We’re deep into autumn now, with Christmas edging ever closer. And now that we’re well into the penultimate month of the year, it’s time for a look back at October to see what I got up to.
The major event, of course, was my charity abseil for nystagmus research, and you can find out all about it in my epic blog post and video. There are lots of photos and video highlights from the day, especially from the headcam I was wearing during my descent. So do go and check all of that out. Huge thanks to everyone who sponsored me!
But there were still other bits and pieces going on during October as well. So I’m going to tell you about them here, and there’s also a video to go with this post as usual. I hope you enjoy my latest recap!
- Outings & Events
- TV, DVD & Blu-ray
Outings & Events
Much Ado About Nothing
It will be no surprise that I went to the theatre again in October. But this time it was for something slightly different – my first Shakespeare play. I went to see the comedy Much Ado About Nothing at Watford Palace Theatre with my friend Claire, which was being put on with a touch tour and audio description provided by VocalEyes. And we had a nice time.
For the tour we were very privileged to be joined on stage by quite a few members of the all-female cast, along with some members of the stage crew, all of whom were very friendly and keen to chat to us. Being able to interact with so many people, especially the stars of the show, made the experience feel really special as well as informative.
This version of the play was set in the 1940s during the Battle of Britain, with the stage looking like a bombed out theatre. So we got to see and feel things like an RAF uniform, a Home Guard outfit and a blackout lantern, and there were a few nods to the classic sitcom Dad’s Army, including a stripy scarf like the one Pike wore. There were also animal costumes that were used in a party scene, such as a lion’s mask and a hat with real deer antlers sticking out of it, and we saw a lovely red party dress and a wedding dress with a veil. And there were props like a white iron garden seat and hemp rope from an upper balcony that we were able to take a close look at. So it was a very useful and enjoyable tour.
The play itself was very good too. It did take me a short while to really get into the Shakespearean style of language, not being used to it. But there was a point where it just seemed to click into place in my head and from there I found it easier to follow, as I understood who each character was and the relationships between them.
I can’t claim to have understood every single word that was said throughout the play of course, as some of it still went over my head a little bit I think. But I comprehended more than enough to be able to follow and enjoy the story, which is what mattered. The acting was very good, with the all-female cast doing a great job at portraying the men’s roles as well as those of the ladies. There were also plenty of humorous moments, and the 1940s setting worked nicely.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to use the audio description though, because there was a lot of static interference on the headsets and they weren’t able to fix it at the time. So it was lucky that we got to see so much on the touch tour, and were able to use our monoculars (our small telescopes) to look at things if we needed to during the show. The characters’ dialogue also helped to clarify what was happening or how people were feeling sometimes.
So I don’t think I missed too much, and I was still able to follow all the key aspects of the play. I also know the theatre are looking at ways of improving their system for audio description – which to be fair has worked well there in the past, including when I saw Dishoom! last month. So hopefully they can make it more reliable as time goes on.
And overall I really enjoyed the play, as well as the touch tour beforehand. It was a very nice introduction to the world of Shakespearean theatre, and I can recommend it for anyone wanting to try out one of his plays.
London Transport Museum
I spent a lovely afternoon at the London Transport Museum in October. I bought an annual pass earlier in the year when they were doing a discount as a special offer, and I finally got around to using it. I did visit the museum in my youth, but naturally I don’t remember it very clearly, and things have changed and been updated a lot since then.
So I loved exploring the various exhibitions, learning about the history of London’s public transport, including old photos and artworks, old omnibuses and trams, 2 Metropolitan railway locomotives, a City & South London Railway train, London Underground advertising posters, a 1938 stock Tube carriage and modern trams, buses and taxis. You can click all of those links to see photos on my Instagram.
Of course, that’s just a tiny selection of what’s on display there. It’s an amazing place, whether you like transportation in general or London Transport specifically, and they do many special tours and events as well. So it’s worth checking out.
Audio Description Study
I took part in a very interesting research study about the use of audio description in museums, which was being run by Rachel Hutchinson at the University of Westminster. It involved watching a slideshow of 8 black and white pictures from the Museum Of London archive, taken by photographer Henry Grant, while listening to a recorded audio description track about them.
And I really enjoyed it. I won’t go into detail about the photos here, because a follow-up questionnaire is being distributed to those who took part, and I don’t want to unfairly influence the answers of any other participants who might happen to read this (it’s a small world, it’s possible!). But I was personally very impressed with the overall experience, it worked very well for me. And I’m very pleased to see this kind of accessibility being researched and worked on.
Queen At The Cinema & Carnaby
Queen are my favourite band of all time. Freddie Mercury was a true genius, and all of the members of the group are amazing in their own right, so I never get tired of hearing their wonderful music. And right now the band are currently being celebrated in the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie, which is being promoted in the shopping district of Carnaby with special decorations and a pop-up Queen shop. So I visited the shop in October, and then finally got around to seeing the film in November.
To find out what I thought of the movie, see photos of the Carnaby lights and discover what I bought in the Queen shop, check out my blog post entitled Queen At The Cinema & Carnaby.
East London Vision’s 5th Birthday
In October I met up with a few of my regular social groups, the most notable event being East London Vision’s 5th Birthday Party, which was good fun. As well as general socialising, the main part of the afternoon was a quiz, with questions about the area of East London, staff members of East London Vision, and Elvis Presley (because ELVis is the abbreviated name for East London Vision). I wasn’t very knowledgeable about most of that to be honest, but it was still enjoyable.
Then we had a game of Pass The Parcel – because it is a 5th birthday party after all, even if we are adults! But the twist was that whoever had the parcel in each round not only had to take a layer of the wrapping off, but also had to do a light-hearted forfeit chosen at random. This included things like telling a joke, dancing to the Macarena, acting out a scene from a film or TV show, and so on. And in my case, I had to sing an Elvis song! I chose All Shook Up, as I could remember at least some of the words. And thankfully everyone else joined in with it, so I wasn’t actually embarrassing myself by singing on my own!
We also had fish and chips for lunch, and later on we shared a big chocolate birthday cake. Then the afternoon finished with a lovely speech by the CEO Masuma Ali. And we each came away with a little East London Vision goodie bag, inside of which were various branded items including a pen, a signature guide, keyrings, a fridge magnet and a sports drinking bottle.
It was lovely to see so many people gathering together to celebrate a wonderful organisation that has helped so many people with sight loss in the area, myself included. I first met them last year, a few months after I moved to London, and they really helped me to settle in, gain confidence and meet new people. And through them I’ve had the opportunity to experience and enjoy many things, such as theatre shows, museum visits and walks, and also activities such as the Go Ape course that I wouldn’t have had the chance to do otherwise.
I’ve also met great people such as Bhavini Makwana, who also runs a group called VisualEyes, and Ray Calamaan, their social media guru who has left to work at London Vision. Which is significant because the various groups overseen by the Thomas Pocklington Trust are now being brought together under the name London Vision. So within that, East London Vision is becoming London Vision East, while South East London Vision is becoming London Vision South East, and so on. The support and services they provide will stay pretty much the same as far as I’m aware, but some of the organisational aspects behind them have been overhauled a bit. So it’ll be interesting to see how that works out over the coming year.
In any case, however they’re named, groups like this deserve every praise for the hard work they do, as it takes a lot of time, effort and resources to run schemes like this, and it does make a huge difference. So a big thank you to everyone involved!
RNIB’s 150th Anniversary
And on a similar note, while we’re talking of birthdays, a very happy 150th anniversary to the RNIB! They’re another great organisation who have done, and continue to do, so much for blind and partially sighted people across the UK. My family have certainly benefited a lot from their products and services over the years. For example, my Mum still listens to audiobooks regularly from RNIB Overdrive, and she first met the man who would later become my father at RNIB’s Manor House in Torquay many years ago, and we’ve bought plenty of products from their shop over the years. So big thanks to the RNIB for all of their hard work.
Ten Pin Bowling
Finally on the social side of things, I also went ten pin bowling with both Aquabats and London Sports Club For The Blind in October, at exactly the same place. On both occasions we went bowling at Queens in Queensway, followed by a lovely Chinese meal at the New Fortune Cookie restaurant just by the Tube station. If you’re curious, I had sweet and sour pork on the first visit, and crispy belly of pork the following week, both with egg fried rice, and I enjoyed both of those meals very much. I always come out of there feeling pleasantly full up!
TV, DVD & Blu-ray
The obvious thing to mention on TV this month is the 11th series of Doctor Who, with the new 13th Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker, and new executive producer and head writer Chris Chibnall. I was excitedly intrigued by the idea of having a female Doctor for the first time, and I was interested to see what the series would be like with Chris in charge.
And I’m loving it! Jodie is fantastic as the Doctor, with the right attitude and mannerisms, and she’s a great actress in general. So she feels right in the role. I’m not quite decided yet if we need all 3 companions or if it’s overkill, but they are all good, and I love the fact that Bradley Walsh is among them. He’s clearly far more than just a quiz show host, he’s actually quite a good actor.
And the episodes have been great fun so far. The stories have been entertaining with the usual mix of action, suspense and humour, and they haven’t been afraid to touch on issues like disability and race along the way, without it being distracting. The Rosa Parks episode was particularly good in that respect, with a strong message and a great history lesson for children and young adults who might not know her story, wrapped up in an enjoyable adventure. When Doctor Who wants to teach us a bit about history and/or get an important message across to its huge audience, especially a message of respect for others who are different to ourselves, it knows how to do it well.
I also like the new version of the theme tune by Segun Akinola. That said, it doesn’t beat the Murray Gold versions from previous years in my opinion – my favourites are still the theme from David Tennant’s reign, because it has great drive and power behind it, and the rock version used in only one Peter Capaldi episode for the same reason. But this new take on it is fresh and different, marking the new era of the show very effectively, and does sound quite cool, with nice graphics to match. The opening bassline with that drop before the main melody is a nice touch, while the melody itself harks back to the classic era of the show. So while it’s not my favourite version, I still do like it. All in all, therefore, I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series, I think they’ve done very well so far.
The Big Bang Theory
I got season 11 of The Big Bang Theory on Blu-ray in October, which has a few extras including a Comic-Con panel, a gag reel and some other featurettes.
And now they’ve started their 12th and final season on the TV. It’s a shame that it has to end, but I’d rather they go out on a high. And it is the longest running multi-camera comedy series in history, which is an incredible achievement. I’ve been enjoying this final series so far anyway, so it still appears to be on good form, and it’ll be interesting to see how they wrap it up at the end. But thankfully there are still quite a few episodes before we get to that point.
Other Regular Shows
I’m also enjoying the new 5th season of The Flash, which has got an interesting new spin on the story with Barry’s daughter from the future turning up. Then in terms of comedy there are the latest series of The Last Leg, Have I Got News For You, QI XL and Would I Lie To You? that I’ve been enjoying. Plus we’ve just had the conclusion of series 7 of the wonderful Taskmaster, which is still as hilarious as ever. I can’t wait to see who the contestants will be for series 8.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
I’ve also bought a couple of other titles as well. The first is a special remastered Blu-ray edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy TV series, which is an improvement and a replacement over my old DVD copy. The picture and sound quality should be much better, and there are lots of brand new extra features that weren’t on the original DVD release. It’s a really funny show, so I’m looking forward to watching it again, along with all the new extras, and I’ll let you know what I think of the set after I’ve gone through it.
You Can’t Polish A Nerd
The other more unusual DVD I’ve bought is You Can’t Polish A Nerd. It’s a comedy show all about maths and science by the comedy group Festival Of The Spoken Nerd. I saw them at a comedy show earlier in the year that I really enjoyed, so I thought I’d get this to see what it’s like.
And it’s pretty good. You basically get to see some weird and wonderful experiments, hear a few songs, have a good laugh and learn a little bit as you go along. For instance, they have a pie on the end of a Pi-endulum (it makes sense when you see it), there’s a bit of filming inside a microwave, and they produce some very cool effects with a spherical camera which is the highlight of the show.
There are also a few audio commentaries on the set, one by each of the stars of the show, and each of them are commenting on one of the commentaries by their co-stars. And the Unboxing bonus feature is very cleverly done, I doubt you’ll have ever seen an unboxing video like that one before! I won’t reveal why, but the image of the cover below might give you a clue.
So yes, it’s all very nerdy, and it’s also good fun too. It’s good to have something a little bit different in my collection.
During October I posted an interview with Chelsey from VI Blind Resources, which was in return for her interviewing me about being raised by visually impaired parents for her blog. So do go and check that out, because Chelsey’s a lovely blogger who regularly posts on her blog and YouTube and across social media, and makes the effort to provide written descriptions for images and record audio descriptions in her videos.
I also posted about another scam I’ve come across, having had a card through my door for Mr Latif, Born Gifted. Strangely, this incredibly amazing and talented man hasn’t been splashed all over the media for his miraculous skills, or had any reviews (good or bad) posted online, plus over the years he’s changed his name, address and mobile numbers on various occasions, and he hasn’t had the power to make himself any sort of website. And above all he hasn’t eradicated all the world’s diseases and solved all the world’s problems, even though his claims make him sound more than capable of doing so. Funny that, considering how brilliant he claims to be!
Finally, I also want to give a few quick shoutouts to other people who have caught my attention lately. Firstly, huge congratulations to everyone featured on the prestigious Disability Power 100 List. That’s a massive achievement, and it’s great that so many people are getting recognition for their hard work, raising vital awareness and giving invaluable support and advice.
One of the bloggers on that list is the wonderful Holly from Life Of A Blind Girl, one of the inspirations for me to start blogging in the first place, so very well done to her! She made a great post at the end of October about 6 ways to make your social media posts accessible for people with a visual impairment, which are very important tips for people to be aware of. She’s also been interviewed on RNIB Connect radio as well, which is cool.
Elsewhere, Emily Davison over at Fashioneyesta has made a video about Inaccessibility Horror Stories, mentioning lots of situations that many of us can relate to I’m sure. Thank you also to her for alerting me that Outlander series 4 has come out, I’ll definitely be watching that.
And the great motivational speaker Fern Lulham has started making a podcast called The Things We Don’t See (which you also get on iTunes), discussing mental and emotional health issues and fears that we all face in some way from time to time. So check that out if you need any support or advice in that area, she has a few episodes up already.
And that’s it. Even though my focus was heavily on my abseil during the month, which I’m very proud of completing, there were still a lot of other things going on too. And now that the abseil is done, I can relax all the more.
So I’ve been able to work on filling my diary for November with a variety of exciting things. I’ve been to the theatre 3 times already, I’ve been on another museum visit with a visually impaired social group, and I’ll soon going a long weekend break to stay with some friends outside of the city. So there will be plenty more to update you on then. But until then, thanks for reading about October’s adventures, I hope you enjoyed it!
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