Many congratulations to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her Platinum Jubilee! 70 years on the throne is an astonishing achievement, being the first time a British monarch has ever reached such an incredible milestone. It may never happen again, certainly not within any current living person’s lifetime, so it is a truly historic occasion.
I hope The Queen has enjoyed all of the celebrations that have been held in her honour, and it’s been lovely to see her making a few appearances as her mobility allows. And I hope everyone else has enjoyed the various activities that have taken place, or have just made the most of the opportunity to relax and have fun during an extra couple of days off work, over the specially extended holiday weekend.
But first, I wanted to talk about the 2002 Golden Jubilee Concerts that I have on DVD, as I’ve naturally rewatched them as part of the build-up to this year’s celebrations. And I’ve had a look through the limited footage available online from the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert as well.
Ultimately, the 2002 Party At The Palace remains the only concert that I’m happy to watch in its entirety, even including the weaker acts, whereas for the Diamond and Platinum parties there are several artists I’ve had to skip over. So I’ve written very detailed reviews for the 2002 gigs here, and tagged on a shorter review to mention my highlights from the 2012 event.
We’ll all have different views on these concerts of course, given the wide range of performers from different decades, countries and musical genres, and it’s great that the organisers ensured there was something for everyone. So these are only my personal thoughts, but I hope you enjoy reading through them!
From high in the sky to deep underground, including my first time riding 2 different modes of transport and my first London museum visit in ages, plus stand-up comedy, TV shows and music, there’s been a lot going on this month. London really is feeling alive and back to normal again, which is wonderful. So I’ve got a lot to get through here as usual, none of which is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy this latest roundup!
It’s based on a series of radio shows and podcasts that Ricky recorded with fellow comedian Stephen Merchant and their radio producer friend Karl Pilkington, talking about all sorts of random things. I have a large selection of their recordings in audiobook form, downloaded for free or from Audible, which are always good fun to dip into:
Ricky and Stephen have a lot of banter and funny stories of their own that they bring to the table in those shows, especially in the early days. But Karl increasingly becomes the main focus of their interest, as he has his own special take on the world. He was first introduced to a wider audience, beyond the XFM radio show, on some of Ricky’s stand-up DVDs, by Ricky talking about him on stage, and also chatting with Karl directly in the bonus features.
Whether it’s completely misunderstanding things that seem obvious to the rest of us, coming up with strange ideas for improving the world with his bizarre logic, having strange habits that often irritate his partner Suzanne, or his obsession with weird trivia about freaks and animals, it is amazing what Karl comes out with. It seems that he often hears about news stories and facts, or watches documentaries, without fully understanding, researching or verifying them, and then he extrapolates in his head what he believes happened. Or he incorrectly remembers some fictional story or film he came across once as a factual account. So by the time he tells Ricky and Stephen about things, they’re wildly misinterpreted, exaggerated or embellished stories that he’s convinced are correct when they’re blatant nonsense. There may be some very basic truth underpinning them somewhere, but it’s often hard to tell what it is.
The animated TV series, therefore, cherry-picks some of the best moments from their recordings. It was produced by HBO in America, and also broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK, airing between 2010 and 2012. It’s very funny indeed, and I own all 3 series on DVD. It still gets shown on the TV as well, I know Comedy Central have been repeating it recently here in the UK. So here’s my review of the series, which I hope you enjoy!
Comedian, actor and writer Ricky Gervais recently dropped his latest stand-up special on Netflix, which had naturally been delayed by the pandemic. So not only have I just watched that, but I’ve also rewatched his other stand-up shows too, which are still funny. So I thought I’d do a review of them while I’m at it. None of this is sponsored, I just decided to have a bit of a Ricky binge as I’m a fan of his stand-up. I hope you enjoy.
What better way to celebrate the lifting of restrictions than with a really special lift, in a helicopter ride over London! This was a trip that my friend James had originally organised for a few of us 3 years ago, to celebrate his 40th birthday. But it was postponed a few times thanks to the weather, and then of course the pandemic scuppered it completely, so it felt like it would never happen. But last weekend, not long after James’s 43rd birthday, we finally did it. And it was well worth the wait!
Hello again, I hope you all had a good Easter. My mother and I happily over-indulged on hot cross buns, Easter eggs and other unhealthy things as usual, but hopefully I’ve offset that a bit with the long walks I’ve continued doing. And I’m glad to say my mother had her 4th Covid jab over Easter too, without any side effects.
Apart from that, I didn’t go to any museums or theatres in April, but I’ve got quite a lot in the pipeline on that front, with lots of exhibitions I want to see, and a variety of shows booked for the coming months, among other things. And there’s a potentially big opportunity on the horizon that I can’t talk about just yet, but it might prove to be very interesting. All of which means I have a busy year ahead, and it’s caused me to reassess how I use my time, especially as we’re all emerging from the depths of the pandemic and making a bit of a fresh start.
I’ve therefore decided to cut back on the Favourites videos I do with these posts. They do take a fair amount of time to produce, and I’ve done about 60 of them over the past 4 years, which is pretty good going. I’d rather focus on my writing, and I’ll continue doing these detailed blog posts every month, as I have a lot more time and flexibility to construct, edit, update and correct them, compared to videos. Plus I have a variety of other things that I want to write about in the months ahead. I’ll still do little updates on my Youtube channel every so often though, and I’ll continue to share footage from my outings and travels there (indeed, there’s a very special video coming up shortly). But I just want to keep things a bit simpler on the video front, that’s all.
So with all that said, let’s get on with this month’s roundup. Apart from my walks, there’s also quite a bit to tell you about the various forms of home entertainment I’ve been into, including a special 50th anniversary tribute to one of my favourite radio shows. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you enjoy!
Following on from my previous posts about the museums I visited and the We Will Rock You musical, I want to finish my trilogy about my recent break in Milton Keynes by giving an overview of the area I was staying in near the theatre, as I spent a bit of time having a wander around. As with my other posts, none of this is sponsored or gifted, and you can see some footage from the area as part of the vlog in my March Favourites video.
Considering I’m a huge Queen fan, as evidenced by my ongoing Queen At 50 series of ridiculously obsessive album reviews, it seems hard to believe that I’ve never seen We Will Rock You before. But when it was in London I lived too far away to get to it easily, and I wasn’t aware of audio described performances back then either (if they even existed at that time), so I didn’t go to the theatre much as I often couldn’t see what was going on very well.
In its early days there was also a part of me that was uncertain how well Queen’s songs would transfer to a stage musical, or how such a wildly varied catalogue of hits could possibly be shoehorned into some kind of coherent story. Some theatrical adaptations of songs can be rather bland or overly cheesy, rather than captivating entertainment. And anyone you compare with Freddie and the original band is always going to be inferior to some degree. So I’m always a bit wary of anyone covering their material, some of which is rather complex in its structure and harmonies. Plus the story, written by Ben Elton (who has returned to direct the 20th anniversary tour), also sounded a bit silly when I first heard about it. And there seemed to be a lot of reviews by critics that were less than favourable.
However, much like my early misgivings about the Adam Lambert touring collaboration, the more I learnt about the Queen musical and the more popular it became as time went on, the more interested I became in going to see it one day. I got the soundtrack album, which demonstrated how they’d adapted the songs, and I’ve seen various clips of the cast on TV, DVD extras and online over the years, all of which have helped to fuel my interest.
And so finally, in March this year, I had the opportunity to see the 20th anniversary touring production, when an audio described performance was announced at the Milton Keynes Theatre. Hence that was my main reason for visiting the town. I just decided to make a week of it to see other things as well, including the museums I’ve written about in my previous post.
It’s been a long time but, now that things have finally opened up again, I’m happy to say I’ve just had my first little holiday in over 2 years. While I’ll always be obsessed with exploring London itself, I’m also keen to poke around places further afield a bit more, as it’s so easy to hop on fast trains out of the city, to practically any part of the UK, unlike where I used to live. I’ve settled into London very well over the past 5 years, even if I have been largely stuck indoors for the last 2 of them, so I’m looking forward to broadening my horizons.
So at the end of March I spent a week in Milton Keynes. Hardly an exotic location, I know, but still an enjoyable and worthwhile change of scenery. And it was all off my own back, meaning nothing here is sponsored or gifted.
As well as seeing an audio described theatre show, which I’ll mention in my next post, I also spent a few days checking out the most famous museums in the area, marking the first time I’ve been to such places since the pandemic began. So that’s what I’m going to tell you about here, focusing primarily on the most significant location – Bletchley Park – as what was achieved there was nothing short of extraordinary, but there are a few other things to mention as well. And I’ve also uploaded some video clips I recorded at Bletchley Park, which will give you a small sense of the atmosphere, so do check that out too.