May 2018 Favourites

Group of canoeists on the water in Little Venice

May was a lovely month. The weather’s been gorgeous lately, for the most part, and with no major events going on it’s been quite a relaxing few weeks .But there are still various bits and pieces I’ve enjoyed, and want to mention in this latest post and video update. So I hope you find this interesting.

To start with though, I just quickly want to plug a couple of upcoming events in June that will interest some of you. They’re for people all over the world to join in with, not just the UK. The more the merrier really, as it will help to spread vital awareness in both cases.

Sue Ricketts talking to a lady at the Nystagmus Network table ,with a tall poster next to it giving details of the charity.June 20th will be Nystagmus Awareness Day, which is its new permanent date, having moved from November. This year’s theme is Nystagmus In The Open, where people are being encouraged to do outdoor activities to raise funds and generate awareness. Sue, who runs the Nystagmus Network, is opening her garden for people to visit, for instance. People are also being invited to submit their stories online to show how amazing people with nystagmus are.

The Aniridia Day logo is a cartoon style image of the Earth, wearing sunglasses, smiling and giving a double thumbs up. Curving over the top, in yellow text with black outline, are the words “Aniridia Day”. Below the Earth in bold black text is 21 June, and below that the address for aniridiaday.org.June 21st will then be Aniridia Day. This is the second time it’s been held, as it was a big success last year. This year’s awareness campaign is called Aniridia Sight, where we want people with aniridia to share a photo or video of a scene, and describe how they see it through their eyes. So the more people that get involved, the more we can show how varied the vision of people with aniridia is. And then there will hopefully be live webinars too, for people to discuss aniridia related topics e.g. doctors, researchers, people with aniridia, etc. If you’d be interested in doing a webinar on the day, please fill out the form to sign up.

So now that’s out of the way, let me tell you what I’ve been up to in May.

Social Media

In terms of my blog, the big post I made during May was the Disabled Blogger Tag, which I also filmed a video for. It’s a great tag created by Elin from My Blurred World, and a lot of people have responded to it. So do go and check that out, as I talk a lot there about how I became a blogger and Youtuber.

The other big news is that I had my first ever radio interview this month! I was flattered and excited to be invited by Fern Lulham to feature in her slot on AMI Audio’s Kelly & Company Show. They’re a Canadian station for the visually impaired that you can listen to online, and Fern is their British contributor. She recorded a phone interview with me about the Naidex show I went to in April, talking about what I saw there and how accessible I found it, and then interspersed some of my answers during her chat with the show’s presenters.

It was very strange hearing myself on the radio like that, but very cool as well. Once upon a time I hated hearing my own voice back but, thanks to the Youtube videos I’ve been making, I’ve become a bit more comfortable with it. I have kept a copy of the podcast from the show, and I did post links to it on my social media at the time. But by the time you read this, or shortly after this is published, the podcast will have disappeared, because they only keep the last 100 podcasts in their feed I think – and with 6 or 7 podcasts per episode (the full show plus each individual segment) it soon adds up. I’m glad I’ve got a copy of it though, I won’t forget my fleeting moment of fame on the airwaves! Thank you to Fern & AMI for letting me be part of the show!

I also passed 400 followers on Twitter this month as well, which is the next notable milestone after I started the year with 300. My Youtube is heading towards 300, and Instagram is slowly ticking towards 150 in the up and down way that it does. Those numbers are not much compared to some (Molly Burke just passed 1 million on Youtube, congratulations!), but for me they’re relatively big numbers that I’m proud of. Perhaps the most crucial figure right now, however, is that I have 99 followers here on this blog. So if anybody fancies kicking me into triple figures by hitting the Follow button, that’d be awesome!

Walks

We’ve had a lot of nice hot sunny weather this month, so I’ve been going out to a lot of walks to make the most of it. In particular, I’ve been exploring a few parks and other general areas near where I live in East London, as there are still lots of places near me I haven’t explored in detail – there just seems to be an infinite selection of places to go. So in terms of parks I’ve been to Gooseley Playing Fields, Greatfields Park, and my favourite near me so far, Valentine’s Park, where they have lots of lovely flowers, a memorial garden and beautiful scenery. I’ve posted a few video clips from there too. I’ve also taken a walk along part of the River Roding as well, which was nice. It’s easy to think that the Thames is the only waterway in the city, but that’s far from the case – there are all sorts of rivers and canals and other watery delights all over the place.

I also went to Lloyd Park in Walthamstow with a friend, so that was lovely, and had a little stroll in Westminster after I saw them off on the coach at Victoria. And that was after I’d been to visit them in Guildford to see them abseil down Guildford Cathedral to raise money for for Sight For Surrey. It’s not a massively tall building necessarily, but it’s big enough, certainly not something to do if you have a fear of heights. And you’re not coming down the wall of the building – you actually come out at a diagonal angle, so you’re just dangling in the air all the way down, a bit like a zip line in that sense but with more control. So that was pretty cool to watch. A mutual friend of ours has also done a charity abseil in the past, and it’s the sort of thing I’d be prepared to do one day, it would be fun.

My friends abseiling off the tower of Guildford Cathedral. The line is coming out diagonally from the corner of the tower to the ground, so she's in mid-air, not touching the building.

I also went on a City Sculpture Trail, which was part of Walk London, a project supported by Transport for London that was putting on free walking tours around the capital. Apparently the project has now finished, so it’s just as well I got in on this occasion. It was a very interesting walk too, showing us various sculptures, old and modern, and telling us all about them. It’s amazing how many sculptures there are all over London.

Tour guide gesturing to a tall statue of a girl and boy embracing as they lovingly look into each other's eyes.

I also did a free tour from the Pocket Guide London App for the first time, as I wanted to try that out. And it was very good. I did the first half of the Bloomsbury Tour, which took me on a tour from the British Museum to Russell Square, finding various places that I wasn’t aware of along the way. The audio clearly tells you where you need to go, but the map on screen is also clear if you want to use that, and as soon as you’re in the right spot the app automatically realises and starts the next piece of audio automatically. I could have walked the whole thing in one go but, as always with tours like this, I like to stop and look around and take photos, so time soon runs away with me. I’ll do the other half of the tour very soon though, to finish it off, then I’ll try some of their other tours at some point.

A section of Queen Square Garden, with a round flowerbed in the middle of the grass, and behind it a statue of Queen Charlotte

Finally, I also went on a walk with the London Discovery Walks, Talks & Events group from Meetup. This was the first time I’d met this group, and it was great, everyone was very friendly. We started off with a little tour of Kensall Green Cemetery, where quite a few famous people are buried, and there are some beautiful and ornate monuments in there. So it was very interesting to look around, and I reckon it would be cool to have a proper extended tour one day. The rest of our walk then took us along the Grand Union Canal from Kensington to Little Venice and Paddington, stopping off at a few places on the way to hear some trivia and history, and to stop off for an ice-cream halfway through. So it was a very enjoyable day, and I definitely want to do more walks with them.

Model of Elvis Presley dressed in white and singing, on top of a building by the Grand Union Canal.

So I’ve made the most of the nice weather as much as I can, and thankfully I’ve not been out when the weather’s turned nasty a couple of times. I happened to get back home an hour before a big hailstorm on one occasion. And then a couple of days later we had a big thunderstorm as well. Not surprising really, considering how hot it’s been. But despite threats of storms on other days, we seem to avoided them for the most part here in the capital, which is a relief.

Shopping

This month my mother and I did another Lush order. With this now being our 4th order, we’re getting the hang of the sort of products we like from Lush, and are starting to find there are certain favourites we’ll be ordering more than others.

Large ornately decorated plate with the contents of our Lush order - 6 soap bars (including 4 Bohemian bars), 4 shampoo bars (including 2 Montalbano bars), a tub of Imperialis moisturiser, and a bottle of Veganese hair conditioner.

So for this order, my mother and I really like the Bohemian Soap, as it has a lovely lemony smell, and feels really nice on the skin, so in this order we stocked up with 4 of them to keep us going for quite a while. And we got 2 of the Montalbano Shampoo Bars for the same reason, because it’s also a lemon-based product.

We also got the Olive Tree Gourmet Soap, Imperialis Moisturiser and Veganese Hair Conditioner, which we’ve used before and liked. We both like the soap, and Mum has been using the moisturiser and hair conditioner a lot.

And to top it off we also thought we’d try the Jumping Juniper Shampoo Bar, the Soak And Float Shampoo Bar, and the Honey I Washed The Kids Soap, to see what they’re like. We’ve been using the Juniper shampoo and Honey soap bars recently and they’re pretty nice, and we haven’t got around to the other one yet.

So there’s plenty there to keep us going. It may seem like a lot to get at once, and maybe the total of £87 seems a lot of money. But that’s a good price for 12 items that will last us a while. The soaps and shampoo bars, for instance, have great longevity, because you don’t need to use a lot to get a good lather out of them. So we’ll be happy with those for a while.

I’ve also now set up a page listing all of my Lush purchases, so you can see what we’ve tried and like the most from all of our orders. It’s also a good way for me to keep track of what we’ve bought before and what we like to use the most, because I can’t remember the names of everything!

TV & Radio

On TV, a number of shows have finished their latest seasons, including The Big Bang Theory – Season 11, The Flash – Season 4, Family Guy – Season 16 and Have I Got News For You – Series 55, all of which have continued to be fun to watch. Young Sheldon, the spin-off from Big Bang, is still going though, I still like that. And Mock The Week, which I was in the audience for this time last year, has now filled the void left by Have I Got News For You as usual. But there are various other new shows around as well that I’m enjoying.

Taskmaster is back for series 6 on the Dave channel, which I am delighted about, as it’s one of my all-time favourite shows. I did wonder if their Champion Of Champions specials at Christmas marked the end of it, so I’m very pleased it wasn’t. If you don’t know Taskmaster, it’s basically a show where Greg Davies, with his sidekick ‘little’ Alex Horne, set a bunch of comedians silly tasks to do, and reviews their efforts accordingly. It’s really, really good fun, it makes me laugh out loud every week without fail, and there have a really good line up of contestants each series.

Alex Horne has also had his own show recently as well, also on Dave. It was The Horne Section Television Programme, a 2-hour comedy special with his band and a few celebrity guests. And that was good. Perhaps not something I’d watch for a whole series perhaps but as a one-off special I enjoyed it.

And then Dave have had yet another completely new programme (see, they don’t just do repeats), called Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier, where stand-up comedian Jon Richardson discusses his worries about the world with other comedians as guests. I’ve enjoyed his stand-up shows and his appearances on 8 Out Of 10 Cats does Countdown, so it’s been interesting to see him presenting his own show. And I’ve been enjoying it, it suits his style and focus of his comedy very nicely.

In terms of drama, Humans is back on Channel 4 for a third series, which is great. I hadn’t realised it was coming back, but my Virgin box had it on series link, thankfully, so that was a nice surprise. And it’s a brilliant show, very well written and acted.

It’s about human-like synths, i.e. robots that are indistinguishable from humans in appearance, originally purchased by humans as electronic slaves basically, to assist them in their daily lives. But now those synths have gained consciousness and independent thought, and are demanding their own rights, and so humans have turned against them. There are inevitably, and deliberately, parallels with the way that certain groups of people are treated here in the real world just for being different, with a minority giving all the others a bad name, so everyone is tarred with the same brush.

So it’s very good. If you haven’t seen it before, I recommend starting from series 1, it will make all the more sense that way. And it has audio description too. I rarely use it, as I can sit close to the TV anyway, but I thought I’d try for this series, and it does fill in little details that I miss sometimes, and reads out any subtitles to save me the bother, so it’s very useful.

Back to comedy though, and on Netflix I’ve seen another new stand-up show, called Greg Davies: You Magnificent Beast. Which is an apt description, as he is brilliant. I’ve got previous stand-up shows by him on DVD, and he’s still as funny as ever in this latest special, just as he is as the host of Taskmaster. So I really enjoyed that. If you’re a fan of Greg Davies, whether it be his stand-up, or Taskmaster, or Man Down, or whatever, you’ll enjoy this.

And as for the radio, my mother and I listen to some of the Monday night comedies on Radio 4. And now The Unbelievable Truth – Series 20 has finished, we’re back to the classic Just A Minute for its 81st series, which is always great. Everybody knows what it is, I’m sure, but if you really don’t, it’s basically a comedy game show where contestants have to try and speak for 1 minute on a given topic without hesitation, repetition or deviation. It’s very tricky to do, and great fun to listen to.

Nicholas Parsons has just missed an episode for the first time though, having hosted it constantly for over 50 years, so Gyles Brandreth had to take over. And it still worked very nicely, as Gyles is a regular panellist on the show and knows exactly how it works. Plus Nicholas, being in his 90s now, is more than entitled to a few days off if he isn’t up to it. But it’ll be great to hear him back at the helm again, for however much longer he feels able to do so.

May also saw the end of the Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio after 12 years, which was a great shame. I’ve only been listening for the past year and a half through the podcasts, but the last show was very emotional for everyone involved, presenters and listeners alike. Christian left because he’s been poached by Gold 104.3 in Melbourne, where he has now started a breakfast show there, and I’m getting the podcasts for that, while Dave Berry has replaced him in England. So I’ll let you know what I think of both shows in my June Favourites next month.

Youtube

One thing I haven’t been mentioning in these posts is Youtube videos, so I want to change that and highlight particular videos I’ve been enjoying each month. And the highlight for May has been the documentary by All The Stations. This is a project I wrote about last year when I sponsored a station in support of their Kickstarter campaign, as well as visiting Southend and taking part in their British Rail logo event.

Basically, Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe undertook a journey across Britain’s rail network last summer, travelling to all the stations. They posted regular videos from their trip, and tons of photos too, showcasing not only the stations and trains, but more importantly the places you can explore from them, and highlighting accessibility as well.

Me sitting at my computer, wearing a white All The Stations t-shirt, and holding a blue All The Stations Oyster card wallet. On the table next to me are 2 All The Stations t-shirts, one green and one navy. And on the computer screen, the Have An Adventure video is paused with Geoff and Vicki looking and pointing at the viewer through the camera.

And now they’ve made a feature-length documentary with highlights, behind-the-scenes chat and unseen footage, which is very good. The editing’s not quite perfect in places, such as when Vicki looks down in silence for a few moments before they cut to Geoff, a moment that feels odd and out of place. But overall it’s very well put together to be fair, and a lovely reminder of their journey last year. And if you like railway videos, Geoff continues to make loads on his own channel as well, with Vicki also involved sometimes as well, and they’re always interesting.

A couple of other Youtube videos I can also particularly recommend from May are Fashioneyesta’s video on her favourite apps that she uses as a visually impaired person, and Gem Turner’s video on public speaking advice. I found both of those very interesting to watch, so do check them out.

Film

Blu-ray cover for Star Wars - The Last Jedi, showing the various cast members together.I’ve bought one film on Blu-ray this month – Star Wars – The Last Jedi. I hadn’t seen this when it came out in the cinema, partly because I’m happy watching films at home, and partly because I wanted to see how people reacted to it before I decided whether to spend money on it or not. And as it was getting reasonably favourable reviews, I thought I’d get it. And it’s pretty good, I’m happy to say. It’s great to see Luke back of course, and very interesting to see what happens with his character in this episode.

The Blu-ray includes a 3D version of the film, but that’s no good to me with my eyesight, so I just watch the regular 2D version. It has audio description too, which is great, and there is a good selection of extra features, including a lengthy documentary and other behind-the-scenes insights. So I’m happy with the film as the latest edition in the main Star Wars story.

Audiobooks

I’ve also got back into the audiobooks this month, after a busy April meant I ended up not listening to any. I’ve finally listened to The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud, which is the second book in the Lockwood & Co series that I started last year, about a group of young people investigating paranormal activity and fighting off the spirits that cause it. It’s really well written, told from the perspective of Lucy’s character, with a good mixture of humour, action and drama in there. So I’ll certainly continue to check out the rest of the series, and I recommend that you check out the series as well. I’m also continuing to have another listen to the Harry Potter books, and I’ve now completed book 3, The Prisoner of Azkaban, so that’s good.

Music

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been getting into Amazon Music, which has given me a chance to explore artists from my collection in more detail. As a result of which, I’ve ended up buying some more music by A-Ha that I didn’t already have, including their studio album Cast In Steel, their live album MTV Unplugged – Summer Solstice, and their greatest hits album Time And Again: The Ultimate A-Ha, mainly to get the bonus remixes from the second disc that I didn’t already have.

In addition, I also bought the soundtracks for 2 of the musicals I’ve seen in recent months – Wicked & Young Frankenstein. I’ve been meaning to get them for a while because the songs are great, and they do bring back lovely memories of going to those shows. So I’m glad I finally got the albums.

Wicked sign above the Apollo Victoria Theatre, with Elphaba, the green coloured Wicked Witch of the West, in the middle of a clock face, above the show's title in large letters. Along the front of the narrow canopy above the theatre entrance is white text on a green background, which reads: "Wicked - A thrilling theatrical experience with brains, heart and courage."

Conclusion

So that’s it. As I said, there were no major events going on in May, so I’ve been able to enjoy various other things instead, including lots of nice walks, and checking out TV, audiobooks and music. And it was particularly wonderful to be involved with the Disabled Blogger Tag and appear on the radio!

Please don’t forget to check out Nystagmus Awareness Day and Aniridia Day and do get involved with those if you can. The more the better, as it’s vital to raise awareness and funding for both conditions. And I’ll see you for another post soon – I have some interesting posts lined up that you’ll hopefully be interested in. Bye for now though!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger & Youtuber with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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