Robert Hampton

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August 2010

2nd August 2010

What I did during my weeks off
Posted by at 8.34pm | It's My Life, Trains | 3 responses

Why hello, Mr Blog. It’s been a while since the last time I put fingers to keyboard and inserted my text gently into your box.

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4th August 2010

It’s Not Grim Up North
Posted by at 8.27pm | Television | No responses

In 2007 the BBC announced plans to up sticks and move a large number of departments and staff to MediaCityUK in Salford. The Sport and Children’s departments are moving en masse, along with Radio 5 Live. It was recently announced that BBC Breakfast will follow suit.

I think it’s a great idea. I love the BBC but the corporation does have a bit of a blind spot with the north of England, and relocating to Salford could go a long way towards redressing the balance and ensuring that the corporation better reflects all of Britain. Also, I went past MediaCity last year and even in its half-completed state it looked absolutely incredible. I can tell it’s going to be a great place to work.

The move has not been without its critics and the corporation has been accused of wasting money. The Daily Mail — with their long-standing antipathy for the BBC and scorn for anywhere outside the Home Counties — have delighted in stories about presenters who dislike the move and executives who won’t relocate.

The latest person who is reportedly not moving is Breakfast‘s Sian Williams, although she told the Manchester Evening News that for her it is because she does not want to uproot her family, rather than any perceived problems with working in the North (in fact she worked on North West Tonight for five years).

I’m not too upset about Londoners refusing to relocate: it would be preferable for there to be a real infusion of local talent. What’s the point in spending millions building expensive new facilities in Salford, only to fill them with people from down South?

I appreciate that people do not want to uproot their families, but it appears that some people are genuinely concerned about lack of quality of life. Well, it’s their loss — “The North” is not some depressing hellhole of flat caps and whippets. There is no sign across the M6 as you head up from Birmingham, reading “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here” (although if you have to go as far as Morecambe you may see one). Our cities are smaller than London, but they are every bit as civilised and cosmopolitan. We have sushi bars and gay people up here too, you know!

Also, the wonderful Gordon Burns should be main presenter on Breakfast after the move.

8th August 2010

Pride and Prejudice, but without the Prejudice. And lots of extra Pride

Photo of Pride banner hanging from St George's HallThe notion of Gay Pride arouses much tedious harrumphing from some sections of the public, usually along the lines of, “if we had a Straight Pride event we’d be arrested for bigotry. It’s PC gone mad. Loony left, asylum seekers, Daily Mail, BBC Have Your Say”

This opinion (it’s an overstatement to call it an “argument”) ignores the fact that Pride is possibly the one day each year that LGBT people can live their lives completely openly without fear of intimidation or violence. One could easily argue that the other 364 days of the year are de facto Straight Pride days.

Such thoughts were in the back of my mind as I travelled into the city centre for the inaugural Liverpool Pride celebrations. Accepting my sexual orientation has been a long and difficult road of turbulent emotions and long phases of denial and self-loathing. Until very recently, I was out to hardly anyone. Truth be told, I felt like a bit of a fraud for even thinking of taking part in a Pride march, because for a very long time, my feelings were of shame, not pride.

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18th August 2010

I like computers so much, I changed my name to Computer Jones

Followers of my Twitter feed (those who aren’t spambots selling diet pills, anyway) will probably be aware that I have been clearing out junk from my loft. This is not due to some sudden financial crisis, nor am I desperately trying to feed an addiction (unless you count my weakness for Haribo Tangfastics). It’s simply because we’re getting a loft conversion done, and an empty loft facilitates that. Therefore selling some old crap is a good idea.

Amongst the stuff up there is a veritable museum of computer history: twenty years of accumulated electronics, including my Commodore 64 (top right), Acorn RiscPC (top left) and Acorn A3010 (bottom). Also up there but not pictured: my Super NES.


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19th August 2010

On the A Level
Posted by at 8.40pm | In the News | No responses

It’s A Level results day, and at schools across the country lots of attractive young girls were celebrating.

This year, the media seem to have taken a break from the usual “haha, the exams are easier now so your hard work doesn’t count!” sniping. Instead they’ve opted for “haha, you won’t get a place at university!” instead.

Still, to all those who have passed — well done! That’s another few hundred thousand people who have more qualifications than me.

True story: I left school without completing my A Levels, so on the day my classmates were opening their results, I was at the dentist having a tooth extracted under anaesthetic. In retrospect, it was the best place for me to be.

26th August 2010

Look on the Brighton Side
Posted by at 11.58pm | Gay, Out and About, Trains | 2 responses

Brighton PierI’ve written previously about the Internet’s ability to bring people together, and — more specifically — to bring me together with like-minded people. The latest chapter in this ongoing saga was written at the weekend.

A couple of years ago, when I was still a miserable closet case, I joined OUTeverywhere, a social networking site for gay men. It was more in hope than expectation, but it’s fair to say I met a broad spectrum of people on there: from the nice but boring to the definitely crazy, and everything in between.

Among these were a few people who I managed to establish a rapport with: there’s Nuno, with whom I shared adventures in the Scottish Highlands, there’s Andrew, who taught me (not entirely unsuccessfully) to ride a bike. Of course Scott was on there, but I didn’t actually meet him through the site.

And then there was Mark. Read the rest of this post »

27th August 2010

The Devil’s Dyke is in the Detail

Later on Friday afternoon Mark and I headed out to the Devil’s Dyke. This deep valley, just a short drive away from Brighton, promised stunning views and — more importantly — a pub offering excellent food and drink.

The weather wasn’t too splendid and I stupidly forgot my camera so had to make do with the lousy quality of my mobile phone. But hopefully these pictures will give you some idea of the breathtaking views available:

Devil's Dyke 1 Devil's Dyke 2 Devil's Dyke 3

(I highly recommend the Harveys bitter, by the way)

On the way back we stopped off in the village of Clayton to marvel at Clayton Tunnel. Originally constructed during the building of the line in 1841, it comes from an age when railways still had something to prove to the world, and hence this ostentatious structure was built at the portal.

Clayton Tunnel portal

My picture doesn’t really do it justice, but I hope you get some idea of the impressiveness of the structure. It’s a shame it only gets seen properly by train drivers and the occasional people like us, who stop to peer over the nearby road bridge.

We rounded off the evening by watching Hot Fuzz on DVD. (SWAN!)

28th August 2010

On the Right Track
Posted by at 12.02pm | Trains | 1 response

I interrupt the Brighton odyssey to bring you an important newsflash… MY TRAINS ARE BACK! Yes, after five weeks of engineering works and rail replacement bus services, normal service has been restored, and I am once again being comforted by the familiar whine of Class 507 traction motors at the end of my garden.

We are promised that this will be the last extended closure “for three years” – which invites the worrying question of what they’ve got planned in 2013. But Merseyrail did at least recognise that it has been inconvenient for scores of passengers, and sent out some staff on Wednesday morning to pass out leaflets at the bus stop:

Merseyrail Thank You Leaflet

On the other side is a voucher to get a cup of coffee for just 50p at any MtoGo shop – rest assured I will be presenting this at Liverpool Central on Monday morning.

29th August 2010

Bluebell of the Ball

On Saturday we were up early (well, lunchtime) and en route to the Bluebell Railway‘s terminus at Sheffield Park, which is less than an hour’s drive away from Brighton.

Sheffield Park station

The Bluebell was one of the first preserved railways in the UK, with services commencing in May 1960. This means that it retains possibly the most authentic steam age atmosphere of any preserved line — because it was preserved while steam was still extant on British Rail!

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30th August 2010

Pier Pleasure
Posted by at 7.24pm | Out and About | No responses

Sunday was my final day in Brighton but the first day when I would properly explore the town itself.

We hopped aboard a number 27 bus for the short trip to Brighton Marina. I used a few Brighton & Hove buses over the weekend, and I was impressed. The buses were clean and showed up when the timetable said they would, two things that Liverpool’s bus operators don’t seem to have quite got the hang of yet. Also, nearly all the stops had real-time route indicators showing when the next bus is due: much better than the half-hearted effort made by Merseytravel. And a day ticket costs just £3.60!

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31st August 2010

It’s Rosie the Nosey Neighbour!
Posted by at 6.09pm | Fun, Music, Radio | No responses

Here is a short coda to my Brighton trip. On the train home I was listening to more Adam & Joe XFM podcasts from 2006. Unbeknownst to me, this included this hilarious discussion of R Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet album, which caught me unawares and induced helpless laughter in me.

Aware that I was getting strange looks from my fellow passengers, I tried to stifle my laughter. My attempts only resulted in a coughing fit, which earned me even more strange looks.

Adam and Joe must be two of the most entertaining people on the radio. I really wish they’d hurry up and return to their 6 Music show.