Robert Hampton

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1st January 2015

Travels with Hampo

Happy New Year to all three of my readers!

On a personal level, I think what I’ll remember most about 2014 is the travelling I did. The start of the year set the tone, as I headed down to that London to say goodbye to 2014 in the company of Ian Jones. We checked out some interesting theatrical stuff and I also saw one of the most precious artefacts known to man:-

Tom Daley's trunks

I suspect a gay man is curator at the Museum of London, but I can’t be certain of that.

Ian was also around in March when I headed out to Amsterdam. We eschewed the budget airlines in favour of the rail-based option, travelling to the Dutch capital via Eurostar and Thalys. That was a fun trip, but I feel that what happens in Amsterdam should stay in Amsterdam (actually, we checked out some museums, rode the Metro a bit and we looked but didn’t touch in the Red Light District).

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30th June 2014

Geordieland Champion
Posted by at 7.57pm | Out and About | No responses

As is traditional, here is my end-of-trip tidying up report.

Transpennine 1st Class

Transpennine Express

I travelled to Newcastle and back on the new direct service from Liverpool which commenced on 12th May. I say “new”, it’s actually a reintroduction of a regular service which used to run until the timetable was rejigged a few years ago, diverting most services to Scarborough.

For once, the Transpennine Express is worthy of the name. This trip is FAST – the end to end journey time is just a shade over 3 hours, and the time from Liverpool to Manchester Victoria is just 32 minutes, non-stop. We hurtled through St Helens at 80mph – always the best way to experience St Helens.

In a fit of extravagance, I had booked First Class tickets. As I slumped into my extra-wide seat, the friendly First Class host approached me to offer a drink and a pastry. We hadn’t even left Lime Street. Thumbs up for attentiveness there!

He came around again after Manchester, offering further snacks – embarrassing for me as I still had my previous croissant on the table. He appeared again after Leeds, and York. He came around again for a final patrol at Chester-Le-Street, just 12 minutes before reaching the final terminus.

Maybe I was lucky to get a good train crew, but I was very happy to be plied with snacks for the length of the trip.

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27th June 2014

Whit’s End
Posted by at 7.32pm | Out and About | No responses

Whitley Bay seemed as good a place as any to spend my Friday afternoon. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, other than giving me an excuse to have a nice long ride on the Metro. Still, I liked what I saw of the place during the brief time I was there.

Whitley Bay, as far as I could tell, was to Newcastle what Southport is to Liverpool – that is, a place for people to decamp to at the weekend, to get away from the city and enjoy a day at the seaside. On a Friday during school term time, however, the place was quiet.

I strolled down the high street, and turned towards the promenade, passing a traditional amusement arcade. I dwelled in there for a while, losing most of my loose change in the process (I was so sure that the Jumbo Crane would grab the teddy bear on my next try) before moving on.

Whitley Bay Whitley Bay Beach

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23rd June 2014

# Here’s the angel! See the angel! It’s my angel, no-one else’s, next to the rakes #
Posted by at 10.04pm | Out and About | 1 response

On the Friday morning of my stay in Newcastle, I hopped aboard a bus. It was one of those magic talking buses. “The next stop is Widdleton Crossroads,” it said. “If this is your stop, ring the bell once and remain seated until the bus stops.”

At EVERY stop. EVERY 30 seconds. Needless to say it got a bit wearing after a while. However, it did come in handy when, after about 20 minutes or so, I heard the announcement for “Angel of the North”.

Having said that, it’s quite hard to miss the stop – there’s a noticeable landmark nearby.

Angel of the North

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19th June 2014

Metro Man
Posted by at 9.05pm | Out and About, Trains | 1 response

Tyne and Wear Metro MapIn the 1970s, Newcastle, like Liverpool, was faced with an increasingly decrepit local rail network, which was not achieving its full potential. Like Liverpool, they solved the problem with a radical upgrade of trains and stations, and a brand new cross-city link tunnel under Newcastle and Gateshead to stitch it all together.

The resulting Tyne & Wear Metro opened in 1980 and was an instant hit. Thirty-odd years later, the network has been expanded and is currently undergoing a modernisation programme.

Shamefully, I have never visited this transport system, and I was determined to put that right. On Friday afternoon, I descended the steps of Central Station… Station, to take a spin on the imaginatively-named Yellow Line out to Whitley Bay.

Tyne & Wear Metro Central Station Entrance Tyne & Wear Metro Central Station

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28th March 2011

Tyne & Wear Metro: The Musical
Posted by at 1.15pm | Fun, Trains | No responses

This is either terrible or brilliant, depending on your point of view. I think it just about makes it into the latter category, despite a dodgy rap about halfway through. The woman at 2:15 is my favourite part of the whole thing. Bonus points for using the Calvert font for the titles and credits.

Hat tip to @TwopTwips on Twitter for alerting a grateful nation. Now, who’s up for Merseyrail: The Opera?