Robert Hampton

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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.

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23rd August 2009

I’m coming up so you’d better get this party tarted
Posted by at 9.49pm | It's My Life | 3 responses

You can read any number of hand-wringing articles about the growth of the Internet leading to a reduction in actual face-to-face communication. This is, of course, nonsense. Most sensible Internet users (and I like to think I am one) will use Facebook, Twitter et al to complement other forms of communication, not as a replacement. In fact, I would argue that the growth of social networking sites is enriching friendships.

Take my friend Andrew, for example. He left for Australia a couple of weeks ago and will be away for a few months. In the old, pre-Internet days that would probably have been it as far as contact is concerned, except possibly for an occasional phone call; short due to the expense, inconvenient due to the time difference. However, thanks to the web, I can follow his every move on his photoblog.

Then there is Scott (aka the MerseyTart). I discovered his entertaining blog about a year ago. Anyone setting themselves the goal of visiting every Merseyrail station is already in my good books, and I said as much when I made my first tentative comment on his blog a few months back.

That comment led to Scott commenting here. Before long we were e-mailing back and forth and eventually agreed to meet up for a joint excursion onto the City Line, to “collect” a few more stations, and then retire to a hostelry for drinks.

That took place yesterday and it couldn’t have been a better day. I was going to write up my own account of the day, but frankly I couldn’t hope to improve on Scott’s version of events, so I’ll just direct you there instead (and please ignore the picture of me where I look really fat).

So, to summarise, the Internet can be great for meeting people. Just use a bit of common sense to avoid the nutters.