Christmas 2022 Favourites

Happy New Year, I hope you had a lovely Christmas! I know that various things including finances, strikes and the weather all conspired to make things difficult, and the economic woes will continue during this coming year, but I hope you were able to enjoy the festivities in whatever way your circumstances allowed.

Fortunately, despite my recent redundancy, my mother and I are in a comfortable and stable position, so we were able to enjoy Christmas in the same way we do every year. I went out to see a musical and a variety of festive displays, and at home there were plenty of things for us to eat and watch.

It hasn’t been entirely without issues though. The railway strikes and the snow in December prevented me from going down to Devon to see my ex-colleagues for a Christmas meal. And now, in early January, my mother and I have finally caught Covid, after 3 years of successfully swerving it. I’ll write more about it in a later post, once I’m sure we’re clear of it, suffice to say being fully vaccinated has clearly helped, as we’re recovering pretty quickly. Plus I’ve still been able to put together the traditional video that accompanies this post.

So let’s get into it. This is an epic bumper post, as festive roundups tend to be, and none of it’s sponsored or gifted. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – The Miracle – Collector’s Edition Box Set

Back in the first lockdown in 2020 I started doing an occasional Queen At 50 series, celebrating Queen‘s 50th anniversary by doing very in-depth reviews of some of their albums. The posts have been very sporadic due to all sorts of other things keeping me busy, as well as the level of detail they contain, but it’s always been my intention to continue the series when time permits.

And now I have the opportunity to do a Christmas special, as the band recently unveiled a new edition of their 1989 album The Miracle. When it was first announced I eagerly pre-ordered the full Super Deluxe Collector’s Edition & Press Pack as an early festive treat for myself, so I thought I’d do a detailed review now that I’ve had time to go through it and savour its contents.

The set was retailing at £169.99 (plus shipping), but I took advantage of a 10% discount code that I received from their store for my birthday a few months ago. So I was charged £127.99 for the 8-disc box set, £25 for the press pack and £6.26 shipping, making £159.25 in total. And that’s not bad at all, considering how much you get.

There are cheaper editions too though, depending on what you can afford, including the 8-disc set without the press kit, a 2-disc edition consisting of the album and the sessions, and a download version that covers all 4 music CDs, plus there are related items of merchandise. So there’s something for everyone.

I’ve made an unboxing video to go with this post, where you can see my initial reactions to the contents of the set, and there’s an unboxing video by Brian May as well. Queen have also posted a couple of short documentary features about The Miracle to coincide with its re-release, which you can see here and here.

So in this post I want to review the set in full, to give my thoughts on all the music tracks and videos, the memorabilia, the book and the radio interviews – which means there’s a lot to cover here, and I hope you enjoy it!

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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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Sarah Millican – Stand-Up DVD Reviews

Earlier this month I got to watch Sarah Millican live in person for the first time, in what was also my first visit to the Hammersmith Apollo. And I had a great time, as you can see from my recent post about it, where I also discussed her observational style of comedy in general. But in preparation for that show, I naturally rewatched all of her other stand-up gigs that I own on DVD as well. And so this post is my review of those.

As well as the DVDs, her first three shows are also freely available in their entirety on her Youtube channel, which is very generous, and there are loads of other clips of her on there too. It was a direct result of watching those free shows during lockdown that I bought her DVDs last year. And edited versions of her gigs are also sometimes repeated on Channel 4 as well. However, there are some bonus features that are exclusive to the DVDs, and you never know when Youtube videos will disappear or when shows will stop being repeated on TV. Plus all the DVDs have subtitles as well. So all of the discs are worth owning I think, and I hope you enjoy reading about them.

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The Ricky Gervais Show – Animated Series Review

Having recently watched and reviewed the great stand-up shows by Ricky Gervais, including his latest Netflix release, I’ve also gone through his animated TV series The Ricky Gervais Show on DVD yet again, as that’s consistently very funny too.

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!

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April 2022 Favourites

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.

As well as the treats and sweets and my feet on the streets, another big part of April for me was rounding up things from March, as there was a lot to share about my trip to Milton Keynes. In particular, I wrote detailed reviews, including lots of photos, about the museums I visited, the We Will Rock You musical and exploring the theatre district. Meanwhile on Youtube I included a travel vlog in last month’s Favourites video, and shared some footage from Bletchley Park. So do go and check all of that out if you haven’t already.

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!

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My MK Getaway – Codebreakers, Computers & Collectors

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.

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Christmas 2021 Favourites

Well, we made it through another odd year. We finished 2021 in a stronger position than 2020 in some important ways, and step by step we are getting back towards a sense of normality. But we still to be careful and patient, as opposed to carefree and complacent, and hopefully the situation will continue to improve during 2022.

In any case, despite the various restrictions we endured throughout the year, along with my own battle with sciatica and back trouble over the summer, I still got out and about quite a bit and found plenty to enjoy, as you’ll have seen from all of my Favourites posts. The latter half of 2021 was particularly busy, as I was interviewed on RNIB Radio’s Happy Hour by fellow blogger Holly Tuke from Life Of A Blind Girl, had the opportunity to interview visually impaired actor Gillian Dean about the premiere of a new play, finally got to attend a live performance of the Rocky Horror Show, and had an audio described tour of London Zoo, among other things. And being able to meet some of my friends after so long apart has naturally been the biggest delight of the year.

This Christmas has also marked my 5th anniversary of living in London! Granted, much of the past couple of years has been a bit of a write-off, but that just makes it all the more amazing how much I’ve achieved and crammed in so far, with public speaking, TV and radio interviews, podcast appearances, student documentaries, theatre visits, museum tours, the charity abseil, so many new friendships and connections, the attention my blog’s had in general, and many other things that I would never have imagined happening or being successful at before moving here. So in that sense, the lockdowns have been strangely beneficial for giving me a chance to relax and reflect on all of that, as well as giving me all the more impetus and confidence to expand my horizons even further going forward. So if you’ve played any part in my London journey so far, whether it’s just reading these blog posts, or chatting with me, or getting together with me in person, thank you so much! It always means a great deal that people take such an interest in my adventures and my ramblings.

So before I find out what 2022 has to offer, it’s time to wrap up 2021 with a traditional bumper post and video looking back at what I’ve been doing and enjoying during December and the Christmas period. As usual, nothing here is sponsored and all opinions are my own. I hope you enjoy!

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November 2021 Favourites

Hello again, hope you’re all keeping safe and well despite everything going on at the moment. I’m happy to say that I’ve had my Covid booster jab, which really helps to further educate and strengthen the immune system, and thus greatly reduces the chances of severe problems if you do get ill with the new variant. Plus Mum’s had her flu jab and I’m hoping to get mine at some point. So we’re as well protected as we can be for the winter now.

The latest developments haven’t stopped me going out and about and being generally busy either, as I’ve been making the most of my time. So during November I was interviewed on another national radio show, had lovely days exploring London Zoo and the Illuminated River project, enjoyed stage and film versions of a Dickens classic, watched the latest series of Doctor Who, saw various comedies, got absorbed in the new Beatles documentary, heard ABBA’s new album, and celebrated Freddie Mercury’s life on the 30th anniversary of his untimely passing. And none of it is sponsored or gifted as usual. So I hope you enjoy my latest post and video roundup!

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September 2021 Favourites

Hello again, I hope you’re all continuing to enjoy yourselves safely. I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to get out to meet some friends and explore the city again at long last, as my aches and pains are continuing to ease off, now that I’ve figured out how I was over-correcting my posture problems. I’m still not cancelling my November NHS physio appointment yet, as I don’t want to tempt fate, but I’m feeling much better at the moment. So I seem to be moving in the right direction, touch wood!

That means I actually have some recent and upcoming London adventures to tell you about in this month’s post and video, as well as the usual mixture of entertainment I’ve been into. So it’s a bumper update this time. With the exception of a theatre show I’ll be mentioning, for which I’ve been kindly given a review ticket, nothing else in this post is sponsored or gifted. So I hope you enjoy!

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