Saturday, November 30, 2019

Brentford Dock in 1970

Photo: Robert Shopland
Back to the Inland Waterways Association's Bulletin and its March 1970 issue.

This photo is captioned 'A lost opportunity. Brentford Dock, empty and forlorn, awaits redevelopment.'

Brentford is where the Grand Union Canal meets the Thames in West London - its dock for the transhipment of goods had closed in 1964.

I was to visit Brentford on a canal holiday in the summer of 1970 during the brief middle-class period of my childhood.

Frustratingly, I have no clear memory of the derelict dock, though I do recall being interested in the way the River Brent joined and left the canal.

But then I visited Leicester by water in 1971 and do not remember the industrial desolation, though I do remember walking beneath the largely vanished viaduct that carried the Great Central across the city.

"Who cares for you? You're nothing but a pack of cards!"

The rodent-toothed ambition of Boris Johnson and nihilism of Dominic Cummings have laid bare the uselessness of Britain’s constitution.

In a way we should be grateful to them.

For it’s no use having a political system built on gentlemen’s agreements if the participants aren’t gentlemen.

The monarchy and the BBC have proved powerless - just ask the Queen or Andrew Neil. Only John Bercow’s courage and love of the limelight has kept the government in check these past few months and now he has gone,
"Who cares for you?" said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) "You're nothing but a pack of cards!"
It seems that all those Liberals who banged on about the need for a written constitution were right.

The choice we face is Liberalism or barbarism.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Keep warm this winter - burn a piano

Embed from Getty Images

Found, like all the best pictures, while I was looking for an image at work.

Police investigating 'hate crime' at Church Stretton hustings

Yesterday I tweeted about Philip Dunne's remark (for which he later apologised) that a Sikh opponent was "talking through his turban".

Now the Shropshire Star says:
Police today confirmed they were treating the incident as a hate crime and said it would be fully investigated.
Rest assured, however long this story runs I shall have enough photos of St Laurence's, Church Stretton.

Higham Ferrers to lose its library

I started showing my holiday snaps of Higham Ferrers with Chichele College and had planned to visit the town's church next.

But this story from the Northamptonshire Telegraph intervened:
Higham Ferrers Library is up for sale and will most likely close at the end of the year. 
The library is being sold by the county council for £400,000 although the authority says it would still welcome offers for the building that would allow it to continue as a community managed library. ... 
Community organisation Higham Ferrers Library Group had been planning to take over Higham Ferrers library but decided it could not afford to do so earlier this year as they could not find the annual £19,000 in rent asked for by NCC and were unwilling to put their own finances in jeopardy.
Will any local services survive much more Conservative national and local government?

Higham Ferrers library was built in 1904 as the town's parish rooms. Pevsner says it was designed by Talbot Brown in 'an attractive Northants vernacular Jacobean manner'.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Monastery of St Antony and St Cuthbert in the Stiperstones 1

I was excited some years ago to discover that there is an Orthodox monastery in the shadow of the Stiperstones.

The website of the Monastery of St Antony and St Cuthbert has four videos that give us a tour of the little monastery and here is the first of them.

Tory MP accuses Sikh opponent of "talking through his turban"

At a hustings held in St Laurence's, Church Stretton, last night Philip Dunne, the Conservative candidate for Ludlow and MP for the seat since since 2005, accused his Sikh Labour opponent of "talking through his turban".

The Shropshire Star quotes the Liberal Democrat candidate Heather Kidd, who also took part:
"The audience was obviously shocked. It was the worst kind of unthinking Tory prejudice. 
"Mr Dunne apologised quickly, but he should do so again publicly and have a big think about his attitudes, and reflect on his responsibilities. 
"The comment came 15 minutes after holier-than-thou assertions that the Conservative Party always acts on Islamophobia and prejudice, which does make you wonder. 
"If a full explanation is not forthcoming we're entitled to come to our own conclusions."
The retoxification of the Conservative Party is surely complete.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

'Like a blubber-bellied mountain or a carnival baboon'

This brilliant reworking turns The Windmills of Your Mind into a devastating attack on Boris Johnson.

For my younger readers, the original song comes from the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair and was song there by Noel Harrison.

Rutland and Melton general election candidate dies

Anthony Watchorn, who was standing as an independent candidate in Rutland and Melton at next month's general election, died this morning.

When I heard the news I thought it  would mean that polling would be postponed in that constituency, as happened in Thirsk and Malton in 2010 when the Ukip candidate dies during the campaign.

But the Leicester Mercury quotes a spokeswoman for Melton Borough Council as saying:
"We have been advised of the death of Mr Watchorn, who was standing as an Independent Candidate for the Rutland and Melton Constituency. 
In such circumstances, and in line with Representation of the People Act 1983, we can confirm that the election will continue as normal and Mr Watchorn’s name shall remain on the ballot paper."
It transpires that polling is postponed if a candidate from a registered party dies during the contest, but not if an independent dies.

So some candidates are more equal than others.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Chichele College, Higham Ferrers

Chichele College, Higham Ferrers, was founded by Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1414 to 1443 and the founder of All Souls’ College, Oxford. He was born in the town in about 1362.

Until the Reformation it served as a a chantry college, offering prayers for the souls of the patron and his family and offering education.

In the 18th century served the building housed an inn. By the early 20th century it was reduced to a single farm cottage and granary.

Today the remaining building is used for art exhibitions and its garden is open to the public daily.

Lutyens furniture from Papillon Hall to be auctioned in Market Harborough

Furniture designed by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens will be auctioned in Market Harborough on Monday, reports Harborough FM.

It comes from Papillon Hall, a country house he designed near Lubenham, and the radio station has photographs of it.

This history of Papillon Hall is set out by Lost Heritage. It was built for the Huguenot David Papillon around 1620 and reconstructed by Lutyens in the first few years of the 20th century. It was demolished in 1951.

Many years ago I wandered around the remains of its gardens, but I don't know if that is possible now.

The illustration here, a CD cover from the Leicestershire folk rock band Black Rock, shows Lutyens' building.

Derby Conservative councillor joins the Lib Dems

From Derbyshire Live:
A senior Derby city councillor has quit the Conservative Party to join the Liberal Democrats. 
Stephen Willoughby said he can no longer support the party as it had become "unrecognisable" from the one he supported more than 20 years ago.
The report goes on to quote Willoughby saying:
"I am delighted to now be part of the Liberal Democrat party that like me wants to Stop Brexit, and I am just one of an increasing movement of centre ground Conservatives to this party. 
"I encourage all who have voted Conservative, but are concerned about the damage of Brexit to join me in supporting the Liberal Democrats."

Alfred Mynn's great innings at Barker's Ground, Leicester

Gladstone Street, one of the Leicester streets later built on Barker's Ground, awaits demolition in 1972 © Dennis Calow.

This week's issue of The Spin, a cricket email from The Guardian, tells the story of the Kent cricketer Alfred Mynn and his greatest innings:
His greatest and most famous innings was played in Leicester in August 1836, and on one leg, while representing the south of England in a game against the north. 
He was warming up against the bowling of Leicestershire’s Samuel Dakin when he hit the ball into his own ankle (perhaps uncoincidentally, given his part in this incident, in the 1861 census Dakin described himself as a manufacturer of leg-guards). 
Mynn was in too much pain to play on the first, rain-shortened day and on the second came in at No 9 in the South’s first innings, scoring 21 not out. In their second innings, despite being barely able to walk, he came in at No 4 and scored a scarcely credible 125.
His leg was so badly injured that it was almost amputated.

The reason I am blogging about Mynn here is that his greatest innings was played, not just in Leicester, but at Barker's Ground, the lost ground that lay under the slums of the Wharf Street district.

I blogged about Barker's Ground two years ago.

As is the way with blogging, the site about Robert Lees (the Leicester mystic who turns up in some of the more fanciful solutions of the Jack the Ripper case) that told me there was a cricket ground here has since disappeared.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Peter Cook and Simon Gipps-Kent advertise Barclays

A 1980 advertisement for Barclays starring Peter Cook and Simon Gipps-Kent.

Gipps-Kent was everywhere as a television child star in the 1970s. He died from a drug overdose in 1987 and the age of 28.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The River Jordan at Little Bowden

Taken - seven years ago tomorrow - on 25 November 2012.

We don't get so many ducks here these days.

Johnny Flynn: Detectorists

It is easy to be too busy admiring Detectorists to recognise what a fine song its theme is.

Johnny Flynn is the half-brother of Jerome Flynn, who had hits as half of Robson and Jerome, though how much of the singing he did on them has always been a topic for discussion.

He is also an actor, though he was far too handsome for Captain Dobbin, whom he played in ITV's Vanity Fair last year.

Back to admiring Detectorists... Mackenzie Crook's writing there gives me great hopes that he will find the right tone - at once comforting and disconcerting - for his new version of Worzel Gummidge, which is to be shown on BBC this Christmas.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

St Mary's Mill Lock, Leicester

South of Freeman's Common Lock and north of Aylestone Meadows lies St Mary's Mill Lock.

This was once a heavily industrialised area, but the mill buildings now represent a last survival of that era.

Now the Faircharm Industrial Estate, they occupy the site of a medieval mill. They were home to the John Bull Rubber Company, later Dunlop, until 1971.

Three years ago, Leicester City Council gave permission for the site to be cleared for housing, but the owners have not gone ahead with the plan and industry remains here.

Alan Rickman was offered a part in The Box of Delights

Embed from Getty Images

I have been exploring The Box Of Delights Archives.

It carries interviews with some of the cast members from the 1984 BBC television adaptation. One of them is with Geoffrey Larder, who played Foxy-Faced Charles.

In it he reveals that he took the part after Alan Rickman had turned it down.

Six of the Best 895

The Lib Dems commitment to revoke Article 50 is not a problem for them, argues Nick Tyrone, but he is baffled by their decision not to attack Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.

"It’s becoming increasingly clear that our existing economic order is no longer working. It promotes the needs of capital above those of people." Simon Perks introduces the New Economics Foundation's 'Change the Rules' project.

Edward Lucas travels to Prague to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

"A playwright can only flourish in an educated society, a society that can design and build and maintain theatres, a civilised society where people have been taught and enabled to appreciate drama, where study and hard work and sacrifice have created enough prosperity, enough surplus wealth, to enable people to have leisure time." Niall Gooch defends bourgeois values.

Constance Grady says T.H. White's The Once and Future King is still the best King Arthur story out there.

"Bucks Fizz – the spiritual opposite of a committee room in an ugly municipal building – was always a political training ground, very much a bleached blond PPE." Paul Saffer on poptastic politicians.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A derelict house in South Kilworth

Because I travelled to South Kilworth on a whim, I managed to miss the two buildings Pevsner notices there besides the church.

That does give me an excuse for returning to the village and the White Hart, though I had better hurry because the Tories may scrap the 58 bus soon.

And I did find this splendid derelict house hidden away in a backwater.

How Conservative policy doomed Stiperstones School

Over the years this blog has followed the campaign - at first triumphant and later doomed - to save Stiperstones primary school in Shropshire.

I have been sent a letter about its imminent closure that was written for publication in the Shropshire Star.

As I cannot find it on the newspaper's website, I shall keep the letter anonymous while from quoting it:
I have just learnt that this term Stiperstones School is to close after more than a century. It follows Westbury a couple of years earlier and, no doubt, others will follow. ...

These closures are due to the way in which the government funds schools, i.e. by head count. The logic is that fewer pupils per class equates to greater costs per individual. This is typical of silo thinking and top down decision making. 
The question of increased transport costs, stress on younger children having to travel further to alternative schools, and the impact on families living in rural communities is not factored in, not to mention the extra cost of extending the facilities of the schools to which they are transferred. 
The bottom line is always money, ignoring the fact that schools with a good ratio of teachers to pupils are better able to cope with special needs, and are able to benefit from the help of local volunteers, for example in listening to reading. Current Government policy quite clearly threatens small schools. 
In the case of Stiperstones it would have needed almost double the roll to survive on current Government rules, which in this case would be beyond its health and safety limits! 
Our rural communities need to attract more young families and a good local school is one of the biggest incentives. This however, is strategic big picture thinking and sadly we are beset with knee-jerk ‘leadership’. ...

When the Lib Dems were in power in the Shirehall, no school was 'reviewed' until its roll had fallen to 20, nor considered for closure unless an inexorable and permanent decline was evident.

"That's the first and last time you'll see a Labour MP elected for Harborough"

Embed from Getty Images

The Liberal Democrats came within four thousand votes of winning Harborough at the 2005 general election, but slipped into fourth place in 2015 and third in 2017.

Thinking of Labour's brief revival in the constituency has reminded me of John Shaw, one of the two Labour councillors Lutterworth sent to Harborough District Council when I was a member.

He was a good man, but like so many of the people I served on the council with, he is no longer with us. I believe he died in the summer of 2017.

I remember John telling me that his father had also been a Labour man and that they had both been at the count in 1945 when their party took the seat by 204 votes.

John's father had turned to him and said: "Well, son, that's the first and last time you'll see a Labour MP elected for Harborough." And he was right.

The successful Labour candidate was Humphrey Attewell, an official of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives. John remembered him as a large red-faced man.

The Liberal vote in 1945 was over 15 per cent, suggesting that some vestiges of loyalty and organisation remained from the years 1892-1918 and 1923-4 when we held the seat

That 15 per cent is more than we achieved in 2015 or 2017, but I confidently expect we will comfortably beat it on 12 December.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Glyn Baker played Hearne the Hunter in The Box of Delights

Last night Talking Pictures TV showed an interview with Glyn Baker about his father, the actor Stanley Baker.

Glyn was an actor himself and, looking through his credits on IMDB, I found that he played Hearne the Hunter in The Box of Delights.

You can see him in the clip above, looking just like his father. Which is good, because Hearne should be a hard man.

The clip also reminds us what a debt my hero T.H. White owed to John Masefield - a debt he was happy to acknowledge.

When a Lib Dem councillor was told to apologise to colleagues for 'male appendage' jibe

The resignation of Leicester councillor John Thomas from the Labour Party reminds me of this episode:
A councillor ordered to publicly say sorry for a ‘male appendage’ jibe instead launched an attack on those who instructed him to apologise. 
Leicester City Council’s sole Liberal Democrat Nigel Porter had been told to offer an apology at the last full council meeting by the authority’s standards committee. 
The committee deemed he had breached codes of conduct by telling Labour councillor John Thomas that he would ‘not take any lectures from somebody named after a male appendage’ during a stormy town hall meeting in October. 
The apology, for using offensive language, was expected at the last council meeting but Coun Porter, who represents Aylestone, again took the opportunity to hit out at the Labour group and the standard committee.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Chair of Leicester East constituency quits the Labour Party

Today's resignation from Councillor John Thomas, formerly Keith Vaz's agent.

Lib Dems may win seats "nobody expects" on election night

So said Peter Kellner when interviewed by Eddie Mair on LBC today

A mud wall in South Kilworth

The other day, on a whim, I caught the bus to South Kilworth. I am glad I did, because I was able to add to my collection of mud walls.

It ran along one side of the approach to the church - that tin roof would originally have been slate or thatch.

There was also a wall bounding a stretch of the churchyard whose roof looked in need of replacement.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Rolling Stones: Ruby Tuesday

I was on a little bus yesterday and the driver had decided to entertain his passengers by playing a selection of Sixties classics.

This was one of them and it sounded good.

But who was Ruby Tuesday?

According to Keith Richards she was his girlfriend Linda Keith, who was a Vogue model and has another claim to rock fame. It was she who introduced Jimi Hendrix to his future manager, Chas Chandler of the Animals.

Linda Keith was the daughter of Alan Keith, an actor and disc jokey, who was a stalwart of Radio 2 into his nineties.

Alan Keith was the brother of the better-known actor David Kossoff, who later became a campaigner against drugs.

David Kossoff campaigned against drugs because his son Paul Kossoff, the lead guitarist with Free, died from an overdose at the age of 25.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Six of the Best 894

Alan Rice finds Black American troops were welcome in Britain during the second world war, but Jim Crow wasn't: "The pub was a place of sanctuary for black troops where they mingled with, mainly friendly, locals, and where the segregation many had to endure in the American South was thankfully absent."

Schoolgirl debating societies gave girls a political education in the years before women's suffrage, argues Helen Sunderland.

"A young miner who was a member of the Ashington Debating and Literary Improvement Society in Northumberland, and who was killed by a fall of coal in 1899, died with a translation of Thucydides in his pocket, the page turned down at Pericles’ funeral speech." Edith Hall shows that a classical education was never just for the elite.

George Eliot's 'provincial' novels have much to teach today’s divided Britain, says Kathryn Hughes.

Fifty years on, Michael Hann celebrates the Fairport Convention album Liege & Leaf.

Dan Roberts explores the short Football League career of Middlesbrough Ironopolis.

Observer says London polls show surge to the Lib Dems

Tomorrow's Observer reports the results of polls in three London constituencies: Kensington, Wimbledon and Finchley and Golders Green.

It says:
In all three, the Conservatives now hold narrow leads; in all three, the Liberal Democrats are close behind.
The paper goes on to explain that those polls reveal a similar pattern in all three seats
  • Most Labour and Lib Dem supporters are prepared to vote tactically if their preferred party is out of the running.
  • Labour supporters are willing to switch to the Lib Dems in overwhelming numbers – in all three seats by enough to give the Lib Dems victory.
  • Lib Dem supporters tend to prefer Labour, but far less decisively. If they can’t have a Lib Dem MP, quite a few would vote Conservative, in each case by enough to increase the Tory majority.
Could it be that Brexit has forced the Lib Dems to adopt a core-vote strategy and that this strategy is bearing fruit?

Friday, November 15, 2019

John Betjeman goes north: Leeds in 1968

In 1968, John Betjeman was asked by the BBC to make a television programme about Leeds.

The resultant film was never broadcast

Lord Bonkers' Diary: What I have always taken to be hamwees are in fact wheways

The end of another week with Lord Bonkers. Maybe one day he will get his hamwees and his wheways straight.


I snatch some respite from the fray and take a walk by the shores of Rutland Water.

Who should I find in one of the hides but that keen birdwatcher and leading MEP Sheila Ritchie? She kindly explains that what I have always taken to be hamwees are in fact wheways and that what I have always taken to be wheways are in fact hamwees. Or was it the other way round?

Whatever the case, I enjoyed our chat and was pleased to offer her a nip from my flask of that most prized of Highland malts, Auld Johnston.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

People in Southport are fuming over a 'dangerous' cat hotel

Our Headline of the Day comes from the Liverpool Echo.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Leicester's Mile Straight

North of Freeman's Meadow weir, the navigable arm of the Soar has been canalised.

The Mile Straight is a landscape of bridges, student flats and converted mill buildings, but there is still the odd hint of the industry that used to dominate these banks.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The mint cake workers of Kendal

Whether this is news from the past, present or future, you have to admit the old boy made the most of his time away from the Hall.


I enjoyed Uxbridge, particularly the crowd of mothers and children I found hammering on the door of the Conservative campaign headquarters. Down in Devon I ran into the Attorney General and found his theatrical mien puzzlingly familiar. It was only this morning that I remembered where I had seen him before: he was playing the rear end of a cow in Aladdin at the Alhamba, Bideford.

Then I travelled to Witham in Essex, where the sitting Conservative offered me a lift in her sleigh and some Turkish delight. I insisted on being set down so I could catch the Green Line bus instead.

In Somerset I tipped the local urchins sixpence apiece to follow Jacob Rees-Mogg around, point at him and double up with laughter. Eventually his Nanny chased them off and I ran too – you know what Nannies are.

Passing through Leeds I bought Richard Burgon a colouring book, before spending a day with our own Tim Farron canvassing the mint cake workers of Kendal. I am pleased to report he has a considerable following amongst them.

Then it was Scotland for a night at my house Brig o'Dread, before I finished my tour delivering leaflets in Orkney for Alistair Carmichael. I was dispatched to the islands of Papa Westray and Papa Lazarou.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Norman Lamb honoured alongside The Archers

Norman Lamb, who has just stood down as Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, received the 'Making a Difference' award at last night's Mind media awards.

This award is made each year to someone in the media who has set the agenda and initiated change.

Other winners included The Archers, which won the award for soaps and continual series.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Finding solace in Albert and Squeaky

In these dark days of Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and The Hundred, we need some solace.

I have found mine by following Shannon Miner on Twitter and through him the adventures of Albert the puppy, Squeaky the kitten and Onyx.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: An amusing limerick told to me by Herbert Gladstone

Textual critics - perhaps those from the Department of Long Books at the University of Rutland at Belvoir - who pore over these diaries will discover that this entry is headed 'Friday' in the current issue of Liberator, but Thursday here.

My thinking was that having two consecutive entries headed 'Thursday' would emphasise that time had passed between them, but the production staff at Liberator HQ found it too confusing. And who is to say they were wrong?

Besides, there is a deeper mystery here. The issue of Liberator containing this diary arrived on my doormat less than a week after I sent the copy off, yet in the course of it a whole week elapses.

This does lend support to theory that Lord Bonkers is a Time Lord and suggests this and the subsequent entries in this week's diary are dispatches from the future.


Back to the Hall at last after my tour – this electioneering business is hard work and this time is proving deeply confusing.

First I went to Buckingham – a place that always reminds me of an amusing limerick told to me by Herbert Gladstone – and found Stephen Dorrell knocking on doors. He was for many years Conservative MP for Loughborough and our paths crossed from time to time, so naturally I engaged in some good-natured chivvying about the shortcomings of the Tory view of the world. Blow me down if he didn’t turn out to be the Liberal Democrat candidate!

Then I visited Finchley and ran into Luciana Berger. I demanded to know why she wasn’t In Liverpool and added some salty comments on the leadership of the Labour Party… It all proved rather embarrassing. I shall draw a veil over my encounter with Sam Gyimah in Kensington.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary: