An old name returns to Newbury's Market Place – complete with a hint of Dumbo

elephant market

Last weekend, I was walking past the Queen’s Hotel in Newbury’s Market Place. It’s currently surrounded with scaffolding, as they refurbish it. I noticed the letters “EM” and “No.8” painted on the big door. A quick Google failed to reveal the meaning of these letters. But when I got home I found that the “EM” stands for “The Elephant at the Market” which is the new name of the pub/hotel there, set to open in March.

That was quite a surprise. An elephant? In the market place? How strange.

But not quite that strange. I find that there was an “Elephant and Castle” pub in the market place in the 1851 census. Marston’s, who own the outfit, have obviously been doing their homework.

I noted the embryonic pub’s elephant logo, with the flag in the trunk (above).

Then, a few days later, I remembered what it reminded me of.
The first film I watched was Dumbo, the Disney cartoon about the circus elephant who could fly. I remember a scene when an elaborate circus trick collapsed in chaos, leaving poor little Dumbo (pictured) to carry out his bit in the trick, bravely waving the flag in his trunk.

Yes, it’s Dumbo in the Market Place!

The age of man missed by Shakespeare

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In “As you like it”, Shakespeare wrote about the Seven ages of man. Well, he missed one out. As the result of much sorting through of a senior citizen’s belongings recently, I can say that old Will missed out the age, somewhere between the fifth and the seventh where you hoard loads and loads of sheer rubbish.

Who could this honourable member possibly be?

BBC2 are running an excellent series called Inside the Commons. Michael Cockerell and his team were allowed unparalleled access to the House of Commons. They have produced a fascinating record of the behind-the-scenes goings on there.

In the latest episode there is extensive coverage of Andrew George as he pursues his private member’s bill, the Affordable Homes Bill.

During the proceedings, my eye was caught by this Honourable Member (blue box) on the Conservative benches, who is looking, ahem, rather relaxed and in what might be called “baying mode” as a bill on a possible EU referendum is read out.

Who could this honourable member possibly be?

The story of blogging, or "How to feed the Googlebot"

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Based on just shy of nine years blundering around at it, blogging can be summed up as follows:

You spend hours writing a post about something you really care deeply about – hours of lovingly fact-checking, putting in links, photos etcetera. And then two people and Googlebot read it.

Let’s call that type of post “the Googlebot post” – virtually unseen by the human eye. An example is this post which I wrote about the Leveson Report. I spent hours poring over that report. And it is thick! I put enormous energy into carefully picking out relevant quotes and assembling them together with a cogent argument. I think it got two visits and one of those was from “Mountain View” – the Googlebot.

In contrast, the second type of post – let’s call it the “quick flick” post – is when you spend a few seconds sticking up a quick post and it receives SHEDLOADS of views. An example is the post I did speculating on whether Top Gear actually went to the North Pole. I did it in two minutes flat. But, I have had loads and loads and loads of hits for it, over several years. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Everytime that episode of Top Gear gets showed or repeated somewhere in the world, like Kazakhstan, then I get loads of hits from the local Google. I can track where that episode of Top Gear is being shown in the world by the suffix of the Google site which the latest traffic comes from. (They really like Top Gear “down under”, I can tell you.) At one point I put a notice at the top of my sidebar saying “Liberal Burblings – the home of the answer to the question: ‘Did Top Gear really go to the North Pole?'”

My latest such “quick flick” post is a post I am very fond of. But it was another one done in a few minutes. That is my post on the origins of the “Death in Paradise” theme tune, which included a charming sixties reggae dancing video I unearthed. That post was another quickie but the hits just keep on rolling in for it. Thank you Google! I am now considering putting up a sign saying: “Liberal Burblings – the home of the answer to the question: “What is that little tune that they play at the start of ‘Death in Paradise’?”

So there you are. The posts which loads of people look at are the quickies about silly little things. The serious posts you spend ages on, about things that you think are thunderously important barely get a look-in from anyone.

Although, thankfully, there are exceptions to that rule. Occasionally, when some kind person links to one of my political posts, I get a respectable number of readers for something serious.

One of my funniest TV memories – Oh get off me foot!

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I was actually watching this (below) when it happened live in 1969. The famous Blue Peter baby elephant ***tting and ***ing episode.

The bit that clinches it, is when the keeper starts skiing in the pee. I so love that bit. Always have.

But, looking back on it, it’s brilliant when they all go into silhouette at the end.

I think what is really funny about the clip, is that it is so classically British. It involves poo and wee, so it hits the British funny bone square on from the get-go. But you have the wonderfully British Val, Peter and John. They show the British composure and attempt to carry on while all is chaos in the background. But then, they see the funny side of it and realise they will have to go with the flow and just let the elephant do what it wants to do and have a good laugh.

We really have the heart of Britishness, right there.

The elephant was called Lulu.

What will the electoral fruit machine* come up with on May 7th?

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Easing the trauma of home care finance

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Last week the government started a consultation, flowing from the Care Act 2014, on the draft regulations and guidance to implement the “care cap” and policy proposals for a new appeals system for care and support. You can read the consultation document here.

That may sound as dry as toast, but, trust me, these things are really important. I happen to believe that the Care Act 2014 is one of the most significant pieces of legislation we’ve seen for many years. It goes a very significant way towards easing the human trauma of self-funding care home provision. Continue reading