Monday, September 30, 2019

Southwell Minster from above in 1950

Southwell, which dominates its small town, is perhaps England's least known cathedral, but it's certainly one of its most remarkable.

Next to it stand the ruins of the Archbishop of York's palace, with the Edwardian residence for the Bishops of Southwell built among them.

And So - Victoria and why it was never filmed

Visiting Vaughan Wilkins' grave in Farnsfield I mentioned that his first historical novel And So - Victoria, a success on both sides of the Atlantic when it came out in 1937, was never filmed.

In his memoirs the British film producer and director Victor Saville gave one explanation:
And So Victoria, as the title indicates, was set in the period before Victoria came to the throne. A fascinating yarn about her Uncles Cumberland and Brunswick attempting to prevent her accession - the wicked uncles, always a popular them in British history. 
I put Hugh Walpole to work on the screenplay, but, unhappily, he never got to grips with it. I admired Walpole the novelist - The Cathedral still holds vivid memories for me - but, alas, he was most unsure of himself as a dramatist. He was a delightful man to work with but a hell of a snob. Perhaps that is why the royal story fascinated him. 
I got nowhere rapidly and I was forced to put the project on one side. The war prevented production of this scale of picture, so the rights remain alongside many others in the vast accumulation in MGM's library.
Jeffrey Richards, however, tells a different story. Both MGM and Warner Bros wanted to film the novel, but they fell foul of Colonel Hanna, the Lord Chamberlain, who wrote:
The morals and manners of all classes of society were slack and crude; the language was coarse and very outspoken. Incest was quite an every day occurrence. If the intention is to show up the evil lives that were lived by our Royal Family in those days, then I have no hesitation in saying that I think it would be most undesirable and probably prohibitive.
Quite how Walpole or anyone else would have condensed this weighty novel's plot into a feature film I can't imagine.

But if the BBC could rescue the rights from the vaults of MGM, or wherever they now reside, it would be a natural for the Poldark Sunday evening slot.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Southwell Methodist Church

I had been to Southwell several times without discovering its Methodist church.

To find it you have to dive down an alley, Prebend Passage, in the centre of town.

I can't find anything about the building's history on its own website, but you can read its Listing on the Historic England site. It dates from 1839.

Lord Bonkers on the brains behind the Great Train Robbery

The Great Train Robbery is back in the news, reports the Observer:
A book published this week, written by a former British Transport police detective with the help of one of the robbers, will claim that the mastermind of the heist was the late gangster Billy Hill, and that one of the team who got away with it was a relative of an Arsenal and England football player.
I thought Lord Bonkers had written the last word on this back in 2012:
Fanny Craddock was believed by Scotland Yard to be the brains behind the Great Train Robbery but, despite years of surveillance, they were unable to pin it on her. Marguerite Patten, by contrast, has always struck me as a Thoroughly Good Sort.

Aztec Camera: Somewhere in My Heart

The BBC's reruns of Top of the Pops continue and have now reached 1988.

Maybe it is a sign that I was already getting a bit old for the show by then, but the music seems to me to have been in decline for a couple of years now.

This still sounds good though.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Harborough Marine and Anglo Welsh Canal Cruisers

It's high time we returned to my stack of old Inland Waterways Association Bulletins.

This advertisement comes from the August 1969 issue.

Vaughan Wilkins' grave in Farnsfield churchyard

There is nothing quite as forgotten as a forgotten writer. Yet as I once blogged:
The historical novelist Vaughan Wilkins must have had a huge following in the 1950s. At one time every secondhand bookshop in the country had a copy of the World Books edition of Fanfare for a Witch. 
For that reason, almost as a joke in fact, I started collecting his other books. Now I even have a couple of signed first editions.
I could have added that one of his books was filmed as Dangerous Exile in 1957 and that everyone wanted to film his first one, And So -Victoria, after its huge success on publication in 1937.

But that idea met with resistance from the Royal Family as it dealt with sex and violence among Queen Victoria's wicked uncles as they battled for the succession to the throne of England.

There is not much detail in Vaughan Wilkins' Wikipedia entry, but I recall reading in a reference book years ago is that he was editing a minor Fleet Street newspaper when he was still in his twenties.

One thing that does make Wikipedia is his place of burial: Farnsfield in Nottinghamshire. And finding that there was a bus there from Southwell yesterday, I knew what I had to do.

Farnsfield is a large and prosperous village - large and prosperous enough to support a range of shops - but its church turned out to have been wholly rebuilt by the Victorians.

Knowing more or less when Wilkins died, I looked for graves from around that date and soon found his.

It gave his place of residence (not his place of birth as Wikipedia wrongly has it) as Duxmere, Ross-on-Wye - Dennis Potter was to move there a few years later.

Anyone who has read Wilkins' books knows that he strongly identified with Wales and the Border. One of those first editions I own is inscribed by Wilkins himself:
'From a frequenter of Tenby to another.'
However, two Wilkins held the living at Farnsfield in the 19th century and there are other connections with the family in the church and on a page about its history.

Perhaps the pull of family was too strong or perhaps, being dead, he did not get much say in the matter.

One other point: if you have two first names and a surname that each have seven letters, it does make for a neat inscription.

Later. I must have been very focused on Wilkins when I wrote this: it looks a fine church.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Southwell Minster: Balm for the soul

My  mother is elderly and frail, which has (though I don't live with her) led me to the catastrophising conclusion that something terrible will happen if I leave Market Harborough.

In am effort to refute that theory I visited Southwell and its minster in Nottinghamshire yesterday and stayed the night.

It appears to have worked, but then Southwell takes me that way. I am not a Christian, but if anywhere makes me wish I was it is Southwell Minster.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Essex Way from Epping to Ongar

Until 1994 you could have caught the Central Line from Epping to Ongar.

John Rogers walks it, using the opening stretch of the Essex Way.

No affordable housing for Far Cotton

I was taken with Far Cotton, a suburb of Northampton built in the 19th century to house railway workers.

It had a dominant Victorian church and a scatter of shops that were somehow still hanging on .

Among the buildings I photographed that day were its former cinema and the American diner next door.

Cinema Treasures tells us all about them:
The Tivoli Cinema opened on 13th July 1935 with Victoria Hopper and John Loder starring in “Lorna Doone”. It was located in the Far Cotton suburb, south of the city of Northampton and was situated on Towcester Road opposite St. Leonards Road. 
Operated as an independent it was taken over in 1939 by A. Cohen’s Mayfair Cinemas (Control) and then in 1947 it was operated by the independent Midlands Super Cinemas circuit. 
By the late-1950’s it was screening ‘Continental’ art house films.
Hmm. I wonder if that is a euphemism?

It closed on 27th August 1960 with John Garfield and Jennifer Jones in “We Were Strangers” and Philip Carey in “Return to Warbow”. 
It went into use as a furniture warehouse, then in the 1980’s was converted into a tyre and motor repair depot. There was talk about it being re-opened, but nothing came of it. After laying empty for several years it re-opened in October 2005 as a tile warehouse serving the needs of D.I.Y. hardware people. By 2011, it was in use as a sofa store. The adjacent shop and cafe now function as a diner with an ‘American’ car on the roof.
But time moves on and developers applied to Northampton Borough Council for planning permission to build 40 new homes on the site, a third of them to be 'affordable.

Later came news that those developers were asking for the affordable element to be removed from the scheme.

And, reports the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, they have got their way 'as the scheme would still help contribute towards the council’s housing targets'.

The paper quotes one councillor:
“I’m extremely disappointed that this has come back and that they didn’t do their homework. There was great objection from the public, but we went with the developer because of the affordable housing being offered. On the flip side, the applicant would appeal if we rejected this and would probably win. We are having to make a decision with one hand tied behind our back.”
Something to remember the next time you hear it argued that developers are hampered by current planning laws.

Jeremy Corbyn pays tribute to Steve Hitchins

Steve Hitchins, who was the Liberal Democrat leader of Islington Borough Council between 1999 and 2006, died suddenly last night.

The Islington Gazette quotes Steve's wife, the Lib Dem peer and former MEP Sarah Ludford:
"His mission was to make things better for the residents of Islington, whether as a councillor, leader, or at the Whittington. It was all about improving services - he could be a bit brisk sometimes but I think people acknowledge that's what he was about."
I am sure I join all Lib Dems in sending Sarah my condolences.

The paper also quotes a tribute from the Labour leader and Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn:
"I am saddened to hear of the passing of Steve Hitchins. Despite being in different parties, I recognise his commitment to my borough and the work he did in support of Whittington Hospital. My condolences go to his wife Sarah and family."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

78 Derngate, Northampton: The Charles Rennie Mackintosh House

Today I visited 78 Derngate, Northampton, a narrow, early 19th-century town house that was home to W.J. Bassett-Lowke and his wife Florence for a few years after their marriage in 1916.

It is famous today because of the identity of the architect they employed to turn it into a thoroughly modern house. It was Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and 78 Derngate was his last major commission and the only house he designed outside Scotland.

As it remains largely unaltered from century ago, the house today attracts visitors from around the world.

Six of the Best 885

"Brexit is presented as some sort of triumph of popular will. But in actuality it has involved a relentless attempt to massively strengthen the executive and dismiss other forms of democratic legitimacy," Ian Dunt on today's Supreme Court's judgment.

John Preston explains what the government is really saying with its ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaign.

David Boyle is right on education: "The trouble with nationalised education is that it assumes that all children are the same, that they require identical education. The voluntary sector education sector has largely been subsumed, the experimental sector – so influential in the 1960s and 70s – has largely been driven out."

MPs are calling for a ban on pavement parking across England. Andy Boddington thinks they are right.

"Voice hearing has a bad name in our culture. The media tend to focus on the occasional instance where someone diagnosed with psychosis does something violent in response to a suggestion or command from voices." Rufus May suggests a different approach.

Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais talk to Ann Chadwick about their career.

Monday, September 23, 2019

St Barnabas: No longer Nottingham's 'Black Cathedral'

Today I was in Nottingham and visited the city's Roman Catholic cathedral St Barnabas.

Its architect and designer was Augustus Pugin, though much of his richly coloured interior was painted over in the 1960s.

When I see footage from that era I am surprised by how dirty everything looks. It's not how I remember it, but it must have been like that.

And the leaflet I picked up at St Barnabas tells me:
Coal fires and smoke meant that by the 1960s St Barnabas was known as the 'Black Cathedral'.
It did not look black in this afternoon's sunshine before the rain set in.

In defence of Angela Rayner

I'm with Layla on this one.

Education and educational achievement are things to be celebrated, but how you do at school can be as much a measure of your home background as how bright you are.

That's one reason I am so pleased that Layla has placed such a strong emphasis on adult learning as Liberal Democrat education spokesperson.

And there comes an age (with most of us it is about 19) when we stop thinking how you do in school examinations matters much. Churchill used to exaggerate how hopeless he had been at Harrow because he thought it gave him kudos.

I had some small experience myself of home background affecting my performance at school. As I wrote back in 2005:
When I was in the early years of secondary school, geography lessons seemed to be dominated by middle-class girls whose families encouraged them to write to foreign embassies for information about the countries we were discussing. 
Being male and coming from a one-parent family with a busy working mother, I was never going to compete with them. (And if you want real street cred, I got free school dinners.)
One reason for recalling this today is that I discovered three years later that one of those middle-class girls was a young Allison Pearson.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Thomas Cook's statue outside Leicester station

Tomorrow's Guardian will report:
Thomas Cook was heading into insolvency on Sunday night as the world’s oldest holiday company faced a collapse that will strand 150,000 UK holidaymakers overseas and put 9,000 British jobs at risk.
The company is the victim of technology - who needs a travel agent when you can do it all online yourself? - and of the uncertainty and weak pound caused by the expectation of Brexit.

Meanwhile, the company's founder appears to be taking things philosophically.

Little River Band: It's a Long Way There

This is another of those records that I heard once on the radio years ago and could only identify when they invented the internet - Sympathy and Say It Ain't So Joe are other examples.

I only recently tracked this one down because I was convinced the opening lines (which are really all I remember from it) mentioned "something in the air" and searching for that fills your screen with Phil Collins and Thunderclap Newman.

The mystery is how I came to hear it at all. The Little River Band were big in the US but enjoyed much less success here.

This, their first single, dates from 1975 and I relied on Radio One for my music in those days. By then I had even stopped listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes when I was meant to be asleep.

So who played this on wonderful Radio One 44 years ago? My money is on Johnnie Walker, by far the station's coolest DJ of that era.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Bishop's Castle Town Council declares a climate emergency

The Shropshire Star reports:
Following in the footsteps of other councils across Shropshire including Shrewsbury, Clun and Ludlow, the Bishop's Castle Town Council declared a climate emergency at a meeting this week after a public led campaign.
Going by my experience of Bishop's Castle, the important thing is that they got there before Church Stretton.

A reader adds dismissively: You're just blogging this so you can post another photograph of Bishop's Castle.

Friday, September 20, 2019

England regain the Ashes in 1971

Going in to the final test 1-0 up, England set Australia 223 runs to level the series.

Though England's outstanding fast bowler John Snow was injured early on, it proved beyond them.

Without Snow, the England attack consisted of the fast bowlers Peter Lever and Bob Willis (plucked from Surrey's second XI on John Edrich's recommendation when Alan Ward had to go home injured), the spinners Derek Underwood and Ray Illingworth, and the golden-armed medium pacer Basil D'Oliveira,

NHS managers who defrauded health service of £800k using names of U2 band members ordered to pay back more than £500k

Embed from Getty Images

Not for the first time, the Shropshire Star wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Old joke: Why did Bono fall off the stage?

Emily Thornberry and the Taliban: It's all my fault

Embed from Getty Images

The Daily Mirror tells us that
Jo Swinson has hit back at Labour's Emily Thornberry after she branded the Lib Dems 'kind of Taliban' over their Brexit policy.
And the Liberal Democrats have been united in their outrage.

Trouble is, I have had a nagging feeling all day that it may be my fault.

Because this is how I began my Lib Dem Conference diary for the Guardian website back in 2001:
Fierce, bearded and wedded to an impenetrable ideology. Not a description of the Taliban, but the average commentator's view of the Liberal Democrats.
Clearly, I am the one who put the idea into what we may loosely call Thornberry's mind.

Searching this blog I find that Rory Stewart - AKA Lawrence of Belgravia - made the same comparison in 2010 in the course of a Westminster lecture.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Six of the Best 884

"Swinson’s policy has, if nothing else, achieved two things. It has introduced a measure of clarity to our politics that many have been craving, when so many of our politicians still cling to what the late Sir Geoffrey Howe called in his resignation speech the endless search for separating words from meaning. And it has given committed Remainers a clear political home." Joe Zammit-Lucia thinks our new Brexit policy has a lot going for it.

Larissa Lockwood argues that London’s streets should be for the majority, not a car-owning minority. She's right.

"Every year, more than a century after its heyday, ‘The Land Song’ is the opening number at an event with good claim to be the country’s best political sing-song, at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference." Andrew Whitehead tells the story of the Glee Club's favourite anthem.

Matthew Smith looks at the strange career of Ritalin, the drug that has been sold as a tonic for worn-out housewives and a treatment for hyperactive children.

Tim Worthington takes us back to 1991 and a live recording of Lee and Herring's Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World.

Watching Leicestershire, says Backwatersman, resembles stumbling through the deep gloom of an abandoned railway tunnel, though with less danger of being run into by a manic cyclist or bitten by a rat.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Brexit Party candidate for Rutland believes Britain can increase its wealth by discovering new lands

Embed from Getty Images

Over to the Grantham Journal to hear the platform of the newly selected Brexit Party candidate for Rutland and Melton:
 "I will campaign tirelessly for a clean break Brexit as this will give us the greatest chance of world-class free trading success. Let’s not forget, in the first Elizabethan era, we discovered new lands, vanquished malevolent enemies and brought untold wealth back to our fantastic island. 
"And with a clean break Brexit, we can do exactly the same again, bringing huge prosperity into our midst, amongst many other things, helping our cash strapped public services achieve unparalleled proficiency."
I am reminded of a 2016 diary entry by Lord Bonkers:
I recently heard a Conservative politician who has been Members of the European Parliament since they were 14 say that Brexit will make us a “buccaneering” nation again. Well, we remember those days hereabouts and dark they were indeed. 
Merchant vessels carrying Stilton and pork pies out of Oakham across Rutland Water were set upon by pirates, who stole their cargo, made the crew walk the plank and went “Arrr!” in a most annoying fashion. (I suppose they wanted they wanted the foodstuffs to feed their parrots.) 
I grant you those days were not without glamour: every Rutland schoolboy knows the story of how one of my ancestors ordered a footman to lie down in a puddle so that Queen Elizabeth would not get her pretty shoes muddy. Yet every fair-minded person will admit that the elimination of piracy in Rutland is one of the European Union’s greatest achievements and entertain no wish to see its return.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Changing Leicester: The story of how Leicester's past has been revealed

This film tells the story of how, amid all the redevelopment of the 1960s and 1970s, Leicester has come to have a greater appreciation of its history.

New Lib Dem Brexit policy convinces Tory mayor to join us

Last week it was the Duke of Wellington. This week it is the Mayor of Wellington.

The Shropshire Star reports:
Wellington mayor Anthony Lowe has defected to the Lib Dems after more than four decades with the Conservative party, due to the national Brexit turmoil. 
His decision comes after the Lib Dems pledged to cancel Brexit if they come to power at the next general election. 
Councillor Lowe, who joined the party in 1975, follows in the footsteps of six MPs who have joined the party in the last few weeks including ex-Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna and former Tories Phillip Lee and Sam Gyimeh.
I am heartened by the reason Lowe, who joined the Conservatives in 1975 because he supported British membership of the European Economic Community, gives for changing parties:
"It is absolutely a wrench for me to leave after so many years, but the position adopted by the Lib Dems at conference to revoke Brexit if they achieve a majority at the next election was the clincher for me. It is time to nail my colours to the mast."

Monday, September 16, 2019

Lord Bonkers' foreword to the new Liberator Songbook

Down at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth, the Glee Club is underway.

As always, a new edition of the Liberator Songbook is on sale for the event and, as always, Lord Bonkers has written a foreword to it.

Bonkers Hall
Tel. Rutland 7

Welcome to all our new members! I hope you enjoy your first Glee Club and, a word of reassurance, please don’t worry: It’s Meant To Be Like This.

I have already met many of you when you attended one of my basic training camps on the shores of Rutland Water. The party has signed up so many new recruits recently that I had to send out for extra tents.

After a week of training in committee room theory and practice, Focus delivery and guerrilla warfare – all conducted under the beady eye of Sergeant Major Carmichael – new members need fear nothing they will encounter as a Liberal Democrat activist.

As one graduate put it to me: “After that, a closely fought West Country council by-election felt like a vicarage tea party”.

Mind you, he had never been to one of the Reverend Hughes’s tea parties.


Can it really be 50 years since the Rutstock free festival? When it comes to the Sixties, they say that if you can… To be honest, I can’t remember what they say about the Sixties.

What a gamut of bands I brought to the Bonkers Hall Estate in 1969! There was Rutland’s own Credible String Band, Susan J. Kramer and the Dakotas, The Crazy World of Jeremy Browne, Jamie and the Family Stone, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

The last-named, my solicitors, proved invaluable when some of those bands complained they had not been paid.

Above all there was Jimi Hendrix playing ‘The Land’. His performance is justly famous and I flatter myself that my accompaniment on the spoons has played no little part in that.

Tonight let us endeavour to recapture the carefree spirit of the Sixties. Stick it to The Man, say Bollocks to Brexit and sing, sing, sing!


Bryan Magee interviewed in 1999: Part 2

This is the second part of Bryan Magee's RTE interview from 1999. Persevere past the alien attack that comes halfway through.

My conclusion after listening to this is that I should read Magee's book on Schopenhauer. I have read his short book on Wagner and it is very good.

You can listen to part 1 here.

Rutland vs Ronald McDonald

BBC News reports on McDonald's bid to open a drive-through outlet on the outskirts of Oakham, the county town of Rutland:
"It's such a small town to have a McDonald's," said Gaz Ali, who has managed Indian takeaway Eastern Delights for 20 years. "And at the end of the day it's going to bring riff-raff."
Rutland is wealthy, but one of the nice things about Oakham is that it is a proper working town. It's not twee.

The county's second town, Uppingham, dominated by its public school, would rather like to be twee. But it falls well short - I mean, Iain Sinclair's early novels were published there.

One of the abiding concerns  of small-town shopkeepers is to keep competition at bay.

When I was a councillor in Market Harborough more than one older resident told me that the former urban district council, which was dominated by the town's business interest, had actively dissuaded national chains from coming to the town.

The worry was that they would provide competition for existing traders and - horror!- put up wages.

So this is a battle where I have some sympathy for both sides. I shall not be heartbroken if McDonald's does come to Rutland.

"What we need, comrades, is Brexit"

The Liverpool Echo provides us with a reminder that Labour's hard left is every bit as much opposed to British membership of the European Union as the Conserservatives' hard right.

Paula Barker, a regional convener with Unison, is the favourite to be the next Labour candidate for the city's Wavertree division, the seat currently occupied by the newly Liberal Democrat MP Luciana Berger.

She is favourite not least because she has been backed by Momentum.

The Echo reports on a speech she gave last gives us some highlights from a speech she gave last year:
"If the left and the Labour party retreat into soft Brexitism or continue calls for another referendum, we are helping to create an environment where the far right can thrive." 
"May's deal is a bad deal, not because it moves us too far away from the EU, it is a bad deal because it continues to bind the UK to pro-market EU rules." 
"We should be very wary of those trying to shift Labour's position on Europe towards having a second referendum. What we need, comrades, is Brexit."
You can watch the speech in the video above.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

David Gower: The best England batsman I have seen

David Gower is in the news today because Sky Sports have let him go.

Many readers will know him as a classy and latterly avuncular broadcaster, but I am lucky enough to remember Gower the batsman.

When he pulled the first ball he faced in test cricket for four, John Arlott exclaimed "Oh, what a princely entry!"

And 'princely' describes the young Gower of those days so well.

There were times, such as the summer of 1985 when he captained England to victory over Australis and scored a double century and two centuries in the process, that he appeared invincible - the best England batsman I have ever seen.

But there was a fragility about him too. When you watched him playing for Leicestershire at Grace Road you were on the edge of your seat, determined to enjoy every shot, every ball, in case some misjudgement cut his innings short.

Here he is scoring his first test double century against India in 1979, his second summer of test cricket.

The bowling looks distinctly ordinary, but oh the shots he plays!

Lord Bonkers' Diary: How to get out of a sheep costume that has shrunk in the rain?

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

If any reader in Mid Wales is accosted by a sheep begging them to ring Lib Dem HQ in London, please take pity on it.


Ever since I played old Jofra in the early episodes of The Archers, I have taken a keen interest in the wireless. I used to be a major shareholder in the pirate stations that broadcast from the middle of Rutland Water – who can forget Susan J. Kramer and the Dakotas? – and am now Chairman of Radio Rutland.

It happens that I have my own weekly show and this afternoon I call into our Oakham studios to record the latest edition. My interviewee is the Wise Woman of Wing, who solves people’s personal problems (‘Anguished of Tickencote’ – you know the sort of thing), pronounces on the day’s news and offers her celebrated racing tips.

A reversed-charge call from a Radnorshire telephone box brings a question about how to get out of a sheep costume that has shrunk in the rain, but unfortunately it is cut off before the Wise Woman can give her answer.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Kirsty MacColl: A New England

This Billy Bragg song was released on one of his albums in 1983 and, with an extra verse he wrote for her, was a hit single for Kirsty MacColl the following year.

This is a good chance to recommend the BBC Radio 4 Great Lives programme on MacColl.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "My message to everyone who sits on the sofa and shoots at the television"

It's not just Tim Farron and pews Lord Bonkers goes on about: he is always telling us the reasons for his remarkable longevity.

There have always been readers who worry about his age, but it has never troubled me. What does trouble me these days is my own age.

I still find it natural to refer to Wallace Lawler, Nesta Wyn Ellis and the Great Torrington by-election in these diaries, but how many Liberator subscribers or Liberal England readers have heard of them?


I am, as my more attentive readers will have realised, more than 75 years in age. I put my longevity down to my annual excursion to bathe in the Spring of Eternal Life that bursts from the hillside above the former home of the Association of Liberal Councillors in Hebden Bridge – that and the cordial sold to me, at rather a stiff price, by the Elves of Rockingham Forest.

Where was I? Oh yes. Being of mature years I am entitled to a free television licence, which is a bit of a nonsense when you consider that I own a Landed Estate, oil wells on Rutland Water and Europe’s second-largest Stilton mine.

However, I have to say that I get very poor value from that licence, because (like any red-blooded  Englishman) I keep a loaded shotgun by my chair and let fly at the screen whenever one of an increasingly long list of politicians or a member of the Dimbleby family appears. The result, of course, is that the set rarely works.

It was with this in mind that I ghosted the following passage in an article by Jo Swinson: “And my message to everyone who sits on the sofa and shoots at the television when watching Johnson’s blustering bravado is clear: politics is not a spectator sport.”

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Inside St Andrew's, Tur Langton

Last time I visited Tur Langton it was to meet Charles I.

I was back there today and, because it was the day of Ride+Stride for Churches, I found the village's Victorian church unlocked for the first time.

Inside I found some pleasing use of contrasting bricks, and I have always liked the way that the windows that face across the fields are much larger than those that look out on to the village's main street.

But my chief memory will be those terrifying ladders.