Will Hutton on shit-life syndrome.

Boris Johnson has declared war on liberal democracy, argues Peter Oborne.

Robert Saunders examines how membership of the European Union changes Britain.

"Cecil Sharp working in the early to mid-twentieth century and Ghost Box in the twenty-first, both appear to be interested in the idea of a ‘hidden’ England " Yvonne Salmon explores David Rudkin’s 1974 TV play Penda’s Fen and its links with a strange network of art and culture.

Ian Hopkinson reviews a book on how the states of the USA got their shape.

"A record that has grown in stature since its 1973 release, John Martyn’s Solid Air has become a cult touchstone, pointing the way towards ambient, trip-hop and more abstract sonic textures." Vivian Goldman looks at the man behind the masterpiece.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A generous dose of phosphorous about its jaws

For all I know Lord Bonkers may have been a friend of Conan Doyle's. Anyway, this second entry of the week provides insight into the general election campaign that you simply won't find anywhere else.


Given the above shambles, I feel far from guilty at having stolen an evening during the election to attend a fancy dress party in Finchley. The boarding instructions required one to dress as a character from literature, so being a stan (as the young people say) of Arthur Conan Doyle, I went as the Hound of the Baskervilles.

I hired my dog costume from a leading West End theatre and added a generous dose of phosphorous about its jaws. I was enjoying the party when there came a knock at the door. and as no one else showed any sign of doing so, I answered it, giving a playful bark as I did so.

I found myself faced with an actor fellow – I can’t remember his name, but he’s been in everything, including a film about a bear that was sent to prison. I have to say it struck me as Rather Far Fetched, not least because Liberal social reforms mean most bears are now diverted from the criminal justice system at an early stage.

Anyway, this actor johnny must have been in a bad way because, as soon as he saw me, he cried “It’s Rinka! Don’t kill me! I’m sorry!” and legged it towards Golders Green – but then in my experience these theatrical types are often highly strung.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Fox runs loose in parliament and ‘defecates outside Labour MP’s office’

Thanks to a nomination from a reader, the Independent wins our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges particularly enjoyed the reader's comment:
"I haven't read the article, so I don't know if it refers to Liam Fox MP, or a member of the genus vulpes vulpes."

Friday, February 07, 2020

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Well, it was December

The new Liberator is out so, for better or worse, it's time to spend another week at Bonkers Hall.

Our first entry finds the old boy less than enthused by the Liberal Democrats' general election performance.


Well that was a bit of a damp squib, wasn’t it? One minute Jo “Gloria” Swinson was telling us she was going to be prime minster and the next she was handed her cards by the electors of East Dunbartonshire.

The Well-Behaved Orphans were particularly miffed at the way the campaign was run, having worn out their shoe leather (well, it was December) delivering leaflets in what were supposed to be target seats. Yet they reported finding themselves working for candidates they had never heard of in places that had never thought of returning a Liberal.

Nor was our flagship policy of supporting ‘Revoke but backing down the moment it is challenged’ a great success. It seems my counsel is needed at the highest levels of the party once again.

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

So I have joined Instagram

You will find me in this strange world of photos, hashtags and emojis @jonathancaldermh.

These are the four photos I have posted so far.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Nevill Holt and William Mayne: Two posts with important comments on child sexual abuse

This story was in the Guardian this morning:
Police say they are uncovering a hidden “epidemic” of paedophile abuse in the 1970s and 1980s, with thousands of allegations leading to convictions against people who abused their power to attack children. 
New figures seen by the Guardian show that 4,024 allegations led to guilty verdicts at court after police investigations since 2014 into decades-old child sex offences. 
Officers say hundreds of offenders, including teachers, religious workers, youth and care workers, thought they had got away with their crimes. Many victims have been traumatised, and some have killed themselves or been left with severe mental health problems.
Yet the press and public seemed to have lost interest in the subject.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse continues its excellent work, but no one seems to be listening to its proceedings.

My reason for writing this post is to flag up two posts on this blog that have acquired dozens of important comments on the sexual abuse of children.

In January 2010 I wrote about Nevill Holt, the prep school near Market Harborough that closed in 1998 when the police turned up one morning. I took the photograph above in 1984 when it was still a school.

And in March of the same year I wrote about William Mayne, a children's writer I greatly admired and even collected, who was imprisoned for offences against girls in 2004.

The new issue of Liberator is out

The new issue of Liberator has arrived. It's full of reaction to December's disappointing election campaign - notably Nick Harvey's itemising of the eight errors that campaign made.

And there is Radical Bulletin, the section that sets out to let you know what's really going on in the Liberal Democrats.

This time you will read, among other things, of:
  • the analysis that showed the party's campaign was going wrong but was ignored by those running it
  • strange goings on in Canterbury
  • the final disgrace of the continuing Liberal Party
You can subscribe to Liberator here.