Saturday, February 29, 2020

Norman Lamb on Rebooting Capitalism

Radix feels like a think tank that was set up to serve a new centre party that never happened, but it has published an important paper by the former Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb.

His recommendations in Rebooting Capitalism include:
  • Using the upcoming decampment from the Palace of Westminster to move the national Parliament to the North of England, separating the UK’s economic and political capitals and building a real Northern Powerhouse.
  • Devolving power radically, including over setting taxes, to cities and regions, enabling them to determine their own destiny and empowering local innovation. 
  • Streamlining the creation of employee-owned businesses to encourage the transfer of ownership of businesses to their employees. 
  • Setting a new lowest rate of corporation tax, applicable only to those companies which share prosperity equitably with staff.
  • Setting tough new competition rules to challenge concentrations of power and wealth and to drive up wages, drive down prices and improve consumer choice.
  • Reforming company law to incentivise firms to act as a force for good, recognising a wider purpose than narrow shareholder value.

Six of the Best 912

"Brexit has given nationalists the confidence to cast suspicions upon a wide array of independent public bodies, from universities to the Bank of England. One thing that neoliberals and nationalists can agree on is that anyone whose education and career has been spent in publicly funded liberal institutions, telling a story about 'the public interest' is a fraud." William Davies on the Conservative attack on the humanities.

"The report that Johnson wants civil service briefings to be short and simple is not so remarkable – many politicians share that desire – but the suspicion must be that he also wants them to pander to, rather than to challenge, his pre-existing beliefs." Chris Grey finds that Brexit is going feral.

Mona Wang and Gennie Gebhart say American schools are pushing the boundaries of surveillance technologies.

Mary Beard, who grew up in Shrewsbury, says the prime minister should be visiting flooded settlements. "People who have been inundated need to know that those in power have some sense of the reality of flooding beyond the words and the headlines."

Harry Potter’s dwindling popularity dismays Patrick West.

"His anguished cry, “It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand” is more relatable than ever in these toxic times." James Gent watches John Cleese's 1986 film Clockwise.

Friday, February 28, 2020

It was 51 years ago today that I sang with Danny La Rue

There has been controversy this week over a visit paid to a Scottish primary school by a drag queen.

Having sung on a West End stage with Danny La Rue when I was eight, I take a relaxed view of the matter.

When I first told this story I wrote:
I was one of the children asked up on to the stage halfway through one of his pantomimes - Queen Passionella and the Sleeping Beauty, to be precise. We sang "Doe, a Deer", as it happens, and having a deep voice I was given the first line. 
Anyway, my strongest memory of the evening, apart from my own performance, is of Danny La Rue coming out in front of the curtain, as himself, and announcing that someone had died and singing his own signature tune "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep" as a tribute to him. 
I have tried to make sense of this memory in recent years, assuming that the person who had died was the writer of the song. But on investigation he turned out to be George Stevens, and he died in 1954. 
Then a few days ago I heard Barry Humphries on Desert Island Discs. One of the records he chose was "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep, as sung by Randolph Sutton. 
Sure enough, Wikipedia tells us that Sutton made a famous recording of the song and died on 28 February 1969. Which dates my first and last West End performance to within a day or two.
I remember leaving school a little early so I could get home in time to go the show. It was during hymn practice (we had such a thing in those days) and when I left we were about to sing Hills of the North Rejoice, which was one of my favourites. Hymn practice was on Friday afternoons.

Looking at a calendar for 1969, I find 28 February was Friday. So that must be the day it happened.

Take it away, Danny.

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England. So if you have views on what the Liberal Democrats should do next, why not share them here?

As you can see from this list of the 10 most recent guests posts, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects beyond the Lib Dems

If you would like to write a guest post yourself, please drop me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

London 1968

Embed from Getty Images

The blurb on Getty Images says:
Two boys outside the London School of Economics during a student riot, 6 October 1968. 

Free school meals and stigma

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At Welland Park College, Market Harborough, in 1973 and 1974, those of us who received free school meals had our names ticked off in a register before we chose our lunch.

I have never been able to convince myself that this served any purpose beyond public humiliation.

What really makes me sad, though, is that this sort of thing is still going on today.

Going hungry? - a 2012 report from the Child Poverty Action Group - found that, in most secondary schools and some primaries, children receiving free school meals did not receive a meal but an  allowance to spend at the canteen.

But one in seven of them reported that their allowance did not allow them to purchase a full meal.

One pupil said:
"I think that the system honestly is a bit crap because you don’t know how much you have spent and if you overspend, you’re given detention and you have to pay back what you spent!"
You had better be psychic if you are a poor child.

In 2018 iNews reported:
Scottish school pupils from poorer backgrounds are going hungry because they are too embarrassed to claim free school meals, according to a report published on Thursday. 
Some children feel 'socially segregated' by the current system which sets them out as different from their peers, the inquiry into school poverty by a Scottish Parliament committee found.
The paper quoted one pupil as saying:
“It makes me feel like part of an underclass and I wish everyone ate their lunch together."
And last year Citizens UK published a report on the situation in the North East of England.

It.found that:
A common concern of pupils on free school meals - and a key reason why some do not take them up - is that the way they are delivered can set them apart from their peers, stigmatising them for being poor.
If you are a school governor, please make sure that this nonsense is not going on in your school.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Shropshire in colour, 1960

Click on the still of Stokesay Castle above to view a film of Bridgnorth Camera Club's 1960 treasure hunt on the BFI's Britain on Film site.

Six of the Best 911

"We can often make flippant and incorrect assumptions of the standards of previous times, especially when we are seeking to retrospectively justify failures. but my own experiences from that time tell me something different." Andrew Page does not buy the arguments of David Steel's defenders.

Stephen Unwin explores how some of the most civilised and intelligent thinkers have supported eugenics - one of the most dark and barbaric philosophies in modern history.

University College London has been accused of disregarding Jeremy Bentham's final wishes, reports Ruchira Sharma.

Chiara Betti looks at the life of Agnes Baden Powell, artist and founder of the Girl Guides.

Eoghan Lyng celebrates the 50th birthday of the Small Faces album Ogden's Nut Gone Flake.

"He emphasizes the penned-up livestock on board to keep them fed, the immensity of the ropes and the boom and the mainsail, the scurrying of lookouts up and down the mast on a pre-dawn shift change. The film is as interested in the culture and environment of living on a ship for months at a time as it is about steering it into battle." Scott Tobias revisits Peter Weir's Master and Commander.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The cricket ground at Cromford

You'll find Cromford's cricket ground in the meadows beside the Derwent with views of the hills beyond.

Lord Steel resigns from the Lib Dems and the Lords

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The party's former leader David Steel has resigned from the Liberal Democrats and the House of Lords following today's report on the Westminster strand of the Independent Inquiry on Child Abuse.

You can find the chapter of the report that covers Cyril Smith and the Liberal Party on its website.

It's verdict on Lord Steel runs:
Lord Steel should have provided leadership. Instead, he abdicated his responsibility. He looked at Cyril Smith not through the lens of child protection but through the lens of political expediency. 
As suggested in the written closing submissions on behalf of the complainant core participants, when attending the Inquiry, far from recognising the consequences of his inaction, Lord Steel was completely unrepentant.
Jonathan West, who helped expose abuse at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict's School, has expressed dissatisfaction with the inquiry's recommendations in a thread on Twitter.

He call for the introduction of mandatory reporting of suspicions of child abuse :

Monday, February 24, 2020

When Kettering Grammar School tracked Soviet satellites

Back in the 1960s, Kettering Grammar School was celebrated for its tracking of Scoiet satellites.

Click on the still above to watch a 1966 television report on the school's activities.

I recognise the school buildings because I used to play in the annual Kettering chess tournament there a decade later, but they have since been demolished.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Golden Earring: Radar Love

I walked into the Oxfam book and record shop in Harborough yesterday morning and this was playing.

Golden Earring are a Dutch band and Radar Love was a worldwide hit in 1973. It reached number 7 in the UK singles chart and I remember listening to it under the bedclothes on Radio Luxembourg.

A little boy's jacket from Blaby workhouse

I called in at Leicester's New Walk Museum and Art Gallery today to take in a couple of exhibitions.

There was Dissent and Displacement:
Contemporary printmaker Monica Petzal explores opposition, persecution and persistence inspired by her German Jewish refugee heritage and the German Expressionist collection in Leicester. Interweaving threads of family, politics, culture and art, the narratives range from the rise of National Socialism in 1930’s Germany to the life of a Syrian refugee doctor in Leicester today. 
Using original sources, it brings together contemporary collaged and painterly lithographic prints with accessible descriptive text, as well as German Expressionist work from the artist’s own collection, archive objects, photos and film.
And there was Dressing for Childhood, which features items of children's clothing from the museum's stores.

Among them was this much-mended little boy's jacket from Blaby Union workhouse, which dates from the 1830s. I am not the better for seeing it.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Cunards at Nevill Holt

The Medbourne Village website has a good page about the Cunards and their tenure of Nevill Holt,

Edward Cunard purchased the Nevill Holt estate in 1876. The following year it was inherited by his brother Sir Bache Cunard:
By 1886 Sir Bache found himself in constrained financial circumstances which caused him to mortgage the Estate to some clients of Peake and Company, Solicitors in London. By 1893 however the mortgagees wished to foreclose on the mortgage and Particulars of Sale were prepared. However, his marriage in 1895 to Maud Burke enabled the Estate to be maintained.
Maud Burke was yet another of those American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy in this era. And many of them, like Maud Burke, rescued the finances of the family they joined.

But it was not to last:
In 1911, after leaving her husband in Leicestershire, Maud moved to London with Nancy and became a leading light in London society becoming known as a lavish hostess. Later in 1911 the Cunards separated and Maud fell in love with Sir Thomas Beecham the conductor, becoming recognised as his companion. ... 
In the 1930’s she formed a friendship with Wallis Simpson the fellow American who had a liaison with Edward Prince of Wales. Thinking that Wallis would become Queen, Maud hoped to secure a position in the Royal Household but her dream was dashed when Edward abdicated in 1936.
His wife’s departure from Nevill Holt left Sir Bache in financial difficulties again and the mortgage was foreclosed in 1912. After the original purchaser of the estate died, it was auctioned again at the Assembly Rooms in Market Harborough on 19 August 1919.

The house itself and surrounding land were purchased by the Reverend C.A.C. Bowkler for use as a preparatory school. That horribly abusive establishment closed after a police raid in 1998.

Given that most scholars now accept that Nevill Holt is the model for Bonkers Hall, one has to wonder if the first Lady Bonkers was also American,

Friday, February 21, 2020

Luka by Suzanne Vega features Worrying YouTube Comment of the Day

On the first page of comments on this video you will find:
Well... My name is REALLY Luka b'cuz this song was playing when my parents first met.
Didn't his parents listen to the song?

Inside St Mary's, Cromford

In Cromford last summer I found St Mary's church open because Excellent Women were at work inside. So I took some photographs.

The church's Listing on the Historic England site gives its history:
The church was begun in 1792 for Richard Arkwright's industrial complex and residence at Cromford, and was prominently sited next to the cotton mill and River Derwent. It was designed by Thomas Gardner (c1737-1804), architect and builder of Uttoxeter, who was also employed on the reconstruction of Arkwright's Willersley Castle. The wide proportions of the nave are characteristic of the period, and Gardner's church probably had a small chancel of the kind that had become deeply unfashionable by the 1850s. 
The church was substantially rebuilt in 1858 by H.I. Stevens (1806-73), architect of Derby who built many churches in the East Midlands. Stevens enlarged the chancel, remodelled windows and added the tower and west narthex. The ambitious scheme of wall paintings and stained glass was undertaken by Alfred Octavius Hemming (d 1907), who had previously worked for Clayton & Bell and had completed a similar extensive mural scheme at Folkestone, Kent. The scheme at Cromford was completed in 1897 on the centenary of the church.
The wall paintings were damaged by water over the years and underwent a serious restoration in 2002.

Thank you, Roland Hall: In praise of generous university offers

After I left Boxmoor and my good school reports, life was difficult. I had moved from a comprehensive that had recently been a very traditional grammar school to one (a middle school) here in Market Harborough that had been a secondary modern.

I was left by my new school to sink or swim. There was no pastoral care and no help coping with a very different curriculum. I suppose my problem was that, though I was poor, I could pass as middle class so no one thought I might need help.

Most damaging, I found that if I did not work, no one was going to make me. I reacted as any 13-year-old boy would in such circumstances and stopped working.

When I moved to the upper school I found I had been put in a CSE set for maths. Having done mathematical aptitude tests in later life, I can say objectively that this was a crime.

Fortunately, I had an ally in the same situation and we fought and won a campaign to be moved up to an O level set.

Still, my O levels were not great - seven passes, two at grade B and five at grade C.

After that life got better. I was in the sixth form studying subjects I liked and was back on even keel academically.

I finally had a teacher (Mark Clay-Dove) who took a special interest in me and helped me with university entrance. I remember going to his house for coffee one Saturday morning, being introduced to his wife and looking over a statement about why I wanted to study Philosophy that one university had asked for. He told me it was fine and I don't think I changed a word before I sent it in.

I remember another conversation with him after school when I confided that I was worried about my A levels and what I would do if I didn't get to university. He told me not to worry and that I was bright enough to do a postgraduate degree.

One reason for my doing a part-time Masters in my thirties was to honour that conversation.

And he also told me that the school had given me a remarkably generous academic reference. It is now obvious to me that he had written it himself.

In retrospect, choosing a non-school subject like Philosophy was a smart move for someone with ropy O levels. It meant universities were more likely to rely on their own judgement and pay a less attention to exam results.

So when I went to Nottingham, was interviewed and wrote an essay while I was there, they responded by making me an offer of EE to read Philosophy with them. Delighted? You have no idea.

Another thing that made life good in the sixth form was my Saturday job in a secondhand bookshop. Yes, Market Harborough readers, there was once a bookshop in Nelson Street.

It was run by Mark Jacobs - an expert on the poet Laura Riding who still has letters published in the London Review of Books from time to time - and his wife Barbara.

When I told Barbara Jacobs (now a successful author) that I was off to the University of York for another interview, she told me that she had met a member of the Philosophy department there at a party while Mark was doing his PhD. He was called Roland Hall and was a very nice man.

I arrived at York to find that, sure enough, my interview was with Roland Hall. I was filled with a sense of confidence and wellbeing.

And he was a very nice man. We had quite a casual chat about Philosophy and why I wanted to study it, before he said: "What shall we say for an offer? Three Cs?"

Given that York accepted General Studies towards their offers in those days, this was generous yet challenging enough to ensure that I continued to work.

I still had to persuade my school to let me take A level General Studies. They said no at first - I am beginning to see a pattern here - but I persisted and in the end quite a few of us took it.

Since you ask, I got an A.

I am sorry to have written so much about my teenage self, because this post was meant to be a tribute to Roland Hall.

When I took it into my head to look him up a few months ago, I found he had recently died. I also found that he had lived a life that made his patience with spotty herberts like me remarkable:

Here are some extracts from an appreciate of him published in the journal Locke Studies:
In 1949 he joined the British Army for National Service. After basic training, which included touch typing, he was found a position where, in the words of one of his superiors, “his brain would not atrophy.” 
This was as Clerk to General Frank Simpson, the President of the Court at the British War Crimes Unit in Hamburg, during the four-month trial of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, regarded as Hitler’s greatest General Manstein had been taken prisoner by the British in August 1945. He testified for the defence of the German General Staff and the Wehrmacht supreme command at the Nuremberg trials of major Nazi war criminals and organizations in August 1946. 
Under pressure from the Soviet Union to hand him over, the British cabinet had decided in July 1948 to prosecute Manstein and several other senior officers held in custody since the end of the war. Roland’s job was to collate and safeguard all the written evidence for the Court, which he read in its entirety, and to keep track of the Court’s proceedings. 
This experience had a profound effect on Roland, only 19 at the time. It convinced him of the justification for war in the face of great evil, though, having seen the evidence against Manstein, he was amazed at the severity of the sentence passed upon him. 
When the sentence was given, he was able to hear it through the sliding doors of the room behind the court in which he was working and wondered whether he had misheard “18 years” for “18 months,” which would have made more sense to him.  
At the end of the trial, General Simpson was instrumental in Roland joining the British Forces Network, where he was responsible for producing classical music programmes at the Musikhalle for the Allied forces in Western Europe. 
He often ate at the Church Army cafe near the Alster and spoke with the German musicians playing there. One day he asked them about a particular piece of music they were playing. After that, they played Brüch’s Violin Concerto whenever he came in. 
Lest the impression have been given that his Army service was not very military, it should be added that Roland’s pay-book records that he was a first-class shot, meaning that he could hit the bullseye with a rifle at 300 yards.
And because I was taught by him, I am only two moves away from some of the greats of 20th-century British Philosophy:
He obtained the B.Phil under the supervision of two of the great names of linguistic philosophy, J. L. Austin and, briefly, Gilbert Ryle (when Austin was away in America). It was Austin who suggested that Roland should work on “a big word like ‘as’” when contemplating topics for his Bachelor’s thesis and who gave him a method, this being to “start with the dictionary.” 
Ignoring his supervisor’s sage warning against going into the academic profession - “There’s no money in it” - he took his first job in 1956 as Assistant in Logic at the University of St. Andrews. The next year he moved to Queen’s College, Dundee, as Lecturer in Philosophy, becoming Senior Lecturer in 1966. From 1961 to 1967 he was Assistant Editor of The Philosophical Quarterly. In 1967 he was appointed Reader in Philosophy at the University of York, where he remained until his retirement in 1994. 
Meeting Roland Hall and walking round York afterwards was enough to convince me that this was where I wanted to study.

So, thanks to his generosity and that of the department at Nottingham, my last university interview consisted of my gently breaking it to an academic at Bristol - a university that school rumour maintained would not even look at you unless you gave them your first preference - that I would not be studying with them.

In the first year at York I had to pass two papers: one on general philosophy and one on formal logic, which Roland Hall taught us. I passed both with an upper second mark, putting me in the top third or quarter of students on the course,

Thank you, Roland Hall.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Six of the Best 910

"The branding is painfully dated. That awful yellow ‘bird of liberty’ that was adopted in 1989 as the party logo should have been put down a long time ago." Otto English considers the Liberal Democrats' continuing lack of success.

Ferdinand Mount puts the 'low-tar fascism' of the new Conservative government in historical context.

Nick Tyrone says does not want to see any more referendums on anything at all. He is right (and right about the plural of 'referendum').

Emma Bartholomew listens to East End residents' memories of work and leisure by the Regent's Canal,

Seven years ago part of Ludlow's town wall collapsed. It has still not been rebuilt, reports Andy Boddington.

"The local authorities, mistakenly believing the dog to be dangerous, issue instructions to shoot it on sight. Recognising it a fellow misunderstood outsider, Sébastien shelters and befriends the dog, naming her Belle and enjoying a series of adventures." Tim Worthington on Belle and Sebastian, which the BBC showed in every school holiday when I was young.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Rediscovering the Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead line

One day it 1981 a university friend and I set off from Harpenden to follow this line. Without really intending to, we walked all the way to Hemel Hempstead.

On the way to the railway station there I passed the second primary school I had once attended in the town: Boxmoor.

It had been replaced by a new school a few years before, but was still standing. When I went back years later it had been demolished and replaced with a close of four houses.

I have started swapping emails with someone I was at Boxmoor with, even though this is a period of my life I have always shied away from. It was here that my father walked out on us when I was 11.

But there are good memories too - the school reports I got when I was 12 were the best I was ever going to receive - and there is something rather flattering about being remembered from 50 years ago.

Maybe I will go back again this year and lay some ghosts.

Anyway, nice railway pictures and a good tune.


Lord Steel 'facing expulsion from Liberal Democrats'

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This morning's Telegraph reported that Lord Steel - the former Liberal Party leader David Steel - faces condemnation from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

It also said a committee of senior Lib Dem MPs and peers is being convened to discuss Lord Steel's future in the party once the inquiry's finding is made public.

The question at issue is Steel's failure to pass on Cyril Smith's alleged confession of abusing boys to the authorities.

After that the article quotes the inevitable 'friends' of Steel disparaging the inquiry.

As an antidote, let me point you to an interview with its chief psychologist, Dr Rebekah Eglinton:
Often we hear from survivors who disclosed the abuse as a child, but were met with disbelief or dismissal. This response is hugely damaging to self-esteem and trust in authority. 
Some survivors told us it took a long time to feel worthy of a Truth Project session, having internalised a sense of being ‘not good enough’ or of minimising the true nature of the abuse perpetrated against them. ... This self-doubt and low self-esteem is a common legacy of child sexual abuse.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and Niall Rogers pay their tribute to Ginger Baker

Last night a concert was held to honour the memory of the great rock drummer Ginger Baker.

Here Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton and Niall Rogers play Can't Find My Way Home, the song Winwood wrote for the short-lived super group Blind Faith.

Baker, Winwood and Clapton formed Blind Faith along with Rich Grech from the Leicester band Family.

David Boyle on taking power locally

David Boyle has written an essay - Counterweight: How Big Local areas are levelling the scales of local power - for the Local Trust:
Great steps forward in community development often happen as a result of crises or disasters, like the earthquakes in Kyoto or Christchurch. We don’t normally have earthquakes in the UK, but we have had similar, and it was one of these that led to the start of community development in the UK: when poverty-stricken Stepney in east London was abandoned to its fate during the blitz in 1940. 
One of those who were there, who broke into the locked and shuttered council offices in Stepney borough, and who witnessed the way that the neighbourhood regrouped and organised makeshift police and social services for itself out of the chaos, was a young Quaker ambulance driver called Tony Gibson. 
It was his memory of this, and his sense of the right people have (when they feel abandoned by those who administer them) to take matters into their own hands, that led to the launch of the ground-breaking unit at Nottingham University, Education for Neighbourhood Change; his influential 1978 Pelican book People Power; and other projects which led to community development, community technical aid, and so forth.
You can hear David discussing his ideas in a Local Trust podcast.

Remembering Valerie Silbiger

I was very sad to read that Valerie Silbiger has died. The news is on the blog written by Mark Pack, and his post quotes the former Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone:
I am so sorry and sad to hear this news. Such a wonderful warm caring engaged human being. So kind to me and supportive from the very start. Love and thoughts to all the family.
Valerie was a friend to me, to Liberator and to many in the party.

I remember her proud claim to be "the world's only Jewish Methodist".

As a little girl in the second world war she had been evacuated from London to West Yorkshire. She remained in touch with the family that took her in for the rest of her life.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Keystone Crescent near King's Cross station

At Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham a year or two ago, I bought a copy of Curious King's Cross, which they had published themselves.

Curious London quotes a review of it from the International Times:
Recently a friend gave a me a copy of Curious King’s Cross by the broadcaster and social-cultural historian Andrew Whitehead. I immediately wondered if Bob Dylan’s gig at the KX pub The Pindar of Wakefield in 1962 was mentioned and blow me down here’s a chapter, Don’t think twice, which does exactly that. I was at that gig – the only time I’ve seen BD live – and here’s Brian Shuel’s famous photo of him in the corduroy cap and faux-suede jacket he wears on the sleeve of his first LP. 
This is a gem of a book which tells me all sorts of things I didn’t know about KX and reminds me of all sorts of things I’ve forgotten about its places and people. Want to know about Platform 9 3/4 for the Hogwarts Express, about Mary Wollstonecraft’s burial in Old St Pancras, what happened to KX’s gasometers, about cruising in St Pancras, ice wells, Grimaldi the clown, how a fish and chip shop was bugged by MI5, the history of Housmans’ radical book shop and its association with Peace News at ‘5 Cally Road’ (where you can undoubtably buy this book) and about the filming of The Lady Killers? Enough already – just buy it. It’s so teeming with info, energy, and enthusiasm I wish it had an index.
Another chapter looks at Keystone Crescent, which lies off the bottom end of the Caledonian Road.

Inspired by that chapter, I went to photograph it last summer.

The Mountain Goats: Pale Green Things

The Mountain Goats are an American band based in North Carolina, whose only permanent member is their singer and songwriter John Darnielle.

Pale Green Things comes from their 2005 album The Sunset Tree, which deals with Darnielle's childhood and in particular his relationship with his abusive stepfather.

The song deals with the stepfather's death and the memory of an occasion when things were alright between them.

I came across it on Twitter where someone compared it to the fishing scene near the end of Responsible Child.

Though whether that scene is a memory or the boy's attempt to imagine a better relationship from the meagre materials he has to hand, I don't know.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Herne Bay and Reculver in 1969

As the blurb on the British Film Institute website says:
John Clague's amazing film starts with the construction of new sea defences using heavy machinery. After a colourful hospital fete we see Archbishop Michael Ramsey in Reculver, presiding at an outdoor religious ceremony. 
Then we see repair work being carried out on the town’s pier before fire breaks out in the Grand Pavilion, reducing it to cinders. After artists exhibit their works on the sea front we see the pier before and after the fire with rainbows over the water.

Six of the Best 909

"Imagine the 8- and 12-year-old brother and sister who have found their place in a loving long-term foster family. Or the 16-year-old thriving in a children’s home." Yvette Stanley says it is not adoption or bust for children in care.

George Monbiot explains why burning the heather on the moors above Todmorden and Hebden Bridge have led to flooding, Led to the River Calder flooding, as it happens.

"You can’t be as neurotic as the BBC and cope with someone like me" says John Sweeney in a brilliant interview.

Nicholas Spice explains why he loathes Jacob Rees-Mogg.

"We’re listening to the lost opportunities of Ken Barlow, but what we’re watching are the lost opportunities of Roache. Like his character, Roache is trapped by the Street." Fergal Kinney on the 10,000th Coronation Street and William Roache.

"Charlotte Rampling, like her contemporaries Jane Birkin and Jacqueline Bisset, has managed to remain very British while also being undeniably European." Richard Luck profiles Rampling.

Council blocks bid to convert Bishops's Castle pub into housing

My chief memory of the Boar's Head is watching England lose the 2007 rugby world cup final on its televisions.

But the Shropshire Star has up-to-date news. The council has refused a planning application that would see the building used for housing instead.

The story is complicated by the fact that the local police had to apologise after wrongly naming the landlord as a paedophile because they had confused him with another man who bears the same name, but this has to be good news for one of my favourite towns.

When I was a councillor on Harborough District Council we refused a similar request concerning the Crown in Theddingworth. I believe we may have been the second council to do such a thing,

Don't get too excited. The Crown closed years ago.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Foxes stalk the Inns of Court

And so another week at Bonkers Hall draws not quite gracefully to a close.


Britain in 2020 is a nation in fear. Foxes stalk the Inns of Court armed with baseball bats looking for QCs to attack and giggle to one another about this “silk bashing”. If it were not for my narwhals basking on Rutland Water and my gamekeepers and their orchard doughties, I should feel afraid myself.

I am also comforted by the presence of PC McNally as he alternately clips youngsters round the ear and helps old ladies across the road. The other day I saw him forget himself and clip an old lady round the ear. She fetched him such a wallop with her duck-handled umbrella that I doubt he will make that mistake a second time.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Thomas Hardy, Henry James and Richard Jefferies

Over on Instagram, where I hang out with my fellow kids, the Richard Jefferies Society tells us:
Exactly 140 years ago, in February 1880, Richard Jefferies had dinner with Thomas Hardy and Henry James. 
He was described by Hardy’s wife, Florence, as "a modest young man then getting into notice as a writer, having a year or so earlier published his first successful book, entitled The Gamekeeper at Home".
Because he died young and without achieving popular fame, it is easy to see Jefferies as a fragile spirit who spent his days communing with nature.

But we should remember that he was an ambitious writer who worked hard to get himself known.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Luciana Berger di Lammermoor

I suspect that what those attending the Festival of Liberalism at Bonkers Hall really need to worry about is being robbed by the Elves of Rockingham Forest on the way home.


The morning post arrives and with it a brochure for the Festival of Brexit Britain. I flick through it in a desultory way and find the programme pretty thin gruel – and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bonkers’ Home for  Well-Behaved Orphans I know a thing or two about thinning gruel. It turns you will be able to insult Belgians at the Empire Pool, Wembley, watch the Black and White Minstrel show at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom or attend the birching at the White City.

So I shall be holding my own Festival of Liberalism here at the Hall and flatter myself that I can offer a more attractive day out. There will be close-formation Focus delivering by a troop of crack activists from the West Riding of Yorkshire, a completion to find the dog that looks most like John Stuart Mill and a performance of Donizetti’s opera Luciana Berger di Lammermoor. Throw in a guest appearance by the Rutland Water Monster (I just hope she doesn’t eat any of those attending) and there is only one winner.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England. So if you have views on what the Liberal Democrats should do next, why not share them here?

As you can see from this list of the 10 most recent guests posts, I am happy to consider a wide range of subjects beyond the Lib Dems

If you would like to write a guest post yourself, please drop me an email so we can discuss your idea.

Boris Johnson's Caribbean Christmas holiday was paid for by the owner of the model for Bonkers Hall

From the Guardian:
Boris Johnson’s Caribbean holiday over the New Year was a £15,000 gift from a wealthy and controversial Conservative donor, newly released documents disclose. 
The prime minister and his partner Carrie Symonds accepted accommodation for a private holiday in St Vincent and the Grenadines. 
David Ross, a Tory donor who co-founded the Carphone Warehouse chain, provided the accommodation, which was reportedly on the private island of Mustique, one of the Grenadines.
David Ross, as regular readers will know, is the owner of Nevill Holt, which most historians now accept to be the model for Bonkers Hall.

Later. Or did he pay for it?

The Daily Mail says:
But last night Mr Ross – a Tory donor who co-founded the Carphone Warehouse chain – insisted he was not the owner of the villa and had not paid for Mr Johnson’s stay.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Alexandra Hall Hall Hall

It all seems so long ago now, but scholars from the University of Rutland at Belvoir agree that the old boy is referring to this news story from December.


To the village hall for a concert in aid of the Home for Distressed Canvassers in Herne Bay. I am always pleased to help this cause, not least because a number of Liberal Democrat MPs who lost their seats in 2015 are still living there.

At the hall I note that the new sign I ordered has been erected over the front door. You see, I was so impressed by that British diplomat who resigned her post rather than defend our new government’s lies that I gave the order for the place to be renamed in her honour. As the sign declares, it is now the Alexandra Hall Hall Hall.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Monday, February 10, 2020

Wingfield: One of the word's oldest station buildings

Wingfield station stands beside the Midland main line north of Amergate.

Dating from 1840, it is one of the world's oldest surviving railway stations. Like many stations, it closed in 1967.

At the end of last year came news that the building is to be saved and restored by the Derbyshire Historic Buildings Trust, Amber Valley Borough Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Enormous quantities of honey

Remember the bees that attached themselves to Jo Swinson's battle bus? Thanks to Lord Bonkers, we now know what was really going on.


“How is Vince coping with not being leader any more?” people asked me in the run up to the election. All I could tell them was that he was concentrating on his hobby of beekeeping – it is customary to tell them when there is going to be a by-election – but I feared there might be More To It Than That.

Word had reached that he was taking his retirement rather badly and that the bee fancy around and about Twickenham had expressed concern at his activities; there were dark murmurings about Cable taking delivery of steroids and monkey glands.

So I was not entirely surprised when the Swinson battle bus was assailed by giant bees after it had rolled up at a London youth centre. Whether this was a calculated attack on his successor as leader I do not know, but by good fortune no one was harmed and there may be an innocent explanation.

Cable later told me that you get enormous quantities of honey from the breed and this has set him up for his retirement.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Crofton Locks on the Kennet and Avon before restoration

Photo: Robert Shopland

Observant readers will notice that we have moved on to the March 1971 issue of the IWA Bulletin and that it cost me 20p.

The best photo in this one is on the cover, which shows one of the Crofton flight of locks on Kennet and Avon Canal. You will find it near Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire.

The whole canal is now navigable, which - as  you can see - was not the case in 1971.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Congratulations to the Duke of Sussex

A characteristically trenchant entry, which sheds unexpected light on the Whitechapel murders of 1888.


Congratulations to the Duke of Sussex for making it over the wall and quitting the Royal Family, together with his delightful wife and child.

In my experience his family are a ghastly crew – in my young day it was common knowledge that the Jack the Ripper murders had been committed by Queen Victoria – and he is well shot of them.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

The Jam: Disguises

Ultimate Classic Rock says of the original Who version:
The psychedelic era brought out some of the weirdest sounds in the British Invasion bands, and the Who were no exception. 
Pete Townshend ensconced the melodic, mid-tempo 'Disguises' with whooshing waves of metallic distortion. The effect is so prominent, if you heard the song on the radio, you'd be certain that the signal was fading in and out. 
The warped listening experience only enhances the confusion Roger Daltrey expresses about trying to recognize his girl, who's wearing the bizarre fashions of the day. Originally slapped on stop-gap releases (the 'Ready Steady Who!' EP in the U.K., 'Magic Bus: The Who on Tour' in the U.S.), the song was added to 'A Quick One' when it was remastered and expanded on CD.
Paul Weller chose a simpler approach, but it still sounds good. If you enjoy this you should also try his cover of the Beatles' And Your Bird Can Sing.

Woman dressed as celery ejected from Kerry polling station

Embed from Getty Images

The Irish news website The Journal wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Six of the Best 908

"Britain and America are in the midst of a barely reported public health crisis. They are experiencing not merely a slowdown in life expectancy, which in many other rich countries is continuing to lengthen, but the start of an alarming increase in death rates across all our populations, men and women alike. We are needlessly allowing our people to die early." Will Hutton on shit-life syndrome.

Boris Johnson has declared war on liberal democracy, argues Peter Oborne.

Robert Saunders examines how membership of the European Union changes Britain.

"Cecil Sharp working in the early to mid-twentieth century and Ghost Box in the twenty-first, both appear to be interested in the idea of a ‘hidden’ England " Yvonne Salmon explores David Rudkin’s 1974 TV play Penda’s Fen and its links with a strange network of art and culture.

Ian Hopkinson reviews a book on how the states of the USA got their shape.

"A record that has grown in stature since its 1973 release, John Martyn’s Solid Air has become a cult touchstone, pointing the way towards ambient, trip-hop and more abstract sonic textures." Vivian Goldman looks at the man behind the masterpiece.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A generous dose of phosphorous about its jaws

For all I know Lord Bonkers may have been a friend of Conan Doyle's. Anyway, this second entry of the week provides insight into the general election campaign that you simply won't find anywhere else.


Given the above shambles, I feel far from guilty at having stolen an evening during the election to attend a fancy dress party in Finchley. The boarding instructions required one to dress as a character from literature, so being a stan (as the young people say) of Arthur Conan Doyle, I went as the Hound of the Baskervilles.

I hired my dog costume from a leading West End theatre and added a generous dose of phosphorous about its jaws. I was enjoying the party when there came a knock at the door. and as no one else showed any sign of doing so, I answered it, giving a playful bark as I did so.

I found myself faced with an actor fellow – I can’t remember his name, but he’s been in everything, including a film about a bear that was sent to prison. I have to say it struck me as Rather Far Fetched, not least because Liberal social reforms mean most bears are now diverted from the criminal justice system at an early stage.

Anyway, this actor johnny must have been in a bad way because, as soon as he saw me, he cried “It’s Rinka! Don’t kill me! I’m sorry!” and legged it towards Golders Green – but then in my experience these theatrical types are often highly strung.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Fox runs loose in parliament and ‘defecates outside Labour MP’s office’

Thanks to a nomination from a reader, the Independent wins our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges particularly enjoyed the reader's comment:
"I haven't read the article, so I don't know if it refers to Liam Fox MP, or a member of the genus vulpes vulpes."

Friday, February 07, 2020

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Well, it was December

The new Liberator is out so, for better or worse, it's time to spend another week at Bonkers Hall.

Our first entry finds the old boy less than enthused by the Liberal Democrats' general election performance.


Well that was a bit of a damp squib, wasn’t it? One minute Jo “Gloria” Swinson was telling us she was going to be prime minster and the next she was handed her cards by the electors of East Dunbartonshire.

The Well-Behaved Orphans were particularly miffed at the way the campaign was run, having worn out their shoe leather (well, it was December) delivering leaflets in what were supposed to be target seats. Yet they reported finding themselves working for candidates they had never heard of in places that had never thought of returning a Liberal.

Nor was our flagship policy of supporting ‘Revoke but backing down the moment it is challenged’ a great success. It seems my counsel is needed at the highest levels of the party once again.

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

So I have joined Instagram

You will find me in this strange world of photos, hashtags and emojis @jonathancaldermh.

These are the four photos I have posted so far.