Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

March 2011

1st March 2011

This is the age of the train: 40 years by the time they’re withdrawn
Posted by at 8.00pm | Trains | 1 response

Following on from the announcement of North West Electrification and the development of High Speed 2, the Government has confirmed that The Great Western Main Line is getting wired up as well.

This is great news – electric trains are more efficient, more reliable and better for the environment. But in the same announcement it is also confirmed that we will be saying goodbye to the InterCity 125.

The Government announced today it has decided to resume the IEP procurement and proceed with the Agility Trains (Hitachi and John Laing) consortium’s plans for replacement for the nation’s fleet of ageing intercity high speed trains. … The Programme seeks to replace the distinctive “Intercity 125” High Speed Train (HST) diesel fleet procured by British Rail during the 1970s and 1980s with a new, higher capacity, more environmentally friendly train.

The new trains will be introduced from 2016, so one of the best trains ever produced will be consigned to the scrapyard in favour of a glorified Voyager. It’s “progress”, of course, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. A railway without the HST will be a quieter, blander place.

4th March 2011

Two gifts are better than one
Posted by at 1.13pm | It's My Life | 1 response

I’ve come up with a new concept which will cheer us all up and boost the economy in these austerity-riddled times.

Everyone has one birthday a year, but I think that 12 months is far too long to wait for the next one to roll around. Therefore I propose: the half-birthday, a day exactly halfway between birthdays but with all the usual pomp, circumstance and gift giving.

The benefits are twofold: first of all, everyone likes to get presents and attention showered on them. The half-birthday is a nice ego-boost, without the drawback of actually being a year older and the maudlin contemplation that often goes with that.

Secondly, if this catches on, it means everyone will buy twice as many birthday presents as they do now, providing a welcome boost to the “tat you don’t really need” market and injecting much-needed money into the economy.

By total coincidence, my half-birthday is tomorrow, so get on over to my Amazon wish list and order something (next-day delivery, of course).

So there’s my proposal. Come back next week, when I outline my plans for Bizarro Halloween.

5th March 2011

Star Dreck
Posted by at 10.49am | In the News | 1 response

A disgruntled Daily Star reporter has quit, accusing the tabloid of “hate-mongering” and printing anti-Muslim propaganda (allegations the paper denies).

This wouldn’t be notable, were it not for Richard Peppiatt’s fabulous letter of resignation, which has been reproduced in full by the Guardian.

If you read the Daily Star… please stop immediately.

12th March 2011

The Earth Roars Again
Posted by at 10.27am | In the News | No responses

Not long after images of Christchurch left our TV screens, we are now confronted with the appalling situation in Japan. The question, “how can this get any worse?” is being answered at regular intervals: first the earthquake, then the tsunami, with reports of thousands of people dead. Now there is an explosion at a nuclear power plant.

Horrifying pictures are being played continuously on the news channels, including terrible footage of a raging fire in Kesennumma. The BBC has live text and video coverage on its web site.

19th March 2011

Not the Ten O’Clock News
Posted by at 6.38pm | Television | 1 response

When Channel 4 announced 10 O’Clock Live, I was sceptical. A topical comedy show reacting to the news? Channel 4’s recent record in this area is littered with less than thrilling examples including The 11 O’Clock Show and Tonightly. I was especially disappointed when, at almost the same time, we were told that The Daily Show had been axed from More4. Was Channel 4 worried that the US import would show up its own attempt at news dissection?

I had quite low expectations, in spite of the top roster of talent we were promised: Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne. All good in their own right, but would they work well together in the high-pressure environment of live telly? I wasn’t convinced.

I sat down in front of the first episode with a very jaded eye. I fully expected to hate it, and the first few episodes were shaky, but I decided to stick with it in the hope that it might improve. I’m glad I did, because the show has overcome its initial nervousness and after nine episodes has built up confidence, to the point that I now look forward to it each week.

Topical news-based comedy like this is quite difficult to do. If you’re tackling serious issues through humour, great care must be taken to avoid treating a subject too lightly — or even worse, looking smug. It’s hard to get right, but 10 O’Clock Live manages to pull it off, most of the time anyway.

As for the Daily Show comparison, well… to be honest, the show is different enough that direct comparisons with Jon Stewart’s programme are meaningless. Many of the targets — evil politicians, corrupt bankers, media distortions — are the same, but the presentation is completely different.

Truly though, the great thing about it is that Charlie Brooker gets to do what amounts to a mini-version of Newswipe for weeks on end. In this clip from Thursday’s show, he attacks the TV and newspaper coverage of the Japanese earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Read the rest of this post »

20th March 2011

The World at War
Posted by at 5.09pm | In the News | No responses

Oh, look what’s happening:-

Western allies unleashed a ferocious series of air and missile strikes against Muammar Gaddafi’s military as they mounted the biggest intervention in the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Are we at war again? I’m sure this time will work out much better than the last few times!

22nd March 2011

In which Robert pretends to know about football
Posted by at 9.59pm | Gay | 2 responses

Anton Hysén plays for the lower leagues of Swedish football, but he has made headlines around the world after coming out as gay earlier this month. Two weeks later, the subject is still a talking point.

There’s a wonderfully positive article in today’s Daily Mail, of all places (as usual, ignore the comments). I love this little nugget of information:-

He was born in Liverpool during his dad’s time at the club and is still an obsessive fan, bellowing out You’ll Never Walk Alone in tiny clubhouse showers, emerging with a Liverpool towel and speaking of his admiration for Steven Gerrard.

There’s also a brief piece on Hysén over on the BBC Sport blog, accompanied by a good, frank report where he talks about the response — generally, positive attention from all over the world, marred by the odd piece of hate mail. He seems determined to treat the whole thing as no big deal, which it shouldn’t be, really. Overall, he seems remarkably happy with his position in life.

Mind you, I would be happy too if I was standing next to this man:-

Anton Hysén and friend in the changing room

The main theme of a lot of the articles I’ve read is: when will a British player follow suit? It’s difficult to know what the reaction would be – the Guardian’s secret footballer believes that fan abuse would still be rife. On the other hand, the Professional Footballers Association has pledged to support any players who do take this big step.

It will be a brave man who decides to be the first. However, the fact that people are talking about it openly means that the taboo has been slightly broken, meaning it is much more likely that we will see a gay footballer in the English leagues within the next few years. And in a world where football players are idolised by millions, hopefully he can be a much needed positive role model.

23rd March 2011

What do you want from me?
Posted by at 4.55pm | Meta | 1 response

Yesterday marked 107 years of electric train services between Liverpool and Southport, but I missed an even more important anniversary: my first post on this blog (which annoyingly is numbered 2 in the archives for some reason).

Yes, it was eight years ago yesterday that I first mashed the keyboard with my fists to send my thoughts over the internet. Over the years my audience has steadily grown, to the point where at least three or four people are reading regularly. I hope you are enjoying my frothy mix of trains, comments on the news, snippets from my life, trains, a smattering of gay issues, stupid jokes, trains and trains. Oh, and there’s stuff about trains.

Since I joined Twitter, the blog has changed a bit. Some subjects, about which I would have written a short blog post, are instead being dealt with in Tweet form. That means that the volume of blog posts has decreased, but hopefully the quality of what I am writing is still good. I’m also thinking about whether I should make more use of YouTube and start videoblogging.

So to my regular readers, what do you want to see me write about in the blog? Silly stuff? Trains? Gay rights? Stories from my life? Incredulous rants about the news? Stuff about the telly?

Should I focus on one area rather than the mish-mash which is on here at the moment? Should I tweet less and blog more? Would you like to see my big fat face on YouTube? I want to know what you think, so leave a comment.

27th March 2011

Morning After
Posted by at 12.33pm | In the News | No responses

Jon Stewart, on the Daily Show, has an occasional segment called “YOU’RE NOT HELPING”, where he highlights people who support a good cause but advocate it in the most counter-productive way possible. I think yesterday’s UK Uncut protest falls into that category. While many hundreds of thousands were marching against the coalition cuts, UK Uncut were busy protesting in Oxford Street, targeting businesses who they allege have avoided tax. They then moved on to stage a sit-in in Fortnum & Mason.

I think highlighting companies who avoid paying tax is a good idea. These firms may be doing nothing wrong in a legal sense, but morally and ethically it is dubious to say the least. However, occupying Fortnum & Mason is an odd choice – they are owned by Wittington Investments, who are in turn majority owned by the Garfield Weston Foundation, one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. UK Uncut say that one of Wittington’s other subsidiaries, Associated British Foods (owners of Primark) is accused of tax avoidance. If that is true (I honestly don’t know), that is a completely separate arm to Fortnum & Mason. Why not occupy Primark instead? Did they think occupying Fortnum & Mason, a renowned and prestigious store, would gain more publicity? Is it just because Fortnum & Mason is “posh”?

Unfortunately, a reasonable, peaceful protest attended by hundreds of thousands of people was overshadowed by this stuff and the later riots in Trafalgar Square. I hope the message of the TUC protest doesn’t get lost in the kerfuffle.

That doesn’t excuse some of the media coverage, including the despicable Mail on Sunday reporting the riot as if it was directly linked with the TUC march.

28th March 2011

Tyne & Wear Metro: The Musical
Posted by at 1.15pm | Fun, Trains | No responses

This is either terrible or brilliant, depending on your point of view. I think it just about makes it into the latter category, despite a dodgy rap about halfway through. The woman at 2:15 is my favourite part of the whole thing. Bonus points for using the Calvert font for the titles and credits.

Hat tip to @TwopTwips on Twitter for alerting a grateful nation. Now, who’s up for Merseyrail: The Opera?

29th March 2011

The Odd Couple
Posted by at 1.15pm | Fun | No responses

I found this article a while back. I was going to Tweet a link to it, but thought that it was worthy of inclusion here on the blog proper. The headline is “The Scariest (True) NYC Sublet Story You’ve Ever Heard”:-

After living with Jack for a few months, Doug was running home through the middle of a raging rainstorm, and noticed that Jack’s window was wide open, water pouring into the room. He rushed up the stairs, still dripping wet, and knocked on Jack’s door … Neatly piled into stacks were Chinese food containers, some 10 boxes high, some already toppled, with their half-eaten contents strewn on the floor. The cartons covered all the available area on the floor except for a narrow walkway to the bed and the desk.

Please note, the above is NOT the horrifying part. Read the rest of the story if you dare.

30th March 2011

Come McFly With Me
Posted by at 11.45pm | It's My Life, Music | No responses

I quite like McFly, and I often get ribbed for it. But I’m glad I don’t care what people think, otherwise I wouldn’t have been in the Echo Arena with Andrew last night, dancing like an idiot while surrounded by screaming female fans. I’m seriously glad I went — those guys know how to put on a show!


OK, I sound like a 15-year-old girl. The moral of the story is… Do what makes you happy, as long as it’s legal — and maybe sometimes, even if it isn’t! 🙂