Friday, 25 October 2013

Catch a Fire ? #2

I`ve always quite fancied doing one of those articles where you present two different views of an issue and let the reader decide which they prefer.

As it happens, the chance has just come up.

As I`ve already mentioned , proposed cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service in Derbyshire are proving to be an emotive issue locally*.

For more information on the proposals, including a consultation document outlining the proposed changes, and a reference document providing more information and background reasoning, click here ;

This also gives you the chance to respond to the consultation and there is information on the six consultation events taking place throughout the region during November.

For details of the FBU campaign against the cuts, and the reasoning behind their opposition, click here ;

As you`ll notice, the FBU also provide a link to the DFand RS Consultation and encourage people to respond.

That`s enough from me on this subject, now it`s over to you.


For a bit of background ;

* Nick Osmond - Save Heanor Fire Station - this blog, 25 Oct 2013

* Nick Osmond - Catch a Fire ? - this blog, 11 Oct 2013

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Save Heanor Fire Station

Not so long ago I mentioned the possible closure of Heanor Fire Station as part of a parcel of cuts to the Fire Service in Derbyshire (`Catch a Fire ?`, this blog, 11 October 2013).

There is now a fledgling campaign against the closure.

Particularly good was an eloquent letter to the local paper ( ) by  a local resident which appeared under the heading `Vital Community Role for Fire Crews` in the issue dated Thurs 24 Oct 2013.

Like me, the writer picked up on the strong sense of community prevalent among the retained firefighters of Heanor , giving details of various activities undertaken by the crew locally. One in particular  may be worth highlighting here  ;

"When Coppice Primary School were celebrating their 60th anniversary the local fire crew came to our summer fair event with their fire engine and four crew members. They did this entirely voluntarily giving up their own time to support our event and more importantly to let our children experience a fire engine close up." 

There is now a Facebook group , `Save Heanor Fire Station`, begun by firefighter Alistair Patrick, who points out, tellingly, that the Heanor crew have experience totalling over 100 years between them. In that context I would just re-iterate my earlier point that an area like this with a heavy engineering presence throws up situations, e.g. chemical spills, rarely if ever experienced by crews elsewhere.

A problem with the Facebook campaign is that it does not really show up on most search engines. You can be sure the Fire Authority will be checking online to assess strength of feeling on the issue and at present there is little to see by just making general searches. That is why experienced campaigners usually use a blog or website in addition to social networking sites. This article is my own humble contribution to addressing this issue !

It is early days yet and I understand a petition is being circulated locally, which may generate more media attention.

I`m not a Facebook type of guy myself, but the FB campaign is an open group headed `Save Heanor Fire Station`. I`ve mentioned this before, but here are some other links that may proves useful ;

It is worth mentioning that two other stations in Amber Valley, Crich and Alfreton, are also facing possible closuure. I assume their will be grassroots campaigns organised in those areas too, but I`m not aware of any details.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Sir Fabian Ware KCVO KBE CB CMG

Anyone who was interested in my posting(s) on the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission not so long ago may be interested in a new book, David Crane`s Empires of the Dead, which tells the story of the CWGC`s founder, Major General Sir Fabian Ware
To learn more, click here ;
On the Web
Other Commonwealth organisations ;

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A New Bookshop for Nottingham ?

This blog has always had a lot of respect for Ross Bradshaw of Nottingham`s Five Leaves Publications.

For that reason, it was interesting to learn of his latest proposed venture, an independent bookshop in the city centre.

To learn more, click here ;!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Public Service, Social Purpose ?

Now for something more topical !

A number of online sources have reproduced a recent article by Cat Hobbs on the provision of public services..

The first part of the article concerns itself with her support for a Public Service Users Bill and distrust of  the government`s Open Public Services initiative. That part of the article need not detain us, except to note that at some points she seems in danger of undermining her own organisations` campaign *.

The part I wish to highlight comes later ;

"Public services need to be run by people who care about people, and - crucially - who are given the time they need to do a good job.

This social purpose is often found in the public sector, and it can also be found in democratically controlled and accountable co-operatives, mutuals, social enterprises and voluntary organisations. The Social Value Act made it easier for Local Authorities to outsource with social purpose in mind.

Any organisation that delivers public services must be responsible to service users in a clear and concrete way. We believe that when co-operatives, mutuals, social enterprises and charities play a role in delivering public services, robust safeguards should be in place to protect the public interest. They must be accountable to service users, all profits must be re-invested in improving the service, there should be an asset lock to keep public money safe, and the service must revert to the public sector if the organisation fails."

I make no apology for having edited her text in quite a big way to bring out the points I wanted to emphasise, but I`ll provide a link to the full article for those who want it**.  

She goes on to promote a set of "guidelines on what a good public sector mutual should look like", produced jointly by Co-operatives UK and the TUC*** .

My own thinking is that we do need to break out of the stale left versus right,  public versus private debate which so fascinates our politicians and pundits and look at the question of whether things could be done in a more innovative way in future. This seems as good a place to start as any.

For those new to the whole question of co-operatives, mutuals etc (and I`m no expert), a good place to start is .

* Cat is Director of the organisation `We Own It`, which is laying great stress on the fact that there is  overwhelming support from Conservative voters for two of it`s key proposals ( )

** Cat Hobbs - `Lets Co-operate for a Public Sector Users Bill - Co-Operative News, Unknown Date but circa Sep 2013

*** Anthony Murray - `Co-Operatives UK and TUC Team Up to Protect Public Sector Mutuals - Co-Operative News,  23 August 2013

**** Apologies for the lack of proper links, but the Co-Operative News web site kept freezing ****.

Jazz Femme Jeanie

This blog has already mentioned jazz singer Jeanie Barton. This youthful chanteuse has already built up quite a following in the area, working with local hepcats such as keyboard player Bob Hudson.

Anyone wishing to see Jeanie live can catch her play a guitar-and-voice set  at Beeston Jazz Club on 6 December 2013 with six-stringed strummer and picker Matt Chandler.

Details here ;


This Month`s Good Cause - Friends of Victoria Park, Ilkeston

The other day I was walking through Ilkeston, Derbyshire when it came to my mind that I`d forgotten to update `This Month`s Good Cause` yet again.

A couple of minutes later I noticed a poster advertising the Friends of Victoria Park. As the name implies, this is a historic local park and as it happens one that has happy associations for me.

The `Friends of...` thing is a great tradition that I wholeheartedly approve of - you can be a Friend of West Norwood Cemetery, of Cromford Canal, of numerous museums, theatres, nature reserves and who knows what else. It`s all good.

For these reasons, and because it makes life easy, The Friends of Victoria Park, Ilkeston ( are , somewhat belatedly, This Month`s Good Cause.


The idea behind TMGC was that each moth I would select a good cause that might interest people. I`ve attempted to strike a balance between the national (Brake ; The Road Safety Charity), the local (Friends of Cromford Canal, Derbyshire Blood Bikes) and the international ( Anti Slavery, Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

Mr Morgan on a Mission

The prolific penmanship of Nottingham-based writer W W Morgan continues apace.

With a number of novels and a collection of  short stories available through his 88Tales imprint, this  redoubtable writer has made good on his often-expressed intention of making a number of short stories available online, some being his own and others being the work of other writers.

Find them here ;

I have to admit they`re not really my cup of tea  - I`d probably prefer something like his novel The Assassin`s Wedding. Anyway, that`s who he is, that`s what he does - have a look and make up your own mind.

An ABC of Amber Valley

When they feel adventurous in Aldercar, Alfreton and Ambergate, when a restless breeze blows through Bargate, Butterley and Belper, they turn their attention to Amber Valley Info.

You can do so to  ;

Friday, 11 October 2013

Catch a Fire ?


Late last month, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service announced a plan to reduce the number of fire stations in the area from 31 to 20. 

 Their proposal, which is to be the subject of a public consultation, is that 19 stations will close, but that 8 new stations would open, each covering a larger area that those it replaces. The suggestion is that the selling-off of  land which previously housed a closed station will provide revenue to offset the cost of setting-up new stations.

The D Fand R S/Derbyshire Fire Authority accept that there will be a reduction in response times, albeit not a dramatic one (currently 80% of engines arrive at the scene of a fire within ten minutes, a figure they believe will fall to 75%), and they hope this will be partly offset by the use of 30 new Community Safety Officers engaged in fire prevention work in areas which have lost their local station.

I don`t particularly want to get into a huge discussion about all the ramifications of these proposals, but I do want to draw attention to one area where there are other factors to consider.

One of the stations tentatively scheduled for closure is Heanor Fire Station, which is my local station. It so happens that a year or two ago I met two of the retained firefighters based there.  Retained firefighters are a bit like lifeboat men without the sea. They have regular day jobs but they are effectively volunteers who can be called upon if they are needed in their area. Importantly, a requirement of the post is that they live and work only a few minutes from their local station.

A couple of things have stayed in my mind about my metting with these two. One was the very real sense of community they felt, the other was the wide range of calls they have to respond to.  You might think, as I did,  that they mainly respond to fires and traffic accidents, but you would be wrong. Given the nature of the area, with a strong manufacturing/engineering sector, they are required to attend the scenes of chemical spills and other incidents involving hazardous materials much more frequently than would be usual in other areas.

I don`t really believe that level of expertise and commitment is going to be readily replaced by a bit of education about fire prevention. However you might feel about the cuts generally what you have to ask yourself is, do we want to lose that valuable experience ?

Form your own opinions ;

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service -

Derbyshire Fire Authority -

Fire Brigades Union -

Derbys FBU 1 - 

Derbys FBU 2  -

Retained Firefighters Union -

Ripley and Heanor News -

Friday, 4 October 2013

A Ball of String

"History makes it look as though everyone knew what they were doing all along. In fact, it wasn`t like that at all. Stuff happened by accident or had the opposite result from what was intended. That`s what `How to Change the World with a Ball of String` is about - times when history wasn`t very sensible."

Author Tim Cooke, on his book `How to Change the World...` (Scholastic, 2011)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Chickens of Leire

The other day I was checking the condition of a second-hand book in the course of my work when I found a folded-up newspaper cutting between the pages.

The cutting had no obvious connection with the book and was presumably just there because it had been used as a bookmark.

Nevertheless, it amused me and I hope it will amuse you.

It is a readers` contribution to the letters page of one of the quality papers (The Telegraph?) and concerns itself with the meetimg of a parochial church council in Leicestershire ;

"After the official business had been dealt with , the meeting was opened to the floor. This prompted a question as to why chickens were allowed to roam all over our cemetery.

The perpetrators belonged to our rector, who explained that he held the freehold and grazing rights. There then followed a boisterous discussion as to whether chickens had grazing rights.

As no satisfasctory conclusion was being reached and we did not wish to anger the Rector, it was decided that a hasty retreat to the pub was called for."

Was the matter ever resolved ? If necessary, I definitely think there should be a cross-party campaign, involving community groups and trade unions, to show solidarity with the chickens. To meet in the pub, naturally.


I did hesitate as to whether to reveal the identity of the sender as I wouldn`t want to intrude on the privacy of individuals. However, under the circumstances I think it`s OK to reveal that the letter was signed by one Aileen Orme of Leire, Leicestershire. If you ever find yourself in Leire, say "hello" to the chickens for me !

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Wright County Works in Partnership

In 2009, Matt Walker of Wright County, Minnesota had an idea. An ex-Police Officer, he had been a member of the Teamsters Trade Union, his branch being Teamsters Local 320 (union branches in the US are known as `locals`). He was involved with his local Labor Council ( I would guess this is roughly the equivalent of a Trades Council over here), which was looking for a community project it could be involved with.

Both Matt and his father, former marine Terry, were volunteers with the Kriedler Cemetery Association (KCA), a small non-profit organisation which cared for the local cemetery. The Walkers are descendants of Daniel Kriedler, a nineteenth century man  whose family donated the land for the cemetery and who is buried there himself.

Matt suggested that the cemetery was in need of restoration and as a result, members of two local union branches, Boilermakers Local 647 and Cement Masons Local 633 spent a day repairing gravestones. 

This year, the trade unionists returned to do more work. "I hadn`t really asked again and they got hold of me." said Matt.

The work they undertook was considerable.

"They used spades to dig up gravestones which were sinking into the ground, cleaned the stones, then placed the stones level inside wooden frames which they filled with concrete. The new concrete base will keep the stones above ground longer." said Steve Share, editor of Minneapolis Labor Review.

I`m grateful to Steve Share of Minneapolis Labor Review for agreeing to my use of his picture of trade unionist  Ben Lewis (Boilermakers Local 647)  restoring gravestones in  Kriedler Cemetery.

Terry Walker described the work as "priceless", commenting that it "would be impossible " for the small-scale  KCA to have achieved anything comparable.

Terry Walker told the volunteers about the history of the cemetery, indicating graves of those who fell in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War One and World War Two.

Refreshments were provided by Working Partnerships, a union-related body, and materials were provided by the Cement Masons union.

For me personally, I would like to see comparable intitiatives introduced over here.

I appreciate that many trade unionists are reluctant to undertake work that someone else might otherwise be paid to do ("stealing someone`s job"), but there are many voluntary groups who would be glad of the assistance in situations where there is no possibility of anyone being paid to do the work. I myself was a volunteer worker on a local nature reserve for a time, and the work we did would simply not have happened if we hadn`t been there.

The Wright County initiative involved a number of union members, many being apprentices and instructors, in work that benefited both them and the wider community, work which would otherwise have not been done at all.

It`s interesting also the enthusiasm they brought to the job ; one man who participated in both days (2009 and 2013) spoke of being "excited" to have the "opportunity" to go back again. Another who also volunteered on both days had actually completed his apprenticeship in the meantime and was now a skilled man. He was  happy to be "giving back to the community" and felt that the project had other benefits ; "The Boilermakers have always been a strong trade as far as work ethic. This is part of  our program to instill that in the apprentiees."

Terry Walker was keen to emphasise the heritage aspect ; "There`s so much history here. We should pay a little more attention to our history."

"A lot of these graves aren`t visited any more but they should still be remembered." commented Matt Walker.

***I don`t usually bother with quoting sources and all that malarkey, but just to make it clear, there`s no original material from me here, and I`ve relied heavily on articles by Steve Share of Minneapolis Labor Review and Doug Voerding of Wright County Journal Press. Any mistakes/misunderstandings are my own and not theirs.***

On the Web ;

Wright County Journal Press/The Drummer ;

Minneapolis Labor Review ;

Working Partnerships ;

If you liked this article, you might also like ;

Nick Osmond, `This Month`s Good Cause ; The Commonwealth War Graves Commission`, this blog, 13 Aug 2013

Nick Osmond, `War Memorials`,, 13 June 2012

Nick Osmond, `Thomas Richardson MBE of Bomber Command and Later a Trade Unionist`, this blog, 29 Nov 2009

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Keep Hope Alive

This rather fine image was posted on Flickr by `MTSOfan`. I don`t have any particular message I want to convey by reproducing it here, I just liked the image and thought others might like it too.

To see more from this photographer cllick here ; .

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Waingroves Show 2013

The village of Waingroves in Amber Valley will become a whirlwind of activity this weekend.

Among many other attractions and activities there will be live entertainment on the evening of Friday 13 September 2013  (unspecified, though I`ve heard there may be a rock `n` roll element).

 On Saturday 14 September 2013 there will be a Horticultural and Craft Show at the Community Centre, an Art Exhibition at the Methodist Church and much else.

Mancunian Steel (as you might imagine, a steel band from Manchester*) will be appearing on Sunday 15 September 2013 and the weekend`s activities will be brought to a close with a Spitfire and Hurricane Flypast.

I personally would like to go and play on the bouncy castle but perhaps I`m a bit too old for that !

Afteer all that, you might think they`d all want to have a little lie down for a bit, but in fact Waingroves Methodist Church will be hosting an evening of barber shop music** on Saturday 28 September 2013.

For more on events in Amber Valley, click here ;



        Member of Mancunian Steel. I`m grateful to photographer Si Miller for allowing me to use this picture of his. For more about the hugely talented Mr M, visit .


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Autumn Footprints

It`s walking festival time again, and `Autumn Footprints ; the Amber Valley and Erewash Walking Festival` begins soon ( )..

For details of it`s equivalents elsewhere, try this link ; .

Priestley As He Is Spoke

You may have heard of the book English as She is Spoke, an attempt at a Portugese-English phrase book which, as Wikipedia comments "is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour."

Mark Twain was a big fan ; "Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce it`s fellow ; it is perfect."

Stephen Pile was even more enthusiastic ; "Is there anything in conventional English which could equal the vividness of  `to craunch a marmoset`?" 

While EASIS may never be equalled it does at least have a modern equivalent in an article I found online recently which concerned itself with J B Priestley`s An Inspector Calls ;

Who could disagree with this essay`s author when he comments that "The tactics at rootage gives the film of a spy thriller and latishr regain words itself as a morals tale."

The occupation ascribed to the character Arthur Birling, "a wealthy military personnelufacturer",  was almost believeable, given the ridiculous job titles some companies come up with, and there is a certain zing to the observation that the arrival of Priestley`s inspector "disrupts the casual biz."

What makes this piece of critical analysis especially interesting is the fact that it is only a short extract from a larger work which the reader is invited to order. Presumably this is a service offered to students to help with their education.

I wait with interest to hear if anyone has been unwise enough to make use of it..


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Talking Dance Man

This blog occasionally takes it upon itself to acquaint the world with the activities of author A R Dance.

Bookish types may wish to know that this literary lad will be giving a talk to Bramcote History Group on 16 September 2013 ( ) , and that his latest historical novel The Westbrook Affair will be published in early October ( ) . Arundel Books promise  that it will be "a gripping story of poverty and wealth, betrayal and greed, and ultimately the search for justice."

I presume the Dance man`s back catalogue continues to be available from Arundel. i believe we have a few second-hand copies of some of his titles, including a couple of signed ones ( ) .

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

This Month`s Good Cause

This month I`ve decided to leave This Month`s Good Cause unchanged and take this opportunity to look back over the causes I`ve chosen in previous months.

I thught I`d also mention some bits and pieces that I thought about mentioning last month but which didn`t get used as I didn`t want to go overboard with the links.

This Month`s Good Causes to date ;

September 2013 - Commonwealth War Graves Commission (

August 2013       - Commonwealth War Graves Commision (

July 2013            - Friends of Cromford Canal (
                            - Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust (

June 2013            - NHS BLood and Transplant (

May 2013            - Anti Slavery (

April 2013           - Derbyshire Blood Bikes (

March 2013         - Brake (


Here are some links I thought about using last month. Although I decided not to on that occasion, they are worth a look ;

Simon Rogers - The Forgotten Soldiers - The Guardian - 10 Nov 2008 (George Blackman) ( )

Alderson/Paulin - Jamaican Who Fought in Somme Will Meet the Queen  - The Telegraph - 17 Feb 2002 (Eugent Clarke)


Monday, 2 September 2013

A Play in the Park (Heanor Memorial Park)

A new venture being proposed in my neck of the woods is that Heanor Memorial Park could be used as a venue for family-friendly theatre events on Sunday afternoons.

The proposal is supported by Amber Valley Borough Council, Ripley and Heanor News and the Derby Evening Telegraph.

Once again, the ever-dependable Amber Valley Info is on hand to tell us more ;

Friday, 30 August 2013

Jeanie Barton and the BoHop Trio - Music in the Square - 24 Aug 2013

Jazz singer Jeanie Barton closed this years` batch of Music in the Square events with an inspiring set of jazz standards, including Fly Me to the Moon, The Sunny Side of the Street and Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.

 Jeanie is not someone intent on combining different influences or particularly putting forward her own interpretation of songs. She lets the songs speak for themselves and the strength of her set lay in her voice and phrasing, her choice of songs, and in the arrangements.

I tend to favour something a bit more eclectic myself, but I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the two sets she played and indeed self and family considered re-arranging our weekend to see her perform in Nottingham the following day.

Sadly, that was not to be, but I gather there will be a number of other opportunities to see her locally in the near future.

Credit for the excellence of the performance has, of course, to be shared with her backing group for the occasion, The BoHop Trio (sometimes known as the BoHop Rhythm Section) who performed splendidly throughout.

If there was one moment that stood out for me, it was the soaring notes at the end of Fly Me to the Moon. It was a surprise to me that anyone can sing like that before 11.00 in the morning ! 

That will do for now I think, but here are a few links you might like ;

Friday, 16 August 2013

Rock Around the Clock - Music in the Square - 10 August 2013

Rock Around the Clock were something of a contrast with the days` other act, The World Groove Orchestra.

RATC, as we shall call them, play rock `n` roll. Often when musicians make this claim, what they actually deliver is pub rock, punk rock, heavy rock or some other variety of rock, but not often actual rock `n` roll. To their great credit, RATC do exactly what they claim to do, they play rock `n` roll.

Their set opened with a cover of Shake, Rattle and Roll, presumably inspired by the Bill Haley and the Comets version as it had different lyrics to the Big Joe Turner original. Still, it was a pretty creditable introduction to the band, though it faded into insignificance compared to their next tune, which I think was called Everybody Rock.

That pretty much set the tone for their set, which mostly comprised of covers of `50s r `n` r tunes. A purist might bemoan the inclusion of lightweight numbers like See You Later, Alligator or the fact that more obscure `50s tunes were noticeable by their absence. I myself was not concerned by those things at all (though I wouldn`t have minded a couple of Johnny Carroll tunes !).

At the end of the day, there`s not too much to say. They do not perform slavish copies of the tunes they cover, but they do perform them with an authentic feel and maybe that`s more important. They don`t mind taking on a challenge, as illustrated by their version of Mystery Train, a song which often defeats bands who give it a whirl. I`m not suggesting the RATC version was comparable with either Junior Parkers` original or Elvis` cover, but it was pretty solid.

There came a point where the bassist swapped his stand-up bass for an electric one and they did four sixties tunes. For me personally, I wasn`t wild about their choices, but there again I am probably the only person in the whole world who dislikes Please, Mr Postman, so my opinion in these matters may not be all that important.  I did like their version of Twist and Shout, but not as much as I liked their version of a `60s surf guitar tune (Wipe Out if I remember correctly) which came later in the set.

Most of the members of this band are young (one has only just left school), but to my mind they could appear on a bill with more seasoned local rock `n` rollers like The Memphis Riders without any problem at all.

On the web ;

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

World Groove Orchestra - Music in the Square - Saturday 10 August 2013

Most bands in Beestons` annual `Music in the Square` season go on stage at 10.30, so I was surprised on arriving late to find WGO were still doing their soundcheck.

The band are a studious-looking bunch, probably more familiar with Penguin paperbacks than with the lifestyle of the late Johnny Thunders, but as they plinked, plonked, plugged and unplugged, I wondered if any of them had within them an inner rock star, seething with impatience and filled with an unquenchable desire to strike an impressive power chord and shout "Kick out the jams, brothers and sisters !" *

Apparently this was not the case, but eventually our grooving internationalists began their set and I have to say it was well worth the wait.

Starting with an impressive version of  `Summertime`, they moved on to an equally fine `Feeling Good` before changing tack altogether and performing an instrumental combining an anthemic keyboard part with fast, light drumming and percussion of a style that I believe is popular with the young folk at present.

You might think that this would be inaccessible to the average passer-by, but idle curiosity impelled me to watch peoples` reactions, and in fact it was this third tune that stopped the shoppers in their tracks and by my reckoning held the admiring attention of an audience ranging in age from under 5 to over 70.

Following on from this was a version of `Take Five`  which made effective use of Indian-style drumming, more instrumentals and, ending the first set, a cover of `Valerie`.

The second set was broadly similar except that the band displayed a penchant for covering familar songs (`I Got You, I Feel Good`  and `Johnnny B Goode`) in an unfamiliar fashion. This can be a high-risk strategy - a friend of mine once attempted something of the sort with a particular song only to have at least one member of his audience assume he didn`t know how to play it right ! However, it seemed to work OK for the WGO.

It`s not always wise to go in for too many comparisons, but I would say the singer reminded me at times of Hugh Laurie, particularly on the first two numbers. Many of the instrumentals reminded me of bands associated with Barbara Thompson and Jon Hiseman - whether they are in fact they are an influence on the WGO or it just happened that way is unknown to me.

In my personal opinion,  when bands attempt to combine disparate influences it`s usually a  waste of time and only rarely does it work particularly well. WGO, I`m happy to say, are the exception rather than the rule - they engage the head and the heart, set the toes tapping and what they might do to other parts of your anatomy one hardly likes to imagine !

Seriously, they are great, and if I wasn`t already married I would consider having a wedding just so that I could book them to play at the party. If you`re at all musically adventurous in your tastes, go and see them, you won`t regret it.

On the web ;

*A phrase once used by a member of  `60s band the MC5 if memory serves me right.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

This Month`s Good Cause - The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Time to turn our attention to my ongoing `This Month`s Good Cause` project.

As seasoned followers of this blog will know, the idea is that each month I highlight something I personally regard as being a good cause that others may wish to support.

My plan is that over a period of time I will strike a balance between local, national and international initiatives, though it remains to be seen how practical that is !

Anyway, this month, I want to highlight the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The CWGC, which exists to commemorate the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars, was the brainchild of Major General (later Sir) Fabian Ware (1869 - 1949).

During World War One, Ware was Commander of a Red Cross ambulance unit. He was disturbed by the level of casualties and was troubled by the fact that there was no system in place for marking and recording the graves of those killed (in those days, there was no facility for the bodies of the fallen to be brought home*).

His unit began the work of recording the location of graves and it was decided that they should be transferred to the Army and be given a new title, the Graves Registration Commission (later to become the Imperial War Graves Commission and then the Commonwealth War Graves Commission). The CWGC is now part of the Commonwealth Secretariat

Ware was keen to foster a spirit of co-operation between the nations of what was then the Empire and in that respect we should remember that there was no conscription in the Commonwealth - the Empire/Commonwealth forces were all volunteers (this holds true for both World Wars).

That`s enough history, so lets` turn our attention to the CWGCs` current activities. Their current newsletter is so comprehensive that I can`t possibly do justice to it in its` entirety, but I will just highlight a few items ;

* As we approach 2014, preparations are underway to mark to Centenary of World War One. I will return to that subject in due course.

* Last month, the CWGC erected headstones to mark the graves of five newly identified Australian soldiers. The graves were rededicated in the presence of their families at Fromelles Military Cemetery on 19 July.

* An interesting feature highlights the fact that 7,900 Commonwealth War Dead from WW2 are buried in Bangladesh and looks at Chittagong 1939 - 1945 War Memorial which commemorates almost 6,500 Indian sailors lost at sea during those years.

Rather than bang on too much, I`ll close by referring you to the CWGC web site for more info - 

* Nick Osmond - `War Memorials` - , 13 June 2012

And also...

If this article was of interest to you, you may also like to see these ;

All Party Parliamentary War Graves Heritage Group -

War Graves Photographic Project -

The Memorial Gates Trust - ( This organisation commemorates "the five million men and women from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Caribbean who volunteered to serve with the Armed Forces during the First and second World Wars" and "the contribution that these men and women, and their descendants. members of the Commonwealth family, continue to make to the rich diversity of British society."

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Humanists and Non-Conformists

I once came across someone* who described himself as "a Christian atheist". I was unfamiliar with the term and asked what it meant. He replied that he himself was an atheist but could not deny that (I`ll have to paraphrase from memory) Christian beliefs were at the root of all that is progressive.

At the time I was a bit stumped by this. To take an area I`m familar with, it`s certainly true that many anti-slavery campaigners and others involved in social uplift of one sort or another were motivated by religious beliefs, but it`s equally  true that reactionary elements such as supporters of slavery have a also claimed a Biblical sanction for their actvities.

I suspect my `Christian atheist` acquaintance was actually referring to a more sophisticated argument, whereby it is the values shared by Christians that underlie much that is progressive. That is the view expressed by one Church of England bishop ; 

"The dignity of all human beings is clearly drawn from the Biblical idea that human beings are made in God`s image Or it might be the question of equality, or it might be liberty, freedom of expression."**

Moving on to something more concrete, I thought it might be interesting now to turn to the role of Non-Conformists and other `religious radicals` in British history.

Fortunately, I can be quite lazy about this and simply give you some links to click on ;

After that exhaustive research, it`s time for me to have a cup of tea, but I will close with a couple of general observations.

Human progress is a pernickity pelican and I have little sympathy either for atheists who claim all that is good and progressive comes from the secular tradition or for their religious counterparts who claim the opposite. No creed or doctrine has a monopoly on wisdom and it`s foolish to pretend otherwise.

My own feeling is that Humanists would do well to emulate atheist Robert G Ingersoll, who, I`m told,  was noted for respecting those whose views he did not share, and for advocating alliances with people of faith on matters that were important to him.

* It was horror movie buff Matthew Coniam, who was good enough to send a friendly message after I mentioned an article of his ( see `Vampires Visit Yorkshire Coast`, this blog, 17 May 2012).

** Bishop Michael Nazir Ali - Radio 4 Today programme 6 Nov 2006, as quouted in BHA publication `The Case for Secularism : A Neutral State in an Open Society`.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Summer in Amber Valley

Those nice people at Amber Valley Info have produced a guide to summer holiday activities and events in the area ;

Raphael Achache - Music in the Square 2013 - Sat 3 August 2013

Earlier today I had the great good fortune to catch an appearance by Raphael `Raph` Achache, the first of this years` Music in the Square events.

A talented guitarist with a strong voice and an engaging manner, Raph began his set with jazz standard Ain`t Misbehaving, an excellent song performed excellently, then proceeded to work his way through a set comprised mainly of blues and rock `n` roll tunes. Johnny B Goode, Be Bop A Lula, I Got a Woman, Why Don`t You Do Right, Kansas City (renamed `Beeston City` for the occasion !), Hey Hey, Hit the Road, Jack  and many others were all performed convincingly, as were one or two less well-known to me such as a Lynyrd Skynyrd number which seemed to be called They Call Me the Priest and another by `I don`t know who`  which might be called I`m Gonna Get Arrested.

In case all this bluesiness prove off-putting to those less familiar with the genre, we were also treated to an assortment of  other covers, including Ob La Di Ob La Da, No Woman No Cry, I`m a Believer and Stuck in the Middle With You. Some of these were performed more convincingly than others, I have to say.

There were no displays of virtuosity, but clearly he is a more than capable guitarist and his singing is top notch. I have a suspicion that he may be less engaged with some of the non-blues material he covers, and he might want to watch that audiences don`t pick up on that.

As a purveyor of classic blues, jazz and r `n` r he is on very solid ground and I think he is sensible to reach out to a wider audience as well.

The Music in the Square format does present certain hazards to an unaccompanied acoustic performer. Not far from the stage a stall holder was selling plants and flowers. Part way through Raph`s first set, another man arrived, set up stall nearby and started selling jacket potatoes, and shortly after that, the men came to empty the bins. None of this phased our young bluesologist who swung and strummed in an admirably unconcerned fashion.

I don`t know his musical past or likely future plans. It might be that he would be wise to consider either penning original numbers or collaborating with others. In the meantime, if he only helps to keep this music alive and/or introduce it to a wider audience, that would be a fine thing.

On the web ;

Monday, 22 July 2013

Short Stories

I have a long-standing fondness for short stories and when I`m in the right mood I consume them voraciously.

Here are a few that I`ve read or re-read recently and that I would recommend to others.

Count Eric Stenbock - A True Story of a Vampire

in Haining (ed) - The Vampire Omnibus, Bounty Books, London, 2003* 

The strange life and times of Eric Stenbock have overshadowed his writings and indeed it is difficult to know which of the stories about him are actually true. Personally I have my doubts as to whether he affected a vampire-like appearance and received visitors while sitting in a coffin, but it seems to universally accepted that he led a life of drug abuse, dabbled in various beliefs and died at an early age under ambiguous circumstances.

All this advance publicity led me to half-expect A True Story of a Vampire to be the work of a talentless poseur, but I`m happy to report that this is not the case. The story, which predates Bram Stoker`s Dracula by three years, is marred only by the occasional clumsy choice of phrase and is refreshingly original and understated.

There are a number of pre-Dracula vampire stories that are well worth reading and to my mind this is one of the best.

Robert Louis Stevenson - The Body Snatcher (in the Travelman Short Stories series)
 The Body Snatcher is a classy dollop of horror that`s well worth seeking out. If, like me, you like a measure of subtlety to your servings of blood and gore then you should persevere with the old-fashioned language as this is, in the best sense, a minor classic. Towards the end, the account of the two body snatchers making their way through the night with their gruesome cargo is particularly effective, especially since it is quite a short passage.
E F Benson - The China Bowl
Henry Slesar - The Candidate
Steve Rasnic Tem - At the Bureau
in Sarrantonio and Greenberg (ed.s) - 100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1993 
Mrs Nick treated me to a copy of 100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories recently.  I`ve not read all of it yet, but these three are all, in their different ways, well worth a look. E F Benson (1867 - 1940) will be well-known to may of you already I would think. The China Bowl is the story of a crime brought into the open due to supernatural intervention and of the events that ensue upon the perpetrator being exposed.
Henry Slesar (1927 - 2002) was an American writer who turned his hand to pretty much anything - TV scripts, novels, plays, short stories. The Candidate is very individual, very unusual and while for once I did guess the ending correctly, I would still recommend it to anyone in search of something a little out of the ordinary.
Steve Rasnic Tem (born 1950) is a new name to me but I suspect At The Bureau is destined to become a personal favourite. Told in the first person, it begins in a very unassuming way and gradually draws the reader into an increasingly ambiguous situation before stopping you dead in your tracks with an outcome that I for one never predicted. Is it horror ? Maybe not, but certainly unsettling. Seek it out if you like to be unnerved !
That brings me to another point. I`m not far through this book but I`d have to say that not all of the stories I`ve encountered so far would qualify as horror in the usual sense. I don`t really care about that, but I mention it for the benefit of those who do.
I would say that on the basis of what I`ve read so far, this collection does illustrate just how much can be achieved within the short story format, and how inventive some writers can be even when confining their efforts to a handful of pages.
* This title previously published by Orion during the `90s.
In addition to the reviews posted on this blog, I have posted others at , including reviews of short stories by George Mann (The Albino`s Shadow), Mark Hodder (The Blood of our Land) and Paul Magrs (All the Many Rooms).