Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Mike Hendrick (1948-2021)

The death of Mike Hendrick today will not have come as a surprise to anyone who read Mike Atherton's unexpectedly moving article on the England team that won back the Ashes in 1981.

Atherton told us that Hendrick had been suffering from liver and bowel cancer for a long time and, in his own words, was "in the departure lounge, but the flight has not left yet".

Hendrick was a fine seam bowler with career figures to prove it. In tests he took 87 wickets at 25.83 and in first-class cricket 770 wickets at 20.50.

One oddity of his test record is that no bowler has got so many wickets without taking five in an innings.

There were those who said this confirmed the impression that Hendrick was a uniquely unlucky bowler who beat the bat over and over again without finding the edge. Others said that if only he had bowled a little fuller and a little straighter he would have taken even more wickets.

Hendrick was playing when I saw my first day of test cricket - the fourth and final day of the 1974 Edgbaston test against India. England took eight wickets to win by an innings and Hendrick got three of them.

He was also part of the most exciting day's play I have ever seen live - England's victory over Pakistan in the 1979 World Cup. You can see the four wickets he took in the video above.

And below you can see a long interview with Hendrick about his career that he recorded only last month.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

GUEST POST Is a Yellow Wall emerging?

Matthew Pennell asks if the Liberal Democrats are in the business of building walls as well as knocking them down.

The media is obsessed with presenting events as dramatic and unprecedented, therefore it reported on the weakening of Labour’s hold on industrial heartland seats with alacrity. You’ve probably seen the phrase ‘Red Wall’ in print a thousand times since the 2019 General Election. 

Two years on and it has a generals-fighting-the-previous-battle quality to it. All walls can fall down and we’re now seeing the cracks in the Southern Blue Wall that Liberal Democrats were hoping in vain to chip away at in 2019. 

No one ever talks about a Yellow Wall because our Westminster power base isn’t substantial enough to represent a heartland, we have a cluster in South West London, that’s it.

In a post on my own blog about Lib Dem local election success in the countryside, I mentioned the jam doughnuts around university towns. Now in the Thames Valley, Cotswolds and Avon hinterland we have more of a family-sized lasagne dish emerging. 

The Oxfordshire halo spreading out from the county town nearly merges with the block of Gloucestershire Lib Dem-held county divisions, which in turn is connected to a number of councils in Somerset we gained in 2019. 

Now it’s possible to ramble from the Monmouthshire-Herefordshire border in an Easterly direction and walk 150 miles through 95 per cent Lib/Lab/Independent county council divisions until you’re within sight of London on the Southern flank of the Chilterns. 

This area might not be solidly Lib Dem when it comes to Westminster elections but it’s certainly more than a cluster, taking in Somerset, North West Wilts, Gloucestershire, parts of Hereford and most of southern Oxfordshire.

There has been plenty of commentary about the centre of gravity shifting for the party, away from our traditional South West England homeland and more towards the South East of England. 

Certainly, opportunities now abound in Surrey, Sussex, Buckinghamshire and Hertforshire - things are tough for us in Cornwall and I don’t really have an answer as to how we turn things around in the land of my fathers (my surname is Cornish for hilltop). 

Recent success in Oxfordshire, Shropshire and Gloucestershire suggests to me we're not limited to the London Home Counties commuter-belt that certain pundits say we are. 

The various clusters that have grown to the point where they connect on the local elections map - a new Thames/Severn/Avon Valley heartland - how much does it matter that they form a wall? 

At the most basic level if you can win in a wide geographical area it’s more durable than one small area, or outpost of support. You win in one area, make it safe, then send your activists next door to win in a social-economically similar place. 

It’s no coincidence that we won St Albans in the last General Election then picked up Chesham and Amersham 20 miles away, this would’ve been much more difficult if the nearest Lib Dem seat was 50 or more miles away in terms of mobilising support and convincing locals it was possible. 

While most people aren’t focussed on politics most of the time, at street level the general public see multiple amber diamond stakeboards up in your constituency, that creates visibility for hundreds driving through who live in the neighbouring seat.

If the Lib Dems centre of gravity is really shifting east is this a problem? 

Some are uncomfortable at us being portrayed as the party of leafy suburbia, spa towns, university towns and heritage towns. I’d say this is only a problem if the party’s success is so lop-sided towards affluent areas there was mission creep in our policy platform and we became less progressive. 

And we have to start somewhere - in the 1980s it was breaking out of our Scots/Welsh/Cornish Celtic fringe to win in every region and nearly every major city of mainland Britain. 

Anyway, here’s hoping in the next few years we’re not just knocking down other people’s walls but putting up a few of our own.

Matthew Pennell blogs at returnoftheliberal and you can follow him on Twitter.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Alphaville: Forever Young

I don't believe in the concept of "guilty pleasures" anymore as I'm no longer trying to impress the imaginary cool people in my head, as Alexei Sayle once put it..

After last week's Beach Baby, here is another song that I once felt guilty about liking.

I first came across it in the early 1990s via an unlikely source. The great East Midlands broadcaster John Shaw was giving up is Sunday night show Here Be Dragons because it no longer suited the management of the independent station Leicester Sound.

This was the penultimate record he played and, as he said, it sounded good going out into a dark Sunday night.

He finished with The Levellers:

Got to go go, get out of here
Go away, they don't want me here
Got to go go, get out of here, cos
This means nothing to me
The way we were is the way that I wanna be

John Shaw, who died in 2013 aged only 56, later broadcast Here Be Dragons on Saga Radio. I'm sorry I didn;t know this at the time, as he certainly helped widen my musical horizons in his Leicester Sound days.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Six of the Best 1018

"Emmett Till was killed early on the morning of August 28, 1955, one month and three days after his 14th birthday. His mother’s decision to show his body in an open casket, to allow Jet magazine to publish photos - "Let the world see what I’ve seen," she said - became a call to action." Wright Thompson visits the barn where Emmett Till was killed. It is now used to store the owner's Christmas decorations 

"Britain’s postwar economy created so many white collar jobs in the public and service sectors that it required no unusual ability or hard work or overwhelming ambition to fill one of them: they sucked us in like a sponge." Ian Jack on his experience of education and social mobility.

Ian Forth was asked 20 years ago to look at ways of widening cricket's appeal. Based on his research then, he says The Hundred is not the answer.

Katie Marshall shines a spotlight on the witches of Belvoir Castle.

"In line with other children’s drama of this era, this adaptation tackles, head-on, themes of death, bereavement, isolation and displacement alongside physical and mental child abuse with strong undercurrents of the supernatural and creeping threat." Robert Taylor looks at the BBC's 1988 adaptation of Helen Creswell's Moondial.

Flickering Lamps finds the graves of Alexander Kerensky on the edge of Wimbledon Common.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Earl Cameron interviewed at the BFI

The long career of the actor Earl Cameron, who has died aged 102, mirrored changes in both British cinema and society. His debut, playing a West Indian merchant seaman, was in the ostensibly modest film noir Pool of London (1951). 

In retrospect it can be seen as a milestone in its depiction of a relationship between a black worker and a young white woman – the first time the subject had been sensitively handled in a British film.

The opening of Earl Cameron's Guardian obituary (he died last year) tells us of his social importance, but it's worth emphasising that he was a very fine actor too,

Cameron was interviewed by Dylan Cave at the British Film Institute in 2015 for this video, when he was a stripling of 97.

As well as Pool of London, Cameron talks about making The Heart Within (one of my key children-and-bombsite films) with James Hayter and a young David Hemmings.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Department for Transport halts work on East Midlands leg of HS2

The Birmingham Post reports:
Work on the eastern leg of the High Speed Two rail line has stopped, the project's chief executive has admitted. Officials are busy preparing plans to extend the HS2 line north west to Manchester, but they have been told by the Department for Transport to halt work on the planned section between Birmingham and the East Midlands, and onwards to Leeds.

HS2 Chief Executive Mark Thurston said: "We wait to be guided by the Department on what we do with the eastern link."
It has been rumoured for some time that the East Midlands leg of HS2 is under review. And, as someone who has always found this project hard to love, I am not heartbroken at this news.

I know the arguments about HS2 increasing the capacity for regional services, it's just that they appear not to hold true here in the East Midlands.

As Jones the Planner blogged back in April 2013:
The HS2 business case claims that 80% of passengers from Nottingham will transfer from MML to HS2, and to help this heroic punt come true, hidden in with the small print, you find the assumption that direct trains from the new Nottingham Hub to St Pancras will be cut by half. Well, that will do a lot for city centre competitiveness, I don’t think. 
So actually Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield get a worse train service to their city centres, where most people want to be, than they do now - but great if you want to drive to a Parkway station. Leicester, a city of some half a million people will no longer have a mainline service as such. 
It is bizarre if not surprising that a project which started with the aim of boosting provincial cities should end up promoting plans which will hugely undermine city centres and urban economies and positively promote exurban motorway sprawl.
For this reason I would rather see money spent on the electrification of the Midland main line all the way to Sheffield and on local improvements, such as the proposed 'diveunder' at Nuneaton to allow a direct from Nottingham and Leicester to Coventry.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Runaway Railway (1966)

A hybrid of The Titfield Thunderbolt and The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery made for children in 1966, you say? With Ronnie Barker and Jon Pertwee in the cast? Count me in.

Pertwee is not the film's only link with Doctor Who. Among the child actors is Roberta Tovey, who appeared in the two films in which Peter Cushing played the Doctor.

Sadly, I did not see Runaway Railway when Talking Pictures TV screened it as part of their Saturday morning pictures the other day, but I was alerted to it by a Twitter thread from Tim Dunn.

There is a short article on the film with stills on the Obscure Train Moves blog and you can enjoy the first few minutes above.

Then you can watch the whole thing online, but I didn't tell you that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

How bus privatisation has failed Brtiain

Gwyn Topham, the Guardian's transport correspondent, writes:

Britain’s bus services outside London were so damaged by privatisation that people were unable to access basic needs such as work, education and healthcare, according to a scathing report by the former UN special rapporteur on human rights.

Many people in Britain had lost jobs and benefits, been forced to give up on education, or been cut off from communities and healthcare as bus services grew more expensive, unreliable, and dysfunctional after the 1985 reform, the inquiry found.

The report, Public Transport, Private Profit: The human cost of privatizing buses in the United Kingdom, is published by New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.

It provides more evidence that the Thatcherite model of privatisation, which imagined powerful corporations being reined in by publicly appointed regulators, has been a failure.

This chart, which is included with the Center's press release for the report, by drawing on the findings included in the government's new bus strategy for England, shows how it has failed in the bus industry.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The First Class: Beach Baby

There was a meme on Twitter a while back about the five albums in your collection that meant most to you when you were 17.

I doubt that I owned five albums at that age - blame poverty and the lack of anyone to guide me. And I am certain that when I was 14 I relied on Radio One and (under the bedclothes) Radio Luxembourg for my music.

Thanks to them, I have fond memories of this single from 1974. It may be an obvious Beach Boys pastiche, but it reached 13 in the UK singles chart. And in the US, where you think they'd have a good nose for such things, it got as high as number 4.

The song was written by John Cater and his wife Jill Shakespeare. Carter had already written Funny How Love Can Be for The Ivy League and Let's Go to San Francisco for The Flowerpot Men.

He had also sung the lead on Winchester Cathedral (in reality recorded by a group of session musicians but credited to The New Vaudeville Band) and backing vocals on The Who's I Can't Explain.

The First Class did not exist any more than The New Vaudeville Band or a number of other groups credited with Carter's hits had, so when Beach Baby made the charts a group had to be assembled to appear on Top of the Pops, (The Bonzos, incidentally, turned down the chance to tour as The New Vaudeville Band.)

I can see what attracted me to Beach Baby when I was 14: the production is stylish and it uses plenty of fun elements from The Beach Boys' back catalogue. But it's interesting that in 1974 we were already looking back to a golden age of pop and youth culture:

Just like before
We could walk by the shore
In the moonlight

Our legal correspondent writes: If the theme that enters just after the three-minute mark sounds familiar then consider yourself cultured, It was lifted from Sibelius's Fifth Symphony and the estate of the Finnish composer accepted a settlement out of court. Perhaps fortunately for the song's writers, most radio plays had faded out by then.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Walking London's lost River Peck

John Rogers goes in search of the course of the lost River Peck, which gives its name to Peckham in South London:

The Peck is said to rise near One Tree Hill in Honor Oak and then flows above ground across Peckham Rye before re-entering its culvert as it flows through the streets of Peckham just to the west of Copeland Road. Our walk then goes past Peckham Bus Garage to Kirkwood Road and picks up the course of the river again at Asylum Road near Queens Road Station. 

The river most likely flows beneath Brimmington Park but we continue along Asylum Road to look at the Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum. The walk takes us along the Old Kent Road to the point where the Peck crosses the road and heads along Ilderton Road to make its confluence with the Earl's Sluice near Bermondsey South Station.

John Rogers has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.