Monday, May 31, 2021

Lord Bonkers' Diary: His spaceport on the outskirts of Thurso

Liberator 407 is out - download it free of charge from the magazine's website - so it's time to spend another week with Rutland's most popular fictional peer.

Look out for an Important Announcement on Sunday.


I am demolishing the eggs and b. when a footman bursts in. “Your lordship,” he cries, “the canal is blocked!” I hurry over to the aforementioned waterway and find a narrow boat wedged firmly across it. 

The assembled gongoozlers offer various remedies: set the Well-Behaved Orphans to work in the mud with buckets and spades; ask the Elves of Rockingham Forest to employ their "High Elven Magic™"; telephone Jamie Stone and ask him to send some rocket fuel down from his spaceport on the outskirts of Thurso so we can (in Meadowcroft's words) "Blow the varmint clean out o' the cut." 

Whatever the best course of action proves to be, I have to admit the grounded vessel poses a ticklish problem. Here in Rutland we rely upon our canal for the export of Stilton and pork pies to the industrial Midlands. If Stilton is held at the docks for too long it can develop a distinctly gamey flavour. While I rather savour this myself, it can prove something of a hurdle when it comes to those difficult export markets.

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

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Jeff Buckley: Grace

I chose a Jeff Buckley track 10 years ago, but he has been on my mind recently because of a BBC Radio documentary.

The Grace of Jeff Buckley tells the story of a momentous day during his first solo UK tour in 1994. He was to die three years later aged only 30. 

This performance of his only LP's title track is taken from an edition of BBC2's The Late Show. I don't remember its presentation style being this stilted, but the video camera does not lie.

And I wonder how it feels to be introduced with a reference to a father who has never acknowledged or cared for you.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A history of the railways around Market Harborough

This video from Matt Davis is more than a history of the Rugby to Stamford line. It covers all the lines around Market Harborough - there were once many.

Stay with it for some great period photos of vanished stations.

Pervert in a Rabbit Mask Flashed Firefighters

The Leicester Mercury hops off with our Headline of the Day Award.

As you will see, this story led the front page, though the online version of the story has the longer:

Man in rabbit mask indecently exposes himself to fire crew helping a woman

Friday, May 28, 2021

Trains between Leicester and Coventry to return after 20 years?

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The Leicester Mercury reports:

Plans to revive direct trains between Leicester and Coventry and Nottingham for the first time in 20 years have been hailed a 'once in a generation' opportunity.'

Midlands Connect want to bring back the direct rail links to improve current connections which Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby calls 'appalling.'

As it stands, the train journey from Coventry to Leicester takes close to an hour despite the cities being so close.

New plans would introduce two new trains each hour which would also call at Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway and Nottingham, made possible by a new 'dive under' at Nuneaton.

You can download Midlands Connect's report from its website.

I have always mourned the loss of this service. It provided useful connection at Coventry to Oxford, Reading and the South.

And some of my earliest visits to Shropshire went via this route too. In those days you could pick up the Euston to Shrewsbury service at Coventry, which removed the need to change at Birmingham New Street.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A walk around the Isle of Dogs with John Rogers

 From the blurb on YouTube:

This walk starts at East India Basin near Orchard Place, Trinity Buoy Wharf. The basin is now a nature reserve but was built as East India Dock between 1803-06 to handle the cargos on the East India company. We then progress along the edge the Isle of Dogs beside the River Thames and pay a visit to the Virginia Settlers Monument at New Providence Wharf, and then to the site of the former Blackwall Dock and Blackwall Tunnel and admire the fine ventilation shafts designed by Terry Farrell for the London County Council between 1961-2.

We then make our way around Poplar Dock and Blackwall Basin and briefly pass through the private estate of Canary Wharf before returning to the perimeter of the Isle of Dogs by the Blue Bridge on Manchester Road. Here in Cubitt Town we find some rare surviving older dwellings on the Isle and pass the Samuda Estate named after the Samuda Brothers Shipbuilding Company. 

We walk along the Thames past Van Gogh Court, Millennium Wharf, Cubitt Wharf, and Caledonian Wharf, to Newcastle Draw Dock and the beautiful sunset view along Glenaffric Avenue. Our when then finishes at Island Gardens.

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Missing man found dead inside Spanish dinosaur statue

The Guardian wins our Headline of the Day award thanks to a nomination from a Liberal England reader.

Beneath the headline you will find a story of grotesque tragedy.

The Joy of Six 1010

"Clarke roots his theories in the politics of the contemporary left and has identified three mythologies that need to be overcome if the party is to win power again. He terms these 'the Dark Knight', 'the Puppet Master' and 'the Golden Age'." Anthony Broxton reviews Chris Clarke’s book The Dark Knight and the Puppet Master.

Eric Levitz says the choice before us on climate change is techno-optimism or barbarism.

"Not only is parkrun exactly the kind of health intervention that local government should be pulling out all the stops to support, but it is also a source of company and community to many people who have ended up socially adrift." Isabel Hardman asks why the post-lockdown revival of parkrun is being delayed.

"Ballard, who was no admirer of England’s 'green and pleasant land' and was quick to embrace the cool promise of modernity after the war, nevertheless found worrying portents in the high-rise tower blocks going up in cities in the United Kingdom and United States." Phyllis Richardson on J.G. Ballard, tower blocks and dystopian dread.

Oliver Wainwright travels to Derby and its new Museum of Making, housed in an old silk mill beside the River Derwent.

Kaitlyn Tiffany looks at the popularity of conspiracy theories about celebrity pregnancies.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Major drug dealer's love of Leicestershire Stilton cheese betrays him to the police

The Leicester Mercury wins our Headline of the Day Award with this magnificent effort.

It would, the judges remarked, have been the headline of any day.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

ABC: When Smokey Sings

I lost touch with the charts in the 1980s. I know all the songs from hearing them in the pub after canvassing or council meetings, but can struggle to tell you what they are called or who recorded them.

Anyway, I heard this in the supermarket the other day and thought it sounded good. It turned out to be by ABC.

Wikipedia says the bass line is a homage to Smokey Robinson's Tears of a Clown. No doubt it is, but I was unexpectedly reminded of Footsie by Wigan's Chosen Few.

This was a 1975 near-novelty hit from the brief period when the national media discovered Northern Soul and we were all searching for something to fill the gap between the end of glam and the birth of punk.

The Eurovision winner who was the granddaughter of a Liberal MP

Emmelie de Forest won Eurovision for Denmark in 2013 with Only Teardrops and also provides us with our Trivial Fact of the Day.

Because her grandfather was Maurice de Forest, who sat as Liberal MP for West Ham North between 1911 and 1918.

The 1911 by-election was called after this blog's hero Charles Masterman was found to have overspent on his campaign in the second general election of 1910. Masterman returned to the Commons in another 1911 by-election in a nearby seat.

Emmelie de Forest is reported to have boosted her image by claiming her grandfather Maurice was the illegitimate son of Edward VII.

But Royal Musings says the story is nonsense and Lord Bonkers has confirmed this to me.

Thanks to Mr Memory on Twitter - his account is well worth a follow if you like political trivia.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Lib Dems can knock holes in the Tories' Blue Wall

One of this blog's established roles is engendering irrational optimism in its Liberal Democrat readers.

So I was naturally drawn to a piece of research by Luke Jeffrey that suggests some Conservative seats in the South of England may be vulnerable to the Lib Dems.

Jeffrey looks at this month's local election results in 82 Tory seats across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

He finds that the Lib Dems outpolled the Tories in seven of them: Winchester, Eastleigh, Eastbourne, Chippenham, Cheltenham, Watford, and South Cambridgeshire.

Across these 82 seats, the Lib Dems obtained 24.1 per cent of the vote, up 4.2 per cent on the 2019 general election.

There are, of course, lots of caveats to be entered, and Jeffrey enters all of them, but we must take our hope where we can get it.

The idea of a Blue Wall that may crumble will appeal to the media and a Lib Dem victory in Chesham and Amersham will give that idea more credibility.

And that will gives the Tory government a headache as it is faced with defending its gains in the Red Wall while keeping its traditional voters in the Blue Wall happy.

Particularly as there is nothing in Boris Johnson's journalistic or political career to suggest that be believes in levelling up anything.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Joy of Six 1009

"There is a lot of common ground between most councillors about the pragmatic methods needed to deliver services and a better future for those they represent. That common ground too often gets dissipated by an unnecessary tribalism and arrogance with people defending their tribe to the end instead of accepting compromise and joint working and rightful involvement." Richard Kemp looks at the new coalitions emerging after this month's local elections.

Maddy Shaw Roberts reports that musicians and music businesses are warning time is up for UK grassroots acts and European orchestras are resistant to booking UK artists because of ‘paperwork and expense’.

"The law remains fully committed to backing the ‘static’ but specifically to the propertied ‘static’. Modern methods of control over space and access to it are not only legal but technological – CCTV and other surveillance, ID cards, swipe cards, fingerprint and face recognition software. Open space in many of our cities appears free and easy, but lots of concourses, squares and plazas in new developments are privately owned, and you can be prevented from protesting, hanging out or doing pretty much anything depending on the power and will of private corporations." mudlark121 surveys 1000 years of laws against travellers, wanderers and trespass

Richard Mabey mourns the debasement of the English hedge.

"One of the new Road Collision Reporting Guidelines stresses that journalists should not use the word 'accident' for a road collision but, instead, use 'crash'. Carlton Reid on new guidelines for journalists.

Alun Harris offers a quick guide to the work of the horror writer Ramsey Campbell.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Loughborough Bell Foundry

It turns out that the Conservatives' determination to defend British culture begins and ends with statues.

As the Evening Standard reports:
The government has approved plans to turn the 450-year-old foundry where Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were made into a boutique hotel.

Campaigners have been battling to stop US developer Raycliff converting the Grade II listed Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a 108-bedroom hotel with swimming pool, cafe and artist spaces.

The proposal was given the green light by Tower Hamlets council in 2019. But Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick "called in" the decision to be considered further.

It meant building could not start until the application had been scrutinised by the government department, which has now said work can go ahead.
The good news is that there is still a working bell foundry in England: Taylor's of Loughborough.

You can see it at work in the Historic England video. I took some photos of the buildings myself in 2017.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Are house prices a pointer to who'll win Chesham and Amersham?

From The Negotiator:

Analysis of house prices in all of the 124 districts, unitary and borough councils of England revealed that there’s been a 13.2 per cent increase across Liberal Democrat ruled constituencies since the 2019 general election while Tory-led regions have seen a 1.7 per cent drop.

The average house prices across Lib Dem and Conservative majority areas are £430,141 and £283,512 respectively. Labour-held areas have the lowest average house price at just £193,487, but this still marks an average rise of 8.3% since 2019.

In this same period of time, the average house price for the whole of England has gone up by 9.5%.

It's findings are a long way from the Liberalism of the left-behind, but this research does help explain why it is that the Lib Dems made gains in the affluent south a couple of weeks ago and why they rather fancy their chances in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

If you want to help the Lib Dem effort there, the details are on Sarah Green for Chesham and Amersham.

The party has two offices - one in Chesham and one in Amersham.

Our Chesham office is Chesham Youth Centre, Old Drill Hall, Bellingdon Road, Chesham, Bucks, HP5 2HA

Our Amersham office is 11 Hill Avenue, Amersham, HP6 5BD

Both are open daily for delivery and canvassing:

Monday to Friday 9am - 7:30pm

Saturday 10am - 6pm

Sunday 10am - 4pm

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

London's Lost Railways: Harrow and Stanmore

Back in the 1970s my mother and I would visit one of her aunts in Wealdstone by getting off the coach from Market Harborough to London at Hendon and then catching a bus.

That bus went through Belmont and I always looked for the old railway when we passed over it. I think there was more to seen then than there is today.

Anyway, enjoy the second video in Geoff Marshall's series on London's lost lines.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Gloucestershire Orville creator confesses to nearly killing David Jason with giant sugar lump

Gloucestershire Live wins our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges noted that its entry built upon an earlier winner of the very same award.

For, on 29 October 2020, the Independent was honoured for its:

Only Fools and Horses star David Jason ‘nearly killed by giant sugar cube’ while filming PG Tips advert

At the time I was inclined to accept the newspaper's implication that it was all an unfortunate accident.

But the revelation that the creator of Orville was involved casts a more sinister light on the affair.

A man who is capable of that is capable of anything.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Humphrey Lyttelton and his Band: Bad Penny Blues

There's a great story about this record and Humphrey Lyttelton tells it in another video.

Essentially, Joe Meek its producer had an enormous influence on the final sound. That would be expected today, but was unheard of in 1956.

Lyttelton says that if he had heard the record beforehand he would have vetoed its release. But he was abroad and by the time he got back to Britain it was already a hit. "So I shut up."

There is another story I have heard Lyttelton tell about this record, though I can't find it on the web.

He was walking down a corridor at the BBC in the 1960s and met John Lennon coming the other way. As they passed, Lennon pointed at him and said "Bad Penny Blues".

Paul McCartney must have liked it too, as you will discover if you listen to Lady Madonna.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Billy Barratt wins an International Emmy

I have blogged several times about the BBC television play Responsible Child, which looked at the way the British legal system deals with children accused of serious crimes.

In one of those posts I said that its young star Billy Barratt gave "the best performance by a child actor I have ever seen".

It seems I was not alone in estimating it so highly. In November 2020 Barratt won an International Emmy for the best TV performance by an actor that year.

This is a big deal. Recent winners of this award include Kenneth Branagh and Dustin Hoffman.

Responsible Child itself won the International Emmy for the best TV movie of mini-series and you can still watch it on the BBC iPlayer.

The Joy of Six 1008

"Marta tells us that just a few weeks ago, she was detained by British border authorities at Heathrow Airport, transferred in the middle of the night to the nearby 'Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre' (defined as a 'prison' even by Google Maps), and deported with a flight to Milan the day after." Antonello Guerrera on how Britain now treats EU nationals.

Geoffrey M. Hodgson outlines his long journey from socialism to liberalism.

"This decision is a crime. A brutish act of narrow Philistinism that will rob all future generations of a unique living, human tradition that took almost five centuries to grow. It can never be regained once lost. It is an abhorrent betrayal of the legislative duty of care and responsibility which every level of government, from the most local to the supra-national, has to protect heritage and community and culture." Brice Stratford on the government's decision to allow the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to be converted into a hotel:

"Britpop has a bad reputation for stolid, white-boy basicness now, but it’s not a reputation Parklife deserves. While Oasis stacked their support with soundalike guitar bands, seeing Blur at Mile End meant I also saw weirdo electro duo Sparks." Sarah Ditum stands up for Blur.

Johnny Restall revisits a drab, wet London for Séance On A Wet Afternoon (1964), a psychological thriller with supernatural undertones.

Flickering Lamps tales us behind the high walls of London’s Charterhouse.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Lib Dem views on the state of the party in Scotland and Wales

Writing on his blog A Scottish Liberal, Andrew Page has responded to Alex Cole-Hamilton's declaration that he is cheerful about the future of the Liberal Democrats.

Andrew is more fearful than cheerful:

When we talk among ourselves we have so many obvious selling points, with progressive, redistributive policies from UBI to federalism. We want to radically overhaul the way the UK works. We believe in a localism that empowers communities.  
But voters don’t hear that and it isn’t simply a by-product of limited media coverage but an unwillingness to shout about who we are. It’s as if we’re scared to take risks in case we lose what little ground we already have. 
And so, instead of communicating bold, radical visions for an alternative future we end up focusing on anti-SNP tactical squeeze messaging. That was never a recipe for growing the party, however much it helped grow the vote in North East Fife and Edinburgh Western.

Down in Wales, Democracy Coma is worried about the party too:

Poor leadership, vacuous messaging, a weak manifesto, no strategy for gaining votes to speak of, a poor digital presence and not even any freepost literature in most constituencies – whilst deeply sad for many hardworking candidates and campaigners, for the party as a whole the results were deserved.

They were also entirely predictable. We have failed to learn anything whatsoever from election results in Wales at all levels of government over the past 10 years. The party has made many mistakes in this time and arguably before that but has chosen to hide from them rather than address them. We can do this no longer.

And it's also worth looking at a Twitter thread from Stew Elliott on how we Lib Dems fared against the Green Party - though it may not make you feel more cheerful.

The Great Wheel of Earl’s Court

It lasted only 11 years, but the Great Wheel was a sensation in its day and is still remembered at Earl's Court if you look closely at the station's exterior.

Jago Hazzard is our guide. He has a Patreon, you know.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Monday, May 10, 2021

Write a guest post for Liberal England

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

In fact I could do with some guest posts on what the Lib Dems should do in the light of Thursday's elections. I am now a full-time carer, which limits the time I have to write longer posts of that sort.

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

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Renaissance: Northern Lights

The band Renaissance has a complicated history. It was formed in 1969 by Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, two members of the Yardbirds who fell by the wayside as that band transformed itself into Led Zeppelin, and its original line up also include Relf's sister Jane.

In the Seventies a new line up emerged, with Annie Haslam as the lead vocatist. It was this incarnation that recorded Northern Lights, which reached number 10 in the UK Singles charts in the summer of 1978.

Roy Wood was involved with Renaissance a couple of decades after that, and the band is still going today. Only it has crossed the Atlantic and is now firmly American.

I liked Northern Lights back in 1978 and like it today. This is chiefly because of Haslam's voice, but it's also good to see a pretentious, late Seventies double-necked guitar again.

Two reasons Labour deserved to lose Hartlepool

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Twitter is not Britain, they say. And that's just as well.

Much of the reaction I've seen on the platform from those disappointed at the result in the Hartlepool by-election has involved attacks on the town's voters. They are stupid, they are racist and so on.

But what if Labour got pretty much the result they deserved? What if they had a disaterous recent history on the local council and imposed the wrong candidate?

Here's a paragraph from the magisterial preview of the by-election that Andrew Teale wrote for Britain Elects:

Then the wheels really started to come off the clown car that is Hartlepool council. This is complicated, please bear with me. In 2018 the five UKIP councillors walked out of the party and, eventually, rebranded as a new party called the Independent Union. 

Just before the May 2019 elections the ruling Labour group suffered a huge split, with most of the leadership group walking off to join the Scargillite Socialist Labour Party. The electorate were not impressed, and in May 2019 ... Labour lost six of the nine wards they were defending and overall control of the council.

And here is Ailbhe Rea reporting her visit to the town in the New Statesman:

"Have you heard about our fantastic candidate, Dr Paul Williams?" a keen Labour activist asks an elderly gentleman who has answered his door in Seaton Carew, a seaside village a few minutes’ drive down the coast from Hartlepool’s centre. 

He is not voting Labour, he tells the canvasser, saying he has read that Williams was involved in the decision to close critical care at Hartlepool hospital (Williams, an NHS doctor, was indeed on the board that consulted on that decision).

Sometimes in politics you get the result you deserve.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

The Joy of Six 1007

I have long regretted choosing 'Six of the Best' as a name for a feature on this blog. I mentioned this in a recent post and, thanks to a suggestion there by Epictetus, I have my new title.

At least I can be confident that I will never come to regret using one based on a naff Seventies sex manual.

So on we go...

Shev Fogarty blames the Jersey government's new licensing system for the current fishing dispute.

"Having spent time in 2005 asking people around Scotland how they planned to vote, and why, the most common answer to the second question was ‘that’s how we’ve always voted’, often with an invocation of a father. ... These days, the most common answer is 'I’ll see what they have to say'. The SNP didn’t become a part of people’s identities in the way their old parties used to be. It just convinced them to be open-minded." Adam Ramsey explains how the Scottish political landscape has changed.

James Kirkup says education, not class, is Britain's real political divide.

Amanda Perkins talks about her experiences working with farmers, ornithologists and volunteers in the Shropshire hills on curlew conservation.

"By the time he wrote The Owl Service, [Alan] Garner was subverting both the style and the narrative structure of fantasy, creating a distinct voice and a numinous experience. Garner’s fantasy novel focuses on the angst, loves and rivalries of its teenage protagonists: what is at stake is the home and the family. And what disrupts them (but also offers the possibility of redeeming them) is a coherent mythological tradition: in this case, Welsh legend." Dimitra Fimi celebrates a novel that broke the rules of fantasy.

Ben Clifford takes us on six walks that encompass Croydon’s boundaries and history.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Richard Thompson on Fairport Convention, Hugh Cornwell and Sandy Denny

From the blurb on YouTube:

In which the beloved entertainer talks about his memoir 'Beeswing: Fairport, Folk and Finding My Voice 1967-1975', a rich and circuitous ramble that features Jimmy Shand, Louis Armstrong, a school band with Hugh Cornwell, sitar lessons with Andy Summers, the word game that invented 'Unhalfbricking', the genius of Sandy Denny, the 'backstabbing' folk community, the perils of the British stiff upper lip, a cardboard cut-out of Nick Drake, the Henry the Human Fly photoshoot, disinfecting sheep, the writing of Meet on the Ledge and the enduring mystery of the best song lyrics.

A Word in Your Ear appears weekly as a conventional podcast and is agreeable listening for music fans of a certain age.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Snoring Somerset dormouse stuns National Trust rangers

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ITV News wins our Headline of the Day Award.

Click on the link to be stunned yourself.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

James Graham looks back at the AV referendum 10 years on

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James Graham has written a cracking post looking back at the referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote for British general elections.

This took place on 5 May 2011 and its staging formed part of the Coalition agreement. Unfortunately, it turned out that no one had any idea how to argue for AV because, as James confirms, no one much believed in the system.

I can't remember a single poster or slogan from the pro-AV campaign. I can't even remember voting in the referendum, though I suppose I must have done.

Anyway, here are a few highlights from James's post, but do hurry over to Quaequam Blog! and read the whole thing:

It was genuinely surprising to me that in the run up to the EU referendum, no-one from the Remain campaign ever approached me about my thoughts on what they should and should not do. Perhaps this is ego talking, but I’m not aware of anyone in the campaign being approached.

It seemed remarkable to me that no-one seemed to think they had anything to learn from us. But then, if I was a Cameron-supporting Tory who had been on the No to AV side and was aware of what a brutally effective campaign that had been, I would have moved the earth to avoid holding a second national referendum in the first place. It isn’t just the Lib Dems who were guilty of hubris.


I’m not writing this to especially condemn the man – there has been far too much water under the bridge since – but it seems very weird to me the degree to which Lord Sharkey‘s role in the campaign has been downplayed and even airbrushed out of history. ... And yet it was my recollection that every single significant appointment or campaign decision had been made by him. No one has ever challenged this as far as I know. He’s just been essentially erased.


My career weirdly mirrors Nick Tyrone’s. While the AV referendum was the finishing of my political career, it was the making of his. He went from an obscure film producer who just happened to be the husband of Nick Clegg’s Director of Policy, to the head of the Radix think tank. He fell out with the Lib Dems pretty quickly post-2015 as the party sought to distance itself from the “coalicious” period and these days has very much positioned himself in the same right wing circles as Matthew Elliot.


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

There's nothing wrong with calling our national flag the Union Jack

It's featured in Doctor Who, and the last person I heard making the claim was Jim Davidson.

I don't know where the idea that it's wrong to call the UK's national flag the Union Jack comes from - on no evidemce. I suspect QI - but it's bollocks.

If you don't believe me, talk to Cdr Bruce Nicolls OBE RN (Retd) of the Flag Institute:

It is sometimes claimed that the Union Flag should be described as the Union Jack only when flown in the bows of a warship, but this is a relatively recent idea. From its earliest days, the Admiralty often referred to the flag – however it was used – as the Union Jack. 

In 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that either name could be used officially. And in 1908 the UK Parliament approved this verdict, stating that ‘the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag’.

Cdr Nicholls's article featured in a Six of the Best here long ago. I still enjoy collecting links for this feature, but I find its name increasingly embarrassing.

Does anyone have a better idea for something to call it?

Monday, May 03, 2021

Alex Andreou on the need to give Leavers the space to change their minds

There's a really good contribution to the latest Oh God, What Now? podcast by Alex Andreou,

I liked it so much that I transcribed it, but if you click on player above you can listen to him making it:

We are never going to get the Damascene conversion en masse that we crave – “we” as in Remainers. There’s never going to be that moment where Nigel Farage is marched naked down the street with Naomi [Smith] following him ringing a big bell going “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

It’s just not going to happen. We’re not going to get that satisfaction outside our fantasy world.

And when actually it does happen, the vast majority of Remainers’ reaction is to go: “Why did you vote for it then you wanker?” You know, to punish the people who publicly change their mind.

So here’s what need to happen. What we need to do is to create create the space – the intellectual space – for people to change their mind in the privacy of the polling booth.

They don’t have to publicly admit it. They don’t have to make some grand apology: “You were right. We were wrong. Badly done on us.” We just have to give them enough reasons and enough space to U-turn in the privacy of the polling booth, just between them a piece of paper and a pencil.

Oh God, What Now? is the new name for the old Remainiacs podcast.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Sandy Denny: Whispering Grass

My main present for Christmas 1973 was a cassette recorder and I was soon busy taping music off the radio. I remember recording the year's top 60 singles, stopping the tape every time Peters and Lee put in an appearance.

And I remember taping a snatch of this record from a trailer for a Radio One programme. Looking at BBC Genome, it must have been for the edition of Sounds on Sunday broadcast on 6 January 1974.

I had no idea what the song was or who the singer was, but I thought it was wonderful.

Whispering Grass was made famous by The Ink Spots in the 1940s and was to reach the top of the charts in 1975 thanks to  Windsor Davies and Don Estelle.

These two were playing their characters from the comedy It Ain't Half Hot Mum. One day I will write a post offering a limited defence of that show.

Later, like all sensible people, I came to worship Sandy Denny's singing. Despite the appearance of biographies, though, her life and character remain opaque.

Six of the Best 1006

Rafael Behr says there is only one thing certain in the court of King Boris: it will all end badly: "Johnson is driven by a restless sense of his own entitlement to be at the apex of power and a conviction, supported by evidence gathered on his journey to the top, that rules are a trap to catch weaker men and honour is a plastic trophy that losers award themselves in consolation for unfulfilled ambition."

"The unreadable in pursuit of the unelectable" Mic Wright deconstructs my old classmate Allison Pearson's interview with Laurence Fox.

Ian Sanjay Patel is interviewed about his book We’re Here Because You Were There: Immigration and the End of Empire.

Children read more challenging books in lockdowns, reports Alison Flood.

"Aunt Lucy gets to see firsthand that Paddington is okay and know he is loved and being cared for with the utmost sincerity. It’s all one can ever hope for when they have to give a child up for adoption." Mike X. Nichols says the two Paddington films get a lot right about adoption.

"One of the key British films of the 1950s, Pool of London was far out ahead of the crowd in tackling racial issues on screen. This classic dockside noir was directed by Basil Dearden." Adam Scovell goes in search of the locations used in the film to see what remains.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

London's Lost Railways: Woodside and South Croydon

Geoff Marshall, who produces the Least Used Station videos I sometimes post here, has started a new series: London's Lost Railways.

The first of these takes us to Croydon and the remains of the Woodside and South Croydon Joint Railway.