Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vince Cable confirms the Lib Dems still want to legalise cannabis

As Sir Vince is down with the kids, this report comes from the Newsbeat site:
Vince Cable says the Liberal Democrats will keep pushing for the legalisation of cannabis. 
The party's new leader believes it makes sense to "regulate and control the market" rather than let criminals "control the mixing of substances". ... 
Mr Cable believes "there are serious side effects from driving it underground". 
"You get toxic varieties like skunk that have the effect of creating psychotic disorders among their users," he told us. 
"Common sense would suggest that you should regulate and control the market rather than have free market anarchy." 
He adds that his policy "may not have been a great vote winner" but insists "it was commendable and sensible".

Six of the Best 718

Old St Pancras
"Officials took me through the cost-benefit analysis used by the Department for Transport and the Treasury to assess the viability of transport projects. This was almost exclusively an economic test and projects were judged by the economic value they created. In short, projects in parts of the country where the economy was strongest were more likely to score highest." Andy Burnham explains why the North of England misses out on public investment.

Oliver Newham briefs us on Sheffield City Council's war on trees.

Victoria Coren Mitchell attacks the government's failure to curb the spread of fixed-odds betting terminals: "Punters lose and lose and lose. And when they disappear, or kill themselves, or their child is taken into care and they start self-medicating with drugs instead, someone else steps blindly up to feed the monster. So, if you’re only allowed four per shop, open more shops!"

Instead of penning children in and shrinking pizzas to fight obesity, let children play outside with their friends says Rob Wheway (a name familiar from the old Liberal Party.

The alt-right misunderstands the 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche just as the Nazis did before them, argues Sean Illing.

Hannah Booth interviews those who were there the day the Beatles came to Old St Pancras churchyard.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Round House, Barrow upon Soar

Another unexpected find in Barrow upon Soar.

The Round House was built in 1827, originally as a parish prison. Later it housed the hand-drawn fire-engine and then the village bier. It is now an occasional exhibition hall.

Why Confederate monuments fall apart so easily

This video comes from Mic.

Ruth Davidson, racism and the modern non-apology apology

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Politics Home reports on an extraordinary decision by the Scottish Conservatives:
A row has broken out after two Conservative councillors who were suspended over anti-Catholic and racist tweets were re-instated to the party. 
Alastair Majury and Robert Davies were disciplined shortly after being elected to Stirling Council in May. 
Mr Majury tweeted in 2012: "Why is the Catholic Church against birth control? Because they'll run out of children to molest." 
He also used the term "tarrier" - an offensive term for Catholics - in other posts on his Twitter page. 
Meanwhile, Mr Davies was suspended after a series of tweets he posted in 2013 below a picture of black people waiting to board a plane were unearthed. 
One read: "In the interests of security keep your loin cloths with you at all times. Spears go in the overhead locker."
Those who believed that the Scottish Conservatives under Ruth Davidson were pointing the wider party towards a Conservatism that is at ease with 21st-century Britain have been sorely disappointed.

It is hard to disagree with the worlds of the SNP MSP James Dornan, as quoted by Politics Home:
"She is keen to call out racism, sexism and other unacceptable behaviour, except when her own colleagues are the guilty ones."
I was also struck by the statement from a spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives:
"Having served a suspension, both councillors have been readmitted to the party after offering unreserved apologies for any offence caused."
There you have it: the modern non-apology apology.

Majury and Davies have not apologised for sending their tweets - and sending them while councillors in particular - they have apologised for other people's reactions to them,

This "I am sorry if you feel X" formulation often carries with it the implication that you are being unreasonable in your reaction.

But the problem lies with Mafury and Davies and no one else. The Scottish Conservatives should not have readmitted them.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

"The Centre of Poppyland": A 1930s railway poster for Cromer

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Cromer has been having its problems this weekend, so here is a 1930s railway poster that sells the town as "The Centre of Poppyland".

GUEST POST What happened to the 8th Lincolns at the battle of Loos?

Nigel Atter, author of In the Shadow of Bois Hugo, on the incredible bravery of the 8th Lincolns.

By early 1915 the Western Front had solidified into 400 miles of trenches from the North Sea to Switzerland. The French were committed to removing the German forces from their country. Lord Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, also wanted to assist the Russians allies by attacking in the west.

Kitchener stated, "We must act with all our energy, and do our utmost to help … even though, by so doing, we suffered very heavy casualties indeed."

Thus the British Expeditionary Force was now committed to fight at Loos, in northern France in support of their French and Russian allies.

The general reserves at the Battle of Loos in September 1915 had a torrid time when they went into action. Current historiography has also been unkind to them, saying they were "a disaster waiting to happen", that they were "routed" and worse still that they "bolted" from the field of battle.

The Kitchener 21st and 24th Divisions suffered appalling casualties. Their misuse lead to the dismal of Sir John French and the Commanding Officers of both divisions.

As my own great-grandfather served with the 8th Lincolnshire regiment, 63 Brigade, part of 21st Division, I have been determined to find out what really happened.

The 8th Lincolns were established in September 1914. The eager volunteers were mostly agricultural and industrial labourers. The number of men who had any previous military training or experience could be counted on one hand. This also applied to the officers who were mostly young gentlemen straight out of university or older retired officers dug out for military service.

Their training was rudimentary. Lacking equipment and experienced officers they initially did little more than route marches. Khaki uniforms and leather webbing arrived in the spring of 1915. However, they were still equipped with obsolete rifles and bayonets until July 1915. Lead weights were used in training because they did not have any ammunition to carry.

On the 10 September 1915 they left for war service in France. Sir John French decided to use the completely raw and untested 21st and 24th Divisions because they had not became accustomed to trench warfare.

They would not be 'sticky' like other troops who had been out in France for some time. Plus the men were promised that they would be pursuing a beaten enemy – all they had to do was advance unopposed.

The reserves suffered four trying night marches but were in position where Haig had asked them to be. This was some considerable distance fine to eight miles behand the British Front line. On 25 September, following a discharge of gas British troops, in places, swept over the German front line.

The 15th (Scottish) Division did particularly well capturing Loos and charging onwards towards Hill 70, where the advance came to a halt.

Haig needed the reserves to exploit the success of the first day. Sir John French procrastinated, but eventually the reserves were released and on the march by 10.30 a.m., some five hours after the initial assault. They were singing was they made their way to the front.

However, their advance was impeded by poor staff work, lack of traffic control and streams of wounded and POWs returning to the rear. Furthermore, there was a paucity of maps and information. The men had not been fed and there was a serious lack of water. It was pouring with rain - officers and men were soaked to the skin.

The 63rd Brigade took point position for 21st Division and reached the wood Bois Hugo sometime after midnight where they were subject to rifle and machine gun fire.

Following a hasty change over the men occupied hurriedly dug rifle pits, no more than two feet deep. Without picks or shovels, sandbags or barbed wire the position could not be improved. The advance was to be resumed at 11 a.m.

Following the breach in their positions the Germans rushed up as many of their reserves as possible. Their position, which the 63rd Brigade faced, was now more strongly defended than the previous day. It was enhanced with concrete machine gun bunkers and defended by barbed wire four feet high and 20 feet deep. This position was untouched by British artillery fire.

Crucial to the advance was the capture of Hill 70 – otherwise the British advance would be subject to German enfilade fire. The assault went in at 9 a.m this was partly due to a robust German defence, but because British troops had also been shelled by their own artillery.

The attack by the reserves was scheduled for 11 a.m. Nonetheless, they Germans stuck first and counterattacked the men of the 63 Brigade. This fierce fight led to some men retiring in the face of overwhelming rifle and machine gun fire.

The 8th Lincolns were caught in the midst of the melee. Their bravery was incredible. Lieutenant-Colonel Harold Walter led a charge against the Germans and was shot down, mortally wounded. Lieutenant Falkner stepped over his body and blazed away at the Germans to keep them off. Falkner was shot and killed.

Captain McNaught-Davis led two or three charges, alas without success. He was seriously wounded with a bullet wound to the head. The Lincolns to the north of Bois Hugo held fast and fought with doggedness and tenacity. Running short of ammunition they took the cartridges of their dead and dying comrades.

Meanwhile the advance of the reserves went ahead. They were shot to pieces in front of the German wire. Still unbelievable acts of gallantry occurred. Sergeant Saunders won a Victoria Cross for valour on the very field from which the reserves were supposed to have bolted.

The 8th Lincolns position was growing increasingly precarious, exhausted, with their numbers dwindling, their offices dead or seriously wounded, almost out of ammunition the Germans surrounded the survivors. At 6 p.m. in the evening their fight was over – so much for running away!

You can buy In the Shadow of Bois Hugo: The 8th Lincolns at the battle of Loos, 1915 from Helion & Co. and follow Nigel Atter on Twitter.

Michel Polnareff: Âme Câline

"One day I may hit you with Raymond Lefèvre or Horst Jankowski," I threatened some years ago.

Horst must wait, but Lefèvre's Soul Coaxing is terrific and you should listen to it now.

What I didn't know when I first mentioned it is that Soul Coaxing was an arrangement of the song Âme Câline - I think that translates as "The Loving Soul" - by Michel Polnareff. It dates from 1967, when he was something of a sensation in France.

His Wikipedia page reveals that Polnareff has had a long career interspersed with periods of success and obscurity and is still recording.

You can even follow him on Twitter.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Groucho Marx sings Lydia the Tattooed Lady

In honour of Groucho Marx, who died 40 years ago today.

Great as he is here, it's Harpo you watch.

The Old Men's Hospital and Bishop Beveridge House, Barrow upon Soar

Sometimes it is more fun if you don't research a place before you go there.

This morning, on a whim, I caught the train to Leicester and then to Barrow upon Soar in the north of the county.

There, rather to my surprise, I came across two striking medieval buildings. Having consulted Pevsner when I got home, I now know what they are.

The first, which you can see above and immediately below, is the Old Men's Hospital, which dates from 1694. (I may see if they can fix me up or take me in.)

Below you can see Bishop Beveridge House. This dates from the same era and, rather improbably, forms a pleasing group with a 19th-century Baptist church that was substantially rebuilt in the next century.

William Beveridge was Bishop of St Asaph from 1704 to 1708, and his grandfather, father and older brother were successively vicars of Barrow upon Soar.

The obvious question is whether William Beveridge of Beveridge Report family was related to this family. I can find no evidence that he was, but he certainly should have been.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Alexei Sayle's Comic Roots 3

We've had part 1 and part 2. What better way to finish Alexei Sayle's Comic Roots and the pub crawl of which it consists than with part 3?

From Labour to Tory to Father Christmas

I know it's the silly season, but the Leicester Mercury reports:
A former Labour councillor who defected to the Tories is plotting a return to red - with a new job as a Santa for hire. 
Ex-county councillor Leon Spence says he is seriously looking at an unlikely career shift for the festive season.
Spence represented Whitwick on the county council. He left the Labour group to sit as an independent before May's elections and has since joined the Conservatives

He has been busy tweeting the sort of things that will appeal to his new friends. He also writes for the Universe and the Coalville Times.

I had been expecting Spence to re-emerge as a Conservative candidate before long, but maybe no one gives away presents in politics any more,

The death of Market Harborough's Victorian goods shed

When it became clear that the Victorian goods shed at Market Harborough station did not figure in the plans to straighten the line and build a new car park, I went to photograph it. You can see it above.

The demolition men moved in on Wednesday and this was the scene when I arrived home from work in Leicester:

I usually work from home on Thursdays and was getting on happily when a possible crisis blew up and I had to go in to the office.

So I was able to take this picture mid morning:

And this one in the evening:

When I arrived back in Harborough tonight the death throes were over:

At least another favourite feature on that side of the line has survived so far.

Outrage in Tunbridge Wells over sex festival in the woods

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We have our Headline of the Day.

The judges congratulate the Guardian, though they do suggest that the emotion the townspeople are experiencing is more likely to be disgust

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Alexei Sayle's Comic Roots 2

I am not feeling inspired this evening, so here is part 2 of Alexei Sayle's Comic Roots. (I posted part 1 yesterday.)

It begins with a reminder that in 1982 Fleet Street was still Fleet Street.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Playing for a draw: The Oval test of 1975

If you wonder why the pundits grumble about modern batsman not being able to play for a draw, consider the Oval test match of 1975.

It was the last test of a four-match series, so the authorities had decreed that it would last six days.

Australia batted first and made 532-9, including this century by their captain Ian Chappell. In reply, England could only manage 191.

Wikipedia takes up the story:
Chappell asked England to follow on; with two-and-a-half days of a six-day Test remaining, defeat seemed almost inevitable. Still further resistance from Edrich (96) and Steele (66) saw England close the fourth day on 179/1; after Lillee dismissed both in quick succession the following morning, England continued to resist. 
Bob Woolmer (149, his maiden Test century) defied Australia for more than eight hours, sharing partnerships of 122 with Graham Roope (77) and 151 with Alan Knott (64) as England held out for 14 hours to reach 522/5. Only a spell of medium pace from Doug Walters eventually conquered England's lower order. In the limited remaining time, Australia reached 40/2.
That is how you play for a draw.

As a result of this rearguard action England lost the series only 1-0. After the carnage of the previous winter, when Lillee and Thomson had run amok, that felt like a considerable achievement.

The test England lost was the first, which took place at Edgbaston. Mike Denness controversially put Australia in and later got the worst of the weather.

I was there on the first day as a 15-year-old - this was an era where you could just turn up to a test and have a reasonable chance of getting in.

But what really interests me in this clip is the England bowling attack.

The opening bowlers were my hero John Snow and Chris Old. That latter always seemed to me one of those bowlers (Steve Watkin was another) who seemed much faster in the flesh than on television.

The third seamer was Bob Woolmer, though Tony Greig may well have come on first with his seamers as he was the better and faster bowler.

And then there werer  three spinners. The great Derek Underwood, Greig with the off spin that had won a test in the Caribbean 18 months before and Phil Edmonds in his blond Adonis period.


Nick Clegg to reveal how to stop Brexit

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He will do it in a book to be published by Bodley Head on 5 October, reports the Guardian:
How to Stop Brexit (And Make Britain Great Again) will, said the publisher, see the former leader of the Liberal Democrats show that there is "nothing remotely inevitable" about Brexit – and lay out how readers can help to stop it. 
"He argues that it is the democratic right of voters to review Brexit and to change their minds if they wish to," said the publisher on 15 August. 
"Clegg explains precisely how this historic mistake can be reversed and how the country can be reunited in the process. At its heart are simple, practical, effective measures, including step-by-step plans, which the reader can take to ensure this happens. The book offers readers of every political allegiance non-partisan ways to pull together in response to the greatest crisis in a generation and prevent disaster."

Six of the Best 717

Jonathan Fryer calls for a patriotic front against Brexit.

"A heavily bureaucratic process known as a carnet was required. This meant the machines had to be shipped back to France every year (“for a holiday”, as my director put it) and updated models returned. We were unable to carry out work for our Bull customers while the lengthy process of satisfying customs regulations took place." Tim Holyoake remembers life before the European single market.

Steven McCaffery reviews two new books about the Troubles in Northern Ireland that should sound alarm bells about the future.

The benefits system should be a lifeline for care leavers, but too often it fails them. Sam Royston on a new Children's Society report.

"For a time in the late 1960s, the name of Hywel Bennett ranked alongside that of David Hemmings as the epitome of the ultra-fashionable leading man," says Andrew Roberts.

Danny Gibbs thinks England leg spin prospect Mason Crane has the potential to be special: "Crane bowls in a very natural, fluent motion, where the ball looks like it glides out of the hand, even though there are significant revolutions on the ball itself. Upon reaching its apex, the ball drops very sharply. Only natural wrist spinners can flight the ball like this."

Monday, August 14, 2017

"What the's bleeding time?" Farewell to Richard Gordon

I am always pleased when I find out that someone I had assumed was dead is still alive.

The only trouble is that they tend to die soon after you make that discovery.

A couple of years ago it was the England cricketer Bob Appleyard. (What I didn't say in that post was that I was using his name as part of a password at work at the time he died and therefore felt partly responsible for his death.)

Today came news that another such figure had left us: Richard Gordon.

A doctor himself (his real name was Gordon Ostlere), Gordon published a novel based on his experience of medical training, Doctor in the House, in 1952.

It was filmed two years later with Dirk Bogarde in the lead role, and a further six Doctor films were made from Gordon's series of books.

And in 1969 and 1970 Doctor in the House became a London Weekend Television comedy series starring people like Barry Evans, Robin Nedwell and Martin Shaw.

The clip above ends with the most celebrated joke from the Doctor in the House film. It cracked them up in 1954.

Left and right unite to shift the blame from American Nazis

So what are the hot takes on events in Charlottesville?

Brendan O'Neill is in no doubt about who is to blame.
The events in Charlottesville are the logical consequence of the politics of identity. One of the nastiest trends in Western politics in recent years has been the relentless racialisation of public life and political debate. Everyone has been forced, often against their will, into a racial box. 
It's all "Dear White People", black lives matter, white lives matter, Asian lives matter, racial re-education on campus, warnings against "cultural appropriation", where everyone from the white dude who wears dreadlocks to Beyonce in a sari is branded a racial thief.
This, of course, is O'Neill usual contrarianism-by-numbers. "The problem is no the Nazis but the people who protest against them."

And, while his picture of modern political argument may have some truth on campus and social media, little of that approach has reached the newspapers or broadcasters. Most of us could go through life and never come across it if we chose. And I imagine most people do.

When I do come across this style of argument I am a little exasperated myself. This is not because I question the existence of racism but because I find it typical of a certain self-obsession in the young all those selfies.

Approaching a debate by talking about your own "privilege" does tend to give the impression that, deep down, you think it is really about you.

But none of this begins to form an argument that the left is responsible for events in Charlottesville.

The Nazi march and violence is the fault of the Nazis. To argue anything else is grotesque.

And from the left comes Laurie Penny:
This isn't really about Charlottesville at all. It is about the politics of the left in Britain.

It attempts to paint anyone who does not support the hard-left Labour agenda - be they Liberals or working-class voters who supported Leave because of their worries about immigration - as Nazis or at least the abetters of Nazis.

But if you call everyone a Nazi it means you are pretty bad at reacting when real Nazis appear - social media will be giggling about Godwin's Law as the tanks roll down Whitehall.

No, the Nazis are not the fault of the left or centrists or the working class. They are the fault of the Nazis.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A day on the Great Central at Loughborough

Class 37 diesels already seemed ugly and old-fashioned by the 1970s, yet they have outlasted pretty much every other class of locomotive that was around in those days.

There is at least one passenger service (Norwich to Great Yarmouth) still hauled by them.

I also came across a preserved one on the Great Central at Loughborough a couple of Saturdays ago.

Elvis Costello and The Attractions: All This Useless Beauty

There has been a meme going around Twitter inviting people to confess their unpopular opinions.

I was going to tweet that I regard the Beatles as no better than half a dozen other British bands of their era, but I am not sure how unpopular that would be today.

So let me say instead that "The Beatles" was a really lame name for a band.

I could also say that I listen to Elvis Costello often but never list to Elvis Presley, but I suspect I am not alone in that in my generation.

And people much younger than us probably don't listen to either.