Friday, November 30, 2018

A Sixties advertisement for Brede Place near Rye


Another advertisement from that guide to Rye dating from a 1967 family holiday. It's proving to be the best 1/6 my parents ever spent.

What makes it more interesting is that Brede Place does not appear to be open to the public today.

Six of the Best 833

"Rather than writing off rural America, Democrats have an opportunity to present a vision and policy agenda that have a real shot at reversing rural and small-town America’s declining living conditions. But this requires appreciating how and why those conditions plummeted in the first place, with few signs of improvement." Sarah Miller and Austin Frerick map a way forward for the Democrats.

Ignazio Cabras says new breweries could revive Britain's pubs.

"According to a publicity handout at the time, VOLE was in favour of 'canals, railways, shove ha’penny, old buildings, mushrooms, civil rights, cycling, recycling, allotments, blue-tits, wagtails, oak trees, voles, conservation, alternative technology, small businesses, village schools, yards, feet and inches, rights of way, local history, human welfare, Basil Brush and darts'." Andy Childs pays tribute to Richard Boston and his magazine.

Hannah Arendt remembers W.H. Auden.

"Seberg’s scenes are undoubtedly the film’s strongest, not least because of her subversion of the clich├ęd confident American in Paris. She flits between charismatic stability and wide-eyed chaos in ways that aren’t fully describable in words but are totally engrained there on the celluloid." Adam Scovell loves Jean Seberg’s performance in Breathless.

Bored by the Carlsen vs Caruana world chess championship match? Andrey Terekhov takes us back to 1954 and Botvinnik vs Smyslov, which went down to the wire and saw eight consecutive decisive games.

Alan Hollinghurst on Jeremy Thorpe and Hugh Grant

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Alan Hollinghurst has written about A Very English Scandal, the BBC drama based on the Thorpe Affair, for The New York Review of Books.

In doing so he picks up something I missed in my own review for Liberator:
Thorpe is played with breathtaking plausibility by Hugh Grant. Only at one moment did I have doubts. Thorpe became “the youngest man to lead a British political party in more than a century” when he gained the Liberal leadership: he was thirty-seven. Grant is fifty-eight, and his age, perfect for the more cadaverous Thorpe of the late 1970s, lends a perhaps misleading color to the flashback scenes in 1960, when he first meets and seduces Scott ("Now I’m going to kiss you, and you will enjoy it"). 
Thorpe, a well-connected Old Etonian, had all the readily exploitable power and prestige of class and status, but he was only thirty-two, a young man himself, not the late-middle-aged predator we see onscreen. The social dynamics may have been similar, but the personal ones must have been somewhat different. In reality Thorpe was one year younger than Grant was when he played the tousle-haired Charles in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
That explains why Thorpe's sexual encounter with Scott seemed so like rape and my puzzlement, as the drama unfold, at Scott's insistence that they had been in a loving relationship.

Anyway, do read Hollinghurst's article. It is very good.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Grandstand's opening titles in the Sixties



This is how Grandstand was introduced in the mid 1960s. Those four cameras showing different sports and the wonderful music are among my earliest television memories.

In those days the programme showed motor sports like scrambling, speedway and hillclimbing that I have not seen for decades.

And whatever happened to show jumping? It was huge.

Come to that, who was Sam Leitch? The opening item was always billed as "Sam Leitch's Football Preview".

Sometimes I turn on the TV on a Saturday afternoon still expecting Grandstand to be there. All I find is a repeat of Celebrity Bargain Hunt.

How New Labour's tough rhetoric on immigration boosted the right

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Under Jeremy Corbyn, as I wrote at the start of the month, Labour has quite moderate policies but does its very best so sound like far-left party.

Under Tony Blair, by contrast Labour had progressive social policies but did its best to sound right wing.

I am reminded of this contrast by an article in Prospect by Steve Bloomfield, who writes about the Blair government's rhetoric on immigration:
Under Tony Blair, New Labour passed five migration-related bills between 1997 and 2007. Each one was about making it harder for refugees and immigrants to live here. Each one was accompanied by a wave of dehumanising language in the media and political sphere. 
One of the first pieces of legislation removed benefits from asylum seekers, replacing money with vouchers. These vouchers could only be spent on what the government deemed “essential” - something that didn’t include razors or toothpaste. Shops were banned from giving change, which meant parts of the already meagre allowance often went spent. 
During this period, Labour liked to split asylum seekers up into “genuine” and “bogus.” The phrase “bogus asylum seeker” became so prevalent it was even used, without quote marks, in BBC news reports.
He goes on to chronicle the growing extremism of the rhetoric used by successive Labour home secretaries in this period - David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, John Reid - until the last-named was telling us that "foreigners come to this country illegitimately and steal our benefits".

Go back to the source of this quote and you will find that Reid was condemned by Nick Clegg, God bless him.

All this went on while people from Europe were coming to work in Britain in unprecedented numbers.

Did Labour's approach do anything to calm public concern about immigration?

Bloomfield says not:
Ipsos Mori’s poll in 2008 showed that just 5 per cent of voters who thought immigration was important trusted Labour. The Conservatives were on 46 per cent ... 
"Tough" immigration policies, i.e. those that treated people fleeing terror as if they should be feared rather than helped, not only failed to improve Labour's standing, it normalised dehumanising language and policies. The debate wasn't, "should we help refugees and migrants?" Instead, it was "how best can we stop them causing damage?" And when those are the terms of the debate, the far-right will always be "tougher."
This seems right to me. I would add that liberal politicians should talk about the economic advantages that immigration brings - too often we just get sermons on multiculturalism.

And where immigration causes local problems, such as pressure for school places, those liberal politicians should be honest about this and be seen to be providing the extra resources that local authorities need.

Three websites and a book to accompany Talking Pictures TV

By now you will have discovered Talking Pictures TV, the Freeview channel devoted to old (mainly British) films and television.

But to get the most from it there are three websites and a book you need.

The first website, inevitably, is IMDB. With its help you can spot young actors in their earliest roles and occasionally old actors making a final appearance.

The second website is Reelstreets which posts then and now photographs of the locations of British films.

If you have a difficult location question then you need BritMovie.co.uk, On the boards there are people who, particularly for London locations, can look at a still, get a hunch for the area it was shot and find the answer on Google Streetview in a remarkably short time.

And the book? It can only be Horton's Guide to Britain's Railways in Feature Films.

Talking Pictures TV is showing Night of the Demon again this evening, which features climactic scenes on a railway line.

Horton tells you all you need know:
These scenes were filmed on the Watford-St Albans Abbey branch, particularly around Brickett Wood station, although it is believed that Watford Junction station was also used. The giveaway is when Dana Andrews races into the station to catch the Southampton train (!) and there is a timetable behind giving details of stopping trains to St Albans,
It's the book no film fan can afford to be without.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Life on the Monty: The Montgomery Canal



The Montgomery Canal ran for 33 miles from Frankton in Shropshire to Newtown in Powys, closing to navigation in 1936.

For as long as I can remember, efforts have been made to restore the Monty. There are now several stretches open for navigation again.

This video shows the progress that has been made and catches the canal's atmosphere.

I once photographed the Monty at Welshpool, and you can read more about it on the Canal & River Trust site.

The Duke of Norfolk features in Quote of the Day

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Andy Bull writes about England's whitewash of Sri Lanka in the Guardian:
The last time England did it, in 1963, against New Zealand, they were still managed by one of the spare aristocrats knocking around Lord's, Bernard Fitzalan-Howard, the 16th Duke of Norfolk, who memorably told the journalists, "Gentlemen, I wish this to be an entirely informal tour. You will merely address me as 'Sir'."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

M.R. James goes to the Glee Club

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It's a while since I have been to Liberal Democrat Conference. In the days when I did, one of the pleasures of the Glee Club was the song Woad.

You know it:
Romans keep your armours;
Saxons your pyjamas:
Hairy coats were meant for goats,
Gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas.
Tramp up Snowdon with our woad on:
Never mind if we get rained or blowed on.
Never want a button sewed on.
Go it, Ancient Bs.  
Woad was written some time before 1914 by William Hope-Jones, a housemaster at Eton, for the school's Scout troop. It became popular in the Scouting movement in the 1920s.

The Provost of Eton in that era was M.R. James, the famous writer of ghost stories.

James also wrote for the school Scout troop. Knowing his audience, he made his story Wailing Well gruesome and included caricatures of some of the masters at the school.

One of those caricatures was of William Hope-Jones.

You can hear Wailing Well discussed in an episode of the excellent A Podcast to the Curious, which is devoted to James's works.

Carlsen and Caruana have played an underwhelming match


Tomorrow the world chess championship will be decided in London by a succession of games played at increasingly fast time limits.

It's an unsatisfactory to decide the game's ultimate honour - rather like deciding a drawn Ashes series with a Twenty20 game.

And there have been several problems with the match between the reigning champion, Norway's Magnus Carlsen, and his challenger, Fabiano Caruana from the United States.

Carlsen has seemed out of sorts, particularly after failing to convert a favourable position in the first game. In the final game he offered the draw that took the game into a fast play off rather than press for victory in another good position.

All 12 games in the match were drawn, which was disappointing for the chess enthusiasts watching around the world. Games between top players often do end in draws, but this was an unprecedented streak of them.

A 12-game match seems too short to me, making players afraid of losing. Fischer and Spassky was a 24-game match and that length makes it possible for a player to take a risk, lose and still come back to win the match.

And there were complaints about the expense of tickets and the facilities offered to spectators who went to watch live.

Carlsen is the favourite to win tomorrow as he is a significantly stronger at fast speeds than is Caruana. But note the words of a former champion.

Whoever wins tomorrow, I suspect the match will have dented Carlsen's aura of effortless invincibility.

And the number of draws has been in part a reflection of how hard it now is to surprise your opponent in the opening when everyone has access to powerful computers.

A good new move used to be played and debated round the world for months or years. These days everyone (apart from the player facing it) knows the best reply as soon has it is played.

Patrick O'Flynn joins the political undead of the SDP

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The most unexpected news story of the day must be Patrick O'Flynn MEP's decision to leave Ukip and join the SDP.

In his statement, O'Flynn says: "like many on the communitarian wing of the party, I have decided to join the resurgent SDP".

I am afraid that resurgence has passed me by, though there are a few pro-SDP Twitter accounts around.

And Sam Watts, who was the Ukip candidate for Corby at last year's general election, joined the SDP shortly afterwards. He is also a town councillor in Burton Latimer.

There's even someone on Twitter called William Clouston, who claims to be the party's leader.

What I can't find is evidence that anyone has been elected under the SDP banner for years, though they did lose a council seat in Bridlington to (ironically) Ukip as recently as 2014.

I was always a bit of an SDPsceptic, and it did come and go remarkably quickly. But it's sad to see its corpse being revived by disaffected Ukippers when support for the European Union was one of the motives for setting up the party in the first place.

That rumbling sound you can hear must be Roy Jenkins turning in his grave.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Pythons before Monty Python



"You'll love this, my boy. Monty Python was really funny. One of them did silly walks and there was a sketch about a dead parrot. A Norwegian Blue! Where are you going? Come back."

Remembering George A. Cooper



It was announced yesterday that the British actor George A. Cooper has died at the age of 93.

He had an important role in Hell is a City from 1960, which Talking Pictures TV has been showing recently, but I remember him best in Peter Cook's satire The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer.

Cooper played a Labour prime minister modelled closely on Harold Wilson, seen here being advised and destroyed by Cook's Machiavellian Rimmer.

The scene also shows Cook's limitations as an actor.

Jenny Marr chosen to fight Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk

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Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Borders have chosen Jenny Marr as their prospective parliamentary candidate.

She told the Border Telegraph:
"I’m thrilled to have been chosen to represent my home constituency. 
"Growing up in the Borders I always felt that the Liberal Democrats put my community first in everything they did and I want to bring that sort of public service and commitment back to Borders politics on the big stage and here at home. 
"On the national stage I want to be the pro-UK and pro-EU voice that reflects the dominant view here."
The Borders were once an area of strength for the Liberal Party, returning both David Steel and Archy Kirkwood to parliament.

I don't want to depress anyone, but at the last general election we finished fourth in Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk with 4.7 per cent of the vote.

The only way is up, baby.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Theresa May and the Holy Grail



Ho ho very satirical.

As an avid reader of the Shropshire Star, I can tell you where the knights who say "Ni!" came from.

Six of the Best 832

"More than any other English-language narrative filmmaker, Roeg apprehended Tarkovsky's notion of "sculpting in time" with the same radical freedom as the Russian director himself did. Roeg came into filmmaking as a cinematographer, and two of the directors he worked for, David Lean and Richard Lester, both had as astute a grasp of editing as any filmmaker you can name. During his most creatively fecund time as a director, Roeg made temporal leaps and jumps that were exhilarating provided you could keep up, which was sometimes a challenge." Glenn Kenny tribute to Nicolas Roeg.

Robert Reich calls for Facebook to be broken up.

Grammar schools aren't the enemy, private schools are, says Charles Turner.

"The only other building in Norwich 'with the authority of the cathedral' was St James Yarn Mill on the Wensum, built in 1843 to give a boost to our waning textile trade." Reggie Unthank looks at Ian Narin looking at Norwich.

"Like David Bowie before her, she took a fascination with literature, theatre, dance and the avant-garde into the mainstream. She traded in the unusual from the beginning, and only became more radical as she went on." The Economist's Prospero reminds us what an extraordinary career Kate Bush has had.

Meg Olmert on how the Victorians invented our modern dog breeds.

John Kirkpatrick: A Shropshire Lad



Coming back through Oakengates yesterday I was naturally reminded of John Betjeman's poem A Shropshire Lad. In it, the ghost of Captain Mathew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel, returns to his old haunts:
There wasn’t a man in Oakengates
That hadn’t got hold of the tale,
And over the valley in Ironbridge,
And round by Coalbrookdale,
How Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Rose rigid and dead from the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Rigid and dead, rigid and dead,
To the Saturday congregation,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank
On his way to his destination.
Musically, the poem is best known from the setting by Jim Parket. It is great, but Sir John's reading of his own poem does suggest the Dawley and Ironbridge are somewhere in the north of England rather than Shropshire.

John Kirkpatrick, whom I saw playing with the Band of Hope in Leicester many years ago, lives in Shropshire and uses the right accent for the district now occupied by the new town of Telford.

These days you can hear A Shropshire Lad sung in folk clubs.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Lib Dems preparing for an early general election


I go away for a couple of days and what happens?

Business Insider said yesterday:
The Liberal Democrats have told party activists to prepare for a snap general election in the next few months in the belief that Theresa May could be forced to go back to the country when her Brexit deal is voted down by MPs. 
In an email sent to party members on Friday morning and leaked to Business Insider, Lib Dem authorities say they have produced a "Flying Start Kit" for members to ensure they are prepared for a potential general election campaign. 
"The Tory Government has got itself into a terrible mess, as a party we have to prepare for every eventuality," a senior Lib Dem source told Business Insider.
Sure enough, that email was in my inbox. And isn't impressive how Business Insider's sources are always senior?

Signs of Shrewsbury


I've been to Shropshire for a couple of days.

Thanks to Lord Bonkers for keeping things ticking over here while I was away.



Friday, November 23, 2018

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "Fella’s expectin’ a hard Brexit"

As so often, we end the week in the family pew at St Asquith's. The Church of Rutland, incidentally, still adheres to the back foot no ball law.

Sunday

The Revd Hughes gives it both barrels at St Asquith’s this morning: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood."

I turn to my neighbour in the pew and remark: "Fella’s expectin’ a hard Brexit."

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

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Marching for a People's Vote

The old boy's refuses to see his village in Rutland left behind by events in London.

Saturday

Were you on that march for a ‘people’s vote’ in London the other week? What fun it was! The only fly in the ointment was that the sheer numbers who turned out made progress desperately slow. I was therefore pleased that I had decided to come in a motorised bath chair painted in British racing green and equipped with a two-tone horn. That certainly scattered the laggards!

So much did I enjoy the day that I staged my own march here this morning. The village folk turned out for in force, as did my staff and tenants. (The latter’s rents fall due on Lady Day, incidentally.) After two laps of the village and an excursion into my deer park, we assembled outside the Bonkers’ Arms.

I gave an address on the importance of European unity and the threat posed by imports of cheap, chlorine-washed pork pies from America, before handing over to young Farron. After a decent interval of several minutes, I dived inside the pub for a fortifying pint of Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter.

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Exploring the abandoned railway tunnel under Chesterfield



This is seriously scary: an abandoned railway tunnel under the centre of Chesterfield.

Disused Stations has some photographs of Chesterfield Central station and the tunnel mouth.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: How I first met Paddy Ashdown

Lord Bonkers once shared with me his theory that Paddy Ashdown had been planted on the Liberal Party by the intelligence service. "As he was so much more effective than anybody we came up with, we made him leader."

Friday

Sad news from Somerset: Sir Paddy Ashplant is unwell. I still recall with pleasure our first meeting, at Bonkers House in Belgrave Square, which I shared in these diaries when he stood down as Liberal Democrat leader:
Shortly preceded by a stun grenade and an impressive quantity of smoke, he had burst in through the French windows. After I had picked myself off the floor, dusted down the butler and pointed out that he probably wanted the embassy next door, he was all apologies. 
This, I reflected even then, was the sort of chap one could do with on one's side in a closely fought by-election.
As they so often do, the passing years proved the rightness of my judgement.

This afternoon I wandered into St Asquith’s and said a prayer for Paddy. Let us hope he is soon restored to rude health.

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

Six of the Best 831

"Not only are the Welsh investing in teachers, but they are also protecting rural schools. Kirsty Williams introduced a new, stronger code last week which includes a presumption against the closure of rural schools." Kirsten Johnson says we can learn a lot from the Welsh Lib Dem education secretary,

The resources of nature belong to everybody, argues an article in Progress.

Mustafa Nayyem, who helped spark Ukraine's revolution five years ago, has seen the activists of Maidan pressured, isolated, and murdered. Anna Nemtsova meets him.

Gillian Darley is puzzled that the Southbank Centre, and the Royal Festival Hall in particular, should suffer from architectural self-loathing: "Few buildings have had such a swift and transformative effect on a city. At the heart of a 27-acre bomb-site, a pale, modernist clear-glazed concert hall rose out of the rubble, to be framed by the Thames when seen across the water."

Best Foot Upwards climbs the Stiperstones, Black Rhadley and Linley Hill on a circular walk from Snailbeach.

"'People often hear voices calling for help. They are the ghosts of those killed in the 1957 Lewisham train disaster.'" Eddie Brazil is our guide to the railway ghosts of South London.

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.

Thursday

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. 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceThat 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.
and:
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.

Wednesday

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.

Tuesday

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...

Monday

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.