Saturday, 17 August 2019

It's that time again.....

I can't remember a year that has gone past as fast as this one...

It's partly the fault of the ospreys of course.   If one is as dedicated to watching live webcams in Wales and elsewhere as I am, then everything now turns around the osprey season (look and quake at the Storm Hannah video).  The parent birds arrive separately from their winter sojourn in Africa in March/April, lay eggs within two to three weeks, those eggs hatch some six weeks later and before you know it the chicks have passed through the fluffy stage, followed by mini-dinosaur (worth watching for the boxing match part way through - human mothers could learn from Telyn's reaction!), until they are almost the size of their parents and ready to fledge from the nest a mere matter of weeks after hatching.

Then, stuffed full of fish by their parents, they prepare to migrate, heading off solo on the long journey to their winter quarters, and it's already nearly the end of August and another summer has sped past.

And I am left with just the very beautiful paper model of Olly the Osprey put together and hung by Colin Rose, which now, together with a lurking trout, is to be found hanging over the children's corner in Small Worlds. 




I am delighted to say that having him there has led to a substantial increase in donations towards the  
Yes, I know these are not ospreys.....
conservation work and if people don't leave anything in the osprey box then I tithe from the donations to Small Worlds.

Ospreys lead very neatly into the Annual Event of August, the birthday present for my neighbour Rose.  I started to make special presents for her in 2016 when she reached the age of 99, with another following each year.  She is now the proud owner of more "special presents" than anyone else amongst my friends and family and I am rapidly running out of ideas!


And no, I haven't made her an osprey nest though that is an idea for next year, and she did get a lovely teatowel from Dyfi, thanks to another ospreyholic, TrishaNic.....


It is a neat segue because Rose too has become something of an ospreyholic at the age of 101...well, 102 now.   I managed to turn her elderly TV into a smart one so she could follow the antics on the various nests on YouTube and after refusing for several years to have the TV on when no one else is around, she has spent a good part of the spring and summer "with the birds".

So if not an osprey nest, what did I manage to come up with this time?   


She has already had her life in a box (99).....



......a rose arbour (100), 










......and a replica of the room she sits in (101).....






So what now?

Well, earlier in the year we celebrated another birthday, that of the excellent Jo who lives with Rose and cares for her beautifully.  On that occasion Rose, her good friend Sandy, and I took Jo out for a vintage tea at the delightful Mabel's Vintage Tearooms in Bushey, Herts. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely and I was much impressed by the portrait on the wall of the beautifully decorated period tearoom. 
The original Mabel perhaps?
I remembered that portrait when I was flailing around for something to make - something that would not take too long at that, because I arrived back in the CR several weeks later than usual and was immediately taken over by work on something quite different of which much, much more in a later blog (or two).   

My intention was not to reproduce the tearoom itself - too many chairs and tables for a start, not to mention cakes and sandwiches.   Rather, I wanted to use the portrait as inspiration....

As usual, the first task is to source a container. This time it was very easy - I had exactly the right size box, nice and sturdy and wonder of wonders, the very cheap plastic frame Butterfly and I found in our favourite cheapie shop, fitted perfectly. 


I papered the walls and covered the floor.  (The box of real-life floor tiles from the Prague carboot sale last year continues to prove its worth!)


It was then just a matter of finding a cabinet, table, teaset and paintings. Oh, and of course, a Mabel....

I say "just" but I had set my heart on using the top half of this cabinet from the 1960s Petite Princess  series which, painted brown, would have been perfect. However I did not want to destroy it completely. Sadly it proved impossible to dismantle it without permanent damage so I had to find something else.

Another problem was that I had no doll in twelfth scale suitable to be transformed into a maid. And the box was in any case a little small for 12th scale. 

I found a Lundby corner cabinet that could work, a Spanish somewhat tarty looking doll, (despite her crucifix)
and after trying several different ones, a possible table.

I ordered a willow pattern teaset from China and set about putting things together. Fortuitously a visit was due from the ever-skilful Milena who was responsible for the wonderful mini-crochet in Rose's Room last year and I left the transformation of tart to maid in  her capable hands. 

She did not disappoint.   She was very distressed to find that clothing had been attached to the doll with pins - straight through her back and stomach!  You can just see the holes.   She became immediately determined that the new garments should all be properly sewn.... 



She also discovered by accident that the eye makeup of the doll was easily removable and that made a huge difference to her character.   




A careful selection of materials.....






 .......some skilful sewing...... 





...and the addition of a dinky lace cap and there she was, Mabel in person....... 








....albeit with the wrong hair colour, but an Edwardian maid nonetheless.



In passing, Milena played with another doll, this time one that looked more like a vampire. The same trick with the eyes changed her character too and a repurposing of her black gown .......





....and changing her red shoes to trim black boots turned her from vampire to Victorian governess.


 

Although a friend who looked at her carefully felt she would prefer not to leave any children in her charge....shades of The Turn of the Screw?




In the meantime I changed the colour of the cheap plastic table....
...and looked up the instructions for making a table cloth drape nicely.   
A hankie dipped in glue worked well, but it discoloured somewhat in the process so I gave the same treatment to a delicate lace doily and draped that over the top.





I painted two picture frames gold, to match the gold finish that Butterfly would be putting on the cheap plastic one when I got the whole affair to England, and cut some Edwardian pictures from an art catalogue.











I found some items for the cabinet.....








.... a cake and a vase of roses from my stash.....







.........and then packed everything up in little boxes for transporting to the UK. 


Hopefully the teaset would be waiting there for me.   I was a little worried that security at the airport would want to know what this strange box was, showing up on the xrays, but all went smoothly.

Butterfly worked her magic on the frame but sadly the teaset did not arrive in time (it still hasn't come) so I had to use the substitute I had brought with me and I assembled the whole room.  


I gave it to Rose on her birthday, along with the picture on which it was based, and it is now sitting on her mantelpiece, alongside her ever-growing collection of miniatures.  She can open the English branch of Small Worlds soon!



I am sorry to be so silent on the blog at the moment. There has been much going on in Small Worlds and I have been without help there for much of this summer.   Amongst other things there have been visits by two reporters, one from the largest Czech tabloid newspaper - you can see the article here  (scrolling down below the muscle men will get you to a nice gallery of photos) - and one from a German regional publisher with newspapers across the south of Germany.   That article should be appearing next week and, if it does, I will link to it here too.

There are also two mammoth blog posts coming up about the work I did as soon as I arrived back in the CR, but I make no promises as to when I shall be able to write them. Many visitors are descending shortly!

Thank you for continuing to follow the activities in Small Worlds, and watch this space....

Monday, 17 June 2019

Down on the Farm....

I have never returned to the Czech Republic quite as late as I have this year and seeing the Christmas display still in the window of Small Worlds made me feel very negligent.  I whisked it out on my second day back, over two weeks ago, but it has taken till now to completely finish the new display.

But worry not - the window has not remained empty, it's just that I have had to add things bit by bit. Moving around does not happen at the same speed as it used to!  As Rose, now approaching 102, is fond of saying "Old age never comes alone!"  And temperatures in the 30s do not help, although Small Worlds does remain blessedly cool - until one starts to move around!

I have several plans for window displays this year and have been collecting things avidly in the UK, both from charity shops and car boot sales.  I haven't been able to use any of the items for this window though as most of the material is still packed in boxes.  So I had to dream up something quite quickly using what was already available in Small Worlds.

I thought that if I filled half the window with an actual dolls house I wouldn't need to find too much else for the other half. So I considered what I had a lot of and decided on farm animals.  Originally I was going to make it a local farm, using Colin Rose's lovely Czech house 
but I discovered it was so heavy that I could not move it without help.   I then realised that the Bears' Cavern house
would work, and even better, the Bears' Christmas house, which used to be my granddaughter's play house here in the Czech Republic, could take its place in the museum - with all signs of Christmas removed of course!

The rest of the task was relatively easy - as you can see, the Children's Corner alone has a fair selection of animals, and there is another farm display to rob, er, borrow from,  under the Czech house, complete with tractor and a campsite.  

I laid some ground work on the window sill and used.... 





...one of my useful charity shop acquisitions to make paths. Rolls of wallpaper at around 75p a roll are always worth picking up....



Once I had reluctantly rejected a flock of sheep for size reasons (cow-sized sheep?) it was just a matter of making a tree to knit the two sides of the window together and putting things into place....





The little bears were ejected from the Christmas creche in which they had been for seven months and it turned into a cowshed.... 





The carefree lad in the green hat has been with us for more years than I can remember.....





...the other two I bought last summer at a giant carboot sale in Prague. 



I was delighted when I realised they were by the same maker. They are very like Hummel figurines but I doubt if they are authentic.

Before I leave you with a series of photos of the first of the summer windows, I should perhaps also bring you up to date on other news.  

Last week I had the great pleasure of giving a class of local ten year olds a further glimpse into the fascinating world of the osprey, which I introduced to Bavorov last October.   This opportunity came courtesy of their class teacher, my friend Jana, who then swiftly reported on the event on the school's webpages  helpfully flagging up the existence of Small Worlds at the same time.


I took my porcelain osprey nest along to the classroom and we were able to watch live streaming onto a giant screen from nests in Wales, Poland, Scotland and Estonia. I spoke in simple English, with Jana translating as needed.  The children asked lots of questions - some even in English - and Jana tells me they are following up the talk with some projects and continuing to watch the live streaming at some point each day.   Maybe one day there will be a Czech nest with a webcam on it......

The ospreys are now safely back in Small Worlds 
and I hope donations towards conservation will grow.


They now come complete with a portrait of fish that they are likely to eat (can anyone identify any of them?)......
....courtesy of the wonderful Look and Learn magazine - hands up who remembers it from their childhood? 

Sadly not in time for the classroom talk, a paper model of a young male osprey has arrived in my house. I say young male because his wingspan is just 1.5m - he looks remarkably real and has been beautifully constructed by the artist Colin Rose. He told me today that he will shortly be having an exhibtion in nearby Vodnany not just of his paintings, but of the paper models he builds and the houses he has made for Small Worlds.   In the meantime, here's my very own osprey!





He will shortly be flying through Bavorov to the Small Worlds Museum where he will hang above the Children's Corner.  I think I will then have a naming competition for him -5kc a go for osprey conservation.


Speaking of birds, one of the first things I had to do on arrival was replace the beautiful clock Butterfly made several years ago (about the same time as this guest book) as it will currently only work in a semi-reclining position. 


How fortunate then that I had been given a wonderful clock for Christmas - one that is guaranteed to startle visitors as it plays a different bird call every hour.   I can tell you that the Great Tit has a very strange call!

And in other news, on Thursday I will be interviewed about Small Worlds at an event devoted to presenting a new tourist map of the region of South Bohemia. Small Worlds appears on it as a worthwhile place to visit and as far as I can gather,there will be a number of travel writers in the audience, as well as members of the general public. I have been asked to take a few small houses and room boxes with me.   I do enjoy getting some free publicity!

Back to Down on the Farm - I leave you with a series of photos, taken with difficulty once the display was in position, and I look forward to seeing you again fairly soon once some more boxes have been unpacked!


Duck pond before...

...and after












Now all I have to do is work out how to explain Little Miss Muffet to the mainly Czech visitors to Small Worlds. (Nice link - keep scrolling!)