Friday, January 27, 2023

The Joy of Six 1105

"This book is a short sharp shock.  It’s delivery is thoughtful, reflective but also unflinching. It is hard to believe that an ethnic group that experienced an organised genocide within living memory is having their concerns for safety trivialised by many." Zachary Barker reviews Jew Don't Count by David Baddiel.

Stella Perott argues that the response of Jonathan Gullis to the disappearance of 200 asylum-seeking children is: "very reminiscent of the views of teachers, social workers and police officers when teenage girls from Rotherham, Oxford and other UK cities were trafficked and sexually abused by older men. The underlying assumption of many professionals at the time was that running away from home, being looked after (in care), or being sexually advanced for their age were signs of promiscuity that should be punished, rather than abuse that should be prevented."

By ditching three key Windrush inquiry recommendations, the government is failing the victims of this scandal, says Eve Hayes de Kalaf.

Michael Collins looks at the development of Black cricket in the post-war period and presents a case study of the Haringey Cricket College (1984-97), a Black-led project in deprived areas of Tottenham that produced more first-class cricketers than many elite private schools.

"There’s a network of hidden tracks in the UK which is thousands of years old yet which remains invisible to most people." Read Mark Chadbourn on holloways.

Ruth Millington digs up the Birmingham roots of the artist Edward Burne-Jones.

Encouraging Lib Dem result in Rotherham's Keppel ward

Those of us who worry that the Liberal Democrat vote is not going up when the Conservative vote is going down will be encouraged by the result of yesterday's only local by-election:

It's dangerous to read too much into one local by-election result, when turnouts can he so low. And, as the indispensable weekly by-election preview by Andrew Teale shows, Keppel has a more complicated electoral history than most wards.

But when the Tory vote goes down sharply you do want to see the Lib Dem vote going up sharply. And that happened here.

Andrew thought of it too, but this is too good an opportunity to miss. So here are Wilson and Keppel, but not Betty.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

More on Eric Idle at the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester

I'm down so many rabbit holes at the moment that I feel like a portly ferret, but here's a little more on Eric Idle at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester.

The Leicester Daily Mercury for 7 December 1965 ran a short profile of him, complete with a Rutlesesque photo:

Phoenix Face

Cambridge graduate, Eric Idle, who has joined the Phoenix Theatre company for the current production "Oh, What A Lovely War" and "One For The Pot," gained his first theatrical experience with The Footlights company and the university's Amateur Drama Club.

He went to the Edinburgh Festival for two consecutive years with university groups and after obtaining an Arts degree in English went into cabaret at The Rehearsal Room and The Blue Angel. Eric's choice of career followed his interest in script writing and acting for the Cambridge revues.

One of the Cambridge productions was "The Tempest," directed Carey Harrison - new assistant director at the Phoenix.

Eric has written material for the B.B.C. 3 programme, and is releasing a comedy record with the next few months. He is also writing a musical.

The record must have been The Tiger, written with John Cameron, whose release 'this week' was announced in the 1 February 1966 edition of the Mercury. I can find no other reference to it online.

It does occur to me, though, that 'Eric Idol' would have been a great name for a Larry Parnes artist.

Church hall for sale in Market Harborough


The church hall at St Hugh's in Granville Street, Market Harborough, is on the market for £215,000 and "suitable for a variety of commercial, community and residential uses".

Its sale must be connected with plans to adapt the church itself for more community use.

I took these photos of it this lunchtime. St Hugh's began as one of those flatpack 'tin tabernacle', which means that the hall used to be more substantial than the church.

You can read about how practical these corrugated iron churches were for worship in another Liberal England post about St Hugh's.

The tin tabernacle served here until the main church opened in 1940. The space it occupied is still vacant, and I was chatting to someone who remembered having judo lessons inside it in 1970. It would be interesting to know when it was taken away.

I'd like to see a coffee shop here, for purely selfish reasons, but it may be a bit far from the town centre for that.

Mind you, the property market in Granville Street can be unpredictable, for it was the site of Market Harborough's Great Bungalow Mystery.

You may recall that the council paid £920,000 with an estimated value of £303,000. Conservative-run Harborough District Council commissioned a report into the affair and then refused to publish it.

The council even made it into Private Eye last summer because of it.



Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Behind the scenes of Detectorists

Detectorists has the good-people-doing-good-things-in-the countryside vibe of Time Team and Go With Noakes, with a touch of eeriness and earth mystery thrown in.

This is an engaging report on life behind the scenes of the show.

Barbara Cartland on the impact of the death of Dennis O'Neill

I have in front of me an extraordinary book - The Years of Opportunity: 1939 -1945 by Barbara Cartland.

To someone who remembers Cartland only as a figure of fun, it's a revelation. Informed by Cartland's wartime voluntary service, it's full of interesting observations on the role of women and the needs of children.

Perhaps Cartland's liberal Conservatism should not be such a surprise. One of her brothers was the Conservative MP Ronald Cartland. (Like her other brother, he died in France in 1940.)

Barbara Cartland was to become a councillor in Bedfordshire and was notable for her support of Romany and travelling people.

Ronald Cartland was an opponent of Appeasement and pressed for the government to do more to tackle poverty. I've not read the book, but he is one of the gay MPs celebrated in Chris Bryant's The Glamour Boys.

One day I will put together a post of Barbara Cartland's observations from The Years of Opportunity. But here are three points on wartime concern about the treatment of children from a reading of the book.

First, Cartland bears out what historians say about the impact of the evacuation of children to the countryside. Because many wealthy people had children billeted on them, they encountered the effects of poverty and poor education for the first time.

Second, she pays tribute to the work of my heroine Marjorie Allen - Lady Allen of Hurtwood - to bring the plight of children living in institutions to public attention.

And third, she confirms the extraordinary effect that the death of Dennis O'Neill had on public opinion:
I shall never, in all my life, forget the horror I felt on reading of how that little boy had suffered before he died - his hunger, his terror, his maltreatment haunted me, and like thousands of other women in Great Britain I could not sleep for thinking of him.

Harold Shipman advert promoting Leicester life insurance firm causes outrage





Two in a row for the Leicester Mercury as the local insurance firm DeadHappy courts controversy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Kenneth Griffith's film Emily Hobhouse: The Englishwoman


I'm not bringing you a contemporary newspaper account of the 1899 meeting to oppose the Boer War that Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch chaired in Liskeard: I'm bringing you a dramatic reconstruction of it.

Kenneth Griffith was an actor and maker of documentaries whose strongly held political views regularly brought him into conflict with television bosses and the broadcasting authorities.

His Independent obituary from 2006 was candid:
He could exasperate colleagues by his cantankerous manner and stout refusal to compromise his artistic and professional integrity, especially when offered work by those whom he called the "priggish cuckoos" of the BBC's middle management. Even those who were kind to him found he would insist on marching to a different drum.
For someone normally seen as on the left, Griffith had a surprising sympathy for the Afrikaners. From it flowed his 1984 documentary Emily Hobhouse: The Englishwoman, which dealt with her humanitarian and political efforts to help the inmates of the concentration camps the British had established in the Boer republics.

This tactic of removing the civil population from areas of conflict so guerrilla forces cannot use it as cover had already been used by Spain in Cuba and were recently used by the Sri Lankan government in Tamil areas of the island.

In Cuba and South Africa at least, the conditions in which these civilians were held were appalling and resulted in many deaths. 

I have chosen the section of Griffiths's film that deals with the Liskeard meeting, but the whole of it is worth watching if you do not know the story. All the parts are played by Griffith or the South African actress Hermien Dommisse.

Six years later, a film called That Englishwoman: An Account of the Life of Emily Hobhouse was made in South Africa, with Veronica Lang in the title role. Lang enjoyed a long but not stellar career in British television.

Emily's father, the Rev. Reginald Hobhouse, was played by Terence Alexander, in the era when he was Charlie Hungerford in Bergcrac. 

You can see a fragment of the film below. 

Fuming mum says daughter was made to remove coat during outdoor PE lesson in freezing weather

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It's nice to see a home winner of our Headline of the Day Award. Well done to the Leicester Mercury.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Lib Dems' Blue Wall campaigning to focus on health


Liberals and Liberal Democrats have been trying to win affluent Conservative seats in the South of England ever since Orpington Man was discovered.

But give the media a catchy term like the 'Blue Wall' and our ambitions there become a news story and one that ican be regularly repeated.

The Blue Wall story in yesterday's Observer in that it identified a planned change in Lib Dem campaigning in those seats:

Lib Dem campaigners charged with securing a breakthrough in seats in the south-east are gathering in a Staffordshire hotel this weekend, as all the parties begin to sketch out their early general election planning. 

The group will be told that the usual tactic of targeting liberal Tory voters in affluent areas with messages about the economy will be dialled down, after the NHS crisis was found to be resonating significantly in these areas.

A 'message testing' operation in Hertfordshire surprised the campaign team as health issues dominated on the doorsteps. New mailshots across several south-east counties have already been drawn up, concentrating on A&E problems, ambulance waiting times and access to dentistry.

The inevitable Lib Dem 'source' told the paper that the feedback had been overwhelming:

"Even if people had not been impacted by NHS delays themselves, they knew someone who had been, and therefore they were angry about it too. It now looks like the 'blue wall' will be voting on health issues at the next election, not just the economy."

It's no surprise that even affluent voters think this way. With the economy still suffering from Brexit and other blows, fewer people can be confident of their ability to buy their way out of declining public services.

But does the party have the clear, attractive health policies that this approach will need? (I'm not being critical: this is a genuine enquiry.)

Eric Idle at the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester

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I don't love Eric Idle like I love Pat Nevin, but I picked up his memoirs - inevitably called Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - at the library too.

An unexpected discovery from it is that Idle appeared in Oh, What a Lovely War! at the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester in 1965. The director was Richard Eyre, who began his acting and directing career there.

To Idle's surprise he was asked to stay on for the next production, a Ray Cooney farce staged for Christmas audiences. But in it he proved the rightness of his own judgement that he lacked the discipline to be an actor.

He was in his dressing room one evening, writing sketches for I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, and noticed that things had grown strangely quiet.

The silence was broken when the leading man, tired of waiting for his cue, knocked to ask if Idle would like to join him on stage,

Reader's voice: But why have you chosen a picture of an elephant?

Liberal England replies: Because it shows Leicester in 1965. Or thereabouts.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Joy of Six 1104

"I believe that the leadership is making a serious mistake. Our policy on rebuilding trade and cooperation in Europe can be popular – if only we let people know about it. There is no credible answer to the challenges Britain faces without it. And, even better, it distinguishes us very clearly from Labour, which is running scared of Brexit." Duncan Brack asks why Ed Davey never talks about Europe.

Andy Boddington reports that Shropshire is to receive no 'levelling up' money to revitalise its bus services: "The operating costs of bus companies have increased significantly over the last year following the increase in fuel prices. Passenger numbers have also not recovered since the pandemic. We are in danger of losing many of our services. Two routes under threat are the 435 service between Ludlow and Shrewsbury and the 553 Bishop’s Castle Shrewsbury service."

Merve Emre fears that academia has ruined literary criticism.

Emily Brontë acted with pragmatism, courage and kindness in her last illness and the received wisdom that she was a 'stubborn', self-destructive patient is grossly unfair, says a new account discussed by Mark Bridge.

"Let me now be your guide to the five most horror-inflected Crown Court cases.  Witchcraft, demonic possession, folk horror and, er, imaginary killer robots, they’re all here (and I’ll finish up with a rundown of the series’ other mildly spooky-flavoured stories)." Ivan Kirby discovers the dark side of the afternoon programme Seventies children watched if they were off school ill.

Sarah Weinman on Sandy Fawkes, the journalist and Soho character who met a stranger at a hotel bar and agreed to a road trip across America. Her companion later turned out to be a serial killer.

Emily Hobhouse: A Cornish humanitarian

Looking for an account of the meeting against the Boer War that Arthur Quiller-Couch chaired at Liskeard in 1899, I came across this tribute to one of the speakers, Emily Hobhouse.

It comes from the Western Morning News for Friday 11 June 1926, when she had just died at the age of 66. It's more about her male relatives than Emily, but it's a start as an introduction to someone I want to know much more about. (John Hall's book, whose cover I've used as an illustration here, looks the place to go for that.)

A Cornish Humanitarian

Opinions differ still as to whether the humanitarian zeal of Miss Emily Hobhouse always found the wisest outlet, but the noble motives this distinguished Cornish woman there are, so tar as I know, no two opinions. A great many people in London and elsewhere think of her as the Florence Nightingale of South Africa, and they will probably be present at Kensington Cemetery to-morrow when Miss Hobhouse's remains are laid to rest. 

Among them I should not be surprised to see Mr. Lloyd George, with whom many Cornishmen may remember Miss Houhouse spoke from the same platform at Liskeard in the 'nineties in connection with the South African War. The district was familiar to her, for it was at St. Ive near Liskeard that Miss Hobhouse was born. Her father, the Venerable Reginald Hobhouse, was then rector. He became afterwards Archdeacon of Bodmin. 

As the niece of Lord Hobhouse on her father's side and of Sir William Trelawney, for some time Radical member for East Cornwall, on her mother's, Miss Hobhouse was related to two Lord Byron's most intimate friends. Her work in the concentration camps South Africa was followed with sympathetic attention nobody more than her famous fellow-Cornishman, Leonard Courtney, then a commoner. 

Cornish settlers in Minnesota still remember gratefully, no doubt, the two years Miss Hobhouse spent in their settlement after the loss of her venerable father. Her brother, Professor Leonard Hobhocse, is probably Cornwall's most distinguished son the sphere of philosophical and sociological research. He is, of course, the author of the little book "Liberalism" the Home University Library.

Leonard Courtney, incidentally, became the 1st Baron Courtney of Penwith. He is described by Wikipedia as "an advocate of proportional representation in Parliament and acting as an opponent of imperialism and militarism".

He was MP for Liskeard between 1876 and 1885 as a Liberal, and then for Bodmin between 1885 and 1900. There, from 1886, he sat as a Liberal Unionist, but his radical views became an increasingly comfortable fit with that party.

He did not stand in Bodmin in 1900, and when he did stand for again in 1906 it was as a Liberal.in Edinburgh West. There he was defeated by a Liberal Unionist.

I'll look out for an account of that Liskeard meeting and for more on Emily Hobhouse. The more you know, the more there is to find out.

Later. A bit of googling has turned up a dramatic reconstruction of the Liskeard meeting and a South African film biography of Emily.

Later again. Despite what the contemporary report here says, Emily Hobhouse was cremated and her ashes were ensconced in a niche in the National Women's Monument at Bloemfontein.

Why everybody loves Pat Nevin

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I love Pat Nevin. I loved him as a player at Chelsea and I love him as a broadcaster now. I think everybody loves Pat Nevin.

The other night he was the summariser on a Chelsea game and named a change Graham Potter needed to make and why - bring on Aubameyang, even though he's not looked that interested lately, so Havertz could play a little deeper, which suits his game - just before Potter made it. And the change worked.

That is the sort of analysis listeners crave and so rarely get.

And then there was his hinterland. Here was a player who appeared on art quiz programmes hosted by George Melly.

So when I saw his memoir The Accidental Footballer in the library I grabbed it. And I'm not disappointed:

When Annabel wasn't around, if I wasn't eating at the Chelsea Kitchen you would find me at another cheap café called Vince's at Fulham Broadway with another friend, John Millar, the new young full back at Chelsea. I always tried to help and integrate the young players coming through, especially but not exclusively if they had come down from Scotland. 
In the café we started chatting about 'fitba' and 'Glesga' to a gruff, Rangers-supporting, six-foot-tall Glaswegian called Wullie who worked as a road sweeper. We started to see him regularly in the café and I suppose what follows tells you a lot about why I loved London so much, 
A few months after we'd met him Wullie asked, ''So wit ur ye daein the night, wee man?' 
'Actually I am going down to the South Bank.' I sheepishly said. 'There's a retrospective on about the Garman film director Werner Herzog and he is doing a talk afterwards that I want to hear...' I tailed off expecting a torrent of abuse from the road sweeper for being a culture snob. 
'Funny that,' says Wullie. 'So am I'. 
After months of talking 'fitba', spouting nonsense and judging each other as rough 'Glesga boys' it turned out that among other things he had a deep love of the arts, had an encyclopaedic knowledge of Wagner's Ring Cycle and was also a friend of Sir Peter Hall! 

As to the question of whether Pat Nevin and Terry Butcher are cousins, it seems they are not blood relatives but are related by marriage.

The Jam: The Butterfly Collector

With its changes in pace, this Jam B-side (it's on the flip side of Strange Town) pays homage to Ray Davies in the shape of the Kinks' song Shangri-La.

What's it about? Theories implicate Julie Burchill, a notorious groupie of the New Wave era and John Fowles's 1963 novel The Collector.*

And All Music is sure it knows:

If "Strange Town" took a cynical look at England's capital city, that single's flipside, "Butterfly Collector", was a bitter expose of the London club scene or, more accurately, one particularly egregious (if unnamed) club owner. Using and abusing bands to further her own aims and fame, composer Paul Weller pins her to the wall and leaves her to squirm beneath his sharp-as-tacks lyrics. For weeks afterwards, incidentally, clubland echoed with rumours as to the song’s subject’s identity. Weller, however, never let on.

As vicious as his attack may be, however, the song is infused less with anger than with melancholy, fed by Weller's evocative acoustic guitar work and his almost lamenting vocal delivery. His anger still bleeds through, but the very restraint of the band's backing, and Weller's own suppressed delivery makes this song all the more devastating. One of The Jam's most haunting numbers, the song's atmosphere was enhanced by Vic Coppersmith-Heaven's excellent production.

* This is one of those sentences where an Oxford comma is not helpful. 

Saturday, January 21, 2023

BBC covers story that its chairman helped guarantee £800K loan to Boris Johnson just before Johnson appointed him

Tomorrow's extraordinary news story about Boris Johnson, Richard Sharp and the BBC was covered by the corporation this evening.

You can here the views of Gabriel Pogrund, the journalist who has broken it, in the two clips above.

British Chess Championships to be held in Leicester


This year’s British Chess Championships will take place at The Venue, De Montfort University, in Leicester, with events running from 21 to 30 July, says the English Chess Federation.

I'll certainly go along to watch for a day or two, but I fear I'm too rusty to survive in any of the open rapid-play events.

Friday, January 20, 2023

He was a good Cornish Liberal and a Radical:
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and True Tilda

I once imagined that Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (rhymes with Gooch), who signed himself Q and edited Horace Rumpole's beloved Oxford Book of English Verse, was an austere and distant figure.

Not a bit of it. When he was knighted by Asquith's government in 1910, it was for literary, educational and political services. He was a good Cornish Liberal and a Radical with it.

In 1899 he chaired a Liskeard meeting against the Boer War. The speakers were David  Lloyd George and the remarkable Emily Hobhouse, sister of L.T. 

As so often at these meetings, there were ugly scenes and Lloyd George had to be smuggled out of the building.

And in the academic world Quiller-Couch defended Liberalism against the Modernist High Toryism of T.S. Eliot.

He also wrote fiction, including at least one book for children, True Tilda.

This is a sort of feminist reworking of Oliver Twist, in which Tilda, a resourceful female Artful Dodger on the side of good, helps a traumatised younger boy find his fortune.

In hospital after an accident in the circus ring, Tilda hears a tale of injustice from a woman dying in the next bed. As soon as she is discharged she springs the boy, Arthur, from the evil Dr Glasson's orphanage and, travelling by canal boat and other means, the two of them evade his pursuit.

Eventually they arrive at Holmness in the Bristol Channel where Arthur finds his fortune. He turns out, inevitably, to be the lost son of an aristocratic family.

True Tilda was adapted by the BBC in the 1990s, an era when I didn't own a television. The other day - and this is my reason for writing all this - a fragment of the series turned up on YouTube.

I'd normally skip to the start of the episode, but the trailers here are of period interest - Chesterfield in an FA Cup semi-final and the great Stephen Lewis.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Two prisoners escape from Wormwood Scrubs during a performance of The Mousetrap


Let's turn to the Birmingham Post of Monday 16 March 1959:

Fifteen minutes before the curtain was rung down last night on a Wormwood Scrubs Prison production of the Agatha Christie thriller The Mousetrap, it was discovered that two prisoners were missing,

That was despite the governor receiving a warning from the police that an escape might be planned.

I like this observation:

Derek Blomfleld - he plays the part of a detective sergeant - thanking the prisoners for their reception. said: "Usually, at the end of each performance, I say ... 'do not tell your friends and relations who done it'." The prisoners applauded loudly.

Gold-wrapped steaks, where late the sweet birds sang


Judging by this report in the Leicester Mercury, it's all a bit Salt Bae:

A new Leicester restaurant is preparing to open its doors - and it's certainly going to bring something new to the table. Not only is Emre Smokehouse and Grill located in a beautifully restored Grade II-listed former church, the restaurant will give customers the opportunity to enjoy tableside shows from the experienced chefs, who will use fire to create a theatrical dining experience.

You will even be able to see one of the chefs cut a steak while blindfolded. Plus, you can choose to have your steak gilded in gold for a truly luxurious meal.

But if the new inhabitants of the area worship according to different rites - and the indigenous English often don't worship at all - what else can you do?

The former church, incidentally, is St Barnabas in Leicester, where I met the electrician who had come to make it safe and was allowed to go round and and take some photos.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Mr Derek in the Further Adventures of Bulldog Basil

Maybe this doesn't show them at their best, but clips of Basil Brush with Derek Fowlds, his finest companion by far, rarely turn up on YouTube.

Enjoy it while you can.

A Richard Jefferies Wildlife Walk to mark his 175th birthday


From the Richard Jefferies Museum site:

This year, to commemorate and celebrate Jefferies' 175th birthday, we are planning a grand walk to expore the nature of "Jefferies' Land", and record it all in a book. Our route starts from Jefferies' grave in Worthing and take us via all the main places where he lived in his short life, ending up back at his birthplace (the museum) on his 175th birthday - 6 November 2023.

But don't worry, we're not trying to walk the whole thing in one go, and not on our own - will you join us?

After Worthing, the walk passes through Hove and Rotherfield in East Susses, before heading north to Eltham, Sydenham and Tolworth in South London. From there it heads for the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate Water on the edge of Swindon.

Follow the link above for more on the project.