My birthday is approaching and, in lieu of any gifts, I am asking for donations to the Amyloidosis Research Fund.
In April 2020 my entire family was devastated by the loss of my mum, Dot Hampton. Her death has left a massive gap in all our lives, and the pain and grief are still very real, nearly five months later.
Continue reading “Charity begins at the home page”
On Saturday, the EBU presented Europe Shine a Light, a special show “honouring” the songs that would have appeared in the Eurovision Song Contest, had it not been cancelled.
I can’t stop thinking about the finale, where the would-be contestants all joined in singing Love Shine a Light, the UK’s winning song from 1997. Maybe it’s because recent events have left me feeling emotionally fragile, but the sight of a continent coming together like this moved me to tears. I’ve watched the video about 20 times in the past 48 hours.
Today we held the funeral for my Mum, who passed away two weeks ago after contracting Covid-19. She was 72, which is far, far too young for this to happen. To say I am devastated is an understatement. Her death has left a hole in my life that can never be properly filled.
I don’t often share personal stuff on this blog, but I need people to know what a wonderful person she was, and what she meant to me. So here goes, with a blog post I never wanted to write…
Continue reading “Mum”
On 15th March I met my friend for lunch. That was just over two weeks ago, but it feels like ten years. In the intervening fortnight, life as we know it slowly ground to a halt.
While most of the world was celebrating New Year’s Eve, the WHO China Office was made aware of a new type of Coronavirus.
Nobody else noticed for a few weeks. Even as reports came out of China about mounting numbers of deaths, most people in this part of the world (myself included, I must admit) seemed complacent. When those first coachloads of unfortunate tourists arrived at Arrowe Park Hospital, I didn’t really think much of it. In early March, European countries started announcing restrictions on movement and border closures, but at the same time, I was cheerfully planning a trans-continental train trip for June, confident that it would all be over by then.
Three months after that first report to the WHO, there can be few people on Earth who are not aware of COVID-19.
Continue reading “Pandemic! At the Disco”
In a matter of hours, Brexit will take effect and the UK will be out of the EU. An eleven-month transition period begins, where everything carries on more or less as normal until the end of 2020. But after 11pm tonight, there is no going back to the European Union. Nothing has changed, and everything has changed.
Even as we leave, the rest of Europe tries its best to say a cheerful goodbye – singing Auld Lang Syne in the European Parliament and holding a farewell party in Brussels city centre. They can’t quite understand why we’re doing it, but Europeans have shown us immense respect and goodwill – far more than we deserve after the last three years.
I have no idea what happens next. Frankly, I am exhausted after three years following the twists and turns from 23rd June 2016 to today (long story short – we could easily have undone Brexit, but the Remain side simply wasn’t smart enough). Suffice to say, I don’t trust Boris Johnson, and his merry band of Brexiteer charlatans, one bit. We are heading for a future arrangement which will damage the economy and sell out the most vulnerable in society.
Scotland may become independent. Northern Ireland may end up joined to the Republic of Ireland. Can I blame them? Not really; I want to get away from England too.
“You lost, get over it” – I wish I could.
Tomorrow, Star Trek: Picard will start streaming around the world on Amazon Prime, a day after it premiered on the US-only streaming service, CBS All Access.
Anticipation for this series has been building, ever since the announcement in summer 2018 that Patrick Stewart was reprising his iconic role from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Continue reading “Picard Day’s Night”
How to sum up 2019? I did a fair bit of travelling, saw some new places and made some new friends (#TågFärjetur), and revisited some familiar haunts too (Hamburg, Berlin).
But if there’s one photo which sums up my 2019, it’s this one, taken at Liverpool Pride on 27th July.
It rained relentlessly for pretty much the whole day, only letting up briefly for about an hour late afternoon. It rained during the Pride march itself, it rained on all the marquees, it rained on everyone watching the acts on the main stage.
I didn’t care. I was wearing a rainbow poncho I’d bought from Clas Ohlson which kept me (mostly) dry, and I was with my friends. I had a great time.
Smiling, even though by rights I should have been totally miserable? That’s 2019 in a photo, there.
After seeing the Baumhaus, a quick glance at Google Maps revealed that I was quite close to the station at Ostbahnhof, so I walked there.
Ostbahnhof is a station which I have visited multiple times, although I have never hung around for long, preferring to head straight for a train. I had some time to spare (I thought) so mooched around for a bit, thinking I could maybe grab some lunch from one of the many food outlets. I didn’t get anything to eat, but on the concourse, I discovered yet another coin-operated model railway. Naturally I had to put in a couple of coins to watch a train go round in circles for a few minutes.
Continue reading “Clockwise”
Mid-afternoon is probably the worst time for a flight. Too late in the day to head straight to the airport from the hotel, but early enough that you can’t do anything too ambitious because you constantly have one eye on the time. My Monday morning in Berlin was an example, with my flight due to leave at 15:45. I would have to watch the clock carefully, and ensure that I was at the airport by 2pm.
As it turned out, I actually didn’t keep an eye on the time when I should have, but more of that later…
I decided to stick with the Berlin Wall theme, and headed to Nordbahnhof. This station is on the Berlin S-Bahn’s North-South line, and between 1961 and 1989 was one of the many “ghost stations” on the city’s transport network. The line started in West Berlin, ran through East Berlin for a few miles, then crossed back into West Berlin. All the stations in the East Berlin section were closed, and the entrances sealed. Armed border guards patrolled the dimly-lit platforms – anyone using the train tunnels to escape ran the risk of being shot.
Continue reading “Baumhaus is a very very very fine house”
Glienicke Bridge is the terminus of Berlin bus route 316 and the starting point of Potsdam tram route 93, making for easy interchange between the two. I didn’t have to wait long before a tram rumbled into view, and I climbed aboard for the short journey into Potsdam city centre.
I had a few hours to kill, and not much of a plan in mind. I had read up on Sanssouci Park, the huge park surrounding the former royal residence of Frederick the Great, and had decided to visit there at some point. Otherwise, I would just see what delights Potsdam put in my path.
Continue reading “Potsdam and Company”