Friday, December 13, 2019

Six of the Best 899

"We need an agenda that’s more like an unconference – an opportunity for us to have open discussions, big and small, about where we are, where we want to be, and why we want to get there. Let’s have a blank slate and talk properly about what we’re doing." Nick Barlow believes the Lib Dem spring conference should not see business as usual.

Johnny Lyons argues that Isaiah Berlin's ideas have lost none of the bit of relevance.

"Prehistoric sites cannot, and should not, be viewed through a Brexit lens, whether leave or remain." Kenny Brophy does not appreciate seeing Jacob Rees-Mogg in a stone circle.

The lost rivers of London are well known, says David N. Lerner, but all cities have them. Opening them up offers a way of bringing back water and nature.

Katy Waldman of the New Yorker chooses her best books of 2019.

"The first songs most people hear as children are nursery rhymes and lullabies. The first songs Ahmet Zappa heard as a child were the shock-treatment tracks on Hot Rats." Jim Farber on the 50th anniversary of the Frank Zappa album.

GUEST POST Political parties must be rooted in the community once again

Mike Gayler points a way forward for the Liberal Democrats - and any other party that will listen.

I'm not a Liberal Democrat. I'm not a member of any political party, although I was a Labour Party member sometime in the early 1980s.

My leanings are Green, and in 2019 I voted for my local Liberal Democrat candidate in Charnwood, as I believed that she had a good chance of giving the safe sitting Conservative a bit of a fright. It was not to be.

I think you can see that although I'm not a natural Lib Dem supporter, that I'm sympathetic to the party as serious contenders for - if not power - at least to hold a government to account.

My thoughts on where next for the Liberal Democrats could, I suppose, be transposed into almost any other movement, but only the Liberal Democrats (and possibly the Greens) seem to have the motivation to consider a different way of doing politics and take on the established duopoly of Labour and Conservative.

What I hear repeatedly is "politics has nothing to do with me," "politicians don't listen to us," "they don't know what it's like for ordinary people" - and I think those things too.

But I understand that politics affects every corner of mt life, and I know how to contact my councillors and my MP, and I can appreciate that local politicians have jobs and mortgages, and that MPs must be tempted to live in the Westminster bubble. But does it have to be like that?

I've recently read a BBC article about one town's Labour, Conservative and Liberal clubs and how they are no longer affiliated to the organisations that gave them their name.

And this is the failure of every political party: how it has become divorced from the communities that they serve. No longer are political parties part of the community in any real sense. They have become 'other'.

The opportunity to redress this is the window between now and the next major election. It won't be easy and it won't be popular with every activist. Ordinary people - the ones disengaged from politics - need to see people like themselves volunteering at food banks, picking litter, challenging antisocial behaviour and identifying themselves as Liberal Democrats making a difference in their area.

Liberal Democrats need to be at school gates asking what the issues affecting parents are, at mosques and churches to understand the troubles of minorities, and talking to the homeless and dispossessed.

They need to do these things to prove that politics is about the everyday, to show that 'politicians' are everyday people like themselves, and are listening to the ordinary people.

A Liberal Democratic food bank - why not? A Lib Dem community minibus - why not? Lib Dem litter picking - why not? Lib Dems are on your street corner ever first Saturday - why wouldn't they be? Lib Dems taking food parcels to the tents of the homeless in our park - why wouldn't they?

Why not, and why wouldn't they be? Because it's too much effort! Because it would cost too much! Because the Liberal Democrats don't believe in community and the people in those communities? Prove me wrong!

Mike Gayler is a volunteer lock keeper and retired healthcare scientist.

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England.

As you can see from this list of the 10 most recent, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects.

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Monastery of St Antony and St Cuthbert in the Stiperstones 2

Let's stay in the Shropshire hills with another video about the Orthodox monastery beneath the Stiperstones.

Vote Lib Dem and save the Shropshire hills

From the Shropshire Star:
South Shropshire's area of outstanding natural beauty is under threat from a loss of biodiversity and increasing light pollution, the Liberal Democrats election candidate for Ludlow has said. 
Heather Kidd said that some animals including butterflies are now a rare sight at the Shropshire Hills area of outstanding natural beauty ... and that air pollution is partly to blame. 
The Lib Dems are recommending replacing street lamps with LEDs and issued a stark warning that "we need to act now" to protect the hills' tranquillity.

Monday, December 09, 2019

A lift bridge on the Montgomery Canal

Photo: Harry Arnold

Time for another photograph from my patchy collection of old Bulletins from the Inland Waterways Association.

We are on to May 1970 and this picture of an unidentified lift bridge on the Montgomery Canal.

Six of the Best 898

Jen Yockney says that Labour, by expending so much of its energy on attacking the Liberal Democrats, is repeating a battle plan that leads it to defeat.

"The whole language of general elections is about what alternative governments can do for people. It assumes a widespread and somewhat hopeless passivity. There is no obvious election language to draw down in praise of the idea of people doing things for themselves." David Boyle wonders if that narwhal horn might have slowed the Johnson juggernaut.

Tim Ellis reminds us that Nancy Astor wasn’t the first woman MP.

Aishwarya Kumar explains why grandmasters lose weight during elite chess tournaments.

You have probably found yourself wondering why so Many medieval manuscripts depict violent rabbits. Sad and Useless has the answer.

"Here was a story of shattered European dreams, of friendship betrayed and transactional murder, shot with all the murky, Expressionistic tricks in the ’40s noir handbook. And then over the top comes Harry Lime’s Theme: an ingenuous and wholly undisturbed tune, the kind that you might whistle to yourself whilst chopping vegetables." Jim Hilton on the importance of of Anton Karas's  zither to The Third Man.

Dan Snow is voting Lib Dem - and this is why we shouldn't be surprised

Embed from Getty Images

From the Independent:
Television historian Dan Snow has endorsed the Liberal Democrats after calling Boris Johnson "profoundly incompetent" and claiming that Jeremy Corbyn is "economically illiterate" 
The BBC presenter said he supported the party's position of opposing Brexit and praised Jo Swinson as "a really engaging, exciting young leader".
Those are all excellent reasons for voting Liberal Democrat.

But, though the report goes on to say that Snow describes himself as a "floating voter", we should not be too surprised that he is voting that way.

You see, it runs in the family.

Because Dan Snow is the great great grandson of David Lloyd George.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Epping Forest to the Walthamstow edgelands: A walk along the River Ching

John Rogers is again our guide as we follow the Ching from its source at Connaught Water in Epping Forest to its confluence with the River Lea in the Walthamstow edgelands.

It turns out that Chingford gave its name to the river and not the other way round.

Johnny Kidd and The Pirates: Shakin' All Over

I am given to nominating Move It by Cliff Richard and the Shadows as the great British rock and roll record, but last time I did so someone suggested this one as a rival.

You can see his point.

Johnny Kid died young in a car crash, but The Pirates had a big come back in the late Seventies and sounded very much at home on the pub rock scene.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

A ghost in the Mansfield Road

Disappointed to find that the bookshops in Nottingham's Mansfield Road had gone, I blogged about it as soon as I got home.

A little further down the hill, I was taken with what looked as though it had once been the entrance to the city's Bluecoat School and is now the YMCA International Community Centre.

I had the feeling that the entrance used to be wider and, sure enough, when I bought a book of old photos of the city later that afternoon I found this little ghost.

Six of the Best 897

"Those of us who are left of centre in rural areas are often completely missed from political discourse, despite our long history of distinctive political belief." Oliver Craven on the Liberal Democrat pitch to the rural left.

Comfort of a sort from Richard Heller, who argues that if Boris Johnson wins on Thursday Brexit won't get done and he will soon be the most unpopular leader in British history.

"All this explains why Tory support depends so much upon the legacy vote from older people and upon the populist slogan, 'Get Brexit Done'. Their historic client base has shrunk. Sure, this legacy vote and populism might be sufficient to get them over the line next week. But the Tories’ longer-term prospects are surely poor." Chris Dillow says the degradation of middle-class work has eroded the Tories' electoral base.

Nick Tyrone rediscovers football with his children and wonders if its gentrification has something to do with Brexit.

Neil Young celebrates Britain's most prolific woman film director Muriel Box.

There are some great photos of the Par to Newquay branch over the past 50 years on the Cornwall Railway Society site.

Trivial Fact of the Day connects the assassination of President Kennedy with Harry Connick Jr

If you have ever disappeared down the JFK assassination rabbit hold, or simply seen Oliver Stone's film, you will know all about the New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison.

It was he who brought an unsuccessful prosecution against the New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw for conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.

In 1973 Garrison was defeated in the election for district attorney by Harry Connick, who was to hold the post for the next 30 years.

As Wikipedia explains, Connick intervened in the aftermath of the prosecution of Shaw:
In 1995, while District Attorney, Connick promised to the Assassination Records Review Board and at a public meeting in New Orleans that he would donate the Garrison investigative files which were still in his office. 
According to the Review Board's final report, Connick instructed one of his investigators to destroy these documents after he took office. The investigator took them home instead and kept them until he found out about the Review Board. 
A battle ensued between Connick and the Review Board after Connick demanded that the papers were returned to him and threatening to withhold the investigation papers. 
After many subpoenas going both ways, and with the help of the Justice Department, the Review Board won and all of the documents in question are in the JFK Collection.
Connick is still alive and is these days is known as Harry Connick Sr because he has a son by the same name - the singer Harry Connick Jr.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Bob Willis in Australia 1970/1

Embed from Getty Images

In my tribute to Bob Willis I wrote that he had been
plucked from the obscurity of Surrey seconds to join a victorious Ashes tour under Ray Illingworth in 1970/1.
Matthew Engel tells the story more fully:
Willis made his debut for Surrey in 1969, but was still nowhere near a regular first-teamer by November 1970. Suddenly, aged 21 and expecting to spend the winter keeping goal for the Corinthian-Casuals football team, he was called out to Australia as a replacement. 
The England captain, Ray Illingworth, had never seen Willis play, but he said he wanted someone scary even if wayward, and the Surrey batsman John Edrich told him Willis was the man. 
There was no eight for 43 or anything like it, but he played four Tests, came second in the bowling averages, took some fine catches, helped regain the Ashes and generally made a good impression with his youthful zest.
In the picture above Willis is dismissing Greg Chappell, also playing his first series, through a gully catch by Edrich.

So farewell then Ironbridge power station cooling towers

Travelling to Shropshire by road, if you leave the M54 at one junction you join a road that dips sharply so that the hills rose above you.

Just as you are trying to remember some quotations from Housman, you round a bend and see the cooling towers of Ironbridge power station.

Not any more you don't: they were demolished today.

As a 20th-century boy, I still have a regard for industry on the heroic scale. I also admire the way red pigment was added to the concrete so the towers matched the local soil

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Archbishop Chichele's school at Higham Ferrers

Archbishop Henry Chichele's school stands next to St Mary's Higham Ferrers and dates from the early 15th century.

It was used as a grammar school between 1542 and 1906, before being consecrated as a chantry chapel in 1942.

Today it is noted for its intrusive skip.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Churches Conservation Trust to care for St Peter and St Paul, Tickencote

Earlier today the Churches Conservation Trust tweeted the news that it has taken over responsibility for the remarkable St Peter and St Paul, Tickencote. The trust plans to spend  £265,000 on repairs there.

I visited this Rutland church three years ago and wrote:
St Peter and St Paul is a Norman church that had fallen into disrepair by the end of the 18th century. It was then rescued by the local Wingfield family. 
The chancel was restored, though possibly in a rather imaginative way. If its vaulting is a faithful copy of the original, it is something quite remarkable. 
A new nave was built that feels Georgian but pays tribute to its Norman predecessor. (Some sources suggest that the Norman nave had already been rebuilt once in a later medieval gothic style.) The incursion of stained glass in the 19th and 20th centuries have not improved it, though the sun can produce pleasing effects. 
Above all, the restoration left the extraordinary chancel arch untouched. It is a riot of decoration, with geometric motifs, stylised leaves, and half-human and half-animal heads - some friendly, some beaked and sinister.

Remembering Bob Willis at his fearsome best

Another hero of my youth died today: Bob Willis.

Many readers will know him only as a grumpy pundit, but I remember him as a thrilling England fast bowler.

The profile, written when he was chosen as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year in 1978, sets out the first half of his career.

The early success - he was plucked from the obscurity of Surrey seconds to join a victorious Ashes tour under Ray Illingworth in 1970/1 - and his subsequent struggles with injury.

Through it all, he remained determined not only to bowl for England but to bowl fast. No settling for being a traditional English seamer for him.

He established himself as England's premier fast bowler on Tony Greig's 1976/7 tour of India. On pitches made for the home team's spinners he took 20 wickets at less than 17 runs each.

For half a dozen years or more after that, he was the leader of England's attack.

His 8 for 43 to complete the miracle of Headingley in 1981 has been shared everywhere today, so here he is, again playing Australia, taking 7 for 78 at Lord's in 1977.

Bonus points for anyone who can name the blond, balding cover fielder or the chunky one who takes a catch at square leg.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Higham Ferrers Methodist church

No, I didn't have much luck with churches in Higham Ferrers.

This is the Methodist church and My Wesleyan Methodists explains its current state:
Higham Ferrers, High Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was probably built around 1900. In 1940 it seated 571 persons in pews and had a schoolroom and ten other rooms. The premises are at present undergoing a major redevelopment. The chapel had been closed and stands empty while the buildings to the rear have been demolished and a temporary structure erected in their place.
Derelict Places has been inside and posted some photos of what was once clearly a significant church.

Geoffrey Hill, Diane Abbott and Johnny Mercer

King of the perennial holly-groves, the riven sandstone: overlord of the M5: architect of
   the historic rampart and ditch, the citadel at Tamworth, the summer hermitage in Holy
   Cross: guardian of the Welsh Bridge and the Iron Bridge: contractor to the desirable
   new estates: saltmaster: moneychanger: commissioner for oaths: martyrologist: the
   friend of Charlemagne.
This is the first of Geoffrey Hill's Mercian Hymns, but what does it have to do with the egregious Johnny Mercer?

Read his tweet about Diane Abbott.
Now read this quotation from the London Review of Books:
Hill was very taken by the American editor who explained the description of King Offa as ‘overlord of the M5’ in Mercian Hymns as referring to a branch of the British secret service rather than the motorway system.