Liz Rorison's funeral was earlier this week. I am very sad to learn of her death. I got to know Liz when she was a studio manager with the BBC working at party conference outside broadcasts. I was then a rookie political correspondent. She was always friendly and supportive, had plenty of time and encouragement for the World Service - including all those who went from the language services - and was a model of generosity, good cheer and professionalism.
She was also, I discovered, the mainstay of the Liberal Democrats Glee Club - organising, cajoling, and playing the piano into the early hours and beyond at what was, without question, the best political sing-song around. She had come across the party through song - the story is recounted here in a fond obituary - and the energy and enthusiasm of her and her colleagues - above all, the rendition of the old Liberal anthem the Land Song - aroused my interest in the tradition of British political song.
I last saw Liz a year or two ago. We ate at a Turkish restaurant near her home in Highbury. She was in poor health, but undaunted - and determined to give me every help she could in tracing the history of the Land Song, and its resurrection from the 1970s after decades in the doldrums. She followed up with letters and phone calls, and suggestions for old-timers to talk to.
Without her, I might never have come across the Land Song, or found out so much about its history. But above all, its her warmth, kindness and enthusiasm that I will remember.
I've always preferred the cheaper end of the Monopoly board - Whitechapel High Street and The Angel have much more appeal that Park Lane and Bond Street. To judge from the piece in today's Guardian celebrating the board game's 75th anniversary, the historian Jerry White agrees.
He makes a connection that had escaped me, the 'Water Works' as the New River Head in no-longer-so-cheap Clerkenwell. Well, of course.
And I also discover that the model for Monopoly was 'The Landlord's Game', devised in 1904 by an Illinois-born woman follower of the land taxer Henry George. Those of you who delve into the depths of this site may know that it was Henry George's followers who coined that marvellous political anthem The Land Song.
If I add that The Angel (£100 for the Monopoly player) is the setting for Alexander Baron's novel 'Rosie Hogarth', I've somehow managed to get several of my pet enthusiasms in a single blog.
Happy New Year!
The first time I've been to Liverpool since Derek 'Degsy' Hatton was deputy leader of the council. The occasion - the Liberal Democrats' conference. (It was work, not party loyalty, that took me there.)
What a stunning city Liverpool is these days. The Albert Dock done up as museum and restaurants but still with that sense of the sea - more, and better, Victorian municipal architecture than any other of the great northern cities. A comfortable, lived in place.
The conference. Well, I'm not going to get in to the politics. But I found Peter Brookes's cartoon for today's 'Times' - 'with apologies' to both - the best for a very long time. Especially for those of us who can remember 'With the Beatles' when it came out almost half-a-century ago.
I tried hard at the conference, as befits any squirreler away of lapel badges, to find badges referring to the coalition. Nothing. At the Lib Dem stall, which sells just about anything you could imagine of use, or not, to a party activist or candidate, there was not a single item that gave any sense that this party was back in government for the first time since well before the Beatles.
One stall had bars of 'Clegg and Cable' chocolate for sale. No sign of the 'Clegg - Cameron' milky bar kids.
If you are curious about my modest haul of lapel badges from the Lib Dems, here they are. (A couple, as you will see, are from the British Humanist Association stall).
On to the late night Glee Club, still surely the best political sing song around. At the biggest hall in the Liverpool Hilton - what a smart venue for such radical ferment - the massed voices coalesced around opposition (or at least a semblance of unease) to the coalition.
The latest version of the Liberator Song Book has a new title: 'Twelve Days of Coalition'. Here are the words. Sung last night with huge delight. The lyrics are, I should mention, almost identical to those of the old Lib Dem Glee Club favourite, 'Twelve Days of Merger' - though in that version the soggy SDP is portrayed as the ungenerous ally.
I'm happy to report that the 500 or so present sang 'The Land Song' with the usual fervour - everyone on their feet, is if it were the Lib Dem national anthem (which, after a fashion it is), and waving song books as imaginary ballot papers. It's prompted me to get on with my attempt to chronicle the history of this curiously affecting song.
And it's nice to know that tradition has its place even in the daringly new political landscape.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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