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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Parties At The Palace – Part 2

I’m delighted that the Platinum Jubilee was such a success this weekend, with lots of events taking place all over the country, and the weather holding out for the central celebrations in London. If you attended any events during the holiday, I hope you had a good time!

In my previous post I reviewed the Golden & Diamond Jubilee Concerts from 2002 and 2012 respectively. So in this post I’m going to discuss my highlights from this year’s concert, after briefly mentioning some of the other coverage that my mother and I have been tuning into. So I hope you enjoy!

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Parties At The Palace – Part 1

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.

I’ll mention the Jubilee coverage I’ve enjoyed this year in my next post, including the huge concert that took place at Buckingham Palace on Saturday.

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!

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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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Queen At 50 Reviews – Jazz

Following News Of The World, an album of raw energy that spawned the mega-hits We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions, on top of their previous successes, was always going to be a very tall order for Queen. But, as always, they weren’t deterred by that, and opted to explore a variety of musical styles on their 7th album (though not including jazz itself as the title might suggest). And it didn’t do them any harm, as the LP peaked at Number 2 in the UK charts (held off the top spot by the Grease soundtrack), and Number 6 on the US Billboard Chart, going Platinum in both countries.

Overall the album perhaps isn’t as stunning as some of their previous work, but only because of the incredibly high bar they’d set themselves, and it’s still really good in its own right. For a start, it gave us their well-loved songs Fat Bottomed Girls, Bicycle Race and Don’t Stop Me Now, a trio that makes it worth the price of entry alone (although surprisingly the latter wasn’t a big hit to begin with). And the other ten tracks are an enjoyable mixture too, with some relatively obscure gems amongst them as usual.

The heavy criticism it received in the music press at the time was certainly unwarranted, with the band even being described as “fascist” and “creeps” with “polluting ideas” by Rolling Stone reviewer Dave Marsh. But it was often fashionable for music critics to bash the band, and reviewers tended to be thrown off guard whenever Queen tried something different (which was always), not knowing how to react to it and simply not ‘getting it’. Queen’s humour and sense of fun often went over journalists’ heads.

Hindsight has been kinder though, with retrospective reviews often being more favourable, such as Loudersound ranking it as their 4th best album, and Rolling Stone magazine admitting they were wrong. It is now rightly acknowledged that the album is rather underrated, as it’s never had as much attention as some of their earlier work.

And so, as the latest instalment in my Queen At 50 series, this post is my personal run-through of all the tracks on the Jazz album, including the usual mixture of alternate versions, live performances, covers and more. I hope you enjoy!

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February 2022 Favourites

Well, what a month this has turned out to be, as the world lurches from dealing with a nasty microscopic invader to a much larger and more evil one. I’m not remotely qualified to talk about the catastrophe unfolding overseas, but my thoughts are with the Ukrainian people at this unimaginably horrific time, along with all those working to support and defend them, and all the journalists reporting from the area. A lot of courage is being shown out there against the onslaught, supported by unprecedented unity amongst countries around the world, all far greater than Russia had bargained on.

There are many ways to help the Ukrainians, including donations to appeals by the Disasters Emergency Committee, British Red CrossUNHCR Refugee Agency & United Help Ukraine, along with children’s charities Save The Children, UNICEF & Voices Of Children, as some examples. But it’s also important to find ways to help yourself, your children and others, given that a lot of the news is very distressing. For example, there’s no shame in muting words on Twitter, unsubscribing from news feeds, and generally reducing how often you access the news on TV and online, as I’ve been trying to do. It doesn’t mean you don’t care, it just gives you control over how much you’re exposed to it, so it isn’t too distracting or overwhelming. It’s also great to see that the BBC are making use of shortwave radio and the dark web to make the news available to Ukrainian and Russian civilians who would otherwise be prevented from accessing it.

All of that has completely overshadowed everything else of course, in what was already a busy month for news, with the final Covid restrictions being lifted in England as we cautiously return to relative normality, the excellent gold medal won by Great Britain’s female curlers and the silver won by the men in the Winter Olympics (and good luck to our Winter Paralympians too!), plus the rough weather from Storm Eunice that caused myself and many others to get sucked into a live stream by Big Jet TV, of planes attempting to land at Heathrow, with Jerry Dyer‘s entertaining commentary. There’s certainly been a lot going on!

As for me, however, things have been pretty quiet this month, as expected. I haven’t been to any museums or theatres for a start, but I am getting back into all that stuff in March, where I’ve got quite a lot booked or planned. And I did still go out and about in February. In particular I was delighted to do my first bit of socialising this year, when I met up with a good friend for a meal in Pizza Express and a walk around Regent’s Park. And I’ve had some nice long walks in Central London, ticking several more streets off my map. You can see a few photos of things I saw on my Instagram & Facebook pages, including Westminster Cathedral, the Little Ben clock outside Victoria Station, and nearby sculptures called Lioness and Lesser Kudu & Essential Bonds.

Apart from that though, it’s mainly just a few TV shows and films that I have to mention in this month’s post and video. So this is going to be relatively short, but I hope you enjoy!

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January 2022 Favourites

Hello again, welcome to my first roundup post for 2022. It will come as no surprise that this has been a pretty quiet month, due to the traditional lull in activity after the madness of Christmas, coupled with the need to be cautious due to the Omicron variant. A few people I know have caught Covid for the first time recently, and it hit them worse than a normal cold or flu – but crucially their booster jabs provided the vital safety net that stopped it becoming severe, so they were fine. It’ll get me eventually, I have no doubt, and I know my booster will protect me when that time comes, but I’m doing my best to swerve it for as long as I can.

Nevertheless, I have been out and about quite a bit this month, mainly for walks by the Thames and in nearby parts of Central London – including some sights along the North Bank – so I can continue ticking off streets on the map that I’ve been gradually filling in since 2020. I haven’t gone to any theatres or museums, but I do have plans to get back to them soon. My calendar for the year is already starting to fill up nicely, with a few things booked in for March for starters, including a little getaway for a week, and other stuff beyond that.

So as I haven’t got any outings to talk about, this month’s Favourites post and video is purely about the entertainment I’ve been enjoying on TV and online. There’s nowhere near as much as at Christmas of course, and there’s one show in particular that’s had considerable attention online, but there are other bits and pieces to mention as well. And none of this is sponsored as usual. So 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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Science Fiction, Triple Feature – Part 2 – Rocky Horror Soundtracks

Hot patootie, bless my soul, I really love that rock and roll! The legendary songs from The Rocky Horror Show, including the legendary Time Warp, are a crucial part of its joy and appeal, as they’re catchy, funny and occasionally moving. Richard O’Brien actually wrote some of the songs before he came up with the idea of Rocky Horror, and found that he was able to slot some of them in.

So as the second part of my Halloween trilogy – after discussing the film and related productions, and before I talk about my recent experience at the live show – I thought I’d do some brief reviews of the relevant albums and songs I have in my music collection, and a few of the other recordings I’m aware of, as it’s always interesting to hear different interpretations. I certainly haven’t mentioned all of the music that has ever been released in relation to Rocky Horror, but I have covered most of the commercially available releases. So I hope you enjoy!

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