Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A note has arrived from Bonkers Hall; what am I reading this summer?

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voicewith a little 'assist' from His Lordship......
A note has arrived from Bonkers Hall: what am I reading this summer?

I am not alone, so far Liberal England has published three Summer reading lists from bloggers. Round up 1 was Alan Wyburn Powell (Liberal History to you and me), Linda Jack and Gareth Epps. Round up 2 was Iain Dale, Mark Pack and Iain Sharpe and joining me on Round up 3 Nick Barlow and Tim Holyoake.

Broadhurst Bookshop in Southport
-you don't have to buy from Amazon
With only two choices it is quite a challenge. There are books I have put aside to read over the summer and there are a heap of detective novels I'm happily working my way through for entertainment and distraction. I have just finished Peter May's Lewis Trilogy which I thoroughly recommend and I am about to embark on Martin Edwards Lake District thriller The Frozen Shroud.This is the latest in his series and I came across at Gladstone's Library.An earlier book in the series The Hanging Wood was set around a residential Library clearly modeled on Gladstone's St Deniol's -which is the only residential library in the UK. I am waiting on inter library loans to send me Tudor Jones's The Revival of British liberalism Grimond to Clegg and before the new season starts I shall take up again Michael Braham's Magnum opus: The Sandgrounders The Complete League History of Southport FC -all 728 pages of it!

Below is my reply to the note from Bonkers Hall:

Our Victorian forebears marketed Southport as being on the Lancashire Rivera and for once it is living up to their billing. It is hot. If I were off to Birkdale beach cycling along Snuttering Lane what would be stuffed into my saddlebag today? In truth there would be nothing too demanding. Jonathan suggested I choose two books one political and one not.

First up is David Erdal's"Beyond the Corporation-Humanity Working". This book is a passionate, committed work advocating workers' ownership. It challenges traditional models of ownership and lays out the experience of those who, like Erdal himself, took the road less travelled by. His own family firm -a paper mill in Fife-was transferred to employee ownership and it has flourished in contrast to a similar company which  took the usual route recommended by banks and business advisers and was sold off to venture capitalists . Erdal takes a hard look at those who insist, in the teeth of the evidence, that shared ownership will never work - a sorry tale, he argues, of prejudice masquerading as economic thinking. Here are other case studies of firms familiar to Liberals: Scott Bader, John Lewis and the mighty Mondargon co-ops. Jo Grimond visited Mondargon along with journalist, and sometime Liberal candidate, Robert Oakeshott . On their return they established, what is today, the Employee Ownership Association. Jo was particularly enamoured with the local workers mutual bank that the co-ops established. It attracted savings from the region and has financed a network of worker owned enterprises which now have 100,00 employees. As one reviewer observed that the greatest success of this approach was ' the sheer happiness employees experience in working together in businesses that they own together, sharing the wealth that they create'. 
You can hear an audio clip of Erdal talking about the book here http://www.nls.uk/events/audio-recordings/david-erdal

It is Sunday, the shadows are lengthening, and the evening has come, the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work done. The worshipers at St Asquith's* are hurrying home after Evensong. Revd Hughes has detained them far too long preaching on Martha and Mary and the systemic effects of patriarchal stereotyping (in a sermon he pinched off the internet).  The strains of King Charles I's Evening hymn  linger more lastingly in their memory. Why do they rush home? It is because Sunday is the day that the next installment of Acts and Omissions comes online.

 Let me explain. Catherine Fox has been blogging a novel, one chapter a week, rather like Dickens or Wilkie Collins, since the turn of the year, and believe me the cliff hangers at the end of some chapters rival the fate of Little Nell. Every Sunday night they enter the diocese of Lindchester, a world as completely imagined as Bonkers Hall. There they meet the outrageous Freddie May with his gorgeous tenor voice who is unsettling the conscience of the evangelical Bishop Paul -and not just because of what he has painted above Father Wendy's new curate, Miss Virginia Farrow-Ball’s bed…. Bishop Paul will be please to see Freddie take up his choral scholarship at Barchester Cathedral, although I'm not so sure the elderly spinster Miss Barbara Blatherwick will be so relieved. This is a place where clerics drank champagne to celebrate the passing of the Equal Marriage Act but where Gene, the Dean's husband, is not prepared to deviate from the law that you don’t waste vintage champagne on evangelicals. 

It is a glorious, exuberant romp of a novel. Whether you identify with the militantly lapsed Dr Jane Rossiter or the tortured soul of Father Dominic, by the time chapter 52 arrives and Freddie has takes his last scandalous risk the recollection of the heat wave will have faded and I shall be most likely be cycling along Snuttering Lane in the snow.

* And yes, I know St Asquith's has a spire but strangely their are not pictures of it on the internet


  1. Try reading The last Days of Detroit by Mark Binelli Iain, it is a fascinating and in depth look at how this probably greatest of all industrial cities has hit the buffers. And I don't suggest this because Detroit has gone bust in the last few days as I picked up on this good read following it being serialised on Radio 4 some 3 months ago.

  2. I shall add it to my list, thanks


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