Sunday, 7 June 2020

Brave new world?

It's a very long time since I have sat down at my laptop to write a blogpost and in that time not only has the world changed around us, but blogger has created a whole new set up to struggle through just to make our lives even more difficult when trying to write a post.

At the moment I am marooned in the United Kingdom where I find myself disbelieving everything that our political leaders are spouting, and looking with envy at the steady progress that the Czech Republic has made towards emerging safely from this terrifying pandemic.   I have been particularly moved by the Czech video shared, what now seems like months ago, with the world.

Sadly, the much vaunted (by our Prime Minister) "great British common sense" has not opted to go down this route, until now, far too late of course, like everything that has been done here.

Be that as it may, it seems unlikely that I will find myself in the comforting surroundings of my own small world in the near future.  I hope to arrange for the museum to open, in the care of my young helper Pavla, in early July when the Czech summer holidays begin - watch this website for further information.

In the meantime, I was acutely aware that the Small Worlds' window still displayed Christmas scenes so I was delighted when friends from Prague asked if they could borrow my house for the weekend.  "The Hedgehogs" as they are fondly known to us (a translation of their surname) are very familiar with Small Worlds.

Jana is responsible for translating all of the information labels on the houses...

..... and Ondrej's height, and skill with DIY tools, has been of great help on many occasions. 

So I had no hesitation in asking them to remove Christmas from the window and to replace it with something a bit more suitable.  Since I had to guide them from afar in this enterprise, it needed to be a relatively simple change so all of my more elaborate plans are hanging fire for the moment.  Who knows when they can be carried out?

At first I thought I would ask them to move Colin Rose's beautiful Czech house into the window, and to spread some farm animals around it...
...but then I realised it would be a shame to take it out of the display and also that this would be quite similar to last summer's window.  (I see I had considered Colin's house for the window that time too - one day Colin!)

It was a matter of finding some houses that would not disrupt any of the current display, nor require them to hunt in The Stables, the workrooms which I had abandoned in a state of chaos when I left in something of a hurry last October, following my mini-heart attack.

I remembered that I had, almost casually, collected over the past few years three houses made by the British maker Gee Bee (in my head I always call the trio the Bee Gees - a nice excuse for an appropriate song for the times!)

Rebecca Green, the editor of the Dolls Houses Past and Present magazine which can be found on the newly recreated DHPP website has written a very comprehensive article on this manufacturer which is well worth delving into for dolls house enthusiasts. Very comprehensive!

I can't say that I am particularly smitten by this maker. One of the two "The Beeches" was part of the Essex haul. I already had one version of The Beeches stored in my garage which someone probably offered to me - I never look a gift house in the mouth (sorry, bad joke).

The third one, totally different in that it is what I think of as 1960s chalet-style, I remember buying on ebay during one of my sporadic searches for my long lost childhood dolls house, which sadly remains unfound.....

I played my normal ebay game with it when it is something too large to post:  "If it is within close driving distance I will bid on it".  This was in Ware, just up the A10 from us so I had no excuse, did I?

All three houses were now right at the top of the shelves in the museum so nothing had to be rearranged.  However I decided against putting both Beeches in the window..... 

......and opted instead for the Ikea kitchen which sits tucked in a corner and is usually overlooked by visitors.

I call it the Ikea kitchen because it is housed in a container from Ikea which is intended for cactus cultivation.  However these little glasshouses make perfect room boxes for collectors. Sadly Ikea not longer makes them (the new one is not nearly as useful to us, though if you search online you can see people have used them thus) but the old ones are around at car boot sales and well worth keeping an eye out for.

old style
new style
The kitchen in the box is, apart from the cooker and dresser, mainly one of those wooden kits that you press out. Very basic but quite pleasing when carefully surrounded by interesting accessories 

 I left the window arrangement to the Hedgehogs and, after having to paint some more sky backdrop, this is what they came up with.  All the photos were taken after things were in position, hence some unwanted reflections, but I am very happy with the new display and much relieved that Christmas has departed for yet another year!

Thank you Jana and Ondrej.....I hope I can see it soon in real life!

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Curtain Up!

They say that Christmas is a time to revisit one's childhood and I think it is never too late to do just that - to try to recapture that magical feeling as you hear someone creeping in to fill your stocking, or when you catch your first sight of the giant tree sparkling with lametta, and glowing with candles, and realise that there are large packages waiting just for you....

Maybe even a dolls house? 
Cestina aged 4
Even 102 is not too late to relive some of the fun of Christmas! My friend Rose remembers sticking paper chains with flour and water, and remembers too that they fell down as soon as the room got warm and the "glue" dried out!  Less falling down for this modern version...

And we haven't just been making paper chains in this run up to Christmas.   Whilst burrowing under Rose's stairs recently I found the Usborne theatre that I had given her a couple of years ago which for some reason or other we had never got around to putting together.   I had completely forgotten its existence.

With last week's blogpost entitled "That's Entertainment", and with a follow-up post due this Saturday, there seemed no better time to construct it than now.

After all, as we know from the very first adult film I was ever taken to see, aged 8 - Annie Get Your Gun -"There's no Business like Show Business!"

(My first crush came then too - on Howard Keel singing "My defences are down").

The Usborne theatre was a delight to put together, as easy as the house..... 
....we made a few years ago, and we are now ready to perform both The Nutcracker Suite and even A Midsummer Night's Dream to anyone willing to come and sit through them....

Back to Bavorov now for Curtain Up in the "big" theatre in the window.

I have discovered that old Advent calendars make useful theatre backdrops and they fit very well in the transformed charity shop puppet theatre.  

When I first thought of this project I planned to use an Edwardian street scene Advent calendar as the backdrop...
...and rapidly gathered together as many props as I could find to add to the illusion.  
But for some reason that I cannot now remember I went off the idea and settled on a German Christmas market instead. 

(My change of heart probably had something to do with the availability of suitably clad dolls for the street scene since sewing costumes is not something that I can do...)

Once again my trusty carolling dolls were called into action - I think they have appeared in every Christmas blog I have written since 2012, including their starring role in the Winter Songfeast post of 2015.

There was some jockeying for position... 

but the whole scene came together very rapidly... 

....and the big reveal happened, thanks to my friend Jana, (since I am now back in the UK) in Bavorov on the last day of November, just in time for the Advent Farmers' Market.
from this.... this...

Of course no Christmas Market can be complete without accompanying music, preferably brass, so I hope you can take a break from your preparations to enjoy a new discovery for me, the Michel Rondeau Brass Quartet with a delightful selection of carols...

And finally I leave you with all good wishes for a joyous Christmas and a peaceful New Year from Small Worlds
(accompanied by some more seasonal music...)

Friday, 13 December 2019

That's Entertainment...!

"Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat..." as the old rhyme has it. So in early October, before leaving the Czech Republic for winter in the UK, I started to think about a new display window which I could set up in October but which would also be festive enough for the Christmas season.

My thoughts turned to that good old English tradition of pantomime, and from there to theatre, and entertainment in general.   Did I have enough material in my stash to create a world of entertainment without too much difficulty?

A search revealed that yes, indeed I did - I could cover drama, music, dance, puppetry, and that was before I even started hunting properly....

Some of Small Worlds was already set up for Christmas since, I am not quite sure why, I had never got around to removing the traditional Christmas scenes from the Walmer Victorian dollshouse.  You can enjoy them here.  Only the carol singers had returned home during the summer,  and my granddaughter kindly replaced them for me during her October visit.... 

And Santa is back on the roof of  the Bear House which had been a feature of the Christmas window last year, and is now on permanent display in Small Worlds (without last year's seasonal decorations).  You can see it in detail here.

The first thing I put together for the new window display was a puppet show.......

 ..... easily done as I was able to use a Czech cardboard theatre kit which, with the addition of a metal roof (previously used as a railway station) to suspend the puppets from, and a traditional set of Czech puppets, was quickly ready to put in the window. 

The string puppets are all ready to perform and now it's time to show off some glove puppets. This little Punch and Judy booth was made around 30 years ago for a fairground display set up by the Herts Miniaturist group I used to belong to - Punch was made by a fairly young Butterfly.  

Punch and Judy is a strangely violent story traditionally performed to children, often at British seaside resorts.....

Cue digression: recently Butterfly and I went to see the film Judy and Punch, a somewhat unusual take on the tale of Punch and Judy, a true origin story in fact. It has some moments of real horror but we nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed it. A fable for our times....keep an eye out for it. 

After setting up what a baby Butterfly (is that a chrysalis or a caterpillar perhaps?) used to call the Bump-a-Julie show, I found a tiny puppet theatre in my collection, bought last year in a UK charity shop. 
Pinocchio was headless so Butterfly had to create one for him.   Though on further inspection it is probably a Harlequin or Punch rather than a lying Pinocchio. (British political in-joke).

The tiniest puppet theatre I located was in a book called Little Boxes.  It is in matchbox form and size.

From the same book, came the minutest dance scene imaginable.

Cutting out is not one of my skills and there was quite a lot of it involved in some of the models. 

In another paper theatre there is a performance by almost the only complete dancers left from Butterfly's childhood set of Britains ballerinas.  Very sadly the box they were carefully housed in got dropped and the plastic must be incredibly brittle as many limbs just shattered into pieces.   I have them all and if there is a miniaturist out there who has any advice on the best glue to repair them I would love to hear about it.
Some porcelain dancers also joined the troupe and were complemented by a somewhat exotic couple who remind me of characters in the slightly out of place dance scenes found in one of my favourite programmes, the New Year's Day concert from Vienna. 

Two more paper theatres were carefully assembled to join the display.   
The Empire Theatre

The completed Empire
The Queen's Theatre

Queen's Theatre completed

As I said, such work is not my forte and so I called upon my granddaughter for help in painting the scenery for The Empire Theatre.  

Annoyingly once all the scenery is in place and the curtain is down one can't really see into either of the theatres properly to admire her work.

A vintage Petite Princess room provided the perfect venue for the slightly quirky quartet of ceramic musicians that I could not resist acquiring from a charity shop in the UK last year.  Just as I was preparing to display them I realised that the double bass player had mislaid his instrument.   A miniature cello from the stash proved too large so a somewhat rough wooden guitar was hastily painted with stone paint to match the rest of the group so that he could join in the fun.  

More music takes the stage as an homage to my son who is the drummer in Allergy, a popular band playing mainly in Hertfordshire and the south-east.   

The drummer's seat required a little work to match the drum kit but an old photo container, half a hair curler and some glossy purple nail varnish did the trick.  Granddaughter again....

No display of the theatrical world could be complete without a nod to Shakespeare, particularly in view of Butterfly's other life. So the versatile Colin was once again in demand, constructing the tiniest Globe theatre you can imagine at very high speed - a change from Ollie the Osprey!  It sits on a board about two inches square (5cm)and is taken from the book Paper London, given to me by Lynda.

Last, but by no means least, the "big" theatre - and compared to much of the rest in the window it really is big - about 46cm (18ins) wide. It has appeared in Small Worlds before when I described restyling yet another charity shop find.   

As usual, the window is set up with one corner reserved for a "reveal" much closer to Christmas.   So all there is to be seen for now is a theatre with the curtains firmly closed although there are probably rehearsals going on behind the scenes.  

Opening night will be on Saturday 21st December, just in time for Christmas, so I hope you will come back then to enjoy curtain up!

Just a quick look at the window display itself with once again apologies for the through-the-glass photos

Nice view of my car!

And finally, to help you through your last seasonal preparations, we must not forget that most accessible of all forms of entertainment, the cinema!

See you again soon........