Well, that’s an early Easter out of the way for this year, and I hope everyone had a great time. We had the typical bank holiday weather here in the UK – i.e. wet – but on the plus side we also had lots of treats to indulge on as well, so it’s been like another Christmas in that sense. Indeed, with the wintery weather still hanging around, you’d be forgiven for not realising it was spring yet. Still, just like February, once again the weather hasn’t stopped me from having another very successful month.
But before I get on to the details, I just want to very quickly mention a free event I’m attending in April that you might also be interested in. I’m not being paid to mention it, but I am one of their voluntary social media ambassadors. And regardless of that, I’m genuinely intrigued by the whole thing anyway, having never heard of it before, so it deserves a mention in any case. And I don’t want to bury it at the bottom of the post where nobody will see it.
So to quote them directly:
Naidex is Europe’s most exciting event dedicated to the disability, independent living and healthcare professional sectors. Taking place at the NEC Birmingham on the 25th and 26th April, this esteemed event provides cutting-edge exhibitors, world-class CPD accredited seminars, live demos, 1-2-1 advice and unparalleled networking opportunities, over two unforgettable days. And it’s absolutely free to attend! Register for your FREE ticket on naidex.co.uk!
There are bold claims there, I know, but in all fairness I’ve looked through the show guide listing the exhibitors, speakers and events, and it really is very exciting. PLus it is their 44th year, so they know what they’re doing. I’ll be there both days and will have no problem filling the time, and I will of course tell you all about it. But I recommend going too if you can – it’s free, so you just have to be able to get to Birmingham on at least one of those days, and you need to register for tickets on their website in advance. If you’re a fellow blogger who’s also going, and you want to say hello there or collaborate in some way in relation to it, you’re welcome to get in touch. And if you know others who might want to go, pass it on!
Ok, that’s all I have to say about it, I just felt it deserved a plug. Now let’s crack on with my latest favourites post and video, so you can see what I’ve been up to. I hope you enjoy it!
Out & About
The most important and significant achievement of this month was when I gave a speech for a group of primary school children. This has been in the planning for a few months now, and we were finally able to schedule it in a few weeks ago. I’ve never spoken for children before about my disability – and have only done it once for adults previously – so this was a big deal and naturally I was very nervous.
But it went really well, and I’m super chuffed with the feedback I got from it. The children were amazing, paying close attention and asking very thoughtful questions, and it’s definitely had a positive impact on their attitudes towards disabled people. So it was well worth the effort. I’ve published a blog post and video version of the speech called Growing Up With Sight Loss, so do go and check it out.
I also got to spend a few days with some good friends of mine who were visiting London for a few days, as one of them was celebrating their 30th birthday. And they packed a lot into their trip, making the most of the experience. We ate plenty of food, looked around a few shops including the Lego Store, saw Black Panther at the cinema, and did a lot of walking (for which my feet paid the price!), But the highlight for me was our trip to The Comedy Store to see The Comedy Store Players, which is the first time I’ve been to a comedy club in London. Not sure why it’s taken me a year to go to one, but I’m very glad I finally did. You can read a full review of that show, and details of everything else we got up to, in my post entitled Companions, Cuisine, Cinema & Comedy.
And then a week later I got to see another comedy show with another friend, this time at the Backyard Bar & Kitchen. This was a very different, more ‘nerdy’ kind of show, featuring a variety of different acts – including Geoff & Vicki from All The Stations, who I’ve been a fan of for a while now, and have written a few posts about, so it was great to see them in action. But all the acts were great, and you can see my review of this particular show in my post called An Evening Of Unnecessary Detail.
I also went to the theatre to see another musical this month, again with a touch tour and audio description, which was amazing. And on this occasion, it was Wicked – which is both the name of the show and an accurate description of how amazing the experience was. And I used a mobile app for the first time in a theatre to get the audio description, which was cool. So do check out my blog post about it all, I had a great time.
And then finally on the social front, I attended London’s first ever Vitality Big Half Marathon, as a spectator of course, with East London Vision. We were there to support Joanna Lally, who was running for East London Vision, and Jessica Beal, who was running for South East London Vision. We were stood near Bermondsey Tube Station for the main part of the race, and then went to Greenwich Park to greet our athletes after they’d finished. They both completed the event, each raising a lot of money in the process, and we all really enjoyed the day.
I’ve posted a half-hour video of the half marathon, showing many of the runners that passed us at Bermondsey (including a fleeting glimpse of Mo Farah), as well as the post-race interviews with Jessica & Joanna, and a few clips from the Vitality Big Festival that was taking place in Greenwich Park. And you can also see East London Vision’s video & Facebook photos as well. So we got plenty of coverage on the day, and a huge well done to Joanna and Jessica and all the other athletes
At home we’ve been buying various bits and pieces over the past month. I’m currently starting to refresh my wardrobe with new tops, trousers and shoes, trying out things from different shops to get a feel for what I like, because I want to update myself and get more variety. Marks & Spencer has often been a good safe option, but I’ve not ventured into other shops as often. So I’ve been looking around a bit more, and have had some success with Debenhams, H&M and Amazon so far.
I’ve mainly been buying things online as it’s easier than hunting through shops in person when you can’t see perfectly. I don’t really have anyone to shop with who can tell me what looks best on me and help me find things, so it’s much more convenient to look online. And there are certain shops I can get discounts in thanks to my employer’s savings scheme, which is an incentive. The tricky bit tends to be sizing, inevitably – I can get lovely tops from H&M without a problem, but their sizing for trousers seems too confusing. But generally I can find things that will fit me.
I haven’t got any photos to show you at the moment, as I would need to experiment to see if I can do half-decent fashion photos of myself. But I love the dark red marl crew neck jumper I got from the Maine New England range for £20 in Debenhams. It’s really soft and comfortable, perfect for the winter. I also got a couple of items from their J by Jasper Conran range – the navy striped tonal shirt for £33.60 and blue textured crew neck jumper for £32 – and they’re nice, but I wouldn’t rate them so highly. The jumper doesn’t feel as soft and comfortable to wear as the Maine New England one, but it’s still adequate.
And from Amazon I really like the Mens Elasticated Multi Pocket Cargo Combat Work Trousers I found for £19.99, because they fit well and have a very useful 7 pockets. I find cargo trousers really useful, especially if I’m not wearing a coat and have to carry things like my wallet, phone, monocular, sunglasses and any other little things I might need. Saves carrying a bag around then. I also got a pair of Nike Men’s Air Max Invigor Sneakers for £87.90, which aren’t cheap, sure, but they’re very comfortable, and ideal for when the weather’s nice and dry, and I should get a lot of use out of them. They’re not for use in the rain though – for that I got a pair of the Northwest Territory Mens Nevada Fully Waterproof Trainers for £36.99, which work really well in the rain. I’m going to keep experimenting with different shops as well though as, like I say, I want variety, and the only way to know what’s best is to try things out.
Amazon is incredibly useful for buying stuff for the home, which we’ve known for some time now, having bought quite a lot from there for Mum in particular. So recently we’ve got things like a floral tabard, a Pyrex measuring jug, ultra strong household gloves, sock clips that are useful for keeping pairs together in the wash, and a Tefal non-stick cookware set, a hot water bottle that has a nice wide opening for ease of filling.
One thing we’ve also discovered in recent months is the multipacks you can get for household products like Fairy Washing Up Liquid, Fairy Non Bio Washing Capsules, Andrex Toilet Rolls and Colgate Toothpaste, among other things. Saves buying them in the grocery shopping in the supermarket that way, especially for items like toilet rolls and boxes of washing capsules that can be very bulky to carry around. Much easier to have it delivered, and it lasts you quite a while then.
My favourite home product for this month, though, is the new microwave we bought. Our very old microwave finally gave up this month, and it took a while to find a new one. A lot of models now have flat surfaces with touch screens or buttons you can’t feel, which is no good whatsoever for a blind person like my mother. It’s the same problem we had when trying to get a washing machine last year. This obsession by manufacturers to use flat touch screens is an inconsiderate nuisance, frankly, because they’re useless for the visually impaired, and thus makes it very difficult to find things we can use.
But thankfully we managed to find the Russell Hobbs RHEM1901B Flatbed Digital 700w Microwave for £68.97, and we really like it.
It’s a flatbed microwave, meaning it doesn’t have a turntable inside – which is very clever, and means it’s much easier to keep clean. We hadn’t realised you could get flatbed microwaves before, though they’ve probably been around a while. And on the right side there are just 4 buttons, which are very easy to feel, and they beep each time you press them.
The top button is simply called Microwave, and you press just this button to set the time. Each press of the button increases the time by 30 seconds to begin with, until it gets to 5 minutes, after which it goes up in 1 minute intervals. So once you know that, you can count the beeps to know what time you’re setting, if you can’t see. The screen above it is very clear if you have the sight to read it though, as it’s bright numbering on a black background. You then press the Start button at the very bottom to set it going. The button above the Start button allows you to Stop or Cancel. And the remaining button. And the button above that (just below the Microwave button) is for Defrost.
So it’s very simple and easy to use – you can’t do any complex programs with it, but we don’t need to. And when it’s finished, it beeps at you loudly and clearly. The handle on the door is big and chunky, which makes it easy to grip and open the unit. It is only a 700 watt microwave, so you need about 30 seconds longer to cook things than in an 800 watt model, but that’s fine. So if you’re looking for a simple to use microwave, I recommend checking this one out. I’ve already tried it out for a few meals and it’s worked nicely.
Mum and I also treated ourselves to some Easter goodies at Marks & Spencer in Westfield Stratford City at the end of the month. And inevitably we came away with perhaps more than we intended, as I posted on my Instagram at the time! So there were quite a few sweet treats, but also some food for dinners as well. You just can’t go wrong with M&S food, so we like to try and make the most of it when we’re in there. Our haul included
- Single Origin Milk & Dark Chocolate Chicken & Egg. Literally the egg is in 2 halves, one of milk chocolate and one of dark chocolate. And there’s a delicious golden coloured chocolate chicken in the middle!
- Belgian Milk Chocolate Egg with mini Champagne truffles, again very nice.
- Easter Egg Chocolate Cake, which is a large cake with chocolate eggs on top. We haven’t eaten this yet, because we’re gradually working our way through the next item over the course of a few evenings. But it looks amazing.
- Easter Egg Cheesecake, which is a large cheesecake with chocolate eggs on top. It’s lovely and creamy with a thick biscuit base, so you don’t need a big slice to satisfy you, and it tastes great.
- 3 packs of Hot Cross Buns – one Luxury, one Bramley Apple, and one Salted Caramel & Chocolate. Mum’s tried the apple ones, and said she couldn’t really taste the apple much in them, although they were still nice. You can definitely taste the chocolate onees though, and the luxury pack is delicious as well.
- Simnel Cake. This is a spiced fruit cake with marzipan. This is for Mum, though she hasn’t started on this yet.
- 2 packs of crisps – one in Roast Beef & Onion flavour, and the other in Sweet & Smoky BBQ Flavour. It was nice to try something different, they were both nice. I preferred the Roast Beef & Onion flavour out of the two.
- Southern Fried Chicken Thighs & Drumsticks. We’ve had these from Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the past as well, we love having these every so often. Better than KFC’s chicken, of course, though I still really enjoy KFC as well – when they have chicken available at least!
- 2 Giant Yorkshire puddings, because why not?
- Whole Roast Chicken. Yes, we love chicken, and these ready roasted chickens are always delicious. I don’t know what they’re coated in, but it tastes great.
- A couple of microwave ready meals, which I’ve had on a couple of evenings this weekend. I particularly liked the Roast Pork In Apple & Cider Gravy, with mash, carrots and broccoli. But the Chicken & Vegetable Chow Mein was nice too.
So we’re gradually working our way through that lot! We’ve started on the Easter eggs, of course, and my aunt also got us a couple of small Cadbury’s eggs as well (a Creme Egg one and a Mini Eggs one). So yes, we’ve over-indulged a bit, but to be fair, there won’t be a good excuse to do so for a while now!
Film & TV
On Blu-ray this month, I decided to watch Series 4 of Sherlock again, because it’s a brilliant series, looking great in high-definition, and the extra features are really interesting as well. I haven’t bought any new DVDs or Blu-rays lately though, as there’s been nothing out that I want.
So I’ve been getting back into Netflix more again, with a mixture of films and stand-up comedy. Having watched the first Madagascar film last month, as recommended to me by Emily at Fashioneyesta, I decided to watch Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted to complete the trilogy. They’re perhaps not quite as good as the original, but they’re still good fun.
I also watched a few stand-up comedy specials as well (and, fair warning, the next few trailers contain occasional strong language).
Having enjoyed his previous 4 shows on DVD, I of course had to watch Humanity by Ricky Gervais. He’s not to everyone’s taste – no comedian is – which is fair enough. And I appreciate his humour is controversial to some. But I enjoyed it. It’s very funny and he’s on fine form in this performance, you can tell he’s enjoying himself, as are the audience. And it’s clear that some of the objections raised towards the material by people online is because the media have, unsurprisingly, taken single lines or jokes completely out of context, and people have got angry without actually seeing the show. Basically, if you’re a fan of Ricky Gervais, you’ll love this. If you’re not a fan, you won’t like it.
I also watched the 4-part special Repertoire by James Acaster. I’m not quite as familiar with his comedy, as I only really know him from his appearances on Mock The Week. But this is good fun. I don’t know if it’s necessary to have 4 shows – part of me feels you could get a perfectly good 90 minute show by combining the best material perhaps, as it does feel a bit too padded out sometimes. However, over 3 hours of comedy is very generous, and all the shows are fun, with some laugh-out-loud moments and good observational humour throughout. So if you like stand-up comedy, he’s worth checking out.
And I also decided to try Katherine Ryan – In Trouble. It’s not a new show, unlike the ones I mentioned above. It’s been out for over a year at least. But I just hadn’t got around to it until now. Again, I’ve seen her on TV, on panel shows and Live At The Apollo, but I’ve never seen a full show by her. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I loved it – out of the 3 shows I’ve mentioned here, I actually think hers is my favourite, even above Ricky Gervais. Her show made me laugh out loud the most and pay the closest attention, which is a pretty good benchmark. She’s down to earth, has fun with the audience, tells some really interesting and enjoyable stories about her life and the people she knows, and is just hilarious. So I’m really glad I gave her a chance.
And on TV, I’ve been continuing to enjoy the usual programmes that I watch regularly – Not Going Out – Series 9 (the escape room episode resonated with me having been to a couple myself last year), The Big Bang Theory – Season 11 and its spin-off Young Sheldon (it’s not as good as the main series, but it’s still ok, so I’ve continued to stick with it), Family Guy – Season 16 (which has newer episodes than the season 17 DVD I bought last month, but their DVD seasons have never matched the broadcast seasons, bizarrely), The Flash – Season 4, Dara O’Briain’s Go 8 Bit – Series 3 and the concluding episodes of The Last Leg – Series 13 and Room 101 – Series 18.
And then there’s been Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway (Series 15), the only show of theirs that I watch. No, it’s not highbrow or clever or sophisticated or deep or thought-provoking – it’s just light-hearted, silly fun for a weekend, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it was thrown into chaos by Ant’s car accident. It seems clear that he was wrong to drive that day, given that he failed a breathalyser test and felt the need to go straight back into rehab, even if he only had a small amount of alcohol in his system. So he has to face appropriate justice, but from qualified judges who can establish the exact facts, rather than social media. And thoughts also of course to the others involved in the crash. A 3-year old child was taken to hospital to be assessed, but luckily they weren’t injured.
However, Ant clearly also needs help for his mental health and addiction issues which, like any disability, are unique to every person who suffers from them. So nobody other than him and his closest family members and friends can possibly know and understand what his state of mind is at the moment, or exactly what happened on the day of the crash. All we do know is that it’s vital he gets the help he needs, and is given the time and space to sort things out, and I wish him all the best. And huge credit to Dec for presenting on his own on Saturday, despite the obvious nerves. It was handled very professionally and it was a great show. Dec’s a very capable solo presenter, something he never thought he’d have to do. So he’ll be fine in Ant’s absence. But I hope we see the duo back together again one day, when the time’s right.
Audiobooks & Music
I’ve now completed Radio Boy and the Revenge of Grandad by Christian O’Connell, which was again very good just like the first book. They’re both kids books that adults can enjoy too, because they’re very well written with lots of humour, so I do recommend them. And having finished that, I’ve now gone on to listen again to book 2 of the Harry Potter series – Harry Potter & The Chamber Of Secrets. As I’ve said before, I’m going through the series again after all the Harry Potter stuff I’ve been doing recently, but I’m alternating it with other books. So next I intend to listen to the second book in the Lockwood & Co series, as those books are new to me, and I enjoyed the first one last year.
And finally, I also downloaded the new album by the late, great Rick Parfitt from Status Quo, entitled Over And Out. Much as I like Francis Rossi’s first solo album as well (King Of The Doghouse), Rick’s album is better. If you love Status Quo, you’ll love this. The title track is beautiful, and very moving in the circumstances. It was even played at his funeral. But the whole album is brilliant. It’s short at just over half an hour, so they’ve tagged the rare Quo track Halloween on the end, which is great and I have it on a box set, but many casual Quo fans won’t know it. But all the other tracks are new, and they’re absolutely great. As well as the title song, I particularly like the opening track, Twinkletoes, the ballad Without You, and the single they released prior to the album, Long Distance Love. So I’m very glad people got together to finish producing the album after his death, because it’s been well worth it.
And that’s it for March, another busy month as always, and a special one given my big achievement with that school speech. And April’s diary is already filling up nicely, not just because of the free Naidex event I mentioned earlier.
I’m also going to the Aniridia Network UK Conference, booking for which has now closed. I’ll be helping out with social media and the recording of presentations, but I’ll still be available and keen to mingle with people as well, so do let me know if you’re going! It looks set to be a very interesting and enjoyable day. And apart from that, I’m also going to another theatre musical, and have been invited to a very special museum visit if I can get the time off work for it. And no doubt there will be other things that I get involved with too. So I’m really looking forward to it all!
So I hope you enjoyed reading about my March favourites, and that you had a wonderful Easter. And here’s hoping some nice spring weather finally makes an appearance soon. Hope you have a lovely April whatever you get up to! 🙂