Monday, 11 January 2016

My first post in over a year.....sad news :'-(

Well, I have been gone for over a year, 2015 was not the greatest year. My health took a turn for the worse and I lost my beloved cat, Star, in August aged 13. I had lost her brother in August 2013 and losing her really knocked me. Sadly, we lost another member of our family in December when my dad's dog Emma died of cancer aged 10. A lump appeared just a few weeks before she died and despite the best efforts of our vet and the School of Veterinary Science, Small Animal Teaching Hospital in Liverpool, she had to be put to sleep a couple of weeks before Christmas. My dad felt that he couldn't cope without a dog in the home, so he and my gran decided to get a German Shepherd/Dutch Shepherd cross puppy the following day, named Max. He certainly helped give us all something to focus on which made the time more bearable for us.

I had hopes that 2016 would be better, but sadly it was not to be. My beautiful baby boy Merlin died on January 5th 2016 aged 13. I found him at the Bolton Destitute Animal Shelter in February 2003 when he was 8 months old. He had been called Jelly by the staff because he shook constantly, as he was terrified of everything. He had been found on the streets about a month before I visited the shelter, he had been badly treated in his former home and had wounds dotted over his body. He was in the very last cage, and I had only seen one other dog that seemed to call to me before I got to him. All the other dogs were happily jumping up, barking and wagging their tails, but he was cowering in the back corner of the kennel, desperately trying to hide and escape the noise. I asked if I could meet him and they brought him out to me, where he sat down in front of me, wagging his tail and trying to lick me....the staff were astounded because he had never reacted to anyone else like he did to me. They took us upstairs to a room where we could get to know each other, and he spent a long happy time chasing a German Shepherd pup around....he was a different dog than the one cowering in his kennel. I was completely smitten and desperately wanted to take him home, but, sadly for me, yet happily for the poor animals at the shelter, the staff were extremely thorough and I needed to have a home study done, to ensure that he would have a safe and loving forever home. An agonising week passed while I wanted for the visit, which I spent ensuring my home was perfect for him, and then I got the all clear and raced to pick him up. The Bolton Destitute Animal Shelter is a truly great organisation, they make sure that all their animals are treated by vets, spayed/neutered, vaccinated, chipped and temperament checked, to ensure that they are safe and placed in a good home where they will be loved and cared for properly. My first hint of an issue came when it was time for him to jump into my car....he was utterly terrified and I had to pick him up to place him into the back seat. That fear remained for a few months, along with the fear of jumping out of the car, which made me think that he may have been thrown from a moving car. Once inside the car he was perfectly happy, running back and forth along the back seat and gazing out of the windows. As I stopped at the first set of traffic lights I felt a warm, wet tongue in my ear as he decided it was the perfect time to show me love! I was ecstatic, I had moved out of my mum's house the month before, with my 2 cats Wazzcat (his real name was Angel, but he was nicknamed Wazzcat immediately, as his fur stuck out every which way, and the best word I could come up with to describe it was 'wazzy'!) and Star, but I had grown up with dogs in the house and my home didn't feel complete without one. After a few teething problems, involving him chasing the cats everywhere, he settled in nicely. For about a year he was terribly behaved however, he chewed everything he could, soiled his bedding and his feeding area (which is NOT supposed to happen!) and scratched a hole in the door to the room he stayed in while I was at work. The hole incident almost went terribly wrong for Star....she was always trying to sneak outside, but hated it when she actually got out and ran straight back in. On the day Merlin scratched the hole in the door to escape, she used it to get into his room and climbed out of the window (which I left open to give him plenty of fresh air) and got stuck halfway down the back wall! Luckily, my mum used to check on Merlin while I worked and she realised what had happened, she somehow managed to get Star back into the window! After that, Merlin got the run of the house until my mum would pick him up at lunchtime in an effort to save my house from destruction! He eventually learned that I wasn't going to send him away, so he stopped pushing the boundaries and settled down. Due to his early life and his breed (he was a whippet/border collie cross) he never ever calmed down, and stayed just as mental until the day before his death. I had 12 years of wonderful memories with him, which I may write about in the future to help keep him alive, and he looked after me when I was alone and very ill with depression and anxiety. He was there for me when I felt like I had nothing and nobody, and I can only hope he knew how very much I loved him and that I always will.

He went to the vet almost a week ago, but I couldn't go with him as we wanted to get him to the vet as soon as we could, and getting me out of the house takes too long. My husband Ian and my dad rushed him there and, sadly, it was decided that is was kinder to end his suffering rather than putting him through intensive treatment at his age. Ian stayed with him as he drifted off to sleep, and then he wasn't in pain any longer. I can only hope that he is waiting for me with Wazzcat, Star, Emma, Chanti and Sam and all the other animal members of our family at The Rainbow Bridge, and that he knows how much I miss him and wish I could have taken his place and his suffering.

I'm not sure how much I will be writing at the moment, I just wanted to pay tribute to the beautiful boy who inspired the name of this blog, and the other family members we have lost over the last few months.

Here are some photos of our gorgeous babies....

Emma


Star

Star

Wazzcat

Wazzcat

Wazzcat

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin and our remaining dog Martha

Martha

Martha

Martha

Merlin

Merlin

Merlin


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Well, hello! Long time no post from me!

This month has been a bit of a bust, blog wise....illness, and a general feeling of bleh, meant I haven't had any inspiration! Hopefully, in the New Year, I will be back with reviews of Monster High and Ever After High dolls, playsets and activities, reviews of 'drugstore' nail polish and makeup and some high end beauty products! I've also got some beautiful pieces of jewellery from a few sellers on Etsy, so I'll share some photos soon. There will also be Loot Crate openings and a Geekgasm box! 'So excite'! I have a lovely new little camera to take photos of all the lovely stuff! Ian and I are also no longer sharing a laptop.....so we will both be able to write posts at the same time, without worrying about the timeshare!

I hope everyone has a great Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate....Christmas for me is just a time to spend with my wonderful husband and family. I'm not Christian, so the religious element for me is the Winter Solstice, which has already passed, so now we will all get together on Thursday and watch great films (The Muppet Christmas Carol! Whoop!) and enjoy each other's company!



What do you love about the festive season? Favourite films and songs (Slade! Merry Christmas Everybody is still my favourite!)? What are you plans? Leave me a comment!

I hope you all have a fab time, and that your New Year starts well!

Thanks for popping by!

Jan
x


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Life As A Carer - ATOS Assessment

As Jan is still recovering from her ATOS assessment, I thought I'd share with you my thoughts about the experience...

Enjoy...well, as much as you can a post about such subject matter!

Ian


As you may have noticed, I have been quiet of late...the reason for this, Jan's Personal Independance Payment (PIP) ATOS assessment. I thought I'd share with you a little information about what went on, and as an added bonus, tell what you will be seeing from me as soon as normal service resumes fully... Allons-y!


As you will know if you read my last 'Life As A Carer' post, Jan had her ATOS assessment this past Monday...the 17th. For those who don't know what an ATOS assessment is I shall briefly explain. ATOS is some I.T company hired by the government to find a way for them to wriggle out of paying disabled people money that they need to survive, all because, as is the case with everything, you get some people who make fraudulent claims. The ATOS assessment comes some 28-35 weeks (in quick cases, although, I've heard of it taking 52 weeks or more) after they have already received a detailed form from you (or your carer) about your disabilities and how they affect you. The assessment itself is basically a 'heathcare professional' (you never actually see any proof of qualifications) asking you the questionnaire again, trying to catch you in a lie.

Now you know what it is, I shall tell you about our experience of this, our second ATOS assessment in 3 years (technically our third, although, our first assessment wasn't for PIP, or it's predecessor).

Our assessment was scheduled for 10.30am, at a location deemed easily accessible for us by ATOS...this meant Manchester city centre...some 15 miles away, having to set off during morning rush hour, with no car and an inability to use public transport. Luckily, as I mentioned in my previous post, Jan's side of the family are great so her dad took us. When we got there, I say got there, when we got to where the sat-nav said it was, all that greeted us was a bunch of newly built buildings and a car park that was smaller than most McDonald's car parks. There was no sign at all that we were in the right place. Said car park was full too so Jan's dad had to let us out on the road...very disabled friendly! Thanks to a gentleman who was also there for an assessment, and had been previously, we found out where to go, and headed off down a path barely wide enough for a wheel chair. The path to the building was blocked part way down by the box containing the mechanical workings of a parking barrier. This box forcing people pushing/in wheel chairs to have to go around, on the grass...have you tried pushing a wheel chair on wet grass and mud? It's not easy!

When we finally got into the new built (probobably at tax payer expense) building (you could smell fresh paint), past the Jaguar parked outside, we were met with, what has to be, one of the most unobservant receptionists known to man...Jan signed in, showed her ID and the woman said "can you get upstairs or do you need your appointment downstairs?"...to the person in a wheel chair!!! Turns out she hadn't seen the chair (having heard her sign other people in, it's a standard question), so it appears she doesn't bother with common courtesy!

Our last appointment started over an hour late so it was a pleasent surprise when, at 10.35am, a nice nurse lady (I can't remember her name...I'm terrible with names, plus, I had other things to worry about!) came to get us. The nice nurse lady saw Jan was worried, so spent a few moments reasurring her and offering her a drink. The majority of the assessment was a questionnaire, the same one we had already filled...it's full of some incredibly probing and quite demeaning questions. I have to say though, the nice nurse lady was incredibly good throughout and tried making it as easy, and embarrassment free for Jan as she could. The latter part of the assessment is supposed to be a physical exam however, the nice nurse lady kept that part to a minimum to ease Jan's suffering. As you will know from my previous post, some of the assessors are quite, for lack of a better word, nasty. Luckily nice nurse lady was, well...nice! I think it really helped that in her job as a nurse, and a therapist she helps people who suffer from M.E so knows it's effects.

I'd be lying if I said the assessment was pain free, it was far from it. Jan was panicked leading up to it, she was a nervous wreck in the waiting room, and she is now suffering the physically after effects of it. I was also panicked and stressed going into it, as anyone out there will know, when someone you love is worried, or stressed, or facing something unpleasent, you worry for them. Thankfully that part is over now! Now we just have to wait 6-8 weeks to found out the decision of our claim...cue another 6-8 weeks of worrying!

Have you had any dealings with the DWP and ATOS about PIP? How have you found the experience? Leave me your thoughts below...


As promised at the start, here is what I am working on...

Currently I am part way through writing reviews for some Marvel Legends Spider-Man Infinite Series figures, including...Movie Electro, Ultimate Beetle, Carnage, and the Ultimate Green Goblin Build A Figure. As well as those figure reviews, I am also part way though writing a review of Candy Japan...a subscription service that sends you 1-3 packs of sweets twice a month from Japan. On top of that, I hope to be able to bring you lots more figure reviews, movie reviews and all sorts of other good stuff!

Thanks for stopping by, I do hope you enjoyed yourself.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Life As A Carer - The Ongoing Battle With The DWP And ATOS

The other day Jan shared with you her experiences with the DWP and ATOS as a disabled person. I thought I'd share with you my post about what these experiences are like as a carer.

Ian

I'm afraid it's time for another of my not so whimsical posts (I'll try keep it as light as possible!). This time, it's about our ongoing battle with the Department Of Work And Pensions (DWP) and ATOS (I have no clue if it's an acronym or just their name!)... Allons-y!



As you will know if you read my last 'Life As A Carer' post, or have seen Jan(the pretty one next to Cousin Itt in a David Tennant suit in the picture above)'s blog, she is disabled. Despite Jan having been ill for a number of years, we had never even considered applying for Disability Living Allowance (DLA)...now called Personal Independance Payment (PIP) after a massive, hugely expensive, name change. We muddled on, she already received a nominal payment a fortnight due to her conditions, and I worked in a warehouse some 40-50 mile from our home due to lack of local job availability. We didn't like the idea of becoming a burden on the state...for anyone outside the UK I should explain, we are constantly bombarded by our government, and our media with messages that our elderly, and our disabled, are not only a burden, but a waste of money to our country.

In 2012, Jan was getting worse, I had been forced, by my bosses, out of my job due to time I had to take off for hospital/doctors visits etc so...we relented and finally applied for DLA. Jan was given a 12 month award...they give you an allotted time for you benefit because, as everyone knows, disability is temporary! That in itself was a nightmare to get! In order to receive the benefit, you have to fill a form in, send it off, they do nothing for months, then they disregard everything you said in the form and make you have a face to face assessment with someone from their company. The form, whilst full of invasive, and quite humiliating questions isn't the worst part, the worst part is the face to face assessment... 

Since losing my job I have also lost my car, and due to Jan's anxiety issues we can't use public transport so, I have to walk pushing Jan in her wheelchair. We told the DWP and ATOS this, both on the forms they sent and via phone so, they booked our appointment early one morning, in Manchester city centre, some 15 miles from our home...no way I could walk that. Thankfully, Jan's side of our family are great so, her dad drove us then waited around for us to finish. The assessment started over an hour late, which, as anyone who has/knows someone with anxiety will know, makes things a whole lot worse! When the assessor finally got round to us, he was one of the most unfriendly, impersonal people I have come across, and I've known some a*******s! He asked Jan increasing personal questions, all the while not once looking at us, if he had, he may have noticed the distress it was causing her or, at the very least, the nail marks in my arms from her anxiety making her cling to me like a small child. He then proceeded to ask Jan if she could walk unaided, when she responded no, he demanded she try anyway. I lifted Jan out of her chair and was immediately ordered to not help her stand. She stood, shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, holding onto the desk as though her life depended on it. I know what you're thinking, that's it right, he let her sit down then? Nope, after that he demanded she walk to an examination table. That didn't happen, I disregarded his demands and had to physically drag Jan across the room before lifting her onto the examination table because this petty, little man had no common sense. All the time Jan was on the table, I could see her fighting tears, the colour had drained from her, and she had a look of pain, humiliation, and frustration on her face. The dumb-ass doing the assessment still didn't take any notice of this, instead, he proceeded to get snippy because Jan's jean legs wouldn't roll up sufficiently for him to see her knees...to this day, I do not know why he wanted to see her knees, I guess he has a weird fetish. That was the end of the assessment, I got Jan back into her chair, he muttered some scripted bs about being sorry for causing her pain but he has to follow a check list and we could go...now, I'm a relatively non violent person, there are very few people I have ever wanted to physically hurt however, I could quite easily have tortured that man to show him the pain he had caused Jan.

I'll be honest, we didn't hold out much hope of getting DLA, especially when we had witnessed the attitude of the people working for ATOS but, about a month of two later we found out we had been awarded it. It was a real life line, we no longer had to be burden on our family, it also helped alleviate some of Jan's anxiety issues.

SADLY, THIS IS AN ALL TOO REGULAR OCCURRENCE


I wish that was the end of this whole sorry story, sadly, it is not. At the start of 2013 we received renewal forms for the DLA as they were set to run out in July. We filled them out almost immediately, sent them off, thought nothing more of it. More and more time passed and we hadn't heard anything. We contacted the DWP and was constantly told they would be in touch when they had gone through the forms. The renewal date came and went, we contacted the DWP time and time again, each time we were told they'd be in touch. In February/March of this year it became obvious they had no intention of getting in touch (if you look into it, this is one of their favourite tactics for getting out of paying), so, we started a new claim, this time for the the renamed version, PIP. After around 9 months of waiting, phoning them once or twice a week, we finally received a letter this week acknowledging the receipt of our application. The same day we received that letter we received another letter from them, this one with an appointment, again early in the morning and in Manchester. On the one hand I'm happy we are finally getting somewhere, on the other hand, I'm terrified. I have to watch Jan go through another assessment. I have to watch her go through pain and humilation knowing there is nothing I can do to stop it withough jeopardizing her benefits. Then there's the worry that they'll decide she doesn't qualify because she can move her fingers. She'll have gone through two years of anxiety and stress for nothing, she will blame herself which will make her depression, and other symptoms worse. I hope our assessment goes well, more so for Jan rather than the money. If I'm honest, I'm not that bothered about the money, I would just like us to have enough to be comfortable. I have no need for lots of money, I have simple wants in in life. As long as I can be with the woman I love, have a great family, and take pictures, then I'm happy. Hell, I wish I could work, I would love to be able to work as a photographer, and I know for a fact Jan would much rather be able to work that be disabled but, that decision is out of our hands.



I don't know how there can be all these 'benefit cheats' that the Daily Mail and the government keep harping on about when it is so damn hard to make a claim. If by some miracle someone manages to make a fraudulent claim...waiting two years, making it past all the forms and assessments designed to catch you out and prove you are lying, they should be hired by the Secret Intelligence Service.



I'm sorry for the lack of my usually daft nonsense, I just thought it's important I share my experiences so people in a similar situation realise they are not alone.

Have you experienced similar? How are the disabled and elderly cared for in your country? Leave me some comments below.

Thanks for stopping by, I do hope you enjoyed yourself (difficult I realise considering the subject matter).

Saturday, 8 November 2014

My ongoing struggle with the DWP and ATOS - a true story about how sick and disabled people are treated in the UK

Well, as you will all know as I mention it a lot (sorry about that, it just takes up a large chunk of my life so it creeps into posts!, I have ME/CFS. Despite being ill for a few years I hadn't applied for DLA until 2012. I was given a 12 month award, and was sent a renewal form in the early months of 2013, ready for the award end date in July. I filled out said form as soon as it arrived, posted it, and promptly put it to the back of my mind for a while. We heard nothing as the months passed, we started to worry as time passed, because we relied on that money to survive.



Ian is my full time carer, if he ever managed to actually find a job (he's been trying to find one for over 2 years to no avail) I'd be trapped at home alone. I fall over, with depressing regularity, and Ian has to catch me. He has to help me get up, help me walk and stand, help me to the bathroom, carry things for me when my muscles fail, massage my limbs when the muscles spasm or when I get as stiff as a board. Suffering from sever anxiety and depression, I also need his presence as reassurance that I'm safe. If someone knocks on our door I panic, if there are roadworks or people talking in the street I panic. When he's out I'm in a state of, well, pretty much terror. He also watches over me during the times when i need to sleep constantly, because it scares me so much when I can't stay awake, no matter how hard I try. I need him constantly. All of which I hate with a fiery passion, because naturally I am an extremely independent person, and I get painfully frustrated by my
inability to cope alone. 



Both of us hate the fact that we're not out working, earning good money so that we're comfortable. Believe me when I say that we can't live the life that The Daily Mail says benefit claimants do! At the moment we are surviving on just over £400 a month. As you can imagine, that doesn't even come close to what we need to survive. 

The end date for my DLA award came and went. No matter how many times we tried to contact the DWP we couldn't (we can't afford to top up our pay as you go phone, nor can we afford a land line, so we couldn't phone them up so easily) we got nowhere. Eventually, at the start of 2014, we admitted defeat. We knew we weren't getting the DLA, and, when the DLA stopped, so did Ian's Carers Allowance. We decided to start a brand new claim, but now the benefit is called Personal Independent Payment (PIP). Apparently the Conservatives think that by changing the name so that includes the word 'independent', people will suddenly stop being disabled, their illnesses and issues will disappear, and we can all walk, unaided, into all the non-existent jobs they keep telling us about. Yep, my sarcasm may be leaking a little there, but you get my drift. When I applied for DLA I had an assessment by an ATOS employee. In case you don't know, ATOS is a French IT company which the British government, in their infinite wisdom, chose to conduct examinations of the sick and disabled, and give them marks according to a set of guidelines which determined just how ill or disabled someone is. There are many horror stories of truly ill people being treated awfully, some have died as a result of their decisions. I also had to undergo an assessment when, once again, the Tories decided to needlessly faff about with a benefit, changing it from Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance (ESA). ESA has different levels, those deemed a bit ill or disabled are told that they need to attend work focused meetings, so that they can get a job which will work for them (barf)....because we all know how easy jobs like that are to come by don't we? How many employers are willing and able to offer jobs to people with conditions which may differ on a daily basis. Who may be well enough to work one minute and too ill the next, or an employee with a physical or mental impairment which means they may not be able to do everything the job entails. Yup, dime a dozen. There's also the Support Group, which is where I was placed, where they put people who are too ill to do any job. Luckily, the nurse I saw for my ESA assessment was wonderful (and the assessment took place in our town centre, as we have no car and I can't cope with public transport, anywhere else would have been difficult for me), very understanding and empathetic, she saw how terrified I was (I'm not good with new places, people, unknown situations, noise, space, not enough space....basically, I'm scared of the world). She saw how much I feared being told I wasn't really disabled or ill enough to qualify, as I knew that if I tried to go back to work I would break and never be right again. She didn't make me try to do the physical tasks the assessment demanded, as it was blatantly obvious that I couldn't do them. I was one of the lucky ones. For my DLA assessment however, I was less lucky. Firstly, the assessment took place in Manchester City Centre. Which is a long way from where we live, not somewhere Ian could push me in my wheelchair on foot. Luckily for us I have a wonderful family and my dad drove us there and waited for us. We went in to the appointment, which started over an hour late which steadily increased my anxiety levels, and faced a very unfriendly seeming man. He asked me questions without really looking at me, he didn't notice my anxiety or the way I clung to Ian for dear life. He asked if I could walk, I told him that I couldn't walk unaided. He decided to make me try anyway. Ian helped me out of my wheelchair, because I can't get up unaided either, and I stood, shakily, and held on to the desk for dear life - as he didn't want Ian to help me. He kept badgering me to walk, despite the clear evidence that I couldn't without help. Then he wanted me to get on the examination table....I'm pretty short, so it involved a stepping stool and Ian pretty much lifting me on to it. When I finally lay down I was fighting back tears, a mixture of pain, frustration, exhaustion and humiliation. Ian told me later that the colour simply drained from my face, and it was blatantly obvious I was in a lot of pain. The assessor wanted to look at my legs and feet. Now, taking a shower is exhausting enough for me without even attempting to shave my legs. They haven't been done in a couple of years! Ian would do them for me, but that feels like one humiliation too far for me. So, I wear jeans all the time. He wanted to see my knees for some reason, but the jeans wouldn't roll up enough. My legs, ankles and feet swell up quite a lot, especially after exertion or if the muscles and whatnot are extremely bad that day, but he sounded pissed that he couldn't see my knees - which struck me as odd but what do I know? After I managed to get off the table, again mostly thanks to Ian, the assessor seemed to thaw a little and thanked me for trying to do what he asked. He apologised for causing me pain but he had to do the stuff on his check list. I've been brought up well, so I was polite throughout the appointment, no matter how much I wanted to scream and lash out, so I accepted his apology and we left. I held out no hope that DLA would be awarded, but a month or so later we found out that I'd been awarded the higher rate for mobility and the middle rate for care. We were over the moon, as we knew the extra money would change our lives. Ian was able to claim Carers Allowance while I was on DLA, and our lives stopped being quite so stressful, as we could afford to live! When we lost it, we knew we were screwed!



So, after accepting defeat in the fight to get my DLA renewed, we started a PIP claim.....in March this year.....almost 9 months ago.....and this week we finally received the first letter to acknowledge they'd received it. We then got another letter with an appointment for an assessment.....in Manchestet City Centre....at 10.30am. So we have to go through it all again! I'm a mixture of happy because we've FINALLY got an appointment, terrified because I have to survive another one, and that if they decide I don't qualify I don't know what we'll do because we can't cope on the little money that we have and furious that they're making sick and disabled people jump through so many hoops just to get help. It's exhausting, life already feels like a battle each day, then you add on the fight with the DWP and ATOS and a lot of people can't cope and give up.....which is exactly what they hope people will do. It feels like they're trying to catch you out, prove that you're lying and are a benefit cheat. Before you even start trying you know they're judging you and looking for ways to discredit you in order to fill their quota. It's incredibly demoralising. 



My appointment is on Monday 17th November.....I'm terrified and not sure how I'm going to get through it, and knowing that if I 'fail', my husband and I can't survive much longer without money.



Sorry for this epic, rambling waffle of a post! I just felt like I needed to share my experiences and feelings, in the hopes that someone understands, or to help someone in the same position who needs to know they're not alone.

Has anyone else experienced anything similar? What do you think of the benefits system? Any advice for me, or anyone in the same boat? Please, leave me a comment below.

Thanks for popping by!

Jan

x

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Monster High Freaky Fusion Hybrids doll review - Sirena Von Boo

Another doll review for you today....it's the second of the characters from Monster High Freaky Fusion, one of the new hybrids, Sirena Von Boo!

I have to say that when I heard they were bringing out a mermaid-esque doll I was ecstatic....The Little Mermaid is still my favourite Disney film! Ariel is the reason I have been trying to get bright red hair for the last 25 years! When I saw Sirena I wasn't disappointed, she's stunning. The quality of the Hybrids has been outstanding, bravo Monster High! If you don't know the story behind Freaky Fusion, have a look at my Avea Trotter review here. Sirena is the daughter of a mermaid and a ghost, who has just transferred to Monster High, along with her friends, Avea Trotter, Bonita Femur and Neighthan Rot. The hybrids haven't been accepted anywhere, because they're different, but they find a home at Monster High. The hybrids help some other MH students when they accidentally get fused together, meaning two personalities and abilities in one body. They teach their new friends how to embrace and control their new found powers, enabling them to work together to save the day! As always in MH, there is a great moral at the heart of the story, family, friendship, acceptance, sacrifice....all good things for kids to see! The only limits the characters have are the ones they put on themselves....very good message for kiddies I think.....and, for everyone else too!



Sirena is a daydreamer. She, quite literally, floats through life, becoming distracted often, but her curiousity comes in handy sometimes. She is very sweet and innocent, and seems less affected by the perceived rejections the hybrids have experienced. As a ghost/mermaid hybrid, she can float through the air, or through water....she can pretty much float anywhere basically!

She has very long blue hair, with some plaits on one side, and the rest curling over the opposite side. Her skin is translucent, representing her ghostly side. She has ears which look like gills, and fins above each wrist and down her back and her fingers are webbed. Her clothes and accessories mix ghostly chains and motifs of the sea, balancing both sides of her 'scaritage'! Her make up is quite subtle, nothing too overpowering, so the translucent skin of her face is shown off nicely.



Her tail, sadly, isn't articulated (although I'm not sure how well it would have worked if it was!) so is permanently in a slightly bent position. Luckily, the position looks good, and the bottom fin opens out to enable Sirena to stand unaided (it takes a little bit of manouvering to get her to stand mind). Once again, her tail is translucent, but, as it is thicker, it has a more milky, semi translucent look to it. She has more chains covering her entire tail, none of which are removable.






The chain motif continues in her jewellery, with both her necklace and one earring resembling chains. In her other ear is a small silver coloured stud. She has long tassles attached to each wrist, I'm guessing to look pretty while she floats!



As usual, she comes with a diary and a brush, yellow rather than the traditional black.....she's special you see!




Once again, I am in love with these dolls! Despite being pretty damned far out of the desired demographic, I still get excited when new dolls come out! I keep talking about what a good message these toys send out, and the Freaky Fusion film continues to satisfy. I highly recommend it for family viewing, to help teach kids about friendship and acceptance. Hell, it's great for anyone of any age! We enjoyed it! Yes, the dolls tend to be pricy, but, with Christmas fast approaching, they would make an excellent gift for kids of any age! My friend bought us an Abby Bominable doll for Christmas a few years ago and I was very chuffed! The quality of the toys are always excellent, but beware, once you start collecting you will be addicted!

Have you seen Freaky Fusion yet? Who is your favourite character? Any dolls you'd like to see? Leave me a comment!

Thanks for popping by!

Jan

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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Flash Season 1 Premiere Episode recap and review - better late than never! - plus a quick catch up of the season so far

Well, life and ME/CFS got in the way of me recapping most of the last few weeks' TV, so here is a full recap of the premiere of The Flash and a quick round up of the season so far!




We first met Barry Allen back in season 2 of Arrow, when he ventured to Starling City and ended up helping Ollie's gang. Now, he's back in Central City, ready for the grand opening of S.T.A.R. Labs' latest venture.....

The premiere opens with Barry giving a voiceover, showing shots of the red blur which is him! Then we see a flashback to his childhood, he stands up to bullies for other kids. He has a lovely mum and dad, nice family....until he hears a noise downstairs one night, and goes to investigate. He finds his mother being attacked by a being, basically lots of flashing! His dad arrives and tells Barry to run and suddenly he finds himself stood in the street outside.

Back to the present day, and a bank has been robbed. Two brothers have been identified as the culprit, the Mardons. Barry is late for work as a forensic investigator, again, but a detective, Joe West, sticks up for him by making out that Barry was running and errand for him. Barry takes out a half eaten chocolate bar....smooth Barry! He gets to work, and immediately identifies the make and model of the getaway car, and finds fecal matter that was embedded in the tyre....sadly using the pen of one of the detectives, which happens to have been given to him by his, now deceased, father. Real smooth Barry!

Barry is working on the case evidence when a young woman, Iris, walks in. She and Barry are obviously old friends, and banter with each other while discussing whether Barry can make it to S.T.A.R. Labs for the big occasion. She tells him that she's stress eating over her dissertation and that if she keeps eating she'll end up 'more muffintop than woman'. Barry tells her that she looks amazing....then turns away, embarrassed.....Barry's in love! He geeks out talking about the particle accelerator! Joe walks in, and the young woman calls him 'daddy'....it's a family affair! Barry tells the detective that he thinks the Mardon brothers are hiding out at a farm, due to the presence of a specific antibiotic found in the fecal matter. He also narrows down the number of farms to 4....Joe sends Barry and his daughter off to S.T.A.R. Labs!

Barry and Iris are chatting about relationships, with Barry hinting around his feelings for her. She doesn't get it sadly, and talks of how they grew up together and are brother and sister....ew! She thinks he's too embarrassed to talk to her about girls, but she wants him to be happy. Poor Barry. Someone bumps into Iris and steals her laptop, which contains her dissertation. Barry chases the thief through the crowd at S.T.A.R. Labs and out into the streets. He catches up and tries to get it back but gets a face full of laptop as he rounds a corner. The thief takes off, only to be stopped by a cop.

The cop turns out to be a new transfer from Keystone City, Eddie Thawne, whom Joe calls 'pretty boy'. Barry is not too happy that Iris appears to agree! 

Joe and his partner are checking out the farms on Barry's list. The weather is declining rapidly, as Barry now watches the news reports of S.T.A.R. Labs' particle accelerator. He moves a map to show a board of evidence related to his mother and father. Barry's mum was murdered on the night he saw her being attacked. His father was convicted of her murder, despite his innocence. 

Joe and his partner find the getaway car in the barn. Clyde Mardon shoots Joe's partner and hops onto a small plane that's about to talk off.

The news reporter says that everyone has been told to evacuate, as a siren goes off in the background. The storm has closed in and it may have caused a problem with the particle accelerator. The scientists onsite are working to shut it down, but can't. There is a huge explosion from S.T.A.R. Labs, which sends a wave of energy out across the skies. The wave destroys Mardon's plane when it hits. Barry sees liquids in his lab start to rise into the air, and then a bolt of lightning smashes in through the glass roof and strikes him, knocking him unconscious....as we see small red lightning bolts racing over his face. He's rushed to hospital, where they are struggling with the aftermath of the blast. His trainers saved him! Yay! I knew there was a reason I love Converse! Iris runs into the trauma room where Barry is apparently coding, screaming that she's family when a nurse tries to remove her. The doctors start to shock Barry.....

Nine months later 

S.T.A.R. Labs is destroyed and cordoned off, with warnings that it is hazardous. Gaga's Poker Face is playing as 2 blurry faces come in to view. The woman wants to know why the song is on, and the man replies that 'he' likes it, that it says so on 'his' Facebook page. The angle changes and we see the 2 people bending over an unconscious Barry, lay in a hospital type bed, and wired up to machines. As they walk away he suddenly shoots upright, gasping and scaring the others. Turns out he's at S.T.A.R. Labs, and the 2 people are Cisco Ramon and Dr Caitlin Snow. They tell him what happened....he catches sight of himself in a mirror, lightning gave him abs! He's been in a coma for 9 months....he meets the, now wheelchair bound, Harrison Wells, S.T.A.R. Labs big honcho. He explains to Barry that the particle accelerator was online for 45 mins before the 'anomaly'. Energy from the blast shot into the sky, creating the stormcloud from which the bolt struck Barry. Wells was recovering from his injuries when he heard about Barry. The hospital were experiencing unexplained losses of power, which just so happened to coincide with every time they tried to shock Barry. He wasn't flatlining, his heart was just going too fast for them to measure. Joe and Iris allowed Wells to take Barry to their facility where they have monitored him. Despite all this all Barry can think of is seeing Iris....so off he runs in his borrowed S.T.A.R. Labs sweats!

He surprises Iris at the coffee shop where she works, and he experiences the first odd occurence in time, when everything seems to slow down.

Clyde Mardon isn't dead! He's robbing a bank, and creating a killer wind/tornado/fog thingy to cover his tracks.

Joe is ecstatic to see Barry. They get the report of the robbery and Joe and Thawne leave for the scene. Barry experiences the second weirdness, when a prisoner starts to go for an officer's gun and he manages to stop him so fast it looks like he hasn't moved. He runs outside, telling Iris he needs air....his hand is shaking so fast it blurs....funky! Then he accidentally runs head first into the rear window of a car....then decides to try out his new gift!

Wells, Caitlin, Cisco and Barry are at an airfield ready to test Barry's new ability. Barry finds out that Caitlin lost her fiancé in the blast. Wells cautions Barry.....which appears to go in one ear and out the other seeing as he blasts away leaving them in his wake! Barry starts to lose focus while he's remembering the night his mother died. He crashes and looks to have broken his wrist....

The witness to the robbery tell Joe and Thawne about the weird indoor weather stuff. It's the 3rd robbery with weirdo weather in the last month. Joe sees the suspects car and gets his registration.

Barry's wrist has healed....in 3 hours....so cool! Wells wants to know why he crashed, so Barry tells him about his mother's murder. He saw what looked like a ball of lightning with a man inside it. He says his dad is still locked up in Iron Heights for the murder. Barry wonders if his mother's killer could be like him. Wells feels pretty confident in saying that there's no one else like Barry!

Iris is working in the coffee shop, where Thawne is waiting for her. She kisses him and calls him her boyfriend! Even worse, Barry sees them kissing! Iris explains that while Barry was in the coma, Thawne stepped up to cover Joe's shifts so they could be with Barry. She thanked h with a coffee and things developed....but, it's a big secret! While this deep and meaningful is taking place, a car is being chased by Mardon. A police car ends up careening over towards Iris and Barry, so Barry knocks her out of the way. He sees Clyde Mardon driving the getaway car and chases him, causing him to crash. Mardon gets away by calling up a fog, which causes a fatal car accident, all Barry can do is watch. In the aftermath Joe reprimands Barry and Iris....sounds like Iris wanted to enter the family business but dad wouldn't let her! Barry tells Joe he needs to speak to him, now. He tells Joe that it was Clyde Mardon, and that he's the one who caused the fog. Joe doesn't believe him. Barry is upset, because Joe never believes him. He didn't believe him when his mother was murdered. Joe tells him that his father murdered his mother, and that Barry is the only person that doesn't see that. Thawne arrives with the eyewitness sketch of the robber.....Clyde Mardon! 

Barry storms into S.T.A.R. Labs demanding answers. He knows he wasn't the only one affected by the blast. Wells told him that the city was safe, but that isn't true as they don't know who was affected and how. Wells shows him a simulation of the blast, saying that it released untold energy into our world, dark energy, anti matter, ex elements....not good! They've been searching for more 'metahumans', Barry tells them about Mardon. He says they need to stop him, Wells says he should leave it to the police. He tells Barry that his abilities could help with new medicines and gene therapy. Wells tells Barry that he isn't a hero, he's just 'a young man who was struck by lightning'...ouch! Barry storms out and starts to run......

......straight into a flashback to the night his mother died. We see his father in cuffs, arrested, and Barry runs into the house looking for his mum. Joe is on the scene, he knows the Allens, Iris was Barry's best friend even then. Barry finds his mothers body and pulls back the covering and sees that she's dead. Joe pulls him away....

Barry finally stops running, but his jacket bites the dust, as it catches fire from the friction he caused! He looks up at a road sign....'Starling City 5 miles'....he's gone to Oliver! Yay! Can never have too much Oliver Queen (or to be more accurate, can't get enough Stephen Amell!)! He tells Ollie his story and gets a very Arrow pep talk! Barry can be a hero, he can inspire people, he can be more than Ollie....who then swings gracefully off the roof to Barry's exclamation of 'cool!'....then Ollie watches as Barry speeds away....guess what he says??? 'Cool!'!

Barry runs back to S.T.A.R. Labs and asks Caitlin and Cisco for help....Cisco unveils his newest handiwork, a special suit he designed for firefighters. Perfect for the stress that Barry will put on it basically! 

Jo and Thawne confront Mardon at the barn, and he kicks their arse along with a god complex rant. Just as they're about to get squished under a bit of flying barn, Barry runs in and saves them. He sees that Mardon has create a tornado, which would be bad for Central City basically. Barry realises he has to unravel it by running around it I the opposite direction (I'm not especially scientifically minded, but I'm not entirely sure it would work!) and clocking 750 mph. He gets thrown out on his first attempt, and is about to quit when Wells speaks through the radio, telling Barry he was wrong about him, and to RUN!!!! Barry gets back to work and stops the tornado, but is almost shot by Mardon....luckily Joe saves him by taking Mardon out! Joe knows! He apologises to Barry for doubting him, realising that Barry has been telling the truth all his life, that his dad is innocent. He wants Iris kept out of it though, and makes Barry promise never to tell her.

Barry goes to visit his dad, and they have a sweet father/son moment, and Barry swears to clear his father. His dad wants him to let it go and live his own life, which Barry says he finally is living. He tells his dad that he's proud to be his son *sob*!

Barry is shown running through the streets, saving people! His voiceover states that he is the fastest man alive, he is The Flash! Yay!

Oooooh cut to S.T.A.R. Labs at night, Wells is wheeling through the corridors and he opens a hidden door. He enters the secret room, stands up (!) and walks to a new fangled contraption which displays a virtual newspaper from April 25th 2024! The headline states 'FLASH MISSING VANISHES IN CRISIS' oh dear! There's also an article about the completion of the merger between Wayne Tech and Queen Inc, which is a nice touch! So, who is Wells? What does this mean for our plucky hero!

I have to say that I bloody love this show! I'm so glad it's doing well and looks like a definite renewal, cos I would be a tad miffed if it was canned! Here's whats been happening in the rest of the season so far....

In episode 2, Barry and co start to tackle small crimes on the streets of Central City, much to Joe's annoyance. As Barry pushes his abilities more and more, he starts to suffer side effects and actually faints after trying to stop a robbery. As it turns out, Barry has low blood sugar, and needs to eat a hell of a lot more now he's a superhero! Lucky git! The gang find out that the so called gang of robbers is actually one man, Danton Black, who is able to clone himself. Black is a scientist who was researching cloning in order to help his sick wife, but his former boss, Simon Stagg, had stolen his research. Black wants to kill Stagg for what he has done, as it cost him his wife. After some false starts, and losses in confidence thanks to some dubious behaviour from Joe, Barry manages to stop Black and save Stagg. He also accepts Joe's help in proving his father's innocence, and solving his mother's murder. At the end of the episode, Wells visits Stagg at his office. Stagg has become obsessed with The Flash, and wants to use his powers and abilities for himself. Wells, saying that he must protect The Flash, stands from his wheelchair and murders Stagg.

In episode 3, an entire crime family is murdered and the gang have to face another metahuman....one which Barry believes can control poisonous gases. The team realise that they need to create a prison for rogue metahumans, and decide to convert the particle accelerator into a containment facility. This provokes painful memories for the S.T.A.R Labs team, as they are reminded of the death of Caitlin's fiance, Ronnie. Ronnie sacrificed his life to save Caitlin, and everyone else in danger *sob* luckily we know that he'll be back as another metahuman, Firestorm!  Barry finds the killer, Kyle Nimbus, but not before another murder. He fails to stop Nimbus, but realises that, rather than controlling poisonous gases, Nimbus can actually change his body into the poisonous mist. It turns out that Nimbus was a hitman, and that he was sent to the gas chamber on the night of the S.T.A.R Labs explosion, creating a metahuman with a wicked need for revenge! He has killed the crime family, who testified against him, and the judge who sentenced him....now he wants Joe. Barry manages to stop Nimbus before he can hurt Joe, and forces him to overexert himself, stopping him being able to change to the mist. The gang lock him up in one of the new cells at S.T.A.R Labs, all specially done up for him....and designed to stop him escaping! If they keep adding metahuman prisoners down there, some Big Bad will eventually clock the opportunity of a ready made army! At the end of the episode, another flashback to the explosion shows Wells in his secret room, watching Barry on a surveillance video as he is struck by lightning! The plot thickens!

In episode 4, Wells is trying to test Barry's abilities by having him perform several different tasks at once. Chess with Wells, Operation with Caitlin and table tennis with Cisco...Barry gets a little ahead of himself - which is an achievement in itself when you're the fastest man in the world - and loses to Wells. A familiar face turns up to visit Barry, and she's a tad miffed that he didn't call to let her know he was out of his coma! Yes, it's our favourite awkwardly awesome computer genius, and half of my dream Arrow ship, Felicity Smoak! There's an awkward double date at the coffee shop quiz night....where it becomes obvious that Barry and Felicity are perfect for one another....if only they weren't in  love with different people! Damn you Arrow writers! I want Ollicity! Personally, I think Barry can do a lot better than Iris, she irks me hugely! Anyway, back to the actual episode! The baddie turns out to be a pretty smart criminal called Leonard Snart, who is trying to steal a fricken massive diamond. Firstly, his team hit the security truck which is transporting the diamond to a museum. He's planned it all, right down to the second, but is foiled by Barry. In order to get the better of Barry, Snart manages to get his grubby little mitts on a piece of tech from S.T.A.R Labs which Cisco created. It's a cryonic gun, and Cisco actually made it as a weapon against Barry, if one was needed to take him down. Barry is somewhat put out by this, seeing as he's now friends with Cisco and Caitlin, and has a bit of a sulky strop. He goes off to take down Snart alone, even disconnecting the radio link.....luckily Barry is so likable that his strops don't bother me, unlike a certain character in Arrow *cough*Laurel*cough*! Snart has set a trap for Barry however, and ends up at his mercy....before Cisco, Caitlin and Felicity turn up to help! Cisco bluffs that the mahoosive machine they've dragged along with them is an even more powerful version of the cryonic gun.....luckily this works, as it's really just the S.T.A.R Labs' vacuum cleaner! Snart escapes, and Barry learns about teamwork, hurrah! Alas, Snart decides to team up with an old partner to take down Barry.....

Well, that's the season up to now! The next episode, 'Plastique' airs on 11th November. Hopefully I'll get around to recapping the episodes as soon as they've aired....if my body would cooperate anyway!

Are you a fan of The Flash? Any classic characters you're hoping to see? Leave me a comment!

Thanks for popping by!

Jan

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