November 2022 Favourites

Hey there, hope you’re all doing alright, and welcome to my latest roundup. I’ve continued to be happily occupied since my redundancy, so there’s plenty to mention for the last month.

First of all, my big outing was a lovely weekend in Oxford, where I visited the Ashmolean Museum, went on a walking tour of the university and the city, enjoyed a concert by Jools Holland with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, and had a good laugh seeing Jimmy Carr. So for all the details and lots of photos, check out my extensive blog post about the trip.

I’ve also been getting out and about to see a lot of the festive displays in London. I’ll share the highlights in my Christmas Favourites post in the New Year of course, but I’ve been posting lots of photos on my Instagram page on a daily basis, so be sure to follow me there, and also my Youtube channel where I’ll post some video clips nearer to Christmas.

Apart from all that however, I also spent a day volunteering and meeting friends at a disability exhibition, had a front row seat for another Queen-related concert, bought a special Queen box set, and enjoyed various other things on DVD and TV as well. So let’s crack on with it. None of this stuff is sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you enjoy this month’s post and video!

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Oxford – Art, Academia, Jools & Jimmy

Last weekend I had a nice little getaway in the beautiful historic city of Oxford, which I’ve never visited before. I spent the daylight hours visiting a museum and going on a walking tour, while in the evenings I attended a concert and a stand-up comedy gig, so I made good use of my time there. None of it is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy this review of what I got up to!

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October 2022 Favourites

Hello again, I hope you’re all doing well despite everything going on in the world at the moment. Here in the UK, Liz Truss having to resign after a disastrous 45 days as our shortest-serving Prime Minister was certainly quite astonishing to witness, and now it remains to be seen if new PM Rishi Sunak can start to get things back on track and last at least as long as she did!

Still, despite all that chaos, I’m doing well, I’m happy to say. My redundancy certainly hasn’t left me twiddling my thumbs, as I’ve been very busy indeed this month. The fact that I’ve been invited to contribute to various disability and accessibility projects, some of which I’ve been paid for, has shown that I’m still very much in demand for my skills and opinions, and I’ve continued to socialise with friends as well of course. So I still have a sense of purpose and don’t feel at all lonely, bored or cast aside in any way despite my job loss, and I still have financial stability for the time being.

So I’m enjoying the career break, and there’s plenty to cover this month, including the aforementioned disability projects, virtual reality games, stand-up comedy shows, a museum visit, a seaside trip, an overseas holiday, TV shows and music releases. So I hope you enjoy this bumper roundup post and video!

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Derren Brown Reviews – TV Specials

Following on from my previous post about Derren Brown’s various TV series, this time I’m revisiting his TV specials, including his televised stage shows. I own 4 specials and 5 stage shows on DVD, but the rest haven’t been released on disc. Most of these shows are on All4 as well though, and some are on Derren’s Youtube channel (in full along with many shorter clips), as he generously posted a lot of shows online during the Covid pandemic. So I’ve been able to rewatch all of them recently in one way or another.

Derren’s specials are all one-off shows (or occasionally two-parters) focused on a very specific subject, event or person. Nearly all of them were an hour long when originally broadcast (so around 45-50 minutes without adverts), with a few exceptions that lasted 90 minutes (so around 70 minutes without commercials). They’re always thought-provoking, and a few of the darker ones resulted in complaints (and thus extra publicity) from people who didn’t understand what he was doing or trying to achieve. But I find them all fascinating and fun to watch in any case. Likewise his stage shows are all amazing to watch, and I’ve grouped them together in one section at the end as I don’t need to go into heavy detail about them.

As mentioned before, none of this is sponsored, I’m just writing about them as a fan. And there are a few spoilers in here if you haven’t seen the shows before, but then it’s pretty common knowledge that Derren’s experiments pretty much always succeed as intended. The thrill is from seeing how he does it and the impact it has on those involved. So I hope you enjoy my descriptions and reviews.

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Derren Brown Reviews – TV Series

Having finally seen Derren Brown live for the first time recently, it’s been a good excuse to rewatch a lot of his old TV & stage shows. I own many of them on DVD, but there are also several programmes available on All4, plus he has his own Youtube channel where he generously uploaded some full episodes during the Covid pandemic and has lots of other clips too. Some of his stuff I haven’t seen for a long time, so it’s been a lot of fun to revisit it.

So here’s the first part of a special double bill of descriptions and reviews for Halloween weekend, and here I’m going to describe and review the various TV series that I’ve been rewatching on DVD and online. Naturally there are some spoilers in here, but after all this time I don’t think that matters – even when you know the outcome of some of his shows, given that he nearly always succeeds in his aims, it’s still amazing to see him at work. And none of it’s sponsored, I just wanted to write about it as a fan. So I hope you enjoy!

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September 2022 Favourites

Well, what a month this has been! When I published my August Favourites at the start of September, I had just left my first job due to my redundancy, and Liz Truss had just become Prime Minister. But then 2 days after I’d made that post, the ultimate career change took place at the top of our Royal Family, and normal life in the UK was disrupted for the best part of a fortnight as a result. I’ve written a separate post saying farewell to Her Majesty The Queen and reviewing the coverage, as it’s not really suitable for a Favourites post and there was quite a lot to talk about.

Apart from that though, and despite my redundancy, I’ve still been pretty busy this month. I’ve attended a Derren Brown show and a couple of tribute concerts, listened to an audiobook I got for my birthday, and enjoyed new episodes of my favourite comedies on TV once the schedules had returned to normal. So there are still plenty of nicer things to mention in this post and the short video I’ve made to go with it, none of which is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy my latest roundup!

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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!

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London 2012 Revisited – Olympics Opening Ceremony

They said it wouldn’t work, that it was a waste of money. It would be dull and nobody would care, so we’d all forget about it once it was over. Or we’d be the subject of everlasting international ridicule.

That was the reaction of many when it was announced in 2005 that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. There was still rightful jubilation amongst the organisers, athletes and many sports fans of course, and I was very much looking forward to it personally as well. But a lot of people had serious concerns and complaints about everything from the cost (although it apparently ended up being under budget) to the logo. And there were the usual subset of people, online and elsewhere, who were keen for everyone else to know that they weren’t interested – i.e. if they didn’t like it, they didn’t think anyone else should either. They were adamant it would be a pointless disaster, with several journalists and news publications adding fuel to that fire of negativity as well.

How very wrong all the doubters were.

That summer of sporting excellence – topped and tailed by spectacular opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and all covered extensively by the BBC and Channel 4 respectively – blew the vast majority of people away, leaving the few remaining closed-minded grumpy people to languish in a lonely wilderness. It was beyond anything that had been expected, even those of us who were keen to see it, and genuinely made you feel proud to be British. It had its teething troubles and controversies before launch, without a doubt, like any project on such a huge scale. But once it got underway, we showed the world what we were capable of at our very best.

Ten years on, those wonderful memories haven’t faded, and are being celebrated, with special events in the Olympic Park including the lighting of a legacy flame and a special exhibition. I haven’t been to see the exhibition yet, but I have had a little wander around some of the Olympic Park, and will continue exploring further over the weeks ahead, as it has been a while since I last visited, and there’s still a lot of I haven’t seen. Keep an eye on my Instagram for some photos in the coming days and weeks, as well as the few examples I’m including in these blog posts when relevant. Don’t forget you can also look back at my charity abseil down the Arcelormittal Orbit Tower in the park as well!

There are naturally also questions being asked about the legacy of the Games, and lessons are still being learnt from it. There’s no doubting it had a substantial impact in many ways, and the Olympic Park helped to regenerate a big area of East London, so it was certainly well worth hosting the events. But while it did increase the nation’s interest and participation in sport to a fair extent, there are still concerns about the levels of inactivity among the population, which the Covid pandemic hasn’t helped with, and there have been issues for some residents who still live in the area. That’s not the kind of thing I’m going to get into though, as others are far more qualified to analyse the legacy of the Games in detail.

The important thing here is that the Games themselves were a huge success, which we can all agree on. So to mark the big anniversary, this is the first in a series of posts where I’ll be revisiting my personal highlights of the 2012 Olympics & Paralympics.

And to start with, I’m going to extensively review the Olympics Opening Ceremony that kicked it all off on 27 July 2012, mainly focusing on the coverage on the BBC’s Blu-ray box set and the music on the Isles Of Wonder soundtrack album, but also mentioning other content from a playlist I’ve compiled of highlights, behind the scenes footage and other music from the ceremony. So I hope you enjoy this epic post about an epic event!

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Jason Manford – Stand-Up DVDs & Music Reviews

Recently I went to see my third stand-up comedian of the year, the wonderful Jason Manford. I’ve been a fan of his for a long while, for reasons that I explained in my review of the show, so it was great to see him live at long last.

So in preparation for that, I naturally rewatched all of his great stand-up DVDs as well, much like I did with Sarah Millican’s collection when I saw her live recently, and I’ve reviewed his music album too for good measure. So I hope you enjoy these little reviews!

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Jason Manford – The Folkestone Funnyman

During the heatwave last weekend – but thankfully returning home before the extreme temperatures hit – I had a little getaway to Folkestone in Kent. And my main reason for visiting was to see the brilliant observational comedian Jason Manford performing his new show Like Me at the Leas Cliff Hall. It was a lot easier to get a decent seat there compared to London, where shows for many comics inevitably sell out extremely quickly, plus it gave me a good opportunity to visit and explore somewhere different as well. And a seaside trip was ideal in the hot weather. So I hope you enjoy reading about it all!

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