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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Science Fiction, Triple Feature – Part 3 – My First Rocky Horror Live Show

After a long pandemic-enforced absence – during which madness threatened to take its toll, because time was anything but fleeting – it seems appropriate that my return to the glorious world of musical theatre was to the most infectious show of them all.

As a big fan of the film and the music, seeing Rocky Horror live has been on my bucket list for ages, as I’ve never had a good opportunity to go before. So when an audio described performance was announced by Sadler’s Wells as part of the current Rocky Horror tour, I was only too eager to jump to the left… I mean, at the chance… to lose my Rocky Horror virginity. So I bought myself a ticket, knowing that it was an afternoon out I was going to remember. For how long? For a very long time!

The Peacock Theatre, with Rocky Horror tour posters on the display boards outside. The theatre name is in gold lettering on a black canopy jutting out above the entrance, and above that is a black wall with 14 gold stars across it.

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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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Science Fiction, Triple Feature – Part 1 – Rocky Horror Films & Productions

There’s a light in the darkness of everybody’s life. And during the pandemic, one such beacon for me has been the impending return of musical theatre. So when things finally did open up again, I was delighted to see an audio described performance had become available for a show that I’ve been eager to see for ages. And so last weekend I finally saw The Rocky Horror Show live in person. Suffice to say, it was well worth the wait!

I’ll tell you all about that on Halloween itself. But to build up to that, and to turn this into a special Halloween trilogy, I thought I would take a deep dive into my love of Rocky Horror first, by talking about the film, stage productions and other remakes in this post, and then tomorrow I’ll share my Rocky Horror music collection. I was going through all of that stuff in preparation for seeing the live show anyway – not that I needed any excuse to enjoy it all yet again in the first place – so I figured I may as well write about it too. So allow me to take you on a strange journey, and I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Day At The Races – Part 2

Happy Japanese Queen Day! Following on from the wonderful variety of tracks on Side 1 that I reviewed previously, Side 2 of A Day At The Races continues to entertain with a mixture of offerings. It starts off with one of Queen’s most enduring and hugely popular hits, before taking us on a journey that ends up in Japan at the end of the album, which has important relevance to today, as explained for that particular track. So there’s plenty to cover as usual, and I hope you enjoy this latest set of reviews!

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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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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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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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