Robert Hampton

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March 2013

1st March 2013

Brummed out
Posted by at 9.04pm | Out and About | 5 responses

So, a couple of weeks ago I was in Birmingham.

It was a destination chosen mainly for practical reasons. I was meeting with my friends Scott and Ian for a day of high-jinks. Ian lives in London, Scott lives in Birkenhead. Birmingham was roughly in the middle, and London Midland‘s Great Escape offer enabled us to reach there for just £15.


Aside from Moor Street station (which everybody spent a lot of time coo-ing over), my companions complained about how rubbish everything was. In fairness, we did seem to see only the very worst of the city: the dank caverns that are New Street and Snow Hill stations; the horrendous, pedestrian-unfriendly gridlocked roads that surround said stations; the Midland Metro with its unrelenting window views of derelict factories. We ended up in Wolverhampton, where a drunk man shouted obscenities at the people disembarking from the tram.

Birmingham gets a bad press. It’s the UK’s second city, with over a million inhabitants, and yet it is sneered at. It’s unfairly portrayed as a concrete mess of ugly 60s architecture, populated by Black Country simpletons with rubbish accents.

I can’t join in with the Birmingham mockery, however. This is mainly because I live in Liverpool, which is probably the one English city which gets more of a slating than Birmingham. I live and breathe Liverpool every day, and I know that the image of thieving and yobbery is untrue and unfair (except, perhaps, when the Mathew Street Festival is on). By the same token, I refuse to believe the stereotype that Birmingham is all concrete and ugliness. Over a million people choose to live there – it must be doing something right.

Instead, I will point you to my Birmingham blog from 2011 and supplement it by saying that Equator Bar is a fun place to while away an hour or so while waiting for your train.

The tram system is a bit rubbish, though.

IMG_0968 copy

4th March 2013

Over Censor-tive

A while back I took the decision to move my main e-mail off my domain host’s account and onto Apple’s iCloud. My main rationale for this was that I wanted to be able to access my e-mail anywhere, and using the iCloud account, which works with my iPhone out of the box (with push notifications to boot), seemed easier than messing about with my domain host’s IMAP settings. Also, Apple’s shiny, lovely, strokable technology did hypnotise me slightly.

Recently, however, Macworld discovered something about Apple’s e-mail service, which has given me pause for thought:-

Apple’s iCloud email service deletes all emails that contain the phrase “barely legal teen” it was revealed today.

Macworld has tested this by sending two test emails from a personal iCloud account. The message read “My friend’s son is already allowed to drive his high-powered car. It’s ridiculous. He’s a barely legal teenage driver? What on earth is John thinking.”

The second email amended the phrase “a barely legal” to “barely a legal”. This second email was delivered fine, whereas the first is still undelivered.

Ars Technica followed this up and Apple confirmed that it was an over-zealous spam filter. Which is fair enough, but I don’t like the idea that the e-mail is just silently deleted (in the test above, it didn’t even make it into a Junk folder).

Before anyone jumps in: no, I do not routinely send or receive e-mails containing the phrase “barely legal teen”. But I wonder what other phrases are being trapped in this way, and how many e-mails are being lost because of it?

It’s a reminder of the control you lose when you entrust your e-mail or other important data to “The Cloud”. We’re told that this is the future of computing, but to get there we’re having to rely an awful lot on a few large corporations, who may not often have the best interests of users at heart.

In summary, I’m going back to my web host’s e-mail service. Or carrier pigeons. Maybe carrier pigeons.

10th March 2013

Tonight, Mathew, I’m going to be…
Posted by at 1.15pm | Liverpool | No responses

Last August I criticised the Mathew Street Festival, saying that the increasingly vomit-stained event needed an urgent overhaul:-

This really is a case where smaller is better. Take the event back to its roots – a celebration of Merseybeat music that the whole family can enjoy, rather than an excuse to emulate the decadence of ancient Rome. Hell, if they do that I might even go next year.

I’m pleased to report that Liverpool City Council have listened to my counsel and have axed the event, replacing it with a smaller and, I hope, less chaotic shindig.

The Liverpool Echo’s reporting tried to put the worst possible spin on the news, but elsewhere the consensus was that this is a good move. As Sevenstreets’ “Autopsy” put it: “How can it be right for a festival to spend £900,000 to set up, with 80% of that cost going to policing and stewardship, sick-cleaning and staging, and only 20% going on the music? How can it be right for us to constantly be looking back fifty years, or wallowing in the parallel universe of tribute acts, when we’re a city that’s known for its creativity?”

The scrapping of the festival (or “Fezzie” as my mum insisted on calling it, even when no-one else did) is only bad news for yobs and alcoholics. Some bar and pub owners in the city centre are upset, but frankly if they were so interested in the Mathew Street Festival, they should have put their hands in their pockets to support it, rather than relying on the Council to subsidise the binge-drinking.

For the first time in quite a while, I will not be looking to flee the city this August Bank Holiday, and I look forward to seeing music other than naff tribute bands on the streets of Liverpool.

11th March 2013

Everything old is new again

Sleepy robMarch 22nd will mark ten years since I started my blog. By way of celebration, I have been reviewing my old blog posts, going right back to the very earliest entries.

In the intervening decade, a lot has happened and many things have changed, in the world at large and with me and my life situation. Both are reflected in the blog to a certain extent.

There are certain ever-present themes, however: my obsession with computers, slightly ranty political posts, enthusiasm for railways, trips out and about, that sort of thing.

Looking back at the old entries, some of them are downright cringeworthy. In spite of that, the trip down memory lane has been fun.

Over the next few days I will be looking back and posting some retrospective thoughts here. I hope you find them amusing. In the meantime, enjoy the suitably retro design, which is based on the way the site appeared when it first launched back in 2003.

12th March 2013

Setting the scene

It’s March 2003. I am 20 years old and living in a semi-detached house with my family in a dodgy part of Liverpool (Dingle), and I’m at home, staring at my computer screen, fingers hovering over the keyboard waiting for inspiration.

At this time I had no presence on the web to speak of, after shutting down my old web site in January 2001 becuase I was bored with it. That was all about to change.

In February 2002 I registered, out of vanity and a fear of something called “cybersquatting”. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, until one day, when I was idly surfing the web and discovered that former Star Trek actor and soon-to-be geek icon Wil Wheaton had an entertaining blog. I decided I wanted to do what he did – a blog, that is; not piloting the USS Enterprise.

The Web 2.0 revolution hadn’t quite exploded yet. MySpace was six months away from launching and Facebook would not exist for another year – and even then it was restricted to students of certain American universities. However, one concept which had started to catch on by this point was blogging. Lots of blogs were springing up on services such as LiveJournal and Blogger.

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13th March 2013

Let’s have a heated debate

Sign above a polling station: "Do not sit on the fence"I’m a procrastinator by nature. Back in 2003, I dragged my heels about setting up the blog, and even after the software was installed and ready to go, I didn’t post anything for quite a while. I was eventually persuaded to get my proverbial arse in gear when I realised that I wanted to have my say on the hot topic of the day.

There was a war looming in Iraq, and controversy over the morality and wisdom of invading Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship was raging. What better subject for my second ever blog post, on the second day of the blog?

I’m not one of these people who believe war is always wrong. Similarly I don’t think it’s the solution to every problem. I DO think it should be the last resort, when all sensible diplomatic avenues have been exhausted.

While the UK government always emphasised weapons of mass destruction, the US made no secret of its desire for regime change in Iraq, citing Saddam Hussein’s record of using chemical weapons on his own people. I don’t doubt for a moment that Saddam is evil, but we are setting a dangerous precedent: if you don’t like a government, it’s OK to launch a pre-emptive strike. And if the real reason for invading is out of concern for the Iraqi people, why are we concentrating solely on Iraq and not on the many other dictatorships which are ruled by tyranny and fear?

Looking back ten years later, and I think I was right. The Iraq war was a colossal mistake. Unfortunately no-one in Britain seemed to get punished for it, except the BBC, which got hauled over the coals for reporting the truth.

I haven’t always been so spot on. This post on “chavs” makes me cringe now. What was I thinking?!

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14th March 2013

Ball ball ball, footy footy footy

I have to love Manchester United fans.

Having spent £1000 on a season ticket, £50 on a replica strip and £250 on a Sky Sports subscription, they have, in the last week, finally cottoned on that the shareholders of their beloved football club are actually more interested in money than the game itself.

Yep, I think it’s fair to say I’ve always been mystified by football. From the reaction to Wayne Rooney leaving Everton, to the behaviour of “fans” attending a European cup game, I cannot understand anything about the game, or why a group of men kicking a ball around a field is a multi-million pound industry.

This isn’t snobbery (well, it is a bit, I suppose) – just my cold, logical mind and short attention span combining to ensure that the tension and excitement of a 90 minute football game is completely unappealing. I simply cannot get excited about “clashes” or “derbies” or anything like that. All those bombastic Sky Sports ads sound exactly like this Mitchell and Webb sketch (originally linked by me back in February 2008, and still just as funny now):

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15th March 2013

Techno techno techno techno

ComputersIt’s hard to imagine now, but when this blog was founded, I had to write the entries by creating a series of punched cards, which were then sent by first class post to a laboratory in Cambridge, where a man in a white coat would feed them one-by-one into a mainframe computer to create each blog post.

OK, that’s obviously not true. But technology has moved on in leaps and bounds in the last decade, often in new and unpredictable ways. In 2003 there were no YouTube videos to embed, no tweets to RT, and if you poked someone in public, you could expect a slap in the face in return. Google was a search engine company rather than an… everything company.

As for me, in 2003 I was still using RISC OS, the operating system designed by Acorn Computers for their ARM-based systems. Acorn had shut up shop in 1998, but the OS was still being developed by an independent company and I had fun playing with the latest versions as they were released. I was also still using it to do web design work (still haven’t found an app as good as Draw for quick pictures and diagrams). So when my machine started developing hardware faults, I was alarmed.

When computers develop hardware problems, my usual attitude is something approaching blind panic. I never did a backup (I meant to, but never get round to it), and I never paid attention when the hard drive started playing up last year (I meant to, but never got round to it). Procrastination 1, Rob 0.

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16th March 2013

Liverpool Resurgent

Three GracesOf all the happy happenings over the past decade, one of the best, as far as I am concerned, is the continuing regeneration of Liverpool.

Back in 2003, when Liverpool won its Capital of Culture title, many were sceptical that the city could deliver.

Certainly eyebrows were raised in 2004, when Liverpool Biennial put up pictures of naked female breasts and genitals in the city’s main shopping streets.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nipples and vaginas are excellent in the right context, but not flapping around on a banner outside the Carphone Warehouse.

The above blog post comes from a far off time when nudity offended me.

There was trouble behind the scenes, as Merseytram, the showpiece transport scheme that was supposed to be up and running for 2008, was cancelled after months of political squabbling and setbacks. My insightful reaction? “Oh, poo.” Having said that, I have a feeling it would have ended up a shambles, like the Edinburgh tram scheme.

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20th March 2013

A cheerful post

Sorry for the delay in posting this next retro-blog. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I have been rather busy.

Over the ten years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve always been a bit hesitant to talk much about big news stories. I’ve always believed that this isn’t the reason people come here, so I refrain from commenting unless I have something useful to say. That may be why my reaction to the Boxing Day Tsunami is just nine words.

Natural disasters seem to crop up quite a bit, with Hurricane Katrina and the New Zealand Quake both getting a mention.

Disaster of a different kind struck London on 7th July 2005. As a railway enthusiast and regular commuter, it struck a chord with me:

Tonight I was on the evening rush hour train out of Liverpool Central towards Hunts Cross. It’s a busy train and is always standing room only. As we barrelled through the tunnel towards Brunswick, I realised that if someone on board was to detonate a bomb, there would be carnage, and escaping from the tunnel would be difficult.

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21st March 2013

Getting Away From It All

Blurry LondonFor the first few years of the blog’s existence there aren’t many records of trips out, because – well, I didn’t like to leave the house. More recently, however, I’ve taken the advice, “you need to get out more,” to heart. I’ve ventured out more and more.

London features regularly – in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The last trip was with my friend Scott and seemed to involve hanging around the Abercrombie & Fitch store and then going to see West End Bares, a charity burlesque show. If this gives the impression that we enjoy looking at naked men, that is… accurate.

I like London, with its Oyster cards and palaces and whatnot. I think it helps that I have loads of friends who live there, so I can avoid expensive hotel bills by imposing on their generosity. In fact, I’ve just completed another London trip (this time with my friend Ian). It’s waiting to be written up, once these retro-blogs are out of the way…

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22nd March 2013

Ogle the Goggle Box

BBC Television CentreI always like to think of myself as someone who doesn’t watch much TV, apart from the odd highbrow drama on BBC4, of course. However, on reviewing my blogs of times past, it’s clear that television has been a big inspiration for blog entries over the years.

The TV I discuss isn’t always high-minded, either. One of the earliest television related entries came in the wake of a massive brawl in the Big Brother House in 2004:

Sorry to go all Daily Mail on people, but BB really is the most reprehensible, morally bankrupt thing on TV. I hope the police investigation results in prosecutions against all the Channel 4 executives involved in putting this vile show on the air.

Good grief, that show pisses me off.

While on the subject of reality TV, let’s skip ahead chronologically and get this embarrassing post out of the way right now:

I’m going to come out and say it: Hooray for good old-fashioned Light Entertainment bollocks on ITV1! Britain’s Got Talent was actually fairly entertaining.

What was I thinking? In my defence, this was before I found out how cynically produced the whole thing is.

A much more pleasant show to watch is Frasier, so I was sad to see the show come to an end:

I think Frasier will stand the test of time much better than that other recently-ended American sitcom. Friends, with its reliance on 90s pop culture and “cool” dialogue (like… you know, whatever), will be irrelevant within 10 years. Whereas Frasier never tried to be cool, just funny, and was all the better for it.

Not sure whether that prediction has come to pass, with Friends filling up every spare timeslot on Comedy Central while Frasier is relegated to the lesser Comedy Central Extra. But I still think it’s a million times better.

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23rd March 2013

Train of thought

Virgin Train at Liverpool South ParkwayOddly enough, despite being obsessed with railways, I don’t really mention trains much for the first year or so of the blog. I suspect I may have been trying to project an image of coolness, and I imagined railways would not fit in with that. One of the earliest train posts, in fact, is a fairly grim one – a brief mention of the Ufton Nervet derailment.

Railway safety (or the alleged lack thereof) is a common complaint in the media. Actually Britain’s railway is one of the safest in the world, but that tends to make the fatal accidents, such as the Greyrigg derailment, more newsworthy.

Subsequently, however, I’ve got over any lingering problems with coolness and I now blog about trains to the point of being boring. One development that excited me near the start of the blog’s life was the Liverpool South Parkway interchange, which was developed just a few stations down the line from where I live. I wrote about it in September 2005, when it was nearing completion, then a few months later in June 2006, when it opened. As was my habit at the time, the write-up of the day appeared on a separate page, rather than the blog itself. At first, the station’s usefulness was limited by the refusal of the regional operators to stop their trains there, but over the years more and more destinations have been served. The station is now a useful facility, and has been the starting point for many of my recent rail adventures.

lsp-certificateThe fractured nature of Britain’s passenger railway, with its multitude of franchises, means that every few years a new company will take over from the old. In practice this generally means that the trains are painted a different colour, staff get new uniforms and little actually changes on the ground. Such was the case with the Merseyrail network, when Arriva Trains handed over to the Serco/NedRailways consortium. Quite a few people were happy to see the end of Arriva, although subsequent events – including a damaging strike on Grand National Day in 2005 and a mysterious problem with the wheel lathe which led to days of disruption in 2007 – have dented the Dutch operator’s reputation somewhat in my eyes.

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24th March 2013

Ecce Homo

Rainbow flag fluttering in sunlightGay rights and gay issues have always interested me, and you’ll find reference to them throughout my blog, right back to the earliest days. Nowadays, the reasons are obvious. However, for the first seven years of the blog’s life, I was hamstrung by the fact that I was out to almost no-one.

I thought I was being quite clever, carefully wording my posts in such a way that I could demonstrate I was a champion of gay rights without actually coming out and saying that I was gay myself. However, when I was finally brave enough to start coming out to people, a response I got more than once was, “I know, I read your blog.”

Waiting until the age of 27 to come out is not ideal, and it’s something I regret bitterly (especially as a lot of my friends and family already knew, or at least suspected). There are many reasons that I left it so late, but discussion of those reasons is something more appropriate for a revealing therapy session, rather than the blog. So, on with the flashback!

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25th March 2013

There’ll always be something here

Hampo wins the prizeThis is the last “review of the decade” blog (thank goodness, I hear you say).

While previous posts have been about things I’ve done, places I’ve seen or comments I’ve made, this last one is about something more straightforward.

This post is about me.

When I started the blog, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with it, just as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. There’s a stereotype about men in their twenties – they’re cocky, have a bit of a swagger to them and think they know everything. In March 2003 I was 20 years old and I was none of these things.

Three years earlier I had walked out of school mid-way through Sixth Form, because I was completely unable to cope with the pressure I was under. In the process I surprised my friends and disappointed my family. By leaving education and not doing my A-Levels, I had torpedoed – or so I thought at the time – any chance of a proper career or life for myself. I also cut myself off from the few friends I had made at school, so I was pretty much alone.

If you want evidence of my state at the time, go to the first blog from 22nd March 2003 (which, annoyingly, is numbered 2, but that’s a consequence of the way I transferred everything from Movable Type to WordPress).

Anyway, three years later and its time to answer that other question people have been asking: “what are you doing now?”. Up till now I’ve frustrated them by deliberately dodging the question. My reason for doing this is simple: the answer is: nothing

That’s right. For nearly two years since That Fateful Day, I lost all interest. I stopped updating my web site and eventually just took it down. To keep my parents quiet, I applied for jobs, but wasn’t too bothered about passing the interview. For months I didn’t even bother signing on for Jobseeker’s Allowance; it seemed a bit dishonest to describe myself as a Jobseeker.

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26th March 2013

Capital Letters
Posted by at 11.48pm | Out and About, Trains | No responses

Giant London Underground roundelSo, London then.

I was there over the weekend of 16-18 March at the invitation of likeable Finchley-dweller Ian Jones, who zeroed in on an idle Tweet of mine like a ninja. On the first day of my week off work, I found myself on a Virgin train down to the Smoke.

Disaster struck early in the trip, as the Northern Line through Finchley was closed for engineering works. So, to actually get to Ian’s home, I faced the prospect of a rail replacement bus from Golders Green. First problem was actually finding where the bus stopped – Golders Green station has a row of bus stops right outside the station entrance, but of course the Tube replacement service didn’t stop there. No, you had to turn right out of the station, walk along a footpath, cross a road and board the bus at a temporary stop underneath a railway bridge. MAKES SENSE.

The line was, in fact, closed so London Underground could test the new Northern Line signalling system. Excitingly, for much of the weekend we could see a constant procession of test trains from Ian’s kitchen (which looks out onto the railway line). Less exciting was the fact that they went at about 5 mph and kept stopping and starting. Clearly all is not well with the new computers yet.

Undeterred by the lack of trains, we set out to explore some of the capital’s transport delights. Ian, in case you didn’t know, is the author of the excellent 150 great things about the Underground blog, and was keen to show me some of his favourite places. I will freely admit that a good proportion of the weekend was spent wallowing in our mutual transport geekiness.

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27th March 2013

Wilde Life
Posted by at 8.15pm | Stage | No responses

Judas KissThis post contains minor spoilers for the play The Judas Kiss, so you may wish to avoid it if you’re going to see it.

Ian and I didn’t spend our entire weekend riding the rails. We also enjoyed some high culture courtesy of The Judas Kiss, a play at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London until 6th April. It was very much a last-minute arrangement and the tickets we had were “Restricted View”, but for £15 we weren’t about to complain. As it turned out, we were in the Upper Circle and although part of the stage was blocked, we could see most of the action. This proved to be important later on.

The play is about some key moments in the life of Oscar Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”). Act One takes place in a hotel just before Wilde is arrested for gross indecency. His friends advise him to try and get out of the country before the police come for him; Bosie advises him to stay and fight the case. Wilde’s trial ended up with him being sentenced to hard labour in prison. Act Two takes place after Wilde’s release, when he is living in France, destitute. Bosie is with him, although he is far from devoted to Wilde, seeking out other men to play with at the same time, and ultimately deserting Wilde completely.

Judas KissRupert Everett is great as Wilde. After Stephen Fry’s amazing performance in the 1997 film Wilde, I wasn’t sure I could accept anyone else in the role, but Everett pulls it off magnificently. He delivers Wilde’s scathing one-liners with perfect comic timing, but also showing the vulnerable side to the man. The younger cast (including Freddie Fox as Bosie, Ben Hardy as Arthur and Tom Colley as Galileo) are all excellent. Overall, it’s

But more than anything else what stuck in the mind was the nudity… there was a lot of it, and fairly unabashed it was too. There’s a brief glimpse of a man and woman having sex at the start of the show, but then in the second act a man (one of Bosie’s conquests) gets out of bed, wanders around stage naked, then sits in the corner for twenty minutes or so eating a bun (with everything on show), while Bosie and Wilde argue.

This is not a complaint; it was very thought provoking. The thoughts it provoked, well… I couldn’t possibly discuss them on a public web site. In an interview with BBC News, the play’s actors talk about the challenge of being naked on stage. Getting your bits out for an audience – now that’s something which takes real, er… balls.

Anyway, I highly recommend The Judas Kiss (not just because of the nudity, honest). It’s an entertaining two-and-a-half hours, and a salutary reminder to gay men everywhere that, not too long ago, the law looked unfavourably on “the love that dare not speak its name”.

29th March 2013

Fuss about a bus
Posted by at 10.25pm | In the News | No responses

THIS IS A BUS bag from The ApprenticeThe Echo had a good piece recently investigating high bus fares, prompted by Arriva raising their fares yet again. A single journey within Liverpool now costs an eye-watering £2.10, even if you’re only travelling a few stops.

Compare with London, which is (we are always told) an expensive place to live. There, if you have an Oyster card, it costs just £1.40 for a single journey. Of course, London’s buses are controlled and priced by TfL, whereas the rest of the country have to make do with the free-for-all of deregulation.

Obviously the bus companies have to make their money somewhere, but there comes a point when it gets ridiculous. At those fares, a group of four people travelling together would pay £8.40 – they might be better off sharing a taxi. And of course, the people who suffer are the poorest members of society, who often have no alternative but to use the bus.

Arriva have introduced all sorts of gimmicks – free wi-fi, environmentally friendly hybrid buses and loads more, but if the fares keep increasing, there are going to be no passengers on the buses. If the bus companies were serious about getting people out of their cars, they would drop the fares and try to entice more people onto their services.

30th March 2013

Couldn’t Carey Less
Posted by at 11.47am | Gay, Politics | No responses

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, a Christian festival, and the law says that all shops over 280 square metres must close or face fines. When kids return to school after the Easter holiday, most will sit through a regular act of collective worship, which the school is obliged to provide under the law. In the House of Lords sit 26 “Lords Spiritual” – Church of England bishops who can take part in debates and vote, simply by virtue of being a Church leader. Last year, when a court ruled that a council could not hold prayers before meetings, Eric Pickles rushed through legislation to reverse that decision.

Given all the above, it’s a bit surprising to hear the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, whining about an agenda of ‘aggressive secularisation’ that the coalition government is supposedly pursuing. He says that Christians are ‘persecuted’ and ‘marginalised’.

Yes, Christian viewpoints are marginalised. That’s why Lord Carey’s opinion piece only appeared on the front page of the Daily Mail, and was obediently picked up by the BBC who had it as the second headline on their web site and radio news bulletins all morning.

It’s not even the first time the Archbishop has said this; he made very similar comments just over a year ago. But what is it that’s got him all fired up this time? You’ll never guess… (Daily Mail link)

As David Cameron knows, I am very suspicious that behind the plans to change the nature of marriage, which come before the House of Lords soon, there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards an institution that has glued society together for time immemorial.

By dividing marriage into religious and civil the Government threatens the church and state link which they purport to support. But they also threaten to empty marriage of its fundamental religious and civic meaning as an institution orientated towards the upbringing of children.

Yep, it’s the gays and their insidious plan to get married and be happy, which will RUIN every single heterosexual marriage that has ever existed.

It’s amazing that Lord Carey can cite same-sex marriage as evidence of the Government’s secularist agenda. The same-sex marriage bill contains numerous, well-documented contrivances to “protect” the Church of England from those nasty godless gays. The Church of England (and other religious organisations) are not forced to conduct marriages, not forced to approve of them, not forced to participate in them in any way.

Yet again, the Church is banging on about gay rights while other areas, which you would think would be more of a target for Christian love, are completely ignored. Polly Toynbee in Thursday’s Guardian wrote about the savage benefit cuts which start to be phased in from Easter Monday. They will leave many of the most vulnerable people in society much worse off and force a significant chunk of the population into a downward spiral of poverty and misery. Why is the Church not speaking out about that?

If the Church of England is marginalised, it is not because of any aggressive secular agenda, but simply because the Church, its leaders and spokesmen, are completely out of touch with modern life.

31st March 2013

It’s got to be-e-e-e-e…
Posted by at 6.27pm | It's My Life | No responses

For the last year or so, I’ve been studying with the Open University. I’m currently doing a maths module, and I’ve completed three out of four assignments, which means I am roughly 80% of the way through.

I don’t like to toot my own horn (not a euphemism) but I am a fairly good student and I consistently get high marks. This is great, and I’m proud. The problem with this, however, is that I have set such a high standard for myself that I worry to the point of obsessiveness that I won’t be able to keep it up (again, not a euphemism).

This does mean I go to ridiculous lengths sometimes. I’m writing my assignments by hand rather than word processing them because they require a lot of equations and graphs to be inserted. Handwriting is fine, until I realise I’ve made a slip of the pen and a small mistake has crept in. I could cross out the minor errors or break out the Tipp-Ex, but I choose not to because… well, that would mean I am not perfect.

So, every time I make a mistake the paper gets scrumpled up and chucked in the bin. I then start the page afresh. It’s time-consuming, but it MUST BE DONE. This was my waste paper basket at the end of a particularly intense study session recently:

Waste Paper Basket

Sometimes I genuinely wish that I was the sort of person who could coast at the mid-70% level. I think I’d be a lot happier.

This post is dedicated to the memory of all the trees who gave their lives to fill that waste paper bin