Hello again, I hope you’re all keeping well. Or if you’re not doing great at the moment, as is the case for a couple of my friends (who by strange coincidence have the same name), then I hope things improve very soon. And if you’re enjoying the greater freedoms that have been granted to us recently, then please continue to be careful and safe. As proven by Leicester here in the UK, which has had to revert to a strict lockdown again, we can’t afford to be complacent.
It’s also strange to think that we passed 100 days of lockdown in week 15. That seems to have gone by quicker than I’d expected – although I know for many that time will have dragged terribly, and certainly early on I found it difficult like everyone else. But I’m glad I’ve been able to settle into a new routine and adapt during that time. I did look into things like gaming, quizzing and exercising but, as I’d rather expected, they soon fell by the wayside! Connecting with friends, homeworking, blogging, music, TV and film have all got me through it, and are continuing to do so. And now it’s reasonably safe to go out and about again to some extent, which is good as well.
So here’s my latest post and video update for the past couple of weeks, with news on disability events and my first outings in months, along with films, comedy and music that I’ve been enjoying. None of it is sponsored to appear here, but I was paid to attend one event as you’ll see. I hope you enjoy looking through it all!
On 30 June – day 100 of lockdown – I took part in an online panel discussing the do’s and don’ts of digital accessibility (for websites, apps, games, etc), with 3 other disabled people. The moderator was James Moore from The Independent, who was asking questions of Vivek Gohil from Uncanny Vivek and Matthew Johnston from Thoughtworks, as well as myself. We all have various sensory and physical disabilities between us, so we had a good variety of experiences and ideas, and we were kindly paid for our time too.
It was a really enjoyable and interesting discussion, forming part of the day’s CXcon event. It aimed to inform and educate businesses about how they can improve the accessibility of their products and services and why it’s so vital. And it was a great success, as it was very well attended online and had a lot of good feedback. We had some good questions coming in from the audience after our panel too.
So do check out the video of our panel discussion, along with all the other sessions from the event, and please do share it around. Also don’t forget to check out my previous post on The Big Business of Digital Accessibility for more of my thoughts on the subject.
More recently, the RNIB launched their World Upside Down campaign this week, aiming to raise awareness of the fact that the various changes in the outside world have turned things upside down for many people with sight loss. There are some in the sight loss community who have been able to adapt, sure, but for many this “new normal” is very difficult and fills them with anxiety for all sorts of reasons. So we just want the public to be aware, so they can keep their distance and offer help in appropriate ways – none of which is difficult, it’s just something to be mindful of.
To get the point across, the RNIB cleverly turned all of the adverts upside down on the huge Piccadilly Circus video billboard, thanks to the generous cooperation of various companies. They also encouraged people to turn their profile pictures upside down on social media, which a large number of individuals and organisations did (including myself), and they posted a World Upside Down Quiz to help people understand the impacts and what they can do to help. Plus they’ve posted a video about how to socially distance when visually impaired. So they’ve been sharing a lot of useful information. And on a similar note, there’s also an awareness campaign by Sight Loss Councils called Distancing Blind that you can get involved with too.
Also check out Casey’s new video on Navigating A Pandemic Legally Blind for an insight into how her visual impairment has affected things recently. And you can find lots more videos of people’s experiences, along with tips and advice, in my Lockdown Disability Playlist, and also a section of links relating to disability on my Covid Resources page.
And lastly, here are a few other disability-related items worth mentioning:
- There was a great BBC Radio 4 Appeal for the Nystagmus Network, hosted by Richard Osman, who has nystagmus himself. It was wonderful that they got such publicity and awareness on a national scale like that, so please do give it a listen.
- Alex Brooker’s documentary Disability And Me was a fascinating and moving insight into his life, where he spoke candidly about his experiences and feelings, had interesting discussions with his mother and friends, and paid a visit to the Scope helpline. It’s had a great reaction and raised important awareness, and I encourage you to watch it if you haven’t already, regardless of whether you’re disabled or not. To accompany the programme he’s also been interviewed on the Cabin Fever podcast by BBC Ouch.
- Sight Village is an annual exhibition that showcases the latest products and services for visually impaired people, and I’ve previously attended in 2016, 2017 & 2019. But as it can’t take place in the normal way this year, they’re doing a series of online videos, podcasts and interactive workshops instead. It takes place on 22-23 July from 10am to 2pm, and you’ll find more information on their Facebook and Twitter pages nearer the time, so be sure to follow them for the details.
Out & About
During the first 14 weeks of lockdown, I only went out twice to get a few items from the local supermarket that we didn’t get in our online deliveries. That was it. Before that my last proper outings, when I had some nice walks, were on a long weekend from March 14-16, so that’s 4 months ago! But recently, now that restrictions have been lifted and things are a bit safer, I’ve been out a few times.
Firstly, my mother and I attended my Uncle’s funeral, and that was my mother’s first time out in about 5 months, even longer thane me. It was a nice simple service, including the beautiful song Watermark by Enya at one point, which I’d never heard before. Then we all went outside to look at the flowers that had been laid out and chat to one another. People were generally keeping a safe distance from each other, although an old friend of my Mum’s did come up and give her a kiss on the cheek out of habit, and other people seemed to drift a bit closer together as they were chatting, as is natural. But everyone was very safe on the whole, and there have been no infections resulting from the day that we know of, fingers crossed. It’s been 2 weeks, so I think we’d know by now.
Then more recently, over this past weekend, I’ve been out for a couple of long walks. Just around my local area, which all my walks will have to be for the time being. I just decided to go through my local park, and walk up and down the very long main road near us, to see what things were like now. And it all feels pretty much back to normal really. All the shops were open, and there was the usual amount of people and traffic around. The only indications that things aren’t quite normal are a few people wearing masks, mainly those at bus stops, and Keep Your Distance signs on the pavement.
Face coverings will be mandatory for shops in England from 24 July, following a similar change to the rules in Scotland recently. And it makes sense. I don’t have any plans to go in any shops or use public transport anytime soon, but I have bought some masks just in case the need arises. The only thing I really need to do indoors is get a haircut, which I’ll try and sort out soon, and I’ll take a mask with me for that in case they don’t supply one. but otherwise I’ll just stick to outdoor spaces as much as possible. It’s been lovely to get out and about for some strolls again at long last, and I’ll continue to do so each weekend if I can.
I rented a couple of films on Amazon this past weekend, the first being A Monster Calls from 2016. I saw the online stream of the stage play a few weeks ago, which I’d also seen in person in August 2018, so I’d been wanting to watch the film for a little while. If you haven’t seen those old posts, the basic story (based on a novel) is that a young boy called Conor is struggling to comes to term with his mother’s final days from a terminal illness. A monster comes to him on a few occasions to tell him 3 stories, after which Conor must overcome his fear and tell his own story, which must be the truth. It’s a really moving and thought-provoking narrative that we can all relate to in some way.
And I really enjoyed the film. It didn’t have audio description unfortunately, which it could really do with, but I was able to follow it well enough, fortunately. Lewis MacDougall gives a powerful performance as Conor, as does Liam Neeson as the monster, while Felicity Jones and Sigourney Weaver are great as Conor’s mother and grandmother. The whole film is very emotive and atmospheric, and visually it’s stunning, with great special effects for the monster, beautiful animations for the stories he tells, and lovely scenery too. The music and sound are also really nicely done, and the soundtrack features a song by Keane called Tear Up This Town). But complete silence is also used to really striking effect at key moments as well.
So I’m glad I watched that. The theatre show is still better, because the story works just as well without lots of fancy special effects, and it feels even more real that way. But the movie is well worth a watch.
The other movie, recommended to me by my friend Claire, was The Call Of The Wild. This is a new film released back in February, starring Harrison Ford, and I really enjoyed it. Set during the Gold Rush of the 1890s, it follows the adventures of a dog called Buck after he’s kidnapped from his home in California and ends up in the Yukon, where the new people and creatures he meets change his life forever. It’s fun, exciting and at times emotional too.
Buck and the other animals in the movie are CGI, and it’s clear that some people feel that this lets the movie down a bit. Maybe it does, but then my eyesight isn’t good enough to judge if it’s any good or not. It looked fine to me though, I didn’t have any issues with it. The film also features Karen Gillan at one stage, who I enjoyed in the Jumanji films I saw recently, as well as being a big fan of her character Amy Pond in Doctor Who. So that was another good reason to watch it, and she was very good in this as well. Plus the film had audio description, which was fantastic. It definitely helped to clarify a few things I wouldn’t have fully understood otherwise. So on the whole I can recommend checking it out, it’s great escapism.
I’ve started going through the various stand-up shows from Nextup Comedy, which features a whole range of comedians, some I know and some I don’t. They have about 170 shows at the moment, a few of which I already own on DVD and some of which I inevitably won’t be interested in given the variety. So there’s not a huge amount that would justify the £9.99 monthly fee (considering sites like Netflix are cheaper and have thousands more titles). You can get it down to £4.79, but only if you pay for an entire year upfront, and £57.48 in one go isn’t cheap.
Those are the prices if you sign up through their website. However, it turns out that there’s also a Nextup Comedy channel on Amazon Prime Video with the same content. This is just a £4.99 monthly payment on top of my current Prime subscription (after a 7-day free trial), without having to pay a year in one go, so that’s much more reasonable. So I’ve subscribed that way, and I’m happy to pay for a few more months while I try more of their shows. But at some point I’ll run out of content and end up cancelling the subscription I expect, unless they update it frequently with stuff I like.
So I’ve started with some comedians I know, and my favourite so far is undoubtedly the wonderful Bec Hill. I’ve seen her do spots at a couple of comedy shows in recent years, so it was great to finally watch her full performances:
- The first was Bec In 1 Hour, from 2015, which featured some of her great flipchart routines (including her clever Edith Piaf routine and a delightfully silly song by Jay Foreman about dinosaurs on Westminster Bridge), some great stand-up material, and even an audience member getting their own unexpected moment of fame!
- The other show was I’ll Be Bec, recorded at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Here, Bec has returned from the future, wearing a Doctor Who duvet cover with the Tardis on it, to tell us what it will be like. Beyond that, I won’t give any spoilers, suffice to say the show doesn’t go where you expect it to, and there are some clever setups that you’re unaware of until they come into play later. It’s brilliantly put together, very funny, and has some thoughtful messages too.
And this week Bec has also made the exciting announcement that she’ll be hosting a new CITV show called Makeaway Takeaway, which is a huge TV breakthrough for her. Knowing her creativity she’ll be awesome, and the kids will love it.
Ed Byrne also has a few shows on the site, including one from 2018 that I hadn’t seen before called Outside, Looking In, so I watched that. And then on BBC iPlayer, just to switch sites for a moment, I saw his most recent show from last year, called Spoiler Alert, which was good timing as it’s now expired so can’t be watched any more (though it will undoubtedly be repeated at a later date). Both shows are very funny, he’s on fine form as always. He also has another show on Nextup called Roaring Forties that I haven’t got around to yet, but I’m going to watch that too.
And finally on Nextup I saw a show by visually impaired comedian Georgie Morrell called Eyecon, which was recorded at her final show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019. Her style of stand-up doesn’t appeal to me as much to be honest, and the audience did seem a bit quiet. But she gave a confident and polished performance, and it’s great to see a disabled comedian making a name for themselves in that way, so I hope she continues to get recognition. You can see a few short clips of Georgie on her Youtube channel.
Elsewhere, away from Nextup:
- Andrew Cotter has given us a Behind The Scenes glimpse of working with his dogs Olive and Mabel, whose videos have been delighting people during lockdown.
- A couple of children have brought us some light relief when interrupting news interviews recently, including Scarlett deciding where to place her unicorn and a toddler’s request for biscuits.
- Australian Sammy J has given us an insight into 2020’s Mid-Year Performance Review, which unsurprisingly doesn’t go well.
Not quite so many music videos to mention these days, but here are some highlights that have caught my eyes and ears recently.
In relation to theatre shows:
- The worldwide casts of Kinky Boots have performed Raise You Up in celebration of Pride.
- Fans of The Prince Of Egypt got together to sing When You Believe from the show.
- To celebrate upcoming new musical The Rhythmics, one of the songs has been published for the very first time, called Waiting To Begin.
- A group of West End Stars have performed the Queen classic The Show Must Go On, in order to raise funds for Mind and Acting For Others.
And talking of Queen, a couple of my other favourite bands have made interesting posts recently:
- Fans of Madness were invited to submit clips for a special Madheads version of Our House, in which they recreate moments from the original Our House video. So that’s very uplifting, everyone is clearly having good fun.
- The Rolling Stones are releasing a deluxe version of their Goats Head Soup album on September 4th, which you can pre-order now. All the songs are remastered and it will include 3 previously unreleased tracks as a bonus, one of them being Criss Cross, which they posted this week. It’s a pretty cool song.
And then just a few other random videos to finish with:
- The Holderness Family have done another parody video, looking at what might happen If Yacht Rock Songs Were About 2020.
- Paul Farrer has posted more of his music from the soundtrack of Red Dwarf: The Promised Land on his channel. It would be great if he released an album for it.
- Matt Lucas has brought an end to the promotion of his charity single Thank You Baked Potato, by performing a final version with Tom Chaplin, including a thank you message and the total raised for the Feed NHS campaign. It’s wonderful that it’s done so well and that so many big stars have got involved with it.
So that’s it for this past couple of weeks. But if you want more to read, you may have noticed that I’ve started posting extracts from an old journal I had online many years ago, beginning with January to March 2002 and April 2002. I’ll be sharing those in a series of Throwback Thursday posts each week, so I hope you enjoy them. It’s been fun for me looking back at them, they contain various things I’d forgotten about.
And I’ve also got another series that I’m going to start posting very soon. I won’t say anything about it yet, but the posts are much longer and more complex, so I’ll be posting those every 2 or 3 weeks, and you’ll want to read each post a bit at a time rather than in one go, if the subject interests you that is. It’s about something I very much enjoy, and lockdown’s a good opportunity for me to a bit self-indulgent. But I hope you like them too!
I’ll continue with these Favourites posts too, of course. But now that things are returning to some kind of normality and there are fewer things to write about online and on TV, this may be a good time to scale them back a bit further, as was always the plan. My current thinking is to do my next post in 3 weeks time, to wrap up July, and then return to monthly posts from there, like I used to do. That’ll free up my time considerably, and you’ll have the other posts I mentioned above to fill the gap. So that’s the plan, but we’ll see how it goes, as a lot might happen in the next couple of weeks, you never know!
So I hope you enjoyed this post as always, and found a few things of interest. I also hope you continue to stay safe and well, and I send you lots of positive vibes if things are difficult right now.
I’ll leave you with a video that didn’t fit in any of my other categories above but is very cool, and thank you to Tina for bringing it to my attention. This is the 70 Step Basketball Trickshot by Creezy, which is a huge Rube Goldberg machine, or in layman’s terms a load of different items arranged in such a way to cause a very long and impressive chain reaction, with the aim to get a basketball into a hoop at the other end.
Check out the Making Of video to get an insight into how it was put together and how many takes it took to get it right, as well as other amazing videos like Follow The Blue Ball, The Most Complicated Trickshot Ever, and the many other fun trickshot videos on his channel. See you next time!