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Bath Features

McDonald & Dodds

The TV detective duo viewers love to hate (but they love the backdrop of Bath)

Whatever you think about the ITV series McDonald & Dodds there is one aspect of the show that is universally acclaimed: the backdrop of Bath.
Filmed largely in and around the city McDonald & Dodds features two detectives in the shape of Tala Gouveia as DCI Lauren McDonald and Jason Watkins as DS Dodds (pictured). So far two short series have been filmed and screened suggesting there is an appetite for the show.
Millions may be tuning in but if you were to judge by the reactions on social media it isn’t universally liked. Mostly the criticism is about the acting and the premise of the show. Essentially DS Dodds is a bungling operator who by chance or luck solves the mysteries aided by a dour DCI Lauren McDonald.
Another criticism is the portrayal of locals as being… well shall we say ‘dozy West Country types?’
What do the critics say? In The Guardian Rebecca Nicholson described the duo as chalk and cheese and was faily generous with her review giving it four stars and likening it to Midsomer Murders. She wrote: “The appeal of McDonald & Dodds lies in how it spreads its charms. Bath looks lovely, from the air and on the ground, and the eponymous duo are great, balancing each other’s flaws.
“I found the plot complicated enough not to guess who was responsible until a good way into the episode, which is becoming increasingly rare. Sometimes, a lightness of touch sits uncomfortably in a crime drama, but the fact that this doesn’t take itself too seriously really works. It is neat and clever – with an appealing, Dodds-esque eye for the finer details.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Ed Power also rated it as a four star show calling it ‘ridiculous and brilliant.’
While in The Times Carol Midley said it was filth free and cheerful escapism. She wrote: “McDonald & Dodds is back, with episode one so deliberately hammy and meta that, technically, it should have been a complete horlicks. In one scene, when they were all hanging on to the balloon ropes, Mr Bean-like, to stop Jason Watkins flying away, it sort of was. But I was pleasantly sucked into its cheerful escapism and self-mockery, even though at two hours it was far too long.”
Mammoth Productions perhaps won’t take comfort however from some of the comments on the Bath Live news site where one commentator wrote: “Why a second series was made I will never know, the first was appalling apart from the scenes of the city.
“Jason Watkins was badly miscast, as for the women DCI, I found her most annoying so switched off.”

By Harry Mottram.

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Bath Voice Features: the real reason why Bathonian Bill danced away with the Strictly Come Dancing glitter ball

It wasn’t just female fans of the BBC TV show Strictly Come Dancing who cheered when actor, musician and comedian Bill Bailey won the coveted Glitter Ball trophy in December – but men of a certain age as well.
For Bill Bailey not only looks like a large section of the Great British blokedom with his shapeless sweat shirts, thinning hair and pot belly, but at 55 was almost a mirror image of how many chaps at that age look. Me being one of them.
And of course he proved all the critics wrong, failing to be the first to be eliminated from the show and going on to improve as a dancer, lose weight and bring a zest to the competition that showed up some of the younger contestants.
So what of his Bathonian credentials? Well Mark Robert Bailey (that’s his real name) was born in the city in 1965 to medical parents – his dad a GP and his mum a nurse.
He spent most of his childhood in Keynsham (which we can call West Bath for this article) and was educated at King Edward’s School an independent school in Bath.
There he honed his performance skills as a musician in a school rock band called Behind Closed Doors, as well as providing entertainment on the coach trips to rugby matches by singing songs one of which was Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey which led to his nickname of Bill – or so the story goes.
He studied music in London after leaving school becoming a classically trained musician. Acting came next with a part in The Printers, which also featured Vanessa Redgrave and Frances de la Tour.
A comedy tour with Mark Lamarr in 1984 earned him a reputation as a versatile stand-up and after runs at the Edinburgh Festival he moved to television where his reputation grew. However, we all know that his success – especially in Strictly with his partner Oti Mabusi (pictured) – was created on the streets of Bath where the natural rhythm of the city made him a fine dancer.
Bill describes himself as a feminist, campaigns against cruelty to animals, is an advocate in highlighting research into prostate cancer in men and is a supporter of the Labour Party.
Harry Mottram

Bath Voice is a monthly news magazine for the city. Harry Mottram is the news editor. The February issue is out now free to thousands of homes in Bath.

For more on Bath Voice visit https://www.facebook.com/bathvoice/

Bath Voice online: https://issuu.com/bathvoice/docs/2021_02_february_bath_voice

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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The Spanish Flu orginated in America but came to Bath and killed more than 100 people in one month in 1918. Pic: Northern Echo

Bath Voice Features: Pandemics – we’ve been here before – how the city coped with the flu outbreaks of the past

Parallels are frequently drawn in the media with the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918 and the current Covid-19 pandemic.
The main similarity is how the virus swept around the world in part due to enhanced modes of travel – but there the similarity ends.
Rather than Spain being the origin of the outbreak or the H1N1 influenza A virus it is now believed to have begun in Kansas in the USA earlier than 1918 and was likely transferred to humans from pigs although this is still in doubt.

Censorship caused by World War One allowed it to ‘go under the radar’ for a long time as USA troops transferred it to France and from there around the globe by land, sea and air. It continued until 1920 killing up to 60 million people and infecting countless more.
Unlike Covid-19 Spanish flu affected all ages and all levels of society from the King of Spain to the lowliest soldier in the trenches.
The Bath Medical Museum has plenty of information on the pandemics of yesteryear with an article by their sage Dr. Roger Rolls.
He writes: “In 1806, the Bath Chronicle reported that ‘a kind of influenza that spares no one at present prevails in Spain. Fortunately, it is seldom fatal. The whole of the Royal Family have been attacked by it. At Barcelona where this malady commenced, 28,300 persons were ill of it at once.’ This is not the Spanish Flu we talk of now but an epidemic which occurred over a hundred years earlier.”

First World War

He writes that pandemics of acute respiratory infections have occurred regularly over the past few centuries.
The good doctor said: “The best known and most devastating occurred at the end of the First World War leading to an estimated mortality of sixty million people worldwide.
“In 1917 no one had ever seen a virus as they were too small to be viewed with an optical microscope. Few people then had any idea of what was causing it.”
Back to Bath and the current outbreak of the virus. The numbers of people dying are not in the millions or even the thousands in the city but they are still at worryingly high levels.
This time the virus is affecting the elderly and those with health conditions disproportionately. In contrast the museum charts how in one month in1918, there were121 deaths from influenza and 26 from pneumonia. Almost half of the deaths were in those aged 15 to 35.
For more on the museum and its recording of illness visit https://bathmedicalmuseum.org/

The Plague

In an article for the Bath Medical Museum Dr Roger Rolls writes at length about a disease that affected not only Bath but the world.
He explained that the Bubonic plague of the 16th and 17th centuries was caused by black rats who transmitted the disease by fleas.
Since Bathonians were not the most hygienic people (as indeed was true of all citizens of Britain) the transfer of the infection to humans from fleas via rats was literally just a hop away.
The ghastly disease known as Yersinia Pestis, was characterised by swollen lymph glands in the groin and armpits, fever, prostration, and skin haemorrhages.

Epidemic

Dr. Roger Rolls said: “There is a popular misconception both now and in the 17th century that plague swept the country like wildfire. If there was a countrywide epidemic, we should also expect to see increased mortality in 1563, 1578, 1593 all of which were years of plague in London.
“There were no Bath epidemics in these years. However, there was possibly some correlation with London plague years in 1582, 1603 and 1625, the Bath outbreaks being a year later except for 1625.
“The Bath council was aware of the danger of allowing visitors into the city who had come from places where plague was active.
“For instance, the Chamberlain’s account for 1583 records paying two sentries to turn away visitors from Paulton where there was a plague outbreak.”

Sentries posted

The Bubonic plague was to return time and time again with the authorities seemingly mystified of how it occurred. In the 17th century an outbreak in London was charted in all its horror by Samuel Pepys in his diaries.
Dr. Roger Rolls said: “The Bath authorities appear to have feared the spread of plague from London in 1665 because no person was allowed into the city from the capital without special permission of the mayor and justices, and nobody at all was allowed in between 10pm and 5am.
“Sentries were posted on the routes into town to police these regulations. Any Bath citizens who received guests coming from London was fined £10.
“This strategy may have been successful because there was no evidence of increased mortality in that year.”
A strategy still in place today.

Harry Mottram

Bath Voice is a monthly news magazine for the city. Harry Mottram is the news editor.

For on Bath Voice visit https://www.facebook.com/bathvoice/

Bath Voice online: https://issuu.com/bathvoice/docs/2021_02_february_bath_voice

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Mauro of the Good Bear cafe

By Harry Mottram for Bath Voice

At the top of Holloway linking Bear Flat to the city centre is Hayes Place and if you haven’t stopped for some fish and chips or a coffee in The Good Bear cafe you might miss it.
The Council, traders and the Bear Flat Association representing the residents, want to transform the short but wide street into something approaching a continental piazza – a public space to sit down and appreciate the surroundings while still allowing vehicles to access the street.
Bear Flat campaigner Clyde Hunter said it should become an effective green book-end to Bear Flat with The Gore at the other end of the brief plateau with all the shops and facilities in the middle creating a central zone.
“What we would like to do is to widen the pavements and to change the surface of the road from tarmac to a different colour or paving so to make it a shared space so cars and pedestrians share the road with pedestrians given priority,” he said.
“At the moment it’s a dangerous place with vehicles doing three point turns and people trying to cross – not knowing where a vehicle is coming from.
“What we want to do is to slow the traffic down, and make it more pedestrian friendly, perhaps more continental.”

Bear Flat campaigner Clyde Hunter

In the first step towards the aspirations of the Bear Flat Association’s vision The Good Bear Cafe has been granted a pavement license to put tables and chairs outside.
The proprietor of the cafe Mauro Matta said having the licence had been a lifeline for the business during the 2020 crisis.
“Because of Covid-19 and the restrictions for social distancing we have lost half of our capacity,” he said, “With the extra space outside on a sunny day that has helped us so much to seat more customers.”
A ramp on and off the pavement has been added to facilitate prams and wheelchairs.
Cllr Winston Duguid said that Hayes Place had potential but these were early days. Planters are to be placed by the cafe as part of the plans which he said was an illustration of how the Council, traders and the Bear Flat Association could bring about change. For full details of the Bear Flat Association’s vision visit http://bearflat.org.uk/a-vision-for-bear-flat-centre/

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Oldfield Park Junior School, or South Twerton School as it was known until 1991, dates back to 1893 and is proud of its place in the community in south Bath

Bath Voice News: North gone south headteacher looks forward to a brighter year (despite having to make major changes to the school due to Covid-19)

Hope springs eternal in Bath following one of the most difficult years in modern times due to the Covid-19 crisis

“You have to take some of the positives from 2020,” said Dave Goucher, 44, the headteacher of Oldfield Park Juniors, “we’ve coped exceptionally well despite the challenges.”

In an exclusive interview with Bath Voice the north gone south academic opened up about his personal life, school life and life under Covid-19.
He said the school had sacrificed numerous activities due to the pandemic and had introduced staggered starts, invested in PPE and even made changes to classroom layouts.

Dave Goucher, 44, the headteacher of Oldfield Park Juniors

“The school has coped very well with the Covid-19 crisis along with all the schools in Bath which has in some ways gone under the radar considering what had to done,” he said, “The changes have often been introduced at very short notice by the Department of Education (DfE ) with emails arriving often at the weekend creating real challenges.

“We’ve had to clear out classrooms of furniture to allow the social distancing for the children, so much so we’ve had to hire a container to put the excess furniture in.

“We’ve had to change the classroom layouts with all the desks facing the front like in Victorian times. That is a change for some of the teachers who haven’t taught in that style in the past. I’m old enough to have taught like that with a blackboard and chalk many years ago.

He said the school had had to sacrifice some of the activities such as trips, residentials, music and sports.

“It will have to remain like that until we get the green light to go back to normal. We’re looking forward with optimism to 2021 as the vaccine arrives,” he said.

In the meantime the pupils have continued to wash their hands four or five times a day, timetables continue to be altered and the children and staff will continue to follow the rules.

“The parents have been brilliant,” he said,”They follow the routines, wear facemasks in the school grounds, they social distance and abide by the staggered start and end times.”

Covid-19 has also added to the schools overheads with new soap dispensers, sinks and PPE as well as hiring extra staff to cover for staff who are in self-isolation and not in school.

“From a financial aspect Covid has hit us hard like it has all schools, so I hope the DfE puts their hands in their pockets although that’s more a hope than an expectation,” he said.

Dave lives just a few minutes walk from the school with his wife and his two sons who attend local schools. Not many headteachers live close to their schools but he said he liked to live in the community and it cut out commuting.

“We have things we have to work on like all schools do but our mini Hogwarts is a great place to be,” he continued, “It’s a bit of a hidden gem as from the outside it doesn’t look much but when you go in we are blessed with a field, a fire pit, chickens, and even a pizza oven.”

Covid had cost the school many things including the annual Christmas Fair that usually brings in £4,000 to the school.

In the rush hour the school is the centre of traffic congestion although Dave said that had eased this year as many people were working from home.
However there was a concern about the clean air scheme which could push traffic out of the centre of Bath and turn the roads around the school into rat runs.

He came to Bath in 1998 to do a teacher training course and has stayed ever since.

His previous headship had been at St Michael’s Junior School nearby before joining Oldfield Park in 2015.

As for changes in that time he cited technology with the advent of computers and the internet – but another less obvious change was the pressures of the society in general where everything is instant which put new pressures on children.

Harry Mottram

Bath Voice is a monthly news magazine for the city. Harry Mottram is the news editor.

For on Bath Voice visit https://www.facebook.com/bathvoice/

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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Wera Hobhouse MP

BATH VOICE FEATURE: exclusive interview with Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse, the artistic, made-in-Germany Lib Dem who got ‘up-skirting made illegal’, doesn’t have anything to say to one Tory MP and is looking forward to being a granny

Harry Mottram for Bath Voice asked the city’s MP some very personal questions and received some very candid replies.

The first question was an easy one – who do you most admire in Bath and why? I prefixed it with a line about knowing how old she was and how many children she had but before I could get the question out she said: “I’m going to be a grandmother!”

“Oh, Granny Hobhouse,” I said, “tell me more.” And she did: “My eldest daughter is expecting our first grandchild at the end of February,” she said, “she married five years ago and is 30 – the same age I was when I had her.
“I never thought I’d be excited but I am so excited. I thought I wouldn’t be that excited having had children but I am.”

Back to the question of who to admire in Bath.
“I’ve been really impressed with the work of James Carlin and BAYNES 3SG with their coordination of volunteers during the Covid-19 crisis,” she explained, “They brought people together and fill the gaps with help for the lonely or helping with shopping.
“There are other volunteer groups like the Citizens Advice Bureau – they have all done wonderful work.”

Onto the next question which is what were her New Year’s resolutions? There was a long silence. I suggested taking up daily exercising, visiting long lost relatives or going on a diet. This last idea finally struck a chord.
“I don’t actually need to lose weight – for me it is the other way around and I’m bordering on being too thin,” she said. On my suggestion she should eat more food to fatten her up she accepted eating ‘a little bit more’ would be her answer.

Wera Hobhouse is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eating Disorders – a role she says is close to her heart as around one million people in the UK suffer from conditions such as anorexia and bulimia.
The next question was also based on her work in Westminster and in particular on her interest in women’s issues. In September she was given the job of Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Women and Equalities but back in January she made headlines for her work making ‘upskirting’ a crime.

Upskirting is taking a photograph looking up a woman’s skirt without their consent – something which hadn’t been covered in law before. She presented a private members bill which looked set to be successful but it was voted down by Sir Christopher Chope MP much to the outrage of fellow MPS. Eventually the Government took it up and it became law. So the obvious question I asked was Christopher Chope on her Christmas card list?
I felt an icy silence. She simply said: “No. I have nothing to say to that man.”
I had got her onto the subject of politics so the next question had to be about the current Government.

“This is a bad Government, who have undermined the rule of law, damaged and underfunded local Government and have been dismantling the Welfare State,” she said.
She thought they would hang on to 2024 though, as they had an 80 seat majority and could do want they liked. Especially since they had purged the centre right MPs in 2019.

Finally I moved onto less contentious grounds such as her passion for art.
“I paint figuratively, people and bodies in movement,” she explained, “it’s a subject I’ve worked on all my life as an artist apart from college when you try out different techniques and subjects.
“For me it is how you define people in time and space – something that is not fixed in time.”
She said when children came along she had less time and changed her style – using mixed media, underpainting with acrylic, printing on top and using oils as well to complete a canvass.

Wera Benedicta von Reden was born in1960 in Hanover, Germany. After school she studied art in Munster and Paris before completing a master’s degree in history and fine art in Berlin.
She married William Hobhouse in 1989 and moved to England the following year living first in London and later in Rochdale where she was a Conservative Councillor. However she was criticised for defecting to the Liberal Democrats over a controversial plan to build homes on a former asbestos site as she didn’t trigger a by election. However the development she campaigned against was stopped.

After moving to Bath in 2014 she was selected to stand in the 2017 parliamentary general election when she defeated the Conservative Ben Howlett, doubling her majority in 2019.

For on Bath Voice visit https://www.facebook.com/bathvoice/

For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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