Sunday, June 23, 2019

Joanna Southcott and the Panacea Society

The Panacea Society is no more, but you can visit the Panacea Museum in Bedford.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Breakfast with Freddie and Fiona

Change UK was a British political party that flourished briefly in the spring of 2019. 

When I sent this off to Liberator it was topical satires. Honest.


Who should I meet at breakfast but Freddie and Fiona? It transpires that I have invited them for the weekend, though I cannot remember doing so. I am reminded of the day I set the dogs on what I took to be a poacher, only to find he was the leader of the Portuguese Liberals whom I had brought here to stay after meeting him at the National Liberal Club.

Be that as it may, the two of them are full of their new party. It is called Change UK – at least they tell me it was last time they checked. They plan to “replace the Liberal Democrats”, if you please, because we are too associated with austerity.

I hasten to change the subject and ask them if Jeremy Browne’s scheme for selling the unemployed to an offshore bank, developed while they worked for him, came to anything. They go rather quiet after that. Then, fearing for their immortal souls, I urge them to attend St Asquith’s the next day.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Six of the Best 870

Nicole Goodkind reports on the scandal of Trump's El Paso detention camp for children: "'In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,' said Holly Cooper, co-director of the University of California, Davis' Immigration Law Clinic."

Back in 2016, Ylan Q. Mui examined the tangled subject of Boris Johnson's US citizenship and tax liabilities there.

Working for Jeremy Hunt was the worst three years of my life, says Luke Turner.

Lee Brackstone mourns the early death of Gordon Burn, who would have given us "another half-dozen books that may have helped us understand the present moment: the unravelling of celebrity culture, which was always Gordon's lodestar subject".

Tim Worthington nominates 12 radio programmes that deserve to be given a proper release.

Natalie Simpson tells us how not to walk the Cumbria Way.

Martin Carthy: New York Mining Disaster 1941

New York Mining Disaster 1941 was the first song the Bee Gees recorded after returning to Britain from Australia in 1967.

Aided by rumours that they were the Beatles recording under another name, it was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

This folk version of the song by Martin Carthy  comes from his 1998 album Signs of Life. Perhaps it reveals the limitation of the lyrics, but it represents an interesting coming together of different musical styles.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

'Mods: Shaping a Generation" at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester

It's a pleasure to see a sign like the one above at the entrance to an exhibition and rarer than it need be.

Today was the 170th birthday of the New Walk Museum and there was lots going on there to celebrate it. I bought my mother a book from the Richard III Society stall and joined Leicester Civic Society, which is something I have long meant to do.

But the purpose of my visit was to see the exhibition on the Mod scene in Leicester and Nottingham. Mods: Shaping a Generation runs until 30 June.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Orphans in the rafters

As is his right in a free country, Lord Bonkers is writing this diary backwards. I started it on Friday with Monday's entry, which means that Sunday appears on Saturday and Saturday will appear on Sunday.

I think that is tolerably clear.


I am not afraid to say I blubbed when I watched the fire at Notre Dame, but I soon recovered myself and ordered precautions to be taken at St Asquith’s. The Revd Hughes was sprayed with fire-retardant chemicals and a party of Well-Behaved Orphans, armed with buckets of water, has been stationed in the rafters at every service.

This morning, just as the Revd Hughes was giving it both barrels, the orphans rose as one child and tipped their buckets over Freddie and Fiona in the front pew. The padre was furious, but I defended them as I could have sworn I saw a wisp of smoke rising from that quarter of the church myself.

Now you want to know what Freddie and Fiona were doing in these parts, which means I have to tell you what happened on Saturday. Writing a diary backwards in this manner is strictly against the Diarists’ Code – I believe it was drawn up by Pepys himself – and I will be in the most awful trouble if the Union finds out, so don’t breathe a word.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

The best article so far on the Lib Dem leadership election

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The Liberal Democrat leadership election has so far failed to catch the imagination.

In part that is because it has not received the media attention it deserves - the latest polls show we are one of four parties who attract the support of just under a quarter of the electorate.

But it is also a reflection of the sudden restoration of our fortunes.

As Stephen Bush said at the start of the contest:
Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, her rival for the Liberal Democrat leadership, have several things in common, but the most important, for the purposes of the contest, is that they both opted not to run last time for family reasons, and have had two years to think about the direction of the party under Vince Cable and how they might do it better. 
Neither really expected to be fighting an election in which they were scrapping over who was best-placed to take charge of a party on the up. ... 
He went on to make this observation about the first hustings:
Having spent so long privately preparing a case to be given control of a fixer-upper, they both struggled to set out why they should be given the keys to a property in good condition. 
The subtext of Davey’s original pitch was essentially “We need a Paddy Ashdown to get out of this mess. I’m your Ashdown”, while the subtext of the Swinson offer was basically “things are bad. We need someone who can expand and build on a wider movement”. 
But the Liberal Democrats don’t look like they need an Ashdown, or to be put at the head of a movement they already look to be leading.
This analysis seems spot on to me, which is why this is the best article on the election I have read.

So farewell then William Simons

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The actor William Simons, best known for playing the amiably lazy Alf Ventress in Hearbeat, has died.

He gets a mention on this blog because he was one of the first two actors I saw live on stage. He and Eric Duffy played the Ugly Sisters in the Watford Palace's Christmas 1966 production of Cinderella.

I remember that it began with the two of them doing a silent comic scene on scooters - I had to be reassured that there was going to be talking.

Before that Simons was a child star. He played Dinah Sheridan and Anthony Steel's son in the films Where No Vultures Fly and West of Zanzibar. You can see the three of them in the photograph above.

His acting career was halted for a while by severe acne and he was later a patron of the charity Changing Faces.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Hogsmill: Kingston upon Thames's other river

Narrated by Griff Rhys Jones off of the telly, this video shows us the wildlife to be found along the Hogsmill and the community volunteers and conservation organisations working to protect this precious habitat.

It was made by Citizen Zoo.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A bicyclist arrives from Kettering

The only downside of the appearance of a new issue of Liberator is that it signals another trip to Bonkers Hall.

As his lordship explains, we join him at his European election results party. Things are moving quickly in politics at the moment, so we are journeying back to a time when Liberal Democrats still poked fun at Chuka Ummuna.


The bells of St Asquith’s long ago chimed midnight, but no one shows any sign of going home. I am writing these lines in the Green Ballroom here at the Hall as my European elections celebration party takes place around me.

A cheer goes up. Chris Davies and Jane Brophy are returned in the North West. Another cheer. Caroline Voaden and Martin Horwood are home in the South West. Then a bicyclist arises from Kettering, where the East Midlands account is being conducted, with the welcome news that Joan Hunter Dunn is back in the European Parliament.

Freddie and Fiona are here, wrapped in blankets with their feet in mustard baths. Even so, I fear they have each caught a cold after their soaking in church yesterday morning.

“I have been talking to Chukka, and he is very interested in a pact with the Liberal Democrats,” says Fiona. “Obviously, we’d be the senior party.”

“Chuka?” I ask.


“Bless you,” I reply.

Of course, you now want to know how the two of them came to be soaked at Holy Communion yesterday…

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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A documentary on Terry Gilliam's Brazil

As the Criterion site says:
In the dystopian masterpiece Brazil, Jonathan Pryce plays a daydreaming everyman who finds himself caught in the soul-crushing gears of a nightmarish bureaucracy. 
This cautionary tale by Terry Gilliam, one of the great films of the 1980s, has come to be esteemed alongside anti-totalitarian works by the likes of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. 
And in terms of set design, cinematography, music, and effects, Brazil is a nonstop dazzler.
This is a good documentary about the film. It even gives us new insights into the well-rehearsed history of Monty Python.

The new issue of Liberator is full of good things

The sharp-eared amongst you will have heard little cries of delight as the new issue of Liberator landed on your neighbours' doormats this morning.

This issue, among others things, questions Ed Davey and Jo Swinson, looks at the overflowing in-tray facing whichever of them wins and celebrates Liberal gains across Europe in last month's elections.

And then there is Radical Bulletin, which gives you the inside story on what is going on in the party.

This time it tries to get to the bottom of the confusion over the use of diversity criteria in the selection of our Euro candidates. And guess which district saw the Liberal Democrats' worst local election results in May. (Clue: we had an MP there until 2015.)

You can download the interrogation of the two leadership candidates from the magazine's website.

While you are there, remember to subscribe to Liberator.

Heather Wheeler should resign as homelessness minister

Heather Wheeler, the homelessness minister, has apologised after the leaking of emails in which she described rough sleepers in her constituency as "the traditional type, old tinkers, knife-cutters wandering through".

The Guardian reports that Stephen Robertson, the chief executive of the Big Issue Foundation, has called on her to resign.

He is right and not only because of her extraordinary racist and dated language. The idea that homelessness is only a problem for traditional travelling people in Britain today is so absurd that she is clearly remotely fitted to do the job.

I had a week's holiday last month and was shocked by the number of people sleeping in tents that I came across along the canal in Nottingham and in the centre of Northampton.

Heather Wheeler should read the Leicester Mercury:
“This time last year, I had everything. I had a house, a job, I was settled and happy. Then it all went wrong"
I encountered her from time to time on the East Midlands segment of the BBC's Sunday Politics and she always struck me as an unpleasant individual.

Here she is attacking the fire brigades union four days after the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Man who robbed Barclays bank with banana is jailed

The Evening Standard wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Woolwich to Thamesmead via Lesnes Abbey

Another London walk with John Rogers.

The long history of spies going into politics

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Further support for my theory that the Conservatives' problem is that they are no longer Conservative came in the shape of a Telegraph front page the other day:
Did Rory Stewart spy for MI6? Intrigue surrounds Tory candidate's past as leadership race intensifies
That the paper thought that revealing that Rory Stewart had served his country in this way would damage him in the eyes of his fellow Tory MPs tells you all you need to know about those MPs.

The subject of spies going into politics is an interesting one and there is an article about it on The Conversation.

As Christopher J. Murphy and Dan Lomas say, some spies have got to the very top. There's Vladimir Putin and the elder President Bush from the KGB and CIA respectively.

The nearest Britain has got to a spy as prime minister is Roy Jenkins, who was at Bletchley Park during the war and later served as chancellor and home secretary under Harold Wilson.

I am more interested in the many near-forgotten British names that crop up in the article: Kenneth Younger, Anthony Courtney, Julian Amery, Douglas Dodds-Parker, Patricia Hornsby-Smith.

And, of course, our own Paddy Ashdown gets a mention.

If you want to know what Paddy was really doing in Geneva, read the tribute Denis MacShane wrote when he died:
After a tour in Northern Ireland he left the army to work for MI6 and was the link-man between the UK and the Swiss for the highly secret cold war Operation Gladio. This set up arms and supplies caches all over Western Europe ready to be activated if the Red Army swarmed in, as many feared between 1950 and 1990.

Trivial Fact of the Day links Market Harborough and Boy George

I have just got this from a taxi driver who got it from two nuns, so it must be true.

Father O'Dowd, the priest at Our Lady of Victories, Market Harborough, in the Seventies and Eighties, was the uncle of Boy George,

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Improvements completed at Stokesay Castle

I seem to have writer's block when it comes to politics at the moment, so here's some good news from the Shropshire Star:
A £620,000 project at one of Shropshire’s most popular historic attractions has been completed. 
English Heritage has spent the last few years on improvement works at Stokesay Castle, with the introduction of a tearoom and better interpretation within the castle, and has now completed the final stage – a refresh of the gardens. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The remains of Tollesbury Pier station

My mother's mother's family all come from Tollesbury, a village on the Blackwater estuary in Essex.

Now something of a yachting resort, it was long an insular place. When it featured in Griffith Rhys Jones's Restoration Village series, my mother told me she had been at Sunday school with one of the women featured and that we were distantly related to the other.

The railway did not reach Tollesbury until the 20th century, when it finally found itself at the end of a branch from Kelvedon.

That line extended past the village ending by the estuary mud at a station optimistically called Tollesbury Pier.There were plans for development there, but they never materialised.

This video shows what little remains of Tollesbury Pier station today.

I have faint memories of visiting the site as a very small boy and of there being more traces of the station in place. But as that was more than 50 years ago, it is hardly surprising.

Colin Blunstone: Wonderful

After the Zombies broke up - and after a short stint in a proper job insurance - Colin Blunstone enjoyed a critically acclaimed but not hugely commercial solo career.

Wonderful was written by his former bandmates Rod Argent and Chris White. I have strong memories of listening to it in 1973, sometimes under the bedclothes on Radio Luxembourg.

So strong are they that I am surprised to find it wasn't a hit.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A 1927 advertisement for a Lichfield drapers

Another pleasing advertisement from my 1927 guide to Lichfield.

Google Street View reveals that the corner of Market Streeet and Dam Street is now occupied by a distinctly ordinary bank building.


Six of the Best 869

"We need to discuss these issues; plan for them and deliver a strategy that deals with them. I bet you won’t hear a peep from Tory Leadership contenders about this vital and urgent issue." Richard Kemp on the social care crisis.

Angel Fletcher argues that internships must be paid and openly advertised if all young people are to have fair access to career opportunities.

Roger Hermiston looks at the career of the forgotten Liberal leader Archibald Sinclair.

"Many recent studies have found that children are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD if they are younger than their peers in their classroom." Peter Simons notes the latest research into this controversial diagnosis.

Phil Walker debates whether a dearth of cricket on free-to-air television is to blame for a tepid reaction to the Cricket World Cup and crippling factions within the game.

The London novelist Alexander Baron is celebrated in a new book by Nottingham's Five Leaves Press. Nadia Valman writes about his East End roots.

Boris Johnson is just a chlorinated chicken

Lucy Middleton reports for Metro today:
Tory leadership candidate Boris Johnson upheld his media silence as he attended party hustings today. 
The former foreign secretary, who is the front-runner in the leadership race, chose to arrive at the event through the side entrance of the hotel. 
He then later left the hustings through a discreet rear door, without taking any questions from journalists.
But then Johnson is anxious to avoid journalists during this Conservative leadership campaign:
And it's not just journalists he wants to avoid.

The Guardian says he has turned sown an invitation to participate in a leadership debate on Channel 4 - with the result that he will be represented by an empty podium.

You could say Johnson is ducking these encounters because he is a chicken, but it is his supporters who really need to take a hard look at themselves.

If your candidate for Britain's next prime minister has to kept from scrutiny at all costs, why in heaven's name are you backing him in the first place?

Anyway, it seems Johnson will not be able to avoid his rivals altogether. The row over his no-show on Channel 4 has led him to accept an invitation to a similar event on BBC.

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.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Steve Winwood named among the seven top guitarists in 1967

Grateful thanks to tom for tweeting this 1967 Chris Welch article from the Melody Maker.

Who should we see named among the 'Magnificent Seven' guitarists that year but this blog's hero Steve Winwood.

When you consider he is widely regarded as the best British Hammond organ player and our most authentic soul voice - and authenticity was everything to white boys who played soul in the Sixties - that is some achievement.

So here he is playing on Traffic's Dear Mr Fantasy that year.

Willie Donachie scores the greatest own goal of all time

I have long hoped this clip would turn up on YouTube and tonight I found it.

It comes from a friendly Scotland played against Wales before they set off for their famously ill-fated assault on the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.