Right then, time for another monthly update. There isn’t a huge amount to mention for October compared to some months, but there are still some bits and pieces I want to share with you, focusing on disability, health, technology and entertainment. So I’m sorry if this seems a bit shorter than usual and doesn’t contain much about London. But rest assured my November Favourites is going to be much more extensive, as things are getting back to normal and there’s a lot happening right now.
So for me this post and video is a nice way of easing myself back into things. And as always I’m not sponsored or endorsed by anybody mentioned here, these are all my own opinions. So I hope you enjoy!
Firstly, I’m delighted and rather surprised to say that my application for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) was successful! I put a lot of work into my claim, writing a great deal about myself and including relevant evidence, and I had to go to a face-to-face assessment. It was a stressful process, but the effort was all worth it. Sure, there are bits and pieces that they got wrong, so I lost points that I could legitimately appeal against. But the points I did get seem to be fair, and the overall outcome works well for my needs, so I’m not going to push it further, tempting thought it is to do so.
I will of course write a blog post about my experience soon. And if you’re in the process of claiming PIP, I wish you the very best of luck. It certainly isn’t a nice experience to go through. The RNIB’s information page and toolkit, plus the excellent guide on the Benefits & Work website (well worth the small registration fee), are great resources, as well as contacting trusted individuals and/or organisations to talk things through. And don’t be afraid to go to appeal if it doesn’t go your way, as it’s not as horrible as the DWP try to make it sound, and the success rate at tribunal stage is around 70%. Just recently we’ve had a BBC news report on the issue too. So stick with it to make sure you get what you’re entitled to.
In other positive disability news, I’m flattered to have been included on the list of recommended blogs on the VICTA Parents Portal. That website is a brand new one-stop resource for parents of visually impaired children, so it looks extremely useful. Thank you to VICTA for including me!
Those following along will know that my relative lack of activity these past few months is down to a foot infection. I’ve finally been able to see a dermatologist, who believes it’s a severe flare-up of atopic eczema, specifically discoid eczema, which makes sense based on the information I’ve been directed towards. I’ve always had eczema, but it’s been really mild all my adult life, so I had assumed this was something else. But whatever infected me originally caused a flare up that my body isn’t used to dealing with.
So I’ve been prescribed steroid cream to try and reduce the flare up, and emollient (moisturiser) to use long term as I have very dry skin in general, Then I’ll see the dermatologist in January to see how things are going, and whether we need to try anything different. I’ve also found a lot of good advice on the National Eczema Society website, particularly on their factsheets, which are very informative. So I’m going to try some of their tips as well and see how things go.
Out & About
Thankfully, because of the antihistamine pills I’m taking and the emollient cream I’m applying, I’m not getting any irritation or ill effects when walking about. So I’ve been going out more regularly recently, which is great. However, throughout October it was all about socialising – which was wonderful for me, but doesn’t give me anything to write about here. It was just lovely to hang out with individual friends, and the RNIB Connect social group I’m a member of, as I’d missed getting together with people when I had to stay at home.
The one major event I was hoping to tell you about had to be postponed for reasons beyond anyone’s control, and is now rescheduled for late January. So I’ll continue to keep that under wraps for now. It looks set to be awesome when it finally happens though, so it’ll hopefully be worth the wait.
Gaming isn’t something I’ve really got into for a long time. I used to really enjoy my Playstation games, but once I started my job and was using a computer all day every day, I found that concentrating really heavily on a TV or computer screen to play games in the evenings wasn’t doing my eyes any favours. So I just drifted away from it.
But I’ve been hearing more and more about audio games recently, which has intrigued me. I know there are some games and quizzes on the Amazon Echo, and I keep meaning to have a go at some of those. But there are also much more elaborate games being developed by other people as well. And it would be nice to get back into gaming again in general, if not quite as much as before, both in the visual realm as well as audio titles. I just need to put aside the time for it.
So during October I discovered that it was possible to play an early build demo of a game called Pitch Black: A Dusklight Story. It’s just been financed through a very successful Kickstarter campaign, and is due for release in October 2020 on PC, MacOS, Linux, iOS & Android. You can find links to the demos on the Kickstarter page if you read through it.
It basically involves you exploring a huge environment by sound alone, as you find locations, meet an array of different characters, solve puzzles, complete tasks, etc, to progress through the dramatic storyline. Their Kickstarter page and Youtube channel explains it very well, far better than I ever could.
Having never played an audio game before, I didn’t know what to expect or how well I would get on with it. But I actually rather enjoyed it. I had to adjust to the experience, of course, but it didn’t take me too long to get used to moving my character around, and using the audio focusing and marking abilities to help me navigate. So I was able to get to the two places I needed to find without too much trouble. And I was able to do it a lot more easily on a second playthrough.
What made it particularly enjoyable was how atmospheric it was. The 3D binaural audio really drew me into the world, which has a wonderful soundscape. Just this small taster gave me the impression that it was a huge and varied environment. And the characters populating the area in the demo were very entertaining to pause and listen to on my explorations, including the radio station in one location. And you can hear various character trailers on their Youtube channel. So I was happy to become a backer of their Kickstarter campaign after checking out the demo and finding out more about the game.
Visually impaired Youtuber Illegally Sighted recorded a playthrough of the demo on his channel, so do go and check that out to hear what it’s like.
You can find out much more about the game, and monitor its development over the coming year. at the following links:
- Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, Discord, Itch.io & Reddit
- Interviews – Black Screen Gaming, Blind Abilities, The Parker/Daniels Show & Theory Of A Blind Man
To be clear, the team haven’t made any kind of request, demand, gift or payment to be mentioned here. It’s just a new experience that I enjoyed and wanted to give a shoutout to. So I wish the developers all the best with the project, and I look forward to playing the finished game!
Although I won’t be personally making much use of them at the moment, disability emojis are rather a hot topic this month. So I wanted to give it a mention and briefly discuss people’s reactions to it.
Basically, Apple released a whole new set of emojis in iOS 13.2. Which in itself is nothing new, they’re always adding new ones to the list. But this update includes emojis related to disability, gender and mixed race, making them more inclusive.
Understandably this has been met with much delight in the disability community, as we can now use emojis of blind people using long canes, deaf people, wheelchair users, assistance dogs and prosthetic limbs. It’s a welcome and important step forward, enabling disabled people to feel more represented and included.
For me personally, as I don’t use a cane all the time and don’t have a dog, and don’t use emojis heavily in general, these additions aren’t a big deal. The smiling face with sunglasses already represents me fine. Plus I only have an iPhone 6, so I can’t use the new emojis on there anyway, as Apple are no longer updating that model. But those who have been able to upgrade to the latest version of iOS are able to access them, and they’re already getting a lot of use.
Of course, some in the able-bodied community are confused by this, questioning why we need emojis for people who can’t see them. And many are also spreading the rather dull and unoriginal joke “Blind people will be happy to see this”. These reactions are, of course, down to a lack of knowledge about, and a lack of respect for, blind people. Yet there are a few simple facts that those posting the questions and jokes should know:
- 94% of blind people have some amount of useful vision. It could be a little, it could be a lot. Eyesight isn’t just on or off – there’s a huge spectrum of conditions, and every person is different. So many blind people can actually see the emojis. They may just need to use accessibility options – e.g. using the Zoom feature to enlarge the text and icons.
- For those who can’t see the icons easily or at all, computers and other devices can speak them instead, as every emoji has a brief description attached (just like every image online should in its “alt text” field). So if a post has lots of emojis, screen readers will say every single one, which is simply unintelligible and annoying.
- Emojis (or emoticons) aren’t just about emotions. Maybe they were in their earliest days, but now they’ve evolved to represent genders, races, countries, disabilities, sports, hobbies, food, technology, etc. Used sensibly, they make posts and messages more interesting, and they enable you to express things in a more concise way, which is very useful when you have a strict character limit.
- Because they don’t understand the points above, some people enjoy mocking the blind for using technology, not just about emojis, but also commenting on photos of blind people using phones as a related example. Such jokes could be shrugged off if heard just once or twice. But when lots of people are saying them regularly, they spread further and are heard more often, as people think it’s acceptable. It then gets very tiring and even distressing for blind people. So a bit of common sense and respect would be good. blind people love comedy like anyone else, but comedy is all about the context.
So that’s my thoughts on the subject. If you want to find out more about disability emojis and why they’re so important, check out Ella’s blog post (featuring comments from many people, including myself), and Emily’s video.
Finally, here’s some of the entertainment that I’ve been enjoying this month.
This is a big box set of Freddie Mercury’s solo work outside Queen. It includes a newly remastered version of the Mr. Bad Guy album, the orchestrated version of the Barcelona album, and a CD of his biggest solo hits, along with a DVD and Blu-ray of his music videos, and a huge book full of photographs and quotes. It’s a lovely set, although it isn’t as comprehensive and as special as the original Solo Collection that came out in 2000. For a comprehensive view of the Never Boring set, and the original Solo Collection, check out my review post and unboxing video.
I bought the Blu-ray of Toy Story 4 this month, which I saw in the cinema earlier this year. It was wonderful to watch it again, and as I can sit much closer to my big TV screen than I can the cinema screen, I was able to see lots of detail that I hadn’t noticed first time around. Audio description is also available on the disc, which is fantastic. I bought the 3D edition, because it has a bonus disc with extras that the standard edition doesn’t. The 3D version of the film itself wouldn’t be any good for me with my eyes, but this edition also includes the regular 2D Blu-ray of the film as well, so that’s what I watched. The extra features themselves aren’t quite as in-depth as they were for the earlier films, but they’re still varied and interesting, with an audio commentary, deleted scenes, special animated sequences, character profiles, and other behind the scenes treats.
I also bought the new Blu-ray edition of An American Werewolf In London, featuring a brand new 4K restoration of the film, a new audio commentary by Beware the Moon filmmaker Paul Davis, a newly filmed interview with John Landis, and a new feature looking at costumes and special effects items from the film, on top of all the special features from the previous edition that have been copied across to this release. So it’s well worth the upgrade. There’s also a Deluxe Version that includes a book, poster and postcards, but I wasn’t bothered about getting those items, so I didn’t go for that.
And in terms of TV, I bought the new steelbook Blu-ray of Doctor Who – The Specials. These are the special episodes that concluded David Tennant’s reign as The Doctor. As with the steelbooks of series 1-4 that I also have, this one includes all of the special features from the original release, all packaged up in a case with beautiful artwork on it
But in addition, this steelbook includes a brand new bonus disc, featuring the animated episodes Dreamland & The Infinite Quest, the 2-part episode The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith from The Sarah Jane Adventures (in which David was a guest star as The Doctor), and a newly filmed interview with David Tennant from this year. Amazon only lists the animated episodes, so it won’t be obvious that the other items are on there. And it’s great to have them. The animated episodes are alright, but certainly aren’t as good as the main live action series. The Sarah Jane Adventures episode is better, and the interview with David is interesting too. So it’s great having those new extras, as they make the steelbook upgrade all the more worthwhile.
My big binge-watch this month has been Stranger Things on Netflix. As usual, I’m way behind the curve on something that’s been very popular for a few years. But I like that approach, as I can then tell if something is living up to the hype or not before I try it myself, by looking at people’s reactions. So this month I watched all 3 seasons, and absolutely loved it.
It’s impossible to say much without spoiling things, but it starts off with the disappearance of a young boy, and focuses on the attempts of his family, friends and the local sheriff to find him. And he’s not where anybody would expect. An unusual character called Eleven also appears in the boy’s absence, which adds further mystery. And the story evolves from there very nicely. It’s got a great mixture of drama, comedy, emotion, action, horror, etc. It’s one of those shows that mixes different genres really well.
And the soundtrack is fantastic. The original score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein is wonderfully atmospheric, and there are no fewer than 5 soundtrack albums featuring their music scores from the 3 series. In addition, the show is set in the 80s, which means there are lots of cool tunes from the decade that pop up throughout, and there are a couple of compilation albums featuring some of those tracks. The music all adds to the series very effectively, and you’ll never hear The Clash’s hit Should I Stay Or Should I Go in the same way again, that’s for sure. And it’s not over yet. Season 4 will have 8 episodes and is being filmed next year, so I’m really looking forward to that.
And then the other sci-fi drama series I’ve been watching is The Flash, which is back for it’s 6th season now. And so far it’s still good fun, with the usual mix of drama, comedy and action. I was particularly pleased in episode 1 to hear the Flash Theme by Queen, which I always hoped would appear in the show at some stage, it makes sense!
One of the most notable comedy shows this month was the return of Would I Lie To You? Normally I wouldn’t say much about it, as it’s always consistently hilarious. But this time, the first episode featured blind comedian Chris McCausland, who you can also follow on Twitter. He did a great job, and the reaction on social media has been very positive too. He’s doing very well for himself in fact, as he’s also appearing in the current series of Have I Got News For You (which I’m also enjoying as usual), and will be in this year’s Christmas special of Live At The Apollo. So I’m glad he’s having so much success right now.
Also, Would I Lie To You? is going to have 2 episodes of unseen material at the end of this series, not just one, which is great news. Those Unseen episodes always illustrate how much good stuff they have to cut out, and one can’t help feeling they should do 45 minute extended editions, like Have I Got News For You and QI, as they would be very popular. That said, however, we’re not going to get any more episodes of Would I Lie To You? until around Christmas now – not only was it taken off air for Children In Need recently, but it’s now being further postponed for 4 weeks to make way for election debates!
Another favourite show of mine is of course Taskmaster, whose 9th series has now finished. And it’s been fabulous as always. However, this might be the last time the show appears on Dave. The deal has ended between production company Avalon and broadcasting giant UKTV (which runs Dave among many other channels), and reports suggest UKTV can’t afford to renew it. So other broadcasters are circling, meaning the show could be moving to Channel 4, although others including the BBC are potentially interested as well. Dave deserve to keep it, and I hope they do. But whoever gets it, I hope they let it continue the same as before and don’t change it too much. It works extremely well as it is.
Update (November 22nd): The move to Channel 4 has been confirmed, and show creator Alex Horne has personally promised that the format will not change. Greg Davies has also expressed his thanks to UKTV and the Dave channel gave a classy response.
A new comedy show on Dave at the moment is Dave Gorman: Terms And Conditions Apply, which is basically Modern Life Is Goodish but with a guest panel of comedians for Dave to chat and play games with. And it’s very good, it’s great to see Dave back on Dave again. I still prefer Goodish, because he’s brilliant at doing shows by himself, and I think his style works best that way really. But this is still good fun.
And the Dave channel also has another new series called Comedians Giving Lectures at the moment, where comedians do short sets based on the title of a real lecture. I mentioned it my previous Favourites post as it was just starting. And it’s ok, but I haven’t felt too invested in it particularly, as not all of the comedians appeal to me, such is the nature of variety shows. So I probably won’t bother with the next series, if there is one.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Dave gave us another treat this month by announcing that Red Dwarf is going to have its first ever feature-length special next year, along with 3 retrospective documentaries about the entire series to date. So that’s going to be very interesting, and it even looks like Norman Lovett might return as Holly. See the official announcement and the follow-up post for more information.
The BBC, meanwhile, gave us a Halloween special of Not Going Out this month, which saw Lee getting into a mess as he tried to retrieve his mobile phone from a house inhabited by a creepy old lady. It was quite unusual in that there was no studio audience, and there was the addition of atmospheric music, but that didn’t do it any harm in this instance. It was still good fun. The show has also been recommissioned for 3 more series, which is great, so it’ll continue until at least 2022. And the BBC’s other new offering this month was a new series of Still Open All Hours with David Jason, which has proven to be very successful now that it’s in its 6th series.
We’ve also had the welcome return of The Last Leg, which is particularly timely given the upcoming General Election (and if you’re in the UK by the way, please make sure you register to vote by 26 November if you’re not registered already). And Channel 4 have been following it with a new series called Harry Hill’s Clubnite. This features Harry displaying his usual surreal humour, along with a selection of guest comedians on each episode. The guests are rather a mixed bag, and I’ve found myself skipping some of them But it’s been great to see disabled comedians Rosie Jones & Tim Renkow among the acts, and they are both good. I saw Tim Renkow at a charity show earlier this year, and enjoyed his performance there too. But I would prefer Harry Hill doing a show of his own really, as we don’t get much of him by the time you’ve taken out the other acts.
So there’s been a lot to watch, and in November there’s plenty more to keep me happily occupied, including the new Monty Python Blu-ray box set that I’ve got, other DVDs and Blu-rays that are coming out during the month, and other things on TV as well. The run-up to Christmas always has plenty to enjoy.
So that’s it for this month. Although there wasn’t anything to mention on the London front, there were still plenty of other things to share with you after all. And I’ll definitely be posting more city-related stuff in next month’s post, as I feel like I’m getting back to normality at last, now that the various issues that cropped up over the summer have been resolving themselves. So I hope you enjoyed this latest update as usual, and thank you for reading!