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!
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.
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!
They did it. After all the delays, controversies and restrictions that threatened to scupper their hopes and plans, Tokyo successfully managed to host the 2020 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, a year later than scheduled. It’s not been without understandable criticism in these extraordinary times, with suggestions that it should have been delayed further, among various other issues, and there were a few athletes and other personnel who tested positive for Covid both before and during the competitions. And the absence of spectators, along with the widespread use of face masks, hand sanitiser and other safety protocols, gave the events a very different feel to usual.
Nevertheless, they still went ahead, and turned out to be a great success, treating us to a lot of incredible sporting action as a result. And it’s all the more impressive given that the competitors haven’t been able to train in the usual way over the past year, often being stuck at home instead of using the normal venues and facilities that would otherwise be available to them. Congratulations to all the athletes and teams who took part, and well done to the event organisers, staff and volunteers for making the events happen.
So I’ve really enjoyed watching the Games – especially the Paralympics of course, but the Olympics were great too. It’s all given us some welcome escapism from the pandemic, despite the constant reminders of its presence and impact. And so I thought I would share some of my favourite highlights. I’m not sponsored by any organisations or people mentioned here, I just want to acknowledge and celebrate just a few of the many amazing achievements of the athletes who I enjoyed watching.
If you’ve seen my School Days video, you’ll know I used to be a member of a local sports club for disabled people when I was a kid. So, as well as doing sports at school, I would also take part in lots of swimming galas around England, from Darlington in the north, to Plymouth in the south, and lots of other places in between.
There were people with lots of different disabilities at those events, so to try and make things as equal as possible, they would either try and group people with similar conditions together in each event, or the competitors in each race would start at different times (from slowest first, to fastest last), based on their personal best times. The theory being that the finish of each race would be quite close, although often that never really held true.
In any case, I won a lot of medals and a few trophies over those years. And it got to a point where I was offered the chance to train for the national disabled swimming team. But I decided not to take it any further. I wasn’t sufficiently interested or motivated to take it to a more professional level, instead having my sights on things like my exams, university and my career beyond that.
I didn’t even know about the Paralympics back then. If I had been aware of it, and if it had been as widely covered as it is now, and if the right support, coaching and funding had been available, maybe I’d have thought differently, who knows? But at the time, I was more interested in other things. And I don’t regret my decision at all, I’ve been very successful on the route I did take through life. But when you watch the kind of performances that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, it’s impossible not to wonder how things could have been, potentially, with the right drive and determination.
Following on from my post about meeting Jimmy Carr, here’s the rest of my journal from July, along with entries for August and September. There’s one post per month here, but there’s lots to mention in each case, including a little trip to Bristol to meet a software supplier (with a few photos of my hotel room), the excitement of the London Olympics & Paralympics, and the sad loss of a good friend. So I hope you enjoy looking through all of this as usual.