Monday, August 31, 2015

Market Harborough Food and Drink Festival in the rain

When the first Market Harborough Food and Drink Festival was announced I was excited and planned on spending some time there.

So this afternoon, despite the rain, I went along,

There was a good selection of stalls and two or three bars. On a warm summer afternoon it would have been great, but the weather meant there was something of grim determination about the crowd's enjoyment.

Anyway, I hope the event will be run again next year and will enjoy a better day.


Six of the Best 535

© Dani Kropivnik
Amanda Taub says German Chancellor Angela Merkel did something really good this week: "Her country will now allow Syrian refugees, who normally would be deported back to wherever they first entered the European Union, to stay and apply for asylum. Thousands of Syrians who would have otherwise faced uncertainty in Europe can now begin the process of rebuilding their lives in Germany."

Jeremy Corbyn misunderstands the situation in Ukraine, argues Halya Coynash.

Rob Parsons asks if the number of graduates working in non-graduate jobs is a sign of overqualification or an underperforming economy.

"The fight to save the Gladstone Arms is a small part of a much bigger fight: to save the life and soul of London, and to uphold values greater and more enduring than money." Three cheers for Peter Oborne and Anne Williams.

The return of pine martens to England could lead to a resurgence of red squirrels. Emma Sheehy looks at the evidence.

Sarah Miller Walters looks at what the Carry On stars did in World War II. Some of them were at it for years.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Gordon Brown as Susan Boyle

From the Telegraph, 1 June 2009:
Speaking on GMTV Mr Brown said he watched the final on Saturday night and described the winning dance group as "absolutely wonderful". 
But he said: "I hope Susan Boyle is OK because she is a really, really nice person and I think she will do well. 
"I spoke to Simon Cowell last night and to Piers Morgan and wanted to be sure that she was OK."
How long ago all that now seems!

“We are not going to win the Tory vote. Nor should we try to.”

Thank you to Julie Hesmondhalgh - an excellent actress but perhaps less of a political strategist - for laying bare the weakness of Corbynism.

A move to the left may help shore up Labour's vote against the threat of the Greens and the Farronite Liberal Democrats.

It may even stave off the threat of Ukip, as that party's voters are notably left-wing on the economy. I doubt, though, that they will take kindly to Islington-style social policies.

But a Corbyn-led Labour Party will have little chance of winning over Conservative voters - the sort of Conservative voters who liked Tony Blair and helped him win three general elections.

No doubt the Corbynites will pinning their hopes on people who do not usually vote. But that strategy is unlikely to prove successful.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceIn my experience, people who do not usually vote do not usually vote.

For more on Labour under Corbyn, read my post Five consequences of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Barry Ryan: Eloise

Paul and Barry Ryan were the twin sons of Marion Ryan, a popular British singer of the 1950s.

They had success as a duo in the 1960s, but Paul found performing too stressful and turned to songwriting instead.

He wrote this for Barry, which was a number 1 in many countries but was kept at number 2 in Britain by the juggernaut that was Mary Hopkin's Those Were the Days.

In 1968 a five-minute single was practically unheard of. With its changes of mood and tempo, you can see Eloise as a forerunner of Bohemian Rhapsody.

The teenagers may recall that the Damned had a hit with it in 1986.

Paul Ryan died in 1992, aged only 44. Barry was performing on Sixties nostalgia tours only a few years ago.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why Danny Cipriani is not in the England World Cup squad

The awe with which the London rugby union press regards Danny Cipriani  has long puzzled me.

Today's example comes from Richard Williams in the Guardian:
The perception here is that Cipriani has what it would take to bring Twickenham to its feet next month, particularly in a squad that looks not so much undercooked as still in the freezer. Now he won’t get the chance. 
No head coach has made a more soul-deadening decision since Clive Woodward kept Gavin Henson out of his Lions side for the first Test in New Zealand a decade ago.
England do have a tendency to select prosaic rather than poetic fly halves - Rob Andrew rather than Stuart Barnes. Jonny Wilkinson was a formidable player, but if you wanted someone to launch your backs then Charlie Hodgson was a better bet.

But it is not that Cipriani has not been tried. As this video shows, he was tried and found wanting at international level.

Nottinghamshire cricket star found asleep in car

BBC News wins Headline of the Day.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Two facts about Susan Shaw

1. She was christened 'Patsy Sloots'.

2. She is the grandmother of the former England rugby international Toby Flood.

I was not sure of this second fact when I blogged about Flood's theatrical grandfathers, because Albert Lieven married four times. But it is indeed the case.

Shaw was a popular actress for some years after World War II and had a prominent role in one of the best films of the era: Ealing's drama It Always Rains on Sunday.

But hers was a sad life. After Lieven she married the American actor Bonar Colleano and was hit hard by his death in 1958.

There is more about her on The Norwood Society website.

Tesco abandons its plans for a Market Harborough superstore

I hope it does not go ahead.
I wrote that in September 2013 when news broke that Tesco was planning a large out-of-town store in Market Harborough.

Today came news that the supermarket chain has abandoned those plans.

For the reasons outlined in that earlier post, I am glad.

Market Harborough is still growing. Ignore all those plaints about Nimbys: the council and residents can do little about it.

So there may come a time soon when the town's population is too big to be served by its centre.

I get the impression that has happened in both Northampton and Cambridge, and it does not make shopping in either a pleasant experience.

If it happens in Harborough then we shall have to look at encouraging out-of-town development.

But shopping patterns are changing, and it may be that an out-of-town store will never be built here at all.

Six of the Best 534

William Wallace (Are
you sure about this? Ed.
Laura McInerney overhears someone learning to be homeless.

"We need to pitch our appeal for a liberal left distinct from whatever package Labour develops, and rebuild local bases which we can capture on another anti-Conservative swing. And we should not kid ourselves that many within the current Labour Party will welcome our efforts." William Wallace anticipates another phase of the ‘future of the left’ debate, whether or not Jeremy Corbyn emerges as Labour’s next leader.

Talking of which, Nick Cohen says: "Like many from the Left’s dark corners, Corbyn ... is concerned only with the rights of those whose oppression is politically useful. If the oppressed’s suffering can be blamed on the West, he will defend them. If not, he is on their enemies’ side."

Don't Chase the Wide Ones reviews Death of a Gentleman - a film on the politics of cricket.

"On the ground floor of the warehouse was a lean-to outhouse ,,, The contents were a mystery and I was dispatched to find a crowbar to prise open the padlocked door. When we opened the lean-to, it was stacked with books. The collector from Manchester reached inside and snatched one book at random. He opened it, turned to Asher and said, 'I’ll buy the whole contents.' The book he held in his hand was a rare antiquarian Hebrew tome printed in Venice and it turned out that the outhouse contained the stock from Moshe’s father’s bookshop in Warsaw, untouched for decades." Spitalfields Life remembers the Jewish bookshops of the East End.

Nichola Chester writes a love letter to North Devon (and Bude).

Carol Vorderman reveals she is 'covered in burns' after she fell off her treadmill while running naked

Headline of the Day goes to the Independent.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Alistair Darling: From the International Marxist Group to the Lords

Alastair Darling was given a peerage today, so it is time to remember how far this particular Lord has come.

Time, indeed, to wheel out my favourite George Galloway quote:
When I first met him 35 years ago Darling was pressing Trotskyite tracts on bewildered railwaymen at Waverley Station in Edinburgh. He was a supporter of the International Marxist Group, whose publication was entitled the Black Dwarf.
Later, in preparation for his current role he became the treasurer of what was always termed the rebel Lothian Regional Council. Faced with swinging government spending cuts which would have decimated the council services or electorally ruinous increases in the rates, Alistair came up with a creative wheeze.

The council, he said, should refuse to set a rate or even agree a budget at all, plunging the local authority into illegality and a vortex of creative accounting leading to bankruptcy.

Surprisingly, this strategy had some celebrated friends. There was "Red Ted" Knight, the leader of Lambeth council, in London, and Red Ken Livingstone newly elected leader of Greater London Council. Red Ally and his friends around the Black Dwarf were for a time a colourful part of the Scottish left.

The late Ron Brown, Red Ronnie as he was known, was Alistair's bosom buddy. He was thrown out of Parliament for placing a placard saying hands off Lothian Region on Mrs Thatcher's despatch box while she was addressing the House. And Darling loved it at the time.

The former Scottish trade union leader Bill Speirs and I were dispatched by the Scottish Labour Party to try and talk Alistair Darling down from the ledge of this kamikaze strategy, pointing out that thousands of workers from home helps to headteachers would lose their jobs as a result and that the council leaders - including him - would be sequestrated, bankrupted and possibly incarcerated. How different things might have been. 
Anyway, I well remember Red Ally's denunciation of myself as a "reformist", then just about the unkindest cut I could have imagined.

Those new Liberal Democrat peers in full

According to Guido Fawkes:
  • Sir Alan Beith – former MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed and former Chair of the Justice Select Committee
  • Sharon Bowles – former MEP for South East England
  • Sir Malcolm Bruce – former MP for Gordon, and former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
  • Lorley Burt – former MP for Solihull and former Chair of the Liberal Democrats 
  • Rt Hon Sir Menzies ‘Ming’ Campbell CH, CBE, QC – former MP for North East Fife and former Leader of the Liberal Democrats 
  • Lynne Featherstone – former MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and held several ministerial positions 
  • Don Foster – former MP for Bath and former Liberal Democrat Chief Whip 
  • Jonny Oates – former Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government 
  • Shas Sheehan – former Councillor for Kew and involved in several community groups 
  • Sir Andrew Stunell – former MP for Hazel Grove and former Department for Communities and Local Government Minister 
    Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
  • Dorothy Thornhill MBE – Mayor of Watford; former Councillor and Assistant Headteacher

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Sun names some of the 11 new Liberal Democrat peers

An 'exclusive' from SunNation this evening:
The Sun can reveal they will include at least two ex-MPs thrown out by voters at the general election three months ago, Lorely Burt and Lynn Featherstone. 
Three long-serving Lib Dem grandees who stood down as MPs in May – Sir Alan Beith, Sir Menzies Campbell, and Sir Malcolm Bruce – are also being enobled, alongside defeated ex-MEP Sharon Bowles and Mr Clegg’s former chief of staff Jonny Oates.
The report also says that Danny Alexander and Vince Cable will be knighted.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Later. The full list of Lib Dem peers is here.

What the defeated Lib Dem MPs are doing now

Total Politics has caught up with the career moves of some of the Liberal Democrat MPs who lost their seats in May.

David Laws is now executive chairman of the think tank CentreForum and Steve Webb is now director of policy and external communications at Royal London, the mutual insurance and pensions company.

Other MPs have relaunched themselves as consultants. Total Politics lists Jeremy Browne (who stood down before the election) among them, but a recent report in City AM had him working as a lobbyist for the City of London in Brussels.

I once blogged about the fate of defeated MPs:
The plight of former MPs is not one to attract public sympathy, but they can have a hard time. In a Guardian article in 2004 Michael White quoted Joe Ashton: 
"It's not like losing your job in a factory, when everyone loses their job and rallies round. You may be living in a rural area, no contacts, no way to keep in touch. You can be lonely and isolated, your kids may be slagged off at school or even taken out of private school if you're a Tory. If you claim benefit the local paper gets to hear about it." 
And White went on to say: 
When Labour was defeated in 1979, 38 ex-MPs had not found a job after a year. In 1997 it was the Tories' turn: 126 lost their seats. Familiar stories of depression and drink, debt and divorce, began circulating.
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceToday you can find the Association of Former MPs on the Politics Home website.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bishop's Castle in 1962

A film report made in the days when this Shropshire town was unsuccessfully defending its status as England's smallest borough.

Click on the image to view it on the British Film Institute site.

The Harborough Mail praises J.W. Logan

Mourning the closure of the town's magistrates court in 2011, the Harborough Mail described my hero J.W. Logan thus:
When the Doddridge Road court opened in Harborough, seven magistrates would sit together as a single bench, instead of the modern three. 
In 1911, JW Logan, MP for Harborough, took the chair: an exemplary employer, if controversial and sometimes pugilistic as a politician, he was a JP for 40 years.
No MP could ask for a better epitaph.

Call for early improvements to Market Harborough station

From the Leicester Mercury:
Rail campaigners are calling for action on plans to improve access for disabled people at a county railway station. 
They want Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to ensure an early start to proposed upgrades at Market Harborough station. 
They fear the planned improvements may be delayed until 2019 at the earliest following the mothballing of track electrification.
Knowing the two people quoted by the Mercury, I am confident this campaign,it is in good hands.

Labour's confusion over its own leadership contest

Here is Harriet Harman reported by BBC News today:
Harriet Harman has said 3,000 alleged "cheats" have so far been excluded from voting in the Labour leadership contest, with more expected. 
The acting Labour leader said: "It is not funny or clever for people from other parties to try to cheat their way into our system." 
And only people who supported the "aims and values" of the Labour Party would be allowed to take part.
But she adopted a different tone back in May. A Labour Party press release quoted her as follows:
"The public - not just Labour members - will be able to ask questions of leadership and deputy leadership candidates at hustings events. 
"Hustings will be staged in the towns and suburbs where Labour hoped to win in the general election, but where the party failed to make inroads. 
"Labour members will be encouraged to bring supporters of other parties, or non-voters, to hear speeches by the contenders."
It's seems pluralism's flowering in Labour soil lasted only a short time.

As Nick Tyrone argued recently, Labour's problem is that it never decided whether its £3 supporter rate was meant to turn its leadership contest into a sort of open primary or not.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Stiperstones and The Bog filmed by a drone

A little bit of Shropshire goodness for you to be going on with.

Mind you, flying over the Stiperstones has its dangers:
She followed his pointing finger and saw briefly in the moonlight a small aeroplane against a shifting background of cloud. It was swooping low in silence, but soon rose sharply as the engines roared again, and disappeared over the tree-tops in the direction of the mountain. 
"But he can't land on the Stiperstones," Peter said. "It's too rough up there. It would turn over at once." 
Malcolm Saville The Neglected Mountain (1953)

John Harris on the threat to our bus services

John Harris writes on the Guardian website (and presumably in tomorrow's paper, though the site no longer tells you that):
Across the country, meanwhile, with George Osborne now planning November’s spending review and looking at cuts in departmental budgets of up to 40%, the money channelled from local councils to public transport looks especially vulnerable. Already, bus transport is in the midst of a huge crisis, just as it is needed more than ever. 
Buses are a vital requirement for young people and most Britons on limited incomes. Around 40% of people over 60 use a bus at least once a week; one of the many certainties that comes with an ageing population is an increased demand for public transport. Everyday reality, however, is headed in exactly the opposite direction.

Six of the Best 533

Labour never decided whether its £3 supporters' rate was designed to turn its leadership election into an open primary or not, explains Nick Tyrone, and that is why it is in trouble now.

Christopher Salmon, police and crime commissioner for Dyfed-Powys, has some trenchant views on policing: "investigating crime is the police’s job, not a choice. That four out of five burglaries go unsolved suggests they need to up their game, not opt out of it".

Remember when blogrolls were a thing? Fred Clark does. And he wants to revive them.

Jordan Adcock looks at cinema's switch to digital projection.

"Sometimes in cricket you just know it's one man's day. Those days might come along once or twice in a career, but on that day, he can't miss." Geoff Lemon saw the Australians humbled by a fellow countryman in their warm up game against Northamptonshire.

Patrick Baty on the Hope Mausoleum in Dorking. Buried in the 1960s, it has been uncovered this year.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Linda Lewis: Rock-a-Doodle-Doo

Nothing to do with Smashie and Nicey, this was a hit for Linda Lewis in 1973.

As her website says:
Linda Lewis is one of Britain's most respected and talented singer songwriters, whose career spans more than four decades. With her five-octave vocal range, she has fused folk, soul, pop and reggae into a unique signature sound that is now an integral part of the pop music landscape.
All that is true, but maybe she has never quite enjoyed the success her talent deserves.

Tim Farron among the racks of vinyl

I missed it at the time, but at the end of last month the Telegraph ran an endearing sketch of Tim Farron in Jon Tolley's record shop in Kingston:
He flipped through the racks of LPs, murmuring excitedly. “Joy Division at the front there! Marvellous.” Lovingly he fondled an album by The Clash. “Now, is this the UK version or the US version? Ah, it’s the UK version – the US version has (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais on it, and this doesn’t!” 
It was strangely endearing to watch: an actual political leader, muttering about track listings like a character from Nick Hornby. It’s hard to imagine David Cameron or Jeremy Corbyn, say, demonstrating such an unashamedly nerdish enthusiasm for music. 
“Oh, I’m a massive trainspotter,” said Mr Farron proudly. “Huge pop anorak.” He’d lost count of his records, but they were “in the four figures”. They were kept in “Daddy’s pop cupboard, as the kids call it”. He even still listened to cassettes in “my banger” (his car). 
He appears to have inherited his passion from his father, who “was a DJ in the Seventies on Friday and Saturday nights in a nightclub not far from Preston. I used to get his cast-offs. On one occasion I deliberately damaged one of his Chic records so I could have it.”

The March to Spalding line

© Dave Hitchborne
The most substantial British railway line I have travelled on that has since closed is the Woodhead route from Sheffield to Manchester.

After that comes March to Spalding. When I was a student in York there was a regular service from Doncaster to Cambridge and I once used it to have an afternoon in Ely.

March to Spalding was closed in 1982 and all freight workings were diverted via Peterborough.

It was an expensive line to operate because of all the level crossings in the flat Fenland landscape. The photograph above, taken from Geograph, shows the signal box that controlled one of them being reclaimed by nature.

There is some chatter on the net about reopening it, but I don't know how well founded it is. The line from March to Wisbech looks a more likely candidate.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Building up Mason Crane

This blog has long taken an interest in the career of the Yorkshire leg spinner Adil Rashid. He will either make his England test debut against Pakistan in Sharjah later this year or never make it at all.

So it may be time to start talking up the next prospect: Hampshire's Mason Crane.

Cricinfo described his impact on a game earlier this year:
Mason Crane bamboozled Warwickshire to become the youngest Hampshire player to take a County Championship five wicket haul on Day Two at the Ageas Bowl. 
Leg spinner Crane, who is 18 and 171 days, beat Alex Kennedy's 106-year record by 21 days as he posted figures of 5 for 35. This is only his second first-class match after making his debut against Durham last month.
Already that sage judge Steve Harmison has called for him to be picked for England this winter.

I suppose one should counsel caution - I know there is a view at Sussex that Ian Salisbury was doing fine until the England coaching set up got hold of him - but it is hard not to be excited at the prospect of a young leg spinner in the England test team.

And if you want to feel old, turn to this report in the Southern Daily Echo:
As an eight-year-old only child glued to the 2005 Ashes series, Shoreham-born Crane was inspired by Warne’s mesmerising performances that summer. 
He has been hooked on leg-spin ever since.

Friday, August 21, 2015

45 years of John Barleycorn Must Die

In the Studio has a documentary marking the 45th anniversary of the Traffic album John Barleycorn Must Die.

I can't embed it, so hurry over to that site to listen to it.

What is left of Herne Bay pier

Back in 2013 I blogged about French Dressing, Ken Russell's first film, in which Herne Bay pier featured prominently.

This is what is left of the pier today. A stub still runs out from the shore, but this landing stage has been left improbably far out to sea - apparently halfway to the Essex coast.

But then the view from Herne Bay is like that. Behind the wind farms you can see the remains of the Maunsell forts.

Five consequences of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader

No one really knows, of course, but it does look at though Jeremy Corbyn will be the next leader of the Labour Party.

What will that mean? Here are five likely consequences.

1. Whether the Liberal Democrats like it or not, they will be seen as a centre party.
I know it sounds improbable, but an SWP activist once said a wise thing to me: when you are a small party to rarely get to choose the agenda on which you fight.

Well, the Liberal Democrats are certainly a small party now and, whether we like it or not, we shall be seen as a centre party for as long as Corbyn is Labour leader. The strategy we pursued under Charles Kennedy of outflanking Labour from the left will not be open to us - unless we advocate liquidating the Kulaks or something like that.

I am sure Tim Farron will thrive as a populist centrist, but this future is in some ways a depressing prospect.

2. The Green surge will grind to a halt
I don't know how real a phenomenon the Green surge ever was, but as far as it existed it consisted of the Greens hoovering up all sorts of disaffected left-wingers, many of whom had no particular connection with traditional Green concerns,

More than one longstanding environmentalist has complained to me that this led to the Green Party rather abandoning environmentalism to embrace the anti-austerity cause. This led the party to put forward an incoherent policy platform at the last election, as Natalie Bennett so effectively demonstrated.

Now those disaffected left-wingers will flock to Corbyn's Labour and leave behind a Green Party that is smaller but truer to environmentalism.

3. Social media will be hell
We have all enjoyed laughing at Labour for abstaining on welfare cuts, but under Corbyn it will not be like that. On Twitter every day will be #cameronmustgo day and Labour activists will be filled with passionate intensity.

I am increasingly of the opinion that, by acting as a combined echo chamber and grooming parlour, Twitter is positively harmful to political parties, but that is the way it is going to be from now on.

Oh, and when Labour loses the next election, it will all be the media's fault or the Liberal Democrats' fault or the fault to Labour MPs who did not back Corbyn.

4. Labour will be in a constant state of crisis
As Nick Cohen argued the other day, the election of a party leader against the wishes of the great majority of its MPs will be a unique phenomenon in British politics.

I do not imagine many of those MPs will take his victory quietly. Add to this the opposition of the press, Corbyn's enthusiasm for sharing platforms with unsavoury characters and his eagerness to make excuses for Putin's near-fascist regime and you can see that his leadership will exist in a state of perpetual crisis.

It will be fun to watch, but ultimately will not be good for the health of British politics.

5. It will be harder for the Liberal Democrats to make a comeback
Most of the seats the Liberal Democrats have any hope of winning at the next election are held by the Conservatives. In order to win them we have to win over people who have voted for us in the past but opted for David Cameron last time.

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceIt is entirely possible that a Corbyn leadership will not last as long as the next election, but as long as he is there he will offer the Conservatives a powerful argument against change and taking another chance on the Liberal Democrats.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A tin tabernacle in Herne Bay

Wandering the back streets of Herne Bay, I failed to find one of Lord Bonkers' favourite causes: the Home for Distressed Canvassers.

On reflection, it is probably housed in one of the grand 19th-century houses facing the sea at the Eastern end of town on the way in from Reculver.

What I did find was this fine tin tabernacle, now home to the Army Cadets.

Six of the Best 532

Jennie Rigg proves there are respectable arguments against bringing in one member one vote at the Liberal Democrat Conference.

"I am not a social conservative. I'm a Liberal who happens, most of the time, to be socially conservative in his behaviour," explains Andrew Brown.

Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke on how a mother allowed her young son to travel home from Downtown Manhattan on his own and started a social movement.

"The life-saving work of the American medical team on that October day served as clear and demonstrable proof that ambulances shouldn’t just be about 'scoop and run' – there was a time and a need for 'stay and play' as well and ambulancemen needed to be combat medics just as much as they needed to be drivers." The Harrow & Wealdstone railway crash of 1952 had an important influence on the development of NHS care, as London Reconnections shows.

Silver Scene remembers Hayley Mills' reign as as America’s favourite child actress.

"Not many people shopping below or just walking by Nottingham’s Victoria Shopping Centre realise that their is a roof garden situated just above there heads," says Railway Maniac's blog. Sadly, it is no longer looked after.

Morris dancers and blind footballers in mass brawl

The Suffolk Gazette wins our Headline of the Day award.

I'm not sure I believe a word of the story below its headline, but the judges were unanimous.

Later. Suffolk Gazette is a parody site. When I put this to the judges they suddenly remembered an urgent appointment elsewhere.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Lone Pine Club play reviewed

For an hour on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Norfolk I recaptured my childhood  - or at least a treasured part of it.

There was a time when I refused to read anything but Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine books, and this summer the Pentabus Rural Theatre Company has turned those books into a play and toured it round five National Trust properties. I saw it at Sheringham Park, a couple of miles from the centre of that town.

There is one venue left: you can still catch the play at Wallington near Morpeth in Northumberland. If you have young children or have not let your heart grow hard, I recommend you do so.

Malcolm Saville is best described as the thinking child's Enid Blyton and, as Tony Gillam suggested in an early review, hanging over this project was the shadow of The Comic Strip's Give Go Mad in Dorset.

But that spook was swept away by the good nature of the script and the energy of the acting. When the Malcolm Saville Society was formed 20 years ago I coined the term 'amused respect' to describe our attitude to him, and that was very much the spirit of The Lone Pine Club play.

The Saville family wisely gave Alice Birch free rein in adapting the books, and she came up a script that conveyed their essence perfectly.

It featured the book's central character David Morton, his younger twin brother and sister Dickie and Mary, and Peter (Petronella Sterling). Still young, they looked back over their adventures, occasionally breaking out to complain that the story didn't go like that or the best bits were being left out.

Other characters were portrayed by the four young adult members of the cast, who sometimes found themselves obliged to play more than one person in the same scene. With hilarious consequences.

It seems unfair to single out one member of the cast, and it may be down to the writing or the direction, but I have to say that Anya Collyer, who seems to be least experienced of the four, in some magical way was the Peter of the books.

The only note of sadness was when I worked out that the last time I was in Sheringham it was to have tea with Malcolm Saville's younger son, the Revd Jeremy Saville, and his wife.

He has since died, and only Rosemary Dowler, the elder daughter, of Malcolm Saville's children is still with us. You can see her in the photograph above with the cast of the play (and Mackie the dog, of course) at its first venue in Shropshire.

As Rosemary writes in the excellent programme for the play:
It is sad that my brothers, Robin and Jeremy, and my sister Jennifer, are not around to join in the fun, but I know they would be as delighted as I am to see my father's books being brought to life in such a delightful way.

Someone tried to warn Nick Clegg that his strategy would not work

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceAn explanation for our younger readers.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Vanished Leicester: Charnwood Street

Copyright © Dennis Calow

Charnwood Street, Leicester, is gone but not forgotten. There is a blog devoted to preserving memories of what was once an important shopping street:
Charnwood Street in Leicester – popularly known as ‘Charny’ – was built in the early 1870s and demolished in 1970 when the area was redeveloped. It ran from Kent Street to Spinney Hill Road to the east of the city centre, parallel with Humberstone Road. ...
There were around 100 small shops in the street, including butchers, bakers, grocers and sweetshops, those selling new or second hand clothes, bicycles, prams, wool, radios (and later, televisions), and the famous ‘Paddy’s Swag Shop’ which sold almost anything you can imagine! 
The national shop chain of Wilkinson’s also started in a small shop in Charnwood Street.
Later. Thanks to a reader for pointing me to the Charnwood Street page on Highfields Remembered.

Schubert: Trio in E Flat

As the Proms - at the least the televised Proms - no longer provide much 19th-century Romanticism, I thought I would step in with a bit of Schubert.

This second movement is more associated with The Hunger these days, but here the stills come from Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975). Look closely and you will see Leonard Rossiter fighting a duel with Ryan O'Neal.

The film was an adaptation of Thackeray's The Luck of Barry Lyndon. It is a minor work, but it has something of the wit and life of Vanity Fair in a way that his better regarded novels (Pendennis, Henry Esmond) do not.

You can hear the whole Schubert Trio on Youtube.

Six of the Best 531

Jenni Hollis explains why she is standing for the Liberal Democrats in a Haringey byelection.

"Voting for Corbyn is gesture politics. It makes many on the left feel good about themselves and avoids the painful task of re-thinking policies and reconnecting beyond the base to the rest of the electorate", argues John Van Reenen.

Janet Biehl says Murray Bookchin warned about many of the environmental threats we now face back in 1962.

Nicholas Boys Smith on the gulf between the buildings that win architecture awards and those that  the public prefers.

"In its fantasy of escaping the rat race, it shared a theme with an equally successful comedy of the age, The Good Life. In this, [Reggie] Perrin was a relative of Tom and Barbara Good, only without their optimistic faith in a better alternative." Jonathan Feedland pays tribute to David Nobbs and the cultural importance of situation comedy.

Andrew Younger looks back at the 1970s British sci-fi fantasy series Sapphire and Steel.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Lone Pine Club at Sheringham Park

I thought I had missed my chance of seeing Pentabus's play The Lone Pine Club because I was in Canterbury when it opened in Church Stretton.

Then I worked out that I could get to Sheringham Park and back in a day from home by taking four trains and a bus each way. Once I had worked that out, I simply had to do it.

I shall write a proper review of the play in a day or two, but it was well worth the effort and I even got a lift back into Sheringham.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Au contraire

And so another week at Bonkers Hall draws to a close.


A fellow with a bone through his nose presents himself at the Hall. "Don’t tell me," I cry, "you have brought me the Reverend Hughes’ shrunken head."

"Au contraire," he replies, "the Holy Man has sent me here to pick up supplies of Shuttleworths and Cow Gum. He has converted us all to Liberalism and told us that we must start campaigning for next May’s election."

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    More photographs of Reculver

    While I was in Kent I posted a photograph of Reculver taken from most of the way along the coast to Herne Bay.

    Here are some photographs from closer to the ruined church. There is something about the site that makes you keep snapping.

    There was once a Roman fort here. Later churches were built within its footprint. The current ruin was demolished at the start of the 19th century. In its pomp, with caps on both its towers, it must have resembled Southwell Minster.

    Incidentally, the empty cliffs in the photo in my first Reculver post were occupied by a caravan site in the 1950s, as a British Pathe film shows.

    It was the US blockade of Cuba that kept Castro in power

    From BBC News:
    The US has reopened its embassy in Cuba more than 54 years after it was closed, in a symbolic step signalling the warming of ties between both countries. 
    John Kerry, the first US Secretary of State to visit Cuba in 70 years, presided over the ceremony in Havana. 
    The US flag was presented by the same US marines who brought it down in 1961.
    It was good to see this rapprochement between the US and Cuba. The touch of asking the same marines who lowered flag made it oddly moving.

    What we want to see now is more liberty in Cuba. If the US wanted to bring that about or bring down the Castro regime - the two things are not necessarily the same - they should have ended their blockade decades ago.

    That blockade was probably the thing that did most to keep Castro in power. American capitalism would have proved far stronger if it had been given a free hand in Cuba.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Mr Patel was Terribly Nice about it


    A fresh breeze whips up the white horses as my launch powers across Rutland Water. I like to keep an eye on my oil rigs, and there have been reports recently that the feared Rutland man o’ war jellyfish has been sighted close to shore, so you will often find me aboard. Today all is well, so we moor up early for a lunch at the Bonkers’ Arms.

    Later I take to the air – or at least my Patent Focus-Delivering Drone does. What with the membership of all parties in historic decline, I reason that we shall have to embrace the latest technology to get the Liberal message across. (This has long been my view: I was, I believe, the first man to employ Bakelite in a parliamentary by-election.)

    In all honesty this afternoon’s trial reveals a few teething problems, but Mr Patel was Terribly Nice about it and I shall, of course, pay for any repairs needed to the thatch on the village shop.

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

    Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

      Thursday, August 13, 2015

      Blakey on The All New Alexei Sayle Show

      Remembering Stephen Lewis, whose death was announced today.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: Stoned in Chewton Mendip and Langton Herring


      One of the tasks I have taken on in recent years is editing Wainwright’s West Country Marginals. A new edition is published after each general election, and with that in mind I recently dispatched an assistant to those parts to sniff out the lie of the land. Today I received his report:
      At Bridgwater and Newton Abbot, Liberal clubs lie in ruins. Bright with buddleias and rosebay willowherb, they are the haunt of feral cats and truant children. Statues of Jo Grimond have been toppled in Redruth and Combe Martin. They threw stones at me in Chewton Mendip and Langton Herring.
      I fear the new edition will need considerable revision. As to Wainwright’s Midland Second Places, I fear it will be a slim volume indeed this time.

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

      Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...
      • Armed to the teeth with duck-handled umbrellas
      • The current Lady Bonkers
      • The choirboys' rifle practice
      • "Who told you that?"
      • Homophobic drunk put his genitals on pub bar and told police he was Batman

        Reader's voice: Homophobic monk?

        Liberal England replies: No, homophobic drunk. It's quite different.

        Congratulations to Plymouth's The Herald on winning Headline of the Day.

        Stephen Lewis has gone to the great bus garage in the sky

        Sad sad news. Stephen Lewis, who played Blakey in On the Buses, has died at the age of 88.

        I once argued that Blakey was hero of that show. If you doubt me, remember that Stumbling and Mumbling has proved that Reg Varney is responsible for all of Britain's economic ills.

        After On the Buses, Lewis was known for appearing in Last of the Summer Wine. But his career before it is far more interesting.

        Sparrows Can't Sing was a 1963 film starring Barbara Windsor and James Booth that depicted social change in the East End. It is remembered for its premiere, which took place in that part of London and in which the Kray twins tried to play the local seigneurs.

        And who wrote the screenplay for the film? That's right. Stephen Lewis.

        It grew from a play called Sparrers Can't Sing that was put on at at Joan Littlewood's Stratford East . Given her ensemble method of working, I am sure others had a hand in it.

        But have a look at IMDB and you will see that Stephen Lewis got the writing credit.

        He also appeared in the film, playing a caretaker who relished enforcing the regulations that governed his shiny new tower block. You can see where Blakey came from.

        Later. I have posted a clip of Stephen Lewis on The All New Alexei Sayle Show in 1994.

        Wednesday, August 12, 2015

        A 1955 railway poster for Whitley Bay

        Go to my recent post on Whitstable and scroll down to the penultimate photograph.

        You will see the same young lady, or at least a close cousin, urging you to visit that resort too, The reason she gives may be less then compelling to modern eyes.

        I'm going to make an example of you, Mr Tompkins

        I am not a parent or a teacher, so no doubt I take the problem of unauthorised absence from school too lightly.

        But I have always been uneasy at the idea of headteachers having the power to fine parents over this issue - and there are those who would like to see this power applied more widely.

        I also note that a system that has rather retreated from punishing children in recent decades has taken happily to punishing parents.

        Tony Greaves and Liberal Democrat Voice

        Tony Greaves has an article in the new issue of Liberator. You can download a PDF of it from the magazine's website and it is worth doing so.

        He writes:
        The new members can be a lifeline but only if they are encouraged to come forward with their talents and interests, and if they can become active by which I mean rather more than as automatons in a virtual phone bank.
        In the course of the article Tony lets slip that he has been banned from Liberal Democrat Voice.

        If you want to know why, then you will have to turn to a rather odd post on that blog. It consists entirely of reproduced tweets from one of the editorial team, none of which mentions Liberator. Some of the many comments are more enlightening on the matter,

        I don't know if Tony Greaves deserves better than that, but I feel the readers of this semi-official blog do. If you are going to ban another member of your party, it seems a good idea to explain why in a conventional post if you are going to explain it at all.

        This post on Lib Dem Voice reminds me of the peer who was so outraged by something I had written about her views in a pamphlet that she wrote an article for the party newspaper attacking it. As she could not bring herself to mention my name of the title of the pamphlet, I suspect she and I were the only two readers who had any idea what she was on about.

        Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceAnyway, if you want to read Tony's views in future it looks as though you will have to subscribe to Liberator. On balance, if people are rude to us we are more likely to publish them.