Robert Hampton

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5th January 2014

2013 was a big year for…

Matt Jarvis on the cover of AttitudeGAYS! West Ham footballer Matt Jarvis graced the cover of Attitude in just his pants, because homophobia or something. The usually soppy liberal Observer newspaper got itself embroiled in a transphobia row after a Julie Burchill column caused a Twitter storm.

The big news story of the year was, of course, the UK’s same-sex marriage bill. My old Religious Studies teacher (now MP for Southport) declared that he was voting against it. Despite massive controversy and attempts by rebel MPs to derail it, the bill received Royal Assent in July. I like to think it was my vlog on the subject that swung it.

The UK was behind the curve in many ways, as progress was being made around the world. New Zealand legalised gay marriage in April, an event celebrated by an impromptu outbreak of singing. America, as usual, was slow on the uptake, but a big Supreme Court decision in July was a landmark moment, paving the way for future victories.

Elsewhere, however, gay rights were being rolled back. In Russia, a wrestling coach blamed the lack of wrestling at the Olympics on a gay conspiracy. That was amusing to western ears; less funny was the law against “gay propaganda”, which was enacted amidst a wave of anti-gay violence.

On a more positive note, the events in Russia spurred Wentworth Miller into coming out. In fact, it was a notable year for coming out events: Young Apprentice candidate Harry Hitchens came out via YouTube video. Ben Whishaw confirmed tabloid rumours that he was in a civil partnership. And then there was Tom Daley.

Alan Turing was pardoned for his homosexuality convictions, but where was the sympathy for the thousands of other men who were similarly persecuted?

Aigburth station canopy partly removedTRAINS! The London Underground celebrated 150 years of operation, and they celebrated in style, running steam trains along part of the original Metropolitan Line. Closer to home, some bright spark suggested rejuvenating the Ellesmere Port to Helsby railway line. As usual with these schemes, nothing has been heard of the plan since.

One scheme which definitely is going ahead is the Liverpool to Manchester electrification, and in August I went to Roby to check out the work being done.

There was drama on my doorstep, as Aigburth station was refurbished, causing a volley of complaints from local residents outraged at the crass destruction of our heritage (i.e. the new platform canopy was slightly shorter than the old one). Network Rail eventually caved in to the mob.

European railways’ hard-won reputation for safety took a knock, with two bad accidents, one in France, the other in Spain.

And I marvelled at an ancient documentary on British Rail.

Windows 8.1 Start ScreenTECH! I was in a retro mood for much of the year. In January I pored over ancient issues of US Commodore 64 magazine Compute’s Gazette, then in February looked on in awe as a group of middle-aged men in cardigans educated us on Making the Most of the Micro. In April, I uncovered a 1990s-era guide to protecting against online trolls, and bemoaned that similar advice was not given out to Twitter users today.

In the world beyond 8 bits, Apple was accused of censoring iCloud e-mails, which may have been complete nonsense, but it was enough to make me move my e-mail off their servers. Google Glass was unveiled, ushering in a bold new era where our every move can be watched by Geordi La Forge lookalikes in perpetuity. Privacy? Wassat then?

David Cameron decided we were looking at too much porn, and didn’t let minor details like an inability to comprehend the nature of the internet stop him from slapping half-arsed censorship filters on British ISPs. In a development that pretty much everyone saw coming, non-pornographic web sites were caught in the filters.

Adobe’s new advert for Photoshop befuddled me, but that was nothing compared to the bewilderment I felt upon using Windows 8 for the first time.

The big tech story – and, indeed, the biggest story of the year generally – was the revelation that people’s online activities were being routinely monitored by Government surveillance agencies. Matters came to a head when David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald (the Guardian journalist who helped expose the surveillance) was detained at Heathrow Airport for 9 hours. Sadly, while there is some debate now happening in America over the level of Government intrusion into our lives, the story doesn’t seem to have had much impact on this side of the pond.

Liverpool Pride screenLIVERPOOL! A big shock at the beginning of the year was the loss of Rapid Hardware, a local institution which went into administration after decades of trading. The owners blamed the closure of Liverpool Central station throughout much of 2012, which is certainly one of the more original things I’ve seen Merseyrail criticised for. In any event, Rapid reappeared in a new guise months later, so it’s all good.

In May the city hosted The Battle of the Atlantic commemorations, playing host to naval vessels from all over the world (including Germany – Michael Gove take note). Another event was Liverpool Pride, this year taking place within a fenced off “secure zone” which was not to everyone’s taste. Still, I got to see Sam Callahan perform prior to his X Factor fame, which means I am officially cooler than you, maybe.

Liverpool’s Mayor for Life, Joe Anderson, made some big decisions: putting the Mathew Street Festival out of its misery (yay!) and axing all the city’s lanes (boo).

Jumpers for GoalpostsTHEATRICALS! The Judas Kiss, with its gratuitous full-frontal nudity, was worth a look. Pastoral, about a group of friends struggling in a Britain overrun by plants and wild animals (yes, really) was interesting. Sneaking in during the final days of 2013 was Jumpers for Goalposts, a truly uplifting tale of love and friendship on a 5-a-side football team. The true highlight of the year, however, had to be The Book of Mormon. For months afterwards, I found myself randomly singing, “I have maggots in my scro-o-o-otum,” at the most inopportune moments.

TELLY! Sweden hosted Eurovision, and basically won at hosting Eurovision forever. Glee star Cory Monteith’s death was a genuine shock, and I pondered the numerous ways in which TV shows accommodate deaths.

Not exactly a TV event, except in the sense that I watched it on TV (in a gay bar), but Andy Murray winning Wimbledon was great to see.

Mirror April 1stCUNTS! The coalition government continued to make Britain a shittier place to live. Cutting benefits, introducing the bedroom tax and beginning the gradual carve-up of the NHS. Margaret Thatcher may have finally shuffled off her mortal coil, but her (mean) spirit lives on. Luckily, Glenda Jackson was on hand.

Many of the coalition’s machinations were enthusiastically cheered on by the Daily Mail of course, with lovely headlines like VILE PRODUCT OF WELFARE UK and THE MAN WHO HATED BRITAIN.

One big loss for David Cameron was his attempt to drag us into yet another pointless war. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed on that occasion.

ME! In March I celebrated ten years of spouting nonsense on this blog, with a series of retrospective posts.

I continued my studies at the Open University, getting through fair amount of paper in the process. This involved me taking an exam, for the first time in over a decade. Fun times, and I’ve just been reminded that I’ll be doing it all over again this June. 😐

Robert in the Sleeper Lounge CarI found time to get out and about a fair bit, heading to Yorkshire for a railway gala. London, as usual, was a popular destination for me – I alienated most of my regular audience by riding Boris Johnson’s folly cable car. For the Station Master blog, I visited the Isle of Wight. The trip to Scotland by Caledonian Sleeper train was a real highlight, and even more fun in video form. Another fun day out was my Isle of Man visit. I also managed to slot in a trip to my favourite place in the whole wide world: Birmingham.

My appetite for foreign travel was unsatisfied this year (Scotland doesn’t count as abroad… yet) but I was busy making plans. Hopefully, at least one of those plans will come to fruition in the next few months.

So, that was 2013. Happy New Year everyone!


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