Tag Archives: 2019 posts

Films, Concerts, Exhibitions and Shows in 2019

2019 has been a good year for Films, Concerts, Exhibitions and Shows. Here’s a list:

Films

Bohemian Rhapsody 9/01

Stan and Ollie 20/01

The Aftermath 5/03

Red Joan 22/04

Greta 23/04

Rocket Man 10/06

Apollo 11 5/07

Angel has fallen 22/08

Concerts in cinema

Placido Domingo 1/10

Live Concerts

Joan Baez 25/02

Exhibitions

Science Museum: Last Tsar Blood Revolution 31/01

Tate Britain: Van Gogh and Britain 8/04

British Library: Friends before Facebook, Multi-ethnic London, Imagined Cities 3/05

NPG: Elizabethan Miniature Portraits, Martin Parr Photos 4/05

British Museum: Edvard Munch: Love and Angst 2/06

Kelvingrove Museum: Linda McCartney Retrospective 5/07

Royal Academy: Summer Exhibition 1/08

British Library: Writing: Making your mark 9/08

NPG: Taylor-Wessing Portraits, Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, 22/11

Shows & Plays

Crewe Lyceum: Francis Rossi in Conversation 31/03

Coliseum: Man of La Mancha 4/05

Crewe Lyceum: Julian Clary in Conversation 11/05

Glasgow Theatre Royal: The Lady Vanishes 4/07

Reading in 2019

2019 hasn’t been a good year for reading. A lot of the time I haven’t felt like it, and I haven’t always kept records as I have tried to do before. I will hopefully be more organised in 2020. Anyway, that said, the books recorded on my Goodreads account as having been read are:

The Rosicrucian Prophecy (The White Hart Book 2) (Davis, John Paul)

Snap (Bauer, Belinda)

Day of the Accident (Ellwood, Nuala)

My Sister’s Bones (Ellwood, Nuala)

Dead at First Sight (Roy Grace Book 15) (James, Peter)

Dying Days (Inspector Carlyle Book 13) (Craig, James)

Their Little Secret (Tom Thorne Book 16) (Billingham, Mark)

Old Haunts (Simon Serrailler, #8.7) (Hill, Susan)

Revenge (Simon Serrailler, #9.5) (Hill, Susan)

Drowned Lives (Booth, Stephen)

How the Dead Speak (Tony Hill & Carol Jordan Book 11) (McDermid, Val)

Their Last Breath (Hodge, Sibel)

Many Rivers to Cross (Inspector Banks Book 26) (Robinson, Peter)

I have started reading John Paul Davis’s ‘The Excalibur Code’, and this will be included next year. There are also a few other books that were unfinished this year, and I will try to finish them in 2020.  I also have some new books from my regular authors on order, including Peter James, James Craig and Peter May.

My review of 2019, and brief reflections on the decade 2010-2019

You can see from the date of posting that I am late with my review this year, and it will be posted in 2020. This is because we finished teaching so late this year (20/12/19) that everything is a day or so late. However, I notice I posted my review of 2010 on 2/01/11, so I am not doing so badly!

2019 began badly for me health wise, with my sciatica hanging on for the first few weeks of the year. It finally cleared some time in February, and my posts from early in 2019 have more details. However, I did manage the SCR whisky tasting and the Burns Supper, and a trip to London to see some exhibitions at the end of the month ( see post here).

The academic year started as usual with exams, followed immediately by the start of the second semester. My main teaching was the Digital Forensics module, in its third outing. The lectures went OK, but my attempts to include sessions for the students to use the digital forensics software again didn’t really work, and will need further thought for next year. My other teaching (2nd year Chemistry, 3rd year FS and MChem) went OK. Because of the date of Easter this year, we had 11 weeks of teaching before the Easter vacation, so it was exhausting.

The Easter vacation was mainly spent in recovery mode, although I did manage a trip to London for a committee meeting, going on to Huddersfield for external examiner induction (having already done the job for a year!) Then it was back for the last week of semester, and the summer exams. I managed a trip to Dublin for my last external examining, and Angela accompanied me. We had a nice few days and it was a break of a kind, with an overnight stay in London on the way back. Later, in June, I had a combined Sheffield and Huddersfield external examining trip. I also managed a trip to Bath for research discussions.

I had 3 trips to London in July for various RSC events, including one where the RSC organised the hotel that then didn’t seem to have my details (Premier Inn by County Hall/Westminster Bridge). However, it was quickly sorted out. This first trip included the RSC AGM, which was an eye-opener. I managed a weekend at my Mother’s house in late July, which Angela kindly accompanied me on. The trip back was awful – lots of traffic delays – and enough to put me off making the trip again until the roadworks around Cambridge are finished.

We had a very nice trip to London for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (we booked the Radio Times private viewing). This was a few days before the GBBF, which was as good as ever, and is separately described (see post here).

The main event in September was the LibDem conference in Bournemouth. It was my first time in Bournemouth, and Angela came for some of the time. Bournemouth is relatively easy to get to for us (a 4 hour train journey from Stoke). The conference was interesting, and I was glad to be there, although events later in the year (see various posts before this one) rather went against the feeling of optimism at the conference!

Once back at Keele, the semester was almost upon us, and I was in preparation mode. Then followed 12 intensive weeks of teaching which finally finished on 20 December. I managed to attend part of my annual Christmas conference, held this year in Liverpool, and had a nice visit from Giordano (who also attended the conference).

It wasn’t a great year for music, although things picked up in the last couple of months. I have more or less stopped playing for the South Cheshire Orchestra (or at least, while they continue to choose programmes for which I am not required), but the Keele orchestra asked me to help them out for their concert on 21 December. This was a good way to get back into regular playing, and I had unconsciously prepared for that by practicing on those Saturday afternoons when Angela was at her football matches – so I wasn’t too rusty. I hope to keep playing with them when they start their spring programme. Also, with encouragement and help from Angela, I started playing piano again. This was a great development (see photo below).

I have posted separately about politics. 2019 was the year I rejoined the LibDems and got politically involved again, which is good as it didn’t feel right when I wasn’t doing anything! The election was a challenging and bruising experience, and the outcome was very worrying. But just now I am putting such worries to one side, at least for a few more days! No doubt other posts will follow on this topic.

On a more positive note, it’s been a great year for Pokémon Go and Ingress. At the end of 2018 reached level 14 on Ingress, and it took me until November 2019 to get to level 15. Now I am there, I am not in a rush to get to the final level, 16, partly because it requires 16M AP! Instead I am just enjoying playing, keeping the Keele portals maintained, and fighting off any incidences of attacks from the opposition. With Pokémon Go I got to level 40 on my main account, again in November, and I started a second account in February, which is now heading for level 33. As I commented before, I find playing these games a great stress-buster, plus it gets me out walking each day.

So what about the last decade? Well, I’ve managed to keep my music up, been involved in two political parties (not at the same time), and kept my research and teaching going. Specifically on research and teaching, I have published 37 papers, and developed two new teaching modules. I was Acting Head of School for 16 months from December 2016-March 2018. That’s about all I can say just now, and it will be my aim to keep the show on the road for the decade to come. Let’s see how it goes!

Election Post Mortem

12 days have passed since the election, but it has taken that time to gather my thoughts and try to come to some conclusions. We still had a week of teaching to do after the election, so I couldn’t give much attention to it until now.

First, in my previous post, I was completely wrong in my predictions, but looking back on it, I suspect it was written more in hope than anything else, because when the polls closed and the prediction from the exit polls was of a majority of about 65, I wasn’t particularly surprised. In the end, the Conservatives got a majority of 80. So, how do I begin to rationalise this result?

Looking at the national picture, it was clear that Labour had a bad campaign, and that the Liberal Democrats, although they had a good start, didn’t make much impression in the end. In my opinion, Labour did badly for two reasons: (i) because of the Corbyn factor – many voters simply didn’t trust him, and (ii), in constituencies that voted for Brexit in 2016, there was some irritation among leavers that Labour had agreed to a second referendum, much as that was viewed positively by remainers such as myself. As a result, these leaver voters probably turned to the Conservatives or the Brexit Party instead of Labour. As for the LibDems, it is possible that the pledge to scrap article 50 if they formed a government backfired, although I felt it was a positive message that should not have put off potential voters. It also certainly didn’t help that Jo Swinson was not invited to take part in the Johnson-Corbyn debates. My conclusion on the overall result was that the Conservatives won because Labour did so badly, rather than there suddenly being a resurgence of Conservative support.

Locally the results very much reflected the national picture, although there are some interesting details to look at. Newcastle under Lyme went Conservative for the first time ever. The long standing Labour MP, Paul Farrelly, had stood down, having been MP since 2001, and was a remainer in a constituency that voted heavily to leave the EU in 2016. His majority had been steadily decreasing, and was down to 30 in 2017, although there were some issues with the voting that year, which probably affected this. His successor, a union official from Manchester, didn’t look likely to impress beyond loyal Labour supporters, and certainly would be unlikely to attract tactical voters. In the end, the Conservatives took the seat with a majority of 7000+ over Labour. The result in the neighbouring Stoke seats was also particularly interesting, given that Gareth Snell (Stoke Central) and Ruth Smeeth (Stoke North), had both voted in favour of Boris Johnson’s EU deal (both constituencies having voted to leave the EU in 2016). It didn’t help them, however, with Gareth losing narrowly to the Conservatives, and Ruth losing by a similar margin to that of Labour in Newcastle under Lyme. Since Stoke South had already gone Conservative in 2017, it means that all 3 Stoke seats, and Newcastle under Lyme, are blue now.

As this is a post mortem, I will attempt to look at ways forward, although like many others, I feel thoroughly demoralised. What Labour do is for their members to decide, but as an ex Labour member I remember how it felt losing the 1983 election, and how long it took to make the party electable again. From the comments I have heard so far from some prominent MPs, that lesson may take longer to learn this time round, especially with Corbyn hanging on for a period of ‘reflection’. The LibDems have lost their leader (and how shameful was Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction to the result – look it up if you haven’t seen it). There will be a leadership election in due course, with Ed Davey and Sal Brinton acting as interim leaders. We will see who stands, but I am no Davey fan. Maybe one of our new MPs will come forward?

Regarding the inevitability of Brexit happening, I am not willing to give up on the idea that we may eventually re-join. I am not in the ‘accept the result and move on’ camp, and in the New Year it will become clear what the potential LibDem party leaders think about this. I will leave further comment on this topic until then.

In the meantime I am looking forward to a quiet Christmas, free from political angst. There will be plenty of time in 2020 to re-engage in political debate!

Pre-election musings

I first started this blog at the beginning of 2010, and politics has always played an important part in my posts. Since I started it, we have had General Elections in 2010, 2015 and 2017, and of course the Scottish Independence Referendum and the EU Referendum. We now face another election in a few days’ time.

In writing this latest post, I have started by looking back on what I wrote in the run up to previous elections. In 2010 I was a Labour member, in 2015 I supported Labour but had left the party, and in 2017 I was a LibDem, as I am now. My political views haven’t changed over this time, but Labour has, moving to the left under Jeremy Corbyn. I won’t discuss this further here, but you will find posts, including this one, that cover that topic, and my reasons for changing parties.

In 2010, when Labour lost and was finally replaced by a Conservative/LibDem coalition, I discussed the result here, and in subsequent posts. That result triggered a Labour leadership election, and I strongly supported David Miliband (and still believe things might be very different now had he been elected). I discussed the difference between the Miliband brothers and their policies/perception to voters here. As we know, Ed was elected, and David, sadly, left politics (although I can’t blame him for doing that).

Moving to General Election 2015, the Conservatives won enough seats for an overall majority, and I discussed the election result here. Of course, a year later we had the EU referendum, leading to David Cameron resigning as PM, to be replaced by Theresa May. In turn, she called the now infamous snap election in June 2017, which didn’t go as she hoped. I discussed that here. And so we come to 2019, and all that has happened in the last few months. I’ve said enough about our EU membership already, so the rest of this post will concentrate on the election that is due to take place later this week, on 12 December 2019.

Regarding the forthcoming election, the polls point to an overall Conservative majority, but as I’ve said before, opinion polls don’t always work well with our FPTP system. Labour seem to be making the same mistake as they did in 1983 under Michael Foot, offering 1970s style policies, centred around renationalisation, and although that may appeal to their core voters, it might not attract many of those who voted for New Labour in 1997 and the next two elections, which Tony Blair won on a moderate centre-left platform. The LibDems will hopefully improve their position, perhaps winning some Conservative seats in Remain areas. What we end up with on Friday could, in my best estimate, be anything from a small Conservative majority to a hung parliament. I don’t expect a Labour majority, because they have lost centre-left voters in recent years, and it is also possible that some of those that voted for them in 2017 may not do so this time because they feel let down over Brexit. It will be interesting to see how the SNP do, but talking to Scottish relatives suggests that Nicola Sturgeon may not have the support she thinks she has. If that happens and the SNP do badly, they won’t be able to prop up Labour either. Finally, whether the LibDems end up in a position of influence depends of course on how many seats they win. Although they have ruled out forming coalitions, a DUP-style agreement with Labour would be a way of ensuring a second EU referendum, but this is very much a best case scenario and may be unlikely. However it is a way of ending this post on a positive note!

Tactical voting

There’s a lot being said at the moment about tactical voting. For example Remain voters are being urged to vote for whichever party is more likely to defeat the Tories, and probably the converse is happening too for Brexiteers. I have concerns about tactical voting, as (i) there is no guarantee that it will have the desired effect, and (ii) if you vote for a party you wouldn’t normally support, your usual party will suffer in terms of percentage of vote, regardless of the outcome. That can be important when overall voting figures are calculated.

Below I quote from my LibDem PPC, Nigel Jones, who explains the argument well.

‘Generally, people should not engage in tactical voting, which is different from two parties coming to an agreement. People should vote for what they believe in for the sake of the message the result sends and for the future of the party  which they truly support, locally as well as nationally.

This applies here in Newcastle under Lyme about voting Liberal Democrat because the other parties are not Remain parties, including Labour.

The voice of Remain needs to be clearly represented especially since we find ourselves in a general election and have not had a people’s vote. In any case we now have the Brexit Party for Leavers as well as the Conservative Party’.

The LibDems as a home for former Labour voters

I write this post in the run up to the General Election which is to be held in a month’s time, on December 12, 2019. I have been motivated to write it by discussions with my local party executive committee,  after hearing that this previously solid Labour constituency (Newcastle under Lyme) has some voters who have fallen out with Labour, but possibly not to the extent that they would vote Conservative. I thought that my own political journey might be of interest, and maybe help some people make up their minds on this important issue.

I was previously a Labour supporter and member for many years, but I left when Labour stopped representing the centre ground. Peter Mandelson’s ‘broad church’ narrowed as the party moved to the left, and this got worse when Corbyn became leader. It seemed there was no longer a home for centrists, and Tom Watson’s departure was a clear indication of this, if it wasn’t already obvious. The long period of indecision over Brexit was sheer frustration, and although there seems now to be a commitment to hold a second referendum, it isn’t at all clear that party policy will support a remain vote.

When I joined the LibDems I helped set up the Social Democrat Group, whose aim is to encourage social democrat policies to be adopted, and to provide a forum for dialogue with Social Democrats in other parties. Although we can’t take credit for the MPs who have recently joined the LibDems from Labour, having a group in the party that encourages such dialogue hopefully helped them feel comfortable in their new political home.

Returning to the local situation, our long standing Labour MP, Paul Farrelly, has stood down. Paul was an unflinching Remainer and a good constituency MP (hard to be both after the Brexit referendum result, but he managed it). Local former Labour voters who are Remainers, and who may not subscribe to the Corbyn vision, could do far worse than voting LibDem next month. Regardless of the election result, both locally and nationally, a vote for the LibDems signals a desire to move away from stultifying two party politics. With our inspirational leader, Jo Swinson, I hope the party can make progress at this election.  I will certainly be doing my best to help achieve that aim.