Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Chaos in the Stiperstones

From the Shropshire Star:
Severn Trent Water has been accused of causing more chaos on Shropshire roads after a short-notice closure shut the road between two rural villages. 
School buses, commuters and the service bus between Snailbeach and Stiperstones all found themselves turned away when they ran into unexpected roadworks. 
The water company said no notice could be given as it was an emergency closure, but this has not gone down well with residents who reported the leak more than two months ago. 
Councillor Heather Kidd, who represents Chirbury and Worthen, said: "Severn Trent fail to deal with leaks until they get pretty serious. They ignore problems until things get worse and then suddenly close a road, claiming its an emergency."
It's good to see Heather is on Severn Trent's case and this does give me an excuse to post another photograph of one of my favourite roads.

Permission granted for test track on part of Bosworth Battlefield

This evening the planning committee of Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council approved a planning application from the Japanese engineering firm Horiba Mira Ltd to build a test track for driverless vehicles on part of Bosworth Battlefield.

The decision was deferred from last month's meeting after heritage organisations began to express their concern.

I am finding it hard to feel happy about this decision.

It seems to arise from a small council's natural anxiety to please a major local employer and from the lack of an initial outcry from the heritage lobby.

The conclusion seems to be that sites of national importance should be protected at a national level.

Rutland county councillor charged over Facebook posts

This summer Richard Alderman from the 'Democracy Rutland' group won a county council by-election by the drawing of lots after he and the Liberal Democrat candidate polled an equal number of votes.

Less than a week later, he was arrested over some Facebook posts he had made.

Now, the Leicester Mercury reports, he has been charged with three counts of sending, by public communication network, an offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing message.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Another telephone exchange that should have been a chapel

I have a weakness for telephone exchanges that look like chapels. I have even found a chapel that used to be a telephone exchange.

So it is high time I showed you this one in Market Harborough. (Little Bowden, actually.)

Later. It has been suggested to me that it is a mere electricity substation, but I still like it.

Lord Adonis to speak for a People's Vote in Leicester on 4 October

The European Movement is organising a meeting in Leicester in support of a 'People's Vote'.

Andrew Adonis will be the speaker and the meeting will take place at the Secular Hall on Thursday 4 October from 6pm.

Book your place on eventbrite.

The Secular Hall is part of the history of Leicester radicalism and, back in the 1970s, Leicester Chess Club met there.

In those days the Market Harborough team included a vicar, and I suspect he was rather disconcerted by its busts of great atheists.

Iain Sinclair on health and architecture

There is no sign of short time in the psychogeography industry.

Iain Sinclair has a new book coming out: Living with Buildings and Walking with Ghosts: On Health and Architecture.

It takes him far from his Hackney haunts, with visits to Mexico and to Jonathan Meades in Marseilles.

Julian Mash says:
This is a thought-provoking book in which Sinclair, as usual, raises more questions than he answers, forging links between people and places as he makes his inquiries. 
It is clear from his arguments that it is not a simple equation of well planned buildings leading to well balanced and healthy residents. It is the individuals inside the buildings coming together to form a community that ultimately leads to a healthier and happier existence.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Stamford plaque for Sir Malcolm Sargent

This modest house in Wharf Road, Stamford, as the plaque records, was the boyhood home of Sir Malcolm Sargent.

Sargent began as the church organist in Melton Mowbray - there is a plaque on the house where he lived there too -  but thanks to his extraordinary musical talents and skill at social climbing he ended as a celebrated conductor and star of the Proms.

His nickname of 'Flash Harry' may tell you something of his reputation among orchestral players. Yet I was seven when he died and remember it being a big news story and how sorry people were.

There is a good piece on Sargent's current reputation by Ivan Hewett.

Masters of Reality: John Brown

This, I understand, is what the young people used to call 'stoner rock'.

It is a live version of a track from the Masters of Reality's first LP, which was released in 1989.

There are some versions around with Ginger Baker playing on them, but I like this one best.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Melton Mowbray: How closed urban railways used to be

So there I was walking beside the River Wreake,* which saw commercial traffic between 1797 and 1877 as the Melton Mowbray Navigation.

On the edge of town I came across a railway embankment. The bridge that had taken it across the Wreake was gone, but it had been replaced by a footbridge.

I knew what I had found: this was the GNR & LNWR Joint Railway. It started just north of Market Harborough and, branching at its northern end, ran to Nottingham and Bottesford.

Passenger services (including Northampton to Nottingham via Market Harborough and Melton Mowbray) ceased in 1953, but it remained open for goods until 1964. Bits and pieces of it survived even after that.

I was interested to find that, either side of the bridge, the embankment was in use as an unofficial footpath.

This was what it was like in the 1970s, before old railway trackbeds through towns were redeveloped to provide space for housing, roundabouts and retail parks.

In those days they were the haunt of dog walkers and truant schoolchildren. If you came across a derelict railway hut, the odds were its floor would feature a scattering of torn up porn mags.

I guess that is why they now call them permissive footpaths.

* In fact it is still the River Eye here. The Eye becomes the Wreake a mile or two downstream of Melton.

Alistair Darling and councils setting illegal budgets

Embed from Getty Images

I see Dawn Butler has spoken in praise of Labour councils that refused to set a balance budget because of the limits Margaret Thatcher's government set for them.

Which gives me a perfect excuse for reprinting one of this blog's favourite quotations.

Here is George Galloway reminiscing in 2008:
When I first met him 35 years ago Darling was pressing Trotskyite tracts on bewildered railwaymen at Waverley Station in Edinburgh. He was a supporter of the International Marxist Group, whose publication was entitled the Black Dwarf. 
Later, in preparation for his current role he became the treasurer of what was always termed the rebel Lothian Regional Council. Faced with swinging government spending cuts which would have decimated the council services or electorally ruinous increases in the rates, Alistair came up with a creative wheeze. 
The council, he said, should refuse to set a rate or even agree a budget at all, plunging the local authority into illegality and a vortex of creative accounting leading to bankruptcy. 
Surprisingly, this strategy had some celebrated friends. There was "Red Ted" Knight, the leader of Lambeth council, in London, and Red Ken Livingstone newly elected leader of Greater London Council. Red Ally and his friends around the Black Dwarf were for a time a colourful part of the Scottish left. 
The late Ron Brown, Red Ronnie as he was known, was Alistair's bosom buddy. He was thrown out of Parliament for placing a placard saying hands off Lothian Region on Mrs Thatcher's despatch box while she was addressing the House. And Darling loved it at the time. 
The former Scottish trade union leader Bill Speirs and I were dispatched by the Scottish Labour Party to try and talk Alistair Darling down from the ledge of this kamikaze strategy, pointing out that thousands of workers from home helps to headteachers would lose their jobs as a result and that the council leaders - including him - would be sequestrated, bankrupted and possibly incarcerated. How different things might have been. 
Anyway, I well remember Red Ally's denunciation of myself as a "reformist", then just about the unkindest cut I could have imagined.

Layla Moran calls on Lib Dems to stop hiding under the duvet

There was a positive interview with Layla Moran ("The bright new face of the centre") in the Evening Standard the other day:
She’d like her party to come up with more "exciting, liberal policies". 
"Since coalition we’ve stopped doing that. When we lost badly in 2015 we were sad and hid under the duvet a bit and we didn’t develop policies that are clear about what it means to be a liberal democrat." 
Would a different leader have changed this? 
"I think that passes the buck." 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Pax et Lux: Long Eaton's Carnegie library

You come across this striking library on the long walk from Long Eaton station to the town centre.

The Carnegie Legacy in England will tell you about its history:
Designed by 1906, by architects Gorman and Ross of Long Eaton and built by Messrs J & J Warner of Mickleover.  Above the entrance is a "mosaiced tympanum with the figure of Learning set against a golden sunburst." 
The library also has a large stained glass window by Stoddart of Nottingham. ... 
Awarded Grade II listing in 1986. To east of the main entrance is a pair of free-standing iron gates, all that now remains of the original Art Nouveau railings that encircled the library. These are also included in the listing.

The exotic sprism bounce? Lib Dems at 13 per cent in new poll

An exotic prism yesterday
There is a little encouragement for the Liberal Democrats in today's Ipsos-MORI opinion poll:

Conservative          39%

Labour                    37%
Liberal Democrats  13%

Of course, bloggers only notice polls where they are favourable to their party, but this is our highest share in any poll since the general election.

And it follows a number of recent polls in which we have recorded double figures.

Baby steps, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and all that.

Headline shamelessly stolen from Michael Noller on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lost bookshops and Iain Sinclair in Stamford

In Stamford the other day I mourned the loss of secondhand bookshops. I could think of three that have disappeared from the town (though one of them has moved to Uppingham). These days, when most trade in books is done online, there is less point in paying the rent on a shop.

Another of those lost shops was to be found in the Wharf Road part of town. I seem to remember an old warehouse that you entered from the yard at the rear.

When you don't visit town often the buildings tend to shuffle themselves, making individual shops hard to find. But I am pretty sure that the warehouse has been demolished and the site redeveloped. I suspect the modern flats beside the Welland in the photograph above stand on that site.

My reason for blogging about the shop is that I suspect it has been immortalised in Iain Sinclair's 1987 novel White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, where the narrator and three other bookdealers descend upon 'Steynford':
Mossy Noonmann's bookshop, if we afford it the courtesy of that title, was probably the only one open in the whole of the Midlands, from Wolverhampton to Boston, and out into the North Sea. And he was the least likely proprietor. How he come here nobody knew and few cared to guess. ... 
Noonmann was a New Yorker, veteran of Peace Eye Bookstore, who, not fancying an engagement in South East Asia in the mid-60s, had returned to the Europe of his forefathers by way of Liverpool, then, briefly the centre of the universe. A single evening disproved this conceit: Noonmann found a mattress in Westbourne Grove. 
There were minor misunderstandings over rent books, social security paperwork, import/export regulations concerning self-administered resins from the Middle East; there was a misplaced briefcase of ounces, and Mossy decided to hit the road. 
Two hours up the A1 and the Camberwell-domiciled holder of a Heavy Goods Vehicle Licence was ready to turn it in rather than carry Mossy another mile. He walked down the hill into Steynford. He's been there ever since, and never walked so far again.
One must allow for Sinclairian exaggeration (and avoid libel suits), but I remember the proprietor of my bookshop as a large, shambling American who rather fits this description.

And if the shop was as decrepit as Sinclair painted it, it is no surprise that is has long since been demolished.

Layla Moran questions some of Vince Cable's party reforms

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The conventional wisdom holds that once a political leader starts to talk about standing down, he or she is drained of authority.

In the case of Vince Cable (whom I have always rather admired as a political operator) the conventional wisdom is being proved right.

Suddenly he looks his age and his leadership is being openly questioned.

Business Insider (which normally gets its Liberal Democrats stories from 12-year-old workers at party HQ) has an interview with Layla Moran:
Moran said that while she supported "really well-respected" non-MPs from inside the movement leading the party — like councillors, or parliamentarians from Scotland or Wales  — she did not want a "celebrity" to get the job. 
"I have concerns about a celebrity coming into the party and saying they're going to lead us to the promised land," she said. "If they weren't a Lib Dem before, why the hell would they want to be now?" 
"The party, in general, would be really sceptical if that happened." 
Asked whether she would support an MP formerly of another party taking control of the Lib Dems — like Labour's Chuka Umunna, who is frequently tipped to walk away from his party — Moran said: "Absolutely not."
I sense there is widespread support for the idea of Lib Dem 'Supporters', though debate over the privileges that status should bring with it.

As I have blogged, successful parties naturally attract a wider circle of people who wish them well but do not want to join.

Of course, there is no guarantee the process will work the other way round. Attracting that wider circle first will not necessarily lead to success.

I am a sceptic about a leader from outside the parliamentary party, while the idea of allowing people to stand for the party as soon as they join is surely aimed at making things easier for MPs of other parties who decide to join us.

There was another problem with Vince's announcement that he will be standing down. He said he would go when Brexit is "resolved or stopped".

The idea that Brexit can be resolved quickly is a Leaver fantasy. And that fantasy fuels the voters who say they cannot understand why the governments hasn't "just got on with it".

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceVince should not have given this fantasy any credence,

If he waits until Brexit is resolved he will be Lib Dem leader for decades.

Six of the Best 818

"One thing I heard a few times at Liberal Democrat Conference was an assertion along the lines of 'most people are centrists, therefore they’ll want to join us and vote for us if we just give them a chance'." Nick Barlow unpicks this centrist fallacy.

Want a guide to making your voice heard on the proposed changes to the Lib Dem membership and constitution? Paul Walter is your man.

Antonio Garcia Martinez says Silicon Valley's economics are fuelling a new caste system: "One of the most refreshing things about living in Europe (or small towns in the rural US) is  knowing that the poor aren’t condemned to a completely separate, and inferior, life. Your place in the world isn’t wholly defined by wealth. The story is rather different in San Francisco."

"Like a shooting star, Willkie burned brightly, if briefly, over this country’s political landscape, leaving behind an astonishing legacy of bipartisanship that had an outsize impact on the outcome of the war." Lynne Olson reviews a biography of Wendell Willkie, the unsuccessful Republican challenger to FDR in 1940.

Alex Evans argues that we should address political polarisation as a clinical psychologist would help the traumatised.

Richard Bratby shares tales of UFOs and mysterious big cats from Cannock Chase.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Watch a talk by the real Frank Abagnale

Remember Catch Me If You Can?

Here the real-life Frank Abagnale - the character played in the film by Leonardo DiCaprio - talks about his life and career.

Herbert Morris, Loughborough, from the canal towpath

Last time I blogged about the threatened Herbert Morris industrial buildings in Loughborough, a commenter recommended the view from the canal towpath.
He was right and here it is.

Back to the siege of Weston-under-Redcastle

Veteran Shropshire journalist Frank Fuller has never worn his siege tie in 50 years and is not about to start now. 
It was produced to mark an event in September 1968 which went down in British history. 
"It was the longest siege in British police history, and I think that still holds good today," said Frank, 88, of Market Drayton.
I have blogged about the siege of Weston-under-Redcastle  before. .

An article in the Shropshire Star tells the story again, with some quotes from people who were involved.

I like to think that the comments on my first post on the siege are even more enlightening.

Where the Grantham Canal joined the Trent

Having got a taste for canals joining the Trent - at Shardlow and Long Eaton - I though I would seek out the point where the Nottingham Canal did so.

I did so, but on the opposite bank of the river I found something even more interesting: the remains of the lock where the Grantham Canal reached the Trent. It stands in the shadow of the Brian Clough Stand at Nottingham Forest's City Ground.

The short stretch of canal that remains above the lock was today covered by a lurid bloom of algae.

Miles to the east, strides are being made with the restoration of the Grantham, which was formally closed in 1936, but its route through West Bridgford to the Trent is lost under road schemes. Another cut will have to be made if boats are again to reach the Vale of Belvoir and Grantham.

You can read about this waterway and its restoration on The Grantham Canal Society website.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hobhouse puts a bangin' donk on it: The new Liberator Songbook

Down at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton, the Glee Club is under way.

At Lord Bonkers' insistence, I am reproducing his foreword to the new Liberator Songbook.

For myself, I am more excited at having contributed a new verse to 'Exmoor Bah T'at'.

Bonkers Hall
Tel. Rutland 7

There was a faint tang of autumn in the air when I walked my estate this morning, so it must be time to contribute a foreword to the new Liberator Songbook.

I write these lines with a heavy heart as I heard only the other day of the sad death of Aretha Franklin. Many have praised her recording of ‘Respect’, but it was all the more remarkable to those of us who knew that she was a lifelong sufferer from dyslexia.

One must move with the times, so let me recall my own involvement in the second summer of love. (I am told that I was involved in the first, but have no memory of it.)

This was the era of house music. Like all successful genres, it developed many varieties. There was acid house, funky house, diva house, country house (particularly popular here in Rutland) and, my own favourite, hob house.

It was named in honour of that great Liberal thinker L.T. Hobhouse, who had already inspired the celebrated single by Madness.

Today we are in the fortunate position of having a member of the Hobhouse clan in the Commons. I am told the family willingness to "put a bangin' donk on it" played no small part in her capture of Bath.

I hope to hear the string trio playing hob house next time I take tea in the city’s celebrated Pump Room.

Enjoy the Glee Club, but when you sing 'Exmoor Bah T'at' please spare a thought for poor Rinka. I always found her charming company and she did not deserve her fate.

If anyone feels moved to pass round a collection for Barnstaple Dogs Home, it would be A Very Nice Gesture.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Remembering Dudley Sutton

Dudley Sutton should be remembered for so much more than Lovejoy.

The British Film Institute - click on the still above to view the video - has footage of a Q&A session about Ken Russell’s The Devils.

Taking part with Sutton are actors Georgina Hale, Gemma Jones and Murray Melvin, and editor Mike Bradsell.

Melvin describes the experience of visiting Loudun, where the events of The Devils took place, while Sutton recalls working with Derek Jarman, the designer of the film’s sets.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Alfred returns from his Focus round

I am not sure Alfred, whom we last saw hauling the Flower of Rutland, has quite got with Vince Cable's new plan for the Liberal Democrats.

With this we finish another week at Bonkers Hall.

Driving along the lanes to inspect some property in a distant village, I encounter Alfred the carthorse trudging in the opposite direction. I surmise he has been delivering Focus.

Endeavouring to strike up a conversation, I say: "I hear Gina Miller doesn’t want to be leader of the Liberal Democrats." "I've not heard of her," replies Alfred "is she a party member?" "No." "Well," he returns, "that’s just as well then, isn’t it?"

Straightening the railway through Market Harborough

Time to see how they are getting on with straightening the railway through Market Harborough.

The HST in the photograph above is using the existing rails and the Midland arch of the bridge. Already we can see that when the work is complete trains will used the LNWR arch instead.

Once trains between Northampton and Nottingham (via Melton Mowbray North) and between Rugby and Peterborough used  rails that ran under it.

A little way north of Market Harborough the St Pancras main line climbs to a flyover across the LNWR trackbed. 

In the 1970s there was talking of a more radical straightening scheme that would see the flyover removed, but it will survive the current work.

Closer to Market Harborough station the vegetation and lineside bank has been cut back to make room for the new tracks.

The first photograph was taken from the slightly rickety footbridge by Great Bowden recreation ground. You can see it in some of the later ones.

Insecure Men: I Don't Wanna Dance (With My Baby)

This is from Insecure Men's first LP. They were formed by Saul Adamczewski from Fat White Family and Ben Romans-Hopcraft from Childhood - I gather both bands are popular with the young people.

Admaczewski pays tribute to his new bandmate on the Fat Possum Records site:
Saul explains that he has been round Ben his whole life: "I was always trying to corrupt Ben and his twin brother, to try and get them to bunk off primary school in Herne Hill but they never would."
And he remains incorruptible to this day: "Ben is very centred, calm, rational and nice – which is what makes our relationship work because he’s everything I'm lacking."

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Benjamin Britten’s 'Darren Grimes'

Lord Bonkers often tells me the story of how he was at an Aldeburgh Festival concert when the hall was inundated by the sea. He snatched up a double bass as it floated past and paddled himself to safety, accompanied by Benjamin Britten on the piano.


To the Royal Opera House, Oakham. The first Lady Bonkers was a great Wagnerian, and when I returned from business at the House would often greet me in the guise of Brünnhilde – “Hojotoho! Hojotoho! Heiaha! Heiaha!” and so forth.

The evening’s entertainment is Benjamin Britten’s ‘Darren Grimes’, which tells the story of a Suffolk fisherman who wins the bad opinion of his fellows and takes up politics as a career instead. There he falls into bad company and is fined £20,000 by the Electoral Commission before putting to sea in his boat and never being seen again.

There is a lesson there that I trust all Young Liberals will take to heart.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

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Trent Cottages, Long Eaton, waiting for HS2 and demolition

Long Eaton is a railway town. It is crossed by a confusion of lines, some used only by goods trains, and level crossings are common.

Today, with passenger services diverted because of major improvements being undertaken at Derby station and a train derailed on the Leicester to Birmingham line, it was more confusing than usual.

Long Eaton has had stations on several sites. The one that currently carries its name is not well placed - there used to be one right in the town centre, but that line now has no scheduled passenger service.

One day soon it may be affected by the railway even more. It is planned that the HS2 line will cross the town on a high viaduct. Long Eaton is far from the Home Counties where a fortune is being spent on limiting the line's visual and aural impact.

The construction of HS2 - though I would not bet your house on track being laid north of Birmingham any time soon - will also see the demolition of Trent Cottages, which stand next to the old Trent Power Box beside the main line to Nottingham.

I notice them every time I catch a train there, and today I found my way to them on foot.

Long Eaton's most remarkable station was Trent, which stood a little way outside the town. The Midland Railway had a habit of building large junction stations in the middle of nowhere.

I had always assumed that it was sited at Trent Cottages, but the Trent Station site locates it further out of Long Eaton.