Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Six of the Best 646

"During moments of national trauma, the public turns to the BBC for shared experience and understanding," says Ioan Marc Jones He examines the different ways the corporation handled Aberfan and Orgreave.

No one should be given a psychiatric diagnosis at a distance, argues Hannah Jane Parkinson - not even Donald Trump. And she's right.

Gillian Mawson blogs about her new book on evacuees during World War II: "Newspapers described court cases involving families, who, for various reasons, refused to keep evacuees. The Stockport Advertiser stated, ‘Mr and Mrs Jones of Offerton were charged with refusing to accept an evacuee. The clerk pointed out to the couple that it was unpatriotic of them and they were fined.'"

As I write this, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin are deciding who is world champion with a series of speed games - it's like settling the Ashes with a Twenty20 match. Anyway, Carol Matlack examines the sport's inability to lose its political ties to tyrants.

"There’s a whole swath of early tracks that are missed by an audience that we think started at Dark Side of the Moon." Pink Floyd's Nick Mason is interviewed by Frank Mastropolo.

Benjamin Breen reads The Star Rover, the strange last book by Jack London.

Zac Goldsmith is hit by his own car and loses his trousers

From the Evening Standard today:
Zac Goldsmith limped into the last hustings of the Richmond Park by-election an hour late after being struck by his own car. 
The former London mayoral candidate was not badly hurt but his trousers were “shredded” when a volunteer driving his car clipped him while they were out canvassing. 
The collision in New Malden happened as he was due on stage at the Richmond Society’s hustings - his last chance to debate publicly with his by-election rival, Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney. 
Arriving an hour late after going home to change, he said he was “so sorry” for missing the start of such an “extraordinarily important event”.
Like Tim Hall, I am reminded of Monty Python and the Upper Class Twit of the Year Show.

"And Oliver has run himself over. What a great twit!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The secret of Lord Bonkers' long life

Lord Bonkers attributes his continued rude health to his annual trips to bathe in the Spring of Eternal Life that bursts from the hillside above the former headquarters of the Association of Liberal Councillors in Hebden Bridge.

That, and a cordial sold to him by the Elves of Rockingham Forest.

But maybe it also has something to do with being born in Rutland?

A report in the Daily Mail today begins:
Rutland is the place to be if you want a long healthy life, according to new figures. 
Baby boys born in the quiet East Mids county can expect to be in good health for more time than anywhere else in the country.
It also ranks fifth for healthy life expectancy among girls, though they do best to be born in Orkney.

Why are we so surprised that Kate Bush likes Theresa May?

A wealthy woman in her late fifties approves of Theresa May.

It is hardly a shock, is it?

But because we are used to people in the creative arts expressing identikit left-wing views, Kate Bush's comments today shocked many.

Should they have been such a surprise?

Rock has been around a long time. Older artists have audiences that have grown up and grown old with them. All concerned are now a bit too long in the tooth to be worried about sticking it to The Man.

Roger Daltrey didn't die before he got old: he bought a fish farm.

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood re-established their musical alliance after two decades when they played at a Countryside Alliance event.

So I still think Kate Bush is wonderful even if she thinks Theresa May is wonderful.

Ukip AM wants the Irish government to apply for EU funds to improve roads in Wales

Oh dear. Even among the ranks of Ukip elected representatives, David Rowlands AM stands out for his foolishness.

But he is right about one thing. Road improvements in one country can help the economy of another.

Which is why Britain should belong to the European Union.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Free archive of World War II films

Moving Image Archive has a remarkable collection of films from the Second World War.

Click on the still above to view a film of US sailors in Kirkwall, the largest town in Orkney, on that site.

No, Top Gear did not win the referendum for Leave

The New European has an article arguing that Top Gear paved the way for Brexit.

I've not read it - "To read it would be to condone it," as F.R. Leavis said when he was challenged over a book he had dismissed - but I suspect it is wrongheaded.

First, because as I blogged during the referendum campaign. the best case for Remain was made by Jeremy Clarkson - if you don't believe me, see the quotes from him in that post.

Second, because I fear that it as an example of the tribalism of liberal politics in Britain today.

In 1975, Britain voted by two-to-one to remain in the European Economic Community.

That means that lots of people who voted Conservative, liked fast cars and were known to make jokes at the expense of foreigners voted Remain.

If today we make support for Europe part of a bulky package of right-on policies and dismiss anyone who does not accept every item in it, then the forces of light will lose every time.

On that bombshell, I'll end this post.

Sarah Olney exposes the nonsense of Zac Goldsmith's resignation

Good stuff from Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat candidate in this week's Richmond Park by-election:
"Zac Goldsmith's idea that this was going to be a referendum about Heathrow has turned out to be nonsense because there is no pro-Heathrow candidate standing. 
"Actually, what people really want to talk about is Brexit." 
Mrs Olney called his decision to resign "ludicrous". 
"He doesn't need a further mandate to oppose Heathrow," she said. "He already had that twice over."
These wise words come from the Press Association, via the Daily Mail.

Springer canal boats from Market Harborough

Peter Watts has an article on Waterfront, the website of the Canal & River Trust, about Springer canal boats, which were built here in Market Harborough.

They were very much at the bargain end of the market, but Peter writes:
Belying their reputation, Springer boats also appear to be impressively hard-wearing with thousands still in use despite the fact the company closed down in the mid-1990s. 
And Springer boats aren’t just confined to the English waterways – in 1990, the boatyard built the Typhoo Atlantic Challenger, a 37-foot craft shaped like a bottle that crossed the Atlantic from New York to Falmouth. 
Not bad for a company whose first boats were made from a scrapped gasometer.
For more about Springer boats, see my post on Mill Hill and the canal basin, Market Harborough, in the 1970s.

There you will find a video one of them being built, transported to the town's canal basin and then fitted out and decorated.

And for more than that, consult Bob Hakewill's Boatbuilders of Market Harborough, which is a recondite volume even for my bookshelves.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Nine, Dalmuir West (1962)

Two years ago I fell in love with The Elephant Will Never Forget - John Krish's ridiculously moving account of the last day of London's trams in 1952.

Nine, Dalmuir West, made by Kevin Brownlow, shows the last day of Glasgow's trams 10 years later. (Click on the still above to view it on the British Film Institute website.)

Brownlow was obviously inspired by Krish: in fact he gets a mention in the opening titles.

The BFI site says:
Kevin Brownlow's portrait of the last days of Glasgow's tram system centres on the last tram to run in 1962, accentuating the mood of the final journey by contrasting shots of the event to the funky sounds of Joe Meek and The Tornados' Telstar, a symbol of the modern world to which the tram no longer belongs. 
As with his feature Winstanley, Brownlow tempers the elegiac qualities of the film with brutal reality. There is no nostalgia in this portrait. Regret at the passing of this form of transport is balanced by the description of the city it served: a harsh, poverty-stricken environment in which a tram was one of the more available pleasures.
Glasgow was the last British city to lose its trams - the Blackpool system continued as a tourist attraction. Trolleybuses lasted in Bradford until as late as 1972.

The following year saw massive increases in the price of oil. If these systems had survived only a few more years, they might never have closed.

Princess Beatrice 'accidentally sliced open Ed Sheeran's FACE with a sword while pretending to knight James Blunt'

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Mirror.

Well done to all involved.

Leyton Buzzards: Saturday Night (Beneath the Plastic Palm Trees)

The BBC's repeat of Top of the Pops from 1982 - or at least of those episodes that have not been Yewtreed - is one of the highlights of the week.

The show recently featured the forgettable Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White by Modern Romance.

But there was something notable about it, because Modern Romance evolved out of the far more interesting Leyton Buzzards  - a great band name for a start.

I was convinced that Saturday Night (Beneath the Plastic Palm Trees) had been a bit, but in fact it reached only no, 53 when it was released in 1979. It just shows how closely you follow the charts when you are a teenager.

Other teenage memories are evoked by the great couplet in Saturday Night:
I was cool drinking rum and black
And then felt sick on the journey back.
This is a reminder of the strange things we sometimes consumed before drinks aimed at teenagers came in early in the 1980s. Which was rather late for me.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Following the Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway 2

This is the other half of Holden Webster's exploration of this interesting little line. (Part 1 is here.)

I visited Ditton Priors years ago and once blogged my memories of the visit:
Ditton Priors, incidentally, is a strange place. My theory when walking is the more remote the place, the more certain you are of finding accommodation. In town a B&B proprietor will simply turn you away. In the country they feel more responsible and do not want you frightening the animals, so they volunteer to phone someone down the road who takes in walkers sometimes. 
My theory did not work in Ditton Priors - this is some years ago now. The pub said it had accommodation, but no one answered when I knocked. Eventually, as it came on to rain, a pretty red-haired girl opened an upstairs window and told me they did not do it any more. 
So I tried the only bed and breakfast place in the village. They said they were full and made no effort to find me a bed somewhere else in Ditton Priors. Instead, they suggested I should walk to Burwarton. "It's only a mile," they said, when I could see from the map that it was three.... 
I once read that they were still persecuting witches in this part of Shropshire until relatively recently. 
About 1978, I should imagine.
The comment on that post about a wicker man... I have always tried to convince myself it was a joke.

Six of the Best 645

"Trump’s behavior, if successful, would supply proof of concept that he can destroy norms unimpeded. He has already dismantled the twin guardrails against presidential kleptocracy, tax disclosure and personal divestment, in quick succession." Jonathan Chait fears that the US constitution provides few curbs to Donald Trump's apparent intention to behave like a Russian oligarch.

"Worker-directors would increase boardroom diversity – not least by bringing ground truth to the table – and thus improve decision-making. The more intelligent fund managers see this." Chris Dillow is disappointed that Theresa May has gone back on hre promise to put workers on company boards.

Mikhail Zinshteyn says the problem with higher education in the US today  is that colleges are operating more like businesses and less like a social good.

Christopher Klein on how a photographed of a flogged slave went viral in 19th-century American and influenced public opinion in the northern states.

The influential post-war Oxford philosopher J.L. Austin is rediscovered by Nakul Krishna.

When it was built in the 1840s Osmaston Manor in Derbyshire was the most technologically advanced house in the world. Ian West introduces us to a surprising building that was demolished in 1965.

The sexual abuse of boys in football was exposed back in 1997

Years ago I contributed a book chapter arguing that the abuse of children is rarely a new discovery. History shows that it is regularly discovered and then forgotten again.

So I was not too surprised to discover that the scandal of Barry Bennell, and of the sexual abuse of boys in football more generally, was exposed in this Dispatches documentary back in 1997.

Perhaps people are regularly surprised to learn that abuse exists because of the assumption that if only the authorities knew, they would do something about it.

Sadly, that is often not the case.

Take the account of Hamilton Smith, a former director of Crewe Alexandra, in the today's Guardian:
After leaving the club, Smith was still so concerned about the set-up at Crewe he says he spoke about it on several occasions with Gwyneth Dunwoody, then the Crewe MP. 
In April 2001, he says he arranged to meet Tony Pickerin, the FA’s head of education and child protection, at Lilleshall and requested a wide-reaching investigation into the care of children at Gresty Road as well as asking about possible compensation for Bennell’s abuse victims. 
Three months later, having not had a response, he contacted the FA, believing the delay meant a long, complex inquiry must be under way. 
After requesting an update a three-line letter, seen by the Guardian, arrived in the next few days from Pickerin saying the FA had “investigated the issues and is satisfied that there is no case to answer.”
This is why it is important to secure lasting reforms while public attention is being paid to the problem of abuse.

If you don't, it will soon be forgotten again.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mountsorrel - the largest granite quarry in Europe

Mountsorrel station took some finding. I imagined it down in the valley somewhere near the River Soar, but it was a long way from the village and up a hill.

On the way I passed Mountsorrel Quarry, the largest granite quarry in Europe. There turned out to be a public footpath heading off into it, with the result that I was able to take these photographs.

The vehicles reminded me of Tonka Toys or an episode of Thunderbirds.

All European referendum campaign promises were worthless

Vote Leave Watch has helpfully put together a collection of the most extravagant promises made by the Leave campaign during this year's Euro referendum.

Here are some examples:
"Asylum and Immigration Control Bill...The Bill would end the discrimination against non-EU citizens and create a genuine points-based immigration system in which the possession of suitable skills is a key element." Vote Leave press release, 15 June 2016
"If we Vote Leave we will be able to stop handing over so much money to the EU and we would be able to spend our money on priorities here in the UK like abolishing prescription charges." Gisela Stuart, Vote Leave press release, 5 April 2016
"The EU has spent £264 million on just four bridges in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, more than the £250 million that is forecast to be spent on the UK’s Pothole Action Fund in the next five years. After we Vote Leave, we can spend our money on our priorities like fixing our roads. Taxpayers’ money should be spent on filling in potholes in Britain, rather than being squandered on foreign bridges to nowhere." Vote Leave Campaign Email, 2 February 2016
 It's easy to laugh, though hard to laugh enough,

Because all promises in the referendum campaign were worthless. What do I do when prescription charges are not abolished? Complain to Gisela Stuart?

There's no point. She is only a backbench opposition MP and, judging by the opinion polls, after the next election she won't be even that.

Equally, if Remain had won and you didn't like the way things turned out, there would have been little point complaining to Will Straw CBE or Ryan Coetzee.

You could have tried David Cameron or George Osborne, but there was no guarantee that they, or even their party, would still be in government by the time you had doubts.

Where referendums have worked it has been when the full implications of changing the status quo had already been spelt out, as in the Scottish and Welsh referendums.

Even then, referendums do not work well. The one on the Alternative Vote, for instance, turned into a vote on whether or not people liked Nick Clegg. (They didn't.)

Which is why I am a great supporter of representative democracy - what George Watson called "the English ideology".

"It's when Australia have been batting"

There's time for a quick plug for the weekly Cricket Badger email - you can sign up here:
“Recently we have struggled to identify the periods that are difficult," said Steve Smith.
We can help you with that, Steve. It's when Australia have been batting.

I was rude about Jacob Rees-Mogg before it was fashionable

Thanks to Kiron Reid for tweeting this extract from a House Points column that I wrote for Liberal Democrat News back in 2004.

As Rees-Mogg did not make it to Westminster until 2010, I am astonished at my own foresight.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Leicestershire: A Heritage at Risk (1970)

Belvoir Castle
Nice Belvoir!

Is Leicestershire England's least known county?

The blurb for this film, produced for the local branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England in 1970, claims it is. Most underrated county might be more accurate.

The commentary veers from the snobbish to the apocalyptic in places, but there is plenty of interesting footage.

Click on the still of Belvoir Castle above to view the film on the BFI website.

Lib Dem lifetime achievement award for Peter Phillips

Peter Phillips, the former Liberal Democrat councillor for Bishop's Castle, has received a lifetime achievement award from the West Midlands region of the party.

Its secretary, Kathryn Ball, spells out his achievements:
Peter Phillips first stood for election in 1973 and joined the parish council in 1979. He fought the Bishops Castle (Shropshire) seat 3 times before finally being elected. He toppled the Tories who have never taken it back since 1993. 
Chirbury and Worthen Unitary Division was part of his Shropshire County Council Division and has also remained Lib Dem since his stewardship. 
He served on Shropshire County Council between 1981 and 1985 before spending a period overseas. He continued to send out Focus from the Middle East!! 
On his return he was re-elected to Shropshire County Council in1993. He also served on the former South Shropshire District Council from 1995 until its abolition to make way for the unitary authority in 2009. Peter was then elected to the Unitary Shropshire Council. 
He served as leader of the group and Vice Chairman of both Shropshire County Council and South Shropshire District Council. 
He has served both as Ludlow Constituency chairman and Bishops Castle branch chairman several times. He has been a huge fund raiser for the party locally running jumble sales, table top sales and arranging visits of top Lib Dem Peers and MP’s frequently for press and fundraising. He was single-minded in making sure these things all happened for the good of local PPC’s and Council candidates. 
He has been by far the best member recruiter over the last few years. At one stage Peter recruited enough members to make Bishops Castle and Clun Branch top our membership in Ludlow Constituency – we had 100 members.
I once met Peter in the pub now known as The Bridges at Ratlinghope, but don't seem to have blogged about the experience.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Butter Market, Mountsorrel

The Butter Market was put up in 1793 by Sir John Danvers to replace Mountsorrel's medieval market cross.

Danvers had moved the cross to his estate at nearby Swithland Hall, where it still stands.

You can read about the Butter Market's later history on Mountsorrel Archive.

John Thomas and the male appendage comment

Not all is well on Leicester City Council, as a guest post on this blog about bullying there once showed.

Today the Leicester Mercury tells us that three complaints
are currently being investigated - all relating to last month's fractious full council meeting - for alleged disrespectful and insulting language.
It goes on:
Lib Dem councillor Nigel Porter has been reported for making a 'male appendage' comment to a Labour rival called John Thomas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Save the 747 Leicester to Uppingham bus

On Saturday I arrived at St Margaret's bus station in Leicester with the intention of catching the 747 bus to Houghton on the Hill.

But it runs only every two hours and there was still an hour to wait for the next one, so I went to Mountsorrel instead.

Then today came news that the service, which runs from Leicester to Uppingham, is to be withdrawn altogether.

My old friend Simon Galton, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Leicestershire County Council, is leading the campaign to save the route.

He writes on the Leicestershire Lib Dems Facebook page:
Residents in the villages along the A47 between Leicester and Uppingham face loosing their bus service after 8 Jan following a decision by Centrebus to axe the service. 
This is the only remaining bus service serving places like Houghton, Bushby, Billesdon and Tugby. People depend on this bus to get to work, school, college and the doctors surgery in Billesdon. 
If no other operator comes forward the only hope is that Leicestershire County Council and Rutland County Council will use their powers to subsidise a minimum level of service. Please sign the petition to support these villages retaining a bus service. It cannot be acceptable for a major A road like the A47 not to have a bus link to Leicester. 
If having a bus service on the A47 is important to you, please sign this petition.
I can remember when this route ran between Leicester and Peterborough every hour. But it has been cut back and reduced in frequency over the years.

The result is that people (like me on Saturday) are less likely to use it. There's a moral there.

The Homophobic Monk appears in Dunoon Sheriff Court

He's back.

The Leicester Mercury reports:
[Damon] Kelly, a member of a religious order which calls themselves The Black Hermits, has appeared in Dunoon Sheriff Court, in Dunoon, on the west coast of Scotland, on two charges of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner. 
The court was told that Kelly, who lives at the Caledonian Hotel, Dunoon, entered St John's Church and then Kirn Parish Church on May 29 while a service was in progress and disrupted proceedings. 
His sudden appearance in the church, dressed all in black and shouting 'This is a synagogue of sin', caused consternation amongst the congregation.
Incidentally, the Mercury has taken to calling him a "fake monk". That's got to hurt.

William Trevor at Braunston

The canal and church at Braunston © Chris Downer

I was sorry to hear of the death of William Trevor yesterday - I have read many of his superb novels and short stories over the years.

As the late Peter Porter's Guardian obituary of him says, at one time the latter were the sources of many of the best single plays on television.

That obituary also revealed something intriguing about Trevor. I knew he had been a sculptor before he was a writer, but it turns out that the the carved lectern and screen at All Saints, Braunston, are entirely his work.

I know this Northamptonshire village from childhood canal holidays and will go back to see William Trevor's work one day.

Jonathan Meades on Donald Trump

This is the end of the first programme in the great man's 2009 series Off Kilter.

For the story of how Trump got his development passed by the planning authority, see another post on this blog.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Peterborough United player picks out a teammate. You won't believe what happens next

I have moaned before about the inexorable spread of the high-visibility vest.

The latest group I have seen succumb to this plague are the Scouts. Still they were picking up conkers in the park - obviously a high-risk activity.

This video shows the dangers of this item of clothing. Though, in all honesty, it is more of a warning of the danger of flourescent yellow away strips.

Leicestershire hospitals to close with job losses possible

The Leicester Mercury reports:
Several community hospitals are to close along with a county birthing centre under radical plans to cut NHS costs across Leicestershire and Rutland. 
The sustainability and transformation plan (STP) published on Monday is aimed at slashing £400 million from the health budget over the next five years. 
It is estimated 1,500 hospital jobs will be lost by 2020 but the number of health workers in the community will go from 2,271 whole time posts to 2,505. 
The number of acute hospital beds will be slashed from the current 1,940 to 1,697 by 2020.

Mountsorrel Hall and Gladstone's birthplace

This is the former Mountsorrel Hall in Leicestershire. This striking 18th-century brick building in a village built largely from the local granite was at first a private house but later became the rectory for the village.

As Pevsner observes, the house does not really go back far enough to justify this grand facade.

On the building is a modern plaque telling us that William Gladstone's birthplace in Rodney Street, Liverpool, was a copy of Mountsorrel Hall.

As the photograph below, taken from a post on The Victorian Web by Jaqueline Banerjee, shows, while there are similarities between the two buildings, this is a fanciful claim.

Six of the Best 644

"I believe that the Liberal Democrats provide a strong platform for building a centre-left politics in rapidly changing times. The Party’s mission of seeking to create a society that balances fundamental values of liberty, equality and community recognises that sound politics is not about the rigid implementation of political dogma but the struggle to find practical ways of realising our (sometimes conflicting) values." Gordon Lynch has left Labour and joined the Liberal Democrats - he has also made me see that the preamble to our constitution embraces Isaiah Berlin's argument for the incommensurability of liberal values.

Lucy Kellaway explains why she is leaving journalism to become a school teacher.

"Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old co-founder of a marketing company in Austin, Tex., had just about 40 Twitter followers. But his recent tweet about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald J. Trump fueled a nationwide conspiracy theory - one that Mr. Trump joined in promoting." Sapna Maheshwari offers a case study of how fake news goes viral.

Peter Bradshaw reviews a new documentary on Frank Zappa.

Two big mistakes led to the troubles of Durham County Cricket Club, argues Tim Wigmore.

Beyond the Last Man tells the strange tale of Haiti's appearance at the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Richard Jefferies in the City

The Gentle Author writes:
Often when I set out for a walk from Spitalfields, my footsteps lead me to the crossroads outside the Bank of England , at the place where Richard Jefferies – a writer whose work has been an enduring inspiration – once stood. Like me, Jefferies also came to the city from the countryside and his response to London was one of awe and fascination. 
Whenever I feel lost in the metropolis, Richard Jefferies’ writing is always a consolation, granting a liberating perspective upon the all-compassing turmoil of urban life and, in spite of the changes in the city, his observations resonate as powerfully today as they did when he wrote them. 
This excerpt from The Story of My Heart (1883), the autobiography of his inner life, describes the sight that met Richard Jefferies’ eyes when he stood upon that spot at the crossroads in the City of London
To read that extract, you will have to go to Spitalfields Life.

This seems a good place to point out that Jefferies was a more urban figure than his admirers have generally painted him.

He was born at Coate Farm in Wiltshire, but spent time as a boy with relations at Sydenham near London. This was the period when the Crystal Palace was re-erected there (it had stood in Hyde Park during the Great Exhibition), which must have made it a busy and rather fashionable place.

Then, as a teenager, he became a reporter on a Swindon newspaper. By this time it was a railway town and Jefferies would drink with the GWR's great locomotive engineer Daniel Gooch.

And then, as a young writer, he moved to Surbiton to be nearer the editors who might buy his work.

This urban background does not chime with the idea of Jefferies as the quintessential rural mystic, so it tends to be played down.

The Carpenters: Superstar

One of the unexpected discoveries from the obituaries of Leon Russell was that he co-wrote Superstar, the song made famous by the Carpenters.

Wikipedia tells the story of the song's genesis:
Accounts of the song's origin vary somewhat, but it grew out of the late 1969/early 1970 nexus of English and American musicians known as Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, that involved Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, and various others. The song's working title during portions of its development was "Groupie Song". 
In its first recorded incarnation, the song was called "Groupie (Superstar)", and was recorded and released as a B-side to the Delaney & Bonnie single "Comin' Home" in December 1969.
Some say the song was about Clapton: certainly he played on the Delaney & Bonnie recording.

Richard Carpenter heard the song sung by a then obscure Bette Midler on television and produced this famous arrangement.

Incidentally, has enough time passed for it to be allowable to say that you like the Carpenters? For years the cool kids had to pretend to hate them.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Finding Mountsorrel station

A year ago the Mountsorrel branch reopened and I decided to go and look for it myself today.

I found Mountsorrel station some way uphill from the centre of the village. A poster claimed heritage trains run throughout the year, but there were no signs of activity. The site was locked up and something of a challenge to photograph,

You can read about the history of the branch and of the effort that went into its restoration on the Mountsorrel and Rothley Community Heritage Centre site.

And you can watch a video of steam on the line on this blog.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The 1959 Rutland Grand Prix

Click on the still above to view this short film on the British Film Institute website.

There the blurb runs:
15-year-old Peter Ross may not have gone on to be the next Stirling Moss and would be far too young for any Champagne but he does have one important victory to his name: the 1959 Rutland Grand Prix. 
This downhill race for homemade go-karts brings out the camera of ATV's Midland Montage magazine programme with reporter Leslie Dunn, who was also regular on the BBC's Archers radio serial at the time.
Dunn played Christine's husband Paul, who deserted her and was later killed in a helicopter crash.

Six of the Best 643

Bertrand Russell
The Democrats ran Hillary Clinton because it was "her turn", argues Rachael Larimore, and that was a big mistake.

Olivia Goldhill calls on philosophers to engage with contemporary political debates.

"It is not satirists’ job to ensure the behavior being attacked is being perpetrated only by the highest members of society. Instead, satirists expose and explain all of humanity’s failings with humor." Gladstone says satire should punch up, down and sideways.

When is it time to let a building die? Rachel Morley visits St Andrew's, Walpole, in Norfolk and ponders this question.

"The dead may be gone, but their voices are still loud and clear – we just have to learn how to listen." James Wright offers an archaeologist's view of the deceased.

Hinckley Past & Present takes us to a Leicestershire railway line that was built by never opened.

Leave campaigners implied Britain would stay in the Single Market

This video comes from the Open Britain website.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How you can help Ross Pepper in Sleaford and North Hykeham

Bass Maltings, Sleaford © Richard Croft 

All eyes are on Richmond Park, but don't forget that there is another by-election campaign going on.

Ross Pepper is standing for the Liberal Democrats in Sleaford and North Hykeham - the contest caused by the resignation of the Conservative MP Stephen Phillips in protest at the government's conduct since the EU referendum.

I have received an email from Ross's agent, Ed Fordham, detailing ways we can aid Ross's campaign:
What can you do to help from home? 
  1. Have a look at Ross's Facebook page Ross Pepper for Sleaford and North Hykeham 
  2. Join the Facebook group Sleaford and North Hykeham Lib Dem Virtual HQ 
  3. Send us a book or three of second-class postage stamps that we can use to reach some of the very rural properties across the seat
  4. Make a donation - no matter how small. We accept new and old £5 notes, cheques should be payable to "Ian Horner Election Agent Account" or you can go online and make a donation here 
  5. Tell us about the local issues you are aware of or of friends or relatives who live in the constituency who can talk to us about the things that matter in the local patch. 
  6. Get on Twitter or even join Twitter and help amplify Ross's message by ReTweeting him and issues of concern. Ross is on @RossDPepper and Ed on @edfordham 
  7. Address envelopes and help stuff some mailings for us - we can drop stuff over to you and have a team across the region who can deliver and collect. Just let us know where you are and if you can get a couple of friends to help you. 
  8. Bake a cake or send some food, biscuits, cheese (yes cheese!), cans of drink, tea bags and jars of coffee to help out the team who are working flat out - you can order on line and have it delivered to the HQ. 
The HQ team are working 20 hours a day and can be found at 38 Electric Station Road, Sleaford, Lincolnshire NG34 7QJ.
If you want to get in touch with the Lib Dem campaign, the best way is to email Ed Fordham.

XTC frontman recovering after varnish accident

The Swindon Advertiser wins our Headline of the Day Award.

h/t Popbitch for the lead.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pensioner woke up to find naked chef in her bed

Once again, our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Shropshire Star.

Bust of Charles Bradlaugh unveiled at Westminster

From the National Secular Society website, dated 2 November:
A newly commissioned portrait bust of Charles Bradlaugh has been unveiled in Portcullis House, at a reception attended by parliamentarians and members of the National Secular Society (NSS). 
Terry Sanderson, president of the NSS, said: "We're thrilled to have been instrumental in enabling this magnificent portrait bust of our founder Charles Bradlaugh at last to take his rightful place in the Palace of Westminster, and we thank all who donated to our fundraising efforts."
The portrait bust of Charles Bradlaugh was donated to the House of Commons by the National Secular Society, which Bradlaugh founded in 1866, and supported by very generous donations from our members and supporters.
The short BBC film above features the bust's sculptor, Suzie Zamit, talking about her creation.

For more about Bradlaugh, and a photo of his statue in the centre of Northampton, see a 2011 post on this blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Following the Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway 1

This is the first of two videos in another exploration of a closed Shropshire railway line by Holden Webster, who runs the Shropshire Railways website.

Today we are following the Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway, which has a more eventful history than most minor lines, including a late revivial to serve US forces after de Gaulle had slung them out of France.

Holden gets as far as Prescott, a settlement unknown to Google Maps, this time.

Peter and Jane 52 years on

As someone who learnt to read with the Ladybird key words scheme before he started school, I found this tweet rather wonderful.

Six of the Best 642

"Labour should have the courage to stand up for what is right for Britain, which will be welcomed not just by the bulk of the 48 per cent (including most Labour voters) who voted to remain, but also many of the 52 per cent who are entitled to say that what is happening does not match what they were promised." Richard Corbett is right, but it became clear today that his party's leaders do not agree with him.

"Ed Balls’ performances on Strictly Come Dancing shed more light upon politics than is generally appreciated," argues Chris Dillow.

Martin Thompson offers a short biography of the architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

Freda Cooper reviews Magnus, a film about the world chess champion Magnus Carlsen who is currently defending his title in a match against Sergey Karjakin.

The actor David Troughton talks The Archers, Doctor Who and cricket with Heather Neill.

Radiolab explores why Americans were once terrified by quicksand but are not today...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Disused railway stations in Barnsley

Full of South Yorkshire goodness.

U and non-U and political correctness

The terms ‘U’ and ‘non-U’ (‘U’ standing for ‘upper-class’) were coined in the 1950s by Professor Alan Ross, of Birmingham University’s linguistics department, but then made famous by Nancy Mitford in her essay ‘The English Aristocracy’, which included a glossary of words and phrases supposedly favoured by one class or the other. 
The ‘non-U’ words tended to be euphemistic and suggest middle-class aspirations to refinement, the ‘U’ words to be plain, direct and down-to-earth. But the whole thing felt suspiciously like an artificial construct by the upper class to boost its own sense of superiority and to protect it from infiltration by members of the class below.
Alexander Chancellor here describes a distinction which, though largely forgotten today, once had quite a hold on the thinking of middle-class Britain.

Why was that? The Wikipedia entry for U and Non-U English suggests the popularity of the distinction was "a reflection of the anxieties of the middle class in Britain of the 1950s, recently emerged from post-war austerities".

That has always been my theory, though it would work better if that popularity had arisen a little nearer the end of the war.

But there can be no doubt that the social changes of the war and the years after were an enormous shock to the upper classes. You can see evidence of it everywhere in the period.

In 1946 this blog's hero T.H. White paid a return visit to Cambridge and was horrified to find the Master of Christ's College helping with the washing up.

Josephine Tey's 1948 novel The Franchise Affair tells of an idyll of genteel respectability threatened by allegations of abuse by a working-class girl.

In the same year Mrs Robert Henrey, in A Film Star in Belgrave Square, wrote:
There is, perhaps, no better example than Chesham Mews of the way the well-to-do, unable any longer to keep establishments worthy of their station, have descended upon the accommodation which their forebears allotted to the groom and to the coachman. 
The clerks and typists of the Ministry of Education filled the noble rooms of the former aristocratic mansions in the Square, while the aristocrats slept in hay-lofts over their cars for which, in another month, they would no longer be given any basic allowance of petrol.
At least by the film Genevieve in 1953, mews living had become aspirational.

And you can also add the retrospective glamour acquired by the pre-war railway companies into the mix.

The appeal of the concept of U English was that it could mark you out as the best sort of person, whatever your current economic circumstances.

Today, the left is in economic eclipse, and it is also the left that seeks to differentiate itself by using the right of language.

Too often the tactic of the left (and too many Liberal Democrats) is to scan the language used by others for formulations that reveal that they are sexist or racist or cis normative and thus not worth engaging with.

The railways may have been privatised again, but by our language we on the left can show that we are the best sort of person. And we also show that people who do not pass this test are not worth engaging with.

There is a good articles on the left and these sort of language games by Ben Andrew on Liberal Democrat Voice today.

The comments are also instructive, whether you agree with them or not. I think the suggestion that the policing of language is characteristic of a younger political generation is spot on.

HUGE IF TRUE... News channel claims Donald Trump was born in Pakistan

From British Asian UK:
A Pakistani news channel has ran a story stating Donald Trump was actually born in Pakistan and his real name is Dawood Ibrahim Khan. 
The Neo News anchor maintained a confident tone and a straight face as she told the millions of people who watch the show that the President-elect was born as Dawood Ibrahim Khan in Waziristan in 1954 where he also received his primary education. 
She also claimed that he later lost his parents in a road accident later and was taken to London by a British Indian Army Captain. 
They finally claim that Trump was adopted in 1955 and taken to America. 
It sounds far fetched, but then I have always found the story about Trump's mother being a Gaelic speaker from the Outer Hebrides hard to believe too.

And when I spoke to him this morning, Lord Bonkers was off to the Home for Well-Behaved Orphans to ask Matron to search the records for the relevant period.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Six of the Best 641

Graeme Cowie was not impressed by the arguments used by the Scottish Liberal Democrat establishment to win a debate at the party's conference yesterday. That is putting it mildly.

The 'bedroom tax' is contributing to significant hardship among low-income families, and this is having a negative impact on the education and wellbeing of children, argues Laura Winter.

"We’ll likely never know how many people were kept from the polls by restrictions like voter-ID laws, cuts to early voting, and barriers to voter registration. But at the very least this should have been a question that many more people were looking into." Ari Berman says the Republicans' attack on voting rights in the Presidential election should have received more attention.

Backwatersman remembers Colin Milburn: "My strongest memory of him is of sitting in the old West Stand and readying ourselves to take evasive action as Milburn pulled ball after ball to the boundary, often low and hard and straight into the stand itself, crashing into the wall and rebounding down the tiers of seats, scattering the spectators and upsetting our thermos flasks."

While Down at Third Man remembers seeing a 12-year-old Haseeb Hameed in the nets at Old Trafford.

The many fictional London Underground stations are mapped by Dean Nicholas.

Leicester's Clock Tower Christmas tree tinsel too heavy for branches

A local winner as the Leicester Mercury carries off our Headline of the Day Award.

Roy Wood: Forever

I used to be ashamed that Wizzard had been my favourite band in 1973. But the more I have learnt about music history, the less ashamed I have begun.

Alex Petridis wrote about Roy Wood, the band's founder, this week:
His influence has occasionally seeped into subsequent pop in some peculiar ways – not least the fact that Glen Matlock claimed the opening guitar riff of God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols was based on the Duane Eddy-inspired twang of Fire Brigade – but you never hear Wood’s name dropped as an inspiration by a hip new band. 
The heritage rock mags never run grand retrospective features, tracing his career from the Move, through the formation of ELO to Wizzard and his extraordinary, maverick solo albums, Boulders and Mustard, in the 1970s. He is seldom placed on a par with all the other revered idiosyncratic pop craftsmen, which is exactly where he belongs.
Forever was a solo single replaced by Wood in 1973, when it made number 8 in the charts.

Petridis described it as "a solo hit that imagined what it would be like if Neil Sedaka had joined the Beach Boys with beautiful results".

The results were beautiful, but I recall from the time that Forever was chiefly a homage to Del Shannon.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

An Estonian submarine called Lembit

The blurb for this short video on Youtube runs:
Before World War II, EML Lembit was one of the two submarines built by the British for the Republic of Estonia. 
The Estonians held the largest and most successful national fund-raising event in Estonian history at which they donated scrap metal in order to pay for the submarine. 
When the Soviet Union occupied Estonia during World War II, Lembit became part of the Soviet fleet.  
Years later, two veterans who used to serve on the Lembit found the submarine abandoned in a river. It is now on display in the Estonian Maritime Museum.
There's more about the EML Lembit on Wikipedia.

Lord Bonkers adds: If the people of Estonia were to collect scrap metal to pay for the restoration of our own Lembit Opik (who, for all we know, may be abandoned in a river somewhere), I think it would be a Terribly Kind gesture.

Neal Ascherson: Theresa May's government is ramming through a damaging policy it doesn't believe in

Neal Ascherson is always worth reading. Here he is in the London Review of Books on the sorry spectacle that is Theresa May's government:
Nothing in British history resembles this spectacle of men and women ramming through policies everyone knows they don’t believe in. 
Never mind the few genuine Brexiteers. Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond and Theresa May – among others in government – all tried to keep the UK in the European Union. Now they are trying to take it out again, apparently on the terms that will do their country most damage. 
There’s a kind explanation, a white-coated one and a coarse one. The kind account says that they feel democratically obliged to carry out the wishes of the English people, whatever their private opinions. (A variant suggests that they think themselves duty-bound to save the country from the worst consequences of a disastrous decision, but their recklessness over Brexit doesn’t support that.) 
The white-coated shrink account is that they are pathologically over-compensating out of guilt for backing the wrong side. And the coarse explanation is that they just want to stay in power.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Laurel and Hardy on the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch

The film describes the proceedings shown as the 21st birthday of the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch.

That celebration must have taken place in 1948. But in 1947 Laurel and Hardy visited the railway to reopen the line to Dungeness - it had been used by the military during the war.

So unless they visited it twice, it is that 1947 visit that is shown here. You can read more about it on the Laurel and Hardy Magazine site.

Incidentally, I have never found Laurel and Hardy that funny - they are just two silly men doing silly things.

Vince Cable is publishing "a brilliant page turner"

News from the Telegraph that Vince has yet another string to his bow:
He has been economist, senior politician and – rather unexpectedly – a ballroom dancer. 
And it seems Sir Vince Cable unlikely career trajectory is not finished yet, as he makes his first foray as a romantic novelist. 
Sir Vince, the former business secretary, has been signed up to write a "post-Brexit political thriller", weaving his experience in Westminster into the story of the blossoming lover between a British politician and the heir of an Indian arms manufacturer. 
The book, due out in June next year, is set in the near future following the "short-lived" rule of one Prime Minister Theresa May. 
It is currently being “tweaked” to incorporate a President Trump, after the original draft had him as a “sad, has-been” politician whose leadership battle had not paid off.
The Telegraph quotes Margaret Stead, publishing director of Atlantic who signed the book, as calling the novel "a brilliant page turner".

She describes it as
"a fast-paced geopolitical thriller [that] moves from the corridors of Westminster to the little-known world of the UK arms industry and the volatile Indo-Pakistan border."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hillwalking in Shropshire

"Why are you always going on about the Shropshire hills?" I hear you ask.

Let John Gillham, author of Hillwalking in Shropshire, explain.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Galloping around the ring at great speed while facing backwards

And so another week with Lord Bonkers draws to a close. I always find that something of a relief.


The pews at St Asquith’s are packed – packed with clowns, jugglers, strongmen, lion tamers, beautiful ladies more often to be found riding horses and daring young men taking a morning off from the flying trapeze. Yes, my coming to the aid of the clowns in the Bonkers’ Arms the other day Went Down Well.

In contrast, the Revd Hughes could have chosen a more tactful text upon which to preach his sermon. He gives it both barrels with Zephaniah 1:8 – “And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord's sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.”

Fortunately, circus folk are not ones to bear grudges and my party is well received in the big top this evening. I am particularly taken with one charming young lady who is able to gallop around the ring at great speed while facing backwards. Afterwards, I suggest that she try to get herself selected for a promising Westminster seat as soon as possible.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Understanding the United States of America

When I was in New York a few years ago a fellow blogger said to me something along these lines:
"When Europeans visit the United States they usually come to New York or California, which are liberal, cosmopolitan places very like Europe. 
"But the rest of the country - what me are not meant to call 'the flyover states' - is not like that."
This week's events have borne out the wisdom of those words.

Kevin Maguire catches up with Liz Truss's Lib Dem days

Liberal Democrat Voice had the story months ago; now the Mirror has caught up.

Kevin Maguire has discovered that the lord chancellor Liz Truss was one a young Liberal Democrat activist:
Teeny Truss was an activist in the yellow peril’s Youth & Student wing, attending the pictured July 1994 protest on Twyford Down against Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard’s Criminal Justice Bill. 
Back then the In-Justice Secretary in Theresa May’s Government stood up for civil liberties by objecting to restrictions on raves and wider stop and search powers. 
An inept Minister accused these past few days of failing to defend judges from fascistic “enemies of the people” attacks after the High Court ruled the Article 50 clock to Brexit must be set ticking by Shock! Horror! a sovereign Parliament, rather than a Prime Minister exercising monarchical privileges, was President of Oxford University’s Lib Dems. 
Born into a Leftie family and dragged to CND rallies as a child, she eventually mutated into Tory Truss in 1996 by defecting to the Cons during her final year at university.
Holding the other end of the banner in the photo above is my friend and fellow Liberator collective member Kiron Reid.

Kiron went on to become a lecturer in Law and would make a much better lord chancellor than Liz Truss.

Come to that, so would Levi's monkey Mike.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Levi's Monkey Mike would do a better job than Liz Truss

I have just watched a repeat of Frank Skinner's documentary on George Formby, which featured an animation set to his song Levi's Monkey Mike.

You can view that animation on The George Formby Society website.

When it reached the final verses, I thought of Liz Truss:
Now once we had a parliament but it would never go
So they filled it up with animals out of a wild beast show.
The lion was prime minister, to swank he was disposed
They wanted a lord chancellor so somebody proposed 
Levi’s Monkey Mike and he proved quite a good ’un
He taxed the laces in our boot s and taxed our Christmas puddin'.
Now working men just give a cheer, we’re all right now, so never fear
Who's going to take the tax off beer? Levi’s Monkey Mike.