Robert Hampton

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1st January 2009

2008? More like Two Thousand and GREAT!

January was marked with a sentiment many Liverpudlians expressed in the final months of 2007, namely that while we wanted Capital of Culture year to go well, there was a nagging suspicion that it would go awry.For me, this question was resolved by the spectacular opening ceremony, spoiled only by Ringo Starr mouthing off on Jonathan Ross’s show.

Meanwhile, on the blog, I started a new regular feature, Hampo’s Book Club — if I interpret the word “regular” strictly, the next installment is due a week next Tuesday. I also took time to laugh at the nasty mobile phones sold by TJ Hughes, before getting incredibly maudlin and deciding to hide from Google, a daft decision which I swiftly reversed.

February brought us Liverpool: The Number Ones Album, a compilation of covers by — it has to be said — mostly second tier Liverpool artists. The good (Anthony Hannah’s cover of Relax) mingled with the bad (Connie Lush?) and the just plain entertaining (The Scaffold!).

I championed the humble semicolon, before spending an uncharacteristic three hours outdoors exploring the Wirral peninsula, and jolly nice it was too. Sun and Cloud returned for one of their occasional appearances.

In the news, the Children’s Commissioner said that maybe damaging children’s hearing wasn’t the best way to get rid of scallies hanging around outside corner shops, and a predictable knee-jerk reaction ensued. A brilliant photo appeared on Flickr of two smashed up Merseyrail trains.

March started with a nightmarishly long call to Sky technical support, from a cordless phone that was dangerously low on battery power. I was briefly reconciled with RISC OS, before realising that you can’t actually do anything useful with it any more. I visited the Magical History Tour at Merseyside Maritime Museum, and left feeling all warm and fuzzy about Liverpool. The exhibition is still on until September 2009 — GO AND SEE IT. I celebrated the anniversary of the BBC Micro, but forgot to celebrate the anniversary of my own blog. Oops.

I’m sure important stuff happened this month, but the highlight must surely be Charlotte Green corpsing uncontrollably while reading an obituary on Radio 4.

April started off promisingly: Futurama was back on DVD, and didn’t disappoint. The Merseyside village of Lunt was the subject of predictable vandalism. The saddest news in ages came with the death of jazz supremo and radio punmonger, Humphrey Lyttelton. At the same time, and seemingly in homage to Mornington Crescent, rail companies prepared to introduce a new set of convoluted ticketing rules. I hoped at the time that this would end passenger confusion over ticket types. It didn’t, but that’s a whole blog post in itself.

In May local elections brought a surge of excitement, except in Liverpool where the usual apathy reigned. Panel-show chairman Boris Johnson became Mayor of London, sparking howls of protest from Guardian readers. The promised fascist dictatorship has so far failed to materialise.

The best Liverpool souvenir in ages: a Merseyrail map with famous people instead of stations, which you should keep with you in case you need to be distracted from a disgusting dangly thing on the train seat opposite yours. Although that’s a far more pleasant experience than Manchester rail passengers had, thanks to some boozed-up football fans.

Terry Wogan mulled quitting Eurovision as the Eastern bloc countries dominated the competition again. I crunched some numbers and proved… that no-one really cares.

In actual entertainment news, The Colbert Report finally hit these shores, and didn’t disappoint.

Liverpool One threw open its doors for the first time and actually lived up to the hype. Suddenly Liverpool was the cool place to shop; the only thing that could go wrong would be two of the chains that had set up shop there going into administration within months of opening — but surely that wouldn’t happen?

June saw my apathy reach breaking point as Euro 2008 began, without England. Somebody else tried to get into the spirit, but it didn’t really work out.

The Government took away a couple more civil liberties, while simultaneously getting tough on Zimbabwe.

In local news, Liverpool was flooded with poisonous cigarettes — well, all cigarettes are poisonous, but I imagine even the most rabid chain-smoker would draw the line at rat droppings. Alexei Sayle returned to the city he betrayed (© Liverpool Echo) in a BBC2 documentary, which turned out to be an affectionate celebration of all things Scouse.

I posted a very long ramble about Dr Beeching. Sadly BBC4 decided that Ian Hislop would be a bigger draw, and got him to do their documentary instead.

That’s the first half of 2008 summarised neatly; come back tomorrow for more!

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