Journal Archive – May 2003

Here we go again, with another bundle of journal posts I had on the old Bolt site. My time was mainly spent revising for my upcoming exams, but I found time to write about other things too, including an IQ test on TV, the most recent Bond film, a list of the worst Britons, and that infamous Eurovision performance that earned the UK “nul points”. So I hope you enjoy reliving some more of the past with me!

Note: Each time I publish a new post from my archive, the previous post is backdated to the year it was originally written, so my blog remains tidy and chronological. You can see all the archive posts together by visiting the Journal Archive category.
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August 2020 Favourites

Hello again. Hope you’re all keeping well and have been enjoying the summer safely. Thank you for the many birthday wishes too, they were much appreciated. I went out to celebrate the occasion, and bought a few things to treat myself, which I’ll mention during this post.

Apart from that, I’ve been out for a few walks, and have continued to keep myself occupied and entertained in various ways at home. So as always there’s plenty to mention for the month in this latest post and video, none of which is sponsored or gifted. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Queen II

Following on from my in-depth review of Queen’s debut album, we now move on to the imaginatively titled Queen II, released in 1974. It’s not a very well known album amongst casual greatest hits consumers, but there are many in the Queen fanbase who regard it as their favourite of all the band’s studio releases. It’s certainly one of mine, it’s amazing.

Artists including Axl Rose and Steve Vai have cited the album as an influence on their own work. And Brian May once told Classic Rock Magazine that it was his favourite album for a long time too, only superseded by Made In Heaven decades later. So the band themselves are very fond of it. They certainly prefer it to their first LP, which they were never fully happy with.

Centre booklet spread from the Queen 2 album. The 4 band members are dressed in white against a white background, so only their heads are visible. Again they're in a diamond formation - Brian at the top, Freddie at the bottom, Roger on the left and John on the right.

And it’s easy to see (or indeed hear) why Queen II gets so much love, because this is where things really start to get interesting, with its intricately arranged, artistically multilayered and beautifully harmonic compositions in a mixture of styles. It’s essential to listen to the album with headphones to fully appreciate how much work and perfectionism went into it. And they had more of a structure to the album this time, with a White side containing more emotional songs (4 written by Brian and 1 by Roger), and a Black side presenting songs in more of a fantasy vein (all written by Freddie).

Queen were ready to experiment, explore and be excessive. They were keen to push the boundaries and the technology, even wearing the oxide layers off the tapes as they added more and more musical layers to get a grand orchestral effect. And they were determined not to be bossed around or fit in with any expected norms. Yet remarkably they completed the recording within a month. Check out this clip from the Days Of Our Lives documentary for an insight into how it came together.

This was their moment. They needed to stand out from the crowd if they were to have any chance of success. And they did. The album reached number 5 in the UK, staying in the charts for 29 weeks and achieving Gold status, a significant improvement over their debut. Their dominance of overseas markets was still yet to come, but they were already doing a bit better there too, peaking at number 49 in America.

So here’s my review of each of the tracks, including a look at alternate versions, live performances, covers and more that I’m aware of, as explained in my previous post. And as I’ve said before, I’m not a music expert, just a very keen fan, and I’m sure there will be other Queen fans who disagree with some of my opinions, which is fine. Ultimately, this is all just for fun. So I hope you enjoy!

A black drawing of the Queen crest on a white background, below the album's title Queen 2. The crest has a large phoenix with outstretched wings looking over a large letter Q. A royal crown sits inside the Q, on the bottom, while a small crab sits on top of the Q. 2 lions and 2 fairies complete the picture, 1 of each sitting on each side of the Q and facing towards it.

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 17-19

Hello again. I hope you’re all keeping safe and well. Many of the restrictions are being eased at the moment, which is good, but a few are also being reimposed as and where necessary. So please keep taking all the necessary precautions that we’ve all come to know so well, including the new requirements for wearing face coverings (which are perfectly safe and there are valid exemptions, including for some disabled people). And do be aware that the self-isolation period has been extended to 10 days in England if you have symptoms or test positive for the virus. We mustn’t let our guard down now.

I have started going out a bit more regularly again, in this lovely hot weather we’ve been having, particularly for some nice walks around my local area. I’ve also been to my local supermarket to get a few things for the first time in 12 weeks, and had no problems there. I was in and out very quickly, with a mask on of course, and it felt very safe. And that was just during normal shopping hours on a Saturday, not the priority slot for disabled and elderly customers (which I’m very glad they’re still doing). So things have really settled down there, and all the hard working retail staff deserve a lot of credit, among the myriad of amazing people who have kept vital services operating in recent months.

But perhaps most importantly, I’ve finally got my hair cut! Even if it doesn’t look much from the photos, I can tell you it feels so much better, it’s much more manageable now. And everything was done safely – we now have to book appointments with our hairdresser instead of just walking in (and it doesn’t have to be far in advance, we got a slot within a few days), plus they’ve got hand sanitiser for customers, the staff are wearing visors and there’s a stringent cleaning routine.

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I do intend to venture back into the city as well, now that we’re allowed to use the Tube again. The last time I travelled on the network was March 14, nearly 5 months ago. But I have been keeping an eye on the situation. And because TFL have a very strict cleaning regime with no reported problems, there’s lots of travel advice on their website, the passenger numbers are still relatively low, others I follow on social media have recently been getting back on the Tube and other trains and feel safe doing so, and I’ve acquired face masks and bottles of hand sanitiser, I do feel it would be safe to travel at quiet times to see what it’s like. So if things continue to be alright, that’s what I intend to do during August. Hopefully that’ll enable me to start meeting up with friends again too. And, incidentally, talking of meeting special people, congratulations to Captain Sir Tom Moore on receiving his knighthood recently!

But of course, I’m still keeping myself happily occupied at home as well, so I’ve got various bits and pieces I can mention from the past few weeks in this latest post and video, none of which are sponsored or gifted to appear here as usual. So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Debut Album

Queen are my favourite band of all time. Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon produced such incredible songs, albums, videos and live performances throughout their reign, with their own exceptional and wonderful sound, gifting us a magical legacy that will live on forever. Their music always makes me feel good, or in tougher times it makes me feel supported, and I never tire of listening to them.

Freddie’s premature passing will forever remain a heartbreaking loss, as nobody else has (or ever will) be able to match him. Yes, of course there are many other fabulously talented singers and musicians whom I also love, but Freddie was very much a one-off, in the best possible way. There was even a scientific study analysing his amazing voice a few years ago.

It’s also important to acknowledge the contributions of Brian, Roger and John too, of course, all of whom are awesome musicians in their own right. And as well as being great performers, Queen are the only band where every member has composed more than one chart-topping single, and all 4 members were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. And there are many other impressive sales figures and single statistics out there, including 50 incredible facts from the Official Charts, if further proof were needed,

I first discovered Queen back in the 1990s when I went to see a tribute act in concert with some school friends. I already knew a few of their biggest hits, naturally, but the show opened my ears to so much more. I immediately got Queen’s Greatest Hits compilations, then in later years dug deeper to explore their albums and videos, and have continued to be in love with them ever since.

And we’re now approaching a highly significant milestone, as it will soon be Queen’s 50th anniversary – although exactly when you celebrate it depends on which date you use. They first performed under that name on 18 July 1970, hence I’m posting this exactly 50 years on from that date, as it’s as good a reason as any. However, the lineup was only finalised when John Deacon joined the band on 1 March 1971. So the latter is really more appropriate, and for that reason Queen are going to be officially celebrating their 50th in 2021. But hey, as our actual Queen has 2 birthdays every year, I think her majestic musical namesake can have 2 as well, right?

With that in mind, therefore, and because I have plenty of time to kill given the current worldwide situation, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to do a deep dive into all of their albums, DVDs and other bits and pieces, and write some reviews in the process. After all, there’s so much to explore, with such a wonderful variety to their music, and they weren’t afraid to be ambitious and experimental. Even now I sometimes discover new things that I hadn’t noticed before. It’ll take me a while to do all of this, of course – I’ll try and do a post every 2 or 3 weeks, but we’ll see how it goes. In any case, it’ll be fun to go through their output in detail, and I hope you enjoy coming on the journey with me!

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 15-16

Hello again, I hope you’re all keeping well. Or if you’re not doing great at the moment, as is the case for a couple of my friends (who by strange coincidence have the same name), then I hope things improve very soon. And if you’re enjoying the greater freedoms that have been granted to us recently, then please continue to be careful and safe. As proven by Leicester here in the UK, which has had to revert to a strict lockdown again, we can’t afford to be complacent.

It’s also strange to think that we passed 100 days of lockdown in week 15. That seems to have gone by quicker than I’d expected – although I know for many that time will have dragged terribly, and certainly early on I found it difficult like everyone else. But I’m glad I’ve been able to settle into a new routine and adapt during that time. I did look into things like gaming, quizzing and exercising but, as I’d rather expected, they soon fell by the wayside! Connecting with friends, homeworking, blogging, music, TV and film have all got me through it, and are continuing to do so. And now it’s reasonably safe to go out and about again to some extent, which is good as well.

So here’s my latest post and video update for the past couple of weeks, with news on disability events and my first outings in months, along with films, comedy and music that I’ve been enjoying. None of it is sponsored to appear here, but I was paid to attend one event as you’ll see. I hope you enjoy looking through it all!

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 13-14

Miraculously we’ve made it to the halfway point in the year, although admittedly it feels like a lot more time has passed. Months effectively haven’t existed for a little while now, with all the weeks just blurring into one continuous sequence. If weren’t for the titles of these posts, I would have lost complete track of how much time had passed since lockdown started!

So I hope you’re all continuing to keep safe and well. Our lockdown measures here in England are going to be eased significantly further from next week, and the government have ended their daily briefings, but as the virus is still in circulation we all have to remain very cautious. There will inevitably be local outbreaks, which may lead to lockdowns of certain towns and cities as and when necessary, but we just have to hope the entire country won’t be shut down again. The most vulnerable people who are still shielding will have to remain indoors until early August, when they can finally go out again if they feel ready to do so.

Regular readers will know that my mother and I have been voluntarily shielding, even though we’re not explicitly required to do so, for my mother’s safety in particular. The last time I went out, to do a little bit of shopping to top-up an online delivery, was just over 7 weeks ago. And that’s only the second such outing I’ve had over the past 14 weeks. Mum hasn’t been out at all since lockdown began.

However, by the time you read this, we will both have been out together to attend my Uncle’s funeral with my Aunt, so I’ll let you know how that went in my next post. I’m also starting to feel that the time is right to venture out for local walks soon for some much-needed exercise, as it does seem to be the case that being outdoors, socially distanced from others, is relatively safe. But I still don’t intend to use public transport for the time being, even though there are safety measures in place for train travel, as the risks still feel too great and there isn’t anywhere that I need to go. Some museums are reopening, but I’d rather continue to wait before I visit them again, and support them online in the meantime.

So that’s where I’m at currently. But now let’s look back at the past couple of weeks in my latest post and video, to see what’s kept me occupied and entertained, none of it sponsored or gifted as usual. I hope you enjoy!

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 11-12

Hey there, hope you’re all continuing to keep safe and well! Here in the UK lockdown has been eased further, including the re-opening of non-essential shops, the compulsory use of face coverings on public transport, and the partial re-opening of schools. So some small sense of normality is returning, albeit with lots of distancing and hygiene measures in place.

I’m still happy staying at home though, because I have no compelling reason to go out and my priority is still protecting Mum by not bringing the virus home. Our shopping’s being delivered every week, and despite the new rules public transport is still a no-go, as it’s only for essential journeys and distancing is much harder on a Tube train or bus. So there’s little incentive to go anywhere. Mum and I will be leaving the house to attend my uncle’s funeral with my aunt in a couple of week’s time, and I’m starting to feel more open to having a socially distanced outdoor meeting or picnic with a friend or two, as that appears to be relatively safe having been aware of others who have done it. But that’s about it.

In any case, I’ve been keeping myself very busy lately. I’ve actually been using Zoom for the first time recently, to talk to workmates, some friends and other people I’ll mention a bit later in this post. It’s strange how I didn’t get asked to do any video calls for the first 2 months of lockdown, then had one last month, followed by loads in June, about half of which are on Zoom. It’ll probably go quiet again in July!

And I’m also busy on my blog too. Hopefully you’ve already seen my Def Leppard – London To Vegas Unboxing, which I produced after they very kindly set me a copy of the box set to review. But if you haven’t seen it yet, do go and check it out. It’s the first time I’ve ever been sent a product to review, and I had no hesitation in accepting the offer as it’s from one of my favourite bands! I also have some other blog posts I’m working on too, by which I mean a couple of big series that should guarantee me regular posts over the summer and beyond. So I’m in no danger of running out of content just yet!

And of course my Favourites posts will continue, now on a fortnightly basis for the time being, as that frees up my time much more. So here’s my latest recap, with plenty to cover, including disability events & discussions, theatre, Blu-rays, comedy, music and more. So let’s get on with it, and I hope you enjoy my latest post and video!

Continue reading “Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 11-12”

Def Leppard – London To Vegas Unboxing | Gifted

This week I was very excited to receive my first ever product to review! I’ve had a few offers from other companies in the past, but this is the first that has really grabbed my interest. Because it came from the rock gods Def Leppard, no less! They’ve always been one of my favourite bands, so when they got in touch to ask if I wanted to check out their new London To Vegas box set, featuring 2 massive live shows, the answer was easy!

I was genuinely going to buy it anyway, so it was sheer good fortune that they got in touch before I made the purchase. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the lockdown drawing my attention to other matters for a while, I would have pre-ordered it much earlier.

There are many different versions of this set, depending on your budget and level of obsession with the band. I was sent the Deluxe 2 DVD & 4 CD Set, which costs £50 (the Blu-ray equivalent is £60). But there are cheaper options, including the Hysteria show on its own, a couple of vinyl discs, and the ability to stream the London and Vegas shows online. Or you can opt for more expensive bundles with goodies including a t-shirt, a printed set list, laminates, photo cards, guitar plectrums, etc. It’s great to have so much choice.

Front cover of the Def Leppard London To Vegas box set. The background is split into 2 vertical sections, containing half of the Union Jack and American flags respectively. A large triangle in the middle, with a double border of red and yellow, features a colourful photo of the band in concert, with singer Joe Elliot on a platform stretching out from the stage into the audience. Across the bottom of the triangle, large yellow text with a red border says Def Leppard, in a font made only of straight and diagonal lines. Below this, in a yellow box, yellow text says London To Vegas.

So today I want to share my unboxing video and give my review of the set. It’s important to stress that all opinions are my own here. I haven’t been asked to say anything in particular, and I accepted the product because I knew it was highly likely I was going to love it. So I hope you enjoy this post, and huge thanks to Def Leppard for their consideration and generosity!

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Lockdown Favourites – Week 10

Hello again. I hope you’re all doing ok – especially my friends and followers in the USA, all our thoughts are with you right now. Black Lives Matter and there are many ways to get involved and show your support, while those taking advantage of peaceful protests to cause destruction and misery have no respect for peace and equality. I sincerely hope that stability and civility is restored very soon. We should all be pulling together at all times, but it’s more important than ever during this pandemic.

Here in England, our lockdown has been eased in recent days, even though many scientists, including some of the government’s own advisors, feel too much is being done too soon. And if the experts are wary, then so am I, because I trust their judgement the most. So I’m going to continue staying locked down while we wait to see what happens, and until doctors and scientists can reassure us that it really is safer out there. It’s important for me because I live with my mother, who is elderly and blind, so the last thing I want is to bring the virus home and infect her, so that she ends up in hospital where I can’t visit her. So I’m staying indoors to keep her safe, that’s my priority.

And while I’m doing that, I’m still keeping myself entertained, which is taking my mind off the news very effectively as usual. So I hope this week’s post and video, which as always doesn’t contain anything sponsored or gifted, is a nice distraction for you too!

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