Hello again, hope you’re all doing well. May has been a mixed month for me health-wise, though the good outweighs the bad, especially now I’ve had both my Covid vaccinations and restrictions have been eased further. And in terms of entertainment I’m focusing more on paid streaming services again, having found my way out of the Youtube wormholes I happily got sucked into during the depths of lockdown, though there are still occasional things grabbing my attention there too of course.
So there are various things to mention as usual, none of which is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy this latest post and video roundup!
I’m glad to say that I’ve had my second dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and with no side effects this time, which was a pleasant surprise compared to the chills, headache and arm soreness I had after the first jab. There was a long queue of people at the local leisure centre for the vaccinations too, which was great to see, and the whole process was quick and efficient.
In addition, many restrictions were eased in England on 17 May, so there is now much more that we can do, especially with people now able to meet indoors more easily. There is also concern and caution about the spreading Indian variant, and it looks likely that we’ll have to delay the final easing of restrictions to be on the safe side – but studies are showing that the vaccines still effectively protect you against it, especially if you have both doses. Vaccines won’t stop the pandemic on their own of course, but they are our most powerful weapon and they are already saving many lives. So we are in a much better position than before, and getting fully vaccinated is very important. We’re getting there, bit by bit.
Of course, not everyone has easy access to vaccines, and I recognise we are very lucky in the UK. So if you can help by donating to the Covax scheme, that would be cool too.
The flipside to all this for me personally – which is completely unrelated to my vaccination – is that I had an episode of back trouble, my body having rightfully decided that my posture hasn’t been good enough for a while. We’ve been mostly using the furniture we inherited with the house when we moved in a few years back, putting up with it until we can get the various rooms transformed properly. And while that was going fine, my home office setup was never as good as it should be, and of course I’ve been stuck indoors more than ever this past year. So my body decided to fire a warning shot with a mercifully brief bout of sciatica and some backache to make me take action.
So I’ve changed things around a bit, in particular buying myself an Andaseat T-Pro 2 gaming chair, which is the kind of thing I’ve been wanting to get for a while anyway. I’d originally intended to try things like that in a shop to see how they feel, but given the urgency I just bit the bullet and went for a model that looked good and had excellent reviews.
And I really like it, it’s ideal for a tall person like me. It’s very comfy and adjustable, provides good support for my back, and helps to enforce better posture. Keen Gamer has a nice video review of it. Sure, it’s not cheap, but as a homeworker and someone who uses a personal computer regularly, it’s an investment that will hopefully serve me well for years. Thank you to Ramsey from Flat Pack Assembly for helping me put it together as well, for a very reasonable fee. While the instructions are very easy to understand, you do need decent eyesight and a healthy back to put it together!
Anyway, I seem to be on the mend now, touch wood, so I’m just taking it easy for the moment before I ease myself back into long walks again. I did go for a few nice lengthy strolls earlier in May though, so it hasn’t been too long since I’ve been out.
With plays, musicals and other productions finally coming back to life again, please take a few minutes to complete the VocalEyes Theatre Access Survey if you have access needs. It asks about your theatre experiences before and during the pandemic, and how you feel about returning afterwards. The survey closes on Monday 16th August, and the findings will be shared with the theatre sector in the autumn, to help them understand whether or not they’re meeting the access requirements of their audiences. The more of us who show a keen desire to return to theatres and explain the help we need, the more incentive they’ll have to listen and accommodate us.
Elsewhere, thanks to recommendations from my friend Claire, I’ve watched a documentary film called Pick Of The Litter on Netflix and the follow-up series of the same name on Disney+. Both are about the breeding and training of Guide Dogs in America, and are really interesting and often quite moving. Plus the dogs are so adorable of course! And in a similar vein I enjoyed watching Episode 1 & Episode 2 of Me & My Guide Dog on Youtube, which featured David Blunkett and other guide dog owners in the UK and abroad.
And talking of TV, well done to game show Tipping Point for having their first ever visually-impaired contestant. They’re not the first game show to have a contestant with sight loss by any means, but given the visual nature of this particular game – having to drop tokens into the right slots in the machine at the right time – it is more difficult to take part. They solved it by allowing Abigale to have a support worker backstage, who advised her via an earpiece on when to drop the counters into the machine – but she wasn’t allowed to help answer the questions to earn those counters, so Abigale still had to that herself, which kept things fair. It was a simple adjustment that worked very well.
My big Blu-ray purchase this month was the Legacy Collection box set of the first 8 Saw films, which came out alongside this month’s theatrical release of the 9th film, Spiral. The Saw films basically involve victims doing awful things to themselves or others in order to survive, so they’re often quite gory, and there are some interesting twists as well. I’ve seen most of them before, but I’m enjoying going through them again, and there’s a decent amount of extra features. I will watch Spiral at some stage too, and further Saw movies are being considered as well. The creator of the franchise, James Wan, is also responsible for the Insidious and Conjuring series of films, so I might check those out online soon too.
I’ve also watched a few horror films on Netflix as well, as I do like to indulge myself in that genre every so often. The Babysitter & The Babysitter: Killer Queen are fun comedies about a lad’s babysitter who has a very dark side to her, and both feature Queen songs during their big finale scenes (We Are The Champions and Killer Queen respectively). The Killer Queen sequel only came out last year, but if it’s deemed to have been successful then a third film is planned. And the other film I enjoyed was Escape Room – which, as the name suggests, is about a very extreme form of that type of game. A sequel for that is planned for 2022.
Taskmaster finished its excellent 11th series with a brilliant final episode this month. Although he didn’t win, it’s fair to say that Mike Wozniak gave us some of the most hilarious moments, quite literally blowing everyone away in one sense, and the effort he went to with his hair for the final prize task was astonishing. But all the other contestants – Lee Mack, Charlotte Ritchie, Jamali Maddix & Sarah Kendall – made great contributions and were very funny throughout, and I think it was a better line-up than series 10.
The series 12 cast is also looking good. I’m delighted to see Victoria Coren Mitchell and Alan Davies there in particular, I know they’ll have very different approaches to the tasks!
Apart from that, on TV I’ve also been watching the new series of Mock The Week, along with new episodes of Have I Got A Bit More News For You and Family Guy, while Mum and I are still going through Just A Minute compilations on Audible.
On Youtube, meanwhile, having happily rewatched all 5 series of Modern Life Is Goodish on his Youtube channel, I’ve also enjoyed revisiting some of Dave Gorman‘s older shows that other people have uploaded, particularly Are You Dave Gorman?, Important Astrology Experiment & Googlewhack Adventure, as well as a few episodes of Genius. And on UKTV Play I’ve watched his more recent series Terms & Conditions Apply again. Plus I’ve glanced at a few other random clips and interviews on Youtube as well. So I’ve had a nice little Gorman binge overall. I wouldn’t buy his earlier stuff, but it was fun to see it again after such a long time, and his Googlewhack Adventure is probably my favourite from back then. Goodish is the best thing he’s done overall though, I’d say, it’s brilliant.
And with that done, I’ve now moved over to binge-watching programmes on the streaming services I pay for instead.
So on All4 (which is free, but I pay the small subscription to remove the adverts), I’m now working my way through the original British series of the classic improvisation game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?. I only have the first 2 series on DVD, which is all they ever released, and I’ve rewatched the bonus interviews they have with the show’s creators on there. But All4 has every single episode from all 10 seasons (apart from Episode 10 of Series 7 for some unknown reason). So I’ve started going through those, and on Youtube I’ve watched the Comic Relief specials from 1989 & 2011 as well. So it’s brilliant going through the series again, having not watched it for quite some time, the performers are so good.
Of course I know about the long-running American version that came out of it as well, which I’ve seen bits of in the past, so I may watch some of that too later on. And there’s a short-lived Australian version which I’ve never seen. But I think the British version will always be the best, and I’ve still got lots of that to get through.
And to ensure I have variety, I’ve started going through The Simpsons over on Disney+ as well. So I’m watching 1 or 2 seasons of that, then 1 or 2 seasons of Whose Line, and so on, as the mood takes me. Of course, I’ve got Seasons 1-19 of The Simpsons on DVD already, and I’m watching the relevant extras from those DVDs as I go along. But I haven’t seen the rest beyond that apart from occasional episodes, and it’s been a while since I saw a lot of the earlier episodes anyway. So I figured I may as well start doing the lot from the start, as it’s really convenient to do so online, and I can take my time going through them for the next couple of years, while alternating it with other programmes.
Like All4, Disney+ also have every single episode bar one – in this case they’ve left out Stark Raving Dad, the first episode of Season 3, due to the new allegations around guest star Michael Jackson. But it is on the Season 3 DVD, so I can watch it there. And I’ve also watched the 3 short films featuring Maggie on Disney+, which I’d never seen before. They’re just fun little 5 minute animations, and a couple of them have audio description too, which the early seasons of the main show don’t have.
And finally, going back to improvisation but looking ahead, I’m delighted that there are more Mischief Movie Nights on the way in July, and you can book to see them now. These will once again be available to view online by buying tickets online, but they’ll also have a small audience in the studio for the first time, which should really add to the atmosphere. Audio description is available for the 7:30pm online streams on Sunday 11 July & Saturday 24 July. And if you want to see what it’s all about, check out my review of the previous shows. If you like a good laugh, I do highly recommend it.
Madness had a few fun things online during May, one of which was The Get Up, a special show of music and comedy written for the band by The Fast Show’s Charlie Higson. It was recorded at the London Palladium, and exclusively streamed online for a paying audience.
The first half looked at the band’s early formation, with a mixture of their early songs and some covers, during which they were joined by guest singers Roland Gift from the Fine Young Cannibals & Paul Weller from The Jam. Then the second half was more of a traditional concert with the band performing big hits like Our House. And there were little sketches and chatter between the band members at various points in the show .And the show was preceded by some of their music videos with a bit of commentary about them in between. So it was really good fun.
Then there was their new 3-part documentary series Before We Was We, based on the book of the same name. It was exclusively aired on AMC UK and BT Player, so it looked like I wouldn’t be able to watch it all. However, BT did post Episode 1 and a Q&A with Suggs & Chrissy Boy for free on their Youtube channel – and then they inadvertently revealed the links for Episode 2 & Episode 3 as well before they unlisted them, as they’re meant to be exclusive to BT.com users.
So I was able to watch it all in the end, which I’m delighted about as it’s a fun and interesting retrospective, talking to all the band members as we’re taken through their childhoods and early adult lives, before exploring their rise to fame. It’s nicely edited too, illustrating things with several clips from their 1981 documentary film Take It Or Leave It (which I already own in their Gogglebox DVD set), and a lot of other footage. So it’s well worth a watch if you’re a fan of the band.
If you are a fan of the group and you want to test your knowledge, then you can also try The Great Madness (We’ve Missed The) Pub Quiz. I didn’t do too badly on it, but some of it’s harder than you might think!
And then briefly to finish on Queen-related things:
- Roger Taylor has announced a new solo album called Outsider, which will be out on October 1st, and he’ll also be going on tour.
- The weekly clips series Queen The Greatest, celebrating the band’s 50th anniversary, is currently taking a very interesting look at the track We Will Rock You (Part 1 & Part 2), as will my next album review post in my own Queen At 50 series, which I will hopefully publish during June.
- Brian May was the special guest on this month’s season finale of the podcast Keep Calm And Kerry On, turning the tables and interviewing host Kerry Ellis, so they had a lovely chat. Do look through the other episodes as well, as she’s had a variety of interesting guests on there.
- And finally there have been nice choral covers of Radio Ga Ga by Sweet Charity Choir (in tribute to Sarm Heslop, who went missing from a catamaran in the US Virgin Islands in March) and Bohemian Rhapsody by GMIT Virtual Choir.
And that’s it, I hope you enjoyed that as always. I don’t have anything special planned for June at the moment, but I’m looking forward to getting out more again and enjoying the nice weather, and I hope I’ll soon be able to meet up with friends I haven’t seen for ages too. And I hope you’re all able to enjoy yourselves safely as well!