Saturday, August 31, 2019

Max Wilkinson interviewed as the Guardian visits Cheltenham

Embed from Getty Images

The Guardian goes to what it calls 'genteel' Cheltenham where the sitting Conservative MP Alex Chalk and his 'rather contorted position on Brexit' has upset some voters.

Cheltenham is a prime Liberal Democrat target and the paper interviews our prospective candidate Max Wilkinson.

He says of Chalk:
“First he was a Eurosceptic. Then he pivoted to reluctant Remainer. Then he voted for all of the Brexit legislation the government set out. Now he stands outside his constituency office telling everyone he’s against no deal and prorogation, while taking a job as private secretary for Dominic Raab, who is one of the biggest exponents of a no-deal Brexit around. He’s putting his career ahead of what he says are his principles.”
The Guardian also spoke to some voters:
Mark Wallace, a former soldier, can’t see the problem with proroguing parliament. "It’s not anti-democratic at all," he insists. He voted Leave but he’s particularly keen to get out of the EU as soon as possible because, he says, the medicines he needs are becoming increasingly difficult to get. But won’t that be a much greater problem if the UK leaves without a deal? 
"No," he says, arguing that the country will then be free to make whatever arrangements it wants.
I hope that if Brexit does happen the Tories will be the victims of the backlash they deserve.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Market Harborough cattle market from above in 1932

Here is another interesting image from the Britain from Above site.

In the bottom right-hand corner you can see the LNWR lines to Rugby and to Northampton just beginning to diverge.

Above that is a sports ground. Old Ordnance Survey maps call it a football ground, but that looks very like a cricket pitch in the centre.

The Settling Rooms in the middle of the cattle market help modern readers orient themselves, though it may be a surprise to them to find it set among such established trees.

What intrigues me most is the vacant site above the cattle market on the left-hand site of the photo.

When I first came to Harborough it was the town's bus station and is now under St Mary's Place. But what is that odd building in the centre of it?

Former Tory MP for Harborough is acting for John Major

Sir John Major, reports the Guardian has said he will seek the high court’s permission to join the case brought by the anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller.

It aims to prevent Boris Johnson proroguing parliament from next week until mid-October.

And who is acting for the former prime minister?

Step forward Lord Garnier, who as Edward Garnier was Conservative MP for Harborough from 1992 to 2017.

Oh yes.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

We Make Hay by The SY6 10 years on

One of my more esoteric Sunday music video choices was We Make Hay by the SY6.

Ten years after it was shot, a blog post by Jake Buchanan looks back on the experience:
As the years rolled on, people wanted more of the SY6. We did an ill advised 2nd video for a fruit and veg company which I am not a fan of and then left it as that. 
People wanted us to do something to mark the ten years. We kicked about the idea of doing something but to be honest I was never fully sold, it’s nice to dream about it but it wouldn’t be the same. 
You need those careless times, and the vibe we all had when we all lived close, the gags were effortless to make, the tone was easy. 
I look back on this time foundly, I have a video of myself and my friends being idiots, that’s all I wanted. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Man explains why police found him hiding in bush in Leicester with can of bear repellent spray

Leicester bushes: notice the lack of bears

Headline of the Day is a home win for the Leicester Mercury.

UPDATED: Britain no longer exports pork pies to Iceland and Thailand

It seems the prime minister wasn't telling porkies after all. We do export pork pies to Iceland and Thailand, though only in small quantities.

But if Boris Johnson thinks he will be able to put pressure on the US to relax its trade rules after Brexit he is in for a big disappointment. Then again, I am sure he know that.

For more on the realities of the pork pie industry, see this Twitter thread from Spartacus Mills - Walkers owns the Dickinson & Morris brand:
Even later:

From the Guardian:
It is understood that a small number of pies were sent to Iceland and Thailand as part of a trial in 2015, but Walker and Son have not exported pies to either country for at least a couple of years.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Watersons: Bellman

"An impassioned elegy for a fox-hound," according to A.L. Lloyd, who said the Watersons got it from Paul Graney of Manchester.

Some of the words - "he's gone where the good doggies go" and "Now some people use guns to kill foxes/And they says that it's far more humane." - suggests the song has a modern hand in it.

Now watch Travelling for a Living, a 1966 documentary about the Watersons.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

What remains of Market Harborough cottage hospital

Finding I myself in the Coventry Road this morning, I photograph what remains of Market Harborough's cottage hospital.

The structure shrouded in scaffolding is the hospital's porch, which records the name of every man from the town who served in the first world war. The final photograph here, taken a few years ago, shows more of it.

Everything else has gone and work has already begun on the foundations of the care home that will replace it.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Aspley Guise: The least used station in Bedfordshire

It's a while since we had one of these videos, so let's head for the Bedford to Bletchley line.

A Ghost Story for Christmas: Martin's Close

Good news this week: Mark Gatiss has adapted another of M.R. James's ghost stories for television.

Martin’s Close will be shown by the BBC at Christmas, starring Peter Capaldi.

In 2013 Gatiss revived the BBC's A Ghost Story for Christmas, which was a real seasonal event back in the 1970s, by adapting James's The Tractate Middoth.

It was a good piece of work, even if for me it was overshadowed by his superb documentary on the life of James, which was shown the same week.

If you want to know more about Martin's Close, A Podcast for the Curious is your friend.

They also produced the video above, which takes you to the real-life location of the story.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Six of the Best 882

David Warren complains that the Liberal Democrats have become an establishment party.

"The North of England is set to receive £2,389 less per person than London on transport, according to a new study which has stoked concern that the North is 'held back by government underinvestment'." Richard Kemp wants to see the North get a fair share of government spending.

Chloe Coleman on the work of Henryk Ross, a photographer who documented the Lodz Ghetto in Poland under Nazi rule.

"The night before I remember being on my hands and knees on my hotel room floor just crying and crying. I still felt terrible the following morning, then went out and played probably my best game of the season." Robert Kitson conducts a remarkable interview with the rugby player Kearnan Myall.

Like 'like' is just a lazy linguistic filler. Rebecca Woods on the many uses of a simple word.

Tish Farrell takes us to Heath Chapel in Shropshire.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

From Waterloo to Putney

Time for another walk with John Rogers. This time he takes us along the Thames Path from Waterloo to Putney.

You can continue the walk to Richmond in another video posted on this blog.

Bishop's Castle by-election will be on 12 September

They move quickly in Shropshire.

At the start of the month I blogged about the resignation of Jonny Keeley, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Bishop's Castle.

Today I learnt that the by-election will take place on 12 September and that the Lib Dem candidate is Ruth Houghton.

Judging by the this photograph, she has the makings of a first-class councillor.

Plans for anti-sex toilets in Welsh seaside town 'submitted in error,' council says

Embed from Getty Images

The Evening Standard wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Monday, August 19, 2019

A trolleybus network for Leicester?

A Labour councillor, reports the Leicester Mercury, is arguing that the city needs a rapid transit system and proposing trolleybuses as a cheaper alternative to trams.

Trolleybuses have rubber tyres and use the roads like any other vehicle, drawing their power from overhead wires.

I don't know if anything will come of the idea, but it does give me an excuse to post this footage of the last trolleybus system in the UK.

They were running in Bradford until 1972.

All we hear is Radio Lembit

Embed from Getty Images

It's a while since we had news of the former Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire.

So I am pleased to report that Lembit Opik now presents the mid-morning show on BBC Radio Kent every Friday and sometimes fills in for the regular presenter on other days too.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Nilsson: All I Think About is You

This song popped into my head from nowhere yesterday. So much so that I had to look it up to see who the singer was. It turned out to be the great Harry Nilsson.

It comes from his 1977 album Knnillssonn ("everyone else spells it wrong, why shouldn't I?"), but I know it because it was released as a single in the UK, reaching no. 43.

When he began, Nilsson was known for his vocal range, but here is voice is oak-aged and simple. This contrasts with the backing provided by strings and the boy choristers from St Paul's.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

"Rather like the Eastern Roman Empire": Finding the Great Central Railway - Nottingham

I once blogged that
the Great Central Railway - Nottingham is a bit of a mystery to those of us in Leicestershire. Rather like the Eastern Roman Empire.
Today I resolved to penetrate deeper into the mystery.

On paper it looked simple: train to Loughborough, then catch a bus and ask to be dropped at East Leake gypsum works.

There I would find a wayside halt.

But the bus driver told me the route had been diverted because the road was being resurfaced. Of course he did.

I refused to be defeated. I got off in the centre of East Leake and walked.

Sure enough I found the gypsum works and then the halt.

I was exploring it when I looked up the line and saw a steam locomotive barrelling towards me.

This was the last outing of my summer holiday. I will save my photos and discoveries for later in the year when the nights are drawing in and talk turns to by-elections long ago.

In the mean time, read more about Great Central Railway - Nottingham.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Stonehenge Railway

The landscape around Stonehenge was once home to a military railway.

Six of the Best 881

If the Conservatives are so keen on 'the will of the people.' why haven't any of them marked the bicentenary of Peterloo massacre? A good question from Chris Dillow.

"The caricaturing of English nationalism as inherently reactionary and xenophobic has made the left and centre reluctant to hear what the English really want," says John Denham.

Matthew Wills rediscovers the lost US state of Franklin - it now forms part of Tennessee.

Josh Jones explains why Joni Mitchell, who wrote the song that defined Woodstock, didn't make it to the festival.

"Paul Nash lived in Flat 176, Queen Alexandra Mansions between 1914 and 1936 ... I would guess he moved out in 1936 because his view of St Pancras Hotel was gone due to the construction of St Pancras Town Hall, later known as Camden Town Hall on Euston Road." Robjn Cantus on the artist and the railway station.

Chris Dyson travels to Holmfirth for the beer and a Lucinda Williams gig.

Another good Lib Dem result in Shropshire

David Boyle once said his favourite party press release from his time as editor of Liberal Democrat News read 'Liberals storm to second place'.

Well something similar happened in Shrewsbury yesterday:

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Financial Times talks up Lib Dem chances in St Albans

Sebastian Payne has been to St Albans and found Liberal Democrat prospects good:
Person after person I speak to there registers their disgust at Brexit - a clear majority voted for Remain in 2016 - and the rightward shift of the Tories. Many inhabitants are London exiles, bringing with them liberal metropolitan sensibilities. 
St Albans may once have been a Labour marginal, but the party’s equivocation on Brexit could well have scuppered its aspirations.
He also met our candidate Daisy Cooper:
"I stood to be our candidate in St Albans because it is exactly the sort of seat that should and could be a Lib Dem heartland, people here hold fundamentally open liberal values," she explains over coffee. 
"I want to put a stake in the ground for the party and the country’s future and I absolutely think we can win."

Monday, August 12, 2019

A scheduled train over the Welland Viaduct

So there I was on Melton Mowbray station this afternoon waiting for a train back to Leicester, when I saw where the next train was going.

There is one passenger train a day in each direction that takes this route, presumably because it is regularly used for diversions and so drivers need experience of it.

It is a line of tunnels and viaducts, so much so that it is known as 'the Alps' among railwaymen.

Its chief landmark is the magnificent Welland Viaduct - the longest masonry viaduct in Britain.

You can see the shadow of its arches in the photographs below - I could not resist catching the train.

Telford Lib Dems plant trees to offset election carbon footprint

Embed from Getty Images

From, inevitably, the Shropshire Star:
Liberal Democrats in Telford have bought 175 trees to offset the carbon footprint the party built up during this year's election. 
The party decided to make the purchase through the Eden Reforestation Project, which seeks to plant a minimum of 500 million trees each year and to offer hope through the employment of tens of thousands of people in countries where extreme poverty is rampant. 
The idea was brought forward by Telford & Wrekin Young Liberals through their chair Molly Morgan. 
Party chairman Councillor Greg Spruce said: "We want to help achieve carbon neutrality in Telford & Wrekin before 2030, by setting this example we hope other parties, businesses, charities and residents join us in offsetting their carbon usage."
We've come a long way from Mr Gladstone.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Former boss of Bradgate Park complains to Charity Commission over councils' takeover

Not all is well at Bradgate Park.

This 850-acre chunk of Charnwood Forest is one of the wonders of Leicestershire. In 1928 it was given to the people of the county in perpetuity.

It is run by the The Bradgate Park Trust, but on Wednesday a story appeared in the Leicester Mercury announcing that Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester's elected mayor, and Nick Rushton, leader of the county council, had taken control of the park.

The basis on which they had done so was not made clear by the Mercury, and now it has printed a second article in which the trust's former chief executive Peter Tyldesley has his say.

It quotes him as saying:
"I read Nick Rushton’s comments about how he felt the trust was being run with a mixture of amusement and concern. 
"The same goes for the staff. 
"I do not think the trust is now being run in the best interests the people of Leicester and Leicestershire. 
"It is being run in the interests of the councillors. 
"There’s a real conflict of interest now because the separation between the charity and the councils is reduced.”
Mr Tyldesley also told the paper::
"I resigned my post in June and the next day commenced the whistleblowing process with the Charity Commission, 
"It’s now in their hands."

Blowzabella: The Man in the Brown Hat

As the band's website says:
Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based wall-of-sound - played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling.
I recall listening to them on John Shaw's Here Be Dragons programme on Leicester Sound back in the late 1980s.

It was part of my duties as a councillor: I was on an Independent Broadcasting Authority committee for Leicestershire that kept an eye on the local radio franchise.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Bryan Magee's last interview


On the Prospect site John Maier reports on the last interview Bryan Magee gave - I paid my own tribute to him on the day he died.

As one would hope from a philosopher in the twilight of his years, Maier's interview contains much wisdom.

Here is Magee on his own career and abilities:
"I feel, to take an analogy from card games, I was dealt a good hand - not a wonderful hand, not a marvellous hand - and I think I’ve lived in such a way as to make the most of the hand I’ve got. But, what I basically wish more than anything else is that I’d had better cards."
And he is bracingly honest about his motivation for going into politics:
"[When] people say they went into politics because they wanted to make the world a better place, that’s very foreign to me… I wanted to go into politics because I thought I’d like being in politics.” 
Though, being Magee, he also thought such a career would allow him the time to grapple with philosophical problems.

One does, however, catch a glimpse of the working-class boy from Hoxton in his attitude to authority:
"I don’t accept authority. [He laughed]. I don’t have a problem with it. I just don’t accept it!"

Six of the Best 880

"Joyce is remembered as being part of seven female Liberal Candidates (the others were Christina Baron, Sarah Curtis, Penny Jessel, Margaret Snow, Delia Venables and Nesta Wyn Ellis) who protested in 1976 outside the National Liberal Club about the fact that women were not until then admitted to full membership." Graham Colley pays tribute to Joyce Arram.

Nick Barlow looks back to 1969 and the Redcliff-Maud Report's recommendations for redrawing the boundaries of local authorities.

Ross Goldstone reviews Francis Green and David Kynaston's study of Britain’s private school problem.

"As Nickolas Pevsner said: 'There is nothing quite like the Barbican in all of British architecture'." Modernist London celebrates 50 years of the Barbican Estate.

Jay Parini on a study of Auden's poem 'September 1, 1939': "The astonishing text at the heart of this book, after 9/11, acquired a prophetic as well as a diagnostic quality."

Rob Colling has recorded an album inspired by Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising. Bob Fischer interviews him about it.

Friday, August 09, 2019

The Sawley Junction by Long Eaton station

It turned out in the end not to be a good day to travel by train, but until then I had a good time.

I was in Long Eaton to take a photograph of an overgrown railway bridge that I shall explain and share with you one day.

But I also found the Sawley Junction - a micro pub just across the road from Long Eaton station.

As a write up for DerbyshireLive said:
The Sawley Junction is a bit bigger than the smallest micros, but it’s still only one room and very smartly laid out. You immediately feel comfortable in it.
The station was known as Sawley Junction until 1968. There have been several other stations in Long Eaton over the years, all of them better placed to serve the town.

Nick Cohen announces "Unite to Remain" alliance in the Spectator

You wouldn't expect the announcement to be made by a socialist journalist in the Spectator, but Nick Cohen appears to have important news:
On 15 August, the attempt to build an effective remain force will begin when the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru agree a non-aggression pact in 30 constituencies.
They will back one candidate in each seat who will stand as X Liberal Democrat (Unite to Remain) or Y Green (Unite to Remain) and so on. 
The “Unite to Remain” title has already been agreed with the Electoral Commission so the problems found in running unity candidates in the European elections shouldn’t trouble us next time. 
My understanding is that the easy decisions are close to being taken. There’s agreement that sitting MPs should be given a free run, and on the names of candidates for obvious target seats. 
The Greens were far ahead of the Liberal Democrats in the Isle of Wight in the 2017 election, for example, and will provide the sole remain candidate in the constituency next time. 
A second tranche of 30 or so constituencies will be settled on 22 August. As the parties move down the list of target seats, the task becomes harder. In each constituency they are asking activists to step aside for a rival, a hard concession for many to make.
There's a lot to digest here.

For now - and remembering the Liberal/SDP years -  I can say with some authority that it is not enough to form an alliance: you need something exciting to say too.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

How they straightened the line through Market Harborough station

Here's how.

Lib Dems publish guide for activists in the Shetland by-election

Embed from Getty Images

The Herald reports:
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have produced an etiquette guide for the Holyrood by-election in Shetland as they draft in help from mainland. 
The party has warned activists from outside the constituency that referring to "The Shetlands" is regarded as a "no no". 
Members contacting voters by phone have also being given tips on pronouncing Norse place names in the islands.
If they ever call a by-election in Rutland, I shall ask Lord Bonkers to write something similar.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Chris Morris's new film The Day Shall Come

Where has Chris Morris been? The man who predicted this future has little to say now it has arrived.

The good news is that he has a film - The Day Shall Come - opening in October.

He tells the comedy website Chortle:
"Since 9/11 it has become standard operating procedure. Informants encourage a person of interest to break the law and when they do, the FBI arrest them. Each plan is put together with the federal attorney. 
"Arrest is delayed until the case will play in court. So the conviction rate is 98 per cent. The typical sentence is 25 years."

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Tollesbury Pier station in 1935

Embed from Getty Images

Remember the video I posted showing what remains of Tollesbury Pier station?

There was more to see in 1935.

Six of the Best 879

"My favourite saying about spads is that the best are like poisoners: either well-known, or good at their job, but never both." Dominic Cummings had better hope he is the exception, says Freethinking Economist.

Simon McGrath says it's time for the Lib Dems to ditch the People's Vote organisation but not the idea of a people's vote.

"Percy Bysshe Shelley was many things: a poet, a political radical and pamphleteer, a philosophical thinker, and a faithless husband. He was also – and this may come as a surprise – obsessed with the occult." Lynn Shepherd looks at he haunting of the great Romantic poet.

Paul Carnahan remembers interviewing Ivor Cutler.

A London Inheritance shares a 1940s' bike ride from Marble Arch to Shrewsbury.

"Something about it struck me as utterly melancholy – who, when they are eight or nine years old, wants to spend hours driving up and down in a fogged-up bus looking at the same industrial estates, hedgerows and bus stations?" Ray Newman on the genesis of his new novel The Grave Digger’s Boy.

The Mansfield Road, Nottingham, is no longer there

I remember the Mansfield Road in Nottingham as being lined with secondhand bookshops and record shops.

Maybe it never was quite that good: we are talking about memories of 30 years ago. So I was not too surprised to find them all gone when I went back there today.

There is still a record shop, but it closes for half the week. The bookshop Jermy & Westerman, which was getting rave reviews only recently, has closed down.

Some shops have even been turned into houses, suggesting no one expects those good old days to return here.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Searching for the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal

The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal is Manchester's almost forgotten waterway. It was built in 1839 to link the River Irwell and the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal to the Rochdale Canal. 
The canal was less than a mile long, with 4 locks and a tunnel below the Deansgate area. It was built to let boats get between the Irwell and the Rochdale Canal without having to pass through the Bridgewater Canal's Hulme link, the tolls for which were high. 
The canal was never a great success as it never carried as much traffic as anticipated, partly because the Bridgewater company retaliated by reducing their own tolls. Loading wharves were constructed in the tunnel section with goods being hoisted through shafts to and from the railway warehouse later built above. 
A unique feature of the canal was that the two top locks were constructed as parallel staircase locks (i.e. with a total of 4 broad lock chambers). This suggests an anticipation of a high level of traffic that never materialised. The site of these staircase locks lies under what was Manchester Central railway station.

Jack Bond and the Jodrell Arms, Whaley Bridge

I googled Jack Bond, the former Lancashire cricketer this evening, only to find that he died last month.

Bond was Lancashire's captain in the early 1970s when they were the most feared one-day side in the country.

He was batting far down the order by then, but his leadership was central to their success.

And he was a fine fielder.

The video above shows the catch he took to remove Asif Iqbal when he looked certain to win the 1971 Gillette Cup (the premier one-day trophy in those days) for Kent.

You can read more about Bond's career in his Guardian obituary.

The reason I have been thinking of Jack Bond is that Whaley Bridge is in the news.

I spent the night at a pub there in 1982, visiting my mother and stepfather on one of their epic tours of Britain's canals.

The pub was run by two couples, and one of them was Bond and his wife.

Ray Illingworth, who was born in the same year as Bond, had just come out of retirement to captain Yorkshire at the age of 50.

I asked Bond if he planned to do the same with Lancashire.

"No," he replied, "I've got more sense."

The pub, incidentally, was the Jodrell Arms, and more googling brings the news that is has been closed and empty for years.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Ian Hislop's tribute to Christopher Booker reveals the problem with Private Eye's view of the world

Embed from Getty Images

The current issue of Private Eye celebrates the life and work of Christopher Booker.

People of may age and younger will know Booker through his campaigning journalism against the European Union and measures to combat climate change. This was wrongheaded and, as far as he had influence, harmful to the national interest.

But, though he made the mistake of going on holiday in the Eye’s early days and returned to find himself ousted as editor by Richard Ingrams, it is clear from his contributions reprinted in the current issue that Booker was central to the organ’s view of the world.

Dave Spart, The Secret Diary of John Major aged 473/4, St Albion Parish News: he had a hand in them all.

He even wrote the greater part of the parody of Mr Justice Cantley’s summing up in the Jeremy Trial that Peter Cook made famous.

So I am happy for Christopher to be celebrated by Private Eye. He deserves it.

I am less happy with Ian Hislop part in this commemoration.

Hislop has spent the past 33 years editing Private Eye. As he is younger than I and has shown limited ambition to change the magazine, that means he has spent pretty much his entire adult life bathed in the view of the world that Booker established.

So you might expect a degree of affection for Booker from Hislop and some sophisticated reflections on satire and its role in our society and how it has changed since Booker's heyday.

Not a bit of it.

Here are two quotations from Hislop’s tribute o Christopher Booker in the current Private Eye:
And that is the reason I think he was really known as the Deacon – because he always wanted to share some insight, to convert you to his view of an event or an issue and to make you see the truth of it. That sounds a bit preachy (nicknames are rarely entirely affectionate) , but at Private Eye it was always done through humour and it was his defining motivation “to tell the truth smilingly”. This Horatian view of satire was… (put this into Pseuds Corner – Ed).
Given how rude he was about the BBC, his approach was positively Reithian – he really did want to educate, inform and entertain. His stint on That Was The Week That Was was a model of this sort of Juvenalian fury (put his in Pseuds Corner as well – Ed).
So you see, whenever Hislop is on the point of saying something admiring of Booker or at all revealing about satire, he abandons the attempt and takes refuge in the Eye’s decades-old tactic of laughing at the heartfelt.

Such an attitude may have seemed radical when Booker and Ingrams and Willie Rushton adopted it at Shrewsbury School in the 1950s, but for Hislop still to be embracing it almost 70 years on suggest there is something deeply conservative about Private Eye - and Hislop himself,

Fight the Bear: Demons

Having reported that Jonny Keeley is standing down as councillor for Bishop's Castle, it seems the right time to choose a track by his band Fight the Bear.

They were formed back in 2004, but the four members knew each other at the town's primary school long before that.

The music critic of the Shropshire Star once said of them:
The band are heavily influenced by American ska punk band Sublime. 
However, Fight The Bear are no carbon copy. They fuse the best elements of ska punk with their own, unique personality. The result is gut wrenching riffs, neat rhythms, funky bass lines and stunning vocals.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Freeman's Meadow Lock, Leicester, in 1967

In 1965 the Inland Waterways Association held its National Rally of Boats at Blackburn.

Two years later it was held in Leicester and the second of the old IWA Bulletins I bought at Foxton earlier this summer covers it.

The most interesting photograph is the one above, whose caption includes the following:
But Leicester still faces problems, such as ... its present treatment of the Grand Union alongside the power station at Freeman's Meadow Lock, a perfect setting for large scale redevelopment.
I went to the lock today to see if I could replicate this photograph of the weir - the Grand Union merges with the River Soar for its journey through Leicester - with the railway bridge behind it.

It must have been taken from the power station as the industrial buildings in the background are the gas works off Aylestone Road.

The writer of the caption got his way as the power station site is now occupied by Leicester City's King Power Stadium.

I took the photograph below from its car park today.

The 1967 photo, by my calculation, was taken from a vantage point now occupied by the car park of the neighbouring Holiday Inn.

But the river bank is fenced off there and trees have grown up, so my attempt to replicate it was defeated.

Freeman's Meadow Lock, which is right next to a weir, is still a remarkable spot. I took lots more photos there today and will share them with you another time.

Wolverhampton councillor is Labour's new Harborough candidate

Labour have chosen their new parliamentary candidate for Harborough. She is Celia Hibbert, a councillor from Wolverhampton.

She was profiled last year by The Cable.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Six thoughts on Brecon and Radnorshire

Embed from Getty Images

Well done the Liberal Democrats

Brecon and Radnorshire may have looked like an inevitable Liberal Democrat gain – we have held the seat for 20 of the past 34 years – but an enormous amount of work went into winning.

Even to force the by-election after the sitting Conservative MP was committed of fraudulent expense claims required us to collect the signatures of more than 10 per cent of the constituency’s electors. In the event we achieved 19 per cent.

Then we flooded Brecon and Radnorshire with workers for the six weeks of the by-election campaign and overturned a Tory majority of over 8000 votes.

Well done the Liberal Democrats. Well done us.

The Remain Alliance helped…

The Green and Plaid Cymru stood down in favour of the Lib Dems so there was only one Remain candidate.

It was a helpful decision and one the Lib Dems should reciprocate in the few seats where it might have an effect. But it may not have been a decisive one.

At the last general election there was no Green candidate in Brecon and Radnorshire and the Plaid candidate’s vote was (just) lower than the majority Jane Dodds achieved last night.

…but the unofficial alliance with Labour voters was decisive

From what I saw on Twitter last night it was when the boxes from Ystradgynlais were sampled and found to be strongly in favour of the Lib Dems that it became clear we were going to win.

This willingness of Labour voters to abandon their party if another has a better chance of defeating the Conservatives is an important development and an encouraging one for the Lib Dems.

An anti-Brexit vote or an anti-Tory vote?

Brecon and Radnorshire came out for Leave in the EU referendum, but that does not mean that the issue is of overwhelming importance to the constituency’s voters.

Back in June, a YouGov survey found that Leave voters feel less strongly about Brexit than us Remainers do.

Which makes me think that our victory yesterday was more of an anti-Tory vote than an anti-Brexit vote. Brexit was far from the only issue we campaigned on.

The local Tories are to blame

That is what the national Conservative machine was saying. The local party had assured them that Chris Davies was still popular and would win the by-election. They were wrong.

My impression that local Tory officials are increasingly out of touch with the wider electorate has only been strengthened by this contest.

And the national Tories are no better

I have seen tweets from the Conservative Party today telling off people for voting for the Brexit Party.

The idea that you own your supporters’ votes - and that the way to win them back if they stray from the path of righteousness is to attack them – comes straight from the Hard Left.

It will do the Tories no more good than it has done Labour.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

A walk from Harpenden to St Albans via Wheathampstead

John Rogers takes us from Harpenden along the River Lea and a disused railway to the Devil's Dyke earthwork at Wheathampstead and then to a twilit St Albans.

Malcolm Saville was living at West End Farm when he began writing his children's books during the war.

The barn at Seven Gates farm under the Stiperstones, which the Lone Piners made their HQ2, is based on the one at West End Farm.

And another of Saville's early books, Jane's Country Year, was set there.

How Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman got his name

Country Life - I flick through it in the Library at Bonkers Hall - has a feature on Hunton Court in Kent, which is currently yours for £12.5m.

It tells the story of the estate. Fast forward to the middle of the 19th century and you learn this:
In 1850, Henry Bannerman - scion of an enterprising Scottish family of farmers and distillers who, by the late 1820s, had created a cotton-trading and manufacturing empire based in Manchester - retired from the business and moved to Kent, where he had invested his profits in the Hunton Court estate, located in a thriving hop-growing area near Maidstone. 
By 1848, he had already enlarged and remodelled its 18th-century farmhouse, adding the imposing Georgian façade, with its central pediment, canted bay windows and balustraded parapet. The interior was refitted with delicate plasterwork and painted decorative panels depicting Classical scenes, foliage and flowers. 
Mr Bannerman lived at Hunton Court until he died in 1871, leaving the property to his wife for life and then to his nephew, Henry Campbell, on condition that he took the additional name of Bannerman, which he did in 1872.
As all my readers will know, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman led the Liberal Party from 1899 to 1908 and was prime minister from 1905 to 1908.

Shropshire Council by-election in Bishop's Castle

Jonny Keeley is lead singer with the band Fight the Bear, He has also twice won Bishop's Castle for the Liberal Democrats.

Today's Shropshire Star carries the news that he is standing down to concentrate on family commitments.

The Star quotes his fellow Lib Dem councillor Ludlow's Andy Boddington:
"I am sorry that Jonny Keeley has needed to stand down as Shropshire councillor to allow him to concentrate on family commitments. 
"He was one of our few young councillors and was a great community champion. I look forward to him returning soon."