Thursday, August 06, 2020

Berkhamsted to Guildford by narrow boat in 1965


Another video from the heroic age of canal cruising.

This one starts in Berkhamsted but soon moves on to scenes that are familiar from my childhood.

So at 1:43 you will see the swing bridge at Winkwell, which was the goal of many family walks when we lived in Warners End.

Then at 3:18 it's on to Boxmoor and the Fishery Inn, where the shop sold ice cream and fishing nets. With some friends, I had a den somewhere behind the pub, but when I went back years later I found it had been lost to the expansion of its car park.

And at 3:48 I think we see Foster's Saw Mill, which later burnt down and became the site of our house in Boxmoor

After that we travel south through Watford to the Thames at Brentford. You will see that the canalside industry, which made use of the waterway for transport, was in the process of dying out, though I do remember working boats coming through Boxmoor.

Then we travel upstream on the Thames through Richmond and Kingston, before joining the River Wey to reach Guildford.

New charter for open spaces in England


The Open Spaces Society has launched a new charter for England's open spaces.

Phil Wadey, the society's chairman, says:
"During lockdown people have enjoyed their local spaces and paths as never before, and this use continues beyond the pandemic.  We know there is a great disparity in the distribution and quality of open spaces, and that investment in these assets provides excellent value for money by improving people’s health and well-being.

"We therefore call on government, local authorities and communities to work together to ensure that everyone has access to good-quality green space close to home.  This is a vital element of the green recovery after the pandemic.  We have made proposals as to how this can be achieved."
The charter calls on government to introduce a national plan and standards for open spaces, and to place a duty on local authorities to ensure everyone can enjoy good quality, well maintained and safe open space within 300 metres of their homes. 

It says such spaces should be secured as part of development and that local green space must be offered greater protection with an improved process for designating it.

We were once used to living with infectious diseases



The minor Ealing comedy The Magnet from 1950 is proving to be a mine of social history.

I blogged about its attitude to children playing on bombsites the other day and a couple of years ago I wrote about the way it displayed middle-class distrust of the new National Health Service.

The latter post was illustrated with the clip above. Why is the film's hero, played by an 11-year-old called William Fox who grew up to be the actor James Fox, covering his mouth?

Fox has been sent home from his prep school because of an outbreak of scarlet fever and is under a form of quarantine. He is allowed to wander the genteel streets of The Wirral but is not meant to talk to anyone. When he does, his handkerchief comes out.

This is a reminder that we were once used to living with infectious diseases.

Children who caught scarlet fever, as an article I once included in a Six of the Best made clear, could be sent to an isolation hospital.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Ed Davey's leadership campaign ordered to delete data

More trouble for Ed Davey's leadership campaign. This item appeared on the Liberal Democrats' website today:
A complaint has been made about Ed Davey’s campaign’s conduct in its communication with members as to their voting intentions, specifically that they instructed canvassers not to disclose the identity of the campaign they were actually calling on behalf in calls made on the 11th and 14th of July 2020.

The Returning Officer has considered this matter carefully and has taken representations from the Campaign. The Returning Officer has found that the campaign, in so doing, acted in a way that was likely to mislead members.

The Returning Officer has required the campaign to forthwith delete the data collected from these calls and has received confirmation that has been done. The Returning Officer reserves the right to take further action if on further consideration such is felt necessary.
This follows a ruling two weeks ago that Ed's campaign was wrong to make use of data he had gathered during last year's leadership campaign.

These findings are worrying in themselves and undermine the emphasis that Ed's supporters have put on his experience and good judgement.

Liberty Shoes of Leicester


This advertisement comes from a 1945 issue of Punch.

The Liberty Shoe factory, designed by H.H. Thompson and built in 1918-19, stood on Eastern Boulevard. It was Listed in 1993 but fell into a state of disrepair and was demolished ten years later. 

Inevitably - this is Leicester - a block of student flats went up in its place.

The factory was topped by its own Statue of Liberty, which is still to be found nearby.

Six of the Best 947

"We aren’t puritans. We aren’t miserable. We aren’t automatons. We are liberals. So why oh why is the party resorting to wringing its collective hands about 'unhealthy' Eat Out to Help Out discounts?" Judging by the reaction on Twitter, Max Wilkinson speaks for many party members.

Peter Franklin calls on the chancellor to repair the public finances after Covid-19 by introducing a form of land value taxation: "If Rishi Sunak introduces it, we’d be facing a truly remarkable moment in British politics: the first step toward a seemingly impossible political philosophy - Tory Georgism."

"A holistic approach is needed to get more people on their bikes, one that makes cycling desirable, accessible and fun. To truly make it safe, cycling in the capital needs to take priority over driving." Caz Nicklin says that if the prime minister wants to get us all on our bikes, he needs to look at what’s been stopping us for so long.

John Boughton looks at the history of council housing in Oxford, which includes a wall built to separate a private estate from the council houses next door.

Alwyn Turner looks at the strange fame of the Italian heavyweight boxer Primo Carnera.

"To get a sense of what it is like, think of an artists’ community in a near-desert of shingle, consisting of houses built from driftwood and old train carriages, all on a storm-battered headland in Kent, with a globally unique ecosystem, a tiny steam railway, and of course those two gigantic nuclear plants dominating the view to the south." Niall Gooch takes us to Dungeness.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

A walk to the source of a buried river in East London


John Rogers follows the course of the Cran Brook through the streets of Ilford to its source near Barkingside.

He says on YouTube:
We start on Wanstead Flats and pass through Aldersrbook, a model Edwardian suburb that is seen as a great example of the vernacular revival. Passing down Empress Avenue we look for the site of the Redbridge Nuclear Shelter near Empress Avenue Allotments. These allotments were used as a location in the Mike Leigh film Another Year. 
The path takes us around the outer perimeter of the Wanstead Park, through the Epping Forest Exchange Lands and near the site of an isolation hospital. We pass beneath the pylons and cross the River Roding into the streets of Cranbrook. 
The Cran Brook makes its confluence with the Roding on Ilford Golf Course which I was unable to access, but the course through the streets here is marked on the map in the video. The name, Cranbrook has its earliest use in 1233 as Cranebroc. We follow the Brook along Empress Avenue, Ilford, through an area called The Wash and into Valentines Park. 
Valentines Park was featured in an episode of the radio show I produced and co-presented with Nick Papadimitriou on Resonance FM, Ventures and Adventures in Topography. It's one of my favourite London parks. Author Thomas Burke described it as The Eastern Queen in his 1920's book, The Outer Circle - rambles in remote London. The Valentines Estate had existed before Valentines Mansion was built in the 1690's for the widow of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 
The Park once had a Lido which was demolished in 1994 and it is said to be the inspiration for the Small Faces song Itchycoo Park. Roman era burials were excavated in the grounds of the house in 1724. The Cran Brook can be seen flowing through the Park into the boating lake. 
From Valentines Park we walk along Quebec Road, the go along the A12 Eastern Avenue and turn into Horns Road. We can see the shape of the river valley from Netley Road, Birkbeck Road and Perkins Road where the river runs beneath the Sainsburys Car Park. 
We follow the alleyway that takes us over the Central Line behind Newbury Park Station and into Oaks Lane. From Oaks Lane we go into a field that leads us to where the springs gurgle to the surface giving birth to the brook not far from Barkingside Station.
John has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway,

Road hauliers will soon need a permit to enter Kent



Remember how Brexit was meant to reduce red tape?

The Department of Transport has issued a document on proposed legislative amendments on enforcing Operation Brock, the scheme to have lorries queue for the channel ports inland if there is a need.

There you will find this gem:
From that point on, the legislation would require any haulier using designated roads in Kent leading to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel to be in possession of a ‘Kent access permit’ (KAP), which would be digitally issued to drivers receiving a ‘green’ or ‘amber’ result from the SF service.

Each KAP would be valid for 24 hours to cover a single trip, and police and DVSA enforcement officers could issue penalties to hauliers found heading for Dover or Eurotunnel without one. Thus, travelling in contravention of a ‘red’ result (being advised not to travel) or failure to use the SF portal at all and so not having a valid KAP, would be a fineable offence.
That's right. Brexit won't just introduce a hard border with our European neighbours: it will, as far as hauliers are concerned. introduce borders within the UK.

Why didn't business leaders speak out sooner? We heard little from during the referendum campaign.

I suspect they could not believe any government could be this mad. Even Vladimir Putin is wondering if he hasn't gone too far.

Molly Nolan is the new Lib Dem Holyrood candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross


Molly Nolan has been chosen to contest the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat for the Liberal Democrats in next May's Holyrood elections. This is largely the seat Jamie Stone represents at Westminster.

If you want to know more about Molly Nolan the natural place to turn is the John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier.

There you will read that she was a pupil at Dingwall Academy and Plockton Music School before going to Harvard University and that Jamie Stones regards her as a "shining example of the next generation of Highlanders".

Molly tells the paper:
"With the coronavirus crisis leaving so many Highland residents facing financial hardship, it is more important than ever to address the inequalities in our communities. We must ensure no-one is left behind.

"I know that challenges in the Highlands have never been more acute, from the fragility of our tourism industry to increased cuts in local services. These issues are not being addressed by the SNP government, which for the past 13 years has prioritised the centralisation of powers in Edinburgh over dealing with everyday concerns.

"I am determined to listen to as many people as possible and stand up for what matters. Liberal Democrats will protect jobs and services, safeguard our natural environment and ensure every young person across the Highlands has the opportunity to get on in life.”

Monday, August 03, 2020

HItchcock's Sabotage (1936) and the 7/7 bombings


Talking Pictures TV continues to be a marvel. The other day it showed Hitchcock's Sabotage, made in 1936 before he left for Hollywood.

The film is loosely based on Conrad's novel The Secret Agent, which I blogged about in the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings of 2005. As the film shows the destruction of a bus, it is even more reminiscent of those outrages.

Reading that post 15 years on confirms the past is a foreign country, because I quote an article by Brendan O'Neill with approval.

Well, I did write a couple of articles for Spiked in 2001 and I would still recommend Frank Furedi's Culture of Fear as an analysis of what happened to Britain in the 1990s. 

His view has much in common with that of Adam Curtis in that it emphasises the role of government in talking up threats so that it can then claim credit for protecting us

Sabotage is on YouTube and I recommend it, just as I recommend Conrad's novel.

After you have seen the film you may enjoy the Hitchpod episode on it. It contains spoilers (which I have tried to avoid here), but the two hosts both rate if highly among Hitch's films.

Finally, don't worry about young Stevie, the unwitting carrier of the terrorists' bomb. The actor who played him, Desmond Tester, grew up to be a big name in Australian television, particularly children's programmes, and gave Rod Hull and the Bee Gees their first breaks.

The Edge: England's rise to the top of world cricket


Last night BBC2 screened The Edge, a documentary about the rise of Andrew Strauss's England team to number one in the test rankings.

Any cricket fan will enjoy it as the makers managed to interview just about every significant England player from that era. The only absentee I noted was Chris Tremlett, who is now a forgotten figure but was a key member of our attack in the later tests of the 2010-11 Ashes series.

The Edge is very good on the pressures of elite sport, though I am not convinced by the link it makes between Jonathan Trott's intense, introverted style at the crease and his mental health problems.

Because probably the best known England player to suffer such problems is Marcus Trescothick, whose confident, aggressive batting at the top of the order in 2005 did much to send the message that we were no longer afraid of the Australians.

So maybe you can't spot someone's vulnerability to mental health problems from their batting style after all.

Anyway, The Edge will be on the BBC iPlayer for the next year.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

US report finds 'sustained and deliberate' Russian disinformation campaign against the UK

Embed from Getty Images

Here's a report on Russian influence in the United Kingdom that the Conservative Party can't suppress for months.

It's published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington DC.

The report's conclusion begins:
For the last 15 years or so, Russia has waged a sustained and deliberate disinformation campaign in the United Kingdom that is designed to weaken the United Kingdom internally and diminish its position in the world. Specific disinformation efforts have included exploiting minority grievances, encouraging separatist movements, amplifying anti-EU sentiments, and trying to inflict reputational damage upon the United Kingdom’s role in NATO and the value of its relationship with the United States. Through these efforts, Russia hoped to sow division within the United Kingdom, exacerbate distrust between the public and leaders, and distort the public conversation. 
However, Russia did not create the conditions that allowed disinformation and other malign influence activities to thrive in the United Kingdom. Rather, it merely capitalized upon longstanding divisions, political and societal vulnerabilities, regulatory gaps in campaign financing and advertising, and a less regulated social media landscape to further its objectives. This suggests that identifying and repairing a country’s specific vulnerabilities may be equally if not more important in combating malign influence activities than identifying which malign influence activities have the greatest impact. 
And it ends:
In the end, disinformation and other influence activities are not about a single incident but rather the cumulative effect. Left unchecked, it will gradually erode the United Kingdom’s position in the world as well as internal measures of resilience. These include the credibility of the government and elected leaders, citizens’ confidence in democratic processes, the existence of free and fair elections and an independent judiciary, a diverse and independent media environment, and vibrant public discourse. If the distinction between false and genuine is permitted to erode—and the commitment to pursue the truth is abandoned—the broader consequences for open, democratic societies will be severe.
It does feel strange to have lived long enough to see a Conservative prime minister play down the threat from Moscow.

The Who: I Can't Explain


This was The Who's first single under that name - up till then they had recorded as The High Numbers.

Wikipedia is enlightening of the song's genesis
In the album's liner notes, [Pete] Townshend noted the song's similarity to the contemporaneous hit "All Day and All of the Night" by the Kinks: "It can't be beat for straightforward Kink copying. There is little to say about how I wrote this. It came out of the top of my head when I was 18 and a half." In a 1994 issue of Q magazine, Roger Daltrey echoed Townshend's comments regarding the Kinks' influence: 
We already knew Pete could write songs, but it never seemed a necessity in those days to have your own stuff because there was this wealth of untapped music that we could get hold of from America. But then bands like the Kinks started to make it, and they were probably the biggest influence on us – they were certainly a huge influence on Pete, and he wrote 'I Can't Explain', not as a direct copy, but certainly it's very derivative of Kinks music.
The entry also comes to the conclusion that Jimmy Page is playing rhythm guitar here but the lead is all Peter Townshend.

Hey teenagers! If you like this then check out Substitute, The Kids Are Alright and I'm a Boy.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Pointing it at Sandy and hoping for the best

We end our week at Bonkers Hall with the old boy pondering the future of Liberator.

Published as a printed magazine for 50 years, it will in future be a free online publication. Sign up to Liberator's email newsletter and you will be told whenever a new issue appears.

Sunday

So this is to be that last printed edition of Liberator. It seems only a few years ago that every street corner had its barefoot newsboy selling the magazine. I well remember their shrill cries of "Eleven reasons Clement Davies must resign – you won’t believe number seven" and "North Devon shooting: we interview Rinka’s mother."

I once heard them crying "Rutland fraud case: shock new developments" and had to tip them half a crown a piece to desist, but we need not go into that here.

In future, or so the amusing young people who put the magazine together tell me, you will have to download Liberator from the ether by means of the electric internet. I hope to see you nexttime, but In my experience this can be a tricky business: it’s not just a matter of pointing it at Sandy and hoping for the best.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Colour film of Brighton in the Blitz


The blurb for this film on the British Film Institute site runs:
This truly amazing colour film features Brighton's Blitz, with domestic and public buildings taking the full force of Hitler's bombs. ARP personnel, aided by policemen and volunteers, rescue victims from the rubble while others work on salvage and repair. A rooftop observer reports to a Control Room, where men and women co-ordinate warnings and the rescue effort. An incendiary is shown burning as victims of the Blitz are seen salvaging their battered belongings.
Click on the image above to view it there.

The Argus has a page on the bombing of Brighton and Hove in the second world war.

'Hitler's alligator' that survived Battle of Berlin dies in Moscow

Thanks to an eagle-eyed Liberal England reader, Deutsche Welle win our Headline of the Day Award for the second day in a row.

This tweet from Moscow Zoo says:
Our Mississippi alligator Saturn died of old age yesterday morning. He was about 84 years old - an extremely respectable age. The Moscow Zoo was honoured to contain Saturn for 74 years. He saw many of us as children. We hope we did not disappoint him.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: They have all gone to Market Harborough

Future scholars puzzling over this entry should read news reports such as this one from the mighty Harborough FM:
Police say they will deal robustly with anyone causing problems in Market Harborough town centre this weekend.

It follows disorder on the High Street last Saturday night that left a man with serious injuries and officers imposing a Dispersal Order.

Officers say the majority of people behaved well, although a minority caused problems.

Police have rubbished reports in the national media that suggested hundreds of people had travelled from within the lockdown zone in Leicester, where pubs remain shut, to Market Harborough last Saturday.

Saturday

Amid great rejoicing, the Bonkers’ Arms reopens today. As its landlord’s landlord I am invited to pull the first pint of Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter to be served there for months. Not only that: I stand everyone present a drink – after all, they do not all enjoy the benefit of a secret passage that emerges in the pub’s cellar.

I take the precaution of posting pickets in case hordes descend upon us from Leicester, Oadby and Wigston, but all is quiet. It later transpires they have all gone to Market Harborough.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Friday, July 31, 2020

Alan Knott turns the Trent Bridge Ashes test in 1977


In the midst of some philosophical worrying I blogged the other day about the 1997 Ashes test at Trent Bridge and Alan Knott:
At this point Alan Knott came in and began batting with his usual impish brilliance. This had the effect of waking Boycott, who had seemed genuinely distraught at Randall's demise, and the two of them put on over 200. England made 364 and went on to win the test.
You can see Knott's innings in the video above.

The editing is a little unfair to Boycott, who hit 11 boundaries in his own century.

And, as a bonus, here is Ian Botham's first wicket, which was taken on the first day of this test.

Germany: Fox steals over 100 shoes in Berlin







The judges took great pleasure in making today's Headline of the Day Award to Deutsche Welle for this tale of a vulpine Imelda Marcos.

Thank you to a reader for the nomination.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Wernher von Braun of the Flow Country

Jamie Stone is fast becoming a cult figure. If Lord Bonkers can talk him into being the first Liberal Democrat MP on Mars his fame will only grow.

Friday

Jamie Stone telephones, full of his plans for his new spaceport in Sutherland; no wonder they call him the Wernher von Braun of the Flow Country. 

I wish him well with his scheme and am then reminded of the days, shortly after our triumph in 1997, when we Liberal Democrats had our own spacecraft. The Bird of Liberty was piloted by David Chidgey, then the MP for Eastleigh, and funded by a group of donors who believed that if there were alien civilisations orbiting nearby stars then they would inevitably hold by-elections and that these might offer the party a chance of increasing its number of elected representatives. 

For a time all went well, but the Bird was brought down by an errant Russian satellite and Chidgey was located only after a thorough search of the less frequented Pacific islands.

Inspired by these recollections, I set to searching the outbuildings here at the Hall until I locate the old girl. She is clearly in need of some TLC, but after a day of cleaning and polishing she looks more her old self. When I fire up the engine the Well-Behaved Orphans who were responsible for the cleaning and polishing declare that I should call her "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". I'm sure you will agree this is a damn fool idea.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Six of the Best 946

The Social Liberal Forum has audio and video recordings of this evening's Beveridge Lecture by the Labour MP Clive Lewis.

Andrew Defty says the delayed publication of the Russia Report shows why reform is needed to preserve the independence of parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee

"What I have described here represents a crisis of ideology—an abstract, electronic-media-driven phenomenon by which conservatives prioritised partisanship and wishful thinking over saving lives. But the results played out all over real-world bricks-and-mortar America." Nidra Poller asks why so many right-wing Americans have embraced Covid-19 pseudoscience.

Giles Fraser says that beautiful choral music is not elitist: "The unspoken suggestion is that a traditional Anglican choir singing Stanford in C at Choral Evensong is just a bit too elitist for a working class city like Sheffield. And that is why Evensong has become so poorly attended."

The French have spent 20 years building a new medieval castle, reports The Mind Circle.

Simon Hughes pays tribute to Stuart Broad: "The first time he really stood out was in the final test of the 2009 Ashes (his 22nd) when, in an attack containing Steve Harmsion, Andrew Flintoff and Anderson, he routed Australia for 160 at the Oval with 5 for 37 using a clever combination of swingers and cutters to wriggle past Australian defences on a flat pitch."

Northampton's greyhound stadium lies beneath its new university campus


On Wednesday I posted a still of Northampton's greyhound stadium from a 1963 film about the town and noted that it closed the following year.

You can see the stadium in this 1947 aerial photograph of the town from the south.

It is the oval towards the bottom left of the photo and the curving line it stands next to is the railway into Northampton St John's station. It crosses the River Nene just to the north of the stadium.

Right in that bottom left-hand corner you can see an industrial area served by the railway that ran from Blisworth to Peterborough. Northampton Bridge Street station is just off the left-hand side of the photo.

If you follow the curving railway from the greyhound stadium to the bottom of the photo you will come to a large building.

This is the former Midland Railway engine shed that now acts as the student union building on Northampton University's Waterside campus. So the site of the stadium lies beneath new university buildings.

Late at night, some students swear, you can still hear excited dogs squealing and railway workers cheering their fancies home.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: 'Layla Moran Saves Ducklings from Drowning'

It seems Lord Bonkers has been playing a more important role in the Liberal Democrat leadership contest than I realised.

The ducklings were harmed in the writing of this entry, so I shall vote for Layla Moran.

Thursday

I ring Layla Moran with the news about her radical stance, only to find her a little downcast. It seems the slogan Freddie and Fiona wrote for Ed Davey - 'I’m very important and wear a suit' - is hitting the mark with the Liberal Democrat membership and she is at a loss to know what to do by way of a response. 

I tell her of an old friend who was faced with the loss of his marginal seat, only to be returned with an increased majority after rescuing a child from drowning. The most important thing, he always maintained, was that he ensured no one spotted him pushing the child into the water in the first place. 

"Baby animals are popular too," I remark, just before bidding her farewell. Sure enough, the evening papers all bear the headline 'Layla Moran Saves Ducklings from Drowning.'

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Ealing Studios was worried about bombsites by 1950


The Magnet, a minor Ealing comedy, used to be rarity, but it now turns up on Talking Pictures TV fairly regularly.

Last time I watched a bit of it I noticed something relevant to my interest in the treatment of children and bombsites in British films. And by some miracle just that scene can be found on YouTube.

Before we get to the exchange that interested me, let's not that the film's young star is an 11-year-old James Fox, billed under his real name William Fox, and that you can see a train on the Liverpool Overhead Railway at 00:30.

Then, at , 02:40 we get this exchange (if I have transcribed it correctly):
I know, there's that bombed house in Bangkok Street.

No, he wants to keep out of bombed houses. That's how my brother got pinched.
When I first blogged on the subject I gave some examples from other Ealing films:
In Ealing's Hue and Cry (1947), a damaged London belongs to errand boys and the film celebrates their independence and resourcefulness.

In Mandy (1952), the final scene of liberation, where the little deaf girl goes out to play with other children, takes place on a bombsite.

Last night I watched Passport to Pimlico (1949) last night and it proved a little more equivocal.

The local bobby visits a woman whose husband is always making models.

"It's an idea for that dump out there," she tells him, meaning a bombsite. "Give those kids somewhere decent to play."

He looks out at the small boys scuffling in the dirt and replies: "They seem to be doing pretty well as it is."

She replies: "I'd have something to say if I was their mother."
The Magnet was made in 1950 and the screenplay was by T.E.B. Clarke, who also wrote Hue and Cry and Passport to Pimlico.

Clarke seems to have been on a journey. Though the exchange above from The Magnet reads well, as delivered by the young actor it sounds almost like something from a public information film. You sense he was telling the younger member of the audience to stay away from bombsites.

As I noted in my blog post, by the early 1950s bombsites had become places were terrible things befell small boys who played on them.

Were there tragedies that have been forgotten, or, as I suggested, did this anxiety arise from a feeling that the nuclear family needed to be reinforced as the collectivist wartime era receded?

It may be relevant that people in the 1950s did not congratulate themselves on living in an era with low crime rates but worried about juvenile delinquency. And bombsites were places outside adult authority,

One final point: the boys Fox meets do not sound particularly Liverpudlian to modern ears. The one who does is the Chinese boy played by Geoffrey Yin, and the exchange with his mother is still funny after 70 years,

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Layla Moran’s radical stance

If I didn't know him better, I would think Lord Bonkers was making fun of me. Only this morning I wrote that I am going to vote for Layla Moran

Apologies to whoever it was who first made this joke on Twitter.

Wednesday

With the village hall being a little too cosy to permit of social distancing, we now hold our discotheques for the young people on the green. 

Whilst spinning the discs, I observe that many erstwhile dancers are standing stock still with their feet planted and arms at various angles – rather as if they have remembered an urgent appointment whilst halfway through a pull shot. I ask one young lady the reason for this.

"It’s Layla Moran’s radical stance," she explains.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

A philosophical question: Did I miss seeing Geoff Boycott run out Derek Randall?


Forty-three years ago today I was locked out of the second day of the Trent Bridge Ashes test.

On the first day England had bowled Australia for 243, with a young player called Ian Botham taking 5-74 on debut, and closed at 9-0.

The result of my being turned away the next day was that I missed seeing a notorious run out. Derek Randall, a Nottinghamshire hero, was stitched up like a kipper by Geoffrey Boycott.

That reduced England to 52-3, which became 82-5. At this point Alan Knott came in and began batting with his usual impish brilliance. This had the effect of waking Boycott, who had seemed genuinely distraught at Randall's demise, and the two of them put on over 200. England made 364 and went on to win the test.

Me? I went trainspotting and heard much of Boycott and Knott's partnership on my transistor while sitting on a parcels trolley on Nottingham station.

These days it seems silly to imagine you could turn up at a test and pay on the gate, but I had done just that for the past three years. That included the first day of the first Ashes test at Edgbaston in 1975 when I got to see my hero John Snow opening the bowling for England.

But can I say that I missed Randall being run out at Trent Bridge in 1977?

I have always worried about a statement like this because it seems to imply that it was already inevitable the run out would happen when I turned up at the ground.

True, being run out by Boycott was more predictable than most events in cricket, but even that depended on an infinite number of contingencies. How can it possibly have been preordained? (Note that my worry is not that I might somehow have affected events on the field by being in the ground.)

There is an essay by Gilbert Ryle that discusses this sort of question - you can read the whole of It Was To Be online - but his point is different.

He wants to reassure us that, though the statement "Randall will be run out by Boycott" was true before play started, that does not mean the event was inevitable.

I am perfectly clear it was not inevitable, but worried that the way we talk about such events implies that it was.

The answer, as I am sure Ryle would say, is that we need to analyse the things we say in such circumstances carefully.

For instance, I have no trouble saying "Randall was run out by Boycott and I was not there to see it."

I suspect the difference is that this is true of almost everybody, whereas "I missed seeing Randall being run out by Boycott because I was turned away from the ground" feels as though it is about me alone.

So is my error that I am making myself the hero of the day rather than Alan Knott?

I shall be voting for Layla Moran


It's make your mind up time and I have decided I shall be voting for Layla Moran in the Liberal Democrat leadership contest.

The contest has been billed as one between Layla's ideas and Ed Davey's competence, which is rather unfair on both candidates.

I voted for Ed last time round because of his clear policy offer, but I have not seen any difference in competence between him and Layla this time. I am therefore going with Layla's more ambitious vision for our party and winning personality.

Ed's supporters are quick to remind us that we are competing with the Conservatives in the seats we have some hope of gaining next time round.

But I worry about the thinking behind this. I don't want to see the Lib Dems reduced to a party that expends its energies on not upsetting moderate Conservatives in a dozen or so seats in the Home Counties.

So it's Layla for me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A portrait of Northampton in 1963



Click on the image of Northampton greyhound stadium above to view this film on the British Film Institute site.

There the blurb runs:
This exhaustively detailed account of Northampton in the early 1960s may lack cinematic flair but the passage of time has left us with a snapshot of a town on the up and keen to expand. This film was made for an unnamed company that was keen to relocate to Northampton - or as they tell us, to the town which has shopping facilities that compare with any London suburb and houses to rent for only 30 shillings a week. If you're a local you might even spot your own home.
The greyhound stadium in Cotton End lasted only another year and the outdoor pool by the Nene in Midsummer Meadow closed in 1983.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The great Liberal philosopher L.T. Duckworth

Lord Bonkers, it appears, will not be taking sides in the current Liberal Democrat leadership election, but he does have trenchant things to say about the party's decision to allow the candidates to pile up more nominations than the rules of the contest require.

Tuesday

Much to the bookies’ chagrin, it has turned out to be a meagre field in the latest contest for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. So much so, that we are down to just two candidates: the splendid Ed Davey and the equally splendid Layla Moran. 

I had been one of those urging the MP for Bath to stand. Wera Duckworth, as you probably know, is some sort of relation by marriage of the great Liberal philosopher L.T. Duckworth and was the inventor of the Duckworth Lewes Method, which had much to do with Norman Baker’s victory in 1997. Stand she did, but she soon sat down again. 

Now I am plagued by supporters of the said Davey and Moran asking me to nominate their man or – indeed – woman. "Now look here," I tell them, "You have the 200 nominations you need, so go away and do some hard thinking." The line generally goes dead at that point.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary: