Those of you who have been following along recently will know that I had some issues in August that stopped me going out much. I was still able to do a July & August Favourites post, but the August part of that wasn’t very substantial.
September has continued to be rather mixed, as I’m still having an issue with my feet, so I didn’t get out too often. I think it might be hives of some sort, but the antihistamines are keeping them right down, so they’re not getting worse and are tolerable. It means I’m able to get around more easily, and also go out and about if I don’t overdo it. I’ve got a dermatologist appointment on 2nd November (which was thankfully moved forward from the original date of the 30th), so hopefully we can start sorting it out then.
And for those wondering about my Personal Independence Payments claim, no decision has come through yet. But I had 3 text messages to say they had the report from my face-to-face assessment, and then 2 letters in the post to say they have all the information they need to make a decision. So I just have to wait and see now.
Despite all of that, however, I’ve still ended up with a fair number of things to write about for September. I did manage to go out over the course of a weekend, when my foot was behaving, plus I’ve got some exciting videos and articles to share that I’ve been involved with, and there are some TV shows and music releases I want to mention. And as usual, no products in this post are gifted or sponsored, and all opinions are my own. So I apologise that there won’t be much in the way of London-specific stuff this month, but I still hope you enjoy this post and video as always.
A couple of special videos of me were published this month, and in both of them I give an overview of my life, including my eye conditions, school days, college exchange trip to America, charity abseil, London adventures and blogging.
Most notable is a short documentary about me entitled What Is Normal?, along with a blog post about how it all came together. It was made by a wonderful group of students from Met Film School as part of their media studies degree, and features an interview with me, a look at the Microsoft Soundscape app, and some footage from my personal archive. And I’m delighted with how it’s come out.
So please do give it a watch and share it around. I’ve had a lot of positive reaction to it already, some of which I’ve saved in a Twitter Moment thread. It’s also been shared by the Aniridia Network, Nystagmus Network, London Vision & Insight Gloucestershire, Thank you so much to everybody who’s been so encouraging and supportive, and an extra special thank you again to the students Stella Webb, Amy Thorne, Olivia Ulpiani, Laura White & Michael Shaw for inviting me to be part of their project.
A video has also been published of my speech at the Aniridia Network Conference earlier this year, entitled Growing In Confidence With Aniridia, where I give a slightly more detailed overview of my journey through life. I’m not a professional public speaker, but I’m very happy with how it went, and I had a very good response from those in attendance. So I hope you find it interesting, and again feel free to share it with others.
I’ve also appeared in various other websites and publications this past month, so thank you to everybody below for featuring me:
- The Spectrum of Vision Impairment – This is a wonderful post by Holly at Life Of A Blind Girl, raising awareness of how varied sight loss is. And I’m one of the many people featured, giving a very brief description of my eye conditions.
- What is the most accessible attraction in the UK? – This post by Age UK Mobility includes some comments from me about Royal Albert Dock, referring to my trip to Liverpool earlier this year. The whole article is a very interesting list of places.
- The iPhone accessibility features & apps that help me navigate the world – This is an edited version of my original blog post. It’s been posted on The Big Hack by Scope, a project that aims to educate businesses to make their online and mobile services accessible.
- I was also flattered to get a mention in among a list of recommended bloggers by Able Magazine, in their September & October 2019 Issue. I didn’t know that was going to happen, so when I got a complimentary copy in the post (which they send once every few months to try and tempt me to subscribe), I just happened to spot it in the section about blogging and the online community. So that was a great surprise, as I’ve never been mentioned in a printed magazine before to my knowledge.
If you want to see other things I’ve appeared in, check out my lists of documentaries and video appearances, guest posts and interviews, radio and podcast chats, and mentions and tags. If you want to feature me in something you’re producing, then do contact me.
Out & About
I managed to go out over one weekend in September, when my foot seemed to be getting better. On the Saturday I had another walk alongside the Thames, going west from from Albert Bridge to Wandsworth Bridge. There wasn’t much of major interest to see along there particularly, although there are one or two nice surprises if you keep your eyes peeled, such as the sculpture In Town by John Ravera. But it was still very pleasant to walk along a different stretch of the river that I hadn’t explored before, in the lovely sunshine.
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Today I made the most of the glorious #sunshine by having a #walk along another section of the #SouthBank of the #RiverThames, from #AlbertBridge to #WandsworthBridge, passing #BatterseaBridge on the way. The #statues you see here are of the composer #BelaBartok and a #sculpture called In Town by John Ravera. ⠀ #Walks #Walking #Stroll #River #Rivers #Thames #London #Battersea #BatterseaReach #Wandsworth #Summer #Statue #Sculptures #Artwork #Artworks #Bridge #Bridges #Scenery #Scenic #Views
Then on the Sunday I went along to my second RNIB Connect London Young People Social, at The Metropolitan Bar (a Wetherspoons pub) in Baker Street. It was run by Juliette and Molly, and the small group of us there had a lovely time chatting for a good few hours. I had been hoping to go to Juliette’s birthday party the following week, which promised karaoke and lots of fun, but that was when my foot decided to flare up again, so sadly I couldn’t go. Although to be fair, knowing my singing skills (i.e. the lack of them), they should be grateful I couldn’t make it to the karaoke after all. They got lucky there!
As there wasn’t a lot on TV this month, I decided to binge-watch all 5 seasons of Chuck again, having not seen them for a few years. And it’s still as great as the first time I watched it. It’s a rather underrated show, yet it has a large and fiercely loyal fanbase, who fought hard to stop it being cancelled a few times, even bombarding its sponsor Subway with orders for Footlong Subs as part of a Save Chuck campaign, to show their devotion. There’s a lot of love for the programme out there.
Chuck is an action comedy spy drama romance show, mixing and balancing all those genres perfectly, which is no mean feat. But it’s really well written and produced. The eponymous hero of the show is Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi), a self-acclaimed nerd who works on the repair desk at his local electronics store, with his best friend Morgan, creepy colleagues Jeff and Lester, and his boss Big Mike. He doesn’t have the confidence to get a girlfriend, and lives with his sister Ellie, who is dating a very fit guy called Devon, who makes Chuck feel even more inadequate. So he leads a pretty average life, basically.
However, everything changes because of the Intersect, the US government’s new database combining all of the secret intelligence from agencies like the NSA, CIA, FBI, etc. It’s designed to be subliminally implanted into the minds of special agents, by flashing encoded images in front of their eyes. Then, when a particular person, location, weapon, object, etc comes to that agent’s attention, the Intersect is triggered and they experience a momentary flash in their vision, as the system decodes the information for them to understand.
Trouble is, the only copy of the Intersect is stolen from the government by an old friend of Chuck’s and emailed to him. Unaware of what he’s received, Chuck opens the email and is bombarded by the images, embedding the Intersect in his head. With the government office destroyed, and the email having self-destructed, Chuck is now the only person with a copy of the system, until the government can rebuild it. So he immediately becomes an important asset due to the information he holds, and must also be protected against criminal organisations who want the Intersect too.
So a couple of agents are sent to look after him. His handler is the gorgeous and kick-ass Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski), who pretends to be Chuck’s girlfriend as a cover story to his friends and family, who mustn’t know the truth for their own protection. Well, it starts off as a cover story, but real feelings develop, and at the heart of the whole series is the will-they-won’t-they romance between Chuck and Sarah. They are joined by John Casey (Adam Baldwin), a no-nonsense tough guy who loves his weapons, and works undercover at the Buy More to watch over Chuck.
The show therefore focuses on Chuck’s attempts at juggling a normal life and a spy life. The missions he goes on with Sarah and John are action-packed with a mixture of cool and imaginative stunts, coupled with great comedy moments given that Chuck is useless as a spy. And in his regular life there’s a lot of comedy from Chuck’s interactions with his friends, colleagues and family, and emotional moments too.
As the series continues, his double life becomes increasingly hard to keep secret, while all of the main characters develop in various ways with their own story arcs. We also discover a lot more about the Intersect and its capabilities, who designed it, why it was sent to Chuck, and the bad guys trying to get hold of it. So there’s a lot going on, but it works and is great fun. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually very easy to follow and get completely absorbed in.
It’s all further enhanced by an awesome soundtrack. A lot of great rock and pop songs are used throughout, and one of the episodes even uses Tom Sawyer by Rush as a key part of the story, while the series theme tune is Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake. But best of all is the superb original score composed by Tim Jones, with themes for the characters, locations, action scenes, romantic moments, etc. Much like the series, it combines multiple genres of music and is a real joy to listen to. There’s a brilliant soundtrack album available, and Tim has uploaded a big selection of additional tracks to his Soundcloud as well.
The DVDs are also nicely put together, with extras for all 5 seasons including deleted scenes, enjoyable little webisodes and commercials featuring some of the characters, interesting behind the scenes featurettes and funny gag reels. There was obviously a great chemistry between everyone who worked on the show, and they loved making it.
So if you like a good action comedy and have never seen Chuck before, I highly recommend checking it out. Since the show ended after 5 seasons in 2012, there has been talk of a possible movie, but it hasn’t yet come to fruition. All the stars are working on different things these days, and sorting out the script, funding and other logistics will be tricky as well. So it’s not clear if it’ll happen, but I hope it does. It would be wonderful to see Chuck come back in some form to save the world again in his own special way.
Monty Python Prequels
Monty Python are currently celebrating their 50th anniversary, so there are lots of things going on to mark the occasion. That includes a Blu-ray box set of Flying Circus being released in November, with all episodes completely uncut and remastered in high definition, with lots of extras, so I’m really looking forward to receiving that. A new documentary was also shown BBC2 during September – Python At 50: Silly Walks And Holy Grails – as part of the celebrations, along with an older documentary as well.
But to whet the appetite before I get the Flying Circus box set, two important ITV shows from the 1960s, that helped to launch the careers of those involved in Monty Python and The Goodies, have also been released on DVD by the British Film Institute. Not all of the episodes exist, as tapes were often wiped in those days, but many have been retrieved, often thanks to telerecordings being found (where a film camera was pointed at a screen to record copies of shows for sale to overseas broadcasters).
The first is At Last The 1948 Show, a sketch show for adults written and performed by John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Marty Feldman and Aimi MacDonald. 2 series were made, and all episodes are presented here. Most are intact, impressively, but there are a few points were audio recordings and images of the script are used to fill in gaps.
And it’s actually rather good. Despite the age and the fact that the cast are just starting their TV careers, the seeds of Monty Python and The Goodies are clearly developing here, it is very much that style of humour. And the sketches are very funny. Most notable is the Four Yorkshiremen sketch, which later became famous in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but originated here in arguably its best form. The lovely Aimi MacDonald – as she calls herself. quite rightly – does a great job as host too, she’s very funny in her own right. There are also a lot of interesting extra features too, including interviews with many of the stars of the show.
The other show is Do Not Adjust Your Set, written by and starring Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Eric Idle. It also features David Jason and Denise Coffey, performances by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and (in series 2) animations by Terry Gilliam. This is a sketch show for children, but that isn’t obvious. Like the 1948 Show, it feels very much like an early iteration of Python, that style of humour is again very much in evidence. The writers deliberately didn’t want to dumb things down for the kids, so they just did what they had always done, the only limit being they had to keep it clean. So it doesn’t feel like a kids show, and is very enjoyable to watch as an adult, with lots of funny sketches.
It’s fascinating seeing not only some of the Pythons in their early days, but also a very young David Jason, who even then was showing his knack for physical comedy. As well as appearing in studio sketches, including one in particular where he demonstrates falling over a lot, David and Denise also made a fun weekly serial for the show called Captain Fantastic, with David as the hero and Denise as his arch-nemesis Mrs Black. And the Bonzos sing and play in their typical surreal style every episode too. You can even use a Jukebox feature on the discs to watch their performances at your leisure, which is a nice touch.
It’s mainly episodes from series 1 that survive on this set, with only a couple available from series 2. But there are audio excerpts from some of the missing episodes, and animations by Terry Gilliam that have been rescanned from his original master copies so they’re very clear. Other extra features include interviews with people connected with the show, and a documentary about the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, all of which gives a very interesting insight. And if you like the Bonzos, there’s even a Jukebox feature on each of the episode discs, allowing you to play their performances at your leisure
So I’m glad I bought both of those shows. I didn’t know whether I would like them, given their age and the fact that the writers and performers were in such early stages of their TV careers. But the humour holds up really well, as does the picture and audio quality, all things considered. And the extra material, on the discs and in the enclosed booklets, helps to put everything into context and explain the history very well. So I recommend them if you’re a fan of the Pythons, Goodies or David Jason, or comedy in general really. They’re well worth a go, and are important pieces of television history.
There wasn’t a lot to watch on TV during September, hence I focused on DVDs. But I’ve continued watching the ever-wonderful Taskmaster, which is always hilarious. And we’ve had the first QI XL episode of the new Q series, so I’m just awaiting the others, as the BBC schedule the extended QI episodes very randomly these days. I’ve also started watching a new series on Dave called Comedians Giving Lectures, where comedians are asked to give funny lectures based on the titles of real lectures. The variety of performers and subjects inevitably means that some of the routines are better than others. But it’s alright, it’s a fun way to spend half an hour.
Status Quo – Backbone
I also bought a couple of new music releases this month. The first is Backbone by Status Quo, the band\s 33rd studio album. More importantly, it’s also their first album without the late great Rick Parfitt, replaced after his sad death by Richie Malone. So that in itself made things interesting. The band have continued touring successfully, Francis Rossi leading the way without his lifelong friend. But would a new album work without Rick involved?
The short answer is yes. It’s still got that Quo sound and it’s still great. Track 1 eases you in with Waiting For A Woman, which has a very steady beat to it, before picking up the pace and getting into the heavier rockers, with highlights for me including Liberty Lane. the Backbone title track, and Get Out Of My Head, the fastest track on the album.
There’s nothing exceptional or unusual here, but that’s good, I’m pleased about that. This album is effectively a form of reassurance, for the fans, for Rick watching on high from wherever he is now, and even for Francis Rossi and his bandmates. Quo are still here, and Quo are still Quo. They’ve still got the sound, they’ve still got the energy, and they’ve still got the ability to put together a package of tracks that are all catchy rockers, without exception. If you’re a Quo fan, you know what you’re in for, there’s nothing to worry about, and I’m delighted to have this new album in my collection.
The Beatles – Abbey Road – 50th Anniversary Edition
The other music release I bought was the 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe box set of Abbey Road by The Beatles. Over the past couple of years I’ve bought, and reviewed, the 50th anniversary sets for Sgt Pepper and The White Album, so naturally I wanted this one too. Abbey Road doesn’t need a whole separate post dedicated to it this time, because there isn’t quite so much included to write about. However, that said, it’s still a fantastic package.
The album is presented in a large book, so you have a nice big shiny version of the album cover on the front, and the complete track listing on the back over the photo of the Abbey Road street sign. Inside the front cover you’ll find the CD and Blu-ray audio versions of the album, while inside the back cover are the 2 Sessions CDs. The music on all of these discs is fantastic as you’d expect, especially now it’s been remastered and sounds as good as it possibly can. The session tracks are fascinating as well.
The book, meanwhile, tells you about the history of the album’s creation, provides comprehensive track by track details to show the development of every song, gives an insight into the photoshoot for the album cover, and discusses the aftermath of the album’s release. It also contains lots of wonderful photos, many of them full page prints and double-page spreads, including many photos of the band of course, along with outtakes from the zebra crossing photoshoot, and copies of studio documentation and handwritten notes by the band members. So, as with the previous box sets, the book is a real delight to go through, it’s really well put together. So all in all, it’s a great package for another great album.
The zebra crossing in Abbey Road is still very popular with people wanting to get their photos taken of course, which annoys some motorists I think! Such is its appeal that you can watch a continuous webcam stream of the site, and there’s now even a commemorative manhole cover there to commemorative the 50th anniversary of the album. So it will still attract interest and Beatles fans for a long time to come, as it deserves to – including the tourists who don’t pay close attention and initially go to the wrong Abbey Road first!
It just goes to show how much influence the band still has, and will continue to have for a long time to come. And with good reason, because their music continues to endure and sound great after all this time. It’s always a delight to listen to their work.
And that’s it for this month. I apologise that there wasn’t much London-based material this time around, but hopefully you still found it interesting and enjoyable. I’m very proud of the disability videos and publications I’ve been in, was glad to get out when I could, and enjoyed the entertainment I had. Next month there will hopefully be a bit more to mention in terms of going out and about, including one very special adventure that I’m going on with a couple of friends, if my feet and the weather both behave. Hope you all enjoy the rest of the month as well, whatever you get up to!