Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Erewash Canal at Long Eaton


Some photographs taken on the walk from Long Eaton station to Trent Lock.

This is just the sort of shabby charm I look for on the canals.










Now Rutland's newest councillor is arrested over Facebook posts

Life comes at you fast.

On Thursday Richard Alderman was elected to Rutland County Council by drawing of lots after he tied at the top of the poll with the Liberal Democrat candidate.

Yesterday he was reported to the council and the police after abusive posts on his Facebook account came to light.

Today he was arrested.

That Leicester Mercury report tells us it was Sir Alan Duncan, Conservative MP for Rutland and Melton, who tipped off the rozzers.

And on Twitter Rutland Ned pointed out that Alderman had been backed as a candidate by a group called Democracy Rutland.

He asked two important questions.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Uttoxeter to Macclesfield around 1960



A trip along the old North Staffordshire line from Uttoxeter to Macclesfield.

There is plenty of interesting industry, but it also takes in some lovely countryside.

We follow the Churnet valley which, for a stretch, contains s river, a canal and a railway, but no road. That stretch now forms part of a modern heritage line - the Churnet Valley Railway.

We also pass Rudyard Lake reservoir, after which Kipling was named. There is now a narrow gauge steam railway there in the form of the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway.

'Lost in space' Bakewell pudding found in Lincolnshire







The BBC News Derbyshire pages win our Headline of the Day Award.

Well done everybody.

Peter Bessell and the last of the Romanovs

Embed from Getty Images

It's amazing the things you forget. When I was in my twenties I knew loads of chess opening theory. A few years before that I was a whiz at symbolic logic.

And when I was 11 I could have told you the names of all the Tsars of Russia in their correct order.

Nicholas II, the last of the Tsars, and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks 100 years ago today.

Before the family's remains were found and DNA tested, there were theories that some or all of them had escaped.

When I was a boy I owned a Sunday colour supplement with an article about a man who claimed to be the Tsarevich Alexei.

And I remember that the British MP who took up his case was Peter Bessell, now famous from A Very English Scandal as Jeremy Thorpe's friend and co-conspirator.

A bit of googling shows my memory is correct. Bessell is quoted in Guy Richards 1975 book The Rescue of the Romanovs and here is a Commons written question from 1970.

New Rutland councillor reported to police over Facebook posts


Remember the Oakham South West by-election last week? It was the one where the Independent candidate Richard Alderman was elected by the drawing of lots after he and the Liberal Democrat Joanna Burrows tied at the top of the poll ahead of the Conservative.

Mr Alderman is in the news again today. He has been reported to the police and Rutland County Council's monitoring officer over his Facebook posts.

Dan Martin writes in the Leicester Mercury:
Today the Tory leader of the council Oliver Hemsley issued a statement saying he had been made aware of Facebook posts on the new councillor’s timeline. 
They included abuse of Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbot, a picture of a noose which was posted as being the UK’s gift to Theresa May. 
She was described as its "most traitorous PM". 
Abuse aimed at Tory female MPs Anna Soubry and Esther McVey was also posted.
He also quotes the leader of the Independent group condemning Alderman:
“I am disgusted to read the newly elected councillor’s comments on Facebook. 
“He is not affiliated with the Council’s Independent Group. I wholly support the action being taken by Councillor Hemsley and Rutland County Council and trust the authorities to deal with this sufficiently.”
Time for another by-election in Oakham, I feel.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Arkwright's Mill, Cromford, in 1947


When cotton spinning ceased at Arkwright's Mill, Cromford, in the middle of the 19th century, the site was given over to a number of other industrial uses.

Among them was paint manufacture, a process whose toxic legacy continues to present a challenge to those restoring the buildings.

In this aerial photograph from 1947 you can see that the central courtyard is occupied by a clutter of more modern buildings. All these have now been cleared from the site.

Anna Soubry socks it to her colleagues on the Tory benches

Moderate Conservatives are called "Wets" for a reason, but here Anna Soubry summons up the passion Remainers have rarely shown.

I wish Theresa May had one thousandth of her courage.

The London Underground calls at Market Harborough


There was a surprising site in the recently diminished sidings at Market Harborough this morning: a few London Underground coaches with a class 37 at each end.

I presume they were on their way from Derby works to the capital and chose Harborough as a convenient place to sit out the rush hour.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

A tin tabernacle near Long Eaton station


I reached Long Eaton station without much money and had to find an ATM before I headed for Trent Lock.

There was a garage in the distance. Maybe it would have one? It did and, as a reward for my enterprise, there was a tin tabernacle across the road.

St Mary's, Sawley, made the BBC News Derbyshire pages in 2011 when it was announced that £100,000 was to be spent on it.

That report quoted the Revd Alicia Petty:
"It was the custom, at the beginning of the 20th Century, for churches to set up little tin hut buildings and they were sometimes used for youth clubs or Sunday school or even to establish a mission church, which is what ours was here for. 
"The idea was that they would be replaced eventually with brick buildings. 
"Somewhere along the line that plan fell to dust here."

Paul Simon: Kodachrome



This evening Paul Simon is playing his last UK concert in Hyde Park. He was internationally famous when it was a fashionable venue 50 years ago.

It is hard to judge an artist when his music has been part of your mental furnishing for as long as you can remember, but I think he will be remembered as one of the greats.

Kodachrome comes from his 1973 album There Goes Rhymin' Simon, which also featured Take Me to the Mardi Gras and American Tune.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Found art in Cromford


I like the random arrangements of objects you find in junk shops and antique shops.

Cromford has such establishments, both at Arkwright's Mill and in the village centre.


Thomas Ley, the Australian politician who committed murder in England

Embed from Getty Images

The immediate postwar years saw a host of murderers who entered the nation's collective memory.

There was John George Haigh, the acid bath murderer. There was the charming Neville Heath. There was Reginald Christie of 10 Rillington Place.

Perhaps it is because it also comes from those years that the case of Thomas Ley, the chalk pit murderer, is not better known.

Ley was born in Bath in 1880. His father died two years later and in 1886 his mother emigrated to Australia with her four children.

Living in Sydney, Ley qualified as a solicitor and was elected to the local council in the suburb of Hurstville.in 1907. Ten years later he became a member of the New South Wales legislative assembly and he served as a minster in the state's government in 1921 and again between 1922 and 1925.

He was elected to the national parliament in 1925, but failed to win ministerial office there and was defeated in the election of 1928. He left for England shortly afterwards with a woman called Maggie Brook.

By 1946 he was living at Beaufort Gardens in Kensington. He became convinced that Brook was having an affair with a man called George Mudie. He recruited two men to help him abduct Mudie, whose body was in a chalkpit on Woldingham Common in Surrey.

Ley was convicted of murder at the Old Bailey in March 1947. His death sentence was commuted after he was found insane and he died in Broadmoor a few months later.

Mudie may not have been the only man he killed:
Thomas John Ley is a man who can be connected, although only circumstantially, to a number of deaths, all of which occurred in Australia under clouds of suspicion. 
One political opponent, Frederick MacDonald, accused Ley of trying to bribe him to withdraw from a Federal campaign election. Ley won the seat regardless but McDonald continued to push against Ley and his character seeking to void his election win. In the middle of this work, MacDonald mysteriously disappeared in April 1926. 
The following year, Ley had established a legal firm and was facing many allegations of irregularities, with one accuser being his legal partner, Hyman Goldstein. In September 1928, Hyman Goldstein was found dead at the bottom of cliffs at the beachside suburb of Coogee in New South Wales, conveniently ensuring his allegations against Ley went away. 
A third death surrounding Thomas Ley was that of Keith Greedor. He was a man appointed by a group of businessmen to investigate the dealings and operations of Ley, who fell overboard and drowned on a boat trip in the middle of his investigation. Another suspicious death of a man accusing Ley of wrongdoing which could damage his reputation and career.
A telling of this story in the Australian Daily Telegraph suggests Mudie was known there as "the minister for murder". It is a story that deserves to be better known.

Friday, July 13, 2018

David Baddiel: Hey Mr Tambling Man



Don't listen to the fools who tell you Chelsea have no history. They were in the FA Cup final during the First World War and should have been the first English club to play in the European Cup after they won the Championship in the 1950s.

But it's true that Chelsea have had an uneven history. When I was at primary school they won the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup with a team of players like Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson and Charlie Cooke.

Then the money ran out and the hard times came, though hope continued for a while because of a teenage Ray Wilkins.

Those dark days ended in 1994 when Chelsea got to the FA Cup final again, even though they were beaten 4-0 by Manchester United.

David Baddiel's song Hey Mr Tambling Man was recorded just after we had won the semi final that got us there and it will speak to any Chelsea fan of my vintage.

It was broadcast on Fantasy Football League, a programme Baddiel presented with Frank Skinner. It was laddish, but also had a 1990s vibe that was kinder than anything you would have found in the 1980s.

Bobby Tambling was a Chelsea striker of the 1960s who still holds the club's record for most league goals, though Frank Lampard now holds the record (from midfield) for the most goals in all competitions,

Demonstrating against Donald Trump in London


I went down to London today for the demonstration against Donald Trump.

There were the inevitable SWP banners, but plenty that were home-made too. If not quite Middle England on the march, the crowd certainly went far beyond the usual suspects.

The throng was so dense (some 250,000 turned out for the event) that it was impossible to find the Liberal Democrat brigade.

As the march showed no signs of setting off I eventually became a citizen journalist instead of a demonstrator and took these photographs before heading off to explore Bloomsbury.









Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lib Dems miss out after votes are tied in Rutland by-election


Commiserations to Joanna Burrows, who fell one vote short of winning today's by-election in the Oakham South-West ward of Rutland County Council for the Liberal Democrats.

The full result:

Richard Alderman (Independent)        178
Joanna Burrows (Liberal Democrat)   177
Patsy Clifton (Conservative)               163
Chris Brookes (Labour)                        80

At least we beat the Conservatives, who previously held this seat, into third place.

Later. Martin Brookes tells us what happened at the count tonight:
The votes counted and a dead heat between the Libdem and the Independent Candidates the final vote was decided by the returning officer who drew a ballot paper from the box. This was the first time the Returning Officer for Rutland had needed to do this.

Today I went to Bonkers Hall - or to Nevill Holt at least


Celebrating 20 years of Lord Bonkers' Diary I wrote:
Growing up in Market Harborough, it was hard to ignore Lord Bonkers. If you climbed any of the hills that ringed the town then the slender spire of St Asquith’s, the gaunt pinnacles of the Home for Well-Behaved Orphans and, most impressive of all, the towers, domes and follies of Bonkers Hall and its grounds, would dominate the view to the North. 
Lord Bonkers himself was rarely seen in town, though his longevity – he had ceased to be Liberal MP for Rutland South-West as long ago as 1910, people said wonderingly – and his generosity to local charities were often spoken of. 
That said, his incursion into the Market Harborough North Ward by-election of 1982 – and the subsequent court case – kept us in gossip for months. 
As a teenager, armed with a water bottle and Ordnance Survey map, I cycled out to find Bonkers Hall many times, only to return defeated on every occasion. Those towers and domes seemed clear enough from a distance, but when you neared them strange things began to happen. 
Rounding the final bend that would surely bring you face to face with the Hall, you found that it was not there after all but somewhere over your shoulder instead. Turn your bike round to complete the pursuit and the same thing would happen. The harder you pedalled towards the place, the more quickly it seemed to retreat.
Today I went to Bonkers Hall again - or at least to Nevill Holt, which many scholars believe to be the model for it.

Nevill Holt stands on a hill a mile or more from the village of Medbourne. Before making the ascent I had a fortifying pint at the village's pub, the Nevill Arms, which those same scholars suggest is the model for the Bonkers' Arms.

As you can see from these photographs, Nevill Holt is more than a house - it is practically a village in its own right. And it commands wonderful views over the surrounding countryside, including what Lord Bonkers always calls "the broad valley of the Welland".

It was for many years the home of the Cunard family until they vacated it in 1912. It was standing empty in 1914 when suffragettes tried to burn it down.

In 1919 a prep school for boys was opened here. It closed suddenly (as prep schools for boys will) after a police raid in 1998.

A lighthearted post on this blog has steadily acquired comments about life at the school ever since it went up in 2010. Some of them have been picked up by the Nevill Holt Preparatory School site, which says it is investigating abuse at the school.

Nevill Holt has since become a private home again. It is owned by David Ross, who made his fortune from the Carphone Warehouse.

He has recently opened an opera house in the stable block, making Nevill Holt the Glyndebourne of the East Midlands.

There are also sculptures scattered about the grounds and even a copy of the Ed Stone.

Most amazing of all today, I was passed by what looked very like a service bus as I began the descent to Medbourne.

It must surely be some kind of dial-a-ride service, but one day I mean to catch the bus to Bonkers Hall.








Norman Baker: "Boris Johnson was lazy and petulant"

Embed from Getty Images

The former Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has written a piece on the departure of Boris Johnson for iNews.

When he was a transport minister Norman saw Boris Johnson, then the mayor of London, close up.

I think it is fair to say he was not impressed:
He spent time and money on a white elephant Boris Island airport that was never going to fly. He promoted a garden bridge that has been torn to shreds by the Public Accounts Committee. 
He introduced at vast cost a huge fleet of new Routemasters with open platforms and conductors, only to withdraw all the conductors and keep the doors shut. He gave us a cable car crossing at Greenwich that is a huge drain on the public finances. 
And he bought water cannon vehicles from Germany in an attempt to bounce the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, into allowing them on London’s streets, and when she resisted, he went behind her back to David Cameron. Quite rightly, she told him where to get off. 
He had a habit of running straight to the Prime Minister of the Chancellor to get his way, ignoring successive Transport Secretaries. He was politically highly partisan in a way that was out of line with the coalition, refusing to engage with Lib Dem ministers even where we could be helpful to him. 
And behind that bonhomie, he was lazy and petulant. That a lot went right was down to his inheritance from Ken Livingstone, and the highly competent Peter Hendy at his right-hand side. What worked did so in spite of Boris, not because of him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Five miles east of Shardlow: Trent Lock at Long Eaton


I liked Shardlow, where the Derwent and the Trent and Mersey Canal join the River Trent. So yesterday I visited Trent Lock, five miles to the east, where the Erewash Canal and the River Soar join it.

The walk down the canal from Long Eaton station deserves a post of its own, but Trent Lock was also more interesting and attractive than I expected.

Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station dominates the view from the other side of the river, and I once named the Trent Viaducts, which take the Midland main line across it, as one of my five favourite bridges. Thee is a weir beneath them that boats heading north avoid by using the artificial Cranfleet Cut.

Their are two pubs and a tearoom by the lock where the canal enters the Trent. The Erewash (pronounced as three syllables, please) was built to serve the area's coal mines, and one day I will go to Great Northern Basin where it ends. 

That is also where the Cromford Canal once began its journey to the obvious new venue for Parliament.

The mouth of the River Soar is the other side of the river from Trent Lock, but easily seen thanks to a helpful narrow boat.

Let's leave the last word to Auden and Isherwood in the Dog Beneath the Skin (though I think these lines were lifted by the former from a contemporary topographical writer):
As at Trent Junction where the Soar comes gliding; out
of green Leicestershire to swell the ampler current.