Thursday, October 18, 2018

Secrets of the Glasgow Subway



This is the third oldest underground railway system in the world. Only London and Budapest got there before Glasgow.

Six of the Best 823

"We need to reinstate the need for more leisure time as a political ideal and work on the sound evidence of its benefits rather than dismissing it as unaffordable." Darren Martin makes the case for a shorter working week.

Anne Applebaum on the murder of journalists across the globe: "The murders are the consequence of the clash between a 21st century technological revolution, which has made it possible to obtain and spread information in new ways, and a 21st century offshore banking revolution, which has made it possible to steal money in new ways, to hide it in new ways and to use it to maintain power."

Human Rights Watch is concerned about the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill: "The draft law punishes a single click on terrorist content online with up to 15 years in prison."

"On November 9, 1918, extra editions of newspapers flood the center of Berlin. One of them, from the socialist Vorwärts, falls into the hands of Käthe Kollwitz as she is strolling in the Tiergarten. 'The Kaiser has abdicated!' says the banner headline." Daniel Schönpflug looks at the artist and at Germany in defeat.

Curved or straight, the banana is at risk of dying. Matt Reynolds examines the race to reinvent it before it's too late.

Icy Sedgwick takes us along the old corpse roads.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Peter Sellers in The Optimists of Nine Elms



I remember seeing this clip from the 1973 film The Optimists of Nine Elms on Clapperboard, an excellent film programme for children that Chris Kelly introduced on ITV in those days.

Peter Sellers used to claim that his father had taught George Formby to play the ukulele, though I don't know the truth of that.

You can hear Martin Cathy and Dave Swarbrick performing I Haven't Told Her elsewhere on this blog.

There's life in Adur Lib Dems yet

Having made Sunday's Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen with a post asking "Whatever happened to Adur Liberals?", I am pleased to report that there is still life in the party in that part of West Sussex.

A report in the Worthing Herald tells us about a debate in Lancing. What should be done about the town's former police station?

The paper says
Members of Lancing and Sompting Liberal Democrats released a statement last month calling on the council to provide social housing on the site. 
Doris Martin, chairman of the Lancing and Sompting Lib Dems, said: "We urge Adur District Council to pursue this objective vigorously. 
"We believe it would be a major lost opportunity if the site is sold off into the private sector for flats. 
"It seems to us that few suitable sites become available for a significant addition to the social housing stock and this opportunity needs to be grasped."
And if you were given a home on the site you could call in Dunploddin'.

Hares in the Euston Road


After live-tweeting an academic event at University College London for my day job yesterday, I needed a restorative pint on the way back to St Pancras.

I made my way through darkest Bloomsbury before coming across The Resting Hare on Woburn Walk.

It opened a year or two ago and its website explains how it got its name:
The architect behind Woburn Walk, Thomas Cubitt, noted the tameness of the hares on his early morning constitutional. After the opening of Woburn Walk, the newly laid paving stones became a magnet for the local hares, who could easily be seen late at night resting peacefully along the walk. 
Indeed, famous poet W. B. Yeats who lived on Woburn Walk in the 1920’s, wrote of "a handsome old grey hare taking rest" outside number 6. 
Development and increased traffic on the Euston Road had made the crossing too difficult for the hares, and by the start of the 1930s they had disappeared into history.
A remarkable story - and there used to be a pub called The Hare's Foot in nearby Goodge Street.

This week came news that myxomatosis - a disease introduced to Britain in 1953 to control the rabbit population, which it did only temporarily - has jumped the species barrier and is now infecting hares.

Nature is resilient and forgiving, but we do seem determined to trash it.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Loughborough Derby Road station from above (1947)


Remember when I went to look for what remains of the old Loughborough Derby Road station and was taken for an explorer by two boys who probably were not ghosts?

This aerial photograph shows the station in 1947, when it had long closed to passengers but was still open for goods services.

It is halfway down the photo towards the right-hand side. You can clearly see the goods shed that still stands there and the low station buildings are next to the main road.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Six of the Best 822

Photo: Alan Light
Adam Bernard does not think much of Vince Cable's proposed changes to the Liberal Democrat constitution: "There is no practical way for the party to verify that each 'supporter' is a different person, let alone that they’re who they say they are. It is trivial for anyone to make a dozen or a hundred 'supporters'. It is near-impossible to weed them out."

"Our education service is poor value, poor quality and incredibly expensive. Successive governments have spent vast amounts of money on creating a National Curriculum; a vast bureaucracy and an expensive inspectorate. There is little sign, however, that the way we spend the money and what we do with children is in the long-term interests of them or our country." Whereas Richard Kemp strongly supports the new Lib Dem education policy.

The Conservatives' target seats are short of candidates, reports Mark Wallace.

Ailbhe Finn says our approach to mental health isn't working.

Do journalists pay too much attention to Twitter? Matthew Ingram thinks so.

"In an industry keen to ignore women once they get past middle age, the widowed Fletcher is something of a unlikely feminist icon." Tanya Jones celebrates Angela Lansbury and Murder She Wrote.

Haysi Fantayzee: John Wayne is Big Leggy



A harmless novelty song about cowboys? It was, after all, played on Saturday morning children's television.

Not quite.

Wikipedia quotes Jeremy Healy, the male singer, who wrote it:
It was an allegory for treatment of which the white settlers used, but on the Native American Indians. However, I wrote it like John Wayne having anal sex with a squaw. I thought this was hilarious!
It also quotes the lyrics.

Healy went on to be a sought-after producer and musical director, while Kate Garner has met equal success as a photographer and multi-media artist.

Their keyboard player, Paul Caplin, became a successful entrepreneur.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Steve Benbow and Tommy Eytle

My programme for Cinderella, the 1966 Christmas Panto at the Palace Theatre, Watford, had advertisements too.

Shortly after it arrived I tweeted this one with the words "#Watford nightlife 1966 style".

That turned out to be rather Emily Thornberry tweet, because Steve Benbow (1931-2006) and Tommy Eytle (1926-2007) were both considerable figures.

Benbow's Guardian obituary said he was:
an inspiration to younger players. Davy Graham, whose guitar style affected those of Eric Clapton and Paul Simon, credits him as a primary influence: Benbow introduced him to Moroccan music he had heard while in the forces. Graham told the Guardian last year: "What he taught me was that you should never get stuck in one mode or style."
Eytle's Guardian obituary records that he:
played various society venues such as Esmeralda's Barn, a haunt of the Knightsbridge smart set, eventually taken over by the Krays. His irrepressible act was caught on film in two sequences from The Tommy Steele Story (1957) - with double bassist Chris O'Brien in a Caribbean setting, then fronting his own band on the London stage.
He late turned to acting and was best known for playing Jules Tavernier in EastEnders.

His older brother, Ernest Eytle, was the first West Indian summariser to broadcast on their test in England for the BBC. They were both friends of Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Six of the Best 821

Anne Applebaum says Viktor Orbán has duped the Brexiteers: "Whatever language about ‘European ideals’ or ‘Christianity’ Orbán’s disciples use at their government-sponsored think-tank events, in practice their destruction of institutions, including the media and the courts, has led directly to corruption and the entrenchment of their own power."

Do universities liberalise students? Paula Surridge says the connections between education and political behaviour should be studied.

Victoria Bateman thinks John Stuart Mill's ideas could save capitalism.

"Years before Seinfeld, Hancock’s Half Hour – a show about nothing. And like Seinfeld, George Costanza, Elaine and Kramer, the dysfunctional household of Hancock, Sid, Bill & Miss Pugh were amiable losers adrift, eccentric, a non-nuclear family in a world that revered gentility and respectability." Julian Dutton pays tribute to Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.

Valerie Simadis talks to Sixties actor and musician Peter Noone.

The architect Fothergill Watson is best known for his work in Nottingham, but he was born in Mansfield. Lucy Brouwer takes us on a tour of that town, looking at what remains of his work.

Whatever happened to Adur Liberals?

We often talk about the churn in the Liberal Democrat vote - we may get a similar number of votes at two consecutive elections, but a lot of the people who voted for us at the first will not have voted for us second time round.

Do we also get a churn in the areas where we win power too?

When I was elected as a councillor back in the 1980s there were vanishingly few local authorities where the Liberal/SDP Alliance had overall control.

One authority we did run was Adur, a district council in West Sussex whose largest town is Shoreham-by-Sea.

I remember, at the urging of my Association of Liberal Councillors mailing, trying to persuade Harborough District Council to adopt a scheme for making sure that the homes of older residents were warm enough in winter that Adur had put in place.

Checking the relevant page on Wikipedia I find that, remarkably, the Alliance and then the Liberal Democrats had uninterrupted control of Adur between 1980 and 1999.

But something went terribly wrong after that. Today there are no Lib Dem councillors on Adur and a council by-election there this evening has no Lib Dem candidate.

A clue comes in the form of a news story from 2002 which says the Lib Dems had made a conscious decision not to field candidates in that years elections to allow them to regroup.

My guess is that Adur was won with classic Liberal Party community politics - as a compact, largely urban authority it would certainly have lent itself to such an approach.

But that approach takes a great deal of hard work and generally relies on a few driven individuals to make it work. If those individuals get tired or fall out or move away, the whole thing can fall apart.

Of course, there are see authorities that see no churn: the Lib Dems have run the London Borough of Sutton since 1986.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceBut I feel this churn in the areas where we do well is a real phenomenon and the biggest reason for it, our lack of an instinctive core vote, suggests it is related to the churn in the people who vote Lib Dem overall.

Independent councillor joins the Lib Dems in Telford


From the Shropshire Star:
Councillor Shana Roberts, who represents the Stirchley ward on Brookside and Stirchley Parish Council, has also been selected to be the Liberal Candidate for the Brookside ward in the 2019 borough council elections. 
She was originally elected in 2017 and is the current chair of local action project, Brookside Big Local.
The report goes on to quote Shana Roberts:
"After some soul searching I decided to go back to my Liberal Democrat roots and I have found a family of authentic, honest and driven people who give me hope. People who focus on the good they can do and not the bad that someone else does."
In August Labour lost control of Telford and Wrekin Council when one of their councillors joined the Liberal Democrats.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Victoria: A Stamford ghost sign


This ghost sign is to be found in Stamford near Greyfriars Gatehouse.

What Pub reveals that The Victoria was a one-roomed pub originally known as the Parting Pot Inn. It changed its name for Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1886.

Our beliefs blind us to the logical validity of political arguments


There's an interesting post on the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog that looks at how good we are at judging the logical validity of political arguments when we already have beliefs about the issue in question.

It reports research by Vladimíra Čavojová at the Slovak Academy of Sciences and her colleagues, who recruited 387 participants (mainly university students) in Slovakia and Poland.

The researchers first assessed the students' views on abortion, which is a topical and contentious issue in both countries. They then presented them with 36 syllogisms – formal logical arguments that come in the form of three statements. The students had to judge whether the third statement, the conclusion of the argument, followed logically from the first two.

Some of the syllogisms were on neutral subjects, but others had a conclusion that was relevant to the abortion debate - some were pro-life and some were pro-choice.

The Research Digest post says:
Čavojová and her team found that the participants’ existing attitudes to abortion interfered with their powers of logical reasoning – the size of this effect was modest but statistically significant. 
Mainly the participants had trouble accepting as logical those valid syllogisms that contradicted their existing beliefs, and similarly they found it difficult to reject as illogical those invalid syllogisms that conformed with their beliefs. This seemed to be particularly the case for participants with more pro-life attitudes.
One intriguing point is that this bias was actually higher among students with previous experience of training in logic.*

The researchers suggest their results "show why debates about controversial issues often seem so futile”.

* Formal logic, like chess opening theory and the Romanov Tsars of Russia, is one of the things I used to know a fair bit about but have now largely forgotten.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Diana Rigg on The Avengers



Five decades since she first appeared as Emma Peel in The Avengers, says the blurb on YouTube, fans of the show still approach Dame Diana Rigg to express their gratitude.

Here she joins BFI curator Dick Fiddy to reflect on the influence of Peel on real-life women and acting with Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry.

East Midlands Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference


East Midlands Liberal Democrats are holding their autumn regional conference in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, on Saturday 3 November.

Click here to book a place or book a stall.

That page also has details of a local party dinner taking place that evening at nearby West Haddon.

The welcome return of utopian economic thinking

Suddenly people are questioning the idea that the future involves all of working harder for ever and ever.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said recently:
"In the 19th century, unions campaigned for an eight-hour day. In the 20th century, we won the right to a two-day weekend and paid holidays. 
"So, for the 21st century, let’s lift our ambition again. I believe that in this century we can win a four-day working week, with decent pay for everyone. It’s time to share the wealth from new technology, not allow those at the top to grab it for themselves."
Sian Berry, co-leader of the Greens, said at their conference earlier this month:
"It’s time to shift away from the culture which sees us work harder and harder for longer and longer, often without reward or satisfaction. And to recognise that true freedom will only be found when people have more control of their time and how it is spent. 
"That is why Greens want the next Budget, and every future Budget, to include a new economic indicator that measures people’s leisure time."
And the philosopher Kate Soper has called for an 'alternative hedonism':
Most politicians and business leaders seem likewise incapable of thinking ‘outside the box’ of consumerism.
Obsessed as they are with economic growth and GDP,  they do not invite the electorate to think about other ideas of progress and prosperity, and are more than happy for advertisers to retain their monopoly over the imagery and representation of pleasure and the ‘good life’. 
Even the left-wing critics of capitalism have been more bothered about the inequalities of access and distribution it creates than about the ways it confines us to market-driven ways of living.
I would want to read the small print before I endorsed her ideas, but she is right to point out how the narrow is the strip of ground usually occupied by economic debate in Britain.

And this has consequences. Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership because none of his rivals had anything interesting to say or much to say at all. And he, when you get beyond the noise on social media, was offering what was not much more than a conventional social democratic programme.

I welcome this flowering of utopian economic thinking. It's proponents have to make the sums work if they are to be taken seriously, but when I am told such ideas would bankrupt industry I recall what Charles Dickens wrote in Hard Times:
Surely there never was such fragile china-ware as that of which the millers of Coketown were made. Handle them never so lightly, and they fell to pieces with such ease that you might suspect them of having been flawed before. They were ruined, when they were required to send labouring children to school; they were ruined, when inspectors were appointed to look into their works; they were ruined, when such inspectors considered it doubtful whether they were quite justified in chopping people up with their machinery; they were utterly undone.
And, I must ask, what would utopian Liberal Democrat ideas look like? It feels an awful long time since we had any.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Nottingham Canal joins the Trent at Meadow Lane Lock


You can get on to the towpath by Nottingham Station, and from there it is a mile to where the Nottingham Canal meets the Trent at West Bridgford.

The final lock down into the river is Meadow Lane Lock, which is close to Notts County's ground and opposite Nottingham Forests' City Ground on the other bank.

If you like photographs of canals joining the Trent, see the:






Two barks for the Wooferendum

Embed from Getty Images

In the run up to the day the idea of a 'Woofeendum' sounded rather twee.

But it generated some appealing images for the media, which is something Remainers have not been very good at. Fun as they are, marches risk being interesting only to those who go one them.

It is also striking how much more effective pro-EU campaigning has been since it fell from the hands of the professionals - David Cameron and George Osborne, Ryan Coetzee and Will Straw CBE - and into the hands of those who really care about it.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Hallaton Castle: Where J.W. Logan's men tried archaeology

Embed from Getty Images

Hallaton is a picturesque village a few miles north east of Market Harborough that also has its pagan side. I mean to visit it again one day and take some photographs.

I recently came across this fine photograph of its Norman castle, which has been described as "one of the best examples of a motte and bailey castle in Leicestershire".

That Hallaton Castle Hill Camp page tells a story of interest to this blog:
In the summer of 1877 railway engineers 'excavated' the site. They sank 2 shafts into the mound. 'Natural' was 17'6" down. Then a layer of peat and trees and bog earth, including 'heath and hazel, broom and furze, birch and oak', some with axe marks. In this were 'numerous splinters of bone', also pottery, leather shoes, a shoe-lace, charred wood and burnt stones. 
Above this were layers of clay, gravel and boulders with very abundant remains of wood fires together with burnt and blackened fragments of pots and also burnt and splintered bones. Also layers of ashy refuse up to 4" thick with iron objects, one gilded, bits of shoes, wooden bowls, a wooden shovel, squared stakes, a portion of ladder (?), 2 fragments of Roman pottery and large quantities of pottery, some crude 'British' through to salt glaze. 
The last 10-12 feet were clean, somewhat gravely yellow clay with many bones, and large pebbles and boulders. On top was a hard chalky stratum 15" thick. In the bailey 'numerous holes were sunk' and 'the abundance of melted iron ore, which with dross and charcoal and refuse showed plainly that it had been worked and wrought in situ'. 'Burnt red stones… surrounded by charcoal' were noted. 
Horse-shoes, buckles, rude ware, pipestones etc of last 200-300 years were noted. It was thought that it might have been used as a garden.
Those navvies must have been employed by the firm of Logan & Hemmingway, which built the Great Northern and London and North Western Joint Railway through Hallaton.

That is Logan as in this blog's hero J.W. Logan, Liberal MP for Harborough 1891-1904 and 1910-16.
It was the contract to build this line that first brought him to Leicestershire.

Harborough's Tory MP says his party could "go out of business"


When Neil O’Brien was hurriedly chosen as Conservative candidate for Harborough when last year's general election was announced, he was written up as one of the party's thinkers.

Judged on that basis, he has proved something of a disappointment. He deleted his tweets as soon as he was elected and refused to tell people how he had voted in the EU referendum.

My guess is that he voted Remain (he was a close associate of George Osborne), but did not want to upset his new constituency party, who most vocal members at least are strongly pro-Leave. But it is only a guess.

But I have come across a Guardian account of a speech O'Brien gave at a Conservative Conference fringe meeting that does show him as a thinker:
Neil O’Brien, who became MP for Harborough last year, noted that in the 2017 election there was a massive deficit between the Tories and Labour in terms of younger voters, and those from minority ethnic backgrounds. 
At the 2015 election, O’Brien said, the Tories lagged two percentage points behind Labour for voters in their 20s, and by four percentage points for those aged 18-24. Just two years later these deficits had shot up to 26 and 40 points behind. 
The party was also doing increasingly less well among other groups whose numbers were rising, such as those with degrees, people who were unmarried, and those who rented their homes or live in cities, said O’Brien, a former director of the Policy Exchange thinktank. 
"All these different social bases of Conservatism are being eroded," he said. “Either we have to do much better amongst these groups of people, or we’re going to go out of business as a political party.” 
Such structural changes would have an impact, he added: "It’s a bit like a beam that is rotting away, and eventually it snaps."
Thee Guardian reports some arguments from George Freeman that are also worth reading.

I think there is a lot in O'Brien's analysis, but whether the Conservative Party will want to hear it is another matter. One of the problems the party faces is that its reduced membership has made its activist base less and less typical of the wider electorate.

Nina Simone: Sinnerman



What if I know this from television commercials? It is still brilliant
.
The website dedicated to the career and memory of Nina Simone tells her story:
Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina on February 21st, 1933, Nina’s prodigious talent as a musician was evident early on when she started playing piano by ear at the age of three. Her mother, a Methodist minister, and her father, a handyman and preacher himself, couldn’t ignore young Eunice’s God-given gift of music. 
Raised in the church on the straight and narrow, her parents taught her right from wrong, to carry herself with dignity, and to work hard. She played piano – but didn’t sing – in her mother’s church, displaying remarkable talent early in her life. 
Able to play virtually anything by ear, she was soon studying classical music with an Englishwoman named Muriel Mazzanovich, who had moved to the small southern town. It was from these humble roots that Eunice developed a lifelong love of Johann Sebastian Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert. ... 
After graduating valedictorian of her high school class, the community raised money for a scholarship for Eunice to study at Julliard in New York City before applying to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. 
Her family had already moved to the City Of Brotherly Love, but Eunice’s hopes for a career as a pioneering African American classical pianist were dashed when the school denied her admission. 
To the end, she herself would claim that racism was the reason she did not attend. While her original dream was unfulfilled, Eunice ended up with an incredible worldwide career as Nina Simone – almost by default.
She is, of course, playing the piano as well as singing on this recording.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

More medieval Stamford: Greyfriars Gatehouse


St Leonard's Priory wasn't the only relic I found when I went to look for medieval Stamford.

Greyfriars was a Franciscan friary that flourished in the town from the early 13th century until Henry VIII suppressed it. Joan of Kent, wife of the Black Prince and mother of Richard II, was buried here.

All that remains of the friary today is this gatehouse beside Stamford Hospital and it does look as though it was much altered in later centuries.



Robert Peston's criticism of BBC journalism is well founded

Embed from Getty Images

I am slow to join attacks on the BBC out of a certain conservatism - it is part of the fabric of British life that I grew up with - and because it is likely that replaced it would be less good.

But I am not a fan of its news and current affairs crisis these days.

There is too much emphasis on star presenters and not enough on specialist correspondents - call it Humphrysism. There is too much emphasis on generating heat and not enough on casting light - Cliff Michelmore was right about Question Time.

Above all, there seems to be a lack of basic journalism.

Robert Peston, as reported in the Guardian, put it well at the Cheltenham Literature Festival:
He was asked whether the BBC could be blamed for Brexit. He laughed at the suggestion but went on to criticise its coverage. “The problem with the BBC, during the campaign, it put people on with diametrically opposed views and didn’t give their viewers and listeners any help in assessing which one was the loony and which one was the genius,” he said. 
“I do think that they went through a period of just not being confident enough. Impartial journalism is not giving equal airtime to two people one of whom says the world is flat and the other one says the world is round. That is not balanced, impartial journalism.” ... 
He said impartial journalism was about “weighing the evidence and saying on the balance of probabilities … this is the truth. It is the role of a journalist to say, ‘we’ve got these two contradictory arguments, I’m now going to advise all of you which is likely to be closer to the truth.’”
And if this arises from a desire to safeguard the future of the licence fee by not antagonising the right, I fear it will be unsuccessful. The right is still convinced that the BBC is biased against it.

Yorkshire burglar 'on mad one' stole vacuum from dead man’s house then tried posting it through girlfriend’s letterbox






You'll say it's just another day in Leeds, but it wins the Yorkshire Post our coveted Headline of the Day Award.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Nest boxes on the Long Mynd


Three John Muir Award participants get involved in a two-year nest box survey at Darnford Brook on the Long Mynd in Shropshire.

All very Malcolm Saville.

England's men finish fifth in world chess team championship

There is life in English chess after all. The Olympiad (the biennial world team competition) finished in Batumi, Georgia, today and the men's team finished fifth.

This is their best result since 1996. (The women's team finished 29th.)

Leonard Barden writes of the men's team in the Guardian:
The team, well captained by John Nunn, rode their luck at times and were blessed by favourable pairings but were also resilient, technically prepared in depth and professional in their match strategy. David Howell’s 7.5/10 on third board was the outstanding individual performance as the 27-year-old from Seaford advanced to 2699 on the live ratings. His only defeat was by the former world champion Vlad Kramnik. 
Michael Adams scored 6/10, Luke McShane 5.5/10, Gawain Jones 6.5/10, and Nick Pert 2/4. England won eight matches, drew 2-2 with France, and lost to Azerbaijan and Russia.
I remember Nick Pert playing for Uppingham School against Market Harborough in the Leicestershire League, but the trouble is that this English men's team is growing older together . There are no hungry younger players pushing for a place in it.

For an explanation of why this is, read this Stephen Moss article.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

A ghost sign in Melton Mowbray


This metal sign is appealing but impossible to read.

Its location across the entrance to a yard, and a ghost sign on the neighboring building, give a big clue to what it once said.

Rutland councillor will have to wear electronic tag


Richard Alderman, the 'Democracy Rutland' councillor, today received a six-month community order for his posts on Facebook.

He will have to wear an electronic ankle tag to monitor a 7pm to 7am curfew.

As the Leicester Mercury has said he intends to carry on as a councillor, he had better hope there are no evening meetings.

BBC News quotes the judge:
"You advocated support for killing by execution and assassination (of Mrs May and Ms Soubry) because you disagreed with their views. 
"You did so with the recent memory of the killing of a British member of parliament. I am satisfied you intended the comments to be grossly offensive and of a menacing character." 
He added: "The offences are serious enough to warrant a community order and curfew requirement."
 The county council said Alderman's actions were "totally unacceptable" and would be the subject of a further investigation by its standards committee.

A podcast on A.E. Housman

Clun: Very quiet

With it being National Poetry Day, it is opportune that the London Review of Books has just posted a new podcast:
In the latest instalment of their regular series, in which they consider major poets of the 20th century – or in this case the long 20th century – through a lens of the pieces written about them in the LRB archive, Seamus Perry and Mark Ford turn to Worcestershire lad and old-type natural fouled-up guy, A.E. Housman.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

David Bowie and David Hemmings on Just a Gigolo



As I once remarked:
Before drink and American television dulled his talent, David Hemmings was a promising film director.
The film that harmed his reputation was his third, Just a Gigolo. It is remembered, fairly or not, as a disaster.

Here its star, David Bowie, and Hemmings himself talk about it.

Six of the Best 820

"On the few occasions in its history when the Conservative party has not just lost power but been roundly thrashed, it has been when wealth-creators and ideologues have fought each other: over the Corn Laws in the 1840s, imperial preference in the 1900s and the EU in the 1990s. Each of these internal splits led to ten years or more in the wilderness." Peter Kellner thinks the Tories could pay a heavy price for Brexit.

And it would serve them right, says Cicero: "The only thing that keeps this shop window of stupidity alive is the fake money that drives the modern Conservative Party. Intellectually moribund and the bear garden of deformed personalities, the Tories deserve utter ruin."

Chris Dillow says we are very bad at counterfactuals. An Ed Miliband would have been far better than what actually happened after 2015, but we would still have moaned about it.

"It has taken a while, but Nietzsche’s reputation as a philosopher has been fully restored. The story of his life is by turns inspiring, poignant and dispiriting, and it has never been better told than in this riveting book." Ray Monk reviews Sue Prideaux's new life of the philosopher.

A Lady in London is your guide to spending a weekend in Leicester.

Philadelphia's Bart King is the greatest cricketer you've never heard of The Maelstrom.will tell you all about him.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

BeerHeadZ at Nottingham station


There seems to be a trend for opening pubs in redundant buildings on railway stations. I have blogged before about Wellingborough's Little R'Ale House and I recently visited BeerHeadZ on Nottingham station.

NottinghamshireLive explains:
It’s cosy. Very cosy in fact. With a capacity of just 36, it has the honour of being the city's smallest pub. 
The historic cabman's shelter has been turned into a relaxed, no frills spot for a pint, a glass of wine or even a bottle of posh pop. 
Since opening at the beginning of December, BeerHeadZ has tempted drinkers with no fewer than 47 different cask and keg ales as well as a fridge full of lagers and ciders.
I have also tried visiting the Sheffield Tap, but it was so popular I decided I would never get served.

The real Billy Elliot?

Embed from Getty Images

With the fact that today has been World Ballet Day, I thought of this photograph.

Does it show the real Billy Elliot?

It is captioned:
June 1958: 12 year old John Ryder and his friend Trevor Briscoe play in a back garden in the coal mining area of Amthorpe, near Doncaster. Surprisingly, miner's son John wants to be a ballet dancer and shows guts as well as ballet talent, fighting any local boys who call him 'sissy'. He has also joined the school boxing team to prove it. 
Before you laugh or protest too loudly at the attitudes of the 1950, have a look at what I once wrote about the film Billy Elliot.

I complained of its "ludicrous sexual politics" and complained:
In order to show he is not gay Billy has to have a best friend who is not only gay but looks and dresses like a girl.

Golliwog MEP Bill Etheridge resigns from Ukip because it is racist

I used to have fun with Bill Etheridge, He and his wife left the Conservative Party after they were disciplined for posing with golliwogs and putting the photos on their Facebook page.

They joined Ukip and Etheridge published a book:
In this fearless and controversial booklet, Bill Etheridge argues that the political and social elite have cravenly surrendered to the diktat of the Politically Correct dogma that has crushed free speech, smashed enterprise and reduced Britain to a mere shadow of its former self. Using personal insights and real life examples he shows how our political leaders can no longer be trusted and issues a powerful rallying cry for all lovers of freedom to stand up against the totalitarian bigots who have forced Political Correctness upon us.
He was later elected to the European Parliament and even stood for the Ukip leadership.

Today comes news that Etheridge has resigned from the party. In a letter to its leader Gerard Batten he says:
"The changes you have made have changed the party beyond recognition. 
"The party is now seen by large swathes of the British public as a vehicle of hate towards Muslims and the gay community... 
"For my part I wish UKIP well and leave with great sadness that the party I loved has left me and taken a different direction."
I think we can take Etheridge's resignation as final proof that Batten has taken Ukip to the far right.

Monday, October 01, 2018

M.R. James's ghost stories as a graphic novel



John Reppion and Leah Moore discuss Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, their comic book adaptation of four of M.R. James's supernatural tales.

If you like James's work, you will love A Podcast to the Curious.

Happy birthday St Pancras


St Pancras railway station opened 150 years ago today.

To those of us who remember it in the 1970s - grimy, with few catering facilities and GPO vans tearing through its centre - its recent transformation is little short of miraculous. Most of all, the restoration of the station hotel.

These days if I am in London for the day, I naturally think: "I can have something to eat at St Pancras on the way back." You wouldn't have formed that thought 40 years ago.

The only people to have lost are those of us who use the place for its original purpose: catching a train to Sheffield or the East Midlands.

We face a long walk to reach our platforms and little in the way of comfort when we get there. These days at St Pancras, just like everywhere else, if you are not spending money you are nobody.