Sunday, February 28, 2021

Rosalind Franklin and Herbert Samuel feature in Trivial Connection of the Day

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Because of sexism and her early death, it took years for the contribution of Rosalind Franklin to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA to be properly acknowledged.

Her latest posthumous accolade is our prestigious Trivial Connection of the Day Award, because Franklin's great uncle was the Liberal Party leader Herbert Samuel.

Cupid's Inspiration: Yesterday Has Gone

Here's a song that anyone who likes sixties music will know, even if many will be pushed to remember which band had a hit with it.

Yesterday Has Gone was originally recorded by Little Anthony and the Imperials, though the strong vocal by Terry Rice-Milton makes it reasonable to prefer this cover version.

What really interests me about Cupid's Inspiration is that they came from one of my favourite nearby towns: Stamford in Lincolnshire.

And to prove it, here is a 2019 story from the Stamford Mercury:

Original members of the Sixties band Cupid's Inspiration are returning to their roots with a show at Stamford Corn Exchange Theatre.

Lead singer Terry Rice-Milton and bass guitarist Laughton James will take to the stage with a new line-up as part of the Sixties Invasion show.

The Stamford-based band shot to fame in 1968 when their hit Yesterday's Gone reached number four in the charts. Their follow up song My World reached number 33 a few months later.

The band has performed on and off with various line ups over the years but as a Stamfordian Terry is looking forward to playing again in his home town.

He said: "It means a lot to come back. A couple of years ago I remember pulling up at the traffic lights and hearing someone shout my name.

"It's strange to still be recognised after 50 years!"

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Six of the Best 996

Sally Dawson pays tribute to Maureen Colquhoun, Britain’s first openly lesbian MP, who died earlier this month. She sat for Northampton North between February 1974 and 1979.

The coming Holyrood elections should be about the life draining from Scotland's hills and glens and the need for rewilding, argues Adam Ramsay.

"Politically speaking, Popper had lived through much. He had seen the dissolution of the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy. He was part of the subsequent intellectual revolution that, among other things, produced the Vienna Circle, of which he was a peripheral part. He witnessed first-hand the rise of the Nazis and, with equal dismay, the rise of Communism." David Cohen remembers Karl Popper.

Caitlin Green looks at the evidence that there were people named Muhammad in medieval England.

Adam Chapman studies an apparently innocent landscape by Ronald Lampitt and finds a wealth of information about the changes to British agriculture after the second world war.

"If Leeds was somewhere to escape from then the Yorkshire Dales were somewhere to escape to. Jake Thackray’s Swaledale was similar to James Joyce’s Dublin: a quasi-magical place rooted in a real geography containing the world’s multitudes." Will Ainsley celebrates the genius of Jake Thackray.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

From Wagner to Kim Philby: Meet the Comyns Carrs

The other day I told the story about Sir Arthur Comyns Carr and the 1958 Liberal Party Assembly. Newly elected as the party’s president, he had expressed his intention not to say anything that might exacerbate tensions in China.

Sir Arthur deserves to be remembered for more than that. He stood for parliament many times and his one victory saw him sitting for Islington East between 1923 and 1924. His last contest was at Shrewsbury in 1945, where he captured a quarter of the votes cast.

Wikipedia says that hi expertise in National Insurance led him to co-author a book on the subject in 1912 to which David Lloyd George wrote the preface. He was a member of the Liberal land inquiry committee of 1912 and also sat on the land acquisition committee in 1917.

Outside politics he was a prosecutor in the trials of German and Japanese war criminals after the second world war, and it was for this that he was knighted for this work in 1949. And long before that his cross-examination in a libel case speeded the downfall of the corrupt Liberal MP Horatio Bottomley.

But then the Comyns-Carrs are an interesting family all round. Arthur’s father was Joseph Comyns Carr, a drama and art critic, gallery director, author, poet, playwright and theatre manager. Wikipedia describes him as “a vigorous advocate for Pre-Raphaelite art and a vocal critic of the "short-sighted" art establishment”.

As an adviser to the Royal Opera House, he was responsible for the first English performance of Parsifal.

Arthur’s son Richard worked for MI5 in the same section as Graham Greene, overseen by Kim Philby. His wife, a writer who published under the name Barbara Comyns, explained that this association did little for Richard’s career:

Comyns claimed that MI6 dropped her husband in 1955 because of his association with Philby … : “Oh Kim was a delightful man. So funny. Always here playing cards. Neither of us had a notion! When he disappeared – to Moscow, you know – they sacked my husband. They said that either he must have known and therefore was a traitor, or that he hadn’t spotted it and therefore must have been a fool.”

And, in an essay on Boundless, Lucy Scholes celebrates “The forgotten genius of Barbara Comyns”:

With every new reissue of her novels, the ranks of dedicated Comyns fans swell and strengthen, proof that it’s little more than a stroke of bad luck that so much of her work languishes for the most part unknown. She’s an author of rare genius, ripe for rediscovery, her novels not so much a gentle breath of fresh air, but rather a chilling, bracing blast.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Listen to Timothy Garton Ash on saving liberalism

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On Opinion, the Parlia podcast, talks to  Timothy Garton Ash about the state of liberalism - its past failings, the threats it faces from Left and Right today, and whether it can be rebuilt for the 21st Century.

He argues that liberalism is to blame for its troubles - over-exporting free-market ideas, and under investing in culture, community and politics in a world of massive, destabilising change. He argues for a “conservative-socialist-Liberalism” - a civic patriotism focused on the common good deeply embedded in national communities.

On the back of his recent manifesto for liberalism’s renewal in Prospect magazine, he discusses:

  • Whether liberalism can survive in the 21st Century
  • Whether Joe Biden’s America can still hope to lead the "free world"
  • The demise of liberal ideas in the student body
  • Equality of esteem alongside economic security
  • Levelling up (Dahrendorf’s idea of the "common floor") vs levelling down
  • Civic virtue
  • Patriotism vs nationalism
Liberalism is certainly in need of saving, and Garton Ash offers an interesting agenda to take that effort forward.

Desborough and the railway

A charming video from Stephen Richards.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Norman Baker on the rural buses

The former Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker turned up in an item on rural bus services on Farming Today last week - the item starts at 6:05.

Now the adviser to the Campaign for Better Transport, Norman calls for a reform of the funding of bus services to prevent further cuts.

St Leonards man told to take down ‘Eiffel Tower’ in front garden - pictures






The Hastings & St Leonards Observer wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Six of the Best 995

Martin Barrow argues that the privatisation of children’s services is bad for children and bad for taxpayers.

Charlie Brooker and Adam Curtis discuss Curtis' new six-part BBC series 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World'.

"In the suburbs of Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia, the problem isn't that the children do not play in their front yards; the problem is that they don't even play in their backyards. And it is not because those backyards are unsafe but because their parents could be deemed 'neglectful' simply for allowing their children to go outside beyond their direct purview." Bridget Foley says childhood independence is on the verge of extinction in America.

Tim Dee celebrates the achievements of the environmental writer Richard Mabey.

"We had Moore, Hurst and Peters at their peak and the incomparable Gordon Banks in goal. Extravagant young talents like Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson and Charlie George were also on tap, so what could possibly go wrong?" Brian Penn looks back at England's failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup.

Robert Andrews on the hunt for the medieval façade of Wakefield's bridge chapel.

John Rogers on London’s Little Italy and the Legends of Islington

John Rogers describes this walk on YouTube:

A walk through London's Little Italy up to the fields of Islington, starting at Chancery Lane Station on High Holborn. We go into the curious anomaly of Ely Place, owned by the Bishops of Ely and once technically part of Cambridgeshire. We visit the Old Mitre Pub where Sir Christopher Hatton danced with Elizabeth I. 

The walking tour goes along Hatton Garden, the centre of Britain's diamond trade, and into Leather Lane Market. The walk through Little Italy takes us in search of Fagin's den in Saffron Hill, a place visited by Charles Dickens who drank in the One Tun pub. We walk along Hatton Wall into Portpool Lane where the Kings Ditch ran and through the Bourne Estate.

The heart of London's Little Italy lay in the streets falling away from Clerkenwell Road into the Fleet Valley - Back Hill, Eyre Street Hill, Herbal Hill. From here we go up Crawford Passage to Coldbath Square and Mount Pleasant. We stroll through Spa Fields - now Exmouth Market and Wilmington Square where Merlin was said to have a cave in the heart of the hill. The Merlin's Cave Tavern stood in Merlin House on the site of Charles Rowan House. 

Next we walk through Lloyd Square to Percy Circus where Lenin stayed in 1905. Back on Amwell Street we recount E.O Gordon's powerful mythology of London at the head of the Pen Ton Mound, now the New River Head Upper Reservoir on Claremont Square. Passing down Penton Street our walk ends at White Conduit House, once a celebrated pleasure garden and the true home of cricket.

Thirty years ago Liberator was put together on a Saturday and the day began with a cooked breakfast at a cafe in Leather Lane. Those were the days.

John has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Leicester's Home for Penitent Females has been listed

Good news from The Victorian Society:

Following an application by the Leicester Group of the Victorian Society, Historic England have recognised the importance of the former “Home for Penitent Females” on Stoneygate Road in Leicester by granting it Grade II listed status.

You can read more about the Home on this blog.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Sir Arthur Comyns-Carr and the coast of China

Plashing Vole has fun with the reduced standing of the Liberal Democrats:

Which reminds me of a story about an old Liberal Party assembly.

Here is Paddy Ashdown telling it in his leader's speech to our 1993 spring conference:

It is almost exactly forty years ago that David Steel’s predecessor, Foreign Affairs Spokesman Sir Arthur Comyns-Carr QC, complete in wing collar and side-boots, opened his speech at the Liberal Assembly here in Torquay with the immortal words…

‘I do not wish to say anything which might endanger the security of Quemoy and Matsu off the coast of China.’

But in 1993 we could smile at the Liberal Party of the 1950s. Because Paddy went on to observe:

Well I hope that the large number of foreign diplomats and visitors we have at our Conference today is an indication that what we say today is perhaps taken rather more seriously.

I doubt we will have many diplomates present when the Lib Dems are again able to hold a traditional party conference. We are closer to the Liberal Party of the 1950s than we care to admit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Island Gardens and North Greenwich: Two abandoned stations in the same place

Another engaging video from Jago Hazzard. He has a Patreon, you know.

I have clear memories of the original Island Gardens station from delivering for the Liberals in a controversial Isle of Dogs by-election.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Why everyone hated Don Revie's Leeds

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I have been reading The Bonnie Prince - the autobiography of my first footballing hero Charlie Cooke. No replica kits in those days: my Mum just sewed a number 7 on to the back of a plain blue football shirt and I was him.

Cooke was a key member of the Chelsea side that beat Leeds United in the 1970 FA Cup final replay. And in his book he explains one reason why there was such an edge to the tie:

We seethed at Leeds's referee intimidation, endless whining and gamesmanship, which they had raised to an art from in the last few years under Don Revie. It would be an exaggeration, but not a big one, to say we definitely felt we had right on our side. 

Bremner and Giles, both small guys, and Hunter in the middle of the field were involved just about every stoppage and argument and hissy fit there was. It was like clockwork. 

The ref would make a decision, it would be disputed, and he would suddenly be surrounded by a bunch of white shirts, almost always including a bleating Bremner, Giles and Hunter, and sometimes, when he thought they needed some assistance, Big Jack Charlton, with his pointy elbows and towering presence, the veins bulging in his long neck. 

It was understandable that referees got worn down by it. They all did, eventually. It's only human.

The photo above shows Peter Osgood scoring Chelsea's equaliser in the Old Trafford replay. His diving header was made after a wonderful chip by Charlie Cooke.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Six of the Best 994

The Liberal Democrats are making the same mistake that doomed the Liberals a century ago, argues Nick Barlow.

Ian Dunt says liberals can redefine national pride and reclaim the flag from nationalists: "Liberal patriotism ... It starts and ends with the individual. It is a personal love story which springs from within, not a slab of uniformity imposed from above. It therefore cares about every individual in the country."

Dominic Dyer on the politics of the badger cull.

"Next Thursday 18 February 2021, it will have been eight years since the town walls fell at the back of St Laurence’s. There is no sign of the repairs beginning this year." Andy Boddington suggests Ludlow’s collapsed town wall should be registered as a Monumental Failure and become a tourist attraction.

Chris Orton offers an appreciation of Moondial, the BBC children's drama series from 1988: "Children’s drama in this era was thought-provoking and intelligent, with real care and attention made during the productions. The BBC seemed to go to great lengths to produce high quality programmes that made children think, entertained them and which didn’t belittle them."

"She loved to perch herself on or near a windowsill, surveying the outdoors for hours. It strikes me now how quintessentially feline that behaviour is: a docile carnivore balanced on the border of a human home, alone and content, yet with all its senses tuned to the world beyond." Ferris Jabr asks if cats are really domesticated.

£1.85m restoration for railway viaduct between Porthmadog and Minffordd

Rail Advent reports:

Network Rail has announced that restoration work on the Traeth Mawr Viaduct begun on Saturday 13th February.

As part of a multi-million project to upgrade the Cambrian Line, Network Rail has chosen Traeth Mawr to help improve the overall line.

The work will take place over a nine-day closure of the railway.

Work will include the replacement of wooden timbers, which Network Rail says is the main priority.

And why am I passing this on? Because I once got eaten alive by mosquitos taking a photo of this very viaduct, that's why.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary from the February 2021 Liberator

Liberator 405 - the February 2021 issue - has been posted on the magazine's website.

So it's time to enjoy Lord Bonkers' latest diary.

Ignorance indignantly pointed out that he had come second in Committee Room Theory and Practice only last term

You will by now have read of my detention by the police of Atherton, CA, on Christmas morning: I will admit that if the Attorney General of California had not turned out to an old golfing chum of the Governor of New Rutland then things might have got distinctly hairy for your humble diarist. So let me take a little time to explain what led to this unfortunate incident.

Some of my oldest friends and I have for some time been concerned for what, at the risk of sounding high falutin’, one might term Nick Clegg’s immortal soul. From having served the noble cause of Liberalism he has turned to the dark side and now serves Mammon. I do not have the Facebook, but I am told it is where the planet’s bad hats and ne’er-do-wells congregate to plot their mischief – and the aforementioned Clegg makes a good screw from promoting it.

After reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (surely he is our greatest novelist?) I hit upon the idea of staging an intervention. I would see to it that the ghosts of Liberalism Past, Liberalism Present and Liberalism Future appeared to Clegg on the night of Christmas Eve, leaving him feeling pretty small and open to being won back by the forces of light. I rather hoped, for instance, that he might volunteer to take on one of the more challenging Focus rounds in the Bonkers Hall ward.

So it was that my party took the red-eye from Rutland International Airport to San Francisco while the rest of the nation was watching Christmas movies on their electric televisions. With me were Meadowcroft and two Well-Behaved Orphans, along with some gamekeepers to help with scenery changes and a few of the Elves of Rockingham Forest to provide ghostly music. “We call them ‘Aeolian cadences’” one of them replied sniffily when I mentioned this. 

In retrospect, it was a mistake to allow Meadowcroft to dress up as the ghost of Liberalism Past: I should have stuck with my original plan of playing the part myself and quoting extensively from the speeches of William Ewart Gladstone. (I should have steered clear of the works of T.H. Green as they would only have sent Clegg back to sleep.) For as soon as Meadowcroft set eyes on Clegg, far from presenting tableaux of our party’s history, he shouted “You be the young varmint who incinemerated my little darlin’s” and went at him with an orchard doughty that he had somehow smuggled through customs. He was referring to an unfortunate incident in which a teenaged Clegg set fire to the glasshouse at the Hall which housed Meadowcroft’s cherished collection of cacti – the old boy had gathered them in the arid south of Rutland on his days off. Well, he had Clegg double digging for a year to pay for the damage, but I suspect a youth from the wrong side of the GNR&LNWR Joint would have been off to the Jack Straw Memorial Reform School before his trainers touched the ground.

It may have been at that point that Miriam called the feds, but our next scene was not a success either. I had intended to bring home to Clegg the importance of spending on education and social welfare by having Well-Behaved Orphans labelled ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Want’ appear before him. When it came to it, however, Ignorance indignantly pointed out that he had come second in Committee Room Theory and Practice only last term and was still doing so when the rozzers called a halt to proceedings. So it was off to the hoosegow for all of us.

******

Little has changed in my absence: the village is still under lockdown, with the Bonkers’ Arms presenting a particularly sad picture. How I miss its windows glowing with light and the sound of merry chatter! If it weren’t for the secret passage from the Hall that emerges in the pub’s cellar, where I occasionally enjoy a Rutland egg – and you can’t get a more substantial meal than that – and a pint of Smithson & Greaves Norther Bitter, I would feel far more despondent. I am bearing the closure of St Asquith’s, however, with fortitude.

******

A quiet day in my Library, looking over my precious collection of Classical Latin manuscripts. You will be familiar with the story about Caligula making his horse a senator, but you will never have seen one of the Focus leaflets the horse put out. They reveal that he was assiduous at carrying out casework, while his slogan “It’s a One-Horse Race” show a sharp mind for electoral tactics. So those modern historians who suggest that by bestowing a high public office on his horse, Caligula was showing his underlings that their work was so meaningless an animal could do it, have got it entirely wrong. Incidentally, one of my own horses was once elected to Market Harborough Rural District Council after agreeing to stand as a paper candidate. While I will admit to putting out a leaflet in his name, I suspect his election had more to do with the racing tips he supplied to anyone who stopped by his field for a chat.

******

This morning, still recovering from my West Coast adventures, I walked by the shore of Rutland Water and was rewarded with one of nature’s most remarkable phenomena. All at once the surface of the lake was boiling with fish. They danced upon their tales, clapped one another on the back and sang in joyful voices. For Rutland fish are happy fish, perhaps most of all because no foreign trawler has ever found its way here from the North Sea. It is a difficult passage and not one to be attempted without first engaging the services of an experienced pilot. I imagine the prospect of being caught and eaten is no more attractive than that of being imprisoned while wearing an orange jump suit, so I joined the fishy chorus to celebrate my deliverance.

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

Monday, February 08, 2021

Man found naked in car tells police he went out to buy wet wipes and got lost

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The Leicester Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Simon and Garfunkel: My Little Town


This single from 1975 is something of an oddity. Simon and Garfunkel had not recorded together for three years and My Little Town was not to appear on an album until the late 1990s.

Wikipedia quotes Paul Simon on the genesis of the song:
"It originally was a song I was writing for Artie. I was gonna write a song for his new album, and I told him it would be a nasty song, because he was singing too many sweet songs. It seemed like a good concept for him."
Maybe Simon was getting a bit old for this sort of adolescent angst, but My Little Town still sounds good.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Lord Bonkers 30 years ago: Christmas Eve at St Asquith's

Liberator used to appear eight times a year, which meant that some months saw an issue and others did not. As there was no January Liberator in 1991, it was February that saw Lord Bonkers looking back on Christmas at the Hall.

Incidentally, Liberator is now a free online publication, appearing every two months.

Christmas Eve

To St Asquith's for the Festival of Lessons and Carols. I am sure that I speak for many when I say that I do not regard the festive season as truly having begun until I have heard the tremulous voice of a choirboy singing the opening verse of "Lloyd George Knew My Father".

With the afternoon sunshine illuminating the window depicting The Annunciation of Sir Archibald Sinclair, the old place has never looked finer, but the expense of maintaining the fabric remains a fearful burden.

Once we would meet the cost by the occasional sale of a stalwart member of the Church Ladies' Circle in the slave markets of the Levant; it is a mark of the success of Liberal social legislation that today we must rely upon the humble round of rummage sales and beetle drives.

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

Friday, February 05, 2021

Six of the Best 993

Chris Grey has good news: Brexit is coming apart at the seams.

"It’s been more than 100 years since the Commons took away the power of the unelected Lords to block legislation. Yet, here we are, still with an entirely unelected second chamber despite decades of tinkering. Johnson’s largesse would make a Renaissance pope blush (Ian Botham, for services for Brexit; Evgeny Lebedev, for services to lavish parties; and his own brother, for services to Johnsons)," George Chesterton says Britain's absurdly undemocratic second chamber needs urgent attention.

How are children coping with school closures? Surprisingly well, finds Peter Gray: "Forty-nine per cent of the children agreed with the statement, “I have been more calm than I was in regular school,” and only 25 per cent disagreed."

Sue Brunning looks at how The Dig compares to the momentous excavation at Sutton Hoo.

J.D. Collins rescues Nineties favourite 2point4 Children from the realm of cosy sitcom blandness to explore its supernatural undercurrents and brooding production values.

The LNER and Great Central used to cross on the level at Retford. Signalboxes,com has pictures of the building of the Great Central's dive under between 1963 and 1965, which meant heavily laden coal trains no longer had to cross the King's Cross main line.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

The mouse and the umpire: Mortimer Also by Jo Rice

Long ago, I heard a book called Mortimer Also read on Jackanory.

Jackanory? It was a television programme in which someone sat down and read you a story. No animation. No special effects. Just a few illustrations if you were lucky.

Mortimer Also concerned a test match umpire and a mouse who lived in his cottage. The umpire did not want anyone to know his eyesight was failing, so the mouse would sit on his head, peer out through a hole in his panama and yank his hair to signal whether or not to give a close lbw appeal.

I know would be too far-fetched for today’s children. Just imagine: an umpire standing in a test in his home country!

But it was a lovely story and it introduced me to Francis Thompson’s poem At Lord's:

For the field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast,
And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost,
And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host
As the run-stealers flicker to and fro, To and fro:
O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!

One of the eerie things about the Internet is the way it allows you to recover your childhood.

Thanks to the IMDB I can tell you that I heard Mortimer Also read on Jackanory by Harry Fowler in May 1969. Fowler had made a good living playing chirpy cockney evacuees in 1940s films, but his acting career never really took off after that.

And thanks to eBay, I now have my open copy of the book. It was written by Jo Rice and illustrated by David Knight.

Extensive research (reading the blurb on the book’s jacket) suggests that Jo Rice was a woman and thus probably not the Jonathan “Jo” Rice who has written many cricket books and is the brother of Sir Tim Rice.

One other point: trawling the further recesses of the Internet reveals that Jackanory repeated “Mortimer Also” in July 1971.

It is notable that this page tell you: "Next week: The Village That Slept with Rosalie Crutchley."

Children’s television in the early seventies was a lot racier than people imagine.

******

This post first appeared on The Corridor, where Tim Rice's brother left a comment confirming that he was not the author of Mortimer Also.

A blog post on Ramblings on my bookshelves suggests the story was inspired by the 1961 Ashes series in England and that Graham McKenzie and Ted Dexter appear in it as lightly fictionalised characters.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Highbury Fields forever

John Rogers writes on YouTube:

This walk from East to North London starts on Homerton High Street. We take a look at the Tudor Sutton House built in 1535, before walking through St. John's Gardens to Hackney Central. Along Mare Street we ay homage to the Hackney Empire, designed by Frank Matcham in 1901 as a Music Hall. Our walk takes up Graham Road to Ridley Road Market, Dalston and then along Kingsland Road to the Rio Cinema. 

Next we go up John Campbell Road and Mildmay Road to Newington Green where we look at Richard Price's Unitarian Chapel built in 1701. From here we pass along Ferntower Road to Petherton Road where the New River runs beneath a green strip of land running along the middle of the street. Highbury New Park takes us to Highbury Grove and we turn up Baalbec Road to Highbury Place. Highbury Fields is one of my favourite spots in London, a beautiful open space covering a high ridge of land which was once known for its springs and conduits. 

We walk around Highbury Fields contemplating the possibility that the name suggests that this was once the location of an ancient burial mound or barrow given that the area was previously known as Newington Barrow. Our walk ends at Highbury Barn at the site of the former pleasure garden famed for its milk, custards, and concerts.

John has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Barney Gibson, the first-class cricketer who played his last game aged 15

Who is the youngest player to appear in first-class cricket in England?

The answer is Barney Gibson, who kept wicket for Yorkshire against Durham MCCU in April 2011 at the age of 15 years and 27 days. 

I marked the occasion with a post on the long-defunct cricket blog The Corridor, but nothing has been heard of Gibson since.

Thanks to a Cricketer article by Nick Friend we now know what happened to him. He chose "enjoyment and freedom".

As a boy and young teenager he was on the books of both Yorkshire as a wicketkeeper and Leeds United as a goalkeeper:

"I don’t think I realised how much I wasn’t enjoying it until I didn’t have to go to training, until I didn’t have to put in the extra hours, which at one point was something that I really wanted to do. It wasn’t until I’d done it and it had taken its toll that I realised how much hard work does go into being a professional athlete."

As a teenager ... his entire existence had been devoted to academy sport until the moment he decided it was no longer for him. So much so that it was all he knew and all his family could foresee. Having started so young, it was engrained in him.

"It wasn’t until I got to the age of 18 that I asked myself: 'Is this what I’m going to be doing forever?'" Gibson recalls. "I think it was just a case of no longer enjoying what I used to wake up looking forward to doing every day."

Good for him.

Just because you are good at something, you don't have to do it. And there may be lessons here about the pressures we put on talented young athletes at a ridiculously early age.

Disused railway stations in Rutland


There used to be a county-by-county series of videos like this on YouTube. I suspect that this is one of them. 

It has now reappeared on Dailymotion.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

£2m centrepiece of Henry VIII’s lost crown found in field near Market Harborough

Exciting news from the Tudor and Stuart correspondent of The Sun:

The centrepiece of Henry VIII’s lost crown has been found under a tree by an amateur treasure hunter.

Kevin Duckett ended a 400-year-old mystery when he dug up the solid gold figurine in a Northamptonshire field.

The 2½in-high, inch-wide piece, one of five on the Tudor crown, is now at the British Museum and could be worth £2million.

Experts say the find is one of the most significant by an amateur.

The field in question is at Little Oxendon, which is only a mile or so south of Market Harborough.]

Henry's crown survived until the Civil War, when parliament gave orders for it to be broken up, sold off and melted down.

Enticingly, it is on the route that Charles I took after fleeing his defeat at Naseby, which makes one speculate that he, or at least his retinue, lost or hid the jewel on that flight.

It is also on the route to Tur Langton, where legend has it that Charles watered his horse as he fled. You can see a rare 17th-century photograph of him doing so at the head of this post.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Six of the Best 992

"A bill for the compulsory sterilisation of certain categories of 'mental patient' was proposed, with the Labour MP Archibald Church wanting to stop the reproduction of those 'who are in every way a burden to their parents, a misery to themselves and in my opinion a menace to the social life of the community'." Stephen Unwin explores how some of our most civilised and intelligent thinkers have supported eugenics.

Jennifer Quellette uses insights from the study of folklore to reveal how conspiracy theories emerge.

The Antipope of Mar-a-Lago: Michael Kruse on hat a medieval religious schism can teach us about Donald Trump’s unprecedented and radically antagonistic approach to the ex-presidency.

Chris Heather and Andrew Munro look into the accidental death of an aristocrat near Manton Junction in 1902.

Adam Scovell goes in search of locations from the James Fox and Mick Jagger film Performance.

Can you name the debut novel, originally published in Britain in September 1965, that became a more or less immediate best seller, and the fans of which included Noël Coward, Daphne du Maurier, John Gielgud, Fay Weldon, David Storey, Margaret Drabble, and Doris Lessing? The answer to this question from Lucy Scholes is "Irene Handl."

A Leicestershire man led the prosecution of Charles I

Charles I was executed on 3o January 1649. His prosecution on charges of tyranny and treason was led by the solicitor general John Cook.

Cook was a Leicestershire man. His parents had a farm near Burbage and he was christened at All Saints, Husbands Bosworth.

After the restoration, Cook was prosecuted and publicly executed as a regicide. 

Shortly before his death he wrote to his wife Mary:

We fought for the public good and would have enfranchised the people and secured the welfare of the whole groaning creation, if the nation had not more delighted in servitude than in freedom.

The trouble was Charles I was that he would not or could not admit that he had been defeated. 

I suspect parliament would have been happy to see him live quietly as a country gentleman, but it was obvious that, as long as Charles was alive, he was going to scheme with any force, at home or overseas, that might bring about his return to the throne.

So Cromwell's "cruel necessity" was about right.

Read Martin Crookall on Malcolm Saville's children's fiction

It turns out I'm not the only blogger who retains an affection for Malcolm Saville's Lone Pine stories.

But Martin Crookall has been far more systematic about his enthusiasm than I ever have. He has written individual posts about each book in Saville's three main series: not just the Lone Pine Club, but also the Jillies and the Buckinghams.

He is never less than interesting on these books: here he is on the penultimate Lone Pine story, Where's My Girl?, and the decline of this flagship series:

En route to the station in London, the Mortons are held up by a jewellery robbery, by an armed gang, who shoot a policeman (not fatally) and a bystander, almost under the Twins’ noses, an incident that scares and subdues them, and leaves David rattled too. And what nobody knows yet is that King’s Holt is one of the centres for smuggling guns into the country, for sale or hire to increasingly violent criminals.

It doesn’t fit. There’s nothing especially noticeable that suggests Saville’s heart isn’t really in it, but after such a long run, the subject is intrusive, and distasteful, and it ramps up the level of danger to a point that is too far. You can’t point a gun at a Lone Piner, not and retain the innate qualities of the series. Admittedly, Saville doesn’t go quite that far: today, they are merely in the background, but that background is right behind David and Peter, Tom and Jenny, the Twins and Macbeth.

The truth is that by 1972, when Where's My Girl? was published, both Saville and the children's holiday adventure genre in which he wrote were growing old.

Even his characters recognised this: 

And there is still the struggle to maintain the Lone Pine Club as a Club. In his own mind, Dickie Morton is acknowledging that openly. The Club is breaking up, he tells himself. The seniors want to be with each other – Jenny exemplifies this, asking Peter to confirm that when they’re both married, they’ll still be friends, still see each other – and even his Twin, Mary, is no longer on the exact same wavelength as him, now that they near the age of eleven.

And Saville recognised it himself:

This time, Saville is forced to go against the grain of children’s adventure fiction. Even though, when Tom’s uncertain memory gives up the vital clue that enables the boys to rescue their girls, the immediate reaction to the kidnapping is to hand over all responsibility, not just to the Police (including the now-obligatory pretty WPC), but all the parents. Mr Morton (wondering if his children are fit to be let out anywhere on their own, even if that’s about sixteen books too late) sets off from London, Alf Ingles and Mr Sterling from Shropshire.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Report on Northampton Borough Council's loan to football club

The long-awaited auditor's report into Northampton Borough Council’s loan to Northampton Town Football Club was published yesterday. You can download it from the council's website.

A BBC News report on the affair begins:

A £10.25m council loan to a football club for use on a stadium redevelopment had "serious failings", a report found.

Northampton Borough Council loaned the money, which has since disappeared, to Northampton Town in 2013 and 2014 to rebuild a stand and develop land.

The Public Interest Report "calls into question the legality" of decision-making over the deal.

For the political background to the loans, I recommend this Twitter thread from Willy Gilder, who used to report local politics for BBC Radio Northampton:

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Restoring the Stiperstones to heathland


The Stiperstones have changed since I first visited them in the late 1980s. In particular, a lot of conifer plantations have been cleared to allow the heathland to regenerate.

Here Colin Preston from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust talks about how and why these changes have been made.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Minor public schools, major public schools and deference

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One overlooked factor in the rise of Boris Johnson may be the instinctive deference that those who went to minor public schools show to those who went to major ones.

Here is Charles Collingwood - Brian Aldridge in The Archers - writing of his schooldays in his memories Brian and Me:

We played cricket against Ludgrove, which was frightfully smart and a serious feeder school for Eton and Harrow. The captain of cricket at Ludgrove was a boy called Mike Griffith, who went on to captain Sussex. On the day we played them, we got off the coach at Ludgrove, shook hands like adults then walked down this immaculate path to the cricket field. To our far left there was another immaculate path so I asked what was the significance of these mown paths? 

"Well except on match days," Mike told me. "The one we're walking on today is for the exclusive use of boys who are going to Eton" 

What about the other immaculate path?" I asked. 

"That's for the exclusive use of boys going to Harrow." 

"What about the unmown path in the middle?" 

"That's for boys going to other schools!!"

The punctuation is ropy, but you get the point.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Six of the Best 991

"The status quo is no longer acceptable: it’s either federalism or independence. It’s time for the Liberal Democrats to fight for what we believe, rather than define ourselves by what we’re against. Let’s either make federalism happen or go down fighting for it." Andrew Page on what should be the Lib Dem response to the growing support for Scottish independence.

Regina Keith outlines the long history of school meals in Britain.

"An inadequate train service and vanishing high street are common complaints of Barrovians – and visitors will say those complaints are justified. Portland Walk in Barrow’s town centre lost Topshop, River Island and Marks & Spencer stores in 2020, to name just a few." Adam Payne asks what the Conservatives' claimed "levelling up" agenda can offer Barrow-in-Furness.

Edward Lucas pays tribute to his father J.R. Lucas, Oxford philosopher and Cold War champion of the Czechs.

We have Charlie Chaplin to thank for the blockbuster, argues John Sturgis.

Flickering Lamps discovers an ancient cemetery in the heart of Greenwich Park.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Monkees: (I'd Go The) Whole Wide World

I remember Wreckless Eric's single The Whole Wide World from 1977, though it was never a hit in the UK.

This version is to be found on the prefab four's 1987 album Pool It! Mike Naismith declined to be involved and, in an echo of band's early days, the album was largely played by session musicians, with the Monkees themselves contributing lead vocals. Here Micky Dolenz is the singer.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

What's wrong with Covent Garden?

Taking a break from smuggling duties in Cornwall, Jago Hazzard looks at the history of this Piccadilly line station.

It was threatened with closure in 1929, but today it is so busy that the authorities try to discourage people from using it.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The uselessness of Boris Johnson's cabinet is a feature not a bug

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Ed Davey says Gavin Williamson is the worst education secretary in living memory. He's right, of course.

But then Williamson is not alone in not deserving a place around the cabinet table.

Priti Patel resigned as secretary of state for international development when it emerged she had been holding meetings with Israeli officials without informing anyone in London. Yet somehow today she is home secretary.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is such a liability that he had to be hidden from voters during the last general election, but he is still leader of the House of Commons.

But maybe their presence should not be such a surprise.

Many Conservatives with principles - David Gauke, Rory Stewart, Nicholas Soames - were effectively sacked from the Commons by Boris Johnson in September 2019. 

They were not the sort of people he wanted to surround himself with. Better to have malleable mediocrities who will do whatever they are told.

Better still to have people no other Conservative prime minister would dream of appointing to the cabinet. They will know that they owe their careers to Johnson and that any successful rebellion against him would inevitably lead to the end of those careers.

It's probably all in Machiavelli: surround yourself with people who should never have been put in a position of power and you will be much more secure.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

QAnon's mighty wind fails to blow

Believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory spent the last three years believing that Donald Trump was taking on powerful paedophile networks that had hitherto ruled the world.

Trump's defeat did not discourage them: they were certain Joe Biden's inauguration day would see power cuts, the declaration of martial law and his arrest along with all other leading Democrats.

In the Guardian, Julia Carrie Wong reports on the reaction of some QAnon believers to yesterday's events (or lack of them):

As Biden took the oath of office just before noon on Wednesday, a QAnon channel on Telegram lit up with laments.

"We’ve been lied to," wrote one person.

"I think we have been fooled like no other,” another responded, adding: “Hate to say it. Held on to hope til this very moment."

"I feel like I’m losing my mind,” said a third. “I don’t know what to believe anymore."

"Anyone else feeling beyond let down right now?" read a popular post on a QAnon message board. "It’s like being a kid and seeing the big gift under the tree thinking it is exactly what you want only to open it and realize it was a lump of coal the whole time."

There are religious precedents for such feelings of deflation. The 19th-century American Baptist preacher William Miller forecast that Christ would return to Earth on 22 October 1844.

After He failed to appear, the non-event became known among Miller's followers as "The Great Disappointment".

But, reading about the baffled QAnon adherents, I thought first of the above sketch from Beyond the Fringe.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Terrified by Mr Tapp the undertaker

What is the most frightening television programme you have ever seen?

Back in 2007 I answered that question like this:

For me it is probably the episode of Sexton Blake in which the hypodermic-wielding villain measured Tinker for his coffin while he was still alive. Mind you, I may have been as young as seven when I saw it.

After that, as I went on to say in that post, it was Don Taylor's television play The Exorcism, which I saw when I was 12.

According to an upload on YouTube only one episode of ITV's Sexton Blake series of the 1960s survives - you can see it above. Sadly, it contains no sinister undertakers.

What interested me most was one of the comments below the upload:

Many thanks for the upload. I can remember watching this series as a youngster, and being terrified by one of the villains, a sinister undertaker by the name of, if memory serves, Mr Tapp. Such a pity no more episodes remain.

Mr Tapp must surely be the undertaker who scared me too. 

A little research shows he appeared in a just one two-part Sexton Blake story and that those parts were screened in January and February 1968. So I was indeed just seven when I watched them.

Market Harborough's ghost sign has lost its ghostliness

The ghost sign on what is now the British Heart Foundation shop in Market Harborough has undergone a striking restoration. It now looks magnificent, even if it has been robbed of its ghostliness.

You can see what it used to look like (on a much sunnier day) below. The restoration was carried out by Alex Scott.



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Mark Kermode notices The Ghost Goes Gear

Last night BBC2 screened the latest of Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema programmes - this one was on pop music films.

I was looking forward to it, but had sadly concluded that he would not find room to mention the Spencer Davis Group film The Ghost Goes Gear.

I was wrong.

Let's be honest though: it's not a good film. As I blogged when paying tribute to Nicholas Parsons a few years ago:

According to Parsons' memoirs, the weather in which they had to film was so bad that he assumed the project had been scrapped. He was surprised there was a film to release.

What made the cinema was basically a collection of largely undistinguished musical performances, apart from those by the Spencer Davis Group themselves.

But the start of the film, with the band performing on a boat, the (Etonian?) swimmers and rowers, and Monkees-style antics, make you think you are  in for something better.

So the clip above is as good as the film gets.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Exploring Kelmarsh railway tunnels

The last train from Northampton to Market Harborough ran in August 1981. Most of the trackbed now forms the Brampton Valley Way, which as a result passes through former railway tunnels at Great Oxendon and Kelmarsh.

This video explores the Kelmarsh tunnels, both the one that carries the Way and the parallel one, which is not officially open to the public.

Six of the Best 990

Jack Haines says that as we see the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic hit our society harder than ever before, it is essential for Liberal Democrats to be pioneering and spearheading the charge towards making basic income a reality.

"The reason the Department hasn’t done the simplest, cheapest thing and just give parents a bit of extra cash is because they don’t trust them to spend it properly. Or rather they are scared of the public perception that, as Tory MP Ben Bradley luridly put it last year, the money would be spent in crack dens and brothels." Sam Freedman says myths about poverty must be refuted so that parents are trusted with £20 and not half a pepper.

Christian Kerr asks if the appointment of Josh MacAlister as chair of the independent review of children’s social care in England means its conclusions are a foregone conclusion.

"This is a story about secrecy, obfuscation and political embarrassment at the heart of government. It revolves around an attempt by the Home Office to withhold vital research evidence about the causes of serious violence - a decision the department clung to, even though it undermined the credibility of its flagship plan to tackle the problem. It ended in a three-year legal battle that cost taxpayers thousands of pounds." Danny Shaw takes on the Home Office.

"James in his letters is a real human being, we see him go from a small boy of seven to a junior schoolboy, to Eton and then Kings College Cambridge and all of his life in between and after it is wonderful and very humbling, to be privy to this." Jane Mainley-Piddock is interviewed about her forthcoming book, Casting the Runes: The Letters of M. R. James.

Mark Shirley introduces us to the Leicester variant of table skittles.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

It's not that we get more right wing as we get older

Spending time with at my mother's house is giving me time for all the books I bought and never read. Among my findings so far is that Isabella Tree's Wilding is inspirational and Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk is overwritten.

Today I tried Wagner and Philosophy by Bryan Magee - that temporary son of Market Harborough - and hit gold before I'd finished the preface.

In it Magee describes Wagner as a classic example of someone who, when young is a passionately committed and active revolutionary, but becomes disillusioned with politics and turns away from it altogether in middle age.

He continues:

Former comrades who retain their left-wing commitment usually see such a person as 'moving to the right', and of course some do, they become conservatives. But in most cases this is an uncomprehending way of seeing what is happening. 

For most such people are not switching from one political allegiance to another, they are becoming disillusioned with politics as such. They are ceasing to believe that the most important of human problems have political solutions. They are acquiring a different sort of outlook on life, one that does not see politico-social issues as primary.

And concludes with the insight:
The unforgiving bitterness of the disappointed left-winger is a quite different phenomenon psychologically from the curmudgeonliness of the reactionary, even if in elderly people the two often show some of the same symptoms. One is bitterness at the loss of a past, the other bitterness at the loss of a future.

Johnny Bristol: Memories Don't Leave Like People Do

Let's see if I can get back to choosing a music video each Sunday.

This one dates from 1974, a year in which I followed the UK singles chart obsessively even though I could sense at the time that it was no golden age.

Memories Don't Leave Like People Do only made no. 53, but it doesn't sound so bad today. Wikipedia says Johnny Bristol was best known as a songwriter and producer for Motown. He died in 2004.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Geeta Sidhu-Robb expelled from the Lib Dems

Jewish Chronicle reports:

The founder of an organic foods company who was shortlisted to stand as a London mayoral candidate for the Liberal Democrats has been expelled from the party following a complaints panel hearing into comments she made about Jews.

Geeta Sidhu-Robb was pitted against councillor Luisa Porrit to land the party's nomination to challenge current Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in elections scheduled to take place in May.

But she was suspended in September after footage of her using a megaphone during the 1997 election campaign in Blackburn emerged in which she urged Muslim voters not to vote for her opponent, former Labour Secretary Jack Straw, because he is "a Jew".

The report quotes Sidhu-Robb, who says she has already publicly apologised for "an act of momentary stupidity" and goes on to refer to an unidentified faction within the Liberal Democrats, who "felt threatened by a fresh, engaging, female-centric approach to politics".

You can see a video of Sidhuy-Robb making her comments in an earlier post on this blog.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Can there be a 70 Up without Michael Apted?

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I remember an English lesson in the lower sixth when we had all watched 21 Up the evening before. The lesson was, for some reason, taken by the head of department rather than our usual teacher, and we spent all of it talking about the programme. Thanks to the wonder of Wikipedia I can date it to 10 May 1977.

Michael Apted, the man behind the Up programmes, died last week. Beginning with 7 Up in 1963, this series followed a series of people through their lives. It may have begun as an exercise in sociology, but it has turned into something extraordinary. What engaged me intellectually when I was 17 can now move me to tears because of the themes of promise, poor health and redemption that have developed.

A New York Times article asks if there can be a 70 Up without Apted. We all hope there can be - "70 and 7 do have a good symmetry," as one of his team says - but the article brings home that if the participants in the Up programmes have grown old then the team that made them has grown even older.

One of them, we are told, remembers:

“Every seven years we’d get a new commissioner and a new executive producer, and they all come into the program thinking they’re going to make some change. Michael saw them all off,” at first politely and then with a colourful two-word phrase.

Lakenheath: The least-used station in Suffolk

Superintendent: It's a country station, rather off the beaten track.

Will Hay: Oh, I don't mind, as long as it's near the railway.

Time for another of these engaging videos. Lakenheath station, Wikipedia tells us, lies some three miles north of the village and is not within convenient walking distance of any sizeable population. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Rudolf Lehmann was Liberal MP for Harborough 1906-10

The opening of Penelope Fitzgerald's review of a 1998 biography of John Lehmann provides a potted biography of his father Rudolf:

The first volume of John Lehmann’s autobiography, published in 1955, starts:

"When I try to remember where my education in poetry began, the first image that comes to mind is that of my father’s library at the old family home of Fieldhead on the Thames. It is an autumn or winter evening after tea, for James the butler has been in to draw the blinds and close the curtains, and my father is reading under a green-shaded lamp."

He has said a good deal already – the little boy who wants to be like his father, the sheltered child who doesn’t need to know the time or even the season because James, the always reliable butler, deals with that, the illusion of a dedication to poetry. Adrian Wright, in this new biography, refers several times to Lehmann’s half-commitment (in spite of his energy) to the professional life he chose. Fieldhead was the magic enclosure to which, as an adult, he looked back, wishing that it might have been possible to sit there, watching and listening, all his life.

He came of a German-Jewish family, musical, hospitable, successful in business. His grandfather ended up in Scotland, by way of Huddersfield. His father, who built Field-head, was called to the Bar, edited the Daily News, and was returned as Liberal MP for Market Harborough. He was a dedicated rowing coach, and wrote quantities of light verse, often about rowing, for Punch. He married Alice Davis, a strong-minded New Englander, twenty years younger than himself. Their family consisted of three girls – Helen, the indulged Rosamond, Beatrix – and, at long last, the boy John.

Lehmann held Harborough for the Liberals in the landslide election of 1906 and remained its MP until he stood down at the second election in 1910.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Six of the Best 989

Campaigners are urging the government to give poor families cash and not food vouchers, reports Vincent Wood.

"Trump disguised what he was doing by operating in plain sight, talking openly about his intent. He normalized his actions so people would accept them. I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for three decades, and I know the signs of a coup when I see them." Fiona Hill believes in calling Trump's coup a coup.

Simon Wilson argues that it is not worth trying to recycle plastics.

Karen Liebreich on the othering of cyclists: "For some years people on bikes have been perceived as members of a different, lesser species, not deserving of the basic consideration or courtesy one would usually extend to an equal."

"In the early 1970s British television began to spread the idea that accessing and expressing your feelings was a good thing. Most documentaries still just observed people - or used them to make political or social points. But a number of factual programmes became channels for the new psychotherapeutic ideas." Adam Curtis offers a history of television and hugging.

John Lewis-Stempel names Richard Jefferies among five things that inspired his book The Running Hare.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Lady Sybil Grant and the oldest treehouse in the world

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Lady Sybil Grant,. you may recall, "spent much time in a caravan or up a tree, communicating with her butler through a megaphone".

And this is the tree she spent her time up. It's on the Pitchford Estate in Shropshire and is claimed by them to be the oldest tree house in the world.

There's much more about Lady Sybil, daughter of the Liberal prime minster Lord Roseberry, from Epsom & Ewell History Explorer and on the Pitchford Estate site.

A 1960 film made to promote commercial traffic on the waterways

The blurb on YouTube explains:

This is an edited version of a film made in 1960 to show how British Waterways were upgrading their  broad waterways for more commercial traffic. At that time the container revolution had not really started, but within ten years container ports including inland container ports enabled goods to tranship quickly and without all the handling shown here.

At the heart of the film is a trip up the Trent with nice shots of Newark and a river freight depot at Nottingham.

Monday, January 11, 2021

"Welcome to the Brexit, sir." Remainers knew British drivers' sandwiches would be confiscated but reacted wrongly

 

The Independent reports:

Border officials have been confiscating sandwiches and other foodstuffs from drivers arriving in the Netherlands from the UK after Brexit, TV footage has revealed.

A Dutch TV clip showed a driver had his ham sandwiches taken away by border officials as he arrived – with one border guard joking: "Welcome to the Brexit, sir."

This development should not have come as a surprise.

In April 2019 The Scotsman warned:

Britons travelling to the EU will no longer be able to carry meat and dairy products with them in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the European Commission warned. 

EU Customs Commissioner Pierre Muscovici said the risk of a no-deal Brexit and major disruption was increasing, and said customs checks would "apply to all goods arriving from the UK". 

Tourists would be prevented from carrying British cheeses and meats with them to the continent.

A good point for Remain campaigners to make, you might think, but it didn't turn out that like.

As I blogged at the time:

Almost all the comment on this story I have seen from our side of the debate has been concerned with laughing at people who might want to take British food with them.

Some Remainers have gone on to list all the Continental foods they enjoy in a self-congratulatory way.

I stand by the conclusion to that post:

I am a Liberal. I want to be able to get on a train at St Pancras and take a pork pie anywhere I damn well please.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Introducing Lady Sybil Grant



A footnote in The Quest for Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy (edited by Hugo Vickers) runs:

Lady Sybil Grant (1879-1955), eccentric daughter of 5th Earl of Roseberry. She was a writer and designed of ceramics. In later life, she spent much time in a caravan or up a tree, communicating with her butler through a megaphone.