Robert Hampton

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16th September 2015

Stuff happens
Posted by at 10.10pm | No responses | It's My Life


As August gave way to September, I found myself in something of a low mood. There were actual tears produced at one point.

It had been a stressful few weeks. Work has been difficult, I’ve had an End of Module Assignment to deliver to the Open University, and on top of that, I’ve moved into a new flat.

You may remember that, when last we met, I’d just acquired the keys. The apartment was devoid of furniture, fittings and most of the other things that are required to – ahem – “make a house a home”.

I didn’t immediately realise what I was letting myself in for, but it turns out that being a grown up is hard.

It didn’t help that there was a long list of niggles to sort out. The Virgin phone line didn’t work and required an engineer to come out. I phoned up Liverpool City Council to sort out council tax and was put on hold for nearly an hour because the telephone operator forgot his computer password. I had to phone Scottish Power on three separate occasions to actually get an account set up. United Utilities asked me for a water meter reading… and I couldn’t find the meter. The sofa I ordered failed to turn up on time.

For the first couple of weeks, I spent my evenings eating ready meals on a deckchair in the bare living room (because I had no dining furniture). I would probably have had a nervous breakdown, were it not for my amazing family and friends who rallied round with practical, financial and emotional support. Too many to mention individually (and I don’t want to forget someone and upset them) but you know who you are… and THANK YOU.

After all that, it was fortunate that September brought several events which cheered me up no end.

First, I went to London. Back at the end of July I had, on a whim, looked at the Virgin Trains web site to see what tickets were available. I saw a first class ticket on a Friday morning peak train available for just £70 – an absolute bargain. So I spent the morning of 4th September eating a full English breakfast while speeding through the English countryside at 125mph. It’s an experience I can highly recommend.

Once in London, I met my friend Mark, who came up from Brighton with his boyfriend Peter to meet me. I hadn’t seen Mark in ages, and it was great to catch up. We went to Forbidden Planet (Peter liked that), then the London Transport Museum (Mark and I liked that) before touring various bars in Soho (we all really liked that).

Mark, Peter and Me

This was all a prelude to my birthday celebrations, which I managed to stretch out over eight days. On my actual birthday, I went out for Chinese food with my family. The Mayflower Restaurant came through with a delicious banquet, although as usual there was far too much food.

The following Saturday, I had a second birthday celebration, of sorts. My friend Ian was visiting from London, and so I met up with him and regular partner-in-crime Scott for a day of shenanigans.

Three Musketeers

We went to Manchester for the day – this may have been a tactical error, given that Liverpool were playing Man United that afternoon, but we managed to mostly avoid the football crowds. Instead, we enjoyed lunch at Home Manchester before catching a tram to MediaCityUK for a sniff around the BBC’s Salford headquarters.

BBC North is a long way from the old ramshackle operation that commissioned Red Dwarf and gave Gordon Burns a retirement job. It’s all sleek glass buildings and posh coffee shops – plus, of course, the ITV Studios (and Coronation Street set!) just across the road. There and then I made a mental note to see what job openings are available there.

Best thing about MediaCityUK? The Blue Peter Garden is open and accessible to the public; just walk through a little gate from the tram stop and the statue of Petra is right there.

Blue Peter Garden

Back in Liverpool, we headed out for dinner where we were joined by one of my other friends, Boris. The meal was enlivened greatly by the completely pissed man at the next table, who tried to send his lobster bisque back because it didn’t have any lobster in it, and then warned me to watch out for “ladyboys” on my upcoming trip to Hamburg – a mate of his had been caught out, apparently.

At the end of the meal, Boris got a text inviting him to meet his friends for drinks at Liverpool Lime Street Wetherspoons, so the two of us ended up there. Not so long ago, the prospect of meeting four complete strangers in one go would fill me with dread, but I went along, and I’m pleased to report it went well and I didn’t make an idiot of myself. Hurrah!

Finally, let’s go back to the flat. This is what it looks like now:

New flat

The living room now looks… well, lived in. There’s still a lot to do, but I am well on the way to settling down. I think I can finally start enjoying things again.

Again, none of this would have happened without my amazing family and wonderful circle of friends, who are there for me when I need them. Whatever happens, I can take comfort from the knowledge that I am surrounded by great people.

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