In the buffer zone

Rereading my last post, I realise that I am perfectly qualified to be a high-paid “diary” columnist on the Daily Telegraph. The Barclay Brothers can email me for the address to send the cheques.

Where have the pianos gone?

It’s perhaps a slightly random thought, but I was listening to a piece of a ragtime music just now, and it occurred to me that you never see a piano in a pub these days. You find them in London bars sometimes – usually covered in pint-glass marks – but most landlords would no more think of having a piano in the pub than they would think of having a chamber orchestra.

This is not me being an old git – I don’t ever remember seeing a piano in a pub, with the possible exception of the Angler’s Retreat at Marsworth – I just wonder where the pianos that the cheery cockneys crowded round in the Blitz have gone. Is there a corner of the country where you can still find a piano in a pub? And if so, does anyone ever play it?


In the old days, single-issue nutters used to write letters in green ink. Now they are better funded, and they all seem to be called SomethingWatch.

Take MigrationWatch. This is a campaign group that fights against immigration using Daily Mail “Britain is full” arguments. It is not officially associated with a political party, but I think it’s safe to say their membership doesn’t overlap with that of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

Their views, and their tissue-thin pretence of impartiality, are summed up in a paragraph from their homepage:

Migrationwatch is not “anti immigration” but we do believe that the present levels of immigration, the highest in our history, are making Britain overcrowded and are changing the nature of our society.

Another preacher of that old-time Thatcherism is Transportwatch, a fairly new organisation dedicated to concreting over railways and making them into lovely, lovely roads.

The intellectual honesty and impartiality of this organisation (which seems to be more or less a one-man band) can be shown in their use of statistics. Their stock in trade is to compare apples and oranges, and my favourite examples are that roads (3,650 deaths a year) are safer than rail (10 or so deaths a year) because:

  • There are more deaths on all railways, if you include trespassers, than there are on the roads, if you only count motorways; and
  • There are more deaths per passenger mile on all railways than there are on rural bus routes.

But it’s OK. When TransportWatch get their way, Motorway Coaches will replace trains, and will be much faster over journeys of less than 80 miles. I look forward to the building of a motorway to my rural station in Sussex.