Thursday, July 02, 2020

How David Bowie encouraged the formation of The Move

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I was exploring the excellent Brumbeat site the other day when I came across this gem on the page for The Move:
A band from London called "Davy Jones and The Lower Third" were performing one evening in Birmingham at the trendy Cedar Club on Constitution Hill. Their vocalist Davy Jones (later known as David Bowie) suggested to Trevor Burton and Ace Kefford that they should form their own group. 
Ace Kefford recalled; "Trev and I were there one night and Davy Jones and The Lower Third was on. They were like The Who with target jumpers, hipster trousers, doing stuff like 'Heatwave' and 'Needle In A Haystack'. Chatting afterwards, David put the notion in our heads of forming our own band. 
We approached Roy Wood who was already singing that sort of stuff with The Nightriders. I had a similar spot in The Vikings doing 'Jump Back' and 'Every Little Bit Hurts', trying to copy Stevie Winwood like everyone else."

Six of the Best 940

"In a move that suggests its back to business as usual punishing people on benefits, a three-month suspension of sanctions introduced in response to the Coronavirus pandemic is coming to an abrupt halt." Mary O'Hara on the swift return of the blame and shame narrative to the benefits system.

Writing in the New York Times, Alex Marshall has noticed the British government's unwillingness to help the arts sector survive lockdown.

Anita Sethi says the joys of nature can seem out of reach if your class, ethnicity or access to transport make the countryside a no-go zone.

"On the brink of adulthood - not knowing where I would study, where I might live, what men I would love, whether I would have children - I felt that everything I might need to know about marriage, about love, about life itself, was encompassed in the novel’s eight hundred and fifty pages." Rebecca Mead has a lifelong love for George Eliot's Middlemarch.

Carl Reiner died this week. Earlier this year Hadley Freeman spoke to him and Mel Brooks about their 70-year friendship.

Ka Bradley reviews the cats in her garden: "A muscular, convincing performer brimming with debonair, Blinky's feints at songbirds and his occasional brawls with the foxes are heralded by the tinkle of his collar – which he has been given, my plus one assures me, for being 'extra naughty'."

Putin's grandfather cooked for Lenin and Stalin

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Our Trivial Fact of the Day is a doozy. Vladimir Putin's paternal grandfather cook for both Lenin and Stalin at a Moscow dacha.

You can find it in a Reuters story from 2018. The Wikipedia entry for Putin tells the same story, referencing Victor Sebestyen's Lenin the Dictator.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

The legacy of Saxon Leicestershire

Time for the third of Jim Butler's Hidden Histories videos.

This one explores the legacy of Saxon Leicestershire, through archaeological finds, place names and the lives of two remarkable ladies of Mercia.

Whatever happened to Little Bowden Junction signal box?

My photo, taken in 1980 or thereabouts, shows Little Bowden Junction signal box in Market Harborough.

It stood on the Midland main line until the major resignalling project of 1987. That, however, was not the end of its story. 

The box was taken down and re-erected at the Coventry Steam Railway Centre, which later became the Electric Railway Museum.

This closed in 2017 when the city council declined to renew its lease because the site was wanted for redevelopment.

I have found reports that  at least some of the locomotive and rolling stock found homes elsewhere, but nothing about Little Bowden Junction box.

Does anyone know what happened to it?

Man's hell as special trip out for fish turns into parking nightmare

PlymouthLive wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Ed Davey and Layla Moran: It's déjà vu all over again

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Calder's Sixth Law of Politics holds that all Lib Dem leadership elections are reruns of the Liberal Party leadership conetest between David Steel and John Pardoe in 1976

As I once blogged:
You could argue that the 1976 contest set a pattern for later Liberal and Liberal Democrat leadership elections.

One candidate (Steel) was orthodox, sensible and just a little dull. The other (Pardoe) was more charismatic, more open to new ideas and just a little unreliable in his judgement.

So in later contests Paddy Ashdown was a Pardoe and Alan Beith was a Steel. And Chris Huhne was a Pardoe and Ming Campbell and then Nick Clegg were Steels.
Not all contests have obeyed my law as clearly, but this time it is spot on. It's clear that Ed Davey is the Steel and Layla Moran is the Pardoe.

For me, Ed is being a bit too much of a Steel for his own good, but I shall not be declaring my support for either candidate until I have seen more of the campaign. I have urged the same course of action on other Lib Dem members.

In case you are curious, you can find all seven of my Laws of Politics in a recent post on this blog.

The often forgotten tale of the Peaks

This video tells the story of British Rail's class 44, 45 and 46 diesel locomotives.

The 45s looked after passenger services on the Midland main line in the years when there was a real possibility that St Pancras would be demolished and the video tell that story too.

Haringey Lib Dems call for Britain's first Indian MP to be celebrated

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Sir Dadabhai Naoroji, Liberal MP for Finsbury Central between 1892 and 1895, was the first Indian and non-white person elected to the House of Commons.

Now Haringey's Liberal Democrat councillors are calling for a park, school or main road in Muswell Hill to be renamed in his honour or for a statue or plaque to be erected to commemorate him.

Cllr Julia Ogiehor, Lib Dem councillor for Muswell Hill, says:
"By remembering that Victorian voters were willing to choose an Indian campaigner against the Empire as their MP, we are remembering that whilst racism has a long history, so too does anti-racism."
The councillors have set up a petition to gather support for their call.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Six of the Best 939

"I have reported on British politics for almost three decades, and have never encountered a senior British politician who lies, cheats and fabricates as habitually or systematically - or with as much inventive relish - as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson." Peter Oborne says we are now in the same family of nations as Putin’s Russia, Modi's India, Sisi’s Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Jennifer Williams writes on the plight of homeless families in bed and breakfast accommodation under lockdown.

Jack Flemming was not impressed by his encounter with Britain's Covid-19 testing system.

"I was playing in a Minor Counties match when one of the opposition - a guy who had just retired after a first-class career - kept asking me if I had any bananas in my bag. I asked what he meant and all his team-mates laughed." In a series of interviews, George Dobell discovers what it has been like to be a black player in English cricket.

Jane Dunford hopes the Slow Ways network will change walking in Britain.

Jem Aswad watches a new documentary on the death of the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones.

Leicester schools closed for at least two weeks

Matt Hancock has just made a Commons statement announcing measures to combat the spike in Covid-19 infections detected in Leicester.

Non-essential shops will close again for at least the next fortnight and school will be closed again, except for vulnerable children and those of critical workers.

The measures cover not just the city of Leicester but also surrounding settlements including Oadby, Birstall and Glenfield.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Should we publish daily totals of the number of nominations Lib Dem leadership candidates have amassed?

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What do the Liberal Democrats need from the current leadership election?

I’d say it’s, above all, a good debate about the future of the party between candidates who offer clear and contrasting visions for it. We also need to see how those candidates perform in debate and when faced with difficult questions.

Well, we have two candidates with contrasting visions, but will we have the debate? At present the party is encouraging people to nominate one of the candidates by publishing running totals every afternoon.

So, of course, the two camps are doing all they can to encourage Lib Dem members to nominate their candidate. As both are a long way past the 200 nominations they need, this seems to me unfortunate.

Because it means the campaign will open with a significant percentage of the electorate already having committed themselves. Of course people can change their minds, but committing yourself in this way makes it less likely that you will do so.

Which leaves the danger that the campaign will become more about cheering your candidate on and less about the future of the party.

That may sound too idealistic, but we need to do some hard thinking because it's by no means guaranteed that this party has a future.

But then I always seem to be disappointed by our leadership elections.

Before the last contest (which turned out to be a coronation) I wrote a post under the title Forget “the Lib Dem family”: Let’shave proper leadership elections itemising how previous contests, from John Pardoe’s wig to Tim Farron’s religion, had failed to live up to my hopes and concluding:

It looks to me as though we Lib Dems are too scared of rocking the boat to have really informative leadership elections.

Some like to talk of the “Lib Dem family,” but in my experience happy families are those that can have lively discussions, even rows, and make their peace afterwards.

We Lib Dems, by contrast, resemble an unhappy family where everyone is sat around the dining table on their best behaviour and terrified of saying the wrong thing.

Bizarre report of 50 people with suitcases in Ardingly

The judges were unanimous: today's Headline of the Day Award goes to The Argus.

In addition, they are well aware that the Great Central went nowhere near Ardingly, but they liked this photo.

Joan Armatrading: Me Myself I

A woman singer-songwriter who has enjoyed a 40-year career? That's unusual. 

 A Black British woman singer-songwriter who has enjoyed a 40-year career? That must be unique. 

 Joan Armatrading is one of those artists who has been there for as long as I have been interested in music. And for that reason it is easy to forget what an unusual career she has had.
I stand by what I wrote when I chose her Willow, except that she has now enjoyed a 50-year career. 

Me Myself I was a single taker from her 1980 LP of the same name.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Local lockdown for Leicester?

Robert Peston suggests that the first local Covid-19 lockdown could be imposed within days and that it may well be in Leicester.
He notes that there has been a surge in cases there, with 658 reported in the fortnight to 16 June.

Peston writes:
New data on the prevalence of the virus in the area has been delivered to Leicester's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, according to the LeicesterLive website, and he said his officials were analysing the data over the weekend. 
I am told that the data does not yet show that a full lockdown is required. 
A senior official said: ‘It would need to be driven by the data and we’re not at that stage right now. We are very actively managing [this] and analysing it at the moment. Time will tell.’
Outbreaks of Vovid-19 have been reported at the Samworth Bros sandwich factory in the city and at a Sainsbury's superstore. Five Leicester schools have been closed because of the virus..

Tory MP for Harborough blocks local Labour Party on Twitter

The Harborough Labour Twitter accounts says it has been blocked by Neil O'Brien MP.

You may say nothing that happens on Twitter matters very much, but I think this is a shame.

Democratically elected politicians should be prepared to talk to people from other parties.

Dracula’s links to Aberdeenshire strengthened after church renovation discovery

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The Scotsman wins out Headline of the Day Award.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Six of the Best 938

Philippe Sands sees the British government still defending our colonial legacy: "Five decades on, many former residents of the Chagos Archipelago still wished to go home, supported by Mauritius, many other African countries, and much of the world besides. This was one of the purposes of the resolution before the General Assembly—and it was, of course, precisely such a matter as the United Nations was created to address."

"If you use a piece of data as a target or as a box that must be ticked, then the data will become inaccurate. That's Goodhart's Law." David Boyle introduces us to an important concept.

Boak and Bailey give their initial thoughts on the guidance for reopening pubs.

Flickering Lamps watches airships over London - in war and peace.

"Tony Benn, who was a cousin, spoke of her as a genial companion and produced a photo for a BBC documentary of the two of them sitting in deck chairs on a beach. He said she was exactly the same on screen and off." Jack Buckley says Margaret Rutherford was a gift from the gods.

Backwatersman shares my affection for Vic Marks: "His estimate of his Test career may be accurate rather than merely self-deprecating, but his one-day bowling (which he rather underplays) entitled him to respect (both his average and economy rates were superior to his England contemporaries Emburey, Miller and Hemmings)."

Article 39 wins right to challenge reduction in protection of children in care

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
The High Court has granted the children’s rights charity Article 39 a judicial review of the Department for Education’s removal and dilution of legal protections for children in care.

These changes were announced overnight in April with the Covid-19 pandemic given as the reason, yet DfE has been trying to bring in some of these changes for several years.

Given the seriousness of the changes and the vulnerability of the affected children, Article 39 asked the court for the case to be expedited. This was also agreed by the court, and the  hearing will take place on 27 and 28 July.

Carolyne Willow, the charity's director, told the Independent:
"We know from past tragedies that too often children’s suffering goes hidden until it is too late and the harm has been done.

"Before the pandemic, at least half of local authorities were struggling to meet their statutory children’s social care duties – as judged by Ofsted – and councils have been saying for years that they are desperate for funds.

"Ministers should have been focused on ensuring local authorities had the financial support they needed to keep children in care safe and protected, rather than dismantling safeguards."
One requirement lifted – for a six-monthly review of a child’s care – dates from the death of 12-year-old Dennis O'Neill at a farm in Shropshire in 1945.

Boris Johnson offers a devastating analysis of Boris Johnson


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Michael Mullaney on fighting for a Liberal Midlands

In this edition of the Lib Dem Podcast Leicestershire's own Michael Mullaney talks about the new group Lib Dems for the Heart of England. It has been set up to revive the party's fortunes in the Midlands.

You can read more from Michael on the group and the battle to revive the party beyond the South of England in his guest post on this blog.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

London's hidden hamlet of Snaresbrook

It's high time we had another walk with John Rogers. He describes it on YouTube like this:
A walk through the lost Hamlet of Snaresbrook on the edge of Epping Forest, now a part of the parish of Wanstead in the London Borough of Redbridge. We cross Leyton Flats to the Eagle Pond and look at the Eagle Pub. Here we see a section of the Sayers Brook or Sayes Brook that gives Snaresbrook its name. We also see Snaresbrook Crown Court which was built in 1841 as the Infant Orphan Asylum. 
From here we walk along Woodford Road to look at the modernist wonder of Hermitage Court before walking down Eagle Lane to Falcon Close. I ponder upon the idea of Hauntology, a term first used by Jacques Derrida but popularised by Mark Fisher particularly in relation to music culture. Fisher spoke of "the failure of the 21st Century to really arrive" and how in the 21st Century "culture floating free from time" .  I wonder whether the modernist architecture of Hermitage Court is another example of a "lost future". 
From Falcon Way we look at the Merchant Seaman's Orphan Asylum on Hermon Hill built in 1861, then walk down Cranbourne Avenue to Elmcroft Avenue where we enter the Roding Valley Park. We explore the wonderful parkland beside the North Circular Road and River Roding as far as Charlie Brown's Roundabout and then turn up Chigwell Road to Hermon Hill. Our walk ends at Holy Trinity Church, South Woodford. 
Psychogeography keeps you fit.

Sherlock Holmes on the dangers of the countryside

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I used to run a second blog called Serendib, which I jotted down striking passages from books I was reading.

Maybe I didn't read enough books, because the blog did not last.

But if I were still running it I would have added this passage from Conan Doyle's story The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.
"Do you know, Watson," said he, "that it is one of the curses of a mind with a turn like mine that I must look at everything with reference to my own special subject. You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there."

"Good heavens!” I cried. “Who would associate crime with these dear old homesteads?"

"They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."

"You horrify me!"

"But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser."

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A snapshot of forgotten post-war railway history

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Browsing railway photographs on GettyImages, as you do, I came across this. Taken at Bristol Temple Meads in May 1952, it shows a locomotive with a remarkable history.

British Rail 18100 was a prototype gas turbine-electric locomotive commissioned by the Great Western Railway in the 1940s but not delivered until 1951. It spent its working life hauling express passenger services on BR's Western Region.

In 1958 it was withdrawn from service to be converted into an electric locomotive, numbered E1000 (E2001 from 1959), and was then used for testing and staff training in connection with the electrification of the West Coast main line.

It was put into store at the end of 1961, but lasted until November 1972 when it was cut up for scrap.

Six of the Best 937

Nick Barlow looks at the Liberal Democrats and 'equidistance': "The Liberal Democrats of 2020 are in the same position with regard to the election of 2024 (or whenever) and I can’t foresee a situation in which you could credibly claim the Tories of Johnson (or his successor) and Starmer’s Labour are two sides of the same coin."

"For what, in the end, does a social safety net do? It allows us greater control and agency over our lives. It allows us to stay home and take care of our health, rather than go to work in a crowded factory. It allows us to obtain economic freedom from a violent marriage. In doing all these things, it allows human diversity to flourish." Jonathan Cohen says "individual freedom vs public health" is a false dilemma in the Covid-19 era.

Lenore Skenazy discusses the importance of play, working through fears, and raising independent kids with the psychologist Peter Gray in the first Supervision Not Required podcast.

"Of all those who sing and have sung the ancient Cotswold tracks, however, no voice is more poignant than the pastoral composer and poet, Ivor Gurney." Anne Louise Avery takes to the Cotswold Way.

"Despite the cumulative formative hours spent muttering and groaning alongside my brothers and sisters, on pavements outside countless cold, dusty and child-unfriendly secondhand bookshops; often peering in through uncleaned windows in forlorn hope of catching sight of Mum or Dad beating a retreat, having at last exhausted their capacity for browsing,  I love second-hand bookshops." Richly Evocative on being the child of two secondhand book dealers.

Jarvis Cocker talks about his new project, why prehistoric cave dwellers were the world's first ravers, and why he's uncomfortable being called a 'National Treasure'.

Wera Hobhouse drops out of Lib Dem leadership race and backs Layla Moran

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Stephen Bush writes on the New Statesman site:
Wera Hobhouse has ended her campaign for the Liberal Democrat leadership and has thrown her weight behind Layla Moran, cementing the Oxford West and Abingdon MP’s status as the candidate to beat.

In a statement to her supporters, the Bath MP said that “we must accept that we are no longer the best vehicle” to deliver her aims of “pulling our party firmly to the centre-left, rebuilding our local government base, securing a progressive alliance, and moving effort and resources to our regions”.

In a coded rebuke to Ed Davey, the party’s deputy leader, MP for Kingston, and Moran’s sole rival for the leadership, Hobhouse warned against becoming a "London-centric" party. Moran described herself as "delighted" to have received Hobhouse’s endorsement.
I am not sure those who fear a London-centric party will see an Oxford-based leader as a huge bonus. In recent days I have seen people noting that the launch of Layla's Build Back Better document featured speakers from London, Oxford and Cambridge - and nowhere else.

And I suspect Wera's campaign was damaged by a rather less coded rebuke to Ed Davey the other day.

Still, this must be a boost for Layla even if it is odd for a party that worships the single transferable vote to end up with just two candidates.

Me? I voted for Ed last time but am definitely Layla curious. She is the Pardoe in this contest, after all.