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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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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August 2022 Favourites

Hello again. I hope you’re doing well, in what I know are worrying and stressful times for many, given all the economic, financial, environmental and political turmoil at the moment.

It’s certainly not the ideal time for me to be made redundant, that’s for sure – not that there is a ever a good time of course. Fortunately my mother and I are doing fine though, despite that. We’re lucky to be in a comfortable financial position where we can ride this out for a while, and I can have a nice break to reset while I consider what to do next. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy as well. But hopefully it won’t be too long before I find a new career. Given all the financial and economic uncertainty, however, we have decided not to move house for the time being – but then that was never essential anyway, it was just something we were considering. It will happen eventually, at a later date, and in the meantime we’ve got some small improvements we can make to our current place.

Anyway, I’ve now finished my first ever job, and I’ve made a post all about my last month at work and the wonderful messages I’ve received, including a lovely gift I was sent by one department, so do check that out for more details. I’m flattered and humbled by the amount of kindness everyone has shown, and I will miss my colleagues very much.

Beyond that, because work was my main focus, I haven’t done a huge amount this month, and there were even a couple of weekends where I couldn’t go out at all. But there are still a few happier things to mention, as I celebrated my birthday, received an award and briefly visited a couple of museums. Plus I really enjoyed watching the Commonwealth Games on TV, so I’ve written quite a bit about those in this post, and I revisited the 2012 Olympics & Paralympics on Blu-ray, which I’ve already written about elsewhere. So, while August wasn’t very eventful overall, I hope you still find some items of interest in this latest roundup!

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London 2012 Revisited – Sporting Celebrations

Recently I’ve been looking back in detail at the 2012 Olympics & Paralympics, with the aid of the Blu-ray sets released by the BBC and Channel 4. For the Olympics I wrote about the Opening & Closing ceremonies and highlights from Days 1-8 & 9-16, and then I made a separate post about my Paralympics highlights.

Back in 2012, however, I also had a combined hard drive and DVD recorder connected to my TV, which meant I was able to record programmes, do some very basic editing and copy them on to discs. So I ended up recording a selection of shows relating to the Olympics & Paralympics, and I stored them on several DVDs, which I still have in my collection. And I’ve therefore been rewatching them as part of my nostalgia trip. They naturally aren’t as high quality as professional DVDs or Blu-rays, but they’re still good enough.

I’ve already discussed a few recordings relating to the Olympics in previous posts, as noted in the list of contents below. But here in this final post, to conclude my trip down memory lane, I’m going to run through the other stuff I captured, including our big victory parade, the Sports Personality Of The Year, documentaries, and appearances by some of the athletes on chat shows and game shows. I’ve also created a playlist with clips from some of these programmes, and some other relevant videos. So I hope you enjoy looking through it all!

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London 2012 Revisited – Paralympics Highlights

Soon after the sensational Olympics in 2012, which I’ve recently posted about extensively to mark the 10th anniversary, we then got to enjoy another couple of weeks of multi-sporting excellence courtesy of the Paralympics. Having disabled people take centre stage in these Games, for the whole world to see their stunning achievements, is always incredibly important and thrilling to watch. The Opening Ceremony took place exactly 10 years ago today as I’m publishing this, on 29 August 2012.

The Paralympics cannot change all of society’s attitudes and behaviours overnight of course, nor does it claim to do so. It clearly doesn’t represent every disabled person or impairment, nor the myriad of different ways we each go about our lives. These are exceptional athletes who have pushed themselves to their absolute limits, so their lives are very different to the rest of us in many ways. But even so, they are still people with conditions and experiences that many of us can relate to, and their exposure on a global stage undeniably helps to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and encourage greater acceptance and inclusion, in an engaging and entertaining way. It isn’t a quick fix for equality and inclusivity, and it’s totally understandable that some disabled people take issue with the way it’s promoted – there is a lot of work to be done beyond the Paralympic bubble for sure. But it is a very prominent springboard in the right direction, and I for one love watching it.

The London 2012 Paralympics were the biggest Games to date, and they certainly made their mark, by successfully extending and surfing on the tidal wave of intense enthusiasm that had been generated by the Olympics. They sold record numbers of tickets and attracted a huge TV audience, as people flocked to watch and support the biggest number of disabled competitors to date, many of whom were or became lasting household names.

So in this post I’m going to look back at some of my favourite moments of the 2012 Paralympics, with the aid of Channel 4’s Blu-ray set of the Games. There isn’t as much to talk about as there was for the Olympics, so I can go through it in just one post this time, but there are still lots of great highlights worth mentioning along the way. And I’ve also created a Paralympics playlist on Youtube with plenty of clips too. So I hope you enjoy!

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London 2012 Revisited – Olympics Closing Ceremony

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the glorious London Olympics from 10 years ago, hence my recent lengthy reviews of the Opening Ceremony, Days 1-8 and Days 9-16. There are loads of great memories, and some things I’d forgotten about that I’ve been happily reminded of. So naturally it’s time to look back at the Closing Ceremony, which was overseen by creative director Kim Gavin.

As big and important as the occasion was, it’s fair to say it wasn’t quite as epic or impressive as the Opening Ceremony – but then it didn’t need to be. We had already put on a fantastic show over the previous few weeks, and so now we could just let our hair down and have fun, and thank everyone for making the Games such a success. This was more of a party than a ceremony really, focusing on the best of British music and culture with a variety of big-name artists. Most of the tracks appeared on the soundtrack album A Symphony Of British Music, compiled by the ceremony’s musical director David Arnold, which I own in my collection. It contains a mixture of original music written for the ceremony, cover versions of well-known songs, and special re-recordings by artists of their own tracks for the event.

And it was still very enjoyable on the whole. It’s very unlikely that everything would have appealed to everyone but, depending on your musical and cultural tastes, there would have been a few particularly memorable or special moments for each person watching. That was certainly the case for me anyway – there are some parts I can easily skip over, and other bits I can watch over and over again.

And visually it looked very cool as well, not just in terms of the costumes, dancing, fireworks and so on, but also the creative use of the ‘pixels’ – the coloured lights behind each audience member – that created animated patterns around the stadium throughout the show, and the impressive Union Jack stage – designed by artist Damien Hirst – that filled the floor of the stadium.

The ceremony lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes, and is included in its entirety on the final fifth disc of the BBC’s Blu-ray set. There are no alternative audio options and no scene selection menu (though there are chapter points you can skip through). You simply get the broadcast coverage with the BBC commentators led by Huw Edwards, but that’s generally fine as they don’t interfere too much. They’re most involved when the athletes are making their way into the stadium, while at other times they just give a bit of contextual information, which is actually very useful. And by all accounts we had much better TV coverage than some overseas viewers. The only extra on the disc is a long PDF with the full list of credits for the ceremony, which you can see if you put it into a computer’s Blu-ray drive. Not quite as long as the equivalent document for the Opening Ceremony, but still pretty lengthy.

You can also watch the full ceremony on the Olympics Youtube channel, where they have their own commentators. As with their Opening Ceremony coverage, it starts with a beautiful helicopter shot travelling slowly over London towards and around the stadium, showing off the city and the venue wonderfully. And there are other videos online relating to the ceremony as well, including a bit of footage from the audience and behind the scenes. So, like I’ve done with my previous posts, I’ve compiled a Ceremony Playlist on Youtube, with relevant clips and the complete music soundtrack if you want to look through it.

And so, with all that said, let’s crack on with my look back at the ceremony. It won’t be anywhere near as lengthy as my Opening Ceremony coverage, as there’s much less to discuss this time. But I hope you enjoy!

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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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June 2022 Favourites

Hello again, and welcome to my roundup for another busy month. Apart from having nice walks to enjoy the sunshine as usual, I’ve also been to a few theatre shows, watched the Jubilee celebrations at home, and enjoyed various other programmes on TV and online.

However, they’re not the only things keeping me occupied. I recently revealed that I’m being made redundant, after 17 years in a role that was created specifically to harness my IT skills in a local authority print unit. My entire department is being closed, with all the work being outsourced, and therefore I’m on the lookout for a new challenge. I don’t have to rush into anything, as I’m in a fortunate position where I can take my time to find what feels right for me, so I feel quite calm about it all so far. And it might even be that my mother and I move to another part of London, as that’s something else we’re tempted by and are considering given the circumstances, although that’s by no means definite at this point.

But if you have any advice for job hunting or moving, or know of any paid work or volunteering or nice properties that might interest me, please do feel free to get in touch by social media or email. Career opportunities can be related to my current line of work (variable data and print production) or in other areas I enjoy (IT, accessibility, assistive technology, sight loss, disability, museums, theatres, research projects, blogging, Youtube, etc). There’s lots of options to consider, and I will of course keep you posted of any developments!

But anyway, here I’m going to focus on the happier side of recent events, and there’s plenty to get through. So let’s get straight to it, and I hope you enjoy!

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