One year since the phone rang at 1am, just as we were going to bed.
One year since a nurse told me, with classic British understatement, that my mother had “taken a bit of a turn for the worse.”
One year since a 3am taxi ride through deserted Liverpool streets.
One year since I held my mother’s hand through latex gloves as she gasped for air.
One year since I told her that I loved her, despite not being entirely sure that she could understand me.
One year since that second phone call, after a couple of hours of dreamless sleep. The phone call that I didn’t want to answer, because I knew what news was waiting for me when I did.
If there is one thing above all else that still pains me, it’s that I never got to say a proper goodbye. I imagined one last heartfelt conversation, a chance to say what needed to be said. It never happened.
Say the things you need to say, to the people you need to say them to, and do it before it’s too late.
December 31st 2020 marks the end of an era. A massive upheaval, one which will affect all of our lives and change the way we look at the world.
I’m referring, of course, to the End of Life date for Adobe Flash Player. Not only is Adobe ceasing updates to the software, after nearly a quarter of a century, it will also actively prevent Flash content from being displayed in your browser.
The effect this will have on the average user is negligible. Most websites migrated away from Flash years ago in favour of newer technology. But for internet “old hands” like me, it is a significant moment, and one which stimulates the old nostalgia glands.
Continue reading “Flash! A-ah!”
Look into the history of Berlin’s railways and you will inevitably uncover a trove of information about the Geisterbahnhöfe or “Ghost Stations” that existed during the Cold War era. These stations were unfortunate victims of geography; situated in East Berlin, yet served by lines that mostly ran in West Berlin. After the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, these stations were closed; for the next 28 years, trains rattled through without stopping.
Thankfully such nonsense is in the past. However, for the past decade, Berlin’s transport network has had a ghost station of a different kind. This is the story of Waßmannsdorf station, whose first train arrived on 26 October 2020, a full nine years after it was built.
(Photo by Global Fish – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38739583)
Continue reading “Berlin’s station with no trains”
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.