Robert Hampton

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22nd September 2013

For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Skye
Posted by at 10.08pm | Out and About, Trains | 1 response

I need to start by apologising to Logan, the guy manning the catering trolley on the 8.30 train to Mallaig. Ian and I used that train on both Wednesday and Thursday morning. On the second day, you recognised us, and tried to engage us in friendly conversation. Unfortunately Ian and I were both so struck by your good looks that we got tongue-tied and could only babble the briefest pleasantries while you pumped your hot water urn. Sorry about that, Logan. If it makes you feel better, all you missed out on was some awkward and borderline inappropriate flirting from two men who are roughly a decade older than you. Don’t take it personally. You did a good job and your hot chocolate was very nice.

Where I was I? Oh yes, travelogue…

For the second day in a row, we were heading to Mallaig. This was the last time we would travel on the West Highland Line on this trip, but I already knew I’d be back. I want to visit Arisaig (most westerly station in Britain, fact fans) and Glenfinnan (home to that-viaduct-from-the-Harry-Potter-films and a small railway museum).

Our destination was, once more, Mallaig Harbour. No tiny Knoydart Seabridge this time, however. Instead, we were going to board the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Skye. As it was included in the validity of our Highland Rover ticket, it seemed rude not to.

Caledonian MacBrayne ferry

Our plan for the day was audacious in its scope. When Ian first suggested it to me, I thought he was mad. MAD, I tell you. Of course, I went along with it, because I am quite mad too.

First, we would take the ferry to Armadale. From there, a bus would take us to the small settlement of Broadford, where we would change to a second bus to continue over the Skye Bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh. There, we would rejoin the rail network and take a train to Inverness, where we would spend Thursday evening.

There is, of course, a direct bus from Fort William to Inverness which takes a little under two hours, but where’s the fun in that?

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15th June 2011

An un-Souter-ble accolade
Posted by at 7.44pm | Gay, In the News | 1 response

Brian Souter has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Souter is the chairman of Stagecoach Group, the second-largest transport company in Great Britain, with bus, train and tram operations across the nation.

In his private life, Souter is a controversial figure thanks to his notorious support for Section 28, a part of the Local Government Act 1988 which banned local authorities from teaching the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Stagecoach Bus in Queen Square Bus Station, LiverpoolThe law had been originally introduced thanks to a series of hysterical, mostly untrue, tabloid stories about schools which were supposedly “teaching” young children that gay relationships were “better” than straight ones. No prosecutions were ever brought, but it nevertheless had a chilling effect on schools, discouraging teachers from stepping in to prevent homophobic bullying and restricting access to information on safe gay sex. It was also deeply symbolic of the prevailing attitude to homosexuality that existed throughout the 80s and much of the 90s.

When the newly-devolved Scottish Parliament announced plans in 1999 to repeal the law, Souter launched a “Keep the Clause” campaign, with a postal ballot sent to every household in Scotland. From the ballot results he claimed that 86% of Scottish voters supported keeping the law (although an organised boycott meant that many people who received the ballot simply binned it, skewing the results).

Souter’s financial might failed to derail the law’s repeal: Section 28 was abolished in Scotland in June 2000 (three years before the rest of the UK).

Of course, Souter is entitled to his view, just as we are entitled to shun him and his business ventures because of it.