Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The drowned village of Derwent emerges from the waters of Ladybower Reservoir

The Derbyshire village of Derwent was sacrificed to the construction of Ladybower Reservoir during the second world war. Its buildings had all been demolished by the autumn of 1943 and the site was underwater by the end of the following year.

There was something haunting about the way the church spire was left standing above the waters of the reservoir. The glory of reaching it proved too much of a temptation to swimmers. and it was dynamited at the end of 1947.

This video from Trekking Exploration - why not subscribe to their YouTube account? - was shot in the summer of 2022, when the reservoir was particularly low. But already the mud was waiting to trap careless walkers...

GUEST POST Jon Pertwee's Doctor tackled many of the problems we face today

A Doctor Who serial from 1973 has a surprising degree of relevance to the world of 2024, argues Peter Chambers.

The Green Death is a serial in series 10 of the classic Doctor Who era, broadcast in 1973. The Doctor was played by Jon Pertwee, and the companion Jo Grant was played by Katy Manning. The serial is often remembered for the generous send-off for Jo is given  and is available on iPlayer.

Pertwee was the third Doctor, taking over the role in Spearhead from Space. He was exiled to Earth by the writers to save the show money during the transition to colour TV, yet this period led to some of the most interesting stories in the history of the programme as they had to emphasise plot and drama rather than settings and space technology.

This serial features several issues that Barry Letts and Terence Dicks were interested in, primarily ecology. The others, which recur in classic Who, are brainwashing, women's equality, and the fate of the powerless. Letts wrote the script with Robert Sloman, Dicks was the script editor.

The action starts with Pertwee's Doctor bumbling in the lab in his endless quest to make the TARDIS do what he wants. In this case travel to Metebelis III to obtain a giant blue crystal.

Jo and the Brigadier separately decide that they want to travel to Wales to visit an ecologist group and Global Chemicals, who are in the news. The latter is a fairly obvious device to inform us who is running the Evil Plot. As is common, the Brigadier has orders to drop everything and assist some friends of the Establishment.

Jo accepts a lift from him and is dropped off at The Nuthatch which turns out to be a farm full of ecologists, musicians, mycologists and mathematicians. Their informal leader is Clifford Jones, who is using his Nobel Prize money to research alternatives to meat to alleviate world hunger. 

When Jo blunders in, Jones explains their work, including a water-source heat-pump powered by electricity from a windmill. Today we would say wind turbine. Today you can buy Quorn in a supermarket, and I write this in a building that has a solar PV array.

The Brigadier arrives at Global Chemicals and is misinformed about their operation. The company aims to get good PR by hiring local workers just laid off by the National Coal Board. The local pit is closing but "the government has given a green light for oil".

A picket line disperses when Global's MD, Stevens, promises energy with minimal waste pollution and jobs for all. The Brigadier politely nods, knowing he is ignorant of the science.

At The Nuthatch, Professor Jones dismisses this. He asserts that the Global process would produce a great deal of toxic waste. They must logically have a plan to quietly dispose of it. There is a big disused hole in the ground - the mine - and Global are insistent that it be sealed up.

The consequences of the closure are mainly borne by the few working-class miners maintaining the mine for the National Coal Board. Someone must take a look, and it is Jo and some miners. Lacking plot-armour, the miners are attacked by giant green maggots ('The Green Death'), while Jo escapes with last-minute help from the Doctor.

In the middle of the serial there is the expected action. The Brigadier drives around organising things, Jo discovers frightening things, Mike Yates is beaten up (again) by thugs, Sergeant Benton deploys the troops whose weapons are useless (again), the Doctor uses Venusian Aikido on some guards at Global.

Taking the initiative, the Doctor slips into Global and sees the tubes that discharge toxic waste into the mine. He proceeds to the top floor to confront the management. He finds the 'boss' is a computer system called BOSS, part of a global computer network designed to brainwash humans and obtain control, reducing humans to serfs under algorithmic command. This is an issue today, with the FANG - Facebook (Meta), Amazon, Netflix, and Google (Alphabet) - playing the role of BOSS.

In the final episode of The Green Death, the Doctor demonstrates that a brainwashing unit designed for humans does not work on a Time Lord. He de-programmes Stevens, who conducts a cyber-attack on BOSS as he dies. BOSS is destroyed.

Jo gets engaged to Clifford Jones and leaves UNIT. The UNIT survivors all cheer at a party at the Nuthatch. The Doctor quietly slips away.

Peter Chambers is a Liberal Democrat member from Hampshire.

Helen Morgan welcomes plans for new London to Shrewsbury and Wrexham rail service

The Shropshire Star reports:

The new Wrexham, Shropshire and Midlands Railway Company (WSMR) is proposing to bring back a direct service to and from London in 2025.

The plan would see new, daily train services between Wrexham General and London Euston, serving existing rail stations at Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Telford Central, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Coleshill Parkway, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes Central.

WSMR intends to be an ‘open access’ train operator which is wholly commercial and does not require government subsidy.

And Time Out quotes Helen Morgan, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire, welcoming the proposed new service:

"One of the main issues on the doorstep here in north Shropshire is the lack of decent public transport links. A new link between Wrexham, Gobowen, Shrewsbury and London is very good news, and will bring an important improvement to our links with other areas.

"This is also an exciting prospect for Oswestry, which is set to be connected to Gobowen by rail in the coming years.

"They could see the benefits of additional services to Shrewsbury and Wrexham as well as to London Euston, making the case for reopening the line even stronger."

A similar open access service, the Wrexham and Shropshire, operated between 2008 and 2011. You can see one of their trains above and read the post I wrote after catching it.

Looking at the new service's proposed list of stops, I wonder if they plan to use the freight line through Sutton Park to get from Coleshill to Walsall.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Wellingborough by-election latest: Tories embarrassed by some of their candidate's nominators

The Conservative campaign in the Wellingborough by-election has run into trouble over two of the people who have nominated their candidate Helen Harrison.

They are pithily described by the Sun as:

a benefit fraudster and ex-cop who covered up drink driving.

And the paper goes on to give full details:

One of Harrison’s endorsers was Matt Binley, the son of Northampton South’s former MP, Brian Binley.

It was reported in the North Northants Journal that the ex-cop was slapped with a four month jail sentence in 2010 for conspiring to cover up drink driving.

Having smashed the car Binley then pretended that it was his relative who drove the car.

Another of Harrison’s local supporters is Bhupendra Patel, a convicted fraudster.

It was reported in the BBC that in 2013 Patel was given a suspended jail sentence for failing to disclose his councillor allowance while receiving incapacity benefit.

Patel resigned the Conservative whip once convicted.

This is simply a cracking news story, so it may be wise not to read too much into the fact that the Sun has reported it so fully. But I am reminded of the run up to the 1997 general election.

Then, Labour did not win because the Sun backed them: the Sun backed them because they were going to win. And I wonder if something similar may happen this year.

This report also confirms what I blogged the other day in my post about those spurious Facebook groups set up to campaign against the 20mph speed limit in Wales. The Tories have a problem with the sort of members they now attract.

And it makes you wonder if their Wellingborough campaign is being run by Peter Bone's Friends and Relations rather than people appointed for their competence.

Finally, a word in praise of tabloid news reporting. Notice how economically this story tells you what nominators do in an election.

Kent charity fined over escape of 'ladies' man' emu

BBC Kent wins our Headline of the Day Award.

The judges suggested the Happy Pants Ranch in Bobbing wasn't so happy after being stung for £100. Dugee himself, incidentally, appears to be a charming emu.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Is the Ridgeway really 5000 years old?

Paul Whitewick takes us from Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chilterns to Wiltshire. There we see Liddington Castle, which was sacred to Richard Jefferies, and then some of our sexiest prehistoric monuments, if Avebury and Silbury Hill will forgive me for calling them that.

How old is the Ridgeway? Is it really one path at all? Long walks are good for pondering such questions.

Harborough Autos Test Centre waits for the demolition crew

This is the former Harborough Autos Test Centre waiting for the end. It is about to be demolished and its site on the corner of Abbey Street and Fairfield Road occupied by a 'two and a half storey' block of flats.

The demolition company's warning signs, with their 'Thank You for your Cooperation" made me wondered if I was expected to join in.

The Joy of Six 1199

Whether Donald Trump wins a second term as President or not, Europe must strengthen its defences and learn not to rely on the US, argues Wolfgang Münchau.

Chris Dillow says the Post Office scandal raises questions about the structure of our society: "The Post Office board and government ministers did not select honest or competent bosses. The police did not choose to investigate serious crimes. And the courts failed to correctly distinguish between the guilty and the innocent."

"Churches are being re-used, new houses constructed, Welsh chapels turned into holiday homes. Tall buildings increasingly disfigure the skyline of regional cities as in London. Over the next decade, the built environment will be under pressure as planning controls are relaxed." The work of updating Nikolaus Pevsner’s Buildings of England series may be abandoned, fears Charles Saumarez Smith.

"Seeing that each entry is attached to a name may evoke the feeling of walking among tombstones with only tragic epitaphs, but in this each patient named is also humanised, often in a way greater than their treatment in the text or, indeed, the hospital." Public Domain Review introduces Sketches in Bedlam (1823)

D.J. Taylor analyses the pessimism of George Gissing: "You know, almost from the outset, that Godwin Peak, Born in Exile’s embittered hero, will fail to win the girl of his dreams and die in lonely misery, and the novel’s determinism is somehow exacerbated by the feeling of personal hurt that burns off its melancholy pages, the sense of a book that has been built brick by brick out of the wreckage of the writer’s own life."

Craig Lindsey on how the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple brought neo-noir to Texas.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Church choirs and fathers in jazz bands: The making of the British Invasion generation

Why did British popular music rule the world in the 1960s? I can't answer that - leave a comment if you can - but I have found that some of the brightest stars of that generation had two things in common.

They sang in church choirs as boys, which meant they received a good musical education, and they had fathers who played in jazz bands, which meant they grew up familiar with black American music. It was, after all, Rhythm and Blues that inspired the British  groups of that era.

Let's give some examples, sticking to Wikipedia entries...

McCartney's father was a trumpet player and pianist who led Jim Mac's Jazz Band in the 1920s. He kept an upright piano in the front room, encouraged his sons to be musical and advised McCartney to take piano lessons. However, McCartney preferred to learn by ear. When McCartney was 11, his father encouraged him to audition for the Liverpool Cathedral choir, but he was not accepted. McCartney then joined the choir at St Barnabas' Church, Mossley Hill.
From 1955 to 1959, Richards attended Dartford Technical High School for Boys. He never sat the eleven-plus due to illness. Recruited by Dartford Tech's choirmaster, R. W. "Jake" Clare, he sang in a trio of boy sopranos at, among other occasions, Westminster Abbey for Queen Elizabeth II.

His maternal grandfather, Augustus Theodore "Gus" Dupree, who toured Britain with a jazz big band, Gus Dupree and His Boys, fostered Richards's interest in the guitar. Richards has said that it was Dupree who gave him his first guitar.

Steve Winwood

His father Lawrence, a foundryman by trade, was a semi-professional musician, playing mainly the saxophone and clarinet. Steve Winwood began playing piano at the age of four while interested in swing and Dixieland jazz, and soon started playing drums and guitar. He was also a choirboy at St. John's Church of England, Perry Barr.

His father, Les Argent, was an aeronautical engineer who machined parts at the De Havilland aircraft factory; he had also been the leader of two semi-professional dance bands, the Les Argent Quartet and Les Argent and his Rhythm Kings. Although his father did not teach Argent music, he was raised hearing him playing the upright piano in the family home.

He decided to become a musician "aged eight or nine", and as a child, he sang as a chorister in the St Albans Cathedral Choir. 

Quite an impressive list, and you wouldn't expect Keith Richards to conform entirely to any pattern, would you?

If you know of any more leading Sixties musicians who could be listed here, please let me know.

And here to play us up to the news are the Zombies with a Rod Argent song.

The locomotive depot by Market Harborough station

The photo of Market Harborough locomotive depot was tweeted today by Adrian Pullen and forwarded to me by a reader.

I don't know enough about steam locomotive to date it, but the depot closed on 4 October 1965. It was sited just to the north of the station and to the west of the Midland main line. The overbridge has long gone, though you could see its eastern abutments until recently.

Adrian doesn't know who took this picture. If you do, please let me know.

The Impressions: People Get Ready

I was thinking the other day of First Impressions, a song made the charts in the UK in 1975. It's a song about the importance of those first impressions ("First impressions are lasting impressions..."), and sounds like the sort of thing your Mum and Jordan Peterson would have come up with if they sat down to write a hit together.

It turned out to be by the Chicago vocal group The Impressions, who used to have a more radical take on things. Because they were the group that Curtis Mayfield started out with and who recorded his famous song People Get Ready in 1965.

Brad Erickson explains its significance:

Out of context, “People Get Ready,” like “Go Down Moses” before it, is a simple song of Christian faith. The train is God’s grace in the former and the refrain, “Let my people go” has no special resonance for African Americans in the latter. 

But Martin Luther King, Jr. named “People Get Ready” the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement and often used the song to get people marching or to calm and comfort them. The racial subtext was obvious to African Americans and this encouraged Mayfield to write songs with explicit social messages.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

In praise of Ladybird Modernism and classless aspiration

I think it was those parodies from a few years back - some of them published by Penguin, who would once have looked down their beak at the idea - that cemented a false idea of Ladybird Books in the public mind.

The truth is rather different:
Since I first wrote about the Ladybird books obsession with modernism (article here) I've become increasingly fascinated by the role they played in fostering a spirit of excitement in Britain's postwar schemes to modernise. Picking up copies in second hand bookshops I've started to see a much more concerted effort to portray a positive image of the rebuilding of Britain in these books than even I'd given them credit for. 
With their warm and sensible illustrations and no-nonsense prose, Ladybird has an incredible knack of bringing together the historical and the contemporary, the fairy-tale and the starkly realistic, taking the fear out of everything and showing a unified, positive and optimistic vision of life. 
That's John Grindrod writing on his imagined Ladybird Book of Post-War Rebuilding. He presents much the same material in the video above.

Before I moved to Leicestershire at the age of 13, I lived in the new town of Hemel Hempstead. In many ways it was, for the reasons Grindrod gives, like living in a Ladybird Book.

I am tempted to use the term 'Ladybird Modernism' for the sort of humane, pre-Brutalist variety of modernism that flourished for some 25 years from the end of the war. Examples of this include Hertfordshire's postwar primary schools, Coventry Cathedral and the University of York's original campus.

Another criticism of Ladybird, and of their Key Words reading scheme in particular, is that they presented a middle-class lifestyle as the ideal to aspired to.

It may be here that the Key Words scheme was unfortunate in being launched in 1964. Because from my observation of crowd photographs, 1965 was the year everything changed in Britain.

Take the crowds thronging the platforms of obscure railway stations after on railway enthusiasts' excursions. Before the change, the men were in sports jackets and flannels, and the boys were in short trousers. Then suddenly everything changed and everyone was wearing jeans and anoraks.

So it was that Ladybird felt it necessary to commission new illustrations for the Key Words books. The 1964 Peter was dressed as the young Prince Charles had been: the 1970 version got to wear jeans and had longer hair and a cheeky grin.

And there is a danger in dismissing these books as designed to make the working class aspire to a middle-class lifestyle. Because any group taken up by the left is in danger of losing agency as part of the bargain.

Where is the evidence that working-class aspirations are different from those of the working class? Aren't a bigger house and a garden things that everyone would like to be able to afford? Or do they really crave a larger bath to keep their coal in?

The social position of Ladybird is well described in a brochure created to accompany an exhibition of  Ladybird illustrations by Harry Wingfield held at the New Art Gallery, Walsall, from 1 February 2002, which was shortly before Wingfield died:
They were aimed at the (predominantly white) families who were moving from the back-to-back terrace housing of their childhood to the newly built, green-field council and private estates of the 60s and 70s. 
Peter and Jane and their family supplied aspirational role models, intended to represent happiness and family unity, as well as teaching children how to read.
The brochure 
Follow that link to admire Wingfield's work and see what Ladybird gained by commissioning leading commercial artists to produce illustrations. His alarm clock is a work of art.

Looking at the Ladybird website, it appears that the Key Words books are now illustrated with cheap cartoons. Can't we do better for out children today than that?

George Dobell on England's shortage of spin bowlers

There's a lot to be said for the cricket journalist George Dobell. He has a record of discomfiting the game's authorities and is both sensible and trenchant in his views.

Here he is on England's decision to rely on spin bowlers with almost no experience, and how the structure of our domestic season has forced them into it.

We're all feeling happier after Ollie Pope's heroics today, but what he says remains true.

Later. England won the game with Tom Hartley taking 7-62 in the second innings. That speaks volumes for Hartley and the England's ability to spot talent, but I still agree with Dobell's comments on the need to change the domestic season so young spinners get a chance to develop.

Trivia fans will be interested to learn that Tom Hartley is the son of Bill Hartley, the British hurdler of the 1970s.

Friday, January 26, 2024

David Hemmings, David Warner and Felicity Kendall in Ken Russell's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

This is a find. Ken Russell's two 1978 television films about the Wordsworths and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, co-written with Melvyn Bragg, have long been difficult to see. But both are currently on YouTube.

The first, William and Dorothy, is about the relationship between the siblings William and Dorothy Wordsworth. In its most famous scene, Dorothy faints as her brother is married. As a result, he carries her over the threshold rather than his bride.

This is the second film, which centres on Coleridge and his poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. As well as David Warner and Felicity Kendall as William and Dorothy from the first film, it stars this blog's hero David Hemmings.

If Hemmings chews the scenery rather, then you feel Coleridge was very like that. And his reading of Frost at Midnight to his infant son is beautiful.

My overall impression of both films is that they are much more coherent than those Russell made for the cinema in the Eighties.

Harborough District Council may add more buildings to its list of heritage assets

Harborough District Council, reports the Harborough Mail, has launched a consultation on adding a number of historic buildings to its list of heritage assets.

  • Former Nat West, Barclays and HSBC banks in Market Harborough
  • Former Station, Kibworth Beauchamp
  • Husbands Bosworth Airfield, Sibbertoft Road, Husbands Bosworth
  • Tollgate Cottage, Lutterworth Road, Bitteswell
  • Village Shop, Springbank, Medbourne
  • Auburn Place, Bitteswell Road, Lutterworth
  • Engineering Factory, Fairfield Road, Market Harborough

The consultation will run until 27 February. The council has been run by a Liberal Democrat, Green and Labour coalition since last May.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Is today's lenient view of police corruption down to The Osmonds?

PC Dixon was in no doubt: 

"There's nothing worse than a rotten copper. Nothing. The lowest thing that crawls on God's earth."

That's him addressing a corrupt young constable played by Paul Eddington. You can see the whole episode on TPTV Encore until midnight on Saturday. (You have to register, but the site is free to use after that.)

These days the police call corrupt officers "bad apples", with the implication that every organisation is bound to have a few and there's no need to look for deeper causes or effects.

But as a good Wikipedia entry points out, "bad apple" used to have the opposite implication:

The bad apples metaphor originated as a warning of the corrupting influence of one corrupt or sinful person on a group: that "one bad apple can spoil the barrel". 
Over time the concept has been used to describe the opposite situation, where "a few bad apples" should not be seen as representative of the rest of their group. This latter version is often used in the context of police misconduct.

The entry goes on to cite a linguist call Ben Zimmer on the reasons for this shift in meaning:

Linguists such as Ben Zimmer have pointed out that the proverb began to be used in the opposite sense in the 20th century, instead stating that "a few bad apples" are not representative of a group. 

According to Zimmer, this usage may have corresponded to the change in the grocery trade, where modern shops sold apples individually and would rarely put rotten ones on display, and people stopped thinking of apples as being stored in barrels,

And then, damn his eyes, Zimmer goes on to suggest something I imagined I had thought of all by myself:

Zimmer suggests the change in usage may have been solidified by the Osmonds' 1971 song "One Bad Apple", which includes the line "One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl."

Apples don't grow in bunches, of course, but had it been "a whole bunch", the lyric would have been in line with the US practice of using "a whole bunch" to mean "a large amount".

When I was at York, we ran a philosophy society that invited eminent philosophers for dinner and a discussion. We entertained both Bernard Williams and Norman Malcolm as guests in my time.

Another guest was Daniel Dennett, today perhaps the best-known philosopher in the world. I distinctly recall him saying that "a whole bunch of hillside" had fallen on the log cabin his family kept as a holiday home.

"Morals more akin to the Mafia": Chris Huhne on the methods of the Murdoch empire

Chris Huhne says the public documents in the cases brought by three former Liberal Democrat ministers - Vince Cable, Norman Lamb and Huhne himself - show that phone-hacking was directed by News Group executives who had no journalistic role.

This hacking, claims Huhne in an article for Byline Times, had two objectives:

The first was to target political figures who were perceived to be unsympathetic to News and Murdoch in order to smooth the way for achieving the boss's is objectives. 

The second was to gather intelligence from the heart of government in order to further News's objectives, in particular, the purchase of the 61 per cent of Sky - BSkyB - that the Murdoch's family did not own. Murdoch wanted to stop ministers referring the bid for a time-consuming review - and possible veto - by the competition authorities.

The reason this is so important is because is because it is about using illegal information gathering for corporate purposes is such as spying and getting rid of opponents and obstacles.

Read the full article on Byline Times. It will 
Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Joy of Six 1198

Timothy Garton Ash says Poland is learning that restoring democracy is even harder than creating it.

"The Tories are in arguably the worst state we’ve ever seen a major party in. They lead on just one major policy area, defence, and even then Labour came within a 1 per cent lead here in December. Dylan Difford has shown just how much worse the Tory position is than 1997 when they at least led on three major policy questions ahead of the election." James Austin explains why a Conservative wipe-out at the next election is becoming more of a possibility...

...which is an outcome for which Matt Carr, itemising the strange death of Tory England, yearns.

"When we were taking players from union – Jonathan Davies, Offiah – it was a real psychological body blow that forced them to change. We gutted Welsh rugby union. They fined Davies for saying he wanted to be paid so he could get a mortgage! Now it’s completely flipped." Anthony Broxton is interviewed about his book Hope and Glory: Rugby League in Thatcher's Britain.

Richard Williams reviews an album that celebrates Les Cousins, the Soho folk and blues club that flourished between 1964 and 1972: "It is, as you’d expect, a splendidly varied selection, starting and ending with big names — Bert Jansch and the Strawbs — and containing both even bigger ones (Paul Simon, Al Stewart, Ralph McTell, Nick Drake, Roy Harper and Cat Stevens) as well as many more of those whose reputations never really escaped the folk world, like the brilliant guitarists Davy Graham, Mike Cooper, John James, Sam Mitchell and Dave Evans."

"A good place to start is by acknowledging the snobbery - and misogyny - inherent in this question. Christie’s success tends to be viewed as a phenomenon, a freak of literature, which rarely happens with more highbrow writers, especially when they’re male. How often do people ask why the heck we still read F. Scott Fitzgerald? Or about the secret to Raymond Chandler’s continuing popularity?" Kemper Donovan responds to those who ask why Agatha Christie has sold so many books.

The telescoping of time in the West: Joey Starrett could have lived to watch the film Shane

The reality of the American frontier and its celebration by the cinema were remarkably close in time. Buffalo Bill was a major figure in the real West and lived to appear in films about it.

Or take Shane. This classic Western is set in 1889, and Brandon deWilde was nine when he played Joey Starrett. 

Which means that his character would have been 73 when the film came out in 1953.

Where would he have watched it? In a city somewhere? Or did he do what Shane told him and stay to farm his parents' land?

It's hard to think of a similar telescoping of time in a British film. The nearest that occurs to me is that Henry Stephenson, who played Mr Brownlow in David Lean's 1948 film Oliver Twist, was born in 1871, the year after Dickens died.

Incidentally, there is some accidental telescoping of time in this trailer. If you look closely, you will see a car travelling on the road behind Shane as he rides in from out of nowhere.

And I don't think my point about Joey being able to watch Shane is original, but I can't find where I first read it.

Plan drawn up for the Stiperstones to become a 'super' National Nature Reserve

Natural England has drawn up a proposal to expand the existing Stiperstones National Nature Reserve in Shropshire by up to 5,000 hectares  - that's a chunky 20 square miles.

A press release from Natural England and DEFRA explains the plan:

The proposal is to extend the existing Stiperstones National Nature Reserve, by joining up with landowners and partners to significantly increase the land declared as a National Nature Reserve by up to 5,000 hectares. 

The Stiperstones National Nature Reserve is made up of a wild landscape of uplands, lowlands and woodland that attracts birds including red grouse, red kite, skylark, and snipe. It is home to invertebrates (insects) ranging from the hairy wood ant to the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. 

It also, just about, attracts curlews. When I first went to these hills I reckoned them every time and took their call as a sign that I was in proper hill country.

Emma Johnson, Deputy Director for Natural England in the West Midlands says:  

“There’s a great opportunity here in Shropshire to create better and bigger places for nature, that people can enjoy too. A ‘super’ National Nature Reserve joining up land with partners would be so beneficial, for example soaking up huge amounts of carbon and helping to reduce flooding downstream. 

“Everyone is invited to find out more at the drop-in session where they will be able to talk to people from Natural England and some of the partner organisations involved.  There’ll be lots of information about the proposal, we really want to hear what people think.” 

That drop-in session will take place at Snailbeach Village Hall between 6 and 9pm on Wednesday 7 February.

Unsolicited testimonial: If I want a Liberal Democrat blog that will keep me informed about what's happening at Snailbeach Village Hall, I always turn to Liberal England first.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Merry Tom Crossing to Spratton: The Northampton & Lamport Railway's proposed northern extension

On 30 March the Northampton & Lamport Railway will open its half-mile southern extension from Pitsford and Brampton to a new station at Boughton.

After that, eyes will turn northwards to the line's proposed mile-and-a-half extension from Merry Tom Crossing to Spratton.

This enthusiastic video shows us the route, starting from Spratton and walking south towards Merry Tom Crossing, which is currently the northern end of the line.

English Tory politicians run Facebook groups opposing 20mph speed limit in Wales while supporting it where they live

Wales Online had a terrific story last week:

A Conservative councillor from Sunderland with no apparent links to Wales is running multiple Facebook groups opposing the 20mph limit here despite apparently supporting the limit in his hometown. 
A Wales Online investigation has shown that the administrators of these social media groups have direct links to the Conservative Party.

Do read the whole story, which is by the site's Welsh affairs editor Will Hayward.

It does confirm my  impression that the average Tory activist is now less likely to be a pillar of the local business community than a keyboard warrior or social media troll.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Christopher Eccleston was right about Billy Elliot

Saturday's Independent had an interview with Christopher Eccleston by Helen Brown:

Eccleston has also turned down roles that he feels patronise working-class people. He’s described his own supportive parents – his father Ronnie was a forklift truck driver and his mother Elsie a cleaner – as his “biggest break”, and tells me he’s “tired of seeing working-class parents portrayed as being vehemently against their kids going into the arts. What was that f***ing ballet film everyone went mad for?” Billy Elliot? “Yeah! I was offered a meeting to play the father. But I said I’m not going to do that, it’s offensive. It was a middle-class view of the working-class experience, made for the American market. F*** it!”

Way back in 2006 I wrote a post on this blog with the clickbait title The ten most overrated films.

And one of those films was Billy Elliot, about which I said:

Worst of all it patronised the working class. When newspapers set out to find "real Billy Elliots", they found several and each had received tremendous support from his family.

Me and the Doctor, we see eye to eye.

Ella Ravilious on Eric Ravilious

This is lovely. Ella Ravilious takes us on a personal journey through her grandfather Eric's life. 

She explores the techniques Eric Ravilious learnt and mastered, his influential creative connections, the artists and designers he admired and studied, his favourite subjects to depict, the landscapes he loved and the adventures he had as an official war artist in World War II.

Ella Ravilious works as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Otter dies after being caught in a snare in Little Bowden

A shocking story from Harborough FM:

An investigation has been launched after an otter found seriously injured in Little Bowden died.

It had been caught by a snare, which caused a deep wound and was still attached to its body.

Staff from Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital in Kibworth took the wild mammal to a vet, but it had to put to sleep because of the serious nature of its injuries.

Police and the RSPCA are investigating the incident, as otters are a protected species and there are strict rules governing the use of snares.

The Harborough FM report has interviews with the member of the public who spotted the otter and PC Kelly Tones from Leicestershire’s Rural Policing Team, who is investigating the incident.

Anyone with information should contact the Police on 101, quoting reference 24*39510.

Lord Bonkers writes exclusively for Liberal England: I'd be all for leaving the person responsible alone in a cell with some tooled-up otters while the custody sergeant went for his lunch.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Ian Bannen in a Spaghetti Western with John Huston and the kid from Shane


Ian Bannen will always be Jim Prideaux from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to me, but he enjoyed a long and varied acting career. Here is one of its more outré moments.

The Deserter was a 1970 Western designed as a vehicle for the Yugoslavian theatre and film matinee idol Bekim Fehmiu.

He's not in this clip, but it's remarkable who is. Bannen is the languid British officer, while the grizzled old General is the great American film director John Huston and the young officer who serves them both drinks if Brandon deWilde.

deWilde played the little boy Joey in Shane - I have blogged about him and his misfortunes before. This was to be his last Western and almost his last film: he died in a car crash in 1972 at the age of 30.

The Joy of Six 1197

Victoire Ingabire Umahoza, leader of the opposition in Rwanda, explains why UK government's rhetoric is misleading and Rwanda is far from safe: "Human rights organisations have regularly reported that ordinary Rwandan citizens do not enjoy inalienable human rights. Those who dare to or are perceived to express opinions that challenge the Rwandan government’s narrative suffer reprisal."

William Wallace is our guide to the factions into which the Conservative Party is rapidly dissolving.

"The new ruralism is nebulous but tangible. Mildly countercultural, it has been buoyed by the New Nature Writing but is more than a literary phenomenon. It has slowly gathered adherents since the millennium, fuelling a flight from the city to the country, bringing an activist spirit to rural towns and villages. These developments were intensified by t he importance to health and happiness of access to green space during the Covid-19 lockdowns." Matthew Kelly reflects on Jeremy Burchardt’s Lifescapes: The Experience of Landscape in Britain, 1870-1960.

William Fear looks at the attitude to truth that George Orwell and Albert Camus shared.

"Victoria did manage to have her own secret lavatory built within a hidden door off the Sovereign’s Robing Room in the Lords, rumoured to be the first flushing toilet in London." Chloe Challender reveals the meagre provision of  women's lavatories at Westminster during the 19th century.

"The brief cockney revival at the turn of the 1960s was an interesting moment in British pop," says Alwyn Turner.

John Denver: Rocky Mountain High

John Denver was everywhere in the Seventies. His gentle take on country music may not have pleased hardcore fans of the genre, but he was enormously popular with a wider public.

Turn on the radio and it wouldn't be long before you heard one of his songs - possibly Annie's Song played by the flautist James Galway, who was everywhere in those days too. Rather more creditably, he wrote Leaving on a Jet Plane, which Peter, Paul and Mary made famous.

His pleasant personality made him a favourite on television. Notably, he was a friend of Jim Henson and starred in two Muppet Show specials: John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together and Rocky Mountain Holiday. You may enjoy The Twelve Days of Christmas from the first of these.

I see John Denver's stellar career as stemming from the same roots as the popularity of The Waltons and Jimmy Carter's election as President: a desire for a simple, wholesome America after the shocks of Vietnam and Watergate. 

Denver was politically active himself as a notable supporter of environmental causes. And in the debate on harmful pop lyrics he stood with Frank Zappa and the angels against censorship. He also toured Russia and China in an era when few American artists did.

His fame dwindled after the Seventies, and he seems to have problems with alcohol, as evidenced by several convictions for drink-driving. He died in 1997 after crashing his private plane.

Turn on the radio today and you won't hear John Denver, but I still like Rocky Mountain High.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

The Princes in the Tower: The final verdict

This is the one I've been waiting for. I've not watched it yet, but if they leave Richard III alone in the interview room with Barlow, he'll get a confession out of him in no tome.

It's an odd programme: Stratford Johns and Frank Windsor investigate historical crimes in the roles of Charlie Barlow and John Watt that they played in Z Cars, Softly Softly and Softly Softly: Task Force.

This device was first used in a six-part investigation of the Jack the Ripper murders screened in 1973. It was notable because the writer, Elwyn Jones, introduced the conspiracy theory involving the Royal Family that Stephen Knight later popularised in his Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, which was published in 1976.

Now to watch them tackle Richard III and see Barlow get his man.

Searching for a good podcast on A Canterbury Tale

Search for a podcast on a subject you like, and the odds are it'll begin with protracted banter between people you don't know. I once had to fast forward for 30 minutes to get past it.

The words you should really fear are: "Before we start..."

And when they do finally start, more often than not the discussion isn't worth the wait.

This was my experience of searching for a podcast on the Powell and Pressburger film A Canterbury Tale the other night. The consensus of the ones I found was that there weren't enough superheroes or helicopter crashes.

But eventually I found a good one. I am happy to recommend the Film & Water Podcast about A Canterbury Tale.

I like the way they liken Powell and Pressburger to the Coen Brothers: two pairs of collaborative filmmakers who produce work with its own unique atmosphere.

And their discussion of A Canterbury Tale itself is well worth a listen.

Readers voice (wearily): Have you by any chance blogged about this film yourself?

Liberal England replies: Why, funny you should ask that! Indeed I have. Here's my Derailed by A Canterbury Tale.

Write a guest post for Liberal England

Welcome to 2024, which will almost certainly see a general election.

If you want to promote a policy or make your predictions, why not write a guest post for Liberal England?

As you can see from the list below, I'm happy to cover subjects far beyond the Liberal Democrats and British politics. 

I don't have to agree with every word in a guest post, but I'd hate you to spend your time writing something I really wouldn't want to publish. So do please get in touch first.

These were the last 10 guest posts on Liberal England:

The case for a four-day week and the sad decline of Guido Fawkes

The 4 Day Week Campaign has published a mini-manifesto for the general election. It calls for:

  • A reduction to the maximum working week from 48 hours per week to 32 hours per week by 2030;
  • An amendment to official flexible working guidance to include the right for workers to request a four-day, 32-hour working week with no loss of pay;
  • A £100 million fund to support companies in the private sector to move to a four-day, 32-hour working week;
  • A fully funded four-day week pilot in the public sector;
  • A Working Time Council bringing together trade unions, industry leaders and business leaders to coordinate on policy and implementation of a shorter working week.

You can download it from the campaign's website.

I learnt this from the Guido Fawkes site, which is not somewhere I think to look for stories these days. And you can see why.

The site which once professed contempt for all politicians is now annoyed that some councils are planning trials of a four-day week despite the existence of government guidance saying they shouldn't.

And it gets worse.

The site promotes a list of recent article elsewhere. At the moment one of them involves Therese Coffey claiming that she knows that Kigali is the capital of Rwanda.

Guido Fawkes must now be the most conformist site on the web.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Bertie Wooster goes to Russia: How Britain tried to reverse the Russian Revolution

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews Anna Reid's A Nasty Little War: The West’s Fight to Reverse the Russian Revolution in the new London Review of Books:

"A really nasty, dirty little war ... Waste of time, money and everything else" was the way Christopher Bilney, who served as a seaplane pilot in the Caucasus in 1919, remembered it in old age. 

He was one of many British veterans whose memories of Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War of 1918-20 were "uneasy, with guilt and a sense of failure lurking beneath surface jollity". The American veterans - who had less reason for guilt, given that their nation’s participation was relatively benign - sometimes retrospectively compared it to Vietnam. 

In the diplomatic world, a Western consensus developed that the intervention was something best forgotten. Indeed, both Richard Nixon in 1972 and Margaret Thatcher twelve years later succeeded so well in this that they were able to assure Soviet interlocutors that their countries had never been at war with each other.

Fitzpatrick makes the book sound a good read:

The novelty of Reid’s approach comes largely from her generous use of participants’ diaries, letters and memoirs, mainly British, which makes her story unusually entertaining and takes us back into a world of British upper-class twits familiar from Evelyn Waugh, Osbert Lancaster and P. G. Wodehouse – at times, it reads almost like 'Bertie Wooster goes to Russia.' 

But its story is a dark one. The White (i.e. anti-Bolshevik) Russians on whose behalf we had intervened had antisemitism as a central plank of their propaganda, and there were pogroms against the Jewish population of Ukraine while British troops were stationed there.

Mention of Ukraine suggests a worrying parallel, and Fitzpatrick concludes:

Perhaps the real takeaway from Reid’s history isn’t so much a lesson as a premonition: that not too far down the track, we could be witnessing a shamefaced withdrawal of Western support that leaves the Ukrainians - like the Russian Whites a century earlier - to sort out the mess with Moscow on their own.

Nemone Lethbridge: The Kray Twins' favourite barrister

Embed from Getty Images

When the British Scandal podcast announced it would be doing the Kray Twins next, I was a little underwhelmed. Isn't this a story we've heard too many times already?

So it proved until the last episode, which was absolutely riveting. 

It took the form of an interview with Nemone Lethbridge, a pioneering woman barrister in the 1950s, who became the Krays favourite brief.

She is fascinating on both the struggles she faced as a young woman barrister and on the Krays.

You can listen to the podcast on the British Scandal site, and there was also a recent interview with Lethbridge in Prospect:

Having graduated and passed the necessary bar exams by 1956, she sought work as a junior barrister and found to her dismay that this was a very male profession.

"What did disappoint me was the reaction of Gerald Gardiner, who went on to become lord chancellor in the Labour government. I went to see him and he said, 'I’m very proud of you. I think you’ve done a wonderful thing. But I don’t take women in my chambers'."

If you listen to the British Scandal interview, you will hear her say of the Krays:

They weren't like the Richardsons torturing people. And who now remembers the Richardsons? Nobody. 

But note that she is careful not to say anything disparaging about Lord Bonkers' old friend, the gender-fluid gang boss Violent Bonham Carter. They still honour Violent's memory in the East End.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The blasphemous story of XTC and Dear God

This is a good video on XTC, the tensions within the band and the genesis and extraordinary success of their song Dear God.

I love the story (at 13:50) that British Steel countered the song Making Plans for Nigel by rounding up Sheffield steelworkers called Nigel so they could tell the press how great their jobs were.

But another of the stories is not right - this one is at 15.45. Andy Partridge was not prescribed Valium as a boy because of hyperactivity. 

As he once told the Guardian:

He had been attempting to get off the Valium he had been prescribed aged 12 after his mother was temporarily placed in a mental hospital. 
"It was the 60s," he says, summing up the attitude of the time: "'Poor kid’s upset, his mum’s loopy, why not stick him on Valium?' I became addicted."

Anyway, enjoy the video.

The Agri Brigade: Another pisspoor Private Eye column

Pseuds Corner isn't the only poor column in Private Eye: I was pleased to see the current issue has another letter from a reader criticising The Agri Brigade.

If the Eye has an, if you will, eyedeology, it is centred on opposition to the way big business is given vast sums of public money with little or no accountability for how it is spent. 

Yet this principle is reversed when it comes to agriculture, as The Agri Brigade is devoted to the idea that farming should be subsidised and that no one outside the business should criticise what farmers do.

It reminds me of the late Sir Richard Body's account of fighting a hopeless industrial seat for the Conservatives in 1950. He was taken to meet some farmers on the rural fringe of the constituency for a briefing on agriculture.

There he was told the line to take: British farming is the most efficient in the world, and that's why it deserves to be subsidised.

Ian Hislop inherited The Agri Brigade from Richard Ingrams when he took over as editor. If I remember rightly, under Ingrams it gave the point of view of small farmers - the National Farmers Union was seen as the voice of big farmers and referred to as No F***ing Use.

That touch of radicalism has been lost and these days it may as well be written by the NFU. Nor has it been free of the original sin of the Eye: public school snobbery. I remember The Agri Brigade finding Margaret Beckett's love of caravan holidays endlessly amusing.

I'd like to see an environmental column in the Eye that was written with the public good in mind, rather than the interests of one industry.

But then, as I have bought every issue of the Eye since I went to York in 1978 (you couldn't buy it in Market Harborough in those days), I feel I'm entitled to moan about it from time to time.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The Joy of Six 1196

"Animal factories are amongst the worst atrocities ever perpetrated by humanity. Animal factories are inherently cruel and create massive suffering for billions of animals, destroy the environment and even undermine our health." Jane Goodall and Koen Margodt make the case for adopting a plant-based diet.

Iain Sharpe (Mr Dorothy Thornhill) reflects on how elected politicians can hold experts to account in the light of the Post Office Horizon scandal: "Among the reasons for my dear wife's longevity as Elected Mayor of Watford was a willingness to keep asking questions until she got an answer she understood and a sixth sense for when someone's story wasn't stacking up, the latter skill perhaps deriving from her previous career as a schoolteacher." 

"Giving control to Network Rail would lead to the railway being run to suit its needs, rather than those of the passengers. Trying to get Network Rail to change its spots is unrealistic. The railways must be run in a customer-focused way, and that must be at the heart of any structure the Labour Party devises." Christian Wolmar gives his ideas about how a Labour government should reform the railways.

Oliver Wainwright celebrates the survival of the brutalist Park Hill estate in Sheffield: "The current state of the place – still completely derelict at one end, spruced up at the other – reads as a surreal diagram of how attitudes to postwar architecture have shifted over the years, and how an estate can be scrubbed up for sale in different ways".

Kyle Chaka explains why every coffee shop looks the same - it's the tyranny of the algorithm.

"In 1968 Schulz noticed the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and read a letter from Los Angeles schoolteacher Harriet Glickman. She had a question for Schulz: would he include a black child in the Peanuts gang?" Flashbak explains how Charlie Brown acquired a black friend.

Nigel Farage has driven poor Giles Watling mad

As Edwin Hayward observed on Twitter earlier today:

The Tories have reached the "invade France" stage of the immigration debacle, and it's only Wednesday.

He was talking about a statement that Giles Watling, the Conservative MP for Clacton, places on his website today:

Giles Watling MP is backing stronger borders and an end to illegal migration. Giles is set to back the Government on the Rwanda Bill again this week to deport illegal entrants but warns that the legislation does not go far enough - and will not ultimately succeed in full.  He believes that we must stay focussed on the mission, which is to bring the evil cross-channel trade in human misery to an end.

Mr Watling said: 

"It is undeniable that we need to police our borders and strengthen them. Fundamentally, it is perfectly acceptable that those who are not here legally should be deported to have their cases assessed – we cannot reward those who break the rules and I welcome the Government finally getting to grips with this issue.

"However, and despite intense lobbying from colleagues of mine on both sides of the party, I am afraid I simply could not support any amendments to this Bill. This is not because I did not agree with them in principle, but simply because I do not believe that this Bill goes far enough – even with the proposed amendments, should they have passed.

"The Home Office has demonstrated time and again that it is either unwilling or unable to grapple with the scale of the challenge facing it, and to that extent I believe it is time that it is relieved of the responsibility of policing our borders and instead the issue is handed to the Ministry of Defence.  This is after all a defence of the realm matter and we need British boots on the ground.

"Our borders must be stronger, and in order to achieve that we must explore negotiating with our continental neighbours, pointing out that they would regain control of their overrun towns from Dunkirk to Boulogne if they allow that, in addition to the people we already have in their command and control centres, we put British boots on the ground in Northern France to assist their efforts.

"This is a relatively small piece of coastline with only a few practical places to launch these boats.  We have drone technology and efficient armed forces. We should easily be able to stop the boats from even reaching the beaches and destroy them.  In a very short time I believe that the migration route will stop.  We will save lives, free up the French ports and stop illegal entry in this manner.

"All it requires is determination and diplomacy of the highest order."

Watling appears an amiable sort - see his recent interview with our own Jamie Stone in the John O'Groat Journal and Caithness Courier - and if you read beneath the bluster there is an appeal for international cooperation in there somewhere trying to get out.

So what has made him feel he has to sound as though he wants to invade France?

Here's what:

A new poll suggests Nigel Farage could comfortably win a seat in a constituency formerly held by UKIP, beating the incumbent Tory MP for Clacton by ten percentage points.

The 'Honorary President' of Reform UK polled at 37 per cent of the vote in the Essex town, based on a Survation survey of 509 people conducted through the week.

The Tories were only marginally more attractive to voters than Labour, which received 23 per cent. Six per cent would have voted Lib Dem and eight per cent other parties.

Were Mr Farage attempt to unsettle Giles Watling MP from the seat he has held since 2017, it would be his eighth attempt to become an MP.

Poor Watling. Driven mad by Nigel Farage.

There is another possible explanation: have a look at the video above. Because the very Sixties small boy in it is... Giles Watling.

He played John Gregson's younger son in the police series Gideon's Way. And this clip comes from one of the better episodes, The 'V' Men.

The orator the young Watling was listening to was Sir Arthur Vane, leader of a far-right party called The Victory Movement. Could it be that he was more affected by it than anyone realised? 1964, after all, before anyone thought of safeguarding for child actors.

If so, it would be an irony, because Gregson's George Gideon, like his creator John Creasy, was a liberal. He manages to find out who planted a bomb outside Vane's flat, while maintaining the peace between the Movement and left-wing demonstrators.

All this despite having Allan Cuthbertson, whose very looks screamed "ex-colonial police office who believes in crowd control by violence", wished upon him by the top brass.

But I blame Nigel not Sir Arthur Vane.

Daisy Cooper quizzed on Lib Dem commitment to free social care

Daisy Cooper is interviewed by Care Home Professional about Lib Dem policy on social care. As she says:

"So many people don’t realise just how broken the system is until they, or a loved one, has to use it. ...

"Only with wider reform - like the Liberal Democrat pledge to increase care workers’ minimum pay, and creating a Royal College of Care Workers to create a real career path in the sector – will we achieve a vision where the most vulnerable in our society are cared for properly and those doing that caring are fairly compensated and appreciated."
Asked about our policy of providing free personal care, she says:
The Liberal Democrats have long been champions of care: of care users, unpaid carers and social care workers. We have announced our commitment to free personal care, not dissimilar to the model in Scotland ... .

Fundamentally, there are two reasons why we have made this commitment.

First, people are living longer and often in ill-health and this has given rise to a huge injustice: some diseases can be treated by the NHS, free at the point of use, but when someone is diagnosed with a degenerative disease, like dementia, they will have to pay for their care.

Second, free personal care will support people to live independently in their own homes, for as long as possible. This will maximise the opportunities for early intervention and prevention, helping people stay out of hospital in the first place and to leave hospital as soon as they no longer need to be there.
And Daisy is asked how will it be paid for:
Liberal Democrats publish a fully costed manifesto at every election, and the next general election will be no exception.
There may be a danger that voters won't believe any big spending pledges in the current climate, but this commitment needs to be given prominence by the Liberal Democrat general election campaign.

Our call for a Royal College of Care Workers will interest professionals, but free social care would have more effect on the daily lives of many voters.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Farewell to David Kernan (1928-2023)

The Guardian has an obituary of the actor David Kernan, who died on Boxing Day:

Kernan had been asked by Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth to put together a revue for their Stables theatre in Wavendon, Buckinghamshire, and, bowled over by Sondheim’s music and lyrics, he had the idea of creating a show of his songs that had not previously been performed live in Britain.

After consulting Sondheim, Kernan sought help from the broadcaster Ned Sherrin, producer of the 60s satirical TV series That Was the Week That Was, in which Kernan had performed topical songs. 

They recruited Millicent Martin, who had also appeared on the programme, and Julia McKenzie, and in 1975 staged The Sondheim Songbook, with numbers from shows such as West Side Story, Gypsy, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company and Follies, some written jointly with other composers.

With a new title, Side by Side by Sondheim (suggested by McKenzie), the show was produced by Cameron Mackintosh in the West End the following year, at the Mermaid theatre, then Wyndham’s, and then at the Garrick, where it ran for 806 performances, continuing with other artists until 1978. 

Kernan, Sherrin, Martin and McKenzie left the London production in 1977 to take the show to Broadway, with special dispensation from the US actors’ union, Equity. All four earned Tony award nominations, before again giving way to others.

Clive Barnes wrote in the New York Times: “Mr Kernan is all charm and polish, with a gleaming wit, and, like his well-matched women, displays a great sense of fun, and, occasionally, a feel for dreamily poetic passion.”

You can hear Kernan's cool, English take on Sondheim in the video above.

I'm particularly sorry to hear of Kernan's death, because he was the star of the very first play I was taken to. He played Buttons in Cinderella, the Watford Palace pantomime for Christmas 1966.

As I once blogged about that evening:

I can remember his last scene, singing a song called “I’m Going Away” because his friend Cinderella was marrying Prince Charming. How we loved him!

Click on the link to that post and you'll see that Glyn Worsnip, William Simons and Peter Cleall were also in the cast.