Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Alistair Carmichael will not stand for the party leadership

Having talked this possibility up the other day, I suppose I had better talk it down again.

Alistair Carmichael, says The Press and Journal, has "poured cold water over rumours he intends to run for the Lib Dem leadership".

He told the paper:
"I have said several times already that I am not standing and that has not changed. 
"Obviously it is flattering to be asked to stand for the party leadership but I have learned over the years to enjoy flattery without allow (sic) it to affect my judgement."

Eurovision: Blame Simon Cowell not Brexit

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It's tempting to blame our last place in this year's Eurovision on Brexit. But as Chris Dillow pointed out, our slump in the contest dates back some years.

If you are going to link it with any geopolitical event, it makes more sense to choose Tony Blair's enthusiasm for the US attack on Iraq.

As the late great Terry Wogan said, only half jokingly, not long after that war:
"We've invaded too many countries and everyone hates us."
But I think the real reasons are musical - and not just that we consistently enter songs in the wrong key.

I had not heard of this year's UK entrant Michael Rice, which is fine because I have reached an age when I am not meant to have heard of music stars.

So I looked him up - and found that he is not a music star at all.

Rice appeared on The X Factor in 2014, being eliminated before the finals, and then won the BBC's All Together Now in 2018.

As far as I can see, despite this television exposure he has not had a hit single. Which means, unless All Together Now is a bigger deal than I think, he is unknown outside the UK.

Contrast this with Eurovision from when I first remember it. Though they were often given silly songs, our entrants were internationally known recording artists: Lulu, Cliff Richard, Sandie Shaw.

These reality shows trade on the idea that there are lots of undiscovered singers out there with the ability to become stars, but the truth is rather different.

The two most realistic shows in this genre were those that were looking for someone to star in a West End production of a musical: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria and Any Dream Will Do.

Both were won by actors who were already in the business but had not yet received their big break. Neither was exactly an unknown.

But surely Simon Cowell's programmes do feature unknowns?

Only up to a point. A fair number of the acts who appear on Britain's Got Talent are established professionals but are presented as amateurs - Musical Ruth is a good example.

For this reason I suspect that some of the singers in The X Factor are known to the producers before they turn up for their audition. Those producers would be running a huge risk if this were not the case.

Whatever the truth of this, the overall standard in the finals is not that strong.

If you watch from the start you get caught up in the drama of the series and root for your favourites. But if you don't watch it and happen to catch an episode later on, what you here is very ordinary singers being told that they have made astandard their own.

They haven't.

Back in the day, the international stars who did Eurovision for the UK had their own shows on Saturday evening television.

Today those slots are filled by reality shows, so it is their competitors and winners who are known to the British public and who get chosen for the contest.

As they are unknown across the rest of Europe and often not great singers, it is little surprise that they do so badly.

My conclusion is that you should not blame Brexit for our Eurovision malaise but Simon Cowell.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

St Guthlac's and Holbrook Memorial Hall, Knighton

St Guthlac's in not in Knighton village, but is to be found just off the London Road. It was built to serve the large houses and terraced streets that had sprang up here and today form one of the city's most pleasant suburbs.

Completed 1912, it is generally described as the last work of the prolific Leicester architect Stockdale Harrison. He designed De Montfort Hall and many other buildings in the city, as well as the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

Next door is the Holbrook Memorial Hall, built as a memorial to the men of Knighton who had died in the first world war.

A page about the hall suggests it too is the work of Harrison. If so, it must have originally been planned as a church hall as he died in 1914.

Six of the Best 866

"Time and again, right from the beginning, they have made such basic errors in their thinking, their planning and their execution that if they’re to be remembered by history at all, it will be as an object lesson in how not to launch a political party." David Herdson is damning on the many failures of Change UK.

Mark Paine is one person who was originally attracted by Change UK but soon decided to come home to the Liberal Democrats.

"Children, vulnerable people and general members of the public can suffer long-term effects from participation in these kinds of reality show, and broadcasts can have serious unintended consequences not only for them but also for family, friends and work colleagues too." The psychologist John Oates on the dangers of reality television and the responsibilities of production companies.

Barbara Rich makes the case for keeping Mr Justice Byrne's annotated copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover in Britain. The annotations were made by his wife, Lady Dorothy, who sat beside him throughout the trial.

Simon Matthews has been to see Red Joan

A City relic is traced in deepest Hampshire by A London Inheritance.

The May blossom is out in Market Harborough

One of the glories of the Leicestershire countryside are the drifts of white blossom you see in the hedgerows at this time of year.

It reaches the fringes of the towns too. I took these photographs close to my home - an area, to be fair to another fine county, that was originally in Northamptonshire.

'May blossom' is properly hawthorn blossom - the hawthorn is also known as the 'may tree' - and that explains the slightly puzzling saying: "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out."

Puzzling, because it sounds so cautious. The latter weeks of May can be very pleasant. Surely you can start dressing less warmly by then?

In fact you can, because the saying refers to the may blossom being out. That begins to happen at the end of April and makes it a more reasonable rule.

Séverine: Un Banc, un Arbre, une Rue

When I first became of it, the Eurovision Song Contest generally came down to a battle between a woman singing a sophisticated ballad in French and another singing Bing Tiddle Tiddle Bong for Britain.

Fortunately, the French ballads usually won, but we Britons lived in fear of Cilla Black being chosen to represent us.

Here is the song that won Eurovision for Monaco in 1971 - you get the feeling that the composers of 'I Dreamed a Dream' were aware of it and its wistful mood.

Séverine was something of a gun for hire. She is French, and after winning the contest for Monaco made two attempts to be the German entrant.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Alastair Carmichael considers bid for Lib Dem leadership

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If Alistair Carmichael had stood for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 I would happily have supported him

But he was too mired in an election court case brought by SNP sympathisers to consider standing.

Now comes news that he may stand this time.

Could he be our Pardoe? Or should we remember the warning of Alexander Kotov against unexpected third choices?

Friday, May 17, 2019

Football specials at Kettering in 1989

OK so this is mostly diesel locomotive porn. But it is also a reminder that Kettering Town used to be a serious club and that the nationalised British Rail was good at adapting to exceptional demand - much better than the privatised railways appear to be.

On 28 January 1989 Kettering were drawn away to Charlton Athletic in the fourth round of the FA Cup. To cater for fans, British Rail laid on four extra trains.

Mind you, it sounds as though the shuttle to Corby was cancelled to make room for the added workings.

There is no footbridge in sight, so Kettering's Stygian underpass must still have been in use.

Stiperstones Primary School to close

Sad news from Shropshire and the Shropshire Star:
Stiperstones Church of England Primary School is set to shut, with children being moved to Norbury or Chirbury. 
The move came about after the federation in charge of the school said it was struggling with funding. 
The plan is set to be signed off by Shropshire Council’s cabinet at at meeting on May 22.
Back in 2011 I covered the campaign to save the school. Visiting the village that August I wrote that the school was:
convinced that its future is safe because it is entering a federation with  the school at Chirbury. I do hope these celebrations do not prove premature.
Well, it was granted another eight years of life.

Bishop's Castle residents block road in protest against bus cuts

At the start of the month I blogged about Bishops' Castle residents' plans to block the main road to Shrewsbury as a protest against proposed cuts to the service.

That protest duly took place today. More than 70 people - an impressive turnout - blocked the A488 and the Shropshire Star had photographs.

The organiser, Sarah Wilkinson, told the paper:
"It is imperative that this service is maintained. If people lose it not only will those who rely on a bus service have to move, they may also lose their jobs. If they do not have a car they will be stranded in Bishop's Castle. 
"It is a terrifying prospect and it is cruel of the council. This is not practical. If the buses go there will be more taxis on the road. 
"If you want to buy a house in Bishop's Castle you will need to have a car. It is discriminatory against people who rely on the bus, they will not be able to move here. Bishop's Castle has been a market town since medieval times and that could be lost."

"Don't blame me I voted Pardoe"

From the Awkward Squad website:
Calder's Law states that every lib dem leadership election mirrors Steel vs Pardoe: a boring, centrist, reliable, safe-pair-of-hands Steel, vs an exciting, radical, a bit risky Pardoe. Nine times out of ten the Steel wins. 
This t-shirt is for those of us who mourn the tendency of our party towards centrism, and is available in black, white, grey, and tie-dye for those who don't remember the seventies because they were there, man, and really DID vote Pardoe.
Strictly speaking, it is Calder's Sixth Law of Politics, but I am immensely flattered.

I was all set to be a Moranite, but if our next leadership election is to be Swinson vs Dayey I shall vote for whichever candidate emerges as the Pardoe.

As to the T-shirt, even I am not old enough to have voted Pardoe, so I shall settle for the grey.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Campaigning by canal in the 1953 North Paddington by-election

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In 1953 Bill Field, the Labour MP for North Paddington, was convicted of "importuning for immoral purposes". When he failed to overturn that conviction on appeal, he resigned his seat.

The resultant by-election saw the seat being held for Labour by Ben Parkin.

Here his Conservative rival John Eden, who was to sit for Bournemouth West between 1954 and 1983, takes to the Grand Union Canal to address some voters.

Vince Cable must stop advocating a referendum with 'no deal' on the ballot paper

James is right.

A referendum with 'no deal' on the ballot paper was ruled out by the policy motion the party passed at its spring conference.

More than that, it is likely that people attracted by the Bollocks to Brexit on the Lib Dem tin will be put off if they open it and find such a referendum being promised.

As James says, it is entirely wrong to put something in front of the people in a referendum if you believe, as we Lib Dems do, that it will seriously damage the country.

If you put a number of options to the people in a referendum they are entitled to assume that each is viable but has its advantages and disadvantages.

Which is why the person most at fault for the mess in which Britain finds itself today is David Cameron.

Lib Dem and Green administration takes control of York

The Liberal Democrats gained nine seats in York at the council elections, with the result that they and the Greens between them had a majority on the council.

A new administration has duly been formed with the Lib Dems' Keith Aspden as leader and the Greens' Andy D’Agorne as his deputy.

Aspden told The Press:
“Over the coming months and years, we will increase the Council’s focus on improving the city’s frontline services and create the capacity to deliver for our local communities. ... Our team will work on building confidence in the Council by giving residents a greater voice.”
The Lib Dems previously ran York between 2003 and 2007, but we were a long way from that when I helped in my first local election there 40 years ago.

And in those days the Greens were still called the Ecology Party.

Chairman of Leicester Conservative resigns over election results

The chairman of  Leicester Conservatives has resigned over the party's tactics in the local elections held earlier this month.

Leicester Tories lost their only city councillor and failed to come anywhere winning the mayoral election despite choosing a former government minister as their candidate.

You might think the chairman would have had something to do with developing the party's tactics, but when that chairman is this blog's old friend Jack Hickey anything is possible.

Here's what he told the Leicester Mercury:
“We had an awful election. 
"Our campaign was low energy, there was no strategy and we did nothing on social media. 
“We fought on 54 fronts but we didn’t fight smart. 
“A third of our membership were standing for election. 
"We should have concentrated on winnable seats, but we spread ourselves too thin. 
“People worked hard, but they worked in the wrong places.”
And it must have really hurt that his cherished tram scheme did not make the party's' city manifesto.

What is most significant in all this is that the Tories, who in 1983 won all three Leicester constituencies, now have only 150 members across the three of them.

Finally, a word for that defeated Tory councillor Ross Grant. He had spent the past year as the city's ceremonial mayor and is respected well beyond this party.

Why, he once wrote a guest post for this blog!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Deptford Jack in the Green in Greenwich on May Day

Jack, do you never sleep -
does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times,
motorways, power lines,
keep us apart?
Well, I don't think so -
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today.
More on the Deptford Jack in the Green.

So Tiggers can change their stripes - at least in Scotland

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David Macdonald, an entrepreneur and independent councillor in East Renfrewshire, was at the top of Change UK's list for Scotland in next week's European elections.

Today, standing alongside the Scottish Liberal Democrats' leader Willie Rennie, he urged Scots to vote Lib Dem instead to avoid splitting the Remain vote.

Change UK,or The Tiggers as I shall always think of them, have already lost their top candidate for Scotland once after someone looked at the tweets Joseph Russo had been sending.

It all adds to the impression that this new party is proving a flop. But I did enjoy Chuka Umunna's headmasterly disapproval of someone changing parties:
“He has let down his fellow candidates and activists."

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Paradise postponed at Airfield Farm, Market Harborough

In 1997 someone put forward a plan for a Christian theme park, including a recreation of the Garden of Eden, just outside Market Harborough.

Nothing came of the idea and eventually planning was given for 924 houses on the Airfield Farm site.

On Saturday I crossed the new canal bridge to see that was happening there.

There were show homes, cycle paths and little else. The effect was rather eerie, but then that was my reaction to the new Leicester suburb of Hamilton when I passed through it while searching for the Humber Stone.

To listen to some, you would believe that little house building takes place because developers are at the mercy of ruthless NIMBYs.

The reality is different, with planning authorities afraid of turning down applications lest they are obliged to pay the costs of an appeal by the developer.

And too often, new estates lack any amenities, any transport but the private car and are blatantly designed to allow further expansion.

This new Market Harborough development will not be like that. We are promised "sports pitches, a country park, play areas, allotments and a local centre which will consist of local shops and services".

But for now the site belongs to the show houses.

So it's Jo Swinson vs Ed Davey for the Lib Dem leadership

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Layla Moran issued a statement this morning. It's not entirely clear where or ow she issued it - the source seems to be the BBC Oxford political reporter Bethan Nimmo via a chain of tweets by Chris Mason - but the contents were clear.

She said:
I am very grateful to the large number of constituents, supporters, party members and elected representatives who have encouraged me to throw my hat into the ring in the forthcoming Liberal Democrat Leadership contest. 
As a relatively new MP, however, my first priority has to be to serve my constituents to the best of my ability. 
I hope they consider that I am doing a good job so far, but I do not believe that I would be able to continue to do so to the standard they have the right to expect if I took on the busy role of Party Leader as well. 
For this reason, I wrote to local party members last week to let them know that I would not be standing for the Leadership this time.
Some will wonder whether the revelation that she was once arrested after slapping her boyfriend has led to this decision. But then I suggested when she made that revelation that she was clearing the decks for a leadership bid.

So it may be simply that the lack of alternatives led to her being spoken of as a possible leader and that she has decided she is not ready for the role yet.

Anyway, Jo Swinson is the bookies' favourite to be the next Lib Dem leader, but Ed Davey has been active and effective since he returned to Westminster. You might almost say he has been on manoeuvres.

So it looks as though the two of them will contest the leadership when Vince Cable steps down this summer.

"Economic liberal" Nick Clegg makes the case for monopoly

I began to learn my Liberalism in the 1970s - the days when Liberals championed small businesses and employee ownership of larger ones.

Nationalisation does not float my boat, though it may be inevitable when the franchising system for the privatised railways finally collapses. Already most franchises are operated by state-owned organisations - it's just that it's not the British state.

I was always a bit sceptical of the self-proclaimed "economic liberals" who later appeared in the party. They did not talk about increasing competition as much as I would have like and rarely seemed to oppose the interests of big corporations.

This performance by Nick Clegg has done nothing to make me revise my view.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Fire at a Grade II Listed Kettering factory

Press reports describe it as the Kettering Bedding Centre, but Historic England know this building as the Regent Works, Regent Street. It was built for the boot and shoe firm Hales & Jowett in 1890.

It is Grade II Listed and that listing says:
This finely-detailed factory is little altered and the carefully detailed and homogeneous front shows it to be a factory but the design also fits into the terraces of houses either side and opposite. This combination of factories and housing adjacent to each other is a particular characteristic of the boot and shoe industry.
I took the photos below last June. If the building has to be demolished it will be sad loss.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Six of the Best 865

"With the local elections, the Lib Dems were finally completely clear in their messaging. “Stop Brexit” – that’s easy to understand. “Bollocks to Brexit” has the added bonus of having a slightly risqué element to it, meaning it will be discussed and thus picked up on." Nick Tyrone says the Bollocks to Brexit slogan is just what the Liberal Democrats need:

Rachel Andrews takes us to the former Bessborough mother and baby home on the outskirts of Cork. Nine hundred children died here, but few graves have been found.

Jonathan Webber introduces us to Simone de Beauvoir's views on parenting.

"Mr Eliot has asked me to tell you how much he personally enjoyed the poems and to pass on to you his congratulations on them." tseliot.com looks at the relations between T.S. Eliot and Ted Hughes.

Ken Andrews watches Joseph Losey's 1963 film The Servant: "One of the delights of The Servant is marveling in Bogarde's depiction of Barrett’s effortless slides in and out of his Manchester accent and contrasting his 'on the job' fussiness with his louche behavior when 'off the clock'."

"The hill was my playground, school and world." Alan Garner on Alderley Edge,

Brian Walden and Weekend World

The death of Brian Walden, which was announced today, reminds us of a golden era of political broadcasting.

Walden was a Birmingham Labour MP between 1964 and 1977, when he resigned to become the presenter of London Weekend Television's Sunday lunchtime programme Weekend World.

A typical edition would have a cabinet minister or leading member of the opposition as a guest. There would first be a deeply researched film about a problem facing the minister or a political dilemma facing the opposition, followed by an in-depth interview.

The mood was like a university tutorial, with Walden as the stern tutor. He did not go in for histrionics: his strength was that he made sure he was as well informed on the subject in hand as his guest. Politicians did not get away with bland generalities.

Maybe it's a sign of my age, but I find it hard to imagine many current politicians standing up to this sort of scrutiny.

Broadcasters long ago decided that the public is not interested in this kind of television. Perhaps that is one reason why we are faced with a generation of political pygmies.

Oh, and Weekend World had the best theme tune ever - Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain.

The Beatles: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

I saw a comment on Twitter about Richard Curtis's new film Yesterday, which imagines a world in which the Beatles have not existed.

The comment said something to the effect that this world would be terrible, because all the music would be like Cliff Richard.

That, of course, nonsense. There were plenty of other British bands influenced by Black American rhythm and blues in the early 1960s, and plenty of them made the same move to psychedelic music later in the decade.

I have a problem with The Beatles - and not just that their name is a lame pun. I can see they are good, but as with Mozart in classical music, I can't see why they are better than other people who were around at the time. That reaction to the film was somehow typical of the reverence with which The Beatles are treated.

Maybe it is Brian Epstein's styling, which is part of what made them preeminent by giving them family appeal, that puts me off them now. But whatever the reason, I have only chosen cover versions of their songs - by The Jam and Laibach - on this blog.

But here is a Beatles song, but one with a difference. It is written by George Harrison, not Lennon and McCartney, and Eric Clapton plays the guitar solo.

Harrison later explained how this came about:
We tried to record it, but John and Paul were so used to just cranking out their tunes that it was very difficult at times to get serious and record one of mine. It wasn't happening. They weren't taking it seriously and I don't think they were even all playing on it, and so I went home that night thinking, 'Well, that's a shame,' because I knew the song was pretty good. 
The next day I was driving into London with Eric Clapton, and I said, "What are you doing today? Why don't you come to the studio and play on this song for me?" He said, "Oh, no – I can't do that. Nobody's ever played on a Beatles record and the others wouldn't like it." I said, "Look, it's my song and I'd like you to play on it."
So he came in. I said, "Eric's going to play on this one," and it was good because that then made everyone act better. Paul got on the piano and played a nice intro and they all took it more seriously.

Happy St Pancras Day

12 May ought to be a public holiday in the East Midlands.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

David Steel's suspension lifted as Lib Dems "recast" investigation

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From BBC News this evening:
The Liberal Democrats have lifted the suspension of former leader David Steel, according to a senior party source. 
Lord Steel had the whip removed over comments he made to a child abuse inquiry about the late MP Cyril Smith. 
The source told the BBC that the whip had now been restored while the party recast the procedure being followed in its investigation into the comments.
Lord Steel was suspended after telling the inquiry that Cyril Smith had admitted abusing youths to him.

One odd thing about this affair is that Steel told us the same thing back in 2014 and no one turned a hair.

Woman's surprise at Kingsmill loaf full of bread crusts

BBC News wins Headline of the Day.

The judges had to go for a lie down afterwards because of all the excitement.

Three more poems by W.T. Nettlefold

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One of my favourite posts on this blog is the one about Bill Nettlefold. He was a minor poet of the 1930s whom I met as a teenager and later found quoted in the introduction of the Penguin anthology Poetry of the Thirties.

The poem quoted in that introduction, an odd and angry denunciation of T.S. Eliot, was the only Bill Nettlefold poem I had ever found.

That was until a couple of days ago, when someone very kindly posted three more of his poems as a comment on my original post.

They are all derivative of the young W.H. Auden and thus very much to my taste.

Here is one of them, published in Left Review in December 1937.
A Lullaby for a Baby Born in 1937 
Oh hush thee my baby and sleep while you can,
The days that are flying will make you a man.
Sleep deeply my baby, 'tis I who should cry,
The Masters are planning the way you shall die. 
The mining and blasting, the coal that we hew,
The steel we are casting, are, baby, for you.
To mortgage your future, the brain blood and bone;
Your life an investment to cover their own. 
Oh stay as a baby, stay just where you are,
So tiny and helpless, yet bright as a star:
But buds break to blossom as brief moments fly,
And Masters are planning the way you shall die.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Peterborough East station from above in 1934

With political eyes turning to Peterborough, here is an aerial photograph of the vanished Peterborough East station. You will find it in the bottom right-hand corner.

Read all about Peterborough East on Disused Stations.

The surviving Peterborough station, then called Peterborough North, is right at the top of the photo.

The Tiggers' week from hell arrives in Peterborough

Whatever did for the idea of a single Remain candidate in the Peterborough by-election - Patrick Maguire of the New Statesman thinks he knows - we can agree that this statement from the Tiggers' Gavin Shuker is remarkable:
"Change UK, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats and Renew have been working hard these last few days on a joint approach to the Peterborough by-election, recognising that we need to put the country’s interests first, securing a People’s Vote and remaining in the European Union. 
"We all agreed to stand down any candidates we might field in favour of a genuinely independent, pro-People’s Vote and pro-Remain candidate who had expressed an interest and intention to stand. 
"However, senior Labour figures, including senior figures campaigning for a People’s Vote, made it clear that they would strenuously disrupt the campaign and obstruct an independent Candidate, driven by fears that it would harm their party in Peterborough." 
Did the Tiggers really think the Labour Party would accede to the loss of one of its seats without a battle?

At least the Liberal Democrats and Greens got their nomination papers in after the breakdown of negotiations and will each have a candidate in the by-election. The Tiggers will not.

Perhaps they were afraid that would upset Labour too?

Stagecoach to take legal action against the Department for Transport over the East Midlands franchise

East Midlands Business Link confirms a story that has been in the offing for a while:
Stagecoach Group has confirmed that its wholly owned subsidiary, Stagecoach East Midlands Trains Limited, is taking legal action against the Department for Transport. 
The group said that a claim was issued yesterday (8 May) at the High Court in London under Part 7 of the Civil Procedure Rules. The claim alleges that the Department for Transport breached its statutory duties in connection with the procurement of the new East Midlands rail franchise.
As things stand, Stagecoach is due to hand over the East Midlands franchise to Abellio, which is owned by the nationalised Dutch railways.

The franchise system increasingly gives rise to legal action, while there are a diminishing number of companies interested in bidding at all.

It seems the model set up when the railways were privatised under John Major is on its last legs.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Oakham: The least used station in Rutland

And, perforce, the most used station in Rutland because it is the only station in Rutland.

We travel to Oakham from Corby over the mighty Welland Viaduct and see more of it from the ground later on.

If you fancy travelling over it yourself, then a good opportunity is coming up.

Between 25 May and 2 June every train from St Pancras to Leicester and beyond will take that route. This is to allow for the completion of the realignment of the track at Market Harborough station.

And if you ever find yourself with time to kill on Oakham station, I recommend the Grainstore Brewery and its pub.

A psychologist on M.R. James

"There is something that interests me as a psychologist and that is why the ghost stories had such a lasting influence. Why is it that we just love to be frightened?”
Professor Uta Frith is Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development at University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.

Here she delves into the origins of James’s unsettling stories and what they reveal about our love of a good scare.

If you are interested in developmental psychology, I recommend you follow Uta Frith on Twitter.

And if you like M.R. James's ghost stories there is A Podcast to the Curious.

The Tiggers have lost control of their own Twitter account

My thesis that the smoothness of The Independent Group's political careers up till now has given them an exaggerated sense of their own competence received further backing today.

Alex Wickham broke the story on Twitter this afternoon, and the Spectator's Steerpike has it all in one place:
Following the political party’s decision to change its name from the Independent Group to Change UK, it decided to update its Twitter handle today: from @TheIndGroup to the rather strange @ForChange_Now. Unfortunately, it seems the breakaway MPs didn’t realise that someone might take over their old account handle once it had been vacated. 
And, in a matter of minutes, the @TheIndGroup account was hijacked by an individual campaigning for a hard Brexit. .... 
Even more unfortunately, anyone Googling the Independent Group to find out more about the newly formed party, will instead by directed to the hard Brexit account. And the party managed to lose its Twitter ‘blue tick’ which verifies that a user is genuine.
And here's Sparks:

Monday, May 06, 2019

Searching for Cardinal Wolsey

Now we have turned up Richard III, the obvious next person to look for in Leicester is Cardinal Wolsey.

Accused of treason and summoned back to London from the North, Wolsey fell ill on the journey. He arrived at Leicester Abbey announcing:
"Father Abbot, I am come hither to leave my bones among you."
His grave was lost at the dissolution of the Abbey, but you wouldn't think so if you visited it today (as I did).

The site of the abbey now lies in Leicester's largest park - Abbey Park. After it was excavated in the 1930s, low walls were put up to show where the buildings had been.

There is even a grave slab for Wolsey, but he was buried in the Lady Chapel and the dig failed to locate it.

Should we try to find the old boy now?

I once heard someone make this suggestion to a leading member of the team that found Richard. He replied slightly acidly that, if they did find him, Ipswich would no doubt try to claim the remains.

Anyway, here are some photos of Abbey Park from today's visit. As well as the site of the abbey, it includes a miniature railway, a length of the River Soar and the ruins of Cavendish House.

This last was built on the site of the abbey's gatehouse and sacked after the siege of Leicester in the Civil War.

As I suggested after an earlier visit, the statue of Wolsey looks bemused to find himself in front of the cafe.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

The Heart Within: Race, class and bombsites

You can watch the 1957 film The Heart Within free of charge on the British Film Institute website.

The blurb there explains why you might want to:
Teenager Danny lives in London's docklands and befriends Victor, a Trinidadian dock worker, who becomes the chief suspect in a murder in this low budget crime thriller which cleverly mixes Boy's Own adventure with social realism. It gives postwar Britain's most prominent black actor, Earl Cameron, one of his best screen roles as a man on the run for a crime he didn't commit. 
This is a departure from other 1950s British films which located black characters in colonial Africa and viewed them as 'problems' or 'exotics'. The Kings of the Caribbean provide some great calypso music.
All that is true, but there are two other reason why this film interests me.

The first is that Danny is played by David Hemmings, who crops up on this blog regularly. Here he is aged 15 or 16, but playing a couple of years younger.

The second is that the film is largely set on London's postwar bombsites, whose treatment in films of was the subject of a recent post on this blog.

Hemmings' Danny is very much a character from Hue and Cry - he has a paper round and is saving up to buy a watch, which in those days was a powerful symbol of adult status.

Yet the bombsites are still depicted as somewhere that people on the wrong side of the law hang out and where Danny is threatened.

On the other hand, that threat goes hand in hand with beauty. I often get the sense that postwar London was an exotic city.

The damage done by the bombing opened up new vistas of Wren's Italianate churches and the bombsites themselves would have been alive with rosebay willow herb and other flowering plants. Rose Macaulay's novel The World My Wilderness conveys this view of London in the period.

A word too on class. The portrayal of working-class characters is often excruciating in British films of this period - see Kathleen Harrison's turn as Violet the maid in The Winslow Boy if you doubt me.

But here James Hayter, product of a Scottish public school, and Hemmings, product of lower middle class Kingston Upon Thames, deliver likeable and convincing performances as cockneys.

Hayter is Hemmings' grandfather and cares for him. The fate of his parents is never mentioned, but you sense they lost their lives to the bombing that produced the landscape of the film,

One final point: I was convinced that I remembered a scene where Hemmings had been told off by the police inspector and was sprawled out and sulking as a result.

His body language, I recalled, was precisely the same as in Blow-Up nine years later.

Sadly, having skimmed through the film on the BFI site, I cannot find the scene. I fear it is too good to be true and that I imagined it.