Well, that month was a long year, wasn’t it? I thought January might be relatively quiet compared to December, but it was clearly very difficult for 2021 to get steady on its feet amongst the fallout from 2020, for reasons that we’re all too familiar with from the news.
January also marked a significant milestone for me, as it’s now 10 years since my father passed away. It’s amazing how quickly that time’s gone, when it inevitably dragged so much at first. And after all these years, not a day goes by when he doesn’t come to mind for one reason or another, he’s always present. I get my sense of humour from him, and he was always supportive and encouraging and fun to be around. That’s him you can see behind little me in the header image for this post. As I haven’t had any reason to take interesting photos myself lately, it seemed appropriate to use one of him on this occasion, and I dedicate this post to his memory.
And in the present, Captain Sir Tom Moore has very sadly passed away at the age of 100. He was one of the brightest lights of the pandemic, raising nearly £40 million for NHS charities, and his positive attitude to life filled us all with hope and motivation at a time when we really needed it the most. So he will be very dearly missed, and his charity foundation will undoubtedly continue to do lots of great work in his honour in the years to come. Condolences to all of his family and friends and everyone who came into contact with him. And thank you Captain Tom for everything you’ve done. We will walk on through the storm, with our heads up high and hope in our hearts, thanks to you. RIP.
Still, despite all of that, there is also much to be happy about. Green shoots of hope and positivity are breaking through, and I have some good news of my own to share in this post, along with the usual rundown of entertaining things that I’ve been enjoying. And none of it is sponsored or gifted as usual. So let’s crack on with it, and I hope you enjoy this month’s post and video!
My 77-year-old mother had her first Covid-19 vaccination at the end of the month, I’m delighted to say.
We have every confidence that it’s safe from everything we’ve seen and heard, not just from the news but several other places as well. We trust people who are proven to be experts in the right fields, including our wonderful NHS staff, along with people we personally know who have suffered from the virus or had the vaccine. And I’m very careful to avoid the dangerous misinformation being shared by strangers on social media, which is easy to spot.
We also knew our vaccine invitation was genuine, and not one of the scams going around, as the text message we received clearly stated my Mum’s name and her GP surgery’s name, and the link we visited didn’t ask for any financial details, as the vaccine is completely free. Booking the appointment online was really simple to do.
So as my mother is blind, I took her down to the local surgery, where the staff were really friendly, helpful and professional. The experience genuinely couldn’t have been any quicker or easier, it was so well organised in there.
After having our temperatures taken at the entrance, we were guided straight into the doctor’s office, no waiting required. The doctor explained things very clearly and was more than happy to answer Mum’s questions. We were given information leaflets to take away as well, with health advice and details about the vaccine (she had the Pfizer-BioNTech one).
Mum didn’t feel any pain from the injection. It was just a tiny scratch like any other vaccine, lasting a couple of seconds at most. And she was happy for her photo to be taken by a man from Age UK as she was having it done, to help promote the vaccination to others. We then had to stay in the waiting room for 10 minutes as a precaution, after which we were allowed to go home. Job done. We were in the surgery for just 15 minutes altogether.
Since then, Mum has felt absolutely fine. It was a tiny bit sore around the injection site for a day afterwards, and that was only if she pressed on it. Indeed, many people don’t experience side effects at all. Her sister was also fine – and still is – after getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month, during a quick and easy visit to the ExCel Centre, and she was delighted to hear about Mum receiving her jab. They’re the only 2 elderly people left in my family, so I’m relieved that they both have some protection now.
Quite a few of my friends have also told me that they’ve either had the vaccine or have a relative who it was given to. One person had a sore arm and swollen lymph nodes for a couple of days, but she does have an underlying health condition which could have been a factor, and she’s been alright ever since. Nobody I know personally has had a serious reaction to the vaccine so far.
The NHS will text us when it’s time to book Mum’s next appointment in the next 12 weeks. In the meantime, we still need to be careful and follow the rules of course, and it’ll be a couple of weeks before she has the immunity generated by the first dose. But taking this important first step has given us real peace of mind. And there is increasing evidence that the vaccines should help to reduce the spread of the disease significantly as it’s given to more people. So far in the UK over 10 million people have now had their first dose, which is an incredible achievement.
So huge thanks to the NHS for everything they’ve been doing, and will continue to do, to keep us all safe, especially under such huge pressure. Many thanks also to the scientists for their work on vaccines & treatments, and all the key workers keeping the country running. We are getting through this together, very slowly but surely, and things do look set to gradually improve bit by bit over the coming months. We just need to be patient, as frustrating as it is.
It’s also worth noting that the In Touch programme on BBC Radio 4 has just had an episode discussing Covid testing and vaccinations for visually impaired people, while the RNIB have a guide about what to expect when you use a Coronavirus home test kit on their website. So you might want to check those out.
And I was pleased to see the video by Adil Ray and many other famous names, designed to reassure members of the black and ethnic minority communities about the safety of the vaccines. Messages like these will really help to save lives.
Congratulations to my American friends on their new President. Despite his unstable and dangerous predecessor inciting a domestic terror attack on the Capitol building, democracy thankfully and inevitably prevailed, and social media has been considerably calmer since then as well.
Although the big events were covered by the major news outlets, I focused on the official live streams on the Biden Inaugural Committee’s Youtube channel, where you could see:
- The Covid-19 Memorial – Including an audio described version
- The Inauguration Ceremony & Parades – Including an audio described version
- Celebrating America – Including an audio described version
Having never watched a presidential inauguration before, I enjoyed tuning in to this one, it was fascinating and felt very special. The main highlights were of course the excellent speech by President Biden and his oath of office, but we must also acknowledge the beautiful poem delivered by Amanda Gorman, while Lady Gaga’s strong performance of the national anthem was good too.
Other highlights of the live stream for me included a tour inside the Capitol building, which is an incredible place, the presidential escort procession to The White House, which was a very special moment, and the virtual parade across America, which had a nice variety of performers, including some very famous stars.
I also looked through the Celebrating America programme, not all of which was of interest to me, but my favourite moments included the speeches by President Biden, Vice President Harris and former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, plus the performances of Land Of Hope And Dreams by Bruce Springsteen, Here Comes The Sun by Jon Bon Jovi, Feeling Good by John Legend and the huge firework display accompanied by Katy Perry. It was a really uplifting and positive show, and it also reminded me of the time when I visited Washington back in 2000, as my friends and I went to the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.
Unsurprisingly there have also been some fun parody songs marking the change in presidency, including Euphoria by Shirley Șerban (a parody of Gloria by Laura Branigan), Goodbye Donald Trump from Jimmy Kimmel Live (a parody of Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Steam) and, my personal favourite, One Day More from The Late Late Show with James Corden (a Les Misérables Parody).
So all the best to President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and everyone in America. I hope the next 4 years work out better for your country, with more health and prosperity, and less anger and division. It certainly won’t be easy, to say the least, but you’ve undoubtedly taken a big and positive step in the right direction. Good luck!
There were a couple of particularly important documentaries on TV about disabled people this month, that I would highly recommend watching on BBC iPlayer. Silenced: The Hidden Story of Disabled Britain and Targeted: The Truth About Disability Hate Crime really helped to expose the issues faced by disabled people in the past and the present, including enforced segregation and regular abuse by those who don’t care or understand. They’re unsettling to watch, but that’s the whole point. It’s astonishing what some people had been, and still are, getting away with in their treatment of the disabled community. But only by facing up to that reality can we try to do anything about it.
Check out this article about the history documentary for more information on that show, the BBC Ouch website for more of their disability content, and the BBC Action Line’s Disability Resources for additional information and support.
Meanwhile, on a more pleasant disability-related note, you can now watch all the presentations from from the Nystagmus Network Open Day 2020 on Youtube. Well worth a look through if you have the condition or any interest in it.
Meanwhile, on a completely different topic, Natural History Museum: World Of Wonder is a lovely series on Channel 5, which goes behind the scenes at one of my favourite attractions in the city, and clearly illustrates everyone’s love and enthusiasm for their work in such a beautiful place.
We get to learn lots of secrets about various exhibits (including famous sights like Hope the blue whale and Guy the gorilla), see how they prepare for new installations (including the Fantastic Beasts exhibition and the annual Wildlife Photographer Of The Year gallery), get insights into the detailed research that they do (such as piecing together skeletons, hunting for dinosaur footprints and analysing historical DNA samples), and see just how much effort goes into the maintenance and upkeep of the thousands of objects in their collections (including the repairs they have to do when items suffer wear and tear). So they cover quite a lot!
They’re also posting lots of videos on their Youtube channel, including a very extensive series of online talks lasting from 30 minutes to nearly an hour on many different topics, which they’re regularly adding to. I haven’t watched those yet, but I will try and get around to them, as they do look very interesting.
Mischief Movie Nights
Mischief Theatre’s Movie Nights have continued this month, much to my delight (and that of other people watching from over 60 countries) with the cast improvising different films based on the audience’s suggestions. I’ve enjoyed every single show they’ve done online so far, having started with all of their Christmas productions that I reviewed last month, and will be attending all of the upcoming dates they’ve added in February, which will finish their run before they go off to film their next TV project.
I love the comical, farcical, musical and often chaotic nature of it all, and have huge admiration for the cast, musicians and technical crew for being able to come up with something new and exciting every single time, completely live. That is no mean feat. And they clearly have so much fun doing it, which is why it works so well.
February 2021 Update: You can now check out my full review post for the series, including a detailed list all 26 shows in the run.
Noel’s House Party
Like many people, I’ve been taking the opportunity provided by lockdown to indulge in some fun nostalgia from better times. And so, since the start of the year, I’ve been bingeing on the box set of Noel’s House Party, which is now entirely available on Andy Pearman’s Youtube Channel, along with many other videos he’s been posting. I mentioned his channel during the first lockdown, when I talked about his uploads of various House Party clips and episodes, and I saw a few of them at the time. But they were being uploaded somewhat randomly, depending on what he had available, so I decided to wait until he had everything online, which he now does.
Because it was a live and interactive show, it’s never been repeated or included on catchup services, so apart from clips that have been in compilation shows or that people have shared online, this is the first time it’s been available in its entirety. Andy’s had to make occasional small edits to avoid music copyright strikes, but they’re very rare (I’ve only noticed one obvious cut in the first 2 series so far), and there are one or two episodes that are incomplete (so they fade out before the end). But those anomalies aside, he’s posted pretty much everything. The video quality is pretty good too considering its age – there are a few episodes with degradation in the sound or picture, as you’d expect from old VHS tapes, but they’re still watchable.
So I’ve started watching all the episodes in order from Series 1 onwards. It’s bringing back many fond memories, and there are a lot of moments that feel new to me now, as I simply don’t remember them after all this time. So many great celebrities appeared on the show, whether it was being caught out by one of his Gotcha pranks, arriving at the front door to do a short sketch, being gunged, taking part in one of the games, getting their revenge on Noel, and other random reasons. Members of the studio audience and people at home were also heavily involved, either by choice or by surprise, from playing silly games, to being gunged, to being surprised at home by NTV’s hidden cameras, and so on. It was also the show that, for better or worse, brought the world Mr Blobby. So there was a lot of variety and it was great Saturday night viewing.
Andy has also managed to acquire a lot of never-before-seen studio footage that was recorded after the House Party went off air, which is fascinating to see. Some of it just involves Noel thanking the audience and recording promos for the next episode, but some have quite a bit of activity involving the guests he has in the studio. And you often get to hear Felix the warm-up guy keeping the audience occupied while Noel’s busy. So they’re all worth looking through.
The programme did lose its way over the last few series, due to budget cuts and various other changes, to the point where even Noel himself refused to film an episode because he disagreed with some of the decisions being made. But in its heyday it was one of the most popular programmes that the BBC has ever had, and there are still enjoyable moments in the later shows. So it’s very much missed, Saturday nights have never been the same since. The closest we get now is Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which has some similar concepts and is fun in its own way, and that’s due to return soon. But it’s never been anywhere near as good as the House Party was, it was a very unique show.
On top of all that, Andy’s also started to post some episodes of Noel’s Saturday Roadshow, which is significant as many elements from that series were carried over into Noel’s House Party, including the Gotchas, the gunge tank and the game Wait Till I Get You Home. So I’ll check those out later on as well, as I’ve never seen them before, given that I was too young when they originally aired. He’s also posted every episode of Noel’s Christmas Presents, where he gave people lots of very special surprises each year. I’m not going to bother watching all of those, but there is one episode that features a friend of mine from school (we still remember Noel landing his helicopter on our playing field), so I enjoyed seeing that again.
There are also episodes of shows like Telly Addicts and Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and other bits and pieces that Noel hosted, available on Andy’s channel and elsewhere, so I’ll probably watch some of those too. I wasn’t even born when Swap Shop aired, but I did enjoy Telly Addicts in the 90s. So all of that, which I’ve gathered together into a big playlist of my own, will keep me busy for a little while!
I’ve been keeping myself amused in lots of other ways as well this month:
- Staged, the show about David Tennant and Michael Sheen trying to get work while in lockdown, has been back for its second series. It was again very funny and had some big Hollywood stars making guest appearances. Series 1 & & 2 are coming out on DVD in February.
- Happy Birthday Mr Bean was a great celebration of the 30th anniversary of the iconic character, featuring Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis and others involved with the show. There is an appetite to bring the character back, so hopefully we will see more of him at some point.
- The Brittas Empire, one of the best sitcoms from the 90s, also celebrated its 30th anniversary with a live reunion of nearly all the cast on Facebook and Youtube. They did a script reading for an entire episode, answered questions from the audience, and generally reminisced about their time on the show with great fondness. So it was great to see them back together again, they clearly still get on very well. They would also love to bring the show back, if the opportunity were ever to present itself, so let’s hope that happens one day. The EM-Con channel that hosted that reunion also has Virtual Evenings with Chris Barrie and Danny John-Jules, an Online Birthday Bash for Danny, and various other videos.
- As usual I’ve continued to enjoy new episodes of Not Going Out, Would I Lie To You? (which is now moving to Mondays), Mock The Week, QI XL, The Last Leg, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, The Big Fat Quiz Of Everything, and radio show The Unbelievable Truth.
- After enjoying all of Sarah Millican‘s stand up shows online over Christmas, I’ve now bought them all on DVD – Chatterbox, Thoroughly Modern Millican, Home Bird, Outsider & Control Enthusiast. Most of them contain extra features, including interviews, radio programmes, and a running joke about people being asleep in the audience (including an Easter Egg hidden on one of the DVD menus, but it’s easy enough to find).
- I also bought Home Alone on Blu-ray after rewatching it over Christmas. Strange to think I’ve never owned it until now, but better late than never. It’s got some nice behind the scenes extra features as well. I’ll get the second film at a later date.
- On Youtube there are also new home Tasks on Taskmaster’s Youtube channel and new sketches from Julie Nolke that are fun to look through as always.
My other DVD purchase in January was Suzi Q, a great documentary from 2019 about the legendary Suzi Quatro. It’s a very candid discussion about her life, featuring extensive interviews with Suzi and her family, people she worked with, and other musicians who met and were influenced by her. There’s also footage of Suzi performing her music, starring in Happy Days as Leather Tuscadero, and appearing in the theatre, among other things. So it covers quite a lot, and there are lots of additional interviews and a few outtakes among the extra features.
The month’s big viral hit has of course been the Wellerman Sea Shanty by Nathan Evans, and his cover of the New Zealand folk song went to number 3 in the charts. So naturally there have been several other versions of it, including (to name just a few) older releases by The Longest Johns and Wellington Sea Shanty Society, a recent cover by The Wellermen, a guitar cover by Brian May, a heavy metal cover by Andre Antunes, mashup videos by Dubbac Media & The Kiffness, dance remixes by Argules, Spinnin’ Records & 220 KID and Billen Ted, and a parody by Shirley Șerban (who has also made a Drunken Sailor parody and has posted a new channel trailer for those new to her work).
And finally, other music videos worth noting include:
- The Holderness Family – Come On Vaccine & My Favourite (Bernie) Memes – Parodies of songs from Dexys Midnight Runners and The Sound Of Music.
- The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – Gimme All Your Lovin’ & Song 2 – Fun covers of songs by ZZ Top & Blur.
- Sweet Charity Choir – Somewhere Over The Rainbow – A beautiful rendition of the song, complete with sign language, in support of the Deaf-SELF charity and Marston Court Care Home.
- New micro concertos by Brian May from Queen, playing Tear It Up as a birthday message for Adam Lambert, The House Of The Rising Sun (including a tutorial for other guitar players) in response to the death of guitarist Hilton Valentine from The Animals, and You’ll Never Walk Alone in tribute to Captain Tom.
And that’s it. Despite January being a difficult month for many people, and while things are still going to be rocky for a while yet, I’m glad that I’m still able to find plenty of ways to escape from it all. I’ve also resumed my weekly throwback journal posts recently, after taking a short new year break from them, so don’t forget to look out for those every Thursday too. Like most people, it’s taken a little while to settle back into a regular routine again.
So thank you for reading, I hope you found that interesting. And indeed, many thanks for your attention and support over the past 5 years, because as of early February it’s that long since I started my blog back in 2016! I never imagined I’d sustain it for this long, but I’ve made so many new friends and had lots of lovely experiences as a direct result of writing it, so it’s been very worthwhile, far more than I ever expected at the beginning. I’m very proud that I’ve been able to entertain and educate people during that time, and long may it continue. It doesn’t look like I’ll be running out of things to write about any time soon!
And I hope you’re finding plenty of ways to keep yourselves entertained and distracted as well. It is going to be another strange year, and there is still a long road back to normality, but we’re in a much better position now and things are looking a lot more hopeful. So please stay safe and well, and I’ll see you for another update soon!