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.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Matthew Hoggard runs a cookery school in Rutland

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An unexpected figure turns up in a Guardian article about Rutland ("England's secret foodie heartland"): the former England fast bowler Matthew Hoggard, who played throughout the classic Ashes series of 2005.

Hoggard turns out to run a school of barbecue cooking - Hoggy's Grill - at Manton on the southern shore of Rutland Water.

Sarah Baxter, author of the article, explains this move:

Unsure what to do after retiring, he finally decided to focus on what he loves most – eating and drinking, ideally outside, with flames – and opened Hoggy’s in 2020.

It's not such a surprise to find Hoggard in Rutland. Though he spent most of his career with Yorkshire, he finished at Leicestershire, captaining the county between 2010 and 2013.

Wizz Jones on the problem with being a beatnik in Newquay in 1960

Choosing Psul Simon and Anji as Sunday's music video, I quoted Wizz Jones. But who, I hear you cry, is Wizz Jones?

Wikipedia tells us he has been

performing since the late 1950s and recording from 1965 to the present. He has worked with many of the notable guitarists of the British folk revival, such as John Renbourn and Bert Jansch.

And the blurb for this video on YouTube says:

Wizz Jones, one of the first British Beatniks, and noted folk-blues musician, performs two of his songs and talks about his life in this documentary from 1960, which provides an illuminating glimpse of the media's view of alternative lifestyles at that time. The interviews are conducted by veteran reporter Alan Whicker, looking very much like a Monty Python parody of himself. 

Wizz's two songs in this clip are interesting. Both were versions of older songs, but rewritten by Wizz to mock the Burgermeisters of Newquay. The first was based on "Down on Penny's Farm" by the Bently Boys, a white country duo who recorded it in 1929. ...

The other song Wizz sings is based on Elizabeth Cotten's "Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie", which appeared on another Folkways LP release "Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar" in 1958. Elizabeth Cotten used the same kind of alternating bass finger-picking style, complicated by the fact that she played a standard six-string guitar left-handed, i.e. upside-down!

The good news is that Wizz Jones is still with us and has his own website,

Monday, October 04, 2021

James Hawes and Nick Hayes visit Newton in the Willows

The goal of one of my very first outings with a digital camera has cropped up in two books I have just read.

It is the village of Newton (Newton in the Willows if you are a romantic) near Geddington in Northamptonshire and gets a necessarily brief mention in James Hawes' The Shortest History of England and a much longer one in Nick Hayes's The Book of Trespass.

As I blogged twelve years ago, in 1607 Newton was the site of slaughter:

Over 1000 peasants gathered from Rockingham Forest - men, women and children - led by Captain Pouch. He was a tinker whose real name was John Reynoldes. He claimed to have authority from the kingdom of Heaven and to have a pouch which contained "that which shall keep you from all harm". Following the events of 8 June, it was found to contain nothing more than a piece of green cheese.

The armed bands formed of local men were reluctant to be involved and the gentry had to rely on their own servants to support them. The rebels refused to obey the orders to disperse, and continued to pull down hedges and fill in the enclosing ditches. The King's proclamation was read twice. Still the rebels refused to give way.

Finally, the gentry and their troops charged, and over 40 peasants were killed. Prisoners were taken, imprisoned in St Faith's Church, and the ringleaders tried, hanged and quartered. Their quarters were hung in towns across Northamptonshire as a clear message.

Hayes was in the area to explore the nearby estate of the Duke of Buccleuch - "over thirty times larger than Hyde Park, and reserved for a single family," as he puts it.

Just down the road is another estate. Avondale Gragne, on the outskirts of Kettering, was the subject of an article in the NN Journal last week:

“A good comparison to the Grange estate is to call it a modern day dodge city,” says Ady, who has lived in the area for the past decade, relocating from Norfolk to be near his children.

“You don’t look at people,” says Lorraine. “I keep my head down and don’t look anyone in the eye anymore as it is enough to get you into an argument”.

We are still a very unequal country, and Hayes argues that out system of landholding has much to do with it.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Paul Simon: Anji

Composed and played by Davey Graham, Anji was the track that every acoustic guitarist wanted to master in the Sixties. 

Acoustic Guitar explains:

Singer-guitarist Wizz Jones recalled Graham playing it at the Continental Coffee Bar in London’s Soho district around 1960—Anji, the song’s namesake, was Graham’s barista girlfriend who worked there. “Other people have claimed that they’re the Anji the song was written about,” Jones says, “but they’re lying.”

For many players, “Anji” was the portal from simple folk to new possibilities. Its author was a cool, military-mannered bohemian of Scottish and Guyanese ancestry, who dazzled young solo guitar players such as John Renbourn, Martin Carthy, and Bert Jansch with his command of various idioms, from blues to Indian ragas. “Davey was the one—the guru—who really inspired a whole generation of European guitar players,” Jones says.

And here is Paul Simon demonstrating his mastery of the tune live on Granada in 1967.

Simon also performed tt on the Simon and Grafunkel album Sounds of Silence and sampled its introduction for "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" on the same record.

As we once discovered for this blog, Davey Graham was born at Bosworth Hall in Leicestershire.