September 2022 Favourites

Well, what a month this has been! When I published my August Favourites at the start of September, I had just left my first job due to my redundancy, and Liz Truss had just become Prime Minister. But then 2 days after I’d made that post, the ultimate career change took place at the top of our Royal Family, and normal life in the UK was disrupted for the best part of a fortnight as a result. I’ve written a separate post saying farewell to Her Majesty The Queen and reviewing the coverage, as it’s not really suitable for a Favourites post and there was quite a lot to talk about.

Apart from that though, and despite my redundancy, I’ve still been pretty busy this month. I’ve attended a Derren Brown show and a couple of tribute concerts, listened to an audiobook I got for my birthday, and enjoyed new episodes of my favourite comedies on TV once the schedules had returned to normal. So there are still plenty of nicer things to mention in this post and the short video I’ve made to go with it, none of which is sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy my latest roundup!

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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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Queen At 50 Reviews – News Of The World

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. 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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February 2021 Favourites

Hello again, hope you’re all continuing to keep safe and healthy. Welcome to another of my regular recaps, for a month that marks 5 years since I started blogging! Quite how I’ve managed to sustain a blog for that length of time, attracting and retaining a considerable number of regular followers along the way, I don’t know. But it’s led to so many exciting opportunities and enabled me to meet so many wonderful people already, and who knows what the next 5 years will bring? So many thanks to everyone who has followed, liked, shared, commented, etc, it means a lot and persuades me to keep doing it! 🙂

February was relatively quiet compared to the madness of the months preceding it, so this is going to be a relatively short post and video. But there are still various bits and bobs to mention, including some great vaccine news, and the entertainment I’ve been enjoying. And nothing here is sponsored or gifted as usual (apart from the audiobook I mention, which was a Christmas gift from my friend Claire). So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Day At The Races

The time has come for me to review Queen’s 5th album. The musical majesty and stellar success of A Night At The Opera was always going to be a tough act to follow, and impossible to beat. But Queen were up for the challenge, and set about making A Day At The Races between July and November 1976. They produced it entirely by themselves for the first time, now that they had sufficient experience and were keen to give it a go, instead of employing Roy Thomas Baker like they had before. They continued to use engineer Mike Stone though.

The album was designed to be a companion piece to its predecessor with a similar variety of music. So it was again named after a Marx Brothers film, and Groucho Marx sent a note to congratulate them on their success and their “sage choice of album titles”. It also had a similar cover design to the previous album, with the colourful Queen crest on the front, but everything was on a black background instead of white this time. Brian later expressed a wish that both Opera and Races had been released together, as “the material for both of them was written at the same time, so I regard the two albums as completely parallel.”

The band are also credited in fun ways in the sleeve notes – in addition to the usual mentions of vocals, piano, guitar, etc, Freddie is the “Choir Meister” and contributes “tantrums”, Brian is the “Leader of the Orchestra”, and Roger provides “Pandemonium”. John is merely credited as playing Fender Bass and doesn’t get anything extra, which is reflective of his nature as the quiet one in the group.

A Day At The Races 2

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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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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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