November 2022 Favourites

Hey there, hope you’re all doing alright, and welcome to my latest roundup. I’ve continued to be happily occupied since my redundancy, so there’s plenty to mention for the last month.

First of all, my big outing was a lovely weekend in Oxford, where I visited the Ashmolean Museum, went on a walking tour of the university and the city, enjoyed a concert by Jools Holland with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, and had a good laugh seeing Jimmy Carr. So for all the details and lots of photos, check out my extensive blog post about the trip.

I’ve also been getting out and about to see a lot of the festive displays in London. I’ll share the highlights in my Christmas Favourites post in the New Year of course, but I’ve been posting lots of photos on my Instagram page on a daily basis, so be sure to follow me there, and also my Youtube channel where I’ll post some video clips nearer to Christmas.

Apart from all that however, I also spent a day volunteering and meeting friends at a disability exhibition, had a front row seat for another Queen-related concert, bought a special Queen box set, and enjoyed various other things on DVD and TV as well. So let’s crack on with it. None of this stuff is sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you enjoy this month’s post and video!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – The Miracle – Collector’s Edition Box Set

Back in the first lockdown in 2020 I started doing an occasional Queen At 50 series, celebrating Queen‘s 50th anniversary by doing very in-depth reviews of some of their albums. The posts have been very sporadic due to all sorts of other things keeping me busy, as well as the level of detail they contain, but it’s always been my intention to continue the series when time permits.

And now I have the opportunity to do a Christmas special, as the band recently unveiled a new edition of their 1989 album The Miracle. When it was first announced I eagerly pre-ordered the full Super Deluxe Collector’s Edition & Press Pack as an early festive treat for myself, so I thought I’d do a detailed review now that I’ve had time to go through it and savour its contents.

The set was retailing at £169.99 (plus shipping), but I took advantage of a 10% discount code that I received from their store for my birthday a few months ago. So I was charged £127.99 for the 8-disc box set, £25 for the press pack and £6.26 shipping, making £159.25 in total. And that’s not bad at all, considering how much you get.

There are cheaper editions too though, depending on what you can afford, including the 8-disc set without the press kit, a 2-disc edition consisting of the album and the sessions, and a download version that covers all 4 music CDs, plus there are related items of merchandise. So there’s something for everyone.

I’ve made an unboxing video to go with this post, where you can see my initial reactions to the contents of the set, and there’s an unboxing video by Brian May as well. Queen have also posted a couple of short documentary features about The Miracle to coincide with its re-release, which you can see here and here.

So in this post I want to review the set in full, to give my thoughts on all the music tracks and videos, the memorabilia, the book and the radio interviews – which means there’s a lot to cover here, and I hope you enjoy it!

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October 2022 Favourites

Hello again, I hope you’re all doing well despite everything going on in the world at the moment. Here in the UK, Liz Truss having to resign after a disastrous 45 days as our shortest-serving Prime Minister was certainly quite astonishing to witness, and now it remains to be seen if new PM Rishi Sunak can start to get things back on track and last at least as long as she did!

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!

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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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August 2022 Favourites

Hello again. I hope you’re doing well, in what I know are worrying and stressful times for many, given all the economic, financial, environmental and political turmoil at the moment.

It’s certainly not the ideal time for me to be made redundant, that’s for sure – not that there is a ever a good time of course. Fortunately my mother and I are doing fine though, despite that. We’re lucky to be in a comfortable financial position where we can ride this out for a while, and I can have a nice break to reset while I consider what to do next. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy as well. But hopefully it won’t be too long before I find a new career. Given all the financial and economic uncertainty, however, we have decided not to move house for the time being – but then that was never essential anyway, it was just something we were considering. It will happen eventually, at a later date, and in the meantime we’ve got some small improvements we can make to our current place.

Anyway, I’ve now finished my first ever job, and I’ve made a post all about my last month at work and the wonderful messages I’ve received, including a lovely gift I was sent by one department, so do check that out for more details. I’m flattered and humbled by the amount of kindness everyone has shown, and I will miss my colleagues very much.

Beyond that, because work was my main focus, I haven’t done a huge amount this month, and there were even a couple of weekends where I couldn’t go out at all. But there are still a few happier things to mention, as I celebrated my birthday, received an award and briefly visited a couple of museums. Plus I really enjoyed watching the Commonwealth Games on TV, so I’ve written quite a bit about those in this post, and I revisited the 2012 Olympics & Paralympics on Blu-ray, which I’ve already written about elsewhere. So, while August wasn’t very eventful overall, I hope you still find some items of interest in this latest roundup!

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London 2012 Revisited – Olympics Closing Ceremony

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the glorious London Olympics from 10 years ago, hence my recent lengthy reviews of the Opening Ceremony, Days 1-8 and Days 9-16. There are loads of great memories, and some things I’d forgotten about that I’ve been happily reminded of. So naturally it’s time to look back at the Closing Ceremony, which was overseen by creative director Kim Gavin.

As big and important as the occasion was, it’s fair to say it wasn’t quite as epic or impressive as the Opening Ceremony – but then it didn’t need to be. We had already put on a fantastic show over the previous few weeks, and so now we could just let our hair down and have fun, and thank everyone for making the Games such a success. This was more of a party than a ceremony really, focusing on the best of British music and culture with a variety of big-name artists. Most of the tracks appeared on the soundtrack album A Symphony Of British Music, compiled by the ceremony’s musical director David Arnold, which I own in my collection. It contains a mixture of original music written for the ceremony, cover versions of well-known songs, and special re-recordings by artists of their own tracks for the event.

And it was still very enjoyable on the whole. It’s very unlikely that everything would have appealed to everyone but, depending on your musical and cultural tastes, there would have been a few particularly memorable or special moments for each person watching. That was certainly the case for me anyway – there are some parts I can easily skip over, and other bits I can watch over and over again.

And visually it looked very cool as well, not just in terms of the costumes, dancing, fireworks and so on, but also the creative use of the ‘pixels’ – the coloured lights behind each audience member – that created animated patterns around the stadium throughout the show, and the impressive Union Jack stage – designed by artist Damien Hirst – that filled the floor of the stadium.

The ceremony lasted 3 hours and 10 minutes, and is included in its entirety on the final fifth disc of the BBC’s Blu-ray set. There are no alternative audio options and no scene selection menu (though there are chapter points you can skip through). You simply get the broadcast coverage with the BBC commentators led by Huw Edwards, but that’s generally fine as they don’t interfere too much. They’re most involved when the athletes are making their way into the stadium, while at other times they just give a bit of contextual information, which is actually very useful. And by all accounts we had much better TV coverage than some overseas viewers. The only extra on the disc is a long PDF with the full list of credits for the ceremony, which you can see if you put it into a computer’s Blu-ray drive. Not quite as long as the equivalent document for the Opening Ceremony, but still pretty lengthy.

You can also watch the full ceremony on the Olympics Youtube channel, where they have their own commentators. As with their Opening Ceremony coverage, it starts with a beautiful helicopter shot travelling slowly over London towards and around the stadium, showing off the city and the venue wonderfully. And there are other videos online relating to the ceremony as well, including a bit of footage from the audience and behind the scenes. So, like I’ve done with my previous posts, I’ve compiled a Ceremony Playlist on Youtube, with relevant clips and the complete music soundtrack if you want to look through it.

And so, with all that said, let’s crack on with my look back at the ceremony. It won’t be anywhere near as lengthy as my Opening Ceremony coverage, as there’s much less to discuss this time. But I hope you enjoy!

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July 2022 Favourites

Well, it’s fair to say that this past month will go down in the history books for quite a variety of reasons, some better than others. Boris Johnson’s long overdue resignation has left our government in disarray as they hunt for a new leader, and our record-breaking heatwave in the UK resulted in several fires in London, even if it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as in Europe. But, as is often the case, sport has come along to lift the nation’s spirits, as I’ll mention during this post – we all know what the main headline is there!

As for me, work is very busy, with people wanting to get as many jobs done as they can before my redundancy kicks in next month! I’ve had lots of lovely messages and good wishes from colleagues already, which is very flattering. And thank you so much to all of my other friends and followers for their messages of support as well, including relevant vacancies and volunteering opportunities that people are already starting to bring to my attention, please do keep those coming. I won’t apply for everything that people send me of course, but they’re all giving me food for thought for my future career path.

I still feel quite calm about it all so far, because I have strong foundations from my current job and volunteering work that I can build on – and I’ve had a nice surprise in relation to the latter that I’ll mention next month. Plus I’m fortunate not to have major financial worries at the moment – although I have taken the opportunity to cut back on a few subscriptions that I can live without for a while, as saving a few quid here and there each month soon adds up. It also appears there are one or two paid research opportunities that could be of some benefit.

In any case, my plan is still to have a bit of a well-earned break, in order to sort out some stuff at home, while we consider whether to move house, as well as get out and about more as I have various things booked in the next few months. But I’m continuing to keep a close eye out for job and volunteering opportunities as well, as you never know what’ll come up.

Aside from all that though, I have been enjoying my leisure time as usual of course, and you’ll know about the shows I’ve been to see recently if you’ve been keeping up to date with my posts. So here’s my latest roundup of outings, sport, comedy and music that I’ve got into this month. As always, none of it’s sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy!

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Parties At The Palace – Part 2

I’m delighted that the Platinum Jubilee was such a success this weekend, with lots of events taking place all over the country, and the weather holding out for the central celebrations in London. If you attended any events during the holiday, I hope you had a good time!

In my previous post I reviewed the Golden & Diamond Jubilee Concerts from 2002 and 2012 respectively. So in this post I’m going to discuss my highlights from this year’s concert, after briefly mentioning some of the other coverage that my mother and I have been tuning into. So I hope you enjoy!

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Parties At The Palace – Part 1

Many congratulations to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her Platinum Jubilee! 70 years on the throne is an astonishing achievement, being the first time a British monarch has ever reached such an incredible milestone. It may never happen again, certainly not within any current living person’s lifetime, so it is a truly historic occasion.

I hope The Queen has enjoyed all of the celebrations that have been held in her honour, and it’s been lovely to see her making a few appearances as her mobility allows. And I hope everyone else has enjoyed the various activities that have taken place, or have just made the most of the opportunity to relax and have fun during an extra couple of days off work, over the specially extended holiday weekend.

I’ll mention the Jubilee coverage I’ve enjoyed this year in my next post, including the huge concert that took place at Buckingham Palace on Saturday.

But first, I wanted to talk about the 2002 Golden Jubilee Concerts that I have on DVD, as I’ve naturally rewatched them as part of the build-up to this year’s celebrations. And I’ve had a look through the limited footage available online from the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert as well.

Ultimately, the 2002 Party At The Palace remains the only concert that I’m happy to watch in its entirety, even including the weaker acts, whereas for the Diamond and Platinum parties there are several artists I’ve had to skip over. So I’ve written very detailed reviews for the 2002 gigs here, and tagged on a shorter review to mention my highlights from the 2012 event.

We’ll all have different views on these concerts of course, given the wide range of performers from different decades, countries and musical genres, and it’s great that the organisers ensured there was something for everyone. So these are only my personal thoughts, but I hope you enjoy reading through them!

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April 2022 Favourites

Hello again, I hope you all had a good Easter. My mother and I happily over-indulged on hot cross buns, Easter eggs and other unhealthy things as usual, but hopefully I’ve offset that a bit with the long walks I’ve continued doing. And I’m glad to say my mother had her 4th Covid jab over Easter too, without any side effects.

As well as the treats and sweets and my feet on the streets, another big part of April for me was rounding up things from March, as there was a lot to share about my trip to Milton Keynes. In particular, I wrote detailed reviews, including lots of photos, about the museums I visited, the We Will Rock You musical and exploring the theatre district. Meanwhile on Youtube I included a travel vlog in last month’s Favourites video, and shared some footage from Bletchley Park. So do go and check all of that out if you haven’t already.

Apart from that, I didn’t go to any museums or theatres in April, but I’ve got quite a lot in the pipeline on that front, with lots of exhibitions I want to see, and a variety of shows booked for the coming months, among other things. And there’s a potentially big opportunity on the horizon that I can’t talk about just yet, but it might prove to be very interesting. All of which means I have a busy year ahead, and it’s caused me to reassess how I use my time, especially as we’re all emerging from the depths of the pandemic and making a bit of a fresh start.

I’ve therefore decided to cut back on the Favourites videos I do with these posts. They do take a fair amount of time to produce, and I’ve done about 60 of them over the past 4 years, which is pretty good going. I’d rather focus on my writing, and I’ll continue doing these detailed blog posts every month, as I have a lot more time and flexibility to construct, edit, update and correct them, compared to videos. Plus I have a variety of other things that I want to write about in the months ahead. I’ll still do little updates on my Youtube channel every so often though, and I’ll continue to share footage from my outings and travels there (indeed, there’s a very special video coming up shortly). But I just want to keep things a bit simpler on the video front, that’s all.

So with all that said, let’s get on with this month’s roundup. Apart from my walks, there’s also quite a bit to tell you about the various forms of home entertainment I’ve been into, including a special 50th anniversary tribute to one of my favourite radio shows. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you enjoy!

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