Saturday, April 30, 2022

No Room at the Inn was inspired by the death of Dennis O'Neill

Agatha Christie's record-breaking play The Mousetrap, as a moving BBC Radio documentary reveals, has its roots in the death of the foster child Dennis O'Neill on a farm in the Shropshire hills in 1945.

I once suggested that a play that was a scandalous success the same year and later made into film, No Room at the Inn, was inspired by the same sad incident. And a look at the theatre newspaper, The Stage, shows I was right.

Its 5 July 1945 edition reported:

Anthony Hawtrey is to present a new play, "No Room at the Inn," by Joan Temple, at the Embassy, next Tuesday. It tells of the problems of indiscriminate billeting of children, and a strong parallel is drawn to a recent case.

That sounds like information provided by the play's producers and, together with an episode of cruelty in the play that mirrors what happened to Dennis O'Neill, clinches my case.

No Room at the Inn was something of a succès de scandale. A Guardian article on the actor Julian Bird said:

His mother, Freda Jackson, was an actor, "a name in the 40s, 50s and 60s". She was the lead in the play No Room at the Inn, about the abuse of evacuees during the second world war, which was so scandalous that she needed police protection when it transferred to the West End in 1946. “There were always women at the stage door wanting to kill her.”

It seems the O'Neill case remained alive in the public mind for at least a year even though it was later forgotten.

Anyway, the film of No Room at the Inn has been shown on Talking Pictures TV at least twice and is worth keeping an eye out for.

By-election in Tiverton and Honiton after Neil Parish MP resigns

Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, has resigned from the Commons following his admission that he watched pornography there on his phone.

The Independent reports:

The Tiverton and Honiton MP, who is a farmer, said he first watched adult content by mistake after looking at tractors on his mobile phone. However, he admitted the second time was deliberate.

“I was not proud of what I was doing,” he told BBC South West, in an interview which saw him tear up. “I’m not going to defend what I did ... it was absolutely wrong.” But he denied watching the material in a way where he hoped other people would see it.

Two female colleagues, on Tuesday, reported they had seen him looking at pornography while sitting near them.

The paper says that Parish had originally ignored calls for him to resign immediately, but had changed his mind after seeing the pain and damage it was causing his family, constituency and local association.

Labour has finished second in Tiverton and Honiton at the last few general elections, though in 2019 the Conservative majority was over 24,000.

Before 2015, however, the Liberal Democrats used to finish second and in 1997 were within less than two thousand votes of winning. Like North Shropshire, this is a seat where we are better placed to defeat the Tories than Labour is.

So a sensible arrangement would see Labour concentrating on winning back Wakefield in the by-election there while the Lib Dems head for Devon.

Friday, April 29, 2022

King Manoel II of Portugal lived in exile in Fulwell

In 1908 the assassination of his father and elder brother brought Maneol II to the throne of Portugal at the age of 18. Two years later a revolution broke out and he fled to England.

As this video from Jago Hazzard explains, he made his home at Fulwell Park in Twickenham.

You can support Jago's videos via his Patreon page.

Neil Parish has put me in mind of my favourite misprint

Neil Parish, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton, had the Conservative whip suspended while accusations that he watched pornography in the House of Commons are investigated.

For some reason this has made me think of my favourite ever misprint. I told the story on this blog long ago - it involved the rather unlikely New Statesman columnist of my youth, Arthur Marshall:

Earlier this year I bought a second-hand copy of the Penguin Book of Columnists in a bookshop in Ballater. I was pleased to see that Marshall was represented by two of his Myrtlebank columns.

In one of them (attributed to a collection of his writing from 1981, though it must have run in the Statesman a few years earlier) he recalls his days at public school. He writes that his housemaster would treat his charges "at pleasantly recurring intervals to sensational moral lectures of a prolonged and fascinating lectures".

Marshall goes on:

We found them totally electrifying for he was a brilliant speaker, had obviously conscientiously prepared his material, and was quite unaware, that to young people, he was a hilarious figure. Every so often after evening prayers he would stand up and speaking without notes, let fly. 

As a new boy, I couldn't always understand why he was so concerned and what had gone wrong. Had somebody, perhaps, said "Drat" or been rude to Matron or left some gristle or smiled at a boy older or younger (you couldn't smile at a boy in another house at all, and, as I was by nature an inane smiler, I was at constant risk)? 

But at time went on I began to get the hang of the affair and the gist of the matter and hung upon the housemaster's words, later in the day to be so splendidly mimicked by wags as we disrobed, shrieking, for bed, and cackled ourselves into the Land of Nod.

I was particularly pleased to find this column because I recalled that when the column originally appeared what was printed was not "cackled ourselves into the Land of Nod" but "tackled ourselves into the Land of Nod". I also recalled Marshall rather pained correction the following week.

All this seems to good to be true, but a few years ago I was in Leicester University Library having a nostalgic flick through some bound volumes of the New Statesman from the period. While I was absent-mindedly copying some of James Fenton's best lines into my notebook, I came across this very Arthur Marshall column.

And my memory was right. It really did happen.

Thank you for the reminder, Mr Parish.

Danny La Rue's Queen Passionella and the Sleeping Beauty: Not for children?

Writing about what is so far my only West End appearance - aged eight, I was one of the children asked to join Danny La Rue on stage during his (sort of) pantomime Queen Passionella and the Sleeping Beauty - I suggested:

given La Rue's slightly risqué reputation, there probably weren't many children there, which made it more likely I would be chosen. (But then I must have been one of the few children who was allowed to stay up to watch Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii!)

Judging by a contemporary review of the show by J.C. Trewin in the Birmingham Daily Post, I was right about the number of children likely to have been there.

I came across it via the British Newspaper Archive, to which I have just subscribed.

After referring to "a number of jokes in various shades of blue," Trewin wrote:

I daresay the average child will be too absorbed in the spectacle and in trying to make sense of the narrative, to bother a great deal about the incomprehensible jests aimed over his head. Still, to be on the safe side, don't mistake this for a routine Christmas show.

But he did note

a pleasantly warm-hearted moment when he invites half a dozen boys and girls on to the stage to sing with him.

Oh, and though his Twitter account seems to have disappeared recently, I did learn from the novelist Jonathan Coe that he was also allowed to stay up to watch Up Pompeii!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

When Mike Brearley was about the best young batsman in England

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History has decided that Mike Brearley was a great captain, particularly because of his effect on the 1981 Ashes series, but never a test batsman.

But it did not always look that way at the time. As I once blogged, Brearley was selected for an England touring party as early as 1964, when he was aged only 22. You can see him in the photograph above in the middle of the back row, next to a bespectacled Geoffrey Boycott. The two of them were to play their last test together in 1981,

Brearley was not picked for any on the tests in South Africa that winter and was soon playing only in the university vacations, like an old-fashioned amateur, because he was lecturing in philosophy at Newcastle.

While I was studying philosophy at York, we found out that he had also applied unsuccessfully for a lectureship there. The late Roger Woolhouse, who had got the job instead, claimed he couldn't help sensing our slight disappointment in him.

Mike Brearley returned to playing full time as Middlesex captain and was still a good enough batsman to be picked for England under Tony Greig in 1976. He was one of the experienced heads favoured by Greig in what he saw fit to call his campaign to make the West Indies "grovel".

Brearley did well enough to be selected as vice-captain for the 1976/7 tour of India that winter. So when Greig was sacked for his role in the establishment of World Series Cricket, he was the natural choice a captain for the 1977 home Ashes series, which England won with surprising ease.

The rest, particularly his second coming in 1981, was history.

Evan Harris settles hacking claim against Murdoch newspapers

Yahoo! News reports that the former Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris has settled his claim for unlawful information gathering against News Group Newspapers, publishers of The Sun and the now-closed News of the World.

Dr Harris told the High Court that he believes some of his close friends and associates, including Vince Cable and former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, received calls from NGN journalists which cannot be "explained by anything other than voicemail interception".

Representing Dr Harris, barrister David Sherborne read a statement to the court, as the claim was formally settled:

Mr Sherborne said Dr Harris "believes that disclosed documents show that private investigator activity – which he considers to be unlawful – was directed against Hugh Grant … a few days prior to Mr Grant giving evidence at the Leveson inquiry in November 2011".

He also said NGN had disclosed other documents which Dr Harris believes reveal that fellow former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes was "outed" by The Sun as bisexual based on an itemised phone bill said to have shown Sir Simon calling a gay chat line.

In settling the claim, NGN made no admission of liability in relation to The Sun or The News of the World

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

"A convincing improbability": George Eugeniou at Theatro Technis

George Eugeniou is the force behind Theatro Technis, a community arts venue to be found in a former mission hall behind St Pancras Old Church House that I came across the other day.

Here he talks about his work, filmed, presumably, in the mission hall itself.

Eugeniou was born in Limassol in 1931, cam to England in 1950 and has appeared in films including Ill Met by Moonlight and Miracle in Soho.

Bring back British Restaurants to help feed struggling families

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Professor Bryce Evans from Liverpool Hope University tells the Leicester Mercury:

"Make no mistake, we’re facing a national emergency which I don’t think has truly bitten yet. The Government must think creatively about how we enable people to eat cheaply and to eat well and it has to be something more sustainable than what we saw with Eat Out to Help Out or the basic food bank."

The "something more" he suggests is a revival of the British Restaurants that were set up by the government during the Second World War and run by local government or voluntary agencies. They catered for people who had been bombed out of their homes, had run out of ration coupons or otherwise needed help.

Our solution today to the problem of people who cannot feed themselves is the food bank, Evans sees problems with them:

"Many food banks require a referral in order to be able to access them and it means there’s an unfortunate, almost Dickensian, stigma attached to using them. You have to present as the 'deserving poor'. And I find that extremely uncomfortable, particularly when you see that working people are using food banks.

"There’s also the issue that sometimes a food bank user might not actually be able to afford the fuel bill or possess the skills to be able to cook the food that they're given."

And don't run away with the idea that British Restaurants were necessarily drab. Evans says:

"For a lot of working-class people, the national kitchens were their first taste of eating out in a restaurant. And these were often nice places to visit.

"There were tablecloths, pianos and gramophones. Buckingham Palace even loaned priceless pieces from the Royal collection to hang on the walls at social restaurants in Croydon. It was incredible. The whole atmosphere was a lot less stigmatising than it is today and it was a real melting-pot where you’d often see diners of every class."

Ridicule this idea if you wish, but I think the coming cost-of-living crisis will require this sort of radical thinking. After all, it was fine for the the state to subsidise middle-class diners under the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Saint Pierre and Miquelon: The surviving French colony in North America

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Something I discovered from the coverage of Emmanuel Macron's victory over Marine Le Pen at the weekend is that there is still a French possession in North America.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon are two small islands off the South-West coast of Newfoundland. Their six thousand inhabitants are French citizens, elect their own deputy to the National Assembly in Paris and take part in in senatorial and presidential elections.

This time the islands saw a narrow victory for Marine Le pen, who received 50.69 per cent of the votes cast.

The islands form the last remnant of the colony of New France that in the middle of the 18th century occupied much of the Eastern side of what are now Canada and the United States.

Snake on the loose in Pontesbury is finally captured after teenager spots it in car park

The Shropshire Star wins our Headline of the Day Award.

My photograph shows a) a different car park in Pontesbury and b) a cat not a snake.

And, yes, the cat has just caught something. As I explained at the time:

For reasons I may explain one day, I was in Pontesbury photographing its former police station and magistrates court. In the car park behind it was a black and white cat with a rodent it had just caught and killed.

Though I had never met it before, when the cat saw me it began to make that odd chirruping "come and see what I've got" noise they make in such circumstances - and never at any other time.

I think it just wanted someone to show off to.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Joy of Six 1047

The government's declared policy of "levelling up" has done nothing for inequality, argues Zubaida Haque: "Not only is inequality between regions getting worse, but disadvantaged groups are being pushed more to the breadline. And with Boris Johnson stumbling from one political crisis to another, it’s hard to be convinced that levelling up is anything more than another campaign slogan on the side of a bus."

"Even Johnson’s critics will have been taken aback by the sheer crass inhumanity of the current scheme. It is the wrong answer to the decades-old question of how to make use of the Commonwealth and, like almost everything else the prime minister touches, it is likely to reflect badly on everyone involved." Philip Murphy on Britain, Rwanda and the Commonwealth.

Mark Fellowes and Jo Anna Reed Johnson say the new GCSE in natural history can help us towards a greener future.

Jonathan Meades loves the new Pevsner guide to Birmingham.

"I try to be really honest with myself about the music I love, and the music I really need in my life. Am I holding onto an LP purely because it’s got a great cover, or because I’ve always felt I should like it more, or because I feel a little sorry for it?" Tom Cox ruminates on record collecting.

"Rather than telling the story of a king, especially one who is viewed so differently, from really evil to saint-like, the windows show universal human experiences and the hope of redemption offered by Christ." Dottie Tales celebrates the Richard III stained windows in Leicester Cathedral.

Peter Sarstedt: Where Do You Go to My Lovely?

In the 1960s my parents had wine on the table (I was even allowed a small glass myself) and a subscription to Private Eye. My sister and I would choose a yoghurt for breakfast from the milk float and, yes, we watched Simon Dee.

Yes, we were a middle-class and even a little bohemian. Which may be why, given the poor background she came from, why my mother was so attracted to this record when it came out in 1969.

Then, in 1972, my father walked out and life became very different.

I have to report that when I played Where Do You Go to My Lovely? to my mother last year she said it wasn't as good as she remembered.

It's a pity that Peter Sarstedt is remembered only for this song, because he wrote some better ones - try Frozen Orange Juice.

And Chinese Restaurant, the single the Sarstedt Brothers (Eden Kane, Peter Sarstedt and Robin Sarstedt, to use their stage names) released in 1973 should have been a hit.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Old St Pancras Church House and Theatro Technis

Wandering north of St Pancras, I came across an unexpected building: Old St Pancras Church House.

Ornamental Passions explains:

The church itself is right next to the station, so it was rather isolated from the community after the railway took over much of the land for marshalling yards in the later Victorian period. This must have been part of the motivation for building this charming mission hall to the north of the church in 1896 to the designs of C.R. Baker King.

The figure of the saint over the door was carved by Harry Hems (1842-1916), an eccentric and excitable sculptor who had made his home in Exeter after winning a commission to work on the Royal Albert Memorial Museum there.

The mission hall is somewhere behind the house and was all locked up when I was there on Wednesday, but it is home to Theatro Technis. The organisation's website explains:

Founded in 1957 by George Eugeniou ... and a group of actors five decades ago, Theatro Technis first started its work in an old unused warehouse located in the backyard of King's Cross.

Then after many challenges, it finally found its permanent home in an old Church building where it has flourished into a centre of multi-faceted and multi-cultural activities. It became one of the first venues in the UK dedicated to serving its local, working-class, and immigrant community back in the early '60s.  Since then it has continued to be home to international companies and independent artists.

You can read more about Theatro Techis and its founder in the Wikipedia entry for George Eugeniou.

Later. And you can watch an interview with him that was presumably filmed inside the theatre here.

Eric Chappell, Rising Damp and race

The comedy writer Eric Chappell has died. He was best known for writing Rising Damp, which is a strong candidate for being the best situation comedy ever shown on ITV.

Though as the British Comedy Guide points out:

Whilst Rising Damp - which starred Leonard Rossiter - propelled Chappell to both stardom and writing as a full-time career, he penned a further string of sitcom hits for ITV broadcasters, including the beloved holiday comedy Duty Free; father-son domestic sitcom Home To Roost; office comedy The Squirrels; and The Bounder, a sitcom of brotherly rivalry starring George Cole and Peter Bowles.

This clip from Rising Damp shows that, perhaps uniquely for a Seventies comedy that dealt with race, it can be watched today without embarrassment.

The relationship between Philip and Rigsby brings out the way that envy is a component of racism. And it is Rigsby's snobbery that makes him such a sucker for Philip's totally spurious stories about being the son of an African chief. (In the spin-off Rising Damp film it is revealed that he comes from Croydon.)

Eric Chappell discussed the genesis of Rising Damp in an interview with Penny Black Music:

I was reading a newspaper, and I read about a black student going to a hotel and pretending to be a prince and getting very well treated by a bigoted landlord. It didn’t say bigoted but that’s the feeling you got. He got well treated. I thought, "What a great idea for a farce!" but I wrote a verbal comedy instead. I was still discovering my style, and I changed the whole concept.

The idea was still the same but the landlord became somebody I knew. I based him on a landlord who was a lovely guy but he was prejudiced as hell. How can you be prejudiced and still be a lovely guy? But he was. And I thought, "He’s a great character," and so I used him. 

With Philip the black guy's character, I didn’t know any black people, so it had to be something out of books and I got a book on African folklore which I found riveting. I enjoyed it, and I thought, "I can put this stuff in from the book. I can make this boy as innocent about his blackness as me."

In the same interviewed he revealed that he was living in Hinckley in Leicestershire when all this took place.

Rutland County Council Tory group splits: Councillors cannot support national party "on moral grounds"

Three Conservative councillors on Rutland County Council - Gordon Brown, June Fox and Nick Begy - have left their party's group to form one of their own: Together4Rutland. The new group has also attracted Paul Ainsley, who was elected as a Conservative but more recently sat as an unaligned Independent.

The Together4Rutland website says:

In recent months, the three councillors have become increasingly concerned with the direction of travel of the Conservative group, and as backbenchers have felt marginalised, finding it harder to provide the support for the residents for whom they took up public service to help.

In addition, they cannot continue to support the national Conservative party on moral grounds, with Ministers and senior MPs having lost the respect of the public and failing to recognise the serious financial position of Rutland County Council caused by a lack of government funding compounded by additional burdens from new legislation.

The new Group feel that now is no time for party politics in local government in Rutland and wants the opportunity to openly question policy which impacts all residents and not just follow the Conservative party line.

At Rutland's 2019 all-out council elections, the Conservatives won 16 of the 27 seats. Today, thanks to by-election defeats and defections, they are down to 9.

As far as I can work out, the political balance of the council is now: Conservatives 9, Independent group 5, Liberal Democrats 4, Together4Rutland 4, Independents (unaligned) 2, Green 1, Labour1.

There is one vacancy, which will be filled by a by-election in Uppingham on 5 May. The Liberal Democrat candidate is Stephen Lambert.

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Beatles at St Pancras Old Church

I was at St Pancras Old Church yesterday - it's a short walk under a railway bridge from Camley Street Natural Park.

You could have met the Beatles there, as the churchyard was one of the locations they took in on their 'Mad Day Out' on Sunday 28 July 1968. I once blogged about the event.

This video recreates the loveable moptops' progress around the churchyard that day and includes many of the still photographs that were taken. I assume the audio comes from the film The Beatles: Get Back.

There's a lot of restoration being done in the churchyard at the moment, but I doubt it will ever be restored to how someone quoted in my earlier post remembered it from 1968:

It was a beautiful park, much bigger than it is now. There was a Victorian bedding scheme, which my grandad was very proud of, a fountain, glasshouses, a playground, London plane trees. Sir John Soane’s mausoleum is there. 

In one famous picture, the Beatles are posing among my grandad’s prize hollyhocks. He had eight or nine staff, some of them in this photograph – the older man in the trilby at the back was the park keeper.

Charles Henry John Benedict Crofton Chetwynd Chetwynd-Talbot under investigation

The Guardian reports: 

The House of Lords commissioners for standards have launched an investigation into a second Conservative peer for allegedly breaching the rules against peers profiting financially from their membership of the Lords.

The investigation into the Earl of Shrewsbury, an elected hereditary Conservative peer who has been a member of the Lords for 41 years, has been announced by the standards commissioners on their website.

And if you follow the link to that website you find that the Earl is being investigated for:

Alleged breaches of the following paragraphs of the House of Lords Code of Conduct: 9 (a), (b), (c), (d); 12 (a), (b); 16.

Oh and his full name really is Charles Henry John Benedict Crofton Chetwynd Chetwynd-Talbot.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Camley Street Natural Park revisited

Yesterday I revisited Camley Street Natural Park, an urban nature reserve close to King's Cross and St Pancras stations run by the London Wildlife Trust

Once a coal depot for King's Cross, the one hectare site was reclaimed by nature in the 1960s. After a campaign by the Trust to save it from redevelopment it opened as a natural park in 1985.

My first visit was in 2008, when the King's Cross redevelopment was imminent. As I wrote in the New Statesman* at the time:

This poses a dilemma to those involved with the park. They want its work to be more widely known - and Camley Street could emerge as a flagship for the London Wildlife Trust, which looks after more than 40 sites across the city - but they are wary of the change in character that an influx of office workers eating their sandwiches may bring.

The obvious changes I saw yesterday were that a sliver of land has been lost to a new footbridge across the Regent's Canal, which borders the site, and the spiffy new visitor and learning centre, which includes a café.

And the centre is needed. One of the staff there told me they have had people spotting their unexpected green oasis from an arriving Eurostar and coming over to see what it can be.

The park itself, which somehow manages to fit in woodland, grassland and wetland habitats, was as refreshing as ever, and the Trust's website describes recent progress with its work of conservation:

Alongside the Centre, much-needed, access improvements, new interpretation and habitat enhancement works have taken place, including desilting the ponds, enhancing the wildflower meadow and improving the wetland and reedbed areas. With our volunteers we are in the process of creating a new butterfly and invertebrate bank at the north end of the site, visitors will be able to watch it develop and grow over time.

100m of multi-functional floating reedbeds have been placed in the water’s edge along this area of the Regent’s Canal. They incorporate habitats for birds to nest in, invertebrates to live in, fish to spawn and shelter from predators in. The reedbeds also provide a range of ecosystem functions, including the absorption of excess nutrients from the water, mitigating canal pollution.

I can strongly recommend a visit.

* Either all my New Statesman pieces have been taken off the magazine's website or you now have to be a subscriber to search it. Whatever the reason, my piece on Camley Street was the only one I had printed in the magazine rather than just posted online.

A documentary on Steve Winwood and Nine Lives

I spent the afternoon in London and the evening drinking with Liberator friends. Now home again, I've found a Steve Winwood documentary on YouTube.

Winwood's album Nine Lives came in 2008 and heavily featured his Hammond organ playing. I saw him at the Roundhouse a couple of years later, and that evening it was when he came out front with a guitar that I felt I was in the presence of greatness.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Lib Dems pledge to bring trains back to Fraserburgh

Fraserburgh railway station closed to passengers in 1965, but the line to it up the Aberdeenshire coast remained open to freight in 1979.

The good news is that Aberdeenshire Liberal Democrats' manifesto for next month's elections promises to improve local transport links. This includes reopening the railway lines from Dyce to Ellon and from Peterhead to Fraserburgh, and providing an additional station in Newtonhill.

Peter Argyle, leader of the Lib Dem group on the council, told The Press and Journal:

"Our manifesto focuses on a successful transition to living with Covid, on rebuilding the economy and our town centres, on improving roads, bridges and infrastructure and growing a new, effective partnership with communities in Aberdeenshire.

"Liberal Democrats have been at the heart of the administration of the council for almost all of the past 27 years.

"Our collective knowledge and experience mean this Manifesto for a Changing World is ambitious and achievable. It is realistic and focused entirely on achieving the best possible outcomes for Aberdeenshire."

Stiperstones walk to raise money for curlew conservation

The cry of the curlew reminds me my early trips to the Stiperstones, when it served as confirmation that I was reaching high ground.

In recent years the number of these wonderful birds breeding in the Shropshire Hills has fallen markedly. 

So on Thursday 21 April, which is World Curlew Day, the conservation group Curlew Country is organising a fundraising walk there.

Starting from The Bog car park in the Stiperstones, the  13-mile circuit will take in beautiful scenery and curlew hotspots.

You can learn more and book your place via the Curlew Country website.

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Timbered House, South Kilworth

It wasn't just the Reverend Doctor Pearson's Observatory I missed the first time I visited South Kilworth.

When I got home that day I found that Pevsner also lists The Timbered House, parts of which date from the 15th and 16th centuries.

I found the house easily enough on Saturday, but it is a little way back from the road. Even taking a footpath into a neighbouring field, which contained the relics of a moated site and fish ponds, did not give a clear view.

And it's not just me. A google search throws up no photograph of The Timbered House at all.

Eventually I did find a photo in W.G. Hoskins' The Heritage of Leicestershire from 1950, where it is listed as one of several outstanding examples of outstanding yeoman houses in the county.

So with these photos I hope I am not outraging The Timbered House's obvious desire for privacy.

The Joy of Six 1046

Ukrainian victims of Russian war crimes should not be deployed as a human shield to keep a discredited Boris Johnson in Downing Street, says an angry Euan McColm.

Jonathan Meades argues that war and famine offer opportunity to the spivs: "It doesn’t matter how catastrophic, how terrible, how morally squalid, how globally imperilling the circumstances, there is nothing that cannot be shamelessly exploited by the descendants of Stanley Baldwin's 'hard-faced men who look as if they had done very well out of the war'."

Josie Giles recalls Orkney's short-lived anarchist newspaper The Free-Winged Eagle.

Arundells, Edward Heaths former home in Salisbury, is open to the public. Richard Smith finds a visit intriguing.

"Blyth might not look much like ancient Sparta, but the locals shared a similar devotion to hard work and athleticism, and there can’t be many football grounds where Plutarch is quoted above the grandstand: 'Spartans do not ask how many are the enemy, but where are they.'" Dan Jackson on how he fell in love with the Northern League.

Richard Williams pays his tribute to Doris Day: "I imagine that back in 1963 I was not the only teenaged boy to be stirred by 'Move Over Darling', a 'girl group' record sung by a 41-year-old woman, co-written and produced by her 21-year-old son." Richard Williams pays his tribute to Doris Day.

Who said "You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs"?

No, it wasn't Stalin. It was Joseph Chamberlain, the hero of Theresa May's right-hand man while she was prime minister, Nick Timothy.

In his speech to the annual dinner of the Royal Colonial Institute, "The true conception of empire", in London on 31 March 1897, Chamberlain said:

You cannot have omelettes without breaking eggs, you cannot destroy the practices of barbarism, of slavery, of superstition, which for centuries have desolated the interior of Africa, without the use of force; but if you will fairly contrast the gain to humanity with the price which we are bound to pay for it, I think you may well rejoice in the result of such expeditions as those which may have, and indeed have, cost valuable lives, but as to which we may rest assured that for one life lost a hundred will be gained, and the cause of civilisation and the prosperity of the people will in the long run be eminently advanced.

I wondered if I was being unfair to Chamberlain, but you will see that he was happy to contemplate taking human life for the greater good.

The Royal Colonial Institute, incidentally, was renamed The Royal Empire Society in 1928 and The Royal Commonwealth Society in 1958.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Roy Orbison: It's Over

In the months before Christmas I used my phone to play music for my mother every evening - chiefly Handel's Messiah and pieces by Aksel Rykkvin, the finest boy treble I have ever heard. I also introduced her to Michael Nyman's film music and she surprised me by more than once asking for Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush.

My mother was never a great one for buying records but knew a good voice when she heard one, so there were Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash records in the family collection.

I cannot remember a time when I did not know this track, which has now taken on a new meaning.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

The Revd Dr William Pearson in South Kilworth

My last Saturday outing with my camera was to South Kilworth in November 2019. It seemed a good idea to go back there today, because I had managed to miss the two most remarkable buildings in the village.

The first of these was the observatory built by the Revd Dr William Pearson (1767-1847), the village's rector for 30 years and a leading astronomer of the day.

At first he made his observations from the Rectory - inevitably now The Old Rectory - where he is remembered by a plaque, but the smoke from the fires of neighbouring cottages led him to build a separate observatory nearby.

And it is still there today - a fascinating looking building converted into a private house. If you google it you will be able to see its interior, as it was recently sold.

The observatory has had an eventful history: an article on Pearson and South Kilworth in the Society for the History of Astronomy Newsletter (Issue 11 - July 2006) records that after his death it was converted into a granary, then a cowshed and then in 1960 a private house.

Back at the church you will find a tablet in Pearson's memory - "Universally Beloved and Regretted" - and his grave.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Tottenham to Highgate along the lost River Moselle

Here's the second part of John Rogers' walk along the route of the Moselle, one of London's many lost rivers. The first part appeared here on Tuesday.

The YouTube blurb for this second video runs:

We pick up the trail of North London's lost River Moselle at Bruce Castle Tottenham and follow its course through Lordship Recreation Ground, through the Noel Park Estate to Wood Green. 
From here we cross the New River into Hornsey and Priory Park then across Crouch End Open Spaces to Queen's Wood Highgate where the Moselle rises.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Boris Johnson tells lies with his hands on the Bible

I've just come across this video of the actor Ian Richardson on the BBC's Sunday AM programme in 2006, the year before he died.

In the excerpt I have chosen here, he reveals something I didn't know. And I speak with all the authority of a former parliamentary sketch writer for Liberal Democrat News.

By-election in Wakefield as disgraced MP resigns

Ahmad Khan, the Conservative MP for Wakefield, who was convicted of the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy, is to resign from the Commons.

Steerpike on the Spectator website quotes his resignation statement:

Owing to long delays in the legal process, my constituents have already been without visible parliamentary representation for a year. Even in the best case scenario, anticipated legal proceedings could last many more months. 
I have therefore regrettably come to the conclusion that it is intolerable for constituents to go years without an MP who can amplify their voices in parliament. Representing them has been the honour of my life and they deserve better than this. Consequently I am resigning as MP for Wakefield and withdrawing from political life.

Ahmad Khan had originally said he would not resign as he is appealing against his conviction, But as Steerpike says, Crispin Blunt's statement in support of him earlier this week met with a strong backlash.

As the article goes on to point out, Wakefield was one of the more surprising Tory gains at the last election, having been solidly Labour since 1931.

Possible Labour candidates being mentioned include Mary Creagh, the defeated MP in 2019, and Ed Balls.

Who says you can't rewrite history?

I picked this book up from one of those free wayside stalls that sprung up during lockdown - people had the time to sort out their houses but the charity shops were all closed.

Naturally, I turned to the back to see what it said about Richard's burial:

After the battle Richard's body was recovered from the corpses piled around Henry's fallen banner and stripped of all its clothing. With a halter around the neck the naked corpse was strung across the back of a pack horse and taken off to Leicester. 
Here it lay exposed for two days, as proof of Henry's triumph, before it was buried without ceremony in the chapel of the Grey Friars. 
The tomb to which Henry contributed the sum of £10 - 1s, was destroyed at the dissolution of the monasteries, and Richard's bones were thrown into the River Soar.

This story was widely believed, but when researchers looked into it there turned out to be no contemporary source for it.

It may be that the fate of Richard III was caught up in popular memory with that of John Wycliffe, who was declared a heretic after his death and burial in Lutterworth churchyard. His body was exhumed and burnt, then the ashes were scattered in the River Swift.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Quite short and generally incomprehensible: Remembering Alasdair Mackenzie MP

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I've rarely heard him mentioned, but Alasdair Mackenzie was Liberal MP between 1964 and 1970. 

Reading his Wikipedia entry, I want to know more about him:

At the 1964 general election Mackenzie was elected, at the age of 61 and contesting his first parliamentary election, as a Liberal for Ross and Cromarty. He defeated the sitting National Liberal obtaining a majority of 1407 votes. 

Initially he was denied admission to the House of Commons as he couldn't speak English and thus couldn't take the Oath of Allegiance. After Jeremy Thorpe arranged for Mackenzie to undergo quick lessons in English so he would be able to take the Oath of Allegiance. 

His prior lack of knowledge of English would lead to his speeches in the House of Commons being quite short and generally incomprehensible. 

I remember a story about a Scottish Liberal MP whose English-speaking constituents thought his English was good considering that his first language was Gaelic and whose Gaelic constituents thought his Gaelic was good considering that his first language was English.

That must surely have been Alasdair Mackenzie, who you can see in photo above standing behind David Steel at the right-hand end of the group.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Walking North London's lost River Moselle

John Rogers' walks following the lost rivers of London are my favourites of all he does.

The YouTube blurb for this one says:

Our walk starts at the confluence of the River Lea and the Pymmes Brook at Tottenham Hale and we find the confluence of the Moselle and the Lea by Markfield Park. We follow it through Markfield Park into Markfield Road and then along Broad Lane through Tottenham Hale to Scotland Green and then to Tottenham High Road. 

We pass the new Tottenham Football Stadium and follow the Moselle along White Hart Lane and into Tottenham Cemetery where we see the river running along a culvert. We pass the 12th Century All Hallows Church and end our walk at Bruce Castle.

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

Leicester to hold concert for Ukraine on 8 May

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A concert in aid of the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal is being held at De Montfort Hall, Leicester, on the afternoon of Sunday 8 May.

The venue's website says:

The concert promises to be a powerful and uplifting family event of hope and reflection with 100% of ticket sales going to the DEC Ukraine humanitarian appeal.

The concert will feature a vibrant celebration of Ukrainian dance and music by first, second and third generation Ukrainians from across the whole of the UK. 

We will also be joined by various artists and groups including Jonny Fines, a Loughborough born West End actor and singer (Curve - An Officer and a Gentleman), EAGA Gospel choir (Britain’s Got Talent live semi-finalists), Shiamak Midlands Bollywood dancers, a massed choir, Curve CYC, Leicester Cathedral Choir, David Morris (soloist) and a variety of musicians, with more acts to be announced soon.

Book your tickets via the De Montfort Hall website.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Joy of Six 1045

Paul Caruana Galizia, Katie Gunning and Matt Russell on how a Conservative peer and Cameron ally paved the road to Londongrad for sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

"I am in no doubt that the Metropolitan Police Service has some of the most dedicated officers in the world. Yet, we are seeing more cases than ever of serious misconduct, with officers involved in taking pictures of murder victims; attempting to engage in sexual activity with a child; stealing drug money; and assault and rape." Caroline Pidgeon says the new Met Commissioner must be brutally honest about the challenges facing the force

"With a growing network of close to 20k, public policy decisions are increasingly influenced, and made, by their people. So why haven’t you heard of them?" Joe Hanleyr investigates Transform Society.

Paul Hayward probes cricket's class divide: "Tom Brown, a coach at Warwickshire, wrote a PhD in talent identification revealing that 95 per cent of specialist England batters in Tests since 2011 have been white, and that 77 per cent have been privately educated."

"In the 1960s, British brewers sometimes behaved as if they didn’t believe the traditional English pub had a future and scrambled to find ways to reinvent the pub for the late 20th century. For Bass Charrington the solution was a glass and metal wonderland in West London, on the King’s Road." Boak & Bailey look back on The Chelsea Drugstore.

Mark Amies pays tribute to David McKee, the author, illustrator and creator of Mr Benn.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Jean Calder (1931-2022)

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Years ago, Graham Tope came to Market Harborough to help us in the local elections. It happened that one of the doors he knocked on belonged to my mother, and she introduced herself to him as "the Dowager Lady Bonkers".

Sadly, the Dowager Lady B. died this morning at the age of 90.

It was peaceful, as people always hope deaths will be, and we had been given the time to say the things to each other that needed to be said. For that reason, among many others, I am grateful for the increasing time I have spent caring for her in recent years.

I owe my mother everything for keeping the show on the road after my father walked out on us. And, whether through genetics or influence, I get my wit (such as it is), my romantic notions about England and my belief in education for its own sake from her too.

Her surname after her second marriage (to a much better man than my father) was Mattey, but when she had her writing published she wrote as Jean Calder, so I have used that name in my headline.

Blogging seems distinctly old fashioned now, but I still have an affection for it and intend to keep Liberal England going. Thanks for sticking with it as posts became rarer.

It occurs to me that I am now an orphan, but I would not claim to be Well-Behaved.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Hayek and Wittgenstein were distant cousins

Kai Weiss at the Austrian Economics Center writes on the relationship between the economist Friedrich Hayek and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein:

Hayek’s great grandfather and Wittgenstein’s grandmother were siblings, and thus, the two were remote cousins.

It wins our Trivial Connection of the Day Award.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Ed Lucas says Putin’s apologists and enablers must face a moral reckoning

Good stuff from Ed Lucas in the Daily Mail today:

Ignorant, arrogant, complacent, timid and most of all greedy. The charge sheet against countries and people that for 30 years ignored abundant warnings about Russia’s dangerous designs on its neighbours is damning.

And history will surely judge harshly those who ignored the monstrous threat that Putin poses to our democracy

The guilty men - coined to describe those who indulged Nazi Germany in the 1930s - range from hard-Left activists such as George Galloway to patriotic types like Nigel Farage with a nostalgic fondness for no-nonsense strongmen. Lenin would have called both lots ‘useful idiots’.

A swathe of our professional elite is in the dock too: for years they enjoyed lucrative life on the ‘caviar express’, a gravy train run by thugs and gangsters. And many others are guilty for apathy and naivety.

Ed is the Liberal Democrat PPC for the Cities of London and Westminster.

And, before you say anything, I am delighted to see him writing for the Mail. You win elections by talking to people who didn't vote for you last time, not by avoiding them