September 2020 Favourites

Selfie of Glen smiling and wearing dark glasses in front of Tower Bridge.

Autumn is now upon us, as is the second wave of the pandemic, and I know this will be a very difficult period for many, just as the whole year has been. So I hope you’re all continuing to keep safe and well as best you can.

For my part I’m still doing fine thus far, and still keeping myself occupied. I’ve been getting out and about more, and have continued to enjoy various forms of entertainment at home. So here’s my latest post and video roundup, in which nothing is sponsored or gifted as usual. I hope you enjoy!

Covid-19

Firstly, the Covid test I did in August came back negative, I’m happy (and not surprised) to say. As I said back then, it wasn’t easy to do the test with a sight problem, but I did the best I could, so I’m glad it wasn’t rejected.

Talking of sight loss and the virus, the RNIB have posted some advice for adjusting to the new normal that you may find helpful. And if you live in Scotland, there are now audible charts of the latest Covid data on the Scottish Covid-19 Statistics page. Scroll down to the graphs, and for each one you select in the list you’ll find a speaker icon just below them. It uses notes of different pitches to illustrate how the data changes from day to day. It’s a very good idea, and it would be great to have a facility like that for other parts of the UK.

I’ve also been mentioned in a couple of articles relating to the pandemic this month. Tania from When Tania Talks very kindly listed me amongst various other disabled bloggers at the end of her interesting post about being disabled during the pandemic. And stairlift retailer Handicare has published a list of top tips for staying positive during tough times, in which I provided one of the pieces of advice. So do go and check out both of those posts.

Beyond all of that though, we do have some new restrictions in the UK now, after the easing of conditions over the summer. Many places are having even stricter local lockdowns, and it’s very likely that extra measures will be imposed here in London at some point. But we’ll have to see what happens.

Hopefully we won’t get another national lockdown, nobody wants that. We are much better prepared than we were before the first wave, and if everyone follows the rules on social distancing, hand washing, face coverings, etc, the government won’t need to take such extreme measures again. Granted, there have been a few problems with out of control drinkers and selfish conspiracy theorists, which hasn’t helped matters. But the vast majority of people are still using their common sense, ignoring the lies being spread by unqualified users on social media, and doing what’s necessary to keep themselves and others safe, because the science tells us to.

Another major development is the full rollout of the NHS Test & Trace App across England & Wales (there are separate apps for Scotland and Northern Ireland). The operating system on your phone needs to be at least version 13.5 on iPhones, or version 6 (Marshmallow) on Android – which means I can’t run it, as I have an iPhone 6, which isn’t compatible with iOS 13. The app will, however, work on the the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus & SE, as well as any model from the iPhone 7 upwards.

So I can’t give a personal review of the app. But I understand that it is accessible for visually impaired people, as stated by the RNIB and reviewed by Henshaws, which is good to know.

The app is perfectly safe, and I strongly recommend you download and use it if your device supports it. You can find out much more about it at these links:

Even though I’m unable to use that particular app, I am still reporting every day on the Covid Symptom Study App, which I also mentioned in my August Favourites. I strongly recommend you download that as well, and answer the simple questions about your wellbeing every day, as you’ll be among over 4 million people contributing to vital research about the spread of the disease.

Disability

Here are a few other disability-related things have caught my attention this month.

VocalEyes have published a couple of interesting reports recently. The first is about museum re-openings and live-streamed events, looking at the results of a survey of the visually impaired community, while the other is called Describing Diversity, exploring when and how is most appropriate to describe the personal characteristics of characters in theatre shows. So they’re both well worth a read.

VocalEyes are also continuing to post their weekly Interval newsletters, with details of the latest audio described shows and events online. And they’ve put together a playlist of audio described productions on Youtube that they’re updating regularly. So that’s all worth keeping an eye on in the weeks ahead.

And talking of audio description – Youtube finally has it! The visually impaired community have been asking for this for years, and now a trailer for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has unexpectedly appeared with the ability to switch between a standard and descriptive audio track, in the same way that you switch between subtitle languages. This seems to be just a test of the feature, as it hasn’t been rolled out to all users yet, but it works well, so hopefully all creators will have access to it soon. The ability to add extra audio tracks for descriptions, commentaries, other languages, alternate music, etc has massive potential, but hopefully some creators will make the effort to be inclusive by adding descriptions.

On a related note, there’s an insightful article by Luke Winkie for IGN asking How Do You Audio Transcribe An Entire Video Game?. So it’s great to see accessibility getting much needed attention in the world of gaming right now, following on from the huge list of helpful features that were included in The Last Of Us Part II.

And here are a couple of other brief updates that you might find of interest:

Walks

It’s been lovely to get back into Central London this month and stretch my legs, including a stroll from Embankment to Tower Bridge (see my photos), a wander around Regent’s Park (see my video & photos), and an afternoon with a friend in Battersea Park. It felt very safe using the Tube for all those journeys too, as the trains were very empty and most people I saw were wearing masks..

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The large boating lake in Regent's Park in the sunshine.

As I explained in my August Favourites, I’m using the Strava app to record my routes, and the CityStrides website to combine them all into one big map. That gives me the incentive to walk different streets every time, and take more roundabout routes instead of the most direct option, as I try to fill in the map as much as possible. For example, when heading home from Central London, I’ve sometimes walked to a further away Tube station to catch the train, instead of the nearest one, so I can tick off a few more streets and get more exercise in the process. After I got to Tower Bridge, for instance, I walked all the way to Mile End station, and after Regent’s Park I took a stroll to Farringdon station.

CityStrides 2020-09

I’m also continuing to do walks around my local area, so the map of completed streets around my home is very gradually spreading outwards. It’s encouraged me to explore what’s on my own doorstep in a much more thorough and systematic way, as a result of which I’ve already found many little shortcuts and streets I never knew existed. So using the app and the website is definitely pushing me to walk a bit further than usual and find new places, and I’ll gladly continue with it as and when the weather allows over the coming weeks and months.

Theatre

Although some theatres are tentatively reopening, with reduced capacities and extra safety measures, I suspect it’s still going to be some time before I next go to a show, especially as there are hardly any audio described performances now.

However, I was happy to give them some support this month by purchasing some merchandise from the Theatre Support Fund. This is run by 2 people from the West End and their products raise money for Acting For Others, the Fleabag Support Fund & the NHS Charities Together Covid Appeal. If you follow them on Twitter & Instagram, you’ll find that many famous faces and establishments have given their backing to the campaign, which is how I discovered it. They’ve had over 30,000 orders already!

So I bought a t-shirt, a face mask, a mug and a large tote bag, all of which are very nice. They’re all black and feature the same design – large colourful lettering saying “The Show Must Go On!”, with each character (including the exclamation mark) taken from the logo of a different West End musical, namely The Lion King, Wicked, The Book Of Mormon, Mary Poppins, Dear Evan Hansen, Matilda, Come From Away, Les Misérables, Tina, & Juliet, Hamilton, Mamma Mia!, The Phantom Of The Opera, The Prince Of Egypt, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Six. I think it looks very cool.

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Apart from that, here are a few other things that have caught my attention:

  • I enjoyed the special Behind The Curtain videos by the stars of Wicked and Only Fools And Horses The Musical, featuring performances, Q&As and other banter. They’re good fun.
  • The Shows Must Go On has returned, with an exclusive video of a musical or concert posted on Youtube every Friday for 48 hours. During lockdown earlier this year it was exclusively devoted to Andrew Lloyd Webber shows to start with, but they’ve branched out into other titles owned by Universal. They relaunched with the musical of Fame, which I tried but didn’t get into, and most recently they’ve posted a Michael Ball concert. So do subscribe to that channel and keep an eye on it every week to see if anything interests you.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe have posted an audio described version of Romeo & Juliet, which is available free until February half term in 2021. You can also watch the standard version if you prefer, of course. It’s a fast-paced production of the classic love story, designed to introduce students and families to the Bard’s work, and there are lots of resources to accompany the show on the Playing Shakespeare website. I haven’t watched it myself yet, but once I’ve done so, if I feel it’s worth commenting on, I’ll let you know what I think in a future Favourites post.

Comedy

The most notable bit of comedy I’ve enjoyed this month is Michael McIntyre’s new standup special on Netflix called Showman, which even has audio description available. It was recorded on March 6th at the London Palladium, so just a couple of weeks before we went into lockdown. But Covid doesn’t get mentioned at all, so it’s great escapism from all that. He does mention people wearing masks when he travelled to Asia, but nobody knew we’d all be wearing them 6 months later. So it’s a really fun show. If you’re a McIntyre fan, he’s on top form as always, with lots of great observations and funny stories, so it’s well worth a watch. He was also interviewed by James Corden on the Late Late Show if you want to see an interview with him.

On TV I’ve also enjoyed the rest of Harry Hill’s World Of TV, which was very amusing, with lots of great observations about different genres of TV shows. It also inspired me to rewatch the various DVDs I own of TV Burp, which is still as great as it was all those years ago, and still sadly missed from the schedules. This new show was effectively a very stripped back version of that.

I’m also still watching Jonathan Ross’s Comedy Club. I do skip some comedians that I’m not keen on, as shows like this are always a mixed bag by their nature. But they have had some good acts on there, such as Kerry Godliman and Bec Hill, who did a classic flipchart routine. So it’s always worth looking through each episode to see who’s on.

And in a similar vein, the BBC have started a series called Stand Up For Live Comedy, where comedians perform in outdoor venues for socially distanced audiences. It’s an outdoor version of Live At The Apollo, basically. So it’s great that stand-up comedians are able to get a bit of work and exposure in this way during the pandemic, and that some are finding ways to do socially distanced or online gigs to keep their material fresh and continue earning a bit of income.

I’m still enjoying QI XL too of course, I’m glad those episodes are still coming out regularly.

And there are some other comedy shows returning in October that are worthy of note:

And if you’re looking for a bit of new sketch comedy on Youtube, then take a look at the channels by Christian & Nat & Ryan George, both of whom I found thanks to guest appearances in sketches with Julie Nolke.

And finally for this section, condolences to Nicholas Lyndhurst and his wife Lucy on the tragic loss of their only child Archie at the age of just 19. Archie had inherited the “acting gene” from his father, and was one of the stars of the CBBC sitcom So Awkward, and they both got to act together when Nick made a guest appearance as an ageing punk in the second episode of series 5, Awardatarian. So that’s a hugely positive future cut far too short, RIP Archie.

Music

Finally, here’s a roundup of some of the music that’s got my attention this month.

  • The Rolling Stones – Goats Head Soup – The iconic band have released a remastered version of the album, which sounds so much better than it did before. The Super Deluxe Edition adds 3 bonus tracks – Scarlet (featuring Jimmy Page), All The Rage and Criss Cross – plus a bunch of alternative mixes for various tracks, and a live show from 1973 called The Brussels Affair. So there’s lots to enjoy if you’re a Stones fan, I really like it.
  • Madness – Before & After – This was a fun documentary on Sky Arts, where we got to see the band playing special shows at the Camden Roundhouse and Electric Ballroom in 2019, to mark their 40th anniversary. We didn’t learn a huge amount from their interviews necessarily, but it was still great to hear from them, and they still sound fantastic on stage. I can also recommend watching the special online performance they gave during lockdown as well – Two Mad Men And A String Quartet.
  • Kings Daughters – Dancing In The Rain – You may remember this group from the song Get Up that they released earlier in the year, featuring Brian May. This mew track doesn’t feature Brian, but he is still their producer (and if you look closely there is a cardboard cutout of him at one point in the video). The song is a lovely tribute to those who sadly passed away during lockdown and their loved ones who weren’t able to say a proper goodbye, inspired by Talia in the band who lost her best friend and couldn’t attend the funeral. Many people also submitted photos of their loved ones to be featured in the video. And yet despite the subject matter it is an uplifting and catchy song, it’s a lovely celebration of their lives. The girls also performed their first ever live gig online recently too.

And finally, just for fun, there’s currently a drum battle going on between 10-year-old Nandi Bushell from Ipswich on Youtube, and the mighty Dave Grohl from The Foo Fighters on the band’s Twitter feed. He’s a great sport for getting involved. You can find out a bit about Nandi from a recent TV interview she did. But if you want to follow the battle videos in sequence so far, they are:

  1. Nandi – Everlong by Foo Fighters
  2. Dave – Cover of Dead End Friends by Them Crooked Vultures
  3. Nandi – Her reaction to Dave’s video
  4. Nandi – Her version of Dead End Friends
  5. Dave – Superhero Theme written for Nandi
  6. Nandi – Her reaction to Dave’s song
  7. Nandi – Rock And Grohl written for Dave

Conclusion

And that’s it for this month. Thank you for reading as always, and I hope you found plenty of interest in there.

And I hope everyone does alright over the autumn and winter too. It is going to be tricky for many people, but we are in a much better position than we were, with much more scientific knowledge, treatments and testing, proven experience at suppressing the virus once already, and very positive developments with vaccine trials, so there is definitely light at the end of this very bizarre tunnel. So do hang in there and keep following the rules as best you can. Best wishes to all our health professionals and key workers too, who will be working their backsides off to keep things going in the months ahead.

I fully intend to continue posting my monthly Favourites and other posts of course, but it felt appropriate to express best wishes as we’re entering the second wave. So stay safe and well, and I’ll see you for more posts very soon!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger & Youtuber with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

2 thoughts on “September 2020 Favourites”

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