Tuesday, 4 April 2023

Transport(s) of Delight...

I think translating some of this post will be a challenge to the excellent Deepl Translate program which now allows me to put a Czech copy of each post up, without having to find someone kind enough to translate it for no money.   What is it going to do with the title for example?  It will certainly lose the pun in translation.   People of my generation in the UK will know what

Flanders and Swann did with it!   I can remember seeing them at the Fortune Theatre in 1957;  I remember, too, laughing so much that I fell off my seat.

This post is focusing on the new window display in Small Worlds.  Christmas was whipped out by our friend Jana and we have replaced it by a little nod to Easter (more inside the museum itself) and my version of transports of delight, paving the way for them with a road map created years ago by my daughter in law Laura and son Adam for our Playmobil town.  Works for the Sylvanian Families as well....

It was a relatively easy change.  Butterfly is in England at the moment and so the truly creative displays have to wait for her return.  Not that I have thought of the next one yet anyway.  By the way - the red car outside is my fullsize transport of delight.

For many years, alongside other forms of miniatures, model cars have snuck into my collection.  As I said in my last post, an interest in them goes back a very long way. To the age of four in fact when I clearly remember driving with my father from toy shop to toy shop trying to find some Dinky Toy cars. These had just come back into production again after the war. We had little luck finding any at the beginning and I remember too that we made up a song "Never, never Dinky Toys..." as we left yet another toy shop empty handed.  In the end, thanks to my father's persistence, I had many, including their boxes which even then I preserved.   All gone now sadly.

Amongst other makes, I have collected a number of Burago 1/18 scale models, mainly from German Ebay, which are scattered around the houses in the museum. I know that the scale is too small for the twelfth scale houses but it's fine for the Triangs and actually I just like seeing them in use. 

Too small for the opera singer's house!
But just fine for the Triangs

The models are beautifully made and amongst them is the world famous Blue Bugatti raced in the 1920s and 30s by the first female winner of a Grand Prix race, the Czechoslovakian Eliška Junková. She lived till the age of 94, and made motor racing history.   

Post race and ready for the pits....

And as a tribute to another Czech woman driver, my mother, there is also a parade of Jaguars, one of the loves of her life.  

She drove one like this for several years....
...but my guess is she would have preferred to have emulated Junková (they were much of an age) and to have driven this one....

Since the new windows were installed in the museum it is almost impossible to build a display that is not divided down the middle, which can be very irritating.  On this occasion it has worked fine. On one side there are a variety of smaller models on the ubiquitous stands I am so relieved I bought several of when they appeared in our local cheapie shop; they are worth their weight in gold. (As usual, apologies for the quality of any photos taken through the glass.) 

As you can see, many of the models emerged from the motor trade in its widest form - special offers from Shell, Mobil and Michelin, amongst others.

Taking pride of place is a cardboard model of a bridge, dating from the late 1950s and made by a company called Victory Industries, based in Guildford. As you can see from the box, the price was 6/6 Sadly the road itself appears to be absent, but no one needs to know that!

Standing in front of of the bridge you will have noticed another item from the 1950s. Another car boot sale purchase, long ago, which has been biding its time to make an appearance.

I am thrilled to not just own six Triang houses but also this delightful breakdown truck with working crane and trailer still attached.  At last it is getting a chance to show off!  It was 29/6 back in the day but nowadays these come up quite frequently at auctions of collectable toys and the makers would be astounded at what they fetch.  Especially if they are complete with trailer and box, as mine is.

One vintage toy that did not make the cut into the window (space!) was yet another car boot sale purchase, possibly here in the Czech Republic or Germany. 

It's an Esso service station, with limited roof top parking and once again, complete with box. Made in the 1970s by a German company, AK Stelco, known mostly for its rather strange (to my eyes) model cars. Stelco also made a whole range of service stations and multi-storey carparks, including this rather impressive one!  Somewhat better than mine in fact....

The other half of the window is occupied by kits of various kinds. 

In fact I am pleased to say that we were able to demonstrate that it is not just plastic that can be used for kit creations since we have on display models from wood, plastic....


....and in a further pride of place, thin card. 

This magnificent car was built by, yes if you follow my blog you will have guessed it, Colin Rose of osprey and paper castle fame. And we must not forget the brilliant 3 dolls houses he made for Small Worlds. 

At the back of the display sits the inspiration for the Flanders and Swann song that introduced this post. The Transport of Delight itself, the world-famous bright red London Omnibus in a scale of 1/24 by Revell . (Scroll down through the link to see how many pieces of plastic one is faced with!)

It is still neatly packed in its box, waiting for that "one day" to happen that is so much part of my hobby. "One day I shall build that house, install a model railway, put together that kit...."  I do realise that at 81 there is only a limited supply of "one days" ahead. Heigh ho.

In fact I have three large boxes of beautiful vintage cars in the same series as the one standing in front of the Walmer Victorian dolls house. They are all waiting for that one day to come along. This one, complete with lordly lady (can one say that??) and chauffeur is the only one that has been made so far. 

Butterfly and I did it some years ago and spent hours on the engine, where every wire has to be attached to its terminal.  Imagine our horror and disbelief to read the final instruction in that section: "Now glue the bonnet down over the engine".  We didn't do it!

Two weeks ago we had the Spring Fair in the village and Small Worlds always opens, even out of season, on such occasions.  Since the focus of the fair was Easter I put a small display into the museum itself, plus an Easter tree, slightly incongruously, in the window.

So, as Easter rapidly approaches I leave you with a series of Easter Greetings in the form of photos and all best wishes for a festive break, or as we might say here in the Czech Republic:

"Přeji vám sezonu plnou pohody, radosti a krásného počasí. 

Veselé Velikonoce!"

"I wish you a season full of well-being, joy and beautiful weather. 

Happy Easter!"

See you again soon I hope and thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Wooden heart(s).....

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, a little girl sat glued to an ancient television - you know, the kind with a small rounded glass screen with a huge shiny wooden cabinet surrounding it.  Rather like this one...  

There wasn't much to watch in those days - viewing times were strictly limited, and even included an hour, just after the daily children's hour (yes, just one), when nothing was shown at all so that the little ones could be put to bed without any fuss.  

But from 1946 onwards (did I say our little girl was born in 1942?) something magic happened at 5pm every day.   Onto the black and white screen trotted one of the first stars to be made by television - and he was a puppet.  

And from then on our little girl was hooked on dolls dancing on strings.

(No wonder her parents thought she would love the Disney film Pinocchio. They were misguided however and she had to be carried out of the cinema kicking and screaming during this fearsome scene.)

It didn't put her off puppets though, and her - or should I come clean? - my collection started on my 13th birthday with the gift of a Pelham Puppet theatre and a number of puppets, including Sandy McBoozle, the drunken Scotsman sitting front and centre, and a matching old lady.   

I can remember performing a scene with this couple at boarding school in 1955, based on the ballad "Get up and Bar the Door".  

Heaven knows where we came across it.  If it helps, here is the written version!

I had a fairly large collection of Pelham Puppets but sadly only two or three remain in my possession.  Not that I like them very much, but they are now quite valuable. Unfortunately, they have gone the same way as all of my Dinky toys, collected for me by my father from 1946 when production restarted post-war, till his death in 1952.  The perils of having a much younger sibling!

But another collection of puppets started during my weekly visits to Prague about twenty years ago.  I went there once a week from my village in South Bohemia to teach the Alexander Technique to a handful of pupils - AT was more or less new to the Czech Republic then. Each time I was there I visited the little market near Wencelas Square, and I fell in love with the beautiful (and very reasonably priced) puppets on one particular stall.  I chatted to the friendly owner who told me that she and her sister made them, using moulds and then sewing many of the dresses themselves. Despite the plethora of shops selling puppets in Prague, these particularly spoke to me and I started to collect them. 

There are indeed many, many shops and stalls selling puppets across the whole of the Czech Republic, since the tradition of marionettes here goes back a very long way indeed.  There are museums devoted to the history of touring puppet companies and to the makers of marionettes. The National Collection is actually based in our closest small town, Prachatice, and there are still travelling companies performing in towns and villages, especially at this time of year.

So what better theme for the Christmas window display then to show off some of my puppets?  And to showcase them what could be more fitting than the extraordinary theatre that my daughter-in-law Laura, and son Adam created for my granddaughter's first birthday 18 years ago?  There was of course also a performance - Butterfly still has the script she wrote for the play she and Adam performed.    

The theatre has been in storage for much of this time but came over, together with the somewhat indignant puppets.... 

....when I finally moved to the Czech Republic last December. Unfortunately the whole theatre does not fit in the window, and sadly I have no photos of its original incarnation.   It was based on a folding bookshelf and designed so that two puppeteers could stand inside without being seen - highly ingenious.  

The opulent curtains and scenery were painted by Laura, whose miniature work already features in Small Worlds, and it is the upper part of the theatre that we have been able to use in the window.

Despite the main material being just cardboard it has all survived quite well and maybe one day we will be able to stage a full performance using the whole theatre.

However, for the moment we have a simple staging to offer you - not helped by the museum windows no longer being divided into two thirds/one third, but straight down the middle, which impacts on any central display but this time there was really no other way of setting it up. 

The construction was decidedly tricky - Butterfly positioned everything on the floor of Small Worlds and rigged the puppets... 

....only to find that when putting it into the window, space constraints were interfering with the original plan.   She had to rethink and spent hours rejigging several times before all was well.

But finally the curtain went up and on stage we have the iconic czech character Krakonoš....

Can anyone solve the sausage mystery?
....the spirit or ruler of the mountains, being tempted by the ever-to-be-feared old woman bearing a shiny red apple, that we find in many a fairy tale. 

A lone dragon is flying worriedly across upstage, perhaps wondering if he is in the wrong play.

The scene is completed by some very chatty fungi and a somewhat tipsy hedgehog.

Waiting in the wings alongside the theatre are all manner of characters, ready to come on stage and play their parts, according to whatever your imagination desires.... 

Inside Small Worlds, ready to give a theatrical, seasonal touch to the exhibition on the day of the Advent Market, when we are open to the public, is the little theatre you met in the Christmas blogpost "Curtain Up" in 2019.  

Like then, The Nutcracker is on stage, ready to delight you, with the waiting dancers perched in the adjacent Christmas tree - clearly a handy tree can help with your warm-up routines!  

And one of my most admired puppets (maybe because she reminds me of my very fashionable mother) is sitting comfortably, ready to enjoy the show, just like that little girl so long, long ago.....

She - and you - can even enjoy it with music and movement, courtesy of Butterfly to whom many thanks for all the help - well, all the work actually!

For those who are wondering, the title of this post comes from a favourite film clip....

.....which reminds us that though puppets may have wooden hearts, they can still speak to us across the years! 

With all good wishes for a peaceful festive season. See you next year!