July 2022 Favourites

Well, it’s fair to say that this past month will go down in the history books for quite a variety of reasons, some better than others. Boris Johnson’s long overdue resignation has left our government in disarray as they hunt for a new leader, and our record-breaking heatwave in the UK resulted in several fires in London, even if it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as in Europe. But, as is often the case, sport has come along to lift the nation’s spirits, as I’ll mention during this post – we all know what the main headline is there!

As for me, work is very busy, with people wanting to get as many jobs done as they can before my redundancy kicks in next month! I’ve had lots of lovely messages and good wishes from colleagues already, which is very flattering. And thank you so much to all of my other friends and followers for their messages of support as well, including relevant vacancies and volunteering opportunities that people are already starting to bring to my attention, please do keep those coming. I won’t apply for everything that people send me of course, but they’re all giving me food for thought for my future career path.

I still feel quite calm about it all so far, because I have strong foundations from my current job and volunteering work that I can build on – and I’ve had a nice surprise in relation to the latter that I’ll mention next month. Plus I’m fortunate not to have major financial worries at the moment – although I have taken the opportunity to cut back on a few subscriptions that I can live without for a while, as saving a few quid here and there each month soon adds up. It also appears there are one or two paid research opportunities that could be of some benefit.

In any case, my plan is still to have a bit of a well-earned break, in order to sort out some stuff at home, while we consider whether to move house, as well as get out and about more as I have various things booked in the next few months. But I’m continuing to keep a close eye out for job and volunteering opportunities as well, as you never know what’ll come up.

Aside from all that though, I have been enjoying my leisure time as usual of course, and you’ll know about the shows I’ve been to see recently if you’ve been keeping up to date with my posts. So here’s my latest roundup of outings, sport, comedy and music that I’ve got into this month. As always, none of it’s sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy!

Contents

Out & About

This month I enjoyed seeing another play and another stand-up comedy gig, each of which I’ve written extensive posts about:

Sport

It’s hard to believe it’s 10 years already since the fantastic London Olympics & Paralympics, where all the doubters were proved wrong as soon as it got underway, and the British athletes really did us proud. I’ve recently posted a very in-depth review of Danny’s Boyle’s sensational Opening Ceremony, and will continue celebrating the 2012 Games in the weeks ahead, as I look at the sporting highlights, the other ceremonies, and some additional bits and pieces. So do keep an eye out for those. I’ve posted a few photos from my recent wanderings around the Olympic Park on my Instagram as well, and will share more there soon. And it’s also another good excuse to look back at my charity abseil down the Orbit Tower a few years ago, if you haven’t read about that before or want to revisit it. I still have very fond memories of that!

The anniversary isn’t just being marked by special events in the Olympic Park though. British sports stars are once again showing how special and amazing they can be in current competitions too.

In the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, for example, Jake Wightman won the 1500m in real style, with his Dad commentating in the stadium and a very proud Steve Cram commentating live on TV, as he was the last British person to win that race way back in 1983, while other British athletes also celebrated Jake’s win. And Keely Hodgkinson won silver in the 800m, just narrowly pipped to the top spot. We had 5 bronze medals in the competition too. So we had 7 medals altogether, which is similar to the last few contests, albeit with a lower gold tally this time around, but it’s still not to be sniffed at.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Games are going very well in Birmingham, after a surreal but enjoyable opening ceremony that included a huge animatronic bull and Duran Duran, among other things. And it’s fantastic to see some para sports fully integrated into the Games, all contributing to the same medal table in front of huge crowds, and they’re getting some good coverage on the BBC too. Great Britain compete as their four separate home nations in these Games, all of whom I keep an eye on, and they’ve all been doing well. England are of course my main focus though, and we’re second in the medal table as I write this, thanks to a lot of fantastic results. I’ll write about my highlights in my next Favourites post though, when I can look back on the Games as a whole, but they are well worth tuning in to.

But the highlight of the month came at the very end, of course, when England’s Lionesses won the Women’s European Football Championship for the very first time! Huge congratulations to the team for that!

I’m not a big football fan myself, irrespective of who’s playing it, and so I didn’t actually watch or listen to any of the matches in this competition. But I did keep an eye on the scores and any interesting highlights when England were playing. So I have seen the brilliant backheel goal by Alessia Russo in the semi-final, and the 2 fabulous goals by Emma Toone and Chloe Kelly in the final, the latter taking place in front of a record-breaking crowd of over 87,000 at Wembley, more than at any other men’s or women’s European championship final, and it had a massive TV audience too.

Their celebrations have been fun to watch as well, which you don’t tend to get with the men’s game, including Chloe Kelly running off with the mic mid-interview to join in with Sweet Caroline, the team gatecrashing manager Sarina Weigman’s press conference while chanting It’s Coming Home, and later singing other songs while partying the night away, plus they had a victory event in Trafalgar Square.

It’s such a seismic moment for women’s professional football, which was banned by the FA until just 51 years ago. There will always be some men who are dismissive, sexist and abusive about it, but if social media is any barometer they are in an extreme minority, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive from what I’ve seen. The women’s game has had so much more attention and coverage this time around, and this victory, coupled with the model behaviour and attitudes of the team members, makes it abundantly clear that it’s a viable, exciting and highly rewarding sport, and it’s going to be hugely inspirational for young girls as a result. Even Chloe Kelly’s post-goal celebration in the final, running around in just her sports bra, has been widely praised as an empowering moment for women.

So I really hope our England team, football organisations and the wider footballing community can now build on this wonderful success, so the women’s game can continue to grow and thrive. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t. And the very best of luck to the ladies for their bid to qualify for the World Cup, they’ve shown themselves to be more than capable!

Josh Widdicombe – Stand-Up Shows

Our female footballers may have given us a few cheeky laughs after their big win, but I’ve been enjoying some actual comedy too of course, and I’ve focused on one other comedian in particular this month.

As well as him appearing on the new 25th series of The Last Leg as usual – nearly 10 years on from when it started during the 2012 Paralympics – Channel 4 also broadcast a brand new stand-up show by Josh Widdicombe this month. So I enjoyed watching that, and naturally revisited his 2 stand-up DVDs I own as well. While he’s perhaps not quite as great as comedians like Sarah Millican and Jason Manford, who I’ve seen in person recently, and who I think engage with the audience in a more extensive and entertaining way, he’s still very accomplished and funny, plus I can easily relate to some of his routines about growing up in Devon, new technology and other aspects of life. So here are my quick reviews of each of his shows.

Bit Much

This is an edited version of a show recorded earlier this year at the London Palladium, broadcast by Channel 4 this month. It’s only about 50 minutes long by the time you take the adverts out, but that’s still generous considering it’s free. And Josh does cover a fair amount of material, including lockdown, wearing glasses, having a bad neck, hot chocolate, advent calendars, pagers, why heโ€™s not drinking alcohol on his tour, driving tests, holidays with other people and WhatsApp groups. His second baby was also born last year, so there was plenty of material in relation to that, including baby monitors, prams, playing in the park with its strange closing time, and a stuffed sheep you can get called Ewan that helps babies to sleep with sounds of the womb. There was a detailed section about weddings as well, including gifts, ceremonies, food and other traditional elements that he has opinions on.

And Another Thing…

This and the next show, which I both own on DVD, were filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo, and last 70-80 minutes each. In this first gig from 2013, Josh talks about the Edinburgh Festival, auditioning for The Hobbit, cash machines, his iPhone, hiring a man in a van, trying to meet women, being burgled, Laser Quest, board games, festival camping, growing up in Devon, childhood holidays, Alton Towers & Madam Tussauds. He also talks quite a bit about food and drink, including Kellogg’s cereals, hotel breakfasts, making tea, dark chocolate, people and restaurants who are pretentious about food, Super Noodles, home-made jam and home brews.

The most entertaining extra feature, meanwhile, is a very amusing commentary where he banters with his Last Leg co-hosts Adam Hills & Alex Brooker. As well as the trio making observations about Josh’s performance, Josh and Adam also give a thorough insight into what it’s like preparing and performing their stand-up shows, which is pretty interesting, and is useful for Alex as he’s considering giving it a go.

Also on the disc we get a 12-minute appearance by Josh on Live At The Apollo – where he mentions Argos Extra, Playboy hot water bottles, mittens, bowling, going to restaurants and the cinema alone, and 2p-pushing arcade machines – and a 7-minute montage of lots of different comedians doing impressions of Josh, which is mildly amusing, if rather repetitive after a while.

What Do I Do Now…

A bit less effort has gone into the presentation of his second DVD from 2016, as they haven’t even bothered with music this time. They’ve just used audience noise for the menu and the first half of the credits, after which there’s just silence in the latter case. And the extras are very short.

But the main show is still fun, which is the important thing. He talks about being mistaken for Ed Sheeran, flat sharing, contactless payments, word processing, passport photos, greeting cards, unwanted souvenirs & gifts, crackers, cheese, Indian food, Exeter & Dartmoor, flying, sleeper trains, air beds and cabin beds, his childhood filofax (a copy of which he brings out on stage to read from the facts in it), school memories, being voted one of Britain’s worst-dressed men by GQ Magazine, and David Bowie. He also talks to a couple of audience members – a guy who works at Sainsburyโ€™s, and a girl who managed to get in with her parents despite being under the age limit of 16.

The extra features, meanwhile, consist of 5 short spoof clips where Alex Brooker tries to interfere with Josh’s preparations and confidence, criticising his jokes, set design and audience capacity, both before and after the show. It’s nothing special, and could have been edited into a single 8ยฝ minute feature, but it’s ok, and it’s nice to see that Alex is there to support his friend again.

Other Comedy

There isn’t a lot else to mention on the comedy front apart from Jason and Josh, but I’m glad that 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown has also returned on Channel 4, even if it’s naturally not the same without Sean Lock any more, and Iโ€™m Sorry I Havenโ€™t A Clue is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a new series on BBC Radio 4.

The next series of Mock The Week will also be coming up in the autumn – but it will be the last one. The BBC have given it the axe after 17 years, as they can’t afford to keep making it. Sure, it’s not the best or cleverest comedy programme of all time, but I do very much enjoy the half hour of silly escapism it provides every week when it’s on, and we need shows like that more than ever to pick apart all the ridiculous things happening in the news these days. There are also several comedians who I’ve checked out further online, watched on DVD, or have even booked to see live in the months ahead, as a direct result of seeing them on the show, it’s been a springboard for many comics in that way. And I loved being in the audience 5 years ago too! But maybe it won’t be gone forever – the team would like to continue with it, and the show’s biggest fans are running an online petition for it to continue, so hopefully a channel like Dave will pick it up instead, as they already show endless repeats of it anyway. We’ll see what happens. And let’s hope the BBC don’t cut Have I Got News For You as well – I know there are also shows like The News Quiz on the radio, which I don’t listen to often but have tuned into occasionally, but they need at least one of their best-loved comedy news shows to remain on the box too.

And that’s not been the only sad news this month. The beloved actor Bernard Cribbins has sadly passed away at 93. He was one of the real down-to-earth nice guys in showbusiness who everybody respected. And he was always great in the wide range of TV shows, films and stage productions he appeared in, including Doctor Who, Fawlty Towers and The Wombles, which I knew him best for. I also have a compilation of some of his songs, including his top 10 hits The Hole In The Ground & Right Said Fred, plus other tracks like Get Your Hair Cut and his cover of When I’m Sixty Four. So he’ll be very much missed.

The Rolling Stones

As well as the London Olympics, there’s been another big anniversary lately, with The Rolling Stones celebrating their 60th year! There will be very few, if any, artists starting out today who will have the energy, creativity, stage presence and wealth of material that will enable them to pack out huge venues throughout six decades, with audiences spanning the generations. But these guys manage it effortlessly, are still sounding great, and show no signs of stopping.

Sure, there’s nothing new or radical about their music these days, but then they don’t need to change their sound or venture into different musical territory, and they shouldn’t do so. Their huge catalogue of songs always grabs you, and their concerts have been increasingly ambitious spectacles as time has gone on, judging by all the DVDs I own and other videos I’ve seen. They know how to put on a show.

And while Mick Jagger has never had an amazing singing voice, which he freely admits himself, it is still quite good nonetheless, and he has the power and presence to more than make up for any shortcomings, plus he can play the harmonica and guitar very well. And in every concert he has the audience in the palm of his hand, as he struts proudly across every inch of the stage and gets everyone involved, while he’s backed up more than ably by the fabulous Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and, until recently, the dependable drumming of Charlie Watts, who sadly passed away last year. They work so well as a cohesive unit, sparring off each other. And we mustn’t forget former band members like Brian Jones and Bill Wyman of course, nor the many others who have supported them in the studio or on tour. A lot of people have played a key part in the band’s journey, but the Jagger juggernaut has always led the way.

So this month I’ve enjoyed a few things in relation to the band.

In particular, I bought the Blu-ray + 2 CD set of Licked Live In NYC that came out in June, and an hour-long edit was also shown on BBC Two this month (among other live concerts the BBC broadcast that I already own). This new Blu-ray release is a remastered and uncut version of the 2003 Madison Square Garden show that had been filmed for HBO, and was originally in the Four Flicks DVD box set that I also have. It is an SD Blu-ray, so it’s not in High Definition, but the picture quality’s pretty good anyway, and inevitably the audio is fantastic.

The concert lasts 2 hours 15 minutes and is packed full of great songs, including 4 that weren’t on Four Flicks – Start Me Up, Tumbling Dice, Gimme Shelter & Sympathy For The Devil. Of those, Gimme Shelter is particularly fun, as backing singer Lisa Fischer comes out to centre stage for a belting duet with Mick that works really well. And talking of duets, Sheryl Crow clearly enjoys herself in her great guest appearance on Honky Tonk Women. Meanwhile, another notable and catchy song is Don’t Stop, which was one of the 4 new tracks included on their Forty Licks greatest hits album, released back then to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

And visually the show looks very cool too. The stage is immense, with a huge video screen on the back wall adding colourful imagery and animations to the experience, and the lighting is very effective too. There’s also a camera on the end of Ronnie’s guitar at one point that gives an interesting view of him playing. And towards the end of the show the band go down a runway to do a few songs on a much smaller, intimate stage amongst the audience, before they return to the main stage for the encore.

There’s an enjoyable collection of extras too, including 3 songs from a show in Amsterdam, a couple of instrumental rehearsal jams (Well Well & Extreme Western Grip) that were previously on the Four Flicks DVD, the 50-minute documentary Tip Of The Tongue from Four Flicks that follows the band as they embark on their tour, and a bit of backstage and performance footage from Toronto. There’s also a small but interesting booklet with the set, talking about the concert, the groupโ€™s relationship with New York, the tour as a whole, and paying tribute to the late Charlie Watts. So it’s a decent package altogether.

However, the DVD for the same concert in the Four Flicks set is still worth hanging on to, even though it’s the 20-minute shorter HBO programme, as there are various extras that haven’t been carried over to the new release, including interactive multi-angle footage for Honky Tonk Women where you can choose which band member to watch, short video commentaries for a few of the songs, the ability to re-order the songs in any way you like as a custom setlist, a quick interview with Sheryl Crow and the band about her involvement, and a brief featurette about the making of the HBO special.

Apart from that, the BBC have also had a special season of programmes on TV to mark the anniversary, with several documentaries and live concerts being broadcast, most of which I already own on DVD. But there were a couple of new programmes that I did tune into:

  • My Life As A Rolling Stone – This was a very interesting four-part series on BBC Two, with each hour-long episode focusing on a different member of the group. The episodes for Mick, Keith and Ronnie had newly filmed interviews alongside some of their archive chats, while they were fortunately able to find enough archive footage of Charlie being interviewed for his episode. There were also many contributions from fellow band members, other musicians and famous fans. And overall the series gave a very comprehensive insight into the group’s beginnings, evolution, relationships with one another, song compositions, concerts, controversies, challenges, and so on. So it’s a great retrospective of their career.
  • Rolling With The Stones – This was a fun 2-hour celebration presented by Cerys Matthews on BBC Radio 2, compiling previously unheard archive interviews with Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie & also Bill Wyman, who reveal some interesting little insights. The chat was interspersed with lots of music too, mainly studio and live tracks by the Stones themselves of course, but also a few tracks by other artists who had entertained and inspired them (Chris Barber’s Jazz Band, Elmore James, Chuck Berry, Little Richard & Marianne Faithfull). The radio station also had a special edition of Tracks Of My Years, with veteran DJ Ken Bruce playing a variety of songs by the band for an hour.

Queen

Finally I have some stuff to write about Queen again this month, as it’s been a bit quiet on that front recently. Apart from the England team striding out to a nice mix of We Will Rock You at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony (which combined the slow and fast versions of the song), and our female footballers singing Don’t Stop Me Now during their celebrations, there has been a significant release as well, even though it was only available for a very limited time.

For one week only they presented an online stream of Rhapsody Over London, a full 2 hour 20 minute concert by Queen + Adam Lambert, recorded at London’s O2 Arena back in June, which was brilliant. As I previously discussed in my extensive review of their Live Around The World album a while back, Adam’s grown on me over his time as frontman (which he’s now been doing for over 10 years!), as he’s become ever more accomplished, comfortable and confident in his role. He’s not trying to copy Freddie in any way, but is hugely respectful towards him and Brian and Roger, while still putting his own spin on the different songs with his incredible voice. And this concert illustrates that really well. Visually the show is stunning too, with the lighting, the animations on the back screen, the design of the stage, Adam’s outfits, etc all looking amazing. It’s a real visual treat as well as an audio one, which Queen always do so well.

A lot of their best-loved tracks are performed of course, as part of their 28-song setlist. They pack plenty in, and there are lots of nice little touches along the way, including the orchestral recording of Innuendo played at the start, Brian’s extended guitar solos for Fat Bottomed Girls, Freddie’s harmonised intro for You Take My Breath Away that leads them into Who Wants To Live Forever, Adam appearing on a motorbike for Bicycle Race, Roger’s generous dedication of Under Pressure to the late Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters, Queen’s original backing vocals used at the start of Bohemian Rhapsody while Adam sings the lead, Brian appearing in a gold cyborg suit for the guitar sections of that particular song, Freddie appearing on screen before the encore to play with the crowd in his call-and-response segment from Wembley in 1986, and Frank The Robot lifting the screen for the traditional Rock You/Champions finale.

There are also moments where Adam takes a rest, so Brian and Roger can take centre stage. There’s the usual acoustic section by Brian, where he sings Love Of My Life, as the crowd join in and all their phone torchlights look like stars, and Freddie appears on screen to sing the final chorus, which is always a beautifully moving moment. Brian follows that with the more lively ’39 as well. He also plays a fantastic electric guitar solo at another point in the show, with the backing visuals placing him in space, and at one point during the solo he plays a gorgeous rendition of Dvorakโ€™s New World Symphony (which people of a certain age in the UK will know as the theme from the Hovis adverts). Roger also gets his time to shine by singing I’m In Love With My Car, and he joins Brian at the front of the stage for These Are The Days Of Our Lives, which Adam also joins them for at the end of the song.

And if that wasn’t enough, there were a few extras with the online stream as well:

  • Concert Q&A – This was a 35-minute chat with Adam, Brian and Roger, streamed live from Finland on 25 July before they went on stage for the last show on their tour, and it was then kept available as part of the catch-up stream for the week. It was an interesting chat that included questions about being on tour, their music, Adam’s outfits, their multi-generational appeal, their Platinum Jubilee appearance, and tips for others who want to sing and performing.
  • Summer Sonic Live In Tokyo – Being able to watch a second concert as part of the package was a great bonus. This show from 2014 was an hour shorter than the main feature, but again still contained excellent performances of many big hits. But it’s most notable for Brian’s beautiful performance of Teo Torriate during his acoustic set, which was written as the band’s tribute to their Japanese fans, and the Tokyo crowd all join in keenly with that. There’s also a lovely performance of I Was Born To Love You during this gig, which was never performed live during Freddie’s lifetime. That and a couple of other songs are included on their Live Around The World compilation, so you can see my review for a bit more about those. Adam does a nice duet with Freddie on Bohemian Rhapsody in this show as well.
  • Live Around The World Q&A – This is the 45 minute Q&A that was originally streamed on Youtube as part of the promotion for their 2020 live album. I wrote about this previously in my album review post, but it covers similar ground to the more recent live Q&A above, including their favourite songs to perform and cities to play in, their Fire Fight Australia and Japanese Summer Sonic concerts, their experiences of preparing for shows and performing, the impact of lockdown, and the Bohemian Rhapsody movie.
  • Meet The Press – This was a 6-minute compilation of clips from a few Queen + Adam Lambert press conferences and show performances over the years. Nothing particularly exciting, but a pleasant bonus nonetheless.

So there was a lot to enjoy there, and it would be great if they released the London and Tokyo concerts on Blu-ray. They’d make a great set, I’d certainly buy them.

I’ve also seen a couple of other Queen-related videos online this month, which were free this time:

  • Peter Freestone, affectionately known as Phoebe, was Freddie’s personal assistant for many years, right up to his death. And this month he posted a free copy of his Online Talkshow, that had originally been pay-to-view. In it he shares a variety of lovely photos of Freddie – either on his own, with Queen, with friends, with lovers or with fans – and talks with fond and insightful remembrance about what they represent, as well as extrapolating from that to talk about Freddie as a person in general and sharing one or two stories. Most of the photos have never been publicly released before, so it’s a real treat to see them. They show Freddie at his happiest, such as performing on stage or kicking his legs in the air while on the bonnet of a limo, but there’s also a moving photo of him towards the end of his life, sitting up in bed with his cats. So Phoebe picked a good variety of images here, and didn’t shy away from the sadder side of things. His recollections are also interspersed with interesting acoustic rearrangements of a few Queen songs by Milan Devinne and his band, which are nowhere near as good as the originals but are still very pleasant. So all in all it’s a nice way to spend an hour and 15 minutes if you’re a big Freddie fan.

Conclusion

So there you have it, that’s a busy July all wrapped up. I hope you enjoyed that, and that you’ve had a good month without suffering too much in the heat!

I don’t have much planned for August really. Work’s going to be my main focus, as things will continue to be very busy before my departure, and it looks like my plans to travel down to say farewell to my colleagues will probably take place after my redundancy in September, a month during which I also have a few shows booked. So I’ll be travelling quite a bit in September, and more still in October and November. Which is fine by me, I’ve earned a bit of a holiday! But until then, I don’t have any shows or events booked this month.

However, even if I don’t post any theatre reviews, I will still be continuing with my London 2012 retrospective posts of the Olympics & Paralympics, and there are some very detailed entries from my old 2015 journal that I’m about to share as part of my ongoing throwback series, as that was a rather busy year. It’s very much a month for looking back and reflecting in one way or another it seems!

I’ll also continue going out and about for walks and anything else that interests me of course, so I’ll share any interesting photos that I take as usual, on here and on Instagram. Plus it will also be my birthday – and who knows what I’ll be doing when my 40th comes around next year, I’ll have to figure out what to do for that.

The free Aniridia Network Conference is also taking place online on Saturday 13th August, for anyone who wants to attend, and I do have a special little moment in that this year, which I’ll mention in my next Favourites post. The Nystagmus Network’s Open Day in Sheffield isn’t far off either, incidentally, at the start of October, if you’re interested in booking for that too.

So I will have a few bits and pieces to write about next month at least – the end of my first job, the Commonwealth Games, and one or two other things. But the months after that will be much more eventful.

That’s all for July though. Thanks again for all your support at the moment, and I hope you have a lovely August too, whatever you’re getting up to in the nice weather!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

3 thoughts on “July 2022 Favourites”

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