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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Gone with the wind.

The OH received a threat of insulin from the doctor if he didn’t lose some weight.

Being himself he went completely overboard.  First he went on the wagon (not completely, there has been quite a bit of riding on the axle).  Then he bought a book by a well known TV doctor giving the recipe for an 8oo calorie a day diet, which has to be followed for eight weeks at the end of which the OH is promised he will no longer be diabetic.

This diet does contain rabbit food as you might expect but it very notably contains no carbs at all.  No bread, no potatoes, no cake, no biscuits and nothing much you would enjoy.  It does contain lots of oil.  Absolute slicks of it floating quantities of meat, fish and  assorted dead things, in the frying pan, in a dish in the oven, in the pan and subsequently in the oven, with more oil and eggs.  Lots of eggs.  Lots and lots of eggs.  And beans.

Oh the OH is full of beans. And, because he is hungry the beans are being eaten at top speed.  Here’s a bean, where’s it been, it’s gone.  Bean and gone five minutes flat.


We are having conversations that go like this:

I have lost another pffft, kilo.


My trousers are still a bit faaaaaarp, sorry, tight, pfft.

Are they?

Yes have you got the fAAAAAAAAAArp thwap, pardon, remote?

No I think it’s beside you, oh dear that’s awful.

Yes I know I’m spoop spoop spooop fAAAAAAAAAAArp thawp, oh dear.  There it is on the floor, I’ll just, thwarrp, thwarrp, flp, flp, I don’t think it was a good idea to bend over.  Oh dear that is awful, even I think so. Now what do you want to see?  Frrrrrrrrp.

What have we got recorded?

Fwwp, pthoooooooooop, flaaaaaaaaaarp, here you look.

Why, where are you going?  Oh.

(Exits pursued by a diet.)


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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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