Friday, February 12, 2016

Vanished Leicester: Butt Close Lane

Copyright © Dennis Calow

Butt Close Lane is still there and is home to The Salmon, one of the city's finest pubs.

These buildings on the corner of East Bond Street, however, have long gone. They were photographed in 1965.

Work begins on bridging the gap at Loughborough


Last summer I wrote about the project to bridge the gap at Loughborough that separates the Great Central Railway and the Great Central Railway - Nottingham.

There is good news on the latter's website:
One of the biggest projects in railway preservation is about to get underway. A new bridge will be built in Loughborough to carry the tracks of the award winning heritage line, the Great Central Railway over the Midland Main Line. The new bridge is part of a chain of infrastructure which will ultimately allow two halves of the Great Central Railway to reconnect, creating an eighteen mile heritage line between Leicester and Nottingham. 
After three years of planning and fundraising, contractors will start on site in mid-February. A traditional Victorian style 'turning of the first sod' ceremony (which took place at the start of the many railway construction projects) will take place on Friday the 12th of February at 1pm. The ceremony will be carried out by the Nicky Morgan who is MP for Loughborough. 
"This is a very exciting moment," said Bill Ford, Managing Director of the Great Central Railway. "We have cherished this vision for decades, so to finally make a start on the ground is very important for us. So many people around the world and in the local community have donated money which has given the project life. Today’s start of work is a tribute to their faith. We know they'll be watching as the work progresses!"
I look forward to the gap being bridged - the photo above shows its southern edge. At the present the Great Central Railway - Nottingham is a bit of a mystery to those of us in Leicestershire. Rather like the Eastern Roman Empire.

A peacock for Lady Jane Grey


Lady Jane Grey was executed on this day, 12 February, in 1554 after a reign of nine days as Queen of England.

She was born and spent most of her life at Bradgate, her family's estate in Leicestershire.

Today the ruins of the house can be found in Bradgate Park. The estate was privately purchased from the Grey family and given to the people of Leicestershire by Charles Bennion in 1928.

Here, in her honour, is a peacock climbing on those ruins.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Croxley Green branch today



Last month I publish a video of Watford West in its final days.

This one from Londonist shows that station and the whole branch as they are today, awaiting revival as part of the Metropolitan line.

Jonathan Meades in Nazi Germany and Shoreditch

Time to catch up with one of this blog's heroes,

At the start of the month Jonathan Meades had an article in the London Review of Books reviewing two books on Nazi Germany:
Unlike many earlier authors, neither Kitchen nor Meades tries to exonerate Speer of his crimes. Meades writes
Speer’s earliest war crimes were largely restricted to evicting Jews from properties that Nazis coveted or which might provide shelter for bombing victims. He also effected the demolition of many homes to make way for the bloated white elephant of Germania, Hitler’s new capital. 
These clearances were paltry put beside the consequences of his work on concentration camps. He had no part in running them but it was part of his brief to get them built, to quarry and fire the materials. He was close to Himmler and enthusiastically subscribed to the Reichsführer SS’s dauntingly simplistic policy of Annihilation through Work.
Turning to Hitler at Home, he writes of the construction of the Führer's public image:
The note that ... dutifully credulous journalists struck was remarkably consistent and testifies to the manipulative efficiency of Hitler’s publicity machine. The same words recur: destiny, toil, youth, culture, music, authentic, sacrifice – oh the sacrifice. 
That publicity machine was also sedulous in courting useful idiots, none more useful than Lord Rothermere, who happened to own a newspaper and whose potential as messenger boy to the British establishment Hitler exploited, just as he exploited the New York Times Magazine, which on 20 August 1939 enthused about his love of chocolate and of gooseberry pie and his rapt attention to the petitions of ‘widows and orphans of party martyrs’.
Then came news that in April Jonathan Meades is having a one-man show of treyfs and artknacks at the Londonewcastle Project in Shoreditch.

Treyfs? Artknacks? You will have to follow the link to find out.

A fascinating panel debate on the British General Election of 2015



To mark the publication of The British General Election of 2015, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) hosted a panel debate on the election and its consequences at the Mile End Institute on Tuesday.

Professor Philip Cowley from QMUL, one of the authors of the book, was joined by:
  • Tim Bale, Professor of Politics, QMUL (chair)
  • Matthew d'Ancona, Evening Standard columnist and chair of Bright Blue 
  • Lord (Spencer) Livermore, Director of Labour's 2015 election campaign 
  • Polly Mackenzie, former special advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister
The Liberal Democrats featured more prominently that you might expect and there were telling observations about all the parties.

This video is well worth your time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kenneth Branagh and Rupert Everett in Another Country



In the autumn of 1982 I was unemployed and living in Market Harborough. To cheer myself up I went down to London to stay for a few days with an old friend from university.

One of the things we did was go to see a play called Another Country at the Queen's Theatre. Which means that I saw the West End debut of Kenneth Branagh.

It was a tribute to him that, though Rupert Everett was a more flamboyant actor playing a more flamboyant role, it was Branagh we talked about afterwards.

You can see the two of them in this Newsnight report.

Incidentally, though the film of Another Country was good, the play was much better. In it, all the sex and the beating took place off stage, which made them all the more powerful.

Six of the Best 573

Mark Valladares asks if using your preferred definition of liberalism a means to suppress reasoned dissent.

"According to a 2015 Prison Reform Trust review, children and young people who are, or have been, in care were more than five times more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system. The most recent inspection report of Medway in 2014, which houses 12 to 17-year-olds who have been remanded or sentenced to detention, found 45% of youngsters there had care histories." Jameel Hadi writes on institutional abuse.

Patrick Barkham reports that more than 10% of children in England haven’t been to a natural environment in past 12 months.

"Trees in Leicester reduce concentrations of road traffic emissions in the city by up to 7% and have a “regionally beneficial impact on air quality”, results from an academic research project have found." Important (and more widely applicable) research from Michael Holder.

Twitter just killed its own product, says Austin Rathe.

Curious British Telly on the short Blue Peter career of Michael Sundin.

David Cameron has worked out how to deal with Jeremy Corbyn's emailed questions



Election campaigns throw up characters who are famous for a day and then forgotten.

Remember Gillian Duffy or Jennifer and her ear? Only just.

The US Presidential campaign of 2008 produced such a figure in the shape of Joe the Plumber.

He was Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who questioned Obama's economic policies at a neighbourhood meeting in Ohio.

The Republicans and the media painted him as the epitome of blue-collar America and he was often mentioned during the campaign.

In November 2008 I blogged about the way that Barack Obama dealt with this:
This is how you win elections. 
In today's Spectator Fraser Nelson describes how Obama dealt with Joe: 
"Joe’s cool," Mr Obama said. "I got no problem with Joe. All I want to do is cut Joe’s taxes. But Senator McCain isn’t working for Joe the Plumber. He’s working for Joe the Hedge Fund Manager."
Today David Cameron used the same tactic at prime minister's questions when Jeremy Corbyn used one of his emailed questions. It came from Rosie who was forced to live with her parents because she could not find or afford her own place to live.

As Lloyd Evans tells it for the Spectator:
He co-opted Rosie’s identity and began putting words into her mouth. Rosie wants this, Rosie wants that. He said ‘Rosie’ half a dozen times. Rosie wants a strong economy. Rosie wants lower tax thresholds. Rose wants a prosperous Britain where the young can purchase their homes thanks to the help-to-buy ISA. 
Rosie – the way Cameron told it – is such a passionate supporter of Tory policy that she might as well declare herself a leadership candidate.
I think we may see fewer emailed questions at PMQs in future.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Karl Popper interviewed on Channel 4 in 1988 - part 6



And so we reach the last video from Uncertain Truth.

This was a series of three programmes featuring interviews with Sir Karl Popper in 1988.

The first programme, where the other participant was Ernst Gombrich, looks at the understanding of history. It takes up two videos:

Watch part 1
Watch part 2

The second programme, where the other participant is Sir John Eccles, looks at language.

Watch part 3
Watch part 4

And this third programme where the other participant is Anthony Quinton, looks at human knowledge.

Watch part 5

As I said when introducing the first of these videos, Popper was one of the most important liberal thinkers of the 20th century.

This was as much for his development of an evolutionary understanding of human knowledge as for his more overtly political books.

He died in 1994 at the age of 92. I heard him speak in York round about 1981 when he gave an inaugural lecture for some good cause connected with the Rowntree family.

The Olney Pancake Race


From the Olney Pancake Race website:
On Shrove Tuesday every year the ladies of Olney, Buckinghamshire compete in the world famous Pancake Race, a tradition which dates back to 1445. The 2016 race will be held on Tuesday 9th February. The race starts at 11:55am. 
Children from Olney schools also take part in their own races. Olney competes every year against the women of Liberal, Kansas, USA. This is a friendly competition in its 67th year in 2016.
My photograph shows the sign on the churchyard wall in Olney that marks the finishing point of the race,

A tribute from Hookland

Read more about Hookland.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Disused railway stations in Dorset



There are lots more of these videos on this blog. Find them on the Disused Stations label.

Ronnie Lane and Eric Clapton at the Drum and Monkey

The Drum and Monkey today

I have just listened to the BBC Radio Shropshire programme on Ronnie Lane and Eric Clapton that I blogged about on Monday. (It was broadcast today at lunchtime.)

Far from exploding the myth that you could once hear rock and roll aristocracy playing at remote Shropshire pubs it proved the stories were true.

It also includes a rare interview with Ronnie Lane's widow Kate. Well done, Johnty O'Donnell.

You can listen to the programme it for the next month on the BBC website. It occupies the second hour of Paul Shuttleworth's show.

There are also some photographs from the most celebrated concert at the Drum and Monkey on the BBC Radio Shropshire Facebook page.

Noosha Fox: Georgina Bailey



A little bit of Continental sophistication from 1977 which reached no. 31 in the British charts.

Some sources claim it was banned by the BBC, but as this video comes from an episode of Top of the Pops that seems unlikely.

Noosha Fox was originally the singer with the band Fox. They had three top 20 hits, but she was less successful as a solo artist.

She is also the mother of the doctor and science journalist Ben Goldacre. Sadly, she was to busy with her music career to teach him to comb his hair.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Karl Popper interviewed on Channel 4 in 1988 - part 5



And so to the third and final programme in this series, where the interviewer is Anthony Quinton.

Like the other programmes, this one is split across two videos.

Watch part 1

Watch part 2

Watch part 3

Watch part 4

Lord Bonkers' Diary: An alternative chameleon

Our latest visit to Bonkers Hall ends with an outing to Oakham Zoo.

An alternative chameleon

A sombre day: the moving television brings news of the deaths of both Pierre Boulez and Christy O’Connor Jnr. I am confident that they will go down in the annals of the game as one of the great Ryder Cup pairings.

To cheer myself up, I take a party of particularly Well-Behaved Orphans to Oakham Zoo. The consensus on the charabanc is that we want to see the chameleons.

As is the way with such creatures, they rather blend into the background. I am struck, however, by one that spends its time ranting about how much it hates “Thatcher”. I ask the keeper why it does this. “Oh,” comes the reply, “it’s an alternative chameleon”.

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

Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary

  • A shadow cabinet maker
  • Giving Isis one up the snoot
  • Andrew Neil's press gang
  • Corbyn sends for Christopher Robin Milne
  • Cooking hedgehogs for Nick Clegg
  • Friday, February 05, 2016

    The Boxmoor Playhouse and letters about custard



    I once wrote of Boxmoor County Primary School:
    I was very happy at Boxmoor, though in one way adversity there helped make me a Liberal. The dinners were cooked elsewhere and brought to the school, and they were indescribably awful. (My mother let me come home for dinner after a while.) And if you didn't want custard with your pudding, you had to have a letter from home.
    I now regard this as an early introduction to the absurdities of socialism.
    That was the old Boxmoor County Primary in St John's Road, which was demolished long ago.

    We had our dinners in the church hall next door. That building still stands, though it is now called The Boxmoor Playhouse. (There appears to be a new hall built recently next to the church.)

    We also held fetes in the hall and I once gave a well-received Innkeeper in the school nativity play.

    It's not quite the Saville Theatre, but I am glad to see that somewhere I trod the boards is still thriving.

    Lord Bonkers' Diary: Cooking hedgehogs for Nick Clegg

    Could it be that Lord Bonkers knew Malcolm Saville?

    Cooking hedgehogs for Nick Clegg

    One does not have memories of last year’s general election campaign so much as flashbacks, but I do recall visiting a hedgehog sanctuary with poor Clegg and Paddy Ashplant. While Clegg was being shown how the inmates are cared for and educated, Ashplant took me to one side and confessed that he used to eat the creatures when he was in the Special Boat Service.

     Having invited Clegg to dinner this evening, I hit upon the happy idea of reminding him of those days by serving hedgehog. Cook is not keen – “nasty, flea-ridden things that don’t belong in a Christian kitchen” – and claims not to know how to manage “all they prickles,” so I enlist the help of the Elves of Rockingham Forest, who quite charm her. They tell us that the trick is to bake the beasts in clay so that when they are done to a turn you simply break the clay open and then peel it and the spines clean off. The Elves also agree to catch the hedgehogs for us using high elven magic (or possibly Pedigree Chum).

    I have no doubt that the evening will prove a success and that our hedgehog recipe will appear in the next Liberal Democrat Cookbook alongside Pressed Tonge and Norman Lamb Hotpot.

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

    Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary
    • A shadow cabinet maker
    • Giving Isis one up the snoot
    • Andrew Neil's press gang
    • Corbyn sends for Christopher Robin Milne
    • Six of the Best 572

      Mark Pack and David Howarth have published a second edition of their 'The 20% Strategy: Building a core vote for the Liberal Democrats'.

      Michael Oakeshott is an important 20th-century British Conservative thinker. Aurelian Craiutu reviews his notebooks.

      Richard Gooding looks at the trashing of John McCain, which helped George W. Bush win the Republican nomination in 2000.

      Like Ray Gosling and Alan Moore, Jeremy Seabrook is a product of working-class Northampton. Here he writes of growing up gay in the town in the years after World War II.

      "Robert Mitchum considers The Night of the Hunter one of his most impressive roles. Gentle, subtle and seductive, but deranged and psychotic, Mitchum’s character is one of the scariest villains in film history." Cinephilia & Beyond on the only film directed by Charles Laughton.

      "It was while working on Time Out’s annual pub guide in 2000 that I heard the tale of the Camden castles. A reviewer claimed that there were once four Camden pubs with castle in their name – the Edinboro, Windsor, Dublin and Pembroke – and these had originally been built for navvies digging Regent’s Canal." Peter Watts gently explodes a myth.

      A witness statement by a victim of Greville Janner

      Only a few months ago the press was finding conspiracies of powerful child abusers under every stone.

      Now, judging by the headlines about Lord Bramall and John Inman, the same papers are incensed if the rich and famous are even investigated.

      The truth, no doubt, is somewhere in between.

      So to remind ourselves that such people can be guilty of such offences, let's look at one of the witness statements alleging abuse by Greville Janner.

      It was reproduced in the Daily Mail and on The Needle in April 2015 and begins:
      From my earliest childhood I never knew my parents and believe that I was in the care of the Leicestershire Local Authority from when I was about two weeks of age. I recall that I was fostered by a family called Wilkinson ... until I was about seven years of age when I went to live at The Cottage Homes at Countesthorpe, which was a Local Authority owned establishment.

      Thursday, February 04, 2016

      Shrewsbury in colour in 1959

      http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-old-smithfield-1959/
      There's no sound, but there is plenty of great colour footage in this 1959 film of the last day of Smithfield cattle market in the centre of Shrewsbury.

      Click on the image above to go to the film on the BFI site.

      Lord Bonkers' Diary: Corbyn sends for Christopher Robin Milne

      The old boy turns out to have known Labour's new Executive Director of Strategy and Communications since he was so high.

      Jeremy Corbyn sends for Christopher Robin Milne

      There is only one area of our national life where the hereditary principle holds greater sway than it does here in the aristocracy. I refer, of course, to the press and broadcasting. There are whole neighbourhoods of London where it is impossible to toss a brick without hitting a Coren or a Dimbleby – not that one would try too hard to avoid doing so. Thus I was not surprised when the son of my old friend Milne went into journalism nor when he became director of communications for the new leader of the Labour Party.

      I remember him as a golden-haired little fellow in the Nursery astride his rocking horse in a sailor suit or kneeling at the foot of his bed saying his prayers. Less happily, I remember him down from Winchester or Oxford talking the most awful rot about the need for Socialism. Why, he even spoke up for Stalin! I don’t think he would have been so keen on him if he had met the fellow as I did. Then came the Guardian and endless articles with titles like ‘Did 20 Million Really die?’ Now he sits at Corbyn’s right hand recommending purges every second day.

      No, I cannot pretend to care for Christopher Robin Milne.

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

      Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary
      • A shadow cabinet maker
      • Giving Isis one up the snoot
      • Andrew Neil's press gang
      • Wednesday, February 03, 2016

        Six of the Best 571

        Andrew Hickey is not impressed by the Stronger In campaign.

        "Orwell was far more interested, as Corbyn has been far more interested, in speaking truth to power than in holding office. His loyalty was to the movement, or at least the idea of the movement, not to MPs or the front bench, which he rarely mentioned." Robert Colls (who taught me on my Masters course many years ago) on what Jeremy Corbyn can learn from George Orwell.

        David Hencke explains how Chris Grayling's attempt to sell prison expertise to regimes with appalling judicial systems like Saudi Arabia and Oman cost the taxpayer over £1m. If he were a councillor he would be surcharged.

        Mad to be Normal is a film on the radical psychiatrist R.D. Laing currently in production. Caron Lindsay finds a Lib Dem connection.

        Peter Bebergal is interviewed by Dangerous Minds about his new book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll.

        "“And Ukraine just wanted to be absolutely sure that the oil and the electricity rolls through." BuzzFeed remembers 19 Eurovision moments from Terry Wogan.

        Lord Bonkers' Diary: Andrew Neil's press gang

        It seems all those Labour tweeters were right to detect foul play behind the resignation of Stephen Doughty as shadow Foreign Office minister live on air.

        Andrew Neil's press gang

        To Westminster for a round of meetings. In the evening I repair to a quaint back-street hostelry with exposed beams, dimpled window glass and exposed, dimpled barmaids. The atmosphere is tense: word has got about that the press gang is on the prowl. Sure enough, the door bursts open and a group of men with lanterns and tricorn hats hurries in. The Shadow Minister for Fish cowers under the table, but they see him, drag him out and bear him away.

        “What will become of him?” I ask the landlady. “Mark my words,” she says, “they’ll take him to the dungeons beneath Broadcasting House, put the frighteners on him and ply him with Blue Nun. The next thing you know he’ll be on Daily Politics resigning from the Labour front bench.”

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

        Earlier this week in Lord Bonkers' Diary
        • A shadow cabinet maker
        • Giving Isis one up the snoot
        • The 11-year-old who swam the English Channel

          At the end of last year I blogged about five news stories you don't get any more.

          One of them was ever younger children swimming the channel:
          Once skinny little figures shivering in goose grease appeared regularly in the news. Today you never see them. 
          It turns out that the Channel Swimming Association imposed a minimum age of 16 years in 2000, which means that the record is likely to stay with Thomas Gregory, who made the crossing in 1988 aged 11 years and 336 days.
          The other day BBC News published a feature on Thomas Gregory and his feat.

          You can see why the age limit was imposed:
          "When I reached the shore, I was a few notches off compos mentis," he says. "I was dazed, confused. I'd been in cold water for 12 hours, with a high rate of exertion. I'd been told you had to take three unaided steps after reaching land, otherwise you hadn't made it. But I couldn't stand up. I was on my knees. 
          "Those steps became massively important. It was a Neil Armstrong moment. Eventually I did three steps, and I sat down. I remember being surrounded by people cuddling me."
          Yet the hero of the interview is Gregory's coach:
          "If John Bullet was alive today, he'd be getting Unsung Hero Award at the Sports Personality of the Year," says Tom. "He did countless relays of the Channel, and broke two world records, all with kids from a two-mile radius of Eltham Baths. It was incredible. But when John died, the club sort of died. It lived on thanks to some very selfless people, but my connection went. 
          "This isn't false modesty, but the Channel swim wasn't about me. It was about the club. I was part of a movement, and I represented all of us. It only happened because of the courage and vision of John. I guess I was the lucky one who got the challenge." 
          The crack-of-dawn starts, the hours in the pool, the weeks in Windermere, the cold showers, the open windows, the burn, the pain, the tears. Could any child enjoy that? 
          "Oh yeah," Tom says, surprised at the question. "I loved it. That club changed people's lives."