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50 shades of crazy

handcuffsCall me mad… but working in an office of women in business. Women who have worked hard to get to where they are, to have men accept them as equals and treat them with respect, I find the whole media hype about a sadomasochistic male slightly against my feminist principles.

Not that I’m saying I’m a feminist. Those who know me will know, that I’m one of those women who likes to fuss around their man a little, get a meal on the table, bake cakes, act the perfect hostess. But you can be a feminist without losing your identity as a woman, talking with a gruff voice and “doing everything they can do better”. (Which we can by the way… but I don’t need to act all macho to prove that).

I put my hand up now and say I’ve not read the book. And there was some serious discussion in our office today between the girls who had, as to whether it was setting a good or a bad example for women.

The problem I always come back to is this… do we, as women, need to be subjugated to feel loved? Is it OK for a dominant male to whip their female companion because they feel like it? Should a woman crave that sort of behaviour and feel “left out” if it doesn’t occur?

Now – don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched plenty of hero movies and know there’s nothing quite like rescuing a damsel in distress to get your heart all a flutter, and I freely admitted I’d snog David Tennant as Doctor Who if I happened to be Billy Piper myself… but there’s a vast amount of difference between being “rescued” from a situation and being “subjugated” and placed in that situation by someone you supposedly love.

There has been a lot of media attention brought to bear on Barbie dolls, fashion icons and even mannequins in clothing stores not being representative of women. But for some reason 50 shades of grey seems to have slipped by everyone incognito.

HELLO!?

Hmmm… she might not be a supermodel or anything, and she might be someone we identify in that respect – but should we be encouraging women to place themselves in Mr Grey’s hands so willingly? Mr Grey, a self-proclaimed subjugator of women? Should we be wishing ourselves into those handcuffs?  Or our daughters?

Let’s face it, if it wasn’t erotic fiction, would we not be thinking of calling the police to rescue the poor girl? Send Mr Grey himself off for counselling?

I sell handcuffs at Red Herring Games (shameless plug there for those who REALLY need to get their hands on some), but would I want to wear them? Er… No! They’re uncomfortable, and there’s a reason we use them on criminals.

We have a whole generation of teenage girls out there, at that impressionable age. And they’re watching us all trooping off to the cinema to watch a man whip a woman to get a kick out of it. And this is fine with us? Is this the role model we want for our daughters? Would we be happy with our daughter’s marrying Mr Grey (ignoring his millions for a moment…)

On facebook at the moment, I see adverts for “renovating brats dolls” to make them less sexual, right beside trailers for “50 shades of grey”. Is it just me? Or has the female population suddenly developed double standards.

The BBC news is reporting that firefighters are concerned that the film will cause a “spike” in call outs to bound spouses unable to escape.   And they’ve even been issued with more equipment to cope with the extra call outs!

So… just one question for you. Would you rather have a man who loves you for who you are, treats you with respect and rescues you from peril? Or would you rather have a man who willingly locks you in a cage and cuffs you to a wall just to get off on you? Think hard people…

We women should be up in arms about the 50 Shades film – not flocking to it in our masses.

As for me.. No… I’ve not read the book. There are people all over the world trying to get out of abusive relationships just like this, and I’m not going to support its propagation.

Go on… tell me it’s a love story… fine. You can be loved that way if you want to be. Me? I’d rather have someone who loves me in my teddy bear pyjamas and finds me sexy in bed socks.

What Mumpreneurs do when they’re just being Mums!

The Rings

What is the difference between an entrepreneur and a mumpreneur?

Well, kids mainly, it has to be said!

Mumpreneurs work their business around their family, or sometimes their family around their business, dealing with the regular housework stuff of shopping, cleaning, cooking and laundry, the school runs, the “I’ve not got any socks” and “there’s a hole in my trousers” last minute panics, as well as the bed time stories, homework and “Can I have Giles for tea?”

 

 

Sherlock was an honoured guest

Needless to say this mumpreneur has been busy on all the above, as well as turning a national on-line retail business into an event management company and an international wholesaler!  Which means it’s left very little time for blogging, and I’m sorry, but blogging comes AFTER ‘preneuring and AFTER family!!

 However… I thought it would be fun to pop up on my blog something entirely non-work related for a change.  As this week, for the first week of our school holidays I took three days off and organised a teddy wedding!

Wedding Bells for Fluffy and Dog!

I say now… this wasn’t my idea.  My youngest was given another soft toy dog for his birthday and declared his regular night time dog (of the missing fame, for those who’ve been following me a while) needed to get married before he could sleep in the same bed as “Fluffy” the latest addition.  Living in sin wasn’t an option.  Believe me, I did ask…

Fluffy and her father all ready to go
Vicar Elephant
Elephant Usher helps Dog on with Hat
All the bridesmaids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, after a whirlwind romance and an incredibly short engagement, this week saw the conclusion of several weeks of planning (and some last minute panics as I suddenly found 3 bridesmaids had been added into the wedding party, not to mention 2 ushers and 2 pageboys, and of course a 3 tiered cake complete with gravy bones as pillars).

Cutting the cake

 

And so… July 22nd 2014 – I oversaw the marriage of 2 soft toys, complete with vicar-elephant and buffet reception, wedding photos and the throwing of the brides bouquet (and I apologize now to the poor mother affected by that!)

 

All the boys
A big hug for the cameras!
Getting some help from the Bridesmaids with her make up
You may now kiss the bride

 

However I can confirm, success was achieved, as after a day of wedding activities, Fluffy finally made it into bed with Dog that night!  My son spent all morning designing them a honey moon retreat in our loft, only to find at bed time he couldn’t be parted with Dog!  So he joined the honeymooning couple!

 

The next challenge is to find a few soft toy dogs small enough to be a litter of puppies, as apparently that’s next!

 

Exchanging rings
All the guests
Success! Dog and Fluffy together, forever

 

Creating a murder mystery for TOWIE

Wow… this came like a bolt from the blue… Friday evening, there I am, 6pm still sitting at my desk… the perils of a home office and being self employed, and the phone rings.

First thought… it’s my husband phoning me from downstairs… (two phones in the house and 2 flights of stairs between the kitchen and the office, I will admit we are occaisionally lazy…)  But no!  I answer the phone and it’s Amy from Lime Pictures, the company that films The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE) enquiring into the possilibity of a 21 player game 1920s theme.

Well… to cut a long story short, and so many emails that you wouldn’t believe… Red Herring Games will be featured on TOWIE this sunday (7th July 2013).  I’m not sure who from the cast they have playing the game that evening, only that it will be played by a total of 18 people and hosted by two men.

As you might imagine the time pressure was immense.  The initial call came through at 6pm on Friday, and the final “go” on Saturday late evening – and they needed all the game materials to begin filming for this Sunday’s show on MONDAY AFTERNOON.

Now… I’m not good with maths, or for those who know me… analogue clocks… but even I could work out that it was less then 48 hours from inception to completion that was needed.

So if I was to stand any chance of pulling this off I needed to use a “base game” as my starting point.

So we had to make a decision.  To use “Murder at Merkister Hall” or to use something else…

It would seem at first the easiest thing to do would be to use a game from the website… but what if the cast revealed the murderer either on television or through facebook, twitter, press releases… it would mean we would have to remove that game from sale.

So… I had a bit of a quandry… after all, the solution is the “big reveal”… what could I do?

Over the years, we pick up custom orders from clients.  Some make the website after a quick re-write (e.g. A Corporate Murder was written for Disney Stores Ltd originally with Mickey and Minnie mouse in it… not that you would ever know; The Smashed Hits Poll Winners Murder was originally written for a local Vision Express 50th celebration – which will explain, for those who have played it, quite why there are as many references to glasses and contact lenses in there as they are).  But there are some games which, quite frankly would be TOO RUDE to make it onto the website…

So… after a brief discussion with Amy, it was off to one of these large player “rudies” to clean it up and create something 1920s appropriate for ITV viewing.

Sunday, after church, saw me bascially superglued to my seat, and I worked, with no more then toilet breaks from 11am to 2.30am (Yes… 15 1/2 hours straight) on Monday morning creating a whole new game just for TOWIE!

They wanted no TOWIE references within  the plot, so my favourite name “Fanny Vajazzled”  wasn’t to feature shucks…  Mind you – I couldn’t help my usual nautiness and the dead body is Rudyard Well… he always was a hard act to follow… and now he’s a stiff…

Here is the synopsis the cast will be receiving this week… and their characters.

 

It’s the roaring 20’s; a time of hope, prosperity, industrialisation, liberating fashion and jazz.

There’s money to be made if you’re business savvy and have the right connections;

and tucked away in the leafy depths of the Essex countryside, millionaire Sir Rudyard Well is just one of those who has achieved a very comfortable life.

Ranking #3 in the Forbes millionaire list, Rudyard Well is presently the wealthiest land owner in Essex, with a massive investment portfolio which includes the very latest in aviation technologies, as well as one of the largest international import export businesses on the Essex coast, Well Enterprises Ltd.

Sir Well is known for hosting lavish soirées, and tonight was to be no exception.  With exquisite food and lavish surroundings the evening was passing pleasantly and uneventfully, at least it was until he was discovered dead in his cellar face down in a tray of kitty litter.

The question is – which of the guests killed him?

THE SUSPECTS

Faye Slift – Mistress of Sir Rudyard Well.

A glamorous film star of some renown, Faye Slift is incredibly enticing and she has never been short of wannabe suitors.

Chuck Soveigh – The inventor and founder of Magnetic Underpinned Gearing (M.U.G.)

Aesthetically very pleasing on the eye, and with some significant financial backers, Chuck Soveigh is a good catch and he knows it.

Gill Tedd – Estranged third wife of Sir Rudyard Well.

A former model, Gill Tedd is a glamorous blonde famous for her appearance on numerous motorcar calendars.

Al Tetude – Founder of Essex Lion Aviation

Well connected and a fascinating conversationalist, Al Tetude is incredibly suave and good with the ladies.

Hugh Jinnins – International cricket coach.

Resplendent in his cricket whites, Hugh Jinnins is very handsome and has a charming and witty personality.

Anna Glipta – Art dealer

Classy and reserved, Anna Glipta has an attractive figure and has a sculptor’s eye for the other men at the party.

Hugo Furst – Test Pilot

Brave and daring, Hugo is hardly ever out of his flying gear, and is always reluctant to be parted from his leather jacket, long white scarf and goggles.

Debbie Taunt – American Socialite

With links to the French fashion industry, Debbie Taunt is dazzling at any party and a favourite of Sir Well.

Marc D’Triumph –  French Ambassador

Flamboyant French ambassador with a seductive accent and a cultivated look, Marc certainly knows how to entertain a lady.

Charity Bahl– Singer

Able to wow any crowd with her canary like voice and her peacock display of colour and form, Charity shines even without a spotlight, and always draws a crowd.

Warren Pease – Navy Captain

With the archetypal stiff upper lip, and smart in his dress uniform Warren radiates victory, though his career has been more chequered than he cares to admit.

Lee Enfield – Hunter.

A marksman of some renown and currently in pursuit of the “Beast of Brentwood” Lee Enfield is a powerful presence in any room, more noticeable for his preference for safari gear.

Ros Well – Celebrity Journalist

Never one for missing out on a scoop Ros Well is incredibly well dressed, and always on the look out for scandal and gossip, she always dresses to thrill… just don’t ask where she keeps her notebook and pen!

Emile Tikkit – Decadent Writer

Incredibly vain, fond of fashion and very much a man of leisure, Emile is single-minded in his pursuit of dandified elegance.

Ena Trance – Astrologer and spiritualist.

An enigmatic lady with hidden depths, Ena Trance positively oozes luxury from her every pore.

Jenny Tix – Creator of the Elixir of Youth.

A jewel encrusted beauty, Jenny Tix partakes of her own elixir and is regularly mistaken for a much younger woman.

Ivan Ego – Self-made Millionaire

An international man of mystery, Ivan’s financial beginnings may be inscrutable but his money is very much in evidence in his attire.

Anita Drinck – Executive vice-president in Sir Rudyard Well’s Corporation.

Elegant and with refined tastes, Anita Drinck doesn’t suffer fools gladly and takes no prisoners.

 

Of course… I suppose we need to write this one up into a proper plot now for everyone… and it’ll have to be called “The Only Way is Murder…”

You can find our more about our regular games here:  www.red-herring-games.co.uk

My personal favourites!

Well… I’ve been writing murder mystery games for more then a decade now and hosting for probably another 15 years.  The question I’m often asked is “What would you reccommend?” 

It’s actually harder then it looks to reccommend a game.  I’ve enjoyed them all!  Each one has been enjoyable in different ways, but for me – its the “slightly tiddly” finishes and the hilarity throughout the evening that make the nights so memorable.

Counting up quickly on both hands (and feet), I’ve actually hosted over 17 games in the last 10 years – and this is discounting events I’ve hosted for corporate or large groups… this is just the games I’ve run at home with friends!

So of those 17 – which are my favourite?  Oh… it’s very hard to choose.  And sadly I don’t have photographic evidence from them all (probably just as well in some cases…).

Oddly – many of my personal favourites haven’t made even the top 10 best sellers on the website.  In fact, some of them are dragging up the rear of the popular list… so… to give a top 5 personal reccommendations might seem a little biased (not least because I only play my own games as a rule).

So… in fairness… I suppose I should start by giving the most popular top 5 on the website, and then I’ll follow it with my own personal favourite list…

5 most popular games at Red Herring Games are:

1.  A Bad Vintage – this only launched in the summer last year and has been incredibly popular!

2. Murder at Merkister Hall – A steady favourite – and it is so regularly adapted I can’t stand the sight of it now.. but that’s just me … all our customers love it!

3.  Death at the Distillery – This is an overlap as you’ll see from my personal favourites below!

4. Stiffen Very Carefully – Who can’t beat a bit of saucy Allo Allo!

5. Greased at the Diner – Well… summer lovin’ is always a blast!

And as for me… well my list is somewhat different, and it has to be said, when hosting myself, I tend to prefer the more “naughty” innuendo filled plots…

My top 5 Murder Mystery Parties:

1. Death at the Distillery – This had us roaring with laughter all night… helped by a steady imbibing of the amber nectar.  Our accents ended up a cross between Pakistani and Welsh by the end of the evening, and despite watching Balamory with the kids on telly, and living in Orkney for 6 years even I couldn’t maintain the accent with the plethora of unusual dialects springing up around the table.  (This is the only teen rated game in my top 5)

2. Murder on the Disorientated Express – accents and spies a plenty… we loved this.  It was one of my earliest plots (not the first, but certainly one of my first 10).  We’ve always loved Agatha Christie and spies and this gave us both!

3. The Atomic Bombshell – Oddly this is right down at the bottom of the “popular purchase” list – probably because it’s a “murder free plot” – but we had a fantastic night with this one.  (Murder-less mysteries are a pig to write, and require much more effort and plot lining – so they’re usually better games if you like complex mysteries… )  This ond has all the maturity of a typical “adult” game and lots of love tangles and naughty innuendo, AND spies, but no murder.  Our american accents were shocking… but it was still a great night!

4.  Murder in the Med – As excuses for getting blazingly drunk on cocktails this has to be one of our finest games!  (Personally I think it’s easy to solve… but the number of “Salty dogs” and “Blue Lagoons” consumed means that no one actually remembers who did it, and I’ve been asked to run it again with the original cohort, as no one can remember who actually killed Stew!

5.The Last Laugh – Mediaeval mysteries are hard to come by… which is why we wrote our own one in the first place.  The Last Laugh was  written and played long before Red Herring Games came into existence.  It was my second attempt at a murder mystery – and there is probably more innuendo in this game then plot – but it’s a rip roaring hoot and everyone still talks about it.

And so… there you have it – my top 5… Though I must admit – being forced to come up with a top 5 is really, really hard… there are SO many fun games I’ve enjoyed that really a top 10 doesn’t even do it justice… I mean… I didn’t even mention “You Only Die Once”, “Smashed Hits”, “The Surgical Strike”, “Take down at the Tate”, “Bump off at the BBQ”, “Murder in the Dark”…

… and as for  “A Bad Vintage” – you can see the fun we had with that one as we used that  for the video on the website and I can only say I’m grateful the cameraman didn’t keep in the video of me snorting mushrooms backwards;  unable to laugh because my mouth was full!  (Don’t try to eat coq au vin when you’re running the script… oh dear me no…).

I know there are a number of  customers who come back year on year – if you’re reading this – and you have a personal favourite I haven’t mentioned – do let me know!

 

A fine romance

Taking a break from the usual murder mystery writing this month…and working on something for:

I was approached by Andy Evans earlier this year and asked to put together a short 10 minute play for Breakwater Theatre’s launch night.

It was lovely (and flattering I admit!) to be approached as a local “professional writer” to write one of the six plays to launch the company.

Needless to say it was finished on time, and has been cast, and is even now under rehearsal.

So… on the 11th of March at the Beach Restaurant, there’s a play by me, as well as a couple by other writers who write professionally for hull truck, and people like the BBC.

If you’re free that evening – I hope you’ll join me down at the beach.  Comments welcome!