Second last post

I’m having difficulty thinking.  What I do think is that is probably normal in bereavement.

About this time last year, I was sending out my Christmas villages and checking the addresses where I hadn’t heard from the recipients the previous year.  An older cousin was on this list, so I made enquiries of another cousin’s son who lives near me.  He asked his mother; the answer I got back was that the cousin in question had gone into a care home when her husband had died in the pandemic and that there was no point in contacting her because she couldn’t understand.

Of course I began sending cards weekly.  Taking the bit about not understanding to heart, I just sent love from cousin Jane.  A couple of weeks ago I got a letter from my cousin’s daughter to say her mother had died in the summer.

I think this brings to ten the number of relatives or close friends I have known personally with dementia.  This has been happening since the end of the 1970s.  First there was my mother-in-law then, after my mother in the late noughties, a deluge of friends and relatives, and neighbours.

As soon as I began the dementia diaries I received emails from countries all over the developed world, with people sharing the same terrible family problem of how to care for demented relatives.  Many asked the same question: why now?

Is it that we are all living longer because of  medical advances?  We are certainly doing that.  Stories on television news broadcasts about people celebrating their hundredth birthday are now commonplace.  I did read somewhere that the person is already alive in the world who will live to a hundred and fifty.  I think they will need many years of help and care and I can’t imagine anyone understanding them.  The conditions of their childhood may be inconceivable to anyone else.

Is it that we are ingesting substances that are not good for us?  When my mother-in-law was diagnosed there was a lot of talk about aluminium pans being a contributory factor.  My in-laws did use their aluminium pressure cooker a lot.  The OH, also a keen pressure cooker user, switched his to stainless steel.

Is it pollutants in the air from petrol fumes and other noxious gases interfering with the working of our brains, that sets off the disease?

Is it our inactive lifestyle?  There has not been previously a time in history when so many people were able to sit still for so long, without needing to work in the fields, walk long distances or very actively clean their homes.  These days we ride around in cars and sit for hours staring at screens.  We can make a living doing this and feed ourselves with ready-made food, which we can cook in a few minutes in a microwave.

In the 1960s, research on colonies of rats in confined places predicted the rise of various diseases, as the numbers grew and the space shrank.

Are there simply too many of us?  I do believe that lack of space and poor living conditions breeds resentment that leads to aggression and fighting; it did with the rats, too.

Whatever the cause, the progression of the disease is now quite well documented.  As I’ve described here for the last eleven years, dementia sufferers are still individuals, the progression of their disease may vary from the textbook form quite considerably.  The moment that starts the disease process has still not been identified.  If someone manages to put their clever finger on that moment and the cause of it, and I believe they’ve got it right, I’ll tell you.

Until then I feel I need to leave dementia, the care of sufferers and the dilemmas faced by family and friends alone for a while.  I do have friends still in the thick of it but they know how to email me and are always welcome to do so.

Now I will start to blog more cheerful topics.  I used to be good at just being silly, when I have overcome the sorrow I will look for my silly again.

The last one sided conversation I had with SMIL was about the dark of the year.  Our ancestors in many places just wanted to know, if matters had been bumping along the bottom, when the change would occur that told them better times were on the way.  Stonehenge, Newgrange in Ireland and Maeshowe in Scotland are all devices to stir your optimism and let you know that the change is happening now. They are not alone, around the world are ancient structures built to show a shaft of light at times of darkness.  We just need to know that the dark will not last forever; in all of these places you can see the light.

Because of modern calendars I know it is just under three weeks to the shortest day, here in the Northern hemisphere.  It feels like a dark time indeed.

We now know that the only constant in the universe is change.  Our distant ancestors did not have telescopes of many kinds to prove that truth, but they knew and built that truth in caves, in tombs, in bridges and arches, all designed to let you know that no situation, no matter how terrible will last always.

The change is on the way, look for the light.


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The last post.

In dementia diaries, maybe.

My Step-mother-in-law died yesterday, in the care home.  Her daughter and family were there.  I spoke to her before they arrived, in the morning at the usual time, as if it were any other day.  It was obvious that her breathing was a great difficulty.  Her daughter had emailed me to say that the home had withdrawn all medication except painkillers, her daughter’s husband rang at five to say his mother-in-law had died.

I had a feeling there was more.  In the evening a care worker, who did not have good English, phoned to say the funeral directors were there with a casket but there didn’t seem to be paperwork and I was the only relative they could get hold of to give permission for the body to be taken.  Of course I gave permission, even though I had no idea who the funeral directors were and the care worker could not find a name or address, what are you going to do with an eighty seven year old dead body, if you are not a funeral director?

I rang the care home the following morning and heard in detail from the secretary, who I have been talking to nearly every week day for two and a half years, the trouble she and the laundry supervisor had gone to to lay my step-mother-in-law out nicely.  I thanked her and asked that all the clothes I had sent be distributed to other residents, preferably those who had no relatives or had been abandoned.

There were further emails today from the daughter, who registering her mother’s death, was unsure of the spelling of my father-in-law’s middle name.  I don’t have a mobile phone, so it was an hour later that I received the reiterated request, but by then it had been sorted out.

I have found that round any death there is a panic.  It’s a mixture of sudden grief and the overwhelming responsibility to do all the formal necessities correctly, that make it tricky to think logically and clearly.

I recall when registering my father’s death the sudden feeling that I was immediately going to faint.  I’ve never been a fainter but the feeling was irresistible.  I resisted it by putting my head between my knees until the feeling went away.

Shock can cause sudden drops in blood pressure, sweating, coldness and palpitations, which are not imaginings but actual physical symptoms.  Even when a death has been expected for years, even when the person has been a burden, desperately ill, raving or obviously fading, the cessation of life can be a terrible shock.  Illogically, no one expects their parent to die because the parent has been there ever since memory began.

Every day since the start of the pandemic I have phoned my step-mother-in-law.  I did it because the pandemic snatched her life from her, long before she got the dementia diagnosis.  I believe the pandemic contributed vastly to the dementia. 

My actual mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her early fifties, her illness was a terrible time for my father-in-law.  He met my step-mother-in-law shortly after his wife’s death.  SMIL was a decade younger and had just had a horrible divorce.  Each found in the other a much happier way of life.

After my father-in-law died SMIL deliberately and very carefully built a life for herself.  She was a busy person; she had something going on every day of the week and church on Sundays.  I could never get her on the phone, or if I did she was just going out or had just come back.  Once she had adapted to the loss of her husband she was her bright and happy self.  One of the societies she belonged to had a member who really got her goat, she put a lot of energy into outsmarting her.  The Church acquired a new vicar who was very nice, I heard all about him.  SMIL’s grandchildren were growing, I heard all about them.  She had a good neighbour, who drove her to the shops.  For the occasions when she walked, I bought her a shopping trolley which could be sat upon as a seat if the way home seemed long.  SMIL made things, we had enjoyed dolls’ house miniatures together, she had completed two houses and was a skilled knitter in miniature.

Then along came the lockdown for Covid and all the carefully constructed busy social life was snatched away in the blink of an eye, because SMIL, already in her eighties, was in the high risk group.  She had family in the same town, her son did her shopping and came round a couple of times a week for dinner, bringing his daughter with him.

Whenever I rang and he answered the phone, he always said they were just sitting quietly.  Then the lockdown got to him, after Christmas he committed suicide.  By then his daughter was a student.  When SMIL got the diagnosis she was utterly isolated.

So although my step-mother-in-law developed dementia, I think she was really a victim of Covid.  When the pandemic caused her world to crash she sat, alone.  Briefly she was interested in the home carers her daughter organised and, when they were allowed again, her neighbours visited.

She has requested that the funeral be back in her home town, not in the village several counties away where her care home has been.

The OH and I will not be going, although relatives of the OH in the town may do so, I don’t think there’s anyone left from my side who knew SMIL.  It’s a long way to drive in November, the OH’s gouty feet are not up to a two way four hour drive and I don’t think being told how badly I’m driving for eight hours would do me much good.

Funerals are for the living.  The dead are not there, they are in a happier place.  I hope my step-mother-in-law is in a happier place, she could not have been much more miserable for the last three years.  She fought back in the care home where she lost everything, including the speech to complain or say thank you.  Before that she had lost a husband, a son and the freedom to live her life the way she wanted.

If the care of a demented person falls to you, try your best to keep them in familiar surroundings as long as you can.  Try to keep them as busy and active in a non-confusing way as you can.  Guard your own health so you can be there for them. If all else fails you could copy me and stay in touch, when your person is taken into care.  All it takes is a chat every day, a card and a bit of chocolate once or twice a week.

Suddenly I have an extra hour every day.


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Let there be light.

I am waiting for a dolls’ house which I am not expecting any time soon but eventually.  Not only am I really happy to wait for the house, I want the builder to get on with something else.  Keen miniaturists will be wondering if I have lost the plot completely, long time readers, going back to my magazine writing days, will know that I always applaud the general good, because what is good for the hobby is good for us all.

This latest development is really good.  So good you’re going to want one as soon as I show you.

John light1

OK, so here’s a picture of a hall, so what.  So, I’ll tell you what.  This is not a real hall, it’s a dolls’ house room box, there are some in-scale switches. When you switch the switches, the light comes on.  As if you were a mini person, going into a room and switching the light on, in fact you could hold the hand of a doll and get them to work the switch and the light would come on.  The only way it would get any better is if the doll said, ‘Crikey!’

How realistic is that!  Yes, I want one too, form an orderly queue please.

The clever electrician is John at Creative Dolls Houses, whose work you first saw last Christmas in the lovely 24th scale he built for his brother.  You next saw him in my Miniatura report with lots of great houses and the authentic book nook of the Bronte hallway, which is the one I’ve ordered.

Quizzed about this recent achievement John says his Mum* had a dolls’ house with working light switches but they were way out of scale.  Keen history-researching miniaturists may have noted these, in pre WW2 houses. I remember seeing one in a museum, the switches were just very small real life switches, and the lights weren’t up to much either.  I had similar lights in my big house.  No switches, you had to crawl behind the house and plug the transformer into the wall and switch it on and all the lights in the house came on at once unless the mini plug bar in the loft had come undone in which case they all didn’t come on at once.  Apart from the bit where I was scuffling around in the dust in the loft, it was nothing like a real house at all.  In fact I was so disgusted with the awful plastic lights and the dodgy wiring, my grandson helped me pull the lot out when he stayed in the summer.  I’ve got the battery lights that work through the floors with magnets to install, which can light one room at a time but to switch them on I’m going to have to put my head in the room and knock all the furniture over.  Gulliver’s Travels on steroids, it’s such a nightmare, all the furniture is living out of the house in a laundry basket in the hall.

What is needed is a proper light switch near the opening of the house, that you can switch on and make visitors gasp.

The room box is a replica of a room in the big house John showed at Miniatura, with the chimney breast moved to the back wall so you can see the lights.

And here it is!

If you would like to see the light, John is likely to be at a show near you soon.  He will be at the York fair and Kensington’s Christmas fair.  For details of other shows please go to the website.  I will be first in the queue to be blinded by the light at Spring Miniatura.

Every now and then over the course of thirty years as a pro in the hobby, I meet someone who is so switched on to what miniaturists need, you wonder what you did before they appeared.

Have a look for yourself

*Ah, well, now I know.  John and his brother have genetic dolls’ houses, no wonder they are so good at the hobby.


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Long time readers, (hello how are you?) already know by the title what I’m doing.  To be fair it isn’t exactly a mystery because I’ve been doing it for over thirty years.

Yes I am making moulds.  After just one day of it, I am knackered.  My old tee-shirt is soaked and filthy and I’m damp through to the skin.  My fingernails are clogged with plaster fragments and Plasticene, the kitchen floor has gone all crunchy and every available surface is covered with stuff.

The mould boxes are made out of Lego.  Which is great for getting nice neat moulds that stand well to pour, but less lovely if you pour the plaster too soon when it is a bit too liquid and it seeps out under the bricks and into the bricks and between every little bump.  Then you have to take everything apart and stand patiently at the sink, picking the plaster out of the hollow backs of the bricks.  If you neglect to do so the next attempt at building mould walls will be unsuccessful, so you might as well grit your teeth and get on with the cleaning.  Three times so far, with over fifty bricks all to be cleaned individually each time.  This of course is why my tee-shirt is wet and my trousers under them.  If I were taller I might just have wet legs.  If I keep on shrinking, I’ll eventually have a wet chest, then a wet neck.  If mould making starts giving me wet hair it might be time to quit, and do something cleaner.  And closer to the ground.

The doll I am making moulds for is twenty-fourth scale Marie Antionette, for an order.  I spent several weeks researching her through assorted books.  I feel very sorry for her, she was a picked-on high-born virgin sent to marry someone she had never met, in a totally foreign country, the language of which she did not speak, with not one iota of choice in the matter.  When she got there, still a teenager, her husband, who was called Louis (because he didn’t have much choice either) was wonderfully ignorant, despite living in the French court, which was chock-full of intrigue, unbridled passion and assorted dalliances.  As a result she failed to produce an heir as the marriage was not consummated for another seven years.  In the end a friend of Louis decided that some nice long walks and a little instruction would be helpful.

Imagine it:  So, your ‘Ighness, shall we take zis path?  In ze chambre, your Grace, you need to remove ze britches.

Mais je will be un peu chilly.

Neverzeless, Your Grace.  Zen you remove ze lower clozing from ze Queen.

Zen she will be chilly aussi!

Patience, Your Grace, if you let moi elucidate you will see ‘ow you will soon be warm.

Zis ‘ad better be good.

Oh, it is.  Zen you get into le lit avec the Queen and you (whispers.)


Yes you do.  And also (whispers)  (more whispers) and, no come back (whispers.)

Mon Dieu!  Est vous absolutely certain?


Does she need to take her wig off?

Well, shall we take this path?……….

The instruction was successful and the second pregnancy, it being the French court, produced a Dolphin.  Really.  This is history and I’m not making it up.

I knew that Mme. Tussaud had begun her waxwork modelling in the French revolution, but I didn’t know, until I read it in a book, that the first head she modelled was that of poor Marie Antoinette, which she found in a field lying fairly close, but not joined to, her body.

And I thought it was just me modelling heads from history to turn them into decorative figures.

Did Mme Tussaud model the head in wax from sympathy?  When she found it did she just happen to have a bucket of wax at home?  (In the same way I have buckets of plaster in the garage?)  Did she rush home looking for a modelling material and grab a handful of candles and head back to the field?  We shall never know.  Marie Antoinette did not go on display but she is the reason Tussauds began.  The lifelike waxworks she started are in numerous exhibitions round the world and always worth seeing.  I think Mme Tussaud was really a doll maker, she just did hers life size.  I wonder what she would think of my Marie Antoinette who is going to be under three inches?

More mouldy moulds and crunching underfoot tomorrow.  Stay tuned later this week for news about dolls houses that you will find very illuminating.


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The one hundredth Miniatura

As promised work is underway for the one hundredth Miniatura, which is a mere eleven months away.  Last posting I promised a free gift and here it is!


Well, I hope you find that helpful.  There is also the modelling for a 48th scale side table and the junk to go on it.*

It is practically a law of the universe that if you have a table beside your comfy chair, it will collect junk.  If I were more scientific, I’d tell you the formula for it.

Side tables are various.  My father had a nineteenth century rent table beside his chair with a drawer no one could open, because of the chair.  It had a very nice lamp on it, some spectacles, some spectacle cases, an assortment of small antique things, bits of paper, slight statuary and a rota of larger antiques that was ever changing as they were bought and sold.  He never really stopped being an antique dealer and loved visiting antique dealing friends and doing deals.  I learned early in life not to get attached to objects; they invariably vanished, traded up.

The OH has a table by his chair that he made at woodwork classes, with an inlaid kingfisher on the top.  He was very keen to obtain UV blocking Perspex to put on the top, so it would not fade.  This was an interesting conceit, as the table top is rarely visible.  It is the home for the newspapers from the last seven days, all with partially completed cross words, numerous one-armed reading glasses, only outnumbered by the one-lensed variety, though not in any way overtaken by those specimens waiting to be mended.

The table on the other side supports condiments, finger napkins, several pots full of broken crossword completing pencils, nail files (the working one is the glass one and mine) and coasters.  Yes we eat in the lounge watching TV like everyone else.

On the other side is my chair, next to it a table made by my father in the 1950s, covered with small square Italian tiles, very fashionable at the time of manufacture.  It boasts a collection of bits of kitchen roll used as finger napkins and constantly recycled and turned to use all the good bits.  That’s all.

Am I some paragon of tidiness?

No because the real little table for me is the bedside table which has one lamp and a tower of books.

So that’s what I should probably miniaturise next.

I had a email from SMIL’s daughter yesterday.  She had visited her mother, I think for the first time in a while and was unpleasantly surprised to be consulted about feeding strategies because SMIL has become thin and doesn’t want to eat.

My mother-in-law was the first person I knew with dementia who became very thin.  By the time she died she was almost skeletal.  She was never over-weight to begin with.  A lot of the costs incurred in care of my in-laws was to do with trying to get my mother-in-law to eat.  I put on sumptuous spreads, all to no avail.  I remember vividly my father-in-law hammering on the bedroom door where I was trying to feed my infant son, shouting ‘Come down, I think she wants to eat.’  I plucked the infant from the maternal breast and dashed downstairs, where, of course, the sufferer had completely forgotten that she wanted to eat at all.  Left alone at home during the day when her husband was at work, four days a week, she never thought of eating.  She seemed to lose the habit, or desire.

As well as lack of food, there are contributory factors to weight loss in dementia.  Inactivity, which was my mother’s problem, can leave undigested food festering in the intestines, killing off appetite.  My mother was hospitalised at one point, before diagnosis, for this problem.  She may also not have been helped by diverticulitis, a disease in which pockets form in the intestines, though returned home and moving more, this seemed to vanish.

Additionally, as I know first hand, if your intestines are not working they are unable to absorb nutrients from food passing through.  This can be related to age, infirmity or disease.

I believe SMIL’s daughter had given consent for her to be switched to a largely liquid diet, whether or not this will help at this stage, is debatable.  I continue to send cards weekly, containing chocolate.

My mother-in-law’s death certificate gave the cause of death as starvation.  This is as shocking to write, as it no doubt is to read.

If you are the carer just give love and food whenever you can, and if that’s not working don’t beat yourself up about it.  You cannot get into another person’s body and heal it, any more than you can get into their mind and make it work again.


*I have not stabbed myself with the scalpel.  It’s the varnish that will ensure the models glide out of the moulds**, which in this case is red nail.

**In theory.


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Some famous women.

I am at the start of the preparation for the 100th Miniatura.  It isn’t until the autumn of 2024 but I need to get a head start.

I have decided that there should be a free porcelain gift for the first 100 shoppers at my stand on Saturday, and the first 100 shoppers on Sunday.

200 free porcelain items will not be dolls but they will be in two parts, various, and glazed and china-painted so that 100 years in the future they will still exist.

At the Millennium, which I also felt was special, I changed my hand-made Christmas cards for a crib in porcelain, over a few years.  I stopped about 2004 and still have boxes of unbaked camels in the loft, as you do.  So I am well aware of just how much work there is to give large numbers of hand made items away, which is why I am starting now.

I have modelled half of the give-aways and also have the normal orders to do.  I had a request for Marie Antoinette in 24th scale, so she is being modelled, along with a couple of her children.  I read up on her quite a lot and enjoyed all of the Antonia Fraser biography, called Marie Antoinette.  I did know that Mme Tussaud began sculpting wax likenesses in the French revolution, but had no idea that her first head was that of Marie Antoinette which she discovered dumped near the rest of her.  Poor Marie Antoinette suffered a fate which has overcome some famous and beautiful women in history.  First lauded, then pilloried, many of the most famous never made it to forty.  Hounded, sanctified, demonised, lusted after and rarely with any right of reply, Marie Antoinette stood in sisterhood with Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Boudicca and Cleopatra, in my opinion.

The Christmas cards I make this year will be minimal, just Christmas cards.  I am getting a little tired of making and posting 70 amazing interactive tours de force and getting 27 purchased bits of cardboard back, (and three good ones, thank you, I kept them,)  so a year off is not a bad idea.

Meanwhile news of SMIL, which will not be welcome if you are a carer of someone demented.  Sad to say, SMIL has lost the use of her legs and is now in a wheelchair.  This can happen with dementia.  Any bodily function which is controlled by the brain can stop working at any point in the disease.  As I believe movement to be a benefit to the brain, bringing nutrients and oxygen, against the pull of gravity, I am not expecting the course of the disease to be slowed by this development.  For the last few days SMIL has been unable to respond in telephone calls at all, not even making noises.  I am told she brightens up when I ring and is still listening.

Dementia is very depressing for family members.  If you are the primary carer you may struggle to find any time at all for yourself but a quick walk, even if it’s round the supermarket, and as much sleep as you can manage, is a good idea.  Of course you know I think hobbies are wonderful for your mental health but I found the hobbies were only possible in terms of time, when the job was finished and the subsequent health issues that caring in me had raised, were addressed.

If you are a carer of a demented relative, fate has put you front and centre of a very large battle happening in our time around the world, with no answers yet as to what begins the process.  If you are joining in with the caring and not running away, or leaving the daily struggle to someone else, I salute you, you are a hero in my book.  You may get little thanks or none from other relatives who may have absented themselves in order not to know the details, but I know and, if you want to contact me and just have a moan about how very difficult it is, just click on ‘leave a comment’ below and I’ll get back to you.


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Keeping in touch.

I read on the front of the newspaper today that previous estimates of how many people will become demented were wrong.  Currently there are 900,000 people classed as having any of the various forms of dementia and these numbers are set to double by 2040 to 1.7 million.

The article went on to list some of the contributory factors as  smoking, being overweight and being diabetic.

As I have written previously, the one thing that links the seven people I have known personally who developed dementia, is inactivity.  Two of them sat for work by the hour.  One was a university professor who wrote many papers.  One was a potter.  A couple sat because they were old and tired.  My mother got up and sat down because she thought manual labour was the province of the working classes whereas she was a lady.  SMIL sat throughout the pandemic in order not to be a bother to anyone.  Whatever their reasons for sitting by the hour, they all did the same dangerous thing – they got up and sat down.

If you like to sit and watch television for much of the evening, it may be instructive to consider what you are doing if you take away the television.  You are sitting staring at the wall.  We have not evolved to sit and stare at a wall.  What did people do before television?  Victorians were famous for gathering round the piano for a sing song, doing acres of needlepoint, or taking boiled-down cow’s feet to the poor as broth, which the poor were grateful for, it being some years before a takeaway was thought of.

The other thing people did, if they wanted to eat, was cook, which you have to do standing up.  All the other activities necessary for civilised life involved hours of rushing around or standing up too.  My grandmother rose at five when she was eight years old to wash the other children’s cotton smocks.  Her father helped by putting the fire on under the copper and pumping the big jug full of water.

When I stayed with her on a Saturday night in the nineteen fifties, she was still washing her smalls with a poss stick in the sink and tackling any stains with a washboard.  She did have Daz, a modern clothes washing powder.  If you were good you got some in your bath and came out fresh as a daisy.

I am terrified of inactivity because of the risk of developing dementia.  For twenty three years I’ve started nearly every day with a work-out.  I am not huge and muscular, I am short and tubby.  I exercise at least an hour but often all morning.  I do not do it to excess, I just do it enough to make my feet warm.

All the blood that is in your body goes through your brain every seven and a half minutes, taking out the trash, bringing nutrition and oxygen, I just plan to exercise enough to give it a push.

The other thing I do nearly every day is ring SMIL.  She can very rarely talk now, occasionally she manages a goodbye.  I just chatter about all the normal family things, what’s growing in the garden, the weather, what the grandchildren are up to, cheerful, positive news the main purpose of which is to let her know she is not forgotten.

I have discovered by empirical research, that the more often you contact your demented person at a distance, the less of a trial and a difficulty it is.  I think starting early after diagnosis and making it a habit is the easiest way to approach the task both for the contacter and the demented relative.  Recalling that recall is the problem, the longer the interval between contacts the more likely the contacter is to be met with blank looks, or a worse : who are you?

I have heard from quite a few relatives of terrible upset when their demented person had no idea who they were.  They felt left out and ignored at best and deeply wounded at worst.  We know that long term memory is on a different circuit from short term, what we had for breakfast, circuitry.  Therefore the more often you contact, the more likely it is that the long term memory will be invoked.  The brain is best at the things it practises most often.  You don’t have to think how to walk, how to clean your teeth, how to go to sleep because you do them so often your brain has instituted short cuts to save time and save you working out how to do them each time.  This is learning.  If you want to be one of the things your thinking-challenged relative has learned, then frequent repetition is your friend.

It is not always easy to think what to say.  I have days when I’ve dialled the number and have no idea what the next ten minutes will hold.  There have been times when staff at the care home have not helped, or have put me off, or the telephone equipment has gone wrong, or something major has been happening.  I am fortunate that the secretary is very personable and always bright and cheerful.  She told me that very few relatives bother to contact their demented person at all.

Just imagine if you were told you had a disease of your brain.  Then, when you’d absorbed that news being told there is no cure it will kill you.  Then, just when  you were wondering how you would manage, because you knew already that your memory was on the fritz, your family tell you they are going to sell your house and shut you up for the rest of your life in what we used to call (and you will think of if you are a certain age) as the looney bin.

No wonder people go nuts.

And then they never visit, never call and you know you are going insane, among strangers, until you die.

If you are among the sane and have a relative who is not, there is little you can do if closer relatives take the care home route early or immediately.  What you can do is stay in touch.  I consider fifteen minutes a day as a prayer of gratitude that it is not me.


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A trip to the show 3.

If you were reading the blog last Christmas, you may recall the dolls I made for a wonderful 24th scale Dickensian house.  This autumn I was delighted to meet the maker at Miniatura.  He is John Dowsett, brother of the furnisher and finisher.

John has been building houses for a long time, he was featured on a local television programme twenty years ago as a house builder in miniature, though for many years he worked at his career as an electronics engineer.

Family circumstances indicate that working from home making homes will be John’s occupation for quite a while.  If you are a fan of everything Georgian and you like your houses picture perfect, you are in for a treat.


How badly are you itching to furnish this house?  This house boasts Farrow and Ball paints, as requested by the customer.  John’s houses are definitely bespoke, the customer decides on the colour, the layout and everything else.  This miniature experience is the nearest thing you’re going to get to being the landed gentry.


Here is another picture perfect house that will get your furnishing juices flowing.  Next to it is a 24th scale house similar to the one John built for his brother.

But the house that got me going was this one.


This is not a book, this is a book nook, perfected.

I have seen many houses in thirty years as a reporter and professional miniaturist.  A lot.

Reader, I ordered this one.


This is the hall, stairs and landing of the Bronte parsonage, where the book was written.  John, a member of the Bronte Society, was allowed to crawl around the real building, doing a bit of measuring.


Here we are in the parsonage.  Let’s just pop upstairs and write a masterpiece.  These houses are so bespoke, that, even though it is a book nook, originally invented so you could slide a house into your real book case and peer in though the spine, I have ordered mine to be side opening (like a book) so I can play with it and get some dolls in there, and maybe a couple of pieces of furniture.

Houses come ready lit, utterly perfect, just as you ordered and ready to fit out, furnish and fall in love with.

These houses are really worth seeing at a fair, they are Georgian paragons.  If this is up your street and you can’t wait for a fair, visit the website at

You may be sure that I will show you my Bronte house in the fullness of time but I do have a lot of houses. If you want to get ahead of me in the queue, just say Jane sent you and I will wait while John makes your order.  Having been miniaturising for so long I know that anyone making houses this good will very quickly be pounced on by keen collectors.  If this is you I strongly suggest you get in the queue while the door is open (and up the stairs and on to the landing, oh I can’t wait – but I would for you.)


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A trip to the Min.

I was delighted to have time to spend with an exhibitor who was there purely to exhibit his room boxes.

You might think of a room box as something very neat, depicting a perfect little room from sometime in history let into the wall of a full size museum, but Graham Bolton has taken the concept and, over the last ten years, made it his own, though it was forty years ago that he was first inspired by miniatures.  After thinking time, he finally began to shrink the world and what he sees in it, to twelfth scale.


He has an eye for gritty realism, as you can see.  The real cigarette to give the scale is his trademark, and I would have to say the nice clean new cigarette makes the terrible toilet look even worse.  Graham said the toilet bowls were difficult to do, I admire the way he has managed matching basins and urinals.  Nearly everything is made from scratch using MDF, broken up tomato crates, wooden cheese boxes and purchases from pound shops.


Graham has acquired great modelling skills and a wonderful eye for detail.  The message that he wants to get across is that the making of miniatures can cost little but the satisfaction is enormous.

If you are of an age, this kitchen scene will look very familiar.  Graham has an excellent eye for life in progress.  Look at all the stuff cluttering up the work surfaces.  It’s hard to believe that this is all Graham’s work, and that parts are not expensive commissions.  To produce a scene this realistic, Graham has had to learn how to be a jack of all trades.  Look at the wood, metal, ceramics, cabinetry and textiles to name just a few of the materials in which Graham has obvious mastery.

Very impressive, as is



I look at this absolutely perfectly realistic shop and find it difficult to comprehend that it has been made for next to nothing.

Graham makes his miniature scenes when he can’t get out in the garden, which makes me wish for a long hard winter so we can see some more.  As Graham lives not too far from me, in Coventry, I’m hoping he will exhibit locally again soon.  These are the sort of displays that spread miniaturism very effectively.  Once you know this can be a low cost hobby and you see what can be achieved after only ten years of perfecting all the skills, you just have to have a go.

These are just three of the large display of room boxes which Graham was showing at Miniatura.  His table drew crowds throughout the weekend and I hope the excited feedback was as inspiring for Graham as his exhibits were for visitors.  If seeing them here makes you want to visit the show and see such wonders for yourself, details of the website that has the tickets for the Spring show are below.

And if these wonderful room boxes make you want to have a go yourself, what are you waiting for?  Rummage through your recycling, or visit a pound shop and get busy!



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A trip to the show 1.

You wouldn’t think there are any drawbacks attached to exhibiting at Miniatura, which selects all the artists that are there.  Every stand holder has been invited; you can’t just pay money and turn up.

So, in a way, if you are there, you’ve made it.  Hooray!

The problem is that, unless you have someone else behind the table with you, there you are.  The whole point is to be there, so you definitely can’t just wander off.

In the days when I was reporting the show for magazines, I had to do exactly that.  I had various helpers to man my table, which I set up and then deserted.  The Saturday was the big reporting day, when I tried to get the best of the best to the photographer’s studio before someone bought it and on the Sunday I interviewed anyone whose work I’d taken for photography.  I tried to see the whole show, in detail, which is one of the reasons I know how very good it is.

These days it’s just me behind my table.  I do manage to scuttle round the other exhibitors, especially the new exhibitors, early in the morning on Saturday before the show opens.  I saw three artists this time I thought you would like to meet.

Here is Kitten Von Mew.


Kitten looks utterly gorgeous and totally steampunk and so is her house, which she is busy filling with furniture.  Sadly I can’t show you the filled house because then the show opened and I was back behind my own table.  Kitten was demonstrating texturing techniques but was there, as well, just to show you her house.

This is one of the great features of Miniatura.  If you are going to the show at a rather low point financially, there will still be plenty to see.  This is a very good thing.  The core of the hobby is you alone at the dining table late at night fiddling around with bits of something and a craft knife.  If you manage to actually make something small and very good, no one in your family is likely to think you’re clever.  Quite the reverse, sadly.

At Miniatura also this time, right opposite my table, was a wonderful castle.  This was Kastle Kelm’s fantastic castle, absolutely not for sale, it’s theirs and it’s not leaving home.  All weekend people took photos of it.  Everyone except me.

But it was definitely there and made a lot of visitors consider a castle. That’s the thing about Miniatura, it’s well known for giving you big ideas.  The show organiser, Andy, invites artisans purely as inspiring exhibitors.  In the Spring  there was a wonderful twelfth scale hotel, right opposite my stand, which I enjoyed all weekend.  It’s not just inspiring, it is also quite comforting to be in a huge hall of people who think the same way you do.  We all consider shrinking the world to manageable proportions to be a very good idea.

Not only can you not control the real world, you can’t control what happens to you in your own life, either.  Stuff occurs.  You can either get upset and go bananas and get arrested, or you can clear a corner of a table and get busy with a hobby that takes the edge off, is creative, artistic and has every chance of telling the future that you were here and jolly clever with it.

I am still busy with my stand redesign but will find time later in the week to show you someone else who was exhibiting at Miniatura, the show for Miniaturists by Miniaturists since 1983.


The Spring show is on the 16th and 17th March, 2024, if you would just like to go and have a look, the details are at

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