Wednesday 30 January 2013

Hickory Dickory - or Time Travel - A Mouse's Eyeview

Well now - I had had not the slightest intention of posting again before mid-February, but butterfly is once again responsible for triggering a post from me.

She hurtled downstairs yesterday waving a tag and saying "Phew, just made it, remembered I promised to enter the House of Bears challenge this month and I had made nothing!"   She then posted her entry to the Time Travel Challenge and left me thinking "But I wanted to enter last month's and had nothing to do it with.  How about this one?"

So I spent most of the day thinking on and off about The Time Traveller's Wife, the book the challenge is based on, and the fact that I haven't read it, so that wasn't really much use.   But surely there must be something I could do?   (Remember most of the dolls house stuff is now safely in the Czech Republic and I am still in England, surrounded by the chaos of packing boxes).

Still nothing came to mind.   Then, for something else I was writing, I serendiptiously found myself refreshing my memories of the fabulous Caroline Hamilton, founder of the Kensington Dollshouse Festival and read this about her on the Discussion Forum of the Dolls House Emporium:  "One of the dolls house magazines had a couple of articles on her and she had a 40s house I would love to see more of and a clever mouse house - the frontage was a piece of skirting board and wall with a hole in it and the rooms behind."

For the rest of the day the words "mouse" and "time" were rolling around in my head.   I'm ashamed to say that it took several hours for the connection between them to be made....

However finally it clicked and I rushed upstairs yelling to butterfly that I needed a mouse.   It didn't need to be a live one, and where oh where were the little furry stuffed ones I was given as a child?   Long, long gone I fear.   However we both thought there must be some mice somewhere in the house and yes indeed there were.   And not just any old mice but a beautifully dressed husband and wife, both sitting meekly in a forest scene which hasn't yet been packed up to go to the Czech Republic.   More serendipity......

And there is a very fine clock downstairs.   Slight panic when the glass front wouldn't open, and more panic when butterfly managed to open it and then it wouldn't close again.   But in the end it all worked out.

Mr Mouse has clearly always longed to travel and how better for a mouse to do it than to follow the words of the old nursery rhyme and run up the clock?   And what can his wife do but what females have always done?   Sit and wait........

Hickory dickory dock
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one
The mouse ran down
Hickory dickory dock

"Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?"
From The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger

I'm offering up this cheekily simple take on time travel in the House of Bears Challenge which ends on January 31st - go on blog-followers, have a go - you've still got time.   

Oops, need to go and consult butterfly now on how to enter a challenge - this is my very first one!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

To 's or not to 's......

A short (and almost picture-free) post today, brought on mainly by a feeling of guilt that if I don't write one now, there will be no post in January at all.   The weeks are whizzing past and we continue to clear our house ready for sale - a sale which had been due to complete at the end of February and which sadly fell through last night.

So everything is up in the air again but one thing is certain and that is that we (butterfly and I) have a duty to head to the Czech Republic the first week in March or there is little hope of the museum being ready to open around the beginning of June.   Followers of my journey to a museum of my own will remember that there is much work to be done on many dolls houses......   Not to mention all the shelves that have to be put up in the museum and all the sorting of tiny objects that has to happen so that they can be found easily when needed during the restoration process.

A chance remark by butterfly, who was blogging about my birthday present earlier this evening, reminded me of the vexed question of what these things that I collect are called.   Or rather how does one correctly write down what they are called?

In the Georgian period (1714-1830) in England these miniature buildings were not known as dolls houses at all - the common name for them then was "baby houses".   (I have never been quite sure whether that referred to the small people who played with them, or the fact that they were not full-grown houses.)   

There was a snide comment by the politician Horace Walpole in 1750 that Frederick, the then Prince of Wales, was busy "building baby houses at Kew" (rather than attending to his courtly duties I imagine).   The Prince had apparently been infected with the baby house bug by a visit to the Dowager Duchess of Brunswick who was trying to reproduce the court in miniature.

Actually I am a bit dubious about this piece of information - if it is true then there were two members of the nobility in Germany producing their courts in miniature.   I can find no other information on the Dowager Duchess of Brunswick doing any such thing but I do know that about fifty years earlier the Princess Augusta Dorothea of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt, having been widowed early, decided to devote her energies - and those of her servants and courtiers - to producing a miniature town.   You can take a tour of it here. The website is in German so click on "Rundgang" and find your way round her amazing creation.   Apparently by the time she finished the project she had run out of money and was deep in debt - and had presumably tried her courtiers' patience to the utmost.

Royal links to dolls houses are not infrequent.   Princess Victoria's dolls house can still be seen at Kensington Palace; the little Princess Anne, (1665-1714) sister of the Mary who reigned jointly with her husband William of Orange just before her, had a beautiful house.   It's particularly charming because it illustrates clearly that houses were intended as teaching tools for little girls.   The Princess kept careful lists of all the linen in the house, she named and labelled all the servants, she counted all the table silver and crockery and all these lists still exist.   

 And of course there is the fabulous house of Queen Mary which can be seen in all its glory at Windsor Castle.   That house deserves a whole blog post to itself but in fact it is not my favourite of her houses.   That one lives in the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood.

It's a villa made of inlaid wood and reminds me in many ways of the full-size house we are currently trying to sell.... 

It's very easy to infect people with the dolls house bug and maybe that is what happened to me.   When I was a little girl I was taken for walks in Kew Gardens every day.   Queen Mary loved to stroll in the Bluebell Wood there and as the story runs in my family, she stopped to talk to me one day when I was about four.....I blame her entirely for this journey I am now on!

I seem to have digressed a very long way from what I had intended to write about - the title of the post gives you a clue.   Are these small buildings dolls' houses, doll's houses, dolls houses or dollshouses?   Our American friends have solved it - almost - by calling them doll houses.   Or dollhouses.......

A precisian (yes it does exist, butterfly has just convinced me) would probably make an argument for dolls' house with the apostrophe firmly indicating many dolls, their house.  But why should it not be one doll and her house thus placing the apostrophe before the "s"?   Who knows?   
All I know is that it is no use going to the magazines and books on the subject.  If you have enough patience to trawl through these images you will eventually find them all represented......

Followers of this blog - and it's lovely to know so many people are reading it - will have noticed that I have opted for dolls houses.  Probably grammatically incorrect but I am sticking to it.   At least it is easier than the Czech - domečky pro panenky - which does not exactly trip off the tongue.   We are still struggling to find a name for the museum which works in both languages and also indicates that it will be a work in progress, so that visitors will not expect a perfect end-product when they visit.   They will be able to see how we set about restoring a house and furniture, and maybe even join in sometimes.

At the moment a Czech version of the blog is in preparation.   I am interested to see how my valiant translator friend Heli will cope with the challenge of the paragraph on the apostrophe - it's unknown in Czech.....

This "short" post seems to have grown entirely by itself - I hope some of you are still with me and I look forward to seeing you again fairly soon, though there may well only be one post in February, just like January!   Thank you for following.....