Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

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.

29th August 2012

There’s a ley line runs down Mathew Street… no, wait – it’s a stream of urine
Posted by at 7.48pm | Liverpool | No responses

Last year, as the August Bank Holiday weekend approached, I asked a work colleague if he was attending the Mathew Street Festival.

“No,” came the reply, “too many dickheads.”

I remembered that conversation as I read today’s news about the Mathew Street Festival, Liverpool’s rollicking bank holiday extravaganza of tribute bands and public drunkenness.

There is a £400,000 funding shortfall for next year’s festival, and the event could be dramatically scaled back. Speculation is rife that the outdoor stages will be dropped, with the festival returning to something resembling its original format, focusing on bands performing in bars and other indoor venues.

Frankly, a rethink of the event is long overdue. The last time I went was in 2010 and, although the music was OK, the atmosphere was odd. It was quite clear that many people were there strictly to consume as much alcohol as possible. Although there were, in theory, alcohol-free zones and a ban on glass bottles, neither were enforced, and I saw a gang of scallies gulping down bottles of Carlsberg and classy women passing a wine bottle around. By around 3pm there were already plenty of people staggering around in a paralytic state.

Back to this year: I was in town doing some shopping on Saturday afternoon and I saw a large group of lads lugging three crates of lager through the streets in preparation for the festival. It was at that moment that I resolved to spend the Bank Holiday weekend as far away from Liverpool City Centre. That’s even before we get to the chaotic public transport arrangements – Merseyrail is surely the only train company in history who would respond to special event crowds by running fewer trains.

It’s hard to disagree with Frank McKenna of Downtown Liverpool in Business who called the event “a glorified p***-up that does not showcase the best of the city.”

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.

7th April 2010

Flying Corpse

A headline you don’t see every day is “Dead man caught checking in at airport”.

TWO women tried to smuggle a dead relative on to a plane at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The corpse was pushed in on a wheelchair – complete with sunglasses – to try to fool staff at the check in desk at JLA.

But as his two companions attempted to check him in for a flight to Berlin on Saturday, staff became suspicious and alerted the authorities.

The two women were arrested after their bizarre attempt was uncovered.

The ECHO understands the 91-year-old German national had died a day earlier, and an attempt was being made to smuggle his body back to his homeland.

How on earth did they think this was going to work? What happens when they go through security? What if some of the check-in staff wanted to talk to the old man? Would they have set up some sort of impromptu ventriloquist act?

It is, of course, fairly awful for the airport staff caught up in this mess, and for the unfortunate taxi driver who became an unwitting undertaker for the day. But none of that stopped the Liverpool Echo — and, to be fair, almost everyone else — from making comparisons to Weekend at Bernie’s.

The bemusement deepened following an odd interview given to the BBC by the two women — who have been charged with failing to report a death — with the winning quote, “My Willi is my god. I [have loved] my Willi for 22 years.”

The news has travelled round the world, with hundreds of reports on Google News, and thanks to doing this search, I now know that there is a procedure in place for deaths in flight. Reassuring.

The news, in case you missed it: two women tried to take a CORPSE onto a plane at Liverpool Airport.

7th February 2010

Iris-ked everything for you
Posted by at 7.19pm | Liverpool | No responses

Various web sites have been buzzing with the news that the former Mersey Ferry, Royal Iris, has ended up half-sunken and derelict in a London dock.

Royal Iris tied up in London, 2006

Some people may struggle to understand the emotions here: on the face of it, it’s just a boat that took people from Liverpool to Wallasey. And let’s face facts, its design was never going to win a beauty contest. But for many Merseysiders, the Royal Iris is not just a ferry, it’s an icon of Scouse culture. This is mainly thanks to the regular cruises it operated during the Merseybeat era, where passengers would receive dinner and an afternoon’s entertainment from one of the leading Liverpool bands. Even the Beatles performed on board on a few occasions. It’s a very sad state of affairs to see it ending its days like this.

Read the rest of this post »

10th January 2010

No Country for Cold Men

Great Britain in the snow

Everyone has their own story to tell about the cold weather the country has been experiencing recently, which saw parts of Scotland reach temperatures similar to those at the South Pole. People in work have been swapping stories about having to walk home on Tuesday afternoon after Liverpool’s bus companies withdrew services, allegedly due to the Council’s failure to grit the roads.

On a related topic, thanks to the amazing staff at Merseyrail, who pulled out all the stops to keep their trains running, even running empty trains through the night to keep the lines clear of ice. The end result was that, except for a few minor delays and cancellations, the trains have been running normally, even on Tuesday afternoon when there was a near-whiteout for a time. The Liverpool Echo, not known for its love of the railways, had to grudgingly recognise the achievement. Let me just add to the praise: you guys are AWESOME (Merseyrail, not the Liverpool Echo)!

As the trains were running I had no excuse not to be in work, but on Wednesday morning the pavements in the city centre were like glass. I was wearing the least practical shoes imaginable and had barely set foot outside Central station before I slipped and landed on my bum. It wasn’t even a dignified fall: there was much flailing of arms and feet before I eventually toppled over. Still, it seemed to amuse the man on the corner who was giving out Metros.

(satellite image taken on 7th January 2010, NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response)

1st January 2010

2009? More like Two Thousand and Fine!

July saw Merseyrail’s run of bad luck continue, as a train rolled out of the depot and derailed. To atone for their sins, they introduced a new day ranger ticket, but I wasn’t convinced. This was something of a train-y month for me, as I did my bit to help out the previous generation of Merseyrail trains. Trains were also on the Government’s mind, as they announced that the Liverpool to Manchester line would be electrified.

In London, the Police proved once again what a wonderful organisation they are. In Rome, a swimmer suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

Read the rest of this post »

3rd August 2009

The Voice of Merseyside… in Oldham

Today marked the start of a brave new era, as the Liverpool Echo is now printed at Trinity Mirror’s Oldham printing press. According to Liverpool Confidential, editors are “acutely sensitive” that this move will undermine the paper’s credibility as a champion for Merseyside.

As I said when this news was announced last year, they are right to be worried. This is not an anti-Manchester thing, more a concern that the changes required to accommodate the move will destroy the paper completely. I’m particularly interested that an “evening” paper will now have a deadline of 7am! We had an example of the damage early deadlines can do only recently, when the Echo was unable to carry any news of Steven Gerrard’s acquittal until the day after the verdict was delivered, by which time it had been thoroughly gone over by TV, radio and the morning national papers and was generally old news. Yes, newspapers are being undermined by the internet, but it seems odd of Trinity Mirror to respond to that threat by making their publication appear even more irrelevant and out of date.

I haven’t been impressed with the Echo for years. Yes, they have run some important campaigns, but they are let down by sloppy reporting, sensationalism (count the number of times the words “CHAOS”, “TERROR” or “HORROR” are used in headlines) and an obsession with generally unimportant matters (car parking, Mersey Tunnel tolls, “Miseryrail”). Their good columnists (Will Batchelor, Laurence Westgaph) disappeared, while tedious rant-merchants like Joe Riley and Pete Price stay on. They’ve even dropped the Willie cartoon!

So I will probably be saving my 47p a day in future. My advice is to use the internet (I highly recommend Liverpool Confidential) or at a pinch, the BBC Radio Merseyside news bulletin at the top of each hour. But if you do this, for God’s sake, turn it off again as soon as the news finishes so you don’t have to listen to the rest of that station’s output.

10th December 2008

Round Up – Kills the Roots, Guaranteed!

I know, I haven’t blogged for over a week. I’M BAD AT THE INTERNET. But now I’m back, ready to post items which may be of interest. Or not.

  • One of the main roads into Liverpool City Centre has been closed after a sewer collapsed underneath it — normally this would be of no interest to me whatsover, but the same sewer passes directly under the railway line I use to travel to work on a daily basis. Despite the heroic efforts of United Utilities, St Michaels station floods every time there’s a light drizzle and yours truly has ended up on an Arriva bus in a traffic jam on two separate occasions.

  • John Barrowman apologises for exposing himself on a Radio 1 show, following a complaint by a person who clearly doesn’t understand the concept of radio.

  • Remember RISC OS, the computer operating system which was great when first released in 1988, but struggled to keep up with Windows and was eventually left in the dust? It’s now available to download for a fiver. Sadly in today’s market it’s still overpriced by about £4.50, but the nostalgic may relish the opportunity to have a legal copy to plug into an emulator.

  • Steve Coogan says his Liverpool show got bad reviews, not because it was a half-arsed performance, but (of COURSE!) because the Scouse audience hated Mancunians. The reaction locally was… predictable (although to be fair, for once Paddy Shennan has a point).

  • Many people have suspected as much for some time, but now it’s official: The Simpsons is over as an icon of subversive pop culture. How do I know? The Daily Mail has run an article praising the show.

  • Staying on the same subject, the Mail on Sunday has decided to launch its own music label, or as Paul McInnes puts it on the Guardian music blog: “As if belonging to one industry with a death wish wasn’t enough, now the Mail wants to get into another!”

    The new label will be called Mail On Sunday Sounds (MOSS) and launched with a free giveaway of a CD by a Gospel choir. Contrary to rumours, they won’t have any recordings featuring Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, because MOSS gathers no Rolling Stones.

9th September 2008

Liverpool Ech-oh dear
Posted by at 4.20pm | Liverpool | 1 response

So, the Liverpool Echo is moving its printing press to Oldham. The editor is begging outraged Scousers not to abandon the paper, and has hit out at “misinformed media pundits” for daring to criticise the paper and its parent company, Trinity Mirror.

Some clots in the media have tried to portray this as a move to Manchester. Let me give them a basic geography lesson. Oldham is five miles from Manchester.

That’s true. Specifically, it’s five miles to the North East of Manchester, making it even further away from Liverpool than Manchester is.

There are surely sound economic reasons for Trinity Mirror to have one big printing press instead of loads of smaller ones dotted around the North of England. But in one important respect, this leaves the Daily Post and Echo in a difficult position, given their history of vigorous campaigns against organisations which have proposed to move jobs out of the city.

The most recent example of this came last month when the Royal Mail proposed the closure of its Liverpool office, with mail sorting operations moving to Warrington. The Echo said this:-

Royal Mail’s disregard for the people and status of Liverpool, as part of a slapdash programme to bolster its own floundering financial fortunes, must not be tolerated.

Royal Mail jobs and services must remain where they belong … in the city.

How can the Echo make comments like those above in the future, when they have arguably done a similar thing within their own organisation?