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lulu's blog

Sounds Natural, Journeys Without Travel!

One of the things I love most about making our audio drama podcast is creating ambiences: pictures in sound which can make you feel you are in a certain place. What's it like in a restaurant in Elfhold, crowded with chattering elves? How do you carry on a conversation on the main thoroughfare of Bert's leprechaun colony where you can hardly hear yourself speak? How does it feel when a mermaid swims up to you and drops a pearl into your hand? These are some of the questions I've been able to answer with sound.

Creating an ambience isn't about just finding sounds, that's just the start. It's a bit like building a house or baking a cake, there are rules you have to follow or the whole thing falls down flat. The thing I really love is you can layer together some waves, seagulls, kids playing and you've got a flat beach. But add in some littel quirky detail and the whole thing suddenly comes alive.

I've been making ambiences for the podcast for three years, but I'm now working on something new, and up till now it's been purely for my own use. If there's one thing I hate it's a silent room. I have Tinitus so I need some background sound, but on most days playing music isn't an option for me, so listening to nature sounds really works. There are any number of nature sound albums and even more apps, but none of them were exactly what I wanted, so recently I got out my trusty audio editing software and made a simple track that did what I wanted. Then I played with it a bit. Then I thought hey, this is fun!

The end result is "Sounds Natural, Journeys Without Travel". There you can read about and download a collection of one hour long files which have been made for looping so that you can play them on your computer, phone or other media player for as long as you want without ever hearing the join. (I hope)!

Each file will take you to a special place of peace and serenity. You can journey to your own private island, breate in the fragrance of a high alpine meadow, find a cool stream to dangle your toes in on a hot day and more.

The Sounds Natural files are in 192KBPS MP3 and are available free of charge. If you have any comments or suggestions for ambiences you would like me to try there are contact details on the web page.

I would like to thank Brian Hartgen for his invaluable and expert advice about audio editing. If I can ever be half as good as he is I'll be one glad Lulu! Also thanks to Brian for listening to the finished product and his help with the web page.

Though these files may help with relaxation, meditation and the aleviation of Tinitus I make no claims about them now or later. I must stress that I am not a proffessional recording engineer, that said, I make every effort to produce the very best material I can.

Thank you for reading and, if you try any of the collection, do enjoy.

The Jaws That Bite, The Claws That catch.

I was thinking today about fears, phobias and why we're all scared of something to a greater or lesser digree at sometime or other in our lives. From the monster that came out from under the bed and terrified us when we were tiny through fears of buzzing insects, rats, mice, cats and dogs to serious phobias that make an impact on one's daily life like the fear of open spaces, a fear of crowds or being shut in so one can't get into a car or go in an elevator. I wonder what it is that makes us afraid and whether strength of will could ever make us stop?

I'd be the first to admit that I've suffered from being scared of some irrational things at different times in my life, but I was educated at a school for visually impaired people so I know I wasn't alone. A fear of broken toys, feathers, birds, slowed down or speeded up records, talking dolls, the feel of a hairbrush, the sound of a floor polisher, I've known all these and they were very real to the people who experienced them. As for me, I can't bear cold air from an electrical source.

Once, when I was very small, I dislocated a finger and it had to be set. Nobody explained what was going to happen to me. I was laid on a table and a heavy rubber mask was put over my face. There was a hissing sound and some weird smelling air began to blow hard on to my face. This was, in fact, Nitrus Oxide, laughing gas, which would put me to sleep in a minute or two, but in the meantime I nearly died of fright! Ever since then that sound effect you hear for howling wind gives me the shivers and I can't go near anything blowing cold air. When I lived in America we had to have the air conditioning on because the heat and humidity were appalling in the summer but I was terrified of that rattling, crashing old unit that blew freezing cold air out of its front! Burhrhrhr, I'm shivering just thinking about it.

The other thing I really hate, and this is really silly, is anything I can't stop. I hate games or devices that don't have an off switch, they just switch off if you don't touch them. I can just feel myself getting all freaked out and panicky when that happens, I suppose I must be the ultimate control freak! I remember buying a thing called "Say What". It just wouldn't quit bellowing at us for ages when we'd finished with it, I nearly went mad! Giggling here.

Then there's the phenomenon of the song or piece of music that scares us silly. Brian once told me he used to scream the place down when "Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west" came on. There was one particular note in it that frightened him. You might smile, so did I, but I know exactly what he meant. When I was tiny I always used to hide when the theme tune for "Live and Let Die" came on. I hated the rocky bit in the middle, it scared me rigid.
Another scary one is the War of the Worlds double album by Justin Haywood and Jeff Wayne. The sound of the fighting machines used to absolutely terrify me, well, to be quite honest I wouldn't cry if I never heard that again. It's a brilliantly made album, but it gives me nightmares.

Talking of giving me nightmares, the song which takes the prize for that is an old piece from something called the Threpenny Opera, though i didnt' know that when I first heard it. I was about seventeen, it was a Sunday early evening, I was at school and surfing round the radio dial as I often did. I came across old Lee Marvin doing his Wandering Star thing. That song has cool memories for me so I stopped surfing and listened till he came to the end. A voice I didn't know began speaking, it was cultured, elderly, heavily German accented. It was telling me interesting things. It said the song she was about to play was one of the most haunting she had ever heard. Well, that kind of intro gets you interested, so I thought I'd stay listening, just to see. A scratchy old record started playing and then the song began.

I sat there, getting more and more petrified. It's the story of a downtrodden servant girl, dreaming of her bloody revenge on those who are exploiting her and it raised the hair on my head. If you want to hear it you can find it here.

Haunting? I should coco! That song gave me nightmares on and off for the next twenty years, maybe more. I think I'd still be having them now if I hadn't, one night a couple of years back, sat down here, got on Google and looked it up, found out about it, and, thanks to Youtube, found the very old record I'd heard way back then. Sitting through that again took some bottle, let me tell you, and it's not something I'm anxious to repeat, but it broke the jinx at least.

So, what happens to the boogie men in the end? I guess sometimes we grow up and they decently creep away. The monster under the bed turns out to be just a toy box after all. Sometimes we square our shoulders, tell ourselves not to be idiotic and get on with it. There's a fan that sits on Brian's desk. WE have to have it, he suffers in the heat. i hate the damn thing but it has to be here and that's that. When a buzzer flies into the room I still get scared but I don't run away, I get out the raid instead.

But, when it comes down to it, I think everyone lives with something that worries or scares them. No one is free from the jaws that bite, the claws that catch. It might be something small like spiders, or something bigger, like being afraid of getting old or losing one's job. I read somewhere once that being afraid in a fearful situation is normal, Doing one's best in spite of fear is courage. I'll try and remember that the next time something scares me.

Heaven Scent.

It was 1987 and I was flat out busted broke. I had a part time job and the pay was lousy, however hard I tried I couldn't make ends meet and the fact that I was young and silly with a tendency towards shopping when I was sad didn't help. So there I stood in my local chemist. I had half an hour before work and I was feeling panicky as I asked the shop assistant: "What perfume can I buy for three pounds?"

You'd think that the fact I was going to have to go into work with not one drop of perfume on my skin was nothing to get worried about, the buying of food and other necessaries would seem to be a much more practical way of spending those three pounds, but even then they couldn't have bought much, and the tiny bottle of something called L'aimant Eternelle I was able to purchase gave me something. It made me, however down I was, however grey and dreary my life felt, feel feminine and special.

I love perfume, I always have. I have two evocative memories of when I first became aware of it. When I was very tiny my Father had a high-powered job and on occasions my parents would go out to very grand evening parties. I would sit in my parents' bedroom doorway and listen as my Mum got ready for the evening.

I would hear the rustle as she got into her beautiful lilac and black ballgown. I would hear that special sound her pearls made as she took them out of her jewelry box and fastened them around her neck, the clink and clatter of her makeup boxes. Finally I would hear the sound of the bottle of Chanel number 5 being opened. Mum had other perfume but the Chanel was for special occasions. You can't describe the smell really, it just smelt expensive. Sometimes I was allowed to hold the chunky cube shaped bottle, but I was never to open it.

That always made me think of perfume as special, luxurious, something Princesses wore to the ball. Then one day I started to notice lots of people wore it. My Auntie Rene for example. I was still very small at this stage and I noticed that Auntie Rene always smelt like the candy called parma violets: tiny purple candies which you sucked, they had a scenty violet taste. Auntie Rene couldn't always be eating parma Violets, so why did she always smell like that? One day I asked her. She laughed and took me upstairs to her cluttered bedroom that smelt of beeswax, hairspray and, yes, Parma Violets.

She led me over to her dressing-table, telling me to be careful. There were bottles and bottles and bottles there, I decided on the spot that one day I was going to have one just like it. Auntie Rene showed me a long, cylindrical bottle. You pulled off the top and there was a little spray button. In those days, before the hole in the O-Zone layer, perfumes used aerosol sprays so when Auntie Rene sprayed Yardley's April Violets on me it hissed out of the bottle, making a sound that, if I hear it now, I find very nostalgic. I think that was the first time I ever wore perfume. I was smitten.

As I got older I just grew to like it more. In the seventies and eighties you didn't have to spend a fortune, you could get cheap perfume from any drugstore/chemist shop, and pretty awful some of it was! Those endless counters, how I remember, Yardley, Lentheric, Coty, the endless TV adverts which weren't for Couture names but for cheap brands which didn't cost a lot at all.

It was in the early eighties that I first smelt good perfume and knew what it was. Of course, I'd smelt my Mum's Chanel but I'd been too little to appreciate it then. I was staying with some people for a weekend and the lady, on learning I liked perfume, brought out a tiny Flacon, that's the name for a perfume bottle by the way, I don't remember too much about it but I do remember the top, it had a little dipper so that you didn't waste any of the precious, precious liquid inside. This was Joy by Jean Patou, the most expensive perfume in the world. It takes thousands of whole roses and jasmine blossoms to make one ounce of the pure Parfum, which is what this was. I wish I'd known then what I do now! She gave me a teeny drop. i really wish I can remember exactly how it smelt. What i do remember is hard to describe, a floral essence so pure, clear and light that it almost made you cry, and one drop lasted all day.

I smelt Joy years later in a department store but the formula has been changed and it was such a disappointment: powdery, too loudly floral, old-fashioned, I certainly couldn't wear it. I wish I could smell the original Joy again.

There are couture classics that have stood the test of time. Among them shahlimar, Mitzuko, Amarige, Rive Gauche, and of course Chanel number 5. I've learned over the years that I can't wear any of them, they smell terrible on me! That's another thing I love about perfume, it's a mystery. I have a friend who loves Cacharel's Anais Anais. It loves her right back and smells luscious on her with its soft jasmine breeze. On me it smells like toilet cleaner. Conversely though, it seems that perfumes that a lot of people can't wear seem to like me.

The one Couture classic which never lets me down is Saint laurent's Opium. I smelt that in the eighties too when i got to know a glamorous blonde lady who had a glass dressing-table which I seriously coveted! Still do, as a matter of fact! Smile. Opium's heavy, opulent oriental spiciness isnt' for everyone and isn't for anyone, in my opinion, in the summer, but for an evening out or a special occasion it likes me.

The same thing with Thiery Mugler's Angels, all of them, the original in its beautiful crystal blue star flacon, the Angel Garden collection in their standing up coloured star flacons, even Innocence which is just Angel given a freshen up. Lots of people don't like the opulence, the fruity vanilla chocolate but since I smelt it back in the nineties on a never to be forgotten trip to London we've always gotten on fine.

These days I'm finding myself moving away from the heavy decadence and lightening up considerably. I was looking out for a true Orange Blossom fragrance and came across the Jo Malone collection. I now own four and that's not all of them by a long way. French Lime-blossom, nectarine blossom and Honey, White Jasmine and Mint, they really are luscious, subtle and delicate. I've seen reviews where people say they don't last. On me they last all day.

My latest find in the Perfume department came about through a chance mention on Twitter. The name caught my imagination, I did some Googling and now I have three new girls in my life: Dot, Honey and Daisy. These are all perfumes by Marc jacobs and I really don't know which I like most. Dot and Honey are fruity florals, lovely for spring and summer. Daisy is pure, delicate white floral and lovely for any time. There is a fourth girl in this collection, Lola, and I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't join the Marc Jacobs family before the end of the year!

Life goes on and times change. Now every morning I go through my routine, get clean and tidy, walk into my bedroom which smells not of beeswax and hairspray but of the fresh air coming in through the open window. My dressing-table is clutter free, only my decent jewelry box, make up box and a statue of a fairy holding on her butterfly wings my necklaces, bracelets and earrings stand there. i open the third draw, put my hand in among the multi-coloured, many shaped flacons of perfume which are all stored here to keep them away from the light and at their best.

Now, I think contentedly, what shall I choose today? Ah, how about the Penhaligan's Violetta which Brian bought me for my birthday? I'll wear it in loving memory of Auntie Rene. I select the beautiful mauve flacon with its silken ribbon, take off the top, wait for that tiny waft of essence that you always get, just a promise of better things to come. I aim the nozzle at the pulse point of my throat and gently press down. As the soft, pure violet fragrance surrounds me, like the breath of a meadow in springtime, I marvel that a little water, alcohol and perfumed oil can perform a mini miracle. However I was feeling, just that little piece of magic has done its work. Now, once more, I feel femimine and special.

Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch!

Once, long ago, when I was a green girl who felt her life was going nowhere fast, I heard a song with the opening line: "Here's to the ladies who lunch, everybody laughs!" It was Sondheim, I think, from one of his musicals that I, in my "Must hear every single Sondheim musical" period, didn't get familiar with. Anyway, I listened to the song and thought, wow! Wouldn't it be great to be that kind of lady, to get all dressed up and go out somewhere amazing, meet my best girlfriend, sip a cocktail, eat something mouth-wateringly luscious while we dish the dirt about men, celebrities, life and the price of shoes.

Well today, just for a few hours you understand, I was. I put on my killer heels, my tailored black trousers and the designer jacket I bought on a whim and hardly ever wear, my best girl GothicFairyBabe picked me up and we headed for Jamie's Italian in Cardiff.

I've heard about celeb chef restaurants. All the glitterati eat there so they can be seen, little portions and big prices right? Wrong, very very wrong wrong! This is a place that makes you feel welcome from the moment you walk in till the moment you walk out. The service is impeccable, the atmosphere laid back, the clientele is mixed because, whether you want a three-course slap up business lunch or a glass of cold beer and a burger, there's something for you.

Not that I was after a burger, oh dear no! Show Lulu the most expensive dish on the menu and you can bet your pink Doc Martins that she'll want to eat it! Yikes! But I'll come to that later.

So, we started with drinks and what they call nibbles. Something good to get your apetite whetted. one thing I love about Jamie's Italian is that if you're not drinking you dont' have to settle for boring old fizzy pop or orange juice. my friend had a cocktail of elderflower, cranberry and lemonade. I went with a mojito to die for! Fresh lime, fresh mint leaves pounded with sugar, I think I'm saying white rum and maybe tequila, recipes vary, topped up with club soda usually, it was long and cold, filled with crushed ice and perfect because the day was warm. With it we tempted our taste buds with little morsels of fresh tuna and melted mozzarella, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. We also had several kinds of Italian bread with yummy things to dip it into.

We were feeling nicely loose by this time and ravenous. The starters arrived. I wanted something light because I knew my main was going to be humungus. I had a surprise. Usually a salad of mozzarella, basil and tomatoes is thinly sliced, layered on a plate. Not this one. In a deep bowl were small cherry tomatoes, quartered larger ones, baby whole basil leaves and tiny pearls of milky fresh mozzarella in a lovely tangy light dressing. if those tomatoes had been the kind you get in pubs it would have gone down like a led balloon. But the tomatoes were sweet and luscious, the whole thing was like an evocation of summer and it was gone in two seconds flat. My friend had baked chestnut mushrooms on wafer thin crisp Italian bread topped with smoky mozzarella. I had one forkful. One day soon I'm going back to order the whole dish.

Ok, main course time. There are few things I enjoy more than a really awesome steak. So show me eight ounces of aged rib eye char-grilled under a brick, served with wild mushrooms, a chicory salad, Jamie's funky chips with garlic and fresh parsley and with an optional extra, which of course I had, of Tuscan butter mixed with wild truffle, and I had only one answer: bring it on!

You know that thing where you see something on a menu and you're drooling for it, then you get it and think hmm. Ok, whatever. I have to tell you that it didn't happen this time. That steak arrived on a huge round chopping board. There was room to cut it properly and a decent knife to cut it with, I hate that where you can't cut the steak without it flying all over the plate. The chips were in a bowl so they weren't going to get covered in meat juice and ruined. the salad looked amazing as did the mushrooms, and that butter, oh my actual. It was softened, like a creamy mayo, you got a cube of steak, dipped it in the truffle-scented butter and ...

Our waiter happened to be there when I had my first bite of steak. Talk about embarrassing. he thought I was making that face because it was too hot. Um, no, I was actually having a When harry met Sally moment and he and my friend did not find it an unfunny sight. I didn't care, I just went on eating! The meat was meltingly tender and juicy, perfectly pink, I always eat my steaks rare, the accompaniments were perfect. I've eaten steaks in all kinds of places from pubs through the gastro-pub to the five-star and the Michelin star, but I've never eaten a better steak than that ever.

You know that thing when you're in a great restaurant, you've had a fantastic meal, you're all ready to round it off with a lovely dessert, you ask for the menu and ... the desserts all come out of the freezer? Aw man, it's such a let down! I'd had a sneaky peek at the menu online, so I knew the dessert menu had something whether you wanted death by chocolate, fresh fruit or a nice cold ice-cream or sorbet. I went for a glorious raspberry pavlova, it was called something slightly different, but a beautiful round of meringue drizzled with dark chocolate was surrounded by luscious fresh raspberries and set off with a dollop of luscious mascarpone vanilla cream. My friend, having feasted on Jamie's famous prawn linguini, finished off with an epic chocolate brownie and salted fudge ice cream.

So, having drowned you all in superlatives, what are my final conclusions? Was it expensive? Well, I laid out a good dollop because aged beef and truffles aren't cheap and, as I'd never been to Jamie's before I wanted not to stint, also to thank my best mate for driving me all the way out there I said she was to have exactly what she wanted. But, as I said, if you wanted to go into a Jamie's Italian for a really yumptious snack and a beer you could. it's not a pub, it's special because the food is special, not because it's snooty or stuck up.

My friend and I definitely want to go back. They do these lovely sharing platters, next time we'll have one of those, we'll sit and chat, sip their amazing non-alcoholic cocktails, smell the tempting smells of herbs, garlic, char-grilled meat, listen to the chat and the laughter and make some of our own. In short, the ladies who lunch might just get a taste for it!

Please Visit the Jamie Oliver's Italian Restaurant Website!

Chicken, Good Question

A Question mark hovers over what this dish is, a curry? A casserole? A stew, maybe a bit of all three? All we do know is that this hearty mixture of tender chicken, vegetables, beans and potatoes, cooked in a thick, luscious, softly spiced sauce is really good! This amount makes four generous bowls.

Download the Audio Demonstration of this Recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 oz 30g butter.
  • 1 tsp 5ml flavourless oil.
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, finely chopped.
  • 2 tsp 10ml curry paste.
  • 1 lb 454g boneless, skinless chicken fillet, cut into cubes.
  • 1 orange and 1 red bell pepper, seeded, quartered and cut into thin strips.
  • 2 large or 4 small zuckini (courgettes) cut in half lengthways if large, sliced.
  • 1 400g can, about 2 cups, chopped tomatoes.
  • 300g, 1/2pt coconut cream.
  • Salt, freshly cracked black pepper.
  • 1 tbsp 15ml tomato paste.
  • 1 410g 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 1 500g 18 oz can cooked new potatoes, drained, rinsed and thickly sliced.
  • To serve: Naan bread, fresh Coriander, (cilantro), to garnish.

Method

  1. Place a large pot over a high heat. Add the oil and butter, stir and cook until you can hear no more sizzling.
  2. Add the onions and cook quickly over a high heat, stirring all the time for 1-2 minutes until beginning to soften. Tip: adding a tiny bit of salt is helpful here as this draws out a little moisture and prevents onions from browning too much.
  3. Add chicken. Cook, stirring, until the chicken is sealed and slightly browned, maybe 3 minutes.
  4. Add curry paste, reduce heat a little and cook stirring until aromas begin to rise from pan. Then turn heat back to high and add bell peppers. Stir these in and allow to Sauté over high heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add zuckini, carefully stir them in and allow them to sauté for a few minutes. This careful frying at each stage really improves the flavour of the finished dish and guards against wateriness later on. Now reduce heat to medium, put on a lid and allow the meat and veg to steam and mingle for 7-10 minutes.
  6. Remove lid, turn up heat, add tomatoes, coconut cream, seasoning and tomato paste. Stir and taste, make sure spice and seasoning's right.
  7. Carefully stir in the beans and potato slices. Check again for seasoning. Bring to a bubble, then turn down, partially cover and simmer for an hour until the meat is tender, vegetables are soft but not mushy and the sauce is fragrant, creamy and thick.
  8. Serve in deep bowls, it needs nothing with it really, you could serve naan bread to mop up the sauce, or you could sprinkle the top with fresh chopped coriander or crunchy shards of broken poppadom or even freeto which would give a nice contrast to the soft stew. Enjoy.

Cassie's Unboxing

Remembering Helena.

They say that life isn’t fair, that is a thing you get to know at an early age and yet sometimes it is a lesson you have to re-learn when life’s unfairness takes your breath away. You might equally say death isn’t fair and this also is true. When it takes someone away from their family and friends and leaves behind only tears and memories you are left struggling to come to terms with it. At least that is what I am feeling today. Yesterday one of my closest friends, Helena Wenberg, died suddenly at the age of just fifty-two.

I first met Helena in 2009. I use the term loosely as we mostly communicated online and although we did eventually get to meet and spend time together that came later. The first thing you noticed about her was her amazing voice. She had a lovely Swedish accent witch was, at that time, faintly tinged with American. She was heavily into the Wheel of Time series of books so she would use expressions like “What in the name of the light is that?” Which would make you smile. The first time I spoke to her there was none of that awkwardness and feeling the way which comes with a first conversation. It was as if we had always known each other.

After that first meeting our friendship grew steadily and for the next two years we were about as close as two people can be. We were able to be there for each other through some extremely tough times and for her unstinting help I shall always be grateful. In the spring of 2011 Helena came to Wales for an amazing two weeks and believe me I am so glad I have that to remember now.

Helena was an amazing person. She was kind, gentle, funny, loving, she never gave up on anyone however much they may have hurt her, she forgave and forgave again. I remember her swearing in Swedish when she got annoyed, her intense love of cats, her willingness to help anyone in any way she could even if it meant sitting up for half the night, her huge collections of fantasy books, plays, TV series, her endearing playfulness, the way she bore her many health problems without complaint or with a joke. We were very different in some ways and eerily alike in others which made things difficult between us more than once. Like all friendships we had our ups and downs and I only thank God that during the last eight months things got back to normal and we were as close as before.

During the time I knew Helena she went from someone who was deeply unhappy and insecure with no self-confidence to someone who was well in control of her life and always ready to try new things. In her last few months she mastered her new iPhone and grew to love it, a thing she thought she could never do. She became adept at shopping online, something which, like me, she used to be scared of. She still had her sad times but she had inner strength which helped her to deal with them. Since learning of her passing I have also learned how many people really liked her. This would have astounded her, she always said she was nothing special, just a boring old cat, those were her words. Far from it! I haven’t met anyone who had a bad word to say for her. She had a loving, close family and my thoughts and prayers are with them at what must be a very traumatic and difficult time for them. She had a huge number of online friends and our community will sorely miss her bright presence. As I told someone yesterday, she blessed everyone whose life she touched and we were lucky to know her.

It has been said that you can always learn something from a hard knock. Sorry, I know I seem to be spouting clichés but they also happen to be true. I have been sitting here, remembering my friend and trying to think what I can possibly learn from this awful thing.

What I am thinking has been said before but it is brought home to me now with even greater clarity. Life is so transient, so fragile. I was talking to Helena on Twitter one day, the next she was gone forever with no time to say goodbye. I hope, with God’s help, I can live each day to the full even if I’m not feeling my best. I really hope I can help anyone if I am asked, hurt no one, appreciate even more the people who love me and the friends I am lucky to have. Most of all I will always try to be thankful for every day I am given on this earth, for all the good things and blessings I have, and I thank God for being given the gift of a friend like Helena.

Reborn Dolls: For and Against.

Ok, it's stupid O'clock and I'm spitting mad. there I was on Google, just minding my own
business, doing some research about how common it was to have voice boxes in reborn baby
dolls because I had seen a tweet about one earlier in the day. As anyone who has known me
for longer than five minutes knows by now, I collect reborns, lifelike baby and toddler
dolls, I have three and I wouldn't be without them. It's an expensive but perfectly
harmless hobby which hurts no one, but oh my goodness! Doesn't it ever make some of the
quote normal women, unquote, put on their judgmental caps!

So, there I was on Google and I came across this. I
really do wish I hadn't as it made me see scarlet. There were forty comments, some of them
absolutely heartbreaking. I added my own, which I will paste in below the blog entry, which
I have copied here for your convenience, but as you see I have also linked to it.

OMG

Reborn Dolls Are Treated Like Real Babies but (Alas) They’re Still Fake

Posted by Janelle Harris on April 5, 2012 at 8:25 PM

There’s awkward and then there’s weird. Awkward is when you ask someone how their sweetie
pie is doing and unceremoniously discover they’ve detoured in Splitsville. Awkward is going
out to eat with your co-workers and having the waiter come back to the table because your
card’s been declined. Awkward is when you excitedly touch another woman’s tummy only to
learn—maybe through a choice set of words—that she is actually not pregnant.

Weird, on the other hand, is a grown lady carrying around a baby doll and seriously
pretending that that hodge podge of plastic is a real infant. That’s when awkward graduates
into straight up strange. Bonus points for toting fake baby in a carrier and (yikes)
shooshing someone while fake baby takes a nap. Silly as it seems, Reborn Dolls are bypassing
the quirkiness of a few oddball women to be a full-blown international movement involving
thousands who find comfort in cuddling a faux newborn.
Some even have electronic devices implanted that mimic a heartbeat or simulate breathing.
Now that’s freaky.

Like the folks highlighted on “My Strange Addiction,” the gals who mother Reborns don’t see
anything out of the ordinary about their little hobby. One mother of two named Becky,
saddened because she couldn’t have any more children, got a Reborn as a Christmas gift and
now hauls it around in an infant car seat, only admitting it’s a doll if people ask.
Otherwise, the un-born child, one of 10 Becky has “adopted”—because you don’t buy them, you
adopt them, like Cabbage Patch Kids minus the yarn hair and fabric bodies—is passed off as
real.

At anywhere from $50 to $4,000, they’re pricey for a doll but a heck of a lot cheaper than a
real kid. Plus, they never grow out of their brand new sneakers, spill grape juice on the
living room carpet, or need money for college tuition.

Some women, who’ve gone so far as to build nurseries for their collections, claim having and
holding the babies is therapeutic. Far be it from me to knock anyone in their process of
healing, sometimes from losing a child, sometimes from not being able to have a child at
all. But it’s when that period extends past a progressive course of action into a full-out
alternative lifestyle that it becomes a little (or a lotta) strange.
I hadn’t even heard of it until recently, but I must confess I don’t know if I could adjust
my facial expression into a socially appropriate response if some woman revealed that the
“baby” she was carrying was indeed fake. In scouring pics of them, not a one made me want to
cuddle, nuzzle, or hug them. Meanwhile, there are plenty of real-life, flesh-and-blood
babies and children in desperate need of the kind of love and attention showered on these
faux little people. I’m just saying.
Are you weirded out by Reborn dolls?

My Comment.

I have an enormous amount of sympathy with the lady who suffered a still birth. I have two
reborn babies and one toddler and I cannot over-empasize the help they have given me and
still give me every day.
I have suffered from poor health throughout my adult life which has made me unable to have a
child of my own. I think losing a child must be a thousand times worse, but never being
able to experience motherhood when you are maternally inclined leaves a huge gaping hole
inside you that nothing can fill, or at least that was true in my case.
I found out about life like baby dolls by accident in 2005 and they have helped me such a
lot.

I know very well my reborns are not real, but I cannot argue with the fact that they have
changed my life for the better. they make me feel happy, reduce my pain levels on bad days,
take me out of myself if I get worried about things. I've heard it said that this is a
morbid obsession, that I am irrational, weird, not normal. I would respectfully submit that
we all have our ways of coping with what life throws at us. this is mine, and no one, no.
one. has any right to judge me for it. I am not abnormal, I am just me.

(End of comment.)

So, I got called an oddball, quirky, silly, freaky, strange, weird, all in the space of one
article. I suppose I can cope with that, even though, just for the record, I do not feel
the need to take my reborns out of the house unless someone has asked to see them or I've
been asked to talk about them.

The thing which really fills me with a mixture of sadness and gibbering rage is something
else I keep hearing. One of the comments left on that page said that having reborns wasn't
therapeutic, it was the reverse, a morbid obsession, especially for childless people, it
must be crule to taunt them with what they could never experience. This kind of
generalisation is insane! as I said in my comment, having the reborns really helped me to
come to terms with the no children thing, and if I had a pound and a chocolate muffin for
every story I've heard of reborns helping someone I would be a richer and a fatter woman
than I am now. People have reborns for all kinds of reasons, and for heaven's sake, who
says it's always got to be to fill a hole, heal a loss or fulfill some aching womanly
need! I know loads of people who have them because they're gorgeous things and they just
love babies, end of!

I think what gets people is that Mr Jones might have a basement full of model railway
equipment, tinker with it all weekend and every spare evening, then Mr Smith might have six
old Jukeboxes, a huge number of vinyl records and spend every weekend at car boot sales and
audio fairs getting more, while Mrs Brown haunts antiques fairs collecting old china but you
don't really see that. Some women commit the terrible crime of letting the reborn baby be
seen! Outrageous! Really not done, especially in this country.

In the end, whatever you think, who is it really hurting? I get so hot under the collar
about this because I find judgments about the way other people live difficult. Why can't we
respect that we're all different, we all have our own ways of doing things, our own likes
and dislikes, our own views. I, in my turn, respect janelle Harris's right to feel, as she
puts it, weirded out by seeing women with reborn baby dolls, but what really got to me was
her judgmental tone. She has said that the dolls did not appeal to her, even though she only saw pictures, so how can she possibly hope to understand? She said far be it from her to knock the way people healed or lived when she had spent the whole article doing just that!

When you come right down to it, what I really, really find intolerable is intolerance.

Meeting Bert

This is an audio blog post. Please note this was recorded on the Victor Reader Stream which produces a mono recording and some audio clipping. During the editing and mixing of this post, we have tried to reduce as much of this as possible. Activate this link to download the blog post.

Some Thoughts on Twitter Spam

Hi everyone.

Well it's a late evening and my mind is winding down towards bed, but I have just seen yet another warning that there is yet another spam scam going the rounds. According to the excellent service called Tweet Smarter, this one is an Email inviting you to update your Twitter profile using a pretty new header. Only when you click the link, what you see is absolutely what you don't get. You are taken to a Canadian website selling sexual enhancement drugs. Yuk!

This, as scams go, is one of the slightly more inocuous ones. Usually these kind of scams come more lethally loaded. Clicking on links in Emails or direct messages can mean that unauthorized people have access to your Twitter password, they can hack into your account, or in the worst case, malicious code can infiltrate your computer.

The thing I find most disturbing about this whole subject is that spam is sneaky. You hear about these scams and think to yourself: "oh, I'm much too savvy to ever get caught." but don't be so sure!

While you might not fall for "Did you really say this about me?" "Check out this funny picture!" or "See who has stopped following you." spammers have other, much more insidious ways of getting you to click their links. I should know.

One morning I logged into my Twitter account and saw a direct message from a good friend. It said: "Hi. I thought you might be interested in this article." and there was a shortened URL. Of course, with hindsight I should have checked it, but I've often been sent articles before, I knew this person, there was no leading comment beforehand, it looked perfectly inocuous. So I clicked the link.

What I found myself reading was a blog entry about making money at home, with a link to a website in it. Obviously my friend had been sent a link similar to mine and had done exactly the same. I changed my password on the double and as far as I know I didn't send out any fishing messages, but it brought home to me how very easy it is for anyone, however savvy they think they are, and believe me I had a good conceit of myself before that, to be caught out.

I learned two things from that little episode. firstly and most importantly to be extra and specially careful, to check and check again if I am unsure of something. It's sad that Twitter has become something of a minefield and that checking before you click has become so necessary, but that's the way things are. The second is how quickly a person is condemned for a mistake of this kind., a mistake anyone can make. I saw with dismay the nasty and judgmental tweets which were heaped on my poor friend's head when, if my feelings were anything to go by, she was feeling bad enough already. I find it very sad indeed that as well as friendship, fun and exchange of information in this community we also let in meanness, unnecessary drama and even hatred at times.

In conclusion, I am really thankful for all the excellent information services out there like the aforementioned Tweet Smarter and others similar who keep us up to date with the latest scams. Spammers, like the poor, are always going to be with us, but thanks to their warnings I will go on fighting the good fight, reporting spam wherever I see it, checking before I click links and hoping to keep myself and thus my Twitter followers safe.

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