Happy New Year everybody! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and that 2018 is a joyful and prosperous year for you. 🙂
This Christmas marked my first anniversary of moving to London. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long already. And 2017 has been an amazing year! Although I was already used to getting around the city from my previous visits, it was still a leap into the unknown in many respects to actually live here. I had no idea how well it would work out, how safe or comfortable I would feel, how accessible events and attractions would be, and how easy it would be to make friends.
But it’s been more than worth the effort, and I’m extremely happy with how well it’s gone, given all the friends I’ve made, places I’ve explored, new things I’ve tried, and the opportunities I’ve taken up. A year ago I never imagined that I would be doing many of the things that have transpired in the months since.
I’m also pleased that my blog, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages have had a steady increase in followers over the year. Sure, I don’t have big numbers compared to the bigger bloggers out there, but relative to where I was a year ago, it’s been a substantial leap. And my goals for this haven’t been about the numbers anyway. Making connections, sharing my experiences and spreading a bit of awareness was always my aim, and I’ve been achieving that. It’s resulted in numerous opportunities and new experiences, including guest posts, a public speech (with another planned for next year), participating in a research study (which is continuing next year), being interviewed by a journalist, and more. My efforts have been paying off more than I could ever have imagined, and I’m loving it.
But above all, thank you so much to everyone I’ve met and interacted with during the year, whether it be in person or online. By reading, liking and sharing my content, leaving comments, asking questions, sending me private messages and emails, giving me opportunities for guest posts and public talks, and even meeting up in person, you’ve helped to make this year a very special one for me. Especially Fashioneyesta, Aniridia Network UK, Nystagmus Network, East London Vision, South East London Vision, Thinking Bob, VocalEyes, RNIB, Scope, Life Of A Blind Girl, My Blurred World, Luke Sam Sowden & All The Stations, but also everyone else that I’ve had any kind of contact with during the year.
Everyone has been very positive and supportive, and your involvement has enabled me to start this new chapter in my life with confidence and comfort, and fun and friendship. And for that I’ll always be very grateful. 2017 will forever be one of the most significant and happy of my life, nothing will take that away.
And I’ve had a lovely Christmas to finish it off in style, so I wanted to quickly bring you up to date with how it went. I’ve also filmed a video to go with this, which has my general reflections on 2017 as well. So I hope you enjoy this Christmas update, tying up the loose ends before I enjoy the year ahead!
Out & About
My first event this month was a very interesting visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum, in order to help a wonderful lady called Rafie Cecilia with her PhD research into accessibility at museums. It was a pleasure to meet her, the observation study and subsequent interview went very well, and I’ll be meeting up with her at a couple of other museums next year.
And on a similar topic, I also had another audio described tour with VocalEyes this month, at The Wellcome Collection, which I really enjoyed. And I was also involved in another interview about accessibility this month, but it wasn’t about museums, and it’s not something I can talk about at the moment until it’s ready to share, assuming it comes out alright.
I’ve also been to various shows over the past month:
- I went with members of the social group Thinking Bob to a carol concert called Christmas With The Stars at the Royal Albert Hall, which was really nice.
- I took my mother to the Rapunzel pantomime at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, which we really enjoyed and had audio description for. I was also going to take her to see A Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, but I came down with a bad cold that prevented us from going. So that was a great shame. Hopefully we’ll get there another year.
- At the start of January I went to see the Beauty & The Beast pantomime in Hornchurch with some friends from East London Vision, which included a touch tour and audio description. So Christmas got extended just a little bit further, and we had a great time!
Blog Posts & Videos
I’ve written quite a bit this month. I made another post for the RNIB’s How I See campaign about using a cane (or, more specifically, why I don’t use one), as well as a message to parents of visually impaired children (as I’ve got lots of parents finding and enjoying my content, which is great), and my responses to the Getting To Know Me Tag.
I’ve also marked the festive occasion by creating a special Christmas Q&A for people to enjoy. I’ve also compiled a list of my Christmas music collection, and have shared my entertainment favourites too. So there’s plenty for you to check out if you haven’t done so already.
Over Christmas itself, my mother and I had a lovely quiet time. This is the most relaxed Christmas we’ve had for quite a few years, given how long it took for us to move to London after my father died 7 years ago. We were very happy to move to London last year, but having only just moved the week before Christmas, things were too chaotic to fully enjoy it, and we didn’t have things like a fridge or an oven or central heating, so we had to make do as best we could. But this year, now we’ve properly settled in, we were able to celebrate Christmas properly, including getting a tree and decorating our lounge. And we got some scented diffusers to make the place smell nice.
We didn’t go big on the presents, because we never do. Mum is blind, so relies on me to do shopping anyway. So we just ask each other what we want, and I arrange to get it. My present to Mum was paying for the Rapunzel pantomime and Christmas Carol play, because she likes being able to go to occasional theatre shows and enjoy them with audio description. And I wanted a Blu-ray drive for my Mac, so she paid for that and the software I had to download to read the discs from it (Aiseesoft’s Blu-ray Player if you’re interested). And it works nicely enough with the few discs I’ve tried. It’s not a full substitute for a proper Blu-ray player attached to the TV, but it’s good enough for playing them on my Mac.
Food & Drink
In terms of social events, I had lovely Christmas meals this month with South East London Vision in Greenwich, East London Vision (n Canning Town, and my work colleagues down in Devon, where I also met up with an old school friend in Exeter.
And at home we did indulge ourselves this year – but, as I’ve said, this is a significant and special Christmas for us, and we feel like we’ve earned the right to treat ourselves. So we decided to try getting our big Christmas meats from the Marks & Spencer Food To Order service, where you order food online and then pick it up in the store. And it worked really well.
We got a turkey crown with pork, chestnut, bacon & thyme stuffing, plus a 4-bird roast (turkey, duck, chicken & pheasant), and a sugar-baked gammon joint, along with a pot of their Posh Turkey Gravy to go with the turkey crown. And they were all delicious. We got a few days worth of dinners and sandwiches out of the turkey crown, and a few days each out of the other meats as well, so we’ll definitely be ordered from them again. And we had the traditional things with our Christmas dinner like pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, sprouts and other vegetables.
All of that filled us up nicely, although we still had plenty of room for treats too of course. In the lead-up to Christmas, I had my first advent calendar for years. This was a Lindt advent calendar, with 4 flavours of chocolate in it – mint, sea salt, orange and dark. And you got 2 different flavoured pieces of chocolate behind each door, so I was able to share the chocolate with Mum each time I opened it. We’ve also got through loads of mince pies since about November, as we always start them as soon as we see them in the shops.
We’re not particularly into Christmas pudding or big rich fruit Christmas cakes – so instead, Mum had a stolen cake, and I’ve eaten my way through Tunis cakes (maderia sponge with a chocolate layer on top), from Sainsbury’s and M&S. We’ve also tried a chocolate Yule log from both of those stores, and we’ve had little nibbles from Mr Kipling, namely his Frosted Fancies and his Christmas Cake Slices. And we had sweets to pick at as well – we got tubs of Celebrations, Roses and Cadbury’s Heroes and mixed them all together to give us a good variety.
So we’ve eaten well, all in all, but spread out over the Christmas period, so it’s not all been in one go. And our waistlines seem to have survived the onslaught, our clothes still just about fit!
I’ve also been watching plenty of TV over the holiday of course. The Doctor Who Christmas Special – Twice Upon A Time – was the traditional highlight of Christmas Day, with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor meeting the first Doctor. I thought it was a great episode, often quite moving, and the ending with his regeneration into the new female Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, was very nicely done. So I’m really looking forward to her first episode in the next series.
The other drama I’ve really enjoyed over Christmas is Black Mirror, as the 4th season launched on Netflix near the end of December. It’s a very dark vision of the future, in terms of what we might do with technology as it continues to advance, so it can be quite shocking and thought-provoking. Even though the situations portrayed in each episode might appear extreme, they are potentially plausible (and some things have happened in the real world that appear to mirror earlier Black Mirror episodes to some degree). So it can mess with your head and feel a bit unsettling for that reason, and that’s what makes it good. Season 4 perhaps isn’t the very best season, I think I might rate season 3 better, but it’s still very good and worth a watch.
Beyond that, apart from watching a few DVDs that I’m going to mention in my next post updating you on my collection, I’ve been mainly watching comedies. And that’s simply because I like to have a good laugh over Christmas, and indeed at any time of the year. So I’ve particularly enjoyed:
- Michael McIntyre’s Big Show – This is always good fun to watch on a Saturday night, and for this Christmas special show there was a performance by Seal and a bit of stand-up by Bill Bailey, as well as the usual fun and games like Send To All, The Midnight Gameshow, and The Unexpected Star Of The Show.
- Taskmaster Champion Of Champions – Here they got the winning comedians from the previous 5 series to compete over more silly tasks to claim the ultimate title, and it was very funny as always.
- Not Going Out– Written by and starring Lee Mack. The series has evolved significantly since its earlier days, now that Lee’s character is married and has kids. But the core elements of Lee’s comedy are still there, and it’s still very funny. So this year’s Christmas special was very good.
- The League Of Gentlemen 20th Anniversary Specials – This is one for all those who enjoy dark humour. They reunited for 3 special episodes this year, and they were very good. Very wrong on many levels, but fun too!
- Vic & Bob’s Big Night Out – Completely surreal and utterly nonsensical, and that’s just what you expect and demand from Vic & Bob. So this was a weird but wonderful way to spend half an hour.
- The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year – This is always good fun, hosted by Jimmy Carr on Channel 4. Although I have no idea who the guy teamed up with Katherine Ryan was (Big Narstie), and my friends and I agree that he was just annoying. The other guests were great as usual though – Noel Fielding and Richard Ayoade have an unusual but great partnership on this show, David Mitchell and Roisin Conaty were good together too. So it was a fun programme on the whole.
- 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown – Jimmy Carr hosts this as well, and their latest Christmas special was good fun as usual, with guests including Catherine Tate and a gospel choir.
- Harry Enfield’s Yule Log Chums – This was an old Christmas special that I recorded on Gold, because I haven’t seen many of Harry Enfield’s shows for quite a while. So that was fun to see again.
- Russell Howard: Recalibrate & Jack Whitehall: At Large – These are 2 live standup shows that are exclusive to Netflix, as they’re both among a number of comedians who have decided not to bother releasing DVDs this year. Which is a shame, but at least we can still watch them this way, and they are very good shows. I’m looking forward to watching Ricky Gervais’ Humanity show when that comes out on Netflix sometime soon too.
- A Year In The Life Of A Year – This was a wonderfully silly and irreverent look at the news of the year shown on BBC4, poking fun at various aspects of it. It sort of filled the gap left by the absence of Charlie Brooker’s Yearly Wipe, as he hasn’t had time to produce one this year due to other commitments (including Black Mirror). So it’s a shame we didn’t get that, but this was an enjoyable alternative.
- Tim Vine Travels Through Time – Tim Vine is always very funny, and he loves puns and wordplay. And this show gives him plenty of leeway to mess around, so it’s great fun. Spice Girl Emma Bunton was a great sport for being his guest this time around too, she did very well.
- QI & Would I Lie To You? – Both of these shows had Christmas specials nestled in between their regular episodes, and they were great fun as always.
- Still Open All Hours – This is coming back for a 4th series, kicking off with this Christmas special. While it’s not as great as the original Open All Hours, it’s still a nice, easy comedy that everyone can enjoy, it still works very well with David Jason in charge.
- A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong – This was a really enjoyable, farcical, slapstick, silly production, made by the Mischief Theatre company, who have done other shows like this on the TV and in the theatre before. It ironically takes great acting skill to make this kind of comedy work well, which it does. Mum and I were going to see Comedy About A Bank Robbery by this company last year, but we both fell ill and couldn’t make it. So we need to try and book up for it again during 2018.
- The Two Ronnies: Christmas With The Stars 1972 & Morecambe & Wise: Christmas Special 1977 – It wouldn’t be Christmas without either of these wonderful comedy double acts, so you always get one or two of their Christmas specials repeated, and they’re always a great mix of variety, humour and music.
On the radio, Mum and I listened to Junior Choice on BBC Radio 2, which has lots of classic and very silly songs like Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West) by Benny Hill, My Brother by Terry Scott, Hole In The Ground by Bernard Cribbins, and so many more. It’s a lovely bit of nostalgia. And we also listened to the 50th anniversary special of Just A Minute on BBC Radio 4, which cleverly brought together various celebrity contestants from the past 5 decades all at once, as a nice tribute to the show’s legacy and success.
So there you have it. It was a lovely Christmas for both my mother and I, easily our best one for a while, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it.
It’s amazing to reflect on how much I’ve done over the last 12 months as well. If you’d told me even just a year or two ago what 2017 would involve, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s just been crazy. After living a normal, happy, quiet, routine life for such a long time, this year has been a completely fresh start for me, one that I very much needed. And I’m very glad that I’ve been able to grasp the opportunity so firmly.
I’ve pushed myself to meet so many new people, visit so many new places and try so many new things – and I’ve only just started to scratch the surface of what’s possible. There are so many more things to see and do, and so many more people to meet, and I hope to continue making the most of the opportunities available to me in 2018. I have no excuse not to try things, because I’ve proven to myself that trying even just small things can lead to big results. I’ll always be a bit shy and nervous about stuff, but I have a lot more confidence to overcome that and deal with it, more so than ever before.
So thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of my eventful journey this year. You’ve all had a big impact and ensured that I will always look back on 2017 as one of the best and happiest years of my life so far. And I hope you’ll stick with me in 2018! A very Happy New Year to you all, here’s to more fun adventures! 🙂