2020 Review

2020 – 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 let’s be honest, 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.

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.

Normally when I do these annual reviews, I just list things month by month. But as time itself shuddered to a halt and stopped making any sense in March, with all the remaining months rolling into one, I’m just going to summarise things in categories instead. That way you can skim through to the sections that interest you most if you don’t want to read everything. The items mentioned here, and many others, have all been discussed in my Favourites posts during the year, which you can read for a lot more detail.

So I hope you enjoy this post and, apart from the first section, I hope it reminds you of some of the more pleasant distractions from the last 12 months!

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Christmas 2020 Favourites

Happy New Year! Well, as happy as it can be in the circumstances. 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, as this update’s long enough as it is. I’m just going to 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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November 2020 Favourites

Hello again, hope you’re all keeping safe and well. As you’ll no doubt be aware, November here in England was a very quiet month due to our second national lockdown, which saw non-essential places closed once again and further restrictions on gatherings. it didn’t really feel like a lockdown this time though, as the streets were still fairly busy with traffic and pedestrians, and I was already in the habit of not going out anywhere special anyway, so it didn’t feel like anything had changed for my mother and I.

Even as we move back into the 3-tier system, which is now stricter than before, things for my mother and I still won’t be any different. Having a consistent routine this year despite all the many rule changes has really helped us to ride the waves. And I’m still going out for walks every weekend, continuing to explore new streets in my area every time, so I’m getting a bit of fresh air and exercise regularly.

So what with all that, and the fact that we’ve been in the traditional lull of new TV shows before they bring out their Christmas treats, it means there isn’t a huge amount to mention this month, relative to some of the more epic essays I’ve been writing this year. That said, we have of course had some very good news lately, and I still have some TV and music content to mention, so there’s still a fair selection of bits and pieces to share in this month’s post and video. And as usual none of it is sponsored or gifted. So I hope you enjoy as always!

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October 2020 Favourites

Here we go again. It’s time for Lockdown 2: Electric Avenue, so the cases don’t get higher. It’s not quite as severe as the first one, with education settings remaining open in particular, but there are still very tight restrictions nonetheless. And it had been inevitable for some time. The use of different ‘tiers’ to set regional rules was keeping the infection rate lower than it otherwise would have been, but it wasn’t quite doing enough to drive cases down. So we didn’t have a choice, sadly, as many other countries have found.

There are still lots of reasons to be optimistic, thanks to the ever-improving knowledge about the virus, the better treatments now available, the developments of mass testing, and the very promising results of vaccine trials. But right now we have to be vigilant to get through the winter safely, and it’s important to take care of ourselves and look after our mental health during this time.

I feel relatively calm about it thankfully, as I’m fortunate to have a steady job, priority grocery deliveries, family support, regular contact with friends, blogging projects, local walks, entertainment, etc to help pass the time. And we’ve pre-ordered our meat for Christmas from a farm we like, so that gives us peace of mind too. I still greatly miss seeing friends in person and visiting interesting places of course, nobody wants this. But right now my mother and I feel safe and comfortable, which is the important thing. We’re more prepared than the first time around, when the uncertainty and panic buying made it really difficult to begin with. So we know we can get through it, having done it once already.

But for many other people it’s going to be a lot harder, due to physical and mental health issues, loneliness, loss of employment and business, financial worries, family and domestic problems, the loss of loved ones from the virus or other causes, and so on. So please do help others if you can, either by direct support or by charitable donations, because every little bit helps. And do also sign the petition by Mind calling on the Government to invest in a Winter Mental Health Support Package.

And if you’re in a position where you’re struggling, then my thoughts are with you, and please know that you’re not alone. And don’t be afraid to seek help or support, there’s absolutely no shame in that. If you’re unable or too anxious to talk to someone you know, then there’s lots of advice and support available from the Samaritans, counsellors, mental health charities, other charities relevant to disabilities and health conditions, support groups on social media, etc. I know it’s easier said than done – I’ve had to confide in friends about difficult things in the past, most of us have to at some point in our lives. But having any kind of support network, even if it’s just one person you can reach out and talk to when you need it, is a massive lifeline. Use it.

And to my American friends, who are going through a stressful period with their election right now, we’re all thinking of you too. You’ve had enough to deal with in 2020 on top of the pandemic as it is, without this in the mix as well. At the time of publishing this post, the outcome is still not clear, but I sincerely hope that common sense and decency prevails in the end. Stay safe out there.

But anyway, with all that said and done, let’s get into my latest monthly update, which is what you came here for in the first place. In this post and video for October there’s plenty to mention as usual, including my latest appearance on national radio, my walks out and about, and the various bits of entertainment I’ve been enjoying. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you find it interesting!

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Lockdown Favourites – Week 8

Welcome to my latest lockdown roundup. If I wasn’t numbering the weeks in the titles of these posts, I would probably lose track of where we’re up to! But whatever week it feels like to you, I hope you’re all continuing to do well and getting any support you need.

It’s been another relatively normal week for me really, as I haven’t had to go out anywhere, we had our groceries successfully delivered again, and work has been fairly busy. I also worked to clear out a bit more junk in the back garden and the shed this weekend, which has given me some fresh air and exercise, as it’s one of those jobs that we’ve been very gradually doing bit by bit. Once that’s all done, then we’ll have a go at tidying up the garden itself during the summer, while the weather hopefully stays nice. Plus I’ve also been keeping myself occupied with blogging, and enjoying other entertainment that I’m about to mention. So I’m making productive use of my time.

So as there isn’t anything major of note to mention in my introduction, let’s just get straight on with this week’s post and video. The usual disclaimers apply, in that no sponsorship or gifting is involved and all opinions are my own, and I hope you enjoy!

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Lockdown Favourites – Week 7

Hello again! I hope you’re continuing to keep safe and well – and also staying alert, as is the new watchword here in England.

As I see it, the current small changes to our lockdown, as part of the government’s long term recovery plan, are basically urging people to use their common sense, as the virus is still circulating. We must continue to stay at home and work from home if at all possible, avoid other people’s homes, wash our hands and disinfect surfaces often, and stay 2 metres away from everyone. But provided those rules are adhered to, we have a bit more freedom – people in selected industries can go back to work, we can use outdoor spaces like parks more freely, we can walk or cycle or drive further to exercise, and face coverings are advised if social distancing isn’t possible (to protect others in case you’re asymptomatic).

So I hope people will continue to be careful and sensible, as we’re nowhere near out of the woods yet. And obviously for disabled people things are more complicated – it’s impossible to socially distance if you can’t see, for example, so you have to rely on others around you to stay away. Lucy Edwards has chatted with a couple of her fellow blind activists in a recent video about the new rules, if you want to hear their reactions to the new rules.

As for me though, my mother and I are still doing fine, touch wood. Last week I went out for the first time in over 5 weeks, as a couple of essential items were missing from our online shopping delivery. So I was very pleased to find that there were hardly any people and very few cars about, and that I was able to use the priority hour for disabled people at the supermarket, which was fully stocked and had social distancing measures very well enforced. So my risk of exposure was hopefully minimal.

But otherwise I’m still staying at home for the safety of my mother as well as myself, and I’ve continued to keep myself entertained in various ways. So let’s crack on with this week’s post and video to update you on my latest discoveries. As usual nothing is sponsored and all opinions are my own. So I hope you enjoy!

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Kerry Ellis Review – Feels Like Home

In my last 2 posts, I’ve been giving my thoughts on the previous releases by Kerry Ellis, beginning with Anthems and The Candlelight Concerts, followed by her self-titled album and Golden Days. And now here, to complete the trilogy, I want to review her brand new album, which I’ve never heard before.

Recently I was very excited to receive a signed copy of Feels Like Home, which I purchased via her website (so this isn’t an advert, there’s no sponsorship involved with this post). Kerry was going to give away the CDs while on tour, but as her concerts had to be cancelled, she’s been selling them online instead. And as you can imagine, it feels really special to have a signed copy from her! I love all the photos of Kerry on the album sleeve and in the enclosed booklet, as she always looks stunning, especially with that beautiful smile on her face.

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In her message in the booklet, she states that she wanted to make “something special that is only available at my shows, something you can hold in your hands, take home, listen to and enjoy”. So it’s exclusively available via her website for £15, for as long as her stock lasts, which means it does indeed feel as special as she claims. I don’t know if it’s going to get a wider release in the future but, even if it does, you wouldn’t then get a signed copy.

In any case, it means the album isn’t on streaming services, and there are no official videos. But there are a few live performances you can watch, a few of which I’ll share as examples, and one of which is mentioned by Kerry in her introductory notes. She also points out that she’s performed all of these songs during her career, all over the world, so she’s very familiar with them.

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Brian May isn’t involved this time, but Kerry does thank him in the booklet for “giving me confidence to go it alone for this one”. Her self-titled album 6 years ago was her first true solo release, but Brian was still involved in one of the tracks. But here he’s absent completely. He has got a copy though, of course.

She’s also been promoting the album heavily on her Instagram, and has been singing some of the songs (and others from her repertoire) in her live videos, which can be viewed on Youtube. I haven’t watched them yet, because I didn’t want to spoil any surprises, but after I’ve heard the album I intend to take a look through them in the coming days.

So even before I hear any of the music, it’s clear that Kerry has really enjoyed putting this together, it’s been a labour of love for her. And for me, this is a first-listen review, as I’ve held off hearing the album until writing this post. So I hope you enjoy seeing my initial reactions to each of the tracks as I go through them!

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Kerry Ellis Reviews – Kerry Ellis & Golden Days

This is the second part in my trilogy of posts reviewing the albums released to date by the wonderful Kerry Ellis. In my previous post I looked at the first 2 albums and a live concert on Blu-ray that she made with Brian May from Queen. This post includes another album that she produced with him, but also one that she created independently as well. I bought all these albums myself and all opinions are my own – I’m just very positive about her work overall because I’m a big fan. So I hope you enjoy this post.

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Kerry Ellis Reviews – Anthems & Candlelight Concerts

Kerry Ellis is a renowned musical theatre star, who I first became aware of through her work with Queen guitarist Brian May. She collaborated with him after starring in the We Will Rock You musical (which I still haven’t seen yet, amazingly). Since then she has appeared in many major productions, as well as releasing a number of albums, with and without Brian’s involvement. Most recently she’s been doing live streams on her Instagram, some of which are available on Youtube, as well as launching her own podcast – Keep Calm And Kerry On – where she talks to stars of stage, song and screen about their careers and their experiences of lockdown. So she’s keeping herself busy!

I haven’t had the good fortune to see her live in person, but I have been an admirer of her music for some years now, because she has a stunning voice and is very versatile, and I love musicals just like she does. I was therefore very excited to receive a signed copy of her brand new album recently (which, like all her albums, I bought myself – none of this is sponsored or gifted).

But before I tell you about that, I thought I would also give my opinions on her previous releases, because I have the time to do so right now, and it’s a good excuse (if one were needed) to go through them all again. So there will be 3 posts in all over this Bank Holiday weekend, and in this first one I’m going to focus on her initial couple of albums and a live concert on Blu-ray, all of which involve Brian May as well. So I hope you enjoy!

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30 Day Song Challenge

Throughout April I’ve been taking part in the 30 Day Song Challenge on social media, where you post a song that matches a specified theme or topic each day, just for fun.

There are various lists out there that people are using for this, but I’ve followed the one by visual impairment charity VICTA on their page listing 20 ways to spend time at home and stay in touch. Apart from being a fun challenge, it’s also a nice way to return the favour given that my blog is among the many suggestions on that page, so thank you VICTA! Plus they deserve a shoutout for the wonderful work they do for visually impaired children and young adults. They’ve shared a great set of resources on their website, for young people with sight loss and parents, if you need help during the pandemic.

So here are the songs that I picked, I hope you enjoy looking through them. What would your choices be for the same questions? You can start the challenge whenever you like, so feel free to share your selections on social media, using the hashtag #30DaySongChallenge.

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