Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Isle of Secrets: John Rogers on Orford Ness

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

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

His YouTube blurb for this video runs:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Harald Hardrada in Constantinople, Alfred the Great in Rome

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Duffy: Warwick Avenue

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

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

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

Saturday, November 20, 2021

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

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

"No worse than a chimbley"

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

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

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

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Friday, November 19, 2021

Jon Pertwee on playing Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge

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

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Matron’s gin cupboard

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

The Wise Woman of Wing, meanwhile, stands alone.

Matron’s gin cupboard

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

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

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

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Ben Bradley is the hardest-working member in the House

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2021

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

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

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

The recipe for pork-pie jelly

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

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

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

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Chesham is lovely, says Jago Hazzard

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

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

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

She is known to all the fowls of the air

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

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

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

Earlier in Lord Bonkers' Diary:

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The history of RAF Husbands Bosworth

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

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

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

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

That headline was about nuns too.

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Joy of Six 1033

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The magazine cites one local that found:

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Julian Lennon: Saltwater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 06, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 05, 2021

The Joy of Six 1032

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 04, 2021

The secrets of Winchester's railways

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

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

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Leicester MP could face jail after harassment conviction

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

As the Guardian reported:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The report begins by telling us:

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

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