Well, April flew by didn’t it? It seemed to for me anyway. Everyone’s perception of time is rather weird at the moment, but it can be explained by science at least. Of course, for those going through a particularly rough time at the moment, time will be dragging much more slowly, so we must be mindful of that too. So, as always, I hope you’re all keeping safe and well, and getting any support you need, and you have my sympathies if things have been particularly difficult for any reason.
My mother and I are continuing to do fine, and it’s now been just over a month since I last left the house. I could go out for a bit of a walk if I wanted, but I feel happier staying at home to protect my mother. Given that she’s elderly and blind, and that we as a country have been going through the peak of the virus in recent weeks, I don’t want her to end up on her own in hospital where I can’t visit her, nor would I want to get myself into the much less likely (but not impossible) position where I’m in hospital and she’s left at home on her own. So it’s worth the sacrifice to keep her safe. If I put on a little bit of weight, or my hair ends up like Brian May’s, so be it, it’s worth it.
And I’m still passing the time in various ways. Work is continuing to keep me busy, as is blogging, and I’ve continued to find plenty of entertainment to enjoy as well. So here’s my latest post and video recap of what I’ve got into or discovered this past week. As always, there has been no sponsorship or gifting here, and all opinions are my own. So I hope you enjoy!
Colonel Tom Moore
It’s only right to start by wishing Colonel Tom Moore – having now been promoted from Captain – a very happy 100th birthday! His donation page finally closed this week, with a huge total of £32,796,350! When you add on Gift Aid from the government of £6,173,649.56 and sales of his charity single, it’s safe to say he’s hit the £40 million mark. That’s an incredible achievement for one man, so it’s no wonder the nation pulled out all the stops to mark his special day.
As well as earning 2 Guinness World Records for his fundraising and chart success, and being promoted to Colonel, he’s also had an amazing RAF flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, had a big 3 layer birthday cake with a Spitfire on top, been made an honorary member of the England cricket team, received a Pride of Britain award, had trains named after him and a message from Great Western Railway, had a special blue postbox unveiled in his honour, been awarded the Freedom of the City of London, had a photo mosaic made by the BBC of people saluting him, received messages from the Prime Minister and health staff and key workers and Formula 1 stars and celebrities, been serenaded by Michael Ball, and has received over 150,000 birthday cards from the public which have filled a large school hall! Have a scroll through the BBC’s News Stories to find out more about these and the many other tributes that have been paid to him.
The first was Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle, which is this week’s upload, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. Interestingly, they’ve posted 2 versions – one with Benedict as the creature, and the other with Jonny as the creature – and in each case, the other actor plays Frankenstein. So it’s a very interesting way of alternating the performances.
I saw the former, with Benedict as the creature, but have also looked at key scenes from the other version involving those actors. And in each case, they’re both magnificent in their respective roles, so it’s hard to say if either is best. It’s such an intense and atmospheric production, with some humour sprinkled throughout too, and it kept me hooked all the way through. Highlights for me include the lengthy opening scene where the creature emerges, his later meeting with a blind man, and the pivotal moment where Frankenstein first confronts his creation.
My one gripe is the lack of audio description (which they did include with Twelfth Night recently), because it means blind people will be completely lost for much of it. The creature’s birth scene at the start, which is a fantastic solo performance, lasts for about 15 minutes with no dialogue whatsoever, and there are other similarly silent moments during the first half before the creature learns to speak, along with other key visual moments during the whole show. So you’re missing out on a lot if you can’t see what’s going on, which is a pity.
The other play I saw was Treasure Island. This had been posted previously on their channel, but fortunately I had a copy that was downloaded before it was removed. And it was great fun, with Jim Hawkins (played wonderfully by Patsy Ferran) narrating the story as she takes us with her on the journey. There’s plenty of action and intrigue, and again there’s some humour too. The costumes and sets are very well put together as well, and the impressive stage of the theatre is used to full effect. The central revolve is used regularly, and there’s a spectacular moment when the ship is revealed, reminding you just how deep the space below the stage must be! So it’s a real visual treat as well as an entertaining one.
I was also surprised but delighted to discover that Long John Silver is played by Arthur Darvill, who played Amy’s partner Rory in Doctor Who. I wouldn’t have recognised him if I hadn’t been told he was in the cast! Again there’s no audio description for this either, sadly, but you might just be able to follow the story reasonably well thanks to Jim’s narration. It’s just a shame you’ll miss out on the beautiful visuals if you can’t see it.
If you’re interested, the next production they’re going to stream is Antony & Cleopatra. And if you think you’re particularly clever, have a go at the National Theatre At Home Quiz, with questions being posed by Helen Mirren, Lenny Henry, Lesley Manville and Ian McKellen.
Most importantly, however, if you do enjoy and appreciate the National Theatre’s free streaming of these productions, which is a very generous gesture, you can make a donation in one of the many ways listed on their Stay At Home page.
Likewise, if there are any other theatres, museums, comedians, musicians or any other form of free entertainment and culture you’re enjoying to get you through this crisis, please give a bit back to show your appreciation, if you’re able to afford it. Their businesses and livelihoods have taken a massive hit, with venues shutting down in the ultimate sacrifice to keep people safe. So if you want to enjoy them again in person when lockdown is lifted, we need to work together right now to ensure their survival.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the channel Planes, Trains & Canes, which my friend Claire had recommended. Here you’ll find a series of videos by a lady called Mona Minkara, documenting her visits to various cities. I finally got around to watching the first few videos this week, because I wanted to see her experience of London in particular.
Part 1 of the London vlog focuses on her arrival at the city and using public transport to get to the hotel, during which there’s a fascinating exchange with a member of staff, when she’s initially denied the choice to travel independently on the Tube without using the assistance that’s available. Part 2 then focuses on her explorations of the city and the many delights it offers, so it was great to hear her having a good time, and the interview with a man from RNIB Connect Radio was interesting as well. It’s also great that the videos feature brief audio descriptive notes throughout, which is very useful.
And if you want to get together with others online for quizzes, crafts, a good chat and more, The Staying Inn has gone from strength to strength over the last few weeks and now has its own website, so you can sign up for their newsletter to be made aware of their upcoming events. I’m reliably informed their get-togethers on Zoom are very sociable and accessible. I’ve been too distracted by other things, so I haven’t given it a go myself yet, but I hope to poke my head in at some point.
There are a few little bits of comedy to mention this week.
- I’ve finished listening to all of the free Locked Together podcasts on Audible this week, they were great to have on while I was working. Out of all 8 episodes, my 4 favourites were the conversations between Jason Manford & Sarah Millican, Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders, Jimmy Carr & Katherine Ryan, and Harry Enfield & Paul Whitehouse. The others were ok, but I didn’t find them quite as entertaining. So there’s something for everybody there.
- Michael Sheen and David Tennant have reprised their roles from the series Good Omens, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original book, in an amusing video called Good Omens: Lockdown.
- Sports commentator Andrew Cotter has continued his brilliant reviews of his dogs with their latest Walk Of Shame.
- Rugby commentator Nick Heath has taken to commentating on other people’s lives while out and about, as well as posting some online Pub Quizzes.
- And I haven’t watched any of this yet, but it’s worth mentioning that comedian Mark Watson did a 24-hour charity show on Twitch called the Watsonathon, which appears to have gone extremely well judging by the feedback I’ve seen on Twitter. A special edition of Who Said That? from the day has already been posted on Youtube, but the whole thing can be viewed on Twitch. A very impressive £39,000 has been raised, which is being shared between a few very worthy causes as detailed on his fundraising page.
This week I watched the BBC4 documentary Queen: Rock The World, which I’d recorded last week. It was originally broadcast in 2017 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their News Of The World album, and a slightly different edit called The American Dream was included in the 40th anniversary box set for the album that year. And it’s a fantastic behind the scenes insight into the development of the album and their American tour.
You get to see them working in the studio on We Are The Champions, My Melancholy Blues, Get Down Make Love and It’s Late, as well as rehearsal, soundcheck and backstage footage from the American tour, clips from their concert at The Summit in Houston, interviews with the band members, and more. You can tell they’re really enjoying the experience, which comes across to the audience when they perform. And it’s all topped and tailed by more recent footage of Brian and Roger performing with Adam Lamber in America 40 years later. So it’s a really enjoyable and interesting documentary, highly recommended if you’re a Queen fan!
Brian, Roger and Adam have also released a charity single called You Are The Champions, to raise money for the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Brian and Roger had originally posted a video of themselves jamming to the song together from their homes, then Adam added his vocals, and they decided to properly mix it and release it. You can out more in their interviews for BBC Breakfast and BBC Radio 2, and it’s interesting to learn that Roger Taylor’s daughter Rory is one of the NHS workers who appears in the video.
In other music updates:
- I’ve listed my responses to the 30 Day Song Challenge, choosing tracks that relate to a set of themes posted by VICTA. I could quite easily have focused only on Queen songs I’m sure, but I wanted to maintain a variety. So have a look through it and see what you like, and have a go at the challenge yourself too if you like!
- If you’re a fan of The Rolling Stones, you might want to subscribe to their Youtube channel, because they’re streaming the bonus features from 6 of their concert films under the title Extra Licks, starting with Olé Olé Olé! I’ve already got their concert films on DVD and Blu-ray, so there won’t be anything here I haven’t seen before, but for those who haven’t, you’ll enjoy it!
- I’ve mentioned one or two of their videos in previous weeks, but it’s worth noting that Official London Theatre are posting many performances by theatre stars from their own homes, including When I Grow Up from Matilda, Ex-Wives from Six, pantomime stars performing 12 Days Of Lockdown, and Sunny Afternoon with the special guest appearance of Sir Ray Davies from The Kinks. So their channel is well worth subscribing to.
- A bit more random, but The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are posting cover versions of various songs as part of a series of lockdown performances, including Thank You For The Music, Crazy and The Model. It’s very random, I know, but they’re very good.
- Camden Voices have posted a lovely covers of George Harrison’s timeless song Here Comes The Sun and Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors to cheer people up
- And finally, various musical stars have collaborated to perform the Scott Alan song You’re Not Alone to support mental health awareness. It’s a lovely reminder that we are indeed all in this situation together and will get through it together. What’s On Stage have shared various other great lockdown performances on their channel too.
And that’s it for another week. I hope you enjoyed my latest selection of random bits and pieces, and that you’re also continuing to keep yourself entertained in one way or another. So until my next post, please stay safe and well, and Happy VE Day for Friday!