Sunday, April 23, 2017

Taylor's Bell Foundry, Loughborough


There has, rightly, been a lot of attention paid to the campaign to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry,

But there is another working bell foundry in England and it is here in Leicestershire. Wikipedia tells its story:
John Taylor & Co, commonly known as Taylor's Bell Foundry, Taylor's of Loughborough, or simply Taylor's, is the world's largest working bell foundry. It is in Loughborough, in the Charnwood borough of Leicestershire, England. The business originated in the 14th century and became Taylor's after the Taylor family took over in 1784. 
In 2009 Taylors went bankrupt but was bought out of administration by a consortium called UK Bellfoundries Ltd which successfully re-financed and re-established the business. Since then the company has re-established its presence both in the UK and in the North American Carillon and other export markets. 
The company manufactures bells for use in clock towers, rings of bells for change ringing, chimes, and carillons ...
The Foundry has a museum of bells and bellfounding which is the only one of its kind in the UK. The restoration of the foundry buildings began with the re-opening in 2012 of the foundry's own Campanile which contains the most-pealed bells in the World. It is one of the few Victorian purpose-built manufacturing sites still being used for its original purpose and therefore of considerable heritage merit.
I went to Loughborough today to photograph the site. The museum is currently closed, but the company website says that tours can still be arranged.

And the council flats that surround it can hear the quarters being chimed.







Saturday, April 22, 2017

In which I become an expert on politics in Bath



General Election 2017: Bath is one of the best chances of success for a Lib Dem MP

says the headline on a Bath Chronicle story.

And who's this quoted below it?
The small swing puts Bath at number 12 on Election Polling's list of top target seats for the Lib Dems. 
But Lib Dem blogger Jonathan Calder thinks Bath should be higher on the list. 
"I'd say with Bath's history it's probably better than number 12," said Mr Calder, who is behind the Liberal England blog. 
"I think Bath is in the top 10 and, with its history, that's quite achievable, but I'm a Lib Dem so I'm biased."
The Chronicle journalist had seen my post on the top 20 Lib Dem targets on 8 June and got in touch.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hallaton Bottle Kicking 2017


A slideshow of this ancient Leicestershire custom courtesy of Getty Images.

Sir Edward Garnier makes the case against leaving the EU


Sir Edward Garnier has confirmed that he will be seeking re-election in Harborough on 8 June.

Which makes it worth revisiting a post on his website in which he made the case for remaining in the European Union.

Speaking the day before the referendum, Sir Edward said:
The Conservative Party has built its reputation on economic stability that will be the foundation of our ability to govern successfully over the next four years. We cannot afford to put the British people's hard-won economic security at risk by leaving the EU. A vote to Remain is about safeguarding jobs and our nation's prosperity. 
'The bosses of more than half of Britain’s largest companies have urged voters to back Remain - 1,285 business leaders who together employ 1.75 million people – including more than 9000 small and medium-sized firms and over half of the FTSE 100 – have written to the Times as follows: 
"Britain leaving the EU would mean uncertainty for our firms, less trade with Europe and fewer jobs. Even those that want Britain to leave say that, in the short term, Brexit would lead to economic uncertainty and would put jobs at risk. Smaller businesses and the people they employ are particularly vulnerable to any economic shock that could follow a vote to leave."(Times, 22 June 2016, link). 
Edward Garnier comments: 
'This is a major intervention which confirms that the overwhelming majority of British Business – large and small – back remaining in the European Union. The Leave campaign cannot name any economic experts that support their vision for quitting the world’s largest single market which would damage our economy, lead to job losses and higher prices. 
I urge the people of the East Midlands, Leicestershire and the Harborough constituency to Vote Remain for more jobs, lower prices, stronger public services and a decent, tolerant United Kingdom. If we vote to leave, there is no going back. Don't risk it.’ 
Apologies for quoting at such length, but I agree with Sir Edward.

Now Theresa May has called an election in which she will make precisely the opposite case.

Sir Edward has the seniority and the courage to say what he really believes, just as Kenneth Clarke will. I hope Sir Edward will too.

David Mackintosh under more pressure in Northampton South

The Northampton Chronicle has the latest on this saga:
A senior Conservative has confirmed she would not support David Mackintosh's bid to run again in June's General Election due to his handling of the Sixfields saga. 
Former Northampton Borough Council leader, Councillor Mary Markham, also confirmed Mr Mackintosh has been summoned to address the Northampton South Conservative Association early next month.  
At that meeting, which will take place on 2 May, Mackintosh could face two votes, If he failed to win the approval of the constituency party's executive committee the question would go to a secret ballot of its members,

The report goes on to give Mary Markham's reasons for not supporting Mackintosh:
Councillor Markham said she would not be supporting him due to the way she says he handled criticism of his involvement in the failed Sixfields loan saga. 
She said: "I urged David Mackintosh publicly some months ago to be more accountable, not just to the association management committee, but to his electorate too. 
"I asked him to answer their questions and be more representative. 
"I haven't seen any evidence of that since," she said.
Elsewhere, Guido Fawkes says two other Conservative MPs may struggle to be reselected: Alan Haselhurst in Saffron Walden and Jack Lopresti in Filton and Bradley Stoke.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Les Dawson advertises the Post Office



Complete with an animation inspired by the paintings of Beryl Cook, this advertisement was made in 1990.

Zuffar Haq to fight Harborough for the Liberal Democrats on 8 June


Zuffar Haq, who was the party's candidate at the 2010 and 2015 general elections, will again fight Harborough in June.

In 2005 his predecessor Jill Hope came within less than 4000 votes of winning.

"I'm still hoping to get the gig following Theresa May around"

The unbearable lightness of Isabel Oakeshott‏

If you are ever tempted to take Isabel Oakeshott‏ seriously, just look at the timestamps on the two tweets above.

Thanks to @imincorrigible for pointing this out.

In my book this counts as a greater crime than getting Vicky Pryce banged up or telling viewers that the Liberal Democrats were going to lose the Richmond Park by-election because they had delivered too many leaflets.

Six of the Best 686

Theresa May’s hopes of a landslide depend on the how the old industrial towns of northern England vote. That is the conclusion of analysis by James Crouch.

Caitlin Flanagan on late-night TV comedy and its failure to prevent the rise of Donald Trump: "Somewhere along the way, the hosts of the late-night shows decided that they had carte blanche to insult not just the people within this administration, but also the ordinary citizens who support Trump, and even those who merely identify as conservatives."

"Did the Church of England not know that there were at least five archbishops buried there? Couldn’t someone be bothered to check the records? Why was no archaeological dig commissioned?" Archbishop Cranmer is not impressed by the loss and rediscovery of five of his fellow primates.

Cinephilia & Beyond offers a unique perspective on the making of Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker.

Ronnie Hughes explores Mossley Hill and Aigburth,

Fifty years ago, an 18-year-old called Keith Jarrett made his rugby union debut for Wales and beat England single handed. Huw Richards tells the story. (Alarmingly, I have vague memories of the event.)

Popbitch provides some reassuring trivia for Chelsea fans



The latest email from Popbitch reminds us that:
In the last three general election years (2005, 2010 and 2015) the Premier League was won by Chelsea.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Hundred of Hoo Railway in 1958



Wikipedia makes it all clear:
The Hundred of Hoo Railway is a railway line in Kent, England, following the North Kent Line from Gravesend before diverging at Hoo Junction near Shorne Marshes and continuing in an easterly direction across the Hoo Peninsula, passing near the villages of Cooling, High Halstow, Cliffe and Stoke before reaching the Isle of Grain and the container port on its eastern tip, Thamesport. 
There used to be a short branch line leading from Stoke Junction to the coastal town of Allhallows but this closed from 4 December 1961, the same date on which the Hundred of Hoo line was closed to passenger services.

Local Tory association fights to prevent its MP standing on 8 June


Natalie Bloomer reports on events in Northampton South:
A Conservative MP has been pitched into a battle with his own local party over whether he can stand in the upcoming general election. 
David Mackintosh, MP for Northampton South, has been heavily criticised for his involvement in the loss of a £10.25 million loan to Northampton Town football club by the local council. 
The loan, which was approved while Mackintosh was the leader of the council, has not been repaid and the work it was intended for has not been carried out. This triggered a series of investigations, including an ongoing one by Northamptonshire police. 
Attempts by the local party to force the MP to resign over the matter were quashed by Tory HQ last December. 
But a senior source from the Northampton South Conservative Association told Politics.co.uk this morning that an emergency meeting is expected to be held next week to discuss if there is a way to prevent Mackintosh from standing again.
I have blogged about David Mackintosh's travails before. In November 2015 I quoted a BBC News report that took us further into this murky affair:
A Conservative MP's local party was given undeclared payments linked to a businessman involved in a stalled stadium development, it has emerged. 
David Mackintosh's party received a £6,195 payment for tickets from Howard Grossman, the director of a company overseeing work at Northampton Town FC. 
Mr Mackintosh was leader of the borough council when it approved a £10.25m loan for the plans. Millions of pounds of the money is currently unaccounted for. 
He declined to comment on the payments.
Mackintosh vs Northampton South Conservative Association looks to be a bout to watch.

Elephants’ low cancer risk ‘holds the key to surviving life on Mars’

Paywall or no paywall, The Times wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Michael Bogdanov in Leicester

Photo © David Hallam-Jones

I was sorry to hear of the death of the theatre director Michael Bogdanov.

Back in the 1970s he was the artistic director of Leicester's Phoenix theatre. (That's the old Phoenix, shown in the photograph above,)

He was kind enough to put a season of three Shakespeare plays under the title He That Plays the King.

As these included both plays I was studying for A level - Hamlet and The Tempest - I saw both those productions. Bill Wallis, whom I knew chiefly from the satirical Radio 4 programme Week Ending, played both Hamlet and Prospero.

He also played Richard III in the play I did not see,

Top 20 Liberal Democrat targets on 8 June



After the carnage of 2015, I was too scared to spend much time studying the general election results in detail.

Election Polling is made of sterner stuff and has produced a list of Liberal Democrat targets in order of the swing needed to win them. And the picture is more encouraging than I expected.

Here is the top 20:
  1. Cambridge (Labour) 0.58%
  2. Eastbourne (Conservative) 0.69%
  3. Lewes (Conservative) 1.07%
  4. Thornbury & Yate (Conservative) 1.54%
  5. Twickenham (Conservative) 1.63%
  6. Dunbartonshire East (SNP) 1.97%
  7. Kingston & Surbiton (Conservative) 2.39%
  8. St Ives (Conservative) 2.56%
  9. Edinburgh West (SNP) 2.93%
  10. Torbay (Conservative) 3.42%
  11. Sutton & Cheam (Conservative) 3,93%
  12. Bath (Conservative) 4.06%
  13. Burnley (Labour) 4.08%
  14. Bermondsey & Old Southwark (Labour) 4.36%
  15. Yeovil (Conservative) 4.67%
  16. Fife North East (SNP) 4.80%
  17. Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross (SNP) 5.62%
  18. Colchester (Conservative) 5.74%
  19. Cheltenham (Conservative) 6.06%
  20. Cheadle (Conservative) 6.08%

Monday, April 17, 2017

Londonist goes to Lincolnshire



Last week they took us to Lincoln. Today we venture further into the county on the Saturday-only service from Gainsborough Central to Cleethorpes.

We then visit the Lincolnshire Coast Light Railway, before crossing the Humber to Hull.

Six of the Best 685

"She saw city life as the genial co-existence of many different neighbourhoods, where the residents supported and looked out for one another while enjoying access to all the cultural advantages of the greater metropolis." Wayne Lawson reviews Citizen Jane, a new film about Jane Jacobs.

Between the early Wittgenstein and the late Wittgenstein came Wittgenstein the school teacher. Colin Marshall on a short, strange and brutal career that took place deep in rural Austria.

"Jonathan Meades has written a cookbook and it is, as the bright young things may still sometimes say, the most Jonathan Meades thing ever." Good news from Alex Massie.

"In the past the miracle of Snape was that commercial priorities were subservient to the fragile local environment. The tragedy of Snape under Roger Wright is that this environment is now subservient to commercial priorities." On An Overgrown Path is not impressed by plans for a new car park on the river bank opposite Snape Maltings.

David Prestidge on a gang fight and murder on Clapham Common in 1953.

Angharad Mountford discovers London's oldest surviving bridge.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Guardian talks of "strong revival" by Cornish Lib Dems

As the local elections approach, the Liberal Democrats and the recent rise in their fortunes are gaining more coverage.

The latest example is a Guardian article by Steven Morris which talks of "what increasingly seems to be a strong revival in the party’s fortunes in Cornwall".

He writes:
The Lib Dems have won a succession of council byelections in Cornwall and are now once again the biggest group on the council with 43 members, governing in coalition with the independents. 
Lib Dem loyalists are buoyed both by the national party’s resurgence and by a report in the New Statesman claiming that Lynton Crosby, who helped the Tories into government in 2015, has warned the prime minister, Theresa May, that if she called a snap general election she would lose all the Lib Dem seats her party gained in Cornwall. 
The Lib Dems are fielding candidates in all 123 Cornwall seats at next month’s council election, 31 of them new members.
The prominent role being played by new members is one of the striking features of the article.

Talking of Lynton Crosby's fears, which were based on polling the Conservatives have had conducted in former Lib Dem seats, there was an interesting post on PoliticalBetting.com the other day.

Mike Smithson wrote:
The assumption was that Tories had carried out the polling ahead of a possible early election and this was merely scoping the ground. 
Now PB is being told that the reason for polling these seats was nothing to do with that but out of worries about where the expenses probe, first highlighted by Channel 4 News, was going. 
If these went to court it is possible that some GE2015 seat outcomes could be discarded and there would have to be fresh elections in the constituencies. Mrs May’s majority is so small that it wouldn’t take many such losses for that to be wiped out.

Redevelopment of Alexander Street, Leicester

Alexander Street isn't there any more. A little googling shows it once had a pub and a chapel, but today it has been completely cleared for redevelopment.
That's what I wrote when I discovered this corner of Leicester, which is hidden behind the city's old Central railway station.

The Leicester Mercury reports the redevelopment that is planned there:
City council officials have received an application to build 322 apartments in Bath Lane near to the recently restored Friar's Mill office development. 
Developers Goldcharm are behind the plan which would see two blocks of flats erected - one 11 storeys high at its tallest point. 
As well as the privately rented homes, there will be small shops a cafe and a gym built. 
The site of the plan is a now-cleared former industrial area which sits either side of Alexander Street and covers an two acre area.
I trust that the Great Central generator house, which stands at the junction of Alexander Street and Jarvis Street, will be refurbished as part of this development.

Theresa May is the opposite of Harold Macmillan



Writing about Julian Critchley after visiting his grave at Wistanstow, I quoted an interview he gave to Naim Attallah:
I had two heroes in politics: Macmillan and Roy Jenkins. Macmillan, because he controlled to a very great extent Britain’s decline in power and was responsible for our adjustment in straitened circumstances – something he managed despite a party of fools. 
My admiration for Roy Jenkins was based on the fact that as a young Labour MP he would advocate the cause of Europe in cross-party meetings, and he advocated brilliantly.
Leaving Roy to one side, it strikes me that Theresa May is doing the precise opposite of what Macmillan did. She still has a party of fools to contend with, but she is allowing them to indulge their fantasies of glorious isolation or Empire 2.0.

Macmillan came to power because of Suez. Will it take a similar national humiliation to bring the Conservative leadership to its senses?

The Sundays: Here's Where the Story Ends



This 1990 song is so familiar that I was surprised to read this on Wikipedia:
Although it was the Sundays' biggest hit internationally, topping the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart for one week, the track was never released as a single in the group's native United Kingdom due to the collapse of the Rough Trade Records label.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Shropshire Hills bus service started today



I may struggle to get there this summer, but the Shropshire Hill shuttle buses started running today.

You can find full details and the timetable on the Shropshire Hill AONB site.

Once again, spending cuts mean that only the service being provided is the core one from Church Stretton over the Long Mynd to Pontesbury, Minsterley and the Stiperstones is running.

It's not so long since you could reach Much Wenlock, Bishop's Castle and Knighton on these buses.

Guardian talks up Lib Dem chances in Manchester Gorton

Encouraging stuff from Toby Helm on the Guardian website this evening:
The Liberal Democrats are fast closing the gap on Labour in next month’s Manchester Gorton byelection and believe they could steal a victory to match their stunning success over the Conservatives in Richmond last December, according to an internal campaign briefing ... 
A briefing for senior Lib Dem officials and campaigners written by deputy director of campaigns Dave McCobb says the party’s messages on Brexit, including calls for a second referendum on the outcome of negotiations, are winning over voters in a seat where more than 60% voted remain in last June’s Brexit referendum. 
McCobb says that the Lib Dems are making up ground fast and are on 31% with Labour on 51%, a level of support he says that is “running well ahead of where we were in the Witney byelection ... and approaching Richmond Park levels of support at this stage.”
If you want to help the Lib Dems campaign in Gorton, by donating or on the doorstep, see the details on the party website.

Friday, April 14, 2017

On the track of the old Southwold Railway



It's been a Suffolkrailwaytastic day as I have discovered Twitter account for the people dreaming of reopening the branches to both Southwold and Aldeburgh.

This video follow the route of the former from Southwold to Walberswick - I have a feeling I once walked it.

And if the water towers at the start look familiar, they featured in Peter Greenaway's film Drowning by Numbers.

More information on the Southwold Railway Trust website.

Good Friday in Shropshire


From The Folklore of Shropshire by Roy Palmer (2004):
Until the 1860s, when the well was drained, it was the custom on Good Friday to dip one's hand in the water, deemed good for weak eyes, of St Margaret's Well at Wellington. Much more recently, comfortably into the 20th century, the congregation of Lords Hill Baptist Church met at Snailbeach in the afternoon and perambulated the area, pausing to sing hymns to the accompaniment of a brass band. 
Until the 1930s, most places of work closed on Good Friday. People traditionally spent time in their gardens, and this was considered a good time for planting potatoes. Formerly, bread baked on this day ... was believed to have curative properties. Many Shrewsbury families trekked to Haughmond Hill, following the canal towpath to Uffington. Children played and picknicked on the hill until the Second World War ended the custom.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Londonist goes to Lincoln



I remember Lincoln St Marks and its level crossing from 1978.

In those days it was a stop for direct trains from King's Cross to Grimsby and Cleethorpes, and I can recall seeing a Deltic there on its way to London.

There are no such services today, and any restoration of them sounds a long way off.

Six of the Best 684

"We should remember that Spice itself came into existence as an attempt to evade the ban on the far less harmful 'natural' cannabis. Thanks to prohibition, chemists were given an incentive to produce an alternative and they have come up with something much nastier." Matthew Scott explains why the government's drugs policy is failing.

Joanna Bartley makes a traditionalist case against grammar schools: "If parents prefer academic schools then the very nature of selective education will disappoint many. Only a fixed percentage achieve their wish, the rest finding schools skewed towards the needs of lower ability pupils."

An overabundance of psychogeographers is clogging our city streets, argues Will Wiles,

Three decades after the release of the cult British film, Adam Scovell goes on holiday by mistake. He hunts out the locations where Withnail & I was filmed.

Gavin MacGregor looks through the eyes of the Ballachulish Goddess.

Meera Dattani walks the National Forest Way through Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

The New European is weakening the pro-European cause

I have never got further into Skegness than the town's railway station, but one day I will visit this Lincolnshire resort where the working class of Leicester used to go for its holidays.

Perhaps I will walk down to the nature reserve at Gibraltar point at gaze across the Wash to the more genteel North Norfolk coast.

The New European has also been to Skegness, coming up with this illustration.

If they were setting out to lend support the idea that European cause was a cause for metropolitan types who laugh at the rest of us while eating their artisan quinoa, they could not have made a better job of it.

I can see that cultivating affluent pro-Europeans in and around London makes business sense for the New European. That is a market that is easy for them to identify and serve.

But if we want to build public pressure for a second referendum and then win it, this approach is deeply damaging.

If you want people to change their minds and support you, the very last thing you should do is ridicule them. I refer you to a post I wrote in February 2016:
If we want the forces of light to win the referendum on British membership of the European Union then we have to get away that it is a project of the elites.
But no one, particularly not Emma Thompson, listened.

Turning the European cause into a sort of grooming session where metropolitan liberals tell each other how noble they are and how ghastly everyone else is, would be a guarantee of failure and also show a remarkable lack of ambition.

Back in the 1975 referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Economic Community, Lincolnshire voted Yes by almost 3:1 - the exact figure was 74.7 per cent to 25.3 per cent.

We should also worry about the many affluent constituencies in Southern England that voted No to the EU last year, but if we want to win the battle for Europe we shall have to change the minds of people who live in towns like Skegness.

Stoke-on-Trent councillor 'wanted elf to sit on knee'

BBC News wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Knaresborough signal box


As its Signalling Record Society page says, Knaresborough signal box is one of the few that was added to the end of an existing terrace.

I took this photograph in, I think, 1981. I remember going for a walk in the area and being pleased to come across a village called Follifoot.

The box looks little changed today. The Signal Box has a picture of the small frame to be found within.

GUEST POST The Second World War families who took evacuees into their homes

Gillian Mawson, author of Britain's Wartime Evacuees, on a fascinating episode in British social history.

Most of Britain's wartime 'foster parents' have passed away, but their relatives are eager to share family stories and letters.

Margaret Nolan’s family offered a home to two evacuees in Lancashire:
"Norman and Ronnie arrived with nothing, no pyjamas or anything.  We took them to Bury Market and bought them pyjamas and a suit. They had no idea about setting a table or anything which surprised us as they had come from a family.  
"One Sunday we decided to take them to visit their home. Their cottage was so small that when their mother opened a sideboard drawer it knocked over a bottle of milk on the table. We realised then what a vast difference there was between their life and ours."
Teacher, Ruby Nicolle, watched her pupils being allocated to families in Cheshire:
"It wasn't well done. Bowden was where many Manchester business owners had their huge houses. In Bowden Vale were the humble folk who did the washing and cleaning for the high ups! Some of our children came from working class homes and found themselves in grand houses, like fish out of water. Other better class children were  put in council houses."
When evacuees from Bristol arrived in Devon, Mrs Mabel Steer took Micky Archer (right) into her home. Mabel’s granddaughter shares the family story:
"When seven-year-old Micky arrived at Bideford railway station, he had already been allocated to a local family. However, because of the colour of his skin they felt unable to take him in. My Gran immediately stepped in and said she would be happy to have him. 
"He was the only coloured child at that time in Bideford. She grew to love him dearly and always referred to him as 'my Micky'. I am extremely proud of Gran and Micky remained in contact with  her until she died."
Ruth Harrison watched her mother choosing an evacuee in Cheshire:
"Mum was about to choose a Guernsey girl and was told by a snooty WVS lady, 'Don’t worry dear, we will find you a decent one!' 
"Mum was appalled and I will never forget her reply, 'They are not commodities, madam, they are children!' We took home a little girl called Winifred and she became like my own sister."
Fred Jones remembers meeting their evacuee for the first time,
"Dad read a newspaper report about kiddies needing homes and said, 'Maybe we should take one of them, a little boy, so you can play together?' Mum took me to the church hall and we saw Joe there. He looked so scared. 
"Mum said, 'Would you like that little boy  to come and live with us?’ and I said ‘Yes please.' He shared my bedroom and was like a brother. Mum couldn’t have any more children after she had me and Joe was like her second son."
There is a common misconception that most evacuees were sent from poor urban housing to the countryside where the facilities were far superior.

This was not always the case and Philip Doran recalls being shown where the toilet was in his Caenarfon billet:
"Not only were we in a strange town but they also spoke a strange language, Welsh. Teddy was desperate to go to the toilet and he came back and said quietly, 'Yer wanna see da lavvy, it’s just a bit o’ wood wid a hole in it, yer do it into a bucket and it stinks.'
"Yet I recall that first evening with great pleasure; we had a lovely tea and Mrs Roberts asked us all sorts of different questions, 'How many are in your family? What do your dads do, and what religion are you?' She seemed to really want to get to know us."
Caring for evacuees was seen as part of the war effort, but not everyone was willing to take them in. When the Duke of Argyll refused to take in women and child evacuees, the matter was raised in the Commons by the Independent Labour Party MP Campbell Stephen:
"His castle was practically uninhabited. There were all those bedrooms available but instead of putting the people into it, they were put into a local hall in the most degrading conditions. There was far less sympathy and help from the occupants of that castle than from the poorest members of the community."
In another instance raised by Stephen, a farmer refused to take in three evacuee girls. The farmer said, “I am not taking girls. I will have one big boy because he can work on the farm.”

Stephen told the House: "These children are not sent out to be drudges in the homes or farms."

Wartime newspapers described court cases involving families, who, for various reasons, refused to keep evacuees. The Stockport Advertiser cited one such instance:
"Mr and Mrs Jones of Offerton were charged with refusing to accept an evacuee. The clerk pointed out to the couple that it was unpatriotic of them and they were fined."
When the war ended, many evacuees were delighted to be returning to their own families, but for some, it was 'evacuation' all over again as they were torn from loving foster parents.

One boy remembers that the little girl who had lived with them for five years did not want to return to her own parents:
"She had forgotten them completely and grown to love us. She was dragged, kicking and screaming, out of our house."  
A foster mother in Oldham, Lancashire, remembers the day that her evacuee left:
"When we had taken George in, years before, I never thought for a minute how hard it would be for us to let him go. We waved goodbye as long as we could and then turned and walked away, neither of us could speak, we were too upset. We went to the cinema, we couldn’t go home you see, his little room seemed so empty."
In many cases, lasting friendships endured after the war. Sheila Gibson recalls:
"Every year I returned to Derby to visit Mr and Mrs Croft, their son Nigel and his wife. I attended Mrs Croft’s 100th birthday party in 2012. Mrs Croft passed away at the age of 101 but I will always remember her with fondness."
You can buy Britain's Wartime Evacuees from Amazon and follow Gillian Mawson on Twitter.

Tim Farron on Boris Johnson: His circus show isn't funny any more



Writing for the Guardian, Tim Farron says Boris Johnson has been humiliated.

Tim writes that the discussion at the G7 summit needed to be about "no-fly zones, safe corridors and gaining the cooperation of regional powers".

Instead we got "the Boris circus show":
Lots of table-thumping beforehand about how he was going to deliver sanctions (“We are the exact opposite of poodles,” his spin doctors briefed, a little hysterically), followed by that familiar quizzical expression at the post-summit photo call when he had delivered precisely nothing. 
Even fellow Conservative ministers have said, helpfully, that he has been humiliated, while No 10 has offered him every form of support short of actual help. 
May happened to be on holiday (no crime in that) but then saw her foreign secretary floundering without arm bands, out to sea and out of his depth. And instead of taking charge of the mounting crisis, she looked away.
Whenever I think of Johnson now, I remember a post of mine based on a quotation from Auberon Waugh.

Morrisey has his own take on the subject.

Davey Graham was born at Bosworth Hall


When I visited Bosworth Hall in Market Bosworth - there it is above - I wrote:
The Dixie family fortune was lost in the 19th century, and the house and estate were sold in the 1880s to pay gambling debts. After the estate had changed hands a few times, it was bought by Leicestershire County Council and became a hospital - Bosworth Park Infirmary - in 1931. 
When the hospital closed in the 1980s, it was converted in the Bosworth Hall Hotel.
What I didn't is that the great guitarist Davey Graham was born at Bosworth Park Infirmary. There is even a plaque on the building commemorating the fact.

I learnt this, my Trivial Fact of the Day, from a page on Hinckley Past & Present. It lists all the blue plaques in that part of Leicestershire. (If you know of any more, please let them know.)

Davey Graham? You know, Anji...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Six of the Best 683

"No flourishing urban environment has developed around the Hepworth in the manner of London’s South Bank, in spite of its riverside location." Matthew Green visits Wakefield and asks what can be done to revive its economy and those of similar places.

Osita Nwanevu explains why the alt-right hates Donald Trump's air strike against Syria.

"Making streets not just safe but obviously safe will require years of effort and some politically very tricky decisions." Peter Walker explains why scrapping speed bumps is a ludicrous solution to air pollution.

"A lot of us had been in combat over the last few weeks, some of us had fought hand-to-hand and many of us had seen acts of incredible bravery but what those scouts did beggared belief. They were civilians, children really and they stayed there, under fire, with a very real risk of getting killed to give us food and water." Keith Marsh relates a remarkable wartime experience of his father's.

Londonist surveys the remains of London's workhouses.

York Stories looks at the restoration of the Tuke house and the Rigg monument, which can both be found close to Walmgate Bar (and have both featured on this blog).

Politician to say sorry over 'male appendage' row in meeting



The Leicester Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award, but there is more to it than that.

The story below sounds amusing:
During the October meeting Coun Porter was questioning the city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby about a land sale in his Aylestone ward. 
The incident, caught in its entirety on the council's webcast, shows Coun Thomas heckling Coun Porter as he speaks, shouting he 'bottled it'. 
Coun Porter immediately responded saying: "I won't be taking any lectures from somebody named after a male appendage.' 
Lord Mayor Steven Corrall, who chaired the meeting, asked Coun Porter to retract the comment but he did not. 
John Thomas is a slang description of a penis derived from DH Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover.
I blame John Thomas's parents, even if he does win our Name of the Day Award.

But I suspect this story should be read in conjunction with this guest post from Ross Grant - the sole Conservative member on the council - about the way Nigel Porter has been bullied by the Labour group.

And Leicester is not the only city that suffers from Labour bullying./

The other day the Labour group in Sheffield threatened to throw a Green councillor out of the chamber for questioning its insane determination to fell every tree in the city.

The dangers of psychogeography

Recently, I blogged about Iain Sinclair's London Review of Books essay The last London.

I rather like this letter to the LRB in reply:
Like Iain Sinclair, I too walk on the canal path between Victoria Park and Broadway Market, but in many years of doing so I’ve never seen anybody fall into the canal. Sinclair, on the other hand, reports witnessing two such episodes, apparently within a short interval of time. Correlation doesn’t entail causation, but I can’t help asking whether these incidents might be correlated with the presence of a psychogeographer wandering dreamily in search of evocative connections in the middle of the path. 
Giacinto Palmieri
London E2

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Six of the Best 682

With half of British goods exports going to other nations in the EU, and with the UK’s service industries, especially banking, heavily dependent upon unfettered access to the EU single market, the stakes for Britain in the forthcoming negotiations could not be higher. Even before the negotiations have begun there are multiple signs that Britain is heading for economic disaster." Simon Head gives it both barrels in The New York Review of Books.

Richard Kemp says we should let teachers teach.

In 1824 the King and Queen of the Sandwich Islands visited England - with tragic consequences. A fascinating post from Shannon Selin.

The British Museum Podcast talks about the links between that famous establishment and cats.

"Through a little gateway on Fleet Street lies the Temple, the inner sanctum of Britain’s legal profession ... There is no temple, but amid the chambers of barristers is a little old church that has a history going all the way back to the Knights Templar." Flickering Lamps takes us to one of London's hidden treasures.

In which I help Chris Dale discover a wood which looks like a bird leads to an airfield and a reservoir - and they are all in Rutland!

Labour is fighting only 35 seats out of 74 in Shropshire

The Shropshire Star quotes Alan Moseley, leader of the nine-strong Labour group on Shropshire Council:
"We have chosen to concentrate our efforts on those seats where we have a real chance of success.
"We want to make a real effort in those seats where we have got strong support and make a success of it in that way."
The result of this strategy is that Labour is fighting only 35 seats out of 74 in next month's all-out elections to the authority,

This is a reminder of how weak Labour now is in many parts of rural England. And no Liberal Democrat can criticise another party for targeting.

If anything, Labour has been slow to realise the benefits of this strategy in areas where it is thin on the ground.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceBut its decision does suggest that, in Shropshire at least, the surge in membership that accompanied Jeremy Corbyn's election to the leadership has not meant more activists on the ground.

My suggestion that Corbynism is a form of identity politics stands.

The Zombies: Friends Of Mine



The Zombies, or so conventional wisdom has it, never performed any of the songs from Odessey and Oracle live until their recent, well-received concert performances of the whole album.

As this live recording for a BBC session shows, that isn't wholly true.

The song is introduced by Brian Matthew, who died yesterday.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Lib Dems launch their manifesto for Leicestershire county elections

Photo from Michael Mullaney on Twitter

The Liberal Democrat manifesto for next month's Leicestershire County Council elections was launched at an event in Hinckley yesterday evening.

Speeches were given by my old Liberator collective colleague Baroness Liz Barker and my old Harborough District Council colleague Simon Galton.

Simon is now leader of the Lib Dem group on the county council.

The Leicester Mercury quotes him:
"The deepening financial crisis in the NHS, proposed funding reforms in education and local government and the expected transfer of new responsibilities to the county council suggest the second half of this period of austerity is going to be even harder than the first. 
"Yet now is not the time to despair. It is time to turn things around. 
"There are things we can do to change direction and put local residents concerns and needs at the heart of decision making. 
"Whether it's by fixing the problems with adult social care, ensuring we have enough adequately qualified foster carers to ensure every vulnerable child has a stable home, or abandoning unpopular plans to install parking meters in our towns, there is much that can be done to improve things in Leicestershire."
As Simon went on to say, the Conservatives are in charge at Westminster and County Hall, so there is no one else they can blame.

Which explains why their strategy for these elections has so far been to resort to insult and abuse:
Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton has described the Liberal Democrats as "slimeballs" in a speech to Tory councillors and candidates.

Brian Matthew has died



The broadcaster Brian Matthew died this morning at the age of 88.

The BBC, which erroneously announced his death a couple of days ago, has a good obituary.

I wrote my own tribute to him back in 2008:
Just about my earliest memory is climbing into my parents' bed on Saturday mornings, and I clearly remember Matthew's Saturday Club being on the radio when I did so. I may well have heard some of the Spencer Davis Group performances from the show that I bought last year (volume 1 of Mojo Rhythms & Midnight Blues) when they were first broadcast. 
Fast forward to my university years. In those days there was only one mainstream radio station that broadcast into the small hours (when, of course, many undergraduate essays are written). That was Radio 2 and between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. the programme it broadcast was Brian Matthew's Round Midnight. 
Probably because of the power of the musicians' union in those days, Matthew had to broadcast an awful lot of Barry Forgey and the Radio 2 Big Band. But he also included many interviews with artists of all kinds. And he could be acerbic. I remember his replying, when a student theatre group solemnly informed listeners that they were against stereotypes, "that's very controversial of you".
And, as I went on to say, in 2008 Matthew was still going strong with Sounds of the Sixties on Radio 2 on Saturday mornings.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Vanished Leicester: Everards Brewery, Southgate Street

Copyright © Dennis Calow
The University of Leicester has now indexed Dennis Calow's photographs on a clickable map, which makes it easier to find your way around the collection.

This one, taken in 1949, shows Everard's brewery, which stood on the corner of Castle Street and Southgate Street.

It was built in the mid 19th century and originally owned by Wilmot & Co. It was to be lost to the city's enthusiasm for new roads in the 1960s.

Six of the Best 681

"There is a tension between the individualisation of social risks pursued by British political parties over the last two decades and the call to create social capital." Emanuele Ferragina and Alessandro Arrigoni look at the failure of David Cameron's 'Big Society'.

Miles Richardson discusses an academic paper that shows that words connected with nature have been used less and less in popular culture since the 1950s.

Drinks Maven explains the craft beer revolution.

"Depending on your cultural touchstones, you might find a hint of Diment in Austin Powers, or perhaps Peter Wyngarde’s turn as crime-novelist-turned-secret-agent Jason King from Department S." David Barnett on the writer Adam Diment, a Sixties sensation who disappeared from sight.

The New River opened in 1613 to supply London with fresh drinking water from the River Lea. Nick Young walks it between Enfield and Alexandra Palace.

Backwatersman was there for the start of the cricket season: "By August, you might be planning a circuitous route around the ground to avoid those dreadful bores X and Y; in March you are relieved to find that they are still alive."

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Jester Wools of Leicester


Flashabak.com tweeted this beautiful poster yesterday, so I had a look to see what I could find out about the Jester Company of Leicester.

An article by Sarah Hartwell tells us:
Jester Company limited, Leicester, was a textiles company (knitting wools, patterns, rug kits etc) founded in October 1944, they went into liquidation in 1996 and were finally dissolved in 1997. 
Their address was Jester House, Roman Forum, Leicester (in 1987 the registered office was at 14 West Walk, Leicester, LE1 7NA and in 1988 it was 91 All Saints Road, Leicester, LE3 5AB)
She reproduces some more striking advertisements and tells us that the vainglorious "Roman Forum" address was really in Talbot Lane.

So farewell then, Red Ken, You were a class act once

Jonn Elledge mourns the embarrassment Ken Livingstone has become, arguing that he made a very good job of being London's mayor.

I am sad for Ken because I remember him as leader of the Greater London Council.

It's not that I thought his policies were great, but the way he conducted himself was a model for any aspiring politician.

Though this was the era in which the Sun labelled him "the most odious man in Britain", he remained unfailingly calm in interviews and was witty too.

He was a star. When he resigned his seat and fought a by-election as part of the campaign against the abolition of the GLC, I helped the Liberal candidate Steve Harris.

One Saturday the great and good of Richmond Liberals turned up to help. Their children asked if they could go on Ken's bus.

Contrast that with the Ken Livingstone of today.

It's not just that he is wrong about Hitler and Zionism - David Baddiel is good on this. It's that I have no idea what he was hoping to achieve by raising the subject in the first place. And now it has come to be an obsession that risks being all he will be remembered for

So farewell then, Red Ken, You were a class act once.

John Pugh talks sense on term-time absence



Following today's Supreme Court judgement, the Liberal Democrats issued a press release quoting John Pugh, our shadow education secretary:
“Today’s judgment was disappointing but the ball is back in the government's court, they could act and change the law and bring back sensible rules with proper safeguards in place. Nearly 20,000 people have been prosecuted and caught in a dragnet by these laws in the last year. 
“Many employees have no choice when to take their holidays. People in some areas have to work all through the summer at the height of the tourism season. 
“Others simply cannot afford to go on holiday at peak times, when the cost of holidays goes through the roof. So, it's vitally important to offer more flexibility to schools and headteachers to help families who need to take a break together. 
“We believe that headteachers should be allowed to grant up to 10 days of term-time absence in special circumstances".
That sounds about right to me.

This enthusiasm for giving councils the power to fine parents began with New Labour, whose least appealing aspect was its authoritarianism. It was often hard to say where its education policies ended and its policing policies began.

And some time before that, policymakers gave up on the idea that they could take action to make the economy work more efficiently.

Instead, education has emerged as the arena where ambitious young wonks feel they can intervene with confidence.

They know what is right for children and for the country, but they are not so sure about parents and headteachers.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Estate: A new video featuring Jonathan Meades



A short film, starring Jonathan Meades, about Robert Clayton's documentary photography from 1991.

The photography centres on the everyday life of the Lion Farm Estate, Oldbury, West Midlands which was the subject of a photo book published in 2015.

The Great Meades narrates his introductory essay to the book against images from the work, archive footage and contemporary material.

I posted a short trailer for this film back in December 2015.

The Conservatives will not take Mark Reckless's fat arse back

There have been rumors today that Mark Reckless, now a member of the Welsh Assembly, is planning to leave Ukip and rejoin the Conservatives.

Reckless was elected at Rochester and Strood as a Tory in 2010, but resigned the seat in 2014 and won the subsequent by-election for Ukip. He fought the seat for Ukip at the 2015 general election, but was defeated by the Tories.

But if he has ambitions to re-rat (as Churchill put it), he may be disappointed.

The Daily Telegraph reports:
former Tory MP who defected to Ukip and is rumoured to be considering joining the Tories will be blocked from returning the Conservative Party. 
Mark Reckless, a member of the Welsh Assembly, has allegedly applied to sit alongside the Conservatives. However The Telegraph understands that he will be barred from formally rejoining the tories. 
There are suggestions that he will instead apply to sit alongside Conservative members of the Welsh Assembly. Mr Reckless did not answer calls or respond to messages.
The paper also reminds us that:
David Cameron, the former Prime Minster, allegedly launched an extraordinary attack on Mr Reckless at the time of his defection, accusing him of betraying activists who had worked to get his "fat arse" on the Commons benches.

Lib Dems would make big gains in an early election say Tory polls



George Eaton claims an exclusive in the New Statesman:
Last month, Conservative MPs from Cornwall and Devon urged May not to go to the country for fear they would lose their seats. In Richmond, Tim Farron's party overturned Zac Goldsmith's 23,015 majority by attracting Remain voters and the Lib Dems have won 34 council seats from the Tories since May 2015. 
The MPs' fears, I can reveal, were later reinforced by private Conservative polling. According to multiple sources, a survey conducted by Crosby Textor showed the party would lose most of the 27 gains they made from the Lib Dems in 2015, including all those in south London, all those in Cornwall and most of those in Devon. 
Lynton Crosby, who masterminded the party's general election triumph, is said to have personally told May of the grim findings.
All very encouraging.

And it does suggest the Tories would be in serious trouble if Labour had a credible alternative prime minister as leader.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

St Pancras to Luton in 1960



Lots of Midland main line goodness.

The many closed stations along this stretch were more in evidence in 1960.

Tom Brake accuses Liam Fox of grovelling to President Duterte



Tom Brake is in good form in a Liberal Democrat press release from today.

He says:
“Duterte is one of the 21st century’s most sinister leaders and Liam Fox has flown halfway around the world to grovel to him. The fact that the first visit made by Fox since triggering Article 50 is to the Philippines shows just how low this government is willing to stoop in order to secure even a minimal trade deal in the future. 
“According to UK trade statistics, the value of our exports to the Philippines are just £500 million a year- to put this into context our total international trade is currently over £28 billion a month. 
"So not only is Fox blind to the horrific human rights abuses and endemic corruption in the Philippines, he’s also clearly oblivious to the actual realities of doing trade with them. 
"No amount of pandering to corrupt regimes can replace our membership of the Single Market, which is why the Liberal Democrats will continue to fight against the hard, divisive Brexit this government is pursuing."
Talking of Liam Fox, let us read an old article by John Elledge to remind us of why he was obliged to resign as defence secretary in 2011:
He allowed his close friend and best man, Adam Werrity, to take up an unofficial and undeclared role in which he attended meetings at the Ministry of Defence without first obtaining security clearance. Werrity had access to Fox’s diary, printed business cards announcing himself as his advisor, and even joined him at meetings with foreign dignitaries. 
An investigation by then cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell found that Fox had shown a lack of judgement by blurring the lines between his official role and his personal friendships. 
His report concluded: “The disclosure outside the MoD of details about future visits overseas posed a degree of security risk not only to Dr Fox, but also to the accompanying official party.”

Sir Jimmy Young: Give me a lethal jab to make sure I'm dead

Once again, our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Ludlow & Tenbury Wells Advertiser.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Six of the Best 680

Vince Cable says economists, not politicians, will have the last word on Brexit.

Erika Baker reports that the Liberal Democrats are making great strides in Tower Hamlets. The sky is the limit: I was drinking with a former Liberal education chair from the borough last Saturday.

Jeremy Corbyn wants to bypass the mainstream media. So why are Labour's memes so bad? asks Martin Robbins.

"The notion of taking the script of Annie Hall - or, more frighteningly, just the idea for the movie - to a rational studio head ... and requesting millions of dollars to realize it on the screen is sufficient to induce a kind of nightmarish panic, even years after the movie was made and released." Gordon Willis introduces the film's screenplay.

Pete Murray, the former actor and broadcaster, is still with us at the age of 91. Hear him interviewed about his career.

"In 1974, Stapleford Hall near Melton Mowbray was home to the 2nd Lord Gretton and his family. The park was at its peak as a tourist attraction, with the grounds containing a lion reserve, miniature railway and two scale model cruise liners." Tim Holyoake has a film of it from that year.