Here we go again. It’s time for Lockdown 2: Electric Avenue, so the cases don’t get higher. It’s not quite as severe as the first one, with education settings remaining open in particular, but there are still very tight restrictions nonetheless. And it had been inevitable for some time. The use of different ‘tiers’ to set regional rules was keeping the infection rate lower than it otherwise would have been, but it wasn’t quite doing enough to drive cases down. So we didn’t have a choice, sadly, as many other countries have found.
There are still lots of reasons to be optimistic, thanks to the ever-improving knowledge about the virus, the better treatments now available, the developments of mass testing, and the very promising results of vaccine trials. But right now we have to be vigilant to get through the winter safely, and it’s important to take care of ourselves and look after our mental health during this time.
I feel relatively calm about it thankfully, as I’m fortunate to have a steady job, priority grocery deliveries, family support, regular contact with friends, blogging projects, local walks, entertainment, etc to help pass the time. And we’ve pre-ordered our meat for Christmas from a farm we like, so that gives us peace of mind too. I still greatly miss seeing friends in person and visiting interesting places of course, nobody wants this. But right now my mother and I feel safe and comfortable, which is the important thing. We’re more prepared than the first time around, when the uncertainty and panic buying made it really difficult to begin with. So we know we can get through it, having done it once already.
But for many other people it’s going to be a lot harder, due to physical and mental health issues, loneliness, loss of employment and business, financial worries, family and domestic problems, the loss of loved ones from the virus or other causes, and so on. So please do help others if you can, either by direct support or by charitable donations, because every little bit helps. And do also sign the petition by Mind calling on the Government to invest in a Winter Mental Health Support Package.
And if you’re in a position where you’re struggling, then my thoughts are with you, and please know that you’re not alone. And don’t be afraid to seek help or support, there’s absolutely no shame in that. If you’re unable or too anxious to talk to someone you know, then there’s lots of advice and support available from the Samaritans, counsellors, mental health charities, other charities relevant to disabilities and health conditions, support groups on social media, etc. I know it’s easier said than done – I’ve had to confide in friends about difficult things in the past, most of us have to at some point in our lives. But having any kind of support network, even if it’s just one person you can reach out and talk to when you need it, is a massive lifeline. Use it.
And to my American friends, who are going through a stressful period with their election right now, we’re all thinking of you too. You’ve had enough to deal with in 2020 on top of the pandemic as it is, without this in the mix as well. At the time of publishing this post, the outcome is still not clear, but I sincerely hope that common sense and decency prevails in the end. Stay safe out there.
But anyway, with all that said and done, let’s get into my latest monthly update, which is what you came here for in the first place. In this post and video for October there’s plenty to mention as usual, including my latest appearance on national radio, my walks out and about, and the various bits of entertainment I’ve been enjoying. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you find it interesting!
Out And About
I didn’t go up to Central London this month, though that was mainly due to the unsettled weather rather than any viral risks. The London transport network is actually very safe and clean, with no detected traces of the virus, and they’ve now added sanitising UV lights on many escalators to reassure people that it’s safe to hold the handrails. So as long as you follow the rules and keep your distance from other travellers as much as possible, you should be alright. But of course only travel for essential purposes is allowed now, so I’ll have to stay off the network during November anyway.
So I’ve continued going out for quite a few walks around my local area instead, recording them on Strava and combining the routes on CityStrides, so I can walk different streets every time. My personal map is expanding really well as a result, as I complete more little segments of it. I recorded 58.5 miles in just over 16½ hours of walking during October, with distances ranging from 6.6 to 11.3 miles for each outing. So I’m really pleased with that, as you can imagine.
I even walked down a road named after me! Well, ok, it wasn’t related to me specifically, but it’s nice to imagine it, right? After all, they’ve paid so much attention to detail. Just like me, the signage has bits missing, and yet is still understandable and works sufficiently well, while the tall and very long mural shows there’s a colourful personality with an interest in the arts, and with a medical centre and hospital it’s clear that coming down my way can make you feel better!
I’ve also made a good start with my walking for November already. I know which sections of the map I want to complete next, so I’ll see if I can do that over the next few weekends as my personal lockdown challenge, weather permitting of course.
My mother and I also had haircuts this month, for the second time during the pandemic – and luckily we got them in less than 2 weeks before lockdown! We enjoy going to this particular salon as they’re very good and very friendly, and they’ve done all they can to make the experience as safe as possible. The nature of the job means the stylists are mainly working from behind or beside us when washing and trimming our hair. They also wear face shield visors at all times, they’re not doing any treatments that involve getting really close to the face, and they sanitise the chairs, tools, etc after every customer.
For our part we have to book appointments in advance instead of just walking in, so they can keep the numbers to a minimum. There were only 2 other clients at most while we were there, in different parts of the salon to us, and only 3 members of staff. We also had to use their hand sanitiser as soon as we entered, and they pointed a temperature gun at us to check we didn’t have a fever (they’re such clever little gadgets). Plus I had to leave our names and contact details for tracing purposes of course, just in case. So it’s all very well organised. There’s always going to be some level of risk, but it feels minimal there.
I’ve also received some reusable face masks from the London Transport Museum that I’d pre-ordered a little while ago. I got their trio of moquette designs, featuring the fabric patterns from Routemaster buses, Victoria Line trains and District Line trains. They’re nice and colourful and something a little bit different, so it’s lovely to have them as additions to my mask collection. I don’t think I need to order any more now, I’ve got plenty of disposable and washable ones to keep me going! It was also great to see that the museum was open again during the month, and they’ve had some great funding news, although other donations are always vital and welcome. Naturally they’re now closed again during the current lockdown like all other museums, but hopefully they’ll reopen very soon.
And talking of masks, this fantastic parody of Be Our Guest by Noah Lindquist & Ashley Young is a very funny and clever way of getting the message across!
I’ve been on the radio again! I appeared on BBC Radio 4’s In Touch on 13 October, as part of a feature explaining the importance of audio description in theatres, and the concerns of myself and others about its limited availability, especially in the current times when it’s been severely reduced as theatres reopen. The key message is simply that we don’t want theatres to forget about their disabled customers, as we hugely value the experience and excitement of attending their shows, but are unable to do so if they’re inaccessible.
I was interviewed by the wonderful Fern Lulham, who did a fantastic job guest hosting this edition of the show for the first time. We’d recorded the interview in September over FaceTime, but I had to keep it under my hat until we knew when it would be broadcast. And I’m very pleased with how it came out, so do give it a listen, and I hope you enjoy my little contribution!
The other exciting thing about the show was that it featured 3 people with the rare sight condition aniridia, namely myself and Fern Lulham, plus Sinead Kane, who is a marathon runner and excellent motivational speaker. So it was pretty cool to have 3 people with the same rare condition on the same national radio show.
And on a related note to my interview, it’s worth celebrating the fact that The Old Vic, who have a very strong commitment to accessibility, have been providing audio description and captions for all of the live performances streamed online from their empty auditorium this year, which is amazing. And that will also be the case – if it’s still allowed to go ahead – for their online stream of A Christmas Carol from 12-24 December, tickets for which are due to go on general sale from 10am on Monday 9th November. Having thoroughly enjoyed the show in person with audio description, Mum and I are both keen to relive it again, so we’re certainly going to try and book that if we can.
Back to this month however, and I enjoyed the Wind In The Willows musical, which was posted on The Shows Must Go On for 48 hours (and you can still pay to watch it online). It stars Rufus Hound as Mr Toad and Gary Wilmot as Badger among its excellent cast, who perform a fun story with great humour and enjoyably catchy songs, while the sets and costumes are well designed and colourful. It’s great escapism, which we all need at the moment. And there’s a lot of choice on that Youtube channel right now, as they’re adding some Wednesday matinees and Shakespeare shows on top of their Friday uploads. And if you enjoyed many of the musicals that they posted during the first lockdown, you might want to look out for the DVD boxset being released on 23 November.
Over on the Official London Theatre channel, meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed more of the videos in their Behind The Curtain series, featuring trivia, Q&A’s, read-throughs, etc, namely for Matilda The Musical, Harry Potter & The Cursed Child and The Play That Goes Wrong. I haven’t actually seen the latter in the theatre yet, but I really hope to one day, having enjoyed Magic Goes Wrong earlier this year (the final show I was able to see before the first lockdown). So their video was a nice little teaser.
And finally for this section, there was a superb West End Musicals performance in the final of Britain’s Got Talent. I’ve never watched the show, but I saw that particular clip online, and it was an incredible showcase, featuring stars of the Les Misérables concert, The Phantom of the Opera and Mary Poppins. It was a brilliant way to highlight what we risk losing if the right support isn’t provided to that industry.
On television, my obsession this month has been Taskmaster, the show in which comedians are set ridiculous tasks to complete, with judgement on their efforts by the Taskmaster Greg Davies & his assistant ‘Little’ Alex Horne. It’s returned for Series 10 in its new home on Channel 4, after they poached the BAFTA award winning programme from Dave. It’s one of the few shows that can actually make me laugh out loud, and regularly too, as it’s really good fun. It’s basically a gang getting together, being silly and having a laugh, as they already know each other on the comedy circuit, so there’s great chemistry between them.
The contestants this series are Daisy May Cooper, Johnny Vegas, Katherine Parkinson, Mawaan Rizwan & Richard Herring. It’s not the strongest line-up in terms of people I know or am a big fan of – Katherine and Johnny are the ones I’m most familiar with. But, as with all the previous series, you get to know everyone as the episodes go on, in terms of their personalities and quirks. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of their other work or even if you’ve never heard of them in the first place, it’s still very possible to enjoy all of their efforts and contributions. And Channel 4 thankfully haven’t insisted on changing the format – although naturally there is social distancing in the studio and during the tasks, and the audience are watching from a separate room.
So it’s not just the contestants that are different this year, and as such the first episode felt a bit strange to begin with, for everyone involved as well as the TV audience. But it all settled down very quickly, and the show’s still as great as ever. And as well as the regular edition on Thursday nights, they’re even showing a family-friendly version with the swearing bleeped out at 6pm on Sundays on E4. You can find out more about the new series in Russell Howard’s Q&A with Greg and Alex, plus Alex’s interview on The Infinite Sofa and Greg’s interview on Mick Ferry’s 2 Minute Chat Show. You can also see Robbie Williams & The Horne Section performing Angels, as mentioned during the Russell Howard interview, which is quite a fun performance.
As well as enjoying the new episodes each week, I’ve also been happily binge-watching the previous 9 series on All 4 again (including the Champion Of Champions specials of course), and they’re still awesome. They’re also still on UKTV Play where they’ve always been, and I believe many of the episodes have been made available to viewers outside the UK on the Taskmaster Youtube channel, where you can also find the Home Tasks, podcast episodes, highlights, outtakes, etc. There are also lots of outtakes and interviews from the first 9 series on the UKTV Youtube Channel, and I’ve put together my own playlist featuring those clips plus additional interviews and videos featuring Greg and Alex if you want to see more. What would be really cool, of course, is a release of all the series on DVD, with plenty of extras, but no such luck as yet.
Series 11 has already been filmed as well, due for broadcast in April next year, but we won’t know who’s in it until much nearer the time. The audiences for those recordings apparently had to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements to avoid posting spoilers online, although it’s probably happened somewhere anyway. But I don’t want to know until the time comes. And there have been 4 more series commissioned beyond that already, so there’s plenty more to look forward to over the next couple of years.
I’ve also been glad to see the return of current affairs comedy shows Have I Got A Bit More News For You (for Series 60 on its 30th anniversary), Mock The Week (for Series 19) and The Last Leg (Series 20), who have been providing much needed light relief, where it can be found, for the latest events. The 2 BBC shows have had relevant changes made to the opening titles, the panellists are separated by perspex screens, and the audiences were split between a small group of distanced households in the studio and others watching in a separate room or on Zoom. But during lockdown the audiences will have to be online only. The Last Leg are also back in the studio, but with social distancing between everybody and no audience at all apart from the crew. But all the shows are still funny despite those restrictions, and they work a lot better now that the hosts and guests are in the same room again.
Aside from that, the entertaining gameshow The Cube is back on ITV with a new jackpot of £1 million, while Season 19 of Family Guy has started on ITV. And there’s a new online travel series by disabled comedian Rosie Jones, on Channel 4’s Youtube channel, called Mission Accessible, where she explores the accessibility of different destinations along with special guests (see her interview with Russell Howard for details).
And in the coming weeks and months there are other things that might be worth checking out, including a new series of Staged with David Tennant and Michael Sheen (the first series was brilliant), the Children In Need appeal (which will need your support more than ever this year), a BBC Radio 4 showcase for disabled comedians called The Thirteen Million Club hosted by Lee Ridley (Lost Voice Guy), a new series of Not Going Out (which will be very poignant now that Bobby Ball has died), various Christmas comedy shows on Channel 4, and of course the Doctor Who Christmas special Revolution Of The Daleks. And there will be various other bits and pieces that grab my attention I’m sure, I’m always keeping a close eye on things. Plus I’m always watching stuff on DVD and streaming services as usual. So there’s no way I’ll get bored during lockdown and the inevitably strange Christmas we’re going to have.
This month saw the release of Live Around The World by Queen + Adam Lambert, the first time a collection of their live performances has been released worldwide, and it shot to number 1 n the UK album chart. I bought the CD, Blu-ray & t-shirt bundle, and I really enjoyed it. It’s taken me a good few years to warm to Adam’s involvement with the band, and he will never come close to Freddie’s talents, but it’s still a decent release. I’ve written a very in-depth review as part of my ongoing Queen At 50 series if you want to find out all the details, and they did a great Q&A session on their Youtube channel about the album too.
That review gave me a little break from the deep-dive reviews I’ve been doing of Queen’s original studio albums, but I’m getting back to those now, and between now and the end of the year there’s going to be a big 3-parter about their most significant LP, A Night At The Opera. So do keep an eye out for that.
I also downloaded the charity single for I’m A Woman, which Brian May produced with Mazz Murray, Kerry Ellis, Gina Murray & Anna-Jane Casey, under the group name Woman. It’s a fun and catchy track, from which the proceeds will support women’s cancer charities Target Ovarian Cancer and The Caron Keating Foundation. See Brian’s blog post and Good Morning Britain interview for more details, and his riff and singalong videos on a Pink Special guitar. The single also includes an instrumental version, which is a great way of focusing on Brian’s performance a bit more too.
I also finally received a Brian May t-shirt that I’d ordered a little while ago, which has a silhouette of him performing under spotlights, so that looks quite nice.
I also bought the new Steel Wheels Live Deluxe Box Set by The Rolling Stones, in which the band sound very good as usual, and there are smaller editions available too of course. The deluxe set contains a DVD, Blu-ray and 2 CDs of a show from Atlantic City in New Jersey lasting over 2½ hours, plus a bonus DVD of a show from the Tokyo Dome, and a bonus CD of other rare live tracks.
The Tokyo DVD isn’t the same show as the one released in the From The Vault series previously – this new release is a show recorded from 2 days earlier, apparently as a dress rehearsal for the filming of the later concert. So they are inevitably quite similar, but it’s still nice to have an extra gig by the band in the collection.
AC/DC, meanwhile, have announced a new album called Power Up, which is coming out on 13 November. They’ve released one of the songs called Shot In The Dark to give us a taste of what’s to come, and it’s pretty cool. It’s nothing groundbreaking, it’s got their same distinctive sound that we’re all familiar with, but that’s by no means a bad thing. It sounds great, and the whole album should be interesting to listen to.
And if you’re a fan of Status Quo, there’s a great version of Rockin’ All Over The World that’s been posted by the Sweet Charity Choir this month. It features Quo’s very own drummer Leon Cave .and as a thank you the choir have donated £500 to his chosen wildlife conservation charity Free The Bears.
But finally it’s only right to point out the heartwarming musical story of the week. 80-year-old Paul Harvey, a former music teacher with dementia, featured in a clip that went viral after his son gave him just four random notes, and he composed a tune on the piano using them. His story was featured on the news, and it was soon followed by a special arrangement of the tune by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been released as a single to raise money for Alzheimer’s Society & Music For Dementia.
And that’s it, I hope you enjoyed my latest mixture of bits and bobs for this month. Don’t forget to keep following my blog for my weekly throwback journal posts from days gone by, along with my Queen reviews, and you might also want to check out my Covid & Lockdown Resources and Lockdown Playlists to keep you occupied.
So please take care and stay safe, and I’ll see you for another roundup next month!