Monday, February 18, 2019

Rediscovering the Bedford to Northampton line



This video traces the line that ran from Bedford to Northampton and finds a number of lineside railway buildings surviving on the way.

All three of Northampton's station served as the terminus of trains from Bedford in their time. I recently posted an aerial photo of the long-vanished Northampton St Johns.

The Independent Group feels more sad than hopeful

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Today's announcement by seven Labour MPs that they were leaving the party did not feel hopeful so much as sad.

It is hard to see much hope in the statement of values their Independent Group has published. It is hard to imagine anyone reading it and thinking: "At last someone has put into words what I have been feeling all these years."

Rather than the launch of a new movement, I see seven individuals who have succumbed to the hard left's perennial tactic of making life so unpleasant for those who oppose them that they eventually walk away from the fight.

After the victories of Trump, Corbyn and Leave, it is hard to say anything in politics is impossible. But it's hard to believe today's events will prove the start of something big.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Roy Goodman on Allegri's Miserere



The night the Liberal Party merged with the SDP, I played Allegri's Miserere as an expression of my feelings.

It was the famous recording made by the choir of King's College, Cambridge, in 1963, with Roy Goodman singing the treble solo.

Here is a documentary Goodman made for the BBC in 2006, which tells the story of that recording and investigates the complicated history of the piece.

State school pupils are 'potted plants', said Jacob Rees-Mogg

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There is nothing more absurd than an Old Etonian posing as an anti-elitist.

Anyone who has been taken in by Jacob Rees-Mogg's act should read this piece Andy McSmith published back in 2006:
State school pupils are 'potted plants', says Tory 
One of the leading members of the David Cameron generation of new Tories created a storm yesterday by comparing people who were not privately educated and did not go to Oxford or Cambridge universities to "potted plants". 
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who will be fighting one of the Tories' target seats at the next election, also gave the impression that he thinks that anyone educated in the state sector is incapable of writing an "articulate" letter. 
Mr Rees-Mogg was asked for his reaction to a survey by the BBC programme Newsnight which showed that 28 per cent of those on the A-list of people that Mr Cameron wants as future Tory MPs are from Oxford or Cambridge, and a majority - 52 per cent - were privately educated. 
Mr Rees-Mogg, the Eton and Oxford-educated son of the Tory peer and former editor of The Times, William Rees-Mogg, said: "Oxford and Cambridge are world-renowned universities that get the crème of British academic life. It would be absolutely perverse to be biased against some of the cleverest people in the country. 
"We don't want to make it harder for intellectually able people to be Tory party candidates. The Tory party, when it's elected, has to be able to form a government and it's not going to be able to form a government if it has potted plants as candidates simply to make up quotas."
Given the damage caused by its former pupils in recent years, I would put Eton into special measures and look for more candidates educated in the state sector as a matter of urgency.

Six of the Best 851

"First, some figures. From 1899 to 1902, roughly 48,000 people died in British concentration camps in South Africa. Of the 28,000 white deaths, 22,000 were children under the age of 16. More than 4,000 were women. The 20,000 Black deaths were less clearly recorded - a mark of official indifference - but most estimates suggest that about 80% were children." Robert Saunders puts Jacob Rees-Mogg right on British concentration camps in the Boer War.

"Being Asian and a curry lover you would think that I would feel sorry for him but I don’t. Those from immigrant communities who vote or advocate for narrow interests always draw my ire." Jane Chelliah is not moved by the secretary general of the Bangladesh Caterers Association's regret at influencing his members to vote Leave.

Paul Russell reconsiders the moral philosophy of Bernard Williams, whom I heard speak at York as a student.

John Boughton examines the history and architecture of the Church of England's engagement with council estates.

"We have one of the most complete town walls in Europe. But neglect and overdue repairs have led Historic England to add Ludlow town walls to its Heritage in Danger list. The town council should be ashamed of this." Andy Boddington on the failure to repair Ludlow's fallen town walls.

Tim Holyoake watches Shoestring again after 40 years and is not disappointed.

The Prodigy: Charly



The Prodigy's first single from 1991 and some good advice from Charley.

Wikipedia explains the sample:
Charley Says is a series of very short cut-out animated cartoon public information films for children, produced by the British government's Central Office of Information and broadcast in the United Kingdom in the 1970s and 1980s. Six films were made in 1973. 
Most of the topics dealt with everyday safety issues children face, such as not going off with strangers or not playing with matches. 
They featured a little boy called Tony (voiced by the seven-year-old son of one of the neighbours of producer Richard Taylor) and his cat, named Charley, voiced by Kenny Everett, who would "miaow" the lesson of the episode, which the boy would then translate and explain.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

David Penhaligon on Desert Island Discs

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Having blogged about John Pardoe's appearance on Desert Island Discs, I'd better do the same for my other Liberal hero of the 1970s, David Penhaligon.

You can hear the full programme on the BBC website.

By the time David Penhaligon appeared on the show, it had been taken over from its originator Roy Plomley by Michael Parkinson.

And if the date of broadcast on the BBC site is correct (March 1987), then Penhaligon was already dead when it aired.

For he died on 22 December 1986 in an early-morning car crash as he was on the way to visit postal workers coping with the Christmas rush. Cornwall Live published an article about his life and death at the end of last year.

David's widow Annette Penhaligon later wrote a book about him. It is one of the best accounts I have read of the Liberal Party in the years before merger with the SDP.

Funds needed to restore Bishop's Castle Railway weighbridge


Last summer I blogged that the Bishop's Castle Railway Society had begun restoration work on the old weighbridge at the town's former station.

This week the Shropshire Star reported on the progress that has been made. It quoted Lin Dalton, a committee member of the Bishop's Castle Railway Society and deputy project manager of The Weighbridge Project:
 "We have got quotes from builders and have broken it down to come to the figure of £25,000. We need to repair the walls, put on a new roof and also install new windows and doors. 
"We did go for Heritage Lottery Funding but unfortunately we didn't get it, so we are having to do it ourselves. We have been very lucky that we have had so many generous donations and some fundraising and now this is the final push.Once we have raised the final £8,000 we can give the builders the go-ahead. 
"Volunteers have already done an awful lot of work at the site, clearing undergrowth, stripping ivy from the building and tidying up. 
"They have also been working on the weighbridge mechanism to help get it in to better condition. We plan to be able to show people how it worked when it was operational."

The Old Fire Station, Market Harborough


These days I spend my free time wandering the back streets of obscure towns looking for unexpected buildings to photograph.

Today I was in the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough and came across this former fire station.

But seriously folks, this building in Abbey Street was our fire station from 1903 until the new one opened in Fairfield Road in 1989.

Today, imaginatively named The Old Fire Station, it is home to a number of small businesses, with a restaurant about to move in from premises across the road.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Trevor Eve and Harry H. Corbett in Shoestring



This video is a bit murky, but it contains an extract from Shoestring that brings together two great television performers.

Before he played Harold Steptoe, Harry H. Corbett was a revered method actor - the British Brando. And Trevor Eve did not use to be angry all the time.

Eve also appeared in a film with Albert Steptoe - Wilfrid Brambell - but you will need IMDB to tell you which.

Six of the Best 850

We must rebuff the calls to scrap GCSEs and A levels, says Mark Lehain, because they ensure every child gets a broad and balanced education until 16.

In the 1960s British Black TV drama was sharp, hard-hitting and streets ahead of America. Steve Rose asks what happened to it.

Gillian Darley on a Tolstoyan commune in Essex.

Backwatersman reviews Stephen Fay and David Kynaston's biography of John Arlott and E.W. Swanton. The England opener Peter Richardson emerges as a hero for his teasing of the latter. He "continued to vex him by submitting accounts of the doings of fictitious public schools to 'The Cricketer' and comically blimpish letters in praise of Swanton to 'The Daily Telegraph'."

"Before viewing Harlequin ... it’s best to set aside the old-fashioned notions of 'good' and 'bad.' They just don't apply here. I've watched the film twice now, and I still have no idea if it's a 'good' film or not. But it is flat-out crazily entertaining, and I love it." Jim Donahue watches the film directed by David Hemmings and starring Robert Powell.

Caroline from Flickering Lamps shows us the turbulent history of Clerkenwell's Spa Fields

School strike for climate action: The Kids are Alright



I know we are supposed to believe that every single day in school is precious and one lost is never recovered, but that is bollocks.

It was great to see schoolchildren protesting about climate change today.

In an age when MPs behave like spiteful children, someone has to play the adult.

So farewell then Andrew Neil and This Week


It was announced today that Andrew Neil is giving up presenting This Week and the BBC is taking the opportunity to scrap the programme.

There was a time when I never missed This Week. The problem, as a confirmed hater of Question Time, was how to fill the 20 minutes between Newsnight ended and it began.

Then I got older and realised that I could go to bed and watch it on iPlayer the next day.

Then I gave up watching it at all.

There were always too many "funny" items that weren't funny - step forward Kevin Maguire and Quentin Letts.

But Andrew Neil is a better broadcaster than the Dimblebys added to John Humphrys and multiplied several times over.

OK so he has run with the hare and hunted with the hounds too much recently, but at his best he is peerless. The BBC should have made better use of him.

I remember, in the days when he was seen as a meritocrat from a humble background, Neil's forensic politeness forcing from Michael Gove the admission that his adoptive parents had paid for him to attend one of Scotland's most expensive private schools.

And This Week could be brilliant. I remember a riveting discussion of alcoholism with Shirley Williams and Rosie Boycott on the evening of the day that Charles Kennedy resigned as Liberal Democrat leader.

I used to grumble about its late-night slot, but maybe the BBC should have made a virtue of it and made it open ended - something along the lines of Channel 4's old After Dark.

If you keep politicians up late enough and lubricate them with Blue Nun, they start to tell the truth.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Pagan London 2: The Stanwell Cursus



The second is this series of videos looks at a prehistoric earthwork that is now partly beneath the runways of Heathrow.

My Liberator review of Jonathan Coe's Middle England

Having disposed of Lord Bonkers, I can post my review article on Jonathan Coe'e Midland England from the current Liberator.

These two photographs of Bridgnorth appear with it in the magazine, albeit it in black and white.

Middle England
Jonathan Coe
Viking, 2018, £16.99

I was taking a short holiday at the Prince Rupert Hotel in Shrewsbury and planning my days out – Ludlow or Much Wenlock? Ironbridge or Bishop’s Castle? – when the August 2011 riots broke out. The news of arson, looting and murder in London, Birmingham and Leicester came from a completely different country, but it is a country we are all living in today.

Perhaps the feeling that the times are out of joint and the certainties you grew up with no longer apply is an inevitable accompaniment of growing older, but English society and English politics have changed to an extraordinary degree in the last 10 years. It is that change and that sense of middle-aged disconnection that are the subject of Jonathan Coe’s new novel.

Middle England is the slightly unexpected sequel to The Rotters’ Club and The Closed Circle, and deals with the struggles of some of the cast of those novels living through the run up to and aftermath of the referendum on British membership of the European Union. The action of the novel takes place between April 2010 and September 2018, and I can be so precise because the action dated to a month and year throughout.

It finds Benjamin Trotter, the unheroic hero of the trilogy, living in a converted mill house on the banks of the Severn north of Shrewsbury. The towns and villages he passes through on the drive to or from his widowed father’s house – Bridgnorth, Alveley, Quatt, Much Wenlock and Cressage – are an incantation that runs through the book.

Coe means business here, which threatened to be disappointing to someone who enjoys his more fantastic register, as displayed most famously in What A Carve Up!, but Middle England is a funny book as well as a serious one.  Here is the Conservative spin doctor Nigel, a new character introduced in this book, who is presented throughout as a laidback admirer of Cameron. Until:
“Cameron,” said Nigel, his face twisting. “What a twat. What a grade-one, first-class, copper-bottomed arsehole. Sitting in his fucking shed writing his memoirs. Look at the mess he’s left behind. Everyone at each other’s throats. Foreigners being shouted at in the street. Being attacked on the bus and told to go back where they came from. Anyone who doesn’t toe the line being called traitors and enemies of the people. Cameron broke the country, Doug. He broke the country and ran away!”
Coe is fair to his characters – come to that, the paragraph above is entirely fair to David Cameron. So, while Benjamin’s father is not above the odd racist remark, his confusion when he finds that the Longbridge car factory is no longer there has the nobility of a Lear:
“Whatever happened to all that? It was bad enough when I was working here. Every man for himself, survival of the fittest, I’m all right Jack. That’s what was starting to take over. But now it’s even worse . . . fancy clothes and Prosecco bars and bloody . . . packets of salad. We’ve gone soft, that’s the problem. No wonder the rest of the world’s laughing at us.
It wasn’t laughing at us, of course, though it may be now.

What this episode does bring out is the way that support for Brexit was closely aligned with a distrust of the ethics and outward appearances of social liberalism. A review of the novel for Politics Means Politics by Chris Grey makes the same point, noting how, in the experience of many people, that liberalism too often consists in Them telling you what you cannot do:
In Middle England, this theme first appears when Sophie has to attend a speed awareness course … at which she meets one of the instructors, Ian, whom she subsequently marries. Amongst those attending, there is a palpable air of “righteous indignation” at being “picked on” so that the room “smelled of victimhood”.
In the middle of this national slide over the cliff came a bright spot: the 2012 London Olympics and their opening ceremony in particular. Thanks to Coe’s enthusiasm for dates, I can tell you it took place on Friday 27 July 2012.

The ceremony was as good as everyone said at the time, presenting a vision of Britain that was liberal, inclusive and true to its history. It was all the better for not trying to improve its audience, as the planners of the Millennium Dome had done under Blair. Then, one commentator suggested the Work Zone resembled nothing so much as a giant restart interview. Whatever that ceremony’s virtues, however, they have vanished without trace.

The closest parallel to this brief flourishing of a liberal Britain is the Festival of Britain in 1951. In a famous essay published a dozen years later, Michael Frayn wrote:
Festival Britain was the Britain of the radical middle-classes, the do-gooders; the readers of the News Chronicle, the Guardian, and the Observer; the signers of petitions; the backbone of the BBC. In short, the Herbivores, or gentle ruminants, who look out from the lush pastures which are their natural station in life with eyes full of sorrow for less fortunate creatures, guiltily conscious of their advantages, though not usually ceasing to eat the grass.
And in making the Festival they earned the contempt of the Carnivores - the readers of the Daily Express; the Evelyn Waughs; the cast of the Directory of Directors - the members of the upper- and middle-classes who believe that if God had not wished them to prey on all smaller and weaker creatures without scruple he would not have made them as they are.
And the Carnivores soon had their revenge. By the autumn of 1951 their political wing, the Conservative Party, was back in power and Churchill ordered the Festival’s South Bank site to be cleared.

For Carnivores and Herbivores then, read Leave and Remain today. Perhaps Brexit has only brought into prominence a divide that has always been there, yet the impossibility of communication between political tribes and generations is one of the themes of Middle England and an urgent and important one at that. It is lent a sad irony by the way its characters’ lives are stuffed with phones, computers and all the technology for it they could ever need.

While Coe’s litany of Shropshire place names –  Bridgnorth, Alveley, Quatt, Much Wenlock and Cressage – chime with my August 2011 in the county, that month’s riots were not the first indication that the times were out of joint. I would now point to the patient queues I saw waiting to withdraw their savings from the local branch of Northern Rock during the 2007 Liberal Democrat Conference. Which suggests it is the credit crunch that lies at the root of our ills and that the vote for Brexit was only a symptom of the malady.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceThere will be other fictional takes on the extraordinary period through which we are living, but I doubt if many will combine seriousness of purpose with humour in the way that Coe does in Middle England. Sam Leith in the Guardian described it as “ great big Centrist Dad of a novel” and, to writers and reviewers of a certain age, that can be nothing but a compliment.

When the Conservatives insisted on Churchill's demotion before they would join a wartime coalition

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Yesterday we were debating Theresa May's habit of scraping the mould of the top of a jar of jam and then using it.

Today it is "Winston Churchill: Hero or villain?"

For what it is worth, I suspect May is right. We are too squeamish about food these days.

And Churchill? He was in many ways a flawed character, but I am glad he was there in 1940. Without him, it is unlikely that Nazism would have been destroyed.

Churchill, of course, was a Liberal for a while and at the forefront of the Asquith government's social reforms.

Those Conservatives who have been claiming a monopoly on him today should remember what happened in 1915, when Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty and Asquith wanted a coalition government to prosecute the war:
A new coalition was needed to bolster confidence. But the Conservatives were deeply hostile to Churchill and demanded his resignation. Backed into a corner, Asquith had no choice but to agree, and on the 15 November the resignation was confirmed. 
Demoted to the ceremonial position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the hurt and demoralised Winston resigned from the government altogether and left for the Western Front.
Talking of Conservatives who do not understand Churchill, here is Richard Evans' magisterial demolition of Boris Johnson's biography of the great man.

Daniel Kawczynski climbs down over Marshall Aid tweet

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As ever, the Shropshire Star is first with the news:
Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski has apologised and admitted he was incorrect in stating that Great Britain did not receive aid under the Marshall Plan after the Second World War.
The paper goes on to quote him:
"It has been pointed out to me by eminent academics/professors and senior researchers in the House of Commons Library that Britain did receive aid under the Marshall Plan. 
"The line in my tweet which stated that Britain did not benefit was therefore inaccurate.
"I would like to apologise for putting this inaccurate sentence within my tweet."
If you are getting the sense that this is a heavily qualified apology, you are right.

Kawczynski continues:
My own personal conviction however remains that the massive loans that Britain had to take out during the war from America outweighed the benefits of the aid received. 
"On December 31, 2006, Britain made a final payment of about $83m (£45.5m) and thereby discharged the last of its war loans from the US. By the end of Second World War Britain had amassed an immense debt of £21 billion. 
"I have asked the House of Commons Library for their assessment of what the £21 billion from that era is in today’s money."
So Kawczynski won't change. His sense of victimhood will remain and find a different grievance to attach itself to. Which is odd in someone born in 1972.

Gemma Collins' Dancing on Ice fall 'caused by RAF ghosts from Second World War'




The Evening Standard flies off with our Headline
 of the Day Award. Wizard.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Leicester end of the Ivanhoe Line



It does not show the city's best side, but this footage was taken from the cab of a locomotive traversing the start of the freight-only line from Leicester to Burton upon Trent - the Ivanhoe Line.

It is notable how much derelict railway land there is alongside it.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The islanders of Rutland Water

And so our week at Bonkers Hall draws to a close with the old boy defending the tribes of the Upper Welland Valley against some shameful stereotyping.

Sunday

Guidebooks advise tourists to give the islands on Rutland Water a wide berth lest they be eaten. I am no keener on being boiled in a pot while a bouquet garni floats past my nose than the next man, or indeed woman, but I must say I have always found the inhabitants good fellows In Their Own Way.

Some authorities claim they are related to the primitive tribes of the Upper Welland Valley, but from my conversations with them on committee room practice and the LBW law, I would say their beliefs have more in common with those of the Church of Rutland.

Even so, I am concerned to hear over sherry after Divine Service at St Asquith’s that the Revd Hughes’s curate Farron is determined to go on a mission to these islands. The last thing we want at this time of year is to have to defend a by-election.

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

Earlier this week...

There is a mosque in Craven Arms


There is an Orthodox monastery beneath the Stiperstones. There is a Buddhist retreat in White Grit.

Now, it transpires, there is a mosque in Craven Arms.

Its imam, Sohayb Peerbhai, told the Shropshire Star:
"We serve a large portion of the Shropshire hills. We have members of our community that come from Church Stretton, Ludlow, Knighton, Clee Hill, Cleobury Mortimer and Hereford, as there’s no mosque in Hereford."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Tyburn: Walking one of London's lost rivers



Our guide is John Rogers, who also showed us The Walbrook.

The Tyburn Angling Society was included in an early Six of the Best on this blog.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Stilton Riots of 1819

When it comes to ABBA, I realised not long ago that the one I had always though was Benny was Bjorn. And vice versa.

If this court case had gone ahead, Lord Bonkers would have got to know them better than I did.

Saturday

I still maintain that my great grandfather was fully justified in his decision to call out the militia to quell the Stilton Riots of 1819, but my sympathies are instinctively with those campaigning to widen the franchise. Why, I sat through Ken Loach’s Peterloo the other day, even though I generally find his stuff Rather Hard Work.

It happens that in the early 1970s that I myself wrote a musical called Peterloo! – I added the exclamation mark having noticed the success of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! some years before.

My show, it has to be admitted, was not a great success, but I was proud of its theme song. Imagine my fury when I travelled to Brighton to attend the Eurovision Song Contest a year or two later, only to find that song had been stolen by a bunch of Swedes. They tried to hide their plagiarism by changing its title to Waterloo, but I was not fooled for a moment.

I consulted my solicitors, but eventually decided not to pursue an action.

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

Earlier this week...

Little support for Tory plan to scrap Leicestershire's district councils


Nick Rushton, the Conservative leader of Leicestershire County Council, has a dream. He wants to abolish all the county's district councils and run everything from County Hall in Glenfield.

But what do the people of the county think of the idea?

Not much, judging by a survey conducted by Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, one of the authorities that Rushton wants to scrap.

Out of the 477 responses received, 424 opposed Rushton's idea. Another plan, which would see two councils covering the whole country, was also decisively rejected.

Oadby and Wigston, which has been run by the Liberal Democrats since 1991, is entitled to take this as a vote of confidence.

But I am pleased at the vote for another reason.

If, when I joined the Liberal Party 40 years ago,  you had asked me why I did not support Labour, I suspect I would have said something about it believing too much in centralisation and the idea that big is beautiful.

Yet, in the years since them, those attitudes have been every bit as much typical of the Conservative Party. I am still enough of a Liberal to be glad when they are rejected by voters.

Monday, February 11, 2019

John Bercow on Crackerjack



The best news in today's BBC announcement about children's television was that The Demon Headmaster is to be remade with a super head of an academy school as the villain.

But the media was more interested in the reappearance of Crackerjack after 35 years.

I don't suppose it will match the glory days of Leslie Crowther and Peter Glaze, but at least young people will know how to respond when you say "Crackerjack".

And today's publicity has reminded me of the existence of this clip from the programme.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Nick Clegg's new job

Hang on in there everybody. The end of the week is in sight.

Friday

Who should I bump into in London today but our own Nick Clegg? Curious to know what he is doing with himself these days, I treat him to lunch at one of my clubs.

He turns out to be full of his new job, telling me how Satan’s chief operating officer Mephistopheles called him while he was walking in the Alps last summer and invited him to fly to Hell to meet Satan himself. "I said to them, if you're prepared to let me into the inner circle, in the black box, and give me real authority, then I'm interested."

Clegg describes Satan to me as "a shy guy" and "thoughtful", before adding: "The thing that persuaded me to do it is Satan and  Mephistopheles asking the right questions for the right reasons – about things like the barrier between free speech and prohibited content, wellbeing of children, integrity of elections, AI and giving people control over their data."

Let us put churlish thoughts aside and hope that Clegg can do for Satan what he did for the Liberal Democrats.

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

Earlier this week...

Dominic Shellard: The man from De Montfort says goodbye


Absolute scenes at Leicester's other university.

On Friday the Leicester Mercury that Sir Ian Blatchford, the chair of De Montfort University's board of governors, resigned back in November.

Today it was announced that Dominic Shellard, the university's vice chancellor had left his £350,000-a-year post.

And then it was revealed that The Office for Students is investigating "regulatory matters" at De Montfort.

This one, if local rumour is anything to go by, will run and run.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Northampton St. John's Street station from above in 1934


The photographs in the Britain from Above collection are great if you are hunting for long-vanished railway stations.

Have a look at the bottom of this 1934 short of Northampton town centre and you will see a railway station.

It is Northampton St. John's Street:
The station was a large elegant building of a light sandy-coloured limestone was constructed above street level on red brick arches with retaining walls which carried the line above Cattle Market Road as it meandered southwards past Northampton Cattle Market and then across the River Nene. 
An imposing train shed covered the central part of the two platforms. 
Northampton St. John's Street was the northern terminus of the Midland Railway's line from Bedford between 1872 and 1939.

It was closed as a cost-cutting measure by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and its services were diverted services to Northampton Castle, which is the town's station that remains open today.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Delivering Focus by drone near Gatwick

Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed that yesterday's diary entry came from Thursday and today comes from Wednesday.

A mistake on my part? Not at all.

Though most villages in Rutland now use the Gregorian calendar, it is a local version that can vary in important respects from the calendar used in the rest of the world. 

This is but one example: Lord Bonkers has more than once been involved in an unfortunate confusion of dates with HM Revenue & Customs arising from the same cause.

Wednesday

If we Liberals are to return to government before we grow much older, it behoves us to make full use of today’s modern technology. Thus it is that you find me in Sussex for the maiden flight of the Bonkers Patent Delivery Drone.

If all goes well, it will fly from door to door, dropping off the latest issue of Focus. More than that, if anyone is in the habit of refusing delivery, it will lie in wait behind the hedge until he goes out. Why, it could be the Bonkers Patent Exploding Focus of the 21st century!

When I discovered that the village I had chosen for this trial lies close to Gatwick Airport, I feared that the coming and going of jets would turn flying my new invention into something of a challenge. I can report, however, that the skies have been empty for some hours now, which has made things much easier than I had expected.

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

Earlier this week...

Mr Bloe: Groovin` with Mr Bloe



Isn't this great? Groovin' with Mr Blue reached number 2 in the UK singles chart in the summer of 1970, but I have no memory of it.

The track has a complicated history, as explained by Wikipedia. It was originally a B side recorded by the American band Wind. The BBC once played the wrong side and a British producer heard it and wanted to release it as a single over here.

He could not get the rights, so he recruited a band of session players to record a new version. Despite the fact that they included Elton John on piano, he was not happy with the result and tried again. That second British version is the one here - there's more about this complicated history on The One and Only.

The harmonica was played by Harry Pitch, who coached John Lennon before the Beatles recorded Love Me Do and later played the theme tunes to both Shoestring and Last of the Summer Wine.

Wikipedia says:
The lack of an obvious performer made the recording mysterious and it became a favourite of Morrissey who was then 11 years old.
And you can hear it was an influence on The Housemartins' The Mighty Ship. someone should write a book on the Northernness of Northern Soul.

An Oundle bus stop


Looking for my photograph of Oundle's North Bridge the other day, I also came across this one of a bus stop in the town.

Meanwhile, councils are warning that thousands of bus routes are at risk of being scrapped because of the cost of the free bus pass scheme. 

But that is only a problem because of the reduction in government funding of local authorities.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Saucy Baroness Scott

With the cancellation of Seaborne Freight's contract yesterday, shares in Rutland Ferries will probably rise further when the Oakham Exchange opens on Monday morning. Did the old boy know something we didn't?

Thursday

A blowy day on Rutland Water as I join the crowds thronging Oakham Quay to watch the day’s ferry sail for the Hook of Holland. The Empress of Rutland is certainly a fine vessel, and it happens that my majority shareholding in Rutland Ferries has proved something of a goldmine of late.

I had a phone call from one Grayling (he managed to cut himself off twice during our conversation and sounded as though he had got his head stuck in the wastepaper basket at one point) asking if I had any ferries to spare. I told him I had, partly to stop him crying and partly because of the extraordinary sum he dropped into our conversation.

If I am honest, the Saucy Baroness Scott has been in dry dock for a couple of years, while the First Lady Bonkers has been grounded on the mudflats beyond the harbour bar for longer than that. Still, I did not get the impression that this Grayling is the sort who investigates the goods he buys too closely.

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

Earlier this week...

A blue plaque for Richard Jefferies at Coate


Good news from the Swindon Advertiser:
A blue plaque to pay tribute to the Swindon-born poet Richard Jefferies is being planned for 2019. 
The museum and place where the poet was born, which was recently re-thatched by Swindon Borough Council costing £30,000, may soon have a new addition to its walls.
They may have said  it twice, but Jefferies was not a poet.

He is most celebrated as a nature essayist, but I am more interested in his Bevis, which was a huge influence on the holiday adventure genre of children's books, and After London, which was an early work of post-apocalyptic science fiction.

Anyway, my photograph shows the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate in Swindon.

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