Coming back down the M1 from Nottingham yesterday in pretty appalling weather with parts of the motorway partially flooded– following the national committee meeting on Saturday – I kept wondering how the ride to Stan’s Bike Shed was going and hoping those on it were having a bit better luck weatherwise than us. Sorry that Stan’s turned out to be not ‘on’ for all but Nick and that he arrived after it was closed. Better luck next time!. I think I’ve included everything suggested in the Future Rides grid – but please let me know if I’ve missed anything.
I gather things have progressed a bit since the last newsletter. But anyone still thinking about it or having views about the best time of year to do this please let Jim know ASAP at email@example.com
Our AGM Wed 25 March 2020
Thanks to everyone who responded to my plea in the last newsletter (and ‘last chance’ message).
If you intend to come do print out the agenda and any other papers you think you’ll need. In order that we can take a view and instruct delegates at our AGM I hope to be circulating the agenda for the national conference and the list of motions to be discussed fairly soon- once the final versions arrive.
Similarly, I’ll circulate any reports I receive from the other office-holders and any motions or general proposals you’d like discussed before the meeting.
The Warwick Meet, 10-12 April
We’ll all be getting info soon about this year’s Easter Meet – the 125th one. Earlier last year I actually suggested that Warwick might be a suitable place to hold it and wrote a little piece about the attractions of the area for those not involved in the various cycling activities. I’m putting it in this newsletter at the end after Tessa’s report (delivered exemplarily early as usual) of yesterday’s ride. Even if you’re not tempted to come to Warwick I hope you’ll find the bit about the Clarion connection with Daisy (aka the Countess of Warwick) and her exploits an interesting bit of ‘Clarion history’
Warwick Attractions and the Clarion connection
As with last year at York, the 2020 Meet will take place in one of Britain’s the most interesting county towns. There are plenty of possibilities for exploration in the area– Stratford-upon-Avon is not too far away and even the Cotswolds are not that distant.
But with the spa town of Leamington just a couple of miles away and the still impressive Kenilworth Castle within five there is really little need to stray that far. In Warwick itself St Mary’s church cannot rival last year’s York Minster but is still worth a visit.
But the main attraction is Warwick castle. Dating in part since before the Norman conquest, the castle was deemed the best in Britain by the 2003 Good Britain Guide. The castle is worth visiting for the setting alone – perched on a hill above the Avon. Owned and run nowadays by the Tussauds Group there are two impressive towers, dungeons and lots of displays and events going on throughout the day.
One feature of the more modern apartments is a sort of reconstruction of a 1898 weekend party hosted by Frances Countess of Warwick – better known as Daisy. It features wax figures representing the chief guest the Prince of Wales – future Edward VII – with whom she had had quite a long-running affair, her husband the Earl of Warwick and other guests including the young Winston Churchill.
Daisy (1861 -1938) was the inspiration of the 1892 music-hall song ‘Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do’ by Harry Dacre – still well-known. She was famous for her colourful, not to say scandalous, lifestyle, her lavish entertaining which eventually got her into serious debt and very nearly prison, her philanthropic activities, and her Left Wing politics which grew out of a connection with the Clarion.
In 1894, the year that Tom Groom wrote of the cycle tour that led to the foundation of our National Clarion Cycling Club, the paper published an article by its editor, Robert Blatchford, which criticised one of the extravagant Warwick castle parties put on by Daisy. Someone must have made her aware of this. She was incensed. She believed that she was doing a good deed by hiring lots of local people to help her to entertain her guests as temporary servants and so on. So she set off for London and confronted Blatchford in his office.
However, far from apologising abjectly, Blatchford explained his socialist beliefs and principles – and, surprising, converted her to his way of thinking. There was no looking back. Later she joined the Social-Democratic Federation (SDF) – generally regarded as the most radical of the socialist organisations. She was rumoured to be the only delegate ever to arrive at of its annual conference by private train. In August 1923 the SDF’s paper, Justice, described her as being ‘intellectually and sympathetically with the working classes’ and a few months later she stood as the Labour candidate in the general election against the future Tory PM Anthony Eden for the Warwick and Leamington constituency.
However you look at it she was pretty unforgettable. If you want to know more, there is Sushila Anand’s 2009 book Daisy. The Life and Loves of the Countess of Warwick and there’s lots about her on the internet including a video documentary and Nell Darby’s article from 2018 ‘Daisy, Daisy the Cycling Countess’ which looks at some of Daisy’s adventures and misadventures connected with bikes. She did cycle though whether she ever had a tandem as suggested in the song or whether she ever joined our club is not known.
In contrast to all the razzmatazz at Warwick, Kenilworth castle is relatively peaceful. It is ‘one of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit’ as Marie Lloyd once sang. It was deliberately ‘slighted’ in 1649 to prevent it being ever used as a royalist stronghold in the Civil War. But though mainly ruins it is still one of the most impressive castles in Britain. It was put back on the cultural map in 1821 when Sir Walter Scott’s novel Kenilworth was published. This was set in the Elizabethan period and one of the main and most attractive features of the castle today is its reconstructed Elizabethan knot garden.
So, no shortage of things to do and to see in and around Warwick. The problem will be fitting them all in!