Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Joy of Six 1037

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Write a guest post for Liberal England

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

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

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

Charles Dickens describes Boris Johnson's hair

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

You know, of course, what oakum is.

Monday, December 13, 2021

The Joy of Six 1036

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 09, 2021

On not seeing an early performance by Victoria Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Dirk Bogarde interviewed in 1975

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

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

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

Sunday, December 05, 2021

Six ghosts stolen from York in night-time raid

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

Saturday, December 04, 2021

The Joy of Six 1035

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 03, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bordesley, the least-used station in the West Midlands

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

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

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

The Joy of Six 1034

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

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

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

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

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

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