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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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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Queen At 50 Reviews – Jazz

Following News Of The World, an album of raw energy that spawned the mega-hits We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions, on top of their previous successes, was always going to be a very tall order for Queen. But, as always, they weren’t deterred by that, and opted to explore a variety of musical styles on their 7th album (though not including jazz itself as the title might suggest). And it didn’t do them any harm, as the LP peaked at Number 2 in the UK charts (held off the top spot by the Grease soundtrack), and Number 6 on the US Billboard Chart, going Platinum in both countries.

Overall the album perhaps isn’t as stunning as some of their previous work, but only because of the incredibly high bar they’d set themselves, and it’s still really good in its own right. For a start, it gave us their well-loved songs Fat Bottomed Girls, Bicycle Race and Don’t Stop Me Now, a trio that makes it worth the price of entry alone (although surprisingly the latter wasn’t a big hit to begin with). And the other ten tracks are an enjoyable mixture too, with some relatively obscure gems amongst them as usual.

The heavy criticism it received in the music press at the time was certainly unwarranted, with the band even being described as “fascist” and “creeps” with “polluting ideas” by Rolling Stone reviewer Dave Marsh. But it was often fashionable for music critics to bash the band, and reviewers tended to be thrown off guard whenever Queen tried something different (which was always), not knowing how to react to it and simply not ‘getting it’. Queen’s humour and sense of fun often went over journalists’ heads.

Hindsight has been kinder though, with retrospective reviews often being more favourable, such as Loudersound ranking it as their 4th best album, and Rolling Stone magazine admitting they were wrong. It is now rightly acknowledged that the album is rather underrated, as it’s never had as much attention as some of their earlier work.

And so, as the latest instalment in my Queen At 50 series, this post is my personal run-through of all the tracks on the Jazz album, including the usual mixture of alternate versions, live performances, covers and more. I hope you enjoy!

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October 2021 Favourites

Finally. After all the pandemic restrictions and my recent health problems, it’s such a joyous relief to be out and about properly again, doing the things I enjoy.

So there’s quite a lot to mention in this month’s post and video, as I’ve been attending theatre shows for the first time in ages, taking nice walks, and enjoying a mixture of films, dramas, comedies and music at home. Plus I bought the new iPhone 13, which I’m very happy with as explained in my review, so the photos and videos you see going forward will be taken using that.

Apart from the theatre show States Of Mind, for which I was given complimentary tickets to go along and review, nothing else in this post involves any gifting or sponsorship. And all opinions are my own throughout. So I hope you enjoy!

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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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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 bandย 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. Iย hope you enjoy!

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