Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Joy of Six 1037

Richard Sears examines research suggesting that the overuse of psychiatric drugs is worsening public mental health in America.

"Each day on Twitter someone is held up for widespread public ridicule, and you want to make sure that it’s not you, because your job in life is never to do anything that might result in you getting made fun of by others." Freddie deBoer suggests we should not spend all day ridiculing others from afar on social media.

In the post-war era, Coventry was rebuilt as an optimistic, modernist city. But the selling off of the city centre since the 1980s has made this year's City of Culture feel more like a City for Developers, says Owen Hatherley.

"The gaze of the elf on the child’s real world (as opposed to play world) resonates with the purpose of the panopticon, based on Jeremy Bentham’s 18th century design for a model prison (a central tower in a circular structure, surrounded by cells). Backlighting in the central tower made it impossible for prisoners to discern whether or not they were being watched." Laura Pinto and Selena Nemorin uncover the sinister side of The Elf on the Shelf.

"Eardley’s short career is one of the most fascinating of her generation. She is a feverish, romantic successor to Goya and Soutine, and in these Glasgow pictures she is essentially a storyteller, capturing a community as it vanishes. The other pole of her painting life had nothing to do with urban Glasgow, but was situated among the seascapes and fields of Catterline, a village on the Kincardineshire coast that she began to visit in the early 1950s." Andrew O'Hagan celebrates the artist Joan Eardley.

Ed Simon on the rediscovery of the work of Thomas Traherne: "Circumstances surrounding the occasional rediscovery of the poetry of the 17th-century divine Thomas Traherne are as something out of one of his strange lyrics. Intimations of the allegorical, when in the winter of 1896—more than two centuries after he’d died—and some of his manuscript poetry was discovered in a London book stall among a heap that was 'about to be trashed.' ... How eerily appropriate that among that refuse was Traherne’s Centuries of Meditation, which included his observation that the “world is a mirror of infinite beauty, yet no man sees it.” Not until he chances upon it in a London book stall."

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Write a guest post for Liberal England

I welcome guest posts on Liberal England and am happy to publish ones on subjects far beyond the Liberal Democrats and British politics.

In fact I could do with some guest posts. I am now a full-time carer, which means I am struggling to find the time to come up with longer posts.

If you would like to write for this blog, please send me an email so we can discuss your idea or DM me on Twitter.

Charles Dickens describes Boris Johnson's hair

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He had not been asleep a quarter of an hour when the boy opened the door and thrust in his head, which was like a bundle of badly-picked oakum. Quilp was a light sleeper and started up directly.
The Old Curiosity Shop, chapter 5

You know, of course, what oakum is.

Monday, December 13, 2021

The Joy of Six 1036

The Police Bill is not just about curtailing the right to protest, writes Brian Paddick: "The new legislation allows the Home Secretary to force local authorities and other public bodies to hand over sensitive, personal information to the police."

Henry Redhead Yorke, who was MP for York between 1841 and 1848, was the son of a West Indian creole of African/British descent, whose mother was a manumitted slave from Barbuda. Amanda Goodrich discovers a previously unidentified non-white MP.

David Perkins reveals the surprising radicalism of Lawrence du Garde Peach, who wrote most of the books in Ladybird's Adventures from History series.

James Wright explores the popularity of local legends about secret passages.

"The Montreux Casino fire is one of the most mythologised moments in the history of rock. Taking place on the shoreline of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva, the fire would end up inspiring one of rock’s best-known tracks and become cemented in the genre’s history forevermore." Mick McStarkey on Frank Zappa, Deep Purple and the genesis of Smoke on the Water.

At the end of a world tour in 1973, a Santos side featuring the world’s greatest player came to London, where they chose a sleepy suburban town for their training base. Dominic Bliss uncovers the story of Pelé in Tolworth.

Thursday, December 09, 2021

On not seeing an early performance by Victoria Wood

Jasper Rees's authorised biography of Victoria Wood tells her story wonderfully well, though it is inevitably a sad book. Even as she is riding high in her career, you know an abrupt ending is coming.

You could argue that she worked too narrow a canvass or that there was something a little snobbish about some of her work, but who cares? She was three rare things in a television comedian: she was a woman, she had not been a member of the Cambridge Footlights and she was funny.

Rees incidentally repeats a sad fact that I recently read in a profile of Jo Brand. Women comedians mention their weight at the start of their act because a heckler will do so if they don't.

I might have seen Wood early in her career: together with her husband Geoffrey Durham, she performed at the University of York while I was a student there.

It did not go well:
After doing his act Geoffrey watched her from the back as she tried out some new material with no means of amplification: "She struggled from the beginning. No one could hear her properly and the show wnet downhill. I went for a walk round the building. As I came back two indignant guys were leaving, One said to the other, 'That was awful, It was like watching What the Papers Say'."
Remarkably, though, I had already seen Durham perform. He was a member of the cast in Peter Bogdanov's Leicester productions of Hamlet and The Tempest while I was still at school.

As we were doing these plays for A level, I went to performances of both.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Dirk Bogarde interviewed in 1975

By 1975 Dirk Bogarde was secure in his later career as a star of European arthouse films and soon to reinvent himself as a writer.

This is an interview Colin Grimshaw recorded while working at Imperial College, London. It offers a brisk run through Bogarde's career to this point.

On YouTube Grimshaw records that before the recording Bogarde "walked around every person in the studio and shook their hands."

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Six ghosts stolen from York in night-time raid

Thanks to a nomination from a Liberal England reader, the website York Mix wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

The Joy of Six 1035

Katy Balls reports Tory disquiet over their prospects in the North Shropshire by-election: "Despite Paterson holding the seat in 2019 with a majority of 22,949, senior Tories have expressed concern over the vote while the Liberal Democrats are talking up their prospects. One senior Lib Dem source has told the Times that they have put money on a victory for their party."

While Ian Dunt detects the formation on of an informal, organic anti-Tory strategic arrangement.

Adam Ramsay on his public school days and the building of upper-class solidarity: "I haven’t lived with my parents for any significant period since I was 13. Some, if they also went to ... ‘preparatory’ (prep) schools, left home at eight or nine. If you suspect that this is likely to lead to insecurity then institutionalisation, then you’d be right."

"I have now taken all identifiable details off my CV. Anything that could give an employer a whiff of my age has been wiped, and only my work over the last 10 years remains visible. It makes me sad that after all of my years of hard work, this is what it has come to." Anonymous writes on ageism and the difficulty of job hunting in your sixties.

"The story of how Richmond and Twickenham - and particularly Eel Pie Island - became a seed-bed for the British R&B bands that, in conjunction with the Mersey Beat, reset the course of rock music is such a great one that I’ve often thought it was worth a proper book, particularly after I came to live here 20 years ago and realised that the buildings and the pavements had tales to tell. I never got around to it. But now someone else has, and he’s done it so well that I’m glad I didn’t." Richard Williams welcomes Andrew Humphreys’ Raving upon Thames: An untold story of Sixties London.

Jade Evans examines how Dirk Bogarde's image was crafted for the fans and how his publicity portraits nevertheless give us glimpses of the life of a very private movie star.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Bernard Hill, Trevor Eve, Antony Sher ... & George.

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The actor Sir Antony Sher has died at the age of 72 - there is a tribute to him in the Guardian by Michael Billington.

It was Sher's performance as Howard Kirck in the BBC adaptation of Malculm Bradbury's novel The History Man that bought him to public notice.

But before that he had enjoyed great success at the Liverpool Everyman playing Ringo Starr in Willy Russell's John, Paul, George, Ringo ... & Bert.

He was not the only future star in the band: John Lennon was played by Bernard Hill and Paul McCartney by Trevor Eve.

At the time Phillip Joseph, who played George Harrison, was the biggest name, but his appearances now appear to be spread over two IMDB entries - here and here.

Bordesley, the least-used station in the West Midlands

It's a while since we had a least-used station, so let's join Geoff Marshall and guest as they visit Bordesley in the West Midlands.

When we first meet them they are at their Whitlocks End.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

The Joy of Six 1034

Nathan Abrams, Anaïs Augé, Maciej Nowakowski and Thora Tenbrink find that mask wearing wasn’t disputed in previous crises and ask why is it so hotly contested today.

The potential of hard-working, high-achieving young people with insecure immigration status is being squandered by a punitive immigration system, inflexible student finance and poor advice and guidance, says Vanessa Joshua.

"If G4S was a family, rather than a private company, would the state be sending vulnerable children to its care? I think not." Carolyne Willow argues that G4S's improvement plan will not be enough to turn around Oakhill Secure Training Centre.

Charlotte Hu explains why social media is making us more morally outraged.

"I felt under attack, all the time. I had nowhere to hide. Walking across the classroom felt like a sniper zone. I was an open target. One day one of the boys casually groped me from behind in the classroom, leering ‘Alright Oxfam?’ in my ear. It didn’t occur to me to do anything except pretend it hadn’t happened. I could imagine only too easily what would happen if I reported it." Naomi Fisher on life as a school refuser.

Jennifer Garlen shows us that there's much more to Casablanca than the love story between Bogart and Bergman: "It’s a deeply political picture made by people for whom the film’s message and the crisis in Europe were painfully personal, and their emotional investment in the story makes Casablanca all the more meaningful."

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Isle of Secrets: John Rogers on Orford Ness

Sooner or later every psychogeographer makes the Hajj to Orford Ness.

John Rogers is our companion. He has a Patreon account to support his videos and blogs at The Lost Byway.

His YouTube blurb for this video runs:

Orford Ness is a 10-mile long shingle spit along the Suffolk Coast coast - only accessible by ferry. It was once a top secret research military research centre that came into operation in 1912 and was closed in 1985 when it was taken over by the Nation Trust. 

For many years forbidden to approach the island. I visited on the last weekend of Afterness - a series of installations commissioned by Artangel that includes works by Ilya Kaminsky, Emma McNally, Chris Watson, Alice Channer and others. More details can be found here https://www.artangel.org.uk/project/a...

Orford Ness is an extraordinary location. Some of the military buildings have been retained and allowed to naturally decay. The site includes the Cobra Mist radar masts built in early 40’s. 

WG Sebald wrote about a journey to Orford Ness in his book The Rings of Saturn. Sebald found it a desolate lonely place. For me it is one of the most extraordinary places in the whole of Britain.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Harald Hardrada in Constantinople, Alfred the Great in Rome

Three weeks before he was defeated at the Battle of Hastings, Harold Godwinson - the last Anglo-Saxon king of England - had defeated Harald Hardrada, the king of Norway, at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

That's Stamford Bridge the town to the east of York, not Stamford Bridge the football stadium, though fixture congestion was obviously a thing in the 11th century too.

Reading Cat Jarman's River Kings - one thing being a carer has done is give me time to read - I learnt something extraordinary: as a young man Hardrada had spent around 15 years in Constantinople and had commanded the Byzantine Empire's elite Varangian Guard

This should not be suprising - it is in Hardrada's Wikipedia entry - but it is does not fit with the picture we have of British history before the Norman Conquest. We are equally gobsmacked to learn that Alfred the Great was educated in Rome.

I once blogged about an appearance by David Starkey on Richard and Judy's television show: 
Starkey said the idea that 1066 is the most important date in British history is a recent one. In fact it dates from 1914 - the year when all things French became good and all things German bad. German Shepherd Dogs turned into Alsatians and the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha turned into the House of Windsor. 
Until then we had been very aware of our Saxon heritage and believed that the roots of our democracy lay in that era. After 1914 the Norman Conquest became almost a Year Zero and the Saxon kings were relegated to become a faintly embarrassing pre-history.
It's only Daniel Hannan who makes the point, so all my Twitter followers laugh at it, but it remains remarkable that the most famous date in English history - 1066 - marks our conquest by a foreign power.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Duffy: Warwick Avenue

The New Vaudeville Band's song Finchley Central reached eleven in the UK singles charts in 1967.

Duffy did better with this in 2008, another song named after a London Underground station, reaching number three, 

If you want to know more about Warwick Avenue station, Jago Hazzard is your man.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "No worse than a chimbley"

He's so nearly home. As long as the British Transport Police don't plug him with a tranquilliser dart he'll be holding court in the Bonkers' Arms tonight.

"No worse than a chimbley"

I arrive at Westminster just in time to take part in the vote. The attendants in the Lord’s really are a cut above the rest: despite my gorilla costume, I am greeted by name and urged to hurry through the lobby.

Brushing off a Conservative peer, who is convinced his grandfather shot mine and mounted him over his fireplace, I reflect once again on the remarkable resourcefulness of my own Well-Behaved Orphans. Some children would have balked at the task of squeezing through the bars of the cage, but these fellows assure me that it was "no worse than a chimbley". I make a note to stand them all a slap up tea when I reach Rutland, just as soon as I make sure that Farron has not ripped the pews out of St Asquith’s and forced everyone to sing “Shine, Jesus, Shine.”

And so to St Pancras, where I sit in a café writing this last entry and wondering what budget fares East Midlands Railways makes available to unaccompanied gorillas.

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Friday, November 19, 2021

Jon Pertwee on playing Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge

Interviewed in costume between West End performances of a Worzel Gummidge show, here is Jon Pertwee in 1982.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Matron’s gin cupboard

While I am pleased to see the old boy rescued, I am (not for the first time) moved to remark that the Well-Behaved Orphans don't appear to be terribly well behaved. Still, you'd want them on your side in a closely fought by-election.

The Wise Woman of Wing, meanwhile, stands alone.

Matron’s gin cupboard

I am woken by a hand being held over my mouth. “Don’t breave a word, Lord B.,” says a squeaky voice. I look up to see skinny figures descending from the cage roof on ropes: the Well-Behaved Orphans! “I just needs to unlock the cage,” says my rescuer. “Are you sure you can pick the lock?” I whisper. “If I can get into Matron’s gin cupboard, I can cope with any lock,” comes the encouraging reply.

So it proves, and as my prison door swings open I see a familiar figure flanked by a couple of my gamekeepers carrying orchard doughties. “There’s no time to talk,” says the Wise Woman, “I’ve got wheels.” I see a charabanc parked beside a newly opened gap in the zoo’s perimeter fence, and the Orphans and I hurry to board it. “If anyone asks,” says the Wise Woman, “the kids are a visiting Himalayan choir, I’m their driver and you’re their pet yeti.”

“Fancy going off with those elves!” she continues. “I thought we’d never see you again.” I admit in the reply that it will be wonderful to go home Bonkers Hall. “You’re not going home yet,” she says. “The chief whip phoned and they need your vote in the Lord’s. The Tories are planning to pump sewage into our rivers.”

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Ben Bradley is the hardest-working member in the House

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Joe has found the UK's hardest-working MP:

As well as being a Tory MP for Mansfield, Ben Bradley is the leader of the Nottinghamshire County Council and a member of the Executive Board of East Midlands Councils.

Both jobs apparently total 30 hours of additional work per week, raising questions as to how Bradley finds time to be an MP.

The website goes on to point out that studies have found that MPs work an average of 69 hours a week.

Assuming Bradley does his 69 hours, Joe calculates that his extra duties, if he works weekends, leave him only five and hours for sleep and a private life each day,

But life is not all work for Bradley: the website reminds us that in June he accepted a £1961 ticket to Wembley for England vs Germany in the UEFA Euros from the gambling firm Power Leisure Bookmakers.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The recipe for pork-pie jelly

This was topical satire when I wrote it. The Guardian report on Eliza Manners' case said:

On Wednesday night she was pictured wearing a £1,600 Balmain dress at Harry’s Bar in Mayfair and last week she posted pictures on Instagram from Annabel’s, another Mayfair luxury establishment. Her Instagram account also features pictures from a recent holiday to Italy.

The recipe for pork-pie jelly

Today’s most popular news story involves a daughter of the Duke of Rutland. She was fined just £50 for speeding – half the normal minimum, the paper says – after she claimed paying a penalty would cause her “cashflow issues”. There’s a lot of tutting from my companions and some scepticism is expressed about the genuineness of those issues. 

But what, I ask myself, if the Duke and his family really are short of tin? Could there be a fire sale in prospect? I have no interest in Belvoir Castle, which has always struck me as rather flashy, but the Manners own land in the north of the county that I have long coveted – I strongly suspect that a geological survey of it would reveal a rich seam of Stilton crying out to be mined. 

Then there is the recipe for pork-pie jelly that they have kept to their bosoms for generations and charged the rest of us a pretty penny to use. It would be pleasing to get my hands on that. This is an opportunity too good to be missed and I wait all the more impatiently for rescue.

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Chesham is lovely, says Jago Hazzard

As well as a Liberal Democrat MP it has a heritage signal box and an interesting railway history.

Jago Hazzard is our guide - you can support his videos via his Patreon page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: She is known to all the fowls of the air

The old boy is clearly planning to escape. Incidentally, there really was a Wise Woman of Wing.

She is known to all the fowls of the air

One solace of zoo life is that a kindly keeper leaves us his newspaper after he‘s eaten his sandwiches, and I have taken to reading the day’s stories to my fellow inmates. Today there is much debate over the prime minister’s suggestion that feeding people to animals could help solve the biodiversity crisis. Generally speaking, the lions and tigers are all in favour of the idea, while our herbivorous friends urge the provision of a vegan alternative. The anteaters suggest that everyone should eat ants.

This evening I strike gold when I get talking a sparrow who has dropped in for a few crumbs. It transpires that he has a brother-in-law who knows a starling who is friends with a racing pigeon. I give the sparrow a note to pass on to said pigeon, emphasising that it is to be put eventually into the hands of the Wise Woman of Wing. I need not have worried: it turns out she is known to all the fowls of the air.

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The history of RAF Husbands Bosworth

RAF Husbands Bosworth opened in August 1943 and was decommissioned by the Air Force in 1946. Its buildings were then used to house displaced Polish families.

This video tells its story and you can read more about the airfield on the Husbands Bosworth website.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: "I allowed two penguins to 'go back to our nunnery'"

When we last heard from him, Lord Bonkers' tour of Britain had reached a zoo in the West Country where he was living contentedly as a gorilla. 

That headline was about nuns too.

I allowed two penguins to ‘go back to our nunnery’

I am at last granted an audience with the head keeper, where I explain that, despite my costume, I am not a gorilla but a peer of the realm and press my case to be allowed to return home to the Hall forthwith. 

She, however, is implacable: “If I believed every sob story I heard from an animal I soon wouldn’t have a zoo at all. When I was a junior keeper I allowed two penguins to ‘go back to our nunnery’ and I didn’t half get into trouble. So it’s a no from me. Beat your chest when you get back to your cage. The punters like that.”

Yes, gentle reader, zoo life is beginning to pale. The taste of bananas has become a torment to me and I have been moved next door to the hyenas, who have no conversation and snigger at everything – one might as well be living with a pack of Twitter influencers. The conclusion to all this is clear: I shall have to abandon the usual channels and make my escape.

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

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Joy of Six 1033

Winston Churchill was the greatest Englishman of the 20th century, but "his view of Indians, not to mention Africans, remained until the end of his days that of the Victorian lieutenant of Hussars he once was". Max Hastings says modern politicians who claim Churchill’s mantle embody his worst traits.

Carly Page looks at recent events in North Ayrshire and concludes that we are not ready to accept facial scanning in schools.

For 20 years, a Tennessee baby thief kidnapped more than 5000 children from the streets, hospitals, and shanty towns of Memphis. Erika Celeste tells the story of Georgia Tann.

Gawain Towler on how Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy became a moral litmus test against tyranny.

Mary Colwell explains why she fighta for one of the UK’s most endangered birds, the curlew: "Though they haven't got bright, showy colours they are somehow utterly beautiful with an understated magnificence. I liked something about the way they lived in the world, sang to the world, and drifted through the world with a light touch."

"His second movie was 'Anchors Aweigh,' where, opposite Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, he glimmered with cuteness and innocence, totally lacking the irritating over-trained precocity of most child actors of the era. Dean Stockwell seemed real. By the time he was ten years old, he was supporting his entire family. He viewed his contract as a prison sentence. He hated acting." Sheila O'Malley celebrates the 70-year career of Dean Stockwell.

Did Richmond's Lib Dem/Green pact help the Tories?

Sorry to disappear for a week, but that's caring.

While I was away the new Liberator (issue 410) appeared - you can download it for free from the magazine's website.

And if, like me, you go first to Radical Bulletin, you will find this story:

Fans of a progressive alliance may care to have a look at the borough of Richmond-on-Thames, where a deal between the Lib Dems and Greens is expected for the May 2022 elections, 

This is despite  disagreements between the two local MPs and an analysis done after the previous such deal in 2018, which concluded it lost the Lib Dems more seats than it gifted the Greens, with the main beneficiaries being the Conservatives.

The magazine cites one local that found:

Lib Dem voters declined to be moved around in blocks, as this deal envisaged, and in some tight contests their third vote was unused, went to a hopelessly adrift Labour candidate or even to a Tory.

Under this analysis the deal cost the Lib Dems not only the four seats the Greens won but at least a further two that went to the Tories, since in wards shared with the Greens they came far behind either Lib Dem co-candidate, on average by between 400-500 votes.

The average Lib Dem majority in seats with three candidates was 625, but only 325 in wards shared with the Greens.

The story goes on to say that Munira Wilson and Twickenham Lib Dems have seen this analysis and are not keen for this local progressive alliance to continue.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Julian Lennon: Saltwater

People were talking about this song on Twitter a couple of weeks ago#, because it has turned uo on a vintage edition of Top of the Pops. I remember watching that edition and was shocked to learn that I had done so 30 years ago.

In those days I was still a serious chess player. Many of the county league matches took place in schools, and on the rare occasions I was in control of the game I would prowl while my opponent pondered and study the children's work on the classroom wall. My impression was that they had global warming and the hole in the ozone layer, which concerns Julian Lennon here, hopelessly mixed up.

Has the depletion of the ozone layer been solved? You don't hear about it now, but that may be because we have moved on to more urgent or more fashionable problems.

I remember when acid rain was a big worry. Again, you never hear of it today, but there are times when you are caught in a shower and rainwater tastes foul.

Like Jeff Buckley, Julian Lennon is always discussed in relation to a father who neglected him. Like Harper Simon, he cannot help sounding (or looking) like his father, even if Saltwater is always threatening to turn into Strawberry Fields Forever.

Wikipedia quotes Julian saying he remembers playing with Paul McCartney more than he does playing with his father.

McCartney wrote Hey Jude for and about him, but in his book on The Beatles Craig Brown records that John Lennon assumed it had been written for him.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Lib Dems to fight North Shropshire by-election - and they are right

No one moves as quickly as the Liberal Democrats requesting donations for a by-election campaign: the party already has a page up for the North Shropshire contest.

A tweet from Jim Pickard, chief political correspondent at the Financial Times, tweeted earlier today quoted a Lib Dem official as saying:

"there was a scintilla of examining..an independent unity candidate of a Martin Bell nature..compliance rules & electoral legislation has changed dramatically since then making it virtually impossible"

But even if a Martin Bell candidate were possible in North Shropshire, would it be desirable?

As Andy Boddington points out on Lib Dem Voice, Bell's election did not lead to long-term change,

So the Lib Dems will be fighting North Shropshire and Andy thinks it is worth our time and money:
In the Shropshire unitary council elections last May, our Lib Dem candidates took 25 per cent of the vote amid the Blue Fields of North Shropshire. That was way behind the Tories who gained 55 per cent but this seat is not unassailable with the right candidate and if we pump sufficient energy in the campaign. 
When we look at local areas within North Shropshire, we have towns and villages where we are tantalising close to a Lib Dem majority. Building on that will require a Chesham and Amersham level of effort. Surely, we can do that.
I have hundreds, possibly thousands, of photos of south Shropshire, but the one above is one of the few I have taken in the north of the county.

Friday, November 05, 2021

The Joy of Six 1032

"Watering down the HRA has long been one of Raab’s pet projects - he quite literally wrote a book on it – but to human rights lawyers like me who’ve spent the last 20 years seeing the Act change lives for the better, these plans make no sense." Louise Whitfield stands up for the Human Rights Act against Dominic Raab.

Nigel Warburton celebrates the power of disgust - it forced a government U-turn on an amendment to the Environment Bill to curb the discharge of raw sewage into our rivers.

"According to a wry joke in Central Europe, socialism was the long road between capitalism and capitalism. Is Brexit the long road between the EU and the EU?" Bob Hancké says Brexit has made trade in goods between the UK and the EU very difficult and also severely limited our ability to conclude free trade agreements with the rest of the world.

Sukaina Hirji and Meena Krishnamurthy look at the romantic friendship between the philosophers Iris Murdoch and Philippa Foot.

"While he hoped for progress in human affairs, he was only too well aware that it was not inevitable and might not be sustained. Throughout his career he celebrated the technological developments that were revolutionizing life but feared they might lead to eventual degeneration or, as came to pass in 1914, a catastrophic war." Peter J. Bowler looks at H. G. Wells and the uncertainties of progress.

Pete Jackson on Telford's role as birthplace of the climate revolution.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

The secrets of Winchester's railways

Paul and Rebecca Whitewick take a look at the railway history of Winchester, including why the main line from Southampton to London takes a detour to pass through it and a visit to its little-known second station.

If you enjoy their videos, you can support Paul and Rebecca through their Patreon page.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Leicester MP could face jail after harassment conviction

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Here's another story I've failed to cover: Claudia Webbe's conviction for harassment 

As the Guardian reported:

Webbe, the independent MP for Leicester East, who was elected as a Labour candidate in 2019 but had the party whip withdrawn, was accused of harassing Michelle Merritt, a friend of her partner, with threatening phone calls. 

The trial was told she had called Merritt a slag, threatened to “use acid” and said she would distribute naked pictures of Merritt to her family.

Webbe, by all accounts, was imposed upon the Labour Party in Leicester East by the central party, then under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

In those days she was chair of Labour's National Executive Comittee's disputes panel. This panel hears appeals against expulsion from the party and conducts interviews and hearings in a quasi-judicial manner.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

"Statements given by the two children against Lord Janner were locked away in a drawer at Market Harborough Police Station"

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What with being a carer and one thing and another, I am finding it harder to be all over the day's news. 

So only today am I blogging about the Independent Inquiry Into  Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report on institutional responses to allegations of abuse against Greville Janner.

In his report on its publication, which appeared under a headline referring to "cheapskate botched and useless investigations", David Hencke wrote:

The national press and the BBC have rightly highlighted the failures of the police and the council to adequately investigate claims by survivors yet again in cases of historic child sexual abuse.

However it is in the mind blowing detail of the report that exposes how incompetent the police and council were in handling the investigations. It reveals a picture of quarrelling under resourced police officers, hiding of key evidence, and a difference of approach to investigations into a VIP figure, Lord Janner, from other less prominent people.

I was struck by the report's revelation that one of several re-examinations of the treatment of the accusation against Janner, in Hencke's words, found that:

The statements given by the two children against Lord Janner were locked away in a drawer at Market Harborough Police Station.

Those who sought complete openness about what was going on in Leicestershire's children's homes in the 1970s will have been disappointed in the IICSA's publication of its findings on Lord Janner.

The report begins by telling us:

In maintaining and upholding the complainants’ legal right to anonymity, this report is necessarily limited in what can be said publicly. The contents of this report do not therefore reflect the totality of the evidence we heard or include all our conclusions, which are set out in full in a longer report which we are not able to publish.

There may well be good reasons for taking those approach. But I have not forgotten that the press had to go to court in 1991 to be allowed to report the trial of  Frank Beck, who was found guilty of the most serious abuse of children in the homes he ran in the county.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Santana: She's Not There

After seeing the modern incarnation of the Zombies play Market Harborough 10 years ago I wrote:

We discover popular music backwards as well as forwards. I loved Argent's Hold Your Head Up when I was 12 and Colin Blunstone's early solo work reminds me of listening to Radio Luxembourg under the covers at the same age. But I doubt that I had then heard of the Zombies - I can remember my surprise at learning that Carlos Santana was not the writer of She's Not There.

And here is that Santana version. It reached number 11 in the UK singles chart in 1977, one place better than the original version managed.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Joy of Six 1031

"We need to find a way that we can return responsibility to local people and get all the sectors on board – to show how to build an economy that can save the planet and save our lives at the same time, and how the moving parts might fit together." David Boyle calls for a new-style national plan.

Louise Whitfield has no time for Dominic Raab's plan to overhaul the Human Rights Act: "Watering down the HRA has long been one of Raab’s pet projects - he quite literally wrote a book on it – but to human rights lawyers like me who’ve spent the last 20 years seeing the Act change lives for the better, these plans make no sense."

Mark Zuckerberg's pitch for the future of Facebook was a "delusional fever dream cribbed most obviously from dystopian science fiction and misleading or outright fabricated virtual reality product pitches from the last decade," says Jason Koebler.

Rachel Aviv on the frightening US shadow penal system for troubled youngsters run by a Christian organisation.

"They managed to open one wagon and free 17 of the prisoners. As the train continued slowly forward, other prisoners were able to free themselves. In all, 233 people got off the train; 89 were recaptured and 26 were killed, but 118 managed to remain free." Three young men from Brussels who set out in 1943 to rescue a train of deportees headed for Auschwitz are to be honoured, reports Alan Hope..

Sophie Atkinson explains why George Orwell hated Sheffield.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Labour's 2019 candidate for Harborough suspended after allegations she planned to join the Tories

Labour's 2015 general election candidate for Harborough later joined the Conservative Party. Could its 2019 candidate be about to go the same way?

The Express & Star reports that Celia Hibbert has been suspended indefinitely from Wolverhampton's ruling Labour group.

A letter from that group's whip details the allegations against her, including:

It is alleged that in the previous weeks, you have approached the Conservative opposition in the council and asked whether you could cross the floor and join their group.

The paper says Conservatives in the city have denied that Councillor Hibbert has attempted to join them.

And it quotes a Labour councillor who is very disapproving of her excursion to Harborough in 2019.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

New Lib Dem disciplinary code "viewed as a way to settle personal scores"

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I didn't get time to plug the latest Liberator when it was posted, but you can download it free from the magazine's website.

If you then swipe to the Radical Bulletin section you will find this item:


The party owes quite a debt to lead adjudicator Neil Christian who has had to deal with an unexpected flood of cases since the new disciplinary code took effect in July 2019.

His annual report states there were 967 cases - so around 1% of the total membership - and “it is worth noting that the number of complaints received is at a volume much higher than was ever foreseen when the system was being planned.”.

It also says 65% were dismissed, which suggests that the code is being viewed as a way to settle personal scores.

This is a depressing statistic, but not so unexpected in an era when councillors invest time in reporting opposing members for breaking the code of conduct and some people appear to join social media platforms so that can boast about how many people they have blocked.

Pablo Escobar’s ‘cocaine hippos’ are people too, US court rules

A hippo yesterday

The Guardian wins our Headline of the Day Award.

The lost world of Middlesex: A walk along the River Pinn

Another walk in the company of the amiable John Rogers. He describes it thus on YouTube:

The River Pinn rises on Harrow Weald Common and flows through Pinner, Ruislip, and Uxbridge to make its confluence with Frays River and run into the River Colne. It is one of the three main rivers of the old county of Middlesex. 

The Celandine Route starts at Bridge Street near the junction with Pinner High Street where the Pinn was dammed during WW2 to provide water to put out fires. We deviate from the course of the river to walk through Pinner Memorial Gardens and pick up the Pinn as it flows through Cuckoo Hill Allotments. 

The river takes us to the beautiful walled garden at Eastcote House which dates from the 17th Century and then to the ancient Ruislip Manor House with its majestic great barn which was built around the year 1300. There is also the remains of a Motte and Bailey Castle on the site.

The next site of interest we pass along the river is Pynchester Moat created sometime in the 13th or 14th Century and now slumbering in suburbia.

We finish the walk on the edge of Uxbridge at sunset. 

I lived in Eastcote as a toddler. These days I spend all my time caring for my mother and, talking to her, suspect that my earliest memory dates from those days. Thoroughly on-brand, it involves a railway train.

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

Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Joy of Six 1030

"What happened on that Friday and in the days after, when police rounded up even more kids, would expose an ugly and unsettling culture in Rutherford County, one spanning decades. In the wake of these mass arrests, lawyers would see inside a secretive legal system that’s supposed to protect kids, but in this county did the opposite. Officials flouted the law by wrongfully arresting and jailing children." Meribah Knight and Ken Armstrong report a horrifying case from the US.

Jonathan Jones on the government's reliance on secondary legislation to drive Brexit and efforts to curb the Covid pandemic. He calls for a rethink on how such important laws on created.

Hadley Hall Meares detects his mother's influence in Prince Harry's exit from the royal spotlight.

"On the one hand, the old footage and the raw tapes were the closest we ever got to watching the Beatles work in the studio, meaning they’ve been pored over with Talmudic precision; on the other hand, so much of it is sloppy and half-assed, and it’s so tightly wound up in the group’s demise, it’s been hard to find much pleasure in listening or watching." Alan Light reviews Peter Jackson's Beatles documentary Get Back.

"I keep being drawn back to Derby. It’s a city where, for all the boarded-up retail premises and the shocking waste of the moribund Civic Centre, manufacture is at centre stage and new ideas take root – as they have done for centuries." Gillian Darley visits Derby's Museum of Making.

"Both of them wrote books that I hung on to, cherished, re-read, and both of them used history to tell stories for children of now." Fleur Hitchcock pays tribute to her "writing gods" Joan Aiken and Leon Garfield.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Cambridge Hall, Kilburn: A cathedral among tin tabernacles

From the London Historic Buildings Trust website:

The Tin Tabernacle (Cambridge Hall) is a Grade II listed building within the South Kilburn Conservation Area and is currently on the Heritage at Risk Register.

It was built in 1863 as the St James’s Episcopalian church and though stylistically very different, it was constructed around the same time as its grand Italianate brick villa neighbours. The Hall is built of corrugated iron, which has been galvanised with tin to prevent rust, cladding a timber and iron frame. This type of prefabricated structure was developed in the 1820’s and by the latter half of the 19th century became a relatively common building type, particularly utilised by the non-conformist church movement.

It is understood that the Tin Tabernacle was in active church use until the late 19th century. In the early 20th century it was used for theatre shows and possibly as an early cinema and by the first World War it was known as the Lord Lloyd of Dolobran Memorial Hall. During the Second World War it was used as an Air Raid Precautions store, before being taken on by the Sea Cadets in 1949 and renamed the Training Ship Bicester. 

During the 1950’s the interior of the Hall was converted into a replica Ton-class Minesweeper vessel, utilising the north and south aisles to create a series of naval rooms; a galley (kitchen) chapel, rope room, museum and armoury, with a first-floor gallery above.  At the rear (east end of the ship), three further rooms were created; a Bosun’s, store a Ward Room and a parade ground exit, with additional first floor rooms. A Bofors anti-aircraft gun and Oerlikon light anti-aircraft cannon, were also installed.

The Sea Cadets continue to look after the Hall, though they are no longer able to hold their activities there. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Vanessa Redgrave remembers Blow-Up


You feel that if you watch Blow-Up just one more time then its mysteries will be laid open to you, but they never are.

Here's Vanessa Redgrave talking about the film in 2016 to mark its 50th anniversary.

Years ago I posted an interview on Blow-Up with its star, David Hemmings. He and Redgrave agree that their performances owed everything to Antonioni's direction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

It became green everywhere in the first spring, after London ended, so that all the country looked alike

The opening chapter of After London is among the best things Richard Jefferies ever wrote. And as this video from South Downs Generations says, the book feels remarkably topical 136 years after it was published.

South Downs Generations is a living history project run as a partnership between the Friends of the South Downs and four West Sussex primary schools.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Tories took back control of a blue wall council on Thursday and no one will admit it

On Thursday we failed to hold a Liberal Democrat seat in Surrey Heath with the result that the Conservatives won overall control of the council.

But you wouldn't know it from the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors' report on Lib Dem Voice:

On Surrey Heath Borough Council, Lib Dem candidate Jacques Olmo came agonisingly close to beating the Conservatives in Frimley Green ward. Well done to Jacques and the team for winning 47% of the vote. But sadly, they were just 19 votes shy of the Conservatives.

You would be somewhat better informed by the post on the blog written by Mark Pack, the president of our party. (May he live for ever.)

Under the headline:

Conservatives gain seat from Lib Dems after Ukip no-show

Mark writes of

a rare Liberal Democrat loss to the Conservatives after a recount and helped by the absence of Ukip this time:

Commiserations to Jacques Olmo and the team for getting so close but not quite making it in this contest in Michael Gove’s constituency.

But if you go to the indispensable by-election preview written by Andrew Teale, you will find that Ukip didn't have that much to do with it.

The result last time this three-member ward was fought (May 2019) was:

Lib Dems 1019/1012/889
Cons 601/568/519
Ukip 269
Pirate Party 190

Given that demolishing the Tories' blue wall is our only apparent strategy, this is a deeply disappointing result.

My worry is that if we are not honest about how badly we are doing then the party will continue to dwindle.

It reminds me of the way we reacted to the collapse of 2015 by tweeting incessantly about the #LibDemFightback. 

Having convinced ourselves it was a real phenomenon, we were shocked when our vote went down at the 2017 election.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Family: The Weaver's Answer

Family, pace Showaddywaddy and Kasabian, were the coolest band ever to come out of Leicester. And here they are performing on the German TV programme Beat Club in 1970.

What is the song about? Wikipedia, after noting that this is one of Family's more straightforward songs. explains:

Tt's about an old man asking for the "weaver of life" to show him "the patterns of my life gone by upon your tapestry". As the song gets underway, the old man recounts his childhood, his first love, and the day he took a wife; he wonders aloud how it looks on the fabric from the weaver's loom. He goes on to ruminate about his sons and how they grew into adulthood to take wives of their own.

After an instrumental break (see below), the old man grows more sorrowful, remembering the day his wife died and being unable to see his grandchildren after age has robbed him of his sight. Suddenly, he regains his sight to see the weaver's loom drawing closer. Realizing that he's about to see his life as a tapestry, the old man understands the reason why - because he's about to die.

The song was written by Family's lead vocalist Roger Chapman and guitarist Charlie Whitney. That Wikipedia entry goes on to quote Chapman as saying:

"The 'Weaver' in question comes from mythology, folklore and a bit of acid! Include any Marvel hero, Aesop's Fables, anything simply written with a moral and a story I could understand and make sense of. All the stuff I was interested in as a kid, read about and later included in my story telling."

So now you know.

Dormice favoured by Italian mafia seized in drugs raid

BBC News wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Friday, October 15, 2021

New Zealand council ends contract with wizard after two decades of service

Thanks to Christchurch city council, the Guardian wins Headline of the Day and puts me in mind of the Monty Python sketch about about the pantomime horse employed in a merchant bank.

I can't find that online, so instead here's Wizzard.

Give My Regards to Broad Street Station

A brief sketch of the rise and fall of London's lost railway terminus.

I have some photos of Broad Street which I took on a sunny Saturday afternoon in 1983 when I was the only passenger to alight from a train that arrived there. I shall share them here one day.

And as I blogged long ago, I wss once a regular user of Broad Street::

I used the line late at night. I played chess for Richmond & Twickenham in the London League, and the matches took place at the Bishopsgate Institute. I used to get the last train back around the North London line to Kew. 

Somehow I trusted the published timetable more than the Tube, even though the train took a circuitous route via Brondesbury and Willesden Junction.

You can support Jago Hazzard's videos via his Patreon page

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Joy of Six 1029

"Nearly three in four children’s homes and two in five fostering households are now provided by independent organisations, from both the private and charitable sector. For the largest private providers, income levels increased by 7.3% when comparing data between February and December 2020. Among the top 10 of children’s homes providers, seven are now owned by private equity firms." Katharine Quarmby and Sian Norris show how children in public care have become an opportunity for private investors.

Andrew Brown reviews Bleeding for Jesus, Andrew Graystone's exposé of John Smyth's beating of boys and young men and the cover up that followed. 

Fintan O’Toole on John Le Carré’s decision to become an Irish citizen shortly before he died.

"Public House has echoes of Geoffrey Fletcher’s 1962 book The London Nobody Knows, famously turned into a psychedelic documentary film in 1969. Partly it’s the ambling scope of it, the diverting asides, the delight at the curious and arcane. But it’s also the palette of the illustrations, a poppy array of orange and green that gives it a trippy feel of late Beatles and swirling pub carpets." John Grindrod reviews a new cultural and social history of the London pub.

K.B. Morris looks back at a John Bowen's television play: "Robin Redbreast was written at the tail end of the counter culture of the 1960s and Bowen is exploring the dichotomy of reason versus emotion or Apollo versus Dionysus. This conflict, which was so prevalent during that period, fascinated Bowen throughout his writing career."

"Olivia Laing walks the River Ouse in Sussex from its source to the sea, mediating on its flora, fauna, mythology, history and literary associations along the way. Chief among the latter is Virginia Woolf, who lived near the river, walked by the river, wrote about the river, and died in the river." With the help of Eric Ravilious illustrations, Terri Windling reviews Laing's To the River.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Rebecca West on public schools and good manners

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Reading An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo by Richard Davenport-Hines I came across a pleasing quote from Rebecca West's The Meaning of Treason:

While everybody knows Englishmen are sent to public schools because that is the only place they can learn good manners, it unfortunately happens that the manners they learn there are recognised as good only by people who have been to the same sort of school, and often appear very bad indeed to everybody else.

Paul Jones and Spencer Davis interviewed in 1966

"Tonight in Line Up, Spencer Davis, an arts graduate and leader of a pop group topping the charts this week, Paul Jones, singer from the Manfred Mann Group who was sent down from Oxford University and Neil Farrow a journalist and a psychology student. They're here to discuss the newest of the television pop shows, A Whole Scene Going. Later there'll be an interview by Joan Bakewell with Joseph Losey."

This edition of Late Night Line Up, a BBC2 arts magazine programme, was broadcast on 19 January 1966.

Spencer Davis comes over as the teacher he used to be, while Paul Jones experiments with a cheeky chappy act I haven't seen from him before. Neil Farrow's later career does not seem to have troubled Google.

When this show was broadcast the Spencer Davis Group was at number one with Keep on Running. The band was to be profiled on A Whole Scene Going, the yoof programme being reviewed here, a couple of months later.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Julie Christie, the Lamb and Flag, and being rude about elves

Good news from Oxford where my favourite pub in the city, the Lamb and Flag, is to come back to life. 

It was closed at the end of January by its owner, St John's College, because of difficult trading conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pub, according to the college's website, is to reopen thanks to an agreement with

a diverse and eclectic mix of Oxford people, past and present, scientists and entrepreneurs, writers and artists, Town and Gown, as well as local businesses and suppliers.

This assemblage is called 'The Inklings Group' in honour of a set of academics and writers, including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who used to meet there under this name.

One reason I like the Lamb and Flag is that it's less associated with the Inklings than the dark and hobbit-ridden Eagle and Child across the road. This has been going through its own Covid-driven cycle of closing and reopening.

If I have a hero among the original Inklings it is Hugo Dyson. Legend maintains that he responded to Tolkien's reading of The Lord of the Rings as a work in progress with " Oh fuck! Not another elf!"

Dyson is an obscure figure today, but he did have his 15 minutes of fame in 1965. Having been noticed giving television lectures on Shakespeare, he appeared with Dirk Bogarde and Julie Christie in the film Darling, playing a literary lion. 

You can see his scene with them below. [Later. Since writing this, I have remembered that I had a book of articles about T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land while I was studying for my English Literature A level. It was edited by Dyson.]

Friday, October 08, 2021

The Joy of Six 1028

Akiko Hart explains why the National Survivor User Network plays no part in World Mental Health Day.

"The era of Mid-Century Britain is a curious one, and it has been neglected by comparison with both the white-walled international modernism that came before it, and the hardline Brutalism that came after." Owen Hatherley reviews a new book on modern architecture by Elain Harwood.

Jackson Rawlings lists 17 cognitive biases that explain Brexit.

"Exceptional things were happening in Liverpool during 1964. When the Beatles returned to the city on 10th July for the premier of their first film A Hard Day’s Night, 150,000 people lined the streets to greet them. A less well known fact is that a few days earlier thousands of children, and curious adults, went hunting for leprechauns in a Liverpool park." Nigel Watson uncovers a forgotten piece of Liverpool history.

"Sussex have not won a trophy since 2009, when they completed a limited-over double to end a decade that saw them collect seven pieces of silverware. Twelve years on, only Luke Wright and Will Beer remain, several influential senior players have moved on and this new project – based around championing the region’s up-and-coming, homegrown talent – is both admirable but also quite extreme. The line-up that faced Worcestershire at the end of August was the youngest ever fielded in a County Championship game." Nick Friend explains what is going on at Hove.

Jacob Lambert on reading Danny the Champion of the World to his son.