Friday, July 31, 2020

Alan Knott turns the Trent Bridge Ashes test in 1977


In the midst of some philosophical worrying I blogged the other day about the 1997 Ashes test at Trent Bridge and Alan Knott:
At this point Alan Knott came in and began batting with his usual impish brilliance. This had the effect of waking Boycott, who had seemed genuinely distraught at Randall's demise, and the two of them put on over 200. England made 364 and went on to win the test.
You can see Knott's innings in the video above.

The editing is a little unfair to Boycott, who hit 11 boundaries in his own century.

And, as a bonus, here is Ian Botham's first wicket, which was taken on the first day of this test.

Germany: Fox steals over 100 shoes in Berlin







The judges took great pleasure in making today's Headline of the Day Award to Deutsche Welle for this tale of a vulpine Imelda Marcos.

Thank you to a reader for the nomination.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Wernher von Braun of the Flow Country

Jamie Stone is fast becoming a cult figure. If Lord Bonkers can talk him into being the first Liberal Democrat MP on Mars his fame will only grow.

Friday

Jamie Stone telephones, full of his plans for his new spaceport in Sutherland; no wonder they call him the Wernher von Braun of the Flow Country. 

I wish him well with his scheme and am then reminded of the days, shortly after our triumph in 1997, when we Liberal Democrats had our own spacecraft. The Bird of Liberty was piloted by David Chidgey, then the MP for Eastleigh, and funded by a group of donors who believed that if there were alien civilisations orbiting nearby stars then they would inevitably hold by-elections and that these might offer the party a chance of increasing its number of elected representatives. 

For a time all went well, but the Bird was brought down by an errant Russian satellite and Chidgey was located only after a thorough search of the less frequented Pacific islands.

Inspired by these recollections, I set to searching the outbuildings here at the Hall until I locate the old girl. She is clearly in need of some TLC, but after a day of cleaning and polishing she looks more her old self. When I fire up the engine the Well-Behaved Orphans who were responsible for the cleaning and polishing declare that I should call her "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". I'm sure you will agree this is a damn fool idea.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Six of the Best 946

The Social Liberal Forum has audio and video recordings of this evening's Beveridge Lecture by the Labour MP Clive Lewis.

Andrew Defty says the delayed publication of the Russia Report shows why reform is needed to preserve the independence of parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee

"What I have described here represents a crisis of ideology—an abstract, electronic-media-driven phenomenon by which conservatives prioritised partisanship and wishful thinking over saving lives. But the results played out all over real-world bricks-and-mortar America." Nidra Poller asks why so many right-wing Americans have embraced Covid-19 pseudoscience.

Giles Fraser says that beautiful choral music is not elitist: "The unspoken suggestion is that a traditional Anglican choir singing Stanford in C at Choral Evensong is just a bit too elitist for a working class city like Sheffield. And that is why Evensong has become so poorly attended."

The French have spent 20 years building a new medieval castle, reports The Mind Circle.

Simon Hughes pays tribute to Stuart Broad: "The first time he really stood out was in the final test of the 2009 Ashes (his 22nd) when, in an attack containing Steve Harmsion, Andrew Flintoff and Anderson, he routed Australia for 160 at the Oval with 5 for 37 using a clever combination of swingers and cutters to wriggle past Australian defences on a flat pitch."

Northampton's greyhound stadium lies beneath its new university campus


On Wednesday I posted a still of Northampton's greyhound stadium from a 1963 film about the town and noted that it closed the following year.

You can see the stadium in this 1947 aerial photograph of the town from the south.

It is the oval towards the bottom left of the photo and the curving line it stands next to is the railway into Northampton St John's station. It crosses the River Nene just to the north of the stadium.

Right in that bottom left-hand corner you can see an industrial area served by the railway that ran from Blisworth to Peterborough. Northampton Bridge Street station is just off the left-hand side of the photo.

If you follow the curving railway from the greyhound stadium to the bottom of the photo you will come to a large building.

This is the former Midland Railway engine shed that now acts as the student union building on Northampton University's Waterside campus. So the site of the stadium lies beneath new university buildings.

Late at night, some students swear, you can still hear excited dogs squealing and railway workers cheering their fancies home.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: 'Layla Moran Saves Ducklings from Drowning'

It seems Lord Bonkers has been playing a more important role in the Liberal Democrat leadership contest than I realised.

The ducklings were harmed in the writing of this entry, so I shall vote for Layla Moran.

Thursday

I ring Layla Moran with the news about her radical stance, only to find her a little downcast. It seems the slogan Freddie and Fiona wrote for Ed Davey - 'I’m very important and wear a suit' - is hitting the mark with the Liberal Democrat membership and she is at a loss to know what to do by way of a response. 

I tell her of an old friend who was faced with the loss of his marginal seat, only to be returned with an increased majority after rescuing a child from drowning. The most important thing, he always maintained, was that he ensured no one spotted him pushing the child into the water in the first place. 

"Baby animals are popular too," I remark, just before bidding her farewell. Sure enough, the evening papers all bear the headline 'Layla Moran Saves Ducklings from Drowning.'

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Ealing Studios was worried about bombsites by 1950


The Magnet, a minor Ealing comedy, used to be rarity, but it now turns up on Talking Pictures TV fairly regularly.

Last time I watched a bit of it I noticed something relevant to my interest in the treatment of children and bombsites in British films. And by some miracle just that scene can be found on YouTube.

Before we get to the exchange that interested me, let's not that the film's young star is an 11-year-old James Fox, billed under his real name William Fox, and that you can see a train on the Liverpool Overhead Railway at 00:30.

Then, at , 02:40 we get this exchange (if I have transcribed it correctly):
I know, there's that bombed house in Bangkok Street.

No, he wants to keep out of bombed houses. That's how my brother got pinched.
When I first blogged on the subject I gave some examples from other Ealing films:
In Ealing's Hue and Cry (1947), a damaged London belongs to errand boys and the film celebrates their independence and resourcefulness.

In Mandy (1952), the final scene of liberation, where the little deaf girl goes out to play with other children, takes place on a bombsite.

Last night I watched Passport to Pimlico (1949) last night and it proved a little more equivocal.

The local bobby visits a woman whose husband is always making models.

"It's an idea for that dump out there," she tells him, meaning a bombsite. "Give those kids somewhere decent to play."

He looks out at the small boys scuffling in the dirt and replies: "They seem to be doing pretty well as it is."

She replies: "I'd have something to say if I was their mother."
The Magnet was made in 1950 and the screenplay was by T.E.B. Clarke, who also wrote Hue and Cry and Passport to Pimlico.

Clarke seems to have been on a journey. Though the exchange above from The Magnet reads well, as delivered by the young actor it sounds almost like something from a public information film. You sense he was telling the younger member of the audience to stay away from bombsites.

As I noted in my blog post, by the early 1950s bombsites had become places were terrible things befell small boys who played on them.

Were there tragedies that have been forgotten, or, as I suggested, did this anxiety arise from a feeling that the nuclear family needed to be reinforced as the collectivist wartime era receded?

It may be relevant that people in the 1950s did not congratulate themselves on living in an era with low crime rates but worried about juvenile delinquency. And bombsites were places outside adult authority,

One final point: the boys Fox meets do not sound particularly Liverpudlian to modern ears. The one who does is the Chinese boy played by Geoffrey Yin, and the exchange with his mother is still funny after 70 years,

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Layla Moran’s radical stance

If I didn't know him better, I would think Lord Bonkers was making fun of me. Only this morning I wrote that I am going to vote for Layla Moran

Apologies to whoever it was who first made this joke on Twitter.

Wednesday

With the village hall being a little too cosy to permit of social distancing, we now hold our discotheques for the young people on the green. 

Whilst spinning the discs, I observe that many erstwhile dancers are standing stock still with their feet planted and arms at various angles – rather as if they have remembered an urgent appointment whilst halfway through a pull shot. I ask one young lady the reason for this.

"It’s Layla Moran’s radical stance," she explains.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

A philosophical question: Did I miss seeing Geoff Boycott run out Derek Randall?


Forty-three years ago today I was locked out of the second day of the Trent Bridge Ashes test.

On the first day England had bowled Australia for 243, with a young player called Ian Botham taking 5-74 on debut, and closed at 9-0.

The result of my being turned away the next day was that I missed seeing a notorious run out. Derek Randall, a Nottinghamshire hero, was stitched up like a kipper by Geoffrey Boycott.

That reduced England to 52-3, which became 82-5. At this point Alan Knott came in and began batting with his usual impish brilliance. This had the effect of waking Boycott, who had seemed genuinely distraught at Randall's demise, and the two of them put on over 200. England made 364 and went on to win the test.

Me? I went trainspotting and heard much of Boycott and Knott's partnership on my transistor while sitting on a parcels trolley on Nottingham station.

These days it seems silly to imagine you could turn up at a test and pay on the gate, but I had done just that for the past three years. That included the first day of the first Ashes test at Edgbaston in 1975 when I got to see my hero John Snow opening the bowling for England.

But can I say that I missed Randall being run out at Trent Bridge in 1977?

I have always worried about a statement like this because it seems to imply that it was already inevitable the run out would happen when I turned up at the ground.

True, being run out by Boycott was more predictable than most events in cricket, but even that depended on an infinite number of contingencies. How can it possibly have been preordained? (Note that my worry is not that I might somehow have affected events on the field by being in the ground.)

There is an essay by Gilbert Ryle that discusses this sort of question - you can read the whole of It Was To Be online - but his point is different.

He wants to reassure us that, though the statement "Randall will be run out by Boycott" was true before play started, that does not mean the event was inevitable.

I am perfectly clear it was not inevitable, but worried that the way we talk about such events implies that it was.

The answer, as I am sure Ryle would say, is that we need to analyse the things we say in such circumstances carefully.

For instance, I have no trouble saying "Randall was run out by Boycott and I was not there to see it."

I suspect the difference is that this is true of almost everybody, whereas "I missed seeing Randall being run out by Boycott because I was turned away from the ground" feels as though it is about me alone.

So is my error that I am making myself the hero of the day rather than Alan Knott?

I shall be voting for Layla Moran


It's make your mind up time and I have decided I shall be voting for Layla Moran in the Liberal Democrat leadership contest.

The contest has been billed as one between Layla's ideas and Ed Davey's competence, which is rather unfair on both candidates.

I voted for Ed last time round because of his clear policy offer, but I have not seen any difference in competence between him and Layla this time. I am therefore going with Layla's more ambitious vision for our party and winning personality.

Ed's supporters are quick to remind us that we are competing with the Conservatives in the seats we have some hope of gaining next time round.

But I worry about the thinking behind this. I don't want to see the Lib Dems reduced to a party that expends its energies on not upsetting moderate Conservatives in a dozen or so seats in the Home Counties.

So it's Layla for me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A portrait of Northampton in 1963



Click on the image of Northampton greyhound stadium above to view this film on the British Film Institute site.

There the blurb runs:
This exhaustively detailed account of Northampton in the early 1960s may lack cinematic flair but the passage of time has left us with a snapshot of a town on the up and keen to expand. This film was made for an unnamed company that was keen to relocate to Northampton - or as they tell us, to the town which has shopping facilities that compare with any London suburb and houses to rent for only 30 shillings a week. If you're a local you might even spot your own home.
The greyhound stadium in Cotton End lasted only another year and the outdoor pool by the Nene in Midsummer Meadow closed in 1983.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The great Liberal philosopher L.T. Duckworth

Lord Bonkers, it appears, will not be taking sides in the current Liberal Democrat leadership election, but he does have trenchant things to say about the party's decision to allow the candidates to pile up more nominations than the rules of the contest require.

Tuesday

Much to the bookies’ chagrin, it has turned out to be a meagre field in the latest contest for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. So much so, that we are down to just two candidates: the splendid Ed Davey and the equally splendid Layla Moran. 

I had been one of those urging the MP for Bath to stand. Wera Duckworth, as you probably know, is some sort of relation by marriage of the great Liberal philosopher L.T. Duckworth and was the inventor of the Duckworth Lewes Method, which had much to do with Norman Baker’s victory in 1997. Stand she did, but she soon sat down again. 

Now I am plagued by supporters of the said Davey and Moran asking me to nominate their man or – indeed – woman. "Now look here," I tell them, "You have the 200 nominations you need, so go away and do some hard thinking." The line generally goes dead at that point.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Southwell branch in colour (1956)


A little bit of Nottinghamshire railway goodness, with Caudwell's Mill very much in evidence at Southwell station.

This passenger shuttle from Rolleston Junction lasted until 1959 and goods services until 1964.

Six of the Best 945

Geoff Mulgan suggests Britain is suffering from an "intangible curse" that’s corroding our ability to distinguish what’s real and what’s merely a representation.

"The committee received just one, anonymous submission from a supplier. It said that they supplied Boohoo, Missguided, ASOS and others, and that all these brands were constantly asking suppliers to reduce their prices. Even when CEOs and managers at top brands knew the cost of clothing, the witness said, they squeezed prices and watched wages get cut." Olivia Windham Stewart on Leicester's garment trade.

"Black people don’t climb. Africans do not ski. That’s white-people behaviour. I have been hearing all this most of my life." Sahra Ali asks if we can make the great outdoors truly inclusive.

"[Fred] Titmus was in the middle of a brief spell as Surrey’s head coach. He would later become an England selector and is one of several illustrious names to come up more than once when black players discuss the everyday racism of the times." Former Surrey player Lonsdale Skinner recounts his experience of racism in cricket.

"Gasholders are at once contentious and evocative, loved and loathed by sections of society." Historic England offers an introduction to them.

Graham McCann dissects the relationship between Rodney Bewes and James Bolam.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Joy Division - what a charming girl she was!

Time to begin another week at Bonkers Hall. If you are hoping for some respite in future, I fear it will take more than Liberator's switch to being a free online publication to silence the old brute.

Monday

The wireless brings sad news of the death of the composer Ennio Morricone, best known for his theme for the film One Upon a time in Rutland. This was the best known of the ‘pork pie westerns’ that did so much to revive the film industry hereabouts, my own studios included, but by no means the only one. 

The critics also praise 3.10 to Manton Junction, High Leicestershire Drifter and A Bullet for the Lord Lieutenant. Yet it is to Once Upon a Time that I return. Who can forget its opening scene, set at a polling station, where a teller and the presiding officer glare at one another for 40 minutes without dialogue in a dispute over whether the former’s rosette is too large?

At least the government has finally stumped up some cash to keep us arts impresarios in business. This is particularly welcome, as I have had to cancel this summer’s music festival here at the Hall. Over the years this has become something of a fixture in the calendar, featuring such favourite acts as the Clement Davies Group (you must know ‘Keep on Standing’), Norman Baker’s Airforce and Joy Division - what a charming girl she was!

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

Children in care, prisoners of war and modernism in East Farndon

Kiln Yard, East Farndon

East Farndon has no shop, no pub, no school and no post office. There is a church, a village hall and a defibrillator.

Like a lot of village over the Northamptonshire border, you find that the modern main road bypasses its ancient heart. So East Farndon has an impressive hollow way and a Back Lane which is home to some of its most important buildings.

Hollow way, East Farndon

There you will find Farndon Hall, which is too much of a wedding cake for my taste, and The Manor.

Farndon Hall, East Farndon

The Manor, East Farndon

Though it's too secluded to photograph without trespass, you will also find The Limes, which was once a children's home. It was opened in 1912 to house children previously housed in Market Harborough workhouse.

The excellent East Farndon Village website has the memories of one former inmate:
My name is Edward (Teddy) Davis and I arrived at the home at the age of about 4 years, which would be 1943, and I left about 7 years old. I went to school and Sunday school at East Farndon. 
It was a boy’s only home with ages ranging from 4 to 15. The Master of the home was blind. His wife was the Matron. She was a kind lady. We were fed and looked after very well and as long as we behaved, we were not punished. .... 

Each evening just before bedtime we were allowed to listen to “Dick Barton Special agent” on the wireless (very exciting). It used to be in the time slot now occupied by“The Archers”.

Every Saturday morning two of the oldest boys would march us in twos to visit the cinema in Market Harborough to see the children’s matinee, where we would sit and munch our issued 3 digestive biscuits and a handful of penny chews while watching the likes of Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey (Westerns), Tarzan and various cartoons.

Along the journey to Market Harborough was an Italian Prisoner of War camp and we would cross the road to talk to them through the wire fence.
That camp was on Farndon Road in Market Harborough, its site now occupied by the Gracelands mobile home park. No doubt the children found they had much in common with their fellow captives.

St John the Baptist, East Farndon

The elegant St John the Baptist stands on the hill at the top of the village. I didn't look for it on Friday, but close to, on the way to Great Oxendon, is a surprisingly wild area with gorse bushes. But then Northamptonshire can often surprise you: East Farndon has dry stones walls.

Kiln Yard, East Farndon

But the building that impressed me most is the elusive Kiln Yard, built in 1934 in the modernist style and now Listed. The tower was originally unglazed, but that idea did not survive exposure to many British winters.

Like The Lines, Kiln Yard is hard to photograph without tresspass, so I contented myself with catching glimpses of it from unexpected angles.

The village website records that the house was built for Edward Cox, the managing director of  R. & W.H. Symington, the Market Harborough corset makers.

He and his brother were ousted in a 1962 boardroom coup. It should have been an ATV soap opera.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Brian Protheroe: Pinball



I was going to say that this was a hit in 1974, but that would have been generous as it only made number 22 in the UK singles chart. That I have such clear memories of it suggests it received lots of play on Radio 1.

The wonder is that it did so well in the era of glam rock as it has no hooks and lacks even a chorus. I does have a cat though.

But the blogger Jittery White Guy Music likes it:
a simply delightful, understated jazzy pop track; it's entrancing and fascinating, the one song that leaves you wondering why it's not in regular rotation on oldies radio. 
And it still sounds interesting to me too.

Even in 1974 Protheroe was better known as an actor than a musician. A decade later he played Edward IV in three plays in the BBC Television Shakespeare, a major project that somehow failed to fulfil the hopes for it, and he is still working today.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

More praise for The Devil's Crown


Reasoning I could not be the only person with fond memories of the 1978 BBC drama series The Devil's Crown, I took to Google. This is what I found.

There is a whole podcast devoted to the series by The Benji and Nick Show, but it's not very good. It suffers from the common broadcaster's delusion that they are more interesting than their subject matter - it's known as Jonathan Agnew Syndrome - so feel free to skip the first 35 minutes.

The Television Heaven page on The Devil's Crown is better:
It seems to have been a deliberate attempt to copy the I, Claudius formula for success: a basically accurate dramatisation of historical events, albeit with a sensationalist interpretation; a strong cast, even if some of the names were not yet well known; a literate script; and a close eye on the budget. 
While not scaling the heights of I, Claudius, it works well on those terms. It is better drama than the Beeb's earlier historical dramas and better history than its later ones. 
Its greatest strength is its concept, the true story of the early Plantagenet Kings of England, Henry II and his rebellious sons, the 'Devil's Brood.' It is a story so dramatic as to require little sensationalising. Indeed the facts are so astonishing that it is sometimes necessary to be sparing with them in case they seem too unlikely.
Then there's conradbrunstrom:
Yes, two years after I Claudius, the BBC produced another sprawling historical drama about a dynasty with absolutely no moral compass. Like I Claudius, it is studio bound and all the better for it. 
Unlike I Claudius, it has dramatic antecedents in that it’s a pageant play and accordingly makes innovative use of medieval illustrative techniques.  Perspective is several centuries away and everything looks appropriately and decoratively fake.  This is a world without “depth” as we understand it.   This drama thus fulfills my nostalgic need for television drama that aspires to the condition of theatre rather than film.  It is devoted to very twelfth-century aesthetic that is as eerie as it is beautiful.

The Devil’s Crown also anticipates EastEnders in that it depicts the most horrific and dysfunctional family Christmases imaginable.
Most enthusiastic of all is The Venetian Vase:
I would rank The Devil’s Crown among the very best of television dramas that were made in the period. It’s compelling, intriguing and often moving. Brian Cox himself described the show as ‘very ahead of its time’. 
However, there are flaws, and not just the lull in the episodes focusing on Richard which I mentioned. Memorably, all historical TV dramas during this period were shot on set, even the exterior scenes. The BBC just did not have the money to stage big battles or build convincing sets of castles and the like. 
It could lead to some imaginative storytelling as the sets were quite malleable. On being told that Louis VII has married Constance of Castile, Henry, then in Normandy, sees it happening before his eyes on the same set. 
There are downsides. For some outdoor scenes they simply paint the floor green and the walls blue. A modern audience especially might find this jarring. 
The Devil’s Crown may have been commissioned following the success of I Claudius, indeed there are some striking parallels between the two stories. 
A wise and mostly benevolent monarch Henry II/Augustus is undermined during his long reign by his scheming and cunning wife Eleanor of Aquitaine/Livia who strongly favours her son for the succession Richard/Tiberius who ultimately is more suited to soldiering than leadership and has a brief and unhappy reign. The parallels only go so far, however, as Eleanor of Aquitaine is just not as malevolent as the arch-villainess Livia. 
There were several historical dramas made during the period that tried to follow the I Claudius model of political intrigue and murder in a Royal Court. The Borgias and The Cleopatras were both panned for being lurid as they lacked the benevolent central character that Derek Jacobi’s Claudius provided, the stammering, much-mocked boy who grows up to become historian and Emperor. 
The Devil’s Crown also suffers a little in comparison to I Claudius, but ultimately it’s a drama that deserves to be judged on its own merits of which there are many. This is a fascinating rendering of a very complex and brutal period of history. 
I’m delighted to have seen it after first hearing of it a few years ago. It now belongs to television history. I hope that it finally reaches the wider audience it deserves.
You can watch the whole of The Devil's Crown on YouTube and listen to its suitably medieval theme music, recorded off air by the sound of it, above.

J.K.Rowling, Cormoran Strike and Market Harborough's Green Man


I have never been a Harry Potter fan. As I was 37 when the first book was published that is not such a surprise, though I can read other contemporary children's authors with pleasure.

Fantasy literature is more derivative than most genres, but my impression is that Rowling is more derivative than most fantasy writers. And when I open a Harry Potter book at random a cliche generally flies out and hits me.

But there is a major point in her favour.

Her third Cormoran Strike novel has a scene set here in Market Harborough. I quote from StrikeFans.com and Career of Evil:
"The ornate and ages church of St Dionsius rose proudly in the heart of the town, and beside it, in the middle of the central thoroughfare stood a remarkable structure resembling a small timbered house on wooden stilts. 
"Once parking to the rear of the building on stilts, Strike left the car to have a smoke. He observed a plaque that told him the building was an old Grammar School built in 1614. 
"Biblical verses painted in gold ran around the structure. Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
You can see why I struggle with Rowling's prose style.

After their encounter with the Old Grammar School, Strike and companion see out to find the Thai massage parlour in St Mary's Road.

But where exactly is it?

The Tottenham thinks it knows and has posted the picture of a blameless office in St Mary's Road that you see above.

I remember this from when it was briefly a corner shop in the 1990s. More than that, it has appeared on this blog before as the home of Market Harborough's only Green Man.

It makes you think.

The latest (and last) Liberator has landed

Liberator 402 is with subscribers and will be the last printed issue of the magazine.

In future it will be a free online publication. If you sign up to the Liberator mailing list on the magazine's website you will be informed each time a new issue is ready to download.

The new issue quizzes the two Liberal Democrat leadership candidates, while Radical Bulletin will tell you:
  • which Lib Dem MP is supporting the candidate they were bad-mouthing a year ago
  • about ructions in Lib Dem LGBT+
  • what has happened to Your Liberal Britain
We will now take a deep breath before starting a new week of Lord Bonkers' Diary on Monday.

Friday, July 24, 2020

James Fox and Sandy Lieberson on Performance


If there were a world cup of key British films of the Sixties then Performance would meet Blow-Up in the final.

Click on the image above to go to a video on Sotheby's site that features the actor James Fox and producer Sandy Lieberson discussing Performance and Cecil Beaton's arrival on set.

Ed Davey's campaign found to have breached data rules

This statement appeared on the party website yesterday:
Returning Officer's Ruling 23rd July 2020

A complaint has been made by an individual about Ed Davey’s 2020 campaign’s use of data gathered in his 2019 leadership campaign for direct marketing.

The party has taken legal advice and received representations from the campaign. 

The party’s advice concludes that a technical breach has occurred in relation to specific consents. We have advised the campaign of the issues, and have required the campaign to cease using the affected data now and to gain new consents before using it again.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Devil's Crown (1978)


Alex Wilcock has blogged about the 2012 BBC series The Hollow Crown, comparing it with another take on Shakespeare's history plays - An Age of Kings from 1960.

It's a good post and put me in mind of a different television history series: The Hollow Crown. This was broadcast in the spring and summer of 1978.

The Hollow Crown told the story of Henry II and his sons. I remember the studio sets inspired by illuminated manuscripts, complete with their odd sense of perspective, and the wonderful cast.

Henry II was played by Brian Cox, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine by Jane Lapotaiore and their son Richard I by Michael Byrne. Further down the cast list you will find Patrick Troughton, ZoĆ« Wanamaker and Freddie Jones.

Two of the most striking performances were given by actors now likely to be remembered as stalwarts of police series.

Thomas Becket was played with suitable intransigence by Jack Shepherd, later best know for ITV's Wycliffe. In 1978 he was a radical figure and two years before had played the lead role in Bill Brand, a series about an idealistic left-wing Labour MP.

King John was played by John Duttine, later a stolid sergeant in Heartbeat. But here he is an electric figure and was to win a TV Times best actor award for his performance in To Serve Them All My Days in 1980. (There is a good Backlisted podcast about the original novel.)

It being the 1970s, the young Prince Arthur, who meets a particularly horrible end for arguably being the rightful king ahead of John, was played by Simon Gipps-Kent

There is even a Liberal connection. One of the two writers of the Devil's Crown was Ken Taylor, the adoptive father of the former Liberal MP Matthew Taylor.

The Devil's Crown ran to thirteen 55-minute episodes. It was a different world, but you can sample it because the whole series is on Youtube.

Six of the Best 944

"The substantive way to improve lives of working class people is through making their work better-paid and more secure, and to reduce the cost of life’s essentials, such as housing. There is at last some sign that both Conservative and Labour politicians are starting to recognise it (I wish I could say the same for my own Liberal Democrats, who have become something of a middle-class ghetto – though not irretrievably)." Matthew Green says we need to talk about class.

Tom Brake goes back to Russia: "Returning to Moscow last year, over forty years later, jeans were available in all sizes and price ranges, chewing gum could be purchased in every flavour imaginable and the supermarkets were bulging with produce flown in from around the world. What had not altered one iota was the lack of democracy and the Kremlin’s confrontational approach to the West generally, and the UK in particular."

The abuses in Leicester's fast fashion factories were known for years before Covid-19 highlighted them. So why, asks Sam Bright, was nothing done?

If you read the news regularly, you may have noticed that a lot of women die in ‘isolated incidents’. Debbie Cameron argues that they are not isolated at all.

Andy Mitchell uncovers the history of a black athlete in Scotland in the 1870s.

"Paintings in sound, his Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes are infused not only with the Suffolk seascape but also with the sounds of birds, the redshanks and the reed warblers that Britten would have heard on the daily 'composing walks' he took after lunch to reflect on his morning’s work." Marci Meth on Benjamin Britten's debt to the natural world.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

A 1969 film on comedy by Marty Feldman


Marty Feldman conquered radio comedy in the 1960s as one of the two writers of Round the Horne and then television comedy as a performer in his own shows.

He also co-wrote two of the most famous sketches in British television comedy: the Class sketch (with John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett) for The Frost Report and the Four Yorkshiremen sketch for At Last the 1948 Show, which he performed alongside Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Cleese and Graham Chapman 

After that Feldman went into films with diminishing returns. He died 1982 at the age of only 48.

Made in 1969, this film expounds his view of comedy and features contributions from Peter Sellers, Eric Morecambe and Denis Norden among others.

The jazz singer Annie Ross also appears. I watched this film at bedtime last night and when I looked at Twitter in the night I came across this news:

Malcolm Saville identifies the flaw in government plans for a register of foreign spies







Bloomberg reports:
The U.K. could require foreign states to name their spies operating in the country on a government register, under a crackdown being considered by ministers.
It's an interesting idea, but I wonder if those ministers have taken into account this penetrating observation by one of the Morton twins in the final chapter of Mystery at Witchend:
"I say," Dickie broke in, "spies are awful liars aren't they?"

New rewilding network launched


British politicians have been talking about 'the environment' for longer as I have been politically aware, yet there has been a shocking degradation in the number and diversity of species over that period.

So new and radical thinking is needed and here the rewilding movement offers hope.

Today The Ecologist reports:
At least 300,000 acres of land could be "rewilded" in the next three years with the help of a project being launched to tackle the nature and climate crisis, its backers said.

Campaign group Rewilding Britain is launching a network later this year to support and connect people including landowners, farmers, community groups and local authorities who are rewilding land or considering doing so.

Rewilding involves the large-scale restoration of natural habitats and systems to help wildlife thrive, and can include bringing back missing species such as beavers to naturally manage the landscape.
Rewilding is a recognition of the importance of contact with the natural world to human flourishing, which is something that the environmental movement can lose sight of in its emphasis on survival.

The concept can also be applied more widely to take in the need for freedom and re-enchantment - see the Twitter account Rewild the Child for an example.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

From the Judith Stone to Ten Locks Village


I returned from the Judith Stone along a bridleway, which began with views of Market Harborough and a lovely descent through a wood. A couple passed me going uphill and by the time they reached the top they had revealed themselves as spectral.

Then I emerged from the woods into a partially finished housing estate, Ten Locks Village, complete with Covid precautions.

The estate was not on my elderly large-scale map and I had to ask directions to find my way out of it. Eventually I emerged at Fardon Fields Farm Shop.




Thieves steal entire building from sports centre in Hull

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Our Headline of the Day Award goes to Sky News for this sad crime story.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Joan Dowling: A Star in the Making (1947)



Praising the Rank and File British cinema blog last week I mentioned the British actress Joan Dowling, who took her own life at the age of 26.

Since then I have found this Pathe newsreel about her, made when she was 19.

The politics of Stig of the Dump

I've discovered another enjoyable podcast. Each episode of Curiously Specific Book Club, which is presented by Tim Wright and Lloyd Shepherd, takes a humorous look at a single book, looking for textual clues as to exactly where and when it is set.

Their look at Clive King's Stig of the Dump tackles a puzzle common to many children's book. Is it set in the England of the year it was published or the England of the author's childhood?

Wright and Shepherd visit the book's setting and find that changes in land use and ownership have made the friendship between children of different social classes it celebrates much less likely today.

I read Stig of the Dump when I was very young and had completely forgotten its mystical element.

Another edition of the podcast, this one on Muriel Spark's The Ballad of Peckham Rye, reminds us that the Grand Surrey Canal, which linked Peckham and Camberwell with the Surrey Docks, survived into the 1970s.

Lib Dem leadership contenders answer Liberator's questions



Ed Davey and Layla Moran have given their answers to questions asked by Liberator magazine. You can download them from the Liberator website.

While there you can sign up to Liberator's email newsletter. 

The last print issue of Liberator 402 is about to be mailed out and from September the magazine will be available as a free pdf.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Market Harborough to East Farndon to see the Judith Stone


Here are some photos I took on the way to the Judith Stone on Friday. Having checked on Google Street View to make sure there was a pavement all the way to East Farndon, I walked along the Farndon Road.

Then I took the minor road that goes to Lubenham before taking the bridleway that passes through the field where the stone is.

I tried what was meant to be a more adventurous route on the way back.





Phil Simmons at Grace Road


Pleasant memories can suddenly resurface too.

Listening to Test Match Special this afternoon I remembered seeing Phil Simmons, now manager of the West Indies team, playing for Leicestershire playing at Grace Road. That dates the memory to between 1994 and 1998.

Simmons was one of a group of Leicestershire players practising their slip catching before play. One chance went right through him and I was impressed that, rather than look around for someone less important to do it for him, he jogged to the boundary to fetch the ball.

It had arrived right in front of me, and as he retrieved it Simmons raised his eyes in an exaggerated way as if to say "Fancy missing a sitter like that."

I have also have pleasant memories of poor Chris Lewis at Grace Road. You don't often see an England player in the nets with a queue of boys waiting to bowl to him.

Chris Leslie joins the bailiffs

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Sitting on the front bench, Tony Blair surveyed the massed ranks of his parliamentary intake and then lent over to Gordon Brown.
"It’s weird,” he said "but there’s a guy back there who’s the splitting image of the boy who does your photocopying." 
"That is him,” Brown replied. “He’s your new MP for Shipley."
That boy was Chris Leslie. So good was his photocopying that he was parachuted into the safe seat of Nottingham East after he lost Shipley and eventually became Ed Miliband's shadow chancellor.

Then he left Labour to join The Independent Group and scorned any thought of an electoral pact with the Greens or Liberal Democrats:
He said a tie-up with other pro-EU parties "wasn't ever on the agenda", adding: "I don't think it will ever be likely because we are starting something new. We are not joining the Liberal Democrats or the Green Party."

Instead, Mr Leslie urged Lib Dem members to switch allegiance and join Change UK, saying the "emergency situation" of Brexit required "a completely fresh overhaul of the centre-ground".
As it turned out, neither Leslie nor his new party, with its ever-changing name, proved attractive to Nottingham East's voters. In last year's general election he finished fourth with 3.6 per cent of the vote.

Now he has emerged as the new chief executive of the trade body for the debt collection industry, the Credit Services Association.

Brynley Heaven, who once wrote a guest post for Liberal England, comments on Twitter:

The Tremeloes: Call Me Number One


The assembled crowd looks singularly unimpressed, perhaps because the band's instruments aren't plugged in, but The Tremeloes reached number two in the UK singles chart with this in 1969.

I detect the influence of The Beatles here, which is ironic. In 1962 Decca signed Brian Poole and The Tremeloes in preference to the lovable mop tops.

Later. I meant to add that I recall a Where Are They Now? programme from 1973 which showed Brian Poole working as a butcher. His Wikipedia entry suggests he was still involved with the music business too.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire villages in 1936


Click on the still above to view this film on the British Film Institute site:
With every spare inch of his travelling hardware van packed with useful items Ken Hollingsworth takes to the road from the Long Eaton Co-operative store following a circular route through South Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. Film maker J.H. Poyser takes the journey in the passenger seat capturing rural lanes teaming with more cows than traffic and an eager public ready to buy everything from chimney brushes to clothes airers.

J.H. Poyser filmed a series of promotionial and educational films for the Long Eaton Co-operative Society. A helpful map traces the route taken by the hardware van from Long Eaton via Castle Donington, Diseworth, Long Whatton, Sutton Bonington, West Leake, Kingston on Soar, East Leake, Gotham, Barton in Fabis, Thrumpton, Ratcliffe on Soar, Kegworth, Lockington, Hemington and back over the River Trent to Long Eaton. This is an area that has drastically altered over the years as a result of new road building, including the A453 Nottingham to Kegworth road and the route of the M1 motorway.

The right looks for converts: the left looks for traitors

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You don't have to be active in British politics for long before you recognise the truth of this quotation:
The right looks for converts: the left looks for traitors.
Today, for instance, Twitter is full of left-wingers crowing about the redundancies at the Guardian because they believe the paper did not do enough to boost the saintly Jeremy Corbyn.

You even see this attitude in Liberal Democrat Twitter, which is strange given how inchoate the party's philosophy is.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson is showering Labour Leavers with peerages.

But where does the quotation come from?

Duncan Hill has kindly directed me to a blog post by Tom Maguire, who had asked just this question:
John Leo, columnist for US News and World Report (and proud possessor of a link from Matt Drudge, no less), was kind enough to send me an e-mail assuring me that the original source is Michael Kinsley. Apparently, Mr. Leo included the line in a Nov. 26, 1990 column rounding up the best aphorisms of the year. He also is kind enough to tell me that the correct quotation is:

"Conservatives are always looking for converts, whereas liberals are always looking for heretics."

Apparently Mr. Leo complained in his original column that he did not like the "whereas"; I'm with him.
I am with him too. The formulation people have settled on is more elegant.

You can read more from Michael Kinsley on his website.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Judith Stone near East Farndon


The Judith Stone stands, or squats, in a field near East Farndon, a Northamptonshire village to the south of Market Harborough in peril of being absorbed into Market Harborough. They call it Little Bowden Syndrome.

Geologists maintain that it is a glacial erratic - a stone differing in size and type from those found in the area because a retreating glacier left it there when the Ice Age went out of fashion.

Historians say Judith was a niece of William the Conqueror and was granted land hereabouts. And. as a local landmark, the stone was used as a boundary marker.

I visited it decades ago and was back there again today. I found the East Farndon Psychogeographical Society (Ovine Division) holding a meeting when I arrived. 

Could I arrange for Iain Sinclair to come and address them? they asked. Or maybe John Rogers?

I also found that some joker had left a slice of  a quartzite rock next to it.


Raspberry blower is ejected from Cullompton council meeting







In Your Area wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Dame Judi Dench backs struggling Twycross Zoo


For the first time, our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Hinckley Free Press.

The judges are well aware that it's many years since Twycross chimps appeared in the PG Tips commercials.

Andy Burnham peddles an absurd view of the North


It's been floated by Boris Johnson, so there will be no more substance to it than there was to his bridge over this Irish Sea, but I like the idea of moving the House of Lords to York.

York is a wonderful historic city and the upper house should be elected from the nations and regions and meet well away from London.

Not everyone is happy with the idea:

At least Morrell Professor Emerita in Political Philosophy Sue Mendus, who taught me at the University of York many years ago, put Burnham right.

Burnham has always traded on being from the North of England, but this is not the first time he has adopted a view of the region that accords with the most ignorant Southerner's stereotype of it.

In the Greater Manchester mayoral election he tweeted:

Fortunately, this fantasy North of Burnham's that lacks historic buildings or coffee shops has little to do with the real thing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Working boats on Black Country canals in 1965


Beautiful footage of commercial canal traffic on the Birmingham Canal Navigation in 1965, some of it horse drawn, which features railways and industrial desolation too.

If you enjoy this, look at the canal trip from Berkhamsted to Aylesbury I posted the other day and also at the 1967 television series Flower of Gloster.

York residents continue to find big food as woman ‘shocked’ by huge crisp











Not for the first time, the York daily paper The Press wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Six of the Best 943

"People can privately believe what they like but we have to be very careful who we publicly associate ourselves with - especially when gifts and donations are concerned." Andrew Page says Liberal Democrats should have no connection with those who advocate conversion therapy for LGBT+ people.

Amy Clarke on the need to challenge those who blame Leicester's Covid-19 lockdown on minority communities.

James Harper believes that "The government’s recent proposal to suspend jury trials is a potential threat to the Rule of Law – i.e. a legal system that treats everyone equally and which you can access, no matter who you are."

If we can rewild river catchments and floodplains we can ease some of the severity of flooding, argues Rewilding Britain.

Isle of Dogs - Past Life, Past Lives has some wonderful photographs from the 1960s.

"Drake sold so few records in his lifetime he was scarcely a professional threat, but his blank immunity to approval and his unshowy refusal to compromise presented a form of unspoken challenge to Martyn, who affected not to care about such things but probably in the end cared too much." Graeme Thomson has written a book about the friendship between Nick Drake and John Martyn.