Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lord Bonkers in 2014

I have just contributed a post on Lord Bonkers' adventures and opinions this year to Liberator's blog.

We expect a white Christmas because of Dickens' boyhood

I first posted this back in 2008. Since then there have been a couple more white Christmases, but it seems worth repeating...

Why is snow so firmly established in our ideal Christmas when there have been only seven white Christmases since 1900?

It is all down to Charles Dickens.

The Daily Telegraph quotes a Canadian professor as saying:
"The whole of A Christmas Carol is really an invocation of his childhood Christmases with his family before his father fell into debt and was sent to the debtors' prison. 
"A Christmas Carol made Christmas respectable for the English bourgeoisie, who had come to regard it as somewhat antiquated."
And what were those early Christmases like for Dickens?

The Telegraph says:
A decade of unusually cold weather during his childhood may have influenced his description of Britons "scraping the snow from the pavements in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses" on Christmas morning despite the statistical probability of a grey winter day like any other. 
Six of Dickens's first nine Christmases were white, including one in the winter of 1813-14 during which the ice on the River Thames was thick enough to bear the weight of an elephant. 
Whether they tested this with a real elephant is not disclosed.

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Nick Harvey paid tribute to the former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe at his funeral on Friday.

"Far from completing the modernisation they once promised they have, in large part, abandoned the project. As a result the electorate, generally speaking, reckons the Tories just as extreme as Ukip." Alex Massie on the failure of Cameron and Osborne.

Tiffany Jenkins dissects the left's current enthusiasm for censorship.

Vladimir Putin is living in another world, says Cicero's Songs.

"The Ronald Pinn I created from the distant memory of a young man in a graveyard became, in imitation of the bent police officers who inspired his creation, an illegal alien in a world of bespoke reality." In a long and fascinating piece, Andrew O'Hagan examines identity in the modern world.

Jack Spicer Adams has a photo essay on Birmingham Central Library: "I went to say goodbye to this divisive Birmingham landmark and fine example of brutalist architecture. I’ll be sad to see it go."

Kelly Jones: Local boy in the photograph

There was a sort of Welsh pop renaissance in the 1990s: Manic Street Preachers, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Stereophonics.

This was the first song on the Stereophonics' first LP, which I liked and bought in 1997. It is sung here by Kelly Jones, its writer and the band's singer, at the Hay Festival a few years ago.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Flip Chart Rick visits modern Trumptonshire

I had a university friend who was fond of saying that Camberwick Green was the English utopia: it was rural, everyone had a skilled trade and there was no crime.

But, as Flip Chart Rick shows in what is our Blog Post of the Year, time has not been kind to it and its neighbours in Trumptonshire.

Let me show you...

Camberwick Green
Windy Miller is long dead. His mill was bought by a property developer and converted into a sprawling residence, compete with gym and swimming pool. It is now the weekend retreat of Bradley Smythe-Hoover, MD of Capital Markets at MorganGoldensacks. 
The Miller family are still in the business, though. Nowadays, the flour is produced by United Mills on the Chigley industrial estate. Windy’s granddaughter, Cindy Miller, works there on a zero hours contract.
The town of Trumpton lost much of its importance when it was subsumed into the Greater Chigley Unitary Authority in the local government reorganisation. It is now merely the traditional county town of a county that no longer exists. 
Locals complain that there has been no planning control and that the town’s development has been neglected by the council in Chigley. Like many small towns, Trumpton has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. 
By day, it is the quintessential market town. The old square with its farmers’ market and Georgian shops attracts busloads of pensioners and foreign tourists. At night, the town is given over to pubs, competing on price to attract the youngsters who flock into the centre. Fights between locals and migrant agricultural workers are frequent.
There are no band concerts or dancing factory workers in Trumptonshire any more. Some people didn’t believe there ever were, until some photographs were found in Raggy Dan’s attic after the old rag and bone man had died. These showed the firemen’s band and the dances, as well as many other scenes from old Trumptonshire. 
The local history society reprinted them in a book published to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Trumpton clock in 2010. Leafing through the coffee table tome Trumptonshire Remembers, you can see just how much the place has changed.
This post has already reminded me of Pippin Fort and that, if Floella Benjamin deserved a peerage, then Brian Cant should be a duke.

Lord Bonkers on the sacking of Alastair Cook

Lord Bonkers writes exclusively for Liberal England:
It is important to recognise when a leader’s reign has come to its end. It can be difficult, when one admires a fellow oneself, to admit that the results he is getting have not been good enough for a good while. 
However, time moves on, and one has to be prepared to act decisively. For a leader who impressed people only a few years ago may no longer cut the mustard today.

Colin Baker in Finding Richard

Finding Richard Trailer from Hive Media on Vimeo.

This is the trailer for the short film I blogged about back in February.

You can read more about Finding Richard on its own website.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A rare photograph of the real Father Christmas

This photograph was taken on 14 November 1941.

See the thin, worried and rather pagan looking figure with a well-scrubbed child on each hand. I take this to be a rare photograph of the real Father Christmas.

If he was needed anywhere, it was in wartime London.

Save the Wolsey Angels

From the Victoria and Albert Museum website:
We urgently need your help to raise £2.5 million and reunite the Wolsey Angels, four Renaissance sculptures that were owned by two of the most powerful men in Tudor history. 
These striking bronze figures were designed to adorn the corners of a magnificent tomb for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, pre-eminent statesman and King Henry VIII’s closest advisor. Wolsey’s tomb, however, was never completed. In a tumultuous period, the angels were then seized by Henry VIII, sold during the Civil War, separated and eventually lost.
In Apollo Magazine Hilary Mantel says that "the recovery of Wolsey’s angels is one of those miracles that historians pray for; something that seems irrevocably lost has been there all the time".

To explain this miracle, we have to run through a little history.

Thomas Wolsey, as Henry VIII's most important adviser, wielded enormous power. He planned a magnificent tomb for himself at Windsor, but in 1529 he fell from favour over his opposition to the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Summoned from Yorkshire to London to be tried for treason, he arrived at Leicester Abbey announcing "Father abbot, I am come to lay my weary bones among you." And there Wolsey and died and was buried.

This blog visited the abbey ruins a few summers ago.

You can see the black sarcophagus Wolsey intended for himself in the crypt of St Paul's as it was used to bury Admiral Nelson. But the angels that were supposed to guard the corners were long believed lost.

Back to the Victoria and Albert Museum site for the story of their rediscovery:
After Wolsey’s death, the angels and other parts of his tomb were seized by Henry VIII, who employed Benedetto to complete his own tomb on an even grander scale. However, Henry VIII did not live to see his tomb finished, either. His children failed to honour their intentions to subsequently complete it, and the angels were never united with the other elements of the tomb. 
Elizabeth I moved the parts of Henry VIII’s incomplete tomb to St George’s Chapel in Windsor in 1565. ...
During the Civil War most of the tomb’s components were lost and the angels remained undiscovered until recently. Two of them appeared at an auction in a Sotheby’s sale in 1994, unillustrated and simply referred to in the catalogue as a pair of large bronze angels in the Renaissance style. Nothing was known at this stage of their original provenance. The angels were eventually attributed to Benedetto’s tomb for Wolsey by Italian art historian Francesco Caglioti. 
In 2008, the other two angels were discovered at Harrowden Hall, a country house in Northamptonshire. It later came to light that all four sculptures had stood above the posts of Harrowden Hall’s entrance gates.
It is a remarkable discovery and I hope the money will be raised to keep the Wolsey Angels in Britain.

Back in Leicester, having found Richard III, there are those who would now like to find the bones of Cardinal Wolsey. In February 2013 the Labour councillor Ross Willmott (who indirectly put me on to this story) supported the idea.

And it would be wrong to end without paying tribute to Terry Scott and his portrayal of the Cardinal in Carry On Henry.

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Tim Farron says the CIA report on torture shows why we have to fight harder than ever for a liberal Britain.

"Bulging profits for the development industry sit uneasily amid a deepening national housing crisis where what is needed above all else are decent, genuinely affordable homes." Nick Mathiason reports on the great British housing crisis.

Neil Davenport defends Hackney hipsters - cereal cafes and all: "Attacking hipsters for simply selling nice goods in the East End is not going to tackle inequality and poverty. But the demand that anyone with a novel idea for a small business should shut up and ship out certainly reeks of a poverty of ambition."

The Box of Delights Archives has photographs of the locations - 30 years ago and today - used in this classic children's television series.

Meanwhile, Margaret at Books Please has been reading Seven White Gates by Malcolm Saville: "'Remember, Petronella, our friend, never to be seen near the Stiperstones on the longest night of the year, for then all the ghosts in Shropshire and all the counties beyond meet on the summit – right on and around the Chair they meet – to choose their king.'"

English Buildings reviews The English Railway Station by Steven Parissien.

Man rings police after neighbour posts "creepy" picture of Cliff Richard in his window

Our Headline of the Day contest sees a win for Brighton's The Argus.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nick Clegg on Leaders Live

Nick Clegg's interview with the young people that was broadcast earlier today.

I'm still a party loyalist, me.

Monday, December 15, 2014

When the government encouraged term-time family holidays

They even made a film to promote the idea...

Ukip wars: When fruitcakes fall out

Grumbling about Nick Robinson is a recognised leisure activity for politicos of all colours. I have been known to indulge in it myself. But his report about Ukip this morning was spot on:
A parliamentary candidate resigns having tried blaming his racist comments on taking painkillers. 
This comes days after an alleged sex scandal at UKIP head office in which the party's chief executive did - or did not - sleep with another candidate. 
Meantime a wealthy donor is said to be threatening to stop funding the party if his friend doesn't get a seat. 
You may think that UKIP's week of bad headlines is just a diverting soap opera. 
You may think it simply shows the growing pains of Britain's fastest growing political force. You may think it has no significance at all. If so, you'd be wrong. 
All the bizarre news stories that have emerged from UKIP in recent days reflect a power struggle within a party that aspires to hold the balance of power after the next election.
The most damaging stories about candidates always emerge from feuding within their own parties.

I am reminded of the Greenwich by-election of 1987, which was won against the odds by the SDP half of the Alliance.

The seat was held by Labour, but as Andy McSmith recalls in his Faces of Labour, that their candidate Deirdre Wood lost after
a virulent press campaign which forced down the already depressed Labour vote and encouraged a huge tactical switch by Conservative voters, to secure victory by the SDP candidate, Rosie Barnes.
I remember journalists saying that this campaign was easy to mount because all the damaging stories about Deirdre Wood had been given to them by Labour insiders in an effort to prevent her being selected as their candidate in the first place.

Shefford cafe's singing polar bear probed over noise

BBC News wins Headline of the Day, but does anyone remember the Cresta bear? "It's frothy, man."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Iain Sinclair interviewed at the London Review Bookshop

Iain Sinclair interviewed by John Rogers at The London Review Bookshop on 23 October 2014. He discusses his life in literature, film, London, John Clare, walking in Los Angeles, and more.

The Only Ones: Another Girl, Another Planet

Here's a single from 1978 that everyone knows, yet it was not a hit at the time.

It has has a long afterlife through being used in commercials and films and being covered by an impressive list of artists.

And today Allmusic calls it "an eternal three minutes of pop perfection".

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Say it ain't so, Jo

Tom Mangold writes about his attempts to investigate Jeremy Thorpe for the BBC:
I had been on the story for less than two weeks when I got a phone call from Jo Grimond, one of Thorpe’s predecessors as Liberal leader. ‘What you are doing is outrageous!’ he barked down the line. ‘Unless you stop at once, I’ll have you dismissed within hours by the [BBC’s] Director General, who I happen to know extremely well.’
It's always sad to learn that one of your heroes has feet of clay.

Still, this incident does give me an excuse for reposting one of my favourite videos from Youtube.

This song was written and first recorded by Murray (older brother of Anthony) Head and is here performed by, amongst others, three-quarters of The Who.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

The French for French-bashing is le French bashing

Jonathan Meades wins Opening Sentence of the Day.

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"Like so many others who had been stretched and inspired by his English teaching, I wrestled with my practical conscience. It was clearly a gross injustice that he was in custody. Those who spoke to the press - and I seemed to have known nearly all of them - had their words twisted to suit the agenda, almost whatever their intention." David Boyle watches The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

Feeding Britain, this week's report on food poverty, is too keen to blame the victims, argues Rob Parsons.

"Reporters Without Borders recommend the use of Tor as part of its 'survival kit' for bloggers, journalists and activists in countries where they may be at risk from state censorship or even arrest. The International Broadcasting Bureau (who broadcast Voice of America and Radio Free Asia) is a major Tor sponsor and recommends its use by persons in repressive regimes to allow them access to global media." Andrew Murray shows that the dark web is not just for paedophiles, drug dealers and terrorists

Zoe O'Connell offers a brief history of trans politicians.

The are serious problems with the tags used to enforce curfews on offenders. Light Blue Touchpaper explains.

Simon Blackburn explains why there should be a philosophy GCSE.

Elf stands upside down with a bucket on his head in Plymouth

The Plymouth Herald wins headline of the Day - and it has a photograph of the elf.

Thanks to Polar Pilchard on Twitter.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Homophobic monk arrested in Cambridge

Pink News reports that:
53-year-old Damon Jonah Kelly from Corby, Northamptonshire was arrested on 8 December on suspicion of a Section 5 public order offence. 
He was bailed until 20 January, at which point he will return to Huntington Police Station in Cambridge. 
Pink News has discovered that Kelly, who is actually a monk, is the director of the Scotland based charity the Black Hermits.
If, as Backwatersman once suggested, homophobic monks are, like Spring-heeled Jack, a manifestation of our collective subconscious fears, then there may be lots of them.

But is does look as though Damon Kelly could be the one who came to Market Harborough.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cambridge to Bedford by train in 1967

There are hopes that the railway line between Cambridge and Bedford will eventually be reopened as part of the EastWestRail project.

This film was taken in December 1967, a few days before the line closed.

You may also enjoy a slideshow of the line in those days that I posted a year ago.

Children left in 'tears' after Father Christmas is 'arrested and put in riot van' in Wales

The Mirror wins Headline of the Day. Tidy!

Liberal Democrat peers should hold firm on judicial review

Caron Lindsay writes on Liberal Democrat Voice:
Senior Liberal Democrats are getting very rattled by the rebellion. I'm hearing tales of angry rows and confrontations with rebel peers being told that they are damaging our General Election chances as if being associated with a measure like this wouldn't. It sounds like peers have had the sort of pressure put on them that would make even a Labour whip from the Blair days blush.
I hope that the Lib Dem peers will continue to vote against the changes Chris Grayling wants to make to judicial review. They are right and Lib Dem MPs, with the honourable exception of Sarah Teather, are wrong.

As so often, I am left puzzling at the what the Lib Dem leadership is trying to achieve. There has been no explanation given to party members; there is nothing about judicial review in the Coalition Agreement.

The Liberal Democrats have spent years making themselves the natural party for people who support civil liberties. In 2007 Nick Clegg even vowed to go to prison rather than carry an ID card.

Now we have abandoned those voters and are looking to win the support of people who think the courts are on the side of the criminal and judges are too soft - or something like that.

At the heart of this mess, I suspect, lies the idea that a party can continually reposition itself. Find out what the voters want and start saying the same thing. If the philosophy you fought the last election on is no longer popular, then junk it.

The trouble is, this approach to politics does not work. The old voters you have abandoned, with some reason, feel let down. The new voters do not trust you.

So let's have a bit of Liberal ideology here. Lib Dem peers should hold firm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A railway poster for Dungeness

Here is Malcolm Saville writing in The Elusive Grasshopper in 1951:
The Dungeness terminus of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is not much more than a hundred yards from the lighthouse and consists of only one platform, a signal-box, the buildings housing the cafĂ©, and a water tank filled with the aid of a windmill pump. 
In order to dispense with a turntable and double track for reversing the engine, the single line runs into the station on a wide loop which, after completing nearly a full circle, rejoins the main track.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Wallace Lawler in Peaky Blinders

It's only Tuesday, but it's already the end of another week at Bonkers Hall.


I seem to have left myself rather short of space for the rest of the week, so I shall not be able to share my encounter with Clegg with you – suffice to say, I informed him that appointing a few women to the Cabinet would be more use than wearing a T-shirt.

However, I shall say a few words in defence of 'Peaky Blinders'. Some have questioned the accuracy of its portrait of Birmingham life. Speaking as one who helped Wallace Lawler win the Ladywood by-election in 1969, I should say it is exactly like that.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary
  • Confessions of a Knocker Up
  • Saturn? Terribly Far
  • Fellows, Morton & Clayton
  • Comet Kardashian
  • Graham Chapman honoured in Melton Mowbray

    Michael Palin was in Melton Mowbray today to unveil a plaque on the former home of his fellow Python Graham Chapman.

    The Leicester Mercury explains:
    Graham was born in Leicester in 1941 and lived in several places around the county including Wigston Fields, Braunstone, Syston and Melton, where his father was a policeman and Graham attended Melton Grammar School. It was Michael’s first visit to the house in Burton Road, Melton, where Graham’s family spent about three years.
    The Mercury quotes the current owner of the house:
    "I didn't know anything about it until three or four months ago when I got a phone call about having the plaque here. 
    "It’s great to have everyone here. I thought the Monty Python films were tremendous and I also enjoy Michael Palin's recent programmes so it's nice to meet him. 
    "I've got a pork pie for him in the fridge.”
    They know how to treat visitors in Melton.