Thursday, January 31, 2019

Market Harborough: The joy of urban dereliction


Last summer planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of the Old Flour Mill in St Mary's Road, Market Harborough, and the adjacent flooded derelict site.

Now the land is up for sale again. Which gives us more time to enjoy this delicious corner of urban neglect.

Urban explorers, incidentally, have been inside the old mill.




Why Jeremy Corbyn is like Billy Liar



These days this blog does not aspire to offer a hot take on each days events. In fact, I have rather tired of blogs that do.

One reason for this is that your takes will probably be wrong. I know that doesn't stop newspaper columnists, who rely on the fact that no one remembers what they said the week before, but I am a veteran of the days when bloggers thought they were doing some different and more honest.

A good example of getting wrong is a post I wrote in April 2016 where, in response to some long-forgotten speech or statement, I welcomed Jeremy Corbyn's conversion to the European cause.

Of course, as this week's events have made clear, he hadn't converted to it at all.

Still the first part of that post stands up well, so I am reproducing it here:
"I knew him when we were 18 or 19, and his views have not changed. We are talking about the thick end of 50 years ago." 
So said one of Jeremy Corbyn's old friends when interviewed by the Shropshire Star last year. 
That planting a red flag on top of the Wrekin is the most endearing thing I have read about Corbyn, but his friend's comment did play into the fear that his politics do not represent an engagement with the world around him. So it was good to hear him today accepting political reality and arguing Britain should remain in the European Union. 
As Martin Kettle says: 
The Labour leader finally caught up with the pro-EU shift that his party made under Neil Kinnock in the 1980s. 
That pro-EU shift did arise partly out of despair at Margaret Thatcher's repeated victories, but it also recognised that the world was changing. Westminster was not the only seat of power, and battles that could not be won there might be won somewhere else. 
Throughout this period, Jeremy Corbyn clung to his anti-EU beliefs. He was a supporter of the Labout left's 'alternative economic strategy' and its emphasis on import controls. 
There is a danger in getting less radical as you grow older - "I used to be a bit of a firebrand when I was your age, but you can't change human nature" - but there is a greater danger in living inside your head and not engaging with contemporary problems. 
Somewhere in the background of every young radical is the ghost of Billy Liar and his imaginary kingdom of Ambrosia.
You can see what I mean in the film clip above.

Shropshire: Don't drink the water and mind that huge rock

Calder’s blog is an eclectic mix of musical choices, random news items from Shropshire (where he doesn’t live), and political news and views.
So said the New Statesman back in 2008.

Well, it's been a good week for random news item from Shropshire. Following the Bishop's Castle poetry pharmacy we have two more today.

Item:
People in south Shropshire have been told not to drink tap water after an "unauthorised connection" was attached to the water network. 
Severn Trent Water said it had issued 69 'do not drink' orders to people in the Craven Arms area after finding the private connection, and Shropshire Council announced the Wistanstow Church of England Primary School was closed today due to a "water supply issue".
You can see the school in the photograph above.

Item:
It is a mystery to rival those of the pyramids and Stonehenge - just how did a huge rock end up on the Long Mynd? 
The seven foot long by three foot wide rock was first spotted six months ago by National Trust rangers wandering the south Shropshire hills. 
But the question is how did it get to the remote spot and why? 
Despite signs being put up around the stone urging the pranksters to come forward and reclaim it, no one has stepped forward, so now the trust has taken matters into its own hands to remove the giant rock.
Thanks, inevitably, to the Shropshire Star for both stories.

News stories over here in the East Midlands somehow seem more conventional - unless I generate them myself.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Six of the Best 846

Iain Dale has collated a collection of Liberal Party and Liberal Democrat party political broadcasts. It begins in 1955 with John Arlott, Frank Byers and Herbert Samuel.

Cheryl Misak looks at the influence of Frank Ramsey on Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose work he translated into English. The older brother of Michael Ramsey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Frank made many important contributions in philosophy, mathematics and economics before his death aged 26.

London was once a city of horses, says Alex Cochrane : "Humans lived cheek by jowl with the 300,000 horses of cabmen, traders, laundrymen, grocers and rag-and-bone men. You can see the traces of that time everywhere: old stone drinking troughs, hidden cobbled mews, mounting blocks, slips and ramps."

Nicolas Roeg was not a born filmmaker argues Brad Gullickson, but put in the work.

Franki Berry catches up with The Zombies.

Adric is not warmly remembered by many Doctor Who fans, but Nicholas Whyte enjoyed Matthew Waterhouse's book Blue Box Boy.

The psychology of Brexit debated



The academic publishers John Wiley have made a special issue of the Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology freely available online.

It looks at Brexit and emergent politics and its editors explain:
This special issue considers how social psychology can contribute to an understanding of the political ruptures associated with Brexit, and also what challenges Brexit poses to social psychology itself. In other words, we consider how social psychology can be used to understand the current politics of Brexit and beyond.

Bishop's Castle to get a poetry pharmacy


Earlier this month it was a wolf sanctuary: now comes news that Bishop's Castle is to get a poetry pharmacy.

As the Guardian reports:
The poet Deborah Alma is preparing to open the UK’s first poetry pharmacy. Here, instead of sleeping pills and multivitamins, customers will be offered prescriptions of Derek Walcott and Elizabeth Bishop. 
Alma, who as the “Emergency Poet” has prescribed poems as cures from the back of a 1970s ambulance for the last six years, is now setting up a permanent outlet in a shop at Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire. 
An old Edwardian ironmonger’s, it still has the original fixtures and fittings, and, together with her partner, the TS Eliot prize-shortlisted poet James Sheard, Alma is preparing to turn it into a haven "to help ease a variety of maladies with the soothing therapy of Poetry".

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Stamford Water Street station in 1947


In 2013 I visited and photographed the former Stamford Water Street or Stamford East station. The terminus of the short line to Essendine, it closed to passengers in 1957.

You can see both the station building and the goods shed in the upper half of this 1947 photograph.

They stand beside the River Welland as it makes its way from Market Harborough to the sea.

Quick denture repairs in Braunstone Gate


These are not exactly ghost signs, but the Leicester business they advertise is long gone.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Rediscovering the Cambridge to Kettering line


In the 1970s you could still see the junction where this line joined the Midland main line a couple of Kettering.

But Wikipedia says that the last train to use the line between there and the ironstone workings at Twywell ran in 1971.

John Hemming wins libel action over false allegations of abuse

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From the Daily Telegraph:
A former MP, who was falsely accused of being part of a VIP paedophile ring, has won a rare libel action over comments made about him on social media. 
John Hemming, who was the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley between 2005 and 2014, had been accused of being part of a group that had abused children in Staffordshire in the 1980s and 1990s. 
His accuser, Esther Baker, waived her anonymity in 2015, to make the claims, but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), later concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge him. 
Now Mr Hemming has won damages and apologies from two of Miss Baker's supporters, who posted comments online that implied the former politician was guilty.
Richard Bartholomew has more on this case.

It's Labour MPs who need to grow a backbone, not Jeremy Corbyn

"What did you think of the Jeremy Corbyn’s backbone meme?" asks Liberal Democrat Voice.

Like most of the people who have left comments there, my answer is "Not much."

I am all in favour of using humour in campaigning, but it has to be done well. These tweets were not worth the time and effort expended on them.

But the real problem with them tweets was they they were political nonsense.

We were painting Corbyn as someone who is opposed to Brexit but lacks the courage to say so. The truth is more or less the opposite.

Jeremy Corbyn is, as he has always been, opposed to British membership of the European Union. Mark Pack has chapter and verse on this and I once wrote a post about the Labour left's Alternative Economic Strategy of 1976, which is where many of Corbyn's ideas come from.

The reason so many people fail to understand the man's politics is that you have to be pushing 60 to remember when the Labour left was last a force.

Ask any young Corbyn supporter who said this:
[The EEC] is really dominated by Germany. All the common market countries except the UK have been occupied by Germany, and they have this mixed feeling of hatred and subservience towards the Germans.
They will surely tell you it was some absurd old Tory. But it was said by Corbyn's mentor Tony Benn,

The people who do need to show some backbone are the bulk of Labour MPs who come from the party's mainstream.

They ought to resist Corbyn's wish to see Britain leave the EU, but I am not sure they will.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceAnd if any are trembling on the edge of rebellion, a series of comic tweets is not going to convince them to jump.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

After the Bowstring Bridge: Greening Leicester's Braunstone Gate


Yesterday I went back to a quarter of Leicester that greatly exercised me in 2009. I went back to the area that had then been home to the Bowstring Bridge.

Despite a campaign from local residents, the bridge - a remnant of the old Great Central main line through Leicester - and a neighbouring pub were demolished to make way for a new sports centre for De Montfort University.

It all looked rather bleak, and more land is due to be cleared in the area to make room for housing. I don't know if that will involve the removal of the embankment south of the site of the bridge.

One hopeful thing from the day was that I met some people from the Bede Street Community Garden. They have been granted a short-term lease on an old railway arch or two and are working to green this Braunstone Gate area of Leicester.

More power to them - and I did find that the bridge is remembered in a mural on Braunstone Gate.








The next Academic Archers conference will be held in Sheffield


The fourth Academic Archers conference will take place from 5-7 April 2019 at the University of Sheffield.

Papers in the programme include:
  • Is Ambridge Parish Council fit for purpose? The Localism Act (2011) and its impact on decision-making and governance in a small rural community
  • "We Should have called him Damien." A discussion of the impact of Henry Archer’s early years on potential crimes of the future
  • Queering Shula
  • Spirits of the Am - A Paranormal Tour of Ambridge

Full details of the conference are on Eventbrite.

Six of the Best 845

Why do nations sometimes commit spectacular acts of self-destruction? Tom Scott argues that  strange fervour that seized the Xhosa people of South Africa in the 1850s may shed light on Brexit.

"When Jean Phillipson's family returned to Fairfax, Virginia, after living in Bolivia, the main thing her 10-year-old son complained about was the bus ride home from school. 'He wasn't allowed to have a pencil out,' says the mom of three, 'because it was considered unsafe.' Lenore Skenazy on American overparenting.

Boak & Bailey are frankly gutted about Asahi's takeover of the brewing wing of Fuller’s.

Aam Scovell revisits the 2019 television adaptation of Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male.

Birds can see a colour that human can't, explains Tessa Koumoundouros: "In our eyes, we have three types of colour receptors, or cones - they are sensitive to red, blue and green frequencies of light. Birds have a fourth receptor that varies across species in the type of frequency it can detect."

The archaeologist Francis Pryor recalls the day his mother met Viv Stanshall.

Walker Brothers: No Regrets



After the commercial failure of his album Scott 4 in 1969, Scott Walker rather retreated  as an artist.

He stopped recording his own songs and acceded to his manager and record company's attempts to market him as the new Sinatra. Well, he had the voice for it.

The reformation of the Walker Brothers in 1975 gave him a way forward and proved to be the springboard from which he became the avant-garde artist we celebrate today - try Farmer in the City.

No Regrets, which reached no. 7 in the UK singles chart that year, was the great commercial success of the Walker Brothers' revival.

Note the guitar solo and its lack of connection to the rest of the song: this feature was obilgatory on mid-Seventies records that took themselves seriously.

Tractor with a three-legged dog on board causes £120,000 worth of damage by smashing into a north-east house at 4am






This time Headline of the Day goes to Aberdeen's The Press and Journal.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Leonie Orton on her brother Joe



One of the great things about the 2017 events to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Joe Orton was the prominence given to his sister Leonie.

I can recommend her memoirs, which have the splendidly Ortonesque title I Had It In Me.

Note the photo on the front of the book's jacket, which looks like a lost Smiths' sleeve.


Rochdale Labour councillor joins the Liberal Democrats


From Rochdale Online:
Balderstone and Kirkholt councillor Kathleen Nickson has left the Labour Party and joined the Liberal Democrats. 
Councillor Nickson, who won 52% of the vote in last May’s elections, cites alleged bullying and aggression as the reason for switching to the Liberal Democrats. 
She said: "I simply could not go working in an undemocratic manner. I was being told how to vote, being threatened and effectively blocked from being able to do my job as an elected member in the Labour Party."
The paper also Andy Kelly, leader of the Lib Dem group on the council:
"Councillor Nickson has thought deeply before reaching this decision and we both welcome her to the party and commit to supporting her important work for the residents of Balderstone and Kirkholt."
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

When a Market Harborough bomber crashed in Shropshire

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A Telford-based Bomber Command historian is appealing for Shropshire Star readers' help in shedding more light on a wartime air tragedy which saw a Wellington bomber crash not far from the Lilleshall Monument.
So begins a story in my favourite newspaper.

It turns out that the Wellington, which crashed after colliding with a lone British fighter, was on a training flight from RAF Market Harborough.

That is the wartime airfield now partly occupied by HMP Gartree.

The crash took place on 20 November 1944 and claimed the lives of the six crew members of the Wellington as well as the pilot of the Seafire fighter.

Sophie Scott, laughter and the folly of Have I Got News for You

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Professor Sophie Scott is a psychologist and stand up comedian who will be speaking in Leicester next month - more about that at the end of this post.

She has written an article for BBC News today about laughter, explaining that there are:
many reasons people laugh - and most of them are not because somebody is being particularly funny.
One theme she takes up is the way humour can be used to disarm criticism:
Other public figures appear to carefully cultivate a "funny" image, where they often appear the butt of the joke. 
For example, MP Boris Johnson was arguably first perceived as funny on satirical TV quiz show Have I Got News For You. 
Mr Johnson kept up this light-hearted, funny persona over the following couple of decades, helping him to bat away critical comments with jokes and bluster. 
Whether it was getting stuck on a zip wire, or joking about never becoming prime minister, difficult questions could be disarmed, and his personal charm seemed enhanced, by the sounds of laughter.
Having inflicted Johnson on us, the people behind Have I Got News For You are determined to do the same with Jacob Rees-Mogg.

It's Twitter account - I imagine it staffed by dozens of new graduates who are chained to their desks each day until they have reached their personal target for satirical tweets - never misses a chance to play up Rees-Mogg's chosen image as a fogey.

Yet his exaggerated courtesy, his old-fashioned language and his children with their quaint names and quaint clothes are all chosen to disguise the fact that he is a very 21st-century financier.

Andrew Adonis really should stop calling him "the member for the 18th century". It's just what he wants.

Anyway, if you want to hear Sophie Scott talk about laughter, you can hear at the Secular Hall, Humberstone Gate, Leicester, on the evening of Sunday 10 February.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mitchell's Fold: A Shropshire stone circle



Mitchell's Fold is a Bronze Age stone circle, found to the west of the the Stiperstones close to the villages of Priest Weston and White Grit.

It is in Shropshire, but hard against the Welsh border.

I once attempted to fall asleep within it, reasoning that would bring me prophetic dreams, but failed.

No one knows what the final cost of HS2 will be, says ex-chairman


Sir Terry Morgan, the former chair of HS2, spoke to the House of Lords economic affairs committee earlier this week.

As Rail Technology Magazine reports, he did not hold back:
"They [the HS2 project team] have a lot of work to do," Sir Terry said, in response to Lord Forsyth’s query on overall cost. 
"Nobody knows actually yet. All I’m saying to you is that the HS2 team will have the challenge of what I would describe as cost, time, and not least, scope."
And that was not the half of it:
Sir Terry went on to note that the current management team is still working to the original scope of the project — 18 trains an hour at a top speed of 250mph - however said that HS2 could be looking to scale down the project. 
He said: “It’s a combination of frequency and speed. That is one of the things that, inside the project team, the determination is that the scope is still being worked to as specified by government. But at the same time you won’t be surprised that one of the things that HS2 will be doing when it looks at ‘what-ifs’ – what if it wasn’t 18 trains an hour, what if it was something less an hour. 
“I think the triangle of scope, cost, and time, something has to give. Something will have to give. I think the whole question about the value for money, about do we need the speed, do we need the frequency, I think is something that people will have to flex.”
Today's papers are full of government reassurances that HS2 will continue north of Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester. But I would not put too much money on that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Six of the Best 844

Geoffrey Evans and Florian Schaffner find that "Brexit has quickly and dramatically replaced the traditional party allegiances of Conservative and Labour in the hearts and minds of voters".

"I am struck by the reluctance to debate the failure of our policy in Libya during the Coalition. Although not the same as Iraq, the parallels are striking. We actually repeated the same fundamental mistake in not preparing for the aftermath of regime change – this we previously criticised Blair for – and we hardly talk about it." Geoffrey Payne on the damage done by Francis Fukuyama's The End of History.

Martha Gill hopes Prince Philip’s crash will lead the media to re-examine its servile approach to the Royal Family.

"Through content in the magazine, on leaflets and even on beer mats, we are essentially instructed to propagandise for a policy that promises to make our livelihoods more precarious." Richard Penderel on working for Tim Martin and Wetherspoons.

Joanna Turner travels to Stratford-upon-Avon in search of Marie Corelli, the town's second most famous literary figure.

Eoghan Lyng chooses the ten best tracks by The Jam.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Craven Arms Gasworks from above in 1939


I accept that this post will be something of a minority interest, but the photograph has much of interest even if you are not a fan of this strange Shropshire town.

Next to the gasworks, to the west of the line just north of Craven Arms station, stands the former LNWR engine shed. You can also see some carriage sheds and, in the distance, the signal box controlling the Long Lane level crossing, which is still in operation.

Read more about the station and these other buildings on Disused Stations.

The rediscovery of Karl Popper and his Paradox of Tolerance


It's good to see Karl Popper getting some attention.

When I discovered him while doing my Philosophy degree he was deeply unfashionable. Unfashionable both with the subject's Oxford-schooled establishment and with the left, who dismissed him as a Cold War warrior.

With the resurgence of anti-democratic forces across the West, his ideas suddenly seem more relevant.

In particular, the Paradox of Tolerance he identified - you can find the original text on this blog - has been doing the rounds on Twitter.

It has been helped by the Pictoline graphic above, which rather makes Popper appear a kindly, twinkly-eyed figure. In truth he was anything but.

When it comes to his paradox, I think Popper was simply right. It is a truth we are beginning to learn all over again.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Tracing the lost River Westbourne



Another lost London river. This time it's the Westbourne, which rose at Hampstead Heath and flowed to the Thames at Chelsea.

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.

Manfred 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.