Well, what a way to start a new month, with snow all over the place! Winter has seemed very reluctant to let Spring take over, but hopefully things will warm up in the coming weeks now.
And the cold weather didn’t stopped February from being an eventful month. Following on from my January 2018 Favourites, it’s now time to look through what I’ve been enjoying in February. And even though it’s the shortest month, I seem to have packed quite a bit in! So I hope you enjoy this post and video for February.
There have been a few important things happening on the social front, both online and oflline, that are worth a mention.
I’m delighted to have been featured in guest posts on another 2 sites this month. I answered 10 Questions About Aniridia in an interview for the RNIB’s NB Online magazine, which is aimed at professionals in the field of eye health and sight loss. And I wrote an article for the Yoocan website entitled From Shyness To Success: Living With Aniridia & Nystagmus. The Yoocan website gathers together experiences and tips from people with all sorts of disabilities, from all over the world, to show what we can achieve and how we live our lives on a daily basis, and share any tips and advice we have. So it was an honour to be featured on both of those sites, thank you to them both for inviting me to contribute.
On Instagram, meanwhile, I posted every day during the month to take part in the Rare Disease Day Photo Challenge, which was fun. It gave me a chance to share a mixture of old and new photos, to provide a good insight into my disability and how it hasn’t stopped me from living a happy and successful life. I’ve put together a blog post that contains all the photos and captions I posted, as well as explaining what Rare Disease Day is all about, so do go and check it out.
And talking of rare diseases, there were a couple of announcements during the month, in relation to the charities that support my conditions. The Aniridia Network Conference is now open for booking, which will take place in London on Saturday 14th April. So be sure to register for that if you want to attend. And the Nystagmus Network have announced a new permanent date for their Nystagmus Awareness Day (aka Wobbly Wednesday), moving it from November to 20th June (the day before Aniridia Day!).
In terms of followers and subscribers, they’ve continued to go up since last month. By the end of February I had 236 on Youtube (previously 219), I had 324 on Twitter (previously 300), I had 80 on my blog (previously 74), and on Instagram I have over 110. So, as always, welcome to anyone who has subscribed to me recently, it’s much appreciated.
And if you’re curious, yes, I have created an account on Vero, which everyone seems to be raving about for some reason. Like most people seem to be doing, I’ve set up a profile just in case, given that the first million users get it free for life, while others after that have to pay. But so far I don’t see any major benefits over the social media sites I’m already on. So don’t expect to see much from me there at the moment. But if it somehow becomes a major player that everyone switches to and uses heavily, I have a profile there ready. I’m just not convinced there’s any reason for that to happen yet, but we’ll see.
I wasn’t expecting to go to the theatre this month, as I had nothing booked. But then I was very kindly offered a complimentary ticket by the Young Vic Theatre to see a play called Winter, and you can see a comprehensive review of my experience in my blog post. It was a very unusual play compared to others I’ve seen to date, but I enjoyed it. The theatre had offered tickets to myself and a few other bloggers to try out their increased access provision. Because for that show, there were providing audio description for every single performance, rather than just one like they normally do. And that included a touch tour for 6 of the performances as well. I thought it worked really well, so hopefully they’ll do more shows with that level of accessibility in the future.
Like last month, museums have also played a big part in keeping me entertained, especially as the weather’s not been very nice. In particular, I spent a couple of afternoons exploring the Museum of London, which I wrote about in a blog post. The main reason for this was to help a lady called Rafie Cecilia with her PhD study into assistive technology for visually impaired people at museums. This was the second of three outings I’ll be doing with her, so it was wonderful to meet her again.
But also, I’d never been to the museum before anyway – apart from once when I was a kid, and I have no recollection of it – so it was already on my to-do list. And I really enjoyed having a look at everything as best I could. It was a shame there were no large print guides available though, as I would have got a lot more out of it then. But I enjoyed what I could see and read, which was a fair amount, so I came away happy. It is a really interesting place, there’s such a huge variety of things to see there.
I also went to the Imperial War Museum with South East London Vision, where we got to have a wonderful touch tour and handling session with the very knowledgeable and friendly staff, including being able to touch a tank and hold real shells from World War I. And we also had a little look around the First World War gallery itself. So I really want to go back there for a more thorough look around, as there’s loads to explore and it’s really fascinating. The café’s ridiculously expensive though – a big ham and cheese sandwich, a small slice of treacle tart, and a small glass bottle of Coke, cost me £10.40! That’s crazy. But that aside, it’s an amazing place, well worth going to.
I also joined South East London Vision at the start of the month for a social evening over food and drinks at the Doggett’s Coat & Badge pub (just across the bridge from Blackfriars Tube station). That was a lovely way to spend an evening. And then I went there for a second time a few weeks later with one of the members that I get on well with, so we had a lovely chat together.
It’s a really nice place, and their food is great. On my first visit I had the Nicholson’s burger (a tall burger with 2 layers of beef, plus bacon, cheese, onion rings and salad), followed by sticky toffee pudding and custard, And on my second visit I had their fish and chips, without bothering with a dessert on that occasion. It was all really nice.
I’m going there again in March as well, because a group of friends are coming to London for a few days, and are staying in a hotel not far from the pub. So when they asked me if I knew anywhere we could all meet for lunch, I knew where to suggest! So I’ll have to decide what to try eating next on that visit! I’ve also learnt that if you sign up as a friend of Nicholson’s to get on their mailing list, you get a 25% off voucher for a group of up to 6 people on your next visit. So I’ll be taking advantage of that for our group!
I also went on a tour of Apsley House, the home of the first Duke of Wellington, with the social group Thinking Bob as well, where our host took us around and spoke about a few key pieces of art there. He wasn’t from the museum and isn’t a professional tour guide, he’s just a host that enjoys art and does different tours in different places on a regular basis, doing some research beforehand into the things he wants to tell us about. They’re great socials, I’ve been on one of his previous tours, so I was glad I got to do another one.
The one disappointment this month was that I couldn’t accompany my local branch of East London Vision to the ABBA: Super Troupers exhibition at the Southbank Centre. Which is a shame, because I really want to see that, and I’m aware I may need to go with someone to explore it as I gather some parts are very dark or awkward to navigate. So that was an ideal opportunity. Some of the group did manage to venture out there in the snow and had a wonderful time, but I didn’t have the right footwear to risk it, something I’m going to rectify for next winter!
Down in the Westcountry I never had to prepare for snow like this (although they’ve had it bad too this year, which is unusual!). But here in London it’s something I’ll need to be more ready for. So I’ll be ready next winter. I’m looking to refresh my wardrobe in general at the moment anyway, it all needs an overhaul as it is. Maybe I’ll do a haul video if I get a bunch of stuff, I know they seem to be popular on Youtube. We’ll see what happens.
On a couple of weekends when the weather did behave itself, so it was at least dry even if it was still cold, I took the opportunity to get out and about for a walk. After all, it’s good exercise, and there are lots of interesting places and things to explore outdoors in the city.
So I decided to take a walk on Hampstead Heath for the first time, which is absolutely huge, passing through the smaller Waterlow Park on the way as well. You get a nice view over the city from Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath, so that’s worth finding. Not quite as impressive as the view from Alexandra Palace in my opinion, which I want to go back to after enjoying my visit last year, but still pretty cool. Check out my Instagram to see photos from Waterlow Park and Hampstead Heath.
The next day I then went on a walk to find some more of the Talking Statues that are spread around the city. Basically, a selection of statues in the city have a plaque attached to them, on which you can scan a QR code with your phone (or manually type in the short web address) to hear the person in the statue talking to you, voiced by a variety of celebrities including Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams, stand-up comedian Sara Pascoe and radio presenter Ken Bruce. It’s really cool, because you learn some really interesting things, and it introduced me to parts of the city that I hadn’t known about and might never have discovered otherwise.
I had spent a day finding about half of the statues last year, so I’d been wanting to find the rest for a while. I haven’t do every single one of them, because one or two are in buildings that I also want to explore in their own right, and one or two statues on the map don’t have plaques any more (including one near Waterlow Park, which was another reason for going there the previous day). But I’ve done the overwhelming majority of them, so I’ve completed my mission to find most of them as far as I’m concerned. Check out my Instagram to see photos of the Talking Statues and other things I discovered during my walk.
The next weekend, I then followed another audio walking tour using the Cities Talking app, which I’d really enjoyed using last year when I did the Death & Rebirth and Power & Palaces tours. This time around, I did a tour called Scandal, Gossip & Outrage, which takes you from Trafalgar Square to St Paul’s, walking straight down the Strand and Fleet Street.
If you keep the app running, the next bit of audio kicks in automatically as you walk along the route, which is useful. It’s worth stopping when that happens, to listen to that piece of audio, look at the buildings being referred to, and take photos. Again it’s narrated by Christopher Biggins, and he does a great job with it. I split the tour over 2 days – although it takes about 3 hours if you do it continuously, it’ll be longer if you keep stopping to take photos of things along the way like I did. Plus it was a very cold weekend, so I didn’t want to stay out for too long! But it was worth it, because the tour is very interesting and fun.
You don’t have to be in London to listen to the audio though, you can listen to it at home or anywhere else you like. Just download the app from Cities Talking to your phone, and you can download the tours for London there and then. It’ll offer you a login screen when you load the app, but you can just use the Skip button at the bottom to ignore it. Some of the tours are given to you automatically if I remember rightly, while others are optional, free extras you can download from the Browse menu – where you’ll notice they have tours in lots of other cities around the world, so it’s not just for London. Well worth looking into if you like history and facts and stuff like that.
There are still a couple of other tours I want to do on that app, and other tour apps I want to try to, as well as proper in-person group tours that companies arrange in the city, so I’ll be doing more of those as the year progresses, when the weather’s nicer.
Film & TV
This month I ticked another film off the list recommended to me by Emily at Fashioneyesta, this time watching Madagascar on Netflix. It’s a fun film too, I enjoyed it. Not quite as good as Finding Nemo and Finding Dory if I had to rank it relative to those, but still very funny and enjoyable. I have one more film recommended by Emily that I want to check out (though there are loads more she could point me to I’m sure), so I’ll try and tick that one off the list as well soon.
On the TV, the latest series (the O series) of QI has now finished, and that was as good as usual. I’m pleased to hear they’re already in the process of filming the P series, so that’ll be good to see when it eventually comes out. The current runs of The Last Leg and Room 101 are still going at the moment, and I’m still enjoying those.
A number of other shows I like have also returned this month. Season 11 of The Big Bang Theory has now resumed after the traditional break for Christmas, so I’m very pleased about that. But now we also have the spin-off Young Sheldon, which is about Sheldon’s childhood as you can imagine. It’s only just started, so we’re only a couple of episodes in, but I’m liking it so far. I like the fact that we had the adult Sheldon giving narration at the beginning, so it felt like a proper link back to the main show. And the kid playing young Sheldon here is pretty good. So I’m going to give it a fair chance, it seems promising.
Another show that’s also resumed after the festive period is Season 4 of The Flash, with Barry put on trial for a murder he was framed for, in a very elaborate and complicated way. I won’t spoil anything, obviously, but it was a fun return for the show, I’m looking forward to seeing how the second half of this season progresses.
I’m also enjoying the new series of Dara Ó Briain’s Go 8 Bit, which is always very funny and brings back memories of when I played video games as a child, and the return of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which is always a fun piece of silly escapism for a Saturday evening. Not on a par with Noel’s House Party by any means, I miss those days, but still good fun nonetheless.
As for Blu-Rays and DVDs, the only one I bought during the month was Still Open All Hours – Series 4, which was broadcast in the new year. So I wanted to get that to complete my collection, as I have all the other series so far.
I also enjoyed rewatching my Blu-ray of Red Dwarf – Series 12, which was appropriate this month given that it’s Red Dwarf’s 30th anniversary. Series XII was very good, and the extras on the Blu-ray are very good too, with a lot of behind the scenes stuff, deleted scenes and smeg-ups. They always put decent bonus features on the Red Dwarf sets, which is great.
The other DVD set I watched during the month was Family Guy – Season 17, which was fun as usual. Deleted scenes are the main extras, of which there are quite a few, but there are nice tribute features to Carrie Fisher and Adam West too. And on a related note, I also recently became aware of a site called Family Guy Yourself after I saw a few friends using it. It was set up to mark the show’s 300th episode, and it allows you to create a version of you in the Family Guy world using the options on the website. You can then download the images to keep, It’s quite fun if you like the show.
Audiobooks & Music
As mentioned in my January favourites, I’ve now started on the Radio Boy books by Christian O’Connell. He presents the Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio, and I’ve been really enjoying the podcasts of those every day, so it’s a shame that he’ll be leaving soon. Congratulations must also go to his co-presenter Richie Firth on his new baby.
But anyway, I’ve listened to the first Radio Boy book now. It’s the first book that Christian’s written, but he’s done a great job. It’s written from the point of view of Spike, a young boy with an overbearing mother who gets sacked from his hospital radio show and decides to set up his own radio show in his shed, under the secret identity of Radio Boy. It’s a fun story with a lot of humour throughout, and Christian himself narrates the audiobook really well, even throwing in a few sound effects at appropriate moments. So I enjoyed it very much, and I’m now partway through the second book – Radio Boy and the Revenge of Grandad, which is also great so far.
As for music, after getting the concert Blu-ray for Def Leppard – And There Will Be A Next Time, which I mentioned in my DVD collection update video for 2017, I finally bought the album that goes with it from 2015, simply called Def Leppard. And it’s pretty good too – not an absolute classic like some of their older work, but there are still great tracks on it including Let’s Go, Dangerous and Man Enough. It’s still the pure Def Leppard sound we know and love, and they’re easy to rock out to, so I’m very happy with it.
And that’s it, I’ll leave you with that Def Leppard track to finish this favourites post. It’s been a cold but enjoyable month, with plenty to enjoy.
I’ve already got a few exciting things planned for March as well, one of which is a major first for me that I’m quite nervous about, but am really looking forward to. I’ve also got a few social things arranged with friends, and I’ve got a theatre show booked. So I already have a few things in the pipeline, but there’s plenty of scope to add other things into the mix as well. So it’s going to be interesting to look back at it all in a month’s time. Let’s hope the weather’s a bit better by then – roll on spring!