Monday, 31 October 2016

Life According To Grim

We've been watching The Thin Blue Line (1995) again with the inimitable Inspector Grim (David Haig). Here are our top five Grim moments...

#5. On Policing:
I haven't been so excited since they introduced the American style siren.

#4. On Responsibility:

#3. On Marriage:
Marriage ... is comfort. It's security. I cannot tell you, the peace of mind which me and my Tina enjoy, knowing that things are as bad as they're ever going to get.

#2. On Fannying About:

#1. On Culture:
Inspector Grim on Culture

Bonus - On Keeping Love Alive:

Well, explain this then. What is it about the inability of women to get out of the house? I say, "Tina, we are leaving at 7:30... That's 7:30, not a quarter to 8:00, not next year, not in another lifetime when we've come back as a couple of insects which only live for a day- which she'd spend in the bathroom; putting mascara on her antennae, trying to stick 300 contact lenses into her multiple eyes; lipstick in her spiracles; and blonding her follicles. I shout, "come on, Tina!" She says, "I've got to put my face on, haven't I?" I say, "right.I'm waiting in the car.She says, "wait in the car." I say, "I will wait in the car." she says, "right, go wait in the car." I say, "I'm going out to the car." She says, "you go to the car." It grinds you down!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

This Week #54

Mae'r euog yn ffoi heb neb yn ei erlid - The guilty flee with no one chasing them
Life This Week

This week has been the polar opposite of last week. I've done nothing. Well, as good as. There was no council business scheduled over half term, and I didn't have any other engagements / meetings to go to. So I've pretty much just slept, played with Marianna and surfed the internet for a week.

I regret nothing.

I started taking my anti-depressants again this week too which meant a couple of days of feeling sick, etc. I feel mostly okay now though, so I suppose they're kicking in and doing what they're meant to do. Continuing with the medical theme, Marianna got her new orthopedic boots on Thursday - they look so cute on her! The doctor says, so long as she wears them regularly, her feet should be fine by the time she starts school.

Other than that, the only concessions I've made to leaving the house this week have been for food shopping and to visit Anthony's parents. They picked up a Baby Annabel with cot, clothes, etc, etc, at the car boot sale so Marianna is now spending her days feeding her baby a bottle by stabbing its plastic teat into the doll's eye...

Photo of the Week

A photo posted by Jessica Powell (@plastigffantastig) on

This Week, I 'ave Been Mostly...

☆ READING: I've been reading a fair bit of acafandom (academic studies of fandom, its members and its practices) this week. For the most part it's stuff you just *know* by being part of fandom, but it's still fascinating to see it written up properly and presented for an outside audience.

☆ WRITING: About Gwent Police's John Does.

☆ WATCHING: Baby Boom (1987). I'd never seen it before but I love that whole fish out of water genre, plus it has 80s power dressing and a super cute baby to boot.

 LISTENING: Anthony has been making me listen to opera again. He wrote a bluffer's guide to opera post this week, which meant having to sit through the Cavalleria Rusticana. Again. I try to be cultured, honestly I do, but I just can't help but agree with In The Loop's Jamie McDonald on the subject:

It's just vowels! Subsidised foreign vowels!

☆ WEARING: Pyjamas. It's been that kind of week.

☆ EATING: Junk, mostly.

☆ REVIEWING: David Hitchcock's Springheeled Jack.

On the Blog

I put together a list of Monday blog linkies, and Anthony wrote me a post on the Top Ten LGB Supercouples, I've got another comp on the go, check it out:

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This Week - Weekly Overviews

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Review: Spring Heeled Jack

Spring Heeled Jack

Anthony, being the awesome guy he is - his words - bought me a little Halloween present this week: David Hitchcock's loving take on that stalwart of Victorian folklore, Spring-heeled Jack.


Who was Spring-heeled Jack?

Although there were a handful of proto-sightings, Spring-heeled Jack first made his true mark in October 1837, jumping out at a young servant girl on her way home through Clapham Common, half scaring her to death. Over the following weeks the strange, clawed man was seen in various parts of London, at one point jumping over a 9ft wall while laughing manically.

Spring-heel'd Jack - The Terror of London, 1867
From 'Spring-heel'd Jack: The Terror of London' (1867)

By January 1838 the creature - or those inspired by the stories, kind of like today's clown craze - had caused enough havoc for Sir John Cowan, the Lord Mayor, to start receiving complaints. Women were being frightened into hysterical fits by men in cloaks with devil red eyes, and sightings began to come in from across the country, helped along by the widespread press coverage of Jane Alsop, who was clawed by a man claiming to be a policeman on her own doorstep, and Lucy Scales, who had the dubious honour of being almost blinded by a man in a cloak who spouted blue flame.

Spring Heeled Jack in the Evening Express, 1906
Not all Jacks were as nimble - The Evening Express, 24/03/1906

Sightings, though infrequent, continued to be reported throughout the Victorian era. Not least because Spring-heeled Jack was the bogeyman of choice for our Victorian cousins. Seriously, he was everywhere. He was on the stage and in the Penny Dreadfuls, he was terrorising Punch and Judy and he was peering in through naughty children's bedroom windows. In fact, he could be looking in yours, right now...


Springheeled Jack

Originally a three part mini series, Anthony got me the 2014 collected edition in hardback. It's great quality, and shows off Hitchcock's awesome gothic inspired art. I was especially impressed by his rooftop views of Victorian London; this one deserves to be in a frame or something:

Springheeled Jack by David Hitchcock

The story follows Sir Jack Rackham, chief benefactor of a lunatic asylum who is bring driven to madness himself. He is a near recluse when we first meet him, discredited and pilloried in the press for his claims that his beloved wife was snatched by a hideous clawed monster. But, with the help of some steampunk inspired gadgets and his good friend Dr. Jekyll, Rackham attempts to track down the monster - only to uncover more devilry along the way...

I really liked that Hitchcock turned the tale on its head by making Rackham's Springheeled Jack the hero, for all that the police believe he is their foe.

Springheeled Jack by David Hitchcock

If you're into Victorian horror, this story has it all. There are the sci-fi elements; the strange lights in the sky, and the mad scientists. It has the haunted asylum patients and the uncaring asylum attendants. It even has Prince Albert commit suicide rather than succumb to the monstrous transformation, followed by a royal cover-up with newsboys across the country calling out the horrors of typhoid fever. I love all the little nods to horror tropes and legends too, and there is a really cool little scene where Rackham's butler suggests he looks like a giant bat, to which he responds: 'Now that IS ludicrous... No one would ever take me seriously!' :D

My only real quibble is with the pacing. Towards the end it feels like it loses its way a litte, with plotlines left unresolved in the race to the finish line. Then again, you could chalk it up to Rackham's faltering grip on reality and just enjoy the gloriously illustrated ride!

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Friday, 28 October 2016

Friday Frivolity - Halloween Candy

Friday Frivolity

Commercial Halloween in the UK was really in its infancy when I was a kid - Guy Fawkes' Night, with its promise of burgers, bonfires, and fireworks, was still the much more anticipated holiday. It had plenty of its own gore too, being the celebration of a narrowly averted plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and the subsequent hanging, drawing and quartering of the conspirators.

Guy Fawkes Night

Halloween did have one important advantage over Bonfire Night though... sweets. It had lots and lots of sweets. (Except from those old people who gave you tangerines, like they thought you were out early Christmas caroling or something.) And money sometimes! But mostly sweets.

Rowntree Bursting Bugs

Pictured above are Rowntree's Bursting Bugs, on the market c. 2003 - 2010 and the most perfect Halloween sweets ever made. They were gummy creepy crawlies with gooey 'guts' inside. Another total win for any Halloween haul were these gummy monster things:

Gummy Sweets

They were kind of expensive though, and most people would just buy a party bag of Swizzels-Matlow and be done with it.


The problem with a Swizzels-Matlow haul was that the ratio of good to naff sweets was always poor - all those popular kids had probably been around first and bagged all the strawberry lollipops and those little hard candy balls. Darn them.

What did you most hope to get for your Halloween treats?

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Guide to Miniature Doll Coffins

Guide to Miniature Doll Coffins

It's Halloween week, so have a guide to one of the more morbid doll accessories out there: miniature coffins! I recently picked up a 1/12 one for the (forever ongoing) haunted house, and was interested to see what - if any - alternatives were out there.


Evangeline Ghastly

Evangeline Ghastly is the goth fashion doll, standing at just over 18" tall she is produced under the Wilde Imagination brand for Tonner Doll. She has been around since 2006 and has managed to accumulate a coffin carry case and her very own swank looking coffin, the latter forming part of the 2013 Wilde Halloween Convention exclusive set, The Other Side. You can check out the current Evangeline Ghastly range HERE.


Living Dead Dolls

Living Dead Dolls are a commerical line of 10" horror dolls which typically come packaged in coffin shaped boxes. Find out more about them at the official website and the LDD Wiki.

Various other dolls have also been given coffin boxes, ranging from the official Rob Zombie Voodoo Doll to the 16" Jun Planning Corpse Bride limited edition double pack.


Draculaura Coffin Bed

Mattel's Monster High range was really just bound to produce a coffin at some point, focusing as it does on the creepy and the kooky! This Jewelry Box Coffin playset for vampiric main character Draculaura was originally released in 2013. While it remains the only full sized coffin, the brand has produced various other coffin shaped accessories like the coffin shaped coffee table in the Coffee Bean Playset, mini coffin boxes (e.g. with Ghouls Rule Clawdeen), various lockers - including the mini musical type - and Draculaura's coffin locker come dressing room playset.

Also relevant are the little Freaky Candy Coffins which were available in 2013/14:

Monster High Freaky Candy Coffins

Monster High also produced a coffin shaped 1/6 scale doll house, though I couldn't find much information about it. (Teamson Kids did a knock-off version of it too.)

Monster High Coffin Doll House


Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas is beloved of goths the world over, and is also a great source of miniature coffins. Many of the dolls came packaged in coffin boxes, generally simple cardboard but some of the limited edition versions are more elaborate.


Re-ment Pose Skeleton

Re-ment's 1/18 scale Pose Skeleton range is just the cutest. You can get tons of accessories for the skeletons and their pets too, like this coffin and Grim Reaper scythe.


Streets Ahead Coffin

Streets Ahead, one of the leading 1/12 scale miniature brands, produce mini coffins in light wood and mahogany that retail for about £10. If you go up a pay grade, Canadian based MiniLand also make some awesome 1/12 scale coffins:

Mini Land Coffins


Coffin for Wrestling Figures

Wrestling has always had a flair for the dramatic, and there are a number of coffin playsets on the market to better help you re-enact storylines or simply kill off your siblings' favourite figure. These are mostly for 8" figures, so c. 1/8 scale. Here's another example from Ringside Collectibles:

Ringside Collectibles Coffin


Another option when it comes to scratching your miniature coffin itch is to pick up a custom example. Dolls Delight on Etsy makes miniature coffin shaped beds and bookcases in various scales, for example, and JJs Woodcrafts makes coffins in different sizes for all kinds of craft purposes. You can also find cute vintage miniatures, like these plastic charms from Lulu's Cupcake Boutique:

miniature coffin charms

If all else fails, you can always make your own doll coffin! Here are some great tutorials from Lola's Mini Homes, Raven's Blight, and Kraken Make Ruckus.


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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Gwent Police John Does

Missing People and Unidentified Bodies - Gwent Police Area John Does

As regular visitors will know, I spend way too much time reading true crime, and one of the creepiest elements to my mind are people who remain unidentified in death. The reasons might be mundane - the body is simply found too late to glean much from it - or confusingly complex, as in the cases of potential spies, like Somerton Man and 'Bella', a woman found inside a Worcestershire wych elm tree in 1943. Either way, the idea is still tragic and unsettling.

In the USA there are approximately 40,000 UIDs ('unidentified decedents') at any given time, and even here in the UK around 150 unidentified bodies are recorded each year, usually discovered by joggers, dog walkers, and other outdoorsy types, typically during the winter months when foliage has died back. Another major source of such bodies are Britain's coastlines, where the effects of water can obliterate fingerprints and other identifying features. About half of these cases will be resolved by police in a timely fashion, while others remain unidentified for months, years, even decades.

Gwent Police, my local force, covering the local authority areas of Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly Monmouthshire, Newport, and Torfaen, have five cases listed on the UK Missing Persons Bureau. The site was set up in 2011 to enlist the help of the public in identifying remains and / or matching them to known missing persons.

Because it is possible to crack these cases, even when they've gone cold. Just this month Lori Erica Ruff, a woman who committed suicide six years ago and was subsequently revealed to have been living under a false identity, was identified as Kimberly McLean, an 18-year-old who disappeared, telling family not to look for her, in 1986. Earlier this year the so-called 'Grateful Doe', a young man who died in a traffic accident in 1995, was finally identified as Jason Callahan who had left home not long before to become a full time Deadhead. So, in my first post for Halloween week, here are the details of those five Gwent cases -


Date Found: 31/03/1971
Gender: Male
Age Range: 25 - 35
Description: White European male, medium build, 175cm (5'7") tall, with black curly hair. The body was found on the foreshore of the Severn Esturary, Fisherman's Walk, Rogiet, and was believed to have been in the water for 18 months or longer.

The body was found with one black sock on the right foot, and a polo neck jumper in black, gold and white. (100% acrilan, 'spinney' make, size M.) Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.


Date Found: 06/05/1973
Gender: Male
Age Range: 30 - 60
Description: White European male, 168 - 183cm (5'5" - 6') tall. The body was recovered from the foreshore of the Bristol Channel at Goldcliffe, and was believed to have been in the water for around 9 to 18 months. Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.


Date Found: 26/02/1977
Gender: Male
Age Range: 20 - 50
Description: White European male, thin build, 183cm (6') tall, receding black hair. The body was recovered from the Severn Estuary at Redwick. It was found clothed in blue jeans (30" waistband with 2 stud fastenings at the front), light coloured socks, and black slip on shoes (size 9, blvd uk make). A handmade v-neck light grey jumper was found 10 yards from the body.

There were a number of possessions found on the body: brown leather wallet made in England containing English bank notes, two mortice keys (one Yale marked C20 and one Yale Willen 160), Dominion Lock, and a pair of scissors. Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.

Unidentified male recovered in the Severn Estuary at Redwick, February 1977
Sketch included on the case page.


Date Found: 06/07/1983
Gender: Male
Age Range: 35 - 45
Description: White European, medium build, 173cm (5'7") tall, brown eyes, greying light brown hair. The body was recovered from the River Usk in Newport, with no apparent marks or scars.

The body was fully clothed; navy blue acrylic 'sleightex' sweater, blue or grey 'finesse' make trousers, blue 'St Michael (i.e. Marks & Spencer)' underpants (size 36-39), white socks with blue and yellow horizontal stripes, brown plastic shoes with 'tuf' tread (size 7.5). Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.


Date Found: 14/02/1988
Gender: Male
Age Range: 20 - 30
Description: Afro Caribbean male, stocky build, 183cm (6') tall, short black hair. The body was found in the Bristol Channel near Newport.

The body was fully clothed, wearing: navy blue donkey jacket with blue/green check lining ('boys own' make, size M), grey/blue scarf, olive green crew neck jumper in chunky woollen knit, brown checked shirt (Tesco, size L), grey t-shirt ('amandla' with motif of raised fist holding spear and the words 'cultural ensemble of the national african congress'), faded blue Wrangler jeans (36" waist, 34" leg), brown belt, Dunlop 'green flash' trainers (size 9).

There was also a pair of polyester/cotton shell acrylic gloves with rayon/foam lining, size L, and an A-Z street map opened on pages marking Bristol but showing the area of Cheltenham. Find the Missing Person's page for the case HERE.

visual cues
Visual cues: Green Flash Daps, Amandla logo, 1980s A-Z Street Atlas.

(Note: Although the body was found in the Gwent Police area, the case is listed as being investigated by South Wales Police.)


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