Sunday, January 19, 2020

Shrewsbury Prison from above, 1927

As well as the town's prison, this also shows the Severn and Shrewsbury railway station.

The poet Housman adds:
There sleeps in Shrewsbury jail to-night,
Or wakes, as may betide,
A better lad, if things went right,
Than most that sleep outside.

Kevin Ayers: Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes

Time for some more Kevin Ayers.

This track from his album Whatevershebringswesing was relesed as a single in 1971 and again in 1976, but failed to chart both times.

But who cares about that?

Six of the Best 905

"Who displayed the strength and bravery to keep calling it out? Two women. Margaret Oliver, a former detective loathed by senior police command; and Joan Agoglia, the grandmother of a vulnerable teenage girl whose death she simply wanted investigating." Jennifer Williams on the Manchester child abuse scandal,

Chris Dillow points out the massive difference between the sort of conservatism Roger Scruton championed and free market economics.

"British tweeters skew left and toward remaining in the European Union, which reflects their demographic makeup." Helen Lewis reminds us that the Twitter electorate isn't the real electorate.

Anna McKie asks if standing up for expertise is a fool's errand.

Christopher Bray sees David Bowie's career as a Thatcherite parable of hard work by a boy from the suburbs.

Two Dario Argento films - Suspiria and Inferno - are discussed on the Evolution of Horror podcast.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Braybrooke, Great Oxendon and mud

It was a bright winter's day, so I decided on a walk across muddy fields. Very muddy fields, it turned out.

I caught the bus to Braybrooke and made it to the Canvas Cafe at Great Oxendon.

On the way, the low sun showed up the medieval ridge and furrow to great effect and, as ever in this part of the world, the walk was often accompanied by the sound of more or less distant shotguns.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Goodbye Mr Derek

I was very sorry to hear of the death of Derek Fowlds.

His selflessness as an actor was central to the success of Yes Minister, but as a working-class lad he was worried about playing a Whitehall high-flyer. So he turned up to rehearsals with a pair of glasses and a posh accent.

When he saw this Paul Eddington said: "Just talk to me the way you used to talk to Basil Brush."

And here is Derek Fowlds with Basil Brush. Together they produced some of the happiest television moments of my childhood.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A 1937 film on the dangers of pollution from burning coal

It's a while since we have looked at the BFI's Britain on Film collection, but if you click on the iamge above you will be taken to a fascinating 1937 film on coal pollution.

The blurb for The Smoke Menace on the BFI site runs:
Smog was the deadly downside of Britain's industrial might, as this powerful and revealing documentary spells out. In 1937, coal was Britain's lifeblood; it fuelled her industry and heated most homes. 
But coal was wasteful and dirty, and it had an unpleasant, even lethal by-product. Smog wasn't just nasty and disruptive, it took its toll on buildings, the economy, child development and adult health - and it was a killer, claiming scores of lives every year. 
By 1937, the battle against smog was already being waged: the film points to processing technology to convert raw coal into oil or smokeless fuel, the increasing use of cleaner energy from gas and electricity, and improved housing. 
But another 15 years of periodic outbreaks of smog still lay ahead, before London's Great Smog of 1952 finally spurred Parliament into action in the form of the Clean Air Act of 1956.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Keith Vaz is the new chair of Leicester East Constituency Labour Party as police investigate alleged assault

If you thought you had heard the last of former Labour MP and part-time washing machine salesman Keith Vaz you were wrong.

This evening he was elected chair of the constituency party in his old seat of Leicester East.

If you want to know why this may cause some disquiet, have a read of Vaz's Wikipedia entry.

And there's more.

The Leicester Mercury reports:
A woman has claimed she was assaulted when she was barred from entering a meeting in which Keith Vaz was elected chairman of the Leicester East Constituency Labour Party. 
The Labour activist says she suffered an injury to her right wrist as she attempted to get into the meeting at Belgrave Neighbourhood Centre, in Belgrave, Leicester, on Tuesday night.

She told LeicestershireLive she visited a police station and a walk-in centre to get treatment after the meeting. 
Leicestershire Police has confirmed it is investigating the allegation.
Just another day in Leicester politics.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Paddy Ashdown profiled in 1988

Taken from an edition of This Week broadcast in May 1988.

At that point David Steel and Robert Maclennan were acting as joint leaders of the new party known as the Social and Liberal Democrats.

Row over potatoes at a wake saw 'over-sensitive' man, 59, smack victim with his crutch

A potato yesterday

The judges had no hesitation in choosing Teesside Live as the winner of our Headline of the Day Award.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Playtime isn't wasted time: it's intensely educational

Yesterday I came across an article by Lenore Skenazy:
[Peter] Gray is a professor of psychology at Boston College and a co-founder, along with me, of Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting childhood independence. He writes often about how kids need to play; this is how they learn how to get along, be creative, make things happen and grow up. Playtime isn't wasted time; it's intensely educational, just not in a standardized test kind of way. When administrators replace play with academics, the gains are short-lived, but the damage is not.
But as her article says:
Increased academic pressure and testing in kindergarten is bringing everyone to tears - including the teachers.
All of which gives me an excuse for posting the video above, which I was promoting in the day job on Friday.

Layla Moran: Labour and Lib Dems should "bury the hatchet"

And she doesn't mean in each other's heads either.

A pact with Labour is unlikely to work - parties cannot deliver their supporters en bloc to another party in the way activists fantasise - but we should remember the success of 1997 when the two parties concentrated on fighting the Conservatives.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Tony Robinson on Mick Aston and Time Team

Time Team, like Go With Noakes, was a programme that made you happy.

Good people doing interesting things in the British countryside. What more can you ask for?

Here Tony Robinson celebrates the long glory years of Time Team.

Note the mention for W.G. Hoskins and his The Making of the English Landscape.

No plans for a paperback edition of David Cameron's memoirs

Tim Walker writes about David Cameron's memoirs in his Mandrake diary column for The New European:
Booksellers tell me that there appear to be no immediate plans to publish For the Record in paperback. When I inquire, the former PM's factotum Laurence Mann confirms no publication date has been set. 
And who would want to read the paperback if they did read it?

The mess Britain finds it in is down to Cameron's strange mixture of cowardice and overconfidence.

As Tim writes:
Cameron appears to have withdrawn in terror to his garden shed and has not seen fit to emit a single Tweet since December 13, when his long-time rival Boris Johnson secured his Commons majority.
It's like I blogged back in October, the public schools' weakness is now the character of its old boys.

Jane Weaver: The Electric Mountain

BBC Manchester profiled Jane Weaver back in 2008:
Forget Jane Birkin, Nico and Julie Driscoll, singer-songwriter Jane Weaver is a unique and talented vocalist with her own distinctive style and her own dazzling collection of songs. 
Born in the same hospital as John Lennon, she had a strict catholic upbringing. Luckily for us, fate intervened and Weaver became seduced by the sight and sounds of Kate Bush bellowing Wuthering Heights on TOTP. 
"It was like a visitation" she recalls fondly. "She had this other worldly quality that was very emotive and very fairytale like. I immediately wanted to become a singer."
And in a 2014 review of her album 'The Silver Globe' on The Quietus told us that "The Electric Mountain' is cleverly based on a loop of Hawksind's 'Star Cannibal'."

Friday, January 10, 2020

Six of the Best 904

Christine Jardine argues that the Liberal Democrats should not hurry to elect a new leader.

"I have long argued that Labour members should ban the words 'Tory voters' from their vocabulary. If you start from the premise that someone a Tory voter is who someone is, rather than voting Tory being something they have done, you write them off as a potential vote for Labour." Emma Burnell makes a simple suggestion.

Stephen Parsons analyses why the Church of England is unable to respond adequately to revelations of abuse by its clergy.

Sarah Manavis examines the strange case of Paul Zimmer, the social media star who came back as a different person

"The ECB has a history of chasing golden geese. Remember how they courted Allen Stanford before the Texan billionaire was behind bars for fraud and the Indian Premier League had stolen a march on creating a T20 league that still dominates the domestic calendar. That disappointment still haunts a number of people at ECB HQ and hopefully The Hundred is not a delayed reaction built on jealousy rather than solid strategy." James Buttler believes The Hundred is a gamble that cricket does not have to take.

Jonathan Rowson says the challenge of chess - learning how to hold complexity in mind and still make good decisions - is also the challenge of life.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Walking a lost Roman road

John Rogers takes us from Theydon Bois on the Central Line out to Hobbs Cross to find a forgotten stretch of the Roman Road that once ran from London to Great Dunmow in Essex.

He also takes in part of the Essex Way long-distance path to get to Epping station.

Harry and Meghan have made the right decision

Embed from Getty Images

Even if you support the monarchy - its powerlessness to resist Boris Johnson's prorogation of parliament last September has made me less inclined to do so - you have to admit that Prince Harry has already outlived his function.

One of the American heiresses who married into and rescued the British aristocracy in the late 19th century is supposed to have referred to her two sons as "the heir and the spare".

Harry was always the spare, and now his brother has three children there is no need for one. His Uncle Andrew hardly offers an encouraging model of what becomes of members of his family who no longer have a function.

So there is every reason for Harry and Meghan to look for a new life. And the unrelenting racism of sections of the British press means that it was always likely to be in America.

One of the strongest arguments against the monarchy is that life is impossible for anyone who has to live under such a spotlight.

Few who have married into the royal family in recent decades have managed to stay there. Antony Armstrong-Jones, Mark Phillips, Diana Spencer and Sarah Ferguson have all come and gone.

And we should not forget that Harry himself was the victim of an act of extraordinary cruelty by 'the firm'.

As a 12-year-old he was made to walk behind his mother's coffin in a public funeral because it was thought that protocol demanded it or that it would make an affecting spectacle.

There is no doubt that Harry and Meghan have made the right decision.

Nick Harvey on Jo Swinson's "catastrophic mistake"

Embed from Getty Images

Nick Harvey, former Liberal Democrat chief executive and for MP for North Devon, has a letter in the new Private Eye.

It concludes:
Though I had departed by then, the Lib Dem pivot on 28 October to back an election appears to have been taken that weekend under SNP pressure, and Labour left Labour no choice but to follow suit.
It was a catastrophic mistake, gift-wrapping everything wanted and handing it to him for Christmas... majority government, Brexit, and given the state of the Labour Party, potentially ten years in office. 
Defeated Lib Dem MPs, Jo Swinson among them, paid a heavy price for her disastrous miscalculation.