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The word BARGAIN is often bandied about; you see it all over the place and used to describe the most ridiculous, un-bargain-like things you could imagine. The word BARGAIN when put in conjunction with the word PERFUME may conjur up still more horrible visions of fake designer brands languishing on market stalls and smelling something akin to a cocktail of drain cleaner and horse urine. Not nice. BARGAIN COSMETICS sounds quite horrid, too - pictures of Vera Duckworth spring to mind and when shopping for luxury products, this simply wont do. However... I have found a place that sells genuine designer & other more obscure imported brands at SERIOUS BARGAIN prices. In fact, I may have to clear my throat and yell the following at you: THIS IS THE CHEAPEST UK SITE TO BUY DESIGNER PERFUME & COSMETICS I HAVE EVER FOUND! Ahem. Sorry about that. It's true, though, and I have shopped here for years, rubbing my hands in glee at the hundreds of pounds I have saved in the process. HOW CHEAP? A good question, so we shall start with their current top-selling product listed on the site, a product that just happens to be one of my favourite perfumes: ~ Boudoir Sparkling Perfume by Vivienne Westwood RRP: £30 Their Price: £10.99 You Save: £19.01 Good enough start for you? No? Okay, we'll pus
h on with a few more examples to set you slavering... ~ Hard Candy Lipstix Lipgloss RRP: £12.99 Their Price: £2.99 You Save: £9.01 ~ Anna Sui Pure Parfum RRP: £80 Their Price: £30 You Save: £50 ~ L'Occitane Gentle Eye Makeup Remover RRP: £12 Their Price: £3.99 You Save: £8.01 ~ Christian Dior Dolce Vita Parfum (50ml) + Body Lotion + Bag RRP: £45 Their Price: £29.99 You Save: £15.01 ~ Clinique Long Last Soft Shine Lipstick RRP: £11 Their Price: £3.99 You Save £7.01 ~ Elizabeth Arden Dual Perfection Lipstick & Lipliner RRP: £18 Their Price: £2.99 You Save: £15.01 ~ Orlane Purifying Lotion for Mixed/Oily Skin (250ml) RRP: £30 Their Price: £5.95 You Save: £24.05 ~ Urban Decay Lipsticks RRP: £8.95 (and that's an understatement on thir part - I have paid £12.99 for mine in shops!) Their Price: £3.84 You Save (at least!): £5.11 ~Ultima@ Perfume by Ultima II RRP: £35 Their Price: £9.95 You Save: £25.05 Have I managed to tickle your interest yet? Even if you don't wear perfume or makeup yourself, it's still well worth taking a look at this site when considering buying presents for friends & family - they'll think you've spent an absolute fortune on them! Bonus points in the Good Books bank, that is. NAVIGATING
; THE SITE: This is easy-peasy pudding & pie - From the front page you can either search using keywords, browse products by category or brand name, or perhaps you might prefer to look at their 'Special Offers' or 'New Arrivals' sections. Also, you can keep an eye on their top-10 selling products and, by simply clicking on the pictures or desciptions, go straight to the page devoted to that item. SITE LAYOUT: This has been updated over the past couple of years and is FAR better and cleaner to look at than it used to be - it also manages to contain a large amount of information and number of products without becoming a nightmare jumble of text, pictures and clickety-click links. The overall look of the site in't going to win awards for style or innovation, but it is several hundred times better looking and more professional than all of the other Beauty Discout type shops I have seen (and, as you may have gathered, I have browsed my way through quite a number of them over the years). HOW TO ORDER: Pretty much the same as any oher online shop - you can click the 'add to my basket' button until you have finished shopping, at which point you can examine your basket and either change your order or continue on through the checkout process. If you haven't ordered from the site before, you'll be asked to complete a registration process at this stage - this saves you having to re-enter our home address and other details every time you shop. Of course the checkout process is totally secure, so your details will be safe. POSTAGE & PACKING RATES: They have a flat rate of £3.95 for all UK orders, regardless of how many products y
ou buy - well worth clubbing together with a few friends and getting all your things sent together so that you can end up paying a few pence each for p&p! All orders are sent by recorded delivery Royal Mail or, for very large/bulky orders, by Parcel Force. ASK MOLLY: This is a series of articles by their resident beauty expert, who writes a themed piece each month devoted to products sold on the website - it may be an article bout caring for sensitive skin; suggestions for Christmas presents; bargains of the month or analysing the new ultra-tendy brands. TOP-TIPS: ***Sign up for their free email newsletter - you'll get the very latest news of new products and special savings without hving to check the website all the time ***If you see a fab bargain GRAB IT THEN, don't wait and hope they'll still have it in a few months time. Because of the nature of their website, sometimes stocks are very low and they often run out of items - especially if they are eye-poppingly amazing bargain prices and well-known designer brands. ***Don't expect them to have the full range of colours or all the latest imported brands. As you can see from my list of example bargins, they stock an impressive array of trendy brands from America (Hard Candy, Urban Decay etc) but if it's only just been launched in this country, they are more unlikely to stock it just yet. ***Some items don't have accompanying pictures, only descriptions or names of colours for example... My advice would be to seek out the lipstick (or whatever) in your local department store, or to look at the company's website to see if colours/styles are shown there. ~ Luckily, most items do have pictures, so you can see what you're getting, but if you
39;re unfamiliar with a brand of designer skincare, let's say, you could always pop to Boots or a department store and ask for free trial samples - then grift them by saving loads of money by buying the full-size product here, instead of further lining the pockets of the multi-national chains! I have always been utterly delighted with the level of service and ease of ordering on this site - you can while away many happy hours browsing through this site and discovering treasured favourites at bargain prices along with fantastic new brands/products you may never even have heard of before. WHAT YOU NEED TO DO NOW: Make yourself a large cup of coffee, get comfy and prepare to revolutionise your cosmetic & beauty shopping experience forever. You will *never* want to go back to paying RRP prices ever again. Welcome to the life of being a cosmetic junkie, then. Welcome to my world. :)
Paying nearly 20 quid in order to scrub off your makeup with a cleansing cream and a bit of muslin seemed ridiculous to me, and yet I had read so many rave reviews in magazines, celebrity testimonials claiming this as their must-have product, I admit that curiousity got the better of me and I decided to give it a go. I purchased my Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser from QVC, and I would highly recommend this way of shopping for expensive skin-care treatments because they have a genuine, no-quibbles 30 day money back guarantee: this means you can try the product for 30 days and, if not delighted by the results or even just not sure you want to keep it, you can return the packaging (even if it's empty because you've used all of it!) and they wont even ask why - just put the money back in your account. There's absolutely no way you could try this product (or any other cosmetic) decide you don't like it and ask for your money back in a normal shop. NATURAL INGREDIENTS: The cleanser contains the following active ingredients: almond milk to soften and smooth; cocoa butter to moisturise; chamomile to help calm sensitive skin; hops to help tone and soothe; rosemary to stimulate the circulation & eucalyptus oil to cleanse and purify. HOW TO USE: It is recommended for all skin types and comes with a muslin cloth to use in conjunction with the cleanser in the following way - Phase One is the cleansing action: You gently massage onto dry skin over the eyes, face and neck with your fingertips to soften, purify and stimulate the circulation. Now you move on to Phase Two, the polishing: Use with the pure muslin cloth to gently dislodge dead skin cells to reveal clean, fresh skin. This is achieved
by dipping the cloth into hot water (NOT boiling, obviously! The water should be just hot enough without scorching your hands - running the cloth under a hot tap is sufficient) and working it over your face in a wiping motion. Do not scrub hard, instead pay attention to problem areas such as the T-Zone (forehead, nose, chin) and rinsing the cloth with each sweeping away of makeup and grime. MY EXPERIENCE: From the very first time of using this cleanser, I totally fell in love with it and have re-ordered several times. Yes, it's expensive, but I have found it to be the very best general cleanser/makeup remover I have ever used (and let me tell you, I have tried literally hundreds of different brands!) Basically, it does what it says on the bottle - it cleanses and soothes, it attacks blackheads and inlaid grime, it helps prevent breakouts and skin irritations and it even removes stubborn waterproof mascara (which, for those of you who use waterproof know, can be an absolute nightmare to remove without scrubbing at your eyes and ending up looking as though you've been 10 rounds with Mike Tyson). I have to be very careful about wht products I allow both on my skin and near my eyes - I have very sensitive skin that is prone to breaking out in a rash or feeling sore if I use highly perfumed or very strong formulations. I also wear contact lenses and have found that many cleansers that claim to remove eye makeup and are fine for use by lense wearers, have actuall left a filmy layer of oil on my eyes, or have stung to high heaven and made my eyes all bloodshot - not an attractive look, really! With Liz Earle's cleanser, I have never irritated my eyes or skin, and it leaves me glowing and soft. I love the whole experience of using it, and it smells divine (very subtle herby/lav
ender/camomile-ish sort of a scent - and all natural, no perfume added here). TOP TIPS: As I said, I would advise you to order this from QVC (from their website if you don't have access to their tv channel) because then ou can try it for 30 days and see if you like it without being obligated to keep it/pay for it if it doesn't live up to your expectations. The website address is: www.qvcuk.com - do a keyword search for Liz Earle Cleanser, or just browse through the Health & Beauty department until you come to the range. I would also suggest that you order the 200ml tube rather than the smaller pump bottles. The pump bottle may be easier to use (they deliver the correct amount in each pump of the plunger) BUT once you get to the very last bit of cleanser, you cannot get it out of the pump bottles as the tops don't come off, and the bottles are too hard to cut open with scissors. This may sound miserly, but with such an expensive cleanser (well for me, anyway) you want to be ble to use every last drop! By getting the larger tube, you can then cut it open and find a surprising amount still left inside - enough to last for a good week extra, I have found! The item number to order this size is: 214874 and costs £19.00 with £2.95 as QVC's p&p charge. The 200ml tube comes with 2 muslin cloths (which are washable, so you can use them again and again - they get softer with each wash, though, and so if you like the exfoliating effect I'd suggest you throw the older ones away with each new purchase. You can also buy the muslin cloths separately). I'm a total convert, I wouldn't dream of again trying to save money but actually harming my skin by using a cheap cleanser that you need twice as much of, and which claims to be natural but in fact con
tains colourings and synthetic perfume and chemicals in order to achieve a nice colour and smell. Liz Earle's entire range has been awarded various medals, but her Hot Cloth Cleanse & Polish by far outstrips the rest and has been named by The Beauty Bible book as the NUMBER ONE cleanser in the world, which isn't bad going, eh? Liz Earle isn't just some flighty bit of skirt who puts her picture on the bottles, by the way - she has genuinely come up with the formulas herself (she experiments with herbs and flowers grown in her own garden and makes up formulations at home which are then translated into the formulations we can buy). Liz Earle also used to be a professional makeup artist in film & television, and as such knows a thing or two about caring for skin and how to efficiently and gently remove even the most stubborn of makeup products. Oh yes, and I know a thing or two about removing stubborn makeup myself: I'm a bit of a goth and wield an eyeliner with passion and dedication. It's awfully nice to have finally found something that can swipe it all off at the end of the day; something that doesn't leave me looking like a blotchy-faced, swollen-eyed panda! I know it's expensive, and it my not be for everyone, but if you have tried lots of other cleansers or makeup remoovers, it's worth giving it a go - if you don't like it, you cn send it back and be none the worse off.
The bottle is a saucy pink hand grenade-esque shape made of porcelain, just pull the black tag and get ready for fireworks. This potent, sensual perfume is the distilled essence of naughtiness created to embody the ethos of Agent Provocateur: purveyors of glamourous lacey, silky, sex-kittenish items that continually feature in coffee-table glossy magazines the world over. Agent Provocateur is closely linked to Vivienne Westwood, being started and run by Joe Corre - her son by Malcom Maclaren. I have always loved Westwood's own 'Boudoir' perfume, but wanted a bit of a change so decided to plump for this delicious little concoction instead. It seems the apple doesn't fall far from the family tree in the Westwood family, this perfume is equally as decadent and wanton in nature and I shall certainly be stocking up after this bottle has run out. I have the smallest sized bottle of parfum, and honestly you only need one spritz to last the entire day, so it works out as very good value for money. How to describe the scent? Hmm, well the first thing to hit you is a highly concentrated rose oil smell - not your old lady ultra-flowery kind of rose, but the muskier, softer, Moroccan rose. This is followed by other spicey notes of saffron and corriander and eventually develops through the beautiful heady smell of gardenia flowers before settling into a musky, amber base that lingers for hours and hours. This is a very complex perfume that changes throughout the day and according to your skin acidity and body temperature, so certain notes will be more noticable on different kinds of people, as with all high quality perfumes. My tet of a good perfume is, part from me liking it of course, when strangers stop you in the street and ask you what scent you're wearing. I can honestly say this has happened
on several occasions whilst wearing this perfume, and it always pleases me immensely! The Agent Provacteur range also has matching body products, such as body lotion, a lighter body spray, dusting powder and, I think, a bath oil. I have the body lotion, which is called (delightfully) 'Body Sauce' and is slightly pearlised, so when you have applied it, apart from smelling divine you also have that movie-starlet sheen. This is very subtle, so you wont look like a accident in the glitter factory, unlike other brands of glittery body lotions. Although it makes a bold statement and isn't for the faint of heart, it isn't totally overpowering, either - NOT like those smell-at-50-paces 1980's power perfumes that cleared lifts and were actually banned in some restaurants! It's strong yet subtle, if that makes any sense at all (which it probably doesn't, and you wont understand until you smell it for yourself). I adore the funky, retro packaging (everything in the range wouldn't look at all out of place on Marilyn Monroe's dressing table) and the experience of pulling the little black ribbon tag to release the perfume pump; but most of all I am now addicted to smelling saucy and slightly naughty all the time - I swear it makes you walk with an extra wiggle!
Have you ever 'realeased' a book? Have you ever stumbled across a book 'in the wild'? If you think I'm gabbling gobbledygook, then you very likely haven't heard of bookcrossing.com - a website set up to encourage people all over the world to simply leave books they have already read in public places so that others may read them. This all sounds very worthy, but what, you may be wondering, is the point of that, other than being rather nice and possibl earning a halo at some point in a white-fluffy-cloud future in Heaven? The point is this: bookcrossing.com is a WHOLE lot more than that! This is a global bookshelf of free books that can be traced from the peron who donated or 'released' them, through all the people who then found the book and read it Step One: Set up a (totally free) member's account (just like setting up a dooyoo member's account); you can then register books you have and are planning to give away - these can be books on any subject under the sun and in any language. Step Two: Register a book - this is done by simply entering either the ISBN number (the number found on the first page of the book under the publisher's details) or manually typing the Title, name of the author and choosing from a list of categories the one you feel best describes the book (Mystery & Thriller, Children's, Reference, etc). Once you have done this a new page opens with a generated tracking number on it - this is a totally unique number that connects that particular copy of the book to you. In other words, if 500 people over the world have also released the same novel, for example, this number just identifies your copy, nobody else's. Step Three: Print out a label to stick in the front of the book - the labels are already designed for you, or y
ou might like to design your own. The purpose of the label is to give the address of the website and explain a little about the concept, also there's a space on the label to write the tracking number (explained above). This means that the person who finds your book can go to the website, type in the tracking number and find out where it was originally 'realeased', who released it, read reviews of the book and so on... That person has then claimed that copy and tpe in their own details - you can keep track of the book wherever it goes! Step Four: Release the book! (That sounds awfully like 'Release The Hounds!' only with nicer intentions). Releasing the book is the easiest part, or should be - it just means leaving the book somewhere public where people are likely to stop and notice their surroundings a while, and will therefore be more likely to pick up your book. Good places to release books are: Coffee shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, lauderettes, park benches, around monuments/statues etc... really, it's up to you to use your imagination, though obviously some places are more suitable than others. One slight concern I have is that the website encourages people to leave books on the Underground or other types of public transport. I realise this is an obvious choice, but perhaps in the current climate of attempting to be vigillant about not leaving belongings on the tube or trains (in case they coul be mistaken as a possible threat) this wouldn't be such a good idea. I don't know, I'm just thinking out-loud. A good tip I found on the website is to put a brightly coloured Post-It note on the cover of the book, and write on it in bold lettering something along the lines of: PLEASE READ ME! THIS BOOK IS N
;OT LOST, IT IS FREE TO WHOEVER PICKS IT UP. SEE INSIDE FOR DETAILS! It makes it easy to see that you have left the book behind deliberately and more likely that someone will openly pick it up and start reading. I have only just joined this site, having read about it in 'INK' magazine, and am enjoying the exper ience immensely. I love the idea that books I 'release' (I released my first yesterday and plan to release another tomorrow) could be picked up by someone who will go on to love reading it as much as I did, who will then re-release the book and so on and so on, until it could have travelled around the world finding like-minded readers, all of whom can keep in contact with eachother, if they so wish! Having released your book you are tremendously excited about the possibilities, and keep a look-out to see if you can find any other books 'in the wild' (this is what they call it when books have been released but not yet claimed). You can search the site to see what books have been released in your area, read reviews of books, browse other members profiles, post on message boards - it's very addictive once you start. I would have given the site full marks, because it really is a fabulous idea, but what lets it down is the fact that when you come to register where you live, or where you have released a book, the list to choose from is VERY confusing. The reason for this is the fact that the site caters for people all over the world, it therefore would have been an impossible task for the people who run the site to list every single village in every single town in the world. What they have done instead is let people type in their ow
n place categories, so if you live in London, say, you have to scroll through a list of places that actually begin with trains! This is because previous people have typed the place they released their books as trains, and the site collects that and lists it alphabtically as though the train itself were a town. Hmmm. Another slight concern I had was that it would detract from people donating their old books to charity shops (something I always do) but thinking about it, I have donated literally hundreds of books to charity in the past, so it doesn't matter if I give a few away for free. Another thing to consider is the fact that, proportionally, many more people will donate/buy books from charity shops than will bother to register individual books on this website, so it is hardly leaving charities penniless in the grand scheme of things. I would encourage every single person who loves sharing books to register with the website and start releasing books into the wild. Who knows how many people will read your book? Will they love it or loathe it? Will they live in the same town as you or could it travel around the world to a remote island you have never heard of?! For anyone who has concerns about privacy - nobody will be able to see your address, only the town you live in; and you needn't even give our real name, you can have whatever username you like. Mine is Princess-Sulky (usernames can only be separated by hyphens, not underscores). Nobody makes a penny out of this website - it's run for pleasure not for profit. The way they keep going is by people clicking on links and buying books on amazon or wherever, and also by selling some bookplates and other stationary packs you can use to release books more easily (by not having to print out your own labels) - you are in no way obligated to do this, of course. Finally, I
mut share with you a funny experience that happened to me after releasing m first book, yesterday: I was in a coffee shop and, having finished my drink, 'released' the book by leaving it on the table and walking out. I veritably skipped along, wondering how long it would be before someone found the book and if they would then claim it on the website so I could see who found it and where it would end up.... A minute later I heard footsteps behind me, and very out-of-breath waitress announced that I had left my book in the cafe. She had pelted down the street after me, thinking I had mislaid it, bless her heart. I pointed to the Post-It note on the cover, and explained that I'd deliberatel y left it behind. Oh dear - I hope she left it for someone else to find and didn't put it straight in the bin! So, what are you waiting for? Release the books!
B is for Buttery Nipple. You may not remember that one on the wallchart that ran around the walls of your nursery, but B is definitely for Buttery Nipple. Well, on the Out Of The Frying Pan website it is, anyway... www.outofthefryingpan.com This is a fantastic site to get your juices flowing. The buttery nipple I so flagrantly lured you you into reading this review with, is actually a delicious, if overly sweet sounding, cocktail recipe: 3/4 oz. butterscotch schnapps 3/4 oz. Bailey's Irish Creme Pour butterscotch Schnapps in a shot glass. Gently pour Bailey's over schnapps so that two distinct layers are formed. Bailey's *and* butterscotch schnapps...hmm, I can't say I'm totally convinced. Doesn't mean I'm not going to try it though, for the sake of, um, research. Yeah, research. I can see I am going to be doing a whole lotta researching with this website. Like finding jeans with elasticated waists. *** Menu *** Retro graphics and quirky phrases ahoy, as we are beckoned forth into a world of gastronomic delights. This page serves as an introduction to the rest of the areas. Themed recipes, such as this month's based around the film Chocolat, are wafted before our eyes: Big Daddy's Cake Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Chocolate Landslide Soufflés Chocolate Martini Chocolate Mousse Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Chocolate Pretzels Chocolate Spoons Cream Cheese Brownie Pie Hot Chocolate Peppermint Patties Peppermint Patty (drink) Silky Chocolate Fudge Sauce Stacked Sundaes Sweetheart Sundaes Turtle Clusters Mmmmmmm.... Jill? Are you still reading this, Jill? For those with a guilty conscience and an eye on last year's holiday snaps, a number of healthy and nutritious recipes can be whipped up to salve the pain of regret (when you're d
one with all the choccy ones...) Vital issues, such as "What do you prefer - pancakes/ waffles/ neither/ ?" are put to the poll, the results of which will displayed later (can't say I'll be holding my breath, really), or you can eat, drink, be merry...and then discuss it in the website's forum. Need a particluar recipe, looking for new ideas, or just want to talk about chocolate...? That's the place to go, my little chucky eggs. If you're like me, and want to save your exquisite designer dresses (or old rags, if the taffetta ball-gown hasn't come back from the dry cleaner's yet) from being splashed with curry sauce and garlic puree (or saliva), perhaps the stylish "All this and I can cook, too" apron andmatching t-shirt should be hurriedly purchased. Should such heady glamour evade your budget, the Cheap Eats section should be your first port of call. "You don't need to break the bank to eat well. Rely on these standbys when times are tight." That'll be, well, always, then! The aforementioned, and by now infamous, Buttery Nipple, is located in The ABC's of Cocktails - a page dedicated to the classic, the weird and the downright undrinkable (well, nearly...) presented for you in a handy alphabetical selection. Perfect for the discerning cocktail gals and guys who can't think where to start, and may as well start with A. It may be best to pace yourself and not try for the whole A-Z in one go. You knew that, though. Each recipe has full details of what and how to do, and the ever vital piccy, so you know that if yours is blue and theirs is red and orange, sommat has gone wildly amiss, and you should down it in one to avoid showing yourself up in front of guests. You can also rate the recipe, and see what other people have thought of it so far, or click to get a printer friendly version of the page (that doesn't print all the fr
ame and junk). What's more, if you send them an original cocktail recipe that's not included in any book, if they decide to use it they will send you a free t-shirt. You can also join the free weekly newsletter email list, if all this wasn't enough for you. I have only just joined, so don't have any details of what this contains, just yet. Still, if it's anything like the rest of the site, it will certainly be worth waiting for. Out of the Frying Pan is part of the 'indie gurl' network - linked hip 'n' sassy pages from our friends over the pond, mainly. Some can be tiresome in their enforced 'groooovines' (heading for mall-rat city, you feel), but this is an excellent site I will definitely be making regular trips to. Bottoms (or should that be nipples?) up!
It’s just hit me. I am sitting here at 2:40am and it has just hit me. Can it really be seven years ago? Seven whole years?! I have days when I can do nothing but listen to Nirvana. Nothing else will do. Yesterday was like that. I spent it flipping from album to album, single to single. They brought back happy memories of drunken dancing with friends at university. We would hear the opening chords and just fly to the middle of the dance floor, elbowing all the boys out the way and smiling inanely as we thrashed around in time to the melodic screaming. Sometimes I can’t listen. It hurts; it’s an actual pain, a wild sweeping of nausea. I just want to scream out “WHY aren’t you here anymore?” My God I miss him. I miss them all. I miss running to get the latest magazine or newspaper with something, anything about Nirvana in it. I miss the hungriness of waiting for the latest release and all the gossip and rumour about the new tracks, the lyrics, the insider-knowledge gleaned by some lucky journalist. The day before yesterday was like that. I was aimlessly flicking through magazines in WH Smiths in my lunch break, and ‘All Apologies’ came on the in store radio. It was akin to being struck by lightning. I actually felt routed to the spot, as if the whole shop and everyone else in it had disappeared. The only two things in the world were that song, and me and I just had to get away. I am fully aware how irrational this may sound, but you have to understand that I have always found that song difficult to listen to. There is also the fact that no other band has affected me so deeply as Nirvana. I really can’t imagine there ever will be. That’s not to say I don’t love all sorts of other music, or that I can’t ever appreciate the music that other bands will make in the future – I have a wide-ranging musical taste, eclectic doe
sn’t even cover the half of it. It’s just that Nirvana are MY band. You know? I think we all have a band that we will always go back to – a band you had to keep replacing the tapes of, at first (remember tapes? ;-) because they spooled up and got chewed and worn out through continuous usage, or the records got all scratched or stolen. Then you got the whole back catalogue on CD because they were supposedly indestructible (heh, I remember reading that when CD’s first got popular. Indestructible? Yeah, right….); but then they got scratched or broken or lost. That special band, that I hope we all have, they serve a great purpose in our lives. We can find tracks to suit our every mood. They bring back snapshots of The Good Times, or can send us snivelling under the duvets as we lament The Dour Grimness of Life, and all those hulking great philosophical conundrums we usually back away from, but find acceptable to confront through music. Nirvana are that band for me. Should I say ‘were’? I don’t think I will ever get used to that past-tense phrasing. Anyway, it doesn’t apply, because as I’m still listening, and they still affect me, so it’s present tense all the way, baby. So there I was, stupefied amongst the glossies, and part of me wanting to stay and savour the whole song, but the greatest part of me saying “Get out of this shop now before you do something humiliatingly stupid like burst into tears!” So I left rather hurriedly and went for a strong coffee to calm me down, in the irrational manner of a habitual coffee drinker. It’s now 3:54 and this is taking a long time to write. Well, I suppose that’s okay, because I have been waiting to write it for ages now. Every time I sit down and start to type, I get all confused and think of several hundred Dooyoo opinions I could write that wouldn’t mess with my head in the way this one
has been trying to. I have to keep stopping and wondering what to say next that makes any sense whatsoever to you poor, bewildered readers. Assuming anyone has bothered to read this far, of course… Well anyway, today it hit me, as I said in the opening paragraph of this ramble, and for anyone wondering what the ‘it’ was – Kurt Cobain killed himself on 5th April 1994. Today marks the seven-year anniversary of that dreadful day. I try not to think about that date much, and I have never exactly marked it before apart from tipping my metaphorical hat and wishing him well. I prefer not to dwell on the whole sickening turmoil of that time, focusing instead on the wonderful music, that still sounds as fresh to me today as it did when I first heard it. But it really hit me hard this morning, and I’m not sure what triggered the remembering. At the moment I’m thinking of going to this really beautiful church near me and lighting a candle and sitting still for a little while and just thinking. The last time I went to church I was ten years old and in the choir (all rosy-cheeked and innocent), and that wasn’t my choosing I can tell you! Would I be a hypocrite? Do vicars creep up on you and try to convert you as you dally on the doorsteps of their scared spaces? Maybe I wont even go, but it is such a beautiful church, and hey I could get all gothed-up and sweep about in that velvet cloak I got ages ago but have been too embarrassed to wear outdoors. Maybe not. Maybe I should just switch up the stereo and bounce around off the walls of my flat whilst guzzling vodka and handfuls of chocolate, I’m sure the neighbours would appreciate that little gesture. At least my boyfriend will be here to share whatever erratic mood swings come my way. He’s asleep right now, and I keep looking over from the messy desk where I’m typing this, to him all curled up in the be
d sheets. I have Kurt to thank for introducing us to each other, as it happens. Not literally, of course, although that would have been nice…We met because one of the first things I did when I heard about Kurt’s death was write an article for this national magazine I sometimes contributed to – the much missed ‘Zine’ Magazine – which was kind of an early print form Dooyoo. It was written entirely by contributions from the readers, on whatever subject they felt like ranting about. So I wrote this article mourning the loss of one of the 20th Century’s greatest talents, and really it was a cathartic exercise (as this is, in a way) because that’s what I do when something upsets me – I write about it furiously and then face it a few days later. The magazine printed my article (which both thrilled and appalled me as I had admitted my own suicidal periods of the past for the very first time, and my mother read them and panicked and my friends walked over eggshells with me, which I hated, and…well that’s a whole other opinion…); and I had the most amazing response. Hundreds of people wrote to me, via the magazine! One morning, the postman delivered a literal sack of mail and I sat in my bedroom in my penguin pyjamas opening all these letters telling me they empathised and had been going through the same emotions. It touched me and helped a lot, at the time. I still write to a lot of them, now, although many of our pen-friendships kind of petered out, but one letter struck me the most. This bloke and I kind of ‘clicked’ and had the same taste in just about everything, and sent books and tapes and t-shirts to each other. We wrote every single day, and everyone around us thought we were mad. I definitely didn’t want a relationship with him (so I convinced myself ;-) and so I refused to give him my phone number (I detest talking on t
he phone, anyway) and would no way agree to us meeting. I loved this little fantasy world we had, and was sure if we took it further it would all come crumbling down like a sand castle destroyed by the incoming tide. Plus, we’d exchanged photos, and he was gorgeous and I thought he’d take one look at me and run for the hills. He told me he thought I was pretty, but obviously I attributed that to flattery – what else could he say? Why am I telling you this? God, I don’t know. This isn’t what I intended to write at all. A year later, when I moved into a flat with my two best friends from university, he drove all the way from Nottingham to Windsor and back, just to leave a trail of little plastic horses all the way up the wrought-iron steps that led to our front door. Each horse had a speech bubble taped to its mouth that said things like “We love Suzy!”, “Suzy is our favourite person in the whole world!” and “We are your new little friends, darling Suzy!” He didn’t knock at the door, as he knew I would hate to be put in the position of an enforced meeting. He drove all that way and did that (leaving a large box of choccies, a huge bunch of white lilies and a Nirvana bootleg CD I’d been trying to track down for ages, too, I should add) and he didn’t even knock at the door. My flatmates were freaked out when they found it the next morning – they even wanted me to call the bomb squad as the choccies looked ‘suspicious’! Well, it was a bit weird, but then he is weird (in a good way), and I’m a bit odd myself – it’s one of the reasons we clicked I suppose. So eventually I had to admit I had sort of fallen in love with him, and we met, and it turned out he’d sort of fallen in love with me, too, and that was that. We moved in together a few weeks later and haven’t been apart since. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
h! Vomit inducing, isn’t it? If Kurt hadn’t killed himself, I would never have written that article, and my boyfriend would never have read that issue of the magazine (which he’d never read before, and only picked up because it had a picture of Kurt on the front), then we would never have met. I would have missed out on the love of my life. Isn’t that awful? But wonderful, at the same time, because it meant that at least one good thing came from his tragic death, that I know about. I think the reason I can’t listen to All Apologies (or at least, only rarely) is because it reminds me how I felt when I first heard the news (delivered by mum, of all people!) I had been shut away in my room all day, writing an essay, and she came up and sat on my bed next to me and took my hand. It was really odd, and I thought she was going to tell me my step-dad had had another heart attack. She knew how much Nirvana and Kurt meant to me, and she tried to tell me delicately. She’d just heard it herself, on the news. I said “Oh.” I had seen it coming, all those mysterious days of him going missing and police searches. You just had this awful seasickness feeling in the pit of your stomach and knew it was going to end in tears. I asked her to leave the room, and ever so calmly began to flip through radio stations, trying to find a news programme, or just some other voices talking about it, so I would know it was true. I couldn’t find anything, and got so frustrated I could have hurled the radio out the window. I needed to hear it, and finally did. I’m not sure now, but it might have been Radio One. I caught it mid conversation, this woman was saying, “So it’s true then, it’s him, it’s been confirmed?” And a man’s voice answered, “Yes.” And I didn’t need to hear them say his name; I just knew what they were talking about. I listened for a l
ong time after that, all these frantic fans calling in and crying. It was all so unreal, the room was freezing cold, and I couldn’t do anything except listen. Perhaps you are reading this and thinking I over-reacted, and I’d never met him, so what did it have to do with me? Well, again I have to say; I didn’t just ‘like’ Nirvana, and I don’t just ‘like’ their songs. They speak to me in a way that no other songs have done. They moved me, inspired me, made me laugh, made me boo my eyes out, made me jump up and down, made me scream, made me happy. They still do. I will probably be an old Granny some day; moshing in the pension queue if a Nirvana song comes on the radio and saying “They don’t write them like that anymore…ah, they were proper songs!” If someone asks me to name my favourite album of all time, I’m a bit stuck. It’s a Nirvana one, of course, no points there I’m afraid. But which one? Some days it’s Nevermind, as that’s the one my friend lent me at college, that made me an immediate fan. Listening to that album was like coming home. It was so right! It fitted me like a glove. Other days it has to be In Utero, as the lyrics are amazing, and the shifty brilliance of the guitars and melodies never fails to amaze me. Some other days it’s Bleach, for the raw power of the songs and the energy that seems to spark off the album as you listen to it. Ask me the next day and I might tell you it’s Incesticide or Hoarmoaning or Unplugged, or On the Muddy Banks… I suppose it all has to do with the mood I am in when I’m listening. That’s why I love Nirvana so much, and why I never get bored of listening to them. 5:54am now, and the birds twittering outside my window. Good gracious, his has been a weird opinion, if you can call it that. Thank you, those plucky few who have stayed with me to the bitter end. I
suppose those ‘All Apologies’ should be mine, now. Sorry. I just want to say, thank you Kurt and Krist and Dave. Three geniuses. Thanks especially to Kurt, who turned out to be a matchmaker. Miss you lots.
A first class chiller, this novel, but maybe it doesn’t quite live up to the quotes from reviews pasted all over, at every opportunity. I quite understand why the publishers decided this would be a good thing – Lost Girls is Andrew Pyper’s first novel, and a hugely enjoyable and unusually accomplished one it is, too… However (hands up, those who were expecting a ‘however’) the reviewers’ quotes are just a little misleading, rather than untrue, so we shall tip our metaphorical hats to them, and congratulate them on having sold this reviewer a copy, at the very least. You see the way the quotes would have you believe it, this is the most terrifying, heart-poundingly horrifying ghost story ever written. And it is not. Not in the way one may assume, having glanced at the front cover, or peeped inside to read yet more of them. Firstly, it does not get my hyperbolic award for scream inducing fits of paranoia (checking you’ve locked the windows, pausing to wonder if that creaking noise is the soft footfall of a mad axe murderer…). Secondly, it isn’t really a ghost story, not in the truest sense of the genre - the thriller/chiller elements far outweigh that aspect of the story. None of this is the fault of the author, he can only write his stuff, bundle it together and hope that the reader wont hurl it from a train window, once the publishers have worked their magic and peeled it from the printing presses. I am afraid that, having read thus far into my review, you may have gained the impression that this novel is unworthy of your attention, that the book featured in the next opinion you read in this section is far more deserving of your cash. If you will just bare with me for a little longer, I hope to rectify that. I just had to get that off my chest, so let us pretend we are starting the review with the next paragraph, and not what has already gone before… <
;Queue various rewinding noises, as supplied by the BBC Bumper Sound Effects CD> Bartholomew Crane, an enterprising defence lawyer who is more ‘American Psycho’ than ‘LA Law’, is sent deep into the woods of Toronto on his first juicy murder case. The brief is, to defend a local schoolteacher, accused of murdering the two most popular girls in town. A nasty case, and one that has the slope-browed locals up in arms. Bartholomew, Barth to his friends (of which there are scant few to begin with, and none by the end), sees this as his opportunity to shine, to show his true merit and prove himself to the senior lawyers at the firm he represents. Their official name is Lyle, Gedderov & Associate. But, as Barth tells us, “its name among defence lawyers, court clerks, judges, bike couriers, repeat offenders and Crown Attorneys who work in this town is Lie Get Em’ Off & Associate. The suggestions of the name are clear.” Indeed they are, and it appears, at first, that Barth will walk the case, have it thrown out of court in a minute. The lying powers don’t seem to be needed, as the prosecuting lawyer has one major problem in this ‘murder’ case – no bodies have been found. The only evidence linking the girls’ disappearance with Thomas Tripp is a pair of muddy trousers belonging to him, and some strands of hair, some blonde, some dark, in the back of his car. Certainly Tripp doesn’t appear to be a fine upstanding member of the community anymore – since his wife packed her bags and their child up and left him, he has been on the slippery slope to weirdoville. The hundreds of pictures of little girls cut from the nightwear section of a home-shopping catalogue and pasted to his bedroom walls don’t throw a kindly light on the teacher, either. But Barth is confident his client cannot be tried for murder, when no murder has been proved to take place, let alon
e one that he can be linked to. Here we have the background of the novel, but it appears not to be linked to the very start of it – a beautiful description of a summer’s day, two ‘kissin cuzzins’ and the shadowy horrors that lie, waiting, at the bottom of a lake. This is how we begin, and just as our nerves have started to fray at the edges and we long to know what happens next, we’re cut off and have to start all over again, but this time with our favourite cocaine-snorting lawyer doing the first-person talking. I found this a little frustrating, and really wanted the book to continue in the style in which it opened, but of course we are supposed to be frustrated, and we will learn more about the mysterious lake as the novel continues. Plus, we now have the added bonus of Barth, whom we come to know inside and out, and watch as his assured, cocky, go-getting belief in himself starts to crumple like a speeded up film of mould attacking a piece of fruit. It would be fair to say that Barth is somewhat affected by his dour surroundings. He imagines the gargoyles above his hotel’s entrance are watching him; the phone in reception begins to ring off the hook in the loneliest hours of the night. Just occasionally, if he looks without blinking from the corner of his eye, there appear to be two identically dressed girls following him, waving and smiling in their decomposing dresses. Added to this, his meetings with his client are not exactly what he may have hoped for. Tripp seems locked into an ever spiraling nightmare of his own, and he can’t remember what happened the day the girls, his two favourite pupils, Krystal McConnell and Ashley Flynn, went missing. He jabbers on about hearing voices, about the make-believe games they used to play in the Literary Club he set up – a club that had just two members besides Tripp himself. All of this may have sent a lesser man scurrying, but
our (anti) hero manages to laugh it off, shake his head and take another breakfast boosting snort to keep him going. Pyper has some really wonderful descriptions in the novel; some phrases that make you reach for a notepad so as not to forget them. Not only does he do a brilliant job of summing up his characters, but also, he can inject a scene with a clarity we can all respond to. This is only a tiny example, but I found it was one of those things you take away from a book, one that comes back to you and makes you smile in recognition. Barth has driven out to Fireweed Lake, the place where Tripp is assumed to have taken the girls and drowned them, or worse: “Roll down the window and suddenly my ears are filled with a high-voltage hum. An orchestrated layering of clicks and gulps and tweets that together is louder than the car’s engine. Over here. All society of nature calling out to each other, to itself. I’m over here. …My thoughts are cut off by the idea of a sound just behind me. Turn, but there’s nothing there. A rush of blood past the eardrum. A lick of wind sounding as a whispered name.” I think this passage really captures the reaction we city dwellers have to Nature when we meet it head on. We stop for a while and wonder at it, tell ourselves how beautiful it all is, how this is what really matters. Yet, before we know it, we’re scurrying through the woods back to the safety of the car park, as the twittering of animals we can’t see and the moaning of the wind conjures up ancient fears of ‘exit, pursued by a bear’. Throughout the novel, we see how Nature and old fireside stories will beat down the confidence of Barth. Truly, the story is more psychological thriller than ghost story, but it is Barth’s reaction to the ghost stories that we analyse, so that aspect certainly plays its part. Andrew Pyper’s first nove
l is engaging and remarkable, but it didn’t make me scream or pull up the duvet for comfort against the darkness. It is the creepiness that affects us as we read it, the strange goings on that slowly erode all that we (and Barth) thought we knew. The twist near the end of the story is very well done – not at all brutal and delivered like a hammer blow as so many are. Pyper is far too sophisticated a writer for that, even at this early stage in his career. He knows when to turn up the screeching violin soundtrack, and when to be subtle and let the readers come to their own conclusions. Perhaps this is why the marketing of the Lost Girls annoys me slightly. This is by no means a pathetic stagy, high-octane, churned out lump of a novel, as so many in this genre tend to be. Those kinds of books always remind me of cheap brands of cola – a sickly jolt to the system that satisfies a momentary craving, but positively not sipped for pleasure or to savour the taste. Lost Girls is more like a delicately blended spiced punch – a complicated concoction of flavours that tastes innocent enough for the first few glasses, but knocks you back when the bile starts to rise in your throat and your stomach begins to faintly churn. If I have any criticisms, they are mainly to do with the ending, the way the horror seemed to peter out too quickly. When reading it, the ending didn’t exactly sit right with me, if you know what I mean. I wont say anymore, I shall leave you to discover it for yourself, but personally I think the novel should have been edited to cut out the last few pages, or at least tidy them up a little. Perhaps this is the author’s relative naivete, but it feels more like the novel was originally somewhat longer, and the editor trimmed it down to size without the integrity of the author’s original intentions. However (there’s another of those impish little ‘however’s…) the ending d
oesn’t spoil the overall enjoyment of the story. This is a highly original, gripping novel that will send shivers down your spine and make you think twice about wading out into that lovely clear water in the lake you discover on your holidays. “Just as you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” Was that your name, whispered on the wind?
Oh, Mr Darcy! (Or any other darkly mysterious Byronically tempered male from literature…) Swooning women eating violet crèmes whilst draped elegantly over a velvet chaise lounge…Corsets, thrusting cleavages, the rustle of heavy silk skirts; fluttering fans, flirtatious eyes, beauty spots on the apples of the cheeks. “Fie, fie and thrice fie!”… Coquettish laughter, ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, delicate ankles, bouquets of black-red roses, naughty goings on in the wood-panelled library… Ahem. You will have to forgive me. You see, I have just spritzed myself with ‘Boudoir’ silkening spray and I have come over a bit peculiar. It is a sumptuously gorgeous and complex perfume, and when I wear it, it brings to mind all the things I mentioned at the start of this review. I finally decided to cash in some beenz (see other people’s ops for details of how you can collect these…) and with the gift certificate I was sent this morning, I decided to splurge on something utterly wonderful and frivolous. I mean, it was awful weather – freezing cold, raining and snowing at the same time. I needed to be pampered. I wanted to be spoiled. So what better than to invest in a devilish new fragrance? I am very fussy about perfumes. I generally can never find anything I even remotely like, no matter how much other people have raved over a particular kind; no matter how much the charmingly brainless man in the department store sprayed “The daring new life-enhancing perfume from ********* (whatever)” on my wrist this morning, and smiled beguilingly as I wrinkled my nose in disgust… (“It’s you, it’s me, it’s everyone. We’re standing on a beach and eating sugared almonds…” he went on, coming over all Jilly Goulden-ish.) I’m not a standing-on-a-beach-and-eating-sugared-almonds-with-a-bunch-of-strangers kind of a gal,
really, and I explained this to him as kindly as possible as I hurried away. I hastened to the other side of the perfume department, and sauntered amongst the shelves of bottles, wondering what on earth I should try. Gucci’s ‘Envy’ caught my eye, at about the same time as the price tag did, so that was out of the question. My voucher was for £10, and I had set myself a limit of adding another £10 to that, or it’d be in the gutter and gazing up at the stars time for yours truly, the next time my bank statement arrived. Hmm, quite a limiting choice, it seemed a proper perfume was out of the question, and I lingered over dusting powders and body lotions with an air of desperation and disappointment. Then I came across a display of Vivienne Westwood fragrance sets, and tried a little of the parfum, dabbing it gently with the cautionary air of the easily disenchanted. I wafted my wrist about a bit, to let the fragrance ‘settle’ (as you are supposed to – if you just spray it on and smell it straight away, you just get a whiff of the alcohol. My mother used to lecture me about such things, perhaps grooming me for an imagined future destiny of fabulous French chateaus and country estates…) I inhaled deeply and smiled. Ah yes, this was more like it. Wandered about a bit more and smelt my wrist again. Oh, god, it was heavenly! Yes! Yes! Yes! I had found a perfume I loved. My new favourite. I decided to plump for the ‘silkening body spray’ version of the perfume. 100ml so it should last a while, although of course the actual fragrance wont have as much staying power as the parfum. *** The Bottle & Packaging *** Sometimes it seems the packaging of a product is more important than the product itself, especially in this society of ‘lifestyle buyers’ you know the kind of thing – Buy this brand of perfume, wear the clothes, get the sunglasses and matchin
g nail varnish, and you, too, can live the dream… All that sort of tosh. I do like to have glamorous bottles on my dressing table, though… It brings back memories of dreaming to be a movie star. I want to be Louise Brookes or Marlene Dietrich – someone fabulous who wears feather boas with Attitude, anyway. And if I can’t have that, then I at least want a few bloody glamorous bottles, okay? ;-) Luckily, the silkening spray lives up to my ideals. A tall, satisfyingly heavyweight glass bottle, filled with pink liquid and topped with a dark gold cap – emblazoned with Vivienne Westwood’s famous icon. Lovely, gasp-worthy, and sure to draw envious glares. *** The Blurb *** In the sturdy pink cardboard box the bottle nested in, a leaflet was included that described the perfume and the other products you could buy in the range. Here’s an obligatory (and slightly cringe-worthy) quote: “In my own private place, my ‘boudoir’, I leave the world behind – and find myself. In that intimate moment, there is no-one else but me – the woman I am and the woman I choose to be.” Hmm. Not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I can hardly criticise, having waxed lyrical about nonsense in the opening paragraph, myself. *** Yeah, Yeah, But What Does It SMELL Like? *** Well now, a whole array of things. It’s very distinctive, yet smells quite ‘old-fashioned’. Not in a frumpy, unfashionable way, you understand, more that it’s like discovering a bottle of Marie Antoinette’s perfume, miraculously preserved, uncorking it and taking a whiff… It would, I am sure, smell exactly like this. ‘Boudoir’ is floral, yet delicately musky. The longer you leave it on, the less floral it becomes. I would say this would fit well in the ‘oriental’ range of perfumes (they are usually described as
‘floral’, ‘woody’, or ‘oriental’, I believe). It has lots of powdery notes, a hint of spices and undertones of vanilla creaminess. Although it is quite a strong perfume, it isn’t at all like those horrid eighties ones, all alcohol and harshness that gave you (and everyone in a 5 mile radius) a headache. The notes of the fragrance are perfectly blended, and you really can smell everything that’s described in the blurb… (Here are a few more quotes, to give you an idea…): “First, the distinctive opulence of white viburnum garlands mingle with sparkling notes of mandarin and bergamot…an original blend of tobacco flowers and the spicy vibrance of cardamom and coriander. Then, an intoxicating Bouquet of Florentine orris and English red rose emerges…Vanilla and sandalwood merge with rich amber…” Ah, Jilly would be proud (although she may have added tar, treacle and burnt pandas or something, for a flourish…) *** Staying Power *** I have only sprayed it once on my chest (I keep pulling the neck of my top open to smell it whilst writing this review!) and it has lasted, now, for 5 hours. Goodness knows how long the full-priced parfum would last, then! It has become more delicate as my skin has warmed the scent, and smells mostly or sandalwood and vanilla at the moment. Yummy, I want to eat myself! *** Products In The Range *** I am definitely going to invest these: - Eau De Parfum (naturally) - Boudoir Bathing Balm (in the form of a softening gel to smooth your skin after bathing…) - Silkening Spray (which is supposed to make your body smooth and supple wherever you have sprayed it… I wouldn’t go that far, but it does, indeed, leave it nice and soft. I wouldn’t use this in place of a body moisturiser, though). I’m sure I saw a dusting powder and deodorant stick,
too, although these aren’t mentioned in the leaflet. I’ll have to go back and have a look. Well, that’s it. I’m a fully paid-up member of the ‘Boudoir’ fan club. I want everything in the range and I want a feather boa (my last one fell apart and looked like a drowned bird sometime ago…) I want a huge fan to flutter and send secret messages with (there are books that explain the ‘language of fans’ that was used in the 18th Century, perhaps I should get one of those first, in case I’m sending out all kinds of messages!) I must dust off my (boast alert) original Vivienne Westwood corset (got it for a knock-down price in a London Boutique that was closing that day…I skipped for hours…I wore it for days in a row at utterly unsuitable occasions. Now it gets brought out when I want a bit of va-va-vooming confidence ;-) If you see a cleavage coming towards you in Sainsbury’s this weekend, smelling divine and looking more than a little shameless…it may well be me.
My name is Suzy and I am a freebie junkie. I refuse to go into recovery, and if I go a few days without logging on to Just4Fun's 'Freestuff' section, I come over all funny and break out in a rash... Well, okay, perhaps I don't break out in a rash, but I *do* get very itchy fingers, I can't wait to find out all the newest free offers (having surfed and searched the back archive of offers). There was a point, over Christmas, that I didn't have access to a computer. That meant: No Dooyoo and No Freebies! Arrrgggh! What an incrdibly sad person I must be, I thought (and as my boyfriend used to comment...) when I started getting addicted to looking for free stuff over the Internet. All thoughts of sadness ended, however, when the rewards of my efforts started flooding in! I have built up something of a rappor with my Postwoman. She struggles up the path, almost daily, burdened by the weight of my parcels, envelopes and postcards. Packages from all over the world are handed to me - books, CD's, PC Games, samples of cosmetics, vitamin tablets, cat food (and I don't even have a cat!!!), perfume, catalogues, mousemats, t-shirts, nail varnish, money-off vouchers, magazines, mugs, greetings cards, paper, t-shirt transfers, disposable cameras... the list goes on and on. Practically all these items are FREE, sometimes you may have to pay a small p&p charge, but the great thing about this site is that they weed out the crappy 'just for the sake of it' freebies that many other free sites are glutted with - they take the time and trouble to check over all the small print. It is *so* annoying, when using some other similar sites, to spend time filling out a form, only to discover the 'amazing freebie' is actually only valid in America... This has happened countless times before, so now I tend to stick to Just4Fun, where they have done all the footwork for you! I suppose we
can't give all the credit to the people who run the site - a lot of people do email them to let them know of orginal freebies they have found whilst scouring the Internet (I have done this a few times, too - I think it's vital to 'give something back' and contribute to the site. This keeps the quality, and orginality, high!) The freestuff section is updated daily - the design of the site makes it simple and quick to use: You get a 'headline' (brief outline of freebie' which is a clickable link - this takes you straight to the optimum page (form to fill out, pop-up box etc...) Next to the 'headline' is a much fuller description of the freebie. What do you need to do to get it? How long should it take to get to you? Has anyone actaully received the freebie? Many of these points are discussed, often with further links to dedicated pages. For example: Amazon Gift Vouchers Page - this page has a huge number of options for you to read and consider. You can: - Request a free £5 amazon voucher from Just4Fun (incredibly useful if you haven't shopped with them before and don't know anyone else who get you one of their 'refer a friend' vouchers) - Cheap Deals (they list the very best deals or freebies by using your free voucher at Amazon) - Hot 100 Books list (the very best selling books at Amazon, updated hourly) Similar list for Music, DVD and videos - Fully serachable all-new amazon DVD list (by price): "You talk, we listen... that's how it works. We launched a set of pages late last year listing the Amazon.co.uk DVD Catalogue by price because it's not possible to search for DVDs by price at their store and yet we often find ourselves wanting to do that. You said... "Great idea, incredibly useful but could you make the following improvements...?" Well, we have made those improvements now and you can find the brand new, redesigned fro
m the ground up Amazon.co.uk DVD search-engine now allows you to define the search you want. Care to see all DVDs costing £9.99? Not a problem. How about all DVDs featuring Joe Pesci? Still not a problem. Better still, the returned results list to whatever query you make is fully click-able so if you make one search you may find yourself clicking around making several others." Fantastic! I have had some brilliant free things from the links on this site, they are generally of a very high quality, and are all explained thoroughly in an easy to understand manner. The site is uncluttered, fast-loading and a dream to click-by. You don't need to register, or have a secret password, you don't get 500 pop-up adverts filling your screen (none at all, as it happens...) and you have nothing to lose. What possible drawbacks are there to getting free stuff? Welllll..... You have to be careful you're not signing a form that is simply there to collect email addresses to sell on to advertising companies. A lot of the 'too good to be true' free offers seem to do this, these days. The free offer may not even exist! This is why it's good to have a reputable freestuff site, where the people don't just paste up hundreds of links - they check them out for you! Not all the offers are to my taste - but generally, I find a great freebie on most of the days I visit this site. Start with the newest daily free stuff, and then work your way back throught the archive for other great offers... I would suggest you try to visit the newsest daily section as often as possible, as the best freebies can be gone (i.e the company offering it has run out of stock or is overloaded with requests) in a matter of hours!!! I broke a mug this morning, whilst washing up...shall I buy a new one....or shall I get it free? Hmmm.... I want a disposable camera to give to my niece (who's just
starting to get interested in taking pics, but can't be trusted with an expensive camera just yet) Shall I nip down to Boots and pay £10 for a single-use camera...or shall I click on this link and get one free? Hmmm... I want to buy a Bloom Lipgloss (R.R.P £10) Shall I get it at a department store, or get it for £2.50 by following these instructions? Hmmm... Quite frankly, there's no 'hmmm' about it! Get clicking! (P.S: If you have understanding parents, like what I do, then I'd suggest sending off for the best offers in their name/address, too!)
Three men in tuxedoes enter the stage and sit on the three white chairs placed in the middle. For the next four hours or so, these men would transmogrify into all manner of grotesque characters. They would clip on a pair of earrings and become an embittered, downtrodden housewife; they would throw on a football scarf and become bizarre fans chanting words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet at unseen actors supposedly on a stage before them. They would lead us on a terrifying journey through the shadowy realms of the human condition and the horrors that lurk beneath the surface in every small village in the world. Oh yes, and they would make us laugh until the tears streamed down our faces, until we honest-to-god thought we would wet ourselves, until our guts ached. Together, these three men form The League of Gentlemen, and this review serves as a clarion call to Locals everywhere: Go and see them live if they come to a town near you! Sell your Grandmother’s hair, sell your soul if needs be. I swear you will have never seen anything so hilarious in your life. You may be disturbed at times, you may shudder and turn away, but you will be laughing so hard you’ll even forget how expensive the drinks are in the foyer bar. And that, my friends, takes a whole lot of laughing. ‘A Local Show for Local People’ is currently touring around the country. I saw them live at The Brighton Centre last week, and I believe they are presently in-situ in the West End of London, selling out every single show they do along the way. Indeed, the night I saw them had been added on because the tickets for the previous show had been sold-out in a matter of a few hours. All 2,500 tickets, mind you, and with very little publicity. Brighton has a very young population, but it was an interesting phenomenon to witness the average age of the audience – I’d say at least 90% of the audience I sa
w the show with were twenty somethings’. Perhaps this is the average age of those who go and see comedy shows, but I would guess this is also the average age of The League’s fans anyway. I wonder why this is? Because they are so off-the-wall-odd, yet deeply routed in the traditions of comedy? There are certainly some shades of the Monty Python crew in their heyday, also a smattering of vaudevillian creepiness and slapstick, the performer as human caricature. Maybe this appeals to this (my) age group, or maybe it’s more to do with the fact that The League of Gentlemen express certain truths about growing up in a villagey atmosphere – something everyone can relate to, even if you’re not actually from a village or small town. They represent, through their characters, uneasiness, a restlessness to escape, an unwillingness to conform. In a sense, we are all, or have been at some time, the character of young Ben – a stranger in town who is made to feel uncomfortable (to put it mildly!) when surrounded by Locals. People who live to bizarre rituals, yet consider them commonplace and attempt to force us to join in, whilst simultaneously rebuking us for not being Local. Perhaps we haven’t exactly been asked to drink our own urine at breakfast, but you get my point… The show is split into two distinct halves – the first is original sketches, quick-fire, quick-change stuff that leaps from end to end of the spectrum of comedy. Apparently, this is more ‘true’ to their early performances, more like their original show that took Edinburgh audiences by storm and won them the coveted Perrier Award at the festival. This is before they went on to develop as The League of Gentlemen as we know them from the TV show on BBC2. I loved the first half of the show, certainly – what’s not to love about seamlessly simple, perfectly timed original routines that co
uld be a masterclass in modern comedy? A blacked-out set with those three white chairs, the barest minimum of props, no special effects, nothing except the pure genius of the performers, filling the auditorium as if fireworks were bouncing off the walls. You could tell, though, the audience wanted to see the Local People they had come to know and love. We wanted Tubbs and Edward (the Local shopkeepers), we wanted Pauline (the evil Job Centre’s ‘Re-start’ course teacher), we wanted Hilary Briss (the Local Butcher who serves ‘special stuff’ – aka Human flesh – to his valued customers). And, of course, we were to get our wishes, and so much more, after the brief interval. A word on that interval: I wonder how many people would willingly pay £1.30 for a can of Pepsi from a vending machine? Eccentric millionaires, perchance, or those misguided fools who live a real-life version of the once popular board game ‘Go For Broke’ (in which the object was to get rid of your money as quickly as possible – the winner being the first player to go broke…)? I’ll tell you who wouldn’t pay that obscene amount for a single can of drink: my boyfriend and me! The thing was, there was an almighty queue at the bar and the old throat was furring up, so I had to make do with sucking a mint and staring wistfully at people emptying their purses upside down in an attempt to gather enough coinage to whet their whistles. I also simply longed to re-lable the contents of the machine “I can I can’t”, but penless and stickerless, it was not to be… Okay, so interval over, we scurried back to our seats (which, I must inform you, were the most uncomfortable I have ever sat on in my life. My knees were practically level with my ears, there was so little leg room; but I digress…) We were greeted by the curtains of the stage sweeping majestically open, t
o reveal a starlit sky backdrop, and, in front, a large sign lit by spotlights: ‘Welcome to Royston Vasey…you’ll never leave!’ A massive cheer rolled through the audience, people burst out laughing and screamed, whistled, clapped, rose to their feet…a booming voice from above rang out and at once we were hushed, expectant… “Where are we, Edward? Are we in Swansea? I don’t think we’re in Royston Vasey anymore!” “No Tubbs, we’re in The Other Place…We’re in…Brighton!” Clamorous applause and laugher fills the theatre again. I don’t want to describe anymore about this segment – it would spoil it too much for those wanting to see the show now (or in the future). Suffice to say, all the favourite characters are there, all the ones we adore and cheer for and know the catchphrases off-by-heart. I was thrilled to see them – it was akin to being a little girl and getting to meet Father Christmas, The Easter Bunny and The Tooth Fairy all at once! Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith – three men in tuxedoes or wigs or spangled suits; three men who made me laugh harder than I ever have before; three men who just about made my year. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the fourth member of The League (who doesn’t appear, but writes and devises many of the characters and sketches with the others), Jeremy Dyson. I must admit to being a little skeptical before seeing them live. I wondered how these three blokes would manage to fill The Brighton Centre’s stage, how on earth they would fill four hours for that matter! These men are giants of comedy, and yes they filled the place and the time, they filled it until the walls could have burst. I was amazed at how well the show worked, live. Of course, they were going back to their routes, this is how it all started fo
r them and all that malarkey…but they were brilliant, from start to finish. They could have gone on all night, and we, the greedy, gluttonous audience, would still have been begging for more…more…more! The League are fantastic ad-libbers, too: Naturally there were people from the audience shouting out lines, trying to interrupt and impress their mates. At one point, ‘Pauline’ enters the stage, and one bloke shouted out, several times and very annoyingly: “Show us your pens!” Pauline slowly turned in his direction, puckered her face into an Anne Robinson-esque haughty smugness, and held aloft the pen that hung around her neck on a cord. No hurrying, utterly unflustered. “Now show us –your- pens,” she smirked. “No. Exactly. You can’t be trusted with pens, can you, at the Day Centre?”Bloke shut up; everyone laughed at his expense. Perfect. Another scene involved the flamboyantly gay ‘Herr Lipp’, delving into the audience to find “…some nice men to play games with me!” He falls onto the lap of some poor devil, who was wishing he hadn’t sat there, takes him by the hand and pulls him up on stage. “And what is your name, please?” he asks simperingly, still holding his hand. “Tim”, came the meek reply. “Oh, well, we shall be hoping you’re not tiny, Tim…”Herr Lipp giggles. The audience in hysterics at the forlornly shy figure of Tim, blushing like a big blushing thing in a spotlight. It’s a corny joke, but so in keeping with the character and totally off-the-cuff. Wonderful. Were there disadvantages to seeing the show live? Well, that depends on what you see as disadvatages, really. With a booking fee, it cost me over £40 for two tickets, the drinks were hideously expensive, the seats were uncomfortable, and it did become a little bit annoying, at times, that some peop
le would try and shout out lines. I had seen a few of the sketches before (on the TV show), but they were still fresh, still made you laugh, and there was a great deal of pleasure in knowing what happened next, yet still giggling at the surprise of it. There was enough new material to delight us, and just the right amount of ‘old favourites’ to tickle our collective fancy. In fact, this is how you hope your favourite band’s gig will go – a mixture of old and new, no snobbiness from the band members refusing to play the hits, no laziness in churning out sure-fire crowd pleasers. I would have liked to see the show in a smaller venue – we were in the front raised stalls and had a great view, but weren’t close enough to smell them, and I think that’s important! However, the tuxedoed men made me forget my troubles, my numb bum and uncomfortably skewed legs, the amount I had paid overall and oh my lord, they made my mascara run. I loved them; I wanted to marry them all. The programme costs £6 and isn’t very big, but I’m still glad I got one. It’s very glossy, has photos of The League and a free ‘Papa Lazarou’s Pandemonium Carnival’ poster in the centre pages (Papa is, for me, the most horrifying comedy character ever created…I adore him!) And mock interviews with the cast. Being the consumer glutton that I undoubtedly am, I just had to get one of the many t-shirts on sale at the venue, too. I chose the ‘Hello Dave’ baseball shirt, others included a shirt with ‘I can’ on the front, and ‘I can’t’ on the back (I was sorely tempted by that one); ‘Special Stuff’, ‘My Nipples Are Like Bullets’, ‘Crème Brulee’, and a toad T-shirt. In case you can’t get to the show, but would still like to purchase League of Gentlemen merchandise – go to the following website an
d you can order online: http://www.tcbinc.co.uk But, Local People, I urge you to see them live if you can. It’s an experience you wont forget in a hurry (and you can relay what happened to your bemused parents, who didn’t crack a smile at the jokes, as I did…I like to remind them how weird I am, sometimes ;-)
How do they do it? The models who flip their hair as they shimmy down the catwalk (grrrr), those superstars who pose for the cameras in their free desginer dresses, showing all their dental work and patting their perfectly groomed yet fashionably tousled glossy locks (grrr)... Hair serums were sent to earth by hair-care angels. I first discovered this fact having used Boot's own 'Japonica' hair serum - this can be hard to get hold of sometimes, so I opted to give Charles Worthingtons' version a whirl. Boots (not sure if any other stores have this offer, but they may well do) had a stand of mini trial sizes called 'Take Aways'. I chose six for six quid, and this product was one of them. I love it! It smooths and glosses down the most flyaway, frizzy bits of hair, and leaves the rest perfectly shiny. It isn't at all greasy and oily, as some hair serums can be. There are two types of serum in this range - one is for fine or flyaway hair (my hair-type), the other is more intensive, for naturally curly or permed hair. I will definitely be buying the full sized version of this serum, although the min-size is perfect for taking on holiday, or simply trying out the product to see if it suits you first. The trial size is a 15ml pump-bottle. This may not sound like much, but I promise you, you really only need two or three squirts at a time, so it should last you a long time. What I like most about this serum, is the fact that it doesn't weigh your hair down and make it look lifeless. You can use it on towel-dried hair (just work a small amount through your hair) or on dry hair, to calm down individual strands that tend to 'escape'. The blurb on the back of the bottle says it's good for "treating split ends..." I wouldn't agree with this statement. It may make your split-ends look a little less noticable (actually, a lot less noticeable, to be fair
...) but the only 'cure' for split-ends is to go for the chop. Any product that claims to glue you hair back together is offering you a pot of fools gold... Split-ends means you are over-processing your hair and should leave it alone a bit, or that you simply need a haircut! This is a fantastic product, the only people it wouldn't suit are those with very greasy hair. Even if you have 'normal' hair (whatever that is...) this serum is great for adding extra sheen. If you feel like shining, give it a go. It wont make you a moviestar or supermodel, but your hair will thank you for trying it!
Are you in the habit of rubbing balloons over your head, just prior to going out and facing the world? Well? No. Quite. I really didn’t think many people would be raising their hands in answer to that question. I am sure it has appeared, at times, that I do, in fact, rub balloons over my head as some kind of alternative therapy or quirky fetish. I assume this is what many people have thought went on in the privacy of my own home, as there are days when this seems the only logical answer as to why my hair is frizzing and sticking up all over the place. Having established that I am not a balloon fetishist, it seems best to move on to recommending a hair-care product for other flyaway hair personages, or those who would just like to have better conditioned hair… If there were a first-aid kit for hair, this leave-in healing hair conditioner would be the number one priority! I have used countless other leave-in styling and grooming products. They tend to range from the okay to the absolutely dreadful. Charles Worthington, however, has really come up with a winner in this category. I would liken this product to Clinique’s ‘Dramatically Different Moisturiser’ (for skincare). Obviously, this one isn’t slavered over your face, but there are a number of similarities: - They look like, and have the texture of, runny custard - Both products only need a teeny-weeny amount to make a huge difference - One bottle will keep you going for absolutely ages - Suitable for everyone to use, as both formulas are light and easily absorbed. This really is a superstar of a conditioner – and when they say ‘intensive’ they certainly mean it! It calms those frizzes with the skill of a lion-tamer, and better yet, it doesn’t leave your hair lank and droopy. For people with flyaway or frizzy hair, a common mistake is to slather every pro
duct under the sun all over your locks, in hopes of pacifying the little devils. Instead, you are left with greasy looking hair, weighed down and lifeless, that takes an age to wash properly to get all the gunk out again. A few drops of the custardy stuff are all you need – it lasts all day and leaves your hair glossy, smooth and tangle-free. If you blow-dry your hair (as I do, if I have the time), this is an especially great product to use, because even if you used a normal (rinse-out) conditioner, the very act of styling and drying your hair can make the frizzies return with a vengeance. Once you’ve washed your hair (and I would recommend using one of the complimentary shampoos in the range, as they have quite a distinctive perfume…one can have too many smells going on, you know…) simply dollop a couple of splodges on your hand and work through your hair. If you have especially dry hair, you may want to use a little after blow-drying, too. I can’t think of any faults with this product. It’s reasonably priced, a little goes a long way, it smells yummy (kind of summertime fresh-air-ish, if you know what I mean…) and it does live up to the promises on the back of the bottle. If you would like to try this product, I suggest getting on down to your nearest Boots store – they currently have an offer on which means you can choose six mini travel-sized products in the range. These can usually be found on a separate display stand, called ‘Take aways’, and you get six items for six quid! This represents great value for money, the travel sizes aren’t all that small compared to other, similar products, and it means you can try out the whole range without wasting money on full-sizes you may not like.
Amongst the eerie moaning of violins and clanking chain sound effects, the beautiful clarity of a female chorus, singing like angels on high...his voice, oh that softly spoken, sinnister voice: "Dear Clarice, I have followed with enthusiasm the course of your disgrace and public shaming. My own never bothered me except for the inconvenience of being incarcerated...but you may lack perspective." This is the moment in the film when Clarice receives a handwritten envelope with her name on it. There is nothing else on the envelope but her name in a sophisticated, flowing script... but we all know who it's from. As she reads the letter, we hear Hannibal's voice reading the words for us. It's a thrilling moment on screen, and still manages to retain the same chillingly thrilling impact on the accompanying soundtrack. I am not normally a one for buying film soundtracks, they generally hold little interest for me (unless there is an especially good line-up that I would normally listen to, anyway.) Whilst watching the film, however, one of the things that most affected me was the music and sound effects - they were thoughtfully conceived and wound through the narrative like a silky ribbon, holding together some of the more shakey areas and adding a great deal of interest. If you detest classical music of all kinds, then this may not be the album to buy, but I am an enthusiastic-amateur-occasional-classical-listener; by this, I mean that I like a lot of classical music but couldn't tell you what it was I was listening to (more likely the advert it came from :-) This is a highly atmospheric soundtrack - full of the same fragile balance of beauty and innocence, danger and death, as the film itself. Track 5 - 'Avarice' - particularly encompasses these themes. Moody violins build from gentle crooning lilts to darkly menacing scraping of the bows. A child's music box seems to play in the background, the soun
d of fading in and out... Scary stuff, even if you didn't know what the film was about and had never seen or heard of it. Hans Zimmer has done an outstanding job in composing this soundtrack, it certainly makes for an unsettling audio experience. I suggest you use this soundtrack in the following way: Buy several bumper packs of candles and arrange them around a dining table, laden with your finest china and silverware (perhaps borrowed from a kind friend if you own less than fanciful cutlery and table-ware). Lots of dainty vases filled with wild flowers (or more exotic blooms if your purse will allow) would add a lovely touch. Note: old milk bottles will simply *not* do. Have standing by, a griddle (or any portable cooking equipment - a camping stove will do at a push...) from which food can be cooked and served immediately to the table. Also standing by, a silver salver (oh, tin-plate if you must) heaped with meat & organs of an undeclared origin (soya mince or Quorn for veggies). Hopefully, your guests should be arriving soon, so change into some exquisite designer outfit to (literally) die for - frayed cardigans and crumpled polyester clothes are a big no-no at such an occasion as the one you are creating... Slip the CD into the player, dim the lights to let the candlelight flicker, and welcome your guests as the soundtrack echoes ominously around the room. It should be remembered, that the guest you most dislike (perhaps invited especially *because* you dislike them), should be placed at the head of the table, nearest the griddle-pan, large carving knife and assorted surgical equipment. Licking your lips and noticably salivating is highly recommended. This should add splendidly to the atmosphere, and I am sure your little tête-à-tête should go with a real swing.... Alternatively, of course, you may prefer, as I did, to listen to the CD in from the comfort
of an over-stuffed sofa, whilst flicking through the weekend newspaper supplements. Either way, the aural experience is a real treat. For those of you who missed Hannibal's sweet little farewell at the very end of the film's credits - it is reproduced here at the end of the CD. Not quite the same as listening to it in a desrted cinema, but a nice touch all the same :-) Are you unfortunate enough to have neighbours who bother you with teeth-grindingly awful pop-dirges at exceedingly high volumes? Ah, then the answer is to buy this soundtrack and switch it way up - put the speakers in the garden, for extra bonus points. They will no doubt be placing 'For Sale' notices on their front lawn very shortly, following such weirdly spookiness from your very good selves. Shall we pick over the bones of the meal, my dears? Well, we can, but really I found very little to be picky about, regarding this soundtrack. Perhaps it would have been nice to hear more of Dr. Lecter's silkily threatening tones...that honey-dripped velvet laced with poison. However, this is not an audio-book, it is the music and some of the sound-effects that made up what I, personally, thought was a very good film. Perhaps it would also have been nice to get a few more pictures from the film on the album-sleeve, but at least the 'face in the pigeons' bit (at the start of the film) can be seen nestling behind the CDitself. There's a stunning shot of our favourite Doctor, though - walking through some rain-glistened Florentine alley-way - a picture I would love to have as a huge poster. Are you licking your lips yet? Are the metaphorical juices beginning to flow? Sit back and let the violins, choir singers, Hannibal's sonorous utterances and flapping pigeon wings weave their tastily wicked little spell. The very cheapest place I could find, to purchase this soundtrack, was at: www.cd-wow.com £8.99 pl
us free postage&packing! It arrived very quickly, too (about three days in all, and this is longer than it should have been, as they had to order more stock...) Bon Appetite... >;->
You have to wonder what pleasures, treasures (or otherwise) a website that resides in the name 'explodingdog.com' will offer the casual viewer. It was with some trepidation that I ventured to the site, knowing nothing about it but for the rather memorable name. A friend suggested I look at it, and thus I found myself bracing the old constitution for the worst... No canine missiles here, I am glad to report. Absolutely no pets being hurled into the air with the help of home-made bombs, dynamite or any other volatile combustible. Instead, we are treated to the most simplistic of drawing styles: Stick figures. And this somewhat childish art form is lifted into the realms of wonderful by the artist Sam Brown. The concept behind the website is also simple. People email Sam with ideas for drawings - this can just be a line of dialogue, a description of a scene or some vague title. Recent examples are as follows: I had heard that it is full of evil Will I fall? I didn't like her anyway I had a good idea a few minutes ago No flashing whirly bits, no animated hamsters singing their little hearts out, no advertising - you get a white background with plain text links of the words. You click on the link that captures your interest and are taken to another page with the picture on. And oh how *lovely*, how oddly *moving* these pictures are! I don't know how he does it, I am certainly sure that I couldn't copy his style (although it looks so deceptively easy), but he manages to imbue each picture with a whimsicality that stays in your mind long after you've finished viewing the site. Take, for example, the picture accompanying the text 'Will I fall?': Two slightly robotic figures (robots are a common theme) seemingly hang in the air, clouds surrounding them, gripping each other's hands and looking down with a mixture of trepidation and nervous rel
ief. Remember - these are stick figures, drawn on his computer (sometimes by hand and then recoloured later), they are *so* simplistic that one would imagine they are devoid of meaning, feeling or interpretation. The fact that they are not is testement to Sam Brown's skill at relaying human emotions. This is by no means a gut-clenchingly hilarious website, instead you go away with a wry smile and a head full of thoughts about what the pictures meant to you. Overall, the word I would use to describe the site and the drawings on it, is 'charming'. Take a look and I'm sure you will see exactly what I mean. Sam Brown seems like a very amiable chap - he invites you to email him with suggestions, or if you'd simply like to have a chat with him about whatever... Also available on the site are downloadable desktops made from some of the featured drawings, an explodingdog discussion board, and links to other places. Apparently Sam gets a lot of emails from people asking if they can use his drawings to make t-shirts or posters from. One would imagine many artists (perhaps quite rightly) being wary about this, or forbidding it outright. Sam just says: "Sure. If you want to make some t-shirts of drawings feel free. As long as you are not trying to sell them or use them to advertise for your company, I don't mind. Make as many as you want." I like Sam Brown and I love his website. I've emailed a couple of suggestions for drawing titles, and I hope you will also feel compelled to do so. All hail explodingdog!
We've had Harry Potter taking over the world just lately, followed closely by would-be-HP's clutching at his coat tails. The phenomenon has opened many people to the possibility of reading 'Kids books' on the train, without being stared at oddly by bewildered strangers, concerned for one's sanity. I am thrilled that children's literature has had this much-needed publicity boost - in my view, many of the best books published recently have been aimed primarily at a younger audience. I am not a child, I have no children to read them to or buy them for. I am an adult reader of children's books and I can now throw open the doors of the closet and scream this in an "I am NORMAL" (god-awful advert) style. www.achuka.co.uk describes itself as: "The Chock-Full, Eyes-Peeled, Independent Children's Books Site" and this about sums it up, although I shall endeavour to fill in some of the gaps that succinct statement leaves blank. Achuka is a website dedicated entirely to bringing the best new young-reader's books to public attention. There are constantly updated reviews of the latest releases, award-winning books, reviewer's best-buys and so on. I have often used this site to find out about books I may otherwise have missed. The majority tend to be aimed at what is called the 'Young Adult' market, and this seems to be the largest section on the website. The reviews are not exactly in-depth, but considering the amount of books that they review, and the fact they are independent, this is not surprising. One of the best things about Achuka are the author interviews. Just recently they have interviewed Melvin Burgess, with past luminaries including: David Almond, Philip Pullman, Babette Cole, Diana Wynne Jones, Jonathan Allen, J.K Rowling, Daren Shan and Anne Fine (I've left out many, many more...the list is quite extensive.) Some of the i
nterviews still to come are: Jacqueline Wilson, Allan Ahlberg, Margaret Mahy and Peter Dickinson. The website has lots of other features - Publishing industry news concerned with children's books and authors, advance reader reviews, links to author's own websites, an extensive collection of links to other young fiction sites, author profiles, chat, who's-said-what in the media.... Phew! This is a busy and constantly changing site. My one complaint comes from the way the site looks, the way it's laid-out. It looks, well, sort of messy and untidily thought out. I *hate* the utterly unnecessary flash thingy that leads you into the site. Where do I click? How can I stop the lime green and pink squares coming, mummy? Arrrgh! I think this website needs an overhaul, to sort it out and give it the professional look it deserves. It's all a little 'my fist homepage'ish for my liking. Not that people's first homepages are to be sniffed at, but this isn't the image such a brilliant resource as this should cultivate. Achuka is best used to dip into, find an interesting book, read an interview or two and come back later to find out more. It's fun, informative and absolutely essential for the children's bibliophile...