Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Over the herbal tea market like a boss

One day we may discover what befell those nuns to cause the sudden closure of the Bonkers Hall Safari Park. I have, incidentally, never been wholly convinced that all the animals were rounded up that day, as I still hear tales of visiting teams' boundary fielders suddenly disappearing when they take on Lord Bonkers XI here at the Hall.

For the time being, I shall merely observe that there is nothing like the Dukes of Rutland suffering misfortune to brighten the old boy's day.


To London for the annual general meeting of the National Trust as I am seriously considering opening the gardens at the Hall to the public next year. The ill-feeling occasioned by the sudden closure of the Bonkers Hall Safari Park appears at last to have abated – really, you have one coachload of nuns involved in an unfortunate incident and you never hear the last – so perhaps it is time to dip a toe in the stately home racket again. 

I have brought Cook with me so she can place herself abreast of the latest developments in scone technology – the Wise Woman of Wing is over the herbal tea market like a boss, so I need not worry about that side of things. 

Me? I am, at Meadowcroft’s insistence looking for information on security fencing – he keeps going on about the possibility of visitors harming his cherished Rutland flytrap. To be candid, I am more anxious to see that the thing does not get loose and give the gutter press something else with which to blacken my name.

First, however, come the results of the Trust’s internal elections and the news that the Duke of Rutland’s daughter, together with the rest of her miserable slate, has been defeated. Reader, I simply roared.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Santa facing eviction amid planning row with local council

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Our coveted Headline of the Day Award goes to the Bristol Post for this seasonal story from Frome.

Ho ho ho!

Monday, December 04, 2023

The part-abandoned Tooting, Merton & Wimbledon Railway

Jago Hazzard is our guide to this South London line. Parts of it are still in use, and more remains of the abandoned stretches than you may expect.

You can support Jago's videos via his Patreon page.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A feathered headdress on state occasions

Lily Gladstone is related to William Ewart Gladstone on her mother's side, while on her father's side she is descended from Red Crow, a Kainai Nation chief who was a signatory of one of its treaties with the Canadian government.

The opportunity was too good to miss, even if my knowledge of American Indian culture has not progressed much since I read Little Plum in the Beano - and even that now removes the word "um" if it reprints old strips.

Gentle humour at the expense of foreigners is a sin I must confess, but I do think a feathered headdress would have suited the Grand Old Man.


You may have read that Lily Gladstone, the star of Killers of the Flower Moon (‘Goes On A Bit’ – High Leicestershire Radical), is the great, great granddaughter of a cousin of the Grand Old Man and grew up on the reservation of the Blackfeet Nation until she was 11. 

For some reason, the historians rarely touch upon William Ewart Gladstone’s American Indian heritage, but I can reveal that Queen Victoria’s animus towards him was partly occasioned by his insistence on wearing a feathered headdress on state occasions and his habit of calling her “paleface” when she failed to agree with him. My own father told me that the occasional “heap big” cropped up in his conversation to the very end. 

All I shall add it is that it’s a great shame that the disputants of the Irish Question did not agree to “smoke um pipe of peace” when he urged the idea upon them.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Euro 2024 draw: Uefa investigates after sex noises disrupt broadcast

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BBC Sport wins our Headline of the Day Award and the judges suggest your read the story below:

Uefa says it is investigating after sex noises were transmitted during the broadcast of the Euro 2024 draw on Saturday.

Lewd noises could be heard as Switzerland were drawn in Group A with Scotland, Hungary and hosts Germany.

A similar incident occurred on the BBC in the build-up to January's FA Cup tie between Liverpool and Wolves.

YouTube prankster Daniel Jarvis claimed responsibility for both that and the latest prank

Three letters to the Guardian about that letter to the Guardian

There are three letters in Monday's Guardian in response to the recent letter to that paper from 30 more or less senior Liberal Democrats saying the party is being too cautious and needs to explain to voters what it stands for before the general election.

The first is from the party's president Mark Pack and claims: "Far from being too cautious, the Liberal Democrats under Ed Davey have shown incredible boldness."

The second is from Alan Butt Philip and says it would help if the party linked what it's saying to longstanding liberal ideas. 

"When the voters are crying out for radical change," he says, "the Lib Dems are calling for a 'fair deal for Britain' - which has about as much electoral appeal as a pink blancmange."

And the third. from Peter Wrigley, lists some of the more radical policies in the policy document approved at this year's party conference. and adds: "I hope these exciting proposals make it to our manifesto and our candidates highlight them, rather than keep quiet about them for fear of scaring off floating voters."

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Lord Bonkers' Diary: I toss the volume aside

If I look back on this entry in years (or perhaps only months) to come, I shall have no idea what the old boy was on about.


I settle down with Rachel Reeves’s new book: 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Call me Ishmael. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. "Take my camel, dear,’ said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass. "

I toss the volume aside. Reeves is just repeating Shakespeare’s trick of putting a lot of famous quotations together and hoping nobody notices.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

A.P. Dangerfield: Conversations (In a Station Light Refreshment Bar)

I wrote about John Carter when choosing his glorious faux Beach Boys record Beach Baby, which was a hit in the US too:

The song was written by John Cater and his wife Jill Shakespeare. Carter had already written Funny How Love Can Be for The Ivy League and Let's Go to San Francisco for The Flowerpot Men.

He had also sung the lead on Winchester Cathedral (in reality recorded by a group of session musicians but credited to The New Vaudeville Band) and backing vocals on The Who's I Can't Explain.

The First Class did not exist any more than The New Vaudeville Band or a number of other groups credited with Carter's hits had, so when Beach Baby made the charts a group had to be assembled to appear on Top of the Pops, (The Bonzos, incidentally, turned down the chance to tour as The New Vaudeville Band.)

Conversations is another John Carter song and full of mellotron goodness - the opening sounds like something off Odessey and Oracle. You can find it on a four-disc set of his work: My World Fell Down: The John Carter Story.

It was originally one piece, but was split over two sides for its unsuccessful release as a single in 1968, so I have included both parts here.

As to who is singing, a comment on a page devoted to the record says:

According to Mike Read's excellent and comprehensive South Coast Beat Scene in the 1960s, the singer was David Denton (real name David McClean) previously with West Sussex group The Deltas.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Lib Dem campaign staff gather to counter the threat of Edmania

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Lucy Fisher, for me at least, emerges from behind the Financial Times paywall to report:

The prospect of party leader Sir Ed Davey suddenly becoming wildly popular and lulling activists into a false sense of security over voter support was one of a range of scenarios considered by campaign staff last month, according to party insiders.

In a sign the party, which is polling a distant third nationally, is switching into election gear, it hosted an away day for around 120 key staff working in their campaigning, digital and press teams at a central London hotel on November 17.

They war-gamed the possibility that the relatively low-key Davey could mimic the trajectory of former leader Nick Clegg, who spawned the ‘Cleggmania’ trend that saw the party’s popularity spike in opinion polls ahead of the 2010 election.

Other threats considered, says the paper, included the risk of a donor recommending the party rebrand itself as 'Dem Libs' on social media to appeal to the youth vote and the circulation of cyber-manipulated images purporting to show Davey and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer holding secret talks about an electoral pact.

You may say that there is little risk of Edmania, remembering a recent post here that reported the news that voters in the new Godalming and Ash seat, which Jeremy Hunt will fight at the next election, have little idea who Ed Davey is but are clear that it is the Liberal Democrats who are the main challengers to the Tories there.

But Cleggmania erupted in 2010 in part because Nick Clegg had not impinged upon upon most voters' consciousness before the first televised debate of that election. Given that the phenomenon is widely believed to have led to a breakdown of our targeting strategy, the party is right to consider how it would handle a recurrence.

Particularly as a harsh critic would say that a targeting strategy is all we have to offer at present.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Beelzebub’s Brownies"

Now it can be told... Email elves@rockinghamforest for your own supply.


The housing debate at Bournemouth, as you may have noticed, took a heated turn, and it behoves me to confess my part in the affair. I have for some years been in the habit of carrying with me a little bottle of the elixir sold by the Elves of Rockingham Forest – add a couple of drops of that to your hipflask and you’ll last through the dreariest all-night sitting. 

It so happened that I met Tim Farron in the refreshment queue before the debate and, discerning that he was in need of a tonic, handed him the bottle, saying: "Add a drop of that to your coffee and you’ll get a standing ovation." At this point I was distracted by a couple of popsies who wanted to take selfies with me, and when I eventually turn back to Farron it was just in time to see him necking the last of the elixir. 

“Are you all right, Farron?” I asked concernedly, only for him to assure me that he felt "Flipping great". He then stormed into the hall like a tiger that had just noticed an unattended lamb. You will remember what happened next – "Spawn of Thatcher," "Beelzebub’s Brownies" and all the rest of it.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Friday, December 01, 2023

Discovering the Norbury Brook with John Rogers

Another lost London river walk with John Rogers. As his YouTube blurb explains:

This week we follow the beguiling Norbury Brook as it wends its way through South London from Selhurst through Thornton Heath to Streatham where it becomes the River Graveney. The Norbury Brook is the most significant tributary of the River Wandle.

We first encounter the Norbury Brook in its culvert on the far side of Heavers Meadow, in the London Borough of Croydon, where it emerges in its concrete culvert from beneath the Selhurst Railway Sidings. It's believed that the brook rises somewhere on the far side near where the Croydon Canal once passed through the area.

From here the brook passes between houses and we have to take a detour around Selhurst Station, where we see Maud Milton's wonderful mosaic roundel. Our route takes us near the famous Brit School where Adele and Amy Winehouse studied, and then through the streets of Thornton Heath where we glimpse the brook flowing along the backs of gardens and beside driveways. 

We get a clear view of the brook as it runs along one side of Thornton Heath Recreation Park and then a little further on, in Norbury Park. When it emerges from the Park onto Streatham High Road, at Hermitage Bridge it becomes the River Graveney through some kind of strange suburban magic. I followed the Graveney as far as Streatham Vale before the light gave way and I caught the train to Victoria from Streatham Common station.

John has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.

The Joy of Six 1183

"I am a Liberal Democrat because of my belief in liberty and social justice, and I expect those who lead the party to be expounding the distinctive and radical messages associated with that philosophy at every opportunity. Instead we have settled for a sort of bland mediocrity, a quest for the vanilla centre ground that is neither distinctive nor radical." Peter Black says he would have happily signed that letter to Ed Davey.

Imran Mulla and Peter Oborne ask if David Cameron has revived the Tory Arabist tradition.

"Despite this still being a trial we have recruited into 13 notoriously hard to fill roles and expect to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds less this year on agency staff than predicted. Our performance has held up across the board and has improved in places. We are getting significantly more and higher calibre applicants for every job than in the past." Bridget Smith champions South Cambridgeshire's trial of a four-day working week.

Cat Gillen is our guide to a philosophical question: do electrons really exist and does the answer matter?

Catherine Croft takes us to 10 shops that showcase the stylistic diversity of British retail architecture.

"I thought I could write a play which was about myself as I imagined my life might have been from the age of eight. And then I would find out whether I was brave enough to be a dissenter, or just somebody who would keep his head down and his nose clean. And I have a terrible feeling that it would have been the latter." Tom Stoppard talks to Claire Armitstead.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: We have talked of little but Europe ever since

The new Liberator is on the magazine's website - you can download it free of charge from there.

I've just realised that I have forgotten to reprint anything from Lord Bonkers' diaries in the October and November 1992 issues, but the old boy hasn't noticed yet, so let's get stuck into his latest thoughts.


So Cameron has decided to emerge from his shed and become foreign secretary, nabbing himself a peerage in the process. You may remember him: face like a carved ham; used to be prime minister; decided he was a political genius and called a referendum to “settle the issue of Europe once and for all”. We have talked of little but Europe ever since. 

Cameron, incidentally, was the fellow Clegg was so keen on and with whom he shared fragrant moments in the Downing Street rose garden. That didn’t stop him sandbagging Clegg the moment he thought it to his advantage. There’s a moral there: if you’re going to sup with a Tory, make sure you bring a long spoon, a hard hat and an abdominal protector.

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

Thursday, November 30, 2023

A podcast on Ladybird Books and L. du Garde Peach

We should soon have the answer to the question of who murdered the Princes in the Tower. 

A YouTube channel says it will be posting the Second Verdict programme from 1976 in which Barlow and Watt from Softly, Softly investigate the mystery.

Let's see Richard III go head to head with Barlow in the interview room and see if he still looks so innocent.

In the mean time, we can listen to an episode of The History of England podcast which looks at Ladybird Books and in particular at their books on British history and the author of many of them, L. du Garde Peach.

Peach who, besides the many accomplishments outlined here, was a Liberal parliamentary candidate - he fought Derby at the 1929 general election - emerges as an attractive figure.

Charles Masterman and the Imperial War Museum's art collection

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If you are interested in 20th-century British art then one of the best places in London to visit is, perhaps unexpectedly, the Imperial War Museum.

An old book review in the Washington Post explains why this is the case:

Yet, amid the carnage, civilization survived. The Liberal politician Charles Masterman, who headed the British government’s propaganda arm, recruited artists to record their impressions of war. Masterman did not want paintings that would inspire in the short term but rather works that would educate 100 years hence. 
"Paint anything you like," he told his artists. What resulted was the sublime collection of paintings now housed at the Imperial War Museum, an institution dedicated not to the celebration of war but to its comprehension.

Chalk another one up to this blog's favourite Edwardian Liberal.

I once wrote about Masterman's work as head of British propaganda at the start of the first world war in Liberator. And there's a post on his role in commissioning war artists on Tall Tales from the Trees, a blog I used to enjoy.

Alistair Darling's politics were not as dull as people are saying

I'm sorry to hear of the death of Alistair Darling. We owe him our gratitude as, together with Gordon Brown, he did much to stabilise the world financial system after the global crisis of 2007-8.

He is being written of as an outwardly dull politician who was funny and charming in private life.

While such figures today seem to belong to a more civilised but vanished order, it's fair to say that Darling's politics were not always dull.

So let me, in a spirit of affection, repeat the George Galloway's reminiscences from the Daily Record in March 2008:

When I first met him 35 years ago Darling was pressing Trotskyite tracts on bewildered railwaymen at Waverley Station in Edinburgh. He was a supporter of the International Marxist Group, whose publication was entitled the Black Dwarf. 

Later, in preparation for his current role he became the treasurer of what was always termed the rebel Lothian Regional Council. Faced with swinging government spending cuts which would have decimated the council services or electorally ruinous increases in the rates, Alistair came up with a creative wheeze. 

The council, he said, should refuse to set a rate or even agree a budget at all, plunging the local authority into illegality and a vortex of creative accounting leading to bankruptcy. 

Surprisingly, this strategy had some celebrated friends. There was "Red Ted" Knight, the leader of Lambeth council, in London, and Red Ken Livingstone newly elected leader of Greater London Council. Red Ally and his friends around the Black Dwarf were for a time a colourful part of the Scottish left. 

The late Ron Brown, Red Ronnie as he was known, was Alistair's bosom buddy. He was thrown out of Parliament for placing a placard saying hands off Lothian Region on Mrs Thatcher's despatch box while she was addressing the House. And Darling loved it at the time. 

The former Scottish trade union leader Bill Speirs and I were dispatched by the Scottish Labour Party to try and talk Alistair Darling down from the ledge of this kamikaze strategy, pointing out that thousands of workers from home helps to headteachers would lose their jobs as a result and that the council leaders - including him - would be sequestrated, bankrupted and possibly incarcerated. How different things might have been. 

Anyway, I well remember Red Ally's denunciation of myself as a "reformist", then just about the unkindest cut I could have imagined.

Yes, Darling's politics were once so exciting that the Scottish Labour Party sent George Galloway to talk some sense into him.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Once Upon a Time in Leicester

This starts with footage of Leicester's trams set to Leone's theme from Once Upon a Time in the West, surveys the city's lost shops and factories, before ending with the numerous institutions in which Leicester people might find themselves incarcerated.

HMP Gartree near Market Harborough and Leicester Belgrave Road, the city's lost railway terminus, are in the mix too.

Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

30 senior Lib Dems call on the party to be less cautious - and the leadership fluffs its reply

Thirty senior Liberal Democrat members have signed a letter to the Guardian arguing that the party under Ed Davey is being too cautious and needs to explain to voters what it stands for before the general election.

You can read the whole letter on the newspaper website, but here is its opening:

Rishi Sunak’s government is tired and incompetent, but what comes next? As the election draws nearer, Keir Starmer’s caution only grows. There is a massive opportunity for a liberal alternative based on internationalism, environmental awareness and modernising Britain. But we believe the Liberal Democrats are swerving this opportunity, not seizing it.

It is crucial that we are brave and honest about the challenges a new government will face, with distinctive positions the Tories would never take and Labour dares not adopt.

The letter then sets out some areas where we have better policies than Labour, before concluding:
We have bolder policies than Labour on the environment, fair votes and human rights, but we are not communicating them. At a general election, echoing Labour’s general antipathy to the Tories through local campaigns is part of the battle but insufficient on its own.

Only a statement of confident liberalism – on Europe, the environment, political reform and public services - will show people that the Lib Dems are a national force worth supporting. We do well when we have a principled message that cuts through, such as our current one on Gaza.

Paddy Ashdown understood this in 1996, when he foresaw a Labour government but feared that not much would change. He set out a clear alternative to both big parties. With Labour in the ascendant again, today’s Liberal Democrats must heed his success.
My impression is that these views are quite widely shared within the party. I wrote something similar myself when reviewing For a Fair Deal in Liberator. 

The Guardian has also run a news story about the letter, and this quotes a response from a Lib Dem spokesperson:
"It would be a comforting luxury to act as the most democratic thinktank in British politics and navel-gaze amongst ourselves. But after this Conservative government has wrecked our economy, broken our NHS and damaged Britain’s reputation on the international stage - the focus of this party is to defeat as many Conservatives as we can at the next election, and get them out of power."
I don't know whether that was Freddie or Fiona, but I recognise the tone. It's the one that Liberal and Lib Dem leaders adopt when they and their party are getting tired of each other. It's the tone the leadership adopts when it has convinced itself that only the leader and the people around the leader care about power and know what must be done to secure it.

In reality, many of us are afraid that our strategy of treating the next general election as a cluster of by-elections will fail. 

It's for that reason, I support the call for us to be more vocal on Europe, not because I am a idealistic European federalist (I'm not) or because I want to be a member of a debating society (I don't). 

I support it because the British economy is in such a state that the next government will need a rapid injection of growth to be able to afford any part of the programme of rebuilding the country needs. And rejoining the Single Market is the only policy measure I can see that will have this effect.

And we will need an answer to how we will fund that rebuilding come the general election. We won't survive the campaign if we do not have one.

Anyway, let's end on a lighter note. The Guardian does not list all the signatories of the letter. Among the few who do get a namecheck is William Hobhouse, who the paper thinks, stands out because he is a 'descendant of L.T. Hobhouse (early British social liberal)'.

The real bombsites of A Canterbury Tale

Study the bombsites in A Canterbury Tale closely and you realise that a lot of matte painting and model-making has gone into producing them.  

I wrote that back in the summer. So here are some photographs of life in Canterbury after the German 'Baedeker' raid of 1942.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

"Malcolm Saville made me an archaeologist"

Thank you to the reader who sent me the link to an account of a talk given at the Hay Winter Festival by the archaeologist Miranda Aldhouse-Green:

In the question and answer session, she was asked what her inspiration for becoming an archaeologist was, and she talked about the books of Malcolm Saville, especially Lone Pine Five, set around the Long Mynd in Shropshire (in fact, set so securely round the Long Mynd that a fan of the books used to lead walks to places that were mentioned in the text). One of the characters finds a Roman spoon in a cave, and that was the moment she decided she wanted to be an archaeologist.

I think that would have delighted the great man.

The account of Lone Pine Five here is a little garbled, in that Jenny finds the spoon, not in a cave, but in an auction in the yard of the 'Rose and Crown' at Bishop's Castle, which sounds like the real-life Three Tuns there.

Microwave starts fire at Blists Hill Victorian Town

The Shropshire Star wins our Headline of the Day Award by a distance.

Chuckles were heard from the judging room, but I feel sure that in the steampunk world there is such a thing as a steam-driven microwave.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett and Bernard Cribbins: The Railway Children 40 years on

The Railway Children was released in 1970. In 2010 Jenny Agutter, Sally Thomsett and Bernard Cribbins came together for a reunion screening to celebrate the film's 40th anniversary. This is a short extract from their discussion.

A bit of Railway Children trivia...

In the famous "Daddy, my Daddy!" scene, Cribbens dispatches the train with "Right away, Mr Cryer." That's because the guard was Bob Cryer, a big influence on the reopening of the Keighley and Worth Valley line who later became Labour MP for Keighley and then Bradford South.

His wife Ann and son John, who were both to become Labour MPs too, are also in the film as extras.

New Labour candidate for Leicester East stands down as a deputy mayor in London

Labour have chosen Rajesh Agrawal, one of Sadiq Khan's deputy mayors in London, to fight Leicester East at the next general election.

This is the seat currently represented by Claudia Webbe as an Independent. She was elected for Labour but removed from the Labour Party after being convicted of harassment.

Both Webbe and Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Leicester East before her, are thought to be considering standing in the constituency as Independents next time round.

Today comes the inevitable news that Agrawal has stood down as Sadiq Khan's deputy mayor for business.

In the Leicester East selection, Rishi Madlani, a Camden councillor and the only other name on the shortlist, made much of his connections with Leicester. I've not heard any such claims made on Agrawal's behalf.

Terry Venables and the summer of 1996

The first Chelsea game I can remember is the 1967 FA Cup Final, when we lost 2-1 to Spurs. Terry Venables, a former Chelsea favourite, was playing for our opponents.

Legend has it that he was in the habit of stopping the Chelsea team in the tunnel after the manager Tommy Docherty's team talk and countermand it with one of his own. Docherty tired of this, sold him and bought Charlie Cooke to be our playmaker instead.

But then his mother had told the Chelsea official who came to her house with a contract for the young Venables to sign that her boy would make a better manager than player, because he never stopped talking about the game.

Terry Venables' death has made me remember the summer of 1996. England's 4-1 group victory in the European team championship, which we hosted, is just about the finest performance by an England team that I have seen. Every time we attacked we looked like scoring.

England felt European that June. There were visiting supporters from 15 other countries (including Scotland), the sun shone and even we played sexy football.

Venables' charm was part of the attractive England package, and since he was forced out of the England job over his financial affairs - a Labour MP called Kate Hoey was among his most persistent critics - being an England fan has rarely felt as good

It's more evidence that as far as Britain was cool in the 1990s, it was cool under John Major rather than Tony Blair. Oh yes.

The Joy of Six 1182

"Highlighting these cases is vital because they take place day in, day out, in courts up and down the country, and until this year, with the introduction of the pilot, we’ve not been able to shine a light on this important area of court business." Polly Rippon reports from the normally secretive family courts.

Anna Minton says the tide may finally be turning against the demolition of council estates: "Estate regeneration schemes have seen more than 100 of London's council estates demolished and replaced with developments of predominantly luxury apartments, redefining the British capital and fuelling the housing crisis. Communities across London have been displaced and tens of thousands of new homes have been built, but the vast majority are financially far out of reach for people seeking to buy a home, while thousands lie empty and unsold."

Mary Gagen explains why keeping one mature street tree is far better for humans and nature than planting lots of new ones.

"We’re  shocked  saddened and disgusted to see that our fellow Kensington blog From The Hornets Nest have been taken down. Yes. The whole blog." THis Is North Kensington on the worrying reason for the sudden disappearance of a popular blog.

"In April 1948, when the Edinburgh Lady Dynamos football team requested permission to play a charitable football match against an English select side at the New Meadowbank sports ground, they were denied permission by the City Corporation's General Purposes Committee. When they had been allowed to play there in 1946, 17,000 spectators had turned out to watch a 2-2 draw." Threadinburgh on the Edinburgh Lady Dynamos, the trailblazing women’s football team denied a sporting chance by the authorities.

Ian Visits chooses five Doctor Who episodes that feature the London Underground.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Rev., Tom Hollander and the shrinking market for Nick Clegg trivia

I went to put some flowers on my mother's grave this afternoon. When I got back I saw a tweet by Andrew Male about rewatching Tom Hollander's situation comedy Rev. He said it has lasted well and even looks prescient:

I now realise how much it was a show about a changing Britain, one where humanity and generosity were gradually being replaced by something more cruel and corporate.

That made me think about how the series and I how I would watch it on DVD with my mother in the days when she was still well enough to come over to my house. 

Andrew Male says that, like Doctor Who, it's all on iPlayer at the moment.

Then a tweet arrived from a Senior Welsh Liberal Democrat Who Now Writes Political Thrillers, asking if I knew that Nick Clegg had been directed in a play by Sam Mendes. I didn't know it. 

Peter Black's tweet sent me to one by Marie Le Conte. which quoted a 2010 Guardian article about... Tom Hollander's situation comedy Rev.

The vital passage says of Hollander:

At Cambridge, where he studied English, he took the title role in a memorable 1988 production of Cyrano de Bergerac that brought together an interesting array of talent. Sam Mendes, a childhood friend from Oxford, was the director, their pal Tom Piper was designer and Nick Clegg, then a frequent student actor, played Carbon de Castel-Jaloux, captain of the cadets.

The market for Nick Clegg trivia has been falling for years, yet I can remember when a blog post about his great great aunt was enough to get you a column with the New Statesman website.

And Tom Hollander's verdict on him has lasted as well as his sit com:

Hollander can't recall Clegg's student performances, but thinks he did well in this year's televised leadership debates. "I would say he's a better actor than Gordon Brown and a worse actor than Tony Blair."

But it was when Blair stopped acting, and everyone else despised him, that I came to have a grudging respect for him.

News and gossip from Peter Bone's Wellingborough

All political eyes are turning to Wellingborough, so here are the latest reports.

Peter Bone, you may recall, is currently facing a recall petition following his suspension from the Commons for six weeks when the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld five allegations of bullying and one of sexual misconduct against him.

Today's Sunday Times alleges that Bone offered to resign his seat immediately, provided the Conservative Party would guarantee his girlfriend, already an approved candidate, a place on the shortlist for the ensuing by-election.

If they failed to do so, the story also says, then Bone would stand as an Independent to split the Conservative vote.

Bone denies these allegations, saying that the plan was put to him by others, and he turned it down. But the report does say that he is expected to stand against the Conservatives if there is a by-election following the recall petition.

To force a by-election, that petition needs 7940 signatures, but the Northamptonshire Telegraph has reported local disquiet with the arrangements for signing it.

Marion Turner-Hawes, an Independent member of Wellingborough Town Council, says:

“I plan to make a complaint on the basis that it is completely inappropriate where they have assigned people. The biggest concern is that 7,000 to 8,000 people in Wellingborough are being sent to Finedon – four miles away. You could walk it but imagine if you’re elderly or disabled trying to get there under your own steam. There is a bus but it’s not easy."

She added:

"I know people can do a postal vote but they should not be forced to do that, it should be a choice.

"If we want democracy to work, it needs to be close to where people live. It’s not just in my ward. I’ve heard of people living near Redwell Leisure Centre having to go to Wellingborough Rugby Club in Cut Throat Lane."

The paper quotes North Northamptonshire Council, which is running the petition, as saying that some of the venues it normally uses as polling stations have Christmas events planned and are unwilling to make themselves available for the whole of the petition period.

On a happier note, Wellingborough Rugby Club wins our Name of the Day Award for having a ground called Cut Throat Lane. Their welcome sign must strike fear into arriving teams.

The Move: California Man

This is The Move at the end of their career, when their chief movers were Roy Wood, who wrote California Man, and Jeff Lynne. Those two were, at the same time. also the founders of the Electric Light Orchestra, who became better known as ELO.

Roy Wood became disenchanted with the Electric Light Orchestra project, whose idea was to combine rock with classical instruments, because it proved difficult to balance the different instruments in live performances.

He went on to found Wizzard, so perhaps it's not surprising that California Man, with its rock and roll pastiche and comic staging, sounds most like one of that band's singles.

Wizzard faded after a stellar 1973, but the ELO seemed to go on for ever. Their singles were radio friendly but as the late Simon Titley once remarked, the problem with Jeff Lynne's music was that it all sounded like Jeff Lynne.