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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August 2021 Favourites

Hello there, hope you’ve been having a safe and enjoyable summer, especially if you’ve been able to get out and about more.

I still haven’t been out anywhere special because of the ailments I’ve been dealing with over the past few months, which I admit has been difficult and frustrating sometimes, as it’s so hard to get any proper help at the moment. Hence this post is a bit late this time around, as I’ve only recently felt up to doing it. I think I might finally be getting somewhere, thanks to some help from an osteopath at a private clinic and figuring out a few changes I can make myself, but I’m not entirely sure yet. And even if I am right, it’s going to take a while for my body to settle down and repair itself anyway.

In any case, I do have a referral for physiotherapy on the NHS, but the earliest they could give me (when I booked in July) was a phone consultation in November. So I’m going to take it easy and see if I can hold out until then. But if I get worse, or if the NHS cancel due to Covid pressures and give me another long wait, then I’ll have to pay to go private again, as 1 in 5 people are having to do right now. It’s important to say that everybody who works for the NHS is amazing and wonderful, and they deserve all our praise, love and respect, but the fact remains that the system is so woefully under-funded and under-resourced that it makes life very hard for staff and patients alike. So we’ll see how things go. But thank you to all the friends who have been keeping in touch and checking in on me, it means a lot.

Still, enough of all that. There are much more interesting things to mention in this month’s post and video, including my birthday, sports and lots of entertainment as usual. None of it is sponsored or gifted as always, apart from my birthday presents of course. So I hope you enjoy!

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June & July 2021 Favourites

Hello again! Apologies for not doing a Favourites post last month, but I’ve continued to have issues with sciatica and other little aches and pains. I am a bit better than I was, but I still need a bit of help to get over it and reduce my risks going forward. It’s been frustratingly hard to try and see someone about it, but I’ve managed to book an appointment with an osteopath, and I hope things will start to improve more soon. And for the time being I just need to be careful!

Consequently I haven’t been out much, even after all legal restrictions were lifted here in England on 19 July. And when I do go out, even though I’m fully vaccinated, I’m still sanitising my hands, wearing face masks and socially distancing when appropriate – not out of fear, but out of simple respect for others. We can’t shut ourselves away forever and we do have to learn to live with the virus, but we can’t be complacent or selfish either. There is a balance to be reached. So I hope you’re all staying safe and being sensible, and you’re not being pinged too often with notifications by the NHS Test & Trace app (which I’ve never had as my phone’s too old for it – but I am getting a new phone soon, so that could change!).

In this latest post and video, therefore, I’ll mainly be sharing the entertainment that has kept me happily distracted as usual. But there is also one trip out that I’ll mention, and other bits and pieces too. And I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by anybody I mention here as usual. So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – News Of The World – Part 1

1977 could have been the year that Queen’s reign came to an end. With punk rock very much in the ascendancy, having gained traction over the previous few years, there was a greater appetite for raw power and simplicity in rock music, rather than elaborate and fancy progressive rock. And Queen’s last album, A Day At The Races, despite being an excellent collection of songs, hadn’t sold quite as well as its behemoth predecessor A Night At The Opera, with some critics and fans feeling that it was more of the same without any notable improvement. So it was going to seem too repetitive if they did the same kind of thing yet again.

The band were perfectly happy to adapt and take on the challenge though, and indeed were already keen to try something different from the multi-layered, complex productions they felt they’d done enough of by this point anyway. So even without the emerging competition from the punk scene, it was already the evolutionary path they were heading down.

As a result, News Of The World marked a shift towards a purer hard rock sound, and took just 2 months to record (compared to 5 for A Day At The Races). The tracks still had some beautifully arranged harmonies and instrumentation thrown in, but not as lavishly and prominently as before. There was also a change in how evenly the writing credits were distributed, with 4 tracks now written by Brian, just 3 by Freddie, and an increase to 2 each for Roger and John. And the band produced the album themselves, with assistance from engineer Mike Stone, now they had the experience and confidence to do so themselves.

It all worked out very well, resulting in another great selection of songs. And so, as you’ll be accustomed to by now if you’ve followed my posts to date, this is my personal review of each of the tracks, including a look at alternate versions, music videos, live performances, covers, etc, along with other bits and pieces that I’m aware of.

In this first post, in addition to more general discussion about the album, I’ll be focusing specifically on the first 2 tracks – We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions – as they’ve had such a colossal cultural impact and there’s a lot to discuss in relation to them. In Part 2 I will then move on to the other great tracks on the album. So I hope you enjoy!

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May 2021 Favourites

Hello again, hope you’re all doing well. May has been a mixed month for me health-wise, though the good outweighs the bad, especially now I’ve had both my Covid vaccinations and restrictions have been eased further. And in terms of entertainment I’m focusing more on paid streaming services again, having found my way out of the Youtube wormholes I happily got sucked into during the depths of lockdown, though there are still occasional things grabbing my attention there too of course.

So there are various things to mention as usual, none of which is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy this latest post and video roundup!

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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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January 2021 Favourites

Well, that month was a long year, wasn’t it? I thought January might be relatively quiet compared to December, but it was clearly very difficult for 2021 to get steady on its feet amongst the fallout from 2020, for reasons that we’re all too familiar with from the news.

January also marked a significant milestone for me, as it’s now 10 years since my father passed away. It’s amazing how quickly that time’s gone, when it inevitably dragged so much at first. And after all these years, not a day goes by when he doesn’t come to mind for one reason or another, he’s always present. I get my sense of humour from him, and he was always supportive and encouraging and fun to be around. That’s him you can see behind little me in the header image for this post. As I haven’t had any reason to take interesting photos myself lately, it seemed appropriate to use one of him on this occasion, and I dedicate this post to his memory.

And in the present, Captain Sir Tom Moore has very sadly passed away at the age of 100. He was one of the brightest lights of the pandemic, raising nearly £40 million for NHS charities, and his positive attitude to life filled us all with hope and motivation at a time when we really needed it the most. So he will be very dearly missed, and his charity foundation will undoubtedly continue to do lots of great work in his honour in the years to come. Condolences to all of his family and friends and everyone who came into contact with him. And thank you Captain Tom for everything you’ve done. We will walk on through the storm, with our heads up high and hope in our hearts, thanks to you. RIP.

Still, despite all of that, there is also much to be happy about. Green shoots of hope and positivity are breaking through, and I have some good news of my own to share in this post, along with the usual rundown of entertaining things that I’ve been enjoying. And none of it is sponsored or gifted as usual. So let’s crack on with it, and I hope you enjoy this month’s post and video!

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Christmas 2020 Favourites

Happy New Year! Well, as happy as it can be in the circumstances. Let’s face it, 2020 is 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 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.

But I did manage to find plenty to keep me occupied, as you can see from my many Favourites posts during the year. The major highlights for me were definitely being interviewed on the BBC’s In Touch programme, taking part in the CXcon Accessibility Panel Discussion, and being able to see at least a couple of my friends after such a long period apart. I also started publishing my old journal posts to fill the gap left by my lack of activity, which have had a surprising amount of interest, and my very in-depth reviews of Queen’s albums for their 50th anniversary. Both of those projects will continue to keep me busy on my blog throughout 2021.

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.

But I need to wrap up 2020 nevertheless. It was a strange and difficult Christmas without a doubt, not the sort any of us wanted, and it’s going to be a hard winter for many, especially now we’re in lockdown again. There’s a big ray of hope with the rollout of the vaccines though, so the future’s looking good, and many thanks to all the health workers who are doing their utmost to dish them out as quickly as possible.

My thoughts also go to everyone in America after the recent terror attack amid the fallout from Trump’s defeat. Biden’s inauguration on January 20th can’t come soon enough. Best wishes from across the pond, stay safe!

Those challenges aside, however, I hope you were able to find some enjoyment and comfort during the festive period, insofar as the rules allowed in your part of the world.

Mum and I are doing fine, I’m pleased to say. We’ve enjoyed lots of nice treats, and have had plenty of fun things to watch and listen to, all of which has been a welcome distraction from the news. I continued to have a few long walks around my local area during December as well, as that was the only way I could get out and about, so it was important to make the most of it. Mum’s had a bit of fresh air too of course, but doesn’t go on the long hikes like I do, and we’ve made sure she stays well away from other people apart from her sister (and even then they keep their distance at the front door, she hasn’t been in the house).

So we did pretty well this Christmas despite the limitations, and here’s my festive post and video to round things up. I’m not going to mention absolutely everything we filled our stomachs with, or every little bit of entertainment we watched or listened to. I’m just going mention my favourite things, as is the purpose of these posts. Nothing here is sponsored as usual, and any gifts are just from friends, not the people behind the products. So I hope you enjoy!

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