Monday, January 21, 2019

Rasputin features in our Trivial Fact of the Day


This morning Finedon's Revd Richard Coles tweeted that it was Rasputin's 150th birthday.

He added our Trivial Fact of the Day: Rasputin's murderer Prince Felix Yusupov had been a member of the Bullingdon Club. It's on Wikipedia so it must be true.

Oh, those Russians.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Steam on the Cambridge to Mildenhall line



On Friday I posted a video that follows the course of the abandoned Cambridge to Mildenhall line.

Studying the blurb on YouTube, I found a link to this footage of the line in operation.

Six of the Best 843

"In many ways, the desire to pull all of those in poverty under one roof, literally or figuratively in the case of Universal Credit, stems from the same impulses today as it did in 1834: a desire to drive down spending and make people work, or work harder." Alannah Tomkins says Universal Credit is like the Victorian workhouse.

Simon Parker looks at the government’s response to civil disorder in Liverpool in the 1980s and specifically at the policy of 'managed decline'.

"'It’s a programme designed to knock current affairs broadcasting off its axis,' said editor Ross Edwards in that week’s Radio Times, 'then blow a hole in its spluttering head'. It did nothing of the sort, of course. If anything, it carved a path for it." Jude Rogers marks 25 years of The Day Today.

Andy Boddington welcomes plans to improve Mortimer Forest, which straddles the Shropshire and Herefordshire border.

Christopher Hilton says the concert programmes held by the Britten-Pears Foundation offer valuable insights into social history: "With a jolt, we realise that virtually all of the events documented here would have been seen through something of a blue haze."

Ian Wells, an English chess prospect who died in 1982 at the age of 17, is remembered by simaginfan.

Mannfred Mann: If You Gotta Go, Go Now



Mannfred Mann reached no. 2 in the UK singles chart with this Bob Dylan song in 1965.

This live version, featuring the band's original vocalist Paul Jones, comes from that year's Richmond Jazz Festival.

It was recorded for the American television programme Shindig, which explains why Jones is faded out at some points.

The lines that would have shocked America are every appearance of "Or else you gotta stay all night" and, later on, a lone "It’ll be too dark for you to find the door".

It makes you proud to be British.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Taking Charles I back to his well at Tur Langton


Today I met Charles I in The Crown at Tur Langton and took him back to the well where he watered his horse as he fled from his defeat at Naseby.

He had tried to relocate it a couple of times, and as I had photographed it last autumn, I volunteered to be his guide.

We received a good reception in the pub and were accompanied on our walk by the man who makes all his royal finery, half a dozen locals, two Dalmatians and and a Labrador.

Read more about Daniel Williams and his royal appearances on King Charles I Return.








Theresa May explains why Britain should remain in the EU

"Remaining inside the European Union does make us more secure, it does make us more prosperous and it does make us more influential beyond our shores."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Rediscovering the Cambridge to Mildenhall line



Wikipedia tends to the bleak:
The Cambridge to Mildenhall railway is a closed railway between Cambridge and Mildenhall in England. It was built by the Great Eastern Railway, and opened in two stages, in 1894 and 1895. 
Traversing thinly populated agricultural terrain, it was not heavily used. The GER introduced cost-saving measures on passenger trains, including push and pull trains and a conductor-guard system, and in 1922 opened three very basic lineside halts. 
The passenger service on the line was discontinued in 1962 and, except for a short stub, the line was closed completely in 1965. There is no railway use of the former route now.
But I like this film and its use of Vaughan Williams.

Bishop's Castle wolf sanctuary gets go-ahead to expand


Good news from the Shropshire Star and one of my favourite towns:
A wolf sanctuary based in Shropshire has been given the go-ahead to expand. 
Visitors will be able to see the animals in their natural habitat after proposals for an educational facility were approved by planners. 
With the backing of Born Free actress Virginia McKenna, Wolf Watch UK applied to Shropshire Council for permission to build a holiday let and learning centre at its 100-acre sanctuary near Bishop’s Castle.
You will find out more about this project if you search the Wolf Watch UK website.

In which Karl Marx takes my side against Jeremy Corbyn

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During the 2017 general election campaign I blogged about Jeremy Corbyn's cordial relations with the Provisional IRA.

Though they had not been the trump card that the Conservatives expected - it was all too long ago for most voters attracted by him - I still found them hard to forgive.

I quoted an earlier post where I wrote of the Provisionals' bombing campaign:
I was working in London at the time shoppers and workers were being killed by it. 
The very least I expect from the party of the workers is that it condemns those who murder them. 
Rather to my surprise, I have discovered that Karl Marx agrees with me.

Last night I came across the Clerkenwell Outrage of 1867 - an explosion caused by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (or Fenians) in an attempt to spring one of their leaders from Clerkenwell Prison.

It failed in its objective, but caused the deaths of 12 people, and injured 120, in the neighbouring houses.

One of the men behind it, Michael Barrett, became the last man to be publicly hanged in England, despite his defence that he had been in Glasgow at the time of the explosion.

Well, we English weren't very good at convicting the right people for Provisional IRA outrages in the 1970s, so who knows?

But what interested me was the reaction of Karl Marx. He is widely quoted across the interent, though I can't find where he wrote is, as arguing:
The London masses, who have shown great sympathy towards Ireland, will be made wild and driven into the arms of a reactionary government. One cannot expect the London proletarians to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of Fenian emissaries.
Quite.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Walbrook: The City of London's lost river



John Rogers from The Lost Byway is our guide.

Rushcliffe Lib Dems invite you to supper with Tom Brake

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On Thursday 7 February  Rushcliffe Lib Dems are holding a supper event with Tom Brake MP, the party's spokesperson for Brexit and international trade.

It is being held at the Larwood and Voce Pub and Kitchen, in the shadow of the Trent Bridge cricket ground in West Bridgford.

As well as the chance to hear from Tom on the latest Brexit developments, the organisers promise you lively conversation and the chance to network with fellow Lib Dem members from across the East Midlands "in a relaxed and exclusive venue".

Book via the East Midlands Lib Dems website.

The Sun says the Lib Dems have offered to back Theresa May's Brexit deal if she holds a referendum on it


The Sun claims an exclusive this evening. It "can reveal" that:
the Lib Dems’ 12 MPs are now looking at backing the PM’s Brexit deal on the proviso that she hold an In/Out referendum over it. 
The option emerged after its leader Sir Vince Cable saw Theresa May to discuss the crisis in No. 10. 
A senior Lib Dem MP told The Sun: “There is a conversation going on and a range of views in the party, and that is one option we’re looking at”.
There are two immediate problems with this.

The first is that, given the huge Commons majority against Theresa May's deal, the support of the Lib Dem MPs is neither here nor there.

The second is that it would presumably put us in the position of voting for the deal in the Commons and then campaigning against it in the referendum. That is a possible approach, but it will not do much for our reputation for consistency.

Tory Leavers, of course, was explode at the prospect of a referendum where the choice was between May's deal and staying in the EU.

That is an enticing prospect, but to go down this route would be a remarkable reversal of May's approach until now.

All in all, it sounds as though Vince Cable has made her an offer she can's accept.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Shrewsbury station in 1968



Small boys on the platform isn't it?

You may also enjoy the video Steam at Shrewsbury in the 1960s.

Six of the Best 842

"If the Brits are serious about securing access to the Single Market for goods, they will have to begin negotiations with, essentially 27 other countries after March, each of which will have a veto, as will the new European Parliament. What happens to the £100 billion or so worth of services the UK sells to EU countries every year is anyone’s guess. Services are not usually included in trade deals and 'passporting' is due to end." Edward Robinson says the prospect of Brexit gives him the shivers.

"A little less aggression and a little more listening and Rory Kinnear might’ve been the star of the recent Brexit drama on Channel 4." James Millar on the failure of Cameron, Osborne and Craig Oliver to learn from the referendum of Scottish independence.

Who owns England? In many cases, explains Anna Powell-Smith, it is impossible to find out.

Sam Knight joins the search for England's forgotten footpaths.

"At the end of the book, he still has nobody to love, and nobody to love him back, but he knows who he is: a grasping, arrogant, ambitious coward who would rather accept the job of Deputy Postmaster General, and the rather remote prospect of a Cabinet job when he’s proved his worth, than change." Ray Newman reviews No Love for Johnnie, a 1959 novel by the Labour MP Wilfred Fienburgh.

Nick Swarbrick and Mat Tobin look at myth and landscape in the work of Alan Garner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Join Charles I at his well near Tur Langton on Saturday


If you are at a loose end Saturday lunchtime, come to The Crown in Tur Langton, near Market Harborough, at 12.30 and meet Charles I.

After a bracer, I shall be taking him back to the well he last visited in 1645 as he fled his defeat at Naseby.

Dan Martin in the Leicester Mercury explains:
Expect a curious sight on Saturday – King Charles I in all his finery stumbling through a Leicestershire field to find a little known landmark. 
Dance DJ and musician Daniel Williams is heading to Tur Langton in the guise of the Stuart monarch, who lost both his crown and his head after the English Civil War. 
The 41-year-old, from the West Midlands, has recreated the king in an attempt to fire people’s imaginations and interest in history as he tours the country visiting significant places Charles visited during his reign from 1625 to 1649.
You may remember I photographed King Charles's Well back in October.

You can read more about King Charles I Return on his website..

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mike Brearley On Cricket and the joy of a good index

I love a good index, and Mike Brearley's willingness to bring his wider intellectual interests into his cricket writing gave me high hopes for his new collection On Cricket.

And I was not disappointed. Because it features such juxtapositions as:

Barrington, Ken
Bartók, Béla

Fowler, Graeme
Freud, Sigmund

Hogg, Quintin
Hogg, Rodney

idée fixe
Illingworth, Ray

Pietersen, Kevin
Pinter, Harold

Sutherland, Joan
Swann, Graeme

Verity, Hedley
Virgil, The Aeneid

Wittgenstein, Ludwig
Woakes, Chris

If you like good indexes too, I can also recommend Electric Eden.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Norman Baker on the strange death of David Kelly


Norman Baker was my favourite Liberal Democrat MP of the party's glory years. He was a powerful campaigner, friendly and with enough quirkiness to be a true Liberal. And he had a talent for getting up the noses of all the right people.

Looking back on the death of David Kelly in 2003, it does remarkable that no inquest was held into his death. Instead, it was bundled up with Lord Hutton's inquiry into "the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly".

Those circumstances where expanded to include the intelligence reports the Blair government used to justify war in Iraq and the BBC's reporting of them. Poor Dr Kelly faded into the background.

In 2007 Norman Baker published his book The Strange Death of David Kelly. The talk in this video was recorded two years later.

If you watch it you will find that Norman's conclusion is that David Kelly was murdered. Not by the British deep state, as some like to imagine, but by the Iraqis.

Given what we now know about Russian operations in Britain, this is not far fetched. 

We should be worrying that the British authorities still seem remarkably relaxed about the number of people who have crossed Putin who keel over and die on our shores.

Anyway, a few years after recording this, Norman became a Home Office minister. It's a funny old world.

Brexit Britain could have a low-speed high-speed train


HS2 Ltd's chief executive Mark Thurston has told a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group that train speeds and frequency on the new line could be changed to reduce costs, says the Evening Standard.

Its report says the options discussed included lowering train speeds by around 50kmph (30mph), reducing train numbers from 18 to 14 per hour and changing from slab to ballast track.

A low-speed high-speed train would be a perfect symbol of the dynamic new Brexit Britain.

More and more, politics today reminds me of the early 1970s, when prestige projects were promoted and then abandoned.

There was the third London airport at Maplin (announced 1971, abandoned 1974), the Channel Tunnel (started 1974, abandoned 1975) and Concorde, which was kept going, but proved hard to sell to anyone but Britain and France's national airlines.

HS2, you may recall, was approved by David Cameron, as a way of making good on his pledge not to build another runway at Heathrow.

Then came Theresa May, Brexit and the need for a new prestige project to show that Britain was open to the world. So a new runway was announced after all.

Ever since that, HS2 has been in danger of looking a bit of a white elephant.

I suspect it will be built from London to Birmingham, but it will be a long time before it gets any further than that.

However fast it runs.

Siouxsie and the Banshees: Hong Kong Garden



As Robert Webb once explained in the Independent:
Suzanne Vega ate at Tom's Diner. Arlo Guthrie sang about Alice's Restaurant. Siouxsie and the Banshees' inspirational eaterie was a Chislehurst takeaway, the Hong Kong Garden. 
"I used to go along with my friend and just be really upset by the local skinheads that hung out there," said Siouxsie after witnessing racist taunts against the staff. She turned her anger into song.
Hong Kong Garden reached number 7 in the UK singles chart in 1978.

And what is Peter Cook doing here? Wikipedia explains:
Revolver was a British music TV series on ITV that ran for one series only, of eight episodes, in 1978. 
It was produced by ATV. The series producer was Mickie Most, who was inspired to make the programme after he saw an interview with Top of the Pops' producer Robin Nash, in which he (Nash) boasted that TOTP was a music programme that the whole family could enjoy together. 
Most set out to make a show which was the antithesis of that, and which featured live music performances most closely related to the then emergent punk rock and new wave music scenes - though it also included other more mainstream artists such as Dire Straits and Lindisfarne as well as more original artists such as Kate Bush. 
The official host of the programme was Chris Hill, but it is remembered more for the contributions of Peter Cook. Cook played the manager of the fictional ballroom where the show was supposedly taking place, and frequently made disparaging remarks about the acts appearing. Revolver was recorded in front of a live audience in Birmingham.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Back to Bottesford station



When I posted a video about Bottesford station (the least used station in Leicestershire) the other day, I said I would also post my own photos of it. And here they are.

For the most part it is uninteresting, even though the station house survives, with bus shelters and a recently installed footbridge.

But it does have staggered platforms and a derelict house that must once have accommodated the keeper of its level crossing.

I also recommend the path from the station to the village church.











Double Diamond works wonders at the National Liberal Club

Thanks to Lang Rabbie for tweeting this film at me.

My first instinct was to attribute this to George de Chabris, but it turns out that he was not on the scene until the 1970s. So it does look to be the work of Lord Bonkers. I shall have to choose the right moment to ask him.

Incidentally, the Double Diamond sign I once photographed in Market Harborough is no longer there.

What happens when mainstream politicians talk up the far right's prospects: A warning from the Isle of Dogs

Copyright © Mike Seaborne
Chris Grayling has been talking to the Daily Mail.
"It will open the door to extremist populist political forces in this country of the kind we see in other countries in Europe," Mr Grayling told the paper. 
"If MPs who represent seats that voted 70% to leave say 'sorry guys, we're still going to have freedom of movement', they will turn against the political mainstream," he added. 
"There's already a nastiness and unpleasantness in our politics, more people with extreme views, more people willing to behave in an uncivilised way," he said.
In other words, MPs must allow Brexit or the far right will benefit.

When a politician resorts to this argument, it is always a sign of desperation and can end badly. Let me give you a little history lesson.

Back in 1993 the Liberal Democrats ran the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. And the Labour opposition had a problem.

For the second time in less than a year one of their councillors in the Isle of Dogs had resigned, which had done nothing for Labour's popularity in the ward. They were worried about holding the by-election.

The strategy they hit upon was to talk up the threat the BNP posed. People were told they had to vote Labour or they would let the fascists in.

I don't know if this was meant to fight of the BNP or to prevent the Liberals get a foothold in a ward where they had never done very well. But, either way, it proved a disaster.

The voters were looking for a way to punish Labour, and the Liberals would not do as a protest vote as they ran the council.

And the message the voters heard was that if they wanted to punish Labour the way to do it was vote BNP.

With the result that the BNP won the by-election.

As soon as they had done so, the Labour Party - locally and nationally - launched an assault on the Liberals, blaming their racist campaigning for the BNP's success.

I spent a morning delivering in the by-election and there was nothing wrong with the leaflet I was given, but that is beside the point here.

Because it was Labour's tactic of talking them up that did much to help the BNP to victoryin an area of traditional Labour strength.

Similarly, what voters who are angry about the way Brexit has gone will hear today is Chris Grayling telling them that they should turn to the far right.

What they should do is turn their anger on the mainstream Conservatives who made them impossible promises in the referendum campaign and have continued to do so to this day.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Chris Grayling is a good example of such a politician.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Spencer Davis Group, XTC, Eddy Grant and Tom Robinson bring you Trivial Fact of the Day

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My Trivial Fact of the Day neatly links two favourite groups.

On their official Twitter feed today XTC revealed that they once bought the Spencer Davis Group's old PA.

XTC were formed in 1972, by which time the Winwood brothers had long parted from Spencer Davis. Perhaps they bought the PA after Davis had reformed the group for a couple of years in early Seventies.

This fact put me in mind of a story I once heard Tom Robinson tell on the radio. You can find it in an old Independent article:
He is happy to recall an incident from the first time he lost his place front of stage. "I was down to selling off my guitars and amplifiers. And when a musician sells off his instruments it's getting serious. Among the people who replied were two scruffily dressed rastas," he says. 
"They were looking at the stuff in my garage and TRB was written on one of the flight cases. One of them says, 'Yeah, Tom Robinson, what happened to him? He was really good, man!' 
So I said, 'Well actually, I am Tom Robinson.' And the guy said: 'Hey, you ought to keep at it, you know. People who keep at it always come back in the end.' So I said 'Sure, look at Eddy Grant.' And he replied, 'I am Eddy Grant.' "
The funny thing is that I remembered the story as being the other way round: Robinson buying Grant's PA when the latter's career was in decline.

That is something that could easily have happened in the late Seventies.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Free Range Eggs: A North Shropshire scene


Taken near Myddle a couple of months ago.

Mike Brearley's All-Time XI



This blog's hero picks his strongest team from the cricketers he played with or against.

I'm pleased to see a place for Abdul Qadir, the great Pakistani leg-spinner who had already done much to revive an apparently lost art before Shane Warne came along.

Paddy Ashdown's funeral was held in Somerset this afternoon

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Paddy Ashdown's funeral was held this afternoon at St Mary's church in Norton Sub Hamdon.

The service was a private one for family and friends - the latter including Sir John Major - but it was relayed to around 200 people in the village hall.

It  was conducted by his friend, the church's former rector Peter Thomas, who began proceedings thus:
"We’ve come together to remember before God our brother Paddy - and I suspect God also knew him as Paddy rather than Jeremy and probably didn’t call him Lord."
An appropriately Liberal note was struck by the presence of a miniature pony with a rosette in party colours.

One of the speakers at the service, Myles Wickstead, said of Paddy:
"He was never happier than when at the Lord Nelson on a Friday night, indulging in a mixture of arguments, fun, gossip, banter and, of course, drink."
The party has suggested that people listen to the Reflections programme Paddy recorded with Peter Hennessy.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Elton and Orston: The least used station in Nottinghamshire



We left Geoff Marshall and friend walking from the least used station in Leicestershire to the least used station in Nottinghamshire.

Leicestershire's Bottesford, well placed to serve a large village, is quite busy for a least used station. But across the border, Elton and Orston is one of those kept open with a minimal service because that is cheaper than going through all the formalities of closing it.

It would be worth the walk from Bottesford just for those two road signs on the bridge.

A mobile stroke unit trial in the East Midlands?


Last year a trial of a mobile stroke unit took place in Southend:
The modified ambulance includes a CT scanner, laboratory and state-of-the-art facilities. 
This specialist ambulance allows patients to be diagnosed and treated on board, rather than losing valuable time transporting them to hospital. 
Patients in the unit can receive lifesaving treatment “on the go” when every second counts.
Thst report, which comes from the Braintree & Witham Times, suggests the initiative is now to be used across Eastern England.

Now Phil Knowles, health campaigner and leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Harborough District Council, tells me the East Midlands Ambulance Service is interested in the idea too.

He says:
The mobile stroke unit would need to be strategically placed in the East Midlands to maximise its potential. It may well be that any trial would need to be in a rural area rather than close to a major city stroke unit. That would be a decision for the professionals  
What I do know know is just how important time is when reacting to a stroke and how critical it is for medical professionals to begin treating patients as quickly as possible.

Man finds live snake in Argos kettle





The Independent wins our Headline of the Day Award.

If my experience of Argos is anything to go by, they won't change it.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Britain's first main line diesel locomotive at St Pancras in 1948

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Wikipedia explains:
LMS No. 10000 and 10001 were the first mainline diesel locomotives built in Great Britain. They were built in association with English Electric by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway at its Derby Works, using an English Electric 1600 hp diesel engine, generator and electrics. 
Under British Railways, the locomotives became British Railways Class D16/1; they were initially operated primarily on mainline express passenger services on former LMS lines, both in single and in multiple. In 1953, they were transferred to the Southern Region for comparison with O. Bulleid's British Rail Class D16/2 diesel locomotives. 
Both units were withdrawn and scrapped in the 1960s.

Spending cuts are making life impossible for the poor in rural areas


An extraordinary start to an article by Louise Tickle in today's Guardian:
Twenty-four miles there and back is one hell of a hike to your local jobcentre. But when Ray Taylor, 56, had his benefits cut for 13 weeks after illness meant he missed an appointment to sign on, he had no option but to get out his walking shoes. 
He doesn’t have friends with cars to give him a lift, and with no money coming in, he couldn’t pay the £7 bus fare from the small Cambridgeshire town of Ramsey to Huntingdon, where he is registered for benefits. And if he missed signing on again, he would be sanctioned again.
Soon Ramsey will have no buses even if you can afford the fares.

You might advocate relaxing the sanctions regime and allowing people sign on over the internet. Except that many poor people won't have access and the libraries where they could log on are being closed across rural England.

My headline is not hyperbole. Spending cuts are making life impossible for the poor in rural areas.

The railways turn out not to be privatised when things go wrong


William Cobbett once pointed out that Britain has the Crown Jewels and the National Debt.

Something similar is true of our railways today, judging by this story from the Daily Mirror:
A transport giant took £35million out of one rail franchise just months before abandoning another. 
The massive dividend was paid from the East Midlands Trains franchise to owners Stagecoach, company accounts reveal.

It represented a £20million increase on the previous year’s payment and came less than a year before the company abandoned the London-to-Edinburgh East Coast Main Line franchise last year.
When a rail franchise does well, the private company takes the profits. When it does badly, that company walks away and the losses fall on the taxpayer.

I commute with East Midlands Trains every day, and they provide a good service. But the baroque system that was set up when the railways were privatised has little to recommend it.

Those who oppose nationalisation have to recognise that what we have now is far from free enterprise. The Department for Transport now has much more say in the running of the system than it ever did under British Rail.

Besides the most important question is not ownership but the separation of track and trains. The people who operate trains should also be responsible for the lines on which they run.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

5 January 1974: One of the best top tens in British chart history?

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It was in 1974, when I turned 14, that I was most interested in the singles charts. I collected them from Record Mirror and really cared about which record would be the next number 1.

Almost ever since, I have been quick to say it was a thin year for music and claim that I sensed it even then.

There may be some truth in that claim - I did, just, remember the glory days of the 1960s. Certainly, I rushed out to buy Substitute when The Who re-released in 1976 because it was so much better than anything else in the charts.

But today I saw a post by Alwyn Turner on Lion & Unicorn that claims:
if we go back 45 years, to 5 January 1974, we find one of the best top tens in British chart history.
So let's go back to the glory days of blogging, when bloggers discussed posts by other bloggers, and see if he is right.

1. Slade: Merry Xmas Everybody

I didn't like Slade in 1973 and I don't like them now, even though Noddy Holder was inspired to go into music by Steve Winwood and the Spencer Davis Group.

Maybe there is a bit of snobbery here - a leftover from the brief middle-class period of my childhood that had ended the year before, but there is something vulgar about them. Certainly, they seemed to attract all the worst kids at school.

Merry Xmas Everybody is a period piece, best listened to with a tin of Quality Street (they used to be bigger) and the Christmas double-issue TV Times.

2. The New Seekers: You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me

You young people won't have hard of them, but The New Seekers were chart players in those days. By now they were in danger of sounding a little dated - I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing had been right on the mark back in 1971.

Alwyn Turner says You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me is "a kind of 1930s pastiche", and that is about right.

3. Gary Glitter: I Love You Love Me Love

Leave aside, if you can, the fact that he is a raving pervert, Glitter was just not very good. Mentioning rock and roll in every lyric does not make you a rock and roller.

4. Wizzard: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

Still no great record, but Wizzard were some band. I used to feel guilty that I had liked, them, but one you learn about the Birmingham music scene and grasp that they were a natural development from The Move, you feel different.

And as Alwyn says, they had previously had a run of great singles: Ball Park Incident, See My Baby Jive,Angel Fingers.

5. Alvin Stardust: My Coo-Ca-Choo

This one was played for what months on Radio Luxembourg (listened to under the covers when your Mum thought you were asleep) before the BBC took it up and it became a hit.

Great record? Maybe not, but these are great memories.

6. Marie Osmond: Paper Roses

I hated the Osmonds in all their varieties, though Donny seems a nice guy today. As Alwyn points out, this is the only American record in this top 10.

7. Leo Sayer: The Show Must Go On

Now you are talking. He may be remembered as irredeemably naff, but Sayer's first appearance on Top of the Pops, singing this song in a clown's costume had an extraordinary impact.

Sadly that recording is now lost, but it is one of my great TV pop memories, up there with ABBA at Eurovision and my first sight of the Spice Girls..

8. David Essex: Lamplight

Alwyn is rightly appreciative of this one too. As I wrote of Essex's first previous as a teens' heartthrob Rock On:
It's not that this is a very good record: it's that it is far better than it needed to be.
9. Mott the Hoople: Roll Away the Stone

A very good band and a very good song. Sometimes Ian Hunter's voice, with its hint of Johnny Rotten, let's you see what was to come.

10. Roxy Music: Street Life

I can remember not liking Roxy Music - too grown up, too sexy - but by 1974 I think I had learnt to like them. And this is a great track.


So, one of the best top tens in British chart history? Maybe not, but it was much better than I expected.

And if you turned it on its head, making Roxy Music number 1 and Slade number 10, it would be even better.

Six of the Best 841

Tory Leave politicians have put pressure on the BBC. Alex Spence has the leaked WhatsApp messages that prove it.

"The man who sold you Brexit says you are poor because you have inferior genes and brains, and better education won’t change that." Forget Benedict Cumberbatch and study the real Dominic Cummings, says Will Black.

Rutger Bregman argues that a shorter working week could help reduce accidents, combat climate change, make the genders more equal and more.

New York’s empty shops are a dark omen for the future of all cities, argues Derek Thompson.

"In 1953 her luck changed when she appeared in the charming comedy Genevieve about the annual London-to-Brighton vintage car race. The film, a huge hit in the UK, showcased her perfect comic timing not least in the very funny dancehall scene where she joins the band and, much to the surprise of her friends (and the band), plays a brilliant jazz trumpet." Rob Baker believes the British film industry never made the most of Kay Kendall's talents.

On An Overgrown Path reviews classical music in 2018.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Orpheus with his Lute



Time for an excursion into the classics with a Vaughan Williams setting from 1901 or so sung by the English tenor Ben Johnson.

The words are to be found in the play Henry VIII by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher. They come from a portion of it usually attributed to Fletcher.

Anyway, both the words and music are beautiful.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

They complain about public transport in New York too

The Conservatives' headlong retreat from the free market


You may have seen this story reported in the Shropshire Star:
A bus company has been criticised for displaying vegan adverts on vehicles in Shropshire, which relies heavily on agriculture. 
Shropshire Council’s deputy leader Steve Charmley, councillor for Whittington has hit out at Arriva for displaying an advert on the back of some buses, with a message about turning vegan for January.
Mr Charmley has now protected his tweets, but the Star quotes what he said:
Whilst I don’t object to anyone choosing what they eat and when they eat it. I really object to arriva buses running Veganuary adverts in Shropshire, a great County built on Agriculture! I am asking to meet with Arriva to discuss. I hope @NFUShrops does the same. #vegansneedfacts.
This is sinister in its call for censorship. But more than that, it is silly. Vegans eat vegetables. Where does Mr Charmley imagine vegetables come from?

Yet his views are in line with the retreat from the free market the Conservative Party is currently staging.

In the EU referendum campaign Conservatives told us that Brexit would lead to a renaissance in international trade. Now they are planning for a siege economy and showing increasing signs of enjoying the prospect.

As I put it the other day, Brexit is turning the Conservatives into a caricature of the Labour Party.

Back to Shropshire. Mr Charmley is arguing that the county's farmers must continue to produce exactly what they produce now. And if that means censoring the advertisements on its buses, then so be it.

Whatever happened to Conservative support for a free market where producers are swift to adapt to changes in what the public demands? What happened to their support for free speech?

Friday, January 04, 2019

Bottesford: The least used station in Leicestershire


For a few miles the Nottingham to Grantham line cuts through the peninsula that forms the northern tip of Leicestershire.

And that stretch is home to the least used station in the county, Bottesford.

You can see it in this video, which may inspire me to post some photographs I took of it a couple of years ago.

For the time being, enjoy the path from the station to the village.

Write a guest post for Liberal England


I welcome guest posts on Liberal England.

As you can see from this list of the 10 most recent ones, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects.

If you would like to write a guest post yourself, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

When British musicians played with the American blues greats



This is an excerpt from Red, White and Blues, which is a 2005 documentary by Mike Figgis on the British blues scene of the 1960s.

It features clips from interviews with John Mayall, Georgie Fame, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood.

Steve Winwood, born in 1948, was a young teenager when he played with the American blues greats.

In his biography of Winwood, Chris Welch writes:
In 1963 when the Spencer Davis Group were still semi-pro they had already played with Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, Jimmy Witherspoon, Champion Jack Dupree, and Charlie and Inez Fox.
You can see a photo of T-Bone Walker playing in what is now a Leicester branch of Sainsbury's on this blog.

Fox hunting banned on the Long Mynd


From the Shropshire Star today:
The National Trust has cancelled its controversial trail hunting licence for the South Shropshire Hunt at the Long Mynd. 
The trust put the announcement that the remaining dates of the season were cancelled on its website. 
There were set to be trail hunting events on January 8 and 29, but they will no longer go ahead. 
It comes after a photographs were taken by Shropshire-based protesters of foxes escaping from hounds in December.
I don't know the ins and outs of this case, but the law against fox hunting does appear to be widely flouted.

With characteristic uselessness, this government lacks the will to enforce this law or to abolish it. I would rather they enforced it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

More light on Maud MacCarthy, the violinist friend of Nora Logan

An article by Michael Dervan in The Irish Times begins:
It was when I was working on the book, The Invisible Art, A Century of Irish Music, 1916-2016, that I first registered the name Maud MacCarthy. 
She was an Irish musician who was born in Clonmel in 1882 and died, a month short of her 85th birthday, in Douglas on the Isle of Man in 1967; she was buried at Glastonbury.
Maud MacCarthy is a name that has appeared on this blog before. In 2012 I discovered that she had been a girlhood friend of Nora Logan, the suffragette daughter of our here J.W. "Paddy" Logan, who was Liberal MP for Harborough from 1891 to 1904 and again from 1910 and 1916.

Dervan's article gives us more information on MacCarthy's mysticism later in life and on her musical career when young:
I discovered that MacCarthy appeared as a violin soloist with two of America’s greatest orchestras. 
She played the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in February 1902 when she was 19, and the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra the following November, still aged only 20. 
This is an achievement that has not yet been replicated by any later Irish string player.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

A relic of Market Harborough Urban District Council


Market Harborough Urban District Council disappeared in 1974 when Harborough District Council was formed. So I wouldn't recommend using this letterbox, which I photographed this afternoon.

The town has lacked its own democratic body since 1974, when Market Harborough Rural District, Billesdon Rural District and Lutterworth Rural District also disappeared.

Market Harborough was a victim of the Conservatives' belief that larger authorities would be more efficient and cheaper to run.

Now some Tories want to abolish Harborough District Council and run everything from County Hall in distant Glenfield.

Obsession with size and centralisation is best left to the Labour Party. As so often, the problem witht he modern Conservative Party is that it is not Conservative enough.

Rod Argent on Steve Winwood



Classic Rock magazine asked Rod Argent (of The Zombies and, er, Argent) to choose the 10 records that changed his life.

After choosing Elvis and the Beatles, he said:
Spencer Davis Group - Georgia On My Mind 
"I can't overestimate the effect that Stevie Winwood's amazing voice had, and his wonderful soulful piano and organ playing. He came out of nowhere and blew people away. I remember Paul Jones [Mannfred Mann singer] saying, 'I've been in a blues band for four years, and suddenly this 17-year-old-kid comes out and he sounds like Ray Charles, and he plays like him!' What a talent: to emerge fully-formed at that age was extraordinary, and it had a huge effect on every musician around that time."
I am reminded of the reason Eric Clapton gave for playing a Stratocaster:
Hank Marvin was the first well known person over here in England who was using one, but that wasn't really my kind of music. Steve Winwood had so much credibility, and when he started playing one, I thought, oh, if he can do it, I can do it.
The version of Georgia on My Mind that Argent chooses is not the live one with Winwood on the organ that I always listen to, but this studio version where he is playing the piano.

Which reminds me of his older brother Muff talking about the young Steve:
"We needed a piano player so I brought Steve along. He was only 11, but he played everything perfectly. They stood with their mouths open. 
Because he was under-age, we had to get him long trousers to make him look older, and even then we'd sneak him in through the pub kitchens. He'd play hidden behind the piano so nobody would know."

Layla Moran: Call the Trump blimp guy


It's good to see Layla Moran getting a substantial quote in the Daily Mirror story about a proposed Donald Trump visit to Britain early this year.

And she is sound on the subject:
Demonstrators in July flew a Trump "baby blimp" over Parliament Square – and Lib Dem frontbencher Layla Moran said it was time to "call the Trump blimp guy and tell him to take the covers off". 
She added: "Trump was not welcome in 2018 and he remains unwelcome in 2019. 
"While we all agree America is our friend, we must also remember most Americans did not vote for Trump and his record in office as during his campaign is abysmal. 
"To roll out the red carpet for such a misogynist egomaniac send entirely the wrong message."

Happy New Year