Monday, November 11, 2019

Shepherd's Bush: The home of British entertainment

A walk with John Rogers and Adrian from Shepherd's Bush Calling.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: From Whissendine to Essendine

You have to hand it to the old boy: he called this one right.


Never mind Bournemouth: the talk of the Bonkers’ Arms when I call in this morning is the rumour that Boris Johnson is to desert Uxbridge and stand for Rutland and Melton instead.

One regular tells me the prime minister is already known to have fathered children from Whissendine to Essendine; another has it on good authority that he has been taking technology lessons in the red-light district of Uppingham; a third tells me Johnson has given the address of the crime correspondent of the High Leicestershire Radical to a school friend so he can have him beaten up.

By the time I return to the pub this evening it has been settled by the regulars that this rumour is what the young people call ‘fake news’.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Six of the Best 893

Our politics and culture have been convulsed by Brexit for the last three years and will be for years to come, yet the election campaign looks set to avoid any serious discussion of Brexit, argues Chris Grey.

Dave Troy reads Christopher Wylie's Mindf*ck: "At stake in the Cambridge Analytica saga is the very idea of agency. Whether or not we humans have free will, freedom of thought, and capacity to shape our destiny is at the heart of our legal system and the very idea of democracy."

"He seemed to be in a very bad temper and was unhappy about the fact that we had told people about his voting record on climate change." David Watts meets Robert Jenrick.

"Outside of their loyal fan base their music is seen by some as shallow, irritating and puerile, but a new ten CD box set, Givin’ It That, collects the Rockney duo’s nine studio albums and a bonus CD of rarities that goes a long way to setting the record straight." Nick Roseblade takes another look at Chas & Dave.

The idea that the broadcast of Orson Welles' adaptation of The War of the Worlds caused mass panic is myth, says Martin Chilton.

Huw Turbervill fears it may be too late to save cricket's county championship: "It’s like watching a beloved pet suffer an agonising death. It’s the last thing I want to see, but maybe a mercy killing would be best before it suffers any further indignity."

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Freeman's Meadow Lock and weir, Leicester

Freeman's Meadow Lock, which is right next to a weir, is still a remarkable spot. I took lots more photos there today and will share them with you another time.
So I wrote back in August having failed to recreate a shot from a 1967 issue of the Inland Waterways Association's Bulletin.

That time has come as I start to share my photos from my travels during that August holiday.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Buckled inside the large wicker hamper

A local newspaper says Rutland and Melton Conservatives have selected a counterterrorism expert as their candidate to succeed Sir Alan Duncan. 

You can see why.


When Jo ‘Gloria’ Swanson tipped me the wink that we would be parading newly converted Conservative MPs to the Liberal Democrat Conference, I naturally decided to join the fun. I hired a van from Oakham’s leading Chinese laundry and bade a brace of gamekeepers join me; we motored up to Town and lay in wait outside the Carlton Club.

In the middle of the afternoon a red-faced character sporting an Eton tie stumbled down the steps. I thumbed through Jane’s Conservative MPs and identified him as fair quarry. The gamekeepers moved in, and when he proved resistant to their orders a tap on the napper with an orchard doughty rendered him more pliable. He was bundled into the van and buckled inside the large wicker hamper with which it had come equipped.

Thus arranged, we pointed the bonnet for Bournemouth.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Close to the Wind: Harbour Folk Band

I know this song from Fairport Convention, but this version is by the Harbour Folk Band. They turn out to be the house band of The Irishman, a pub in Stavanger, Norway.

Close to the Wind was written by Stuart Marson and the story it tells is based in fact.

The Culworth village website tells the story of the Culworth Gang:
Writing in 1841, Alfred Beasley sets the scene for what [John] Smith’s move to the village would bring: 
"In the lovely undulating countryside of the southwest corner of Northamptonshire, seven miles from Banbury, lies the quiet village of Culworth. The long attractive street with its houses of contrasting dark and light bands of stone makes a pleasing picture. Times were not always so quiet for the inhabitants of Culworth, for in the latter part of the 18th century a band of robbers had their headquarters in the village." 
At its largest, the gang consisted of about fifteen individuals, although membership varied and several died off across the period of the gang’s existence. They had first come together for poaching, but then they moved on to housebreaking and highway robbery.  
And also of their deaths in Northampton:
At 10 a.m. in the morning of Aug. 4th, 1787, a mournful procession made its way from the county prison at Northampton along the Kettering road to the gallows, (now the area in Northampton known as The Racecourse). The older John Smith, aged 53, and the two  younger  men, Law and Pettipher, travelled in one cart, whilst Bowers, aged 36, and two other criminals (David Coe and John Hulbert) went in the other tumbril. 
On reaching the place of execution, on the corner of the race course, opposite the White Elephant public house (which still stands), they found a huge crowd of 5,000 awaited them. 
The hangings took place at mid-day, when each man was “launched into eternity,” to use the contemporary euphemism. A rope was put around each man’s neck, which was fixed to a cross beam, as they stood up in their cart. Then the signal would be given by a person dropping a hat and the cart would be driven off, leaving the man to hang a few feet from the ground.
The racecourse closed in the Edwardian era but remains as an open space near the centre of the town.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Well-Behaved Orphans have been carefully measured

It was only last Sunday that I sent Lord Bonkers' latest diary off to Liberator HQ in London. On Friday the printed magazine arrived.

Which means that I can offer you what may fairly be described as topical satire.


This is usually a quiet time of year in Rutland. There is nothing to hear but the chatter of hamwees massing on the telegraph wires before they fly south for the winter (or are they wheways returning from the Arctic?), the swish swish of Meadowcroft’s broom as he sweeps up the fallen leaves and his grumbling when  he has to put back the sundial in my walled garden.

This year, however, is very different. As soon as the general election was called I had the Green Ballroom readied for action. Banks of telephones were installed along with the very latest electric computers, and the room is now dominated by a map of Rutland Water and its shores - pretty WAAFS and Wrens push little models of destroyers and fighter planes across it.

Meanwhile, the Well-Behaved Orphans have been carefully measured to see what depth of snowdrift would prevent them from delivering leaflets. The balloon may have only just gone up, but we are ready for action.

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

Ken Clarke on David Cameron

Embed from Getty Images

The Times has a valedictory interview with Ken Clarke behind its paywall today.

He says things that will please Liberal Democrats:
"I like Jo [Swinson], she’s very nice and very bright ... The Conservative Party is more right wing and the Labour Party is more left wing than at any time in my lifetime so for the Lib Dems ... this is the opportunity of a lifetime."
But I was taken by his dismissal of David Cameron:
"He had the style and presentational skills, but he could never answer the question - what does he believe in? What is he doing it for? The real answer was he was doing it because it was fun and he had risen effortlessly to the top."
And on the referendum:
"All Etonians have this terrifying self-confidence; David had always won everything in his life ... it didn’t cross his mind he’d lose."
I suppose an Old Etonian for whom everything has gone swimmingly will be likely to attribute his success to his own personal qualities rather than a happy accident of birth.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Ian Nairn in Pimlico, 1970

The great architectural critic celebrates the village of Pimlico and its two post-war estates at Churchill Gardens and Lillington Street.

The new issue's out and you should subscribe to Liberator

The new Liberator is with subscribers. As is traditional - and despite Lord Bonkers' urgings - I shall first share a few snippets from Radical Bulletin with you.

This time you will learn:
  • about the indecent haste with which the old Lib Dem chief executive was dispatched and the party's coyness about the background of the new one;
  • which winnable seat has advertised for a candidate who will 'show humility and lack bombast';
  • that the officiating cleric at Steve Hitchins funeral was the Revd Shuttleworth.
Add in articles on topics including Liberalism after Brexit, Tim Farron's book and Heathrow's immigration centres and the answer is clear...

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Six of the Best 892

"There’s a good case to be made for a UBI based on the importance of individual freedom. Indeed, the foundations of that case have already been laid by none other than the renowned champion of economic and personal liberty, Friedrich Hayek." Matt Zwolinski on Hayek, republican freedom and the universal basic income.

Tom Jacobs on the case for more trees in town: "Researchers report that living in areas where 30 percent or more of the outdoor space is dominated by tree canopy was associated with 31 percent lower odds of psychological distress."

Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman introduce four women who brought philosophy into everyday life: Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Mary Midgley and Iris Murdoch.

"The three-day season of Hallowtide - Hallowe'en, All Saints, All Souls - is medieval in origin, as a time for remembering the dead both known and unknown." Clerk of Oxford examines a strange revival.

Jill Rennie tells us more about Bishop's Castle's poetry pharmacy.

"As for booksellers, in 1921 they voted him the most significant contemporary American writer." Robert Gottlieb on the rise and fall of Booth Tarkington.

One million pounds worth of sex toys stolen from lorry in lay-by near Kettering

The Evening Standard wins our Headline of the Day Award for its everyday story of Northamptonshire folk.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Bonzos get their Doo Dah back

Good news from the Evening Standard:
Sixties rock legends The Bonzo Dog Band have won a legal battle to put the Doo Dah back into their name.
I blogged about this affair back in July.

Now let's celebrate with the jolliest song I know.

Tory MP flees Eastleigh for safer seat

A week ago Mims Davies announced that she was standing down as MP for Eastleigh:
I am a single parent of two wonderful girls and, over the last few years, it has been become increasingly difficult to juggle the responsibilities have I first and foremost as a mother and, secondly, as an MP and minister.
She must have taken a course in advanced juggling, because today she her name appeared on the shortlist to be the new Conservative candidate for Mid Sussex, the seat just vacated by Sir Nicholas Soames.

Davies had a majority of over 14,000 at the last election, but Eastleigh was a Liberal Democrat seat between 1994 and 2015.

It hard not to see her flight as a sign she fears it may be vulnerable to recapture this time.

John Hemming issues statement on 'false allegations campaign'

Photo: Charles D.P. Miller
John Hemming has posted a statement on what he calls a 'campaign of false allegations' that has been conducted against him for the past four and a half years.

He writes:
Yesterday there was a court judgment Baker v Hemming [2019] EWHC 2950 (QB) which formally confirmed that the allegations were false. Esther Baker, who had brought a libel claim against me, dropped her defence of Truth to my counter-claim and was taken by the judge as no longer trying to prove her allegations.
John, who was Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley between 2005 and 2015, recommends the account of yesterday's proceedings in the Daily Mail.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Inside Bishop's Castle's poetry pharmacy

Back in January I blogged about plans for a poetry pharmacy in Bishop's Castle.

It opened last month - "to eager crowds" according to the Shropshire Star - and this video let's you see inside it.

Labour deselects its Shrewsbury candidate on eve of election

You have to hand it to the Corbynistas: they never forget who their real enemy is.

The Shropshire Star reports colourfully:
Last Saturday shoppers on Shrewsbury's Pride Hill were greeted by Labour campaigners handing out leaflets listing the virtues of Dr Laura Davies as the town's potential MP. 
Three days later and Dr Davies is no longer the face on the party's Shrewsbury leaflets, or its choice for a general election candidate, having been deselected by the national party, just 37 days from polling day.
Davies lost a vote of no confidence in the local party back in June, but as the Star explains:
At the time the national Labour Party refused to take action, and insisted the matter was one for the candidate to resolve with the CLP. 
But, due to internal Labour processes that changed when Boris Johnson was finally granted his wish for a general election. 
The party's procedures mean that prior to a general election any candidate with outstanding complaints against them is re-interviewed by an NEC panel.
And that panel decided she should go.

The local party's official reasons for seeking to deselect her were that she had failed to 'work with and engage with members' and had struck out with a policy of her own on the fraught subject of the future of Shropshire's hospitals.

But the Star reports that
The decision has been greeted with shock and surprise from many, with some members described as "deeply distressed" at the move, which sources suggested had been led by "an extreme left wing influence" in the local party.
The Shrewsbury and Atcham constituency is currently represented by the Conservative Daniel Kawczynski, who would be high on many people's list of MPs we would be better off without.

Labour's decision to occupy itself with internal politicking at so late a stage will surely have hurt their chances of removing him.

The Liberal Democrat candidate, since you ask. is Nat Green.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Beeston Weir on the River Trent

This is Beeston Weir on the River Trent. It is one of the reasons you have to leave the river to get from from Beeston to West Bridgford and use the Nottingham Canal instead.

It is a thing of beauty, but the Trent is a dangerous river. The memorials to 'Owen' here are for 12-year-old Owen Jenkins. In 2017 he lost his life saving a friend from drowning.

Coronation Street writer to stand for Lib Dems in Staffordshire

Embed from Getty Images

Chris Fewtrell, whose TV writing credits include Coronation Street as well as Peak Practice and Rosemary and Thyme, has been selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for South Staffordshire at next month's general election.

He will take on sitting Conservative MP, who is amorous fireplace salesman turned education secretary Gavin Williamson.

Fewtrell told the Express & Star:
"I feel particularly angry at some of the spurious claims made before, during and after the referendum campaign, and especially since the current Prime Minister has taken office. 
"Very many hard-working, intelligent, patriotic people voted Leave, having been deliberately misled by an alliance of speculators, media barons and politicians driven by a desire for profit, influence or career advancement. 
"These same vested interests now seem hell-bent on driving us over the no deal cliff. But we in the Liberal Democrats refuse to give up on our country and will not be silenced by the Prime Minister’s bombast and blather."

Sunday, November 03, 2019

The Observer finds strong anti-Tory sentiment in Winchester

Liberal Democrat members looking for encouragement should read the piece Toby Helm wrote for today's Observer after visiting Winchester:
On the city’s streets there is not only a deep dislike of Brexit, but also a profound distrust of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, even among people who have voted Tory in the past. Kevin Hayter, who co-owns a local construction company, voted Tory in 2010 and 2015 when David Cameron was leader, but said he would never do so again because the party had changed utterly. 
"They are now a tawdry, deceitful lot who kicked out all the decent one-nation Tories and I can’t vote for them. And, of course, there is Brexit. Neither will I be voting Labour. They are just pernicious and seem to spend all their time purging moderates." 
A few yards along the high street, Ian McCoy, a chartered surveyor, said the Tories had headed off to the "far right". He believed they would be rejected by the people of Winchester. "Winchester is full of a lot of very reasonable, sensible people who don’t like that kind of politics," he said. Asked about Johnson, he shook his head and said he was "just a buffoon".
Winchester was held by the Lib Dems between 1997 and 2010, but the Conservatives had a majority of 10,000 at the last election.

Even so, Helm suspects that will not be enough to save them.

The Mamas and the Papas: California Dreamin'

An anthem for a December general election.

California Dreamin' was written by the married couple John Phillips (the man with the guitar here) and Michelle Phillips (the woman who isn't Mama Cass Elliot). Apparently John dreamt half the song and woke Michelle to help him finish it.

It was a hit in the US in 1965 and in Britain the following year.

There's an odd Mandela Effect in the song. I would have sworn the lyrics went "I began to pray", but they clearly sing "I pretend to pray".

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Where the Nottingham Canal joins the Trent at Beeston

We have seen where one end of the Nottingham Canal meets the Trent at West Bridgford. Here is the other end of the canal leaving the Trent at Beeston.

Beeston Waterfront, as it is optimistically known, combines working-class resort pubs and middle-class tearooms. So I was happy there.

Celebrating Auberon Waugh

Poor Jeremy. He is his own worst enemy, but with friends like these he really has no need of himself. The only remaining mystery is why the Liberal Party policy committee decided to murder Scott rather than Jeremy.
When I find myself bereft of courage or inspiration, it is the works of Auberon Waugh I turn to.

In the current number of the London Review of Books Rosemary Hill reviews a celebration of his work. You have to register with its website, but as it free I think it worth the effort.

Hill captures the essence of Waugh's appeal:
The ability to blend truth with invention on a sliding scale from the plausible to the surreal was the key to Auberon Waugh’s Diary, a column that ran in Private Eye from 1972 until 1985, which he regarded as his greatest achievement, and in which he claimed, with justice, to have invented a new form, ‘a work of pure fantasy, except that the characters in it were real’.
I particularly like her description of Waugh's resignation from the Eye:
At his farewell lunch he was upstaged by Ingrams, who announced his own retirement to cries of dismay all round, except from the ‘small young man called Ian Hislop’ who sat ‘tight-lipped’ as Waugh begged Ingrams to stay.

Six of the Best 891

"Conservatives are at their best when they are terrified. The fear of losing everything persuades them to give ground on some things," argues Nick Cohen, but they are not frightened enough of a Labour government.

Chris Dillow says that for market economics "every billionaire is a market failure - a sign that competition has failed".

"Some are epic tales of the ancient kings who battled to rule Britain. Others are books about bakers in abandoned northern towns or novels about mild-mannered fascists in 1930s rural England." Donna Ferguson on the rise of Brexlit.

Eleanor Gibson looks at the Italian architect Stefano Boeri's plans for a forested smart city in Mexico that is designed to be a pioneer of more eco-efficient developments.

"There is an excellent commitment to show Blake’s work as it originally came to an audience, not just in framed works hanging on a wall." Philip Hensher visits Tate Britain's William Blake exhibition.

Janine Moore admires Southwell Minster.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Richard Jefferies: Primrose Gold in Our Village

The Swindon Advertiser brings news that the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate in Swindon is to be used as a polling station in next month's general election.

Which gives me an excuse for quoting from Jefferies 1887 essay Primrose Gold in Our Village. 'Primrose' here is a reference to the Primrose League, which was founded in 1883 to spread Conservative principles.

Jefferies writes:
The old grocer, who is not a 'professional tradesman', who exposes dirty Radical prints in his window for sale, who said several hard words to the clergyman a few years ago for refusing to bury his Nonconformist baby, who is a regular old sanded brute - is not boycotted. 
Certainly not. No private notice sent round, or placards stuck up remarking that if you deal there you will get lead pepper. Still it is not necessary to buy there if the 'professional' tradesman's brother sets up another shop. It is not that you shall not go to the old grocer, but it is suggested how much better it would be to go to the other one and so encourage him. The caucus does not say you shall not deal here; the caucus says you shall deal there. It is boycotting reversed. 
By and by the doctors found out that the prevalence of disease was due to there not being sufficient air-holes to the drains; so in making these improvements one was casually opened by the old grocer's shop. Always a beastly Radical effluvia just there. Don't stop there - spores, germs, pah! 
The old gentleman has written letters about it, but somehow the official wheels don't move. Ex-officio people are plentiful on country board, and they are mostly heathen Tories.
My understanding of Jefferies is that he was chiefly a jobbing writer who would supply whatever editors wanted. But essays like this do suggest he had become a thoroughgoing Radical by the time of his death.

Matthew Parris has left the Conservatives and will vote Lib Dem

Photo: Nick Moyes
Matthew Parris uses his latest Times column to make an announcement:
The day I left parliament in 1986, however, I made a promise to myself: never would I do anything to undermine my outstanding successor, Patrick McLoughlin MP, now a Companion of Honour, whose long career as a humane, deft, steady, middle-of-the-road pro-European Tory remains a lesson in careful management. 
On Wednesday Sir Patrick confirmed he will not be standing in this coming general election. This releases me from my promise. Despair is no longer enough: finally one must act. So with this column I’m leaving the Conservative Party.
Not only that:
I am a conservative not a Liberal Democrat but will unhesitatingly vote Lib Dem to defeat Tory zealotry over Europe, this time. 
So should every former Tory voter who still believes it would be folly for Britain to leave the European Union.
It's a very good column, and everyone can read it because it is to be found on this side of the Times's paywall.

Parris central argument is the one I once made on this blog: Brexit is the least Conservative measure you can imagine.