Robert Hampton

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It’s My Life

16th September 2014


Liverpool JLA

I have just made my first ever solo trip abroad, spending three days in Berlin. It was my second visit there and overall it was a wonderful few days, which reaffirmed my view of Berlin as my favourite of all my European cities I have visited so far.

Before I go on to talk about what I got up to, I need to describe the “fun” I had on my flight to Berlin. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will already have a rough idea of what happened, but I want to get the facts down. Actually, a Norse epic poem may be the best way to write about what happened, but that’s a bit beyond me, so you’ll have to make do with a blog.

I was nervous. I’ve been to Berlin before, so I wasn’t entirely unprepared, but I was still anxious about being a lone traveller in a foreign land. In my head, I replayed all the worst-case scenarios that could happen. Urban unrest, bad hotels, striking train drivers, eruptions from unpronounceable Icelandic volcanoes – all of them could put a spanner in the works. I tried my best to put those thoughts to the back of my mind, but not entirely successfully.

I turned up at Liverpool Airport on Thursday afternoon in good time for my flight. I’m well versed in security and related procedures thanks to the expert tutelage of Andrew Bromage, so I got through the checks quickly and was in the departure lounge with plenty of time to spare. I bought a Boots Meal Deal and sat down alongside my fellow passengers to wait.


The flight was called and we climbed aboard the plane. Just before the scheduled departure time of 18:10 we were taxiing along the runway, ready to take off. I sat back and relaxed. I would be in Berlin by 9pm, checked into my hotel by 10pm. Then, maybe, I would have time to slip out to Blond for a quick drink while… ahem, admiring the view.

It soon became clear, however, that all was not well. I became aware of an unusual smell in the cabin. A strange chemical-ly sort of smell. In fact, it smelled exactly like TCP. I started thinking of that One Foot in the Grave episode where Victor uses it briefly and the smell lingers on him for days.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed it. The other passengers and cabin crew were aware of it, as was the captain, who announced that the plane was returning to the terminal building for the engineers to take a look at what was causing it.

This announcement was greeted by a collective groan all round. A second, louder groan soon followed, when it was confirmed that the problem was not going to be an easy fix and we were all ushered back into the departure lounge.

I tried to stay optimistic. It would be a simple problem to fix and we would be on our way within an hour or so. Right?

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5th September 2014

Happy Birthday to My Loose Acquaintance
Posted by at 7.00pm | It's My Life | No responses

Neil Turner tweeted this to me this morning:-

Of course, this doesn’t apply to your Facebook message. Thanks for all the birthday wishes! 🙂

30th August 2014

Jaw! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
Posted by at 10.23pm | It's My Life | 2 responses

“Yeah, you need to go back to the hospital.”

I didn’t like the casual way the dentist said this. I also didn’t like that I had barely taken my coat off and plonked myself in his chair before he said it.

The story so far: I had a wisdom tooth removed a couple of weeks ago. Then it became infected. A week on from a feverish emergency dentist appointment, I had been lulled into thinking all was well and had even gone back to work on Wednesday. The next day, I was scheduled to see the same dentist, and assumed that he was going to give me the all clear.

Oh sure, I was still all swollen up, and there was still a certain stiffness in the jaw which left it unable to open wider than a centimetre. This meant a continued diet of soup and porridge. Well, it was either that or post slices of Tesco Value wafer-thin ham through the narrow gap.

I had hoped that this was all just a side effect of the surgery and it would clear up on its own, even if it was a little slower than usual. But when the dentist gave the bad news, deep down it didn’t come as much of a surprise.

I went straight home and phoned up the clinic where I originally had the operation done. After a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing on the phone (not helped by my not being able to remember my surgeon’s name) they said that they could maybe offer me an appointment next week sometime, and they would call me back.

Screw that.

So on Thursday afternoon I marched into the A&E department of Fazakerley Hospital. A super-duper new A&E is being built there at the moment, but I had to contend with the older, slightly run-down building. It felt slightly cramped (probably because of the amount of people waiting) and there was a Coca-Cola vending machine with a partially peeled off sticker by the coin slot, proudly declaring that it was “New 5p and 10p ready!”

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22nd August 2014

Bite Back
Posted by at 3.32pm | It's My Life | 1 response

CAUTION: This blog does contain some yucky details of bodily fluids and such.

When last we left the intrepid hero of this blog, he’d just had some dramatic oral surgery – namely, two wisdom teeth pulled out.

I thought that would be the end of the matter, and I was back in work on Monday morning, against the advice of several people who advised me to take an extra day or two to recover.

I should have paid attention to them. Also, I should have paid attention to what my own body was telling me. 48 hours after my op, I peered into my mouth, looking in a mirror using my iPhone as a makeshift torch. I could see there was a bit of yellow gunk leaking out of the wound – pus, in other words. That should have set alarm bells ringing, as that is a sure sign of an infection.

I’m sure it’ll be fine, I thought. It will clear up by itself in a day or two.

You see, I don’t get sick. My body has the Berlin Wall of immune systems: absolutely nothing gets in. That’s been the case for as long as I remember; when I was in primary school, a flu epidemic hit the area. At one point my class of 25 was reduced to ten at one point, but I was still there every day (with an apple for the teacher).

So I soldiered on. Monday passed without too much incident, as did most of Tuesday. By late Tuesday evening, though, I was feeling run down, and I climbed into bed at 10.15pm (sacrificing my nightly viewing of Conan – that’s how bad it was).

Wednesday morning I woke up feeling OK, and went to work as usual. By the afternoon, however, I felt rotten. I alternated between sweating profusely and shivering – I must have made quite the sight on the train home. When I got home, and went straight to bed, my mum and sister twigged that perhaps something was wrong.

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16th August 2014

The Whole Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth
Posted by at 8.01pm | It's My Life | 3 responses


Yesterday I was admitted to hospital.

Don’t panic, though! This was not the result of some disaster, a faux pas with a chainsaw normally seen in the opening scenes of Casualty. Rather, it was to have two wisdom teeth extracted.

I’d been referred by my dentist, who had spotted that the position they’d grown into was causing food to get trapped between them and the healthy teeth next door. This was handy if I got hungry later in the evening, as I could usually extract a bit of gristle that had got stuck there, but not so good for oral hygiene, as I was starting to develop cavities in the adjacent tooth.

(Incidentally, if God really does exist and created all of us in his image, surely he would have got the whole teeth thing down correctly by now? I know so many people who have had to have wisdom teeth removed because they are growing sideways, or pushing other teeth out of the way, or some other problem)

Like a massive coward, I had opted to have it done under general anaesthetic. I didn’t have to, but as soon as the consultant at the pre-op mentioned that they would be cutting bits of bone out of my face, I decided that I wanted to be asleep for the whole thing.

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16th July 2014

Blowing my own trumpet
Posted by at 8.19pm | It's My Life | No responses

So, what’s been happening for me recently, then?

Well, as I mentioned last month, I took some exams for my Open University course. The exams were tough, but I thought I’d done OK. Still, it was an anxious month and a bit of waiting while my marks were calculated.

Last week an e-mail plopped into my inbox, informing me that my results were available. Nervously, I clicked on the link…

Exam Result

I got a distinction in both modules! To say I’m pleased is an understatement.

There’s a long way to go: if I continue at my current pace, I will complete my final module in Autumn 2017. However, I’m resolutely cheerful and enjoying my summer break, until my next modules start in September.

5th June 2014

Posted by at 7.07pm | It's My Life | 1 response

Today was my second and final Open University exam for my current modules, meaning that the giant pile of textbooks below can go into storage.

Two three-hour exams on computer programming (including writing reams of code by hand) may sound like an ordeal, and it was, but I think I’ve done reasonably well. The worst mistake I made was writing pubic instead of public in a method header. I have a one-track mind.

I now have some respite until my next modules start at the end of September. It’s going to be a strange feeling, coming home from work and not immediately having to bury myself in textbooks. Yay me!

4th June 2013

OU? Oh, you
Posted by at 11.24pm | It's My Life | 1 response

The last few weeks have been quite stressful, as my studies on Open University course MST121 came to an end. My final assignment was due in on 15th May, and then the final exam took place yesterday. Between finishing that assignment and doing some serious cramming for the exam, I’ve had virtually no time for anything else.

The prospect of an end-of-module exam was quite terrifying. I have not sat an exam since my GCSEs in 1999, and reliving that experience – the rows of desks, the dead silence, the invigilator solemnly roaming the room – was not something I was looking forward to.

The exam was held at the Gateway Conference Centre in London Road. I arrived half an hour before the 2.30pm start time to find my fellow students milling around, chatting amiably to one another. I felt a tinge of regret for not going to a single tutorial – in retrospect, I could have done with the support from my fellow students and tutor. But they were held in Wallasey, for heaven’s sake. Who wants to go there?

My one blind spot – trigonometric identities. I can get my head around plain trigonometry easily enough, but trying to understand that cos²θ + sin²θ = 1, and applying that to rearranging equations – well, I found it difficult. I devoted extra time to studying it, but hoped that it wouldn’t come up in the exam.

The Maths gods were not listening. Not only did it come up, but the question was 9% of the total mark. Bah.

The first part of the exam was multiple choice, which sounds easy, but the questions required some involved working out of answers, and all the possible choices – 8 for each question – were plausible (no ITV phone-in quiz answers here). In this section, there were no marks available for showing your working – you’re either right (in which case you get 4 marks) or wrong (in which case it’s a big fat zero).

I almost ran out of time, too. The exam paper was designed to be completed in two hours. At the end of the three hour time limit, I was still scribbling away. I had left a couple of the multiple choice questions to come back to later – in the end I just guessed the answers, as I didn’t have time to do them.

Although I’m not completely happy with my performance, the pass mark is 40%, and I’m fairly confident I’ve managed that, at least. Results are released on 19th July – until then, I’m enjoying the summer without any study work to do. 🙂

31st March 2013

It’s got to be-e-e-e-e…
Posted by at 6.27pm | It's My Life | No responses

For the last year or so, I’ve been studying with the Open University. I’m currently doing a maths module, and I’ve completed three out of four assignments, which means I am roughly 80% of the way through.

I don’t like to toot my own horn (not a euphemism) but I am a fairly good student and I consistently get high marks. This is great, and I’m proud. The problem with this, however, is that I have set such a high standard for myself that I worry to the point of obsessiveness that I won’t be able to keep it up (again, not a euphemism).

This does mean I go to ridiculous lengths sometimes. I’m writing my assignments by hand rather than word processing them because they require a lot of equations and graphs to be inserted. Handwriting is fine, until I realise I’ve made a slip of the pen and a small mistake has crept in. I could cross out the minor errors or break out the Tipp-Ex, but I choose not to because… well, that would mean I am not perfect.

So, every time I make a mistake the paper gets scrumpled up and chucked in the bin. I then start the page afresh. It’s time-consuming, but it MUST BE DONE. This was my waste paper basket at the end of a particularly intense study session recently:

Waste Paper Basket

Sometimes I genuinely wish that I was the sort of person who could coast at the mid-70% level. I think I’d be a lot happier.

This post is dedicated to the memory of all the trees who gave their lives to fill that waste paper bin

4th January 2013

Ring In the New Year, Wring Out the Old

Hampo in front of the Berlin WallA little later than planned, here is a look back at the preceding 12 months, as seen through my jaded eyes. As January began, I wrote a blog post looking forward to the treats that 2012 held in store. How did the year pan out? Let’s have a look…

The year started on a downbeat note for my family as we mourned my dad’s sister Betty, who had been a part of all our lives for as long as I could remember.

The government announced that High Speed Two, a new TGV-style railway line, would be built to link London with the Midlands. Middle England quickly took up against the plan, as Tory MPs lined up to denounce the line that was due to slice through their constituencies. David Cameron had succeeded in alienating his Conservative base, and it would not be only time that happened this year.

Web sites participated (or didn’t) in a protest against SOPA, a draconian anti-copyright law in the US. Elsewhere on the Internet, Twitter caused a minor kerfuffle by announcing that it would censor Tweets on a country-by-country basis.

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