Hello again, hope you’re all keeping safe and well. As you’ll no doubt be aware, November here in England was a very quiet month due to our second national lockdown, which saw non-essential places closed once again and further restrictions on gatherings. it didn’t really feel like a lockdown this time though, as the streets were still fairly busy with traffic and pedestrians, and I was already in the habit of not going out anywhere special anyway, so it didn’t feel like anything had changed for my mother and I.
Even as we move back into the 3-tier system, which is now stricter than before, things for my mother and I still won’t be any different. Having a consistent routine this year despite all the many rule changes has really helped us to ride the waves. And I’m still going out for walks every weekend, continuing to explore new streets in my area every time, so I’m getting a bit of fresh air and exercise regularly.
So what with all that, and the fact that we’ve been in the traditional lull of new TV shows before they bring out their Christmas treats, it means there isn’t a huge amount to mention this month, relative to some of the more epic essays I’ve been writing this year. That said, we have of course had some very good news lately, and I still have some TV and music content to mention, so there’s still a fair selection of bits and pieces to share in this month’s post and video. And as usual none of it is sponsored or gifted. So I hope you enjoy as always!
2020 is desperately trying to redeem itself in its last couple of months, as if finally starting to get its act together after its less than satisfactory (to put it politely) mid-year performance review.
Vaccines of course have been the biggest news of all. The UK have just become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer & BioNTech vaccine, while the others by Moderna and AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford also have very promising results and are very likely to be approved, plus there are other vaccines being worked on as well.
They’re not a magic bullet that will stop the pandemic overnight, and it will be vital that we continue with social distancing, mask wearing, washing hands, etc, for a while yet. But as more people get vaccinated, things should slowly and very gradually get easier, as we make a very cautious journey back towards normality. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and brighter, and 2021 is looking hopeful, but we’re not out of the woods yet by any means.
Naturally some people do have concerns about putting something unknown into their bodies, especially when it’s been produced so fast. And while those basic worries are understandable, they have also led to conspiracies and false information about the vaccines (and whole pandemic) being spread online, in some cases maliciously with a deliberate intent to cause harm. And a vocal minority of people will continue to believe and share such things no matter what you tell them. But their claims are easily debunked, as you can see in the following links:
- Full Fact – Get The Facts: Vaccines – Updated regularly, so keep an eye on it.
- BBC – Reality Check – Also updated regularly with new articles.
- BBC – Vaccine rumours debunked
- BBC – What’s the harm of ‘funny’ anti-vaccine memes?
- Press Association – Vaccine myths debunked
- Other Covid fact-checking links and information
The important thing is that the vaccines have gone through all the usual rigorous testing and safety checks without skipping any steps. This is just the first time that scientists have had all the necessary funding, resources and expertise available from the outset to condense the process into a much shorter period. Plus they’re able to use technology that’s only become readily available in the last 10 years. They’ve never been in such a position before.
We’re in such a critical situation that governments and scientists around the world have had to drop a myriad of other priorities and throw everything at it, in a desperate attempt to get us out of a global catastrophe. Money is no object for once, and necessity is the mother of invention. So the speed isn’t surprising in that context, it was necessary. But it’s still mightily impressive and a great relief nonetheless.
Sure, there are still things we don’t know about the vaccines – e.g. how long the immunity will last, and whether they will stop people transmitting the virus to others. Those things will become clear over time. But the vaccines do seem to offer a significant level of protection and there have been no significant safety issues, which is what matters right now. So I trust the scientists and regulators when they say the vaccines are safe. I have no reason to doubt them.
My mother is therefore perfectly happy to get the jab as soon as it’s offered to her – and so am I if I’m invited as well, although as I’m not on the priority list, that seems unlikely, unless I can get it as someone who lives with and looks after an elderly person (and I’ll certainly ask the question). But if I don’t get it, I’ll be happy that Mum’s protected, that’s the most important thing.
So huge thanks to to all the scientists, trial volunteers, health workers, care staff and others across the world, who have been (and still are) working so incredibly hard to get vaccines prepared, tested and rolled out so astonishingly quickly. I wish them all the very best of luck with the logistical challenge of distributing the vaccines on such a vast scale in the months ahead, while also continuing to treat those who are unwell.
And talking of positivity and high hopes for 2021, well done to my friends in America for doing what I personally believe to be the right thing in the election, and congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I enjoyed watching the speeches by Harris and Biden from their victory event, I thought they were very professional and said exactly what was required without being sensationalist. The hard work is far from over, I know, but it’s a massive step in the right direction. So I wish them and the country all the best going forward.
I also hope that everyone in the US enjoyed Thanksgiving recently as well, where I understand the Macy’s parade on TV had live audio description for the first time, which is fantastic. I was also flattered to he mentioned in a lady’s comment on a fellow Youtuber’s Thanksgiving video, citing my name among other visually impaired creators as “young vibrant independent individuals” and “young whippersnappers” (I love that word) who had given them hope and shown them that they could adapt to their sight loss. Getting that kind of feedback makes all the blogging worthwhile, and is a large part of the reason I’ve continued doing it all this time, knowing that it has such a positive impact. So thank you to everyone who has responded to my posts in such a way and supported me in general over the years so far, it always means a lot!
Paul Merton – The Series
My DVD purchase this month was the long-awaited release of series 1 & 2 of Paul Merton – The Series, a sketch show he did on Channel 4 in the early 90s. It’s got a variety of funny, clever and surreal moments, interspersed with scenes at a newspaper kiosk where he interacts with customers and delivers amusing monologues to camera, the latter based on material from his old stand-up shows.
It’s therefore rather disappointing that it’s not the complete series after all, as implied by the outer packaging. As he explains on the inner sleeve and his audio commentary – both of which you can only see after buying the DVD – Paul decided to re-edit some of the episodes when putting the DVD together, because he felt some of the material wasn’t good enough. And that’s a great shame. Every sketch show has weak moments, and this one is no exception, but it’s a very subjective thing. Paul’s opinions won’t match those of many fans.
The upshot is that 5 sketches have been removed entirely, and some others have been trimmed down or moved around. So some good stuff has been cut, some callback references no longer make sense, and some names in the credits are no longer relevant. It mainly affects Series 1, which has lost a lot of material – over 4 minutes each in a couple of episodes (another fan has analysed the first show and other episode running times as an example), whereas Series 2 only has a cut in one episode.
It’s all the more frustrating because you can still watch the uncut episodes online on All4 or pay to download them via Amazon, where they’ve been available for a while (and they were previously available on iTunes as well). So you’re being short-changed if you get the DVD.
You do get a brand new audio commentary by Paul on every episode though, which is unique to the DVD. It’s not always the most riveting discussion, but he is good at filling the time without leaving many gaps, and there are nice insights into the making of the show and his early days as a comedian. It was also good of him to mention the name of the theme tune so I could find it online (it’s a piece of library music called Please Maestro by Thierry Durbet). If he’d left the episodes intact, he could also have discussed why he didn’t like certain things, which would have made it all the more interesting.
The other extra feature is his short film The Suicidal Dog, which is a nice addition and somewhat amusing – although if, like me. you also own his previous compilation DVD The Paul Merton Collection, then it’s on there as well, along with an alternate silent version which isn’t on this new release.
So all in all, it’s not the complete DVD release everyone was hoping for after all this time, which is a pity. However, there is still good material on there, series 2 is almost edit-free, and it’s nice to have Paul’s commentary, so I’ll keep it for the time being. But we’ll have to hope for an uncut edition in the future.
I do also notice that Amazon have updated their listing to clarify that it is edited. That’s good, though too late for people who have already bought it.
On TV I’ve been watching the same shows as usual – The Last Leg, Have I Got A Bit More News For You, Mock The Week, Family Guy, and of course Taskmaster (which has a New Year Special coming on 31st December with John Hannah, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Nicola Coughlan, Rylan Clark-Neal & Shirley Ballas).
Beyond those I’ve also enjoyed:
- Richard Osman’s House Of Games – They make so many episodes of this fun little gameshow, including the extra primetime series that’s launched on BBC1, that it would be boring to mention it in every post. But I particularly enjoyed watching comedian Angela Barnes storming through it recently, becoming the first person to win every edition in a week.
- Live At The Apollo – Access All Areas – This was a fun compilation of disabled stand-up comedians who have appeared on the TV show, featuring Adam Hills, Rosie Jones, Chris McCausland, Francesca Martinez, Lost Voice Guy, Tanyalee Davis & Jack Carroll. Rosie, Francesca, Lost Voice Guy and Jack all have forms of cerebral palsy, while Chris is blind due to retinitis pigmentosa, Tanyalee has dwarfism, and Adam has a prosthetic leg.
- The Thirteen Million Club – This was another celebration of disabled comedians, this time on BBC Radio 4. It was hosted by Lost Voice Guy, and again featured Tanyalee Davis as one of the acts, as well as Don Biswas (who has dyspraxia), Jamie MacDonald (is blind) and Tourettes Hero.
- The Children In Need telethon was a scaled down affair this year for obvious reasons, and as usual there was a lot of stuff I wasn’t particularly interested in, so I skipped a lot of it. But I really enjoyed the Covid-secure romantic dinner sketch by The Goes Wrong Show, that was cleverly put together. And I also liked the performance by the cast of Six The Musical, and Beverly Knight covering Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. Their Youtube channel features many of the highlights from the evening. And despite the hard times the fundraising still went well, with the total on the night reaching £37,032,789, and that will go up further during the year as usual.
- Tim Vine Televisual – Tim finished posting his 54 weekly clips that he started last year, each containing fun and very silly little sketches. But he is continuing to post some new sketches on his channel and Twitter feed, with a special set of clips being posted in the run-up to Christmas.
AC/DC released their new album Power Up this month, including the single Shot In The Dark. It’s nothing groundbreaking or spectacular, but it’s still good fun with some catchy riffs. It’s pure AC/DC, and in these times of upheaval it’s a comfort to know that some things haven’t changed
There are also some other songs and videos I’ve enjoyed in the last few weeks:
- Charlie Kristensen & West End Stars – You Will Be Found – The world wrapped its arms around 10-year-old Charlie after he shared his experiences of bullying, and the Cheer Up Charlie campaign went viral. So he’s now teamed up with lots of famous faces to release this lovely charity single for National Anti-Bullying Week, raising funds for The Diana Award. As someone who was bullied myself at a very young age, I know how important and uplifting this kind of thing is, sending out a vital message of support and love to those who need it.
- Chicago Cast – All That Jazz – David Hasselhoff introduces this enjoyable performance by 150 performers and musicians from all over the world, supporting the Make A Difference Trust.
- Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – A fun and unusual take on this Ian Dury song.
- Metropole Orkest & Marcel Veenendaal – The Show Must Go On – A beautiful arrangement of the Queen classic by this orchestra from the Netherlands to mark their 75th birthday, featuring the ZO! Gospel Choir.
And finally here’s a little selection of Christmas songs that have caught my attention already:
- The Horne Section – Fiddly Christmas – A fun and catchy song raising money for the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Charity, and there’s a lyric video too. Their Christmas Family Album, containing the above song, is also now available from their Bandcamp page, and that’s good fun.
- Matt Lucas – Merry Christmas Baked Potato – After the resounding success of Thank You Baked Potato earlier this year, it was of no surprise to see a festive song pop up. And again it’s for a very important cause, with proceeds going to FareShare. While many of us will be enjoying tasty Christmas treats during the next few weeks, more people and families than ever will be struggling to feed themselves at all because of the pandemic, so charities like this perform vital work.
- West End Singers – Christmas Again (The Show Must Go On) – This lovely single has been released in tribute to everyone working in the theatre industry, with real ushers dancing in the video as well. Profits go to the Theatre Support Fund+, who will distribute the money to Acting For Others, The Fleabag Support Fund and the NHS COVID-19 Urgent Appeal.
- Kerry Ellis & Brian May – One Beautiful Christmas Day – It’s great that these two have got together yet again to record this wonderful festive number. See Brian’s blog post for more details and a recording of Kerry’s Instagram Stream for a live performance she did, after a few technical issues and the appearance of a cute Brian May puppet! You can also listen to Brian May’s lovely instrumental that Kerry used as her backing on the live stream.
There you have it, that’s the end of a relatively quiet and relaxing month, and I hope you enjoyed that post as always.
If you want something to help keep you occupied during December, I have a few bits and pieces that you might want to keep an eye out for. Over on my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds I’m taking part in Accessible Advent, created by disability activist Ginny Butcher, where each day I’m posting something that would make life more accessible for myself or other disabled people.
And here on my blog I’ll be continuing the weekly throwback posts from my old journal, in which we’re currently approaching the end of 2004. And for obsessive Queen fans like myself I’ll be posting a deep-dive review of their show-stopping album A Night At The Opera in 3 instalments, as part of my series celebrating their 50th anniversary.
There will also plenty to mention in my next Favourites post of course. Mum and I have already been getting in plenty of Christmas treats to feast on, and we’re excited about seeing A Christmas Carol from The Old Vic online with audio description. And on Friday 11th December I’m really looking forward to the Frank’s Fund Christmas Comedy Fundraiser, as that looks like a lot of fun. And there are other theatre shows you might want to check out online this month too. Plus it’s absolutely fantastic that some venues have been able to reopen in person as well, albeit at a much reduced capacity. I’m really looking forward to returning to the theatre at some stage (literally) in the future.
And then there’s Christmas TV of course. I’m already well aware of all the important stuff I want to see, and various other bits and pieces i might check out, thanks to the advance TV listings, website articles, email newsletters, social media, etc – including the new episodes of Doctor Who, The Goes Wrong Show, The Vicar Of Dibley, Taskmaster, The Last Leg, and Charlie Brooker’s Netflix special (Death To 2020), to name a few of the most important examples. Plus there are new DVDs I’ve bought to watch, which I’ll mention next time. So I won’t be bored!
If you want to find out more about how I celebrate the festive season, check out My Christmas Q&A and My Christmas Music Collection, both of which I’ve refreshed for this year, along with my other Christmas posts from recent years.
And I hope you also have a nice Christmas, in whatever way you’re able to celebrate or tolerate the occasion at the end of this strange year. The government have set out guidance for Christmas activities in England if you’re not sure what you can and can’t do. And if you’re lonely, do remember that you’re by far not the only person in that position right now, and do seek out support if you need it. There will be the traditional #JoinIn get-together on Twitter on Christmas Day, organised by Sarah Millican, if you want people to chat to. And if you need further help there are always organisations like The Samaritans, and there’s Sightline for visually impaired people.
So that’s it! Thank you for reading, stay safe and take care, have a lovely festive season, and I’ll see you for more posts really soon! 🙂