Saturday, December 31, 2022

Alastair Campbell's lament for Charles Kennedy

Friday, December 30, 2022

The Joy of Six 1100

"I was also lucky in being rescued by people I barely knew, friends and my family. I can never repay that debt but I can help others." Andy Boddington, a Liberal Democrat councillor from Shropshire, talks about his own experience of homelessness and about combating it in Ludlow.

Harry Pearse considers the arguments against giving children the vote and finds them wanting: "The fact that adults don’t need to show franchise credentials or an independence of mind shows that voting is not a privilege of competency, but rather a right of citizenship."

"He disliked cars, perceiving correctly that the post-War conviction that motor vehicles must dictate the future shape of cities had been responsible for wrecking many venerable town centres. One of his most successful books was Britain’s Lost Cities (2007), which pointed out in heartfelt terms the damage that planners of the sixties, seventies and still more recently, have done to Birmingham and Bristol, to Glasgow, Liverpool and many other places." Gillian Tindall remembers Gavin Stamp.

Joy Wiltenburg finds that the idea that women can't do humour is a 20th-century heresy.

"The community of the early modern English village was transposed to the vast and untamed New World, populated largely by the most enthusiastic religious adherents. To the claustrophobia of the village was added the terrifying emptiness of the wilderness that lurked beyond the homesteads—as well as aching fears engendered by subsistence farming thousands of miles from home, where the failure of the land or of the farmer’s skill meant death." Francis Young reviews of a book on the fear of witchcraft in 17th-century America.

There are pubs that claim to be the oldest in Britain, but most of thse claims do not stand up to scrutiny. James Wright investigates the necessary criteria, from the age of the building to its history as a pub to its current use, to determine whether it is possible to declare a winner.

Let's hear it for tiny urban forests

Elizabeth Hewitt wrote in National Geographic last year:

Data released by Wageningen University researchers in April shows that the forests host a range of animal and plant species. Across the 11 Tiny Forests in the study, volunteers observed 636 animal species. They also identified 298 plant species in addition to the original species planted in the plots. Maintenance of the forests occasionally involves thinning out aggressive weeds, but in general new plant species, such as wildflowers that appear, are allowed to grow.

Harborough's voters are getting younger


Britain has an ageing population. Manchester, for instance, has 4.3 per cent fewer people aged 18-34 than it had in 2011.

But this isn't true of every constituency. In a Twitter thread, Patrick English provides a list of the seats where voters are getting younger - what he calls "Benjamin Button" seats.

And nestled amongst them is Harborough, where there are 1.1 per cent more voters under 34 than in 2011.

In his thread, English quotes James Kanagasooriam as saying:

"Around 80-90 per cent of why certain seats vote for certain parties is explained by the demographics of the area."

Which may mean that the Conservatives will feel increasingly less comfortable in Harborough, particularly as the Boundary Commission surprised many by keeping the seat much as it is.

In 2005 Jill Hope for the Liberal Democrats came within less than 4000 votes of winning. Since 2015 Labour has held second place here, and it's hard to see either party emerging as the only challenger to the Tories at the next election.

But in the long term, the Conservatives will have increasing problems if Harborough's voters continue to get younger,

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Watching Softly Softly: Task Force 50 years on

I can remember lying in bed at the age of eight or nine, hearing the theme music for Softly Softly playing downstairs and wishing I could watch it. But it started at ten past eight, which was late for a well brought up Sixties child.

By the time I could watch it, it had metamorphosed into Softly Softly: Task Force, and its those shows that I have been watching on YouTube over Christmas.

One of the things that has struck me is how little help the police could expect from forensic science in those days. There were fingerprints, but beyond that only blood tests - and they could eliminate suspects but never prove guilt.

So in order to take the villains Task Force have to catch them red-handed - and in a lot of shows they receive a tip off and are able to do just that - or they have to rely on obtaining a confession.

Which makes Detective Chief Superintendent Barlow a key figure in the dramas because of his ability to make suspects "cough" for a job. He can be browbeating, even thuggish, but there was more to him than that.

The other thing that strikes is the quality of the writing and acting. I will admit that my early hero Detective Chief Inspector Hawkins is played by Norman Bowler, who had won a film contract for his looks before he stepped on to a professional stage, but Stratford Johns is magnificent and Terence Rigby, who played the dog-handler PC Snow, was one of Harold Pinter's favourite actors.

So here are the closing stages of Copper Wire from 1971. Barlow has been to a formal dinner and is being driven home when he hears from the police radio that an old adversary of his from his days in the North West (Barlow started out as a character in Z Cars in 1962) has been detained.

Barlow involves himself in the case and here is his interrogation of that adversary, 'Tiger' Mulholland, played wonderfully well by Peter Kerrigan, who was later to appear in several of Alan Bleasdale's plays.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Shropshire Lib Dems win stay of execution for Acton Scott farm

Shropshire Council's move to give up the lease on Acton Scott Historic Working Farm has been referred to its scrutiny committee by the opposition Liberal Democrat group.

This means the decision by the council to end its 47-year involvement with the site will not yet be put into practice.

The Shropshire Star quotes the Lib Dem group as saying the marketing and publicity for Acton Scott is "poor and almost non-existent", and that "the value of the enterprise to the local economy is vastly undervalued"

Only a few years ago, Acton Scott seemed never to be off our television screens and I hope a way of saving the set up there can be found.

But it has to be recognised that councils across the country face heavy pressure on their budgets, which began with the Coalition's decision to concentrate public spending cuts in local government.

One day we Lib Dems will have to acknowledge that this policy went against everything we had campaigned for before 2010.

Goodbye to John Bird

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Another figure from the golden age of satire in the early Sixties has left us: it was announced this morning that John Bird died on Christmas Eve at the age of 86,

Bird was a member of the team that wrote and performed That Was the Week That Was, the show that brought satire to the masses.

He enjoyed a second career peak at the start of this century appearing with Rory Bremner and John Fortune. This was an era when the Conservative response to Blair's government was so feeble that the three of them became the nearest thing Britain had to an official opposition.

Here Bird and Fortune are, not only making us laugh, but also doing more to explain the credit crunch of 2008 than most economics correspondents managed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Lord Bonkers 30 years ago: The rediscovery of Charles James Fox's left kneecap

It's the question that almost no one is asking, and I've put off answering it as long as I decently can, but it's time to find out what Lord Bonkers was saying in the December of 30 years ago.

A little context... In October 1992 John Major's government had announced plans to close almost all Britain's remaining coal mines. Demonstrations broke out in genteel places like Cheltenham and Paddy Ashdown joined John Smith in speaking at a trade union rally in London.

Over to Lord B.

Saturday

Quite the most striking development of recent weeks has been the new-found popularity if coal mining. Where once the best county families hastened to put their sons' names for Eton or Harrow, they now clamour to get them into Vane Tempest of Point of Ayr. 

Such has been the enthusiasm displayed that I spend the day giving serious thought to reopening Bonkers Main. I have seldom ventured down the pit of late, but during the last war it did prove a useful refuge for the choicer items from the National Liberal Club's cellar and some priceless relics of Whig statesmen.

Thus, though the Rutland coalfield was never among the most profitable, we may yet be cheered by the rediscovery of Charles James Fox's left kneecap.

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


Sad news from Old St Pancras: The Hardy Tree has fallen


The Camden New Journal reports:

The landmark Hardy Tree has fallen.

The tree in St Pancras Gardens was famous for the gravestones that piled up at its roots by architect’s assistant Thomas Hardy, better known as the author of novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Camden Council had warned in the summer that the tree had been weakened by a heavy storm and would almost certainly fall at some stage. It had been fenced off for some time.

In a statement in July, a Town Hall spokesperson said: “We are looking at ways to commemorate this tree, and its story, when it does eventually fall. The council recognises the importance of the veteran Hardy Tree, both for our local communities and nationally, which is why we’ve taken measures over the last eight years to manage this stage of its lifecycle, keeping it safe for visitors.”

When the Midland Railway built it's line from Bedford to St Pancras, part of the churchyard of Old St Pancras Church was sacrificed to make way for it.

The man in charge of clearing the burials in the path of the line was a young Thomas Hardy. It's no wonder his novels turned out like they did.

Hardy had some of the redundant gravestones piles around the base of an ash tree in the remaining portion of the churchyard, and its roots later spread amongst them. It is this tree that has fallen.

You can see the tree as it is today in Richard Osland's picture from Twitter, while my photo above shows it as it used to be.

Monday, December 26, 2022

In which Stratford Johns is a real gent

From the early Sixties until the rise of John Thaw as Regan of The Sweeney in the Seventies, Stratford Johns as Charlie Barlow was the most famous police officer on British television. 

The character was first seen in Z-Cars, then appeared in the spin-off series Softly Softly and was finally employed by the Home Office in Barlow. 

Which makes this story about him from Stan Collins - I was on the Liberal Democrats' federal policy with him years ago - all the more impressive:

Stan added in a later tweet that no one said anything at the time, but several customers returned over the next few days to ask if it had really been Stratford Johns who served them,

GUEST POST LadBaby number one for Christmas again: what does it say about Britain?

What is the meaning of LadBaby's Christmas hegemony? Stuart Whomsley investigates.

It is a good marker of where the UK is at now, that each year, we have a groundhog day of waking up to find that Christmas number one is a novelty record about sausage rolls, for food banks. 

The five LadBaby Christmas number one records so far, have done harm to three noble things: the Christmas number one record, the comedy novelty record, and the charity record. 

Being the Christmas number used to be something special. The Sixties, Seventies and Eighties saw some fantastic songs make number one:  Moon River, Daytripper, Green Green Grass of Home, Merry Xmas Everyone, Bohemian Rhapsody, Mull of Kintyre, Another Brick in the Wall, Don’t You Want Me, Do They Know it's Christmas?, Always on my Mind. 

Though, whilst doing some research, I did discover that after Whitney Houston’s 1991, I Will Always Love You, the great Christmas number ones were already on the way out. The rise of the X Factor marketed number ones had weakened the value of the Christmas number one before Ladbaby arrived; with seven of the X Factor winners making the Christmas number one spot between 2005 and 2014.

The comedy novelty record is a fine British musical art form, with humorous songs having a history that stretches back at least into the music hall. The skill of the UK songwriter to fit a winning melody to a fine lyric has had many fine exponents such as Noel Coward,  Jake Thackray and Neil Hannon.

Christmas records have been a winner for this genre. An excellent example of a comedy novelty Christmas number one was Benny Hill’s Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West). However, one has to concede that another Christmas number-one comedy novelty record, Mr Blobby, was not a quality work.

Charity Christmas records began with Band Aid, and they topped the Christmas charts on three occasions. They were the only Christmas charity chart toppers through the eighties, nineties and noughties.

However, the thirteen Christmases of Tory rule have seen eight Christmas records being charity ones; The Military Wives with Gareth Malone, The Justice Collective and The Greenwich and Lewisham NHS choir before Ladbaby.  

Charity was coming home, so Ladbaby sits on this tradition. It is all for a good cause, you might say, food banks.

Food banks? Food banks? There shouldn't be any food banks. We are the sixth wealthiest nation in the world. How many people had heard of food banks when Band Aid released their charity Christmas record in 1984? What would people have thought that in 2022 we would have a song with the slogan T-shirt "Feed the UK"? 

That also strikes a chord with the UK becoming more insular and not wanting to engage with the world, and with that old cliché that charity should begin at home.

We used to look out and the world and say "Great music, yep, that is us. Most Christmas number ones?  The Beatles, of course."  Now it's LadBaby. A song with lyrics about food banks being on every street corner in the UK. 

Bono now screams out to those living their lives in the Eighties to be grateful they are not living in the UK of the future. In 2019, Hoyle of LadBaby stated his support for the Conservative party. We have at least another year of Tory rule so you can rest assured that next Groundhog day LadBaby will make it to at least six Christmas number ones.

You can follow Stuart Whomsley on Twitter.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Santa-filled armoured truck gets stuck in Cornwall lane

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I didn't intend to blog today, but the judges have insisted.

So, thanks to a nomination from a reader, BBC News wins our Headline of the Day Award.

It just shows what good value the licence fee is.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Merry Christmas to all our readers

"We are three wise men." 
"Well what are you doing creeping round a cow shed at two o'clock in the morning? That doesn't sound very wise to me."

The Joy of Six 1099

"There was one document, though, that really galvanised Dickens: in early 1843, parliament was presented with a report on the extent of child labour in the country. It detailed unimaginable horrors: interviews with seven-year-olds who had spent half their lives in mines, smoking eight-year-olds who had been working so long their own fathers didn’t know when they started. Anecdotal evidence that 'young boys are taken down as soon as they can stand on their legs'." The Penguin Books site looks at the political background to A Christmas Carol.

"Difference does not lead us into a meaningless relativism, but rather into a perpetual quest to develop and share knowledge. If we forget the wisdom of Babel, then we think that the knowledge we have found matters more than what others have found in their own quests." We can still have wisdom even without transcendental insights, argues Ayram Alpert.

Carolyne Willow and Ian Dickson reflect on his 70 years in the care system - as child and professional: "He found a child who had run away from a residential school (at that time they were called 'absconders') and drove him back in his car, buying him sweets for the journey, only for the child to be beaten by the headteacher when he stepped through the door. After that, whenever Ian was sent out looking for children, and happened to find them, he would deliberately lose them."

Vithushan Ehantharajah on England's triumphant test series in Pakistan.

"Both as a book 'about' nature, farming and landscape, and 'about' childhood, Jane’s Country Year then is simultaneously explicitly and consciously of its time, yet also oddly, awkwardly timeless. I’m delighted to have read it this year and to have had the world of Malcolm Saville opened to me." Unpopular discovers my favourite author when I was a child.

Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, talks to Andy Boddington about being a pantomime dame.

Royal Choral Society: The Shepherds' Farewell
Wizzard: I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day


In the old days, in the Sixties, you didn't get chocolates in Advent calendars: you just got little pictures - a ball, a trumpet or some other possible Christmas gift.

But on Christmas Eve you had double doors to open, and they always revealed a nativity scene.

So I 've made today's window double-sized and chosen two pieces of Christmas music.

First, the sublime Shepherds' Farewell from Berlioz's 1854 oratorio L'enfance du Christ. This comes from the second act as the Holy Family prepare to leave for Egypt.

That's above.

And below you will find what should have been the Christmas number 1 in 1973. Wizzard, however, lost to Slade in a sort of civil war of Birmingham rock.

Though it's fashionable to say you like Slade now, I have never forgiven them and never will.

Still, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And I hope you've enjoyed this Advent calendar as much as I've enjoyed putting it together.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Traffic's first gig was at the Masonic Hall, Wallingford

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Traffic, the band Steve Winwood formed after leaving the Spencer Davis Group, played their first concert at the Saville Theatre in London on 24 September 1967.

That's what the books say, and what I said when blogging about my own appearance there with lovely Danny La Rue.

But, when researching my post on John Masefield at Aston Tirrold, I came across the story of an earlier appearance by the band.

Rob Southern tells the story on the music website Elsewhere. 

In the summer of 1967 he was working for Coxhead’s Electrical, a company with branches around Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire:

One morning in 1967, Steve Winwood entered Coxhead’s. He had recently left the Spencer Davis Group to form Traffic. The band had rented a cottage on the Berkshire Downs, a few miles from Wallingford.

I recognised him immediately and, without wanting to look too star-struck, ambled up to him to ascertain his requirements.

It became clear that he wanted one of those new colour TV’s. I guided him round the showroom, stopping in front of one of our larger screens. The deal was done. The TV rented for 12 months at a cost of seventy-five pounds and five shillings.

Most people would want to pay in monthly instalments. Steve didn’t have cash on him (long before the days of credit cards) and we agreed that I would collect c.o.d. ...

On this sunny Friday I drove to Aston Tirrold to deliver the colour TV. ...

At the cottage, I unloaded the van and carried a very heavy TV through the front door. Setting the appliance down at the chosen corner of the lounge, removing an electrician’s screwdriver from my pocket, I diligently tuned and set-up the TV ready to receive all three channels available.

I looked up. The numbers present had swollen and all were sat looking at this new technology, waiting for their first glimpse of colour pictures on a television screen. Steve Winwood came over. We sat at a table, a glass of beer arrived for both of us and he signed the rental contract, handing over four £20 notes.

"Sorry, Mr Winwood, I’ve no change.”

"Keep the change,” he replied.

£4-15s-0d! This was a week’s wages! I couldn’t believe my luck!

It got better. “We’re having a bit of a party” said my new friend. “Do you want to stay?”

I explained that I had to return to the shop, park the van and hand over the cash to my manager.

"But I can get back later, Steve,” confident enough now to use his first name.

And get back he did:

Friday evening turned into Saturday morning, Saturday morning became Saturday night. I was in a paradise, rock stars a-plenty, music playing from the assorted collection of guitars and other instruments.

Probably there were drugs involved. I left the party late into Sunday evening and never did find out who opened the shop on Saturday.

Needless to say, another employment opportunity was closing. Did I care? I was friends with Stevie Winwood. I had partied with Traffic. I had met Led Zeppelin, even got to one of their parties later that year in Pangbourne.

Shortly after this experience, we were organising a gig with local band the JB Roadshow headlining. I met Stevie in town and, over a coffee, told him what we were up to. At this time Traffic had yet to perform live.

How about we come and play as support?” Stevie asked. “You can’t advertise it, but we’d love to use the opportunity as a rehearsal.”

Posters had just gone to the printers. “Stop Press!” There was an addition to be made to the line-up! “Plus Surprise Guests” was added to the poster.

Traffic’s first live gig was played at the Masonic Hall, Wallingford and I was involved in a little piece of Rock History.

Philadelphia Boys Choir: This Little Babe

Benjamin Britten has done well out of this Advent calendar, and here you can sense his genius in extraordinary effects he gets here from a choir of boys and a single harpist.

A Ceremony of Carols, of which this is part, was composed by Britten in 1942 on his voyage back from America, where he'd been when the war broke out.

The words of "This Little Babe" are taken from Robert Southwell's Newe Heaven, Newe Warre, which was written in 1595.

They describe the infant Christ battling Satan, and the first verse runs:

This little Babe so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmèd wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.

Read the full text.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Joy of Six 1098

Matt Kennard reminds us of Tony Blair's friendly relations with Vladimir Putin: "The close relationship between the UK prime minister and Russian president began ... when Blair made a whistle-stop visit to St Petersburg to help Putin get elected in Russia’s upcoming presidential election. "

"Bunting notes that William Beveridge, original architect of the British welfare state, envisioned a role for 'friendly societies' - non-governmental providers - for the provision of healthcare. But this was a road not taken. Instead, a highly centralised national health service prevailed, which adopted a medicalised approach to care, valuing technical expertise over human values." John Tomaney praises Madeleine Bunting's Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care.

Jon Burke shows how we can make 21st-century streets greener, happier and safer.

Culture, heritage and creativity are essential to our future national prosperity argues a new report from the Local Government Association.

"Even in the 18th century, when the draining of much of the old Fens surrounding the Ouse Washes was already well underway, Daniel Defoe is drawn to ‘the uncouth Music of the Bittern ... so loud that it is heard two or three Miles Distance’ as the main point of note on his way through the Holland district of Lincolnshire." Michael J. Warren on the importance of birds to our sense of place.

"A book about a boy becoming initiated into the mysteries of adult life (sex and its frequent thematic partner, betrayal), it is itself the kind of novel that introduces youngish readers into the mysteries and subtleties of fiction. Reading the novel is part of the process of learning how to read novels." Geoff Dyer reads L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between.

Mum addicted to tattoos 'forced to watch her children's school play through the window'


Congratulations to Wales Online for winning our Headline of the Day Award with his seasonal effort.

As the judges remarked, it's not a case of "No room at the inn" so much as one of "You're barred".

But didn't the multitude of the heavenly host say "Good will to all men - and women too, if you want to get all woke about it"?

Our Religious Affairs correspondent replies: In a very real sense.

Bridgnorth Cliff Railway to be closed for months


Bridgnorth Cliff Railway has been forced to close. perhaps until Easter, because of the condition of a wall on a neighbouring property owned by the town council.

Dr Malvern Tipping, the director of the railway, told the Shropshire Star:

"There will be two effects: on local passengers who use the service every day to go to work or the shops - although a lot stay at home more as a result of the pandemic - and to tourists.

"We've had a big boost in passenger travel from tourists, so this will create a big problem if they are now disinclined to come to the town. This will hit the local economy so we're pushing for this job to be done quickly."

It will be scant consolation to him today, but four years ago Dr Tipping won our Name of the Day Award.

I strongly recommend a visit when this railway is operating again, It's the sort of thing you expect to find at the seaside, not by the Severn in Shropshire.

Jonathan Lemalu and Winchester Cathedral Choir: Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar

This is a 19th-century German carol by the composer Peter Cornelius. It became increasingly popular in Britain as the 20th century progressed.

It was the only slightly unusual track on the album of carols that the family owned when I was a child, and it reminds me of a late winter afternoon at Hemel Hempstead School where, aged 12, 

I was taking part in a play with songs, put on by pupils from the first two years. As we left the rehearsal, somewhere else in the building the school choir was practising this piece.

Our play, incidentally, was The Charcoal-Burners' Son, a sort of spoof fairy tale. It was written by L. Du Garde Peach, who once fought Derby for the Liberal Party and wrote most of the Ladybird history books.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Community garden plan for derelict Market Harborough site runs into legal issue


Every town has a few neglected sites. This one in Northampton Road, Market Harborough, had been earmarked by the council for a coach park.

That decision, which was announced in 2018, was a sign of how many visitors we now get. But it was put on hold two years later as Covid bit.

Recently there has been a campaign to turn it into a garden to commemorate the late Queen's platinum jubilee.

But, reports Harborough FM, a legal issue involving the mobile phone mast on the site is holding up any redevelopmen of the site..

So it will remain in this state of agreeable neglect for a while yet.

Jethro Tull: Ring Out, Solstice Bells

There's only one song it's possible to choose today. Ring Out, Solstice Bells is a track from Jethro Tull's 1977 album Songs from the Wood.

When I was 17 I thought this was the best LP there's ever been or could ever be (with the possible exception of Kate Bush's The Kick Inside.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Kids' ward evacuated after pensioner shows up at A&E with World War One bomb up his a*se




The Daily Star wins our Headline of the Day Award for this story from France.

No, it doesn'r involve an elderly clergyman with a bomb up his apse.

Choral Scholars of Arundel Cathedral: O Little Town of Bethlehem

This is not a carol, but a 19th-century American hymn. But the tune associated with it in Britain, Forest Green, was collected by Vaughan Williams in the Surrey village of that name in 1903.

My mother never cared for O LIttle Town, but "The hopes and fears of all the years" is one of the lines that did it for me as a child, along with "And dark is his path on the wings of the storm" and "The purple-headed mountains".

Monday, December 19, 2022

Rehman Ahmed was first featured on this blog in 2017

Today, having already broken the record for the youngest English test player, Rehan Ahmed took five second-innings wickets to put England in a winning position against Pakistan.

In the process, he also set back the England and Wales Cricket Board's plans to get rid off Leicestershire as a first-class county.

An ECB spokesperson responds: "And we would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for that meddling kid."

Rehman Ahmed first featured on this blog in September 2017, when the media got excited about his abilities after he was used as a net bowler by the England team.

As I remarked at the time,

Like chess prodigies, England spin prospects get younger and younger.

And I quoted Elizabeth Ammon in The Times:
Rehan Ahmed is considered such an outstanding prospect that he has now bowled at England batsmen two years in a row. Ahmed, who is attached to Nottinghamshire and has already played for their under-17s, also helped England’s batsmen before the Lord’s Test against Pakistan last year, when he bowled Ben Stokes in the nets. 
Yesterday he was back among the finest Test players in England, holding his own comfortably. His father, Naeem, who took his son to a trial at Nottinghamshire at the age of eight, told Cricinfo: "Mushtaq Ahmed [the former England spin bowling coach] was just walking past the nets last summer and when he saw Rehan bowl, he stopped in his tracks. He came to watch and was obviously very impressed." 
I did offer warnings about what a growth spurt at puberty can do to young spin bowlers, quoting Nasser Hussain:
"I went from bowling out Graham Gooch in the indoor school with everyone watching to hitting the roof or bowling triple-bouncers in deadly silence." 
But as Rehman Ahmed has negotiated that hurdle, I shall just claim to have spotted his potential years ago.

Richard Aoyade on The Fallen Idol

When he was approaching 80, Ralph Richardson played the Supreme Being in Time Bandits. And if there is a God, I suspect he is very like the elderly Ralph Richardson.

Today is Richardson's birthday - he was born on 19 December 1902 and died in 1983 - a fact that has led me to this video of Richard Aoyade discussing The Fallen Idol, a film he made with the director Carol Reed in 1948.

Robert Henrey, who played the boy Phillipe, is still with us and a few years ago gave a talk that about his memories of the making of the film.

Jeff Buckley: Corpus Christi Carol

This can be found on Jeff Buckley's album Grace and was inspired by Benjamin Britten's setting of the carol in his choral piece A Boy Was Born. That was first performed on 23 February 1934 - the day Sir Edward Elgar died.

The Financial Times, unexpectedly, has a good article on the history of the Corpus Christi Carol:

To begin at the beginning: in late medieval England there lived a grocer by the name of Richard Hill. He kept a "commonplace book" in which he wrote down all manner of things: learned advice, pious reflections, poems, recipes, cures (a cut could apparently be treated with a pint of ale, though it’s not clear whether the ale was to be applied to the wound, or drunk), and songs, including “Corpus Christi Carol”. Only the lyric survives; Hill made no record of any music.

The recording I have of the full Britten work includes the boys of the choir from All Saints, Margaret Street. Oh how it all fits together.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

"An adored celebrity": Flora MacDonald after the Young Pretender had flown

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Lately, I've been given to naming Ian Jack and Neal Acherson as my favourite journalists. But Ian Jack died in October, which leaves just Ascherson - the man who originated that quotation about the government and refugees usually attributed to Tony Benn.

In the latest London Review of Books, Ascherson reviews a book on the life of Flora MacDonald, the woman who kept Charles Edward Stuart from the British Redcoats after his defeat at Culloden.

Here he is on what happened to Flora after the prince had fled and the British caught up with her:

Flora was certainly brave and resolute. Had she been caught with the prince, she might easily have died in prison, or ended up as an indentured, enslaved servant in the Caribbean. But these were capricious, aristocratic times. 

Strictly, what she had done was treasonous. She had preserved the kingdom’s most dangerous enemy, helping him to escape and probably organise another Jacobite invasion. If it had succeeded, the Hanoverian dynasty would have been overthrown, the liberties of the 1688 revolution cancelled, the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707 reversed, Ireland liberated and Britain’s elites colonised by Catholic appointees. And yet Flora emerged as an adored celebrity. 

During the Second World War, hundreds of young women who sheltered partisans or Allied airmen died in concentration camps. But in Georgian Britain, brutal enough to the lower orders, a good-looking girl with presentable manners touched a sporting reflex in upper-class officers, especially if they were Scottish. If the prince had been caught clambering into a boat with a barefooted lass who spoke only Gaelic, it would have been a different story.

Choir of St John's College, Cambridge: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree is an 18th-century poem whose author is not known. The setting here is by the 20th-century English composer Elizabeth Poston.

At the beginning of the second world war, says Wikipedia, Poston joined the BBC and became director of music in the European Service. She is said to have used gramophone records to send coded messages to agents in Europe.

She also played the piano at the wartime National Gallery lunchtime concerts organised by Myra Hess.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

In memory of Stephen Lewis

The actor Stephen Lewis, who died in 2015, was born on 17 December 1926.

Boney M.: Mary's Boy Child

Boney M. were huge:

Boney M. are the only artists to appear twice in the top 11 best selling singles of all time in the UK, with Rivers of Babylon in seventh place and Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord at number 11. They are also one of six artists to sell a million copies with two singles in the same year.

And that's from Wikipedia, so it must be true.

I was pleased when Mary's Boy Child turned up in the charts because I once sang it at a primary schools' music festival. Plus "And man will live for evermore because of Christmas Day" was one of the lines that did it for me in those days.

Mind you, it was even more impressive when Cat Stevens took Morning Has Broken from our school hymn book into the top 10.

Friday, December 16, 2022

The Joy of Six 1097

"When a prime minister appoints the son of a former KGB agent, his own brother and a major Tory donor, all against the decision of the Lords Appointments Committee, the system is quite clearly broken." George Foulkes says that, when it comes to reforming the House of Lords, we should look to Europe for inspiration.

Toby James give six reasons why the Tories' impending voter ID law is a bad idea.

Jay Joseph looks back on "a century of failure and hype" in the search for a genetic basis for schizophrenia.

"One example of an early public walk is the New Walk in Leicester which was opened in the late eighteenth century as a promenade and is now Grade II listed." Clare Hickman looks at at what the 18th-ccntury concept of the "public walk" can teach us about health, urbanisation and access to the countryside.

Patrick Barkham meets the man defending a forgotten London river. "Then my walk with Paul Powlesland on the banks of the River Roding collides with contemporary Britain. There is a tributary, sending a steady trickle of sewage into the main channel. A flashy new block of riverside flats, failing to provide residents with any greenery or way to access the river. Further along, heaps of fly-tipped rubbish and the recent relics of camps created by desperate people without homes."

"As the scientists explore the chamber, they hear footsteps and screams. Jill (Jane Asher), a sensitive computer programmer, sees a vision of a young maid running up the stairs, as if hounded by some unseen force, and falling from the top to her death. Peter (Michael Bryant), the team’s headstrong leader, is sure that the stone itself is their new recording medium." Sean McGeady marks the 50th anniversary of Nigel Kneale's television ghost story The Stone Tape.

Being Geoffrey Boycott on a podcast

Embed from Getty Images

My favourite cricket podcast is Oborne and Heller on Cricket, which can be hard to find if you don't know about it as its home is The Chiswick Calendar. As the name implies, that's a site devoted to this desirable London suburb.

In October, it had as guests Geoffrey Boycott and his co-author Jon Hotten, who between them have produced the book Being Geoffrey Boycott.

As the extensive summary on the podcast's page for this edition explains:
Geoffrey and Jon explain the scheme and origins of their “book of two halves”. Geoffrey’s is a detailed first-person diary from memory of every one of his Test innings from 1964 to 1982, undertaken at the behest of his wife Rachael in pandemic lockdown at their home in South Africa. 
Matt Thacker at the publishers Fairfield (like Jon a past guest on the podcast) had the idea of submitting it to Jon to respond to each passage, explaining its background and deepening the reader’s understanding of Geoffrey’s life and feelings at the time. 
Geoffrey had rejected Jon’s first effort (for making him sound like a stage Ee-Bah-Gum Yorkshireman) but after some conversations between them and more advice from Rachael Jon’s later drafts had grown on him (and he had cancelled his threat to run him out.)
Listening to this podcast, you are reminded what a riveting speaker on the game Boycott can be. Here he does without his gimmicks - there's not a stick of rhubarb or granny's pinny in to be heard - and, thank God, he does not have to contend with the puerile teasing of Jonathan Agnew.

It reminds you that Boycott is respected around the world as a broadcaster and batting coach.

Nor is he as stubborn as he's painted to be. He went ahead with the book at his wife's urging, even though he continued to have doubts about the idea.

And I was interested in his verdict, as a close friend of Brian Clough, on Dave Peace's The Damned Utd, as reported by his co-author:
"It's a brilliant novel, but it's nothing like the Brian."
Geoffrey Boycott: an intelligent and surprisingly subtle man.

Westminster Abbey Choir: The Holly and The Ivy

I chose this because I used to enjoy singing it at school and it has the mix of pagan and Christian that makes a good Christmas.

Yet it's popularity is a recent phenomenon. Here's Wikipedia:

The song can be traced only as far as the early nineteenth century, but the lyrics reflect an association between holly and Christmas dating at least as far as medieval times. The lyrics and melody varied significantly in traditional communities, but the song has since become standardised. 

The version which is now popular was collected in 1909 by the English folk song collector Cecil Sharp in the market town of Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire, England, from a woman named Mary Clayton.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

The All Saints, Margaret Street, Corpus Christi procession of 1959

All Saints, Margaret Street, which I have blogged about before, is so High it makes the Pope look like a Strict Baptist.

This silent video shows its Corpus Christi procession of 1959. Anglican nuns, women members of the congregation with their heads covered, choirboys in buckled shoes and God knows who else process a couple of blocks north of the department stores of Oxford Street.

It's Barbara Pym or The Towers of Trebizond come to life.

Joni Mitchell: River

A Christmas song for people who are lonely at Christmas! We need a song like that. – Joni Mitchell

American Songwriter explains:

River reveals one of Mitchell’s most vulnerable moments in songwriting, opening up about a breakup and the deep bond that’s difficult to shake. The lyrics of River are thought to have been inspired by the end of Mitchell’s relationship with musician Graham Nash; the two dated from 1968 through 1970.

River comes from Joni Mitchell's classic album Blue and has been recorded more times by other artists than any song of hers except Both Sides Now.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Oxford to Cambridge by train: past, present and future


Dr Beeching, who saw it as an important freight route, didn't want the Oxford to Cambridge line closed. But closed it was, to freight as well as passengers, on New Year's Day 1968, apart from the middle stretch between Bletchley and Bedford.

This video looks at the history of the line, its current condition and, close to the end, the prospects for full reopening. Given the need for what is largely a new line between Bedford and Cambridge, this is looking increasingly expensive, increasingly unpopular, and thus increasingly unlikely.

Reopening between Oxford and Bedford, however, is well in hand.

Steeleye Span: The Boar's Head Carol

The Boar's Head Carol, says Wikipedia, is a 15th-century English carol that describes the ancient tradition of sacrificing a boar and presenting its head at a Yuletide feast. The version of the carol most usually performed today is based on one published in 1521.

Steeleye Span issued this version as a Christmas single in 1977. but failed to repeat the success of Gaudete in 1973.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Talking Pictures TV to broadcast Crown Court

Great news! Talking Pictures TV is to broadcast Crown Court, the ITV daytime programme from the 1970s that I praised last month.

Old Time Review reports that screening will start in January and also the remarkable news that all 879 episodes of Crown Court still exist. It ran from 1972 to 1984.

I explained the attractions of the series in my November post:

Crown Court was the ITV daytime programme you watched if you were off school with a cold. Across four days, a trial was presented and a verdict then given by a jury of members of the public.

The stories were appealing, but what I did not appreciate when I first saw it was how extraordinary the cast often was. Week after week, rising young actors mingled with declining legends.

As an exampled of its charms, here is Patrick Troughton giving evidence in his own defence.

And you should also follow Ivan Kirby's blog Fulchester Crown Court.

The Joy of Six 1096

Sarah Wise uncovers a forgotten passage of British history: "Between 1869 and 1925 an estimated 80,000 British boys and girls were sent to Canada as agricultural labourers and domestic servants by Macpherson, Thomas Barnardo and Maria Rye – the latter one of a small number of other philanthropists active in Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dublin. Only one third of them were orphans, meaning that the majority had been removed from parents and/or siblings."

Alexander Smith from NBC News shows us how Britain is now seen by the wider world: "Britain once compared itself to giants like France and Germany; today many of its metrics more closely resemble Eastern Europe’s weaker economies."

"In the British media, the correspondents and columnists who make their livings from the characters of the royal family are furious because Harry and Meghan presume to write their own story and to profit from it. The only ‘truth’ the British press can countenance is one delivered beneath their bylines and that’s why Harry & Meghan will be so stringently fact-checked while other cosier fictions continue to go unquestioned." Mic Wright on the royals and the media. 

"If you want policies that actually work, you have to change the political conversation from 'tough candidates punishing bad people' to 'strong communities keeping everyone safe'." The root cause of violent crime is not what we think it is, argues Phillip Atiba Goff.

Colin Hyde has been mapping Leicester with electric paint.

"Men and women should beware if a poet starts sending them love letters. They can be sure that the poet is using them to hone their technique rather than valuing them as individuals. The displays of emotion in their letters will be self-regarding contrivances; most of the promises will prove false." Richard Davenport-Hines reviews two books on the romantic life of T.S. Eliot.

David Essex: A Winter's Tale

Mike Batt explains:

David Essex rang me late in 1982 - just after my return from Australia, and asked if I could write him a Christmas hit. It was already late October so we didn't have much time. I was due to be writing with Tim Rice the following day ... so I told Tim about the David Essex request, and we started thinking of ideas. ... we wrote a bit of the chorus and two lines of the verse, and then when Tim had gone home I sat and worked on it, coming up with the finished chorus and the second verse lyrics.

A Winter's Tale reached number 2 and I'm always happy to hear it in the supermarket this time of year.

Monday, December 12, 2022

How they made The Box of Delights

Renny Rye, who directed The Box of Delights, and Devin Stanfield, who played Kay Harker, are interviewed for a Guardian piece on the making of this children's classic. 

Here is a little of what they have to say.

Renny Rye 

I remember reading the script for the first episode, which includes Punch and Judy man Cole Hawlings riding into a painting and Kay landing in a wolf-besieged Roman encampment on a flying pony, and thinking, "OK, how do we do that?" 

These things just weren’t possible in those days, but the technology was changing daily and the BBC was building an electronics workshop we were allowed to use. I ended up spending almost six months in there.

Not all the solutions were hi-tech and they included pantomime-style costumes and traditional animation. I knew that children’s imaginations would paper over the cracks. We could only afford four-frame animation, which gave a sort of slow-mo quality, but it’s quite dreamlike, which suited the narrative.

Devin Stanfield

The other children in the cast would turn up for a week’s shooting and then disappear again, whereas I was stuck in hotel rooms with my chaperone for months at a time. But I got on well with the adult cast. Pat Troughton was charming, kind and patient. 

I remember waiting with him for hours until we were needed on a night shoot with hundreds of extras in the grounds of Hereford Cathedral. We had an in-depth discussion about how his being impaled with a lightning rod was achieved in The Omen.

I recently treated myself to the edition of The Box of Delights you can see above. Quentin Blake is a national treasure, but I'm not convinced that his style suits the story.

But it's the text I bought it for and this edition was compiled from John Masefield's original manuscript. It includes passages that were omitted in error and others left out to make room for the illustrations,

Victor Lewis-Smith, BBC Radio York and Stanley Unwin

The death of the broadcaster Victor Lewis-Smith was announced today and John Jefferson, the first manager of BBC Radio York, shared his memories of him with the city's commercial station York Mix:

"When we were setting up Radio York we were trying to find people who weren’t little grey men.

"Victor had just left the university music department with a trail of interesting stories behind him – larger than life stories. He walked into our lives and we took him on.

"Wisely or unwisely, we gave him a Sunday morning show called News Buff.

"And we were absolutely amazed by the sorts of creativity he brought to that – he had a very different way of using radio to amuse people.

"I sense that, if it was today’s BBC, both Victor and probably myself would have had the sack a long time ago.

"But it’s nearly 40 years ago, and we were able to give people a bit of free rein to try and create something that was different and Victor was very, very different – and probably about the most talented person I’ve ever actually worked with."

My memory of those years is that Lewis-Smith was regularly sacked and then reinstated, but it's all a long time ago.

Anyway, I was sad to hear of his death. I remember his creativity as a broadcaster, and any man who gave Stanley Unwin work is to be admired.

Jess Dandy: I Wonder as I Wander

I Wonder as I Wander was written by the American folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles, based on a fragment of folk song he collected in the Appalachians in 1933. It has since become a favourite Christmas hymn.


Sunday, December 11, 2022

The mystery of the missing canal tunnel at Alderbury in Wiltshire

This is fun. The Whitewicks ferret around at Alderbury Wharf, which is supposed to be as near Salisbury as the Salisbury and Southampton Canal ever got.

Was there an attempt to tunnel through the hill beyond the wharf, or did the builders begin digging a line to take the canal around the hill? Or both?

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Pretending to be in a rowing boat

We end our week at Bonkers Hall with the old boy paying tribute to one of his peers. Of course, all his peers are peers.

Sunday

The heartiest of congratulations to our own Baroness Benjamin as she becomes the first member of the original London cast of Hair! to hold the Order of Merit since Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. 

I was perhaps a little too old to be a regular viewer of Play School, though if I had no pressing business then pretending to be in a rowing boat or whatever was a pleasant enough way of passing the time, and I was impressed that she always knew which window the film clip could be seen through. 

Certainly, the show made for better viewing than a crew of “celebrities” one has never heard of eating the nether parts of animals in a jungle.

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

Earlier this week...

Choir of KIng's College, Cambridge: Hymn to the Virgin

Is this Christmas music? Well, King's College, Cambridge, did include it in their Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in 2013, which was Benjamin Britten's' centenary year.

He was 16 when he wrote this  As Britten Pears Arts explains:

The text that Britten uses is by an anonymous poet and probably dates from about 1300. It appears in The Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900, which he won as a school prize for music. 

It’s a macaronic verse; that is, a poem in which one language is introduced into the context of another. The main body of the choir sings in Middle English and another semi-chorus (or group of soloists) supplies a refrain in Latin.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

The Sins of G.K. Chesterton by Richard Ingrams

Writing in the latest issue of the London Review of Books, Peter Howarth reviews a book on G.K Chesterton by the former Private Eye editor Richard Ingrams.

Chesterton, who died 1936, was a journalist, controversialist, theologian and literary critic - his book on Charles Dickens is well worth seeking out for observations like this:

In such a sacred cloud the tale called The Christmas Carol begins, the first and most typical of all his Christmas tales. It is not irrelevant to dilate upon the geniality of this darkness, because it is characteristic of Dickens that his atmospheres are more important than his stories. The Christmas atmosphere is more important than Scrooge, or the ghosts either; in a sense, the background is more important than the figures. 

The same thing may be noticed in his dealings with that other atmosphere (besides that of good humour) which he excelled in creating, an atmosphere of mystery and wrong, such as that which gathers round Mrs. Clennam, rigid in her chair, or old Miss Havisham, ironically robed as a bride. 

Here again the atmosphere altogether eclipses the story, which often seems disappointing in comparison. The secrecy is sensational; the secret is tame. The surface of the thing seems more awful than the core of it. 

It seems almost as if these grisly figures, Mrs. Chadband and Mrs. Clennam, Miss Havisham, and Miss Flite, Nemo and Sally Brass, were keeping something back from the author as well as from the reader. When the book closes we do not know their real secret. They soothed the optimistic Dickens with something less terrible than the truth

Though he was most at home with tight deadlines and in the pubs of Fleet Street, there hung about Chesterton a reputation for unworldliness. So much so that some of his Catholic co-religionists have urged his canonisation.

Peter Howarth writes:

The Chestertonians’ appeal eventually resulted in a six-year investigation by the diocese of Northampton into whether there was sufficient evidence of Chesterton’s ‘heroic virtue’ and of miracles arising from his intercession. But in 2019, the bishop announced that things would be taken no further: there was too much evidence of antisemitism and, surprisingly, too little of ‘a pattern of personal spirituality’ in G.K.’s life.

And according to Howarth, Richard Ingrams follows other modern biographers in seeing Chesterton's antisemitism as the result of the malign influence of his brother Cecil and Hilaire Belloc (who was briefly a Liberal MP):

After Auden discerned the pair’s ‘pernicious influence’ in his 1970 selection of Chesterton’s prose, biographers and commentators have discovered how much the resentful obsession with rich Jews and Liberal politicians was primarily Belloc and Cecil’s. 
Ingrams supplies detail about just how nasty the pair were to G.K., too. The witty debater and brilliant controversialist was, in private, incapable of resisting Cecil’s tests of his family loyalty or Belloc’s bullying demands for a pulpit.

I think I shall read Ingrams' book as I have always had a soft spot for Chesterton, though the idea that we can simply blame his antisemitism on other people sounds a little like wishful thinking.

And if you share my interest in G.K. Chesterton and Belloc's distributism, which is described by howarth as

a libertarian and localist politics that sought to evade socialist centralisation and capitalist wage-slavery alike by keeping as much wealth as possible at household level

then you could look at David Boyle's Back to the Land: Distributism and the politics of life.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Facing in the right direction

I once saw Count Arthur Strong at the Leicester Comedy Festival. He spent his first few minutes at the back of the stage, facing away from the audience and trying to part the curtains there. When he finally noticed us, he complained bitterly to his offstage manager that he had been booked in a theatre that was "the wrong way round". He wanted all the stages on his tour to face the same way.

The Count, incidentally, is funnier live than on radio or television because you get more of the garbled theatrical memories that are his strongest point. 

Reader's voice: Never mind that. So what you are telling us is that you stole this joke?

Liberal England replies hurriedly: It doesn't do for these introductions get too long. Time for the diary entry!

Saturday

Talking of Davey, I went along to his leader’s speech the other day – I suppose a leader’s speech without a party conference is what those fellows in suits dream about, but I missed the stalls area and the chance to clear my pipes and belt out ‘The Land’. 

I fear Davey was rather let down by his advisers, as he spent the entire speech Facing The Wrong Way. It’s true: the audience was behind him! My theory as to what happened is this: Davey was all set to make a speech in Brighton when September’s event was called off because of the death of our beloved Queen, and no doubt he had rehearsed at the venue – the Pavilion, the West Pier or wherever. 

There, I assume, one turned left on leaving the star dressing room to reach the stage, whereas at this week’s event he was required to turn right and no one in his backroom staff remembered to tell him.

 Gladstone, when he embarked upon his Midlothian campaign, employed a man to make sure he was facing in the right direction at all times, and Davey should do the same.

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

Earlier this week...

Greg Lake: I Believe in Father Christmas

Honestly, you have to be 15 to think this is a good record.

My only defence is that I was 15 when it got to number 2 in the chart, prevented from being the Christmas number one only by the behemoth that was Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

Come to think of it, that's another record that sounds really meaningful when you are 15.

Friday, December 09, 2022

Lord Bonkers' Diary: 3/6 a bottle from Boot’s in Uppingham

Not only was there really a Wise Woman of Wing, but legend persists that it was indeed possible to buy her pills and potions in Boot's of Uppingham well into the 20th century.

Friday

Despite the Wise Woman of Wing’s excellent embrocation (3/6 a bottle from Boot’s in Uppingham), I will admit to being a little on the stiff side these days to have made Gareth Southgate’s final 26. So it was little hardship for me to announce my personal sporting boycott of Qatar, but cricket is another matter. 

For some years now my own eleven has opened its season with a chilly April fixture against a team selected by the President of China. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that the Chinese government’s persecution of the Uighurs leaves me with no choice but to abandon the fixture. 

Today, therefore, I have written to the Chinese Ambassador withdrawing my invitation. There will no Lord Bonkers’ XI v. President Xi’s XI next spring.

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

Earlier this week...

The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge: Bethlehem Down

I once quoted a Nottingham church's website on the genesis of Bethlehem Down:

By 1927 Peter Warlock was in financial difficulty, due in part to a fall in the demand for his songs. He struck up a friendship with Bruce Blunt, a journalist, poet and "bon viveur". The first record of their association was a press report about them being arrested “"drunk and disorderly" in Chelsea.

Running short of money, the two friends wrote Bethlehem Down to submit to the Daily Telegraph's annual carol contest. They duly won the prize, which was used to finance an "immortal carouse" on Christmas Eve 1927. 

The full text:

"When He is King we will give him the Kings' gifts,
Myrrh for its sweetness, and gold for a crown,
Beautiful robes," said the young girl to Joseph,
Fair with her first-born on Bethlehem Down.

Bethlehem Down is full of the starlight
Winds for the spices, and stars for the gold,
Mary for sleep, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold.

When He is King they will clothe him in grave-sheets,
Myrrh for embalming, and wood for a crown,
He that lies now in the white arms of Mary,
Sleeping so lightly on Bethlehem Down.

Here He has peace and a short while for dreaming,
Close huddled oxen to keep him from cold,
Mary for love, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

The Joy of Six 1095

Sian Norris and Daisy Steinhardt on the call on Britain to act on Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation: "SLAPPs are often used by wealthy and powerful individuals and organisations to silence journalists and civil society organisations from exposing wrongdoing, and have a chilling effect that allows for wrongdoing to flourish in the shadows. The UK is particularly vulnerable to SLAPP lawsuits, including litigation against journalists not even based in the country, due to the country’s libel and defamation laws."

Restore Trust presents itself as a grassroots organisation of National Trust members, but lawyers claim it is funded by powerful, hidden sources. Charlotte Jansen investigates.

During the second world war the Palace of Westminster was home to a munitions factory, reports Zoe Crowther.

"Over much of the globe, night has been cancelled. The night sky in Hong Kong is 1,200 times brighter than the unilluminated sky. Millions will never see the constellations so central to the stories humans have told about the cosmos." Charles Foster mourns the end of the night.

Neil Fox celebrates the 20th birthday of Michael Winterbottom's film 24 Hour Party People: "Tony Wilson was a postmodern figure. He infiltrated capitalist spaces with a rakish charm and a rebellious streak, believing in the power of art to nearly the same degree he believed in self-narrativisation and mythology. He believed music could change the world, or more specifically, he believed Manchester music could change the world."

Past Tense takes us on a radical wander down North London's longest aqueduct.