Thursday, December 31, 2015

20’s Plenty: The Move to Safer Speeds in the UK



A video by Streetfilms:
For those watching in the United States, this film is like a road map to how to get public support and your community energized around lower speed limits. 
New York City may have recently set it's city speed limits at 25 mph, but to keep driving down serious injuries and fatalities, we should be following the example set by the UK.

Lord Bonkers in 2015

You can find a selection of the old boy's wit and wisdom over on Liberator's blog:
[The Revd Hughes] tells me he has arranged for a locum vicar to take Divine Service and visit the sick whilst he is away. 
“He’s young and keen and believes every word of the Liberal Democrat manifesto is the literal truth.” 
I eye him levelly: “It’s not Farron, is it?”
You may also enjoy these two posts from 2010:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Liberal England in 2015, Part 4



October

A pioneer of rock singing on a suburban Manchester railway station? It doesn't get any better than Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

I pondered the significance of Charlotte Church on Question Time and posted an alarming recording of Elizabeth Butler-Sloss interviewing a victim of Bishop Peter Ball.

It turned out that Leicester thought it had found the body of Richard III back in 1935.

I was able to show that I had never believed in Camila Batmanghelidjh before asking why so many wanted to do so.

Quite by accident, I listened to Dapper Laughs.

In a happier accident, I discovered film of a little Black girl being crowned Queen of the May in a Northamptonshire village in 1944.



November

It transpired that, after cutting council tax by £7 before the local elections, Harborough Tories were to charge £40 a year for collecting garden waste.

I expressed my fears for bloggers who suddenly disappear and was annoyed by a London primary school that told its pupils to walk with their hands clasped behind their backs.

The Liberal Democrats were right to contest the Oldham West and Royton by-election seriously, or so I argued. I also said that we need more good third places in council by-elections.

I boasted that I once drew with a player who had come second in the British chess championship and insisted that J.K. Rowling is not the sole arbiter when it comes to interpreting the Harry Potter books.



December

I traced the journey of Alistair Darling from the International Marxixt Group to a directorship at Morgan Stanley - that's him holding the banner above.

My defence of underage drinking was published by the Leicester Mercury.

The Liberal Democrats held a council seat in Market Harborough with an increased majority.

I explained how Thatcherites and Blairites had buggered up Britain between them. I also found the Shropshire roots of The Knights Who Say "Ni!"

A young Paddy Ashdown turned up in a video of British troops in Sarawak.

I detailed the evidence that Greville Janner would have faced in court and ended the year by praising BBC Radio 4 Extra;


Now read...

Liberal England in 2015: Part 1
Liberal England in 2015: Part 2
Liberal England in 2015: Part 3

Jonathan Meades vs Jackie Ballard



A paragraph in a 2013 interview with Jonathan Meades intrigues:
He loathed the Taunton public school to which his parents managed to send him, a "philistine place" he has described as "hell". It took him, or so he says, 27 years to return to the town, and when he did, he got his revenge by sending it up in one of his restaurant reviews (he was then the offal-scoffing and somewhat porcine restaurant critic of the Times). The locals and its liberal democrat MP went nuts.
Can this be true?

A 1998 story from BBC News shows that it is:
His article has angered residents so much that the MP has demanded an apology. 
Meades asked in The Times article if the restaurant would thrive in the town. 
He questions whether the "three headed sheep shaggers" would come down from the hills to support the establishment. 
And if they did, he continues, where would they park their combine harvester or tie up their cow?
And who was the Liberal Democrat MP who went nuts?
Local reaction to the article has led the town's Liberal Democrat MP Jackie Ballard to table a Common's (sic) motion seeking an apology. 
She said: "I think its a disgraceful slur on the county town of Somerset and also Mr Meades made some crude comments on the natives of Somerset who he thinks are not sophisticated enough to enjoy a good restaurant. 
"I can assure him they are."
And Jackie Ballard really did table an early day motion on the subject. It ran:
That this House deplores remarks made by Jonathan Meades in The Times Magazine of Saturday 4th July regarding the people and town of Taunton; knows that Taunton is the county town of Somerset and it has many natural and man-made assets including the River Tone and the recently enhanced, thriving town centre; recognises that Taunton is at the heart of a rural community and is also the home of Somerset county cricket, the Charity Commissioners, the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, The Castle Hotel and many other nationally known organisations and businesses; and calls on Mr Meades to apologise specifically to the people of the Somerset levels and the Blackdown Hills for his obscene and offensive comments and to the people of Somerset for his unwarranted slur on their county town.
There were 11 signatories: Jackie, nine loyal Liberal Democrats and, for some odd reason, Ken Livingstone.

Meades's reaction to the affair? According to BBC News:
Mr Meades said he will not withdraw his comments as they were meant light heartedly . 
He said: "She has no sense of humour, she is after all a Liberal Democrat."
People can be so unfair.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A cat playing Jenga

Liberal England in 2015, Part 3


July

These days I have caring responsibilities for my mother, so it is harder to get away. I did manage a few days in Canterbury this month, only to be derailed at Chilham by cows.

In other news, Tim Farron was elected as leader of the Liberal Democrats (with my help).

With attention turning to the Labour contest, I suspected that Dan Jarvis was benefiting from Kieron Dyer Syndrome.

And I suggested that the fault line between David Cameron and George Osborne runs through Eynsham Cricket Club.

I explored the remains of Leicester Central railway station, while an old film about Hemel Hempstead provided some unexpected connections to my childhood.




August

I travelled to Sheringham in Norfolk and back in a day to see The Lone Pine Club a play based on the children's books by this blog's hero Malcolm Saville.

I suggested five likely consequences of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader and posted evidence that the Liberal Party was all too award of the activities of Cyril Smith.

Posts on Reculver and Dungeness drew on my holiday snaps.

Most notable of all, the nation mourned Stephen Lewis.





September

Another Arts Fresco street theatre festival was held in Market Harborough.

The press tried to manufacture a row about the Glee Club at the Liberal Democrat Conference.

Eric Joyce won Twitter and a water main burst to spectacular effect in my old ward.

Apart from that it was all sport...

After Frank Tyson died I found some footage of him bowling at one of Northamptonshire's outgrounds,.

David Miliband invented cleverball and Lord Bonkers introduced us to the film 'Straight Outta Nick Compton' and the controversial song 'Fuck tha Selectors'.


Now read...

Liberal England in 2015: Part 1
Liberal England in 2015: Part 2
Liberal England in 2015: Part 4

Six of the Best 562

There is still crucial work to do on the campaign to reform the pub trade, says Gareth Epps.

"Dickensian would not only be inspired by Dickens’s novels: in its alternating layers of melodrama and comedy, like the ‘streaky bacon’ effect he wrote about in Oliver Twist, its style would also be truly Dickensian." Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is literary adviser to the BBC series.

"The heritage minister, Tracey Crouch, announced that Clouds Hill, the tiny home of T E Lawrence , near Wareham in Dorset has been given Grade II* status," reports David Hencke.

Alwyn Turner introduces us to William Charles Boyden-Mitchell, better known as Bill Mitchell, and better known still as Uncle Bill of British Forces Broadcasting Service.

A Lady in London discovers Eel Pie Island.

"The churches of mostly rural Suffolk ... harbour a curiosity - woodwoses (literally 'wild-men-of-the-woods'), hirsute manimals brandishing clubs." Matt Salusbury on creatures that make Jacks in the Green look tame.

Record-breaking year for road repairs in Lincolnshire

We have our Headline of the Day, courtesy of the Rutland & Stamford Mercury.

The opening night of Oliver!


9 July 1968 - Many belong to a species of stage boy, only related to childhood by their small size. All the other attributes of boyhood - youth, gaiety, innocence - have long since gone. Squat creatures, seemingly weaned on Woodbines, they are the boys who have been in Oliver! Lionel Bart has cut a swathe through the nation's youth like the 1914-18 war. They are the new Lost Generation.
Alan Bennett Writing Home (1994)

There is at present a good documentary from 2002 on the BBC iPlayer about the opening night of Lionel Bart's 'Oliver!' It includes interviews with the late Ron Moody and Tony Robinson, who was one of Fagin's gang.

I suspect a young Robinson is second from left in the photograph above. Holding the cake is Keith Hamshere, the original Oliver, who want on to become one of the leading stills photographers in the film industry.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway



Built to service the Crystal Palace exhibition and opened in 1865, the Crystal Palace and South London Junction Railway ran between Nunhead and Crystal Palace. It closed in 1954.

There is more about Crystal Palace High Level station on London Reconnections.

Liberal England in 2015: Part 2

April

I visited Burton Overy and founds its telephone box was now a library.

Keeping tabs on the general election campaign, I reported that the contest in Hampstead and Kilburn would go ahead despite death of a former Eurovision entrant.

Lord Bonkers remembered the making on Bomb on the Buses:
"Who could forget the scene where poor Olive is rescued from the speeding bus? Lines of dialogue such as 'Blimey, Stan, keep your foot down' and 'Don’t you dare touch that brake, Butler' were on everyone’s lips.
Two journalists recalled being in Leicester for the trial at Frank Beck, where allegations against Greville Janner were first heard in public.

I found a priceless fragment of my past in a 1978 issue of Antiquarian Book Monthly Review.





May

"The general election was bloody awful for the Liberal Democrats," I wrote in the Leicester Mercury with characteristic perspicacity.

I was cheered up by discovering the video above - a profile of the Spencer Davis Group from a 1966 programme called 'A Whole Scene Going'.

I passed the Homophobic Monk twice in one day and went to see the tomb of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats were recruiting a surprising number of new members and I asked what the party could offer them.

I brought the world the first pictures of Tim Farron as a would be pop star and went to Pitsford to search for the Jack in the Green.




June

The Liberal Democrats mourned the early death of Charles Kennedy.

Wandering the back streets of Loughborough (as one does), I came across a memorial to the 1916 Zeppelin raid on the town.

Ron Moody, the original and best Fagin in 'Oliver!' had also died. I was pleased to discover that he had studied under Karl Popper.

Not for the first time, a batsman was out c Bairstow b Willey in a limited overs international.

Closer to home, I found the Aylestone Road ground in Leicester where the county played between 1901 and 1939 - see the photo above.

I also examined Norman Lamb's sudden enthusiasm for the right to die.


Now read...

Liberal England in 2015: Part 1
Libearl England in 2015: Part 3
Liberal England in 2015: Part 4

Lenore Skenazy and free-range kids



I spent a day at the Battle of Ideas in October partly so I could hear Lenore Skenazy speak.

Skenazy is an American journalist and campaigner who writes the Free-Range Kids blog. (Having no children of my own I am, of course, an expert on such matters.)

She was an entertaining speaker, but I cannot find a video of the session she took part in. So instead here is a brief one where she sets out her ideas.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Liberal England in 2015: Part 1



January

Lord Bonkers remembered the first Liberal Democrat leadership election and a zinger from Paddy Ashdown:
"Beith be not proud, though some have called the
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so."
I forecast that the forthcoming general election would be more boring than people expected. I badly misunderestimated the SNP surge, but was right to be sceptical about Green and Ukip advances.

The Black Beast of Harborough was sighted again, this time along the canal between Laughton and Lubenham.

I pondered globalisation and the death of Pigling Bland:
If your goal is to produce a book that is inoffensive in every culture, it is not surprising if you come up with something rather anaemic. 
Back in the 1970s, good Liberals wanted a greater role for the market as a counterweight to centralised power. We wanted choice and innovation. 
Today, however, things are more complicated than that. What the market often gives us is homogenisation.
I discovered Cleaners from Venus and their 'Illya Kuryakin Looked at me.'

Sadly, the election victory of Billy Brooke (pictured above) as Purr Minster 2015 did not turn out to be an omen for the Liberal Democrats.





February

The New Walk Centre, Leicester, bit the dust.

I explained why Nick Clegg would hold Sheffield Hallam and also - without having the courage to join all the dots - why many Lib Dem MPs would lose in a post on the Eastleigh by-election.

Why haven't tuition fees deterred young people from going to university? I suggested some reasons.

I also explained why every politician always receives "a great reception on the doorstep".

One of my favourite railway videos of the year showed the Stamford to Seaton shuttle in 1966.



March

I spent my birthday paying my respects to a King of England who died 475 years before I was born - Richard III.

Another notable demolition - Greyfriars Bus Station in Northampton - took place.

The Liberal Democrats unexpectedly revived the kerb drill as part of their general election campaign, while I suggested that Parliament should move to Arkwright's Mill, Cromford.

Two of my photographs were used by the BBC and I blogged about sources of free images for bloggers.

I paid tribute to the Yorkshire and England bowler Bob Appleyard and found a video of Bobby Henrey, child star of the 1948 film The Fallen Idol, giving a talk about the film 66 years on.


Now read...

Liberal England in 2015: Part 2
Liberal England in 2015: Part 3

The Byrds: Chestnut Mare



This has the Byrds' characteristic jingle-jangle sound and there turns out to be an interesting history behind it.

Chestnut Mare was written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy for Gene Tryp, a proposed country rock musical based on Peer Gynt. That show never materialised and the song was included on the Byrds' Untitled album.

A shorter version made no. 19 in the UK singles chart early in 1971, though I am not convinced I remember hearing it from then,

Six of the Best 561

"New research from Leeds University into the impacts of permitted heather burning on upland peat bog shows that for the 20% biggest storms, the flow of water over land is higher than in areas where the moorland has not been burnt."  A prophetic post from Upper Calder Valley Plain Speaker back in August.

A little unexpectedly, David Boyle's take on A Christmas Carol appears on Philosophy Football.

Matt Crowley pays tribute to Malcolm in the Middle: "Far from the wistful nostalgia of The Wonder Years or the chummy bickering of Home Improvement, Malcolm In The Middle presents a childhood that basically sucks. Bullies rule the school, teachers are indifferent, and being smart is akin to being radioactive."

There are still 1500 gas street lamps burning in London. Maev Kennedy meets the people who light them.

Sam Roberts chooses his top 10 London ghost signs.

Judging by its place names, the landscape of Medieval Lincolnshire was haunted monstrous creatures, says Caitlin Green.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Call for sculpture to commemorate the Barwell Christmas meteorite



From BBC News:
A stone sculpture should be erected to commemorate a meteorite which hit the UK on Christmas Eve 50 years ago, campaigners have said. 
The meteorite, which was the size of a "Christmas turkey", exploded into thousands of pieces over Barwell, Leicestershire, on Christmas Eve, 1965. It was the biggest recorded meteorite to hit the UK.
Read more about the Barwell meteorite on this blog.

Ironic Tweet of the Year

It was Sunday 26 July. I was staying in Canterbury and had been down to Hastings to see Liberator's Stewart Rayment and family.

Waiting at Ashford for my last train of the day, I sent this tweet:


Lovers of the film A Canterbury Tale will recognise the reference. The action of the film is set in motion when Sergeant John Sweet (US Army) mistakenly gets off his train at the station before the city.

Shortly afterwards the Canterbury train arrived, I caught it and then this happened and I had to get off before Canterbury...


Christmas traditions at Bonkers Hall



Lord Bonkers writes exclusively for Liberal England:
"We always decorate the domestic staff for Christmas."

Footbridge to replace level crossing in Market Harborough


On 23 December this press release was posted on the Network Rail website:
A level crossing in Leicestershire which was closed earlier this year due to safety concerns is to be replaced by a new footbridge. 
Little Bowden foot crossing was closed back in August after a risk assessment determined that the amount of time people were asked to stand at the red light varied too much for it to be safe. Train movements in the area meant that on some occasions the red light would be triggered by an approaching train which would then reverse into a nearby siding and therefore never arrive at the crossing itself. 
Network Rail determined that the variation in warning time– although working entirely as it should – meant that those using the crossing may grow to distrust the warnings and decide to cross when it was unsafe to. 
Now Network Rail is applying for planning permission to allow a bridge to be built at Little Bowden, which crosses the Midland Main Line and sees around 200 trains a day pass through it, with the crossing set to remain closed permanently. 
Designs for the bridge are currently being discussed with Leicestershire County Council, with the new footbridge potentially in place within the next 12 months.
These workings that trigger the crossing lights without ever arriving at the crossing must be track machines arriving from or leaving for the North at the sidings by Market Harborough station. And I imagine they generally take place early in the morning or late at night when few people are using the crossing.

While the railway enthusiast in me mourns the loss of more traditional infrastructure, I can see why Network Rail is uneasy about this crossing, particularly as houses have recently been built close to it. They did annoy people locally, though, by closing the crossing a year ago without notice or consultation.

In fact the wonder is that it has not already been replaced. Network Rail has spent money erecting bridges to eliminate crossings along the line here - at Braybrooke, Great Bowden and Kilby Bridge, that must see far fewer people crossing than the one in Little Bowden.

And it least it may make a new location for photographing the line.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas to all our readers



Jesus Christ the Apple Tree is an anonymous 18th-century poem and this setting is by the 20th-century British composer Elizabeth Poston.

Between them they manage that combination of the sacred and the pagan that makes Christmas work.

Six of the Best 560

Joanna Ferguson announces the relaunch of Liberal Youth's blogging platform The Libertine.

"Measurement, Bob says, is the big challenge facing the outdoor education industry. You can measure a child's progress in maths, spelling, grammar… so we tend to hone in on those things. But it’s so much harder to quantify how much more confident or empathetic or happy a child is this term versus last. So we don't prioritise these things, and so nor the activities that develop them.'" Dominic Collard speaks up for outdoor education.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein spent some time teaching in an elementary school in the Austrian mountains. Spencer Robins looks at that period's influence on his thought.

"Self went on to argue that understanding the age of buildings was a key to understanding the built environment. Elderly people were better at it, he said, because they had often seen the buildings being constructed. Young people less so." Steven Morris follows Will Self on a psychogeographic walk through Bristol.

Dave Walker is puzzled by an undeveloped plot in South Kensington. Someone Twitter said it had been earmarked for a new Iranian Embassy that cannot now be built because of economic sanctions.

London Traveller follows the Ravensbourne River through a surprisingly rural landscape from Bromley South station to Caesar's Well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Two policemen and the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree, 1948



"Yes, Dickie, but I don't think this gentleman is very interested in policemen. Uncle Alf - that's Mr Ingles - told me this morning that he likes to have a few policemen around at this time of year. He said they reminded him of Christmas, but I can't think why, can you?"
Malcolm Saville Wings Over Witchend (1956)

The shorter Polly Toynbee





We're all doomed.

Six of the Best 559

Flashbak has some great photographs of British coal mining taken between 1930 and 1950.

Chris Sayer presents his choice of the 20 mightiest small bookshops in the UK.

The children's writer Peter Dickinson has died. Britain is No Country for Old Men pays tribute to him.

"Arguments take place in online forums as to where exactly the house stood. Some are determined that there is a bit of old wall remaining and that they have stood in the back yard of the house. Others argue (plausibly) that the street alignment was changed on rebuilding, making a drain cover the location." Sarah Miller Walters on !0 Rillington Place - the house and the film.

Trisha xx has been to see the new Star Wars film and gives it five stars. Did you know, incidentally, that Daisy Ridley is the great niece of Arnold Ridley from Dad's Army?

"A truly wonderful film of a summer holiday in Bude in 1955," claims Paul Walter. And he is right. It really is wonderful. No doubt it will appear on this blog after a decent interval has elapsed.

In praise of BBC Radio 4 Extra


Since I got myself a digital radio I have fallen in love with a new station: BBC Radio 4 Extra.

I suppose you have to be of a certain age to appreciate a station based on the archives, but who would want to listen to the Today programme when you can go to work cheered by an episode of Round the Horne?

This morning Julian and Sandy, as Bona Mediums, were demonstrating their gift of second vada.

Another programme I have heard on it recently is Alick Rowe's play from the 1980s Crisp and Even Brightly,which Stephen Tall has written about today.

In some ways, with its varied, interesting schedule, Radio 4 Extra resembles that other resort of the insomniac, BBC World Service, before it was transformed into a rolling news service. And it's certainly more fun than the World Service is today.

Why A Box of Delights was not filmed

Back in November 2009 I got excited by the news that Mike Newell was to direct a film of John Masefield's The Box of Delights with a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

But the film never went into production and I have now found an interview with Newell from 2012 that explains why.

Lousia Mellor from Den of Geek asked him about it and got a depressing reply:
Something close to our hearts is your planned adaptation of John Masefield's The Box Of Delights. What's the status of that at the moment? 
The script is there, I would love to make it but I think there is a problem with The Box Of Delights and the problem is that… I don’t know what children expect. 
I know what adult Hollywood producers think they expect and it is that the story should be much more intricate and much more special effect-y and have comedy and [waves hands around] terrible surprises, and to look overegged in general. 
The Box Of Delights is a story from the 1930s about a boy who has wished on him something that is almost a curse, which is a box that can allow him to do certain things, and is being struggled over by two powerful figures from the past. 
And you know, I’m from a certain generation, and I am the age I am and for me, it’s partly an answer to your thing about why didn’t you juice up Great Expectations. For me, the story of that book, just the way it is with the story of Great Expectations, is sufficient. 
It’s a really good story, it has a really strong human sense of good and evil and exploration and peril and all sorts of wonderful things but I think it’s in trouble because it isn’t Transformers.
A sad conclusion, but at least we have the BBC adaptation to watch.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Wisbech to March line



Filmed on a sunny, windy day in January this year, this video follows the remains of the railway from Wisbech back to March.

I suspect all those level crossings are a large part of the reason it was closed to freight trains in 2000. (Passenger services had gone in 1968.)

The good news is that there is a strong campaign to reopen the line.

The allegations against Greville Janner

What do to about Greville Janner?

Trying a dead man is surely an absurdity out of the Middle Ages, yet handing the affair over to Justice Lowell Goddard's general inquiry risks seems an inadequate response.

Could a separate, immediate inquiry be held in Leicester?

As to what the allegations are, there is a story in The Times today (and thus behind its paywall) under the headline 'Justice evaded by man with influential friends':
Had the case gone ahead, the court would have heard evidence that Lord Janner sometimes groomed boys for "relationships" and on other occasions acted opportunistically to grope and indecently assault teenagers. 
The alleged offences took place primarily in Leicestershire, when Lord Jenner was driven by his parliamentary interns to his constituency from London, where he preferred to spend most of his time. 
The Times is aware, however, that allegations have also been made concerning assaults on children at the Oasis swimming pool in central London. 
Former interns said that he had little interest in constituency work. One former intern gave evidence that the long drives to Leicester sometimes involved stops at particular children's homes and at service stations. 
That account links with evidence from one of the alleged victims, Hamish Baillie, who says that the MP first approached him when he was playing arcade games at Leicester Forest East service station in 1983. 
Mr Baillie believe that Janner was told his name and where to find him by Frank Beck, manager of the care home where he was a resident for nine months.
The Needle blog adds:
Sources familiar with the ‘trial of the facts’ had told The Needle that about 100 witnesses were due to give evidence against Janner and that the evidence was overwhelming.
Other posts about Greville Janner on this blog include:

Five news stories you don't get any more



As you get older the world changes and fashion changes.

So, based on my childhood and teenage perceptions from the 1960s and 1970s, let me present my Five News Stories You Don't Get Any More.

1. Air disasters

Back in the 1970s the loss of a passenger jet with horrific casualties seemed to be a monthly occurrence. Today you hardly hear of them.

The figures in this CNN report suggest that this perception is correct.

2. Formula 1 drivers being killed

Again in the 1960s it seemed to be taken granted that several leading Formula 1 drivers would die each season.

Today that seems unthinkable. When Ayrton Senna died the shock went around the world.

This Wikipedia list of fatalities suggests my memory is a little exaggerated, but the pattern is clear.

3. Balance of payments crisis

When I first became old enough to watch or listen to the news and understand it, Britain's balance of payments crisis was a near permanent story.

By the time I came to study A level Economics we had discovered 'invisible exports' and were less worried.

Today you never hear the balance of payments mentioned.

4. Ever younger children swimming the English Channel

Once skinny little figures shivering in goose grease appeared regularly in the news. Today you never see them.

It turns out that the Channel Swimming Association imposed a minimum age of 16 years in 2000, which means that the record is likely to stay with Thomas Gregory, who made the crossing in 1988 aged 11 years and 336 days.

5. Japanese soldiers emerging from the jungle not knowing World War II was over

This was another popular story. I was surprised to find that two elderly Japanese soldiers were found hiding out on a Philippine island as recently as 2005.

Who knows? There may still be more out there.

Reindeer on the loose causes chaos in Nottingham after escaping from Tesco

The Independent wins Headline of the Day.

The judges particularly liked the comment from "local resident Amanda Walker, 35":
"It was an incredible sight. You get the odd squirrel around here, but never a reindeer."
BREAKING...

This just in from The Press:
Jesus kidnapped in York

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Labour MPs want to oust Jeremy Corbyn and make Alan Johnson new leader

I have no idea if the story is true - and Alan Johnson has shown no enthusiasm for being Labour leader when he has been asked to stand or lead a coup in the past - but the Mirror is reporting this evening:
Moderate Labour MPs want veteran MP Alan Johnson to step in as caretaker leader if they manage to oust Jeremy Corbyn . 
Four senior sources including members of the shadow cabinet have said they see the former Home Secretary as the best man to unite the party if Mr Corbyn was forced to step down. 
One shadow cabinet source said it was “a case of when, not if” Mr Corbyn is forced out by disgruntled MPs.
Liberal England: circulating unfounded rumours since 2004.

Trees: Polly on the Shore



Trees were a short-lived 1970s folk rock band. On the evidence of this track they were strongly influenced by Fairport Convention.

You can read more about them on Going Weird.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A 1924 railway poster of Warwick Castle


Read about the artist Adrian Scott Stokes on Wikipedia.

The latest on "troubled Lucy Allan" from the Shropshire Star

Is being troubled worse than being embattled or beleagured?

Anyway, my favourite newspaper is the place to turn for the latest news on the Conservative MP for Telford.

The latest Shropshire Star story on her begins:
Troubled Lucy Allan has been asked to apologise for her comments about “bully boy” Labour councillors in the town – or face a lawsuit. 
The Telford MP launched a Facebook rant against “a small group of bully boy councillors, thugs and henchmen” who she claimed had hounded her for two years, before going on to name them. 
Members of the executive committee of the Telford Labour Party today published an open letter to Ms Allan in which they claim the comments made by the MP are “defamatory and untrue”.
And this morning the Telford Labour Party sent this tweet:
Elsewhere on the Star's website you can read the claims of Arianne Plumbly, who worked for Lucy Allan in her Telford office.

Jealous tree surgeon forced his way into cousin's house and attacked him in rage

Our Headline of the Day comes from the Shropshire Star.

Six of the Best 558

Labour moderates don't need a new party, they need new ideas and new purpose, argues Jonathan Todd.

Mike Smithson says that if you want the opinion polls to tell you who will win the next election you should look at the ratings of the leaders not the parties.

"Gideon Haigh summed it up in The Australian. 'The West Indies used to be baaaaaaad. Now they’re simply bad'." Peter Miller on the decline of a great test power.

Steve Galloway celebrates the restoration of Walmgate Bar and the east end of York Minster.

Inside the Box has an audio interview with Jonathan Stephens, who played Chubby Joe ("Going home for the holidays, ha ha what?") in the TV adaptation of A Box of Delights.

"Malcolm ... travelled the length and breadth of the country knocking them for six with his comedic performances as 'The Woman Who Knows', Nell Gwyn, Boudica, and the epitome of femininity the fabled 'Gibson Girl'. Flashbak on the unexpected career of the brother of Scott of the Antartic.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mr Gladstone's orphanage at Hawarden



Lord Bonkers has his Home for Well-Behave Orphans, but then it seems at one time every self-respecting Liberal politician had his own orphanage.

Caroline's Miscellany writes of William Ewart Gladstone and his wife Catherine:
As a regular visitor to the London Hospital, Whitechapel, Catherine saw at first hand the effects of the 1860s cholera epidemics on the East End poor. 
She founded an orphanage for the children of cholera victims, in a large house in Clapton. It also took in convalescent patients, and the convalescent home later moved to Woodford Hall, Essex, in 1866. Adults and children were sent here from the London Hospital in the East End to recover from illness or surgery. The home moved to Mitcham in 1900, eventually closing in 1940. 
As for the orphaned boys, Catherine sent them from Clapton to a new orphanage in the Gladstones' home village of Hawarden. Initially, she took a dozen boys from London to the village and accommodated them in a former coach house; Gladstone paid for their keep. (The couple also accommodated unemployed Lancashire mill girls and elderly women on their estate.) 
The orphanage continued for many years, and seems to have taken in other children in need of a home. A guide to the village of 1890 describes it as housing twenty to thirty boys and being 'hard by the Castle [the Gladstones' home] and across the yard'.
And this blog's hero J.W. Logan had a home in East Langton for the children of men killed on his works.

Lizard that leapt out of Christmas dinner is now prized pet for Knighton boy

Well done to the County Times for winning our Headline of the Day Award.

The poet A.E. Housman adds:
And lads knew lizards at Knighton
When I was a Knighton lad.

Hear Lynda Snell in Market Harborough tomorrow


Exciting news from the Harborough Mail:
The annual Celebration of Christmas concert will be held on Saturday (December 19) at the parish church of St Dionysius, Market Harborough ...
The reader this year is Carole Boyd, Lynda Snell from ‘The Archers’ (and all the female voices in Postman Pat among many other credits!). 
The concert starts at 7.30pm and the doors open at 6.45pm. Tickets are available from Tim Blades 07976 757352 or MH Music in Market Harborough. 
There will also be some tickets available on the door but organisers recommend that people get there early for them.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Film of the young Paddy Ashdown serving in Sarawak



I have seen this clip a couple of times before. It turns out to come from one of the Look at Life films - I have featured a few of them here in the past.

The BBC once put them together to form 30-minute programmes. The video above should play just the relevant segment of this one, where you will see "Marine Lieutenant Ashdown". (Unfortunately, someone has added a rather clunky label telling us who he later became.)

Lord Bonkers suggests that unrepentant headhunters are just what you need in a closely fought by-election.

Lord Bonkers pays tribute to Shirley Williams




Lord Bonkers writes exclusively for Liberal England:
"I am sorry to see her go, but I fear she had lost the dressing room."

Police used anti-stalking legislation against Rutland councillors



A worrying report from BBC East Midlands Today. It reminds you that Rutland County Council won the Legal Bullies of the Year category in Private Eye's 2013 Rotten Boroughs Awards.

I hope Nick Wainwright will take this further. Asking awkward questions of the chief executive is an important part of a councillor's role.

Thanks to Martin Brookes.

The Shropshire schoolmaster who said "Ni!"


Is it any wonder that the Shropshire Star is my favourite newspaper?

You would't get this in the Guardian, the Financial Times or City AM:
An 87-year-old former schoolmaster from Shropshire has a unique claim to fame – he is the inspiration for the famous Monty Python "The Knights Who Say Ni" sketch. 
Laurence Le Quesne had a habit when at Shrewsbury School of exclaiming “ni” as he scoured the library for books. 
The quirky trait amused his pupils, who happened to include a certain Michael Palin. 
He used it as a basis for the famous scene in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
I also realise that I once owned a book by him on Thomas Carlyle.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Six of the Best 557

"In the current flare of details coming out about the Tatler Tory bullying affair, one group more than others has been scrambling for cover, and that is the Young Britons' Foundation." Random Scribbling Notepad tells us all about it.

"Pugh’s suggestion that Labour has a tendency to choose the wrong leader and to hang on to him too long is an interesting reflection in the light of the result of Labour’s recent leadership election." Keith Laybourn looks at some books on the history of the Labour Party.

Ian Marsh argues that policy convergence, cynical marketing strategies and the demise of party organisations have destroyed the infrastructures that once provided a platform for longer term policy debates.

Shadowplay remembers Fragment of Fear, a disturbing 1970 film starring David Hemmings and many familiar faces of the period.

While Sarah Miller Walters celebrates the Peter Sellers film Heavens Above.

The Gentle Author takes us to Bromley by Bow and the largest tidal mill in the world.

Historic England appeals for help over lost public art

Artworks created by some of the most acclaimed artists of the 20th century, from Henry Moore to Barbara Hepworth, have already been destroyed. 
Created and sited in the open for all of us to enjoy; these pieces were made for our public spaces, our schools, hospitals, housing estates, civic areas and communities. They were commissioned and designed with a social spirit to add colour to our local places and our daily lives. 
Such sculptures, murals and architectural reliefs are disappearing for many reasons, and for some pieces, it is already too late. Stolen and melted down for their scrap value; neglected and vandalised beyond repair; sold and moved from their intended public spaces; destroyed by redevelopment, or just forgotten - location unknown. The nation's great outdoor collection of public art is in jeopardy.
Historic England is seeking help in tracking down these lost pieces.

The photo here shows The Sunbathers by Peter Laszlo Peri from 1951, It was displayed on the Southbank during the Festival of Britain, but its current whereabouts are unknown.

Hugh Walters' science fiction stories for children

Tim Peake's voyage into space has reminded me of the children's science fiction books by Hugh Walters.

As a website devoted to his work says:
If you regularly borrowed science fiction books from your local library anywhen from the 1950s to the early 1980s, the chances are that your read a Hugh Walters novel or two. 
You remember - English astronaut Chris Godfrey and his team flying to each of the planets in the solar system? 
With titles like 'Expedition Venus', 'Destination Mars' and 'Journey to Jupiter', with a Hugh Walters novel you were guaranteed nailbiting tension coupled with a wealth of technical detail! 
Unfortunately the books have been out of print for many years, and many libraries have by now disposed of their copies. Hopefully this page will evoke some memories of a classic series of novels.
As I once said of the first book in the series, Blast Off at Woomera:
They don't write stories like that any more. Particularly ones in which, as I recall, the hero visits Battersea Fun Fair and has a run in with some teddy boys, and the British space mission is led by a Wing Commander Greatorex.

Man accused of stealing crate of Lucozade on hoverboard could make UK legal history

The Guardian wins Headline of the Day.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Global warming was forecast a century ago

I retweeted this 1912 press cutting yesterday morning and immediately wondered whether I had been taken in by a hoax.

But it does appear to be genuine. It comes from the Braidwood Dispatch Mining Journal, which was published in New South Wales.

So take it as a reminder of how well established the science behind fear about global warming is.

The agreement on the climate signed in Paris was immensely welcome, though I fear some governments will expend considerable energy on trying to wriggle out of what they agreed to over the coming years.

And the controversialists and backers of dirty industry will continue to doubt the science. But as Upton Sinclair said:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Steve Gibbons Band: Tulane



Choosing Fight for My Country by Balls a couple of years ago I wrote:
A couple of Saturdays ago I saw Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings at Market Harborough Leisure Centre. The opening act was Steve Gibbons, a legend of the Birmingham music scene. 
Back in 1977, when the Steve Gibbons Band had a hit with Tulane, he was a leather-jacketed rocker - a sort of Brummie Fonz. Today he looks like a Southern gentleman, albeit one you would be wise not to play cards with for money.
So here is Steve Gibbons in his pomp. The bass guitarist in his band is another Birmingham legend - Trevor Burton from The Move.

Stop the War purges its website

There have been stories over the past week about Stop the War removing the more controversial (i.e. antisemitic, pro-dictator) articles from its website.

So thanks to The Real Stop the War for preserving those articles before they disappear down the memory hole.

St Pancras to Sheffield in 1971



More than 3 hours 20 minutes  of Midland Main Line nostalgia with a commentary explaining what you are seeing and some comparison footage of the line today.

Thrill to Market Harborough (1:39:00) still with its canopies, Leicester (1:58:30) still with its overall roof and the numerous semaphore signals and signal boxes along the route.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mark Steel, whataboutery and polytoynbeeism

Back in September I suggested that "whataboutery is pretty much all that enthusiasts for Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party have to offer".

Certainly that trope is alive and well amongst them, judging by the number of times this has been retweeted into my timeline.

The truth, of course, is that it is perfectly possible to believe Corbyn is wrong to hang out with apologists for Putin and Assad and to believe it is wrong for MPs to allows themselves to be wined and dined by arms dealers and offshore bankers.

Still, whataboutery does represent a new departure for Mark Steel. In the past he has relied solely upon polytoynbeeism:
Mark Steel has based a whole stand up and journalistic career on this trick. His every column or routine runs in essence: "So the Tories say X do they? I expect they say Y and Z too!" And everyone laughs. 
They laugh because this technique is a form of political group grooming. It reminds you how generous and sensible you and your allies are, and how cruel and stupid your opponents are.
But then Steel had to broaden his range when he left the SWP in 2008 (but was kept on by Radio 4 even so). For, as Harry's Blog pointed out at the time:
Given that Mark Steel's comedy routine consists of reciting the editorials from last week's Socialist Worker in a "blokey" voice, I wonder what he'll do for material in the future.
So well done Mark. Maybe your comic repertoire will be so broad one day that you will be able to come out against fascists and semi-fascists like Assad and Putin.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Jonathan Meades on Robert Clayton's 'Estate'



An excerpt from a forthcoming film short about Robert Clayton's photo book Estate - colour documentary photographs shot a generation ago.

How Thatcherites and Blairites buggered up Britain between them

I have a soft spot for The Age of Insecurity, a 1998 book by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson.

In part this is because, having bought a copy and sat down to read it, I found that I was quoted in it.

Since you ask, that quote runs:
In a letter to the Guardian on 15 September 1997, Jonathan Calder wrote: "Labour is effectively recasting unemployment as a form of individual delinquency."
So I can claim to have identified early on a trend that has continued right up to Iain Duncan Smith and his Work Capability Assessments.

The other reason I like the books is that it central analysis still seems spot on.

Elliott and Atkinson argue that the supposed rise of freedom in the two decades before they wrote was only for freedom of a particular sort.

Money had certainly been set free by measures such as the abolition of exchange controls, but people actually enjoyed less freedom. That freedom had been eroded both by the Thatcherite war on unions and job security and by New Labour's enthusiasm for policing private life.

As they wrote:
The citizen now fears not only the P45 and the UB40, but the knock on the door from the child welfare inspector.
Again, that analysis seems prophetic today in a world where money travels the globe in microseconds and refugees die in the attempt to cross national borders.

I thought of The Age of Insecurity today when I read a post on the always excellent Stumbling and Mumbling blog: Workplace Coercion.

In it Chris Dillow ("Rutland's leading economic thinker"), who writes the blog, quotes the Guardian report of working conditions at Sports Direct:
All warehouse workers are kept onsite at the end of each shift in order to undergo a compulsory search by Sports Direct security staff, with the experience of the Guardian reporters suggesting this typically adds another hour and 15 minutes to the working week – which is unpaid.
He then asks why right-wing lovers of freedom are never heard criticising such arrangements.

Is it that they believe the labour markets function as the economic textbooks say they should? Is it that they fear any intervention in those markets will make things worse?

Or is it - and my money's on this one - that they care only about freedom for bosses, and not freedom for all.

The way that New Labour has contribute to the insecurity of the average Briton was also discussed in a Guardian article today by Tom Clark.

Clark argues that successful prime ministers - and he gives Attlee and Thatcher as examples - first argue against the conventional wisdom, then establish a new consensus and finally frame laws and institutions that cement it for years after they have stood down.

He goes on:
Now think of the apologetic nervousness with which New Labour did great things. Within a few years of passing the Human Rights Act, Jack Straw found it expedient to begin rubbishing it – so today Conservatives can now sound respectable in proposing to rip it up. 
Gordon Brown goaded the Tories into voting for the abolition of child poverty, but because nobody outside of Westminster was engaged in that argument, the Tories can today move the goalposts by redefining a poverty measure just before the poverty rate surges. 
New Labour’s tax credits dressed redistribution up as a tax cut. At the same time, the party indulged suspicions about welfare cheats with endless headlines about dedicated hotlines to dob in neighbours for swinging the lead, or lie detectors in jobcentres.
He concludes:
as Labour in parliament looks on in bewilderment at a voluntary party that appears to have lost all appetite for office, it should give some thought to the doctrine of power at any price, and the transient nature of its legacy.
That is unfair to Labour activists, most of who very much want power even if they have opted for a wrongheaded strategy of winning it.

But Clark is right that New Labour ducked arguments and tried to do good while sounding as though it was being nasty to people.

I think New Labour saw this as a way of keeping the middle classes happy, but its effect has been to bolster just those strands in working-class and lower middle-class thinking that make people unwilling to vote Labour.

But then me and Larry and Dan could have told you that almost 20 years ago.