Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Disused railway stations in Wiltshire

The appealingly named Black Dog Halt was originally a private station provided for the Marquess of Landsdowne.

More Wiltshire railway goodness on this blog: The last train from Swindon to Swindon Town.

Earlier videos in this series: Devon, Bedfordshire, North LincolnshireEast Sussex, Leicestershire, Herefordshire, Hampshire, Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Lincolnshire, Cornwall, Rutland. Northumberland, Shropshire, SuffolkEast Riding of Yorkshire and Norfolk.

Robert Conquest (1917-2015) wrote a limerick of genius

Robert Conquest, who did much to make the West grasp the scale of Stalin's terror, has died at the age of 98.

I am pleased that his Telegraph obituary finds room for his brilliant rendering of Shakespeare's seven ages of man as a limerick.

Here it is without the coy asterisks:

First you get puking and mewling,
Then very pissed off with your schooling,
Then fucks and then fights,
Then judging chaps' rights,
Then sitting in slippers, then drooling.

Investigation into Chilham derailment

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has announced its investigation into the derailment at Chilham* last Sunday:
Our investigation will examine the sequence of events before, during and after the incident, in particular:
  • the fencing at this location 
  • the railway’s response to reports of cows being on the line 
  • the behaviour of the train after it struck the cows 
It will also examine any relevant management issues.
Having been aboard the train, I look forward to this report.

* The Branch refers to it as the "Deraliment at Godmersham", which is indeed the nearest village to the accident site, but all the reports at the time referred to Chilham.

Guardian reviews The Lone Pine Club

The Pentabus Rural Theatre Company production The Lone Pine Club, based on the books by Malcolm Saville, is reviewed for the Guardian today by Lyn Gardner:
The children make dens, swear oaths of loyalty, travel widely across the UK on their own, make up secret signals, solve mysteries, uncover spies and generally get the better of the baddie, Miss Ballinger, a woman whose generosity with chocolate fudge cake is never to be trusted. ,,,
If the lack of a focus on a single adventure can make it feel a bit episodic and lacking in real tension, the show is fast paced with an unexpectedly moving payoff when the reason for the framing device becomes apparent...
Beware of a spoiler at this point in the review.

The play can be seen at three more National Trust venues this summer:
  • 6-9 August - Buckland Abbey, Garden and Estate, Yelverton, Devon
  • 13-16 August - Sheringham Park, Upper Sheringham, Norfolk
  • 20-23 August - Wallington, Cambo (near Morpeth) Northumberland 
I have booked to see it in Sheringham myself. Tickets can be booked via the National Trust Box Office - 0844 249 1895 and there are full details on the Pentabus website.

Oh and the subeditor who described the play as conveying "the spirit of Enid Blyton" should be Spoken To.

As I once wrote for the Guardian:
Her characters were wooden, her plots slapdash and her settings – generic ruined castles and spooky old houses – were like a Hollywood set; look round the back and you could see the struts holding up the painted hardboard. 
To make something interesting of her tales you had to read between the lines. In the Adventure series, for instance, the children are constantly left in peril far from home because Mrs Mannering is clearly having an affair with the shadowy policeman Bill Cunningham and wants them out of the way. 
Blyton was not helped by the illustrator of her most popular series. The Famous Five were made to resemble enthusiastic members of the Hitler Youth. Julian, in particular, looked capable of ordering the burning of the entire village if the tea he and his chums were offered did not come up to scratch.

Northamptonshire cricket in crisis

George Dobell reports for Cricinfo:
The future of Northamptonshire County Cricket Club looks uncertain after a request to the ECB for emergency financial help and an examination of the benefits of selling their ground and moving to an out-of-town location. 
The club, who have already borrowed several hundred thousand pounds from a group of directors earlier this year, have been instructed by the ECB to undergo an independent financial review to ascertain whether they fill the criteria for borrowing. It is believed they require around £500,000 to meet urgent financial obligations. 
The ECB has assisted counties in the past but with a full-scale review of the professional game in progress, it cannot be assumed that further largesse will automatically be forthcoming. 
Whether Northants seek to move headquarters or even become the first of the first-class clubs to dissolve remains to be seen. Increasingly, though, the current arrangement appears unsustainable.
The photo shows the Northants side after winning the 1976 Gillette Cup. I used to go to Wantage Road quite often in those days. I never saw Peter Willey fail and I never saw Wayne Larkins score a run.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Canterbury West looking east

When I got of the train at Canterbury West I found the platform was thronged with bishops. That's what you are entitled to expect when you arrive for a stay in the city.

It turned out that were coming away from the consecration of Rachel Treweek as Bishop of Gloucester. She had become the most senior woman bishop in the Church of England.

Despite being rather a High atheist, I thoroughly approve of women bishops.

Those forthcoming Liberal Democrat memoirs in full

An article in the Independent the other day revealed that Vince Cable, Norman Baker and David Laws will all be publishing books soon:

After the Storm: The World Economy and Britain’s Economic Future by Vince Cable (Atlantic, due out in September)

Against the Grain by Norman Baker (Biteback, due out 18 September)

Coalition by David Laws (Biteback, due out spring 2016)
The article also revealed that Nick Clegg kept a diary while deputy prime minister but is not going to publish a book any time soon. "I just think its a bit unseemly if I was going to start immediately lifting the lid on all of that."

Life in Squares and Forty Years On

I am trying to watch Life in Squares but am overpoweringly reminded of the parody of Bloomsbury in Alan Bennett's Forty Years On:
Of all the honours that fell upon Virginia's head, none, I think, pleased her more than the Evening Standard Award for the Tallest Woman Writer of 1927, an award she took by a neck from Elizabeth Bowen. 
And rightly, I think, for she was in a very real sense the tallest writer I have ever known. Which is not to say that her stories were tall. They were not. They were short. But she did stand head and shoulders above her contemporaries, and sometimes of course, much more so. Dylan Thomas for instance, a man of great literary stature, only came up to her waist. And sometimes not even to there. 
If I think of Virginia now it is as she was when I last saw her in the spring of 1938 outside the changing rooms in the London Library. There she stood, all flushed and hot after a hard day’s reading. Impulsively perhaps I went up to her and seized her hand. "It’s Mrs Woolf, isn’t it?" "Is it?" she said and looked at me out of those large limpid eyes. ‘Is it? I often wonder,’ and she wandered away.
Bennett says somewhere that this passage originally mentioned Cyril Connolly and was rewritten to feature Dylan Thomas instead when he complained. Connolly was disappointed. He wanted to stay in but be made taller.

Leicester's cat cafe reviewed

A cat yesterday
Saturday saw the opening of Leicester's first cat cafe and Clarendon Spark was there:
I found it interesting that our fellow guests in the cafĂ© were themselves all owners of multiple cats. On the surface it seems a little eccentric to pay £15 to sit in the same room as some cats when you’ve got a few perfectly good ones of your own at home. 
On reflection though, I can see the attraction. It’s not just about spending time with the cats, it’s about meeting other cat lovers and talking about cats and sharing cat stories – in other words the whole feel-good package of fluffy, furry, feline fabulousness.
Years ago I was in a tea shop in Rye in East Sussex and the owners' cat insisted on settling on my table. I had to keep assuring the owners that I didn't mind at all and actually rather liked it.

I may even have said "You should charge extra." If I did, then I can claim to have invented the concept of the cat cafe.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Steam on the Isle of Wight in 1963

This video begins on a ferry and ends at Southampton Central. In between is some lovely colour footage of steam on lost sections of the Isle of Wight Railway shot in 1963.

See the comments on the original posting on Youtube for the exact locations.

Six of the Best 528

Emily Davey says Conservative policy is guaranteeing that there will be another housing crash.

"In 16 July, Justice Warby awarded a wealthy businessman £110,000 in libel damages at the High Court in London. ... What was also notable about this case was that the libel in question involved two Russian nationals, was only reported on in Russian by Russian news stations, and had already been rejected by the prosecutor-general of Russia." Libel tourism lives on in London despite the Defamation Act 2013, explains Henry Williams.

John Gray examines the background that produced Friedrich Hayek.

Seth Fiegerman looks at the rise and fall of Google+,

Professor Bernard Quatermass returned to the television and cinema screen in 1979, played by Sir John Mills. David Lewis says of this late incarnation: "The anti-hippy (i.e. anti-young people) preaching still jars and there’s no doubt the ‘atmospheric’ pacing remains tedious, but for those who like their vintage British sci-fi served black, this is about as dark as it gets."

Caroline Owen discovers Sir Richard Burton's extraordinary mausoleum in the churchyard of St Mary Magadelen, Mortlake.

Primal Scream: Loaded

I lost touch with contemporary music in the Eighties, but got up to speed again in the Nineties.

Maybe it's a bit of an old warhorse, but I still like this.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Horse stuck in tree rescued by firefighters

Headline of the Day goes to the Leicester Mercury.

Welcome to the new Liberal Democrat bloggers

Just two blogs joined the LibDemBlogs aggregator in July, but they were both good ones. Many thanks to Ryan Cullen for sending me the list.

My Liberal Expressions is written by Mavarine du-Marie, who describes herself as a Liberal Democrat, I-feminist (individualistic feminist) and holistic in approach.

She writes on the fall of Lord Sewel:
I dislike the fact that sex (normally private and consented) is used to bring about someone’s downfall, that is, where none other could be found in their professional life. So if those who want reform in the second chamber, you are going to have to find honorable methods in convincing others that change is not likely to come about from unsavory tactics, which smacks of another form corruption through an intended malice rather than a system being rotten to the core.
Blimey O'Reilly is written by Phil O'Reilly: "at times Nick Clegg's speechwriter, the party’s Head of Media, a much maligned No 10 SpAd and a writer of unfunny jokes, mixed metaphors and borderline unprofessional tweets".

He remembers a joke that Nick Clegg did not tell but Tim Farron did:
Nick had a whole riff in his speech about adjusting to life as a coalition partner to the Conservatives and I had written a bunch of gags, one of which went something like: "on the plus side, now that I work with Andy Coulson, I no longer have to check my own voicemails".
Do visit these news blogs. And if you have a new blog you would like to appear here, please add it to LibDemBlogs.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Nick Clegg should have accepted a role on the Lib Dem front bench

Tim Farron asked Nick Clegg to serve on the Liberal Democrat front bench with a portfolio covering Europe, foreign affairs and defence. Nick Clegg turned the request down.

I think Nick was right and Nick was wrong.

Some say that by declining to serve under him, Nick is giving Tim some space as the new leader. But with the Liberal Democrats down to eight MPs, we cannot afford to lose someone with Nick’s experience of government.

 And the country cannot afford to lose his talents. It is by no means certain that David Cameron’s foolish referendum will be won by the pro-EU side. So that cause needs every eloquent advocate it can find.

When I tweeted this the other day, a lot of people told me that Nick had been in the front line of politics for five years and suffered a lot of unfair criticism.

Yet somehow I feel that if Nick’s strategy had worked and we had held the balance of power after the last election, he would have been happy to continue in government.

I sent a second tweet saying that there was a danger that people would see Nick as saying: “If I can’t be deputy prime minister then I’m taking my bat home.”

On reflection, people may now have better things to do than ponder the motivations of Lib Dem MPs. So let me try another metaphor.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Having sailed his ship into the iceberg, Captain Clegg has a duty to take his turn at the oars of the lifeboat.

Market Harborough is the best harborough

Thanks to solarpilchard on Twitter for this extract from Simon Evans Goes to Market.

Homophobic Monk guilty of harassing lesbian witches

The Leicester Mercury has the latest on the Homophobic Monk:
A monk has pleaded guilty to harassment after getting into a war of words with a pair of lesbian witches. 
Damon Kelly, 53, from a Catholic group calling themselves the Black Hermits, delivers leaflets campaigning against homosexuality and other things he regards as sins. 
When a lesbian couple living in Clarendon Park, Leicester, received his leaflet one of them stopped Kelly further down the street and confronted him and tried to hand him back the leaflet. ... 
The woman's partner joined her outside and defended the couple's sexuality and pagan beliefs. The court heard both parties were quoting scripture at other. 
Mr Chapman said an "aggressive and fanatical" Kelly told the women: "You know we used to burn people like you. 
"I'm doing God's work."
A fortnight later Kelly delivered a letter to the two women. It described "witches, gays, lesbians and sex-changers" as being part of the "devil's madness".

As Kelly has taken a vow of poverty he cannot be fined, so the court adjourned the case for three weeks to assess whether Kelly is fit for unpaid work.

I shall just add that should you want to look for lesbian witches in Leicester, then Clarendon Park is the place to start.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rescuing the train involved in the Chilham derailment

What happened to the train derailed at Chilham after the passengers were rescued? I hear you ask. This video explains:
Surely working of the year! On Sunday 375703 and 375612 were working a late evening Charing Cross - Ramsgate service when on the approach to Chilham, 375703 hit 5 Cows and Derailed, the Breakdown Crane came from Bescot to re rail the unit, and 66723 dragged them from Chilham - Canterbury west on Monday the 28th. 
Then in the small hours of this morning [30 July] Thumper Power cars from Hastings Diesels unit 1001 were dispatched to collect the damaged units from Canterbury West - Ramsgate EMU Depot. At Approx 0130 this morning, we see 1001 Hauling 375703 and 375612 into Minster working 1Z99 Canterbury West - Ramsgate EMU Depot using emergency coupling.
The person who posted this on Youtube is so excited because the two powers cars hauling the train are from a preserved class 201 (or "Thumper" from the noise their engines make) set that was withdrawn from British Rail service as long ago as 1986.

More about my derailment hell elsewhere on this blog.

Six of the Best 527

Adam Ludlow analyses Labour's pensioner problem.

"In the 1930s many British aristos found themselves unable to keep their right arm vertical. Like their fellow nobs in France, Prussia and Spain, they clung to fascism as an antidote to democracy and in the hope of keeping their loot." Glen Newey puts that photo of a young Princess Elizabeth giving a Nazi salute into historical context.

Jenny Uglow goes round the Eric Ravilious exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and finds the artist modern, English and strange.

Mrs Slocombe in space? Surely nothing could go wrong. Well, to judge by Come Back Mrs Noah’s repeat appearances on ‘worst sitcom’ lists, plenty did. This late-seventies comedy was one dud note in the otherwise much-admired comedy careers of writer producers David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd." Louisa Mellor surveys 11 science fiction situation comedies you may well have forgotten.

East of Elveden visits Crowland and John Clare's Helpston.

The remains of terracing in back gardens; grassy banks that reveal the extent of an earlier, much larger stadium; a forgotten East End stadium that could accommodate 120,000... Derelict London takes us around some of the city's long lost sports grounds.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

John Pugh defends the study of philosophy

There has been some grumbling of Twitter about the appointment of John Pugh as the Liberal Democrats' education spokesperson on education.

I too hope that he will not take us back to the days when our education policy consisted solely of Phil Willis complaining that every new initiative would lead to a "two-tier service".

This is because, then as now, we already have a two-tier system: between the state and private sectors - and frequently within the state system too, policed by house prices. The question is what we do about this, not how we can defend the status quo.

But, being a philosophy graduate myself, I was encouraged to find a 2009 article by John, written at a time when Liverpool University was proposing the closure of its philosophy and politics departments.

He wrote:
As philosophers would say, studying has both intrinsic and instrumental value, and this is true of all intellectual academic disciplines. Yet this is increasingly being forgotten. 
The past 10-20 years have seen the rise of philistinism and technocratic short-sightedness. The forces controlling education have increasingly forgotten that intellectual learning is valuable and important for its own sake, and not simply to the extent it boosts economic productivity. Ironically, those forces have simultaneously failed to see that the intellectual skills acquired from academic study are amongst the very best methods of equipping people with the capacity to be productive.

Repairs to the railway at Chilham

The rail replacement bus from Canterbury West to Ashford went past Godmersham village hall, where they looked after us on Sunday night, and then the site of the derailment.

What I didn't realise at the time was that it took place on a low embankment. That, added to the fact that there was not a train coming the other way at just the wrong time, made me realise that I may have a luckier escape than I realised at the time.

Anyway, these photographs from the Network Rail Media Centre show the work that has taken place to rescue the train and repair the track and bridge at Chilham.

I have also added a photo of my "Ticket to Cow Hell".

Credit: Network Rail
Credit: Network Rail
Credit: Network Rail
Credit: Network Rail

Summer fun at the Richard Jefferies Museum

I visited the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate in Swindon myself back in 2009 when holidays were easier - my mother's health was better and you didn't get derailed.

Monday, July 27, 2015

On being derailed between Wye and Chilham

I spent yesterday with Liberator's Stewart Rayment and family at Hastings Pirate Day. (Arrr!")

I took the train back through Rye to Ashford and then caught another one to Canterbury.

Somewhere between Wye and Chilham there was a loud bang and the train began to judder. It soon became obvious that the coaches (I am not sure if there was one or two of them) in front of mine had become derailed, but we came safely to a stop.

No one was hurt - even the single passenger in the coach you can see in my photo. The train crew took control, the emergency services came (there was even a helicopter) and we waited.

Eventually we all had to climb down a ladder to reach the ground. and then make our way down a muddy back and across a field to a lane.

After a walk up the lane it was a ride in a police van (I chose the cage at the back as it was the only chance I will get to ride in one unless someone talks) to Godmersham village hall.

There tea was provided, our details were taken and eventually a bus to Canterbury and stations further east was provided. I got back to my B&B just before one in the morning.

It was all very British - no one panicked, the emergency services and railway staff were immensely impressive and it all ended with a cup of tea produced without any notice very late on a Sunday night.

It could have been more serious if the train had gone down the bank, but it didn't and no one was hurt.

Because I tweeted the photo above the world's media have been after me this morning. I have said that anyone can use the photo with a suitable credit but I do not want to be interviewed.

Oh, and what I thought was the acrid smell of the brakes being suddenly applied turned out to be the smell of burning cows. I think I shall have fish or chicken this evening.

Martin Carthy and Family: Hog-Eye Man

To follow Cape Cod Girls by Baby Gramps, here is another track from  Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury

This hunk of Chaucerian fantasy stands on the main drag through Canterbury.

Enter its portals and you find yourself in a modern library, museum and art gallery - The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge.


Reculver is on the North Kent coast. It was once an important Roman fort: later a church was built within the fort.

At the start of the 19th century, as coastal erosion threatened, the church was largel demolished. The two towers were kept as a landmark for shipping. In their prime they raised roofs and must have resembled Southwell Minster by the sea.

I was at Reculver today and could not stop photographing it.