Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Mike Brearley on the demon bowler Geoff Boycott


Geoff Boycott bowling at the death in a world cup match? It really did happen.

I once blogged my memories of the occasion - I was there - and recently posted a video of it.

Here's how Mike Brearley remembers the day:
It was in the final group match that Geoff Boycott’s bowling became invaluable. We had always planned that he would bowl – it was not an off-the-cuff gamble, and he had already taken two wickets against Australia. But against Pakistan he took the decisive last two just as they looked capable of winning. In the past, Geoffrey has been reluctant to bowl due to his back injury and his desire to apply himself to batting. But in this competition he visibly enjoyed it and was more useful than I could have ever hoped.
I once read that Brearley had a theory that batsman hated the idea of getting out to Boycott so much it made them play him with exaggerated care and slowed the scoring rate.

Arts Fresco to be held on 15 September


Good news from Harborough FM, which is the best source of local news these days.

Arts Fresco, Market Harborough's street theatre festival, will be held this year. It takes place on Sunday 15 September.

Tory MP to "spend summer" deciding whether to join the Lib Dems

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Sky News says Philip Lee, the Conservative MP for Bracknell, was asked on an unnamed podcast whether he could quit the Tories and join the Liberal Democrats.

It quotes his reply:
"At the moment I'm increasingly feeling politically homeless. 
"The party I joined was the party of John Major and John Major, I think, is probably feeling like this judging by his contributions in recent weeks." 
"I'm really not comfortable about my party pushing for no-deal Brexit without proper consent of the public. 
"Purely on the national interest, I think it's wrong to do this. But party politically I think it's narrowing our base in a way that I don't see how we win elections. 
"And if you don't win elections in a democracy you don't have power and you can't do things you want to do. It's just simple reality. 
"I'm sort of sitting here, looking on and - yeah - I'm going to spend the summer thinking a lot."
I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for him to join us.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The former Church of Christ, Dashwood Road, Leicester


Now the Muslim Khatri Association Community Centre, this building is described by Leicester's 2016 Local Heritage Asset Register as:
A good example of an early-20th century former Church of Christ. Built circa 1924 to the designs of architects G. Lawton Brown and Percy C. Jones, the church makes good use of brindle mix brickwork and a prominent 3-storey corner tower that has a strong presence within the street scene. 
With its William Morris touches, it is more appealing than most churches of this period.

And there is more. The Register entry ends:
The church replaced a temporary corrugated iron church, erected in 1908.
So this is another candidate for the original home of the nearby tin tabernacle that now houses the city's women Freemasons.

Oh, and let's hear it for the number on the shop next door.





Six of the Best 878

Delivering Focus is good for the brain and cheaper than gym membership, argues Geoff Reid.

Alex Marshall rediscovers Boris Johnson's forgotten novel: "Sonia Purnell, a former colleague of Johnson’s at The Daily Telegraph who has written a biography of him, said 'Seventy-Two Virgins' had proved invaluable to her research. 'He is a very secretive person, but he allows glimpses of himself.'"

Woodstock’s 50th anniversary is involving a surprising degree of litigiousness, reveals Kenzie Bryant.

Ameila Bryant looks at the fashion for buying up and developing old camera films.

"From its opening moments, with Leonard Bernstein’s interpretation of Britten’s 'The Young Person’s Guide to The Orchestra' to the very end, with 'Cuckoo' from 'Songs from "Friday Afternoons," Op. 7,' Britten’s music permeates the score." David Salazar considers the composer's influence on Wes Anderson's film Moonrise Kingdom.

Simon Lavery reads Catch-22 for the first time.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Over Sea, Under Stone was dramatised in 1969


Yesterday I tweeted a list of television programmes that only I seem to remember:
It was a little exaggerated - there is a comment on this blog from the man who wrote the music for Gophers! - but largely true.

In reply, the novelist Jonathan Coe told me he remembered both Well Anyway and Adventure Weekly.

The former was a situation comedy with John Bird and John Fortune from 1976 - years after their fame in the original satire boom and more years before their rediscovery when they appeared with Rory Bremner.

The latter was a serial for children, shown on BBC1 at teatime in 1968 and 1969. In it a gang of children ran their own newspaper and I think it has links with the better remembered Here Come the Double Deckers.

But the programme that got most attention was one that no one else remembered: Over Sea, Under Stone.

This is the first book in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, but is very different in tone from the rest of the series. It starts as a children's holiday adventure of the Blyton or Saville variety, but later takes a supernatural turn.

And it really was dramatised by the BBC in 1969. Although it was, as far as I recall, a fully acted production, it was screened under the Jackanory brand. This was a show which otherwise featured an adult reading its young audience a story.

On Twitter, Matthew Kilburn said it was screened at a time when the BBC children's department wasn't meant to do drama, so badging it as Jackanory was a way of smuggling it past the suits.

Over Sea, Under Stone is on IMDB, but there is no entry for the series as a whole - here is the link for part 1.

The cast is notable, containing both Graham Crowden and Colin Jeavons. David Wood, recently in If...., is credited as "Storyteller", so maybe there was a gesture towards Jackanory's usual format before the drama broke out.

Of the children, only Roland Pickering who played Barney had much of a career as a child actor.

I have never heard anyone else mention this dramatisation and I fear the tapes were long ago wiped.

Rolling Stones: Paint It Black



With great grandfather Sir Mick Jagger celebrating his 76th birthday this week, it's time for another Stones track.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Two Leicester exhibitions: Ladybird Books and the Imperial Typewriters strike


I braved the rain and went into Leicester today to visit two exhibitions.

The first was The Wonderful World of the Ladybird Book Artists at the museum and art gallery on New Walk.

On the walls was some of the original artwork from the Keywords books with which my mother taught me to read before I went to school.

They first came out in 1964, so they must have been the latest thing when she bought them.

And I learnt that most Ladybird books were a collaboration between sometime Liberal candidate L. Du Garde Peach and the Leicestershire illustrator John Kenney.

A plaque in the latter's honour was recently put up in Kibworth, though a letterhead in the exhibition has him living in Smeeton Westerby.


On to the Newarke Houses museum and the exhibition remembering the Imperial Typewriters Strike of 1974.

It began when an Asian worker at one of the company's Leicester factories was mistakenly given the pay packet of a white friend and discovered she was being paid more.

BBC News report says the Transport and General Workers Union refused to support the Asian strikers because its local negotiator believed they had "not followed the proper disputes procedure" and "have no legitimate grievances".

The strikers stayed out for 14 weeks, but a shutdown of the factory by its American owners ended the strike. A year later they closed the factory and a few years after that manual typewriters were museum pieces.

This exhibition is well put together, with lots of video interviews with people involved. It's themes of race and gender and white resentment resonate today.

And you can still find Imperial Typewriters' main factory on East Park Road.

A by-election in Sheffield Hallam?


This afternoon the Sheffield Star claimed an exclusive with the news that Jared O'Mara will resign as MP for Sheffield Hallam within weeks:
The MP, aged 37, said he was 'not well and in the process of receiving medical help' and would resign following the MPs’ summer recess, which is due to end on Tuesday, September 3. 
Mr O’Mara: "Please let everyone be assured that I will be tendering my resignation via the official Parliamentary process as soon as term restarts. 
"I am not in any fit state to continue and nor would that be appropriate if I was. I reiterate my apology to my constituents, the people of Sheffield and the people of the UK as whole."
As the paper says, beside his health problems O'Mara has
endured a damning week after his former chief of staff Gareth Arnold resigned via a foul-mouthed rant on the MP’s own official Twitter account and a 20-year-old woman employed by the politician accused him of sexual harassment.
O'Mara gained Hallam for Labour at the 2017 general election, defeating Nick Clegg in the process.

He was suspended from the Labour Party when social media posts he had made before being elected came to light. He was readmitted in July 2018, only to resign a few days later and announce that he would in future sit as an Independent.

If O'Mara does resign his seat the Liberal Democrats will be presented with another by-election they have every chance of winning.

It was remarkable that Labour won the seat at all. Hallam has traditionally been a safe Conservative seat: they held it even in 1906 and 1945.

But Richard Allan gained Hallam at the 1997 general election and he and then Nick Clegg held it for the Lib Dems for 20 years.

It is a prosperous constituency - pleasant suburbs and Peak District villages - and about a third of the voters are graduates. In other words, it is Remain country.

And don't believe it is full of students waiting to wreak revenge on the Liberal Democrats again. Many of Hallam's student voters were moved into Sheffield Central before the 2010 general election,.

All in all, if the Lib Dems could have chosen were the next by-election will fall, they might well have chosen Sheffield Hallam.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Little-known Leicestershire and Rutland 3: Holy wells



The third and final Bob Trubshaw video on little-known Leicestershire and Rutland covers holy wells.

Below is my own photo of the well at Beeby.

Bryan Magee (1930-2019)



Bryan Magee died today at the age of 89.

He sat as Labour and then SDP MP for Leyton between 1974 and 1983 - he was one of the last Labour MPs to make the jump - but it is not his politics that I remember him for.

As a television presenter he was able to make philosophy accessible to the intelligent general viewer.

The clip above shows him talking to A.J. Ayer's about the latter's once scandalous Language, Truth and Logic - Ayer is amusingly candid about the book's faults.

It forms part of a longer interview about logical positivism, and you can find links to many of Magee's programmes on philosophy on Open Culture.

Today it is fashionable to decry 'talking heads' television, but if the heads are interesting enough there is nothing more riveting.

I had already begun my philosophy degree at York when this Men of Ideas series was screened, but I was immensely grateful for it.

A second reason why I am grateful to Magee is that he introduced me to the thought of Karl Popper.

Magee's short book on Popper is well worth seeking out. It presents a Popper who supports social reform, rather than the Thatcherite one later admirers detected. As the left has recently begun to find virtues in Popper again, this view of him may be coming back into fashion.

I no longer believe that Popper defeated Hume's scepticism over induction. But he did show that we don't rely on induction and provided a much better model of how human reason works.

When I wrote the entry on Popper in Duncan Brack and Ed Randall's Dictionary of Liberal Thought, I had not idea that Magee had been evacuated from Hoxton to Market Harborough during the war and  lived literally round the corner from where I lived as a teenager.

Here is a passage from his Growing up in a War:
Logan Street was near the edge of Harborough, and I thought of myself as living a long way from my school in the centre. Each journey there or back was like an odyssey. I would set out through the garden, going out of the back gate and down the lane into Highfield Street. 
In walking the length of Highfield Street I might pick up a friend or two. We would turn right into East Street; and there almost immediately in front of us on the next corner, was the shop that sold things that mattered. 
If any of us had any money we would go in and buy sweets or a comic. In the same shop there was a post office, where Auntie drew out the money to keep me, and where later I was to start spending some of my pocket money on savings stamps to help win the war. 
We would encounter schoolmates in the shop, so an enlarged gang of us would emerge, and then, perhaps, start arguing in the street over sweets or comics, or something that had happened the previous day. 
We might have a fight there and then, or two boys would go at it while the rest of us formed a ring around them and watched; or the general argy-bargy might carry us round the corner into Nelson Street. 
Here the space widened so we would forget about the fight and start a game. But we had to keep moving towards school, so our game would carry us on past the Catholic church and down towards the Coventry Road. 
There on the pavement we would encounter local children about to go to their own school, beside the church, so we would set on them and terrorise them for a bit, perhaps chasing them into school. 
Finally we would arrive at our own school, behind the Baptist church, and carry on our games and fights in the playground until the bell rang.
This is a walk I still do in the reverse direction when I go to cook for my Mum. The shop closed in the New Labour years when it ceased to be a post office, but I bought sweets there myself in the Seventies.

Magee's school 'behind the Baptist church' must have been on the site now occupied by Manor Court and the B&M discount store.

All in all, a remarkable passage to find in a book I bought because I was grateful for the author's influence on my own thinking.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Burton Overy in the springtime


I blogged about Burton Overy after the GPO in the spring of 2015. Here are some more of the photographs I took that day.

You can read all about the Leicestershire village's history in Aspects of Burton Overy.








Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Do listen now to Don't Look Now


The latest podcast from The Evolution of Horror is on Nicolas Roeg's 1973 masterpiece Don't Look Now.

It's so good it just makes you want to watch the film again.

 

Boris Johnson? Blame Have I Got News for You and Ian Hislop

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It's too hot to write, but I can't let the accession of Boris Johnson pass without saying it is all the fault of Ian Hislop and Have I Got News for You?

You'll have to register with the London Review of Books site to read it all, but back in 2013 the novelist Jonathan Coe wrote an important article while reviewing Harry Mount's The Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson.

I am going to do no more than quote a few passage from it and from an article by Steven Fielding to which it points us.

So here is Coe:
When Humphrey Carpenter interviewed the leading lights of the 1960s satire boom for his book That Was Satire, That Was in the late 1990s, he found that what was once youthful enthusiasm had by now curdled into disillusionment. 
One by one, they expressed dismay at the culture of facetious cynicism their work had spawned, their complaints coalescing into a dismal litany of regret. 
John Bird: ‘Everything is a branch of comedy now. Everybody is a comedian. Everything is subversive. And I find that very tiresome.’ 
Barry Humphries: ‘Everyone is being satirical, everything is a send-up. There’s an infuriating frivolity, cynicism and finally a vacuousness.’ 
Christopher Booker: ‘Peter Cook once said, back in the 1960s, “Britain is in danger of sinking giggling into the sea,” and I think we really are doing that now.’
And, says Coe, that observation by Cook was developed into a Beyond the Fringe sketch about a bunch of young, would-be radical journalists who won’t admit they have sold their soul to a rapacious newspaper proprietor:
COOK: Whenever the old man has a cocktail party, there’s about ten of us – young, progressive people – we all gather up the far end of the room and … quite openly, behind our hands, we snigger at him.
BENNETT: Well, I don’t know, that doesn’t seem very much to me.
COOK: A snigger here, a snigger there – it all adds up.
The sketch makes it clear that laughter is not just ineffectual as a form of protest, but that it actually replaces protest.
And if you do seek out the full article you will find that Michael Frayn, in his introduction to the published script of Beyond the Fringe, made the same point at the time.

Over to Steven Fielding:
The idea that a corrupt elite is screwing a noble people is powerful and pervasive and by no means new. It is therefore no surprise that it is reflected in comedy. It is certainly a view of politics that is popular amongst neo-liberals. 
It was at the heart of the popular 1980s situation comedy Yes Minister which repeatedly showed viewers that their political leaders and civil servants were feather-bedding themselves at the tax-payers’ expense. 
This was why Margaret Thatcher loved the series: it expressed her view that, as representative politics was a moral hazard, it should be replaced as far as possible by the market.
Put like that, satire sounds distinctly right wing.

True, as Fielding points out, few comedy writers and performers are neo-liberals and many were disappointed with New Labour.
However, the cumulative effect of the same jokes ridiculing politicians and highlighting their supposed foibles can only further reinforce mistrust in the public realm, a mistrust that some political forces seek to exploit – and neo-liberals are amongst the nicest of those forces. 
Comedy has always relied on stereotypes. There was a time when the Irish were thick; the Scots careful with their money; mothers-in-law fierce and ugly; and the Welsh stole and shagged sheep. The corrupt politician is one such stereotype, one that is neither racist nor sexist and seemingly acceptable to all.
You'll have to read both article and assemble all the pieces of the argument for yourself - it's this damned heat.

But if you do, you will see why the ascension of Boris Johnson is the fault of Ian Hislop and Have I Got News for You?

Later.

Reader's voice: This is all very well, but why is Ian Hislop singled out in the headline?

It's the heat. For Hislop you need to read Martin Kettle:
And what is Hislop's principal message? Week in and week out, it is that most pretty much all politicians are corrupt, deluded, incompetent, second-rate and hypocritical. Hislop's message is delivered with enviable deftness and wit, and very often it is irresistible. But it is also good-naturedly merciless. And extremely repetitive. 
There is never any sign that Hislop allows of exceptions; or that he has a political hero; or even, with the occasional honourable mention for Vince Cable, that there are politicians whom he respects. 
The impression he always gives is that today's politicians are uniformly unworthy of their inheritance, not to be compared with some previous golden age of statesmanlike effectiveness.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Derby Friargate to Nottingham Victoria



This is a great piece of film, showing the Great Northern's route from Derby to Nottingham in its last days.

The line closed to passengers in 1964.

Congratulations to Jo Swinson

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So it was a one-horse race after all.

Jo Swinson has won the Liberal Democrats' leadership election, polling 62 per cent of the 76,429 cast.

I voted for Ed Davey because I had a clearer idea of what his leadership would mean and broadly supported his approach.

It may be that Jo fought a front-runner's campaign and saw no need to upset anyone by being too specific, but I never did get a clear idea of what the liberal movement she advocates would look like.

And the emphasis her campaign put on the appeal of her own personality has given her a lot to live up to.

But Jo becomes leader at an immensely exciting time. To co-opt another of her favourite phrases there need be no limit to her ambitions.

There are, however, some important strategic puzzles to be solved. How many seats can the party fight to win? What sort of seats offer us the best prospects? Which other parties' voters should we be targeting?

I wish Jo every success as leader and in getting those decisions right. If she does, there is no knowing what she may achieve.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Six of the Best 877

Layla Moran writes for the Guardian: "Genuine supporters of Palestinians’ rights are fighting for equality, justice and freedom, aims that are in diametric opposition to any form of antisemitism. True champions of these causes both fight for Palestinian rights and also against any form of racism, including antisemitism."

"Liberalism’s main problem is that its vision of a life well lived has been corrupted - not by too much licence and self-expression, but by an overemphasis on economic freedom that has undercut its own promise." Samuel Moyn channels Edwardian New Liberalism.

Chris Dillow explains the rise of Jeremy Corbyn: "His popularity - especially with young graduates - rests upon material economic conditions. The degradation of professional occupations and huge gap between the top 1% and others have radicalised young people in erstwhile middle-class jobs".

Sarah Winman and Rachel Ferriman visit the Canal Club in Bethnal Green, a community space under threat from Tower Hamlets Council.

Turning roadside verges into wild flower meadows is an appealing idea, but Sophie Leguil is worried by the sowing of non-native species.

Tim Holyoake has been to Rutland Water (and will be hearing from Lord Bonkers' lawyers in the morning).

Market Harborough is the most liveable place in England


Market Harborough comes out top of a league table of the most 'liveable' places in England, reports the Guardian.

The table was produced by the former Treasury economist, Chris Walker for Your Housing Group.

Positions were calculated by balancing the affordability of homes with factors like employment opportunities and the performance of local schools.

I recall that, years ago, David Boyle produced a report on 'clone town' Britain - the way that every high street is now home to the same chains.

Market Harborough was mentioned as being on the cusp. It had the national chains, but had retained a lot of independent local shops too.

That is, of course, the best place to be, but the problem is that such a state of equilibrium is hard to maintain. But somehow we have defied economic gravity and kept that perfect mix.

The Guardian is suitably euphoric about Market Harborough, but the Old Grammar School, despite what it says, is neither a covered market nor a museum.

The Edge: A film on England's cricket dominance and the toll it took



Mike McCahill's Guardian review makes me want to see The Edge:
The Edge’s second half provides an unexpected analysis of the cost Flower’s militarised push for glory took on his troops, seeing off 10 years of post-match interview spin to pursue a more candid line of testimony. 
Wicketkeeping warrior Matt Prior concedes: “Life as a professional sportsman doesn’t necessarily lend itself to you being a good person - because it’s about winning.” A painfully vulnerable Jonathan Trott breaks down in tears.

Spencer Davis Group: Time Seller



This was the Spencer Davis Group's first single after the Winwood brothers left.

They were replaced by the guitarist Phil Sawyer and the keyboard player and singer Eddie Hardin. One of the musicians who auditioned but did not make the cut was a young pianist called Reg Dwight.

Time Seller is very 1967 and I suspect it was written before some of the songs we now assume influenced it.

Oddly, it sounds most like a superior version of the sort of song Dave Mason turned out for Traffic before he was ejected from the band for writing Hole In My Shoe.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Poll shows Lib Dems well ahead in Brecon and Radnorshire

The Liberal Democrats have the upper hand ahead of next month’s by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire, according to a new poll by Number Cruncher Politics.

Back in 1985, I recall that...

Where has everybody gone?

St Anne's in Leicester, where the Latin Mass is still celebrated


It's amazing what you find wandering the backstreets of Leicester.

Shortly after photographing the tin tabernacle that may be home to the city's women Freemasons. I came across a Catholic church where the Latin mass is still celebrated.

We are profoundly attached to Catholic Rome. We hold firmly to all that has been believed and practised by the Church of all time, in her faith, morals, worship, catechetical instruction, priestly formation and her institutions, and codified in the books which appeared before the late Council. Meanwhile, we wait for the true Light of Tradition to dispel the darkness which obscures the sky of eternal Rome. 
We pray that the Pope will consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, for its conversion, and for the return of Modern Rome to Catholic Tradition. ... 
If you have just found this site, or have concerns or questions about the loss of Faith in the Church and society, you are welcome to visit St. Anne's and to attend the Tridentine Mass so as to appreciate the mystery and sacredness of the Holy Sacrifice, and the sense of participating at something "other worldly.
I suspect this was originally a light industrial building, put up in the 1920s or 1930s. The Asian traffic warden who came along while I was studying it said his first house, on the Thurnby Lodge estate, has just the same windows, which would place it rather later.

It is because of discoveries like this that I wonder, in defiance of Richard Jefferies, Malcolm Saville and Jethro Tull, if I don't prefer walking in cities to walking in the countryside these days.

Postal votes in Lib Dem leadership election split "almost 50-50"

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Rob Merrick, deputy political editor of the Independent, writes:
The Liberal Democrat leadership race is on a knife-edge with postal votes cast splitting "almost 50-50" between Jo Swinson and Sir Ed Davey, The Independent has learned.
The figures were described as “a major surprise” by a source at the party’s headquarters - given Ms Swinson has been the odds-on favourite to win the contest on Monday. 
So it's a two-horse race.

All the Twitter polls I have seen have shown Jo in lead, but Twitter users may not be typical of the party as a whole.

And even there, I have the impression that Ed has made up ground as the campaign has gone on.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Liberal Democrats gain Brixworth

An extraordinary result in yesterday's Daventry District Council by-election. Congratulations to all involved.

It gives me an excuse to post a photograph of "the finest Romanesque church north of the Alps".

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

John Arlott describes Geoff Boycott's first test century



Geoffrey Boycott made the first of his 22 test centuries in 1964 against Australia at the Oval. It was enough to save the rain-affected match.

John Arlott was commentating when he reached the landmark.

Six of the Best 876

"This is the ideal policy – it requires no increase in public spending, but can make a real difference to the lives of low income families. We should be campaigning for this in England." Simon McGrath is delighted by Kirsty Williams' new guidance on school uniforms in Wales.

Jonathan Wallace shares his leaflet for Thursday's police and crime commissioner by-election in Northumbria.

"It’s exactly the same concerns people had when we introduced the weekend or the eight-hour workday. But the world didn’t collapse in on itself then - and it won’t now." Francois Badenhorst examines the case for a four-day working week.

Gregory H. Shill on the struggle against automobile supremacy in the USA.

"This cult of Stalker began in the USSR in the years after the film’s completion and limited release, when Stalker was the closest Soviet culture came to a punk aesthetic." Robert Bird on the later career of what is now Tarkovsky's most influential film.

Graham Appleton reviews Curlew Moon by Mary Colwell.

Anti-Tory coalition takes control of Lewes District Council


News from the Lewes Liberal Democrats:
Lewes District Council, after 8 years of Conservative leadership, is now controlled by a Co-operative Alliance of councillors from the Green, Liberal Democrat, and Labour parties plus two Independents.... 
Liberal Democrat Councillor, James MacCleary and Labour Councillor Chris Collier proposed the new Leader of Lewes District Council, Councillor Zoe Nicholson, leader of the Green Party group in a move to take control of the council. 
The Alliance voted unanimously for the new leadership arrangements with Councillor James MacCleary, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, as Deputy Leader. 
The Alliance has an overall majority on the councillors and is the result of joint working that has been ongoing since the local elections in May. 
The Alliance will operate on a shared leadership arrangement with the Green Party and Liberal Democrats rotating the leadership annually.
As readers of Liberator or Norman Baker's memoirs will know, Lewes Lib Dems do not always agree amongst themselves.

And in May they contrived to lose three seats when we were winning them in fistfuls on other councils across the South of England.

So let's hope this alliance proves a success and helps us towards making Lewes a Lib Dem gain at the next general election.

Spectacular, exotic bird, spotted in Market Harborough






A home win for Headline of the Day as the award goes to the Harborough Mail (even though the judges question the need for that second comma).

Close reading of the story beneath it reveals that the bird in question is not an emu but a sacred ibis.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Market Harborough floods in 1958

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This photograph of the Square under water in 1959 has turned up on GettyImages.

I particularly like the road signs. The half-timbered building behind them was still there when I moved to the town in 1973, but was demolished soon afterwards.

City and county show new interest in reopening Leicester railway


Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council have put up £10,000 each towards the cost of an investigation of the feasibility of reopening the railway from Leicester to Coalville, Ashby and Burton upon Trent to passengers,

The leaders of the two councils are now calling on Derbyshire, Staffordshire and the borough and district council along the route to find the rest of the £60,000 the survey will cost.

The Leicester Mercury quotes the city's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby:
"The line is probably the line in the country with the best prospects of being re-opened for passengers. 
"Were it to ever happen it would be great for getting traffic off the city and county’s roads. It would be great for Leicester, Leicestershire and further afield."

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Britain's last industrial steam locomotives worked in Leicestershire



This extract from a 1988 BBC television programme shows steam locomotives still working the internal railway system at Castle Donington power station in Leicestershire.

I believe these were the last industrial steam locomotives to work in Britain. Preserved British Steam Locomotives suggests that one of them was still in use as late as 1990.

The power station closed in 1994. The site was later cleared and is now occupied by a Marks & Spencer distribution centre.

Beatrice Wishart to fight Shetland by-election for the Lib Dems

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Beatrice Wishart, depute convener of Shetland Islands Council, has been chosen as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the forthcoming Holyrood by-election for the islands.

It has been caused by Tavish Scott's resignation after 20 years in the Scottish parliament - he is going to take up a new job with Scottish Rugby.

Beatrice Wishart is a trustee of Women’s Aid in Shetland and is an active WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaigner.

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, told Shetland News:
"She’s a devoted campaigner and an attentive councillor. I have no doubt she will bring the same energy to defending Shetland’s interests that Tavish has over the last 20 years."

The Kinks: The Village Green Preservation Society



When Ray Davies introduces this as "a little-known album track" in 1973, he is telling the truth.

Because The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society failed to make the album charts when it was released in 1968.

Today it is regarded as his masterpiece.

As Andy Miller says in his little book on the album:
Year-by-year, it reveals new colours and new depths. It is not simply a snapshot of The Kinks at their peak, and not just an exhibit in the museum of classic rock, but a work whose relevance and perceptiveness grow more acute as the years pass and the shadows lengthen.

England vs Pakistan: The cricket world cup 40 years ago



Ten years ago I wrote about my memories of watching England's Headingley victory over Pakistan in the 1979 cricket world cup:
It was a typically seam-friendly Headingley wicket and England, batting first, made only 165 - the highest scorer was Graham Gooch with 33. I remember Sikander Bakht bowling very well for Pakistan. 
What followed was a display of the tactical genius of the England captain Mike Brearley. He had four frontline seamers and he bowled them out to take wickets. Mike Hendrick's figures were particularly good: 12-6-15-4. 
The game ended with Phil Edmonds and Geoff Boycott bowling at the Pakistani tale and England squeaked home, bowling them out for 151. 
A lesser captain - indeed almost any other captain - would have fitted Edmonds' overs in somewhere in the middle of the innings, taken the pressure off the Pakistani batsmen and lost the game.
I have found the highlights of that day on YouTube. It shows a different style of cricket to the one we shall see at Lord's later today: one much closer to the test game. But that may be in part a function of the superiority of ball over bat that day.

The video does show that my memories were more or less correct. Geoff Boycott did bowl at the death while wearing his cap.

Sadly though, my suggestion that he had it "turned back to front like Benny Hill's Fred Scuttle" turns out not to be correct.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Little-known Leicestershire and Rutland 1: Standing stones



Another video from Bob Trubshaw.

I once blogged about the Humber Stone, which features here.

On becoming exasperated with Heidi Allen

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So the Tiggers have changed their name again - they are now The Independents - and will be less of a party in future.

But there was another, less amusing, development involving Heidi Allen yesterday. She also announced the launch of Unite to Remain.

According to The New European:
The independent MP for South Cambridgeshire, who will lead the initiative, said the group will follow the blueprint of what is happening in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, where both Plaid Cymru and the Greens have agreed to stand aside in order to support the Liberal Democrat candidate, who is seen as having the best chance of defeating the Conservatives and bringing a seat to the Remain cause.
But the parties listed here are getting on very well with no help from Heidi Allen.

And when the Tiggers did involve themselves involved in a by-election - in Peterborough - it all turned shambolic.

Who can forget Gavin Shuker's explanation of why there was not a single Remain candidate?

He said:
"We all agreed to stand down any candidates we might field in favour of a genuinely independent, pro-'people's vote' and pro-remain candidate who had expressed an interest and intention to stand. 
"However, senior Labour figures, including senior figures campaigning for a people’s vote, made it clear they would strenuously disrupt the campaign and obstruct an independent candidate, driven by fears that it would harm their party in Peterborough."
If there is a vacancy for a group like Unite to Remain it is for one that can bring in the SNP and parts of the Labour Party. And for that task you do not want a recent Conservative MP.

Even then there are problems. The Scottish Liberal Democrats have clearly concluded that there way back to significance is to unite the Unionist vote in the seats we held until 2015. Working with the SNP will not be easy for them.

I agree with Nick Tyrone: the Tiggers should accept the way the tide is running and join the Lib Dems.

Heidi Allen should be aware that if she continues down her present path, she may well find South Cambridgeshire Lib Dems putting up against her at the next general election out of sheer exasperation.

Six of the Best 875

Benjamin Kentish asks why the voices of Jewish people are not heard more often in the debate on antisemitism.

"Losing weight, even with the help of the operation I had, remains the hardest thing I have ever done - and the thing I am most proud of. It is unacceptable that others should be put off from making positive choices about their own bodies by the judgement of our media and the lack of empathy in our society." Layla Moran on the obesity debate.

Olivia Norfolk says the roadside wildflower meadows springing up across the UK are helping wildlife in a big way.

Cressida Cowell, the new children's laureate, talks to Dave Speck.

Ice cream vans are in decline, finds Sirin Kale.

"Roll up, roll up, to the maddest, baddest, wildest, druggiest and most devil-tatted show on Earth!" Mark Beaumont looks back to 1968 and the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Spinney Hill Park, Leicester


Spinney Hill Park is a Victorian park that still remembers the farmland it once was.

Long ago entirely surrounded by housing, it now finds itself at the heart of the city's Muslim community.

There is a good history of it on the Parks & Gardens site.







Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Clapham Junction to Olympia and back in 1967



Alan Snowdon's blurb on YouTube explains:
In 1967 the only passenger trains on the West London Line were two round trips between Clapham Junction and Kensington (Olympia) each morning and afternoon rush hour. 
These were said to be provided for the staff of the Post Office Savings Bank which had be relocated in 1940 due to war damage. 
Although not advertised in the public timetables, anyone could buy a ticket to travel on this service. 
This film was shot during the last week in which this service was steam hauled.

Now the children of Bishop's Castle are protesting


Not two months ago, residents of Bishop's Castle blocked the A488 to protest against plans to scrap the Shrewsbury bus.

Now some of their children have staged a school climate strike.

Ten pupils from nursery, primary and high schools, reports the Shropshire Star, organised the protest to coincide with a visit by the town's Conservative MP.

Said one of the children:
"We are in the middle of a climate emergency created by adults but because we children can’t vote, politicians are ignoring us. The school strikes have given us a way to have our voices heard. It’s our planet that is being destroyed. And our future."
Later on Twitter...

Monday, July 08, 2019

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band have lost their name



Worrying news about the Bonzos:
The band, whose members are now in their seventies and eighties, say they discovered two years ago that “an entity” had registered their name as a figurative trademark without their consent or knowledge. 
They are now challenging the decision to grant it, because it means they will never be able to record an album or perform a concert under their name again. 
The surviving members - who are Rodney Slater, Roger Ruskin Spear, Neil Innes, “Legs” Larry Smith and Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell - say they are facing a lawsuit by the trademark owner who asserts the band does not own the name and that their attempt to win it back through the Intellectual Property Office ... tribunal service is a fraudulent act.
They have set up a site - The Bonzo Dog Banned - to raise the money to mount a legal challenge.

And my younger readers may find this history of the band useful.

Six of the Best 874

Andrew Page gives his reaction to Plaid and the Greens' decision not to field candidates in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

"Dismissing an issue or challenge or complaint as being “politically correct” has become catchall for those who want to avoid discussing racism, sexism, and discrimination and who are willing to rebrand offensiveness as frankness." Edwin L. Battistella on the evolution of a concept.

William D. Cohan reviews a life of John F. Kennedy Jr.

Nicole Rudick on the way women science fiction writers are left out of the history of the genre.

"Four decades on, what started as a labour of love, before being duly assigned to the scrapheap by an indifferent movie industry, continues to be, even in the technological age, a touchstone of British pop culture, and a much-quoted icon of maverick filmmaking." A year on from Robin Hardy’s death, James Gent looks at his masterpiece The Wicker Man and its legacy.

BusAndTrainUser takes the Sunday-only 279 bus from Okehampton to Gunnislake.

Free Leicester briefing on the European Union


On Tuesday 16 July (7-8.30pm) the Leicestershire branch of the European Movement is offering an in-depth briefing on the European Union.

You will hear all about the EU's institutions, the Single Market, Agencies, law making, subsidiarity, peace and security, multi-tiered Europe and intended reforms.

The speaker will be Dr Carol Weaver and the meeting will take place at the Secular Hall on Humberstone Gate in Leicester.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A Leicester ghost sign


This was a new find on my wander through Spinney Hills, North Evington or whatever you call that part of Leicester.

And I was pleased to find that my favourite ghost sign of all is still flourishing round the corner.

The Victorians did not photograph corpses as part of family groups

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One of the themes I return to is that the Victorians were less Victorian than we think.

They did not cover piano legs out of a misplaced sense of modesty - that was a joke they told about the straitlaced Americans - and they were a lot more laid back about male nudity than we were.

Matthew Sweet's Inventing the Victorians is very good on our misunderstanding of the 19th century.

Of late a new myth has been spreading. It is that the Victorians photographed corpses as part of family groups. BBC News did its bit to help it circulate three years ago.

The Victorian Book of the Dead was damning:
The BBC should be ashamed of itself for printing a piece that looks like it had been researched on Buzzfeed or its ilk. 
The article claims as post-mortems photographs of persons who are patently not dead, states that an obvious pre-mortem of a dying woman has had its eyes painted open, does not cite sources except a single mention of an Australian library, and, most damningly, repeats a canard that has been refuted again and again, about the dead being propped in a standing position for a post-mortem photo.
It also points us to a site that debunks the idea of Victorian postmortem photos:
This website is dedicated to discrediting the myth of the stand alone Victorian postmortem photo.  It explores the reasons why so many intelligent people believe that life-like standing postmortem photos exist and it helps answer some questions that many people have about this fascinating subject.

Jon Pertwee: "A sort of British icon"



To celebrate Jon Pertwee's 100th birthday, Matthew Sweet chats to 'Gotham' star Sean Pertwee about his father's legacy as the third Doctor. The two of them were filming for an upcoming box set.

I can also recommend the documentary about Jon Pertwee's career that Sean has narrated for BBC Radio 4. Catch it while it is available.

Jon Pertwee was my Doctor and it was a great era, though Roger Delgado and the Brigadier had a great deal to do with that too.

Worzel Gummidge was also wonderful - at once comforting and unsettling.

I remember liking The Navy Lark as a small boy and it is now a staple of BBC Radio 4 Extra. I struggle with it today, but it is clear the audience was having a whale of a time.

Pertwee, who taught escape techniques for naval intelligence during the war, was a remarkable man and part of a remarkable generation.

Susan Maughan: Bobby's Girl


Consett used to be renowned for its huge steelworks belching red dust across the town - and Susan Maughan.
So began a 2004 article in the Chronicle.

Susan Maugham had one big hit: a cover of Marcie Blane's Bobby'a Girl that got her to number three in the UK singles chart in 1963.

She stayed in the business as a singer and actor, appearing on television with Rod Hull and Emu in the 1980s.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Tory leadership election latest

Political satire 1977 style

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So there I was listening to Radio 4 Extra and an episode of The Burkiss Way which I probably heard when it was first broadcast in 1977.

When (at 09:36) this happened:
Robin Day: Well, Mr Novelty, the question I must put to you is this. Who dreamt up this whole toad idea in the first place? 
Liberal candidate: Well, it were our party's economics expert. 
Robin Day: Pardoe? 
Liberal candidate: I SAID IT WERE OUR PARTY'S ECONOMIC EXPERT.
They don't write them like that any more. It's up there with the Two Ronnies' joke about boundary changes in the Scottish Border and David Steel being upset at losing his Peebles.

That one turned up in Lord Bonkers' diary one day and I cannot promise that this one won't too.

Another tin tabernacle in Leicester


It's always a good day when you find a new tin tabernacle. This one is near the Evington Road in Leicester.

There is no signage to say who uses it now, but whoever it is has spent money to make it secure from vandals and burglars.

But I have found a tantalising clue to its history in a Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society paper about St James the Greater, the large Romanesque church on the London Road, from 1986:
There is a strong tradition in the church which has been passed down from older members of the congregation, that the building which stands in Dore Road, the Millicent Morris Memorial Hall, was the temporary church rebuilt in Dore Road when the stone church was erected. 
The two photographs which survive of the temporary church, one inside and the other outside, show that there are significant differences in the plan of the two buildings and it seems unlikely that if the temporary church was moved it was not erected in exactly the same manner. 
It has not been possible to inspect the inside of the Dore Road building to see if there are any similarities and so for the moment no firm conclusions can be drawn about the fate of the temporary church and the possible link with the structure in Dore Road. 
There are other stories linking the Dore Road building with St Philip's, but the brief history of the church (Scott, 1984) states that the 'tin church' came from St Michael's, Belgrave. 
Research is being undertaken by the Order of Women Freemasons who use the Dore Road building, and they may eventually discover the origins of that building.
A bit of googling shows that the women masons still use the building, so I am may drop them a line to see if their research reached a firm conclusion.



Engelbert Humperdinck 'camping in living room' after huge earthquake hits California



The Leicester Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award.

There is also a good second mention in the report: "The Please Release Me singer...".

Best of all, I get a chance to post my favourite Engelbert track again.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Count Arthur Strong performs Deck of Cards



I once saw Count Arthur Strong live at the Leicester Comedy Festival.

For my money, he is better on stage than on television or radio. It is these scrambled memories of a showbiz past that make him great.

Phil Bennion MEP at the Three Tuns, Bishop's Castle


Phil Bennion, newly returned as a Liberal Democrat MEP for the West Midlands, was the guest speaker at a Bishop's Castle Lib Dems lunch today.

Naturally, it was held at the Three Tuns.

The Shropshire Star tells us what he said:
"Leaving the single market would have profound consequences. Most of our economy has been built around the single market for 30 years, from manufacturing to farming. 
"Losing our biggest market will cause a glut of lamb, so the price will collapse, meaning sheep farmers will soon go bankrupt. Dairy will also be severely affected. 
"Farmers will not be able to sell very much if they have to pay a 40 per cent export tariff. If we Brexit without a replacement for the Single Farm Payment, livelihoods will be gone. And if you read Michael Gove's Agriculture Bill, as I have, you will see that no replacement is intended."
He said much more, so do read the report in the Star.