Robert Hampton

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July 2011

4th July 2011

Phoning it in
Posted by at 8.06pm | In the News | No responses

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal has by turns been outrageous and occasionally surreal, but now it is simply despicable:

The News of the World illegally targeted the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler and her family in March 2002, interfering with police inquiries into her disappearance, an investigation by the Guardian has established.

If you’re not angry yet, read the rest of the article, particularly this part:-

Milly’s voicemail box filled up and would accept no more messages. Apparently thirsty for more information from more voicemails, the News of the World intervened – and deleted the messages that had been left in the first few days after her disappearance. According to one source, this had a devastating effect: when her friends and family called again and discovered that her voicemail had been cleared, they concluded that this must have been done by Milly herself and, therefore, that she must still be alive. But she was not. The interference created false hope and extra agony for those who were misled by it.

The News of the World is but one tentacle of the slimy Murdoch empire. The Tory government are, little by little, handing over control of the media to these people, and with it, immense power to influence the political agenda and shape public opinion. Can we trust these people to use that power responsibly? Reread the Guardian article linked to above and draw your own conclusions.

Cancel your Sky subs, switch to the Sunday Mirror and – if you’re not doing so already – boycott the Sun. Hit them in the pocket; it’s the only language they understand.

7th July 2011

It’s the End of the World As We Know It
Posted by at 11.25pm | In the News | 1 response

Wow, what a difference a week makes. The News of the World is to publish its final issue this Sunday after continuing hacking revelations, a Twitter outrage and an advertiser boycott.

You can argue (with some force) that this is a symbolic gesture; a stunt to try and draw a line under the affair. That may be so, but to suddenly close a profitable paper which has published every Sunday for 167 years is a massive step and one which News International won’t have taken lightly, even if the “Sun on Sunday” (or whatever) is waiting to fill the gap.

This shouldn’t be the end of the matter: there are still lots of questions to be answered. What about the allegation that police officers accepted bribes? Doesn’t David Cameron have too cosy a relationship with News International bigwigs? Shouldn’t the decision to allow the BSkyB takeover be reconsidered? Why is Rebekah Brooks keeping her job when staff at the News of the World (most of whom weren’t even working there when the hacks took place) are being sacked?

My parents used to get the News of the World until a few years ago when they switched without explanation to the Mail on Sunday. Is Captain Cash still in it? I liked that part.

10th July 2011

You’ve got to pick a pocket or two
Posted by at 7.30pm | It's My Life | 1 response

When I got my iPhone back in May, I jokingly Tweeted that I was now a much more tempting mugging target.

That joke has unfortunately come back to bite me on the bum somewhat. I was not mugged, but I did have my pocket expertly picked in Liverpool city centre in the early hours of this morning. Thankfully my wallet and house keys were safe, but my iPhone and Trio ticket were both removed. A quick trip to Queen Square Bus Station this afternoon sorted out the latter, the former is not so easily remedied.

Insurance should cover most of the replacement cost, but that’s not the point. In the few weeks that I had the phone, a great chunk of my life ended up on there: phone numbers, calendars, notes, photos, Grindr (ahem). Hopefully it is all backed up, but until I can get up and running on a new phone, I’m slightly bereft without access to them.

Luckily I don’t use the phone for things like holding travel e-tickets, or making credit/debit card payments – if I had, I really would be screwed.

It’s left me a bit shaken up, to be honest.

12th July 2011

“They’re closing the stations with beautiful names…”
Posted by at 5.14pm | Trains | 3 responses

“…Appledore and Chasewater and Saffron Walden,
Midsomer Norton, Berry Brow, Swanbourne, Waterfoot, Templecombe,
Flax Bourton and Egremont and Adlestrop and Ashton-under-Wychwood,
Starcross and Sturminster Newton and Sampford Courtenay…”

The BBC Archive project has turned up a lot of gems, but this has to be one of the best so far, as Derek Hart reads a lyrical tribute to the stations axed by Beeching.

It’s not quite as depressing as this list makes out: a few of the stations named were actually reprieved and survive to this day. Bonus points if you can spot the two which are now part of Merseyrail.

14th July 2011

Brum Fun
Posted by at 8.38pm | Out and About | 2 responses

Ticket to Birmingham“You’re going where?”

Such was the reaction from my friends when I told them I was planning to visit Birmingham on Monday. I think I would have earned a less scornful reaction had I organised a weekend break in Basra.

Lots of people say things about Birmingham: it’s a dump, it’s ugly, the local accent is like fingernails on a blackboard. But then again, lots of people say similar things about Liverpool. I was more than prepared, therefore, to give Birmingham the benefit of the doubt; as far as I was concerned it was a place that fulfilled my three criteria for a day out: it was cheap, it was somewhere I’d never been, and I could get there easily from Liverpool South Parkway.

Regular readers will have noted that I was recently forcibly separated from my mobile phone. That was a bit of a downer, and I certainly missed the distraction of music, internet and games during the 93 minute train journey. I had to look out of the WINDOW, for heaven’s sake!

On the other hand, it was strangely liberating to not have the pressure to Tweet my whimsical observations on Britain’s second city every five minutes. I was able to relax and enjoy myself, and save my outpourings for one big enjoyable spurt.

Read the rest of this post »

15th July 2011

Posted by at 10.27pm | Out and About, Trains | No responses

Photo of Metrolink Tram 3004 at St Werburgh's RoadWhile visiting Manchester with Scott to bag some Parliamentary railway stations (of which more later) I had a chance to ride the new Chorlton line of Metrolink.

The line opened only eight days ago and still has that new (tram)car smell – the trams are spotlessly clean. The trams were already busy, although some passengers just appeared to be riding the line for its novelty value. Even so, this bodes well for the future.

The Chorlton line is just the first of several new tram lines which will be opening in Greater Manchester over the next few years. Meanwhile, the number of tram routes in Liverpool remains firmly fixed at zero. It’s a shame that Merseytravel failed to get its network off the ground. I love Merseyrail, but there are big parts of the city which are not served and a tram system could have gone some way to filling in the gaps.

Will I ever get to ride a tram around the Liverpool City Centre Loop, which should have been up and running by 2008? Probably not for the foreseeable future, sadly.

Photo of platform and shelter at St Werburgh's Road Metrolink Station"Welcome to the Metrolink network... and your new stop"

16th July 2011

Ideas above your station
Posted by at 6.45pm | Trains | No responses

I already blogged about my visit to Metrolink yesterday, but that was really only a sidebar to the real reason for my trip to Manchester. I wanted to ride the once a week service from Reddish South to Denton and visit both stations, surely the least used on the British railway network.

It’s such a special occasion that it warrants a whole new blog, so I proudly present: The Station Master! This is a new project of mine, aiming to visit the obscure and forgotten nooks and crannies of the UK rail network. It will either blossom and grow into something special, or I will update it twice and forget about it. Still, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. My first proper post (about Reddish South and Denton) is up now.

Comments here are closed – please head over to The Station Master blog and comment there.

17th July 2011

Would Jubilee-ve it?
Posted by at 12.28pm | In the News | No responses

One of the most prominent landmarks in the North West celebrates its anniversary today – the Jubilee Bridge (the “Runcorn Bridge” to you and me) is 50 years old, with a special convoy of 200 vintage vehicles. BBC News reports:-

Drivers are being warned to expect traffic disruption in and around Heath Park, Runcorn, Victoria Park, Widnes and along the convoy route at about 1200 BST.

Causing a massive traffic jam seems an appropriate way to commemorate the Runcorn Bridge.

19th July 2011

Anniversary Waltz
Posted by at 6.40pm | Liverpool | No responses

Anniversaries are coming thick and fast at the moment, and another famous structure celebrates a milestone today.

When first built, people complained that it was ugly, blocked the river view and was not in keeping with the older buildings around it. A century later, it’s now impossible to imagine Liverpool without it. It is a landmark instantly recognisable nationwide and around the world; a building which in many ways is the public face of the city.

On behalf of picture postcard manufacturers everywhere, happy 100th anniversary to the Royal Liver Building!

Liver Building

22nd July 2011

Posted by at 8.17pm | In the News | No responses

Some appalling scenes on the TV news out of Africa recently. Please consider donating via the Disaster Emergency Committee web site.

24th July 2011

Posted by at 11.12am | In the News | No responses

I wanted to acknowledge the attacks in Norway, but frankly any analysis is beyond me at this point. One thing I’m fairly certain about is that more horrific details are going to emerge in the coming days about exactly what happened on Friday afternoon.

It’s interesting that almost everybody in the news media seemed to immediately assume that this was an Al Qaeda-style terror attack, only for it to become clear later that the suspect was a white right-wing extremist. Post 9/11, we seem to have forgotten that madmen come in many guises and any religious faith can be warped to “justify” acts of terror.

25th July 2011

Posted by at 9.53pm | In the News | No responses

I feel a pang of guilt about Amy Winehouse. I remember watching her incoherent appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks a few years ago and laughing quite a lot at it.

In retrospect, we should have laughed less and left her alone to get well. But lots of us were complicit in the feeding frenzy. Her every move was chronicled by a tabloid press who seemed to almost revel in her downfall. With those pressures, can anyone really be surprised at what happened?

Addiction is not understood by many people (including myself – apparently finding Chocolate Hob Nobs quite moreish doesn’t count). But here’s some wise words from Craig Ferguson – this was recorded in February 2007 when everyone on American TV was having fun talking about Britney Spears’ “erratic” behaviour. In this clip Ferguson talks about his own alcoholism, the perspective his experiences have given him, and why he will not join in with the jokes.

29th July 2011

Undertaking is a breach of the Highway Code
Posted by at 7.33pm | Trains | 1 response

United Utilities sent a letter to our home recently enclosing a notice about our sewers, presumably to comply with some legal niceties.


It’s fairly mundane stuff, until you get halfway down the page and find this little nugget (click to enlarge):-

This notice does not apply to private sewers or private lateral drains which: 1. are owned by a railway undertaker; or

The phrase “railway undertaker” conjures up an image of a funeral director who loads coffins into the 0821 to Southport. I suspect however, it means undertaker in the sense of “an undertaking” – i.e. a railway company. Presumably there is some arcane law which requires specific reference to be made to “railway undertakers”.

It’s yet another legacy of how important the railways were in the good old days – I suspect there are thousands of these laws still on the statute books.

I found it amusing, but maybe I should be worried about the staff at Aigburth station going to the toilet – if the sewers are not maintained by United Utilities, where does the waste go?