Monday, March 30, 2015

Steam in the Colne Valley 1964-7

Between 1964 and 1967 Geoffrey Whitwam systematically filmed the last days of steam in the Colne Valley - between Huddersfield and Marsden in the West Riding of Yorkshire. 
His personal record of Black Fives. Jubilees, 8Fs, Britannias, Standard Fives, 9Fs, and Stanier and Fairburn Tanks has been collected together on a video for the first time. What has more than 20 years done to the line? Using brief modern footage to contrast the archive film, Pennine Steam paints a unique picture not just of blackened workhorses, but of a stretch of line where progress will never erase the memory of pre-diesel Britain.

Crutches museum needs support

The South Shropshire Journal has not updated its website since September 2013, but thanks to this photo sent in by a reader in Bishop's Castle it has won our Headline of the Day Award.

Read more about the House on Crutches Museum in the town.

General election wildlife latest

Larry the cat confronts a sniffer dog and a fox runs down Downing Street.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Michael Roper on growing up in the shadow of the First World War

The Victorians get an unfairly bad press. They did not cover table legs because they thought them indecent. That was a joke 19th-century Britons made about the more prudish Americans.

And I am convinced that the British obsession with respectability and emotional repression dates not from the Victorians but from the early decades of the 20th century.

It may even date from after the First World War.

You know those little shrines that appear today where someone has died in a car crash? The ones that people tend to find a bit unBritish?

Backwatersman (aka the blogger across the road) once wrote a post showing that they existed during in the First World War:
I’ve recently been reading (or partly re-reading) “Vanished World“, the first part of the autobiography of the Northamptonshire author H.E. Bates (b. 1905). I came across this: 
“even a child couldn't escape the eventual insufferable gloom of the holocaust that every morning was reflected in the long columns of the dead, wounded and missing that darkened every newspaper and still more intimately in the little mourning shrines set up in every street with their own lists of agonies and pitiful jam jars of flowers” 
and a little later: 
“the effect of those long, black, mortifying lists of killed, wounded and missing that filled column after column of every morning newspaper had made a searing impression on me that has never left me; nor can I ever forget the little improvised street shrines decorated, as one still often sees in little Italian cemeteries, with faded photographs of the dead and a few jam jars of fading flowers.”
If British emotional repression was a reaction to the losses of the First World War, then the moving video above may provide more evidence,

I was in the audience for this talk by Michael Roper, live-tweeting it as part of my day job.

Professor Edgar Jones' fascinating talk on shell shock, which I posted last year, was given at the same event.

Peter Preston looks back on David Steel's byelection victory

Peter Preston's column in tomorrow's Guardian is about the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of David Steel's byelection victory in Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. Preston covered the contest as a young reporter:
We’re used to seeing politician as spads, special advisers without a life away from greasy polls. We’re used to alienation, distrust, the greater snarling Paxo. 
Were things kinder and gentler half a century ago? Not exactly: Brown and Hailsham, for two, could dish it out. Jeremy Thorpe was already a sly, smiling rogue. 
But on the doorsteps and in the village halls there was a connection beyond curled lips. Byelections mattered to editors. (I wrote 14 dispatches from the Borders.) A whole pack of hacks followed events day by day. 
No one set much store by opinion polls. If you wanted – whether as a reporter or a candidate – to find out what was happening, you needed to talk to people, to greet and meet.
I am also reminded of Judy Steel's Tale from the Tap End, which I once reviewed for Liberal Democrat News:
Ultimately ... a political biography stands or falls by the quality of its anecdotes. My favourite in Tales from the Tap End concerns an old lady to whom Judy Steel was introduced during the 1965 by-election. "I’m so glad to meet you,” she said. “We’ve always been a great Liberal family. My brother Sandy won the Border Burghs for Mr Gladstone in 1886."

Jethro Tull: A New Day Yesterday

A great video of Jethro Tull in their bluesy prime.

Fillimore East was a music venue in New York's East Village.

In a The Local East Village article, John Mayall recalls:
If you played there, you did feel like you were a part of something whereas the bigger places, of course, everybody gets lost in the shuffle. Stadiums are stadiums, it loses the intimacy. So because of the size of the place it was just about right. It held a lot of people but not too many people that you couldn’t feel that connection with the artist.
Its owner Bill Graham, says the article:
long maintained that the Woodstock Festival dramatically changed the rock concert industry. As performers’ fees skyrocketed, only arenas and stadiums could afford to book the rock stars of the 1970s
Today it is a bank.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The press outside Cowley Street during the Coalition negotiations

A couple of photos taken on Monday 10 May 2010 while the Coalition negotiations were going on. Suddenly the Liberal Democrats were of interest to the world's press.

As a sign that we were now an important party, a couple of gorillas in suits appeared in reception at Cowley Street to vet visitors. When I took the photo from inside the building I thought they were going to arrest me under the Official Secrets Act.

Fraudster escapes from high-security prison after forging bail letter

Who could have foreseen that?

Anyway, Metro wins our Headline of the Day Award.

An extended trailer for Coalition

This looks fun - tonight on Channel 4 at 9.

Happy Birthday, Dirk Bogarde

Dirk Bogarde was born on 28 March 1921.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Liberal Democrats revive the kerb drill

Back in the 1960s, before the touchy-feely, child-centred Green Cross Code was thought of, we had the kerb drill:
"At the kerb, halt! Look right, look left, look right again. If all clear, quick march!"
Now, with the poster above, the Liberal Democrats are trying to revive it. Could there be a grown up in charge of our campaign after all?

You can see the drill in action in this first Ministry of Information film:

And see an adult being taught it by a squeaky-voiced Forties child in the second.

Six of the Best 501

Tim Oliver says Liberals must stand up to Russia over Ukraine.

"I very much welcome the decision of the Supreme Court that letters written by Prince Charles to Ministers should be published." Peter Black explains why.

George Packer on a St Petersburg gathering of right-wing extremists from Europe and the US: "There’s a little Putin in everyone, forever picking at old scabs, whipping up team spirit, settling scores—us against them, a hateful sort of love. Acknowledging these things is the only antidote to being governed by them."

"The notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer." Judith Shulevitz deplores the sheltering of students from scary ideas.

Cristina Hartmann explains why it took so long for The Great Gatsby to be recognised as a masterpiece.

"I have told my son he ain't fucking playing snooker, because I love him too much." Sam Knight profiles the genius that is Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Church Stretton Library swept away in a tide of management speak

Church Stretton Library is tucked away behind the town's church, housed in a former school. I have written more than one post on this blog there.

Today the Shropshire Star reports that it is to be moved to a site that will be less convenient for many of the people who use it.

Maybe this decision has been forced upon the council by the reduction in government funding - and the officers' report quoted in the Star eventually gets round to saying that - but you have to wade through a sea of management bullshit first:
The decision was made this morning by Councillor Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council's portfolio holder for business growth, ip&e, culture and commissioning. 
Before the meeting, officers at Shirehall recommended he should proceed with the plan – in a report officers Michael Lewis and Kate Garner recommended the plans for the move saying it will "create a modern, sustainable and accessible library service in Church Stretton that reflects the council’s vision for a transformed library service as well as maximise revenue savings for the council".
Reader's voice: You obviously feel strongly about this.

Liberal England replies: I do, but I also have this rather nice picture of the library I wanted to use...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scarthin Books is falling down

Alarming news from Cromford and the BBC:
A bookshop once named as one of the best in the world could fall down unless £10,000 can be raised for structural repairs, say its owners. 
Four steel columns need to be installed at Scarthin Books, in Cromford, Derbyshire, to support the weight of about 100,000 books over four floors.
Scarthin Books (seen here across Cromford Pool - it's the shop with the awnings next to the chapel) is crowdfunding money for the work via its website.

Not only is it one of my favourite bookshops, it was due to play an important part in my plan to move the Lords and Commons to Arkwright's Mill in Cromford.

In which I am mentioned in the Independent

My story about Nicky Morgan having a book published by the eccentric Bretwalda Books made it into Andy McSmith's Independent Diary this morning.

I even got a mention there myself. Along with paying my respects to Richard III, that made it an enjoyable birthday morning,

Writing it the other day led me to rediscover this blog's Rupert Matthews label.

I had forgotten just how much entertainment is to be found there. Do click on it yourself if you want some fun.

Paying my respects to Richard III

Alarmed by stories of long queues, I arrived at Leicester Cathedral at eight this morning. That proved early enough to beat the rush and it took me only an hour to pay my respects to Richard III and leave.

It was such an English queue that you could buy a cup of tea as we snaked around the Cathedral Gardens, and someone close by was making a lot of money selling white roses.

When you got inside the cathedral, Richard's coffin, with its black pall and a servicemen at each corner, looked entirely regal.

We were a modern crowd, with phones and cameras and tablets - someone's phone went off with Call Me by Blondie as its ringtone while I was trying to be all solemn - but I like to think we did the King proud.

It has been a remarkable week for Leicester and Leicestershire. 

When the plans for taking Richard's bones around the Bosworth battlefield and the villages associated with it were announced, I wondered if it was a good idea. But it turned out to be an act of genius and I found myself ridiculously moved.

This, I think, had less to do with Richard III and more to do with the community involvement. Councillors, ex-servicemen, Scouts and Brownies... 

What we saw on BBC News and heard on BBC Radio Leicester was the sort of civic England you fear had been lost to modernisation and the turbo-capitalism.

Because the day was not about celebrating Richard III or the monarchy: it was about celebrating our pride in Leicester and Leicestershire. In the end, the day was about ourselves.

And then Richard's returned to Leicester in triumph, rather than naked over the back of a horse.

Let no one tell you that history cannot be rewritten.

Opening Sentence of the Day

The winner is the Derby Telegraph for:
The former landlord of a Derbyshire home where a man died from carbon monoxide poisoning has been declared the Green Party’s General Election candidate for Erewash.

Adrian Barnes is the Lib Dem mayoral candidate for Leicester

Adrian Barnes, a barrister, will be the Liberal Democrat candidate in Leicester's mayoral election. That election will take place on the same day as the general election: Thursday 7 May.

He told the Leicester Mercury he is standing because of the absolute lack of checks and balances in the city:
"There are Labour MPs, a Labour council and a Labour mayor and it's just a nonsense and I think people are now ready for a change."
It has also been announced that Anita Prabhakar will be the party's general election candidate in the Leicester South constituency.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stuart Mole to fight East Devon for the Liberal Democrats

When I joined the Liberal Party the Chelmsford constituency was one of our great hopes of a gain.

Stuart Mole fought it for us a five general elections from February 1974 to 1987. In 1983 he came within 378 votes of beating the sitting Conservative MP Norman St John-Stevas.

Now, as the Exeter Express & Echo reported last month, Stuart has been chosen to fight the East Devon seat for the Liberal Democrats in May's general election.

You can hear him make his case in this video.

Leicester Labour bickers while children are at risk

Over to the Leicester Mercury for a report on last night's meeting of Leicester City Council's overview scrutiny committee. The meeting was called to discuss a damning Osfted report on the council's children's social services department,

We join the report halfway through:
The meeting took an ill-tempered turn when Coun Kitterick asked Ms Craven to say when she had informally told the mayor about the problems she discovered in October shortly after her arrival. 
Sir Peter [Soulsby] attempted to answer the question but committee chairman Mohammed Dawood insisted the officer answer herself. 
Sir Peter then said: "Oh chair, honestly how silly can you get?" 
Coun Dawood said: "City mayor, you are so silly too."
As the great rugby referee Nigel Owens has been known to put it on such occasions: "You are both being very immature."

Advocates of the mayoral system argue that it provides leadership and accountability.

But when something goes wrong in Leicester, the city's elected mayor always announces that the blame lies elsewhere. Wherever the buck stops, it is not with him.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The second dig in Leicester's Richard III car park

This video looks at the second dig that took place at Leicester's most famous car park.

Some time after the bones of Richard III were discovered, University of Leicester archaeologists went back to the site to find out more about the friary in whose church Richard was buried.

I suspect this interested them more than finding the king.

Lord Bonkers gives an insight into Liberal Democrat fundraising

From the old brute's Diary a year ago:
From time to time I am asked by the leaders of our party to entertain a fellow at the Hall. “Give him the best of everything,” they tell me. “Bacon and eggs, shooting, Auld Johnston and so forth. Treat him right and he is good for a cool half million.”

Nicky Morgan's peculiar choice of publisher

The Loughborough Echo reports that Nick Morgan - secretary of state for education and the town's MP - has written a children’s activity non-fiction book about Loughborough during the Civil War.

Good for her, but it's the book's publisher that interests Liberal England.

In 2011 we blogged about the Bretwalda Books title "Britain - A Post Political Correctness Society" by Bill Etheridge. You can see its cover here.

When he wrote the book Etheridge was a Conservative, but he left the party after he and his wife were photographed with golliwogs on their Facebook page.

Today he is a Ukip MEP. He was last heard of last August, advising his new party's young activists to copy Hitler's style of oratory.

Bretwalda Books books is run by Rupert Matthews, who has provided this blog with much entertainment over the years.

Channel 4's story on Colin Baker and Richard III

There is been a lot of interest in this tweet today, but as far as I can tell it is old news.

Because Channel 4 is talking about the film Finding Richard. This was first mentioned on Liberal England in February of last year and we posted the trailer here in December.

This certainly seems a more likely theory than the confused one The Version has:
The film will shoot this week and will be submitted to the Cannes Film Festival in early March.
What today's tweet means, I suspect, is that Channel 4 is going to show Finding Richard.

That is good news. So let's enjoy the trailer again.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Six of the Best 500

Peter Oborne reviews Blair Inc. by Francis Beckett, David Hencke and Nick Kochan - an investigation of the former PM's business dealings since leaving office. "The authors reveal that Azerbaijan helps to fund Progress, the Blairite pressure group inside Labour."

"The polling station is a kit of essential parts, like a field hospital, erected inside another building. Also like a field hospital, it is governed by very exact procedures, and is capable of coping with sudden rushes of people interspersed by longeurs." Election Aesthetics looks at an institution we politicos depend upon but take for granted.

Nick Barlow is blogging like a god at the moment. Here he brings us some prominent columnists' response to the eclipse.

English Buildings on the charming Looking Round London by Helen Carstairs from 1938 or thereabouts.

Hy-Brasil - the lost phantom island to the west of Ireland - is sought by Mysterious Universe.

"As a captain he led by example – Dave Mackay never left the pitch without having given every ounce of effort possible and he demanded nothing less from his team mates. But, his leadership was not merely a matter of fist shaking exhortation: his greatest attribute as a captain was that all the players he played with wanted his good opinion." The Immortal Jukebox pays tribute to a football legend who died recently.

Fire extinguisher factory left burning for 30 minutes as firefighters could not find water

The Independent wins Headline of the Day.

Don't worry: the fire was in Chicago.

Traffic: Gimme Some Lovin'

The Glastonbury Festival did not become a regular event until the 1980s, but it began to take a fixed shape in 1971 with the first appearance of the Pyramid Stage.

And the festival was filmed, as Glastonbury Fayre, by Nicolas Roeg and David Putnam.

Rob Young writes in his Electric Eden:
Viewing the film Glastonbury Fayre, and photographs of what went on inside that enchanted boundary, is like seeing some superimposition of William Morris’s Earthly Paradise, a sanctuary for post atomic-war refugees, and the Glastonbury Zodiac remade as a gigantic bed-sitting room. A transient city of tepees, cellophane sheets and splayed guy ropes. 
Charred cauldrons bubble over blazing log fires; queues snake around outside soup kitchens; the Union Jack flutters with the ying and yang; women cradle kittens and hold wild flowers to their lips; babies crawl alongside basking dogs; couples shyly slink to the edge of a copse. 
Hell's Angels sport mirror-sheen Wehrmacht helmets; flowers are tucked into headbands or drawn on torsos; spliffs are puffed and passed around; Hare Krishna devotees chant over tamburas; pipe-pulling or denim clad vicars join throbbing circles of Jesus-haired dancers. 
Impromptu spontaneous music ensembles band together and march through the site with fifes and drums. Baked revellers clatter empty coke cans together, bash tambourines, blow recorders, tin whistles; ocarina; greet the morning sun with yoga, ivy wreaths and hands clasped in prayer. A wrecked car lies half-buried in a makeshift grave. You can almost smell the mingled aromas of charred corn cobs, veggie burgers, natural body odour and humming latrines. 
Above all, there are outbreaks of decidedly unEnglish nudity and hedonistic dancing, whether to Fairport Convention’s electric jigs, or to the 4/4 power stomp of Traffic’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’, or the shamanistic space ritual of Hawkwind.
You can see those photographs on the UK Rock Festival site's pages for Glastonbury 1971.

And you can also watch Traffic in my video. The crowd includes a kooky chick with a piece of pink plastic and the celebrity drug dealer Howard Marks.

This is the larger version of Traffic that toured in their later days. The bands includes Leicester's Rick Grech on bass and founding member Dave Mason on guitar.

Mason was thrown out of the band by Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi for writing "Hole in my Shoe", but made intermittent returns, He does not seem to be enjoying himself much here and these days tends to appear as the black-hatted bad fairy in films about Steve Winwood.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

King Richard III Day at the University of Leicester

I spent some time today at the University of Leicester's King Richard III Day. There was plenty of Medieval-type fun for the kiddies and three streams of lectures for the grown ups.

I listened to three lectures. Matthew Morris, who was the site director for the dig at Greyfriars, revealed just how fortunate it was that Richard III was found.

He revealed that the famous 'R' on the car park was much fainter than photographs make it appear - besides, the king was beneath the space next door. He did use the car park markings to align the first trench though.

When I spoke to him before the lecture, he suggested that my photo I like to believe shows the moment the king was found was probably taken an hour or before that. You can see the photo in a post I wrote to advertise this day beforehand.

Dr David Baldwin is a historian who, back in 1986, wrote a paper suggesting that Richard's bones were probably still at Greyfriars and speculating that archaeologists might one day find them. That makes my blog post from June 2012 look pretty tame, even though I wrote it before it was known that a dig was planned,

He explained that the local tradition that Richard's bones had been thrown into the River Soar at some point was always mistaken. Robert Herrick, who owned a house on the Greyfriars site in the early 17th century, marked the king's grave with a pillar inscribed 'Here lies the body of Richard III, some time King of England'. He would not have done that if everyone in the city knew it was no longer there.

As to the Princes in the Tower, Dr Baldwin suggested there is evidence that Edward V was ill before he disappeared from history. It may be significant that all the later pretenders claimed to be his younger brother Richard or even the son of the Duke of Clarence.

What is remarkable is that their fate never became known. Whoever was responsible for their deaths, both Richard III and Henry VII would have demanded to know the truth. And if they knew, then their inner circles wold have known. Yet even after those kings' deaths, no one ever revealed the truth.

He also suggested that Richard III probably surprised his contemporaries my seizing the throne. Recent historical precedents in England were for a young king's uncles to act selflessly. Richard may have feared for his position and influence if Edward V fell under the influence of his Woodville relations and, once he was bound upon his course, there was no way back.

Dr Richard Buckley, who was the lead archaeologist on the dig, talked about how Greyfriars fitted into the development of Leicester. The latest thinking is that Roman remains could be seen standing here as late as the 12th century, at which point the stones were reused to build the growing city. (Except at the Jewry Wall, of course.) Certainly, Medieval streets bend around the old Roman sites,

You can hear Richard Buckley talking on this them in a video I posted on this blog in 2012.

He also explained how alien it was to an archaeologist to be looking for a named individual. He said that none of the digs conducted at Leicester Abbey have looked for Cardinal Wolsey, who was buried.

If we ever did find him, he said, then cities like Ipswich and Oxford would try to claim him. As long as his bones are not disturbed, he will stay in Leicestershire.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Horrible Histories' Richard III song

See King Richard in Leicester for information on the coming week's events.

What the Liberal Party knew about Cyril Smith

Ruth Bright calls for those investigating the late Cyril Smith to be allowed to scrutinise the Liberal Democrats' archives,

I don't know that the party has or would refuse any such request, so far our reaction to the allegations has fallen short of complete openness.

As the Observer reported in April of last year:
"Cyril Smith’s acts were vile and repugnant and we have nothing but sympathy for those whose lives he ruined. His actions were not known to, or condoned by the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats." Party sources said there were no plans to launch further investigations.
Trouble is, at least in the case of the Liberal Party, it is not true that his actions were not know to the party.

First, there were Private Eye's allegations against him in 1979. Anyone active in any party would have read those. I have reproduced the page from the organ above and if you enlarge it you will be able to read it.

Second, there is the account of Smith's behaviour at the Manchester Central by-election in the same year that I have quoted here before:
Cyril Smith sat next to a 14 year old boy (I deliberately kept him away from the young girls after his lewd comments). He bantered with anyone – old, middle aged or young… and then his left hand moved onto the groin area of the 14 year old boy. The boy jumped sky-high! 
My late hubby saw it and moved in very quickly (he sent me a signal to get the 14 year old boy into a safe space next to me). Hubby placed a firm hand on Cyril Smith’s shoulder whilst he ‘whispered’ in Smith’s ear. I believe that my late hubby told Cyril Smith to either remove himself immediately (without bother) or my hubby would remove him without ceremony. 
How my 12 stone hubby would have removed a 30 stone MP I don’t know! Maybe we are sometimes empowered by the sense of indignity, right and safeguarding of those in our care. Cyril Smith did leave my flat without a fuss. My hubby reported this incident to the local police, Liberal Headquarters and the Region.
Third, there is the account of Dominic Carman, a recent Lib Dem candidate and the son of George Carman, who conducted Jeremy Thorpe's successful defence when he was charged with conspiracy to murder.

As the Guardian reported in February 2013:
"My father was told by Thorpe that senior Liberals knew of the serious nature of the allegations against Smith and that they dated back many years. I approached the police in December with information," Carman said. A spokesman for Greater Manchester police confirmed that an officer has spoken to Carman. 
Thorpe was cleared of plotting to murder Scott but failed to regain his political career. 
Another source who also claimed to have spoken to George Carman during the trial said that the barrister was concerned about the possible impact of further revelations in the Thorpe trial. 
"The reason that it was a genuine fear was because there were so many allegations against Smith involving boys that one assumed there was no smoke without fire," the source said.
So Ruth is right. The Liberal Democrats should do all they can to help expose the truth about Cyril Smith.

Tom Brown and William Brown

I recently came across a review of two of the Just William books, written by Lincoln Allison in 2006:
William Brown first featured in a short story in 1919 and went on to be the central character in thirty-eight collections of stories. 
He shares his surname with Tom Brown and also a place in the great English catalogue of children's (mainly boys') writing which began with Charles Kingsley and Tom Hughes. (I'm not sure when it ended.) But otherwise they are opposites in every way; William is the alternative Brown, the alternative boy. 
Most of the central characters in the vast collection of English children's writing, including thousands of school stories, embody the Victorian idea of virtue to some degree. 
William does not: he does not "do" modesty, humility or unselfishness. His virtues, if you will allow them, are a love of liberty, a zest for life and a kind of honesty. He is more like Falstaff or Bottom than he is like Tom Brown. 
When compared with the Christian Socialism to which the Doctor converts Tom, William's political preferences are a dictatorship with himself as dictator - followed by anarchy if that isn't an option.
He concludes:
I'm tempted by the idea of the universe as a struggle between two eleven-year-old boys called Brown. Tom Brown, I think, stands for something rather sinister, at least potentially. William Brown stands for humour, freedom and the uninhibited enjoyment of both reality and fantasy. ¡Viva la libertad! ¡Viva Guillermo!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the genesis of Sherlock Holmes

This interview was recorded in 1927. He also speaks about his interest in spritualism.

The campaign against Chelsea

Back in December Jose Mourinho complained of a "campaign against Chelsea" and everyone scoffed.

But an article posted on the club's official website yesterday does at least point to some surprising facts:
It is in our 28 Premier League games this season where we have been awarded just two penalties. Both were for infringements on the league’s most-fouled player, Eden Hazard, and both were in home London derbies, against Arsenal and QPR respectively. The most recent was four-and-a-half months ago. 
Historically, this figure seems abnormally low. 
In the Double-winning 2009/10 campaign, when we were the country’s outstanding attacking team, we were awarded 12 league penalties.
Even in recent seasons, when Chelsea has been a little less successful, we were awarded more penalties than we have been this season.

The article points to another interesting fact. In our six Champions League group games earlier this season we were awarded four penalties.

I am sure there is an innocent explanation for all this, but it would be interesting to know what it is.

Janice Atkinson MEP suspended by Ukip

From Sun Nation:
Ukip has suspended one of its senior figures after a Sun investigation into alleged fraudulent expense claims. 
Ukip has removed the whip from MEP Janice Atkinson and axed her as a general election candidate “following allegations of a serious financial nature”, the party said. 
Ms Atkinson represents the South East in the European Parliament and was due to fight the Folkestone and Hythe Commons seat on May 7. 
The Sun secretly filmed a member of her staff apparently plotting to make a substantial bogus expenses claim. 
A party spokesman said it was "incredibly disappointed with Ms Atkinson, who appears to have exercised extremely poor judgment in acting in a way that the party has never and would never condone".
Sun Nation promises to post a video of the incident tomorrow morning.

Inquiry into the lack of an inquiry into Greville Janner announced

From BBC News:
Further inquiries are to be carried out into whether detectives were told to limit a child abuse investigation centred on the former MP Lord Janner.
A home belonging to the 86-year-old peer, who was a Labour MP in Leicester for 27 years, was searched in 2013.
Last year it was reported that in 1989 a detective sergeant was told not to arrest Mr Janner or search his home.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has said more investigation is needed into the claims.
Leicestershire Police said internal inquiries had been made before the matter was referred to the commission.
Greville Janner was Labour MP for Leicester North West and then Leicester West between 1970 and 1997.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Disused railway stations in Herefordshire

Not to mention Devon, BedfordshireNorth LincolnshireEast Sussex and Leicestershire.

Six of the Best 499

The Farron-hunting season has begun, reports Nick Barlow.

Towards the Sound of Gunfire offers its "highly suspect general election predictions". They look plausible to me.

"Immigration will cease to be an issue. The children of Eastern European immigrants are assimilating just as the children in Britain born to Poles in the 1970s did (Ramsgate’s only devoted Polish deli actually shut down recently). Many English locals can now be seen and heard in Baltic Branch stores, having discovered eight per cent Polish lager. The Latvian woman behind the counter at a newsagent in Ramsgate even addresses me as 'darlin''." Patrick West journeys into South Thanet - Nigel Farage’s prospective constituency.

Political philosophy is now illegal in the UK, reports Chris Bertram. Unless you are at Oxford or Cambridge, obviously.

Flickering Lamps visits the ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars in the City of London, where the ghost of the 'she-wolf of France' walks.

William Whyte looks sympathetically upon university architecture of the 1960s.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bob Appleyard (1924-2015) - a unique cricketer

When I blogged a list of the 10 oldest surviving England test cricketers last month, I said that I must write more about the man in third place.

So I was sad to read today of the death of Bob Appleyard, but I will keep my word and pay tribute to him here,

Appleyard's story is simply extraordinary. His development was held up by the Second World War, with the result that he did not make his debut for Yorkshire until he was 26, playing a few games at the end of the 1950 season.

The following summer, in his first full season in county cricket, Appleyard took 200 wickets for Yorkshire at 14.14 apiece.

But his health was already failing. The next summer he played only one game before being diagnosed with tuberculosis. He had an operation was not expected to live.

By 1954 he was fit enough to play county cricket again, and he took 154 wickets at 14.42, He made his England debut against Pakistan that summer, taking 5-51 in the first innings he bowled in.

His form won him a place on Len Hutton's historic tour to Australia in 1954-5. The Ashes were regained largely because of Tyson and Statham's fast bowling, but it was Appleyard, the stock bowler at the other end, who topped the England bowling averages.

After that his career began to decline. He played his last test in 1956, as he was displaced by the rise of Jim Laker, and injury meant that he was released by Yorkshire after the 1958 season.

In 152 matches for Yorkshire he had taken 708 wickets at 15.44 apiece, and in his nine tests he had 31 victims at 17.87.

Beyond the figures, Appleyard was a remarkable bowler in that he was able to bowl fast medium and off spin off the same run and apparently with the same action.

Appleyard's Telegraph obituary, to which I am indebted for the statistics in this post describes him as "one of the greatest bowlers of the post-war period".

But it continues:
There were judges in Yorkshire who were inclined to go further. The former England fast bowler Bill Bowes, for example, held that Appleyard achieved a level of excellence matched by only two other bowlers – Sydney Barnes and Bill O’Reilly – in the history of the game.
Certainly, there is no one like him today. The only bowler I watched who might give you a clue to what Appleyard must have been like was the left-armer Derek Underwood, with his fast spinners. He too was deadly on a damp wicket,

As to how Appleyard managed to bowl as he did, this article on Planet NZ has some ideas.

Appleyard was remarkable outside cricket. As both a child and an adult he suffered a series of bereavements that would have felled a lesser man. Perhaps this had something to do with his late emergence as a Yorkshire bowler.

After retiring from cricket he enjoyed a successful business career. When his firm was bought out by Robert Maxwell, he fought the fraudster all the way and achieved a generous redundancy settlement.

Later, when pro- and anti-Boycott factions were tearing Yorkshire apart, he tried to act as a peacemaker.

In No Coward Soul, a book about Appleyard written by Stephen Clarke and Derek Hodgson, he is quoted as comparing the two sacred monsters. Remembering Maxwell,he says:
He used to come in a bit late, make an entrance - just as Geoffrey Boycott was wont to do on the Yorkshire committee.
And now Bob Appleyard is dead. He was a unique cricketer and I wish I had written this post last month when I discovered he was still alive.

The first general election with an unpopular Lib Dem leader

My memory of general election campaigns goes back to February 1974, but the 2015 campaign will be a first.

It will be the first election the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats have fought with an unpopular leader.

Jeremy Thorpe, David Steel, Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy were all wildly popular with the voters, even if it was sometimes possible to wonder why.

The one leader who was not popular with the public, Ming Campbell, was defenestrated before he could fight an election

In 2010 Nick Clegg was popular, even if the Cleggmania engendered by the first televised leaders' debate had largely dissipated by the time polling day came.

But in 2015 Nick Clegg is not popular. the latest Ipsos MORI poll to ask about such things found that his approval rating was a lowly -36.

All of which means that Nick Barlow is probably right when he says we should not expect the Liberal Democrats' poll ratings to go up during the election campaign just because they always have.

Perhaps wisely,  the optimists in the party are looking to a strong incumbency factor for our sitting MPs as the key to our defying the national opinion polls, and some constituency polls do give them a rational basis for their optimism.

A strong, practical, passionate woman for Watford

A superior campaign film for the Liberal Democrat candidate for Watford, Dorothy Thornhill. This seat represents one of the party's best hopes for a gain at the the general election.

Note that there is only one kitchen in view throughout.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Maybe the polls are right and there will be an SNP landslide

Back in January I suggested that the results of May's general election might be more boring than a lot of people expect.

To an extent I was right. The Green surge seems to have come and gone, while no one now expects Ukip to win more than a meagre handful of seats.

However, the prospect of an SNP landslide now seems stronger than it did at the start of the year.

I based my scepticism then in part upon an analysis by Iain Dale, who had looked at each constituency and then made a forecast.

In January he wrote:
Others are projecting that the SNP could win upwards of 40 of Scotland’s 59 seats. I regard that as completely fanciful and it shows why making any sensible prediction has to be done on a seat by seat basis. 
In truth, when I did my Scottish predictions I had the SNP on 13 seats. I went back and looked at some of their other target seats and bumped them up to 18. How on earth they could win much beyond that is beyond me.
Now Iain has revisited his predictions and now forecasts that the SNP will win 42 seats.

Looking at his new predictions, the doubts he and I shared at the start of the year are reawakened. To get them up to 42 seats he has the SNP coming from fourth place to win in more than one constituency.

Yet we should remember that the opinion polls are usually right.

As Mark Stuart writes on the University of Nottingham's Ballots & Bullets blog:
And yet as I caution against predicting an SNP landslide at Westminster, my mind is cast back to the months before the 1997 General Election when no-one could quite believe that New Labour would win a landslide, despite poll after poll presaging it. After all, the polls had been famously wrong in 1992. 
But myself and Professor Philip Cowley summoned up the nerve each to place a small £5 bet on a spread of an overall Labour majority of 161-180 at odds of 12-1. A tense night followed because if anything Labour pushed to the upper end of our forecasts. Labour ended with an overall majority of 179, and I reinvested my winnings in a copy of The Times Guide to the House of Commons.
As we are now so close to polling day, it is hard to resist Stuart's conclusion that "it should be slowly sinking in that the SNP may be about to win a landslide".

Grant Shapps and Mick Jones of the Clash are cousins

For some reason everyone is being beastly to Grant Shapps today. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he threatened a constituent with legal action for telling the truth about him?

But I hope he will cheer up when he hears that he features in this blog's Trivial Fact of the Day.

Because, according to the New Statesman's eight weirdest things about Grant Shapps, he and Mick Jones of the Clash are cousins.

Superb new video of the demolition of "the mouth of Hell"

On Sunday I posted a video of the demolition  of Greyfriars bus station, Northampton - known affectionately to locals as "the mouth of Hell".

I have now come across this superb footage, which was shot by the demolition contractors themselves.

In which Grant Shapps fails to evade Michael Crick

To understand what is going on, read this blog post my Michael Crick.

You may also enjoy my 2012 post on Grant Shapps' problems with the internet.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

University of Leicester's King Richard III Day, 21 March

On Saturday the University of Leicester is holding a free day of family-friendly activities celebrating the University of Leicester’s discovery, identification and study of the last Plantagenet king.

Apparently you can hear from the experts who made these historical discoveries, experiment with DNA extraction, meet a 14th century friar, examine real skeletal remains, sample a medieval banquet and much more.

Full details on the university's website.

Fred Jordan: We Shepherds are the Best of Men

A Shropshire farm labourer who lived in a cottage without running water sounds like the sort of singer who should have been collected by Cecil Sharp or George Butterworth before the First World War.

Yet Fred Jordan lived to sing at folk festivals in the 21st century.

He was born at Ludlow in 1922 and left school at the age of 14. He was recorded by the BBC in the early 1950s and subsequently left Shropshire for the first time to sing at the Royal Festival Hall and at folk clubs around the country.

He lived for most of his life in the village of Aston Munslow and died at a care home in Ditton Priors in 2002.

Fred Jordan sang We Shepherds Are the Best of Men on his 1966 album Songs of a Shropshire Farm Worker.

Later. The video I originally posted has disappeared from YouTube, so here is another one of him.

Goodbye to Greyfriars bus station, Northampton

The Mouth of Hell is no more.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

In which two of my photographs are used by BBC News

By one of those odd coincidences, on Thursday I received emails from two different parts of the BBC asking for permission to reproduce a photograph from this blog.

First East Midlands Today, our regional evening news programme, asked if they could use the photo I took of the pizzawomen who briefly invaded Market Harborough back in September 2010. It seems they have been banned from Nottingham by the city council.

You can find it, with a suitable credit, on the BBC News pages for Nottingham, and I am told it was also shown on Friday's East Midlands Today.

No money changed hands, but I did received a voucher for a free pizza from Domino's when I posted it back in 2010.

The second email was from BBC Radio Northampton, who were interested in my photos of the last days of operation of the town's Greyfriars bus station.

"The Mouth of Hell", as it was affectionately known, will be blown up tomorrow morning.

You can find one of those photos on the BBC News pages for Northampton.

Ukip candidate for Harborough resigns because he would have to travel to London if he won

Clive Langley has resigned as Ukip's candidate for Harborough in May's general election.

Among the reasons he gives the Leicester Mercury are that he has "some health issues" and that "If I were elected I would have to take a pay cut as an MP and I would have had to travel to London all the time and that's something I hate."

Hitherto Mr Langley has been best known for telling everyone that he is going to win and for libelling the sitting Conservative MP, Sir Edward Garnier, who happens to be a leading libel barrister.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The demolition of Greyfriars bus station, Northampton

A few weekends ago this blog was preoccupied with the demolition of the New Walk Centre in Leicester,

This weekend there is another demolition to enjoy. The Greyfriars bus station in Northampton is to be blown up.

As my photograph shows, it is a powerful Brutalist, or at least brutal, structure. If you came across it as an industrial building you would be mightily impressed.

But it was a public building. And the minimum you ask of a public building is that it does not kill people.

The underpasses and passages that the public was meant to use were so unpleasant that many preferred to cross the bus lanes above instead. And at least two passengers lost their lives doing so.

For that reason, I am not sorry to see the old place go.

If you want to watch the fun on Sunday, the best bet seems to be the Northampton Chronicle & Echo live web cam.

Market Harborough is one of the best places to live in Britain - OFFICIAL

Regular readers will be aware that Market Harborough is one of the best places to live in Britain.

Still, it's nice to have it confirmed by the Sunday Times, which has included us in its list of the top 50 of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live Part 3 – Towns and Suburbs.

According to the Leicester Mercury report, the list is compiled by combining data and statistics on factors such as crime rates, house prices and school performance.

Meanwhile, thousands of Melton Mowbray residents are without water.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Disused railway stations in Leicestershire

Why travel further? I pass through some of these every day on my way to work.

If you enjoy this video, then you may enjoy Devon, BedfordshireNorth Lincolnshire and East Sussex too.

Six of the Best 498

Suddenly, Britain is disappearing from the world stage, says Anne Applebaum.

Stephen Glenn looks at the long career of James Molyneaux, who died earlier this week.

"The jury’s verdict casts a huge shadow over musical creativity and takes what should be familiar elements of a genre, available to all, and privatizes them." Kal Raustiala and Christopher Jon Sprigman are worried by the Blurred Lines verdict.

"All of these pitiful excuses for an abject performance in a tournament England had cleared the decks to prepare for, resulting in a 5-0 Ashes whomping that accelerated the end of the international careers of Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior while doing terrible damage to several others was presented as if it were something entirely beyond the ECB's control." Righteous indignation from Dave Tickner occasioned by England's abject exit from the World Cup.

 Deep down, did Jeremy Clarkson really want to go on doing Top Gear? Paul Walter turns psychoanalyst.

Curious British Telly remembers Feet First, a football-based situation comedy by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey.

Spider which can give men 4-hour erections found in Tesco bananas

Pink News wins Headline of the Day.

There was no need for a recount.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

British Railways poster for the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

After Coventry Cathedral, another post-nationalisation poster from the West Midlands.

Continuing Liberal Party stands down in favour of Ukip

The Liberal Party - a small group whose members opposed the merger with the SDP - has ended any doubts that it is a collection of fruitcakes.

The Western Morning News reports that it has stood down its three parliamentary candidates in Cornwall and urged supporters to vote for Ukip.

I hope those supporters will have more sense than the party's leaders and vote Liberal Democrat. Whatever our party's faults, it is far more Liberal than Ukip.

Thanks to Joe Oliver on Twitter.

When James Palumbo gave the Lib Dems "fantastic expertise"

Reform on this scale needs to be across the board. But it’s unfair to expect politicians to do it as they don’t have the skill set. In a democracy 2.0 they would. 
Taking the politics out of politics may sound perverse. But it could restore our fortunes - and, ironically, our faith in politicians.
James Palumbo's silly article has been rightly panned today in the Liberal Democrats and beyond. It seems that the use of "skill set" is a marker of idiocy well beyond The Apprentice.

But there was a time when we Lib Dems were supposed to take Palumbo extremely seriously.

Back in 2013 Palumbo received his peerage in the same honours list as Rumi Verjee. Quite by coincidence, both men had recently made substantial donations to the party.

When their elevation to the period was questioned, a "party spokesperson" defended them in these terms - the eccentric spelling is the responsibility of the Huffington Post:
"Having myself gone out and leafletted with Rumi, I can guarantee that he has done campaigning and leafletting like the best of them. 
"Support for the party shouldn't just entirely be based on how many leaflets you put through the door. 
"As for Palumbo, when we were in difficulty moving from opposition into government, he gave us fantastic expertise. The party would not be where it is without their efforts."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Lesley Rollings selected to fight Gainsborough for the Lib Dems

The Market Rasen Mail reports that Lesley Rollings, who represents Thonock on West Lindsey District Council, has been chosen to fight Gainsborough for the Liberal Democrats at the forthcoming general election.

The paper quotes the constituency chairman Angela White as saying:
"We have chosen one of our most active councillors to stand for Parliament in her home constituency. Lesley has a close understanding of rural and urban issues that concern people of all ages, but especially young people who are starting out on their working life."
Read more about Lesley Rollings on the East Midlands Liberal Democrats site.

Four great sources of free images for bloggers

Yes, it's a listicle, but I hope it will be of use to my fellow bloggers.

And if you know of any other good sources, please share them in the comments.

Getty Images

Getty used to be famous for coming down heavily on anyone who infringed their copyright. But last year everything changed.

Now bloggers can embed most of Getty's images without charge - an article on the British Journal of Photography site takes you through he small print,

You do have to use them at the size Getty specify and with the link to their site that is automatically generated, but if the image is good enough (and many of theirs are) that does not matter.

Getty have reserved the right to revoke this move, so it is possible that all their lovely images will disappear from your blog one day.

But in the mean time there is little reason not to fill your boots with some wondeful photographs.

Go to the Getty Images site.

Morgue File

Subscribing to commercial image libraries is expensive, but there is a free alternative.

The Morgue File (named after the heap of old photographs that printed publications used to keep) is a free image library.

The photographs it contains are taken by amateurs, and it sometimes shows, but there is a lot of good stuff in there.

You should check the conditions for any photo you want to use, but most can be used without attribution.

Importantly too, they can be cropped and otherwise altered as you wish. That can make an otherwise ordinary photo just what you need,

Go to Morgue File.


Crusher house with chimney, Snailbeach © Espresso Addict 

Want a photo of a place in Britain? Odds are you will find it on Geograph.

You can search by place name, postcode or grid reference to help find the location you are looking for.

Note that the images have to be credited,

Go to Geograph.

Take your own

One thing blogging has done for me is to reawaken my interest in photography and given me a new interest in architecture.

I carry a digital camera with me on most days, though I suspect my phone is a better camera than my camera is these days.

As well as taking a photo specially to go with a blog post, you can build up a library of stock photos - vehicles, road signs, that sort of thing.

So get out and take your own photos.