Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Rather like the Eastern Roman Empire": Finding the Great Central Railway - Nottingham

I once blogged that
the Great Central Railway - Nottingham is a bit of a mystery to those of us in Leicestershire. Rather like the Eastern Roman Empire.
Today I resolved to penetrate deeper into the mystery.

On paper it looked simple: train to Loughborough, then catch a bus and ask to be dropped at East Leake gypsum works.

There I would find a wayside halt.

But the bus driver told me the route had been diverted because the road was being resurfaced. Of course he did.

I refused to be defeated. I got off in the centre of East Leake and walked.

Sure enough I found the gypsum works and then the halt.

I was exploring it when I looked up the line and saw a steam locomotive barrelling towards me.

This was the last outing of my summer holiday. I will save my photos and discoveries for later in the year when the nights are drawing in and talk turns to by-elections long ago.

In the mean time, read more about Great Central Railway - Nottingham.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Stonehenge Railway

The landscape around Stonehenge was once home to a military railway.

Six of the Best 881

If the Conservatives are so keen on 'the will of the people.' why haven't any of them marked the bicentenary of Peterloo massacre? A good question from Chris Dillow.

"The caricaturing of English nationalism as inherently reactionary and xenophobic has made the left and centre reluctant to hear what the English really want," says John Denham.

Matthew Wills rediscovers the lost US state of Franklin - it now forms part of Tennessee.

Josh Jones explains why Joni Mitchell, who wrote the song that defined Woodstock, didn't make it to the festival.

"Paul Nash lived in Flat 176, Queen Alexandra Mansions between 1914 and 1936 ... I would guess he moved out in 1936 because his view of St Pancras Hotel was gone due to the construction of St Pancras Town Hall, later known as Camden Town Hall on Euston Road." Robjn Cantus on the artist and the railway station.

Chris Dyson travels to Holmfirth for the beer and a Lucinda Williams gig.

Another good Lib Dem result in Shropshire

David Boyle once said his favourite party press release from his time as editor of Liberal Democrat News read 'Liberals storm to second place'.

Well something similar happened in Shrewsbury yesterday:

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Financial Times talks up Lib Dem chances in St Albans

Sebastian Payne has been to St Albans and found Liberal Democrat prospects good:
Person after person I speak to there registers their disgust at Brexit - a clear majority voted for Remain in 2016 - and the rightward shift of the Tories. Many inhabitants are London exiles, bringing with them liberal metropolitan sensibilities. 
St Albans may once have been a Labour marginal, but the party’s equivocation on Brexit could well have scuppered its aspirations.
He also met our candidate Daisy Cooper:
"I stood to be our candidate in St Albans because it is exactly the sort of seat that should and could be a Lib Dem heartland, people here hold fundamentally open liberal values," she explains over coffee. 
"I want to put a stake in the ground for the party and the country’s future and I absolutely think we can win."

Monday, August 12, 2019

A scheduled train over the Welland Viaduct

So there I was on Melton Mowbray station this afternoon waiting for a train back to Leicester, when I saw where the next train was going.

There is one passenger train a day in each direction that takes this route, presumably because it is regularly used for diversions and so drivers need experience of it.

It is a line of tunnels and viaducts, so much so that it is known as 'the Alps' among railwaymen.

Its chief landmark is the magnificent Welland Viaduct - the longest masonry viaduct in Britain.

You can see the shadow of its arches in the photographs below - I could not resist catching the train.

Telford Lib Dems plant trees to offset election carbon footprint

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From, inevitably, the Shropshire Star:
Liberal Democrats in Telford have bought 175 trees to offset the carbon footprint the party built up during this year's election. 
The party decided to make the purchase through the Eden Reforestation Project, which seeks to plant a minimum of 500 million trees each year and to offer hope through the employment of tens of thousands of people in countries where extreme poverty is rampant. 
The idea was brought forward by Telford & Wrekin Young Liberals through their chair Molly Morgan. 
Party chairman Councillor Greg Spruce said: "We want to help achieve carbon neutrality in Telford & Wrekin before 2030, by setting this example we hope other parties, businesses, charities and residents join us in offsetting their carbon usage."
We've come a long way from Mr Gladstone.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Former boss of Bradgate Park complains to Charity Commission over councils' takeover

Not all is well at Bradgate Park.

This 850-acre chunk of Charnwood Forest is one of the wonders of Leicestershire. In 1928 it was given to the people of the county in perpetuity.

It is run by the The Bradgate Park Trust, but on Wednesday a story appeared in the Leicester Mercury announcing that Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester's elected mayor, and Nick Rushton, leader of the county council, had taken control of the park.

The basis on which they had done so was not made clear by the Mercury, and now it has printed a second article in which the trust's former chief executive Peter Tyldesley has his say.

It quotes him as saying:
"I read Nick Rushton’s comments about how he felt the trust was being run with a mixture of amusement and concern. 
"The same goes for the staff. 
"I do not think the trust is now being run in the best interests the people of Leicester and Leicestershire. 
"It is being run in the interests of the councillors. 
"There’s a real conflict of interest now because the separation between the charity and the councils is reduced.”
Mr Tyldesley also told the paper::
"I resigned my post in June and the next day commenced the whistleblowing process with the Charity Commission, 
"It’s now in their hands."

Blowzabella: The Man in the Brown Hat

As the band's website says:
Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based wall-of-sound - played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling.
I recall listening to them on John Shaw's Here Be Dragons programme on Leicester Sound back in the late 1980s.

It was part of my duties as a councillor: I was on an Independent Broadcasting Authority committee for Leicestershire that kept an eye on the local radio franchise.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Bryan Magee's last interview


On the Prospect site John Maier reports on the last interview Bryan Magee gave - I paid my own tribute to him on the day he died.

As one would hope from a philosopher in the twilight of his years, Maier's interview contains much wisdom.

Here is Magee on his own career and abilities:
"I feel, to take an analogy from card games, I was dealt a good hand - not a wonderful hand, not a marvellous hand - and I think I’ve lived in such a way as to make the most of the hand I’ve got. But, what I basically wish more than anything else is that I’d had better cards."
And he is bracingly honest about his motivation for going into politics:
"[When] people say they went into politics because they wanted to make the world a better place, that’s very foreign to me… I wanted to go into politics because I thought I’d like being in politics.” 
Though, being Magee, he also thought such a career would allow him the time to grapple with philosophical problems.

One does, however, catch a glimpse of the working-class boy from Hoxton in his attitude to authority:
"I don’t accept authority. [He laughed]. I don’t have a problem with it. I just don’t accept it!"

Six of the Best 880

"Joyce is remembered as being part of seven female Liberal Candidates (the others were Christina Baron, Sarah Curtis, Penny Jessel, Margaret Snow, Delia Venables and Nesta Wyn Ellis) who protested in 1976 outside the National Liberal Club about the fact that women were not until then admitted to full membership." Graham Colley pays tribute to Joyce Arram.

Nick Barlow looks back to 1969 and the Redcliff-Maud Report's recommendations for redrawing the boundaries of local authorities.

Ross Goldstone reviews Francis Green and David Kynaston's study of Britain’s private school problem.

"As Nickolas Pevsner said: 'There is nothing quite like the Barbican in all of British architecture'." Modernist London celebrates 50 years of the Barbican Estate.

Jay Parini on a study of Auden's poem 'September 1, 1939': "The astonishing text at the heart of this book, after 9/11, acquired a prophetic as well as a diagnostic quality."

Rob Colling has recorded an album inspired by Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising. Bob Fischer interviews him about it.

Friday, August 09, 2019

The Sawley Junction by Long Eaton station

It turned out in the end not to be a good day to travel by train, but until then I had a good time.

I was in Long Eaton to take a photograph of an overgrown railway bridge that I shall explain and share with you one day.

But I also found the Sawley Junction - a micro pub just across the road from Long Eaton station.

As a write up for DerbyshireLive said:
The Sawley Junction is a bit bigger than the smallest micros, but it’s still only one room and very smartly laid out. You immediately feel comfortable in it.
The station was known as Sawley Junction until 1968. There have been several other stations in Long Eaton over the years, all of them better placed to serve the town.

Nick Cohen announces "Unite to Remain" alliance in the Spectator

You wouldn't expect the announcement to be made by a socialist journalist in the Spectator, but Nick Cohen appears to have important news:
On 15 August, the attempt to build an effective remain force will begin when the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru agree a non-aggression pact in 30 constituencies.
They will back one candidate in each seat who will stand as X Liberal Democrat (Unite to Remain) or Y Green (Unite to Remain) and so on. 
The “Unite to Remain” title has already been agreed with the Electoral Commission so the problems found in running unity candidates in the European elections shouldn’t trouble us next time. 
My understanding is that the easy decisions are close to being taken. There’s agreement that sitting MPs should be given a free run, and on the names of candidates for obvious target seats. 
The Greens were far ahead of the Liberal Democrats in the Isle of Wight in the 2017 election, for example, and will provide the sole remain candidate in the constituency next time. 
A second tranche of 30 or so constituencies will be settled on 22 August. As the parties move down the list of target seats, the task becomes harder. In each constituency they are asking activists to step aside for a rival, a hard concession for many to make.
There's a lot to digest here.

For now - and remembering the Liberal/SDP years -  I can say with some authority that it is not enough to form an alliance: you need something exciting to say too.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

How they straightened the line through Market Harborough station

Here's how.

Lib Dems publish guide for activists in the Shetland by-election

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The Herald reports:
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have produced an etiquette guide for the Holyrood by-election in Shetland as they draft in help from mainland. 
The party has warned activists from outside the constituency that referring to "The Shetlands" is regarded as a "no no". 
Members contacting voters by phone have also being given tips on pronouncing Norse place names in the islands.
If they ever call a by-election in Rutland, I shall ask Lord Bonkers to write something similar.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Chris Morris's new film The Day Shall Come

Where has Chris Morris been? The man who predicted this future has little to say now it has arrived.

The good news is that he has a film - The Day Shall Come - opening in October.

He tells the comedy website Chortle:
"Since 9/11 it has become standard operating procedure. Informants encourage a person of interest to break the law and when they do, the FBI arrest them. Each plan is put together with the federal attorney. 
"Arrest is delayed until the case will play in court. So the conviction rate is 98 per cent. The typical sentence is 25 years."