We’re now into the second month of lockdown, with many of us still adjusting to this temporary ‘new normal’. It still feels surreal, and puts everything in perspective, that a microscopic virus can temporarily shut down the entire planet in a matter of weeks. It’s a stark reminder of how powerful nature can be.
But we will get through it, and we are making good progress, very gradually. We just need to be very careful, and ensure that we continue to stick to the rules. The lockdown measures are working without a doubt, and now is not the time to be complacent and too hasty about lifting them. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So I hope you’re continuing to keep safe and well. And again we must give the usual heartfelt thanks to all our NHS heroes, care staff and critical workers.
And now here’s my latest weekly recap, with a video as usual, of what’s been keeping me occupied recently. I haven’t been paid or gifted for anything mentioned here, and all opinions are my own as usual. So I hope you enjoy!
Tips & Advice
Just a couple of quick things to mention before I get to the more entertaining stuff. Firstly, this week I contributed to a post by Companion Stairlifts this week, where they featured comments from myself and others in their tips for staying in touch with relatives. So go and check that out, as there’s some useful advice there.
And secondly, while the overwhelming majority of people are very generous, caring and kind, there are still some unscrupulous scammers out there who are also trying to make the most of the situation. So I wanted to pass on this message that that was sent to all the staff where I work this week, as the information is important for everyone to know:
There are a number of scams going round at the moment and you are reminded to be vigilant with your email, text messages and phone calls. Some of these scams are utilising the current coronavirus pandemic and claiming to be official messages from the Government or other agencies. Others are more general where the sender uses a general name which could be someone you know i.e. Emma, and claiming to be in a situation which they require your help with such as money / phone vouchers.
The purpose of these scams are to extort money or get hold of your personal details which can then be sold on. They can come to your personal phones, you work mobiles and via email.
What to look out for:
- Messages out of the blue advising you are entitled to a payment which require you to apply via a link
- Messages advising that you have been fined for something you have done i.e. left your home.
- Calls claiming to be from Ofcom advising that your broadband needs to be slowed down / switched off
- Messages claiming to be from someone you know asking for help – i.e. money / vouchers
What to do:
If you receive a call, text, email or anything else you believe may be a scam hang up or delete the message. You can report it to Action Fraud, including the number / email address that was used to contact you.
You should also forward any scam emails you receive to email@example.com, where it will be analysed by the National Cyber Security Centre (part of GCHQ), so they can take the appropriate action.
You can find out more about coronavirus scams and how to spot them at these links:
- Action Fraud – COVID-19 Related Scams – News & Resources
- Citizens Advice – Check if something might be a scam
- Google – Helping you avoid COVID-19 online scams
So I hope that’s useful. Don’t forget to check out my Covid Resources page as well, which has become more and more extensive in recent weeks. There are lots of information and support links in there, as well as many ways to stay connected, occupied and entertained.
The Big Night In
One of this week’s major TV events was the Big Night In telethon on BBC1, bringing together Comic Relief and Children In Need for the first time. The presenters were in a studio together, all standing at least 2 metres apart and with a skeleton crew helping them out. while all the performances came from the homes of celebrities and members of the public. It was strange to see a telethon being broadcast in such a minimal fashion without a fancy set or a big studio audience, but it worked well, and there was plenty of entertainment amongst the serious and important messages.
They rightly acknowledged that people were already donating to many other charitable causes, and that we all had enough troubles of our own right now, but they encouraged people to donate whatever they felt able to, if anything. And although the total wasn’t as big as it has been for their telethons in the past, it was still an extremely impressive £27,398,675 (which the government have already agreed to double).
That’s on a par with Captain Tom Moore, who has now made it into the Guinness Book of Records, not only for raising the most money from a charity walk as an individual (very nearly £30 million now!), but also for being the oldest person to reach number 1 in the charts with You’ll Never Walk Alone. So that means he’ll be a chart-topping record-holder on his 100th birthday this week – what an amazing way to mark such a special occasion!
Among all the entertainment that was offered on The Big Night In, I particularly enjoyed:
- Mr Logan & Lauren Cooper (David Tennant & Catherine Tate), in an enjoyable follow-up to their original classroom sketch from 2007. This time it was based around Lauren’s obsession with TikTok. They’ve always been great together, which is why Donna was such a good companion to his Doctor on Doctor Who, and this was very funny.
- Doctor Who Tribute to the Real Doctors – A lovely clip where 10 of the Doctors (including the surprise Doctor from the most recent series) came together to thank our health and care workers. It was very well edited together. The one notable omission was Christopher Eccleston, but he has his own opinions on charity, and instead elected to read a beautiful poem in tribute to the NHS instead, written by a man called Matt Kelly whose partner is a district nurse. So Chris still played his part in showing his support.
- The Vicar Of Dibley – Dawn French returned as Geraldine Granger to give us a nice update from the parish. With 4 members of the main cast of the sitcom sadly no longer with us, a reunion with more than just the vicar would probably have felt a bit strange, so it made sense to feature Geraldine on her own. And it was good to see her back, I enjoyed her monologue.
- Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry) & Prince William – With nice nods to Blackadder (who sadly didn’t appear), this was a humorous little conversation that led us into this week’s Clap For Carers.
- Stand Ups Staying In – Here we got to hear thoughts on life in lockdown by comedians including Jason Manford, Rosie Jones, Ellie Taylor, Tim Vine, Tom Allen, Lost Voice Guy, Nish Kumar, and various others.
- Little Britain – It was good to see the cast back together for this special new collection of sketches, reviving all their best-loved characters.
- Matt Lucas & BBC Concert Orchestra – Thank You Baked Potato – There have been many interpretations of Matt’s catchy charity song, including some entertaining duets. But I think this is the best version yet, given the beautiful orchestral accompaniment. And the song is a great way of summarising some of the important messages for children about what they should be doing at the moment.
- Peter Kay & Tony Christie – Is This The Way To Amarillo? – 15 years on from the first time, this was a very enjoyable new version of the music video, featuring many key workers and other members of the public singing and dancing along. Some clips from the original video were kept in too, including Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor, and the hilarious moment where comedian Ronnie Corbett took a tumble. Obviously one original participant had to be cut out (as UK viewers will be well aware), hence the awkward jump in the music part way through. And there’s also some speculation around Peter’s health, given how he looked in his intro and the fact that they only used old footage of him dancing, so I hope he’s ok. But it was great to see Tony Christie getting involved from his home, as it’s his song after all.
Other performers on the night included Miranda Hart, stars from Strictly Come Dancing performing with the public, the cast of Eastenders doing a virtual quiz, Romesh Ranganathan’s isolation diary, Jack Whitehall resurrecting his character from Bad Education, a conversation between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, a performance of Sing by Gary Barlow and various other artists, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment from Sting telling people “Don’t stand so close to each other”, and more.
So there was a good variety of entertainment for everyone to enjoy, and I’m delighted they were able to raise so much money (well over £50 million when you include Gift Aid and the government’s promise to double the total).
Love Never Dies
Did you know that The Phantom Of The Opera had a sequel? I didn’t, and neither did many others judging by the comments for the latest production posted on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s channel The Shows Must Go On. Last week I really enjoyed seeing Phantom for the first time ever (very late to the party I know!), so I was keen to see the follow-up Love Never Dies when it was announced as the latest 48-hour release this week.
I’m not going to give away any spoilers, suffice to say that it’s set 10 years after the original story, and sees the Phantom luring in Christine for a second time, in the desperate hope he can win her round and get her to perform for him again. But there are one or two big revelations along the way, for the Phantom as well as others.
And I enjoyed it. It’s not quite as incredible as the original musical, as if anything could be, but it’s still wonderfully staged and absolutely worth a go if you’re a Phantom fan. This was the Melbourne production, which I understand was a successful reworking of the slightly less well received London version, and stars Ben Lewis as The Phantom with Anna O’Byrne as Christine, who are both excellent.
Visually the whole production looks stunning, and the music is as powerful as you’d hope, including many references back to the original show. My favourite song is The Beauty Underneath, with its great lyrics and guitar riffs, which doesn’t just draw us into the Phantom’s dark world, but is also a huge moment for Gustave, and the young boy who plays him (Jack Lyall) is superb throughout the show. Other highlights include Beneath A Moonless Sky, marking the dramatic moment where the Phantom and Christine are reunited, and the title song performed by Christine towards the end.
Many online shows, including Love Never Dies above, aren’t fully accessible for people with disabilities, and it can be hard to find shows that are best suited for specific needs. But now and again there are accessible productions available. The National Theatre recently published Twelfth Night with audio description on their channel for example, which is fantastic.
So here’s a quick list of links that you might find useful, which are also on my Covid Resources page:
- Official London Theatre – Get Your Theatre Fix – Weekly list of online performances, including those that have audio description, captioning & BSL.
- VocalEyes – The Interval – Weekly list of online audio described performances and other items of interest.
- Chichester Festival Theatre – Flowers For Mrs Harris – Captioned. The show isn’t audio described, but an audio introduction is provided for the visually impaired.
- Deafinitely Theatre – Love’s Labours Lost – Performed in BSL with captions.
- Graeae – Crips Without Constraints – Weekly monologues by deaf and disabled performers, with captions and audio description.
After Life – Series 2
This Ricky Gervais comedy-drama has just returned to Netflix for a new series, and I binge-watched all 6 episodes on Saturday night. It continues the story of Tony, a man who is struggling to cope with the death of his wife. In the first series, which I saw a couple of months ago, he dealt with it by being rude to everyone, as if he had nothing to lose b doing so, which didn’t help matters. So this time he’s making more of an effort to be kind, though it still doesn’t always pay off, and there are still things that frustrate him.
The subject matter may not sound appropriate for comedy, and it’s a tricky balance to get right, but Ricky makes it work very effectively, because it feels so real. There are lots of funny moments, one particular highlight being the surprise cameo by Annette Crosbie, best known as Margaret from One Foot In The Grave, who was hilarious. But there are many sad moments too, with the last 2 episodes of this series being particularly moving, and it gets especially tense at the very end. You really do get invested in the fate of the characters, especially Tony, and it really does tug at all your emotions, good and bad. So as much as it will make you laugh, and while there is some hope and happiness within, don’t expect to leave with a smile on your face. It’s a whole mixture of things, just like life. We can all closely relate to aspects of it, and we can all learn from it.
The series does contain very strong language, as well as references to death and suicide, so the series won’t be to everyone’s taste. But if they’re not going to be big issues for you, then I can very much recommend it. It’s become hugely popular, and is widely considered to be Ricky’s finest work, Just be sure to start from series 1 if you haven’t seen that already. Audio description is available as well.
Here’s a summary of other bits and pieces that I’ve found and enjoyed this week:
- Audible – Locked Together – This is a free series of podcasts, where comedians get together to chat about how lockdown it’s going. I’ve listened to the first episode so far, featuring Sarah Millican and Jason Manford, which was really good. Other episodes, which I look forward to checking out, feature Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield, Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Tez Ilyas and Sindhu Vee, The Kurupt FM gang, Jimmy Carr and Katherine Ryan, and French & Saunders.
- Jason Manford – Youtube – Jason has recently set up a new channel where he’s doing live quizzes and posting other random things (and he does have an old channel too). He already posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where there’s a lot of great content already, including comedy and general chat, and he’ll announce his live quiz streams on those platforms too. Plus he has a website too of course. Facebook is also where he encourages his followers to become “Charity Ninjas”, to give specially selected fundraisers a stealthy boost to their donations, without the fundraisers knowing that Jason’s behind it. So he gives up a huge amount of time to keep people entertained and supported, which is great.
- The Rolling Stones – Living In A Ghost Town – The legendary band were working on this track last year in London and Los Angeles, as part of work on their next album. But now they’re in lockdown, they decided to finish it off and release it, given that it’s very appropriate at the moment. And it’s a great track, they haven’t lost their style or energy. The video is also very cool, including many fascinating shots of empty streets and underground trains in London, just to show how eerie the world is right now.
- UB40 featuring Ali Campbell & Astro – Lean On Me – This charity single for NHS Charities Together came out earlier in the month, but I’ve only just discovered it. Not only is it raising money for a very important cause, but it’s also a great tribute to Bill Withers, writer and performer of the original version, who sadly passed away at the end of March.
- Dame Vera Lynn & West End Stars – We’ll Meet Again – Once more this song has become very appropriate, and this new rendition by some of the biggest performers of the London theatre scene is wonderful. We will indeed be back together again. And you can enjoy many other wonderful songs from West End shows on the Official London Theatre channel.
And that’s it for this week, I hope you enjoyed it and found something of interest, and I hope you stay safe and well. As always, don’t forget to check out my Covid Resources page, with lots of information and entertainment, and my regularly updated playlists of lockdown videos, to see what you might enjoy.
I’ll leave you with another unusual take on the BBC News theme, that’s gone viral after it was posted by Ben Howell, who has remixed it with a Dua Lipa track (much to her delight). Anything to make the news sound more interesting and fun at the moment can only be a good thing, and the BBC agree, as they were happy to interview Ben and play it on air!