Robert Hampton

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April 2014

4th April 2014

Museum musings
Posted by at 7.40pm | Out and About | No responses

Van Gogh Museum

Wednesday morning’s culture was the Van Gogh Museum, boasting “The world’s largest Van Gogh collection”. The fact that the museum is spread across three floors should tell you sometih

The queue to get in was long. Fortunately, Ian and I had bought an I amsterdam City Card, which allowed us to join a slightly shorter queue – and get in for free. Then, after a quick trip through a metal detector, we found ourselves.

The museum is set out chronologically, starting with his early works as an apprentice. It’s rather fascinating to see his style evolve from the dark, realistic painting style he started out with up to the brightly-coloured impressionist paintings he is perhaps best known for.

There are also paintings by artists who influenced Van Gogh, and by artists who were themselves inspired by him. Paul Gaugin and Claude Monet are among those represented.

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6th April 2014

In Memoriam-sterdam
Posted by at 8.19pm | Out and About | No responses

This blog post is all about memorials. I don’t want it to sound like Ian and I deliberately went around looking for memorials to the dead, like some sort of macabre walking tour. But while exploring the city we did see a few of the more well-known monuments, and here are some of them.

The Homomonument was the first monument in the world to the gay people and persecuted under the Nazis. It takes the form of three granite triangles. The first triangle represents the past, and comes in the form of steps leading to the canal, symbolising the many gay people who were shipped off to concentration camps.

Homomonument - Past

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8th April 2014

Amsterdam Miscellany
Posted by at 6.54pm | Out and About | 2 responses

I amsterdam city cardWe’ve come to the end of my Amsterdam blog pentalogy, as I round up some of the other highlights of my visit.

I amsterdam city card

This handy tourist card costs just €57 for 48 hours and gives free or discounted access to a whole host of attractions. It also has an OV-chipkaart built in to give unlimited rides on Amsterdam’s bus, tram and metro systems. It can be bought online, where you receive a voucher to print off and exchange for the card at a tourist information centre (there’s one opposite Centraal Station and another at Schipol Airport).

You also get a handy fold up map of the city to help you get around. Highly recommended.

Canal cruise

We had some time to kill on our last day, so went on a canal cruise. Holland International Canal Cruises leave from a terminal near the station and, as our I amsterdam cards included a free canal cruise, it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity.

Canal Cruise Robert on the canal

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9th April 2014


Windows XP boot screen

In October 2001, Microsoft was at the height of its power. Internet Explorer had crushed its rivals in the browser wars; Apple (pre-iPod revolution) was struggling with its early, incomplete version of OS X; and Google was just a search engine.

It was amidst this backdrop that Windows XP was unleashed on an unsuspecting world, as Bill Gates excitedly announced the end of the MS-DOS era. Up to this point, most consumer-grade Windows PCs still ran the ageing command line system under the hood. This provided excellent backwards compatibility, but also introduced instability; a rogue DOS program or driver could bring down the whole system.

XP, however was free of this baggage. It took the best features of the previous “home user” systems such as Windows 98 and blended them with the much more stable and secure Windows NT kernel. DOS existed only on an emergency boot floppy disc (kids, ask your parents).

Keen to get the new OS in front of as many people as possible, Microsoft launched what was probably their biggest marketing push since Windows 95, six years earlier. This bizarre advert, with a Madonna soundtrack, demonstrated XP’s ability to, er… make its users fly.

Not satisfied with mere adverts, Microsoft’s head honcho headed to the studios of KACL for an excruciating cameo on “Frasier”.

Now, however, all that Microsoft marketing money is being spent to convince you that XP is bad and you’re bad for using it. 8th April 2014 marked the official “end of support” for Windows XP; Microsoft is no longer providing patches or security fixes, which means that users will become vulnerable to new viruses and hacking attacks.

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11th April 2014

The Mole Person
Posted by at 7.21pm | Books | No responses

Adrian Mole Books

Overnight came some very sad news from the world of publishing: Sue Townsend has died.

Townsend is, of course, best known for her character, Adrian Mole, surely one of the greatest characters in modern literature. Mole’s development from an angst-ridden teenager – obsessed with poetry and measuring his “thing” – to a neurotic adult unable to hold down a relationship was a masterpiece of writing and character observation.

There was some biting satire in the books as well. Townsend always manages to capture the zeitgeist of the time – the early books are a perfect 1980s time capsule (“Do you weep, Mrs Thatcher, do you weep?”), while later ones moved on to mock (with pinpoint accuracy) the realities of life under New Labour. There’s plenty of laugh out loud moments too – via Seb’s Tumblr I was reminded of the minute-by-minute account of a school trip to a museum, which I found hilarious.

For my money, Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction is my favourite. It’s funny as hell, like all the books in the series, but the part where Adrian’s son Glenn writes a series of letters home from his posting in Iraq, packs a real emotional punch.

Townsend wrote other books too (The Queen and I is excellent) but it’s Adrian Mole for which she will always be remembered. That’s a fairly good legacy to leave behind, I think.

15th April 2014

96 – 25
Posted by at 10.07pm | In the News | No responses

There’s been only one thing on the minds of most people in Liverpool today – the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster. The memorial service was, as ever, a profoundly moving event.

At the inquest, “pen portraits” have been read out; moving personal testimonies from relatives of those who died. Click on over to the Liverpool Echo‘s web site to read the accounts from day four, day five, day six, day seven and day eight.

What comes across loud and clear is the sense of loss that is still keenly felt. Families lost brothers, fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, sisters amidst chaos and confusion.

With the inquests just getting under way in Warrington, there is a new sense of hope for the families. They are ordinary people who have found themselves in an extraordinary situation, and they have handled it with immense dignity. I don’t know how they do it, but I am willing them to maintain that strength through to the end of the inquests when, hopefully, they will get the closure they have been denied for so long.

20th April 2014

The name’s Bond, etc
Posted by at 11.54am | Out and About | No responses

By way of an appendix to our Amsterdam visit, here’s Ian’s guide to the locations in Diamonds are Forever, which was partly filmed in Amsterdam.

30th April 2014

Smoke me UKIPper, I’ll be back for breakfast
Posted by at 9.44am | Politics | 2 responses

Did you get one of these through your letterbox recently? I did, and so did my friend Scott. I’m embedding his photo here because my copy of the leaflet went straight into the recycling.


The rise of UKIP makes me sad. Sad that a significant chunk of the country is content to blame immigrants for all our economic woes. Sad that the “fearless” free press is failing to challenge Farage and his chums on the issues. Sad that the European Convention on Human Rights, a document inspired by Winston Churchill as a response to the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, could be scrapped.

“But they’re just saying what ordinary people are thinking!!!111” is the cry. I disagree – most ordinary people do not believe that the winter floods were caused by gay marriage, that Lenny Henry should leave the country, that “no self-respecting businessman would employ a lady of child-bearing age”, and so on. It’s happened just a few too many times to dismiss them as one-off comments from someone stepping out of line.

The media are happy to go along with the image of UKIP as jolly outsiders breaking up the cosy Westminster system. People are being conned into voting for them, to stick two fingers up to the mainstream parties, without knowing just how harmful their policies are. Here are three ways I, personally, will be worse off if UKIP policies go into effect:

1. They want to introduce a flat rate tax, so I would probably end up paying more – the same percentage as millionaires have to pay.

2. They want to scrap many of the employment laws that have been hard fought for over previous decades – effectively making it much easier for employers to sack people – so my job would be less secure.

3. They want to repeal the recently enacted same-sex marriage laws, so if I do find someone to love, my relationship would have second-class status.

We desperately need some fresh ideas in politics. All three main UK parties are led by career politicians with little concept of life outside the Westminster bubble. But UKIP are definitely not the party to bring change. Don’t vote for them in the upcoming elections.