Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Liberal MP Dr Michael Winstanley makes the case for canals

At Foxton yesterday I bought a fistful of Inland Waterways Association (IWA) bulletins from the 1960s and 70s at the canal museum there, reasoning they would provide some interesting snippets for this blog.

I did not expect to find a Liberal MP quoted and photographed in them, but I did.

Here is Dr Michael Winstanley (in the centre of the photograph above) at the IWA's 1970 conference Waterways in the Urban Scene:
The second day began with a session on 'Amenity Uses', introduce by Dr Michael Winstanley, M.P., who explained his involvement with canals as triple one: From a personal boating interest; as a medical man anxious to increase the use of water-based recreation and the relaxing open air atmosphere of canals; and politically, where waterways were part of a national heritage that every politician ought to cherish. "It is our duty to get people off the roads."
Michael Winstanley was MP for Cheadle between 1964-66 and for Hazel Grove between February and October 1974.

The Cheadle seat he represented took in much the same area as the Hazel Grove we know today.

I shall be voting for Ed Davey

Embed from Getty Images

Andrew Rawnsley, while recognising what an important figure the winner may turn out to be, complains that the current contest for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats is "as exciting as a bowl of tofu":
The audience in a lecture theatre at the London School of Economics asks thoughtful questions. The rivals, taking it in turn to answer, are unfailingly courteous towards each other. 
There is no shouting, interrupting or name-calling. I have heard ruder conversations between nuns. 
When one contestant speaks, the other spends a lot of time nodding along in agreement. They even smile at each other’s tepid jokes.
I have suggested in the past that the customary niceness of our leadership contests may not serve the party well.

In 2015 neither Tim Farron's views on gay sex, which were to hamper us at the 2017 general election, nor Norman Lamb's views on Europe, which might well have proved more of a burden, were subject to scrutiny.

And back in 2007, Nick Clegg was outraged when Chris Huhne pointed out that he held views on public spending that were at odds with those of the bulk of Lib Dem members.

That turned out to be very important in 2010.

The niceness and lack of disagreement this time has made it hard to decide between Ed Davey and Jo Swinson. But I have made up my mind to vote for Ed.

The reason is that I am clearer about what I would be getting from his leadership. The emphasis on the environment and belief in the Lib Dems as standard-bearers for Liberalism speaks to me and has been laid out in some detail.

Jo, by contrast, speaks of "a liberal movement" and says we must "transform the economy so it works for people and the planet".

The former may well mean no more than the handful of local pacts I supported in a post the other day, but I fear it may mean a grand strategy that falls flat. Call it David Steel Syndrome.

And the latter could appeal to me, but I have little idea of what it would mean in practice. How would party policy have to change to make it a reality? I have tried to find out but I don't know.

Jo Swinson's campaign has operated at a level of abstractness that worries me. If you want to see the difference between the two candidates, take a look at the questions Liberator put to them.

One asked if, in the event of Brexit taking place, we should become the party of "back in" the EU.

Ed said yes. Jo told us how important it is we fight Brexit, almost got round to saying yes, but then went back to telling us how important it is that we fight Brexit.

This lack of detail in Jo's answers throws me back on looking at her personality, and that has never quite appealed to me as much as obviously does to some people in the party.

In fact, I find the attitude of some of her supporters online rather grating, though it would be wrong to let that affect how I vote.

I voted for Jackie Ballard as Lib Dem leader back in 1999 and looked forward to voting for Layla Moran this time, so I am sorry not to be voting for a woman.

But it's Ed Davey for me. Better the angel you know.

Hoyt Axton: Evangelina



I remember this as a staple of Radio 2 in the days when I was looking for a gentle station to write my essays to at York.

With their parallel between water and love, I have always suspected the lyrics of profundity.

Hoyt Axton was a successful singer and songwriter in the country and folk fields. His Della and the Dealer was hit in the UK in 1980.

Trivia fans will want to know that his mother co-wrote Heartbreak Hotel for Elvis.

Andrew Hickey tells her story:
Mae Axton was an odd figure. She was an English teacher who had a sideline as a freelance journalist. One day she was asked by a magazine she was freelancing for to write a story about hillbilly music, a subject about which she knew nothing. 
She went to Nashville to interview the singer Minnie Pearl, and while she was working on her story, Pearl introduced her to Fred Rose, the co-owner of Acuff-Rose Publishing, the biggest publishing company in country music. And Pearl, for some reason, told Rose that Mae, who had never written a song in her life, was a songwriter. 
Rose said that he needed a new novelty song for a recording session for the singer Dub Dickerson that afternoon, and asked Mae to write him one. And so, all of a sudden, Mae Axton was a songwriter, and she eventually wrote over two hundred songs.
He also tells me that Elvis went on to record some of Hoyt Axton's songs, giving them a unique mother-and-son double.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Foxton Locks in the sun


Living in Market Harborough, my instinct on a hot day is to head for Foxton Locks.

I did it today and even managed a mad-dogs-and-Englishmen walk across the fields to the Bell at Gumley.

Foxton, of course, is where the 1985 Liberal Assembly was organised from. The green track in the last photograph here was then the road access to the bottom of the locks.










Brecon and Radnorshire and Nigel Tufnell

With a by-election taking place Brecon and Radnorshire, I have naturally been thinking of the 1985 by-election in Brecon and Radnor, as it was then called.

That contest was caused by the death of the sitting Conservative Tom Hooson, who was a cousin of Emlyn Hooson, the former Liberal MP for neighbouring Montgomery.

Tom Hooson had gained the seat at the 1979 general election, but for 40 years before that it had been held by Labour.

So, in contrast to the contest taking place there at the moment, the 1985 by-was a fight between Labour and the Liberals.

I was between engagement sat the time and so was able to spent several days in Brecon and Radnor. On polling day I was in Cwmtwrch near Ystradgynlais.

Situated at the very north of the Valleys, it was a strongly Labour area. One of my memories of the day is having a gang of small boys practically fighting each other for the honour of delivering my Liberal leaflets in a close where every house had a Labour poster.

Elsewhere in the constituency the demographics were different and the landscape was stunning.
I have heard that Lloyd George got a mention in some of our leaflets, which reminds me of a story I have told here before:
A young Liberal activist was telling at a polling station out in the wilds somewhere, when an elderly farmer turned up. 
"What are you doing?" he asked. "I always take the numbers for the Liberals."
It turned out that for years the farmer had come along on polling day, collected numbers for a couple of hours and then taken them home with him. 
It represented a folk memory of Lloyd George's day. Any Liberal organisation in the area had long since disappeared. All the was left was the ancestral knowledge that taking numbers somehow helped the party.
Labour had held Brecon and Radnor for the 40 years up to 1979 because they had won a by-election there in 1939. It took place on 1 August, just as this year’s contest will.

At the 1935 general election Labour lost to a National Government supporting Conservative. It’s candidate was Leslie Haden-Guest, the father of the diplomat, dance and choreographer Peter Haden-Guest.

And Peter was the father of the actor Christopher Guest, best known for playing Nigel Tufnell in Spinal Tap.

As Leslie Haden-Guest had been made a hereditary peer in 1950 and the title had passed down to Christopher, Nigel Tufnell was a member of the House of Lords for three years before Tony Blair’s reforms removed most of the hereditaries in 1999.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Northampton University's new Waterside Campus


Photographing the ruins of Northampton power station five summers ago, I wrote:
Soon it will be an attractive university campus full of bright young things ... living exciting lives and driving knowledge and the economy on. 
"Ah," I shall tell them, "but you should have seen it when it was a derelict power station."
I went back there a few weeks ago to take a look at Northampton University's new Waterside Campus and, sure enough, the first thing I came across was an open air performance of The Taming of the Shrew.

Anyway, here are its buildings. It turns out that the site of the power station is largely occupied by sports pitches, though it also home to the dubious-sounding International Leather Centre.

The land the university buildings are on was an Avon cosmetics factory until it was demolished at the end of 2010.

There is a bonus for lovers of railway history on the campus that I shall share with you another day.

So, for now, let's end with a reminder that Northampton had a university in the 13th century.






In praise of Summer of the Rockets



Well that was fun. Perhaps the plot did not live up to the extraordinary atmosphere and visual style of Summer of the Rockets, but then how could it?

At least I spotted that Ronald Pickup's line in the opening episode and the dead rabbit Peter Firth kept the boys from seeing were both significant, even if the baddies did seem remarkably tolerant of photograph.

And the move from the dreadful Fifties - all racism and corporal punishment - to the liberated Sixties was less clichéd than many other dramatist would have made it appear.

One reason this series was better than much of Stephen Poliakoff's recent work was that it was more personal. The Petrukhin family's story owed much to his own.

Of late he has been trying to retell the story of The Great Gatsby, much as Stephen King has built a career on producing books that Ray Bradbury has already written.

The cast of Summer of the Rockets was uniformly excellent, so let me praise someone who has not been widely noticed. Linus Roache convinced as the likeable Tory MP and war hero with the fascist core.

So much so that I struggled to believe the happy ending with which we were presented.

Six of the Best 871

"Hundreds of immigrant children who have been separated from their parents or family members are being held in dirty, neglectful, and dangerous conditions at Border Patrol facilities in Texas." Isaac Chotiner interviews the lawyers who went to see them.

The stickiest points in the Brexit negotiations, including the Northern Ireland backstop and the decision to trigger Article 50 so early, reveal that Britain never really understood how the European Union works, argues N. Piers Ludlow.

Sophie Scott warned three years ago that we should stop laughing at politicians like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

Reclaiming the city was a prominent theme at this year's Sheffield documentary festival, reports Caitlin Quinlan.

Mike Jay explains why psychedelic culture remains the preserve of privileged white men.

"In 1970 and 1971 Chelsea made headlines because of their football and their trophies. Positive on-pitch headlines ebbed away as less than positive on- and off-pitch headlines became more prevalent." Tim Rolls is publishing a history of the club's decline and fall in the 1970s.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The soundtrack of a lost folk horror classic



Having inadvertently posted a video for the second time this week, I have decided to do it more often. After all, most of my readers now weren't born when I started blogging.

So here are the children of The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in 1958, performing part of Carl Orff's Music for Children.

Surely this is the soundtrack from a lost folk horror classic? Certainly. it is the most frightening recording I know.

I wrote a bit more about it when it first appeared on this blog in 2014.

As I observed then, these days the Italia Conti specialises in training children for parts in EastEnders.

I am reminded of Alan Bennett's experience of auditioning boys for 40 Years On:
Many belong to a species of stage boy, only related to childhood by their small size. All the other attributes of boyhood - youth, gaiety, innocence - have long since gone. Squat creatures, seemingly weaned on Woodbines, they are the boys who have been in Oliver! Lionel Bart has cut a swathe through the nation's youth like the 1914-18 war. They are the new Lost Generation.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "The box is much bigger inside than it looks from the outside"

There have always been those who worry about Lord Bonkers' advanced age, but it has never worried me. The problem, I increasingly feel, is my own age. Suddenly my topical references aren't so topical. Can you believe I have readers who don't remember Graham Tope's victory in the Sutton and Cheam by-election?

But how to account for Lord Bonkers' apparent immortality? When asked, he always puts it down 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 the cordial the Elves of Rockingham Forest sell to him at a distinctly steep price.

Recently, however, a reader put another theory to me: could it be that the old boys is a Time Lord? It would explain a lot, and it seems he is not the only one to whom this idea has occurred.

Anyway here is the final entry from our current visit to the old boy.

Tuesday

A couple of excitable fellows surprise me at my lodge gates. “Is it true you are extremely old and travel with companions fighting evil?” asks one and I reply that he has put it rather well. “And did you once hold a meeting of the whole parliamentary Liberal Party in your telephone box?” asks the other. When I admit that this is indeed the case, they exclaim together “I knew it!” and rush off.

Anxious to point out that the party was at a low ebb at the time and that this was a telephone box of my own design that also included a library, billiard room and an offset litho machine for printing Focus leaflets, I call after them “The box is much bigger inside than it looks from the outside!” They punch the air and dance with glee.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

The Lib Dems have not been tribalist enough


Back in February, when Change UK was launched, I wrote:
Remembering the endless hours expended on seat negotiations by the Liberal Party and the SDP, I would be tempted to pursue a selfish strategy if I were in charge of TIG and it had grown into a national party. 
I would give the Lib Dems a clear run in the seats they hold and in another dozen where they had realistic chances of winning. After that, I would stand a candidate in every seat in the country and let the Lib Dems stand against me if they dared. 
So low is the present Lib Dem support across much of the country, I would reason, that if we can’t supplant then we TIGgers have no future as a party anyway.
Now things have turned around - and that post is a reminder of how quickly it happened - that has become good advice for us Liberal Democrats.

You often hear the criticism that we are too tribalist, but that is a libel.

Chuka Umunna joined the party and was made our Treasury spokesperson the same weekend, and I have not read a whisper of criticism of him or that promotion.

Back in the 1980s the Liberal Party, which was supposed to be far more fractious than the modern-day Lib Dems, did David Steel's bidding and stood down in half the seats in the country to make room for the SDP. You can't  get much less tribal than that.

A fairer criticism of Liberals and Liberal Democrats over the years would be that we have been too prone to the belief that the route to success lies in giving in.

If only we give up enough of our beliefs and policies, runs the logic, if only we stand down in favour of someone else in enough seats, we will be swept to power.

You sometimes get the idea we believe we are an obstacle to Liberal government and not its greatest hope.

So I will now apply my advice from February to my own party.

I would not have a problem with our standing down in favour of the Greens in constituencies where they have a realistic hope of winning and we have none. But there are not many seats like that.

Nor would I have a problem with standing down in favour of Change UK, though I can think of only one seat - Heidi Allen's South Cambridgeshire - where that would be worth doing.

But we should stand candidates in the huge majority of seats and let other parties decide whether or not to put up against us.

Tory councillor blames rural crime on ramblers


There was a view in the Shropshire hills in the 1990s that the building of new roads around Shrewsbury had led to more crime. It was much easier to get to the countryside and out of it again than it used to be.

But a Conservative councillor over the border in Powys has another explanation for rural crime. It's the ramblers.

The County Times quotes Les George from Caersws contribution to a scrutiny committee meeting on crime:
"With the ensuing policies of the Welsh Government that are opening up the countryside to the general public, this is obviously going to be detrimental to safety and rural crime. 
"How are we going to overcome that? 
"Because you are inviting people from anywhere into the countryside. 
"They are walking the footpaths and bridleways and straying off them. 
"Some footpaths actually go through farmyards and people may go on walks specifically for crime reasons. 
"Is there some ways of policy to prevent that.”
There is something about footpaths that annoys rural Tories far beyond a concern about any burden they place on farmers.

When Labour was in the ascendancy they defended fox hunting by presenting it as part of a minority culture that should be cherished like any other.

Now Blair's victories are a distant memory they have gone back to "Get of my land".

But I am a Liberal, and God gave the land to the people.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Nottingham's The Park is in the hands of a foreign power


There is something wrong with The Park.

This enclave of 19th-century architect-designed houses stands behind Nottingham Castle. Indeed it occupies what was once its deer park.


The houses are lovely but the atmosphere is strange.

You will find the estate office in a building that looks like the sort of place where you would buy a ticket for the putting course at Church Stretton or Woodhall Spa.



The streets are still lit by gas and little vehicles owned by the estate putter about them. The drivers will wave to you.

But something is wrong with The Park.

It feels like the sort of place Soviet spies would be sent to live after capture to wait until an exchange to be arranged. Their lives would be pleasant, but if they tried to escape they would be shot.

It feels like Patrick McGoohan’s Village transferred to central Nottingham.


The real giveaway is this pillar box.


And I don’t just mean because  it is so small.


Look closely and you will see there is no monogram for the reigning monarch.


It is clear that The Park is held by a foreign power.

I would inform the authorities, but who knows how deep the plot runs?

Lord Bonkers' Diary: My old friend J.A. Hobson

Saturday was Sunday and Sunday was Saturday but, despite Lord Bonkers' insistence this time on writing his diary backwards, Wednesday is Wednesday.

To understand what he means by "the knickerbocker glory treatment", you will have to read Thursday's entry which was naturally posted here on Tuesday.

The old boy's theory about Corbyn being a Tory agent was set out a couple of years ago.

Wednesday

Being firmly convinced that Corbyn is a Conservative agent working to bring down the Labour Party, I seldom pay much attention to his views. I was, however, grateful to him for bringing my old friend J.A. Hobson back into the headlines.

It has to be said that Hobson's views on the Jewish race made him a prime candidate for the knickerbocker glory treatment, a fact that Corbyn conveniently ignored, but he was Sound on economics – I rather think Leicestershire's invasion of Rutland bore out his analysis of Imperialism.

I send a postcard to Corbyn suggesting he also write forewords to Graham Wallas and L.T. Hobhouse, as they could also do with a boost.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Two BBC debates with Ed Davey and Jo Swinson

Embed from Getty Images

Having moaned yesterday that only Sky was to screen a Lib Dem leadership debate, I am pleased to report that there are now to be two on the BBC.

Tomorrow morning at 10, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson will take questions from a live studio audience on BBC2's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

And on the evening of 19 July they will take part in a debate chaired by Jo Coburn.

Well done, Auntie.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Rediscovering the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway



The narrow-gauge Lynton & Barnstaple Railway closed in 1935 but is now being restored.

This video follows its route, accompanied by Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony.

I photographed a derelict Barnstaple Town station myself back in 1982.

Later. I find I posted this video last year, but what the hell.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Where "Bollocks to Brexit" came from

It's the slogan that turned around Liberal Democrat fortunes and this entry reveals where it came from.

Thursday

What a pleasure it was knocking up today! Our slogan ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ has quite swept the country and at cottage door after cottage door it is uttered spontaneously by the voters.

No doubt you will want to know how the party came to adopt it. It all happened one evening in the Bonkers’ Arms as we were setting the world to rights. Meadowcroft was late arriving, and when he did turn up I greeted him with “Good man! We have just got on to Brexit.”

There came the reply “Bollocks to Brexit: trimming that plumbago has brought on my lumbago.”

I jotted down his comment on a Smithson & Greaves beermat and telephoned London first thing the following morning.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Sky to hold Lib Dem leaders' debate next Monday

It used to be the BBC that felt it had a public service obligation, but well done to Sky
At least we can be sure both candidates will turn up, and be reasonably confident we know how many children they have.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Armed Forces Day Parade, Leicester



Shopping in Leicester on Saturday I came across the Armed Forces Day Parade, which was led by the pipes and drums of the Seaforth Highlanders.

As Captain Mainwaring would put it, he who holds Caffè Nero holds Leicester.



Lord Bonkers' Diary: Tipping a knickerbocker glory over Oswald Mosley

And you thought that pouring milkshakes over fascists was a modern idea.

Friday

A journalist rings to ask what I think of this modern tactic of pouring milkshakes over far-right politicians. I reply that the milkshake is an American import we could well do without and that if one is going to dispose of it then tipping it over a passing Fascist seems as good a way as any.

Warming to my theme, I recall that I was once obliged to sit next to Oswald Mosley at dinner. Things were distinctly frosty between us from the get-go and when he made a disobliging remark about Herbert Samuel I tipped my knickerbocker glory over his head.

This soon became a fashion, and many of the fellows who stopped Mosley’s gallop at Cable Street were armed with the things, though if I am honest their tendency to melt made them an unreliable weapon.

Mind you, as I told the Manchester Guardian at the time, if it had been one of Cook’s trifles I should not have wasted it on a specimen like Mosley.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Sherlock Holmes on Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds

Embed from Getty Images

The controversy over Carry Symonds, Boris Johnson and their neighbours put me in mind of the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.

In it, the great detective explains to Watson why he does not find rural scenes restful:
"The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. 
"But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser."
I mentioned this passage to Stephen Booth, the 'rural noir' crime author, when he came to speak to Leicester Writers' Club. He knew it well.

Nick Clegg's Today interview is tweeted by Leave.EU

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Joanna Southcott and the Panacea Society



The Panacea Society is no more, but you can visit the Panacea Museum in Bedford.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Breakfast with Freddie and Fiona

Change UK was a British political party that flourished briefly in the spring of 2019. 

When I sent this off to Liberator it was topical satires. Honest.

Saturday

Who should I meet at breakfast but Freddie and Fiona? It transpires that I have invited them for the weekend, though I cannot remember doing so. I am reminded of the day I set the dogs on what I took to be a poacher, only to find he was the leader of the Portuguese Liberals whom I had brought here to stay after meeting him at the National Liberal Club.

Be that as it may, the two of them are full of their new party. It is called Change UK – at least they tell me it was last time they checked. They plan to “replace the Liberal Democrats”, if you please, because we are too associated with austerity.

I hasten to change the subject and ask them if Jeremy Browne’s scheme for selling the unemployed to an offshore bank, developed while they worked for him, came to anything. They go rather quiet after that. Then, fearing for their immortal souls, I urge them to attend St Asquith’s the next day.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary

Six of the Best 870

Nicole Goodkind reports on the scandal of Trump's El Paso detention camp for children: "'In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,' said Holly Cooper, co-director of the University of California, Davis' Immigration Law Clinic."

Back in 2016, Ylan Q. Mui examined the tangled subject of Boris Johnson's US citizenship and tax liabilities there.

Working for Jeremy Hunt was the worst three years of my life, says Luke Turner.

Lee Brackstone mourns the early death of Gordon Burn, who would have given us "another half-dozen books that may have helped us understand the present moment: the unravelling of celebrity culture, which was always Gordon's lodestar subject".

Tim Worthington nominates 12 radio programmes that deserve to be given a proper release.

Natalie Simpson tells us how not to walk the Cumbria Way.

Martin Carthy: New York Mining Disaster 1941



New York Mining Disaster 1941 was the first song the Bee Gees recorded after returning to Britain from Australia in 1967.

Aided by rumours that they were the Beatles recording under another name, it was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

This folk version of the song by Martin Carthy  comes from his 1998 album Signs of Life. Perhaps it reveals the limitation of the lyrics, but it represents an interesting coming together of different musical styles.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

'Mods: Shaping a Generation" at New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester


It's a pleasure to see a sign like the one above at the entrance to an exhibition and rarer than it need be.

Today was the 170th birthday of the New Walk Museum and there was lots going on there to celebrate it. I bought my mother a book from the Richard III Society stall and joined Leicester Civic Society, which is something I have long meant to do.

But the purpose of my visit was to see the exhibition on the Mod scene in Leicester and Nottingham. Mods: Shaping a Generation runs until 30 June.
 






Lord Bonkers' Diary: Orphans in the rafters

As is his right in a free country, Lord Bonkers is writing this diary backwards. I started it on Friday with Monday's entry, which means that Sunday appears on Saturday and Saturday will appear on Sunday.

I think that is tolerably clear.

Sunday

I am not afraid to say I blubbed when I watched the fire at Notre Dame, but I soon recovered myself and ordered precautions to be taken at St Asquith’s. The Revd Hughes was sprayed with fire-retardant chemicals and a party of Well-Behaved Orphans, armed with buckets of water, has been stationed in the rafters at every service.

This morning, just as the Revd Hughes was giving it both barrels, the orphans rose as one child and tipped their buckets over Freddie and Fiona in the front pew. The padre was furious, but I defended them as I could have sworn I saw a wisp of smoke rising from that quarter of the church myself.

Now you want to know what Freddie and Fiona were doing in these parts, which means I have to tell you what happened on Saturday. Writing a diary backwards in this manner is strictly against the Diarists’ Code – I believe it was drawn up by Pepys himself – and I will be in the most awful trouble if the Union finds out, so don’t breathe a word.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary