Friday, December 03, 2021

Bordesley, the least-used station in the West Midlands

It's a while since we had a least-used station, so let's join Geoff Marshall and guest as they visit Bordesley in the West Midlands.

When we first meet them they are at their Whitlocks End.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

The Joy of Six 1034

Nathan Abrams, Anaïs Augé, Maciej Nowakowski and Thora Tenbrink find that mask wearing wasn’t disputed in previous crises and ask why is it so hotly contested today.

The potential of hard-working, high-achieving young people with insecure immigration status is being squandered by a punitive immigration system, inflexible student finance and poor advice and guidance, says Vanessa Joshua.

"If G4S was a family, rather than a private company, would the state be sending vulnerable children to its care? I think not." Carolyne Willow argues that G4S's improvement plan will not be enough to turn around Oakhill Secure Training Centre.

Charlotte Hu explains why social media is making us more morally outraged.

"I felt under attack, all the time. I had nowhere to hide. Walking across the classroom felt like a sniper zone. I was an open target. One day one of the boys casually groped me from behind in the classroom, leering ‘Alright Oxfam?’ in my ear. It didn’t occur to me to do anything except pretend it hadn’t happened. I could imagine only too easily what would happen if I reported it." Naomi Fisher on life as a school refuser.

Jennifer Garlen shows us that there's much more to Casablanca than the love story between Bogart and Bergman: "It’s a deeply political picture made by people for whom the film’s message and the crisis in Europe were painfully personal, and their emotional investment in the story makes Casablanca all the more meaningful."

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Isle of Secrets: John Rogers on Orford Ness

Sooner or later every psychogeographer makes the Hajj to Orford Ness.

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

His YouTube blurb for this video runs:

Orford Ness is a 10-mile long shingle spit along the Suffolk Coast coast - only accessible by ferry. It was once a top secret research military research centre that came into operation in 1912 and was closed in 1985 when it was taken over by the Nation Trust. 

For many years forbidden to approach the island. I visited on the last weekend of Afterness - a series of installations commissioned by Artangel that includes works by Ilya Kaminsky, Emma McNally, Chris Watson, Alice Channer and others. More details can be found here

Orford Ness is an extraordinary location. Some of the military buildings have been retained and allowed to naturally decay. The site includes the Cobra Mist radar masts built in early 40’s. 

WG Sebald wrote about a journey to Orford Ness in his book The Rings of Saturn. Sebald found it a desolate lonely place. For me it is one of the most extraordinary places in the whole of Britain.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Harald Hardrada in Constantinople, Alfred the Great in Rome

Three weeks before he was defeated at the Battle of Hastings, Harold Godwinson - the last Anglo-Saxon king of England - had defeated Harald Hardrada, the king of Norway, at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

That's Stamford Bridge the town to the east of York, not Stamford Bridge the football stadium, though fixture congestion was obviously a thing in the 11th century too.

Reading Cat Jarman's River Kings - one thing being a carer has done is give me time to read - I learnt something extraordinary: as a young man Hardrada had spent around 15 years in Constantinople and had commanded the Byzantine Empire's elite Varangian Guard

This should not be suprising - it is in Hardrada's Wikipedia entry - but it is does not fit with the picture we have of British history before the Norman Conquest. We are equally gobsmacked to learn that Alfred the Great was educated in Rome.

I once blogged about an appearance by David Starkey on Richard and Judy's television show: 
Starkey said the idea that 1066 is the most important date in British history is a recent one. In fact it dates from 1914 - the year when all things French became good and all things German bad. German Shepherd Dogs turned into Alsatians and the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha turned into the House of Windsor. 
Until then we had been very aware of our Saxon heritage and believed that the roots of our democracy lay in that era. After 1914 the Norman Conquest became almost a Year Zero and the Saxon kings were relegated to become a faintly embarrassing pre-history.
It's only Daniel Hannan who makes the point, so all my Twitter followers laugh at it, but it remains remarkable that the most famous date in English history - 1066 - marks our conquest by a foreign power.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Duffy: Warwick Avenue

The New Vaudeville Band's song Finchley Central reached eleven in the UK singles charts in 1967.

Duffy did better with this in 2008, another song named after a London Underground station, reaching number three, 

If you want to know more about Warwick Avenue station, Jago Hazzard is your man.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "No worse than a chimbley"

He's so nearly home. As long as the British Transport Police don't plug him with a tranquilliser dart he'll be holding court in the Bonkers' Arms tonight.

"No worse than a chimbley"

I arrive at Westminster just in time to take part in the vote. The attendants in the Lord’s really are a cut above the rest: despite my gorilla costume, I am greeted by name and urged to hurry through the lobby.

Brushing off a Conservative peer, who is convinced his grandfather shot mine and mounted him over his fireplace, I reflect once again on the remarkable resourcefulness of my own Well-Behaved Orphans. Some children would have balked at the task of squeezing through the bars of the cage, but these fellows assure me that it was "no worse than a chimbley". I make a note to stand them all a slap up tea when I reach Rutland, just as soon as I make sure that Farron has not ripped the pews out of St Asquith’s and forced everyone to sing “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”

And so to St Pancras, where I sit in a café writing this last entry and wondering what budget fares East Midlands Railways makes available to unaccompanied gorillas.

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Friday, November 19, 2021

Jon Pertwee on playing Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge

Interviewed in costume between West End performances of a Worzel Gummidge show, here is Jon Pertwee in 1982.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Matron’s gin cupboard

While I am pleased to see the old boy rescued, I am (not for the first time) moved to remark that the Well-Behaved Orphans don't appear to be terribly well behaved. Still, you'd want them on your side in a closely fought by-election.

The Wise Woman of Wing, meanwhile, stands alone.

Matron’s gin cupboard

I am woken by a hand being held over my mouth. “Don’t breave a word, Lord B.,” says a squeaky voice. I look up to see skinny figures descending from the cage roof on ropes: the Well-Behaved Orphans! “I just needs to unlock the cage,” says my rescuer. “Are you sure you can pick the lock?” I whisper. “If I can get into Matron’s gin cupboard, I can cope with any lock,” comes the encouraging reply.

So it proves, and as my prison door swings open I see a familiar figure flanked by a couple of my gamekeepers carrying orchard doughties. “There’s no time to talk,” says the Wise Woman, “I’ve got wheels.” I see a charabanc parked beside a newly opened gap in the zoo’s perimeter fence, and the Orphans and I hurry to board it. “If anyone asks,” says the Wise Woman, “the kids are a visiting Himalayan choir, I’m their driver and you’re their pet yeti.”

“Fancy going off with those elves!” she continues. “I thought we’d never see you again.” I admit in the reply that it will be wonderful to go home Bonkers Hall. “You’re not going home yet,” she says. “The chief whip phoned and they need your vote in the Lord’s. The Tories are planning to pump sewage into our rivers.”

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Ben Bradley is the hardest-working member in the House

Embed from Getty Images

Joe has found the UK's hardest-working MP:

As well as being a Tory MP for Mansfield, Ben Bradley is the leader of the Nottinghamshire County Council and a member of the Executive Board of East Midlands Councils.

Both jobs apparently total 30 hours of additional work per week, raising questions as to how Bradley finds time to be an MP.

The website goes on to point out that studies have found that MPs work an average of 69 hours a week.

Assuming Bradley does his 69 hours, Joe calculates that his extra duties, if he works weekends, leave him only five and hours for sleep and a private life each day,

But life is not all work for Bradley: the website reminds us that in June he accepted a £1961 ticket to Wembley for England vs Germany in the UEFA Euros from the gambling firm Power Leisure Bookmakers.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The recipe for pork-pie jelly

This was topical satire when I wrote it. The Guardian report on Eliza Manners' case said:

On Wednesday night she was pictured wearing a £1,600 Balmain dress at Harry’s Bar in Mayfair and last week she posted pictures on Instagram from Annabel’s, another Mayfair luxury establishment. Her Instagram account also features pictures from a recent holiday to Italy.

The recipe for pork-pie jelly

Today’s most popular news story involves a daughter of the Duke of Rutland. She was fined just £50 for speeding – half the normal minimum, the paper says – after she claimed paying a penalty would cause her “cashflow issues”. There’s a lot of tutting from my companions and some scepticism is expressed about the genuineness of those issues. 

But what, I ask myself, if the Duke and his family really are short of tin? Could there be a fire sale in prospect? I have no interest in Belvoir Castle, which has always struck me as rather flashy, but the Manners own land in the north of the county that I have long coveted – I strongly suspect that a geological survey of it would reveal a rich seam of Stilton crying out to be mined. 

Then there is the recipe for pork-pie jelly that they have kept to their bosoms for generations and charged the rest of us a pretty penny to use. It would be pleasing to get my hands on that. This is an opportunity too good to be missed and I wait all the more impatiently for rescue.

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Chesham is lovely, says Jago Hazzard

As well as a Liberal Democrat MP it has a heritage signal box and an interesting railway history.

Jago Hazzard is our guide - you can support his videos via his Patreon page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: She is known to all the fowls of the air

The old boy is clearly planning to escape. Incidentally, there really was a Wise Woman of Wing.

She is known to all the fowls of the air

One solace of zoo life is that a kindly keeper leaves us his newspaper after he‘s eaten his sandwiches, and I have taken to reading the day’s stories to my fellow inmates. Today there is much debate over the prime minister’s suggestion that feeding people to animals could help solve the biodiversity crisis. Generally speaking, the lions and tigers are all in favour of the idea, while our herbivorous friends urge the provision of a vegan alternative. The anteaters suggest that everyone should eat ants.

This evening I strike gold when I get talking a sparrow who has dropped in for a few crumbs. It transpires that he has a brother-in-law who knows a starling who is friends with a racing pigeon. I give the sparrow a note to pass on to said pigeon, emphasising that it is to be put eventually into the hands of the Wise Woman of Wing. I need not have worried: it turns out she is known to all the fowls of the air.

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The history of RAF Husbands Bosworth

RAF Husbands Bosworth opened in August 1943 and was decommissioned by the Air Force in 1946. Its buildings were then used to house displaced Polish families.

This video tells its story and you can read more about the airfield on the Husbands Bosworth website.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "I allowed two penguins to 'go back to our nunnery'"

When we last heard from him, Lord Bonkers' tour of Britain had reached a zoo in the West Country where he was living contentedly as a gorilla. 

That headline was about nuns too.

I allowed two penguins to ‘go back to our nunnery’

I am at last granted an audience with the head keeper, where I explain that, despite my costume, I am not a gorilla but a peer of the realm and press my case to be allowed to return home to the Hall forthwith. 

She, however, is implacable: “If I believed every sob story I heard from an animal I soon wouldn’t have a zoo at all. When I was a junior keeper I allowed two penguins to ‘go back to our nunnery’ and I didn’t half get into trouble. So it’s a no from me. Beat your chest when you get back to your cage. The punters like that.”

Yes, gentle reader, zoo life is beginning to pale. The taste of bananas has become a torment to me and I have been moved next door to the hyenas, who have no conversation and snigger at everything – one might as well be living with a pack of Twitter influencers. The conclusion to all this is clear: I shall have to abandon the usual channels and make my escape.

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