Hello again, hope you’re all continuing to keep safe and healthy. Welcome to another of my regular recaps, for a month that marks 5 years since I started blogging! Quite how I’ve managed to sustain a blog for that length of time, attracting and retaining a considerable number of regular followers along the way, I don’t know. But it’s led to so many exciting opportunities and enabled me to meet so many wonderful people already, and who knows what the next 5 years will bring? So many thanks to everyone who has followed, liked, shared, commented, etc, it means a lot and persuades me to keep doing it! 🙂
February was relatively quiet compared to the madness of the months preceding it, so this is going to be a relatively short post and video. But there are still various bits and bobs to mention, including some great vaccine news, and the entertainment I’ve been enjoying. And nothing here is sponsored or gifted as usual (apart from the audiobook I mention, which was a Christmas gift from my friend Claire). So I hope you enjoy!
The big news this month is that I’ve now had my first Covid vaccination! Unpaid carers became eligible during the month as part of group 6 (albeit tucked away in a footnote so it wasn’t heavily publicised), and I fall into that category because I live with and look after my elderly, blind mother. So on Friday 19th February I spent just 30 seconds on the phone to my GP surgery, getting my carer status noted on my medical record (which I hadn’t realised you could do before). Then on Wednesday 24th I got a text inviting me to book my vaccination, and I was able to get a slot on Sunday 28th!
The vaccination was really quick and easy, and the staff were very helpful and friendly, so it was a painless experience in every sense. I was given the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and I only had small side effects, they weren’t at all debilitating.
On the first evening I had a mild case of the chills – meaning I felt noticeably colder, but not to the point of shivering – plus I had a mild headache. The chills had gone by the next morning, while the headache took a couple of days to gradually subside, aided by paracetamol of course. My arm was a little bit sore where the injection had been for a few days too, but I only felt it if I positioned or moved my arm in a certain way, or pressed against a very particular point. Otherwise I didn’t feel it a lot of the time, and the rest of the arm was fine.
All in all, therefore, it basically unsettled my body’s rhythm a bit during the first 24-48 hours while the immune system reacted (which it was supposed to do). But my body soon went back to normal, and I feel alright now. Those brief side effects are a very small price to pay to be protected from the virus.
So I’m very happy and relieved that all members of my family (my Mum, Aunt and myself) have all had our first doses. Mum had the Pfizer vaccine, while my Aunt had the Oxford one like me, and neither of them had side effects apart from a slightly sore arm for a few days. We must still follow the rules for the time being of course, as we still need our second doses, and we need a lot more people to be vaccinated in total, before it’s safe to open everything up again.
But with over 20 million adults in England having received at least a first dose already, and Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, there is light at the end of the tunnel if things continue to move in the right direction. We’ll probably need booster shots later in the year to deal with any variants, and then every year or two thereafter – but that’s just like we already do for the flu, and if that helps us to get back to normal and stay there, I’m totally up for that.
Indeed, I’ve never been eligible for the flu jab since school either, but now I’m marked down as a carer, I’ll hopefully start being offered that every year too. Sure, I’m relatively young and my immune system seems strong – but viruses are unpredictable, they mutate, and they can cause serious illness for even the healthiest and fittest people without warning (there are many examples of Covid doing that for a start). So it’s always well worth getting the extra protection to be on the safe side.
Huge thanks to the NHS and all the scientists and other experts involved in the vaccination programme, it’s an incredible achievement at such speed and on such a wide scale! I’m delighted that I was able to take my turn so soon, and I hope that everyone else who is still waiting doesn’t have to hang around too much longer, especially those who are most vulnerable
Mum and I have finished listening to The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I can’t really compare it to other mystery books, as I don’t read a lot, but we enjoyed it. I thought it was well written, with a good variety of interesting characters, nice little twists and good humour, and I like the way he intersperses one character’s diary entries with the rest of the story to keep things flowing. It is long and in parts can be a bit slow moving, so it could have been tightened up a little without losing anything important, but we didn’t mind that. The interview with Richard at the end is interesting as well, even if the lady he’s talking to gushes over him and the book a bit too heavily.
I bought the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Blu-ray Steelbook this month, as I continue to upgrade my collection to the steelbook format. It contains the Name Of The Doctor, Day Of The Doctor & Time Of The Doctor episodes, the spin-off drama about the show’s origins called An Adventure in Space and Time, and a wealth of extras – which is the same as in the original Blu-ray set, but it takes up a lot less space on the shelf and has better artwork now.
There was also a real life drama in my old educational home of Exeter at the end of the month, when a huge World War II Bomb was discovered on the university campus, one of over 10,000 that rained down and destroyed half the city during the conflict. Over 2,600 households and student halls of residence were evacuated before a controlled detonation was performed. It was too dangerous to move the bomb elsewhere because it had corroded over time and may have had booby traps, so they had to destroy it where it was. Whoever had to deal with it was very brave.
And the explosion was massive! A friend of mine on the opposite side of the city said that her doors and windows shook! The video footage that has emerged is fascinating, with the loud bang and the huge black plume that rises into the sky – and that’s from a contained explosion. They put 400 tonnes of sand and huge steel girders over the bomb to absorb the blast as much as they could, but it was still huge, and still caused some damage to nearby properties. So we can only begin to imagine how devastating it would have been if that 8ft bomb had gone off without any safeguards, and how destructive the entire bombing campaign on the city must have been all those years ago. It’s incredible to think I spent 3 years of my life studying there with that thing just metres away!
Mischief Theatre’s improvised Movie Nights finally came to end in February, after 26 shows of glorious and hilarious chaos, including audio description for their final show. In previous Favourites posts I had originally listed the details of every single performance, but I’ve now moved everything into a detailed review post for the entire run, so please do check that out if you want to see what February’s shows entailed. All of the shows were a real delight, and I hope to see more of them in the theatre and online in the future.
However, Mischief still have other treats for us to enjoy and look forward to. Their Peter Pan & Christmas Carol specials are out on DVD on 29 March, after being released online at Christmas. Both will have commentaries by the cast that are considerably longer than the versions on their Youtube channel (the one for Peter Pan is on there already, and the Christmas Carol one is coming soon). There’s also a Mischief Makers podcast online if you want to hear more from the group, and they’ve also teased at something new they’re working on.
There is some other improvised comedy available online though, courtesy of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical. I’ve never seen it before, but as it’s been recommended by Mischief themselves and it looks like a lot of fun, I’ve booked up for their next 2 shows on 26th & 27th March. Things like this are really making up for the fact that I can’t go to the theatre in person at the moment. And as with Mischief, the Showstopper team are hoping to return to in-person performances later in the year. So it’ll be interesting to see what I think of their online shows.
And on TV, Dave have acquired 50 episodes of the American CW revival of the improvised game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, hosted by Aisha Tyler. It stars veteran regulars Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie & Wayne Brady, who all featured in the original British series, along with many other guests. I’ve had a little look at it, but I haven’t got around to watching them properly. I might do so at a later date.
I also want to catch up with the original British show as well though. I have Series 1 & 2 on DVD, as they never released any of the others. However, all 10 series are available to stream on All4 (except Series 7 Episode 10 for some reason). So at some point I intend to work my way through those, probably before I consider doing the US ones, as I haven’t seen them since they were originally broadcast, and I don’t think I saw all of them at the time.
I bought Series 1 & 2 of Staged on DVD this month, having really enjoyed this sitcom starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant over the past year. The set includes the extended episodes that were shown on Netflix, unlike the shorter versions on TV and iPlayer. There’s also a small collection of amusing outtakes, and a reversible cover sleeve so you can choose which order David & Michael appear on the front.
As explained in more detail in my January Favourites, I’m still happily working my way through the entire box set of Noel’s House Party on Andy Pearman’s Youtube Channel, using my own playlist that I’ve put together. I’ve never seen them since they originally aired, apart from clips here and there, so a lot of it I’d forgotten about, and it’s great to see so many of my favourite celebrities appearing. I know the show goes downhill in the later series, and even in the early series there are duff episodes or ideas here and there. But I’m loving the nostalgia of it all, and the unaired studio footage Andy’s got is fascinating.
Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway is back for a new series, and it’s admirable that they’ve found a way to continue it with a virtual audience and other adjustments. But I do feel like I’ve been losing interest in the show generally – not just now but over the last few series or so. It has its moments, and The Double Trouble serial they’ve started is ok with some good guest stars. But it is feeling quite repetitive now, with recurring features I’m not that bothered about and celebrities I’ve either never heard of or have no interest in, so I end up fast forwarding much of it these days. Plus watching Noel’s House Party has reminded me how vastly superior that show was at its height. So I will keep an eye on Takeaway in case it features people of interest to me, but I don’t feel like paying as much attention to it as I used to, I’ve grown out of it somewhat.
Channel 4 had a new 2-part show called Stand Up & Deliver, in aid of Stand Up To Cancer, where 5 celebrities had to write and perform a 5-minute stand-up routine, each of them mentored by a professional stand-up comedian. Jason Manford looked after Shaun Ryder, for instance. It was actually quite interesting, and gave you a great insight into how difficult it is to put together a good comedy show. And it was quite tense watching them give their final performances, you could feel their nerves. It was painful to watch when it didn’t work, but some of them did come up with good stuff.
Just like last month, I continued to enjoy new episodes of Not Going Out, Would I Lie To You?, Mock The Week, QI XL, The Last Leg & 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown (the latter featuring Bec Hill in one episode, and Anne Robinson has been announced as the new host of the regular daytime show).
On Youtube the game show Who Said That? is back, where comedians get together and ask random questions of one another, guessing who gave which answer. Guests so far have included Miles Jupp, Lauren Pattison, Josh Widdicombe and Nick Helm, among others. So they’re fun to watch, there’s usually some good banter and laughs. You can sign up to their Patreon page if you want to see new editions early, but I haven’t done that.
The 20th anniversary of the sitcom Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps was celebrated by a new sketch featuring Gaz and Jonny, and a new interview with creator Susan Nickson. There’s also a Two Pints podcast by Will Mellor and Ralf Little that’s been running for a little while recently, although I haven’t listened to any of those yet.
The British Comedy Guide gave out their 2020 awards, resulting in amusing acceptance speeches and sketches from David Tennant & Michael Sheen (for Staged), Greg Davies & Alex Horne (for Taskmaster – which is back for Series 11 on Thursday 18th March), Ricky Gervais (After Life) & Michael Spicer (for his radio show Before Next Door).
And of course the biggest viral hit of the month wasn’t the lawyer using a cat filter, as amusing as that was. Instead, people were most captivated by the video of the Handforth Parish Council Meeting from 10 December 2020, with Jackie Weaver trying to keep the councillors under control. You can see some highlights and a Channel 4 News Report if you somehow don’t know anything about it.
Jackie’s been a great sport dealing with her unexpected fame as well, giving interviews on all sorts of programmes including BBC Breakfast, Sky News, Good Morning Britain & The Last Leg. There’s even a fun musical parody by Flo & Jean. There is a video of the most recent meeting where the topic of the viral meeting came up, but members of the public were rather rude and disruptive, so it wasn’t as fun or interesting.
Musicals: The Greatest Show was a 2-hour show on BBC Radio 2 and a 75-minute programme on BBC One, and had performances of great songs from shows including Phantom Of The Opera, Six, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, Cinderella (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new show), Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (featuring a choir of people from their own homes), Les Misérables and Wicked, performed by stars including Sheridan Smith (who also hosted the show), Kerry Ellis, Josh Groban, Michael Ball, Elaine Paige and more.
There was also a poll to find the nation’s favourite musical number, in which number 3 was Defying Gravity (Wicked), number 2 was Bring Him Home (Les Misérables), and the top song was One Day More (also from Les Misérables). So it was really enjoyable.
On the rock side of things, meanwhile, the Who have announced that they’re releasing a Super Deluxe Box Set of their album The Who Sell Out on 23 April, with loads of extra tracks. So I’ll probably get that, it looks quite good.
Here on my blog, meanwhile, I’ve posted the latest set of deep-dive reviews in my Queen At 50 series, looking at Side 1 of A Day At The Races. I actually posted it on 1st March, which is the 50th anniversary of John Deacon joining the band and completing the line up, but I wanted to mention it here rather than wait another month. So I hope you enjoy that. I’m aiming to post my review for everything on Side 2 in early April.
And finally, on another Queen related note, and in tribute to Captain Tom Moore whose funeral took place in February, Brian May teamed up with pianist Dominic Ferris to perform a beautiful version of You’ll Never Walk Alone.
And that’s it. A relatively uneventful month, which is good, but still plenty to keep me entertained as usual, and I’m most pleased that I got my vaccination of course.
March should be pretty quiet as well because, apart from the kids going back to school, most of us will still be in lockdown and most places are still shut. Summer’s looking more promising though, potentially, if things continue to go well. We are winning the battle for sure, but we mustn’t be complacent. What we’re doing right now is working, so we need to keep doing it. Until enough people have been vaccinated, we need to stick to our guns and not let our guard down by breaking the rules now. We will get through it.
So thank you for reading, hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well, and I’ll see you for another little roundup next month!