Tuesday, May 18, 2021

London's Lost Railways: Harrow and Stanmore

Back in the 1970s my mother and I would visit one of her aunts in Wealdstone by getting off the coach from Market Harborough to London at Hendon and then catching a bus.

That bus went through Belmont and I always looked for the old railway when we passed over it. I think there was more to seen then than there is today.

Anyway, enjoy the second video in Geoff Marshall's series on London's lost lines.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Gloucestershire Orville creator confesses to nearly killing David Jason with giant sugar lump

Gloucestershire Live wins our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges noted that its entry built upon an earlier winner of the very same award.

For, on 29 October 2020, the Independent was honoured for its:

Only Fools and Horses star David Jason ‘nearly killed by giant sugar cube’ while filming PG Tips advert

At the time I was inclined to accept the newspaper's implication that it was all an unfortunate accident.

But the revelation that the creator of Orville was involved casts a more sinister light on the affair.

A man who is capable of that is capable of anything.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band: Bad Penny Blues

There's a great story about this record and Humphrey Lyttelton tells it in another video.

Essentially, Joe Meek its producer had an enormous influence on the final sound. That would be expected today, but was unheard of in 1956.

Lyttelton says that if he had heard the record beforehand he would have vetoed its release. But he was abroad and by the time he got back to Britain it was already a hit. "So I shut up."

There is another story I have heard Lyttelton tell about this record, though I can't find it on the web.

He was walking down a corridor at the BBC in the 1960s and met John Lennon coming the other way. As they passed, Lennon pointed at him and said "Bad Penny Blues".

Paul McCartney must have liked it too, as you will discover if you listen to Lady Madonna.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Billy Barratt wins an International Emmy

I have blogged several times about the BBC television play Responsible Child, which looked at the way the British legal system deals with children accused of serious crimes.

In one of those posts I said that its young star Billy Barratt gave "the best performance by a child actor I have ever seen".

It seems I was not alone in estimating it so highly. In November 2020 Barratt won an International Emmy for the best TV performance by an actor that year.

This is a big deal. Recent winners of this award include Kenneth Branagh and Dustin Hoffman.

Responsible Child itself won the International Emmy for the best TV movie of mini-series and you can still watch it on the BBC iPlayer.

The Joy of Six 1008

"Marta tells us that just a few weeks ago, she was detained by British border authorities at Heathrow Airport, transferred in the middle of the night to the nearby 'Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre' (defined as a 'prison' even by Google Maps), and deported with a flight to Milan the day after." Antonello Guerrera on how Britain now treats EU nationals.

Geoffrey M. Hodgson outlines his long journey from socialism to liberalism.

"This decision is a crime. A brutish act of narrow Philistinism that will rob all future generations of a unique living, human tradition that took almost five centuries to grow. It can never be regained once lost. It is an abhorrent betrayal of the legislative duty of care and responsibility which every level of government, from the most local to the supra-national, has to protect heritage and community and culture." Brice Stratford on the government's decision to allow the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to be converted into a hotel:

"Britpop has a bad reputation for stolid, white-boy basicness now, but it’s not a reputation Parklife deserves. While Oasis stacked their support with soundalike guitar bands, seeing Blur at Mile End meant I also saw weirdo electro duo Sparks." Sarah Ditum stands up for Blur.

Johnny Restall revisits a drab, wet London for Séance On A Wet Afternoon (1964), a psychological thriller with supernatural undertones.

Flickering Lamps tales us behind the high walls of London’s Charterhouse.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Lib Dem views on the state of the party in Scotland and Wales

Writing on his blog A Scottish Liberal, Andrew Page has responded to Alex Cole-Hamilton's declaration that he is cheerful about the future of the Liberal Democrats.

Andrew is more fearful than cheerful:

When we talk among ourselves we have so many obvious selling points, with progressive, redistributive policies from UBI to federalism. We want to radically overhaul the way the UK works. We believe in a localism that empowers communities.  
But voters don’t hear that and it isn’t simply a by-product of limited media coverage but an unwillingness to shout about who we are. It’s as if we’re scared to take risks in case we lose what little ground we already have. 
And so, instead of communicating bold, radical visions for an alternative future we end up focusing on anti-SNP tactical squeeze messaging. That was never a recipe for growing the party, however much it helped grow the vote in North East Fife and Edinburgh Western.

Down in Wales, Democracy Coma is worried about the party too:

Poor leadership, vacuous messaging, a weak manifesto, no strategy for gaining votes to speak of, a poor digital presence and not even any freepost literature in most constituencies – whilst deeply sad for many hardworking candidates and campaigners, for the party as a whole the results were deserved.

They were also entirely predictable. We have failed to learn anything whatsoever from election results in Wales at all levels of government over the past 10 years. The party has made many mistakes in this time and arguably before that but has chosen to hide from them rather than address them. We can do this no longer.

And it's also worth looking at a Twitter thread from Stew Elliott on how we Lib Dems fared against the Green Party - though it may not make you feel more cheerful.

The Great Wheel of Earl’s Court

It lasted only 11 years, but the Great Wheel was a sensation in its day and is still remembered at Earl's Court if you look closely at the station's exterior.

Jago Hazzard is our guide. He has a Patreon, you know.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Monday, May 10, 2021

Write a guest post for Liberal England


I welcome guest posts on Liberal England and am happy to publish obes on subjects far beyond the Liberal Democrats and British politics.

In fact I could do with some guest posts on what the Lib Dems should do in the light of Thursday's elections. I am now a full-time carer, which limits the time I have to write longer posts of that sort.

If you would like to write for this blog, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Renaissance: Northern Lights

The band Renaissance has a complicated history. It was formed in 1969 by Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, two members of the Yardbirds who fell by the wayside as that band transformed itself into Led Zeppelin, and its original line up also include Relf's sister Jane.

In the Seventies a new line up emerged, with Annie Haslam as the lead vocatist. It was this incarnation that recorded Northern Lights, which reached number 10 in the UK Singles charts in the summer of 1978.

Roy Wood was involved with Renaissance a couple of decades after that, and the band is still going today. Only it has crossed the Atlantic and is now firmly American.

I liked Northern Lights back in 1978 and like it today. This is chiefly because of Haslam's voice, but it's also good to see a pretentious, late Seventies double-necked guitar again.

Two reasons Labour deserved to lose Hartlepool

Embed from Getty Images

Twitter is not Britain, they say. And that's just as well.

Much of the reaction I've seen on the platform from those disappointed at the result in the Hartlepool by-election has involved attacks on the town's voters. They are stupid, they are racist and so on.

But what if Labour got pretty much the result they deserved? What if they had a disaterous recent history on the local council and imposed the wrong candidate?

Here's a paragraph from the magisterial preview of the by-election that Andrew Teale wrote for Britain Elects:

Then the wheels really started to come off the clown car that is Hartlepool council. This is complicated, please bear with me. In 2018 the five UKIP councillors walked out of the party and, eventually, rebranded as a new party called the Independent Union. 

Just before the May 2019 elections the ruling Labour group suffered a huge split, with most of the leadership group walking off to join the Scargillite Socialist Labour Party. The electorate were not impressed, and in May 2019 ... Labour lost six of the nine wards they were defending and overall control of the council.

And here is Ailbhe Rea reporting her visit to the town in the New Statesman:

"Have you heard about our fantastic candidate, Dr Paul Williams?" a keen Labour activist asks an elderly gentleman who has answered his door in Seaton Carew, a seaside village a few minutes’ drive down the coast from Hartlepool’s centre. 

He is not voting Labour, he tells the canvasser, saying he has read that Williams was involved in the decision to close critical care at Hartlepool hospital (Williams, an NHS doctor, was indeed on the board that consulted on that decision).

Sometimes in politics you get the result you deserve.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

The Joy of Six 1007

I have long regretted choosing 'Six of the Best' as a name for a feature on this blog. I mentioned this in a recent post and, thanks to a suggestion there by Epictetus, I have my new title.

At least I can be confident that I will never come to regret using one based on a naff Seventies sex manual.

So on we go...

Shev Fogarty blames the Jersey government's new licensing system for the current fishing dispute.

"Having spent time in 2005 asking people around Scotland how they planned to vote, and why, the most common answer to the second question was ‘that’s how we’ve always voted’, often with an invocation of a father. ... These days, the most common answer is 'I’ll see what they have to say'. The SNP didn’t become a part of people’s identities in the way their old parties used to be. It just convinced them to be open-minded." Adam Ramsey explains how the Scottish political landscape has changed.

James Kirkup says education, not class, is Britain's real political divide.

Amanda Perkins talks about her experiences working with farmers, ornithologists and volunteers in the Shropshire hills on curlew conservation.

"By the time he wrote The Owl Service, [Alan] Garner was subverting both the style and the narrative structure of fantasy, creating a distinct voice and a numinous experience. Garner’s fantasy novel focuses on the angst, loves and rivalries of its teenage protagonists: what is at stake is the home and the family. And what disrupts them (but also offers the possibility of redeeming them) is a coherent mythological tradition: in this case, Welsh legend." Dimitra Fimi celebrates a novel that broke the rules of fantasy.

Ben Clifford takes us on six walks that encompass Croydon’s boundaries and history.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Richard Thompson on Fairport Convention, Hugh Cornwell and Sandy Denny

From the blurb on YouTube:

In which the beloved entertainer talks about his memoir 'Beeswing: Fairport, Folk and Finding My Voice 1967-1975', a rich and circuitous ramble that features Jimmy Shand, Louis Armstrong, a school band with Hugh Cornwell, sitar lessons with Andy Summers, the word game that invented 'Unhalfbricking', the genius of Sandy Denny, the 'backstabbing' folk community, the perils of the British stiff upper lip, a cardboard cut-out of Nick Drake, the Henry the Human Fly photoshoot, disinfecting sheep, the writing of Meet on the Ledge and the enduring mystery of the best song lyrics.

A Word in Your Ear appears weekly as a conventional podcast and is agreeable listening for music fans of a certain age.