Sunday 26 May 2013

The best-laid schemes......

...o' mice an' men, as the Burns quote has it, gang aft agley....

Well, my plans have ganged agley this week, and hence those of the Maximilian Mouse Troupe too, since without me their saga cannot continue to unfold at the moment.   You will remember that the piggies have been left in a very uncomfortable situation..... 

As I write this, I should have been belting along the Autobahn from Bonn to Bavorov but sadly I am stuck in the UK till next Thursday (I hope not beyond that) waiting for a small medical investigation.   In one way it's nice to have gained some unexpected days with nothing planned, and time for the grandchildren, but it's also very frustrating when the official opening of Small Worlds is looming and there are still things to be done.

(Cue digression:  Good heavens, I googled "Images for Bavorov" and what did I find included but some photos of chaos in Small Worlds?   I can think of better photos to attract people to us!)

However there is no help for the enforced delay and so I am passing the time by sorting books (yet again!) and writing this and some magazine articles.   From the October issue I shall be having a small column in DollsHouse and Miniature Scene, telling the same story as in this blog.   My sister-in-law with the skilful sewing fingers, Mette Breminer, already writes for the same magazine, and the September issue will carry a short article about her visit to Small Worlds last month.

The other article I have promised to write is for the on-line magazine of the website Dolls Houses Past and Present - a wonderful resource for collectors and anyone just interested in dollshouses and miniatures.   Well worth trawling.....

In the comments to my last post, Andrea of the fertile imagination, and Noreen, ganged up on me with yet another suggestion of what I might make next - I quote:  How about a tiny museum, filled with people looking at tinier dolls' houses?........Love Andrea's idea of a miniature museum, but wondered if the visitors there might be mice looking at houses with human inhabitants.........OH! Noreen - I love that idea. The watched becoming the watchers...

I don't know how tiny they think my fingers are! I commented that I had already made one teeny, tiny dollshouse, including furniture, and that was quite enough, thank you very much......

Seriously though, I do love it when people make suggestions.   The problem is that in the field of miniatures I am completely unable to resist taking up the challenge, however impossible it may watch this space!   But not just yet I think, there is still much to do in Small Worlds before that.

I think we have solved the problem of lighting some of the dollshouses, something which the Open Day
made clear we needed to think about more carefully - more on that when I am back in Bavorov.   I am also taking back with me some acetate sheet which we think will work well to cover those houses which are a bit too accessible to tiny fingers.   Although I have to say we were deeply impressed with how well Czech children behave, looking but not touching.   I am very much looking forward to preparing the Children's Corner as soon as I get back, where they will be able to touch to their hearts' content.

A picture-light post this time but normal service will, I hope, be resumed next week - I'm off to the airport now to collect Butterfly who has been doing her other job in Norway for 3 days.   I can imagine she will head straight upstairs to start crafting as soon as she gets back - her fingers must be twitching!

Thank you for following me on this journey - do please keep the suggestions coming.  I do very much enjoy your comments.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Where has the week gone?

Living in two countries has both good and bad points.   The good are fairly obvious - exposure to two different cultures, the joy and blessing of good friends in both, the delight of learning another language - "possessing a second soul" as the German saying has it. In fact the feeling of being privileged to live two lives within the boundary of one span of years (in my case 71 of them, and sometimes I really feel it, though mostly not I'm pleased to say).

But on the minus side, the shift from one country to the other can be very confusing, particularly if it happens at speed.   That's why I prefer to drive to and fro so that there is space between the two lives.   And I am very fortunate in having the benefit of an "airlock" in the form of the home of one of my very closest and oldest friends who serendiptiously  lives pretty well half way between the Czech Republic and England. She and her husband are amazingly willing to repeatedly allow me (and mine) into the airlock to take a deep breath and move into the other mode.  She has my deep and grateful thanks.

All this is leading up to explaining why I have not yet got round to reporting back on the very first opening of Small Worlds to the public, for which so many of you sent good wishes a couple of weeks ago.   The very evening of the day we opened Butterfly and I headed back towards the UK, spent two nights in our airlock, and arrived back in England last Tuesday night.   Since then I have been trying to fit in many things like doctors' appointments, buying stuff for Small Worlds, preparing for a singing workshop to be led by Andrea (known to readers as a frequent and imaginative comment-leaver on this blog-she's mainly responsible for the mouse saga), and getting my head round the idea that the next time I return, at the beginning of September, it will be to finally pack up our house of forty years and move on.   To as yet pastures unknown.....

So the Open Day faded into the background, though Butterfly and I talked quite a lot about it on the journey.   Because we quite simply had a ball!   

Things start early in the Czech Republic so we were in Small Worlds by a quarter to eight, closely followed by our stalwart friend Jana who has been a tower of strength throughout this entire process.

By about half past eight the first swathe of people had been through, coming across from the Farmers' Market opposite.   One thing we discovered is that we will need an umbrella stand.......

People did strangely seem to come in swathes.   One moment the room would be completely empty and then, quite suddenly, full to bursting.

Particularly pleasing was the fact that some people came, disappeared, and reappeared with other members of their families.

Foolishly, we didn't keep any sort of accurate count but a full room was around 15-20 people and the room certainly filled and emptied at least six times during the four hours we were open, and probably more.

Some came just to see what new thing had appeared in Bavorov but we were delighted at the real level of interest and pleasure that people showed.   Lots of questions, photos taken, and interest in the idea that we would be offering workshops next year......

The big Walmer dolls house, which has pride of place by itself at one end of the room, was a great hit, with people having to take turns to view it properly.

But the undoubted star, for adults and children alike, was the mouse house, which now sits proudly on a smart wooden turntable.   Despite the notices around the room asking people not to touch anything, the mouse house is labelled "You may carefully turn this".   Maximilian and his troupe of amazing performing mice are, of course, much enjoying the attention....

I suspect there will be more Maximilian adventures to come.....

We unveiled our new window display the night before the opening but sadly forgot to take any photos of it.   We finally remembered just as we were leaving for England on the Saturday evening and by then the light was by no means ideal.   Although I should love to post photos of it they are simply not good enough - mostly what you see is Butterfly with the camera, reflected in the window, and a another reflection of our car parked outside ready for the journey.  I promise to take better ones when I return to Small Worlds in just over a week's time and post them then.

In the meantime thank you for continuing to follow me on this particular journey and I do look forward to your comments.   It's so lovely to hear that people are enjoying the blog.

Saturday 11 May 2013

Thank you Butterfly.....

On the eve of the day that we open Small Worlds to the general public for the first time, and our immediate departure for England tomorrow evening, me for ten days and Butterfly for at least 3 months, maybe longer, it seems fitting that I will be directing you to her website, Words and Pictures, for an overview of some of what she has been doing in the past nine weeks.   Without her I would have achieved very little and I owe her huge thanks for her creativity, ability to think outside the box and her staying power!  I shall miss her enormously.  (For those who don't know - she's my daughter.....)

But before I give you the link, first of all a quick mouse update - when we left them they were about to move in, and those pesky pigs were hanging on to the tailgate of the wagon for dear life.  They've now reached the front door and are clearly considering their options.   Maybe they are about to burst into a Christmas Carol?  

Actually, bursting into song might gain them admittance - 

because if you take a peek inside the house then you can see two groups of singers in rehearsal.   Maximilian himself is conducting the teenage boys whose voices have broken...

and in the next room Nameless Mouse is tasked with whipping the younger mice into shape.  Butterfly was moved to wonder about the sound-proofing between the two rooms...... 

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the house, all is calm, all is bright.   

The servants are bustling around in  the kitchen,

most of the children are waiting for their tea, 

and the babies are amusing themselves upstairs.

And what of the pigs?   Well at least someone has answered the door .......

I seem to have spent much of the past few days fiddling with teeny tiny things - what the Czechs describe as piplačka, a lovely word. 

  For example there are the flowers I have been assembling from the Britains Floral Kits that have been lurking in boxes for many years. Purists should look away now because I confess I have been misusing them and turning lupins and delphiniums into wisteria, and sticking things in vases rather than in flower beds.   

Some of the flower heads are truly tiny as you can see from the tulip head next to the point of a toothpick. 

So when I drop them on the browny-red floor you can imagine that the language is not of the sweetest......

The flowers will feature in the new window we shall reveal tomorrow when we open.  As will something else very piplačky - the model that I started to build about 20 years ago and which Butterfly and I finished earlier today 
                                                                                                                      Imagine our horror when we discovered that we were expected to glue the bonnet down over all that painstaking wiring I assembled so long ago.  We decided to disobey the instructions and leave the car with a removeable bonnet so that in due course a chauffeur can bend over the engine and do some running repairs....

And now prepare to be amazed as you head over to Butterfly, for a look at what she has achieved in the past nine weeks. This post is dedicated to her with my heartfelt thanks and admiration for what she has done - take a look!

Thank you for staying with us on this journey.  It's not over yet so I hope that you will come back for many more blog posts.

Monday 6 May 2013

Mice on the move - houses too.

Much action in Small Worlds in the past two days.   The mice, having sent in an advance party to choose the soft furnishings for their new home, have arrived in full force to take up residence.   And the houses have all been on the move as well.

First the mice - you may remember this house 
which stripped down to a tasteful brown, revealing the teeny, tiny front door, much smaller than any of the windows.   It has now undergone a complete makeover, which you can catch glimpses of in photos later in the post, though according to Butterfly it still needs another strip of differently coloured bricks part way up to finish it off.   (She painstakingly made a bay window since we were one window short.  There was some swearing when a fifth matching window emerged from a box this afternoon......) 

Once the advance party - clearly consisting of the staff since they are all in some sort of uniform, had chosen the curtains, carpets and bedding, it was time for the main party to arrive, which they did in style, and in something of a rush, as you can see.

They pulled up smartly, right by the new front door (and hiding the bay window - photo to come) and got ready to take possession of their new home.

Inside the servants had been very busy, putting up curtains and blinds and laying down rugs on the newly polished floors.  

I suspect that the two lounging on the sofa in the French Drawing Room are troublesome teenage mice that Maximilian had not wanted to be bothered with on the journey.

Maximilian is of course a very famous mouse, who after retiring from a career in the bull-fighting ring, formed the troupe of performing mice who are about to take up residence here.   You will note he now wears a yellow tailcoat, not a red dressing gown.....

You will undoubtedly be hearing more of this famous troupe of performing mouses - for example, there may be trouble ahead if the hitchhiking pigs, clearly on the run from that pesky wolf, actually succeed in moving in.....

Whilst mouse-moving was going on, Butterfly and I were moving things in the real world, shifting out of workspace mode into a display set-up ready for the Open Day on Saturday.   This, of course, involved a great deal of chaos again, as things from our beautiful working shelves were bundled into fruit boxes whilst we tried to squeeze a quart of tools and paint into a pint pot of space.  Or temporarily into what will become the Children's Corner.....
That was yesterday.

Today the houses, the drawers they were standing on and, in the end, one of the giant ex-BBC cupboards, were all on the move.   Butterfly excelled herself with much "heaving and hoving" as my then-four-year-old granddaughter once described it.   At one point the previously tidy room had barely one house in its original position and surplus drawers all over the place.

But by the end of an exhausting day, everything had found a suitable place

and the big Walmer Victorian dolls house - its redecoration will be fully described in a coming post - has taken up its position by the entrance door, with the large department store-to-be surprisingly ending up in front of the door to the "facilities", as the Czechs neatly describe them.   Fortunately the store is on castors.....Photos of these when everything is tidily in place.

And finally the frog-infested woodland window display has been removed, and the window covered ready for a grand reveal of the new display later in the week.   One of my readers will certainly recognise the house on the poster!

Thank you for following the journey so far - please stay with me for further adventures.......