Dolls and ideas.

I went to the NEC to visit a show, the Creative Craft show and had such a lovely day.  I got myself on shopping TV, had a go with a new medium and joined in a watercolour painting half hour for free and produced something perfectly fridge-worthy.  I may have become addicted to Lavinia stamps and have done nothing but watch their demos since I got back.

It does you good, a day out.  I had my head filled with new ideas.  It also kick started some doll ideas too, so today I shall get myself sat down dolling.  It needed to be done, I have orders and now ideas.

One of the great aspects of a day out with the like-minded is what happens when you put hundreds of creative people in the same space, the air almost crackles with invention.  Vast numbers of visitors were middle aged ladies, like me.  There were one or two very patient husbands in tow, carrying bags.  I had taken the smallest suitcase on wheels, which doesn’t have to be talked to or in any way interrupt the flow of ideas to the grey matter, which is a very good thing.

I spent the next couple of days writing because I had chapters knocking inside my head, desperate to get out but now they are safely on paper, it’s me for the glue and the draping medium and the watercolour stuff and the glorious mess.

I am so glad to be in the space that I am and in my head where I am.  A year ago and only ten months ago, things looked very different.  I am reminded with such joy that the only constant in the universe is change.


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Still writing

Still drawing really.  As the plot develops I find the drawing I did has to alter to keep up with the plot. 

Do you like the kinds of books that have illustrations of the scene?  I do.  I like the maps in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as much as I like the helpful pictures of Wol’s house in the Hundred Aker Wood.  It’s just so handy to know where you are.

On the other hand it is also very nice to imagine characters in books for yourself.  I think most readers probably do this because it is almost impossible to discuss films made of favourite books without someone telling you the actor chosen was completely wrong.  It must be difficult for the actors too, stories abound of the awful struggles of some poor sap who has to lose two stones by next Tuesday week to depict someone who escaped from somewhere with no dins dins for ages.  There are also tales of those who, forced for a crust, to replicate the struggles of elephantine boxers and the like have to eat themselves into a stupor and add a ton by Friday.  I’d be no good at the former but absolutely excel at the latter.  I can put on three pounds by tomorrow with no effort at all.

Constantly changing the scenario of the novel so that what is on the paper has a good resemblance to what is in my head, is, however, quite laborious.  I do this, as you know, in reality, drawing with a pencil on paper and actually cutting out the bits that need alteration with scissors.  I do know what you are maybe going to suggest, that I need to take a course on technical drawing with a computer.  I do.  Currently my struggles on paper, whist leaving plenty to be desired, do at least result in something in existence.  Currently if words disappear, I have saved a backup, but if I did something wrong with the drawing and it all just vanished, or vanished to the last version, I would be distraught.

Also you might be asking why I just don’t get on with the words and let somebody qualified do the illustration, good point. Also E H Shepard, very good point.  The thing is that after a lot of practice I can get the ideas out of my head into yours with much less distortion than you would think.  The more I practise the less bounded I am by the medium.  I fear the introduction of the third party would complicate matters.  I don’t know how films get made at all.  The number of creative minds at work on a job which will finally be unveiled as one entity is terrifying.  How do you get everybody in the same book, let alone on the same page?  I have no idea.  But I am aware of writers who have been terribly upset by the filmic rendition of their work of imagination.

On the whole I think I incline to the ‘one singer, one song’ view of art.  This might be because you just, for example, don’t get art gallery owners wandering around with a paintbrush doing touch-ups.  It might be because of my mother.  She was completely incapable of leaving anything alone.  If you gave her a birthday cake she had to move the candle a millimetre to the left and then say ‘There, that’s better,’ before she could let you light it, by which time you might well be consumed with a strong desire to torch the lot with a flame thrower.  Or you could make her a trouser suit, have her come downstairs glowing, wearing it, go ‘Oh wait a minute’ go back up fetch a brooch, add it and then say, ‘there, now that’s wearable.’  I made her dozens of birthday cards and never put a single one in the right place on the mantelpiece.  I made her earrings, in utterly identical pairs and still inserted them in the wrong ears (and yet never remedied the matter by simply screwing her head round.)

So I think on balance I am very likely to keep on with the cut and paste until I get it where I want it.  What I want is for the stuff on the outside of my head to have a close correspondence with the stuff on the inside of my head, whether words or pictures. Is that what we all want or is that alarming?  I suppose it all depends on what is on the inside of your head.


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Still at it.

I am still writing the Great British Novel, which is why I have not been writing the great local blog.  I have often wondered whether there is so much writing you can do in a day and if, if you just did nothing but write all day, whether you would run out of it like a train running out of track, veering off, unscheduled, into a bank and falling over.

When I say I am still writing, I am lying.  What I am doing yesterday, today and probably tomorrow, is redesigning the cover and artwork to take account of developments in the plot. Last time I wrote a novel, one which was never finished, I began by drawing the scene of the action.  This time I have invented a village, including a museum, a stately home, a pond and a factory.  All these locations have characters interacting with them, so I have to know (for when Steven Spielberg makes the film of it, obviously) how long exactly it takes the character to move around these bits of scenery.  So to begin with, this time last year when, looking back, I was really poorly, I began by drawing the jacket cover of the book with the scene on it.  At the time I couldn’t really type easily but I could, just about, hold a pencil.

It’s incredible really, to think how lucky I am.  This time last year I was having exploratory surgery endlessly postponed because of waiting lists.  I had my strong right arm hanging useless by my side and I had cancer.  Last November the S&H and family arrived to go to an engagement party and left me with the grandson.  The OH naturally absconded to the pub. I remember trying to change a wriggly baby one handed.  I found a photo of the occasion on my computer yesterday while I was looking for something else.  I looked so ill.  Yet here I am a year later, so much better, so different and so keen to get on with the writing I am bounding out of bed each day like a thing on a spring.  Doinggggggg.

I am also redesigning the main location, which is a museum, because the scene in my head is at variance with the drawing.  I am doing actual cut and paste, with scissors and I am finding my powers of drawing seriously challenged.  Which is a good thing but thank goodness for erasers.  At the start I purchased a battery operated eraser, thinking it was a dreadful extravagance and that I was indulging myself because I wasn’t well and feeling sorry for myself.  I was wrong, it has been a necessity and very well used.

So, literally, back to the drawing board.  (Actually a flat A3 light table that has been another necessity.)


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Writing, stuff like that.

Where have I been?  You may well ask.  Since Miniatura, which was lovely but a distant memory I had no idea I was going to get lost in a book quite so readily.

The thing about a book is that it soaks up all your writing like a sponge.  There’s about 68,000 words of it so far, which is nearly a whole small book already and it is very exciting.  I keep telling myself jokes and then laughing.  Many people would have things to say about people who laugh at their own jokes but if I don’t find it funny, no one else will.

I started a writer’s group.  Some months ago I saw a writer’s group advertised and went along but sadly it folded after one session.  This did me a favour because it was quite expensive and in the middle of town so there was parking to figure into the cost too and there were a lot of people, so most got about ten minutes to read their work, which is not much time.

Our group is superior I feel.  As we meet in each other’s homes, it’s free and as there are only two of us we get half the time each, the time being what we feel it should be.

It is strange to read your work out loud.  Very strange.  Because when it’s just you and me you do it in your head and so do I.  It’s practically telepathic.  Reading out loud is scary but helpful.  You can spot the mistakes the minute you say them.  The purpose of the group is to egg each other on because the real writer’s dilemma is not what to write, the general moral dilemma of the world at large, the suitability of the subject matter for the readership or any of that.  If you go back to the last exam you swotted for you will know the problem exactly.

Let us swat, the exam is but six weeks away.  Long enough.  Good.  I will break it up into six equal chunks.  Excellent.  Now the first chunk I will begin

after I have rearranged the bookshelf, tallest on the left, shortest on the right.  Good, looks a lot better.  Now I will begin.  After tea.

Nice tea.  Right now I will………………have an early night and get a head start first thing.

I am awake I am sitting with the book, I am rubbing my face.  Goodness, how long is it since I plucked my eyebrows?  I must do this first.

Doesn’t it make your face cold when you have no eyebrows?  I wonder how long it will take for them to grow back?  I’ll look it up.

Five hours!  Five hours on different search engines.  All that stuff about giant land snails, who knew?  Right.  Swatting, well after a late lunch.  Must eat brain food.

I am back from the shopping for brain food.  I have six watermelons.  Six.  I will cut them up now so I can easily get them while I am swatting.

Two hours online for plastic storage boxes.  Even if they arrive tomorrow I still have to find somewhere to put six cut up watermelons.  I know, I’ll eat some, it is brain food after all.

I haven’t been that sick for years.  I’d better have an early night.

What time is this?  I haven’t slept in until this late for ages.  I’m starving but I really don’t fancy watermelon.  I must go shopping.

Fancy meeting Mary at the shops!  I haven’t seen her for years.  I’ll swat tomorrow after we’ve been to the cinema.

I would start first thing but it is the weekend.  You have to have a weekend.  All work and no play makes Jack something or other, forgotten what, a dull boy, yes.  Can’t be dull.  Got to swat.

Right.  Five weeks, five weeks to the exam.  I will break it up into five chunks.  Five.  And I will begin

the minute I have tidied my sock drawer.  Exactly then.  Yes.


So the writer’s group, that’s what it is for.  It prevents you rearranging the bookshelf and everything else that follows.


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More 48th

If you are a reader who has worked out that I usually post on a Sunday, (clever you, because I never said so) please scroll down a couple of posts as I am photographing dolls as and when I get another batch done.  The reason I’m doing this is to save you squinting at the show.  I will, as always, have a magnifying glass on the stand.


I am dressing Tudor men, as you can see.  For anyone unsure of the size I have included a cotton reel.  The men are all under an inch and a half tall, there are workers and average blokes but, carried away by the story, I have gone to town on the falconers.


This chap seems happy in his work, but the other falconer is struggling.  Everyone around him looks a bit alarmed.  Is the bird going bananas under the hood?  Is it going to take off with him attached?


I think I may have inadvertently made a close relative of Hodgesarrgh, Terry Pratchett’s falconer to the castle of Lancre, who was always getting pecked by his charges.  This could be the close relative with another phoenix, in which case I forgot to give him asbestos gloves.  Let’s hope he can keep the hood on until the bird calms down.

One feature of modern cameras is that they can see the tiny threads my scissors have failed to cut which are invisible to the naked eye, which I will have to try to cut, now I know where they are.  On the table beside me as I work currently, there are nine different pairs of scissors.  I search endlessly for scissors that will work in smaller scales and I spend a ludicrous amount of time sharpening them.  They will be needed today when I am dressing ladies in flouncy skirts, with work on three tiers to every skirt and the underskirt, approximately a bajillion little stitches. (This may be an overapproximation but it does feel like a lot when I’m sewing all the frills on.)

People always ask how long it takes to make a doll, which depends on the wastage rate in the rubbing down and the weather at the pouring stage but I do know that dressing each falconer took half a day.  Now if I could only teach the falcons to lay eggs……………

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Dressing you sir.

Have you ever wondered what a fortnight’s work looks like?

Like this


Doesn’t look much does it?  All 48th scale flexible men, mostly workers of one sort or another.  There are a couple carrying pigs and one with a big scoop and the first vicar.  Closer look?


I am pacing myself, although I am occasionally working till midnight, because I don’t want to make myself ill.  I have never been able to dress more than four dolls in a day.  So I had better get started on the Tudors and I have not done any women yet.  Sew – back to the sewing table.

(Otherwise known as the dining table).

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Getting ready for the Min.

It doesn’t change.  It’s amazing really, in a world where change is the only constant, it doesn’t change.

That’s incredible really because it doesn’t change no matter how soon I start or how late.

The absolute minute I really get my head down and get into the zone, getting ready for the show, then exactly then is when something will happen to steal my time.  This time last year I got started nice and early, so happy to have no other responsibilities which is when I broke my arm.  So I thought I would get started after Christmas, then I got the diagnosis.  So this time I thought I would leave it till later as starting early seemed to attract misfortune.  I had a ton of dolls that I made defiantly last autumn with a broken arm, and some porcelain slip, so I got started dressing, especially the 48th scale, the stand of which is looking utterly depopulated.

Who is going to derail my train of thought when all I want to do is sit and dress dolls?

Three of them.  One is the OH.  He had gone to see a specialist, needing taking in the car and fetching because the problem is gout.  There will be further trips because he was OK when he saw the specialist but on Friday his foot had swollen up like a balloon and, contrary to what he was told at the last consultation, he could not be fitted in at any time it was bad, so I will take him on Monday probably with a normal foot but a picture on his phone of the balloon foot.  This scenario, like the Mousetrap, could hobble and hobble.

Then there was the dishwasher.  It was about twenty years old and behaving like a twenty year old.  It didn’t know what it wanted to be but whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be a dishwasher, so it left the dishes unwashed.  I suppose we should be grateful it didn’t flounce out of the house on its mobile phone, telling its social media friends what rubbish its family was.  So the OH bought a new one with his Up The Big River Shopping credit card and it was delivered.  We took the old one to the dump where the OH and a refuse colleague (two years night school and a day release course in cardboard) chucked it into the tin can skip.

I volunteered to clean out the space under the counter, having found the mouse nest (no mice) in the little wooden box that contains the pipe for the central heating drain down.  That took half a day but the under the counter was shiny and new.  For LO!  The machine was delivered the OH said he would fit it, job done!

Yeah right.  Below the counter lurked a hotch potch of pipes and drains suffering from the change over from Imperial to Metric measurements many moons ago.  The result had been thoroughly bodged, one plastic pipe had been shaved down at one end, with what looked like a thick screwdriver and forced into the other.  Having got it apart and discovered the bodge that explained why we had always had a leak under there with a bucket (actually the plastic container from dishwasher tablets, nobody can say we don’t recycle, it had been under there twenty years) below to catch the intermittent flood.  So off went the OH to the plumber’s merchant.  Before he departed I suggested we ring a proper plumber but he was not to be deterred and stated in no uncertain terms that I impugned him without justification, any person of reasonable intellect could fit plastic pipes together.  From the third trip to the plumber’s merchant he returned not just with several different plastic pipes as before but a free bag of  assorted plastic bits donated by a sympathetic (or terrified, who can say, I wasn’t there, I was trying to dress dolls) store assistant. 

The drama lasted all day.  I sensibly removed myself and left the person of reasonable intellect to struggle alone, just venturing in now and then for flood control.  I do admit to one phase where the OH having cleared out the pipe, the joint of which was leaking ‘because of all the crud’, having been handed the soap tablet box full of water I did unthinkingly, yer Honour and I am sorry if it contributed to the swearing that ensued, tip it down the sink at one end of the system.  Unstopped in any way by crud it almost instantly came out of the other end all over the OH crouched under the counter, over the end of the pipe but not the soap box, which I was, of course, holding in my hand.

Later, seated as I was in the dining room area (trying to dress tiny dolls, for some reason) I was well placed to watch about three feet of pipe sail through the air accompanied by language.  At five of the clock the OH admitted defeat and I rang the proper plumbers, who had, of course all gone home for the weekend.

And then this week the Grandson decided to join in.  The S&H rang on Thursday to say that his S&H had put a pea up his nose.  The GDS is well advanced, he is only one and a half, the S&H was three when he necessitated the hospital trip to remove the peanut he had put up his nose.  All was well until the DIL sent a message to the OH that they were all in the local hospital as the GDS had followed up on the pea, this time with a crayon and no one could extract it.  The tale unfolded, hourly on the phone as the GDS, who was perfectly happy to shove a crayon up there was much less happy for a doctor to take a look and screamed blue murder any time anyone got near him.  He stayed over night (the doctors skilled in crayon extraction being unavailable)  accompanied by first his father, then, on shift, his mother and, finally, yesterday afternoon was given a general anaesthetic and the crayon removed.  He is very well, having enjoyed the interesting change of scene.  His sister is happy, having had her father to herself uninterrupted.  His parents are like wrung out rags and, last time I spoke to them were hoping for a good, long night’s sleep, unlikely as they now have a son raring to go, as he has had the crayon, which was tiring him out a bit, removed from his nose.

Now, what was I trying to concentrate upon?  Oh, yes, I remember, dressing dolls for Miniatura.

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Three weeks.

I’m getting quite superstitious about writing down how long it is to Miniatura because recently, the minute I do this bits drop off me and I don’t get to be there.

However it is three weeks to go, I am sewing by the hour.  I am trying to provide as many 48th scale dolls as I can because I am aware of a dearth of them, having visited the show in the spring.

Also this time I am going to give a talk.  For a few shows, as well as the workshops at the back of the hall, there have been talks given.  These are free.  You do not have to sign up in advance, you just go along and listen.  I was asked how long and if I would like to do an hour and I said half an hour is long enough.  If your feet are hurting all the way up your legs and you just want to sit and be entertained for free I think half an hour is enough.  I will be talking about how I make porcelain dolls and possibly why and maybe a bit of all the gossip gleaned from 20ish years reporting the show and hopefully a laugh or lots and certainly questions answered and whatever else you fancy, let me know.

One thing I have been doing is visiting other shows.  I always bang on about the absolute quality of Miniatura compared to other exhibitions and shows and thought I should top up on alternative shows to ensure my comparisons are valid.  Gosh they are.  I have been to some posh shows of handmade artefacts, mostly jewellery and woodwork with a bit of artisan glass and small items and, whilst it was a posh day out, there was nothing I could actually afford to buy.  At one show there were some machine embroidered pictures that were £32 but they were all the same and the seller was nowhere to be seen. The next price up, for anything, was some plain silver finger rings that started at £68.  One of the great things about Miniatura is that everybody gets to go home with the little paper bags.  I have seen items for sale for 10p.  I’ve offered things for sale for 10p.  Now that’s what I call a level playing field.  And as it is the NEC it actually is all on one level, if you’re arriving on personal wheels there is nowhere you cannot go.

I did recently go to a show about quilting at the NEC.  It was fantastic and inspiring and I had a great day out but halfway through the afternoon I couldn’t work out how I had spent so much money.  I had a sit down and a count up.  I was skint.  Then I realised what I had done.  On the way in, at the entrance to the car park, I had paid for my parking with money so I didn’t have to on the way out. £12!  Twelve pictures of the Queen just for parking a car.

Miniatura organisers don’t want you to spend your money in the car park.  So you don’t have to.  On the way out you will be given a voucher, which is never announced in advance, that you show at the car park and get out free.

It is a great show in all sorts of small ways and many big ones.  Hopefully we will meet there.

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Many people could not contemplate adventures
Without wearing knickers from Marks and Spencers.

Gentlemen on building sites, ladies in parks
All wearing shreddies from Spencer and Marks.

People sitting down in chairs, people on the hop
All buying underwear in the same shop.

A girl in shorts, a bloke in jeans, a lady in a dress
All wearing underthings bought from M&S.

People doing big exams, people having larks
All their backsides covered by Marks and Sparks.

A nice strong gusset, soft elastic near the parts
That are politely covered by Spencer and Marks.

They sell other types of underwear for any old adventure
But the one thing they do not purvey, surprisingly, a spencer.*


*The type of little jacket worn by Jane Austen, also, later, a knitted vest and previously a short coat for a man.

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Tyrannosaurus Licks.

Pity the poor dinosaur, found in many lands
With those stonking great big leggies
And such tiny little hands.


It could never be a model, despite being so tall
It wouldn’t suit a pencil skirt
or skinny jeans at all.

It couldn’t hobble down a catwalk in high heels and a wig
Or have a pup and not get up
For less than a million quid.

It couldn’t work in real estate – it can’t get through the door
Or show a client round upstairs
Without falling through the floor.

Could it be doctor dinosaur?  Famed among the nations
For delicate, small hand surgery
And eating all the patients.

Pity the poor dinosaur, it couldn’t really think
Or work, and so I feel I know
Just why it went extinct.

When you have made a dinosaur and stood it on its toes
After dipping it in chocolate
It falls over on its nose.


Even if you wrap its feet in marzipan.


All this occurred when my granddaughter woke up one morning and relayed to her mother her urgent need for dinosaur cakes.  Her parents advised her that the best thing to do was to buy Nona dinosaur cake moulds for her birthday.  And for lo!  It came to pass but the T. Rex keeps falling over.  I think it’s been hitting the sprinkles when no one was watching.  Here it is at the back, look, covered in chocolate, minutely examining the rim of the plate.


It may well have died of embarrassment, obviously having evolved as a top predator, chasing up to a smaller animal and then just – falling over, bonk.  In life T. Rex may well have had a long proboscis but as the fossil record shows, by hungry adulthood its nose was thoroughly flattened,


Dinosaur moulds from Lakeland by the way.

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