My big break.

It will be a year this weekend since my big break.

At the time, as you know, I just kept going.  I was nearly a week in hospital with a broken arm on two hourly morphine until the surgeon with the right skills was available to help me.  I knew the bone had delaminated but what I had forgotten was that the ball at the top of the bone, which fits into the socket, had completely sheared off.  I was reminded this week because I was sorting out my elderly emails and discovered the photo taken from the hospital computer screen.


Looking at it now I can see why I can still feel (and always will feel) the head of the big screw that goes right down through my shoulder blade, through the ball and locates into the top of the long metal nail which comes up right through the middle of the bone.  It has four other screws going sideways through it, which fortunately I cannot feel, these anchor the slices of bone and the net which gathered the bone fragments up to the nail.

No wonder I felt so awful throughout the autumn.  I did of course also have cancer at the time, which might be why the bone took so long to heal.

Incredibly it has.  I have worked out whenever I could, despite all the other stuff after the surgery in January.  A year after the break, in spite of the idiot young doctor who told me I would always be disabled, I am very nearly back to normal.  As it is summer I am carrying watering cans in my right hand and lifting them up to water hanging baskets.  I have less and less pain, mostly just big twinges in the morning getting moving.  I still have difficulty getting my arm up my back, which mainly causes problems dressing and with fastening necklaces and putting curlers in my hair.  You’d be amazed at the stuff I can do with my left hand now.  That old joke about: I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous, turned out to be true for me.

Samuel Pepys gave thanks each year on the anniversary of the time he was ‘cut for the stone’.  I think I shall do the same, I feel lucky to have survived such a big break.  I feel lucky that I had polymyalgiarheumatica 17 years ago and was allergic to steroids so had to work out every day for 17 years.  Other people in the shoulder class at the hospital found the working out so hard I suspect many of them only did it once a week in the class and consequently did not recover much mobility.  It was easier for me, I was used to working out when it hurt and knew how much to push myself and when to rest.  I also had the advantage of a home gym.  I could never afford to join a proper gym, I just bought a piece of equipment every January when the shopping channels did their New Year New You.  I keep it all behind the living room door beside the fireplace.  It’s not very Homes and Gardens but it actually gets used each and every day and I have enough stuff not to get bored.  For this break, as well as the hospital exercises mostly done with a stick (which is the stick you put in the handle of the paint roller to reach the ceiling), I have a captive ball in a wheel that you spin, a thing like a spinning cylinder on string that you pull to make it whirr, weights, weighted gloves and a vibrating weighted stick.  I ring the changes and have found another piece I can make move, or move in a different way, almost every week recently.

I am also incredibly lucky that my next door neighbour is an orthopaedic surgeon who came to my aid and told me which surgeon to wait for and to wait.  They tried to cart me off to the theatre to someone else on occasions and despite being off my head on morphine I insisted that I wait because I believe in my next door neighbour.

Recovery from illness and injury, while you are hoping it will happen and working towards it, is an article of faith.  I didn’t believe how badly damaged I was, I think I blanked it out to survive, it was the second worst break in the history of the hospital, I do remember several people telling me that.  Then again, I might have been despairing and more impatient had I not had all the dreadful business with the cancer, the cancer surgery going wrong, the appalling oncologist, the utter despair following and all that stuff to keep me occupied.  That stuff still gives me bad days.

It also does seem incredibly unlucky with hindsight to have had such a bad break followed by cancer, either one would have been quite enough.  If I had not had such a tough upbringing and such a difficult mother, I could at any point have caved in and given up.  If I had given up on the exercise I would not be strolling round the garden with watering cans now and if that were the case do you know what I would have?

Yup, withered flowers.

I am a little flower and I am still in bloom and thankful for it.  And you know what sort of flower I am don’t you?

Self raising (especially the right arm).


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Old friends.

Do you prefer old friends or new friends?

I am in the process, maybe, of making some new friends.  I have started a writer’s group.  I found a group locally, went to one meeting but it folded because the lady running it no longer wished to do so, as it was run as a business.  So I started a group by advertising on local social media and we may have a first proper meeting with three members.  I will run it, or to be more exact, I hope it will be democratically run, simply for the benefit of writers, keeping it free and fairly regular for as long as possible.  What happens at a writer’s group is that everyone reads a bit of what they are writing and gets feedback.  Amazingly famous Neil Gaiman is famous for writing with feedback from his readers on social media, though to be fair he is famous for lots of things.  When the group I had attended folded I looked up reasonably local groups up to a few towns away but there were so many published rules it was alarming.  Huge groups do have to have strict rules on how long the reading can be so everyone gets a chance.  So I’m hoping the group will be quite small.  A local published writer offered to give a talk if the group numbered ten or more but I think ten might be verging on the number of impossibility.

Now there’s a thought, the number of impossibility.  Douglas Adams had the answer to the world the universe and everything as 42, though no one was sure of the question.  I have a feeling that might be the age when you suddenly realise it’s going to be downhill all the way but you’re not yet worried enough to, for example, go on a diet or start contributing to a funeral payment plan.

Numbers, quite big numbers, as in ‘how long have we known each other?’ are the stuff of ancient friendships.  All mine are miniaturists, though as I have written this for what will be nine years in September, I have gathered some old friends by email that I may never meet but whom I find I care about deeply.  The miniaturist friends were gathered at Miniatura, which on a busy day is 6,000 people with the same mindset; you’d have to be a very strange miniaturist (and there have been a few, I know, I interviewed them) not to make friends easily at Miniatura.  There were so many people I instantly loved, there was an Australian doll maker who wandered for miles along the barbed wire fencing collecting snagged sheep wool for doll hair.  There was a lady making houses out of liquidised corn flake packets.  There were clubs knitting houses and everything in them.  There were people recycling minis for charity.  There have been a lot of brave souls forgetting dreadful life circumstances with creativity.  So many admirable people, brave, funny and strong, easy to like though not always easy to talk to, though knowing they came from the same bananas place you did and inhabited the same crackers world was a help.  (Can you tell I am writing this at breakfast?)

The problem with old friends at Miniatura was that so many were old and having retired once from reality did it again from miniatures.  I keep in touch with a few and consider myself blessed that they reciprocate.  Last week I wrote to Kay Curran, wife of arguably the most famous potter working in miniature in the country, Terry.  She rang and we had a long chat.  It does you so much good just to chat to friends.  If you are a long term reader please do email, I answer emails.  I’d love to know if you have been reading here since 2009.  Whilst I read and reply to emails I don’t always publish them but I will if it’s on the subject of reading

The book is progressing, I had a few days off and tomorrow the grounds man is coming to clear the way for a bigger drive and a lot of work in the back garden.  If I can write with a lot of noise, or, probably, where I can write with a lot of noise remains to be seen.  Today the cats are going to live with the S&H who wants them back.  If they return when the building finishes, time will tell.  They are old friends now and I will be so sad to see them go.  I started calling myself Mummy to the cats, always a mistake, what am I – a fish loving creature with huge ears who is covered in hair?*

How will I manage without them, how will they manage without me?  I had better get busy writing.


* Yes.

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I’m a writer.

I’m aware that you may know this already.  It’s not exactly hidden. I have written stuff ever since someone put a pencil in my hand.  I was a published child poet, won prizes and filled the school magazine with poetry.  I stopped doing it because it seemed too easy and because my mother was prone to making me invent a poem and read it as a trick for her dinner parties and I hated it.

At college I wrote in the magazine, was on the editorial committee and did a cartoon, which was so long ago the cartoon was reproduced by someone actually carving a wooden block to go to the printing press.  I’m practically mediaeval.  When teaching I was the teacher who wrote the phonically sensible comic to help struggling readers, my finest hour there may have been an entire page about an elk on a cab which was also funny.

It seemed a short hop to the bit where I morphed into a magazine writer, first doing the funny column because I thought people were taking themselves very seriously then interviewing all those with a story to tell and there were plenty of them.

And after various fits and starts here I am writing a novel again and liking the writing a lot.  I am nearly 50,000 words into it, which is probably half a novel.  I love my characters though my love of them has changed since I last wrote a novel.  The first novel, the one that eventually garnered a literary agent who was so fake the police hauled him off, was obsessed with the baddie.  He was in nearly every chapter and had more scenes than the protagonist, who appeared briefly in three chapters.  I think there is little doubt that the novel reflects the life of the novelist.  Even stories set in outer space or fantasy land are still about the everyday struggle of yer average human.   If you are a writer and there is a lot of conflict it will be there in the story.  Judging by television drama I’d say many dramatists have terrible conditions and physical violence in their lives.  It might be why comedy is much more difficult to write, few lives are a laugh a minute.

This time, though the protagonist is not in every chapter and there is a secondary hero, the baddie, who is horrible but heavily disguised as a philanthropist, does not take over but he is nasty and the main hero will win.

Well, I think she will, at the moment she is in it up to her neck.

So, if you’ll excuse me I must go and mount a rescue mission, or at least get her safely to the next morning.


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Hello it’s me.  Briefly, I am writing.  I know you know that because you’re reading it but otherwise I am writing, deep in  the novel.  The characters are developing lives of their own.  This does happen and is always a surprise, various people have surfaced in these columns and taken over but in a novel you get the chance for them to live more fully.  You can explore their motivation, their hopes and anxieties.  As they become rounder and more real you find yourself cheering them on or hissing and booing from the sidelines.

At the same time I’m trying to get to grips with my garden.  I love my garden but five years of gardening my mother’s garden and a year of a broken arm just when I hoped to be able to turn my attention to my garden hasn’t done my garden much good.  I remember, not fondly but I remember, my mother turning up to  our new house when we’d just got married and peering through the window sipping the cup of tea the wrong shade that I’d just poured her, remarking ‘Oh I see your neighbours have a neglected garden, as well.’

Normally I’d be out there every hour of daylight but right now, if I do that, I can feel the characters in the book hanging in suspended animation wondering when I am going to come back and rescue them.  I’m up to 40,000 words which could be half a short book but the whole thing has its own pace and momentum.  I see the first time I mention here that I am writing is May 5th.  I did intend to start the novel before I broke my arm but the difficulty of typing saw to that, instead I drew the scene where the action takes place in a fictional village over several months.   So I’ve really only been writing for five weeks in earnest.  I like to print off the day’s output and take it up to bed to read my own bedtime story and correct my own grammar, which is more entertaining than it sounds.

I did join a writer’s group and really enjoyed the first meeting, until the group folded.  I emailed to ask when the next meeting was, but it wasn’t.  So it’s back to just me and a keyboard writing in any quiet room in the house.  Like the S&H I have always found the most interesting thing in the world to be the one between your ears, his is full of computers, mine is full of words.


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How long have you got to read this?  In fact how long have you got?

Recently I have been buying a lot of craft stuff, which adds quite a bit to all the dolls’ house stuff, needless to say.  In a flash of revelation this morning I realised that I have been trying to buy time.  All the time my mother was ill I promised myself I would eventually find time for all the things I like to do instead of the things I had to do.  Then, when she was no more, I still had no time, winding up her affairs, dealing with solicitors and so on.  Then I broke my arm and all the things I wanted to do I couldn’t then I got cancer (though I think I had probably had it quite a while) and it looked as if I was out of time completely.

A lot of fear is attached to this disease, fear of pain, suffering, disfigurement, loss of physical control and eventually, loss of life.  When I had the disastrous meeting with the horrible threatening oncologist, who, in hindsight, was more worried about his insurance policy than my wellbeing, the fear of God that he put into me was the loss of all the above.  He was careful to make it my fault if I died because I was the stupid person not accepting his disfiguring, disabling treatments.  If I had been a more robust person, if I hadn’t just had all the awful things to deal with that I had had in the previous seven years I might have accepted treatment and worried about it less.  But the radiotherapy couldn’t knock the cancer out of the ball park, it just lowered the possibility of it returning by ten percent.

With all this churning around in the back of my mind, no wonder I’m trying to buy time to do the things I like.

I think it is probably normal to worry after illness.  I worry more, like the pain felt from a bereavement, last thing at night, when I’m tired and first thing in the morning.  In fact first thing is a bad thing at present.  It is a bereavement of sorts, imminent everyday fear of cancer returning.  The fear is there despite the fact that I do seem to be getting better.

For the last four or five years I had worn that mineral powder make up a lot, especially under my eyes.  For the last three years, without the make up I looked like a panda.  Yesterday I did gardening without make up, today I walked round to the shop without make up.  I had just thought it was me getting older.  For many years my old Caesarean scar used to split or weep, I thought it was just my skin reacting to sitting in the car on endless journeys to care for my mother, now, even though it’s a new old scar, it is beginning to heal properly.  Yesterday I gardened all day, though I did have a long sit down in the middle of it.  I need to do this, after all the neglect, the garden is looking like a wilderness.  I was terrified doing it that it would start something off that I didn’t want but, with a lot of rest afterwards I was OK and my flowerbed looks like a flower bed again.

So I think I am at last beginning to get better.  I had an appointment about my arm at the hospital, where I was told I am making good progress.  I had stopped going to the shoulder class after the cancer surgery and then had to be referred again but in the meantime I kept going with the exercises myself.  Now I have been discharged but given three more exercises to help with my elbow problem, which is because of all the time I spend typing.

Three things in life are of major significance.  They are: freedom, good health and absence of fear and worry.  If you have the three legs of this tripod, you can build anything on a strong foundation.

I do finally have freedom, I am working my way towards the second, when I am absolutely certain I have that then I hope I will have the third.  What I would like for the future, which I cannot buy, but must make, is a future writing comic novels. Comic because they’re the kind I like to read.  What I wish for is the legs for my tripod, which will make the writing so much easier.  I am a third (probably) of the way into the novel, if I didn’t waste so much time each morning worrying, I’d be further in.

So you know what I’m off to do now.  I wish us both time for the things we love.  I take my hat off again to Stephen Hawking, who wrote despite being told he was out of time at the start.  He wrote by swivelling his eyeballs, which makes me think I am moaning about nothing.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


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The thick plottens, at least it does if the thick is me.  I am plottening like nobody’s business as the novel grips me.  I wake each morning full of plot and can’t wait to get it on paper.  I think it was possibly Sam Goldwyn who said he wanted a film that started with an earthquake and built to a climax, though the quote has been attributed to several people.  Whoever suggested it, for a novel it’s a good idea too.  For a comic novel I think it’s essential.  The greater the threat, the bigger the laugh, the higher the climb the larger the pratfall, the more desperate the situation, the more welcome the light relief.  It sounds like a description of my life, so far.

I am still regularly assailed by fears.  Typing by the hour causes problems with my metal arm and my elbow, previously not a bit of me that was hurting, can really smart first thing in the morning.  I would have to say if you wanted to be a writer and were full of angst about nothing physical, you should probably get over yourself.  I am amazed at how lucky I was when I wrote for magazines, to deadlines and it didn’t hurt, either when I was doing it or the day afterwards.  It’s always the case that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  This is true of the cancer returning, I am always awaiting the arrival of the big yellow taxi.

Some people have happy, easy lives but I don’t think any of them are writers.  Misery is the fuel that propels the pen.  Unresolved past issues are also a wellspring of words. Reacting to the occurrences of life with words on paper diffuses all those past detonators lying around to trip us up.  Standard advice for bereaved people with issues  with the deceased is to write the problems down and burn them.

I am also aware that I am still recovering from seven dreadful years, illness for a long time and major surgery.  The AA has an helpful mnemonic HALT for the times when alcoholics in recovery are likely to succumb.  The times are when they are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.  Over the last few weeks I realise all the days which have been black days or full of panic, or even times during the day when I worry myself to a standstill, all correspond to those conditions.

You don’t have to have had a struggle with drink, or have been ill to respond negatively to events at such times, I think anyone hungry, lonely, angry, or tired has a good chance of treating happenings with less positivity and more despair.  The AA suggest at such times you should stop and take care of yourself.  I am trying to do this but it doesn’t come easily after a lifetime of trying to please other people first and look after myself later or not at all.

I am still, however, counting my blessings.  The greatest of these, in my estimation, is that I can write and I love doing it, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do a bit more of it.


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I know I’m writing rather infrequently here.  One reason is that I am writing very frequently elsewhere,  I wake up with the novel in my head and just have to get it on paper.

I wrote a novel long ago as my millennium project.  It got rejected in lots of places; I finally filed the file of rejections up in the loft last week, I hope the floorboards can take the weight.  The last thing that happened with the novel was that I got a literary agent.  After about six months the agent asked me for some money but I wrote back that I didn’t have any, mostly because I didn’t. He kept sending letters saying how many publishers he’d submitted the novel to and I kept not giving him money and then the police rolled up on his doorstep and arrested him because he was a fake literary agent and some of the authors he had asked for money gave it to him.  Amazingly poverty was my protection.

By the time I found out that my literary agent was a crook  I was deep into the sequel.  I tried to go on with it but the enthusiasm had seeped out as the constabulary weighed in.

Some years down the line, re-reading my own work I could see where the faults were.  I have taken that knowledge and used it in this novel.  The one similarity between that novel, the one I’m writing and the sequel I didn’t finish is that they all sound like me, if they ever get published and you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll like them because it’s all just me.  The column I used to write in Dolls House World was called Just Jane and it absolutely was.  I am either stunningly consistent or a one-trick pony.

The other reason I haven’t posted much is that I keep having bad days of paralysing worry.  I have spoken to the cancer nurse who said it is common for people to imagine the cancer is back again whether they have earache, headache or a blister.  Knowing that does not stop me having bad days.  I’ve had bruises that I instantly thought were leukaemia, tiny specks of blood that I thought were my insides going rotten and dropping out and broken fingernails that were sure indicators of oh dear here we go again.  I do think I’ve had a bad experience; not everyone vomits blood post operatively, in fact I think it’s unusual.  Most people are out of hospital in three days and do not keep going in and out for a fortnight. Most people do not have four holes and a long incision in them. Many people do not have cancer and a broken arm with a lot of metal in it.  Most people haven’t had all of that after seven years of dreadful stress.  It is 16 weeks since the operation and I’ve only just this week had the letter from the awful oncologist confirming my decision not to have the radiation, which letter of course brought back all the anguish and alarm.  And as I broke my arm in early July it’s been ten months of in and out of hospital.

I do think I’m on the mend. as long as I don’t try to do too much, the problem is I can’t remember what it felt like to feel well and unworried.  There were so many awful happenings in caring for my mother, such as working right through the first broken arm.  Mostly I just kept going, through all the awful and all the legal stuff, which has only just finished.  I think I am drained, I think I look older.

But I am still here and writing.


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Art therapy.

I haven’t posted for a while.  I finally relaxed and indulged in a bit of art therapy. I’ve been making some arty cards, here they are:


I am starting to use the stampboard plaques I made such a lot of a while ago.  I have also used some of my own sculpted paper items from the moulds I made, on the right my ancient Aunt’s face. In the centre the hands of the S&H.  Centre and left paper dolls from Tim Holtz and in each a wonderful stamped image from AALL & Create that says Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life, it sure does, and some bits of lovely Stamperia rice paper.

Over the long awfulness, what kept me going was watching crafty shopping channels and buying stuff.  The OH has not been happy about the parcels arriving.  I am so glad that dies for die cutting and bits of paper for cutting with the dies (for die cutting) are basically flat.  All the time I was stuck in hospital and all the previous years caring for my mother I kept thinking of all the arty stuff I was missing and then, when I crashed and burned, I kept thinking of how I might never get to it, so I collected and collected and now I am finally well enough to use it.

I am going to have to stop and tidy up, or more precisely, rearrange the piles of junk, as the S&H and gang are coming tomorrow.  As it’s my birthday I’m taking them out for lunch, though to be fair I do that every time they come and I enjoy it.  There are quite a few child-friendly restaurants locally with proper food for children.

And afterwards, back to the art.  Art of all kinds is a wonderful way of processing all the stuff that happens to you in life.  Like vomiting up buckets of blood, it gets rid of all the bad stuff, except in a non violent and undangerous way

I am also writing and might soon be gardening, though the OH is going to have a workshop which will involve chopping up the lawn and laying concrete.  Also, in the front of the house, the drive is going to be widened so the S&H and DIL can park when they come.  We are living on what has turned into a busy road and need to make access safe.  So maybe not gardening until all the construction is done.

And then more art therapy until I feel cleansed of all the terrible things that have happened over the last year.  I had a dreadful year when I was 33; I had a miscarriage and cancer and two lots of surgery.  At 66 I had a broken arm and cancer and surgery for each.  I wonder what will happen at 99?  I believe life is cyclical.  As you get older you do sometimes think:  Oh hello, been here before.  Maybe that’s what life is about, learning.  Perhaps if the lessons get harder it’s a sign of progress in the curriculum.  Fortunately if the lessons are really hard there is art because:


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A toy to make for a toddler.

Board racers

Toys to make for small children.


In the mid 1950s a local policeman was popular among parents as the entertainment at children’s parties. He was cheap, safe and slightly wonderful and few families had television so he went down a storm with his not very magic tricks. Top favourite was a wooden box with a sliding sun in it and painted wooden clouds at either end, the ‘magician’ would ask his young audience to shout when the sun came out and then tilt the box so the sun slid behind a cloud.

This simple mechanism, which was certainly not new last century, has resurfaced lately as Penny Sliders: greetings cards in which the weight of a concealed coin propels a card shape across the surface of the card picture.

I have adapted this idea to produce the toys depicted for my grandchildren. These toys are made of cardboard and coins; whilst strong enough to be played with for years and safely without small loose parts, the entire toy is recyclable and will not end up, as so many toys do currently, as lumps of plastic waste clogging up the sea or landfill. Minimal skill is required, if you can cut cardboard and apply glue to it, you can make them, no artistic ability is needed either, you can buy the parts to make them look like mine and you can recycle cardboard you were going to throw away to make the free version. I made them for my grandson’s first birthday, but his big sister, who is two and a half, likes them too.


Tools and materials.

Cardboard. The board I used is one eighth of an inch, about 3mm thick. I used new board sold as ‘chipboard’ in arts and crafts supplies stores. It is solid board, if you are using recycled board avoid the kind with a hollow corrugated inner, it wouldn’t be strong enough.

Coloured cardboard for decoration. I used Adorable Scorable from Hunkydory. It is 300 GSM and has bendy ink technology, meaning the surface colour will not crack to show plain card when bent. Some of the vehicles are pictures cut from the Hunkydory Little Books. Use the best quality printed material you can find for decoration.

Cutting dies to make the sliding holes. I used the Penny Sliders package from Tattered Lace, which includes 9 slider holes, coin covers and shapes to make the things that will slide, the rocket is theirs. Elizabeth Craft Designs make Sliders and Spinners which are just the dies to cut four holes. I only used the dies as a marking guide, they are not deep enough to cut through the thick cardboard. You don’t need dies or a die cutting machine, you could make the holes yourself.

Strong glue. I used Aileen’s Thick Tacky glue, I also used the strongest double sided narrow construction sticky tape I could find. It’s usually sold as red liner tape because it comes on a red carrier tape.

Non-toxic water based varnish and colouring materials. The toy is too big for a small child to get into its mouth but some children will lick anything.

Big scissors.

Metal ruler.

Strong bladed craft knife.

Paper clips.

Coins or metal discs.

Begin by deciding the size, which may be decided for you if you have chosen to use the Tattered Lace or Elizabeth Craft sliding dies. If you are making the sliding holes yourself you could make them any length but if you make them longer than A4 paper size you may struggle to find coloured card to decorate. You need to leave sufficient solid board at the end of the slides so the board front is not weakened by the hole. You should design the size large enough to deter a child from eating the toy but not too big to hold.  Please take notice of the child you are designing for, none of my instructions come with any kind of warranty, design professional agreement or any such thing.  The world as it is today means that I have to say I cannot be responsible for you making something dangerously edible, or any toddler you know bashing their little sibling with it or poking their fingers in the slots, or taking it in the bath and making it all soggy or any of that stuff.  Please do use your own good sense and knowledge of your child recipient.

Decide on the theme for your board. I made one board with land racing vehicles, all of which are from the Hunkydory Little Books, and the other with sky vehicles: one is the Tattered Lace rocket – the balloon and plane are pictures from food packaging. Your moving parts do not have to be vehicles, a printed photograph of the family dog racing along, a rolling football, a tumbling teddy bear or a snowman on a sledge would be just as entertaining. Position the sliding holes on the board to make sense of the narrative, or not, as you wish, and run the cardboard base through the die cutting machine with dies attached to mark the holes. Use your strong craft knife to cut right through the board with many strokes. If you do not have a die cutting machine, mark and cut slots of your own. The sliding holes do not need to have rounded ends. The slots cut by the dies are just under half an inch, or 5mm wide. Providing the slots are narrower than the coin which will go behind them on the inside of the toy and the card shape which will slide on the outside, they will work. I ended up widening my slots by a couple of millimetres to enhance the slideablity but I would start at 5mm because it is easier to cut cardboard away than stick it back in. However you do it, the actual cutting of the holes will be performed by you with a craft knife and patience. This is the most difficult part of the whole operation, if you can produce cardboard with holes in similar to this:


you can make the toy. I cut identical holes in coloured card for the back and front by drawing through the original holes with a pencil then stuck the three layers together. I wanted the inside to be smooth card too, to enhance the sliding. I coloured the inside edges of the slots using a non-toxic marker pen, became quite artistic on the card fronts, and varnished to finish.


The mechanism consists of a coin on the inside, a card shape on the outside and a tube to connect the two through the sliding hole.


The five ‘dots’ in the photo are rolled up, glued, thin card forming tubes long enough to project on either side of the picture board. Make them thin enough to slide in the hole easily; each will acquire another layer of thin card in the next step. Once the rolls are dry, roll and glue each one in another piece of thin card, cut the spare card that sticks out at the ends of the roll into fringes and splay them out, enabling a coin to stick to one splayed end and a picture to the other.

I cut a circle of card with a hole in the middle to make a card washer. The Tattered Lace penny sliders set has coin covers included but you could make your own by drawing round your coin and making a hole in the middle with a hole punch. Thread the splays through the hole in the card washer and stick them to the washer.


I used red liner tape on the splays. Then stick your coin on top of that, using red liner tape and thick tacky glue or whatever you are using that will set stronger than the will of a two year old having a temper tantrum and similarly top off with an unholed card coin cover.


This is the inner mechanism. Try each one through the slots in the picture front, you may need to make adjustments, widening the slot as required, an emery board works. I found the shapes of the slots affected the free motion, some mechanisms moved in some slots more easily than others, so I determined which were best by trial and error and laid them out marked accordingly.


Now you’re ready for the picture. Cut the original picture out and a piece of chipboard or your thick card the same and a thinner piece of card with a hole punched in it for the splay to poke through.


The thick card will accommodate a small coin, I used a smaller coin than that underneath, the weight of the picture layers balances the larger coin. In the central layer I excavated a hole for the coin to sit in.


I did the same for all the pictures.


I stuck the splay through the hole, made a sandwich with the holed base, the splay, the coin and the thick card and stuck them all together, using paper clips to hold them overnight. As you can see I have coloured the edges of the card that might show in the finished toy.

Are we nearly there yet? Yes we are!


Now we have to make the housing for the mechanisms. To do this turn the board over at this stage and measure to determine the depth of the housing.

I cut a strip of chipboard an inch wide nearly the same length as the toy.


I scored and turned in a quarter inch lip at each side. This leaves a weakness; the board is only joined by a thin sliver. To account for this I cut quarter inch strips of board and glued them in the missing corners.


When the glue is dry stick the walls you have just made all round the back of the toy. I have left a gap at one corner because I have made a toy for a boy with a sister. Sooner or later someone will post something of value, or a baked bean* through the slot on the front and there will be tears before bedtime.


I have glued the walls about quarter of an inch in from the edge, for strength and to make the finishing easier. The neatness of the walls is less important than the strength.

I cut my coloured card to cover: strips to fasten to each quarter inch lip, up the wall and over on to the top and two covers to fit the back.


For strength I glued one back on, turned the box over and weighted it. Once the glue was dry I fitted the edges. This was tricky and required patience. Make sure all the coloured card is stuck, smoothing and pressing as you go, I turned the card into the baked bean release gap and glued it there too.


I went round the corners and glued the main side strip on top.


Glued up the walls on to the back it still doesn’t look neat, but it will once we have glued the second back on, turned it upside down and weighted the whole lot with whatever you can find.


The last job is to remove the paperclips, stick the coloured pictures on the sliders and varnish them.


And play with it.

*Baked beans are valuable as protein, especially if you manage to get them in your mouth. Equally valuable are the address of the suppliers of the items I used,

Tattered Lace and Hunkydory products are also available at

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What to say to somebody with cancer.

I had a doll order, actually last week but I only happened by chance to notice it.  Orders come into a special place in my inbox.  As there have been none for a year I stopped checking, if you do make an order please email me to tell me to look, as regular readers know, I’ve had other things to think about recently.  I have asked the S&H, who is also the webmaster, if he will redo the shop because the system I previously used for getting pictures of dolls up there, was based around the moves necessary to use the free zoom tool which has since been discontinued.  As it took about 14 actions to get each picture into the shop, this is not so bad, moreover most devices have their own magnification abilities now anyway.  I do need to get some of the new dolls into the shop, 24th scale is having a bit of a resurgence and I’m well aware that not that many people are making in that scale, so watch this space.  I’ve asked the S&H if he’ll do it as my birthday present, with a bit of luck and a following wind it will happen before I’m much older.  Maybe.

Meanwhile the collector who ordered the doll emailed to say she had wanted to write but didn’t know what to say.

This is a common problem.  As we get better at medical matters and the world population is longer lived, healthier and serviced by various agencies and health professionals, we may live right into our adult lives with little contact with disease and diseased people.  As short a time ago as the Victorian era most large families had a family member with a health problem, a physical disability caused by birth trauma or poor nutrition, or a chronic condition for which there was no cure.  My mother often said that the greatest benefit in her lifetime had been the development of antibiotics.  Up to perhaps 70 years ago most people had seen a dead body and in every community there would be someone who knew how to lay out a body.  Dead babies were commonplace and many children did not survive their early years.  That’s the whole of history, up, pretty much to the start of my lifetime.  Currently in the UK only one family in 20 has a child with disability problems.  Whilst that is one family too many it still leaves 19 families who would not have had to face the problem, find out about it or find out what to do.

This has a direct impact collectively on our core knowledge and coping skills.  Not only do we not know what to do for someone with serious health problems, we don’t even know what to say.  When my mother was ill I found the world divided between those who took to the hills and those who did not.  My parents had entertained extensively.  About once a fortnight my mother cooked dinner and a soiree was had for friends.  My father had an extensive wine cellar and my mother was a brilliant cook.  Guests started with sherry or champagne, had a three course meal of the melon in liquor, pheasant in amazing sauce and several veg, possibly a choice of puddings, cheeseboard and coffee or more liquors and chocolate, variety.  So where were all of these guests when my mother became demented?  Two couples and one widow remained in contact until the end.  In her lifetime my mother gave hundreds of dinner parties.

I wrote about this in dementia diaries.  I said that at least people would know what to do if it were cancer.  I wrote that 33 years ago when I had cancer the first time, people crossed the road to avoid having to speak to me because they didn’t know what to say.  Exactly one neighbour knew what to do and kept calling.  I wrote that these days things would be better.

I was wrong.  For many years my hobby has been card making.  I make all my own Christmas cards and keep a box of cards I’ve made for the OH to give to pals at the pub and all my friends get hand made cards for every occasion.  After my hysterectomy, stuck in hospital for 16 days vomiting blood I had two cards.  One went in with me, a friend had sent it to wish me luck.  The OH brought in another that another friend had sent to the house. Both were editors of magazines I had written for long ago.  The second card I clutched like a talisman through the night of the long naso-gastric tubes.  In a horrible world of people wanting to hurt me for no good reason, the card, which had a picture of flowers in a garden, meant everything to me.  When I got home I had a card from my grandchildren, which was lovely.

So what do you say on such a card.  What can you write?  The answer is pretty much anything kind.

You have to consider what else has been said to me and what else has been happening.  People have caused me pain, chopped bits off, threatened me with  torturous treatments of dubious benefit, shoved things down me and in me, starved me, measured everything and put stuff in my veins.  Even last week after my meeting with my special nurse, I reminded her that she had said  I could have further treatment at any time, as I left she said ‘Well yes but it would only be palliative.’  Now you tell me?

So anything you can say that is kind in a phone call or a card or an email or face to face is better than any of that.  You could ask: How are you feeling?  I’m sorry you have been so poorly.  You could say:  I’m thinking of you.  You could say: I’m sending good wishes.  You could say I hope things improve for you.

Almost anything you could say that is honest and kind would be welcome.  I felt so sorry for my mother, isolated and ill and I was angry on her behalf.  There didn’t seem to be anyone to be angry on my behalf.  On Valentines Day the OH said, I haven’t got you a card because we don’t bother with such things now.  I had just had my female bits removed and I then I was rejected by my husband, who won’t give me a valentines day thing unless he gets something in exchange.  Almost anything you can say would be kinder than that.  This morning we got up early for the plumber, who hasn’t come, so he has spent the morning shouting at me because he had to get up at eight o’ clock.  Almost anything you can do would be nicer than that.

If you are not closely connected with the person with the horrible disease you are in a much better position than family members.  You probably won’t be exhausted from hospital visiting, which is a chore and a trial all round.  These days families are allowed to be there for hours and hours, under the mistaken belief that they are just what’s needed to make you feel better.  You can stay from just after lunch until bedtime and some, mostly loud, families did.

If this isn’t you and you aren’t the person paying through the nose for treatment, hospital parking, long term care or anything else then you really have got off scot free. All you have to do is behave like a comic superhero, swoop in with a message of good cheer and swoop off again.  Do not do what my current neighbour did, promise to cook before the event and then never come near.  In fact don’t promise anything.  Just do once you know the person has survived the op, the treatment, whatever.  All you need to do is a card, or a quick phone call if you think the person is well enough to talk, or a message by any other means.  All you really need when you are walking the trackless valley of despair is to know you are not forgotten.  All you need when surrounded by people who apparently wish you ill, and you’re stuck in the machine which will soullessly meet out whatever horror is next, is to know that there is still someone who only wishes you well.

When to do it is like old fashioned advice on writing thank you letters, the more prompt they are the briefer they can be.  If you sent a card and the person died unexpectedly before it arrived it would still be better received than turning your back on suffering.  I did send a get well card to my father-in-law, we then went to see him and the card arrived the following day, after he had died during the night.  But if something had prevented us going, my step-mother-in-law would have known that he was in our thoughts.  It is of importance in the era of selfies and self absorption to give space in your thoughts to another person.

It goes a very long way, just one wish for the good health and good luck of another human being.  Thoughts are things, they have an existence of their own.  Thoughts are prayers and also curses and they all have an effect. I am aware at present and possibly for quite some time that I am emotionally very vulnerable.  It doesn’t take much to hurt me or let the tendrils of fear paralyse me again.  Sending good thoughts and positivity to someone surrounded by decline and negativity, especially someone whose family is being negative or fearful or callous or just sick and tired of being with someone sick and tired, is a great kindness and a light through the dark places.


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