Robert Hampton

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October 2011

2nd October 2011

Bin There, Done That
Posted by at 11.57am | Politics | No responses

What’s got everyone involved in an animated discussion this week then? Why, it’s the always sexy topic of rubbish collection, as big-boned Government Minister Eric Pickles has announced that he is bribing councils to return to weekly collections:-

Last year, the communities secretary told the Daily Mail he was an ardent supporter of weekly bin collections, explaining: “It’s a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected.”

(Pickles wasn’t talking about himself in the above sentence, as he has clearly never thrown any food away, ever)

I’ll say this very quietly, because it will probably annoy certain people, but (whisper) I actually think weekly collections are appropriate. Now, it’s true that a home containing one or two people probably doesn’t produce enough waste to need a bin emptying every week, but there are four of us here at Castle Hampton and we generally manage to fill both our recycling and normal waste bins every week. Liverpool is one of the authorities which has stuck with weekly collections; if they went to fortnightly, I’m not sure we’d cope. Yes, I’m sure Captain Planet wouldn’t approve, but it’s not my fault that everything I buy is packaged in what seems like fifteen layers of cardboard and plastic.

There are a few things which bother me, however: first of all – we had £250m sitting around doing nothing? Where did they find this? Was it tucked away in Eric Pickles’s jowls? And, if we do have that money, is bin collection really a priority? Couldn’t we spend that money on schools or hospitals or something?

Secondly, one of the key policies of the Conservatives, as announced on their web page, states: “We are promoting the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to councils, local residents and community groups.”

So it seems the Government’s policy is to give local authorities more devolved powers, except when the local authorities to do things the Government don’t like, in which case the government bribes them to change back. Well, that makes perfect sense.

3rd October 2011


There are all sorts of rumours swirling around about the new product to be unveiled by Apple tomorrow. It’s an iPhone 4S! It’s an iPhone 5! It’ll have a super-HD camera! Maybe it won’t! It’ll make you cups of tea! It’ll provide better sex than your partner!

I am refusing to get swept up in the excitement. I’m just enjoying my final days of having the latest and best model, before I am rendered hopelessly out of date by whatever is announced tomorrow.

6th October 2011

Chimes of Death

Screenshot of web page showing "Steve Jobs 1955-2011"Oddly enough, I heard the news of the death of technology giant Steve Jobs this morning not through a computer or iAnything, but via that most old-fashioned of sources – the 7am news on BBC Radio 4. However, I immediately fired up the Twitter app on my iPhone, where everyone from Barack Obama to Wil Wheaton was weighing in with a tribute.

It’s impossible to overstate Jobs’ contribution to the world of technology, but his finest hour must surely be his masterminding of the turnaround in Apple’s fortunes. When Jobs returned to the company in 1996, it was near bankruptcy, seemingly defenceless against the rise of PCs and Windows. Many analysts believed that a return to profitability was impossible, and with a lesser person at the helm, they would probably have been correct. Without Jobs, Apple would have gone the way of Acorn, Commodore, Atari and countless other names from the early years of home computing.

With Apple’s co-founder back in charge, the company not only came back from the brink, but went on to incredible success with a new line of products. It’s true the iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player and the iPhone wasn’t the first mobile phone, but Apple’s take on the concepts (with the influence of Jobs tangible in every detail of the designs) resulted in products that were genuine game-changers.

And now he’s gone, leaving some enormous shoes to fill. Apple, and the world in general will feel his loss for a very, very long time.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

9th October 2011

Posted by at 5.19pm | In the News | No responses

I love the BBC. It’s not perfect by any means and there are loads of things I would do differently if I was in charge (one day, maybe), but that doesn’t change the fact that is by far the finest broadcasting and newsgathering organisation in the world and is absolutely a great British institution.

It breaks my heart, therefore, to read of the cuts that are being forced upon it. The Tories may see this as cutting a bloated monopoly down to size, but a weakened BBC (and, by extension, a strengthened Sky) will be bad for the culture of the country.

Predictably there has been a huge outcry on Twitter and elsewhere, with most people unhappy that the thing they like is disappearing, while a thing they hate will continue. I’m not going to go down that road: I can’t stand Chris Moyles, Top Gear or Strictly Come Dancing, but I’m not going to declare them a waste of licence payers’ money, because I know there are other people who would happily axe my favourite things: Miranda, QI and The Apprentice.

It’s especially sad to see BBC local radio hit so hard by the cuts. Radio Merseyside isn’t my cup of tea (it isn’t even my glass of water) but there’s no doubting that it reaches and – more importantly – connects with a huge audience on a daily basis. If genuinely useful services like that are being reduced, is there any point in the BBC at all?

10th October 2011

How Hampo hasn’t got his groove back
Posted by at 11.14pm | It's My Life, Meta | 2 responses

This blog is feeling a bit neglected lately. That’s not because I’ve given up on web-based wibblings – far from it. It’s just that I’m having much more fun posting snarky asides on Twitter and writing about backwater railway stations.

But what of here, where I blog about “about anything that interests me: mainly culture, Liverpool, politics, trains and a whole lot more besides”? I’m finding it hard to write stuff on this blog because, frankly, who cares? Well, I’m sure some people do, but I’m not sure I do any more.

The BBC blog from a couple of days ago is a case in point. I was angry and wanted to say something, but when I tried to express myself, it didn’t translate well and I had trouble coming up with something vaguely readable. For me to get satisfaction from blogging, it’s got to be either (a) amusing or (b) well-argued and coherent, otherwise I’m just another semi-literate person mashing the keyboard with his fists. That would be good enough for RightMinds, but not for me.

This may be just a temporary blip. In any event, I’ve just paid to renew my web hosting, so I’m stuck with this until October 2013 at least!

13th October 2011

iOS, I like the way you dress

Last night I got home, plugged my iPhone into my computer, and got this message:

"A new iPhone software version (5.0) is available for the iPhone 'Robert's iPhone'. Would you like to download it and update your iPhone now?"

Yes, after a summer of feverish anticipation, iOS 5 has finally made it out of Apple HQ and onto the flash drives of eager users everywhere.

Well, almost. The first time I tried to download it, the download aborted after about 50 megabytes (although I think that might have been my dodgy wi-fi). It worked the second time, but that proved to be the easy step, as every attempt to install it was met with this message:

"The iPhone 'Robert's iPhone' could not be restored. An unknown error occurred (3200)."

I wasn’t the only one. Error 3200 was trending on Twitter for much of Wednesday evening. It didn’t help that the “More Information” button linked to an Apple support page which didn’t even mention error 3200 (although it has now been belatedly added).

Read the rest of this post »

23rd October 2011

Honourable Mensch-ion
Posted by at 11.37pm | Politics | No responses

Have I Got News For You is usually a nice sorbet to round off the week – a welcome way to cleanse the palate of the stresses and strains of life and perhaps laugh at

This week, I get well and truly annoyed by the show, thanks to the presence of Tory MP Louise Mensch, and in particular her mockery of the “anti-capitalist” protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. She smugly pointed out that some of the protesters are buying coffee from Starbucks and using iPhones, as if this somehow negated the point they were making.

Apple and Starbucks are global corporations with huge power and influence. That is because they make products (electronics, coffee) that people want to buy. They – like many other companies, both large and small – are successful because their products are good and people want to part with their money to buy them. They have succeeded on their own merit and that is the “good” side of capitalism. No-one, apart from the three remaining members of the British Communist Party, wants to see that system abolished.

On the other hand, you have the capitalism that caused the mess the world finds itself in: City traders short-selling shares, banks giving out loans to people who couldn’t possibly afford to pay them back and the sub-prime mortgage problem. All of this was enabled by lax regulation, thanks to politicians who were in the pocket of wealthy donors from the financial sector.

And yet, despite everything, many firms in the City are still paying out huge bonuses to their workers, on top of salaries which are already obscenely large in many cases. The people who caused the problem seem to be immune to the effects, while the rest of us in the real world struggle. That is why people are angry, and I think that anger spreads well beyond a few tents in Ludgate Hill.

Louise Mensch (like too many of her colleagues in Parliament unfortunately), simply doesn’t seem to understand this.

24th October 2011

Posted by at 7.53pm | Gay | 1 response

Zachary Quinto (Sylar in Heroes and Spock in the Star Trek reboot), came out last week.

It’s impossible to state how happy this news makes me. A popular actor, whose career is very much in the ascendancy – in an industry which still largely demands that its leaing men are red-blooded heterosexuals – has decided that he is no longer going to deny his true identity.

And the best part was how he did it, by just casually – nonchalantly, even – dropping it into the conversation during an interview with New York magazine.

His eight-month role in Angels was both “the most challenging thing I’ve ever done as an actor and the most rewarding” he says. Having to inhabit that terrible lost world, if only in his mind, took a toll. “And at the same time, as a gay man, it made me feel like there’s still so much work to be done, and there’s still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed.”

In a world where positive gay role models are in short supply, Quinto’s coming out is a welcome development. It also gives an added dimension to all that Kirk/Spock slash fiction.

Now, do you think we’ll actually get a gay character in Star Trek at some point? It has been 45 years, you’d think they’d get round to it soon.

29th October 2011

Savile Row (6, column 4 in the cemetery)
Posted by at 6.19pm | Television, Trains | 1 response

Jimmy Savile (IT HAS ONE L YOU FOOLS) has died. Here is a Jimmy Savile-related moment from my life.

I once wrote to Jim’ll Fix It. I can’t remember exactly when, but it must have been towards the end of the show’s run when it was being flung out in graveyard slots.

My request was, in retrospect, quite unambitious. I didn’t want to have tea on a roller coaster or appear in a specially-written Doctor Who mini-episode. No, I just wanted to ride in the cab of a train.

Not an exciting train like an HST or Flying Scotsman, mind, but a common or garden class 507. I did go so far as to specify the journey I wanted: Southport to Liverpool – presumably worried that the BBC would try to penny pinch and send me to Kirkby.

I think what I really wanted was a drivers-eye view of the Link tunnel, an ambition I later (sort of) realised by purchasing a Merseyrail cab ride video. The video was disappointing as the tunnel section was just 10 minutes of pitch darkness and loud echoey rumbling noises (with a caption “Paradise Junction” helpfully superimposed over the blackness at one point).

Where was I? Oh yes – I misspelled the word “often” on my letter, and I remember Mum told me to leave it uncorrected as it would make me look like a sweet innocent child, rather than the obnoxious smart-arse I already was by the age of seven. Bless.

I never got on Jim’ll Fix It, which was probably a good thing, as appearing on national television with the nation’s favourite slightly odd uncle character would surely have added to my already bulging package of childhood neuroses.