Hello again! I hope you’re continuing to keep safe and well – and also staying alert, as is the new watchword here in England.
As I see it, the current small changes to our lockdown, as part of the government’s long term recovery plan, are basically urging people to use their common sense, as the virus is still circulating. We must continue to stay at home and work from home if at all possible, avoid other people’s homes, wash our hands and disinfect surfaces often, and stay 2 metres away from everyone. But provided those rules are adhered to, we have a bit more freedom – people in selected industries can go back to work, we can use outdoor spaces like parks more freely, we can walk or cycle or drive further to exercise, and face coverings are advised if social distancing isn’t possible (to protect others in case you’re asymptomatic).
So I hope people will continue to be careful and sensible, as we’re nowhere near out of the woods yet. And obviously for disabled people things are more complicated – it’s impossible to socially distance if you can’t see, for example, so you have to rely on others around you to stay away. Lucy Edwards has chatted with a couple of her fellow blind activists in a recent video about the new rules, if you want to hear their reactions to the new rules.
As for me though, my mother and I are still doing fine, touch wood. Last week I went out for the first time in over 5 weeks, as a couple of essential items were missing from our online shopping delivery. So I was very pleased to find that there were hardly any people and very few cars about, and that I was able to use the priority hour for disabled people at the supermarket, which was fully stocked and had social distancing measures very well enforced. So my risk of exposure was hopefully minimal.
But otherwise I’m still staying at home for the safety of my mother as well as myself, and I’ve continued to keep myself entertained in various ways. So let’s crack on with this week’s post and video to update you on my latest discoveries. As usual nothing is sponsored and all opinions are my own. So I hope you enjoy!
The 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day was of course the high point of the week, paying tribute and much gratitude to all those who fought for us, kept the country running and sacrificed their lives, to ensure we retained the freedoms we still enjoy today. Even in lockdown and with the many tragedies resulting from the current situation, things would still be an awful lot worse if we’d lost the war all those years ago.
I marked the occasion by posting extracts from my grandad’s documents from when he was working in Field Hygiene during the conflict. Behind-the-scenes personnel of that nature are often overlooked when the predominant images we see are of front-line soldiers and pilots, and yet every single person played a critical role, whatever duties they had. So I’m very proud that a member of my family was amongst the many who worked in such tough conditions on our country’s behalf.
Although many of the planned events couldn’t take place, there were still various celebrations to enjoy, many involving music. All day, for example, you could listen to hits from the period on Absolute Radio 40s, a 24-hour pop-up addition to their collection of stations. I dipped in and out of that a few times during the day, they had some nice tunes on there.
And there was a special programme on BBC1 – VE Day 75: The People’s Celebration – which featured Puttin’ On The Ritz, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, At Last and, following the Queen’s Speech, a special performance of We’ll Meet Again featuring Katherine Jenkins duetting with old footage of Dame Vera Lynn, accompanied by clips from people singing along all over the country. It was a wonderful way to bring the nation together, especially as the song is once again so relevant.
But the highlight of the evening for my mother and I was the live performance by Katherine Jenkins from the Royal Albert Hall. Performing in the empty auditorium, with a safe distance between her, the pianist, and a few other instrumentalists who joined in here and there, Katherine sang a lovely selection from the period over the course of half an hour, including Somewhere Over The Rainbow, The White Cliffs Of Dover, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, another duet of We’ll Meet Again with old footage of Dame Vera Lynn, and concluding with Jerusalem backed by the Hall’s magnificent organ. It was very strange not having an audience to applaud her, but it was a beautiful concert, perfect for the occasion.
There are videos of other special performances on The Royal Albert Hall’s channel as well, and you can see a list of upcoming performances on the Royal Albert Home page. So do check that out to see if anything grabs your interest.
We’ll Meet again has also been released as a charity single, again featuring Dame Vera Lynn and Katherine Jenkins, to raise money for NHS Charities Together. So that’s well worth getting for an important cause.
This week I finally watched Star Wars Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker, which recently came out on Blu-ray, as I didn’t get around to seeing it in the cinema when it first came out.
And I enjoyed it. Sure, none of the prequels or sequels have been better than the original trilogy, and there was nothing overly exceptional about this final instalment either, nor had I expected there to be. But it’s still good fun, with great action sequences and special effects, nice thoughtful moments and good humour, and it finished off the saga nicely. The way they integrated previously recorded but unseen footage of Princess Leia, to get around the fact that Carrie Fisher had sadly died before filming began, was also effective and respectfully done. And it was good to see Luke Skywalker and Han Solo again of course.
I also turned on the audio description, as the film has dark and fast-paced sequences from the start, and it was extremely helpful. It filled in a lot of important details that I would otherwise have missed, and the tone of Martin Billany’s narration was very much in keeping with the style of the film, injecting urgency and tension when appropriate for example.
As for extras, there’s a fantastic 2 hour documentary that goes into great detail about the making of the movie, with lots of behind the scenes footage and interviews, and clips from the making of the original trilogy too. On top of that, you also get another 40 minutes of additional featurettes focusing on the aliens and creatures, the D-O droid, the speeder chase, and Warwick Davis with his son. So it’s a great set of bonus material.
Now that I’ve got all 9 films in the main Skywalker Saga, I will have to watch them through again at some point to revisit the story in its entirety, plus I still need to check out the spin-off like Rogue Oneand Solo that I haven’t seen yet. I’ll get around to all of that eventually.
And then the other Blu-ray I received recently was the steelbook edition of Doctor Who – Series 12. It includes the Resolution New Year special from 2019 – which I knew it would, as their complete series box sets always include the most recent Christmas or New Year specials – along with 3 audio commentaries, short behind the scenes featurettes, and a few character photo cards. And the artwork on the cover looks great as always, that’s why I like getting these steelbooks.
I’ll watch the set at a later date, as I don’t feel I need to watch it immediately given that it’s just been on the TV. Plus there’s the fact that series 13 is obviously going to be delayed now, so I want to hold it back a bit to fill the gap. We are going to get the Christmas special this year thankfully, as that’s already been filmed, but when we’ll get the full series after that isn’t yet clear. Indeed, as the lockdown is clearly going to last a while, maybe it’ll be a good opportunity to go back to the Eccleston series and review all the box sets in order if I get the time. But we’ll see. I would like to do that at some point.
I’m delighted that The Last Leg has returned with a special Locked Down Under series. Doing a live show on different sides of the world is no mean feat I’m sure, with Adam Hills in Melbourne while Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker are at their homes in England, but it worked pretty well. The guests they had in the first episode were good fun, with Rob Beckett, Miriam Margolyes, and Alex Horne with The Horne Section.
Obviously it will be much better when the show is back with an audience in the future, but for the time being this will help us get through the next few weeks of the lockdown. There will only be 4 episodes lasting an hour each to begin with, but hopefully if this format proves successful they’ll return for more shows whilst restrictions remain in place, unless they can find some way of getting back to the studio in the coming months.
Russell Howard’s Home Time has also been good, and has now completed its 9-episode run. Not all of the guests have interested me, particularly the musical ones, so I’ve skipped through big chunks of most episodes. But I’ve enjoyed his chats with fellow comedians in particular, as well as his general reactions to the various updates in the news and the funny videos he’s discovered online.
If you’re a big fan of Russell Howard, you can also enter a competition to win a 15 minute video call with him, and by paying to enter you’re raising money for the children’s charity Barnardo’s. On the same site there’s also a prize draw to play a Doctor Who quiz with Catherine Tate and a Walking Dead themed quiz with Lennie James, or you can try and win chats with actress Emma Thompson and footballer Jamie Vardy.
We finally had another episode of QI XL this past week too, called Quads & Quins, which featured Aisling Bea, Nish Kumar & David Mitchell. So that was good fun as always. But myself and many other people on social media were caught rather by surprise when the continuity announcer accidentally interrupted the broadcast by coughing over it!
The Youtube algorithm does throw up some gems in its recommendations sometimes, and this week’s example is the brilliant Julie Nolke. She’s been writing, acting and posting her comedy sketches on her channel for years, but has suddenly come to the attention of myself and thousands of others through her sketch where she explains the pandemic to her past self. It’s then proven to be very easy to get sucked in to her other clips from there.
You can tell she’s a professional actress, as she often plays multiple parts in the same sketch to great effect, with each character being very distinctive, while sometimes other people are involved too. And there’s often a real sense understatement or awkwardness to the sketches that makes the humour work so well. So it’s worth checking her out. You can also follow Julie on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and support her on Patreon if you enjoy her videos.
Also on Youtube, Jay Foreman has published a new episode of his Unfinished London series, asking the question What’s wrong with London’s boroughs?. His videos are always delightfully silly yet wonderfully educational, so this is both funny and interesting.
And Ricky Gervais has posted a compilation of outtakes from the second series of After Life, which is easily one of the funniest gag reels I’ve ever watched. I won’t embed the video in this post, as it’s very much in the NSFW category, but if you don’t mind very strong language and adult humour, then it’s worth a look even if you haven’t seen the series. It’s Ricky’s laugh that gets me every time, it’s so catching. There are also a few outtakes from series 1 available as well, but the selection from series 2 is much longer and funnier. I posted my review of the series a couple of weeks ago.
Over the bank holiday weekend I posted a bumper trilogy of posts reviewing all of the albums released to date by Kerry Ellis, so I hope you enjoy them:
- Anthems & Candlelight Concerts – A studio album and live concerts with Brian May.
- Kerry Ellis & Golden Days – Her first solo album plus another album with Brian.
- Feels Like Home – Her brand new solo album, only available as limited edition signed copies via her website, which I recently bought and have thoroughly enjoyed listening to.
Kerry has also been promoting her album, along with her new podcast Keep Calm And Kerry On, through live broadcasts on her Instagram and in guest appearances on Facebook streams. Archive copies of those streams are available on Youtube, and since I finished reviewing the albums I’ve been catching up with those. They’re really good too, with Kerry performing a variety of songs – not just from her new album but across her repertoire – and chatting to fans and fellow celebrities. Some lucky fans have even got to be on camera with her to ask a question, and there’s a really interesting hour long interview with fellow music star Joe McElderry.
So if you’re a fan of Kerry’s, I can highly recommend getting her most recent album and watching those live streams. There’s a brand new, official Kerry Ellis Fan Club that’s just been launched as well, through which you can be kept updated on her latest activities. I haven’t got around to listening to her new podcast yet, where she talks to stars of stage, song and screen about their careers and their experiences of lockdown, but I’ll certainly be giving it a go soon, so I’ll let you know what I think.
And talking of music legends that we’ve lost, tributes have also been paid to rock ‘n’ roll legend Little Richard, who died aged 87 at the weekend.
There have continued be a variety of duets with Matt Lucas on his charity song Thank You Baked Potato, including Jason Manford, Tom Seals, Gary Barlow and BBC weather presenter Owain Wyn Evans, plus an instrumental version by Bowjangles. And if you still don’t know where the song originated, check out his original performance from Shooting Stars.
More and more artists are recording brilliant lockdown renditions of their hits, with the most recent highlights for me being:
- Crowded House performing Don’t Dream It’s Over & Something So Strong
- The Doobie Brothers performing Black Water in aid of Feeding America
- Sheryl Crow performing All I Wanna Do, There Goes The Neighborhood & Out Of Our Heads
The Gelsey Laurie channel has brilliant recreations of film songs in quarantine, performed by a father and his daughter, including The Time Warp, Cabin Fever, Day-O, and Spoonful Of Sugar. They even put the original film footage in the corner so you can see how accurate their versions are. It must take a lot of time and effort to plan and film those, but they’re worth it!
And finally, as a big Queen fan, here’s a fun version of The Show Must Go On by Cityrocks Hungary, recorded during Quarantine. Seeing as Brian May is currently unable to do his micro concertos after injuring his bum in the garden, it’s great that there’s still new Queen related content out there to enjoy. Talking of which, the Finding Freddie video podcast series is also very interesting, and has sadly just finished after 10 episodes, so I highly recommend that too. I hope they do another series of those in the future.
So that’s it for another week. It amazes me how long these posts get just by adding little bits and pieces to them each day, so I hope you found something of interest in amongst all of that.
If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend, Friday night’s musical on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s channel is Cats – but only for 24 hours in the UK (48 hours elsewhere), from 7pm BST. So be quick if you don’t want to miss it!
Or, if you prefer, the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert is being streamed for 48 hours from 7pm BST on Friday, on the official Queen channel. I’ve already got that concert on Blu-ray, but if you haven’t and you like Queen, it’s well worth a watch, it’s got some very special and unique performances.
Other than that, don’t forget to check out my Covid Resources and lockdown playlists as well, which I update regularly, for lots more to keep you occupied. And I’ll no doubt see you again next week with more goodies.
So until next time, stay home, stay alert, stay safe and stay well!