April 2021 Favourites

Welcome to my latest monthly update, and I start with good news – Mum is now fully vaccinated against Covid (until the Autumn booster at least), and we’ve finally had haircuts after 6 months! That’s my personal headline news from April, and both of those events were a great relief as you can imagine. I’ve also passed the lovely milestones of 1,000 followers on Twitter and 600 on Youtube, so thank you to everyone who continues to subscribe to my ramblings!

Mum didn’t have any side effects from her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, apart from mild soreness around the injection site (just like after the first dose), which had gone away by the following afternoon. And I’m looking forward to my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine during May. With tens of millions of people having been vaccinated without any widespread harm, and only an extremely tiny but highly unfortunate minority having serious outcomes (as is normal for all types of medicine), I have no concerns about getting the jab. Bring it on!

We’re also continuing to emerge from lockdown in the UK bit by bit. More restrictions were eased on 12 April, hence we were able to get haircuts. And various test events are being held to study the effects of large crowds gathered together in different environments, including some without masks and social distancing (but negative tests are required for entry). All being well, more restrictions will be lifted during May.

Of course, this is all being done with sensible caution, as we’ve all seen how the virus is still wreaking havoc in some parts of the world. If you happen to be in a badly affected area then I wish you all the best. But other places are doing better, thankfully, and it looks like some tourism might be possible in the months ahead. If you are planning to travel abroad this year, then I strongly recommend that you regularly monitor the country-specific advice published by the UK and US governments, so you know what to expect and what’s expected of you.

Enough about all that though, it’s time to look at what else I’ve been focusing on this past month. I have been going out and about for long walks in the lovely weather, which has been good. But in this post and video, as has become usual while we’re still in semi-lockdown, I’m going to talk about various bits and pieces relating to disability, drama, comedy and music. So let’s crack on with it. Nothing here is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy!

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March 2021 Favourites

Congratulations. If you’re in the UK like me, you’ve made it through a whole year since we first went into lockdown. And for some of you it may be longer depending on where you live. It’s been tough for all of us, including optimistic folk like me. But we can all be proud of making it this far, especially thanks to all our families and friends, health and care staff, key workers, volunteers, scientists, etc, who have done so much for us in that time.

And as the days get brighter, so does the light at the end of the runnel, albeit with some flickering that means we still have to cautiously tread the path ahead. Many countries are still struggling with infections and vaccine rollouts for instance. But here in England at least, schools reopened on March 8th and outdoor meetups and sports were permitted from March 29th, as part of the roadmap for lifting lockdown. Other parts of the UK have been easing restrictions in similar ways at slightly different times. We’re by no means out of the woods yet and have to continue to be very careful indeed, but they’ve been very positive steps in the right direction.

The vaccines are helping significantly too, with over 30 million adults having received at least 1 jab, over 4 million of whom have had both, and my mother and I are patiently waiting to be invited for our second doses. There are a few ill-informed myths about the vaccines and false claims about lockdowns that are misleading some people of course, but the overwhelming majority understand why and how it’s important to protect themselves and others, and they trust the experts that the vaccines are safe.

Of course, being in lockdown means I still haven’t done an awful lot. I have been getting out for more walks recently though, now that the weather’s improving, so I’m very glad about that. And I’ve been enjoying plenty of comedy and music as usual, which is what most of this post and video will be about. Nothing is sponsored or gifted as per usual, and I hope you enjoy!

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2020 Review

2020 – the year that nobody wants to look back at. Referring to perfect vision as 20/20 will forever carry a certain irony with it now. And let’s be honest, if you were to try and sum up the year with a word or phrase, there isn’t much that’s family-friendly that truly does it justice – other than dumpster fire perhaps, which I’ve seen a lot of people use very accurately.

Granted, 2021 hasn’t started off any better, but that’s because we’re still experiencing the fallout from the damage caused by its unruly predecessor. 2021 has its work cut out trying to repair that, and it will undoubtedly require the assistance of 2022 and beyond to achieve it. However, 2021 is giving us a lot of reason to be hopeful, so there is definitely light at the end of this long, dark tunnel we’ve all been stuck in.

Normally when I do these annual reviews, I just list things month by month. But as time itself shuddered to a halt and stopped making any sense in March, with all the remaining months rolling into one, I’m just going to summarise things in categories instead. That way you can skim through to the sections that interest you most if you don’t want to read everything. The items mentioned here, and many others, have all been discussed in my Favourites posts during the year, which you can read for a lot more detail.

So I hope you enjoy this post and, apart from the first section, I hope it reminds you of some of the more pleasant distractions from the last 12 months!

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October 2020 Favourites

Here we go again. It’s time for Lockdown 2: Electric Avenue, so the cases don’t get higher. It’s not quite as severe as the first one, with education settings remaining open in particular, but there are still very tight restrictions nonetheless. And it had been inevitable for some time. The use of different ‘tiers’ to set regional rules was keeping the infection rate lower than it otherwise would have been, but it wasn’t quite doing enough to drive cases down. So we didn’t have a choice, sadly, as many other countries have found.

There are still lots of reasons to be optimistic, thanks to the ever-improving knowledge about the virus, the better treatments now available, the developments of mass testing, and the very promising results of vaccine trials. But right now we have to be vigilant to get through the winter safely, and it’s important to take care of ourselves and look after our mental health during this time.

I feel relatively calm about it thankfully, as I’m fortunate to have a steady job, priority grocery deliveries, family support, regular contact with friends, blogging projects, local walks, entertainment, etc to help pass the time. And we’ve pre-ordered our meat for Christmas from a farm we like, so that gives us peace of mind too. I still greatly miss seeing friends in person and visiting interesting places of course, nobody wants this. But right now my mother and I feel safe and comfortable, which is the important thing. We’re more prepared than the first time around, when the uncertainty and panic buying made it really difficult to begin with. So we know we can get through it, having done it once already.

But for many other people it’s going to be a lot harder, due to physical and mental health issues, loneliness, loss of employment and business, financial worries, family and domestic problems, the loss of loved ones from the virus or other causes, and so on. So please do help others if you can, either by direct support or by charitable donations, because every little bit helps. And do also sign the petition by Mind calling on the Government to invest in a Winter Mental Health Support Package.

And if you’re in a position where you’re struggling, then my thoughts are with you, and please know that you’re not alone. And don’t be afraid to seek help or support, there’s absolutely no shame in that. If you’re unable or too anxious to talk to someone you know, then there’s lots of advice and support available from the Samaritans, counsellors, mental health charities, other charities relevant to disabilities and health conditions, support groups on social media, etc. I know it’s easier said than done – I’ve had to confide in friends about difficult things in the past, most of us have to at some point in our lives. But having any kind of support network, even if it’s just one person you can reach out and talk to when you need it, is a massive lifeline. Use it.

And to my American friends, who are going through a stressful period with their election right now, we’re all thinking of you too. You’ve had enough to deal with in 2020 on top of the pandemic as it is, without this in the mix as well. At the time of publishing this post, the outcome is still not clear, but I sincerely hope that common sense and decency prevails in the end. Stay safe out there.

But anyway, with all that said and done, let’s get into my latest monthly update, which is what you came here for in the first place. In this post and video for October there’s plenty to mention as usual, including my latest appearance on national radio, my walks out and about, and the various bits of entertainment I’ve been enjoying. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you find it interesting!

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 17-19

Hello again. I hope you’re all keeping safe and well. Many of the restrictions are being eased at the moment, which is good, but a few are also being reimposed as and where necessary. So please keep taking all the necessary precautions that we’ve all come to know so well, including the new requirements for wearing face coverings (which are perfectly safe and there are valid exemptions, including for some disabled people). And do be aware that the self-isolation period has been extended to 10 days in England if you have symptoms or test positive for the virus. We mustn’t let our guard down now.

I have started going out a bit more regularly again, in this lovely hot weather we’ve been having, particularly for some nice walks around my local area. I’ve also been to my local supermarket to get a few things for the first time in 12 weeks, and had no problems there. I was in and out very quickly, with a mask on of course, and it felt very safe. And that was just during normal shopping hours on a Saturday, not the priority slot for disabled and elderly customers (which I’m very glad they’re still doing). So things have really settled down there, and all the hard working retail staff deserve a lot of credit, among the myriad of amazing people who have kept vital services operating in recent months.

But perhaps most importantly, I’ve finally got my hair cut! Even if it doesn’t look much from the photos, I can tell you it feels so much better, it’s much more manageable now. And everything was done safely – we now have to book appointments with our hairdresser instead of just walking in (and it doesn’t have to be far in advance, we got a slot within a few days), plus they’ve got hand sanitiser for customers, the staff are wearing visors and there’s a stringent cleaning routine.

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I do intend to venture back into the city as well, now that we’re allowed to use the Tube again. The last time I travelled on the network was March 14, nearly 5 months ago. But I have been keeping an eye on the situation. And because TFL have a very strict cleaning regime with no reported problems, there’s lots of travel advice on their website, the passenger numbers are still relatively low, others I follow on social media have recently been getting back on the Tube and other trains and feel safe doing so, and I’ve acquired face masks and bottles of hand sanitiser, I do feel it would be safe to travel at quiet times to see what it’s like. So if things continue to be alright, that’s what I intend to do during August. Hopefully that’ll enable me to start meeting up with friends again too. And, incidentally, talking of meeting special people, congratulations to Captain Sir Tom Moore on receiving his knighthood recently!

But of course, I’m still keeping myself happily occupied at home as well, so I’ve got various bits and pieces I can mention from the past few weeks in this latest post and video, none of which are sponsored or gifted to appear here as usual. So I hope you enjoy!

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 15-16

Hello again, I hope you’re all keeping well. Or if you’re not doing great at the moment, as is the case for a couple of my friends (who by strange coincidence have the same name), then I hope things improve very soon. And if you’re enjoying the greater freedoms that have been granted to us recently, then please continue to be careful and safe. As proven by Leicester here in the UK, which has had to revert to a strict lockdown again, we can’t afford to be complacent.

It’s also strange to think that we passed 100 days of lockdown in week 15. That seems to have gone by quicker than I’d expected – although I know for many that time will have dragged terribly, and certainly early on I found it difficult like everyone else. But I’m glad I’ve been able to settle into a new routine and adapt during that time. I did look into things like gaming, quizzing and exercising but, as I’d rather expected, they soon fell by the wayside! Connecting with friends, homeworking, blogging, music, TV and film have all got me through it, and are continuing to do so. And now it’s reasonably safe to go out and about again to some extent, which is good as well.

So here’s my latest post and video update for the past couple of weeks, with news on disability events and my first outings in months, along with films, comedy and music that I’ve been enjoying. None of it is sponsored to appear here, but I was paid to attend one event as you’ll see. I hope you enjoy looking through it all!

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 11-12

Hey there, hope you’re all continuing to keep safe and well! Here in the UK lockdown has been eased further, including the re-opening of non-essential shops, the compulsory use of face coverings on public transport, and the partial re-opening of schools. So some small sense of normality is returning, albeit with lots of distancing and hygiene measures in place.

I’m still happy staying at home though, because I have no compelling reason to go out and my priority is still protecting Mum by not bringing the virus home. Our shopping’s being delivered every week, and despite the new rules public transport is still a no-go, as it’s only for essential journeys and distancing is much harder on a Tube train or bus. So there’s little incentive to go anywhere. Mum and I will be leaving the house to attend my uncle’s funeral with my aunt in a couple of week’s time, and I’m starting to feel more open to having a socially distanced outdoor meeting or picnic with a friend or two, as that appears to be relatively safe having been aware of others who have done it. But that’s about it.

In any case, I’ve been keeping myself very busy lately. I’ve actually been using Zoom for the first time recently, to talk to workmates, some friends and other people I’ll mention a bit later in this post. It’s strange how I didn’t get asked to do any video calls for the first 2 months of lockdown, then had one last month, followed by loads in June, about half of which are on Zoom. It’ll probably go quiet again in July!

And I’m also busy on my blog too. Hopefully you’ve already seen my Def Leppard – London To Vegas Unboxing, which I produced after they very kindly set me a copy of the box set to review. But if you haven’t seen it yet, do go and check it out. It’s the first time I’ve ever been sent a product to review, and I had no hesitation in accepting the offer as it’s from one of my favourite bands! I also have some other blog posts I’m working on too, by which I mean a couple of big series that should guarantee me regular posts over the summer and beyond. So I’m in no danger of running out of content just yet!

And of course my Favourites posts will continue, now on a fortnightly basis for the time being, as that frees up my time much more. So here’s my latest recap, with plenty to cover, including disability events & discussions, theatre, Blu-rays, comedy, music and more. So let’s get on with it, and I hope you enjoy my latest post and video!

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Def Leppard – London To Vegas Unboxing | Gifted

This week I was very excited to receive my first ever product to review! I’ve had a few offers from other companies in the past, but this is the first that has really grabbed my interest. Because it came from the rock gods Def Leppard, no less! They’ve always been one of my favourite bands, so when they got in touch to ask if I wanted to check out their new London To Vegas box set, featuring 2 massive live shows, the answer was easy!

I was genuinely going to buy it anyway, so it was sheer good fortune that they got in touch before I made the purchase. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the lockdown drawing my attention to other matters for a while, I would have pre-ordered it much earlier.

There are many different versions of this set, depending on your budget and level of obsession with the band. I was sent the Deluxe 2 DVD & 4 CD Set, which costs £50 (the Blu-ray equivalent is £60). But there are cheaper options, including the Hysteria show on its own, a couple of vinyl discs, and the ability to stream the London and Vegas shows online. Or you can opt for more expensive bundles with goodies including a t-shirt, a printed set list, laminates, photo cards, guitar plectrums, etc. It’s great to have so much choice.

Front cover of the Def Leppard London To Vegas box set. The background is split into 2 vertical sections, containing half of the Union Jack and American flags respectively. A large triangle in the middle, with a double border of red and yellow, features a colourful photo of the band in concert, with singer Joe Elliot on a platform stretching out from the stage into the audience. Across the bottom of the triangle, large yellow text with a red border says Def Leppard, in a font made only of straight and diagonal lines. Below this, in a yellow box, yellow text says London To Vegas.

So today I want to share my unboxing video and give my review of the set. It’s important to stress that all opinions are my own here. I haven’t been asked to say anything in particular, and I accepted the product because I knew it was highly likely I was going to love it. So I hope you enjoy this post, and huge thanks to Def Leppard for their consideration and generosity!

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Lockdown Favourites – Week 5

We’re now into the second month of lockdown, with many of us still adjusting to this temporary ‘new normal’. It still feels surreal, and puts everything in perspective, that a microscopic virus can temporarily shut down the entire planet in a matter of weeks. It’s a stark reminder of how powerful nature can be.

But we will get through it, and we are making good progress, very gradually. We just need to be very careful, and ensure that we continue to stick to the rules. The lockdown measures are working without a doubt, and now is not the time to be complacent and too hasty about lifting them. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So I hope you’re continuing to keep safe and well. And again we must give the usual heartfelt thanks to all our NHS heroes, care staff and critical workers.

And now here’s my latest weekly recap, with a video as usual, of what’s been keeping me occupied recently. I haven’t been paid or gifted for anything mentioned here, and all opinions are my own as usual. So I hope you enjoy!

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Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 1-2

Given that monthly recaps are rather redundant for the time being, I’m going to try and do updates on a more regular basis during the lockdown (which started here in the UK on 23 March). My aim is to do a post every week or fortnight about the things that I’m enjoying, to give you and me a positive distraction. But we’ll see how it goes. It will depend on how much I have to talk about.

It’s safe to say that things have felt very strange these last few weeks, and like everybody else I was very anxious about the situation at first. It’s still going to be a concern for a while, and all of the changes to our lives are a lot to get used to. But I know that we’re doing it for the right reasons, to save lives. And I do feel that my mother and I are adjusting as well as can be expected, we feel relatively relaxed at the moment. It also helps that I’m not checking news and social media updates as often as I was initially, and I’ve muted certain phrases and blocked various accounts to make browsing social media a calmer experience. Things like that certainly make a big difference to one’s mindset.

I’m already a homeworker too, so that’s made things easier. Although, as it happens, I haven’t fully gone back to work yet, because by chance I had already booked these past 2 weeks off to use up my annual leave quota (after an illness last year meant I couldn’t use as much holiday as I’d hoped). Granted, I couldn’t use this holiday time to go anywhere nice, except the local park, but the time has been very useful to ensure that Mum and I are stocked up and can settle into this temporary new way of living. So it will only be this coming week when I start getting into a proper routine again (although even then Easter ensures I’ll only have 2 four-day weeks). But of course, many people have far more difficult and stressful jobs than I do, especially our hard workers in the NHS who deserve every praise and much more for their incredible dedication during all of this.

It’s a very uncertain time, and we don’t know how long this will last, but I want to keep myself occupied as best I can. There are certainly lots of options for things to do – and if you need any ideas, check out my special Lockdown Resources page – so I’ll try my best not to get bored. And with that in mind, here’s my latest post and video update of things that have kept me occupied during the past couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy.

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