Time for another monthly favourites post and video, looking back at July. Things were very busy and successful on the blog and social media this month, I enjoyed some fun social events, museum visits and other entertainment, and I even got a bit sporty for once, all while enjoying the sweltering heatwave. So it was a pretty good month, and I hope you enjoy my review of it.
And if you do enjoy reading about the things I get up to, I would love it if you would consider sponsoring my charity abseil in September. That would mean a lot to me. A massive thank you to my amazing sponsors so far!
Aids, Gadgets & iPhone Features
This month I produced 2 epic posts and videos looking at My Visual Impairment Aids & Gadgets and My Assistive iPhone Features & Apps, giving a comprehensive look at the things I use on a daily basis. And they’ve been very well received and widely shared. In particular, the RNIB shared the first post on Facebook & Twitter, which was very kind. It got a very positive response, with many people sharing the items they use, and some others commenting that I’d introduced them to things that they didn’t know about.
The biggest reaction to anything I posted in July, however, has been thanks to the lovely folks at Yoocan, an international community of disabled people who share their stories of living life to the full, and giving their support and advice to others. There are tons of inspirational stories on there from people with a huge variety of disabilities, it’s worth checking out.
They had already featured my story earlier in the year, which went down very well, and they’ve since shared it again as a blog post on their site. But in July I also got a feature on their Instagram page as well, when I was asked to join a project they were doing. They were asking people to take pictures of themselves holding up handwritten quotes they liked. And rather than go for something generic and obvious, I made up my own, basing it partly on a quote from my favourite sitcom, Only Fools And Horses. My quote says:
“My impairment’s just a dropped stitch in life’s rich tapestry.
I’m successful, independent, it’s no barrier to me.”
I didn’t expect the reaction it got. My own Instagram posts get a very respectable (for me) 30-40 likes on average. And I’m happy with that, I like the fact that’s pretty consistent. But Yoocan’s Instagram post got over 1,000 likes in 12 hours (and is currently at nearly 1,300). That just blew me away, and I publicised it in a blog post too. But that post was at the beginning of the month, so it’s not the whole story.
Towards the end of the month, completely out of nowhere by people I’d never heard of, it was reposted by Miracles & Messes – and it rapidly raced up to over 2,800 likes, over double what the Yoocan post got, and people left lots of lovely comments too! And then the cherry on the cake was that a wonderful blogger friend – Stephanae at Bold Blind Beauty – kindly shared it on her Instagram too, giving it another boost.
So I was over the moon with how widespread it went and what a great reaction it got! And it inspired me to add a couple more lines to the quote to create a poem for Disability Awareness Day on Twitter, which went down very well too:
“I have a social circle and a very good career,
And I’m always out and having fun, so I think it’s quite clear,
My impairment’s just a fallen stitch in life’s rich tapestry.
I’m successful, independent, it’s no barrier to me.”
So that’s why I’m so happy about the blogging side of things in July. Thank you to everybody who shared and liked any of those posts. I got a lot of great feedback as a result, and it definitely helped to grow my audience! 🙂
It’s basically an obstacle course made up of differently designed rope bridges high up in the trees, on 3 different levels, and each level finishes with a zip wire descent. I’d never done anything like that before, but was keen to give it a go. And I loved it. I wasn’t as bothered by the height like I thought I might be – I had to take a couple of moments to launch myself off the platform for the zip wires, admittedly, but they were great too.
You’re all securely harnessed up and attached to a safety line all around the course, and you get given some basic training on a ground-level version of the course too, so it’s not dangerous. The staff are really friendly and helpful too, so you know you’re in good hands.
Some crossings required a bit more time and thought than others, and trying to get my footing on swaying bridges when I have shaking eyes due to nystagmus slowed me down a little bit. Plus being tall I had to contort myself a little bit around one or two obstacles. But that was all part of the fun, it’s not supposed to be completely simple or there would be no point in doing it. So I really enjoyed the challenge, it keeps you occupied both mentally and physically. I was basically a puddle of sweat by the end of it, given that this was during the heatwave, but I didn’t care, it was worth it!
As for other social events, I enjoyed a lovely summer barbecue with South East London Vision at the Doggett’s Coat & Badge pub in Blackfriars. We had the entire top floor to ourselves, including the balcony overlooking the Thames. So we had a wonderful view while we all enjoyed chatting together, and we had a bit of entertainment from a visually impaired juggler too. So it was a lovely way to spend a summer afternoon.
And then, after not having been ten pin bowling for quite a while, I ended up doing it twice in July. The first occasion was with the London Sports Club For The Blind, who go bowling once a month at Queens Skate, Dine & Bowl in Queensway, followed by a Chinese meal at New Fortune Cookie just a few doors away next to Queensway station. I didn’t get a particularly high score in the bowling, I’m clearly a bit rusty at it now! But I still really enjoyed it, and the meal afterwards was lovely too. I tried duck for the first time in my life, as I fancied something different, and it was quite nice. If you’d like to take part in that bowling group, then the person to contact is Russell Bailey.
And while I was at that event, I met a lovely guy called Arthur Payne from Aquabats, a group that I’d heard of but not got around to checking out. A lot of their activities are water-related as the name suggests, including boat rides. But they also do more regular socials on dry land, including a regular ten-pin bowling meetup at the MFA Bowl, Lewisham. So I went along to that and again had a nice time, and after that we had a bite to eat at the local Bucketmouth café, which does burgers and kebabs and stuff like that.
So I’ll try to go along to more bowling nights with those groups. I won’t be able go to every monthly event, depending on what else I’m doing, but it’d be good to keep up with them fairly regularly.
I visited a few exhibitions this month. The first was a trip with South East London Vision to the National Gallery, to see their Monet & Architecture exhibition, which closed at the end of the month. As the name suggests, it showcased lovely artworks by Monet containing different buildings and forms of architecture. Often you’d get more than one artwork for the same location as well, showing a building from a different perspective, or at different times of day, or even at different times of the year, which were very interesting to compare.
We used a recorded audio guide for the exhibition, meaning we had a small device with headphones that we carried around with us, and we typed in the number for each painting to hear more about it. Only a few of the paintings had an audio commentary in this way, and it wasn’t an audio descriptive commentary for the visually impaired either. Luckily we had helpers with us who could describe things though, and I had my monocular (telescope) to look at things closely, so were ok. So the audio was just a discussion about the paintings, but it was still very interesting for the most part. Now and again it was interrupted by a female sculptor whose opinions, while valid, didn’t seem to add anything important or insightful, so that aspect of the audio felt a bit superfluous. But that and the lack of audio description aside, it was still good.
I also made another visit to the Natural History Museum, this time to check out their Mammals exhibition. As the name suggests, it contains all sorts of models and skeletons and photos and facts about mammals, of which there is a great variety. So that was good fun to explore, it’s very impressive.
Student Art Show
The next two things I went to involved students, for different reasons, both of which were very interesting in their own right.
I was invited along to the Camberwell College Of Arts by a wonderful lady called Nihan Karim, to look around their MA Visual Arts Summer Show. She got in touch because her own artwork is for visually impaired people, particularly braille users. And her artwork consists of various pieces of coloured fabric, each with braille writing on them, and together they form a cohesive piece with a nice message across it. It was lovely and striking to look at, plus there was a leaflet translating it so I could understand it as well, and liked the way it all came together. It was also great to talk to Nihan about the work and her reasons for doing it. You can see more of Nihan’s work on her Instagram page.
But Nihan didn’t just show me her artwork. She actually gave me a personal guided tour of the entire show, taking me through all the rooms, discussing many of the artworks, and introducing me to some of her fellow student artists. I hadn’t expected that, so that was amazing. There was an amazing and fascinating variety of different artworks, and it was wonderful to be able to discuss them with the artists themselves, to get an insight and an understanding into their creation. A lot of thought and effort has gone into everything, and what may appear strange at first actually has a lot of meaning behind it.
So thank you to Nihan Karim and everybody else there, for the lovely tour and the great photos that were sent to me afterwards, in addition to my own pictures that I took. You can see many photos from the day on my Instagram here, here, here & here.
Student Research Experiment
The other student I met during July was Nicola Flüchter. Her experiment was all about the use of haptic technology in a museum environment. After having a previous discussion with her about my experiences in museums, she then set up a physical experiment, and I met up with her again to try it out.
The experiment involved wearing a special sort of glove, which is a bit like a crab that sits on the top of your hand, and its fingertips curl down to be attached to your own. That way, when you move your fingers, you’re moving the fingers of the glove at the same time. It was a strange device, bur reasonably comfortable. There was also an area of the room set up with motion capture technology, so the computer knows where are you in the space, and knows where you hand is because it’s tracking the glove.
So I was then able to feel a virtual handrail, as by moving the glove in the air I could feel the change in pressure through the glove when I found it. I was then able to follow it along to the first object. It took a bit of getting used to at first, but it was easy enough.
When I had followed the virtual rail to each of the objects, audio was automatically triggered in the headphones I was also wearing, describing how the object looks and telling me about the history of it. I was then able to feel a virtual version of the object in front of me, again relying on the sensations from the glove as I wasn’t actually physically touch anything. And these objects were instruments, so I could actually play them a bit, by tapping or plucking in the appropriate places.
That took a bit of getting used to, and was a bit hit and miss in terms of its accuracy. But bearing in mind this is early prototype technology which still needs work and refinement, it was still very impressive. Just to learn about the technology a bit and see it in action, knowing the sort of potential it might hold for the future, was very interesting indeed. So if it continues to be developed, I think it could have some very cool results, and I’m excited to have been involved with some of its early testing. So thank you to Nicola for inviting me to take part in her study, I really enjoyed it.
I saw one show during July, and it wasn’t a big West End production, nor was it a play really. It was pure nostalgic entertainment, because I went to see Knightmare Live at the Underbelly Festival on the South Bank. If you have fond memories of the children’s TV show Knightmare on ITV, then you’ll love this. It’s a fun and hilarious live version of the game that is very tongue in cheek and doesn’t take itself at all seriously.
You can read my review of the show in my blog post entitled Nightmares At The Theatre, so I won’t go into detail about it here. But it was amazing, I loved it.
Newham Carnival & Show
As it takes place close to where I live, I attended the Newham Carnival again this year. It was a very lively and colourful display as usual, themed around the circus on this occasion. It was fun to watch, and great to see so many people of all ages and backgrounds involved.
The Newham Show takes place on the same weekend as the carnival, where the council puts on lots of free entertainment with all sorts of different performers. So I went with a couple of friends to see an ABBA tribute act called Salute To Waterloo. And they were ok. I wouldn’t say they were great, certainly not compared to big tribute acts like Bjorn Again, who I vaguely remember seeing once during my childhood. But considering these guys were entertaining us for free they were alright. They performed well, the songs were recognisable, and it gave people a good excuse to sing along to all the classic hits. So it was a lovely afternoon.
TV & Radio
On the TV in July I continued enjoying the same shows as usual – Mock The Week (Series 17), The Last Leg (Series 14), and the new series of out 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown (Series 16), all of which have been very funny.
But I also checked out a sitcom online that I’d never seen before, even though it’s not remotely new. Someone – and I apologise that I can’t remember who it was – had recommended So What Now?, a sitcom featuring Lee Evans, which I’d somehow never heard of, or don’t remember anyway. I had it on my list of things to check out for a while and finally remembered to get around to it. And it’s brilliant.
Lee’s a great physical comedian as well as a great stand-up comic, and he co-wrote this show, which is brilliantly slapstick and very funny. It’s a shame they only did 1 series really. His best mate in the show is the guy who plays Spudgun from Bottom, Steven O’Donnell, while their landlady is played by Sophie Thompson, and they work well together. So I encourage you to look it up on Youtube, especially if you’re a fan of Lee Evans. I found the whole series on there, along with lots of bloopers as well, which are great in their own right.
Finally, on the radio, Mum and I often enjoy listening to the Monday night comedies on Radio 4. And in July we had I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (Series 69), which is a very silly and funny game show – “the antidote to panel games” as they call it, because it’s basically a parody game show where the games are pointless and make little sense. But it’s hilarious.
The BBC have previously released many volumes of classic episodes from the show, with 4 episodes in each, but we only owned a few of them. In July, however, when I was randomly searching on Audible, I discovered that they have a Treasury box set and a Second Treasury box set available, while the final Third Treasury box set is coming out in October this year. Between them you get about 55 hours of material! And each box set can be bought with a single credit if you’re subscribed to Audible. You’d need a colossal number of credits to buy all the volumes individually, so these box sets are incredible value if you don’t already own the separate volumes.
So I’ve snapped them up, and Mum and I are listening to an episode each day while we have our dinner. And they’re consistently brilliant. Each show is different and they have some very interesting guests on sometimes. The main host for the show is of course Humphrey Lyttelton, who is perfect for it. But since his death the show has been hosted very well by Jack Dee, and is still really good, and I believe a few of his episodes appear later on in the second box set. So if you like that show on Radio 4, those box sets are well worth getting.
So there you have it, a very busy and enjoyable month indeed! It still amazes me the variety of stuff I get up to and all the wonderful people I get to meet. London never stops holding surprises for me. So I hope you enjoyed reading that, and indeed thank you for reading if you made it this far. Very soon I’ll be bringing you up to date with my August favourites too, so look out for that!