The Exorcism by Don Taylor is on DVD

I am not a great one for Halloween, but this is as good a night as any to blog this.

Back in 2007 I wrote:
What is the most frightening television programme you have ever seen? 
For me it is probably the episode of Sexton Blake in which the hypodermic-wielding villain measured Tinker for his coffin while he was still alive. Mind you, I may have been as young as seven when I saw it. 
After that. it is undoubtedly a play I remember from the early 1970s. Two wealthy couples were spending Christmas in a country cottage - the second home of one of them. Gradually they become aware that they are trapped in the building and the red wine they are drinking has turned to blood...
That play, as I had just discovered when I wrote that, was The Exorcism by Don Taylor.

Thanks to BBC Genome I can reveal exactly when I watched it. It was on the evening of Sunday 5 November 1972, which means I was 12 years old.

And you can now buy The Exorcism on DVD:
After years of unavailability, the three surviving episodes from the legendary BBC horror anthology series, Dead of Night, finally comes to DVD. Originally screened on BBC2 in 1972, and rarely seen since, Dead of Night has been highly sought by fans of the BBC and British Horror for decades.
It is one of three episodes of Dead of Night to survive. The DVD cover shows Anna Massey in another of them.

The Exorcism has long been available on Youtube, though I have never been brave enough to watch more than opening few minutes.

What they show is that it is very much a play of the 1970s - it is written by a Marxist and Clive Swift's cravat has to be seen to be believed.

It comes over like an upmarket and even more horrific cousin of Abigail's Party.

George Lazenby sells Fry's Turkish Delight

I enjoyed Premium Bond, Matthew Sweet and Mark Gatiss's canter through the James Bond films the other evening.

One thing they did not mention was that George Lazenby, who made one appearance as Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, had previously starred in a commercial for Fry's Turkish Delight.

HETL chemist presents paper at national meeting

Jamie Foss, Chemist II with the Forensic Chemistry Section at Maine CDC's Health and Environmental Testing Lab (HETL), recently presented a paper  at the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientist’s Annual Meeting on his research related to the analysis of drugs by Time of Flight (TOF) Mass Spectroscopy.

Maine has seen an increase in heroin use and overdose over the past three years, resulting in an increase in heroin samples submitted to the lab for identification. To meet this challenge, HETL has been working with Perkin Elmer Health Sciences to beta-test their direct sample analysis. The sensitivity and quality of the data generated by this instrument, allows HETL to rapidly identify drugs and help its partners gain a better understanding of the types of drugs encountered on the streets as well as improve analysis turn-around time needed to meet the demands of the judicial system.

Jonathan Meades on Dennis Potter

This blog's hero Jonathan Meades reviews a selection of Dennis Potter's non-fiction in the Literary Review.

He questions Potter's reputation as our preeminent television dramatist:
Potter was certainly very prolific, but as a dramatist he was thematically straitened and tirelessly self-plagiaristic. Chapel (and the nonconformist, anti-Marxist socialism that derived from it), chippiness, the Forest of Dean, debilitating illness, the problem of prayer, virgins or whores: these are perpetually recurrent motifs. And surely one serial in which characters mime to pop songs would have been enough.
but praises the book strongly:
Every page of this book is constellated with sentences and phrases of, variously, humour, cleverness, warmth, indignation and savagery. It is one of the very finest collections of ‘occasional’ (but far from ephemeral) writing I have read.

Brief Encounter still moves us 70 years on

There was a tremendous episode of The Film Programme about Brief Encounter on Radio 4 yesterday. Listen to it on the BBC iPlayer:
To mark the 70th anniversary of Brief Encounter, Francine Stock asks why it still makes grown men and women weep despite the restrained passions, clipped accents and various parodies. 
She enlists the help of fans Moira Buffini, Matthew Sweet, Thomas Dixon, Neil Brand and Antonia Quirke.
The discussion raised the question of whether we can be sure that Trevor Howard has not picked up women at Milford Junction before, I am afraid we cannot.

Martin Amis and the left

Introducing his attack on Jeremy Corbyn the Sunday Times described Martin Amis, improbably, as "a leading figure on the British left for three decades".

Though he was a central part of the New Statesman in its last glory years, he has never shown strong signs of being on the left beyond his support for CND in the 1980s.

When I think of Amis's novels I remember his skewering of the showbiz left in his 1995 novel The Information:
Are you a Labour supporter, the interviewer asks Gwyn. 
‘Of course.’ 
‘Of course.’ 
Of course, thought Richard, yeah of course. Gwyn was Labour. It was obvious. Obvious not from the ripply cornices 20 feet above their heads, not from the brass lamps or the military plumpness of the leather-topped desk. Obvious because Gwyn was what he was, a writer, in England, at the end of the 20th century. There was nothing else for such a person to be. Richard was Labour, equally obviously. 
It often seemed to him, moving in the circles he moved in and reading what he read, that everyone in the land was Labour, except the Government.
Jonathan Coe has a good article on Amis and Corbyn in today's Guardian.

Food Reward Friday

This week's lucky "winner"... the Reese's PBC Burger!!
Image credit: The Works

Read more »

Little Gems

Between Little Gem posts follow
 us on Facebook and Instagram
We have a few extra kit available for our 
We Wish You a Mini Christmas Sew Along.
Please give the shop a call if you would like one.

Breakfast Buddies Battle

Anyone with an ounce of sense will tell you it's ridiculous.  You think it's ridiculous.  There are certain books though, books you have finished reading, which cause you to look at inanimate objects with a different mindset and a more cautious approach.  The line between fiction and maybe-it-could-be-real tends to blur in these stories.

Long after the cover is closed there's a teeny, tiny voice in your mind whispering words, reminding you.  Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sterling Children's Books, September 1, 2015) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Brendan Kearney will have you wondering about those odd noises you hear your refrigerator make after all the lights are out.  Even in the middle of the day upon opening the door, your eyes will scan the shelves wondering if something (someone) has moved.

Deep in the fridge and behind the green peas,
way past the tofu and left of the cheese,
up in the corner, and back by a roast,
sat Lady Pancake beside Sir French Toast.

Within seconds of hearing the news, the two best friends become rivals in a race.  There is only one drop, a single sweet taste, of maple syrup left.  They both want it. (cue Chariots of Fire).

Food becomes a forest, a fountain and a mountain to navigate at an ever-increasing speed.  They strive to be first abandoning caution.  One nearly falls off a ledge; the other does plunging into a jar of jam.

Nimble Lady Pancake rappels with ease using pasta and leaps over veggies and a fruit like a champion hurdler. Surpassing the skill and style of medal-winning Alpine skiers Sir French Toast swiftly glides from a summit of sauerkraut.  There's a thump!  Then someone else is mired in a spicy mix of mud.

Ignoring the plea of a chickpea starts an icebox disaster.  A ladder provides safety and leverage.  A parachute supplies a heightened view.  The duo, looking the worse for wear and feeling it too, trudge toward their goal.  Finally standing side by side with the bottle reached, they are stunned.  Evil lurks when you have your eyes on the wrong prize.

If there were a contest for rhyming with rhythm, Josh Funk would walk home with the blue ribbon.  Not only do his characters run, romp and roam through the confines of a household appliance with rambunctious remarks but his words leap off the pages and linger in our collective minds.  Each has been chosen with care entertaining us and asking us to look at our food as a landscape of possibilities. Here is another passage.

Pancake made use of her seafaring skills
and sailed across oceans of soup, causing spills.

When you open the dust jacket and run your hands over the front and back you will notice the heavy textured paper.  On the front, on and around the jar, the elements are raised.  The crown, dots, ampersand and moustache are in copper foil.  Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are off and running with a smile and a glint in their eyes.  On the back readers are treated to the reverse of the front, the jar, beans and the two main characters.  A third party lurks off to the left, foreshadowing an unexpected future.

On the opening and closing endpapers Brendan Kearney, in two shades of green, has sketched in outlines all varieties of food.  The textual design from the front of the dust jacket and book case is repeated on the title page.  In full color, animated food is placed beneath it.

Rendered in pencils and digital media the illustrations span across two pages or single pages.  Kearny keeps us close to the action using color, shading, and circular framing.  Prominent characters including Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are boldly depicted many times against outlines of food stuff in the background.  Tiny dots, lines and curves portray an array of emotions on the other food.  At the close of the story two brilliantly hued images will delight readers as will the special fold-out.

One of my favorite illustrations is of Lady Pancake.  She is sailing in the soup.  An appetizer pick with a tiny flag on top is her mast.  Swiss cheese is her sail.  It looks like she is standing on a bow of bratwurst.  At the moment her gaze is triumphant.

Are you introducing a unit on food?  Are you hosting an overnight party, needing a book for breakfast?  Are you teaching a writing unit on rhyme?  Are you looking for a fun food fight without the mess?  Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Brendan Kearney is exactly the book you need.  Readers and listeners will be cheering for their favorite but realize, as the pals do, most things are not worth the loss of friendship.

To discover more about Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Josh Funk maintains a blog.  Brendan Kearney's blog is older but has some great illustrations there.  I was fortunate enough to interview both Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney when their cover was revealed.  John Schumacher, Scholastic Ambassador for School Libraries and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read. premiered the book trailer.  If you go to Josh Funk's page for this title he has a complete list of all articles, interviews, blog posts and podcasts relative to this book.

UPDATE:  Josh Funk was recently a guest at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.  Read his interview. April 16, 2016

UPDATE:  Josh Funk was interviewed by Karlin Gray.August 15, 2016

Public Image Ltd get it together in the country

"Well, punk was really a reaction against people like me, wasn’t it?" as Steve Winwood once said.

So there is a delicious irony to the fact that John Lydon's Public Image Ltd now record their albums at his Cotswold studio.

See them there in this video, and read a little more about that irony in John Lydon, Steve Winwood and the taming of punk.

The fact that punk was happily absorbed into the opening ceremony for the London Olympics a few months after I wrote that post suggests I was on to something.

150th birthday of the Bishop's Castle Railway

The Ludlow & Tenbury Wells Advertiser reports on the marking on the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Bishop's Castle Railway:
Bishop's Castle Railway Society marked the anniversary by erecting two commemorative plaques at each end of the route. One was placed near the site of the station in Bishop's Castle and the other at Craven Arms station from where trains to Bishop's Castle departed.
The Bishop's Castle Railway Society website points us to a description of the celebrations in the town when the line opened:
On the arrival of the train at Bishop’s Castle, the Shrewsbury sax-horn band struck up “See the Conquering Hero Comes”, and a procession headed by the band was formed consisting of the committee, shareholders, schoolchildren, with the workmen and public following in the rear. The town was decorated in various places with triumphal arches in evergreen, flags, banners and mottoes. Guns were fired throughout the day and bells rung ...
The Rev. W. Rowland, Rector of the parish, replying to the loyal toasts given by the Chairman said he had been in that locality 24 years, and no day had dawned upon him so happily as the day on which they were now assembled. He stood there as a clergyman, and he believed that the extension of railways was the means, under God’s blessing, of raising our country higher and higher. The Glee “Hail, Smiling Morn” then followed.
Sadly, these high hopes were not fulfilled. The line went into receivership two years later and remained there, celebrated for its rickety nature, until it closed in 1935.

Maine CDC receives prematurity campaign award

Maine CDC staff receives the March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Leadership award

Maine CDC has been awarded the March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Prematurity Campaign Leadership award in recognition of a more than 8% reduction in pre-term births based on 2014 data compared to 2009 baseline data. 

Pro-Europeans need to find some positive arguments

Nick Clegg has an article in the Independent today:
The Outers want us to believe we can have our cake and eat it, effortlessly freeing ourselves from the shackles of Brussels while continuing to trade on equal terms with our neighbours across the Channel. 
They argue that Britain can simultaneously abandon the EU, end free movement of people, end all EU budget contributions, repatriate control over employment regulations and retain full access to the European single market. It sounds lovely, but it’s a deception. 
And that last point is the most deceptive of all. There is no access to the single market without adherence to its rules and regulations.
This is all true, but I find the tone, which is typical of pro-European Union articles, problematic.

We voters are being told, in effect, that we have no choice. We must vote to stay in the EU or bad things will happen to us.

Yet we live in an age where being told what to do by those in authority goes down very badly.

I fear for the referendum result if the pro-EU side cannot find some positive arguments for our membership.

Back in 1973 we greeted our membership of the Common Market with a celebratory football match.

We need some of that spirit - a touch of Ode to Joy - if the forces of light are going to win.

UAE 1 dirham 2015 - Global Village 20th Season Celebrations

New circulating commemorative:

"Global Village 20th Season Celebrations"

To mark its 20th season, Global Village has announced the release of a limited edition commemorative One Dirham coin in cooperation with the UAE Central Bank.

The coin will be available for customers as a souvenir within VIP packs that went on sale on October 10th.

LINK: Central Bank of the UAE

(news by Pabitra Saha)

A Rope In The Right Place

There have been or will be events in our lives when we think, "I can't believe I did that.  How is it that I am still alive?"   Or we will be placed in a situation completely beyond our control wondering if this will be our last moment to draw breath.  At times such as these we are reminded, if we have forgotten, to be grateful every single day.

In the course of history there are those people, for reasons not immediately understood, who are saved when they should have died.  The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower or John Howland's Good Fortune (Candlewick Press, September 22, 2015) written and illustrated by P. J. Lynch, his debut as an author, chronicles the days of such a person.  It also serves to show how those who begin in one position in life can be elevated through circumstances, hard work and service to others.

London was a fine city when I was there.  Greatest city in the whole world.  Smelled bad, I must say, but it was huge and busy and exciting for a young lad like me.

As an indentured servant to John Carver, John Howland is busy as are the other servants to those people readying a rented ship bound for America.  They have come from Holland where they fled due to religious persecution by the ruling royalty.  William Brewster, the leader of the Separatists, will be aboard the Mayflower too.   Working long hours into the night, all is eventually loaded.

After setting sail before morning's light and before they leave the coast of England John has earned the respect of first mate Bob Coppin with his forthright honesty.  As a smaller ship, the Speedwell, from Holland joins them; there is much celebration and excitement for the voyage ahead.  Two weeks pass with bad news for the travelers.  Half their supplies are gone and they have not left England.  The Speedwell is simply not seaworthy.  This boat and many of the people stay behind as the Mayflower leaves.

Treacherous storms pound the ship, one after the other.  Water pours from the top into the decks beneath, soaking the passengers.  They are continuously advised to stay below until given permission to leave.  On one occasion when the crew decides to turn the boat into the wind without sail hoping to keep it safe, John Howland, no longer able to stand the stench comes outside.  An enormous wave tips the ship throwing him overboard.

As he accepts his fate, a voice calls to him and a flash of lightning reveals hope.  When he arrives in the company of the passengers and crew, all are amazed.  For a week he lays at rest recovering.  During his absence, the rest of the passengers are beginning to show signs of the poor living and eating conditions.  Illness and death begin to plague the ship.

In the months stretching into more than a year, land is finally sighted but it is not the longed for Virginia, a new charter is written, a search for a suitable settlement takes them north, there are encounters with the Native Americans, two-thirds of the members who sailed on the Mayflower die, King Massasoit of the Wampanoag and especially Squanto visit and assist the newcomers, the Mayflower returns to England, houses are slowly constructed, crops are planted in the spring and a feast to celebrate a good harvest lasts for several days in November.  When a ship, the Fortune, is sighted before the winter snow falls, John Howland has a decision to make.  Should he follow his dream to return to London a free man or stay in the new world?

As each portion of John Howland's harrowing journey to America and the equally challenging events once land is reached unfold, an underlying tension is felt with every page turn.  P. J. Lynch, through research, makes these historical moments seem real and recent.  Having John Howland narrate his own story makes it even more intimate.  Woven into his vivid accounts are pertinent conversations and descriptive details.  Here is a portion of a passage on a page.

Safe Harbor
We collected ourselves and loaded into the shallop right quick and cast off, heading north along the coast.  We sailed with the icy winds whipping around us all that day without seeing a harbor, a river, or even a creek.

A squall blew up of a sudden, and with Bob Coppin and me learning on the tiller to steer us away from the rocks, the hinges of our rudder broke.  There was nothing we could do but try to steer with our oars.  Over the din of the storm, Bob shouted, "Be of good cheer, lads.  I see it...I see the harbor!" and we cut in for the break in the shoreline.

The illustrations, rendered in watercolor and gouache, readily allow readers to reach back in time placing them alongside John Howland.  Opening the dust jacket, this first image stretches across the spine to nearly midway on the back.  A portion of the narrative on the left mirrors what we see on the front.  A shiver of fear passes through us as we watch John fall into the raging, bitter cold water.  All our senses are heightened.  On the title page with a white background, opposite the text in black, P. J. Lynch has placed a portion of the ship's rigging and sail.

Each painting is a study in the architecture, clothing and people of this time period.  Exquisite light and shadow give the perception of a lively scene frozen in a particular moment.  The layout alternates in a pattern of two full pages edge to edge with the words in an inset, a page crossing the gutter to cover another third, leaving space for text and a full page opposite a large column of text with a vertical image on the other side.  Sometimes we are given a panoramic vista or brought in close to the people.  Other times a bird's eye view portrays the vastness of a depiction.

One of my many favorite illustrations is at the docked ship before they leave London.  Beyond the lantern light, the darkness of the city shrouds the wagons, barrels, baggage, animals and people in shadow.  Nearer the glow we see the people working and carrying to get ready.  This image, like all of them, is so skillfully painted we feel as though we can hear the muffled conversations and animals calls, smell the city and shipyard odors, taste the salt in the air and feel the fur of the nearby sheep, goats and dog.

P. J. Lynch has written and illustrated a remarkable work of nonfiction in The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower or John Howland's Good Fortune.  The hardships Howland and the others endured to seek refuge in another land are nearly unimaginable.  Readers will leave this recounting with a far greater appreciation of all individuals involved but specifically John Howland.  Every personal and professional shelf needs this book.

To increase your understanding of P. J. Lynch and his work please visit his website and blog by following the links attached to his names.  Several pages of the book can be seen at a publisher's website. Candlewick provides a note from the author for readers.

Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to see the other titles selected by bloggers participating in this week's 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Wolverhampton trains and trolley buses in the 1960s

The station shown is the current Wolverhampton station, but it lost its overall roof long ago.

Vince Cable on the threat to free debate in universities

Times Higher Education reports a talk by Vince Cable to the University of London’s Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

Vince expressed his fear that new anti-terror legislation will lead to universities becoming sterile institutions:
Sir Vince, who held responsibility for universities from 2010 until losing his Twickenham parliamentary seat in May’s general election, also warned that new rules that require universities to vet external speakers to see whether they hold 'extremist' views are likely to be applied zealously by institutions, thereby inhibiting free speech. 
"Universities – being naturally risk-averse and cautious – will err on the side of caution and try to stop certain Islamic speakers," said Sir Vince. 
"They will then be accused of being Islamophobic and choose to ban other types of speakers…[and] pursue bland, uncontroversial debates, driving underground contentious debate that causes difficulty," he added. 
Pushing legitimate debate away from campuses was 'profoundly dangerous'” because controversial views could not be challenged in the same way as they can during open forums at universities, said Sir Vince, a former president of the Cambridge Union. 
"I have a serious problem with action to drive underground people who are described as 'extremists', which could be applied to people with a whole range of views," he said.
Add to this the fact that today's students seem less inclined to invite speakers who will outrage their elders, and more inclined to call for them to be banned if someone else does, and I fear Vince is right.

Toxic algae advisories in effect at 5 Thurston County lakes

These advisories are no longer in effect.

Toxic blue-green algae advisories are in effect at Deep Lake, Black Lake, Long Lake, Scott Lake, and Pattison Lake.

When there is a toxic algae bloom, people are advised to:
  • Avoid contact with the lake.
  • Keep pets out of the water.  
  • If fishing, catch and release is the safest practice.

Learn about blue-green algae from this previous blog post, Blue-green Algae Blooms.

A list of advisories is kept up-to-date on the Swimming in Thurston County web page.

If you have questions, contact Jane Mountjoy-Venning: (360) 867-2643, VenninJ@co.thurston.wa.usor Art Starry: 867-2587

Australia 1 dollar 2015 - National Rugby League

New commemorative:

"NRL - National Rugby League"

(news and image by Peter Kaminsky and Pabitra Saha)

Composition: Al-Bronze
Weight: 9.00 g
Diameter: 25.00 mm
Edge: plain/reeded

LINK: Royal Australian Mint

Australia 1 dollar 2015 - Australian Football League

New commemorative:

"AFL - Australian Football League"

(news and image by Peter Kaminsky and Pabitra Saha)

Composition: Al-Bronze
Weight: 9.00 g
Diameter: 25.00 mm
Edge: plain/reeded

LINK: Royal Australian Mint

Australia 20 cents 2015 - Coo-ee March

New commemorative:

"Australia remembers: Coo-ee March on 10th October 1915"

Composition: CuNi
Weight: 11.30 g
Diameter: 28.52 mm
Mintage: 30,000

(news and image by Peter Kaminsky and Pabitra Saha)

LINK: Royal Australian Mint

A Summer Shift

There are those books read in one sitting; not because they are necessarily short but because the story is completely compelling.  These books tend to have appeal to a wide audience with a range of ages due to commonality of life experiences.  A connection between generations happens.

Last week I found myself sitting in a laundromat, the last patron there late at night, as my clothes first swished and swirled in washing machines and then spun around and around in dryers.  As I finished the last page of the book I was reading my eyes filled with tears.  No matter where you are, alone or in the company of others, a great story will strike a chord in your heart.  Everything else fades away but the book.  Sunny Side Up (Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, August 25, 2015) a new graphic novel by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm is truly memorable.

Sunshine State
August 1976
West Palm Beach, Fla.

As a plane lands and the passengers depart a young girl looks for her grandfather.  They are clearly glad to see each other but you're pretty sure she would rather be someplace different.  Spending a summer vacation in a community where children and pets are not permitted is going to be challenging for Sunny.

In the third chapter we go back two months to June.  Sunny and her best friend are excited about being able to share the family vacation at the shore together.  Clearly these two are like the proverbial peas-in-a-pod.  The question now arises as to why Sunny is in Florida alone with her grandfather instead of with her family and best friend.

Chapter by chapter moving from the present back to key incidents in the late and more recent past, readers are able to piece together the story of a family in crisis but held together by the strength of their love.  As an older sibling struggles, parents intervene and a grandparent offers sanctuary and advice, we along with Sunny grow in understanding about all the situations and about each individual.  What is said does not have the same meaning for each party present.

Fortunately for Sunny a stubborn vending machine helps her meet the son of the groundskeeper at Pine Palms.  Buzz, for Buzz Aldrin, is an avid reader and collector of comic books.  His favorite characters and their stories become a means for Sunny to address her own problems.  Golf balls, Big Al and missing cats in the community (rules are meant to be broken especially by elderly residents) supply funding for Sunny and Buzz to pursue their love of comic books.

With only a few days left before Labor Day we and Sunny realize what initially looks like a disaster can turn into a bunch of fun.  The young can learn from the old and the old can remember the joys of youth.  It's never too early or too late to learn, become friends or love one another.

As I read chapter after chapter of Sunny Side Up I continued to believe I was reading fact more than fiction; every sentence felt genuine.  These characters, what they did and said, could be any one of us.  Jennifer L. Holm has a way of writing dialog which speaks directly to her readers' hearts.  We welcome the opportunity to identify with her characters.  We are touched by the sadness and tension they experience and we laugh out loud exactly when we should.  Here is a sample section of conversation between Sunny, her grandfather and two residents on a trip out for dinner.

There you are!  I'm taking you and the girls out to dinner.  Better hurry up and get dressed.
Isn't it a little early?
Early? It's already 4:00! We need to be on the road by 4:15!
(At a traffic light about to turn red...)
Punch it, Pat!
Or we'll be late!
(Standing in front of a sign which reads:
We're just in time!
Thank goodness!
Get whatever you want!
It's all delicious!
Except the creamed spinach.
Definitely avoid that.  It gave me gas last time.

The dust jacket and book case of Sunny Side Up does not convey the depth of the contents but it does reflect the title, how the title is used in the book and the growth of the characters within the pages.  On the back, to the left, we see Sunny and her grandpa standing, looking right at us, after her arrival at the airport.  Bright yellow opening and closing endpapers mirror her name.  The title page is a close-up of the text and beach ball from the pool on the front.

Matthew Holm's artwork, a series of pages and panels in varying sizes, flows together flawlessly like a motion picture.  Numerous times without words we are privy to sounds, sights, events and emotions.  To depict traumatic moments from Sunny's memory the warmth and lightness of the color palette fades to darker hues.

The facial expressions and body postures on all the characters but especially Sunny and Gramps are wonderful.  For impact, Holm zooms in on a particular aspect of important moments.  When the comic book characters are introduced to Sunny, we are treated to full page images.

I think one of the many funny segments is Sunny's introduction to Big Al.  She and Buzz are on the golf course gathering wayward golf balls for extra money.  Completely unaware Sunny is wading in a pond trying to get the twentieth golf ball.  When Buzz points out Big Al you can't help but yell out "Run, Sunny, run!"  Her travel on the water is nearly Biblical.

After reading Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm twice, I can say with confidence it gets better and better.  This sister and brother team consistently gives readers their very best and it's apparent in the narrative and illustrations of this graphic novel.  If you don't have multiple copies already, you are going to need them.

To learn more about Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  This title is one of two selected for the #SharpSchu Book Club scheduled for October 29, 2015.  Read this post by Scholastic Ambassador for School Libraries, John Schumacher, at Watch. Connect. Read.  I Love Reading 3rd grade teacher, Colby Sharp, blogger at sharpread and teacher librarian, Travis Jonker, blogger at 100 Scope Notes have started a podcast series, The Yarn.  Season One revolves entirely around this title and the people who brought this book to us.  The episodes are as follows:

Welcome To The Yarn
Raina Telgemier
David Levithan
Phil Falco
David Saylor
Lark Pien
Matthew Holm
Jennifer and Matthew Holm
Fact or Fiction

Alec Clifton-Taylor goes to Stamford

This was an episode of his 1978 series Six English Towns.

More praise of Stamford here.

Six of the Best 548

Nick Barlow is right to wince at calls to "take the politics out of" things.

"It’s 'mystifying' that Britain is persisting with the deal for Hinkley Point, Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance said ... 'It seems to me that when you’re in a money hole, you should stop digging'." Alex Morales and Rachel Morison on the financing of the power station.

Chris Hanretty explains why Daniel Hannan and Owen Jones are both wrong about Portugal.

Matthew Lynn asks how long W. H. Smith, once a much-respected newsagent and bookseller, can keep squeezing profits out of falling sales and disgruntled customers.

She told the family of a severely disabled man that she could help him to communicate with the outside world, but the relationship that followed would lead to a criminal trial. Daniel Engber tells an extraordinary true story.

"As Christopher Hitchens noted ... Vidal was as close a figure to Oscar Wilde as America has ever had. He spoke in perfect epigrams, devoting his versatile intellect to matters high and low, and he lived his life in defiance of bourgeois sexual norms." Jennifer Senior reviews a life of Gore Vidal.

National party sacks the leadership of Leicester Conservatives

From the Leicester Mercury:
The national Tory party has sacked the leadership of the City of Leicester Conservative Association in the wake of a disastrous performance in May's elections. 
The party's board - its ultimate decision making body - has relieved the seven members of the association officer and management team of their duties. 
The Mercury understands a number of senior local Tories had raised concerns with the party hierarchy relation to the way the campaign was run.
Both opposition parties have suffered a collapse in recent years.

At the citywide elections of 2003, 25 Liberal Democrat, 20 Labour and 9 Conservative councillors were elected.

Today there are 52 Labour councillors and the other parties have one each.

Colombia 5,000 pesos 2015 - Saint Laura Montoya

New CuNi commemorative:

"Saint Mother Laura Montoya Upegui"

Composition: CuNi
Weight: 21.75 g
Diameter: 35.00 mm
Mintage: 100 000 (400 000 more might be minted depending on demand)

(news and image by Guillermo Granados, Fran Pascual and Pabitra Saha)

LINK: Colombia Central Bank

Lowongan Kerja BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi

Lowongan Kerja BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi
Lowongan Kerja BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi - PT Pertamina Hulu Energi (PHE) merupakan anak perusahaan PT Pertamina (Persero) yang menyelenggarakan usaha hulu di bidang minyak, gas bumi dan energi lainnya. Melalui pengelolaan operasi dan portofolio usaha sektor hulu minyak dan gas bumi serta energi lainnya secara fleksibel, lincah dan berdaya laba tinggi, PHE mengarahkan tujuannya menjadi perusahaan multi nasional yang terpandang di bidang energi, dan mampu memberikan nilai tambah bagi stakeholders. Untuk meningkatkan kinerja serta mewujudkan visi misi nya, BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi kembali membuka Lowongan Kerja kesempatan kepada putra putri Indonesia untuk bergabung menjadi bagian dari BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi melalui Rekrutmen Loker Terbaru BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi sebagai berikut :

Untuk mencapai visi perusahaan yaitu menjadi kelompok bisnis terkemuka di Indonesia yang memberikan pelayanan terbaik kepada stakeholder-nya, BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi sedang mencari pemuda - pemudi terbaik yang sangat kompeten dan termotivasi diri untuk mengisi posisi lowongan kerja terbaru 2016.

Dalam rangka memperluas jaringan bisnis terbaru bulan Desember 2015 dan untuk memenuhi kebutuhan sumber daya manusia BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi di Lowongan Terbaru posisi : BANYAK POSISI LOWONGAN KERJA

Pada hari ini bulan Desember 2015 BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi kembali membuka kesempatan berkarir atau membuka Lowongan Kerja Terbaru bulan Desember 2015 untuk lulusan terbaru dengan kualifikasi sebagai berikut :

Lowongan Kerja BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi

Posisi Loker Pertamina HE :

1. Secretary to Vice President (Contract Employee) - Batch I ( SECVPR1501 )

Job Description
  • Mengatur & melaksanakan kegiatan administrasi meliputi pembuatan, penyimpanan, pencatatan, pendistribusian, penerimaan, penyimpanan,dan pengamanan kerahasiaan dokumen sesuai pedoman administrasi dan pedoman kearsipan (PATP) yang berlaku di Perusahaan.
  • Melaksanakan Koordinasi kegiatan administrasi Fungsi yg terkait untuk kelancaran tugas administrasi.
  • Menerima,menjawab,& mengkomunikasikan informasi kebutuhan pihak eksternal & internal terkait dengan kegiatan VP atau fungsi di bawahnya.
  • Menyusun jadwal mingguan kegiatan VP & mengkomunikasikan setiap hari seperti rapat-rapat, seminar-seminar, janji temu, perjalanan dinas.
  • Mempersiapkan penyelenggaraan pertemuan/rapat termasuk memastikan kelengkapan rapat,ruang rapat, & kehadiran undangan.

Job Requirement
  • Pendidikan : D3 Sekretaris (Diutamakan)/S1

Kemampuan dan Kompetensi :
  • Paham dan mengerti tentang pedoman kearsipan
  • Paham dan menguasai korespondensi dan kearsipan.
  • Memiliki sikap service oriented disertai penampilan yang ramah dan menarik.
  • Mampu berkomunikasi secara baik dan lancar (komunikatif)
  • Mampu berbahasa Inggris (written & conversation)
  • Menguasai Ms Office (Word, Excel, Power Point), data processing dan internet.

Pengalaman :
  • Pengalaman kerja sebagai Executive Secretary minimal 5 th

Catatan :
  • Loker BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi ditutup tanggal : 02 Desember 2015
  • Status kepegawaian: Pekerja Kontrak / PWT
  • Periode Kontrak: Max 2 Tahun

Bagaimana Anda tertarik untuk bekerja di BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi ?

Jika anda tertarik dengan loker terbaru hari ini bulan Desember 2015 ini yaitu yang memberikan informasi kepada anda tentang : Lowongan Kerja BUMN Pertamina Hulu Energi, Silahkan REGISTRASI via ONLINE ke sumber lowongan kerja dibawah ini :


Guardians Of The Wood

Take it from one who knows, moving is mentally and physically exhausting.  The stress from the mess of packing, assignment of duties to willing helpers, phone calls to utilities, banks, mortgage companies, title companies, realtors and moving company personnel seem to be never ending.  Getting boxes, shaping boxes, taping boxes, loading boxes, bubble wrapping anything and everything, lifting and carrying are enough of a work-out to earn extra points on the daily exercise chart.  Then when you arrive at your destination it all happens again, only in reverse.  For children and pets it must be overwhelming.

Each home has good qualities.  Each location has reasons for being selected.  When the change is made it's hard not to compare.  The newness is a mix of excitement and apprehension.  The wife and husband team of Erin E. Stead and Philip C. Stead present Lenny & Lucy (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, October 6, 2015), a look at imagination and the magic it invites.

through the dark unfriendly woods, Peter said,
"I think this is a terrible idea."

Peter, Harold, his faithful furry dog, and his Dad are moving.  The road to their new home takes them through old woods filled with tall trees and little light.  After crossing a bridge, they arrive.  To Peter the bridge is a gate; the woods on one side, his new home on the other.

That first night, Peter and Harold did not get a wink of sleep, worrying about the things not seen in the woods.  The next morning the companions haul piles of pillows from the house along with the necessary blankets.  Peter molds them into a friendly shape; a large bundled up man he calls

Lenny, Guardian of the Bridge.

On this night no one sleeps again, all three of them are awake.  Two are worried about the other being alone.  Lenny sits silently, a single brave soul making sure Peter and Harold are safe.

During the day, after much jumping by Harold and Peter, the piles of leaves are shaped as were the pillows with the necessary blankets from the house.  Lenny will not be lonely any longer.  He now has Lucy for a friend.  All is quiet this night. Everyone is sleeping.

The next day is off to a pleasant start with soup for lunch outside after a rousing game of marbles by the foursome. (You won't believe who wins.) A voice asks if anyone has ever seen an owl.  A binocular-carrying girl, Millie, from next door joins the group.  Five sit in a row looking at the wood.  As evening falls a crescent moon hangs in the sky with everyone and everything exactly where they should be.

When Philip C. Stead writes, the stories unfold in quiet and contemplation.  His first sentence on the opening page leaves us wondering.  Even if we have never moved, we immediately connect with Peter.  Everyone knows the disquiet change brings.

We understand Peter's unease but we are never afraid.  The repetition of Peter's actions and the phrases describing them supply a comforting cadence as the tale unfolds.  When Peter and Harold play with the pillows and leaves Stead adds the number of times they do this to his sentence.  It's one extra word but it is significant.  Our kinship with them grows.

The fourth sentence lets us know about Harold's place in this family; he's a beloved member.  Even though he never speaks, his presence is necessary and part of the narrative.  It brings a sense of normalcy so the wonder is even more surprising.

You probably can't tell but the title is embossed in a copper-like foil on the dust jacket.  This illustration is seen again, slightly more close-up in the interior.  To the left, on the back, we read a single sentence on a ribbon of cream over the large floral pattern, the wallpaper in Peter's bedroom.  The cloth book case is a dusky blue, the color of Peter's hat and mittens and his dad's hooded sweater.  The only image is in the lower right-hand corner, again in the copper foil, a foreshadowing of the fun ahead for Peter and Harold.  A shade of burnt orange covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Before the title page an owl is perched on a bare tree branch except for a single golden leaf still hanging.

Erin E. Stead's illustrations, rendered with carbon transfer printing, egg tempera and charcoal, tell a story of their own extending the text.  A limited color palette defines the pictures placed opposite a shaded charcoal page, or extending edge to edge across two pages.  The hues of black and gray make the added color a striking contrast.  Stead's use of the cream color, sometimes large amounts, is exceedingly skillful.  (I really want to know where the idea for the wallpaper in Peter's room originated.)

One of my favorite illustrations is of Lenny sitting on the ground a plate of toast and jam on the ground in front of his big self.  A glass of milk has been placed in his mittened-hand by Peter.  Harold is ready to pounce in the leaves.   Peter is carrying a huge bunch of leaves.  It's a scene so exquisitely normal and filled with loving companionship that you have to pause.

Readers move through the emotional changes in Peter along with his companions in Lenny & Lucy written by Philip C. Stead with illustrations by Erin E. Stead.  Peter has enough confidence to face his fears, secure in his beliefs, to create help. There is strength in numbers, a loyal dog and a watchful owl.  This title found a place on our final Mock Caldecott list.

To find out more about both Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Here is the link to The Stead Collection site.  At the publisher's website you can view additional images.  Please read the blog posts for Lenny & Lucy at Watch. Connect. Read. hosted by John Schumacher, Scholastic Ambassador for School Libraries, at the Nerdy Book Club, The Art Room by Philip C. Stead and at sharpread where I Love Reading 3rd grade teacher, Colby Sharp interviews Erin E. Stead and Philip C. Stead.  You'll enjoy this interview at Publishers Weekly where the Steads interview each other.

Springtime in an English village (Stanion in 1944)

Click on the image above to view this film in the Britain on Film collection on the British Film Institute website.

The blurb there says:
This extraordinary and unexpected snapshot of rural life in wartime - unseen for years due to the fragility of the materials - documents most ancient of English traditions: the selection and crowning of the Queen of the May. 
But what is so surprising is that 60 years ago the village of Stanion in Northamptonshire chose to honour a young black girl - apparently the daughter of an African merchant seaman who had been evacuated there during the War. 
It's hard to know quite how literally to take the proceedings. The film was made by the Colonial Film Unit for the purpose of screening throughout Britain's African and Caribbean colonies - to demonstrate 'typical' life in the UK - at a time when the government needed to recruit the support of men and women from across the Empire. 
Later, in the immediate post-War period, such films not only acted to reinforce imperial solidarity, but formed part of a propaganda campaign to attract cheap labour to the UK.

GUEST POST The trouble with Seumas Milne

Tim Hall on Labour's new director of strategy and communications

I'm no Labour supporter but I was willing to give Jeremy Corbyn a chance to revitalise the British left and shake up the establishment consensus. I'd hoped he's galvanise a broad-based movement rather than retreat into sectarian zealotry.

Unfortunately his appointment of Seumas Milne to the powerful post of communications director does not bode well. Milne is an unreconstructed and unrepentant Stalinist who often seemed as though he was only employed as a columnist for the Guardian to make some of their other leftist writers look like voices of reason by comparison.

He's close to a caricature of the worst kind of public-school leftist, the product of an expensive private school and Oxbridge education that's filled his head with Marxist theory, undiluted with much contact with ordinary working people.

It's as if David Cameron had appointed the notorious Daily Telegraph columnist James Delingpole to the equivalent post for the Conservatives. Except worse; Delingpole is a noxious button-pushing right-wing troll, while Milne is a staring-eyed True Believer.

Milne's acolytes are meeping about "smears", except that most of those so-called smears are links to his Guardian op-eds, which let people read, in context, what he said about everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the murder of Lee Rigby. And none of it is pretty.

Searching for "Seumas Milne" on Twitter and the overwhelming message is dismay from across the centre-left. This hard-hitting piece from Labour PPC Kate Godrey sums up that dismay rather well.

As for Milne's cheerleaders, a blog called The Canary thinks Jeremy Corbyn's choice of Comms Chief should delight his supporters and terrify his enemies which actually speaks volumes about the delusional bubble inhabited by much of the hard left. It's difficult to imagine that bubble surviving contact with reality on the doorsteps next May. After which there will be blood. Hopefully only metaphorical blood, but...

The truth they're unable to accept is that a hard-left Labour Party has little chance of being elected unless Britain suffers a Greece-style economic meltdown. And if you're really hoping for a Greek-style meltdown so you can benefit from it politically, then you've not the sort of person anyone should trust with political power.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
And this is before we start on how the whole controversy is distracting attention away from the really nasty stuff the Tories are doing.

Odd smell in Bridgnorth turns out to be cannabis plants

Bridgnorth: Please keep off the grass

Our Headline of the Day Award goes to the Shropshire Star.

Do Processed and Red Meat Cause Cancer?

Today, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer published a statement in The Lancet detailing its position on the carcinogenicity of processed and red meat (1).  The statement, resulting from a meeting of 22 scientists from 10 countries, concluded that processed meat is a group 1 carcinogen, meaning that it is "definitely carcinogenic to humans".  They also judged that red meat is a group 2A carcinogen, meaning that it probably causes cancer but the evidence isn't as strong.  They're mostly referring to the links between processed and red meat and digestive tract cancer, particularly cancers of the colon and rectum.

These statements were met with a media frenzy, and the expected furor from the meat industry.  The most surprising thing, for me, is that anyone would be surprised by the IARC's statement.

Read more »

People with pre-diabetes can stop type 2 diabetes

Pre-diabetes is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal and puts a person at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.  According to the U.S. CDC and the American Diabetes Association an estimated:
  • 86 million adults in the U.S. have pre-diabetes
  • 386,000 adults in Maine have pre-diabetes
  • $243 million in medical costs contributes to Maine’s economic burden
If pre-diabetes is left undiagnosed and untreated it can progress to type 2 diabetes.  This can lead to serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, amputation or death if steps are not taken to self-manage this disease.  There are steps people can take to prevent developing type 2 diabetes.  Lifestyle and behavior changes related to eating and physical activity can decrease a person’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
Maine has the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP) available in many communities across Maine.  NDPP classes typically last for one hour, once a week for 16 weeks then meets monthly for six months.  It helps participants make real lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, daily physical activity and improving problem-solving and coping skills to help prevent type 2 diabetes.  Many people who complete the program stay in touch with their group for support.  In 2014 alone, over 800 adults in Maine completed the NDPP curriculum.  To find a program and class near you visit  
For more information:

Is there a future for liberalism?

This is the opening session from the Battle of Idea last Saturday. I did not arrive until after it had taken place.

The blurb on Youtube runs:
Classical liberalism has very few friends on either side of the Atlantic. The ideal of free speech is frequently trumped by the claim that it must be regulated in order to protect the powerless. Even the liberal principle of tolerance has been criticised for being too judgmental. 
In this compelling panel discussion filmed at the Battle of Ideas 2015 at the Barbican, Professor Frank Furedi, Dr Katrina Forrester and Steven Erlanger discuss with a packed audience where this leaves liberalism today. Furedi’s call for a new judgementalism is inspiring. Claire Fox Director of the Institute of Ideas is chair.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Didn't It Rain

This is my new favourite clip on Youtube. The two quotes below what is going on.

From BBC News:
On 7 May 1964, a gaggle of excited passengers alighted on to a rainy disused railway station platform in south Manchester and took their seats for what one of the city's leading music academics says was a "massively culturally significant" gig. 
The show at Whalley Range's Wilbraham Road station, recorded for Granada TV as the Blues and Gospel Train, saw greats including Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe perform. 
The University of Salford's Dr Chris Lee says the show "influenced nearly everyone who saw it" and was as important as the Sex Pistols' 1976 show at the city's Lesser Free Trade Hall, which spurred attendees Morrissey, Mark E Smith and the musicians who would become Joy Division and Buzzcocks into action.
And from Richard Williams earlier this year in the Guardian:
By the time Sister Rosetta Tharpe sang Take My Hand, Precious Lord to a Copenhagen audience in 1970, she was 55 years old and shortly to suffer the stroke that prefaced her death two years later. 
The funeral of a performer for whom audiences had once packed venues across the US attracted only enough mourners to half-fill a church, and she was buried in an unmarked grave. Yet if you wanted to identify a performer who incarnated the qualities of rock’n’roll before such music had a name, she would top the list of candidates. 
Nobody – not Chuck Berry, not Scotty Moore, not James Burton, not Keith Richards – played wilder or more primal rock’n’roll guitar than this woman who gave her life to God and would have celebrated her 100th birthday on 20 March. With a Gibson SG in her hands, Sister Rosetta could raise the dead. And that was before she started to sing.
In view of the comment that she had given her life to God, it is worth pointing out that the 'Sister' was just a stage name. She was not a funky version of Julie Andrews.


You will find many great stocking stuffers, hostess gifts and affordable items to add to a gift package at your first table stop. Very unique framed sewn miniature quilts are an attractive and unique gift for the quilter or non quilter, framed pieces starting at just $20. 

The Mountsorrel branch reopened today

From the Loughborough Echo:
A newly restored railway line in Mountsorrel will be opened this weekend, the latest addition to the Great Central Railway. 
The project to restore the Mountsorrel Railway, which once served the granite quarries of the village, has been undertaken entirely by volunteers from the local community and beyond ... 
Not content with restoring the railway, the group then set out to create a brand new railway station at Mountsorrel. 
Steve added: “When the Mountsorrel Railway was built originally, it was always intended that Mountsorrel would have a station but that dream was never realised. 
"That was something that we wanted to put right so that the public could ride the railway that we had restored."
Thanks to a grant of £66,000 from Tarmac’s Landfill Community fund, and more work by the volunteers, Mountsorrel now has a railway station, on Bond Lane.

Six of the Best 547

A 'progressive alliance' would suffocate the Liberal Democrats, says Tim Oliver.

Rafael Behr explains what is going on in the Labour Party: "To Corbyn and McDonnell, a commitment demanded by Hilary Benn that Labour campaign to stay in the EU, for example, is an easy concession to make. The bigger prize was the shadow foreign secretary’s seat on the national executive committee, snatched from under him and awarded to Rebecca Long Bailey, a Corbyn loyalist."

Whatever the House of Lords does on tax credits the Conservatives are unlikely to put reform of it back on the agenda, argues Richard Reid.

John Butcher on the squeezing out of part-time students from higher education: "Any diminution of part-time opportunity affects precisely those groups that policies aimed at increasing social mobility are meant to address."

In Odessa a statue of Lenin has been converted into one of Darth Vader reports

William Boyd shows us why John le Carré is more than a spy novelist.

Jan Svankmajer: Jabberwocky

The second session I attended at the Battle of Ideas was on children's literature.

What I chiefly remember from it is an extract from a film of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky made by the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer - not least because I belong to a generation that was made to learn that poem (but few others) off by heart.

That extract was shown by Dr Thomas Karshan from the University of East Anglia, who led the session. I think the video here gives the full version,

Svankmajer later annotated the whole of Alice and you can find clips from that film on the net .

Michael Meacher and the Oldham West and Royton by-election

Michael Meacher enjoyed a remarkable 45 year career as an MP. The most generous tribute to him was that by John Vidal in the Guardian:
Michael Meacher was a remarkable environment minister because for six years, at the start of the Blair government, he almost single-handedly fought to defend the natural world from road-building, the first generation of GM crops and rampant industrialisation. 
While junior environment ministers usually accept the Treasury or No 10 line without question, "the Meach", as he was widely known, stood up to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and possibly saved the administration from political embarrassment by urging caution at key moments.
Julia Langdon, in the same newspaper, was more measured:
He sat on Labour’s frontbench in government and opposition for a total of 29 years, but his misfortune was that he was never greatly favoured or particularly trusted by the six party leaders under whom he served.
At least he died under a leader with whom he was perfectly in tune.

Meacher was also known for losing a celebrated libel action against the journalist Alan Watkins, who had questioned his working class credentials.

In fact, Meacher had attended a public school - Berkhamsted. The late Robin Totten, who was the leader of Harborough District Council in the days when the Liberal Democrats ran it, once told me that Meacher had been his fag there.

I suggested to him that this is what had made Meacher a socialist, but I am sure it was not as Robin was a lovely man.

But politics, as Alan Watkins, used to observe, is a rough old game and already thoughts are turning to the forthcoming by-election in Oldham West and Royton.

On Lib Dem Voice Jonathan Fryer is absolutely right when he argues the Lib Dems must take it seriously:
During the Coalition government the Liberal Democrat powers that be took what I believed to be a misguided decision to virtually ignore northern parliamentary by-elections, with predictably disastrous results. In a couple of cases there was, however, a tremendous surge towards UKIP, almost causing shock Labour defeats. 
We lost our deposits spectacularly, despite the hard efforts of by-election candidates and mainly local party support. The impression given to the wider public, however, was that in the North of England the LibDems are rubbish, even irrelevant. We must not allow that to happen again.
By-elections campaigns are important for raising party morale, learning new campaigning techniques and making and renewing useful friendships.

But the strongest challenge to Labour in Oldham will almost certainly come from Ukip. Both Guido Fawkes and Sebastian Payne claim to have the inside on their likely candidate and campaign strategy.

After 45 years of Michael Meacher, who used to be called 'Tony Benn's representative on Earth, the Labour voters of Oldham are unlikely to be spooked by the leftward turn the party has taken by electing Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn should, however, be very worried about how they will react to a three weeks of being exposed to the views of his newly appointed lieutenants.

I cannot see John McDonnell's take on the Provisional IRA or Seamus Milne's view of the death of Lee Rigby going down at all well.

Which is why, like Nick Tyrone, I believe Labour needs to take the Ukip challenge extremely seriously.

 Ukip's fortunes seem to be in decline at the moment, but we shall have a clearer idea of their future, and of how the Corbyn leadership will play with Labour voters, after this by-election.