Robert Hampten

20th March 2013

A cheerful post

Sorry for the delay in posting this next retro-blog. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I have been rather busy.

Over the ten years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve always been a bit hesitant to talk much about big news stories. I’ve always believed that this isn’t the reason people come here, so I refrain from commenting unless I have something useful to say. That may be why my reaction to the Boxing Day Tsunami is just nine words.

Natural disasters seem to crop up quite a bit, with Hurricane Katrina and the New Zealand Quake both getting a mention.

Disaster of a different kind struck London on 7th July 2005. As a railway enthusiast and regular commuter, it struck a chord with me:

Tonight I was on the evening rush hour train out of Liverpool Central towards Hunts Cross. It’s a busy train and is always standing room only. As we barrelled through the tunnel towards Brunswick, I realised that if someone on board was to detonate a bomb, there would be carnage, and escaping from the tunnel would be difficult.

After the horror of the London bombings, it was somewhat pleasing to see Osama bin Laden finally captured.

Mass murder of a different kind in Norway in July 2011, as a lone gunman killed 77. I said at the time that “any analysis is beyond me”. Nearly two years later, that is still the case – what drives a man to do such a thing?

The riots that rocked English towns and cities in the summer of 2011 also get a mention. My overriding memory of that time was seeing “civil unrest” listed as a reason for service disruption on the National Rail Enquiries web site, which was unusual, to say the least. Everyone had an opinion on the problem. Here’s mine:

The chickens are coming home to roost. For decades, social issues have been left to fester, leaving us with areas of high unemployment and high crime, where many people exist without any purpose or direction in life. This situation has been perpetuated by successive Conservative governments (who simply didn’t care) and Labour governments (who cared deeply, but failed to get to grips with the problem).

18 months later, I don’t think anything much has changed. These riots could easily happen again soon.

One happy news story of the past decade was the 2012 Olympics, which turned out to be a ray of hope in a sea of Tory-tinged doom. I’ll admit I was a cynic:

So, new Olympics logo, then.

Lord Coe says it will “define the Games we hold” — well, it cost far too much and is a huge disappointment, so that sounds about right.

However, after the wonderful Opening Ceremony I was won over, and the whole fortnight was, against many people’s expectations, a roaring success.

Jimmy Savile’s death was, at the time, merely a jumping off point for me to tell a story about how I’d written in to Jim’ll Fix It once. In retrospect, my letter being ignored turned out to be a lucky escape for me, as Savile’s “dark side” was subsequently revealed. It was a torrid time for the BBC, although as I pointed out, no other organisation in the world would have been so open about its mistakes.

I appear to have barely acknowledged Barack Obama’s first election victory, but news of his second term was welcomed by me.

I remember waking up on a cold morning in November 2008 and hearing Obama’s victory speech on the radio. I don’t mind admitting I teared up a little bit. I didn’t feel the same euphoria this time around, but the speech he made in the early hours of this morning is definitely worth a watch. Obama is gracious and articulate with a dash of soaring rhetoric – we desperately need a figurehead like this on this side of the Atlantic.

That’s a happy note to end on. Hopefully the next ten years will pan out in the same positive fashion. But probably not.

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