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!


  1. Having seen it "in the flesh", I can bear testament to the precision, detail and perfection of Colin's building of this fantastic miner's cottage. And you know how much I love process photos, so it's brilliant to see these. Very much looking forward to your process photos for part two - because I know how truly fabulous those results are too!

    1. Oh, and you never told me the sash windows worked!

    2. Well of course they do! As do the roof windows....

      I expect we could light a fire in the range if we really tried!

  2. Thank you for this fascinating description of a work in progress - Colin is clearly very talented, and possessed of infinite patience. I'm already looking forward to part two of the process. I'm sure when all the furnishing etc is complete, the house will be a very welcome addition to Small Worlds. Loved the choice of name, though I wouldn't have got its significance without your explanation, which just shows how slow on the uptake I am!!!

    1. It is indeed a very welcome addition Susan - I am a bit behind with blogging it and it has not only been on display in another local museum during July and August but has now taken pride of place in Small Worlds itself as you shall see very soon (left hand fingers permitting!)

  3. Thanks for this end-of-summer update , Cestina! Your passion and remarkable skillset is clearly seen in your work. May your knees and left hand treat you well, I’ll be lifting them up in prayer. Be Well, Blessings, Bryan

  4. What a talented man he is. Cannot wait to see the finished house. Hope your aches and pain ease x

  5. Isn't he just Siani? I am so lucky that he is willing, and very well able, to tackle tricky challenges! Small Worlds could not exist without the many people who share their skills so freely.

  6. Oooh - I'm so excited to see the finished Beamish house - I loved my whole Beamish experience last year. Yes, a truly talented builder of miniature houses came to the rescue, for sure. This looks a very complicated piece of construction!
    Sorry to hear about your left hand - my right one decided to do the same nearly a decade ago and it has taken me all this time to retrain myself to be a lefty. Even now, I see my little house people trying to lean out of my way when I invade their space as they have been knocked off chairs, had the contents of their teapots spilled across their laps and even had entire wardrobes dropped on their heads.
    Lovely to see you back to blogging and looking forward to part two of this post.
    Jenni x

  7. I have already started on Part Two Jenni!

    Sorry to hear about your right hand - at least I haven't had to do a complete retraining but it was certainly my left-hand that moved things in and out of houses. I can empathise with your poor little dolls house people - mine are suffering in much the same way!

    I hope you will tell us more of Flora and Edith soon....

  8. That miners' cottage is going to be lovely! Sorry to hear about your hand - have you had a tiny stroke? I know my father was diagnosed as having had one when he suddenly lost all feeling in one of his hands. Worth getting checked out when you are back in the UK! I know you have some visitors coming very soon - enjoy their stay, and we are very envious!