Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Liberal England in 2014: Part 3

Read part 1 and part 2.


Suddenly I was an authority on New Zealand footpaths and John Buchan. What is more, I found a video of Cyril Smith and Geoffrey Dickens dancing to Bananarama.

By changing buses at East Midlands Airport I was able to visit St Mary and St Bardulph's at Breedon on the Hill.

Down in London, I interviewed Tim Farron and Ed Davey at the Social Liberal Forum conference.

I also looked at the scandal of Sir Peter Morrison,


I explored what will soon be the new campus of Northampton University but is currently a site of fascinating industrial dereliction.

The rapid degeneration of Lord Janner's health was noted, and I discussed the troubled image of the RSPCA among pet owners.

I wrote an article about Charles Masterman, one of my political heroes, for Liberator. Meanwhile Lord Bonkers introduced us to the inflatable Julian Huppert.

Homophobic monks were everywhere and I argued that the housing shortage was the fault of builders not councils.


My friend and Liberator colleague Simon Titley died.

I wrote about the remarkable ancestry of the Labour leader John Smith and recalled the dark side of Doctor Barnardo.

If I kept a writer's notebook I would have put this exchange in it. And I wrote about my forebear who defied Queen Victoria.

I found that I had performed on the same stage as Steve Winwood (about 18 months after he did).

Still in showbiz, I wrote about Brond - a long-forgotten Channel 4 series - and got a tweet from John Hannah.

Police Scotland and Katie Hopkins

The tweet is depressing. Did the Twitter joke trial never happen?

The very existence of Police Scotland is depressing. It is a reminder that the SNP believes in centralisation not devolution.

But most depressing of all are the replies to the tweet, a good number of which ask Police Scotland to arrest Katie Hopkins.

I am not surprised that the police have picked up on the modern fashion for claiming offence. They know a good repressive ideology when they see it.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
But I wish there were more on the left who would stand up for free speech - or at least for common sense.

The Doctor is Sherlock Holmes

The two series Sherlock and Doctor Who are rapidly converging, not least because they share a strong belief in their own cleverness.

But then Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor have long had much common.

To prove it, here is Peter Capaldi as Sherlock...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Liberal England in 2014: Part 2

Read part 1.


I photographed the Empire Hotel and hydropathic institution in Newfoundpool, Leicester, before it was too late. I enjoyed the next-door ruins of St Augustine's too.

Jeremy Browne's use of the concept of a 'global race' did not inspire me. (For the record, I did buy and read the book afterwards.)

I recalled the three times I have been mentioned in Hansard. (For the record, Charlotte Henry did give up.)

My next Leicester discovery was the giant redwoods of Humberstone.

I was not impressed by Nick Clegg's handling of the Cyril Smith revelations. And then it was off to Olney, where William Cowper is honoured, and you can find this angel in ivy in the churchyard.


I explored the grounds and precincts of Peterborough Cathedral and Leicester City had a victory parade - how long ago that now seems!

Lord Bonkers reminded us how he dealt with Nick Clegg's spot of teenage arson, while I was worried by the right to be forgotten.

I praised the courage of Theresa May's speech to the Police Federation and the courts ruled that Richard III should be buried in Leicester. Top judging.

My Comment is Free article - "It's not just outdoor play that's gone – so has a whole genre of children's fiction" - attracted a lot of comments.

"If changing the leader isn't the answer, what will the Liberal Democrats change?" I asked. Pointedly.


I spent a few days in Shropshire - one of my favourite discoveries was the Institute in Llanfair Caereinion.

The Stiperstones Inn, the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, The Old Gaol, Montgomery and Montgomery Castle also featured.

I took to writing occasional columns for the Leicester Mercury. That one was partly written at Stokesay Castle.

An unusual choice popped up as a Sunday music video: Carl Orff and his Music for Children - Trees and Flowers.

Snow on Hampstead Heath and the fall of Western civilisation

Six of the Best 483

"The reason Occupy and the Tea Party were such uncanny replicas of one another is because they both drew on the lazy, reflexive libertarianism that suffuses our idea of protest these days, all the way from Disney Channel teens longing to be themselves to punk rock teens vandalizing a Starbucks. From Chris Hedges to Paul Ryan, every dissenter imagines that they are rising up against 'the state.' It's in the cultural DNA of our times, it seems; our rock ‘n’ roll rebels, our Hollywood heroes, even our FBI agents. They all hate the state ... But here’s the rub: only the Right manages to profit from it." Thomas Frank on the success of the Tea Party and the failure of the Occupy movement.

Roger Proz relates the sorry saga of the rise of Britain's giant pubcos.

From America, Lenore Skenazy looks at the Top 10 Nanny State Fails of the Year.

"Paddington is an effective challenge to the country that made it: if you are proud of your purported decency show it consistently. Rather than showing grave suspicion followed invariably by inevitable acceptance, cut out that initial unpleasant and unbecoming phase of hostility. Which is I think you’ll agree an impressive message to convey via a film about a marmalade obsessed bear!" Matter of Facts has been to see Paddington.

Peter Miller reviews a bad 2014 for the England cricket team and concludes that the game must go back to terrestrial television: "The most famous cricketer in England is still Andrew Flintoff, who hasn't played for his country since 2009. The correlation is obvious. Cricket cannot be loved if it cannot be watched."

Emine Saner surveys Maggie Smith's career.

Goodbye Mr Snuggles

Robert Hardy's screen career dates back to 1951. Because he was a child star, James Fox's dates back to 1950.

Here they are together in a short from 2006.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Liberal England in 2014: Part 1


I wrote about Sarah Teather and her magic carpet: "Whatever its motivation, a decision to walk away from party politics voluntarily is rarely the sign of a bad person."

The Coalition's Annoyance Bill annoyed me, but at least I discovered the site of Leicester's first railway station - see the picture below.

Liberal England reached the milestone of 10,000 posts.

I published a guest post remembering childhood days among the lead-mining waste of Snailbeach: "The white hillocks presented endless scope for playing. Can't have been very healthy when you think about it!"

Mike Hancock's worrying attitude to human rights in Eastern Europe was dissected and a power ballad marked the retirement of Graeme Swann.


I argued that England's dropping of Kevin Pietersen was a sign of weak management.

The loss of the sea wall at Dawlish revived interest in the idea of an inland railway route to Cornwall.

Nigel Farage went to see the flooded Somerset Levels and I offered some literary maps for a drowned England and reread William Mayne's The Member for the Marsh with the floods in mind.

And I recalled Liberator's finest hour - the Runner and Riders spread in our 1984 Liberal Assembly issue.


I discovered Tristram Hunt's past in the Cambridge Footlights and considered Malcolm Saville and the pubs of Leintrwardine.

The government gave £1m for the historic buildings around Richard III's grave - there's one of them below.

Liberal England visited Holy Trinity in the Hope Valley in Shropshire and celebrated its 10th birthday - "It will spend the day climbing trees, shooting up, swatting for SATS or whatever it is 10-year-olds do these days."

I discovered the case of the MP who was swept away in a balloon and never seen again and also discovered Big Mama Thornton - the Peggy Mount of the blues.

Vince Cable gave a Commons master class and I explored the Melton Mowbray edgelands.

Winter sunshine in Market Harborough

All photographs taken this afternoon.

Grey and white cat with Hitler moustache missing in Market Harborough

Have you seen her?

Lesley Gore: You Don't Own Me

Feminist pop from 1964.

Lesley Gore was kept from number one in the US by the Beatles, but this single was not a hit in the UK.

This performance is taken from the concert film TAMI Show.

The excitement of yoghurts

"I’m so glad you caught the excitement of yoghurts in 1969."
So says someone from the floor in this question-and-answer session on Victoria Wood's That Day We Sang.

Well, in 1969 and even a year or two before that, I can remember choosing a yoghurt from the milk float for my breakfast before I went to school.

We were all over yoghurts, my family.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bridgnorth Cliff Railway

An ATV report from 1972.

Jeremy Lloyd was offered James Fox's role in The Servant

From the Guardian obituary of Jeremy Lloyd:
His career could have been different had he listened to the director Joseph Losey. 
When Losey was looking for an aristocrat to play opposite Dirk Bogarde in the Harold Pinter-scripted movie The Servant (1963), he sought Lloyd, who was playing a twit opposite Kenneth More in a film called We Joined the Navy (1963). 
"Ever played a homosexual?" asked Losey. "You’d be good."
Lloyd declined and James Fox got the part.
A clear winner for our Trivial Fact of the Day Award.

Six of the Best 482

A desperately moving post by Kate Gross, who died on Christmas morning.

Nick Sparrow asks how reliable online polling is: "pollsters are not innocent observers of public opinion, but active participants in the political process; not only reporting public opinion but helping to shape it. Participation that, the British Population Survey suggests, may rest on some very shaky foundations."

Living on Words Alone has videos of David Steel talking about the closure and reopening of the Waverley route,

How did roasting vegetables become a thing? J. Bryan Lowder explains.

"At a children’s birthday party,,, I inadvertently caused a ruckus when I launched a game of 'pin the tail on the Fierce Bad Rabbit,' reading aloud that Potter story in which a selfish bunny is menaced by a 'man with a gun' who shoots off his tail and whiskers. It tuned out that many of my fellow parents had not yet decided to “allow” their children to know that guns exist." April Bernard on the dangerous genius of Beatrix Potter.

Meanwhile Maurice Sendak, as Colin Marshall shows, once worked on illustrations for The Hobbit.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Benjamin Britten: A Hymn to the Virgin

This setting of a Medieval carol was written when Britten was 16.

Good Morning Britten says of it:
A Hymn To The Virgin was composed in a single day, during an extended stay in Gresham’s sick bay – but little did Britten know that even then he was writing music that would be sung at his own funeral, some 46 years later! The hymn was published in 1934, by which time Britten had transposed the music down a semitone to make it easier to sing. 
John Bridcut describes it as a "jewel of an anthem…tiny and apparently simple, but perfect". Michael Kennedy also hits the nail on the head, describing the Hymn as "a gentle and fluent work belonging very strongly to the tradition of English religious art but with a freshness that has never faded".
Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Great Liberal England Lyrics Quiz

Below are 20 lyrics from pop songs - some more obscure in others.

But which songs do they come from?

Simply leave the answers in the comments to win kudos, the envy of your friends and dinner for two at the Bonkers' Arms.*

I shall fill in the answers as the correct guesses arrive.
  1. Slowly walking down the hall/Faster than a cannon ball
    Champagne Supernova (Oasis)

  2. You're always window shopping but never stopping to buy
    Georgy Girl (The Seekers)

  3. So you think you’re having good times/With the boy that you just met/Kicking sand from beach to beach/Your clothes all soaking wet
    Paper Sun (Traffic)

  4. Yes I think I'm okay/I walked into the door again/Well, if you ask that's what I'll say/And it's not your business anyway
    Luka (Suzanne Vega)

  5. Have you seen her dressed in blue?/See the sky in front of you/And her face is like a sail/Speck of white so fair and pale
    She’s a Rainbow (Rolling Stones)

  6. It's got nothing to do with vorsprung durch technic you know/And it's not about you joggers who go round and round and round
    Parklife (Blur)

  7. What's your name?/Who's your daddy?/Is he rich like me?
    Time of the Season (The Zombies)

  8. I don't know why but I had to start it somewhere, so it started there
    Common People (Pulp)

  9. When shadows of evening gently fall/The memory of you I soon recall/We walked in the rain/You kissed me, whispered my name
    Where Are You Now, My Love? (Jackie Trent)

  10. I’m too hot (hot damn)/Called a police and a fireman/I’m too hot (hot damn)/Make a dragon wanna retire man
    Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars)
  11. Everyone is talkin' about me/It makes me feel so bad
    Keep on Running (Spencer Davis Group)

  12. Don't start me talking/I could talk all night
    Oliver’s Army (Elvis Costello)

  13. What the hell is wrong with you tonight?/I can't seem to say or do the right thing
    It's Different for Girls (Joe Jackson)

  14. As I was lying in my bedroom fast asleep/Filled with those famous teenage pictures that you keep
    Angel Fingers (Wizzard)

  15. I was tossed and turnin' like a ship without a sea
    The Bad Old Days - (Co-Co)

  16. You, you're such a big star to me/You're everything I wanna be/But you're stuck in a hole and I want you to get out
    Shine (Take That)

  17. A holiday, a holiday/And the first one of the year/Lord Donald's wife came into the church/The Gospel for to hear
    Matty Groves (Fairport Convention)

  18. Over the doctor, over the soldier/Over the farmer, over the poacher/Over the preacher, over the gambler/Over the teacher, over the rambler
    Tonight We Fly (Divine Comedy)

  19. Take off your hat/Kick off your shoes/I know you ain't going anywhere
    Wishing Well (Free)

  20. The percentage you're paying is too high priced/While you're living beyond all your means/And the man in the suit has just bought a new car/From the profit he's made on your dreams
    The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys (Traffic)
* Terms and conditions apply.

Six of the Best 481

"Three people, inexperts, consulting only those paid to tell them what government wants to hear, can decide, effectively in secret, with little notice and no debate, can turn an activity currently legal into something for which the maximum term of imprisonment is life with 28 calendar days notice." Jock Coats reports the latest nonsense in the war on drugs.

Caron Lindsay tells us that a support fund has been set up for Alex Folkes.

The history of emotions is an interesting and emerging field of study. Thomas Dixon gives us a survey of the developments in it during 2014.

The winning business plan in The Apprentice was nonsense, as Ghost Marketing demonstrates: "So your company name is climbonline but you don’t have the domain, and you don’t rank on page one for your business name…. But okay, maybe you change the name….. But lose all the hype surrounding the apprentice…."

Wisden India meets Frank Tyson, the great English fast bowler of the 1950s. He says: "“I was almost a one-day wonder, in terms of how much Test cricket I played. But the one thing I knew was that I could get past the Australian batsmen, with sheer pace."

Also on the summer game, All Out Cricket offers a selection of the essential cricket songs.

Tony Blair, Labour and fox hunting

One of the benefits of having been blogging for so long is that I can repost old copy if I am feeling uninspired.

So here is Liberal Democrat News (ask your parents) column of mine from November 2004.

A cunning plan

As I write, the Lords and the Commons are fighting over the hunting bill like two greyhounds with a hare. It looks as though their lordships are going to force the prime minister to ban hunting at once so the resulting row takes place in the run up to the general election.

Forget all the guff about the upper house being the repository of the nation’s wisdom: this is a brilliant piece of low politics. And, whatever your views on hunting, Blair deserves it for his dithering and duplicity.

For Tony Blair never wanted to ban fox hunting. He wanted to be always in the process of banning it. That way, whenever his backbenches threatened to rebel over some nasty right-wing policy, he could buy them off with a little more progress on blood sports.

Not that most Labour MPs who vote to ban hunting are particularly concerned about animal welfare. You don’t find them putting down questions about factory farming. What they really want to do is have a go at the toffs. They would be just as happy banning polo or the Henley Regatta.

But when politicians insist on fighting the class war the outcome is seldom happy. We saw this during the miners strike and also when the Tories brought in the poll tax. In the long run, outbreaks of public disorder rarely do governments much good.

What will become of the foxes in all this? If hunting is banned, they will still be killed and the methods used may well be no more humane than hunting.

Worse than that, they will learn that under New Labour nothing comes without strings. Expect to see the introduction of compulsory lectures for foxes on the rights of chickens – or “members of the egg-laying community”, as they will probably be called. Look too for a network of Cubs Clubs run by Margaret Hodge and a Brush Your Brush campaign headed by John Reid.

All this may accelerate the trend that has seen foxes abandon the countryside to become urban scavengers and, as many householders know, significant pests. It will be a sad day when the only foxes you see are sitting round shopping malls wearing Burberry baseball caps and giving their children Sunny D.

Monday, December 22, 2014

An LNER poster for Scarborough

Wasps' new nest in Coventry

On Saturday Wasps played their first game at their new home in Coventry. They beat London Irish 48-16.

This leads to a couple of thoughts on what this may means for English rugby.

First, to be parochial, Coventry has in recent years been a good recruiting ground for my own team Leicester Tigers.

Players they recruited there include Saturday's star for Wasps, Andy Goode, and Neil Back. In the days when he was considered too small to play for England, Back was simply the best player I have ever seen.

Second, there is an irony here. In the late 1960s and 1970s, when I first took an interest in the game, Coventry were the best England club.

Outstanding players they supplied to the national team included David Duckham, Keith Fairbrother, John Gray, Geoff Evans, Peter Preece, Fran Cotton and Marcus Rose.

The BBC video above demonstrates the locals' ambivalence at this new development.

Ukip should teach donkeys to play rugby

More evidence today for the thesis that Ukip members lack a sense of humour.

There is Nigel Farage's reaction to a phone game produced by some school pupils in Kent:
Farage claimed the game, developed by a group of sixth-formers from Canterbury Academy, was “risible and pathetic” and that it had "crossed the line".
Why has he even concerned himself with this? If he feels he has to, why has he not turned it into a joke?

It all reinforces the impression that, far from having a good sense of humour, Farage has an exceedingly thin skin.

And then there is the tweet above from a Ukip branch secretary in reaction to the news that a Ukip parliamentary candidate has claimed that a gay donkey tried to rape his horse.

The reason this story is news is that it is extremely funny.

But when it comes to a sense of humour, Ukip members tend to remind you of Margot Leadbetter at the Goods' Christmas party:
"It isn't that I don't want to join in. I just don't know how to."
Back to the gay donkey.

In last year's council election's a Ukip candidate argued that regular exercise in school prevented homosexuality.

The answer is clear: teach donkeys to play rugby.

Dinosaur stolen from pub in Wyke

Congratulations to the Brighouse Echo for winning Headline of the Day.

Thanks to Jennie Rigg on Twitter.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lord Bonkers in 2014

I have just contributed a post on Lord Bonkers' adventures and opinions this year to Liberator's blog.

We expect a white Christmas because of Dickens' boyhood

I first posted this back in 2008. Since then there have been a couple more white Christmases, but it seems worth repeating...

Why is snow so firmly established in our ideal Christmas when there have been only seven white Christmases since 1900?

It is all down to Charles Dickens.

The Daily Telegraph quotes a Canadian professor as saying:
"The whole of A Christmas Carol is really an invocation of his childhood Christmases with his family before his father fell into debt and was sent to the debtors' prison. 
"A Christmas Carol made Christmas respectable for the English bourgeoisie, who had come to regard it as somewhat antiquated."
And what were those early Christmases like for Dickens?

The Telegraph says:
A decade of unusually cold weather during his childhood may have influenced his description of Britons "scraping the snow from the pavements in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses" on Christmas morning despite the statistical probability of a grey winter day like any other. 
Six of Dickens's first nine Christmases were white, including one in the winter of 1813-14 during which the ice on the River Thames was thick enough to bear the weight of an elephant. 
Whether they tested this with a real elephant is not disclosed.

Six of the Best 480

Nick Harvey paid tribute to the former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe at his funeral on Friday.

"Far from completing the modernisation they once promised they have, in large part, abandoned the project. As a result the electorate, generally speaking, reckons the Tories just as extreme as Ukip." Alex Massie on the failure of Cameron and Osborne.

Tiffany Jenkins dissects the left's current enthusiasm for censorship.

Vladimir Putin is living in another world, says Cicero's Songs.

"The Ronald Pinn I created from the distant memory of a young man in a graveyard became, in imitation of the bent police officers who inspired his creation, an illegal alien in a world of bespoke reality." In a long and fascinating piece, Andrew O'Hagan examines identity in the modern world.

Jack Spicer Adams has a photo essay on Birmingham Central Library: "I went to say goodbye to this divisive Birmingham landmark and fine example of brutalist architecture. I’ll be sad to see it go."

Kelly Jones: Local boy in the photograph

There was a sort of Welsh pop renaissance in the 1990s: Manic Street Preachers, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Stereophonics.

This was the first song on the Stereophonics' first LP, which I liked and bought in 1997. It is sung here by Kelly Jones, its writer and the band's singer, at the Hay Festival a few years ago.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Flip Chart Rick visits modern Trumptonshire

I had a university friend who was fond of saying that Camberwick Green was the English utopia: it was rural, everyone had a skilled trade and there was no crime.

But, as Flip Chart Rick shows in what is our Blog Post of the Year, time has not been kind to it and its neighbours in Trumptonshire.

Let me show you...

Camberwick Green
Windy Miller is long dead. His mill was bought by a property developer and converted into a sprawling residence, compete with gym and swimming pool. It is now the weekend retreat of Bradley Smythe-Hoover, MD of Capital Markets at MorganGoldensacks. 
The Miller family are still in the business, though. Nowadays, the flour is produced by United Mills on the Chigley industrial estate. Windy’s granddaughter, Cindy Miller, works there on a zero hours contract.
The town of Trumpton lost much of its importance when it was subsumed into the Greater Chigley Unitary Authority in the local government reorganisation. It is now merely the traditional county town of a county that no longer exists. 
Locals complain that there has been no planning control and that the town’s development has been neglected by the council in Chigley. Like many small towns, Trumpton has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. 
By day, it is the quintessential market town. The old square with its farmers’ market and Georgian shops attracts busloads of pensioners and foreign tourists. At night, the town is given over to pubs, competing on price to attract the youngsters who flock into the centre. Fights between locals and migrant agricultural workers are frequent.
There are no band concerts or dancing factory workers in Trumptonshire any more. Some people didn’t believe there ever were, until some photographs were found in Raggy Dan’s attic after the old rag and bone man had died. These showed the firemen’s band and the dances, as well as many other scenes from old Trumptonshire. 
The local history society reprinted them in a book published to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Trumpton clock in 2010. Leafing through the coffee table tome Trumptonshire Remembers, you can see just how much the place has changed.
This post has already reminded me of Pippin Fort and that, if Floella Benjamin deserved a peerage, then Brian Cant should be a duke.

Lord Bonkers on the sacking of Alastair Cook

Lord Bonkers writes exclusively for Liberal England:
It is important to recognise when a leader’s reign has come to its end. It can be difficult, when one admires a fellow oneself, to admit that the results he is getting have not been good enough for a good while. 
However, time moves on, and one has to be prepared to act decisively. For a leader who impressed people only a few years ago may no longer cut the mustard today.

Colin Baker in Finding Richard

Finding Richard Trailer from Hive Media on Vimeo.

This is the trailer for the short film I blogged about back in February.

You can read more about Finding Richard on its own website.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A rare photograph of the real Father Christmas

This photograph was taken on 14 November 1941.

See the thin, worried and rather pagan looking figure with a well-scrubbed child on each hand. I take this to be a rare photograph of the real Father Christmas.

If he was needed anywhere, it was in wartime London.

Save the Wolsey Angels

From the Victoria and Albert Museum website:
We urgently need your help to raise £2.5 million and reunite the Wolsey Angels, four Renaissance sculptures that were owned by two of the most powerful men in Tudor history. 
These striking bronze figures were designed to adorn the corners of a magnificent tomb for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, pre-eminent statesman and King Henry VIII’s closest advisor. Wolsey’s tomb, however, was never completed. In a tumultuous period, the angels were then seized by Henry VIII, sold during the Civil War, separated and eventually lost.
In Apollo Magazine Hilary Mantel says that "the recovery of Wolsey’s angels is one of those miracles that historians pray for; something that seems irrevocably lost has been there all the time".

To explain this miracle, we have to run through a little history.

Thomas Wolsey, as Henry VIII's most important adviser, wielded enormous power. He planned a magnificent tomb for himself at Windsor, but in 1529 he fell from favour over his opposition to the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Summoned from Yorkshire to London to be tried for treason, he arrived at Leicester Abbey announcing "Father abbot, I am come to lay my weary bones among you." And there Wolsey and died and was buried.

This blog visited the abbey ruins a few summers ago.

You can see the black sarcophagus Wolsey intended for himself in the crypt of St Paul's as it was used to bury Admiral Nelson. But the angels that were supposed to guard the corners were long believed lost.

Back to the Victoria and Albert Museum site for the story of their rediscovery:
After Wolsey’s death, the angels and other parts of his tomb were seized by Henry VIII, who employed Benedetto to complete his own tomb on an even grander scale. However, Henry VIII did not live to see his tomb finished, either. His children failed to honour their intentions to subsequently complete it, and the angels were never united with the other elements of the tomb. 
Elizabeth I moved the parts of Henry VIII’s incomplete tomb to St George’s Chapel in Windsor in 1565. ...
During the Civil War most of the tomb’s components were lost and the angels remained undiscovered until recently. Two of them appeared at an auction in a Sotheby’s sale in 1994, unillustrated and simply referred to in the catalogue as a pair of large bronze angels in the Renaissance style. Nothing was known at this stage of their original provenance. The angels were eventually attributed to Benedetto’s tomb for Wolsey by Italian art historian Francesco Caglioti. 
In 2008, the other two angels were discovered at Harrowden Hall, a country house in Northamptonshire. It later came to light that all four sculptures had stood above the posts of Harrowden Hall’s entrance gates.
It is a remarkable discovery and I hope the money will be raised to keep the Wolsey Angels in Britain.

Back in Leicester, having found Richard III, there are those who would now like to find the bones of Cardinal Wolsey. In February 2013 the Labour councillor Ross Willmott (who indirectly put me on to this story) supported the idea.

And it would be wrong to end without paying tribute to Terry Scott and his portrayal of the Cardinal in Carry On Henry.

Six of the Best 479

Tim Farron says the CIA report on torture shows why we have to fight harder than ever for a liberal Britain.

"Bulging profits for the development industry sit uneasily amid a deepening national housing crisis where what is needed above all else are decent, genuinely affordable homes." Nick Mathiason reports on the great British housing crisis.

Neil Davenport defends Hackney hipsters - cereal cafes and all: "Attacking hipsters for simply selling nice goods in the East End is not going to tackle inequality and poverty. But the demand that anyone with a novel idea for a small business should shut up and ship out certainly reeks of a poverty of ambition."

The Box of Delights Archives has photographs of the locations - 30 years ago and today - used in this classic children's television series.

Meanwhile, Margaret at Books Please has been reading Seven White Gates by Malcolm Saville: "'Remember, Petronella, our friend, never to be seen near the Stiperstones on the longest night of the year, for then all the ghosts in Shropshire and all the counties beyond meet on the summit – right on and around the Chair they meet – to choose their king.'"

English Buildings reviews The English Railway Station by Steven Parissien.

Man rings police after neighbour posts "creepy" picture of Cliff Richard in his window

Our Headline of the Day contest sees a win for Brighton's The Argus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nick Clegg on Leaders Live

Nick Clegg's interview with the young people that was broadcast earlier today.

I'm still a party loyalist, me.

Monday, December 15, 2014

When the government encouraged term-time family holidays

They even made a film to promote the idea...

Ukip wars: When fruitcakes fall out

Grumbling about Nick Robinson is a recognised leisure activity for politicos of all colours. I have been known to indulge in it myself. But his report about Ukip this morning was spot on:
A parliamentary candidate resigns having tried blaming his racist comments on taking painkillers. 
This comes days after an alleged sex scandal at UKIP head office in which the party's chief executive did - or did not - sleep with another candidate. 
Meantime a wealthy donor is said to be threatening to stop funding the party if his friend doesn't get a seat. 
You may think that UKIP's week of bad headlines is just a diverting soap opera. 
You may think it simply shows the growing pains of Britain's fastest growing political force. You may think it has no significance at all. If so, you'd be wrong. 
All the bizarre news stories that have emerged from UKIP in recent days reflect a power struggle within a party that aspires to hold the balance of power after the next election.
The most damaging stories about candidates always emerge from feuding within their own parties.

I am reminded of the Greenwich by-election of 1987, which was won against the odds by the SDP half of the Alliance.

The seat was held by Labour, but as Andy McSmith recalls in his Faces of Labour, that their candidate Deirdre Wood lost after
a virulent press campaign which forced down the already depressed Labour vote and encouraged a huge tactical switch by Conservative voters, to secure victory by the SDP candidate, Rosie Barnes.
I remember journalists saying that this campaign was easy to mount because all the damaging stories about Deirdre Wood had been given to them by Labour insiders in an effort to prevent her being selected as their candidate in the first place.

Shefford cafe's singing polar bear probed over noise

BBC News wins Headline of the Day, but does anyone remember the Cresta bear? "It's frothy, man."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Iain Sinclair interviewed at the London Review Bookshop

Iain Sinclair interviewed by John Rogers at The London Review Bookshop on 23 October 2014. He discusses his life in literature, film, London, John Clare, walking in Los Angeles, and more.

The Only Ones: Another Girl, Another Planet

Here's a single from 1978 that everyone knows, yet it was not a hit at the time.

It has has a long afterlife through being used in commercials and films and being covered by an impressive list of artists.

And today Allmusic calls it "an eternal three minutes of pop perfection".

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Say it ain't so, Jo

Tom Mangold writes about his attempts to investigate Jeremy Thorpe for the BBC:
I had been on the story for less than two weeks when I got a phone call from Jo Grimond, one of Thorpe’s predecessors as Liberal leader. ‘What you are doing is outrageous!’ he barked down the line. ‘Unless you stop at once, I’ll have you dismissed within hours by the [BBC’s] Director General, who I happen to know extremely well.’
It's always sad to learn that one of your heroes has feet of clay.

Still, this incident does give me an excuse for reposting one of my favourite videos from Youtube.

This song was written and first recorded by Murray (older brother of Anthony) Head and is here performed by, amongst others, three-quarters of The Who.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The French for French-bashing is le French bashing

Jonathan Meades wins Opening Sentence of the Day.

Six of the Best 478

"Like so many others who had been stretched and inspired by his English teaching, I wrestled with my practical conscience. It was clearly a gross injustice that he was in custody. Those who spoke to the press - and I seemed to have known nearly all of them - had their words twisted to suit the agenda, almost whatever their intention." David Boyle watches The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

Feeding Britain, this week's report on food poverty, is too keen to blame the victims, argues Rob Parsons.

"Reporters Without Borders recommend the use of Tor as part of its 'survival kit' for bloggers, journalists and activists in countries where they may be at risk from state censorship or even arrest. The International Broadcasting Bureau (who broadcast Voice of America and Radio Free Asia) is a major Tor sponsor and recommends its use by persons in repressive regimes to allow them access to global media." Andrew Murray shows that the dark web is not just for paedophiles, drug dealers and terrorists

Zoe O'Connell offers a brief history of trans politicians.

The are serious problems with the tags used to enforce curfews on offenders. Light Blue Touchpaper explains.

Simon Blackburn explains why there should be a philosophy GCSE.

Elf stands upside down with a bucket on his head in Plymouth

The Plymouth Herald wins headline of the Day - and it has a photograph of the elf.

Thanks to Polar Pilchard on Twitter.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Homophobic monk arrested in Cambridge

Pink News reports that:
53-year-old Damon Jonah Kelly from Corby, Northamptonshire was arrested on 8 December on suspicion of a Section 5 public order offence. 
He was bailed until 20 January, at which point he will return to Huntington Police Station in Cambridge. 
Pink News has discovered that Kelly, who is actually a monk, is the director of the Scotland based charity the Black Hermits.
If, as Backwatersman once suggested, homophobic monks are, like Spring-heeled Jack, a manifestation of our collective subconscious fears, then there may be lots of them.

But is does look as though Damon Kelly could be the one who came to Market Harborough.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cambridge to Bedford by train in 1967

There are hopes that the railway line between Cambridge and Bedford will eventually be reopened as part of the EastWestRail project.

This film was taken in December 1967, a few days before the line closed.

You may also enjoy a slideshow of the line in those days that I posted a year ago.

Children left in 'tears' after Father Christmas is 'arrested and put in riot van' in Wales

The Mirror wins Headline of the Day. Tidy!

Liberal Democrat peers should hold firm on judicial review

Caron Lindsay writes on Liberal Democrat Voice:
Senior Liberal Democrats are getting very rattled by the rebellion. I'm hearing tales of angry rows and confrontations with rebel peers being told that they are damaging our General Election chances as if being associated with a measure like this wouldn't. It sounds like peers have had the sort of pressure put on them that would make even a Labour whip from the Blair days blush.
I hope that the Lib Dem peers will continue to vote against the changes Chris Grayling wants to make to judicial review. They are right and Lib Dem MPs, with the honourable exception of Sarah Teather, are wrong.

As so often, I am left puzzling at the what the Lib Dem leadership is trying to achieve. There has been no explanation given to party members; there is nothing about judicial review in the Coalition Agreement.

The Liberal Democrats have spent years making themselves the natural party for people who support civil liberties. In 2007 Nick Clegg even vowed to go to prison rather than carry an ID card.

Now we have abandoned those voters and are looking to win the support of people who think the courts are on the side of the criminal and judges are too soft - or something like that.

At the heart of this mess, I suspect, lies the idea that a party can continually reposition itself. Find out what the voters want and start saying the same thing. If the philosophy you fought the last election on is no longer popular, then junk it.

The trouble is, this approach to politics does not work. The old voters you have abandoned, with some reason, feel let down. The new voters do not trust you.

So let's have a bit of Liberal ideology here. Lib Dem peers should hold firm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A railway poster for Dungeness

Here is Malcolm Saville writing in The Elusive Grasshopper in 1951:
The Dungeness terminus of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is not much more than a hundred yards from the lighthouse and consists of only one platform, a signal-box, the buildings housing the cafĂ©, and a water tank filled with the aid of a windmill pump. 
In order to dispense with a turntable and double track for reversing the engine, the single line runs into the station on a wide loop which, after completing nearly a full circle, rejoins the main track.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Wallace Lawler in Peaky Blinders

It's only Tuesday, but it's already the end of another week at Bonkers Hall.


I seem to have left myself rather short of space for the rest of the week, so I shall not be able to share my encounter with Clegg with you – suffice to say, I informed him that appointing a few women to the Cabinet would be more use than wearing a T-shirt.

However, I shall say a few words in defence of 'Peaky Blinders'. Some have questioned the accuracy of its portrait of Birmingham life. Speaking as one who helped Wallace Lawler win the Ladywood by-election in 1969, I should say it is exactly like that.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary
  • Confessions of a Knocker Up
  • Saturn? Terribly Far
  • Fellows, Morton & Clayton
  • Comet Kardashian
  • Graham Chapman honoured in Melton Mowbray

    Michael Palin was in Melton Mowbray today to unveil a plaque on the former home of his fellow Python Graham Chapman.

    The Leicester Mercury explains:
    Graham was born in Leicester in 1941 and lived in several places around the county including Wigston Fields, Braunstone, Syston and Melton, where his father was a policeman and Graham attended Melton Grammar School. It was Michael’s first visit to the house in Burton Road, Melton, where Graham’s family spent about three years.
    The Mercury quotes the current owner of the house:
    "I didn't know anything about it until three or four months ago when I got a phone call about having the plaque here. 
    "It’s great to have everyone here. I thought the Monty Python films were tremendous and I also enjoy Michael Palin's recent programmes so it's nice to meet him. 
    "I've got a pork pie for him in the fridge.”
    They know how to treat visitors in Melton.

    Tuesday, December 09, 2014

    St John the Evangelist, Shobdon, Herefordshire

    Shobdon Church, Herefordshire from Andy Marshall on Vimeo.

    From the Shobdon Church Preservation Trust website:
    Shobdon Church is a hugely important work of architecture. It has a direct connection to Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in Twickenham and the members of the “Committee of Taste” which strongly influenced its design. Its amazingly intact interior and matching furniture are the sole example of this Walpolean Gothick style of Georgian church architecture and furnishing.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Comet Kardashian

    Monday (cont.)

    So (we are back at Oakham Studios now talking about that blessed comet – do try to keep up) it was with this experience in mind that I suggested we stage the whole thing here.

    “Is that ethical?” asked a fellow bigwig.

    “It is for the European Union,” I replied firmly, “and as Liberal Democrats we all know that the European Union can do no wrong. Thus any action to improve its reputation is morally justified.”

    The plan agreed, I searched the shelves of my Library until I found what I was looking for: “I-Spy In the Night Sky” by my old friend Big Chief I-Spy. (How a Red Indian Chief came to be living in Shepperton is a story I do not have time to unfold today.) And in it I found the perfect comet for our purposes.

    So it was this morning that I made my way to Oakham Studios to stage the landing of Delors-1 on Comet Kardashian. More than one of the film crew remarked that our craft was “the size of a washing machine”. That was not surprising as it is a washing machine. I may have neglected to inform my Housekeeper of my intention to borrow it, but we must all make sacrifices for Europe, what?

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

    Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary
    • Confessions of a Knocker Up
    • Saturn? Terribly Far
    • Fellows, Morton & Clayton
    • Two new books on Jeremy Thorpe to be published

      The Bookseller tells us that, following his death last week, two books on Jeremy Thorpe are being rushed out:
      Little, Brown will be first, releasing Jeremy Thorpe by Michael Bloch on 16th December, less than two weeks after Thorpe’s death. 
      The book chronicles Thorpe’s “rapid rise and spectacular fall from grace”.  ... Bloch’s “magisterial biography is not just a brilliant retelling of this amazing story; years in the making, it is also the definitive character study of one of the most fascinating figures in post-war British politics”, said Little, Brown. ...
      Penguin Random House’s Viking, an imprint of Penguin General, will release Conspiracy by Telegraph journalist John Preston in early 2016. ...
      Preston will draw on previously unseen material and years of research for his “explosive exposĂ©”.
      The Daily Mail is already publishing Bloch's revelations under headlines like - "Did Jeremy Thorpe have a gay lover thrown to his death from a yacht?"

      Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceProbably not, you suspect, but I do like the sound of one character Bloch introduces us to: the Chief Constable of Devon, Colonel Ranulph ‘Streaky’ Bacon.

      Monday, December 08, 2014

      Hunstanton: Queen of the Norfolk coast

      This family is standing on the town's pier, now long vanished.

      You can, however, see it in the minor Ealing Comedy Barnacle Bill.

      Prickwillow telephone box 'blinged up' as Christmas bauble

      Thanks to BBC News, Headline of the Day visits Cambridgeshire, while Prickwillow has landed itself Place Name of the Day.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: Fellows, Morton & Clayton

      Monday (cont.)

      It was then I recalled the early days of the Independent Television franchise for Rutland. In those days we prided ourselves upon our coverage of international affairs, so it was a blow when, owing to an unfortunate concatenation of circumstances, we found ourselves unable to cover Suez.

      Nothing daunted, I stepped in and restaged the whole thing at Foxton Locks with the local Scouts and a couple of narrowboats borrowed from Fellows, Morton & Clayton. We had a grand time of it, but imagine my annoyance the next day when I learnt that the promised legend ‘Reconstruction’ had not appeared on the screen even for a moment.

      You know how one is always reading in the newspapers that people are “bracing themselves” for things? Well, I braced myself for a deluge of letters of complaint, but – do you know what? – not a single one arrived. The public had not noticed a thing.

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

      Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary
      • Confessions of a Knocker Up
      • Saturn? Terribly Far
      • Jeremy Thorpe: The Silent Conspiracy - not such a revelation?

        Having your former leader on trial at the Old Bailey for conspiracy to murder makes modern-day political scandals look tame. Tweeting a picture of a house with a flag? Pfft.

        I enjoy Tom Mangold's Radio 4 programme Jeremy Thorpe: The Silent Conspiracy, but I am slighlty puzzled by its most important claim.

        A BBC News report about it says:
        Presented by Tom Mangold, who reported on the Thorpe case for the BBC at the time, it contains material from the 1970s that has never been broadcast before, along with new evidence. 
        One particularly strange puzzle arises from the account of Dennis Meighan, who provided the gun that was used to shoot Mr Scott's dog, Rinka - an incident in which Mr Scott says he feared for his own life. 
        Speaking in a broadcast interview for the first time, Mr Meighan discloses that he himself was asked to kill Mr Scott by a man who, he was told, represented a Mr Big in the Liberal Party. 
        Mr Meighan says that he initially agreed to carry out the plan before changing his mind. However, after he confessed this to the police, he was surprised when they later presented him with a prepared statement for him to sign. 
        "I read the statement, which did me no end of favours, but it did Jeremy Thorpe no end of favours as well, because it left him completely out of it. 
        "So I thought, 'Well, I've got to sign this'. It just virtually left everything out that was incriminating, but at the same time everything I said about the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe, etcetera, was left out as well." 
        This meant that Mr Meighan has never had to appear in court and explain his role in events.
        Extraordinary, extraordinary goings on. Yet (and I know this thanks to an otherwise unremarkable thread on Urban75) it is clear that Meighan's role was known about and reported at the time.

        Here is Auberon Waugh writing in the Spectator on 5 June 1981. Among six questions that remain to be answered about the affair, he lists:
        Why Denis Meighan, the man who sold Newton his gun, was not allowed to mention Newton's offer of £1,000 to do the job - of murdering Scott - for him.
        Waugh sat through the committal hearing at Minehead and later wrote a book about the affair. It is also widely rumoured that some of the wilder speculations in his columns were informed (if that is the right word) by MI5 sources.

        He was better informed than most.