The Amateur-ville Horror

IMG_3048It may not be to the level at, say, Universal Studios with their Halloween shenanigans but my brother certainly does take time and scare over his Halloween spook-tacular.

The front of his house and garden (the rockery horror picture show?) was transformed into a mysterious mist heavy graveyard complete with listing headstones and accompanying ghouls and fiends…all of which stands between would-be trick or treaters and their candy…if they dare!

IMG_3044Fittingly it all took place in the last house on the left (before the school) and this year visitors had to dodge the likes of uber scary clowns (are there any other type?).

There was also a dapperly-suited Jigsaw (yours truly) that kept children and adults guessing if it was real or not.

Well, of course I wanted them to play a game of real or not real as I hid among the tombstones Baron Samedi-style.

Then there was an illuminated cloaked devil figure (my brother’s guise for this year) that was one part Ghostface and one part Darth Maul.

IMG_3038And then there was Iz, otherwise known as spooky speedy pumpkin (I have no idea, that’s the name Iz gave herself), a black and pink striped cat (must be a pedigree with that name) as played with much relish by Isabelle.

She gave the likes of Nicole Scherzinger and Michelle Pfeiffer a run for their milk money with her zeal, which started out as domesticated friendliness  before ending the evening as feral claws and hisses.

Iz was a whisker above Claudia Winkleman, who’d chosen a frightfully feline outfit for this week’s Strictly Come Dancing as well.

IMG_3516Not to fear though if any of the intrepid visitors needed medical attention though as there was a member of medical personnel on hand, feet and torsos in the form of a sinister psycho surgeon complete with death-oscope,

Sarah here channeling her inner Incredible Hulk with those eyes! Is it me or do they follow you round the room?

IMG_3549With such a menagerie of monsters on display you’d have thought that perhaps the neighbours might have stared, not to matter as Shona would stared right back at them and right through them.

Beyond the front door a world of the macabre awaited Halloween party guests in the form of Ringu figures on the stairs, a river of dry ice emanating from a cauldron across the food (of the gods) that put Top of the Pops to shame and curtains of cobwebs aplenty.

Isabelle loved it, merrily swishing the hubbling and bubbling mist, although I think Isabelle must have thought that the food was on fire judging by her reaction.

IMG_3563It was also the night of the living dad and mum as my parents showed they weren’t too cool for ghoul arriving in full costume and make-up, here caught it the kitchen which was full of its own devilish delights.

There was also no sanctuary to be found the other side of the house either as those escaping through the back door were met by a baby complete with spinning head and and creepy lullaby.

IMG_3559Reeling in horror from that you are then faced with a body bag and shovel amidst more graves to make your (Burke and) hairs stand on end, before being chased from the property by a cackling head hidden in the wall.

It certainly was an evening of high spirits where a good fright was had by all and nobody could deny that it was a real scream.

Perhaps most frightening of all though was when I removed my mask (steady) and wore it on my head as I became less Jigsaw puppet from Saw and more Max Wall!

You Asda be kidding me!

Asda may have been first out of the gates with their Christmas advert but as far as their service and continuity is concerned they never even made it out of the stable.

Save money live better may be Asda’s mission statement but if only saving the money and living better was made a tad easier than the tale of woe below.

You could even say it’s almost driven me to drink, I say almost as that drink in question – £10 litre bottles of Baileys – has been so close yet oh so far away. Asda at Shoebury in Essex to be precise.

Checking that the offer was still on I looked at their website before heading on the 10 mile round trip, yep still £10. It would be 20 miles by day two.

Smash cut to store and they are listed as £18.50, I double checked at the till and they checked with a supervisor and was told the offer was not in store but was still online.

I checked again online to find three listings and different prices for 1 litre of Baileys, two listings at £10 and £12 and another ad for £18.50. To coin an old Asda slogan, that’s Asda price…yes but which one precisely?

I know the people on the customer services number will have the answer, right?

Er, no. They were perplexed as to why it was one price online and another instore and said I should go back in and argue this. I’d already done that at the store customer services and was told sometimes prices are different online.

I said to the woman on the phone that it was madness that I could order them online for click and collect from store, the store I was sat outside of yet was unable to buy them right now at that price. She thought this was a great idea, I thought it was slightly inconvenient and didn’t really answer the problem but was sort of happy as it meant I still got a great offer.

The perplexed customer service continued with a different person on Twitter who said they were going to look into it, they must still be looking into it as 24 hours later I was still awaiting a response, despite asking for someone to get back to me again earlier today. At least Asda are being consistent, even if it’s consistently being not very good.

Bottles ordered at £10 each and ready for collection from 8pm. Yippee! Or so I thought, I was there at click and collect and so were my bottles of Baileys, although now they had gone up to £18.50 each, that’s £55.50 in total.

The order was politely declined, something which the guys with the delivery totally understood. Now I know that it says online that you pay the price on the day the item is picked and clearly that has obviously gone back up in price online today but when I was advised I could still order it online from instore and again when it was mentioned on the phone at the customer service centre neither time was I told that offer would have expired by the time a click and collect slot was next available.

It’s a shame that it seems this particular supermarket doesn’t know its Arse-da from its elbow when it comes to knowing what their prices are and what they should be or even when they expire.

Speaking to the customer services centre on the phone again this evening (Wednesday night) I explained my dilemma at length and they offered me free delivery on my next order, what’s that a couple of quid? Not really the point as thanks but no thanks I said as I won’t be using Asda again.

Perhaps I’ll head to Sainsburys to save 25% on 6 bottles of wine or more, more I think don’t you?

Beauty and the NeverBeast

Film, it’s a powerful medium. Early in my blogsproration  I noted that exposure to your first film is important and will help shape everything from conversations to friendships.

There also comes a pivotal time when the emotion of film will overwhelm you, sure, you’ll laugh long and hard but make no mistake you will cry, long and hard as well, and that moment shall forever be part of your filmic DNA.

It will come as you start being able to process and have empathy with stories and characters, as you start to  understand the story sense of films and tv. And when it happens it will hit you like an emotional bolt out of the blue.

For Isabelle this came whilst watching Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast when the lovable but misunderstood beast of the title has fulfilled its mission and most go back to sleep for nearly a thousand years before he is next needed.

Iz instantly knew that this meant that Fawn and the other fairies would never see him again, in Isabelle’s eyes he may as well have been laying down to die rather than going to sleep for a long period of time.

But then that’s what happens to pets isn’t it? They go to sleep, so quickly going to sleep in animal terms, at least  in the eyes of children, is associated with death.

And Iz has already been touched by that with Grandma and Grandad’s beloved German shepherd, Max. It isn’t that Iz doesn’t know Max isn’t dead or that she just thinks he went to sleep, she understands he was very poorly but still misses him. She says she does regularly and still talks about him constantly with an air of sadness. And it was exactly that same emotional peril she was in with the NeverBeast having to say goodbye.

She’s hidden behind her hands prior to now, most recently with Bing Bong in Inside Out and only the day previously to the NeverBeast, watching The Iron Giant for the very first time.

But her reaction to the end of Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast was on a whole new level. This was full on sobbing, sobbing that she nor the fairies will ever get to see the NeverBeast ever again as he won’t be back for 1,000 years. Iz wanted to go into his cave with him, she is such a sweet and sensitive soul.

We all have that moment occur to us though, it’s like a cinematic rites of passage. Mine, it was probably one of two films, King Kong (1976) – even if it was Rick Baker in a suit – or Anthony Hopkins TV movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982).

Both heroes who fell to their deaths from buildings, I may not remember which film triggered the emotion first but I vividly remember crying lots and lots outside in the back garden.

At the cinema it was the horse drowning in The NeverEnding Story, scarred for life I tells yer, having not seen it for years I think I’d even convinced myself that it had been saved…I was wrong.

For many it will of course have been E.T., unless you couldn’t make it out properly on a terrible pirate copy. And that’s the thing, you don’t know what it will be that will trigger it, whether it’s the lonely alien, the man in the ape mask or furry faced NeverBeast.

Whatever film it is a pivotal moment, as it’s about or innocence but also the beginning of the loss of our innocence. We are never the same again.

What film do you remember having the first real emotional impact on you when growing up?

Happy Birthday to Doo

DSC_5405Iz wasn’t five (five, where did that time go?) until the end of August but with her birthday falling just after a Bank Holiday Monday and at the end of the summer hols, coupled with her leaving school, we thought we’d have it prior to school breaking up.

It all now seems such a longtime ago, all her friends from school were there for her Scooby-Doo themed party at The Fun Factory.

DSC_5426It’s great no mess, no fuss and all we brought along was a cake and some decorations, they even provide latter if you want. We came armed with our own Scooby-Doo ones and a rather spook-tacular Scooby-Doo cake complete with said great dane, haunted house, mystery machine and ghost.

DSC_5310As well as the soft play down the slides you can also go rock climbing or ice-skating for no extra cost, so of course wanted to have a drive on one of the bikes where there is! There was certainly no mystery as to who had the mastery of this machine.

DSC_5389Iz certainly had a fun-tastic time, although she wouldn’t have got away with having such a fab day without all those meddling kids!

Isabelle: Year One

IMG_2870New school year and brand new school, having moved over the summer that meant we were able to get Iz into a school closer to home and the school that was our original first choice.

She’s never been fazed by the move of school and she was soooo excited yesterday morning to put on her new uniform and pose for the standard ‘child at door’ shot. I think she’d have quite happily walked herself to school if she could at that point.

The sun always shines on Izzy
The sun always shines on Izzy

Iz wore a summer dress for a summery day of beautiful sunshine, although I’m sure neither will last that much longer. The three of us walked hand in hand towards the school with Iz dashing to the entrance where she was soon joined by a group of new friends.

Soon she was being led into her new class of fellow woodpeckers, Woody Woodpecker suitably peering out of her class window, and of course she didn’t look back, she didn’t need to.

Can't stop Daddy!
Can’t stop Daddy!

Prior to queuing for class there was just enough time for an early morning game of hide and seek in her new surroundings, giving her the perfect excuse for a bit of exploring. There was certainly no hiding that we had sought the right place for Iz.

Her new teacher told Sarah how confident Iz was and how she wasn’t fussed about being the ‘new girl’. The headteacher even came over to her and said: “You’re the new girl aren’t you?”

“No”, replied Isabelle, “you’ve met me before.”

She won’t be the ‘new girl’ for long but will always be our New-man girl.

The Butterfly Effect

Isabelle starts back at school tomorrow, not just in Year 1 but also in a new school.

Before the school holidays the three of us took the opportunity to go and meet her new teacher.

IMG_0230With her Iz took a picture of butterfly she had drawn to pass onto that new teacher, which was received with much delight.

But what delighted us even more was what happened next, Iz was shown what is to be her new classroom and earlier that week it turns out that the children who are going to be in her class had also drawn and painted butterflies and Isabelle’s butterfly was not just invited to join the others but was added to the colourful wall to join the others.

We all thought this was an amazingly sweet introduction and spoke volumes about what both Isabelle and we can expect from the school. We thought, she isn’t a part of that class in September, she’s been welcomed with opened arms into it already.

As one mum told me, who also has children at that school, “It’s the Virgin Atlantic of local primary schools.”

Well that was a first class service we got that day. And it was somewhat fitting that the mum just so happened to be talking to the head teacher when we arrived, obviously a sign.

And if that wasn’t a sign, this coupled with the butterfly coincidence surely was, Isabelle’s place only came about as another pupil left…that pupil’s name also just so happened to be Isabelle.

A Marvel-ous lunch

AKA Spider-Newman and her Amazing Friends

Hi I’m Stan Lee*

IMG_2752Today Marvel fans we find ourselves in sunny Southend-on-Sea where we join old webhead, Spider-Woman, Iron Man and Captain America at Pizza Express.

Of course any self respecting superhero won’t be in several hundred bounds of Southend as they’ll probably be plenty busy at something like San Diego Comic Con, it was of course Isabelle who had just so happened to have donned a top featuring this fantastic foursome.

Not that it’s that often you hear a peep out of Spider-Woman – or Mrs Spider-Man as Iz called her – so that was a nice surprise for her to pop up on the top and say hi.

Iz’s Marvel-ous pink 3/4 sleeve top displays Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man and Spider-Woman, with the two Spider folk sporting a somewhat glittery look over their red. Not sure that will follow in the new reboot. She loved it and knew all of the characters, almost.

And it really set her pink converse off perfectly.

I spotted it in Tesco and was just genuinely pleased that there was a superhero top available for girls and not just another My Little Pony or Frozen, not that there is anything wrong with either of those franchises but it was genuinely refreshing to see that the Marvel universe wasn’t just perceived as a boys only universe. Because it isn’t.

SupergirlMarvel’s Black Widow and Sue Storm might be flying the flag for Marvel but with the new Supergirl TV series and Wonder Woman sorting out Superman and Batman , perhaps DC may be more female friendly than Marvel? Besides, Iz loves a little bit of Supergirl.

*Clearly I’m not, that’s just how the likes of The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends cartoons were introduced in the early 1980s.

Anna get your fun

DSC_5716Looking every inch the Disney princess as Anna from Frozen, Iz was looking forward to the birthday party of two of her friends.

The theme was princesses and superheroes and for Iz, always more Anna in her ways – funny, a little accident prone and loyal – than Elsa, it was nice to see this Disney princess take the centre stage. DSC_5730

And Iz had a whale of a time, popping bubbles, dancing, musical bumps, dancing, musical statues, doing the Hokey Cokey, dancing, pass the parcel and did I say dancing?

It was lovely to see thoughtful Iz go and lead a shy friend from her seat so that she could also join in the pass the parcel, the little girl in question even winning a prize.

DSC_5792Iz also proved to be something of a limbo expert, well I guess we all have hidden talents!

That was nothing compared to the conga, which was a continued source of amusement and hilarity for all involved, which Iz thought was quite literally a scream. DSC_5774

It was then time for a breather and a spot of lunch where Iz reverted back to full Anna mode, you could almost hear her and Ash saying:

Ash: I mean it’s crazy we finish each other’s

Iz: sandwiches DSC_5784

Although I don’t remember Anna creating giant lips out of onion ring crisps, like her dad she never fails to utilise a good prop to maximum effect.

Bellies full and energy recharged it was back to the dance floor for a dance competition, the search was on for the best boy and best girl. DSC_5751Busting all her best moves and wiggles, It was as if Iz was channeling the spirit of Tony Manerno from Saturday Night Fever.

Iz won best girl dancer, her popping candy prize giving her an oral round of applause for the duration of the drive home.

Star Claws

I have only ever won one item from a seaside grabber machine and that was over 20 years ago. Depressing isn’t it?

That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried and tried again, but much to Isabelle’s disappointment I’ve it always just falls from the claws grasp.

IMG_0404Step up Uncle Gavin, he only went and bagged himself an Olaf cuddly toy thus sending him to the top of the cool uncle list.

He could have bought it but it isn’t quite as valiant as it being won for you with blood, sweat and pound coins. His lucky streak continued with the prize of a baby Oleg meerkat, this time for Lily.

But then, try as he might, no other cuddly toy was successfully grappled by Gavin that day but you can be claw he’ll be back for just…one…more…go.

Don’t talk just Iz

IMG_0531This was the conversation before I went to work this morning.

Iz: I’m going to give you five kisses because I am nearly five.

Me: That’s nice, although I’m going to have to get up half-an-hour early if you are still doing that when you are 30.

Iz: I will daddy.

That certainly sets you up nicely for the day at work as she happily waved me off stood on the front step in her pyjamas.


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