Time for another monthly update, and it’s fair to say that September was very busy and productive, as well as throwing up one or two surprises, which in turn are paving the way for a very interesting October. There is of course a video to go with this post, and I hope you enjoy this little catch-up as usual!
Nystagmus Network Open Day & Abseil
The two big events in September were centred around one of my eye conditions, nystagmus (which makes my eyes wobble and shake all the time).
One was the annual Open Day held by the Nystagmus Network. This was the second time I’d been to the event, and I had a great time, as there was so much going on. I’ve written a blog post all about the day, so check that out if you want to know the details.
The other big event, as if you need reminding after all my social media posts, was my charity abseil for nystagmus research, which was due to take place on September 23rd.
Unfortunately, the abseil was postponed due to severe weather, so it has now been rescheduled for 21st October. Let’s hope the conditions are better this time! So please do keep donating towards it. I’ll keep plugging it on social media as the date approaches to remind people, because all of my posts about it last month really did pay off massively.
During September, my fundraising total shot up from £265 to £807! That’s a huge leap, and it meant I was in the top 5% of fundraisers on JustGiving for the month! So as always, thank you so much to everyone who’s chipped in so far, it’s greatly appreciated and will make a huge difference to the tens of thousands of people affected by nystagmus. I’ve given shoutouts to everybody on my Thank You page, and I’ve named the latest set of people in the video for this post, following on from the list in my last video.
But I must give extra special thanks to the one and only Richard Osman – yes, that one, the co-host of quiz show Pointless on BBC1 (not to mention the producer and presenter of many other big shows). He also has nystagmus, so while I was tagging all sorts of people on Twitter to get their attention, I thought I’d include him, just in case he might like or share the tweet. That was the best I thought I could hope for, so imagine my surprise when he donated £250 (plus £62.50 Gift Aid)! I still haven’t got over that to be honest, it is extremely generous of him. So big thanks again Mr Osman, you’re a legend!
Blog & Social Media
I was very fortunate to be interviewed for 2 guest posts by other bloggers this month (along with a third to be published soon). At the start of the month I was featured by Amanda Gene on her site, answering questions about my blogging and life in general. And in return I featured an interview with Amanda here on my site. So that was a nice exchange of posts.
I was also featured on VI Blind Resources, thanks to Chelsey, where I answered questions about what it was like growing up with visually impaired parents, which isn’t something I’ve written about on my blog before. In return Chelsey has also answered some questions to be featured here on my blog, which I will post very soon.
There is also a third blogger that I’ve exchanged interview questions and answers with, and our respective posts will also be published soon. So I’ll leave that as a surprise for now, but it’s a blogger I’ve been a fan of for some time.
In addition to that, I was delighted to appear on a list of 12 disabled bloggers to add to your reading list, by the lovely folks over at Euan’s Guide. They’re a very well-established site where people can post accessibility reviews for places they’ve visited all over the UK. So it’s an extremely useful resource for disabled people, and I’m very honoured to have been mentioned there.
On Instagram and Twitter you may have noticed that I’ve been adding subtitles to my videos on stories and posts, particularly when giving shoutouts to abseil donators. I’ve been doing this using the Clipomatic App, which has proven quite useful. It uses voice recognition to generate automatic captions from your voice to begin with, but then you can edit the subtitles and trim the video before saving it, ready to upload to Instagram or Twitter or whatever. You can also customise the way the subtitles are displayed to a limited extent. I also like the fact that it displays the time elapsed as you’re recording, which is especially useful given that Instagram story clips have a 15 second limit you have to stay within.
My enjoyment of the cultural scene in London has of course continued, and yet again I’ve been to the theatre. This time I saw Dishoom! at the Watford Palace Theatre with my good friend Claire, which we really enjoyed.
Set in England in the 1970s, it’s about a young man in a wheelchair and his struggles to become independent, more due to the restrictions imposed by others than his own disability. His biggest escapism is in his dreams, which become heavily influenced by the Bollywood film Sholay, and those sections are very cleverly visualised and brought to life. Indeed, although the play does deal with serious topics, especially disability and racism, it is actually very colourful, humorous and fun throughout.
The touch tour we had was great too, where we got to meet a few members of the cast, including Bilal Khan, the actor playing the character Simon at the centre of the play, and we got to explore the set and some of the costumes. The audio description was very useful as well, delivered by VocalEyes.
Dishoom! is touring, so do keep an eye out for it, as I do recommend checking it out. It’s already been to Queens Theatre Hornchurch, and currently it’s at Oldham Coliseum Theatre, before going on to Warwick Arts Centre and Derby Theatre in the coming weeks.
Video Games Exhibition
Claire and I also went back to the V&A Museum this month, to see their exhibition Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt. As the name implies, this focused on the design of video games. No classic retro games unfortunately, which would have been a great way to draw the crowds in given that nostalgia is a big thing these days. However, it was still very interesting to find out about the games that were on display.
The exhibition focused mainly on these games:
- Journey – See my photos on Instagram.
- The Last Of Us – See my photos on Instagram.
- Bloodborne -See my photos on Instagram.
- Splatoon -See my photos on Instagram.
- Kentucky Route Zero -See my photos on Instagram.
- No Man’s Sky -See my photos on Instagram.
They were all very impressive to look at, and getting an insight into the design and development of each of them was great. Kentucky Route Zero looked fun because of its text-based interactions, a bit like a choose your own adventure game, where you have to choose what to say and do from the prompts. And the fact that the universe in No Man’s Sky has a whopping 18 QUINTILLION planets is just mind-blowing!
There were a couple of older things there, including Colossal Cave Adventure (the first known work of interactive fiction), and a Gametrak controller. There was also a strange little game, or a piece of interactive art to be precise, called The Graveyard, where you have to walk an old lady through a highly detailed graveyard to a bench. That’s it, that’s all you have to do! You can see photos of that on my Instagram too.
And at the end there was an arcade with a variety of unusual games, including Horse Game: A Friend You Can Ride On, Enviro-Bear 2000, & Bush Bash. But we got a particular laugh out of QWOP, where you have to make the character run by using the letters Q & W to move his thighs, and O & P to control his calves. It’s really difficult to get the hang of, but hilarious to see how weirdly the character moves while you’re trying to figure it out. Again there are photos from the various arcade games on my Instagram.
So all in all it was an interesting exhibition. It’s a shame it didn’t include any older games that I remember, as it would have been nice to get an insight into the development of my favourite Playstation games for instance. But it was still good to see the games that were on display, and to learn a bit about the work that went into them.
I took my mother to Buckingham Palace this month, for a sensory tour of the garden and a look around the State Rooms. And we had a really nice time. Our group was taken around the gardens by one of the gardeners, who was really passionate and knowledgeable, and very happy to answer questions and pass on gardening tips, along with a lovely lady who told us about the history of the gardens, which was very interesting.
During the tour we were able to handle and smell various plant samples, the most memorable being a couple of massive leaves (much bigger even than me!) from a banana tree. The tour lasted a good couple of hours and wasn’t rushed, so we had plenty of time to enjoy our surroundings and hear lots of interesting information.
Once that was done, the group then split up to do their own things. And, like some of the others, Mum and I went on a tour of the State Rooms, We used an electronic audio description guide, which was easy to operate as you had clear instructions at the start. The directions from one room to the next were very clear, plus the rope barriers ensure you take a single linear route through the palace, following everyone else, so you can’t get lost.
And in each room the audio description was very detailed – which was inevitable and important given how much detail there was to see. Every room is absolutely stunning as you’d expect, with so much to look at from (and including) floor to ceiling. It’s a gorgeous place to explore, and we took our time in every room taking in our surroundings with the aid of the guide. It took us a good couple of hours at least to get through it all. The staff were very friendly and professional as well, which again wasn’t a surprise.
So we had a lovely time there. I could only take a few photos outside, because cameras can’t be used on the garden tour or inside the palace. But I can still remember how amazing it was in there, it was well worth the visit.
Thames Path Walks
I also spent two afternoons on a free weekend walking along the path by the River Thames, using the Thames Path maps on the Transport For London website to figure out where best to start and stop each day.
On the Saturday afternoon I walked from the Thames Barrier to Thamesmead, covering a large part of the Thames Path extension at the eastern end. I didn’t go too far east, because it gets to a point where returning home by public transport would be rather complicated, but I enjoyed walking as far as I did, it was still a long way.
Then on the Sunday I started at Bermondsey, near Tower Bridge, and walked all the way to the O2 Arena. Which is a very long walk, and occasionally you do have to get off the path and go down back streets to return to the river again. But, as with the previous day, the weather was very nice, and I enjoyed the exercise.
And at the end of it, I took a ride on the Emirates Air Line Cable Car for the first time. It was a very convenient way to get home, and I figured it would be another way of testing my head for heights before the abseil. I really enjoyed the ride and the height didn’t bother me at all, so that was good. The views from the cable car are beautiful too, especially with the sun setting in the background.
It was a lovely way to spend a weekend, having nice relaxing walks like that. I took loads of photos of course, many of which are on my Instagram feed (posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 & 11). All my Instagram photos are also shared to my Facebook page, by the way, so if you prefer to see photos on that platform, do follow me there as well. And I did record a few video clips of the Thames too. So I have plenty of memories of both days.
I’ve been enjoying various bits and pieces on the entertainment front during September. Much to my delight, Taskmaster is back for a 7th series on TV, and is still as funny as ever. There’s always a slight feeling of unease when you initially see comedians on that show who you don’t know that well or at all, in case they’re not going to be very good. But any doubts are always swept aside very quickly, as you see them attempting the various tasks for the pleasure of host Greg Davies and his assistant ‘Little’ Alex Horne. I think my favourite this series, so far at least, is one of the comedians that I am a bit more familiar with, Rhod Gilbert. But I’m enjoying the efforts of all of them.
I’ve also bought a bit more music this month. I downloaded the remastered release of The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin, the soundtrack to their concert film. The movie always feels a bit weird to me, with all the strange sequences that are inserted between the songs, which I could live without. And it’s not their best live album (How The West Was Won is hard to beat). But it’s still very good nonetheless, as it is Led Zeppelin after all, it’s hard to find fault with those guys.
And I also bought the CD and DVD set of another show by The Rolling Stones in their From The Vault series, called No Security, which was filmed in San Jose. They’re always a great live band as well, so of course that show doesn’t disappoint.
I’ve also added a couple of new podcasts to my list for regular listening. The first is Suddenly Sightless, featuring two visually impaired ladies. I skip past stuff like the makeup tutorials of course, but their discussions about their experiences as visually impaired people are interesting to get their perspectives on. I haven’t caught up with all of their episodes yet, but I’m gradually getting there. And then the other podcast is Hometime with Andy Bush & Richie Firth, another one from Absolute Radio. I enjoyed Richie with Christian O’Connell on the Breakfast Show previously, and this new show has been off to a good start, there’s been some fun banter going on.
I’ve now started reorganising my CD and DVD collections to take up less space. Everything’s been sitting in boxes since we moved, and we only have limited space in the house. And all the cases and boxes take up a lot of room. I know some people don’t like the idea of getting rid of the cases, but I’m perfectly happy to ditch them and just keep the disks and booklets. So, with the exception of a few larger box sets that I want to keep in their proper packaging, I’m in the process of transferring the discs into binders.
For my music and audiobook CDs, I’ve bought Amazon Basics binders that hold 400 discs each. I’ve already filled one up with discs by artists from ABBA to Status Quo. The second should be sufficient for my remaining artists and my compilations, with one more for the audiobook discs (most of which are Mum’s rather than mine). You can’t put the booklets in as well, so I’ll just store them separately. I have all the discs ripped into iTunes anyway, which is regularly backed up, so I never touch the CDs these days. But I think it’s good to keep the discs as physical backups, just in case. I have left a few strategic gaps in the binders so I can add in any new discs I buy (particularly the upcoming Def Leppard box sets), but for the most part I download music and audiobooks whenever I can now.
For my DVDs, meanwhile, I’m also going to use a couple of those 400 disc binders for my TV shows, as there’s just so many of them. Again, I can keep the cover artwork and booklets separately just in case. And let’s face it, most information about DVD contents are online now anyway, if I desperately needed to find something out for some reason.
For my smaller DVD collections though (music, live comedy and films), I’ve bought sets of ring binders and sleeves, where you get 5 ring binders and 100 sleeves in each set. The sleeves each have space for 2 discs plus room to insert the DVD covers and booklets – so they can hold a 2-disc set or two single disc sets very easily. Any sets with more than 2 discs can be spread across multiple sleeves. And by keeping everything in alphabetical order, I can use the sticky labels provided to make each binder with its contents. So I’m hoping it’ll be easy to find what I want. They’re lovely binders and sleeves though, and they do save a lot of room. In theory you can get 25 sleeves in each binder, although the thickness of some of the booklets means I’m storing less than that, so things aren’t too squashed up.
Mum and I have also done some shopping together this month. Our big delivery was from Bensons For Beds, who we visited back in August and placed an order with as a result. So I’ve now got a brand new double bed with 4 big drawers underneath, while Mum got a single mattress for her existing bed. We’ve also got 6 pillows & 3 bedside tables, and we got one of each of those for free, as part of the deal they offered. And we’re very happy with it all too, the mattresses and pillows are really comfortable!
We’ve also done a bit more shopping at Lush this month. We’ve been enjoying the Olive Branch Shower Gel that we got back in August, so we’ve ordered some other ones to try, along with some additional bits and pieces. So this month we got:
- Shower Gels – Dirty Springwash, Happy Hippy & It’s Raining Men
- Shampoo Bars – Honey I Washed My Hair & Montalbano
- Creams – Imperialis Moisturiser & Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter
The shampoo bars and creams are things we’ve used before and know we like, but the shower gels are all new to us, so we’re looking forward to trying them. We’ve currently started on It’s Raining Men, and that is very pleasant, it’s got a nice fragrance to it.
And finally, we had a lovely surprise this month from Humanware. We had bought a Victor Reader Stream from them earlier in the year, as Mum had needed a new one. We’d completely forgotten that we’d responded to their customer survey shortly afterwards, but in doing so we had been entered into their quarterly prize draw. And for this quarter, we won, as we discovered when a lady from Humanware rang Mum and said she could have a free portable video magnifier or Victor Reader Stream! So as Mum can’t see to use a video magnifier and I have no use for one, she opted for the Stream instead. That means Mum now has 2 players, but that’s actually useful, because her audiobooks are spread across two 32 gigabyte memory cards, meaning she can now have one in each player, rather than swapping cards in her existing player. So that was a lovely gift, as they’re not cheap players to buy!
So there you have it, another busy and exciting month, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. It had one or two unexpected surprises, including the postponement of the abseil. But I’m glad we were able to get a new date for that, and I’ve got my fingers and toes tightly crossed for 21st October! So please do keep sponsoring me, it is going to happen! I’ll keep you posted of course, so make sure you’re following me on Twitter and Facebook to get all the updates. Wish me luck! 🙂