Sunday, August 29, 2021

Principal Edwards Magic Theatre: The Kettering Song

A passing mention in the latest edition of The Word Podcast led me to Principal Edwards Magic Theatre and this song.

The band, a favourite of John Peel's, was formed at the University of Essex in 1968. Its members soon abandoned their studies to form a commune.

That commune was in a farmhouse near Kettering. I'd love to know exactly where the farmhouse was, but its general location explains this song. 

The tone is mocking, or at least ironically celebrating, but I won't hear a word against Sainsbury's in Kettering. Back in the 1980s I used to catch the bus and shop there sometimes. (These days Market Harborough has a Sainsbury's and a Waitrose, so there's no point.)

The Kettering Song comes from the band's second album, The Asmoto Running Band, which was produced by Pink Floyd's Nick Mason,

One of its leading members was Root Cartwright. Could he be the same Root Cartwright who was quoted in the Observer in 2002 as chairman of the British Organisation of Non-Parents?

He would have been about the right age, and living in a commune with other people's children could have that effect on you.

Later. And this is where the commune was...

Much later. The consensus seems to be that the commune was at the still-standing Broughton Grange, and that the band could be found drinking in the Red Lion at Broughton.

Doh! Boris Johnson garbles Homer

A letter from Gregory Klyve in the 17 June issue of the London Review of Books discusses Boris Johnson’s claim to know the beginning of the Iliad off by heart:

There’s a clip online of him attempting a demonstration at the Melbourne Writers Festival. He recites the first 42 lines in just two and a half minutes. 

He achieves this by omitting lines 8, 15-16, 18-19, 21-22, 32 and 39-41. He misquotes lines 14, 17, 20, 23, 24, 35, 36, 37 and 38. The remaining lines are present and correct.

Boris Johnson is a barbarian's idea of a speaker of Ancient Greek.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Winchelsea Beach and the Summer of Love

Embed from Getty Images

I was there in 1967 and I remember it. But as I was only seven years old, that is to be expected.

We did, though, have a drug-influenced game at primary school. It involved sniffing a crumpled leaf from a bush growing on the generous playing fields and then running around being silly. 

It made a change from machine gunning Germans, which is what we generally did at play time.

For me the Summer of Love meant a week's holiday on a caravan park at Winchelsea Beach in Sussex. I think this was a visit to Malcolm Saville country before I had read any of his books, though as I was a precocious reader it may not be the case.

And that holiday reminds me of four things.

The first was a toy. You pulled a toothed strip through a gear wheel to send a disc spinning away into the distance. They should bring it back.

The second was The Beatles' song All You Need is Love, which was on the radio everywhere all the time.

The third is another record: Up, Up and Away. In the US it was a hit for Fifth Dimension, a group fronted by the wonderful Marilyn McCoo. But for some reason it was the Johnny Mann Singers who had a hit with it in the UK.

Johnny Mann Singers? Me too, but Wikipedia will tell you about Johnny Mann.

The fourth is that, before we set off, I got a little lecture from my parents about not playing with anything metal I found on the beach.

This, which must have been occasioned by the way these beaches had been mined against the threat of Nazi invaion, is a reminder that 1967 is several times near the second world war than the present day.

I do have another musical memory from the first Summer of Love. For me, Procul Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale is inextricably linked with the Essex village of Tollesbury.

This is where my mother's mother's family came from and where my mother stayed as a little girl during the war.

So I must have had a first holiday there a little earlier that summer, But we shall play out with the Johnny Mann Singers...

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Joy of Six 1023

"We are in a dystopian present, where a few private equity backed providers own an outsized share of non-LA [local authority] children’s homes and foster care capacity. They have not done this by developing and nurturing provision or risking their own money. Instead they borrow money, often from each other, at high rates of interest to buy multiple children’s homes and private independent fostering agencies. They assign the debt they have taken on to the company they have bought – leveraged debt, as it is called - then charge the cost of this debt’s interest to the LAs through their fees." Andy Elvin exposes the scandal of the residential children's care market.

David Letts, who runs a small domestic lighting shop in Market Harborough, writes about the impact of Brexit on his business: "Generally, costs have risen about 20 per cent. Some products are now as much as 40 per cent more expensive. No EU traders are fully certain what the extra charges are or will be. So they make it up and just hope to be on the right side when the customs bill arrives."

Jathan Sadowski is a Luddite and wants you to be one too. "The Luddites wanted technology to be deployed in ways that made work more humane and gave workers more autonomy. The bosses, on the other hand, wanted to drive down costs and increase productivity."

"I wonder whether we are doing a bit of disservice to our children by trying to organise a lot (too much?) for them." Michael Siewniak asks an important question.

"Some sections of the 'All You Need is Love' generation moved beyond Flower Power – a cultural revolution and notions of personal liberation - towards the pursuit of an international political revolution." Dave Haslam looks back at the Angry Brigade, Britain's forgotten urban terrorists .

"Conceived as a prequel to the oft-filmed classic ghost story by Henry James, The Turn of the Screw, it tells the story of what went on at Bly House when the sinister ghostly couple, Miss Jessel and Peter Quint, were still alive." Jane Nightshade on The Nightcomers (1971), which was directed by Michael Winner and starred Marlon Brando.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Why isn't there a railway tunnel to the Isle of Wight?

Paul and Rebecca Whitewick say in their YouTube blurb:

We document the three main attempts to build a tunnel prior to the First World War. The Solent Tunnel was set to join the Isle of Wight with the mainland via three separate railway tunnel attempts. Each failed, we take a look at all the evidence we can find to piece this mystery together.

Seagull trapped in Falmouth holiday let penthouse stares menacingly at passersby

A seagull yesterday

This is Cornwall wins out Headline of the Day Award.

The return of schoolboys in skirts

What with lockdown and school closures, I feared for the future of a recently established silly-season staple. But a search of Google News shows it was alive and well this summer.

You know how the story goes. A group of teenage boys want to wear shorts to school in a heatwave but are told by the authorities that they can't.

So they read the small print of their school's uniform policy and find there's nothing to say that boys can't wear skirts. And that's how they turn up the next morning.

In June it happened in Moffat, where a 16-year-old persuaded his school to change its uniform policy as a result.

And the following month, receiving far more coverage, it happened in St Austell.

One of the boys explained what happened next to CornwallLive:

"It was a mixed bag. Some teachers thought we were messing about. But there were others who cheered us on.

"There were a group of Year 8 boys who were clapping and cheering us.

"We were removed from classes and banned for socialisation for 24 hours but we were let go because they couldn't find anything to pin us on.

"We haven't broken any rules.

"We just want everyone to have the option to wear shorts in this heat and that goes for the girls too."

Monday, August 23, 2021

John Rogers and Iain Sinclair walk through Tilbury

John Rogers describes this walk on YouTube:

A walk with writer Iain Sinclair in Tilbury on the River Thames in Essex, exploring some of the territory covered in his forthcoming book The Gold Machine. 

This fascinating Essex walk through Tilbury Town and along the Thames foreshore to the Bata Factory in East Tilbury goes to the heart of the landscapes that have inspired much of his work since his book Downriver published in 1990.

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

GUEST POST We need a new generation of Liberal Clubs

Matthew Pennell says the Lib Dems should put bricks and mortar before Facebook.

It was a day at school I’ll never forget: one of my Politics A Level classmates had a taboo revelation for us. 

It was Adam. You’d like Adam, he was nearly a foot taller than me but he was a gentle giant, soft round the edges in an otherwise waspish alpha male wannabe environment. Sharp intake of breath ... then he told us he’d joined the Young Conservatives. 

Mic drop - none of us were expecting that. Adam was a genuinely nice guy, it seemed absurd to my friends and I that he could do such a wicked thing. This was the 1980s. Thanks to the course we knew that not merely were there three million on the dole, but that there was a wider underclass of 10 million and that 90 years of income convergence up to 1980 had been wiped out by 10 years of Thatcherism.

In retrospect Adam’s choice to join the YCs makes a lot more sense. Dartford, our home town, was famous for being officially the most average town in Britain - hitting the mean in terms of socio-economic, age, race and religious demographics. 

It wasn’t average in terms of violence, though. All the towns along the Thames Estuary were very rough and ready during the 1980s. There was a police van parked in the middle of the town centre every Saturday night - a reassuring sight, but it was there for a reason.

Adam just wanted a quiet drink away from all the aggravation. Dartford’s Conservative Club is in the main drag, really straightforward to pop in and make an enquiry about signing up. 

There’s no Liberal Club. I was 17, I should have joined the newly formed Liberal Democrats at the same time, but I didn’t know how to. There was no simple pathway - I didn’t join until I was 41.

Social fabric - more than just a party

My politics teacher was at pains to stress that the Conservatives had a club in every constituency in mainland Britain. I guess this is a product of so much landed-gentry and corporate money being thrown at them for so long. As you can see from Figure 1, party membership used to be a huge part of British life.

Without regular face-to-face human contact, membership is precarious and volatile. Harvard Politics Professor Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone details how pressure groups have moved away from social experiences or a ‘chapter based’ membership model, to an impersonal experience. 

This led to millions joining Greenpeace in the US in the 1980s when the environment became a mainstream media issue, and millions leaving as quickly as they joined.

Unfortunately, with a similar membership model, not really by choice, the Lib Dems sees its numbers wax and wane - in 2019 we had 145,000 members and supporters. I’ve seen many announce they’ve quit the party since via online messages; in most cases they never actually met any other members because the had no local club to go to. 

Why now?

If you joined the Lib Dems after 2010 you won’t have had an easy time, we were on the back foot during the coalition years instead of celebrating our wins in government. 

I joined in 2015 because of a sudden sense that if I didn’t do something the party might disappear altogether. In 2021, however, I’m more confident about our long term future than I have been in over a decade - i.e. I can see a liberal party in some form surviving and thriving for decades to come. 

That being the case it’s no longer fanciful to have long term expansion plans that include boosting our physical presence because we’re not simply firefighting any more, we’re better than that. 

Where would the money come from? 

We spent a lot during the 2019 general election campaign, millions directed towards online ads. It’s clear that after a while we hit the law of marginal returns on this and ended up wasting a lot of our ad spend. This is money that could in the future be redirected towards bricks and mortar and away from Facebook (sorry, Nick Clegg).

This would not be a quick or easy process but it might be worth pursuing a specific fund to increase our club footprint, in the same way we have elections fighting funds. It would also be a way of elevating ourselves above the other small parties who are also reliant on pub and cafe meet-ups to get together.

You can read a longer version of this article on Matthew's blog returnoftheliberal and follow him on Twitter.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

John Lee Hooker: Boom Boom

Did the British bands who discovered rhythm and blues in the 1960s rip off the Black American artists who originally played it?

That's not how the John Lee Hooker website sees it:

When the young bohemian artists of the 1960s “discovered” Hooker, among other notable blues originators, he found his career taking on a new direction. With the folk movement in high gear, Hooker returned to his solo, acoustic roots, and was in strong demand to perform at colleges and folk festivals around the country. 

Across the Atlantic, emerging British bands were idolizing Hooker’s work. Artists like the Rolling Stones, the Animals and the Yardbirds introduced Hooker’s sound to new and eager audiences, whose admiration and influence helped build Hooker up to superstar status. 

By 1970, Hooker had relocated to California and was busy collaborating on several projects with rock acts. One such collaboration was with Canned Heat, which resulted in 1971’s hit record Hooker ’n’ Heat. The double LP became John Lee Hooker’s first charting album.

It may later have been about money, but the British bands who played Hooker's songs first did so because they loved the music. Try a 15-year-old Steve Winwood singing Dimples.

In his White Bicycles ("I was there, and I do remember") Joe Boyd describes a concert at the Hammersmith Odeon:

This was middle America's worst nightmare: white teenage girls screaming ecstatically at Chuck Berry.

He noticed a familiar figure looking on:

I blurted out "That's John Lee Hooker." The girls around me started yelling, "John Lee? John Lee? Where? Where?" I pointed towards the wings. They started chanting, "We want John Lee, we want John Lee" and were quickly joined by half the hall - hundreds of kids.

Boyd goes on:

In that moment, I decided I would live in England and produce music for this audience. America seemed a desert in comparison. These weren't the privileged elite, they were just kids, Animals fans. And they knew who John Lee Hooker was!

No white person in America in 1964 - with the exception of me and my friends, of course - knew who John Lee Hooker was.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Dominic Guard looks back on making The Go-Between

L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between was the first adult literary novel I read and I was 13 when I read it.

Having found myself suddenly fatherless a couple of years before, it is no wonder that I identified strongly with the young Leo Colston.

To this day, I have a weakness for such characters. If I write about a Victorian novel it is probably Oliver Twist, and Lord Bonkers' Well-Behaved Orphans began as something of a joke against myself.

The Go-Between was filmed in 1971 by Joseph Losey. In this video, Dominic Guard, who played Leo, talks about the experience of making the film.

It's required listening for anyone who admires the film or the novel. And, as Guard grew up to be a child psychotherapist, it has things to say about the issues they raise.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Rutland's new Lib Dem councillor fought Rushcliffe for the Liberal Party at the 1970 general election

Last night Paul Browne won a Rutland Council by-election for the Liberal Democrats, polling two-thirds of the vote in the Oakham South ward and gaining it from the Conservatives.

People soon started tweeting that he had fought a seat for the Liberal Party at the 1970 general election.

The trouble was that no one said which one it was. I checked, and it wasn't the Rutland and Stamford constituency that existed in those days.

Thanks to a comment on last night's post, I can now reveal that Paul fought Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire. He came third and the seat was gained from Labour by a promising young Tory called Kenneth Clarke.

Lib Dems gain Oakham South

Great news from Rutland tonight! The Liberal Democrats have gained the Oakham South ward of Rutland Council from the Conservatives.

The result:

Lib Dems: 886 (67.8%, +9.8%)

Conservatives: 420 (32.2%, -9.8%)

The percentage gained or lost is a comparison with the last time the ward was fought, which was May 2019.

And if you're wondering how this can be a Lib Dem gain, the answer is that Oakham South is a three-member ward and we put up only one candidate against a slate of three Tories. 

The Lib Dem (Joanna Burrows) still topped the poll and tonight we took the seat of one of the Tories, who recently resigned from the council over a planning issue.

Andrew Teale's preview of this weeks local by-elections will give you more background on the contest. If you follow local elections you really should be reading him every week.

Anyway, congratulations to the new Lib Dem councillor Paul Browne.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Joy of Six 1022

"Eric Pickles, the head of the UK’s lobbying watchdog, says we now have 'entitlement whereby the existing cohort looked after the cohort that just left [government], in assumption that the cohort coming up would look after them.'" Chris Stokel-Walker unpicks the long history of cronyism.

Joe Ryle says a four-day week with no loss of pay would have an environmental impact equal to taking the UK's entire private car fleet off the road – and make us happier and healthier too.

"We are not benefiting children, either through parents overprotecting and overmonitoring them, or through society not creating an environment for unstructured and independent play." Emine Saner asks if 'free-range' parenting is the key to healthier, happier children.

Meg Keneally looks at now very different life was for parents and children before vaccinations for infectious diseases became available. One of her interviewees says: "Many younger people have no concept now of how awful it was."

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on women and video nasties.

"Won’t Get Fooled Again ... would remain the band’s masterpiece. Anarchic, but beautifully produced; their most politically charged song, and their most commercially viable hit." Eoghan Lyng marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Who's album Who's Next.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Martin Stephens looks back on his acting career

My recent information dump* on the deeply obscure historical novelist Vaughan Wilkins included the fact that the celebrated child actor Martin Stephens had appeared in a BBC radio adaptation of Wilkins' first novel And So - Victoria broadcast in 1962.

Stephens had already given stunning film performances in both Village of the Damned and The Innocents. Though these films are more celebrated today than they were at the time, his presence in And So - Victoria suggests that the adaptation was a big deal.

BBC Genome suggests he appeared in only one other radio play, while And So - Victoria consisted of five hour-long episodes. Stephens, as the young Christopher Harnish, would have been central to the first three.

Like a lot of child actors who emerge happily from the experience, Stephen gave up acting at an early age. In the video above he talks about his childhood and what he has done since.

* This was meant to be the ultimate niche post, but has proved strangely popular.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

A Leicestershire circular pilgrimage: St Morrell’s Round

The British Pilgrimage Trust has a page on St Morrell’s Round - an 18-mile circular route within Leicestershire.

The round is inspired by the medieval pilgrimages made to St Morrell’s Chapel on the hillside near Hallaton. Morrell, who died in 453AD, was Bishop of Anger in North-West France. He went into self-imposed exile overseas before returning to be beatified for performing the miracle of Renatus, which is shown on a mural in Anger cathedral. 

Some 800 years later a Norman overlord built a chapel in Hallaton and dedicated it to St Morrell. This is the only church in Britain mentioning Morrell and so it might have been believed that Morrell’s exile was in Hallaton. 

We know that it was a pilgrimage destination for at least the next three hundred years. The chapel was rediscovered in 2014 and work is being carried out to restore the crypt of St Michael’s Church, Hallaton, so the remains found in the chapel can be reinterred there.

The pilgrimage starts and finishes at the museum on Churchgate in Hallaton, which is next to St Michael’s church where there is evidence of an external pulpit built to address gathered pilgrims. The route leaves Hallaton on a medieval road passing its motte and bailey castle before visiting four more rural churches built from the local ironstone, all of which were open during the time when the medieval pilgrims were passing. 

Of note is St Michael’s, Loddington, which was left isolated when the whole village was rebuilt a short distance away after the plague. The far point of the route is Launde Abbey, originally built in 1099 as an Augustine Priory and later taken by Thomas Cromwell. 

As the route crosses the ridges of high Leicestershire it passes fragments of ancient woodland - including the Launde Big Wood, which is conserved and shows exactly the kind of woodland that pilgrims walked through on their way to Hallaton.

Political Beats on Steve Winwood and Traffic

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A three-hour, 20-minute podcast on Steve Winwood and Traffic? Yes please!

Political Beats is produced by the American Conservative magazine National Review. 

Over here, there are still contributors to the Spectator who pretend they know nothing about popular music.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Jago Hazzard visits the four abandoned stations in Bow

Between Bow Road and Bow Church lie four disused stations. 

Jago Hazzard takes us to their various sites - you can support his videos via his Patreon page.

Dig discovery hints that Leicester people were fed to the lions by Romans, say archaeologists

The Leicester Mercury wins Headline of the Day and the story beneath is worth reading too:

An archaeological dig in Leicester city centre may have found evidence people were once thrown to the lions by their Roman overlords. ...

A newly published paper by archaeologists concludes that a bronze key handle showing a man and a group of naked youths being savaged may suggest it actually happened here in Leicester - or Ratae Corieltauvorum as it was known - during the city's time as a prominent Roman town.

The discovery - at the site of a former Roman townhouse - was made by University of Leicester Archaeological Service in 2017 ahead of the building of the new Novotel on the inner ring road.

Dr Gavin Speed, who led the excavations at a site off Great Central Street, described the moment the find was made.

He said: “When first found, it appeared as an indistinguishable bronze object, but after we carefully cleaned off the soil remarkably we revealed several small faces looking back at us, it was absolutely astounding.

“Nothing quite like this has been discovered anywhere in the Roman Empire before.”

The key handle will be put on display at Leicester's Jewry Wall Museum when it reopens in 2023.

I visited the Great Central Street dig in 2017 and my photo shows spectators awaiting the next appearance of the lions members of the public studying the excavations.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

We're Not Deep: The Housemartins

Time for some more Housemartins, simply because I like them more and more as time goes by.

We're Not Deep is a track from their debut LP London 0 Hull 4, which was released (checks notes incredulously) 35 years ago.

Paul Heaton's lyrical genius, as ever, is on display:

Now it may be a sad reflection
On the way young people feel,
But early Monday morning
Is losing its appeal.

I open my curtains at 7am
Just so you think I'm up with the rest of the men.

Saturday, August 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.

The Joy of Six 1021

Jane Dodds argues that Wales can thrive with a basic income: "A basic income has five core characteristics: It’s paid in cash, so it’s money you can spend on whatever you want. It’s paid regularly, so you know the next payment is coming. It’s for individuals, with each person getting their own basic income, paid to the individual not the household. It’s unconditional, so you don’t have to work or make any promises to get it. It’s universal, so everyone gets it."

The single transferable vote breaks open one-party fiefdoms. Don't take my word for it: listen to Scottish Conservative councillor Dave Dempsey.

Becca Massey-Chase says making local public transport free at the point of use isn't a fantasy, it's a popular way to help communities and the climate – and it's already a reality in cities around the world.

"If the decline of the UK regional press since 2008 instead had happened to schools, police, fire stations or hospitals there would rightly be national outrage bordering on revolt." Dominic Ponsford on an overlooked tragedy.

"Martin was on a mission to bring down the unjust from their perches to the level of the populace." Max Adam looks at the art of the 19th-century painter John Martin and how in his epic landscapes of apocalyptic scale reflected his revolutionary leanings.

Dan Thompson visits Arlington House, the futuristic tower block that marked the start of 1960s redevelopment in Margate.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Lenny Harper interviewed on the Jersey child abuse scandal and other crimes

Here is the YouTube blurb for this impressive interview:

Lenny Harper was an outstanding detective who came to police the island of Jersey bringing his experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, the Gorbals, Soho and many other extremely tough postings.  

He describes himself as a 'gutter' or 'sewer' cop, ready to deal with the worst of society.  Although he was not told at the time, this was why he was selected by his chief, Graham Power, to head operations in Jersey.  He found the elite society of Jersey to be at least as much of a sewer as anywhere he had been before.

Lenny found himself in an extraordinary but sometimes hilarious situation, trying to police serious crimes of corruption, gun crime and systemic child abuse, while the ruling elite of Jersey tried to sabotage his every effort and thwart his attempts to bring justice to the island.

The BBC Storyville documentary on the case, Dark Secrets of a Trillion Dollar Island, is still on iPlayer.

Recent discoveries about Vaughan Wilkins

When I gave talks on blogging I suggested that one use of a blog is as a writer's notebook. You can upload as much of your research as you choose and link it all together.

If you are lucky, your readers will help out - for an example see the comments on a post about my own personal Thirties poet W.T. Nettlefold.

So here are my latest discoveries about the now obscure historical novelist Vaughan Wilkins. If this post is not for you, try my latest Joy of Six or listen to Scott Walker as a 15-year-old.

First I have found a sketch of Vaughan Wilkins in his days as chief sub-editor on the Daily Express by Collie Knox. And pretty fearsome he founds - this is the more attractive part:

Second, I have found on Twitter that Vaughan Wilkins was the great grandson of William Wilkins, the architect of the National Gallery.

Third, the Wilkins family contained clergymen, including Vaughan Wilkins' own father, as well as a famous architect. William Wilkins' younger brother George Wilkins was a canon at Southwell Minster.

So it's interestting that I have recently noticed that his first book, And So - Victoria, contains at least three references to Southwell Minster.

The most substantial of them, from chapter 12, runs:
It was on the road back from their Northern tour that they next heard of her. They had come slowly from Carlisle into Nottinghamshire, where Setoun had an old small house of red brick in the minster town of Southwell. The shadow of a grey tower fell across the high-walled lawn, and the rooms were full of the clangour of bells at noon and eventide - so full that they seemed to hum with the deep music long afterwards, as conch-shells echo with the sea.
Fourth, though my discovery of Vaughan Wilkins stems from And So - Victoria being a Book at Bedtime in the autumn of 1976, I have found that it was dramatised by the BBC back in 1962.

The hero as a boy was played by Martin Stephens, now famous from The Innocents and Village of the Damned.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Alan Ward nearly takes a hat trick in his final test

The first two tests of the 1976 West Indies your of England more or less went to plan for the hosts in that they ended in draws.

Tony Greig's notorious remark about making the West Indies grovel came after a tour of Australia in which they had displayed a certain naivety and lost the series despite their talent.

Greig reasoned that if he could keep the series close then the West Indies might display similar frailties in the later tests.

But the third test put an end to that strategy as Andy Roberts and Michael Holding blew England away.

In line with Greig's supposedly canny strategy, the England attack had been led by Mike Hendrick and Mike Selvery - fine bowlers but nowhere near Roberts and Holding in pace.

So for the fourth test everything changed and England picked the fastest attack they could field: John Snow, Bob Willis and Alan Ward.

Snow had been England leading fast bowler in the late 1960s and early 1970s before his stroppiness became too much for the selectors. He had been recalled against Australia the previous summer with some success, but this was to be his last test.

Snow playing alongside Willis marked the passing on of the torch, as this test marked the beginning of Bob Willis's long reign as England's premier fast bowler.

Alan Ward was always a bit of an enigma. A fluent fast bowler, he had been expected to be a test star, but this was to be the last of only five caps.

He turned out to be prone to injury and was once sent off the field by his captain at Derbyshire for refusing to bowl.

The fullest account of his career I can find is by Martin Chandler. Writing in 2013, he was unable to trace Ward's current whereabouts.

Anyway, Greig's new strategy proved no more successful as the West Indies openers battered his new pace attack - Ward suffered in particular.

But later in the innings he nearly took a hat trick.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

This blog's hero J.W. Logan is quoted in The Shortest History of England by James Hawes

The Shortest History of England by James Hawes does what it says on the cover. I bought it this morning and have already finished it.

It's a great little book, whose argument is that the North/South divide marked by the River Trent is fundamental to an understanding of English history.

Best of all, this blog's hero J.W. Logan, long-time Liberal MP for Harborough, makes an appearance:

Discussing the fear of national decline that was prominent among writers and politicians at the turn of the 20th century, Hawes quotes a speech Logan made in the Commons on 27 January 1897:

Let our manufacturers do as the German manufacturers did, and bring up their sons to be better manufacturers than themselves, instead of bringing them up to be gentlemen who did nothing but hunt and shoot.

Reading this, I was reminded of English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980 by Martin J. Wiener, which was published in 1980 and cited at the time as one of Margaret Thatcher's favourite books.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Layla Moran and Michael Meadowcroft on the Lib Dems and a progressive alliance

In Liberator 408 we’ve done something a bit different by running extended pieces by Layla Moran and Michael Meadowcroft on Liberal Democrat strategy. 

Layla argues for a progressive alliance with Labour and the Greens, while Michael calls for the party to make itself matter again across the widest area possible. 

See which (if either) you think is right.

Issue 408 of Liberator can be downloaded free of charge from the magazine's website.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Belly dancing is the secret to a healthy life, says 80-year-old teacher from Shropshire

Embed from Getty Images

Once again, the Shropshire Star wins out Headline of the Day Award.

But should she be thanking the belly dancing or the Shropshire air?

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Scott Engel: Kathleen

This is very American and very 1958, and it's not a bad record, especially when you learn that the singer was only 15.

And Scott Engel, of course, grew up to become Scott Walker, the coolest man of the coolest decade we have ever experienced.

Youthful fame can be a burden for a musician. Ricky Nelson struggled with the transition to being Rick Nelson - it's what his song Garden Party is all about.

I've seen it argued that Steve Marriott's West End success as the Artful Dodger made him worry about authenticity in later life, explaining some of the strange turns his career took.

Some are luckier: Kate Bush's record company left her to study and write songs for some years before they launched her with Wuthering Heights. And young Scotty Engel had the sense to come to Swinging London to reinvent himself.

Meanwhile, Aksel Rykkvin, the best treble you've ever heard, is training as a baritone.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Welcome to Fox Books of Leicester

My trip into Leicester on Wednesday meant I was able to visit the city's new independent bookshop, Fox Books.

You will find it in St Martin's Square, which feels a good location for a bookshop. The stock is small but well chosen, and I came away with Catherine Belton's Putin's People. This is currently the subject of a libel action in the London courts, which tends to support her argument.

When I was a teenager, in the old days, in the Seventies, I had a circuit of Leicester bookshops (new, second-hand and remaindered) to follow.

Even in the Nineties, national chains like Dillon's, Ottakar's and Sherrat & Hughes had shops in the city, But the triumph of Waterstone's and Amazon has left it with a single branch of the former. 

So I wish Fox Books well.

Other independent bookshops in the county include Quinns Bookshop in Market Harborough and Kibworth Books.

Friday, August 06, 2021

The Joy of Six 1020

Geoff Mulgan looks at the Spectator’s grip on the Conservative Party - its weakness over wokeness and overreliance on wordsmiths.

"The decline of the high street has been hollowing out British town centres in recent years. When pubs, community centres, libraries and banks close, it adds to a sense of local decline. In my recently published research, I found that local decline contributes to a rise in support for radical-right political parties – and that the loss of local pubs plays a surprisingly important role in the shift." Diane Bolet explores the links between pub closures and the rise of Ukip.

Sophia Alexandra Hall explains why Good Law Project has launched a legal challenge on the high numbers of children in care being placed outside their local area.

"England is no more a single country than Great Britain or the UK. The “Jurassic divide” in our geology - traced by the Trent-Humber river - has split England since before it was England." Regularly falling to foreign takeovers and perennially divided, England is a nation that never was, argues James Hawes.

Sarah Lawson talks to Melvyn Bragg about how he has spent more than 50 years championing the joy, value, and fascination of knowledge.

"How extraordinary to glimpse on the horizon, then, amid the unrelenting horizontality of everything, a vertical shape, a tower aimed straight at Heaven, built in a style which took as its fundamental principle precisely the emphasis, the exaltation of verticality." Dominic N visits Boston and the tower of St Botolph's - Boston Stump.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Explore the remains of the GN & LNWR Joint Railway from Market Harborough to Newark

The Great Northern and London North Western Joint Railway opened in 1878 from Market Harborough to Newark, with a branch into Leicester and its own terminus at Belgrave Road.

The line ran through country that was too remote to generate much passenger traffic, but it carried plenty of freight.

Passenger services ceased in 1953 and, but for a few fragments, the whole line was closed by 1964.

This splendid video follows the remains of the line from Welham Junction, just north of Market Harborough, to Cotham, just south of Newark.

Rocket Round Leicester has landed

The Rocket Round Leicester page explains:

LOROS Hospice’s flagship fundraising event, Rocket Round Leicester, is here! A stellar fleet of 40 giant Rocket sculptures have formed an epic art trail across the city’s streets and open spaces from 19th July – 26th September. It’s going to be OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD!

Standing at almost 8ft in height, these spectacularly-decorated sculptures steer a voyage of discovery like never before. Each sculpture has been designed by an incredible artist and sponsored by a local business, will you find them all? 

I don't know about finding all 40, but I came across several of the wonderful rockets on a rare trip into Leicester today.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

London's Lost Railways: Staines to West Drayton

The YouTube blurb for Geoff Marshall's fifth video in this series explains:

We're on the trail from Staines West station, over the wonderfully bleak moor on the old line that goes through Colnbrook, and to West Drayton - part of which is still in use as a freight line today.

Listen to David Howarth speak on liberal equality

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrats' most impressive thinker and the former MP for Cambridge, gave this year's Annual Beveridge Lecture for the Social Liberal Forum under the title "Liberal equality".

The event was chaired by Sarah Green, the new Lib Dem MP for Chesham and Amersham, and held at the National Liberal Club and online on 29 July.

You can watch David Howarth's lecture on the Social Liberal Forum website.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

The sea tragedy the day after England won the World Cup

Old newspapers and newsreels can bring back to life tragedies and scandals that have long dropped out of public memory. 

I remember my shock at discovering that the death of a child on a farm under the Stiperstones in 1945 had driven war news off the front pages and led to changes in childcare law. At least the story of Dennis O'Neill is now known more widely than it was.

So here is another forgotten tragedy. In 1966, the day after England won the World Cup, 31 people lost their lives when a pleasure cruise went wrong.

The MV Darlwyne, which was hardly fit for the open sea, sailed from Falmouth to Fowey. Despite bad weather, it set off on the return voyage and was never seen again.

Twelve bodies were retrieved in the following days, along with some fragments of the boat, but it was not until 2016 that its final resting place was located off Dodman Point.

Accounts of the tragedy suggest it received less prominence than would be expected because the country was busy celebrating victory in the World Cup.

Peter Bessell, then Liberal MP for Bodmin, spoke in the Commons some days after the Darlwyne disappeared and claimed that the searches for it had lacked urgency.

He even suggested that the 31 passengers and crew, eight children among them, might still be alive. Sadly, that proved to be the nonsense it must have sounded at the time.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Ben Elliot's friends and relations

This is a little embarrassing for Liberal England.

Ben Elliot, co-chairman of the Conservative Party and creator of a club that gives large donors privileged access to the prime minister and chancellor, has been in the newspapers - and not in a good way.

The Times suggests his company arranged for its clients to buy coronavirus tests for hundreds of pounds while the NHS was struggling to increase its testing capacity.

And the Daily Mail reports that 

Prince Charles was dragged into a 'cash for access' row yesterday after the Tory party's co-chairman was accused of arranging a private dinner between the heir to the throne and a wealthy businessman.

Elliot has told the Mail that the dinner took place solely because the businessman wanted to support the Prince's charities.

But then Elliot finds it easier than most to gain access to Prince Charles than most as he is the nephew of Camilla Parker Bowles.

More importantly, he is married to Mary-Clare Winwood, one of the daughters of this blog's musical hero Steve Winwood.

As today would have been the 77th birthday of Winwood's great friend and bandmate Jim Capaldi, let's end on a happier note with some Traffic that features Capaldi's singing.

The Joy of Six 1019

"You can mock Lindell, dismiss him, or call him a crackhead, but none of this will seem particularly funny when we truly have an illegitimate president in the White House and a total breakdown of law and order." Anne Applebaum meets the billionaire who is funding Trump's fantasies about stolen election.

Lewis Binnie explains why he has joined the Liberal Democrats and left the Scottish National Party.

"The vast pictures of the battles of Waterloo and Trafalgar in the Royal Gallery also convey images that disappeared from 'England’s story' in the century that followed. Waterloo is presented as a joint British-Prussian victory, with the Duke of Wellington shaking hands with Field Marshal Blucher on the battlefield.  The dying Admiral Horatio Nelson is surrounded by black as well as white sailors, with women also on board HMS Victory." William Wallace looks at the contested history of the Palace of Westminster's artworks.

Older workers are at risk of being dumped as furlough comes to an end, reports David Hencke.

"As cities invest in green infrastructure to ameliorate environmental harm, wildlife is increasingly occupying novel niches including green roofs and constructed wetlands and colonizing former brownfields and vacant lots." Janet Marinelli says cities can play an important role in fostering biodiversity.

Jane Nightshade on The Innocents, the extraordinary film Jack Clayton made from Henry James's The Turn of the Screw.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Drupi: Vado Via

Beach Baby, my choice of two weeks ago, generated a response, so here is another excursion into the charts of 1974.

That January, Vado Via made number in the 17 UK singles chart, making it a rare foreign language hit. (The previous one had been Steeleye Span's Gaudette, which was in Latin.)

Maybe the Italian lyrics helped it. You can tell something emotional is going on, but are not sure what, leaving you free to write your own story.

Drupi took his name from the cartoon character Droopy - he was born Giampiero Anelli in Italy. As an adult he lived in Austria and worked as a plumber when not singing in bands.

He performed Vado Via at the 1973 Sanremo Music Festival. It finished last in the competition, but that didn't stop it becoming a hit across Europe.

Judging by his website, Drupi was still in the music business well into this century..