Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Mark Lester on playing Oliver Twist

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Oliver Twist was the original Well-Behaved Orphan. Thanks to Liberator's Kiron Reid for sending me a link to Ashley Byrne's interview with Mark Lester.

As the blurb there says:
It's been 50 years since the film musical masterpiece Oliver! brought the murderous melodrama of Charles Dickens' famous novel to life. Winner of five Academy Awards, nominated for 11, this mammoth production about the world's most famous fictitious orphan remains a must-see. 
Ashley Byrne went to meet Mark Lester, the boy who played Oliver - despite the fact that he couldn't sing or dance.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Freddie and Fiona on the compost heap

Lord Bonkers puts his mind to the Liberal Democrats' financial woes and produces a novel solution.


Have you come across these new mobile telephones? They are Terribly Clever – you do not have to wait for someone to bring you the apparatus before you can have a conversation. This morning I receive a tearful call from Great George Street: it transpires that redundancies are in the air because the party’s finances are looking a distinctly unhealthy shade of green.

I promise my caller and her friends that I will ensure they are given beds at the Home for Distressed Canvassers in Herne Bay, but I wonder if the time has not come for more radical measures. Given the straits in which Clegg’s grand strategy have left the Liberal Democrats, should we be paying rent on expensive Westminster headquarters in the first place? Should we not move to somewhere which would not cost half as much? Somewhere like, purely for example, Rutland?

There are plenty of little-used outbuildings at the Hall which could easily be converted for use by the party. Equally, I am sure the horses would have no objection to sharing their quarters with our press officers (provided they do not eat the hay). And Meadowcroft has just offered to give Freddie and Fiona desk space in his potting shed if they help him with the compost heap when needed.

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

Alastair Campbell's Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture

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Alastair Campbell gave this year's Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture in Fort William in August.

He has now posted the text of that lecture on his website:
It was funny to watch the vox pops in Fort William after his death. Virtually everyone said "oh yes, I always voted for Charles." Amazing he lost really! But he would have seen the funny side of that too. 
There was pain in his defeat, but no bitterness. I never once heard him express bitterness about his ousting as Lib Dem leader either. He knew his colleagues had a point. They knew – and he knew they knew – that unless he cracked his drink problem, a bigger problem was coming their way. 
That being said, as the Lib Dems surveyed the wreckage of their party after the last two elections, they might recall his warning that if they got into bed with the Tories they would use them, abuse them and then destroy them. 

No Trees in the Street (1959)

Talking Pictures TV showed this on Saturday evening and are showing it again tomorrow at 9pm.

It is a film I have long wanted to see, as it features Melvyn Hayes in an early serious role and the whole story is told to the young David Hemmings as an Awful Warning.

As you may gather from this trailer, it turned out to be desperately overwrought. Only Sylvia Syms emerges with much credit.

Melvyn Hayes gives his all, but looks awfully like a murderous Charles Hawtrey. At his most emotional there are distinct echoes of his Gunner 'Gloria' Beaumont from It Ain't Half Hot Mum 15 years later.

What really struck me was the film's attitude towards the London slums and the people who lived in them. 

The fact that the Kennedy Street of the film is no longer there is celebrated. The ground has been cleared and new flats built (though there is a lot of empty land around them) and even the name has vanished.

I am reminded of what I wrote about Wheat Street and Wharf Street in Leicester's most notorious slum district:
all that life was swept away as though Wharf Street was the city's dirty secret. The district was not improved: it was destroyed.
Having cleared the slums decades ago, Leicester has found nothing to do with the area since.
You can see the same pattern in Nottingham, where the slums of The Meadows district were cleared and the area still feels empty today.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Two-Tailed Lion, Leicester

I tried another of Leicester's new pubs on Saturday - The Two-Tailed Lion in Millstone Lane.

It's website describes it as
a traditional English free house with modernist flair, situated in a listed building within the historic Greyfriars area of Leicester.
Recommended for its building and select range of real ale and craft beers.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Well-Behaved Orphans at Halloween

Lord Bonkers has sometimes written about Bonfire Night at the hall, but until now I did not realise that Halloween was celebrated there too.


Today is Halloween, when ghosts and demons walk abroad and the streets of Oakham are thronged with the sheeted figures of defeated candidates from long-forgotten by-elections. The Revd Hughes, very wisely, takes the day off and bars the shutters at the Vicarage.

The Well-Behaved Orphans, being little horrors themselves, always demand a scary bedtime story from me on this night. I decide to call their bluff this year by reading them the most frightening thing I know: the 2017 general election results in constituencies that the Liberal Democrats won as recently as 2010.

How they squeal with frightened glee when I give the figures for Truro & Falmouth and Redcar! I am halfway through Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey when Matron hurriedly announces that it is my bedtime and sends me back to the Hall. I hope I don’t have nightmares.

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

Vince Cable to hold meeting in the Harborough constituency

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Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, is holding a meeting in Oadby on 6 December, starting at 5.30.

The meeting will take place at John Foster Hall, Manor Road, Oadby, Leicester LE2 2LG and is being organised by Harborough, Oadby & Wigston Lib Dems.

Tickets are free - apply online if you would like to attend.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Brixham Harbour in the summer of 1997

In the days when I went on long walking holidays I used to lay out everything I wanted to take and find it was too much for my rucksack. Often my camera was one of the things that was sacrificed. 
But I did take it with me sometimes. And one of the times I did was 1997, when I walked from Plymouth to Brixham, missed out the area around Torbay on the advice of my guidebook as there was too much road walking, and then continued from Exmouth to Weymouth.
That's what I wrote when I posted a photograph of St Catherine's Chapel, Abbotsbury. I can date the holiday because I remember the American golfer Justin Leonard winning the British Open on the first or second day.

The photograph here was taken from the Brixham to Torquay ferry, looking back at Brixham Harbour.

From Torquay I caught the bus to Starcross and then the ferry across to Exmouth.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Keep the box around Shetland

Today the old boy gives us an interesting piece of Scottish Liberal history that has hitherto escaped publication.


A recent issue of The Shetland Times has been drawn to my attention. In it our own Tavish Scott celebrates the fact that those islands will no longer be shown on weather maps and the like in a box.

All I can say is that he must be a singularly unobservant fellow, as that box is not figment of a cartographer’s imagination but a thing of bricks and mortar.

It was Jo Grimond who ordered it to be built: he wanted to protect Shetland’s fishing grounds, discourage Viking raids and keep out canvassers from other parties. Much of the donkey work was undertaken by his wife Laura, with the young Jim Wallace making the tea.

I sincerely hope Scott does not intend to undo Jo’s work by having the Shetland Box taken down. What will be next? Adrian Sanders’ wall?

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

Andrew Bridgen: "The MP for North West Bullshitshire"

Matt Chorley's article is behind The Times paywall, but I can add further evidence to support his case out here in the open.

In July 2016, during the Conservative leadership election, Andrew Bridgen appeared on the East Midlands segment of the BBC's Sunday Politics.

He was there to support Andrea Leadsom's candidacy - this was before she gave her first major interview and torpedoed her own campaign.

As I blogged at the time:
When the interviewer Marie Ashby put him to him that, according to the Sunday Times, some East Midlands Tory MPs were threatening to leave the party if Leadsom won the contest Bridgen replied:
"If Theresa May ends up leading the party I think you'll have as many people falling off the other side of the party."
Theresa May, of course, won the leadership by dint of being the only candidate left standing. And not a single Conservative MP left the party.

The MP for North West Bullshitshire had struck again.

Lembit Opik: “I have been asked to stand for the Estonian Presidency"

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In what the Mirror credibly labels an "Exclusive", Lembit Opik claims that he's been asked by multiple parties to stand as the President of Estonia, despite never having lived there:
Opik claims he is the second best-known Estonian in the World after the 83-year old classical composer Arvo Part.
Part and a part you might say, if you had less tact than me.

Lembit tells the Mirror every time he appears on Estonian television, people ask when he is going to move there. He says:
"I’m interested in Estonian politics because I’ve invested a lot of time in helping the Estonian political system develop. Former members of my family have also been involved in politics in Estonia so there’s a natural fit there."
One former member of Lembit's family who was involved is Estonian politics is great uncle Oskar, who was a member of the puppet Nazi government that ruled the country between 1941 and 1944.

The only substantial account of his career I can find is in the Daily Mail, which treated it as a piece of whataboutery after Chris Huhne had condemned David Cameron's decision - in retrospect, a disaster for his party and country - to pull the Conservatives out of the mainstream Conservative group in the European parliament.

Anyway, the article tells us that:
A post-war Estonian investigation into crimes against humanity named Oskar Opik as one of eight officials who ‘share responsibility with the German authorities, by virtue of their office, for all criminal actions carried out in Estonia, and beyond its borders by military units or police battalions raised with their consent during the period of the German occupation’. 
He and the other directors were ‘responsible by virtue of the positions they held, for having given orders which resulted in crimes against humanity’. 
Oskar Opik always denied having any jurisdiction over political prisoners. But the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity stated that ‘the directorate’s autonomy, in particular, enabled them to maintain police structures that co-operated with the Germans in rounding up and killing Estonian Jews and Roma, and in seeking out and killing Estonians deemed to be opponents of the occupiers’. 
Not being a public-school Stalinist like Seumas Milne, I can recognise that, contested by Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union, Estonia was in an impossible position. But this historical baggage is unlikely to be helpful if Lembit really does have serious political ambitions there.

But, beyond that, Estonia is now faced with a serious threat from Putin's Russia. Putting it politely as one can, I doubt that a man who contrived to lose Montgomeryshire for the Liberals is the man the country needs to keep it safe.

The In Crowd: Blow Up

When choosing Tomorrow's My White Bicycle as a Sunday music video I wrote:
Tomorrow were a significant band in those days, so cool that they were asked to write songs for the film Blow-Up (in the event they were not used). 
Their guitarist Steve Howe later joined Yes while Keith West is, rather unfairly, best remembered for Excerpt from a Teenage Opera.
Here is one of the songs from the film, which just retells the plot. (That is less of an undertaking than it would be with most films). The band recorded it under their earlier name of The In Crowd.

Tomorrow did not appear in Blow-Up because the director Antonioni wanted The Who. They declined to appear, so he ended up with The Yardbirds looking rather self-conscious as they smashed up their equipment. (Follow that link to the clip from the film and you will see a line up with both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck.)

Anyway, it occurs to me that most of my readers will never have heard of Excerpt from a Teenage Opera. So I had better post that one Sunday too.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Vince Fibre-Optic, Farmer Swarbrook, Zsa Zsa Poltergeist

I've done the new Liberator. I have done Radical Bulletin. Which means I can put this off no longer.

It is time to spend another week at Bonkers Hall. Take it away your lordship...


To the Bonkers' Arms, where I join the regulars in setting the world to rights. We note that Vince Cable has announced he is open to the idea of changing the name of the Liberal Democrats: but what if he is looking at things, as our American cousins would have it, backasswards? What if it is Vince Cable’s name that is the one that should be changed?

We proceed to suggest a range of names he might be called instead. I elect myself secretary of the meeting and endeavour to record them on the back of a Smithson & Greaves beermat. Here is the list, though I will not swear to have captured them all:

Vince Fibre-Optic, Mabel Cable, Vince Thrust,  Prince Vince, Father Ibadulla, Wild Willy Birkenshaw, Rear Admiral Tufty Blenkiron, Chief Rabbi O’Toole, The Widow Ganderpoke, Zsa Zsa Poltergeist, Binky Balderstone, Bingo Edmeades, Armitage the Musical Seal, Tufty Snellgrove, Peggy Inverarity and her Harmonica Rascalettes, The Very Revd Gonville ffrench-Beytagh, Farmer Swarbrook, Queen Salote of Tonga, Oscar Mild, Mad Jock Racionzer.

I have every confidence that a winning name is in there somewhere.

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

The new railway alignment at Market Harborough takes shape

Works continues on straightening the railway through Market Harborough station.

Part of the northbound platform has been boarded off. Soon the newly aligned platforms will start taking shape behind those boards.

Meanwhile, you can now see the route that the realigned tracks will take through the old station car park and beyond. At present that alignment is home to an impressive horde of earth-moving plant.

They are working on the railway bridge over Rockingham Road too. The road has been closed for a week now and trains will be diverted around Market Harborough and over the Welland Viaduct tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Day trips to the Continent from Lydd Airport in 1967

Writing about Malcolm Saville and Lydd Airport a few years ago, I said:
I have a guide book to Rye, the relic of a family holiday in a caravan on Winchelsea Beach in 1967 - yes, readers, I remember the Summer of Love. In it there is a British United Air Ferries advertisement featuring return trips to Ostend and Le Touquet for 71/-.
And here is that very ad. There's more about British United Air Ferries on Wikipedia.

Why they are calling Nick Clegg "the Bionic Man"

City Insider in the Financial Times points out that Nick Clegg is old enough to remember the 1970s television series about a former astronaut-turned-secret agent called Colonel Steve Austin.

Austin had had various body parts replaced by 'bionic' implants, giving him superhuman speed and vision.

Insider continues:
The title of the show was The Six Million Dollar Man. That’s what others approached as contenders for the Facebook role of head of global affairs told City Insider was on offer: $1m as basic pay plus at least $5m in stock.
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceNice work if you can get it. Me? I voted for Brian Niblett.

Radical Bulletin tells you what's really going on in the Lib Dems

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Each issue of Liberator contains  Radical Bulletin. Named after a defunct publication that we absorbed long ago, it contains news about the Liberal Democrats you will not find anywhere else.

Radical Bulletin in the new issue of Liberator tells you more about the hole that has appeared in the party's finances and about the party's reaction to Vince Cable's ideas for reforming it.

You will also find some light relief:
The annual Pink News awards saw Vince Cable give a heartfelt speech on the appalling treatment LGBT asylum seekers experience in the UK. 
He then went on to present the prize for the best TV programme which turned out to be A Very English Scandal. 
Thus the audience was treated to the leader of the Lib Dems presenting an award to a programme about one of his predecessors trying and failing to commit a murder.
Subscribe to Liberator here.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The lost pubs of Minsterley

When I started visiting Shropshire more than 30 years ago there were three pubs in Minsterley. You can see them all in this aerial photograph from 1947.

The pub that is still open today is the Crown & Sceptre, which is in the bottom left-hand corner.

In the top left corner is the pub I knew as the Bridge Hotel, but may still have been known as The Miners' Arms when the photo was taken - they were lead miners in this part of the world. The building is still there, but it is now a private house.

And in the centre of the picture is the Bath Arms Hotel, which has been demolished and replaced with new housing.

The new issue of Liberator is out

The new issue of the radical Liberal magazine Liberator is with subscribers.

In it you find the usual mix of articles, reviews and inside information on what is going on in the Liberal Democrats.

Two of the articles are free to download as pdfs from the Liberator website:
  • Sarah Green says the party can't go on being diverted from its political tasks by internal reforms and financial squalls
  • Richard Kemp says it is wrong and pointless to be moderate about deprivation when the Lib Dems have the policies need - if only they knew it.
Lord Bonkers interjects: Aren't you going to tell them about my diary?

Liberal England replies: Yes, but first I am going to tell them how to subscribe to Liberator.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Prince Charles as Bluebottle

A 70th birthday tribute.

Petition to bring back Market Harborough's Church Street Christmas lights gains over 1000 signatures in a day

There is a petition on change.org calling on Harborough District Council to get its act together and see that the usual Christmas lights go up in Church Street, Market Harborough. (I blogged about this controversy yesterday.)

Already it has gained more than a thousand signatures - mine is one of them.

As the explanation that accompanies the petition says:
Church Street is a lovely small street in Harborough that's full of independent businesses who work hard all year round in the town. The Christmas Lights have been a beautiful feature in Church Street for many years, with lots of customers coming to the street especially to see them. 
As a street we are really upset to hear that the Christmas lights will no longer be decorating our street and hope that the council can put a plan in place to put up the lights this year.
Sign the petition yourself.

Lib Dems to meet again on Thursday to discuss party's finanaces

As I blogged last week, an emergency Liberal Democrat board meeting took place last night to discuss the state of the party's finances.

PoliticsHome reports that the board will meet again tomorrow, as the meeting broke up at 10.15 without getting through the agenda.

As to what happened there:
At the meeting last night, board members discussed party spending priorities and budgets for the next three years, during an exchange that overran by some two hours. 
“It was very lengthy, it was tense and it was heated at points - but there is some positive stuff coming out of it at least,” one board member told PoliticsHome. 
“It was focused on how we get through what has happened and how do we make sure it doesn’t happen again. The conversations about individuals and their future will come along once we’ve sorted all of this out.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

No Christmas lights in Church Street, Market Harborough, this year

First things first. My old friend Phil Knowles - here in the Leicester Mercury - wins our Quote of the Day Award:
A council has been accused of cancelling Christmas in part of a Leicestershire town. 
Councillor Phil Knowles, who is leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition has spoken out after Harborough District Council announced it would not be putting Christmas lights up in Church Street in Market Harborough. 
The council has said that no festive lights will be positioned in the busy town centre street because electrical supply points and fixing brackets no longer meet regulations. 
Coun Knowles, who represents Great Bowden and Arden on the council, said: "It is elf and safety gone mad."
It may have been an open goal, but he put it away with aplomb.

Really, this is a sad story. For as long as I can remember the lights in Church Street have been a highlight of Christmas in Market Harborough. This year there won't be any.

Why not?

The Conservative leader of the council says:
"This year’s festive lighting scheme will not extend to Church Street due to the existing electrical and physical infrastructure no longer complying with current regulations – as well as challenges relating to the installation of new brackets, eyebolts and new power supplies to accommodate the cross-street festive lighting."
I am with Phil:
"We need to know why these fittings were not repaired in time for this Christmas period. We need to know if these fittings can be fixed in time to gets lights up on this street."

Monday, November 12, 2018

A walk down the Brampton Valley Way

The Brampton Valley Way, which runs for 14 from Market Harborough to the edge of Northampton, follows the route of a railway line that closed in 1981. I was on the last train and have a few photos from that day that I will post on this blog sometime.

Over the years the hedges have grown larger and the path narrower, which makes if feel less like and old railway.

On Saturday I walked its first mile or two to reach a new cafe in a tent off the main road in Great Oxendon, passing the occasional dog-walker, enjoying the autumnal afternoon and later the dramatic skies,

As you may recall, I saw a remarkable rainbow before I got there.

Hearings on Lord Janner put back until February 2020

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The Leicester Mercury reported earlier this month that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) will not now hold its public hearing into child sexual abuse allegations against the former Leicester MP Greville Janner until 2020.

This, says the IICSA, is because new lines of inquiry have emerged in the Independent Police Complaints Commission's investigation of Leicestershire Police's response to the allegations against Janner.

When the hearings do take place, the IICSA website reveals that they will investigate the allegations of Lord Janner and then, if it finds some or all of them to be well founded, consider:
  • the adequacy and propriety of law enforcement investigations and prosecutorial decisions relating to allegations falling within paragraph 1 above, including whether any public authority hindered or prevented the effective investigation and/or prosecution of allegations of child sexual abuse by Lord Janner;
  • the extent to which Leicestershire County Council was aware of the allegations of abuse and the adequacy of its response;
  • the extent to which the Labour Party, government departments, and/or the security and intelligence agencies were aware of the allegations of abuse and, if so, the adequacy of their response;
  • the extent to which any other public or private institution may have failed in its duty to protect children from sexual abuse;
  • whether the Kirkwood inquiry was conducted adequately and whether the mission of any mention of Lord Janner in the Kirkwood report was appropriate.
In light of those investigations the Inquiry will publish a report setting out its findings and recommendations to improve child protection and safeguarding in England and Wales.

The IICSA is being largely ignored by the media, even though it has already led to the resignation of one council leader, but I suspect the hearings on Lord Janner will attract renewed attention.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Six of the Best 830

William Wallace says Britain's security depends upon our co-operation with others. He also reveals that his father served in the Gordon Highlanders in the first world war. I had a great uncle who did the same.

"The BBC is an Anglican broadcaster, which faces the same conflict of purpose. It follows the highest journalistic standards, yet it feels it must also reflect the national mood. Britain voted to leave the EU. The nation spoke, and in respecting 'the people’s verdict,' the BBC has done what every enemy of free inquiry wants reporters to do." Nick Cohen shows how the BBC has lost the plot on Brexit.

Damon Linker reviews a book by Max Boot, a conservative who has left the Republican Party in disgust over Donald Trump.

"Over the last ten years, research has demonstrated the importance of creative practice in the arts and humanities. They can help maintain health, provide ways of breaking down social barriers and expressing and understanding experiences and emotions, and assist in developing trust, identities, shared understanding and more compassionate communities." Paul Crawford argues that the arts are a shadow health service.

James Oliver revisits the controversy over video nasties from the 1980s.

In 1916 5000 people watched Jack Hobbs faced Sydney Barnes in the Bradford League. Crispin Andrews examines the first world war and cricket politics.

Listen to James Hawes on the history of Germany

James Hawes is one of my favourite contemporary novelists. His Speak for England, as well as being hugely enjoyable in its own right, can claim to have anticipated Brexit.

He is also a historian. I can recommend his The Shortest History of Germany - and not only because it does what is says on the dustwrapper.

The unified Germany of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he argues, was largely the result of conquest by Prussia. And Prussia was a military state with a  very different outlook from the emerging democracies of Western Europe.

It was Germany's - and Europe's - tragedy that the new nation took on the semi-colonial practices of Prussia.

You can hear Hawes discussing the history of Germany in a podcast with Dan Snow.

Market Harborough to Northampton bus service to be halved

By the time I had finished chasing rainbows at Great Oxendon yesterday, it was threatening to get dark. So I abandoned my plan to walk home and caught the bus instead.

Even before I checked the timetable, I knew there wouldn't be too long to wait. There are two buses an hour between Northampton and Market Harborough.

That is soon to change. 

A service update from Stagecoach says it has been through a 
process of reviewing its entire bus network across the Midlands. Over this period detailed analysis has taken place to review passenger numbers on each route and ways of tackling services which are not commercially viable.
And when you get to the detail, the update says:
On Mondays to Saturdays service X7 will run hourly between Leicester - Market Harborough - Brixworth - Northampton - Milton Keynes. 
Additional journeys will run between Leicester and Market Harborough & between Brixworth and Northampton to provide two buses an hour on these sections of route during most of the day. 
The X6 & X7 combine to provide two buses an hour between Northampton, Grange Park and Milton Keynes.
In other words, there will continue to be two buses an hour on the route except between Market Harborough and Northampton (or, more precisely, between Market Harborough and Brixworth).

This is a commercial decision by Stagecoach and there is, of course, no prospect of Northamptonshire County Council stepping in to maintain the service.

Shirley Bassey: Burn My Candle

This is Shirley Bassey aged 19 and she is amazing.

Burn My Candle was deemed so suggestive by the BBC that they refused to play it. You can see their point.

Remarkably, it was written by Ross Parker, who had co-written the wartime standards "There'll Always Be an England" and "We'll Meet Again".

Maybe the 1950s were more exciting than we think?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A rainbow at Great Oxendon

I had planned to go into Leicester and watch Mike Leigh's Peterloo. But the trains had been replaced by buses and, at least between the showers, it was a golden late autumn day.

So instead I walked along the Brampton Valley Way (the old Market Harborough to Northampton railway) to try out a new cafe at Great Oxendon.

Judging by the rainbow that appeared, the President of the Immortals approved of my decision.

The final photo here, despite my playing about with it, does not capture the extraordinary effect produced by the last, broad scrap of the rainbow over the trees.

Friday, November 09, 2018

When the Monastery in Rye was a pottery

In 2014 the Monastery in Conduit Hill, Rye, was up for sale. The Rye & Battle Observer told us:
The Monastery building was once ear-marked as potential site for a new theatre by the Fletcher Group but the Group is now set to open a new two screen cinema in the former Further Education Centre in Lion Street later this year. ... 
In 1903, the then Vicar of Rye, the Rev. Howes, interested himself in the chapel building, and proposed its conversion into a Church House. It had been the Salvation Army Barracks for some time. 
During the last war it was used for community events, dances and films.
The paper also said that the Monastery was once a pottery, and my 1967 Rye guidebook shows it was right.

The Young Liberals were infiltrated by an undercover police officer

Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (gedditt!!???!!) reported back in March:
A new spycop has been named – Special Demonstration Squad officer ‘Michael Scott’ infiltrated the Young Liberals, Anti-Apartheid Movement, and Workers Revolutionary Party, 1971-76.
It's hard not to feel nostalgic for the days when the secret state thought the Liberal Party worth keeping under surveillance.

Six of the Best 829

"Brexit has been a sobering experience for believers in Britain's constitutional arrangements. While in principle we have parliamentary sovereignty, in practice we have an over-powerful executive." Alexandra Runswick on how 'the will of the people' shattered our constitution.

Sam Knight explains how the Conservatives bankrupted Northamptonshire: "The plan ... involved cutting the number of staff directly employed by the county from four thousand to a hundred and fifty. At the same time, officials set up a number of external companies to look after the county’s old people and neglected children. The companies would, in theory, turn a profit. The project cost millions of pounds and never got off the ground."

Wearing the poppy has always been a political act. Sam Edwards sets out its history.

"I had another reason to fear psychiatry; the usual alarmist warning to anyone who misbehaved in the 'fifties and 'sixties was, 'You’ll end up in Saint Nick's,' the bin on Great Yarmouth sea front. And an imposing place that was. My beloved grandma spent two nights there – but more of that later." Why Craig Newnes has written a book on electroconvulsive therapy.

We need to take action to stop Sheffield architecture being destroyed, says Owen Hatherley.

Graham Duff looks back over 45 years of Lindsay Anderson's brilliant film O Lucky Man!

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Fleet House: A threatened Leicester ghost sign

This is Fleet House in Fleet Street, Leicester, which was the headquarters of British Steam Specialties Lrd until a few years ago.

Derelict Places has photographs of the surprisingly contemporary interior and records that the company was bought out by Travis Perkins and moved to a new head office closer to the M1.

This part of the city is up for redevelopment, and a Leicester Mercury article from earlier this year reveals the disappointing news that Fleet House could be a victim of it.

So enjoy the buildings signs while you can.

Should South Shropshire be a national park?

The idea that South Shropshire should be a national park seems to be gaining momentum.

The Shropshire Star reports that the man tasked by Michael Gove with look at whether any new parks should be created, thinks so.

Julian Glover, a former speechwriter for David Cameron and the first person to commission me to write for the Guardian, says:
"I know Shropshire very well. 
"I partly grew up in the Shropshire Hills, and they are as beautiful as anywhere in a national park."
Indeed they are. Someone once described them to me as being like the Lake District without all the visitors.

Andy Boddington, the Lib Dem councillor from Ludlow, also supports the idea.

He writes on his blog:
We live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. We have so much beauty surrounding us that we often forget its there. It is ordinary to us but astonishing to people who come here. 
My view is that national park will be beneficial for South Shropshire. It will promote the economy. But there could be downsides like too many visitors or rising house price. There could be upsides like more affordable housing. More businesses within and around the national park.
And he concludes:
My view is that we should at that point submit a bid for national park status. 
A national park that stretches from Ironbridge to the Mortimer Forest. Embracing the Titterstone Clee, the Long Mynd, the Stiperstones, Bishop’s Castle and Clun.
He urges people in the county to attend a debate organised by the Shropshire Council's Ludlow and Clee local joint committee on 29 November.

I welcome the idea, but I can think at once of a couple of problems that need to be tackled if it is to be a success.

The first is affordable housing. When I discovered the county more than 30 years ago I used to wonder at how cheap houses were. Then the weekending classes discovered the restaurants of Ludlow and everything changed.

Two years ago it was announced that Hope primary school near the Stiperstones was to close. Heather Kidd, the Lib Dem councillor for the ward, saw no alternative because young families cannot could to move to the area - see her comment on that post too.

The second issue is bus services, which being cut in Shropshire just as they are everywhere else.

The Secret Hills shuttle bus that runs at weekends is a shadow of what it was a few years ago, when you could use it to reach Bishop's Castle, Clun and Much Wenlock.

And the bus from Shrewsbury to Bishop's Castle is under threat of withdrawal.

I support the idea of giving my favourite landscape national park status, but unless something is done about these and other issues in the area, I am not sure how much it will really achieve.

Lib Dems call emergency board meeting for Tuesday

PoliticsHome reports a development in the story about redundancies at Lib Dem head office that broke last week:
Lib Dem bosses have been summoned to an emergency board meeting amid a financial crisis in the party that is set to see up to quarter of staff laid off. 
Board members are expecting an “angry” exchange of views at the summit next week, with some blaming the current turmoil on bungled financial management.
The meeting, called by the party's president Sal Brinton, will take place on Tuesday evening.

In an article for Lib Dem Voice last week, Nick Harvey (the party's chief executive and former MP for North Devon) spoke of a "reorganisation" and of politics being a cyclical business where parties consolidate after an election and later build up for the next.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceHowever, sources quoted by PoliticsHome suggest bad financial planning is to blame for the redundancies.

That is in line with the rumours I heard before this story broke.

More churches at risk placed on Historic England's register

St Peter's, Belgrave

Five Leicestershire churches have been added to its list of at-risk heritage buildings by Historic England.

They are, says the Leicester Mercury, St Peter’s Church in Belgrave, Leicester, and little-used village churches in Loddington, Owston, Garthorpe and Great Stretton.

Over in Shropshire a further five churches have been added: Alberbury, Newscastle on Clun, Stockton, Worthen and Condover.

What is to be done?

It is easier to imagine a new use being found for an urban church like St Peter's, Belgrave, than it is for churches in remote villages. But even St Peter's has been on the market for a long time now.

I wonder, too, if any of these additions to the list is due to the theft of lead from the church's roof. this is now an epidemic in rural areas.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Cheating scandal at Shropshire chess tournament

There's another chess story in the Shropshire Star. This one is not about the death of a stalwart of the game in the county but about a teenager being expelled from a tournament there for receiving electronic assistance:
The teenager was taking part in the inaugural Four Nations Chess League international congress in Telford and racked up an astonishing – and ultimately judged literally incredible – eight straight wins in the first eight rounds of the nine-round competition. 
The schoolboy from Surrey was in the lowest section, for players with an international Fide rating of 1825 or below. ... 
But despite a personal rating of a very modest 1286, the competitor was not only beating much stronger opposition but blowing them out of the water. 
His lead as the final round approached was already unassailable, but he was not given an opponent. 
Chief arbiter Alex Holowczak said: “During a routine anti-cheating check a player was found to have used electronic means to assist them with their games. That player was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Players who are receiving computer assistance are usually not hard to spot. Either, as in this case, they suddenly start playing way above their usual strength, or they play in a very unhuman fashion. They will go in for an apparently risky sacrifice in a position when they are already well on top. Any normal player nurses such an advantage home to score a calm win.

Let's end with the good news.

The Star says:
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceOn a more positive note, the Telford venue for the first-ever event, held at the Park Inn in the town centre, came through with flying colours, and the international competition attracted 10 Grandmasters – surely a record for any Shropshire chess competition – among a total of 109 entries across three sections.