Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Karl Popper interviewed on Channel 4 in 1988 - part 6



And so we reach the last video from Uncertain Truth.

This was a series of three programmes featuring interviews with Sir Karl Popper in 1988.

The first programme, where the other participant was Ernst Gombrich, looks at the understanding of history. It takes up two videos:

Watch part 1
Watch part 2

The second programme, where the other participant is Sir John Eccles, looks at language.

Watch part 3
Watch part 4

And this third programme where the other participant is Anthony Quinton, looks at human knowledge.

Watch part 5

As I said when introducing the first of these videos, Popper was one of the most important liberal thinkers of the 20th century.

This was as much for his development of an evolutionary understanding of human knowledge as for his more overtly political books.

He died in 1994 at the age of 92. I heard him speak in York round about 1981 when he gave an inaugural lecture for some good cause connected with the Rowntree family.

The Olney Pancake Race


From the Olney Pancake Race website:
On Shrove Tuesday every year the ladies of Olney, Buckinghamshire compete in the world famous Pancake Race, a tradition which dates back to 1445. The 2016 race will be held on Tuesday 9th February. The race starts at 11:55am. 
Children from Olney schools also take part in their own races. Olney competes every year against the women of Liberal, Kansas, USA. This is a friendly competition in its 67th year in 2016.
My photograph shows the sign on the churchyard wall in Olney that marks the finishing point of the race,

A tribute from Hookland

Read more about Hookland.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Disused railway stations in Dorset



There are lots more of these videos on this blog. Find them on the Disused Stations label.

Ronnie Lane and Eric Clapton at the Drum and Monkey

The Drum and Monkey today

I have just listened to the BBC Radio Shropshire programme on Ronnie Lane and Eric Clapton that I blogged about on Monday. (It was broadcast today at lunchtime.)

Far from exploding the myth that you could once hear rock and roll aristocracy playing at remote Shropshire pubs it proved the stories were true.

It also includes a rare interview with Ronnie Lane's widow Kate. Well done, Johnty O'Donnell.

You can listen to the programme it for the next month on the BBC website. It occupies the second hour of Paul Shuttleworth's show.

There are also some photographs from the most celebrated concert at the Drum and Monkey on the BBC Radio Shropshire Facebook page.

Noosha Fox: Georgina Bailey



A little bit of Continental sophistication from 1977 which reached no. 31 in the British charts.

Some sources claim it was banned by the BBC, but as this video comes from an episode of Top of the Pops that seems unlikely.

Noosha Fox was originally the singer with the band Fox. They had three top 20 hits, but she was less successful as a solo artist.

She is also the mother of the doctor and science journalist Ben Goldacre. Sadly, she was to busy with her music career to teach him to comb his hair.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Karl Popper interviewed on Channel 4 in 1988 - part 5



And so to the third and final programme in this series, where the interviewer is Anthony Quinton.

Like the other programmes, this one is split across two videos.

Watch part 1

Watch part 2

Watch part 3

Watch part 4

Lord Bonkers' Diary: An alternative chameleon

Our latest visit to Bonkers Hall ends with an outing to Oakham Zoo.

An alternative chameleon

A sombre day: the moving television brings news of the deaths of both Pierre Boulez and Christy O’Connor Jnr. I am confident that they will go down in the annals of the game as one of the great Ryder Cup pairings.

To cheer myself up, I take a party of particularly Well-Behaved Orphans to Oakham Zoo. The consensus on the charabanc is that we want to see the chameleons.

As is the way with such creatures, they rather blend into the background. I am struck, however, by one that spends its time ranting about how much it hates “Thatcher”. I ask the keeper why it does this. “Oh,” comes the reply, “it’s an alternative chameleon”.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary

  • A shadow cabinet maker
  • Giving Isis one up the snoot
  • Andrew Neil's press gang
  • Corbyn sends for Christopher Robin Milne
  • Cooking hedgehogs for Nick Clegg
  • Friday, February 05, 2016

    The Boxmoor Playhouse and letters about custard



    I once wrote of Boxmoor County Primary School:
    I was very happy at Boxmoor, though in one way adversity there helped make me a Liberal. The dinners were cooked elsewhere and brought to the school, and they were indescribably awful. (My mother let me come home for dinner after a while.) And if you didn't want custard with your pudding, you had to have a letter from home.
    I now regard this as an early introduction to the absurdities of socialism.
    That was the old Boxmoor County Primary in St John's Road, which was demolished long ago.

    We had our dinners in the church hall next door. That building still stands, though it is now called The Boxmoor Playhouse. (There appears to be a new hall built recently next to the church.)

    We also held fetes in the hall and I once gave a well-received Innkeeper in the school nativity play.

    It's not quite the Saville Theatre, but I am glad to see that somewhere I trod the boards is still thriving.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Cooking hedgehogs for Nick Clegg

    Could it be that Lord Bonkers knew Malcolm Saville?

    Cooking hedgehogs for Nick Clegg

    One does not have memories of last year’s general election campaign so much as flashbacks, but I do recall visiting a hedgehog sanctuary with poor Clegg and Paddy Ashplant. While Clegg was being shown how the inmates are cared for and educated, Ashplant took me to one side and confessed that he used to eat the creatures when he was in the Special Boat Service.

     Having invited Clegg to dinner this evening, I hit upon the happy idea of reminding him of those days by serving hedgehog. Cook is not keen – “nasty, flea-ridden things that don’t belong in a Christian kitchen” – and claims not to know how to manage “all they prickles,” so I enlist the help of the Elves of Rockingham Forest, who quite charm her. They tell us that the trick is to bake the beasts in clay so that when they are done to a turn you simply break the clay open and then peel it and the spines clean off. The Elves also agree to catch the hedgehogs for us using high elven magic (or possibly Pedigree Chum).

    I have no doubt that the evening will prove a success and that our hedgehog recipe will appear in the next Liberal Democrat Cookbook alongside Pressed Tonge and Norman Lamb Hotpot.

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

    Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary
    • A shadow cabinet maker
    • Giving Isis one up the snoot
    • Andrew Neil's press gang
    • Corbyn sends for Christopher Robin Milne
    • Six of the Best 572

      Mark Pack and David Howarth have published a second edition of their 'The 20% Strategy: Building a core vote for the Liberal Democrats'.

      Michael Oakeshott is an important 20th-century British Conservative thinker. Aurelian Craiutu reviews his notebooks.

      Richard Gooding looks at the trashing of John McCain, which helped George W. Bush win the Republican nomination in 2000.

      Like Ray Gosling and Alan Moore, Jeremy Seabrook is a product of working-class Northampton. Here he writes of growing up gay in the town in the years after World War II.

      "Robert Mitchum considers The Night of the Hunter one of his most impressive roles. Gentle, subtle and seductive, but deranged and psychotic, Mitchum’s character is one of the scariest villains in film history." Cinephilia & Beyond on the only film directed by Charles Laughton.

      "It was while working on Time Out’s annual pub guide in 2000 that I heard the tale of the Camden castles. A reviewer claimed that there were once four Camden pubs with castle in their name – the Edinboro, Windsor, Dublin and Pembroke – and these had originally been built for navvies digging Regent’s Canal." Peter Watts gently explodes a myth.

      A witness statement by a victim of Greville Janner

      Only a few months ago the press was finding conspiracies of powerful child abusers under every stone.

      Now, judging by the headlines about Lord Bramall and John Inman, the same papers are incensed if the rich and famous are even investigated.

      The truth, no doubt, is somewhere in between.

      So to remind ourselves that such people can be guilty of such offences, let's look at one of the witness statements alleging abuse by Greville Janner.

      It was reproduced in the Daily Mail and on The Needle in April 2015 and begins:
      From my earliest childhood I never knew my parents and believe that I was in the care of the Leicestershire Local Authority from when I was about two weeks of age. I recall that I was fostered by a family called Wilkinson ... until I was about seven years of age when I went to live at The Cottage Homes at Countesthorpe, which was a Local Authority owned establishment.

      Thursday, February 04, 2016

      Shrewsbury in colour in 1959

      http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-old-smithfield-1959/
      There's no sound, but there is plenty of great colour footage in this 1959 film of the last day of Smithfield cattle market in the centre of Shrewsbury.

      Click on the image above to go to the film on the BFI site.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: Corbyn sends for Christopher Robin Milne

      The old boy turns out to have known Labour's new Executive Director of Strategy and Communications since he was so high.

      Jeremy Corbyn sends for Christopher Robin Milne

      There is only one area of our national life where the hereditary principle holds greater sway than it does here in the aristocracy. I refer, of course, to the press and broadcasting. There are whole neighbourhoods of London where it is impossible to toss a brick without hitting a Coren or a Dimbleby – not that one would try too hard to avoid doing so. Thus I was not surprised when the son of my old friend Milne went into journalism nor when he became director of communications for the new leader of the Labour Party.

      I remember him as a golden-haired little fellow in the Nursery astride his rocking horse in a sailor suit or kneeling at the foot of his bed saying his prayers. Less happily, I remember him down from Winchester or Oxford talking the most awful rot about the need for Socialism. Why, he even spoke up for Stalin! I don’t think he would have been so keen on him if he had met the fellow as I did. Then came the Guardian and endless articles with titles like ‘Did 20 Million Really die?’ Now he sits at Corbyn’s right hand recommending purges every second day.

      No, I cannot pretend to care for Christopher Robin Milne.

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

      Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary
      • A shadow cabinet maker
      • Giving Isis one up the snoot
      • Andrew Neil's press gang
      • Wednesday, February 03, 2016

        Six of the Best 571

        Andrew Hickey is not impressed by the Stronger In campaign.

        "Orwell was far more interested, as Corbyn has been far more interested, in speaking truth to power than in holding office. His loyalty was to the movement, or at least the idea of the movement, not to MPs or the front bench, which he rarely mentioned." Robert Colls (who taught me on my Masters course many years ago) on what Jeremy Corbyn can learn from George Orwell.

        David Hencke explains how Chris Grayling's attempt to sell prison expertise to regimes with appalling judicial systems like Saudi Arabia and Oman cost the taxpayer over £1m. If he were a councillor he would be surcharged.

        Mad to be Normal is a film on the radical psychiatrist R.D. Laing currently in production. Caron Lindsay finds a Lib Dem connection.

        Peter Bebergal is interviewed by Dangerous Minds about his new book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.

        "“And Ukraine just wanted to be absolutely sure that the oil and the electricity rolls through." BuzzFeed remembers 19 Eurovision moments from Terry Wogan.

        Lord Bonkers' Diary: Andrew Neil's press gang

        It seems all those Labour tweeters were right to detect foul play behind the resignation of Stephen Doughty as shadow Foreign Office minister live on air.

        Andrew Neil's press gang

        To Westminster for a round of meetings. In the evening I repair to a quaint back-street hostelry with exposed beams, dimpled window glass and exposed, dimpled barmaids. The atmosphere is tense: word has got about that the press gang is on the prowl. Sure enough, the door bursts open and a group of men with lanterns and tricorn hats hurries in. The Shadow Minister for Fish cowers under the table, but they see him, drag him out and bear him away.

        “What will become of him?” I ask the landlady. “Mark my words,” she says, “they’ll take him to the dungeons beneath Broadcasting House, put the frighteners on him and ply him with Blue Nun. The next thing you know he’ll be on Daily Politics resigning from the Labour front bench.”

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

        Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary
        • A shadow cabinet maker
        • Giving Isis one up the snoot
        • The 11-year-old who swam the English Channel

          At the end of last year I blogged about five news stories you don't get any more.

          One of them was ever younger children swimming the channel:
          Once skinny little figures shivering in goose grease appeared regularly in the news. Today you never see them. 
          It turns out that the Channel Swimming Association imposed a minimum age of 16 years in 2000, which means that the record is likely to stay with Thomas Gregory, who made the crossing in 1988 aged 11 years and 336 days.
          The other day BBC News published a feature on Thomas Gregory and his feat.

          You can see why the age limit was imposed:
          "When I reached the shore, I was a few notches off compos mentis," he says. "I was dazed, confused. I'd been in cold water for 12 hours, with a high rate of exertion. I'd been told you had to take three unaided steps after reaching land, otherwise you hadn't made it. But I couldn't stand up. I was on my knees. 
          "Those steps became massively important. It was a Neil Armstrong moment. Eventually I did three steps, and I sat down. I remember being surrounded by people cuddling me."
          Yet the hero of the interview is Gregory's coach:
          "If John Bullet was alive today, he'd be getting Unsung Hero Award at the Sports Personality of the Year," says Tom. "He did countless relays of the Channel, and broke two world records, all with kids from a two-mile radius of Eltham Baths. It was incredible. But when John died, the club sort of died. It lived on thanks to some very selfless people, but my connection went. 
          "This isn't false modesty, but the Channel swim wasn't about me. It was about the club. I was part of a movement, and I represented all of us. It only happened because of the courage and vision of John. I guess I was the lucky one who got the challenge." 
          The crack-of-dawn starts, the hours in the pool, the weeks in Windermere, the cold showers, the open windows, the burn, the pain, the tears. Could any child enjoy that? 
          "Oh yeah," Tom says, surprised at the question. "I loved it. That club changed people's lives."

          Tuesday, February 02, 2016

          A lost line: South Acton to Hammersmith & Chiswick



          A brief video about a brief and long-forgotten line. I traced its course myself when I was living in West London around 30 years ago.

          For more on the line, see the Disused Stations pages for Hammesmith & Chiswick.

          Lord Bonkers' Diary: Giving Isis one up the snoot

          Who would have thought it? The old boy turns out to be a bit of a hawk on Syria

          One up the snoot for Isis

          In my view defence questions resemble a closely fought by-election: if someone is out to get you then you give them one up the snoot at the earliest opportunity. Thus I was happy to support the idea of lobbing the occasional bomb at ISIS (the Boat Race has deteriorated since my day). Let us remember that they attacked people going to a footer match, out for dinner at a restaurant and listening to the Eagles of Death Metal, who so enlivened a tea dance at Uppingham last summer.

          Thank goodness there was no move to invade Syria the way we used to invade countries under Blair. It wasn't the soldiers the Iraqis and Afghanistanis objected to so much as what came after. Health workers to enforce safe drinking guidelines; animal welfare inspectors to measure the camels; social workers from Islington to enforce Jack Straw's National Bedtime.

          Just after I had written this the telephone was brought to me; it turned out to be Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, who has called for ‘peace talks’ with ISIS. “What concessions will you demand?” I asked her. “I’m going to ask them to throw homosexuals off slightly lower buildings.”

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

          Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary

          A ghost sign from Rothwell


          Photographed on Saturday, along with Big Brother.

          Karl Popper interviewed on Channel 4 in 1988 - part 4



          This is the other half of the second Uncertain Truth programme, which sees Popper in conversation with John Eccles.

          Watch part 1.

          Watch part 2,

          Watch part 3.

          Monday, February 01, 2016

          Eric Clapton and Ronnie Lane in the Shropshire hills

          Abel's Harp - once the Drum &; Monkey

          I have blogged before about the stories that it used to be possible to wander into pubs in the Shropshire hills and find the likes of Eric Clapton and Ronnie Lane giving unadvertised concerts.

          The journalist Johnty O’Donnell, with whom I have recently swapped emails on the subject, has pinned down the truth of these stories.

          As, of course, the Shropshire Star tells it:
          God, Slowhand . . . all nicknames for the guitar legend Eric Clapton. 
          And indeed he did appear, playing along with Ronnie Lane, previously of The Faces, to a packed house at a country pub in a night which has gone down in pop folklore. And all for just £1 on the door. 
          Some fans were turned away. Others were rumoured to have climbed in through the toilet windows at the Drum & Monkey at Bromlow. 
          The date was Friday, March 4, 1977.
          Memories of that night will be recalled in a special programme on BBC Radio Shropshire on Sunday 7 February from noon to 1pm,

          It is called The People’s History of Pop and forms part of a BBC project collecting people’s pop memories and memorabilia from the 1950s to the 1980s. Johnty O’Donnell has been overseeing the project for Shropshire.

          The Star reports ends by saying "the Drum & Monkey ... has passed into history".

          Yes and no. When I first went there, more than a decade after this concert, it was the Callow Inn and resembled a little bit of suburban Birmingham set down in the Shropshire hills.

          Last time I was there it had turned into a boutique hotel - Abel's Harp - which I am told is currently closed for refurbishment.

          Birmingham City Council vs local historians

          Some graves yesterday

          What is it with West Midland graveyards and the authorities?

          On Saturday I blogged about the thwarting of the locals' attempts to preserve a historic gravestone at Bishop's Castle.

          Now comes news that Birmingham City Council is frustrating the Jewellery Quarter Research Trust's effort to compile an online database of thepeople buried in the city's Warstone Lane and Key Hill Cemeteries.

          ITV News reports:
          The voluntary group’s website, is still under development, and contains database with lists of graves and in some cases biographies, obituaries and photographs or portraits of the deceased ...
          They say they receives hundreds of visitors on their website each week from around the world, ranging from historians to people researching family histories. 
          But they have now been banned from taking photos of each gravestone unless they apply in writing for permission on a ‘case by case’ basis.
          The report also quotes a spokesman for the council:
          Permission for this request was declined on the basis that once this information is held by a third party then the council will have no control over how it may be used in future, without a formal agreement in place.
          Which must mean it never issues press releases, because it has no control over how they are used either.

          If you asked Birmingham City Council to fund this work, they would (quite truthfully) tell you that their finances are under unprecedented pressure.

          Which makes it a shame that the only departments they still fund are the ones that stop other people doing things.

          Anyway, enjoy the Jewellery Quarter Research Trust website.

          Lord Bonkers' Diary: A shadow cabinet maker

          As I mentioned in yesterday's post on the botched attempt to oust Nick Clegg in 2014, the new Liberator is out.

          Which means, whether we like it or not, it is time to spend some more time at Bonkers Hall.

          A shadow cabinet maker

          My cabinetmaker calls this morning to effect some repairs to one of my Sheraton sideboards. They are occasioned by too vigorous a celebration of the anniversary of Graham Tope's victory at Sutton and Cheam – really, once the members of the Liberal Democrat Women’s executive committee get a few pints of Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter down them no piece of furniture is safe.

          I always enjoy watching a skilled tradesman at work, but I am puzzled by the man he has brought with him. At every turn he exclaims "You’re doing that all wrong" or "I wouldn’t do it like that". When the fellow is out of the room, I ask who he is. "Oh," comes the reply, "he’s a shadow cabinet maker".

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

          Sunday, January 31, 2016

          How Nick Clegg was nearly toppled in 2014



          The new Liberator is out, which means a limited amount of copy from it is available on the magazine's website.

          From there you can download a PDF of an article by Seth Thévoz - "A Very Nearly Successful Coup."

          It tells the story of the attempt to topple Nick Clegg as Liberal Democrat leader and argues that it came far nearer to succeeding that was generally realised at the time:
          What destroyed the coup was when the second wave of MPs got ‘the wobbles’. A disciplined media grid had set out a detailed timetable of MPs who would go public in waves of two or three at a time, staggered with other parliamentarians, to build a sense of momentum. 
          On day one, a members’-led open letter calling on Clegg to resign was released as per the plan. (This was never a petition as claimed – it was an open letter which envisioned 20 signatures. It accidentally secured over 400.) 
          On day two, the first two MPs went ‘over the top’, publicly calling for Clegg’s resignation, and were joined by a third MP who wasn’t scheduled to declare until several days later, jumping the gun.
          Then on day three, we were badly let down by one MP. The response of his colleagues was “If he’s not going, I’m out” – which spread like a chain reaction among MPs and peers. The activists roped in to do the MPs’ dirty work were left holding the baby.
          Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceThe moral is clear. If you want to know what is going on in the Liberal Democrats you should subscribe to Liberator.

          Disused railway stations in Bradford, Calderdale and Wakefield



          A varied selection from this part of West Yorksshire.

          I can remember Altofts being open - it closed in 1990.

          There are lots more of these videos on this blog. Find them on the Disused Stations label.

          Wellington Womble: Rainmaker



          On I promised a Sunday music choice inspired by the great drought of 1976. And here it is.

          The other day I was followed on Twitter by Mike Batt, the man behind The Wombles. They were the biggest selling British band of 1974 - and if you look at what else was in the charts that year, you can see why.

          By 1976 drugs, Bungo's relationship with a Japanese conceptual artist and the inevitable differences over musical direction had caused the furry creatures to fall out with one another.

          The result was that Wellington Womble tried a solo career with a song called Rainmaker. It turns out not be a cover of the Traffic song but a topical song inspired by the drought.

          Sadly, it was not a hit.

          But the exciting news is that The Wombles are coming back.

          Lord Lucan, John Aspinall and George Osborne



          A new theory about what happened Lord Lucan after he murdered Sandra Rivett in 1974 emerged this week.

          According to the Daily Mail, he shot himself and was then fed to a tiger at John Aspinall's zoo in Kent.

          I don't believe a word of it, but the Lucan story has always fascinated me.

          The best picture of John Aspinall is to be found in John Pearson's The Gamblers, but a few quotes will suffice.

          Here is the Daily Express from 2013:
          "Aspinall was a total crook," says Sir Rupert [Mackeson] now. "He started in the days when gambling was illegal away from racecourses. His mother Lady Osborne was a real force behind the operation." 
          Aspinall and his mother were charged with "keeping a common gaming house" but were acquitted on a technicality in 1958. ... 
          Aspinall opened the Clermont in 1962 after gambling had been legalised and its founder members included five dukes, five marquesses and nearly 20 earls. 
          Aspinall was determined to relieve the bluebloods of their money and use the funds to finance his private zoo where he bred tigers. 
          "He employed crooked dealers and used a wide range of techniques for cheating," says Sir Rupert. "He encouraged rich people, young aristocrats and in particular rich divorcees, to come to his club. A lot of people were ruined. Lucan lost a fortune and so became a house player for Aspinall."
          Some of the money Aspinall fleeced from the aristocracy went to fund his zoos and wildlife breeding projects. But lest you feel too warm to him about that, read this anonymous blog post:
          Both Howletts and Port Lympne seemed to attract human disaster. Aspinall's daughter-in-law, Louise, was bitten by a tiger cub and needed 15 stitches. A boy of 10 had his arm ripped off by a chimpanzee at Port Lympne, and was awarded £132,000 in damages. Bindu, an English bull elephant, crushed a "bonding" keeper to death at Howletts and later Darren Cockrill, who was crushed by an elephant at Port Lympne in February 2001. 
          In 1994, the local council banned the keepers from entering the tiger cages after one of their number, Trevor Smith, was killed at Howletts.
          My reason for writing about Aspinall, beyond the Lucan and tiger story, is his mother. Because Lady Osborne is also the grandmother of George Osborne.

          Her first husband was Dr Robert Aspinall and John was the child of that marriage (though John is said to have discovered in later life that he was not Robert's son and to have found and supported his real father).

          Her second was Sir George Osborne. They had four children together, and George Osborne is the son of the third of them.

          He was famously christened Gideon, but changed his name to George, in honour of his grandfather who was dead by then, at the age of 13.

          So that is my Trivial Fact of the Day.

          It also explains why you can find headlines like:

          Lord Lucan 'told George Osborne's grandmother he was planning to kill his WIFE days before he murdered his nanny and then drowned himself days later'