Sunday, 22 September 2019

Heigh Ho!

Once again I have been fairly silent during the summer in the Czech Republic, not because nothing has been happening in Small Worlds, but rather because quite a lot has and I have been battling bits of my body to let me get on and enjoy it!

The main problem, apart from arthritic knees, has been in my left hand which seems to have lost the ability to feel things properly. This not only makes moving the tiny items in Small Worlds difficult - I had no idea how much I use my left hand to take things in and out of houses, let alone when doing a lot of the fiddly work (piplačka in Czech) - but it has had a terrible effect on my typing, mainly by inserting the letter "g" all over the place in an irritatingly random manner.

However, since the time for me to return to the UK is rapidly approaching, I thought I should try to tackle at least the first of the two posts I mentioned in my last blogpost about Rose's 102nd birthday present (she loved it by the way)

So here goes.....

In the spring of 2016 I had a phone call from a friend in England, Pat Klijn, the creator of the lovely collage cards I sell on her behalf in Small Worlds and elsewhere...
....and co-author of two books about about her locality... 

 say that a friend of hers had rung to ask whether she was interested in the component parts of a dolls house.  (Pat has a small collection herself.)

She wasn't, but rang me to see if I might be. It turned out that the parts could be built into a scale model of one of the Francis Street miners' cottages featured in the Beamish Open Air museum. Her friend's mother had visited Beamish and fallen in love with the cottages; she had commissioned someone to draw up plans and make one.  However she had sadly died before the project had got any further than the wood being cut out and the pieces had lain in her loft for some time.

I went to take a look and was very certain I did not want to tackle the construction - I am more than happy to take on exterior and interior decoration - see the Dutch House for example - but I have no interest in woodwork per se. 

But I do know a man who does!   I lost no time in contacting Colin Rose, he of the osprey construction, and creator of the South Bohemian farmhouse (both visible in the first post this summer) to see if he might be interested.  And he was!

He lives in Huddersfield and I in Hertfordshire so we had to arrange a transfer - we met in the Old White Hart in Lyddington , a pub I can highly recommend. 

I wrote to Pat on 2nd May 2016 and sent her the first photo: 
" I met with Colin last week halfway between here and Huddersfield and we
exchanged the cottage for my car seat.   As you can see, he has already started on it. And there is much emailing to and fro about windows and stairs and how the hell he constructs the whole thing so that one can see inside sensibly!

I will keep you posted and you can pass it on to your friend."

The rest of this post consists mostly of snippets of emails and the photos that Colin sent me during the construction process - I just hope I can get them in the right order!  The first photos arrived pretty soon after the transfer.....
14.6.16 Series of photos of test run

Then there was a gap of several months before the next photos appeared. There had, however, been a fair amount of emailing between us about sourcing doors, windows, a staircase and various other things.   But in the end Colin decided to construct everything himself, including the working sash windows....

15.2.17 Something stirring

16.2.17 front door

16.2.17 Accurate to the nearest scrape

17.2.17 back wall

17.2.17  Colin: I am trying to make it FLAT PACK. So it will be easier to decorate inside



Colin: Got the staircase in, could put a door at the top of stair head, that was the arrangement in my mining cottage in Wheatley hill. Or a door at bottom which is  also quite common, but in the photo I have of Francis St. it is open at bottom with a newel post, that would be something I would like about 9cm.

Colin built the Phoenix  Models Kitchener range which I have owned for many years
21.2.17 front measuring up for roof

22.02.17 Colin: This is all the parts so far in its flat pack form. Back wall is under the roof. chimney pots, downpipes, dormer window, opening roof light, gutters,roof slates will come. At moment need some very fine drill bits to fix hinges on the internal doors.
You have newel posts and I can make up a banister.

25.2.17 Colin: This is the start of making roof slates. I need to leave it for 8 hours to dry,  As yet not thick enough.

26.2.17  Colin: The bottom rows are finished, coming out a little darker than I had intended, but OK

8.3.17 Colin:This is the front with the plastic in but without the fixings which will be a little bit of engineering work. So nearly done.
We are going to Beamish on Friday for two nights and all your heartfelt messages have been taken in.   (Gil: the Beamish visit resulted in about 200 photos from which I could work on the interior)

8.3.17 Colin: No problem, but need to recoup my energies. Just making the fittings to hold the plastic front on, drilled hole lengthwise through rod and cut it into small pieces, tomorrow will buy a tap to cut a thread in it for the little thumb screws which will hold the plastic on. The little bits of rod go into holes and are glued in.

14.3.17 Rear Wall

17.6.17.Colin: Was really struggling with the dormer yesterday. The existing stuff was from a kit and wrong scale and wrong pitch roof and in attempting to modify it wasted a lot of time. So clean sheet and came up with this, blurry photo warning, We will need smaller window but it all looks in scale now. 

And that was the last I heard until the completed house (not in flat pack format!) arrived in my workrooms in Bavorov.   I am not sure if that was in 2017 but I rather think it did not appear until 2018.

Either way, it sat in a corner of the first workroom whilst I tried various items of furniture in it without any very clear idea of getting down to tackling the interior properly - no rush I thought.  I could not have been more wrong and you can learn all about that in part 2 of Heigh Ho!, coming shortly.

By the way, why Heigh Ho! as the title? Well two reasons - first of all I cannot think of mining without tghe (look, gthere are some stray "g's" appearing - I tgook all tghe others out) earworm of the song of the mining dwarfs in Disney's Snow White, and secondly because, on a despairing note and pronounced a little differently, it's been frequently on my lips this summer when contemplating the political mess in which the UK now finds itself....!

In other news, Small Worlds was delighted to once again receive a visit from a group of students from several different countries who were based for a week at the local school...
I have never been surrounded by so many nationalities at once!

They wrote lovely things in our guest book, each in their own language, which they in turn read out to me and then translated....

They were, in no particular order, from Georgia, India, Russia, Jordan, Turkey and China.

I look forward to seeing you all again soon for part two of the saga of the Francis Street miner's cottage.  In the meantime heartfelt thanks, once again, to Colin for his hard work on behalf of Small Worlds.  And thank you to Pat for thinking of me!

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....