Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spencer Davis Group: Every Little Bit Hurts



This Spencer Davis Group cover of a song first recorded by Brenda Holloway comes from Their First LP, which was their first LP.

As the album was released in July 1965, Steve Winwood was 17 at the oldest when he sang this and presumably played piano and organ on it too.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Marching for Europe


I was never the greatest enthusiast for European federalism, but I always feared that leaving the European Union would embolden all the worst forces in British politics. And it seems I was right.

So I spent today, my birthday, on the march in London

It was good to meet old Liberal Democrat friends and new people. I found myself marching with the niece of Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy.

And do not underestimate the pleasure of walking down city roads that have been closed to traffic.








Friday, March 24, 2017

King William IV pub, Kingsthorpe, to become private house


When I was in Kingsthorpe on Saturday I thought the William IV had the look of a pub that was not going to reopen.

Sadly I was right, as the Northampton Chronicle & Echo confirms today.

The paper quotes the local Liberal Democrat councillor Sally Beardsworth:
"It's always a shame to see a community lose one of its assets. The closure and sale of the King Billy was handled badly by Enterprise Inns. 
"At least it's been sold to somebody who lives in the village who will have some respect for it. I'm glad it hasn't been sold to any developers and it won't be used for some dreadful block of flats. 
"As a pub, it was central to our annual village fete in the summer and I will miss it for that."
Up the road, the Queen Adelaide, named for William's better half, is still thriving.




Lucky Gordon and Island Records

Chris Salewicz has written a terrific obituary of Aloysius 'Lucky' Gordon, a minor player in the Profumo affair, in the Guardian.

In there is something quite unexpected:
On his release, Gordon discovered that the founder of Island Records in Jamaica, Chris Blackwell, had issued a comedy album about the Profumo affair. 
Gordon tried to hustle money from Blackwell and, while the entrepreneur was immune to his efforts, he did offer Gordon a job as a cook at the Island Records studio in Notting Hill. 
Spirited, witty, but never without an air of menace – or a bag of ganja – Gordon proved an asset to Blackwell, who noted that “Lucky’s energy was very important in helping to establish the right vibe at the studio”.
Given that the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic were signed to Island, and that this blog's hero Steve Winwood was known for his consumption of 'wacky backy' in those days, I suspect I am not putting two and two together and making five.

Whatever the truth of that, when Bob Marley settled in London in 1977, Gordon moved into his Chelsea house to prepare the food.

A remarkable Liberal Democrat gain - and the Uncle books

Last night Peter Pilkington gained the Dunster and Timberscombe ward of West Somerset Council for the Liberal Democrats:

Lib Dem           174 - 49.7% (+49.7)
Conservative    115 - 32.9% (-26.7)
Green                38 - 10.9% (-29.6)
Labour               23 -  6.6% (+6.6)

According to Mark Pack, "the two times previously the ward was up for election since it was created there wasn’t even a Liberal Democrat candidate".

Dunster is known for its castle, yarn market and station on the West Somerset Railway.

While Timberscombe has a claim to fame that is close to the heart of this blog. It was for many years the home of the Revd J.P. Martin, author of the Uncle books.

Woman drove with men lying on bonnet outside SAS camp in Credenhill, Hereford Magistrates Court heard

The Ludlow & Tenbury Wells Advertiser provides our Headline of the Day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mason Crane becomes New South Wales' first overseas player for 30 years

"It is hard not to be excited at the prospect of a young leg spinner in the England test team," I wrote towards the end of the 2015 season.

That young leg spinner was Mason Crane of Hampshire and remarkable things have happened to him since then.

Crane played 12 County Championship matches and took 49 wickets, albeit that they were a little on the expensive side at 45 runs each.

This winter he was sent to play grade cricket for Gordon District Cricket Club in Australia.

There he excelled, taking seven wickets in an innings three times. So well did he bowl that he was picked for New South Wales.

True, the state's best two spinners, Nathan Lyon and Stephen O'Keefe, were playing for Australia in India. But Crane became the first overseas player to be picked for New South Wales since Imran Khan in 1984/5.

Most recently he has being playing for South against North in the slightly odd series of three one-day games that the ECB has arranged in Dubai.

In the last of them he took four wickets for one run to remove the North middle order and win the game.

All very promising. If Crane does go on to have a serious test career, remember you read about him here first.

Iain Sinclair: The last London

Iain Sinclair has an essay in the new London Review of Books - The last London - that is pure Iain Sinclair:
I loved the novelty, in the Thatcher years, of striking off through the conflicted Docklands to Woolwich, Tilbury, Gravesend, as an entropy tourist with a fetish for future ruins. 
I was writing a novel called Downriver and walking, in dialogue, with the cultural historian Patrick Wright, who lived close to me in Hackney. 
We explored the territory together: the Bow Quarter development conjured from the Bryant & May match factory, the weaver’s garret occupied by David Rodinsky above a decommissioned synagogue in Princelet Street, and the first speculative (and doomed) ‘Montmartre meets Montserrat’ restaurant on Dalston Lane. 
Wright managed to get an entire book out of a few hundred yards of old degraded Hackney – and, looking at the place now, you know he was on the money. Dalston Lane was the laboratory in which the wrong kind of future was being aborted: creative demolition, unexplained and uninvestigated arson attacks, compulsive façadism and glittering developments purchased by offshore investors. Dormitories for ghosts. 
And Hackney’s first Premier Inn, built on a site owned by a property company based in West Yorkshire, and finessed by Dexter Moren Associates, a firm of architects also credited with the glitz of the Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard. 
Wright’s book, A Journey through Ruins, was published in 1991. Coming back now to the true fiction of the street as it once was, I saw how prescient he had been, picking through the dirty footprints of Dalston Lane to sketch a firm outline around some of the predators lurking on the horizon. 
Looking hard at the proposed ‘curved glass walls’ of the ‘civic pleasure palace’ of the coming Hackney Town Hall, Wright conjured the excesses of Trump Tower in New York City. Intimations of the man himself. His boundless ambition and gambler’s belief in magic.
That, by the way, is a single paragraph in the original. There are writers who put less into whole books.

And Patrick Wright's A Journey Through Ruins is a wonderful book. It became a touchstone to me when I was writing my Masters dissertation on Richard Jefferies and the section on After London in particular.

Ukip's first MP charged with electoral fraud



From The Irish Times today:
Former Conservative MP Bob Spink, who defected to Ukip and became its first MP, has been charged with electoral fraud. 
The 68-year-old has been charged alongside a second man, 38-year-old James Parkin, over allegations that they submitted false signatures on Ukip nomination papers. 
The accusations relate to the local election for Castle Point Borough Council in south Essex, England in 2016.
The reports goes on to say that Spinks and his co-accused will appear at Ipswich Magistrates Court on 25 April.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Clayton West Station signal box


When I posted my photo of the last day of the Clayton West branch, I also linked to someone else's photo of the terminus.

I said:
If I am in it, I am one of people in the middle distance walking along the track towards the signal box.
I know that because I took this photo of it that day. In fact I was allowed into the box (as I also was at Redmire and the much busier Ilkley Junction). Those were the days.

Clayton West Station Cabin had already lost its nameboard. No doubt it had already gone to Collectors' Corner to be sold off to an enthusiast.

You can see a photo of it complete with name on The Signal Box.

Six of the Best 677

"This lack of engagement with any actual evidence permeates the entire piece. The widely understood phenomenon of induced demand (building roads creates more traffic) is dismissed as ‘anti-car environmentalism’, while any attempts to point out that issues might be linked are dismissed as ‘holistic (i.e. woolly) thinking’." Nick Barlow is not impressed by a new publication on the environment from Liberal Reform.

"Edinburgh City Council has employed a social return on investment model which concluded that for every £1 of investment in parks, around £12 of benefits are delivered, with a higher return when money is invested in premier central parks." Janet Sillett says we should celebrate the full value of parks.

Jennifer Brown, Jeannie Mackie and Yvonne Shell offer psychological, legal and clinical commentary on the Helen Archer (Titchener) attempted murder trial in Radio 4’s The Archers.

"If Take Me High failed to anticipate how briefly concrete would reign, it was prescient in foreseeing which direction the city would turn next. When Birmingham wanted to shake off its concrete-and-cars reputation it looked to its canal network to provide a new narrative. The redevelopment of Brindley Place took place in the early 1990s but Cliff had started the whole process off almost two decades earlier." Catherine O’Flynn on a prescient Cliff Richard film.
RR
Jane Dismore on Pocahontas and the search for her bones.

Crown Court was always on television if you were off school in the 1970s. Ivan Kirby examines a case in depth.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Philosophy's trolley problem has been solved



Wikipedia explains the trolley problem:
The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. 
You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. 
You have two options: 
  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. 
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. 
Which is the most ethical choice?
That entry says the problem was introduced by Philippa Foot in 1967, but I did not come across it when I studied moral philosophy a dozen years later.

There were similar puzzles around, which were designed to embarrass utilitarians. Their theories obliged them to make one choice while, it was argued, our moral intuitions told us that the other choice was right.

I was never sure how much those moral intuitions were worth in the abstract. Do we really know what we would feel in an extreme situation? Sacrificing a few troops to save many more must quickly come to feel moral in time of war.

Anyway, I hope this young man has solved the trolley problem and that ethics will take a more interesting turn as a result.

Top commentator says Lib Dems could cause a political earthquake



"For some time there has been a gap in the market on the centre-ground of politics," wrote Rachel Sylvester behind The Times paywall this morning:
Tory modernisers hoped they could seize this territory and Labour moderates contemplating forming a new party to occupy it. 
Perhaps, though, the hole will be filled by the Lib Dems.
As evidence she offers our recent successes in council by-elections and are growing membership:
Many new recruits are former Labour supporters, who are disillusioned with the direction in which Mr Corbyn is taking the party, especially over Europe. 
A recent "action day" in the Labour leader's own Islington North constituency was a great success.
She also writes about the party's improving finances, which will be less familiar news to most Lib Dem members:
Money is also starting to flow in from business people who fear the economic consequences of leaving the European single market. 
In the last quarter of 2016, the Lib Dems for the first time raised more money than Labour, securing almost £2 million. It was only the beginning of a transfer of allegiances and funds. 
I am told that at least one wealthy donor who gave to Labour under Mr Blair has contributed to the Lib Dems in the past few weeks and the party is in discussions with several others ... 
"A few years ago it was car-boot sales, now famous international business figures are prepared to talk to us and introduce us to their friends," says one slightly astonished strategist.
Also this morning, the Sun reported that Tory MPs in Devon and Cornwall are lobbying Theresa May against an early election as they are afraid the Lib Dems would take their seats.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kingsthorpe New Churchyard Pocket Park


There was a wedding going on at St John the Baptist, Kingsthorpe, so I couldn't look round it. People can be so selfish.

But I had its graveyard, now a pocket park, to myself.

It was a spring day and somewhere nearby I could hear trains on the Northampton loop of the West Coast main line.

I have reproduced these photos in colour to preserve the feel of spring. Besides, if you print photographs of old graveyards in black and white you may see more than you wish.

Call it pareidolia if that comforts you.





"It will be a good thing for Ukip when the MEPs are gone" says its national chairman

Richard Billington, the chairman of Harborough Ukip, didn’t just email his own thoughts to a mailing list that included people outside his party.

He also attached notes of a meeting with Ukip’s national chairman Paul Oakden.

That meeting, according to a tweet from Dan Martin, the Leicester Mercury’s political correspondent, took place in Melton Mowbray on 5 March.

Dan has already tweeted a couple of gems from them and today more were published by Guido Fawkes.

Headed “These notes MUST NOT be put on social media,” they reveal that Oakden hates social media and believes all Ukip candidates should close their accounts: “It just causes more grief.”

And according to Dan Martin, Oakden said:
“It will be a good thing for Ukip when the MEPs are gone. They tend to see themselves as elevated and get in the way of basic Ukip members processes at branch level.”
Dan reminds us that Oakden used to work for Roger Helmer.

And Billington himself offers the observation:
“Many people said quietly to me that it is a good job we didn’t win as Stoke is a serious black hole of degradation.  Let the crazy and quite unpleasant Labour MP have the seat with its much reduced majority.”

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Muff Winwood on being crowned an icon



The mighty Muff Winwood was crowned as an icon at last year's A&R Awards.

This is a video of his acceptance speech.
"'Wankers.' That's what we called them: 'Wankers.' And then I became one."

Six of the Best 676

Richard Kemp calls for a real debate on drugs.

"This is the man who, as shadow chancellor, signed up for Gordon Brown’s spending plans, then, on moving into the Treasury, declared that he would save us all from the dire consequences of those same plans, before ending up delivering fiscal policies little different in aggregate from those that had been pursued by his predecessor, Brown’s chancellor Alistair Darling." Dan Atkinson untangles the puzzling legacy of George Osborne.

"Offa’s Dyke is inexplicable to many, unknowable to the majority. In places it is too denuded to be appreciated, elsewhere it is completely lost." Howard Williams debates the meaning a monument.

James King uncovers the homoerotic subtext of John Le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Clare Hand on how London came to love the Regent's Canal.

"In Back to the Future Part III, when Marty McFly loses a chess game to Copernicus the dog, he does so despite an illegal position, and one Season 5 episode of The Office has Jim with both of his bishops on white squares, an impossible orientation in that particular game." Cara Giaimo explains why chess fans hate the movies.

Laura Marling: Nothing, Not Nearly


Rachel Aroesti writes in the Guardian:
A few years ago, Laura Marling got lost. Living in Los Angeles – where she’d moved as an independence-seeking 21-year-old – she took a hiatus from the music-making that had earned her three Top 10 albums and stacks of songwriter-of-her-generation style plaudits, and reinvented herself as a yoga instructor. Not being particularly well known in the US, this career change left her wholly incognito. “I had no identity. It was really, really, really difficult,” she says. “I was socially bankrupt.” 
Not only was she stripped of her status, but a bout of depression had left her bereft in other ways. It was a “very null time”, she says. “I didn’t feel like I had a gender in a weird way – I’d lost a lot of weight so I didn’t really have any feminine features.” She shaved her head and “looked like a young boy. It was quite a good experience of being a non-sexual presence in the world, like a eunuch.” The cherry on top of this cake of devastating self-negation? She wasn’t even very good at teaching yoga. “You need to know a lot more than I know to do it well,” she admits. 
Today, Marling’s former identity as songwriter-of-her-generation is fully restored; the 27-year-old is back doing what she does better than almost anyone else. Her new album of folk-inflected rock is her most direct and accessible in years. Fuelled by gorgeous vocals, hypnotic fingerpicking and singalong melodies, Semper Femina is what one might categorise as “classic” singer-songwriter fare in the lineage of Neil Young, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.

Lord Bonkers' Diary: The Rutland banana

The end of our week at Bonkers Hall. I can confirm that the Rutland banana does exist, but they are buggers to peel.

Sunday

One hears a lot of nonsense about the European Union demanding that bananas should be straight. Have the people who promulgate this untruth never heard of the Rutland banana? It can be found growing wild by the road in the humid south of Rutland, but the best specimens are those nurtured by Meadowcroft in his glass houses here at the Hall.

This fruit is twisted like a corkscrew can indeed be used for removing a stubborn cork from the neck of a bottle of Dom Foster. Not only that: it can be used to pick locks. Which is why I am able to save the day at St Asquith’s this morning when the choir and congregation finds itself locked out. (I generally bring a snack along in cast the Revd Hughes Goes On A Bit.)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kingsthorpe: Where Northampton has almost won


Pitsford surprised me. Boughton astounded me. But by the time you get to Kingsthorpe the encroachment of Northampton is almost complete.

The old village is still there amongst it all. So you get a road with an ironstone farmhouse on one side and Victorian terraces on the other. A village green bordered by mid-20th-century bungalows. Rural enclaves with 21st-century infill at the end of them.

And, says Wikipedia, it is something of a nursery for actors. Joan Hickson, Judy Carne and Lesley Joseph all lived here as girls.

I wonder if St Mary Mead is now like this?








Harborough Ukip chairman sacked as candidate over "money for nothing" email

Richard Billington, the chairman of Ukip in Harborough, who told potential candidates they could "make money by doing nothing" if they got elected to Leicestershire County Council" has been dropped as a candidate himself.

He will not now be fighting the Foxton and West Harborough ward.

The announcement was made, says the Leicester Mercury, in a statement from David Sprason, who is Ukip's Leicestershire chairman and the party's national welfare and social policy spokesman.

The Mercury also quotes Billington's email (which was also sent to some people outside the party).

It begins:
"If you want to help yourself, your family and UKIP please stand. 
"You need to do nothing. 
"I will do the legwork. I only need three people now. 
"I just want your name on a form - that's all.
So far, if we accept a charitable interpretation of helping yourself and your family, no problem. All parties field paper candidates.

But it goes on:
"If you by chance win, you can always avoid the meetings - 8 per year and still collect a few thousands £ until they ask you to leave! 
"If the half-wits in the Lords can make money by doing nothing, so can we! 
"It's a strange thing democracy!"
Sprason's statement says a full investigation into Billington's actions by the Ukip chairman will take place.

From that I assume he is still a Ukip member. But surely they can find someone else to chair their Harborough branch?

David Sprason, incidentally, came to the attention of this blog a few years ago, when he was still a Conservative, after some trouble over a fruity DVD.

Was Paul Nuttall a university lecturer or not?


When Paul Nuttall's website reappeared (to general rejoicing) last week, I wrote of the claims about his past that are no longer to be found on it:
The claim that Nuttall has been a university lecturer has been deleted.
This always seemed unlikely to me, but it was repeated without comment by many journalists when Nuttall was elected leader of Ukip.
Yet if you go to the Press Releases section of the site, you will still found it made several times,

On 21 February 2010 the world was told:
“I am not for one minute criticising students, who by and large work hard, I am criticising this Government for devaluing university education,” said Mr Nuttall, who is a former University history lecturer.
On 10 October 2014:
But Mr Nuttall, UKIP Deputy Leader, and Education spokesman, who is from a low income background and worked as a University lecturer, calls the proposal an example of the worst kind of social engineering that will act as a great disincentive to success.
And on 27 July 2015:
Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall, a former University lecturer, has also highlighted the role of Monnet Professors, academics selected and funded by the EU to promote EU integration..
So was Nuttall a university lecturer or not?

Because the claim was weeded after his site became an embarrassment to him during the Stoke Central by-election, I am inclined to think he was not.

How come he claimed to be in three different press releases?

Clearly, a press officer made the same mistake three times.

Or it could be that three different press officers made the mistake once each?

Lord Bonkers' Diary: Dodd's Army, they called it

I have done some research and this story checks out. There is no mention of the scheme in the official histories!

Saturday

Defence cuts have hit hard in recent years, but I remember the Sixties (the Nineteen Sixties let me hastily add!) when, if the balloon had gone up, repelling the invader will have been left in the hands of a comedian and his small companions. Dodd’s Army, they called it – even at the time I wondered if it would be enough.

Of course, if you look in the official histories you will find no mention of this scheme.

Friday, March 17, 2017

When Ray Wilkins was Butch Wilkins and a genius



 Here is Richard Williams as quoted on this blog back in 2009:
Ray Wilkins was 18 years old when Eddie McCreadie gave him the captaincy of Chelsea back in 1975, with the team newly relegated to the old Second Division. The fresh-faced teenager was succeeding Ron "Chopper" Harris, the most gnarled of veterans. 
To outsiders it seemed as though McCreadie was taking an outrageous chance. But Wilkins's precocious calmness and football intelligence made him a superb captain of a side that mixed a few old stagers – Peter Bonetti, David Webb, Charlie Cooke, Ian Hutchinson – with a lot of much younger players, and two years later they were back in the top flight. 
I saw Wilkins in one of his early first‑team appearances, before McCreadie made him captain, and what I saw persuaded me that it was worth making a special effort to watch him regularly. With no allegiance – prior or subsequent – to Chelsea I bought a Stamford Bridge season ticket for those two seasons in the Second Division and got value for my money (£50, all told, for a good seat in the then‑new West Stand) from his performances alone ...
In his Chelsea years Wilkins showed himself to be as good a manipulator of the ball as any English footballer I can remember, including Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney.
The video above will give you an idea of what he means. And he had hair.

It was a great shame that Chelsea were unable to keep Wilkins. Instead he was sold to Manchester United and did the fetching and carrying for Bryan Robson.

Harborough Ukip tells candidates they can "make money by doing nothing"


From the Leicester Mercury:
A senior Ukip official has told potential candidates they "can make money by doing nothing" if they get elected to Leicestershire County Council. 
Harborough Ukip chairman Richard Billington told colleagues if 'by chance' they win a seat at County Hall on May 4 they can avoid going to meetings and collect their expenses "until they are asked to leave". 
He said: "If the half-wits in the Lords can make money by doing nothing, so can we! It's a strange thing democracy!" 
Mr Billington made the comments in an email sent earlier this month regarding a meeting with Ukip's national chairman Paul Oakden.
According to the Mercury, Mr Billington, who will be the party's candidate in the Foxton and West Harborough ward in May, told recipients of the email that it was forbidden to put its contents on line.

It is a good thing that the Mercury has been sent a copy, because a lot of the other things Mr Billington has to say make entertaining reading:

But even in Ukip, his attitude must stand out as unacceptable. I trust Mr Billington will be thrown out of the party.

Later on Twitter...

Lord Bonkers' Diary: A warning to Labour after Stoke

See? Razor-sharp analysis. The old boy is not such a buffer as some suppose. 

Friday

Home from Stoke-on-Trent where I have been helping in the by-election. I have nothing against the good people of Copeland, but a chap doesn’t want to glow in the dark, what?

Besides, I had promised Cook I would buy a replacement pie dish for the Wedgwood one that good broken on the night we celebrated Sarah Olney’s victory in the Richmond Park by-election.

I am afraid that Ukip’s candidate was something of a dud: no one believed his claims to have been the first Briton in space (as every schoolboy used to know, it was Raymond Baxter). Let me, however, give the Labour Party the benefit of my long experience.

I recall we Liberal Democrats got terribly excited when we held Eastleigh after poor Huhne was dragged off to Dartmoor. Yet, as I pointed out at the time, the Tories and Ukippers helpfully split the reactionary vote between them. Not only that: the Tory candidate was so bad that she was sent off to Patagonia halfway through the campaign.

I was saddened, but not surprised, when we lost the seat at the following general election. The parallels with the result in Stoke-on-Trent are all too clear.

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

Previously in Lord Bonkers' Diary...

Troubled Walberswick Parish Council appoints World Bank’s former Afghanistan country director

Coastal Scene ("Latest news and sport from the Suffolk coast") wins our Headline of the Day Award.