Charity begins at the home page

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.

Robert with his Mum

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Mum

Photo of my Mum

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…

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My favourite photo of 2019

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.

Robert at Liverpool Pride 2019 in a rainbow poncho

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.

Still Furious

When I woke up the morning after that vote and saw the result, I was despondent, I was angry, but I genuinely believed I would get over it. I thought time would be a healer, that the country would coalesce around a reasonable Brexit compromise, and we would all move on.

It hasn’t happened. Three years on, and I’m still furious.

Furious at the needless waste of money and effort that is being expended to try and protect us from the impact of this decision.

Furious at the lack of action to solve other serious problems while Westminster obsesses over the minutiae of Brexit.

Furious at the loss of opportunity to live and work freely in 26 other countries.

Furious that millions of young people, who didn’t get to vote because they were under 18 at the time, will have to live for the rest of their lives with a decision that was out of their hands.

Furious that a politician was murdered.

Furious at the liars and cheaters in the campaign who got away with it.

Furious at the media who failed to give the arguments any proper scrutiny.

Furious at the politicians who are too cowardly to stand up and ask for a rethink.

Furious that my patriotism and belief in democracy has been called into question because I want to stop a damaging Brexit.

Furious that bigotry and xenophobia is now being treated as a legitimate political position.

Check back in with me in three years. Maybe by then I’ll be over it. But I doubt it.

Brex-iety

I spent the weekend in Hamburg with some friends, enjoying all the sights and sounds that Germany’s second city has to offer. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll have got a flavour of my trip. I will try and get a longer blog post up at the weekend detailing the shenanigans.

In the meantime, I wanted to mention one thing. A change in my mood, for reasons that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. When I got home, it hit me: for the 72 hours I was away, I didn’t hear anything about Brexit.

Maybe Brexit was being discussed on all of Germany’s news channels, but if it was, I didn’t see it. I was busy exploring the city so I wasn’t on Twitter as much as usual. And I was much happier.

I’ve always prided myself on keeping up with the issues, but when everything is just so grim, it’s wonderful to get away for a few days. I got back home at lunchtime on Monday. By that evening, all my anxieties and worries had returned.

And, whatever happens, the source of stress is going to go on for years. If the deal fails, we may leave without a deal, with severe long-term consequences that we will all experience. If May’s deal goes through, we have many years of wrangling about our future trading relationship which will dominate the agenda. There’s a tiny chance of a second referendum, which will probably be even more rancorous and unpleasant than the first. We will have a new Tory leader, probably a much more right-wing one (and given how right-wing May has been, that is a scary prospect). Frankly, I’m not sure I can cope.

Someone please write something in the comments to cheer me up.

TwitTen

10 years ago, I joined Twitter. Like most of my bad decisions, it happened around midnight.

2009 seems to be the moment where Twitter (launched in 2006) reached the tipping point, and stopped being a service for geeks and started becoming truly mainstream (not that I’m claiming to be anything other than a geek). It was in February of that year that Stephen Fry live-tweeted from a stuck lift, bringing much media attention to the fledgling service. Annoyingly, when I got stuck in a lift last year, I had no phone signal so couldn’t tweet anything.

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Future Shocked

Back in February, my younger sister gave birth to her first child. Lucy is the fifth grandchild for my parents, but the first girl, and I suspect she is getting extra special treatment as a result.

Already, at the age of ten months, she is full of insatiable curiosity about the world around her. We visited the Palm House in Sefton Park a few weeks ago, and she was captivated by the colours and smells of the exotic plants, looking around the Victorian structure with wide-eyed wonder.

She has known only love and affection since the moment she took her first breath, and she repays that love to everyone she meets. She is an absolute joy to be around – full of happy noises and laughter, rarely crying unless she is sick or tired, always greeting people with a smile when they walk into the room.

Of course, we are all looking forward to sharing in her first Christmas, as she experiences the magic of the festive season for the first time.

And yet, as I gaze at that innocent face, I feel a tinge of sadness, knowing that the future she is facing is far from rosy.

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The long, good, Friday

Picture of Degree Ceremonies booklet and ticket

Back in November/December I wrote about my experiences of the Open University after I received my final degree classification (First Class Honours, not that I’m bragging).

It seems only appropriate to bring you part three in the trilogy, by blogging about my graduation ceremony.

(As an aside, I notice there have only been three blog posts in the five months between those and this one. Gah, sorry everyone. I will try to blog more frequently in future.)

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Tweety Seventeen

As the end of 2017 approaches, my general feeling has been that the year has been unbearably shit. The news has been dominated by terrorism, tragedy, and the feeling that the worst people in the world are currently running things.

In need of some light relief, I dug through my Twitter archive from the past year, and unearthed a collection of the good things that happened to me. So, as an antidote to all the awfulness that seemed to be everywhere this year, here is my year in Tweets.

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The University Challenge

I’ve just booked my place at a degree ceremony and arranged the hire of my robes. I’m at the end of my Open University study journey, so here is a summary of it, condensed into one (still too long) post.

The first year of study was gentle enough. Module TU100, “My digital life” was an introductory course, intended to cover a broad range of topics including rudimentary programming, ubiquitous computing and the internet. The highlight was the SenseBoard, a little device containing various sensors (motion, temperature, light) which could be connected to your computer and programmed using Sense, a programming environment “based on” (i.e. the same as) Scratch.

TU100 was intended to get complete beginners “up to speed” so many more experienced computer geeks, like myself, found it quite easy. Indeed, after slacking off midway through the course, I got way behind and had to do one of the assignments without having read any of the previous chapters of course material. I somehow managed to score 99%. Ahem.

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