Best Illuminated House Award For Christmas 2011

And this year’s winner in the Privately Owned  Listed Building category goes to the Tower House, Lubenham.

You don’t get the full effect from a still photograph, but the pink light shoots upwards like mercury in a thermometer, then ends with a starburst effect at the top.

The Tower House was originally an 18th century farmhouse.  The tower was added by racing enthusiast Jack “Cherry” Angell to commemorate his horse “Alcibade” winning the Grand National in 1865.  Alcibade is buried in a mound nearby (though, not, I think, in the adjacent churchyard).

A later owner, the Rev. Graham Dilley (no relation, as far as I know) used it as his vicarage.  The ballroom is said to contain a section of the ceiling from Lamport Hall, which the Rev. Dilley – also a sporting man – had won in a bet.  How very different to the home life of our own dear clergy.

Some local residents have commented that “it’s just like the Blackpool Illuminations”.  Well, it’s not that good, obviously, but still a very commendable effort.

Hell No, We Won’t Grow : On Strike In Leicestershire

I’m afraid to say that this month’s Stump Watch has had to be called off due to industrial action.


So here, instead, are a few snaps of the march and rally in Leicester.  I have to say that, as someone who’s never been on a demonstration in my life before, that I found it all rather bracing, and I’d quite like to do it again.  And no doubt I shall have to.

Here are some fat public sector cats “itching for a fight” –


And here is a young teacher (whose name I didn’t make a note of, unfortunately) addressing the rally in the Athena Theatre.  As you can probably see, the theatre was all done up for some kind of ice-themed Christmas event, which created the curious impression, as we were going in, that we were going in to meet Father Christmas (probably not G. Osborne in disguise).

And last on the bill  – by which time, I’m afraid to say, almost everyone had sloped off home or to the pub – the Red Leicester Choir, with their ever-popular rendition of “The Internationale“.  A bit cheesy, but rousing …

Stump Watch for September 2011

As the number of posts in between the monthly Stump Watches seems to be dwindling a little, I sometimes have the suspicion that the Stump is turning into some kind of terrible Triffid-like thing that is determined to occupy and colonise the blog completely.

One day I shall log on and find that the title has been replaced with Stump Watch Blog, and the Stump is making daily appearances. 

You can’t see it from this angle, but a few more twigs have been snapped off the Stump since it last appeared.  I put this down to the belief – very common in Little Bowden – that branches from horse chestnut trees offer protection against spiders.

Crop Triangle in Lubenham

Another in the series The Curiosities of Leicestershire in Photographs.

A perfect triangle of wheat in a field near Lubenham.

Local historians, folklorists and UFO spotters have offered various explanations for this phenomenon.  Prosaically, there is a drain concealed at the base of the triangle, and I suspect the combine couldn’t quite get around it.

Enough for a couple of loaves, I’d say, if the crows haven’t got there first.

That Ragged Old Flag

I see that England’s participation in the current Rugby World Cup in New Zealand seems to have led to a resurgence in patriotic feeling among the English, at least in the matter of which flags are generally on display. 

The brief vogue for Union Flags, which followed the Royal Wedding earlier in the year, seems to have been subsided and been superseded by one for the standard of St George.

Before the World Cup, for instance, the flag outside my local pub was a sad thing, ragged, bedraggled and divided –

now its replacement flutters proud –

and free –

and upside down

Perhaps this is how it appears, if viewed from New Zealand –

Badger Encounters Society

A couple more snaps from my canalside ramble the other day. 

About a mile out from Harborough I came across this, on the towpath –

and then, a few hundred yards further along, this –


`Such a rumpus everywhere!’ continued the Otter. `All the world seems out on the river to-day. I came up this backwater to try and get a moment’s peace, and then stumble upon you fellows! 

   There was a rustle behind them, proceeding from a hedge wherein last year’s leaves still clung thick, and a stripy head, with high shoulders behind it, peered forth on them.

   `Come on, old Badger!’ shouted the Rat.

   The Badger trotted forward a pace or two; then grunted, `H’m! Company,’ and turned his back and disappeared from view.

   `That’s just the sort of fellow he is!’ observed the disappointed Rat. `Simply hates Society! Now we shan’t see any more of him to-day” *


Badgers have stopped digging up human bones in a graveyard – after a mystery phone caller told the vicar the problem had been solved by the “Big Society”.

As the Leicester Mercury reported in October, the badgers were believed to be responsible for disturbing at least four graves at St Remigius’ Church in Long Clawson, near Melton.

The badgers had dug up and taken skulls, leg and arm bones, which were found in a ditch on the edge of the churchyard. One child even took a human leg bone home, thinking it was a stick.

However, environmental advisory group Natural England blocked a bid to solve the problem which involved putting up a gate to stop the animals returning to their sett in the graveyard. Since then, village vicar the Rev Simon Shouler has received a mysterious call to say the problem had been “solved by the Big Society”.

There has been no sign of the badgers since.

Mr Shouler said: “I got a call late one night from someone saying we wouldn’t have any further problems from the badgers. He said the problem had been solved by the ‘Big Society’.

“Since I received the call there has been no sign of any badgers. It’s probable that the law has been broken, but someone has decided enough is enough.”**


 I see you don’t understand, and I must explain it to you. Well, very long ago, on the spot where the Wild Wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself and grown up to what it now is, there was a city — a city of people, you know. Here, where we are standing, they lived, and walked, and talked, and slept, and carried on their business. Here they stabled their horses and feasted, from here they rode out to fight or drove out to trade. They were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders. They built to last, for they thought their city would last for ever.’

   `But what has become of them all?’ asked the Mole.

   `Who can tell?’ said the Badger.  ‘People come — they stay for a while, they flourish, they build — and they go. It is their way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I’ve been told, long before that same city ever came to be. And now there are badgers here again. We are an enduring lot, and we may move out for a time, but we wait, and are patient, and back we come. And so it will ever be.’

   `Well, and when they went at last, those people?’ said the Mole.

   `When they went,’ continued the Badger, `the strong winds and persistent rains took the matter in hand, patiently, ceaselessly, year after year. Perhaps we badgers too, in our small way, helped a little — who knows? It was all down, down, down, gradually — ruin and levelling and disappearance. Then it was all up, up, up, gradually, as seeds grew to saplings, and saplings to forest trees, and bramble and fern came creeping in to help. Leaf-mould rose and obliterated, streams in their winter freshets brought sand and soil to clog and to cover, and in course of time our home was ready for us again, and we moved in.”***

* Wind in the Willows, Chapter 1

** Leicester Mercury, January 2011

*** Wind in the Willows, Chapter 4

Enjoy Yourself – It’s Later Than You Think!

Leicestershire 2nd XI v MCCU Universities XI, Kibworth, Thursday 11 August 2011

“The fact that even in the 1750s the vast majority of matches took place in the early part of the summer suggest that enough of the players were farmers or labourers to make it very difficult to raise teams during haymaking (which normally only began in July) or the corn harvest.  At this level cricket was still a peasant game, its timing determined by the agricultural calendar”. – from Start of Play by David Underdown.

Less so these days, of course, and not at all for those who follow cricket via the television, but the coming of the harvest still provides an uncomfortable reminder that the season does not have long to run.  On Thursday it made its point rather too directly for my taste.

This was a rather different Second XI from the one who had featured against Northants.  The first-teamers were gone.  Ned Eckersley (I think – it might have been Dixey) seemed to have got his hands in the gloves.  Rob Taylor, who, earlier in the season, had played for Loughborough against Leicestershire, and seems also to be in the MCC Universities squad, featured.  Taylor (who I’ve just seen play another fine innings for Harborough) looks a great prospect, and has the considerable honour of being the second best player from the Melton area with the surname Taylor between the ages of 20-21.      

The day started brightly (here we see James Sykes bowling from the pavilion End) –

from a neighbouring field there was a distant thrum from a combine harvester

As the day wore on and Leicestershire wore down the students’ resistance the noise grew gradually louder as the harvester worked its way back and forth across the field towards the ground.

A strong wind was blowing from the direction of the wheatfield, and those of us sitting on that side of the boundary began to notice that, with each pass of the harvester, a cloud of dust – fine at first – would puff through the hedge, coating our Playfairs and cups of tea in a chalky film.

As tea approached the players began to look quizzically at the source of these periodic dust storms (stubble burning? surely not rioting?)-

A fieldsman on the boundary pulled his sweater up to cover his nose, eyes were rubbed and throats cleared.  The umpires consulted, but decided that visibility was sufficiently good for play to continue.

As the players left the field for tea (and a good blow of their noses) the harvester made its final pass directly alongside the ground, sending a great blast of dust and tiny ears of wheat through the hedge. 

 By now, even the stoutest amongst us had been forced to take shelter –

Not long now before the dying of the light …

Braybrooke’s Burning

News is coming in that the rioting sweeping the nation has spread to the village of Braybrooke in Leicestershire.  Reports suggest that trouble flared when a 48 year old woman, described as being “well respected in the local community“, was “spoken to quite sharply” by a council official for leaving a plastic bottle in her green recycling bin.  By late afternoon a tractor had been set on fire in a neighbouring field …

Actually, that ornament of harvest time – stubble burning

Royal Pics! – Exclusive!

Some excitement in the press last week, as the newly-wed Duchess of Cambridge is photographed doing her shopping in Waitrose.

I think I can do better than that.  Here are the Duke –


and the Duchess –

making an unannounced appearance in the window of an employment agency specialising in temporary catering staff, in Granby Street, Leicester. 

I could make a fortune from these, you know.

Copyright Backwatersman Photographic Agency, 2011 (all rights reserved)