Demented new year.

I haven’t written the Dementia Diaries for some time, not because my Step-Mum-in-Law has suddenly got better but because everything to do with this is so depressing.  If you are a carer for someone with any one of this range of diseases, I am still here and still coping, still with usually daily contact with the demented person, fifth family member into learning about this disease.

Christmas magnified everything.  Regardless of any religious or commercial considerations, Christmas in the modern age is about family, or those closest to you who you regard as family.  If something major has affected your family it will affect Christmas.  If you have lost a family member or close friend, any form of jollification will not feel like something you wish to participate in.

Because of Covid there was no possibility of SMIL spending Christmas with her daughter, who has moved SMIL to a care home in the village next to where she lives. I think for  quite a while the daughter was hoping that she would get her mother back into her house as she had for so many Christmases, and turn back the clock. But since the previous, separated Covid Christmas of 2020, SMIL’s son had committed suicide and the daughter’s Father-in-law had died.

When things go spectacularly and thoroughly wrong people do tend to plough on as if nothing had happened.  The S&H and his bride had their wedding the day after the bride’s father had died, in a state of stunned denial.  If you are the Titanic, it might be very classy for the band to play on as we all sink beneath the waves, though it is helpful in that case to recall that there were not enough lifeboats.  In the daily life of most of us if there is a disaster it is possibly wise to stop and take things in, if we are not in imminent danger.

One of the benefits of dementia, if there can be said to be any, is that, unless the sufferer is running around hitting people with a stick, which can happen, there is plenty of time to take stock and do a bit of thinking.  If you are the principle carer there will be no shortage of meetings with various authorities.  The more help you seek, either paid for, or from government or other sources, the more meetings there will be.  The usual course of the disease can be about five years from diagnosis to death, though this is dependant very much on strength, age, previous health and any other of a number of individual conditions.  I reckon my mother had dementia for about seven years.  She was physically very strong and a fighter anyway.  She had developed resilience by having a father with drinking problems and a huge and difficult personality, not unlike her own. She actually died of norovirus, which ripped through her care home in January 2017.

My father’s cousin’s wife, an elderly, childless University professor, had a lot of care and help and was ill for about six years.  The OH’s aunt, mostly cared for by her daughter, had it for only about three or four years after formal diagnosis.  My mother-in-law, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her fifties had barely five years.  SMIL, who was only diagnosed last summer, after a few tests at approximately six monthly intervals, when her memory worsened, and was therefore diagnosed very promptly, has deteriorated faster than anyone I’ve known.

If you are a new carer, you can see that although it is impossible to predict the duration of the disease with any accuracy, which would be helpful if you are the person trying to make financial provisions, there is a range of survival time after diagnosis.  Whatever you plan has to take that into account.  I was fortunate in being able, when the money ran out that cared for my mother in her own home, to find a (very posh) charity home with a policy of keeping long term residents free of charge if the money disappeared.  This was a great comfort to me, even before I developed cancer, because I had kept my mother in her own home town, where she wanted to be, but it necessitated a lot of commuting on crowded roads for us.  Road accidents happen even to good people on errands of mercy.  In my mother’s care home there were a couple of residents who had outlived their families and money.  In the pandemic I think this is more likely to happen.  In the pandemic putting off the research into local care homes, though made much more difficult by the circumstances, is not really an option.  If your ship goes down the band will only play on for your elderly relative if you have hired them first.

SMIL seems to be set on a course of developing one infection after another. In the elderly, Urinary Tract Infections can lead to confusion and, in advanced dementia, aggression.  It is unfortunate to say the least that just when we are becoming frail we will be constantly assailed by infections but of course, the frailty is exacerbating the inability to fight infection.  After a terrible year and a move to a strange place when newly demented, poor SMIL’s immune system seems to have gone off somewhere else for a holiday.

We had had a pleasant conversation midweek after SMIL received the zig zag book of the grandchildren’s Christmas that I made for her. By the following day all she could do was shout that she was being locked up, and then hit the carer with the phone.  The speed at which infection takes hold is impressive, the effect on unsuspecting bystanders is demoralising.  I was so upset by the things SMIL shouted that it took me the rest of the day to recover sufficiently to do anything.  SMIL’s daughter emailed to describe the situation, of which I had become aware and to say the care home suggested not ringing for a couple of days as phone calls are not beneficial to SMIL when she is unwell.

Friends and family of the demented person need to remind themselves constantly that the behaviour of the person is just that.  Behaviour.  It is not them, lost somewhere inside a disintegrating brain but the effects of the disintegration on their interactions with the outside world. Behaviour is one of the more useful words I gleaned from those who cared for my mother in her own home.  They would watch her doing whatever strange thing she was doing and tell each other it was ‘behaviour’, or when passing the book of notes to the next in shift, they would write ‘behaviour’ on the notes.  I found this a helpful way to think of what was happening.  Classifying the demented person’s shouting at you as ‘behaviour’ aligns it with the disease and not with the person.  The behaviour is a symptom of the disease and a proof, you probably didn’t need, that the person is very sick indeed.

Remembering this enables me to give myself the time to recover from the effects of a verbal attack.  It enables me to separate what the person is doing from the underlying person who is still in there, somewhere, and remembering that makes it easy to phone again and make the new phone call bright and positive and of comfort and help to the sufferer.

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Housewives Real Treasure–New Year edition.

Angelica here!  May I be the first to wish you a Happy New Year.

Here at HRT we are very excited by the donation of a camera phone.  Jackie Biscuit, our cookery editor is still in Dubai, but her teenage son, Gerard, who has moved into the office, as his heating is not working, has brought his laptop with him.  For the first time in a long time we can have a proper Editor picture at the top of the column and here it is!

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Gerard has suggested he should go on the payroll as official photographer, as he can work the old camera phone, which is a bit temperamental, stay reading for news of this!

On with the New Year issue, in which we tackle tidying up and spring cleaning, and the backlog of articles needing illustrations.

Throwing your own mugs with Duncan.

I’m going to show you how to throw the clay, which, I’m assuming is commercial clay, if not pre-grog.

The lad with the camera phone has stood watching and making comments all afternoon.  He’s had three cups of tea and five wrapped chocolate biscuits, which, I might remind you, are not cheap.  As I don’t get paid enough to throw, fire, glaze, fire, china paint, fire and write, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Picture one should show the hand position for the throw down.

Subsequently pay attention to the shape you are making with your fingers, like this:

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I think that about covers it. Next issue, commercial glazes are compared with make-your-own for a fraction of the cost to produce results like this:

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Angelica here again.  I’m very happy to say that Jackie, under the weather, under vaccinated and under hotel arrest, has sent Gerard a picture of her latest recipe, we think for biscuits.

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I have had a word with Gerard about this picture and asked if he could get his mother to move her phone over a bit to take a picture of the words, which unfortunately has caused a slight rift in the family.  As I trusted Gerard, who is as reliable as fifteen-year-old boys usually are, he has sent the magazine to the printers without showing me the proofs, except for the picture from his mother.  There was a lot of shouting.  I think he has taken the donated camera phone with him, so we are back to me popping along to the printers with the stuff off the word processor and the usual snide comments about living in the Sixties.

Fortunately Beverly has turned up trumps with a nice long article, assisted by Gerard, which I won’t have time to proof read.  It’s hand written but Mary can speed type!

Tidying thread.

People often ask me how I get my macramé so colourful, so many people expect it to look like string.  I find the key to it is organisation of your threads and cords.  To do this I have several large plastic boxes as you can see in this photograph.  (Insert photo Ang.)

As you can see there are several ways you can sort them.  At first, as a beginner, I used to have difficulty changing thread widths and filed the cords according to their thickness.  Here is an old photograph of my previous box of threads –it was black and white, but the photographer says he can change it on his laptop. (Insert photo, Ang.)

Now, after so many years of practice I can incorporate almost any thickness of material and so I sort them according to colour. Here is the blue box (Ang.).

Here is the green box (Ang.)  The red box (Ang.) The yellow box (A.) and the grey box (A.)

I still use actual string and save pieces from occasions to go into my macramé memory books.  Here, for example, is the string I used to tie my sling back shoes back on my feet at my niece’s wedding, which turned out to be a a mud fest.  As you can see the string is in the centre of the marriage quilt, photographed by Irena’s Ex, when he was still the groom.

Finally a picture of the latest virtuoso make – yes it is a macramé magazine file box, for you to keep all your treasured back issues in good condition.  We have had to turn it upside down to make it sit on the magazines properly. Mine is done with baby wool but before next issue I will have a go with nylon boat cord.  Gerard says he will be happy to go to the ship’s chandlers with me to see if the rope will photograph OK, if I can give him a lift to the railway station first.

Cleaning silverware with bicarbonate of soda.

If you are fortunate enough to have six cardboard shelf packs of out-of-date bicarbonate of soda, you can clean many things with it.  Three boxes were added to the washing in the washing machine, and got the dog stains out of the duvet a treat. Made to a paste it will clean your stainless steel sink, with added water it gets the smell off the dishcloth.  It even worked on the office dishcloth, so well we don’t need the tongs anymore.  It cleans tongs.  Put in the fridge it would have got rid of any odours attaching to the chocolate biscuits that used to be kept in there.  It cleans silverware, just rub it on with a cloth.  Ringing from Dubai, Jackie says yes, it can go in biscuits and also cakes, though it might not taste very good if it’s out of date and can someone check on their way home to see if Gerard shut the front door, last thing you need if you get sent home is to find the house has been burgled because that little     photographer   has left the front  bothersome    door open again.

Gerard, if you read this, we will pay you something if you turn up at the office in office hours and bring the camera phone with you, or you can hand it in at the charity shop on Wold Street, who gave it to us.  And please contact your mother, even a text will do.

That’s it!  Next issue, getting ready for spring by throwing mugs, make your own macramé bird feeders and sweet teats with out-of-date peanuts.  Don’t miss it, book yours by sending a cheque or postal order for a six-issue saver and get a free macramé pocket handkerchief in a lucky-dip colour!

HRT thanks Ranjam’s Super Save store on Wold Street for the donation of bicarbonate of soda.  Ranjam’s for all your household needs.  Open 24/7 and bank holidays.

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A Monday morning in midwinter.

Walking Charlie the cockerpoo in the park,
John is dancing to get warm in the dark,
He taps away his chills in code,
Fleet of foot and pointy toed.
Freezing breezes fluff his hair,
He hopes he looks like Fred Astaire.

Further over, on the skids,
Jesse’s dealing with the kids,
Unwilling Marlon gets big hugs
(She’s hoping he won’t start with drugs).
Marcy cannot find her hat
How’s it got lost in a two-roomed flat?

Mary’s heading for the shops.
Shuffling, she starts and stops,
The handles of her walking frame
Are cold to touch, but all the same
She’ll reach Mustafa’s, round this bend
With bread, reduced from the weekend.

Egon is checking, in the car
Notes and files and coat and scarf,
Laptop, power pack, bullet point cards
Time check, traffic check, phone and charge.
This is the day (he’s got a hunch)
Several million before lunch.

Abigail flicks through lesson plans
She checks the board, she scans her hands
For germs, for dirt, but still alive
She waits for 4B to arrive,
Coughing, sneezing, running quick
Five colleagues this week, all off sick.

James sits down behind his desk,
He’s really glad to get the rest.
He knows he has digestive woes
Cancerous prostate, a broken toe.
Poking a plastic button with old chilly skin,
‘Nurse Smith, please send the first one in.’

Zoe is waiting by the gutter
Gloved hands, thick boots, heart a flutter
Crossing sign held high and proud
Zoe’s hoping for a crowd.
Twice daily chatter and repartee
Then home alone for silent tea.

Kendal props it under the ledge,
The warm wool carpet, the nice bound edge
The jacquard pattern with a guarantee to it,
Only one factory now, that can do it.
He moves through cold stacks of plastic-based, to open the doors
To customers who like to chuck cheap tat on their floors.

From a store door Les surveys the day,
The early morning pavement is wet, cold and grey.
He counts overnight coins, twenty three –
It might be enough for a sandwich and a tea
To give him the strength to walk down the road
To the charity who may someway, fix no fixed abode.

Millie is excited, it’s a fitting today
Then printing off the tickets, so they can get away.
She smiles in the mirror as she notices the ring,
There is just a tiny niggle – is she doing the right thing?
Ben lies palely uncovered, sleeping off the drinks
If she wakes him he’ll be angry but it’s later than he thinks.

Algernon is creeping round as quiet as a mouse.
A very silent breakfast and then off to the House
Meeting his constituents and voting on a motion,
He drops a knife, he freezes, alarmed at the commotion.
Away from home effective, making all those laws,
Though nothing much will ever touch the rule of her indoors.

Arnie opens the curtains and lets in the day,
It’s nearly ten o’ clock now but it’s still cold and grey.
Hours stretch before him, empty and alone,
It’s too cold to go out walking and he’ll only come back home.
It’s so hot in Australia they all live outside,
Though he hasn’t really heard from Jim since Marilyn died.

Dwayne delivers papers to the houses they are for
Mostly, some on the lawn and a few through the door.
There’s a game he wants that costs quite a lot
When half of what he earns is for the family pot.
He stamps to get warm as the paper shop gets near, though
He thinks he’s a flying interplanetary hero.

Everyone is busy, each in his own way
Bracing for the cold, facing the day.
Waking up to winter but hoping for the sun
And the lighter, longer, easier days that are to come.
Struggling through the dark at the start of the year
In a small northern town in the northern hemisphere.

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Happy Christmas.

Richard Christmas

This is the room box of his own lounge made by my cousin Richard.  He told me they had been decorating it for Christmas ever since he made it ten years ago.  I made the dolls, Richard researched, commissioned and made everything else, after trips to Miniatura, the place to find all the best in miniature.

When he emailed and said it was ten years ago, the timescale was a wonderful gift to me.

The last nine and a half years have been awful for me.  Family illness and death, personal close calls, addiction in the house, dementia, loss of pets and one crisis after another.  I sincerely hope, now I am finally, properly, on the mend that my decade of awful is over, and that I have a long and healthy life ahead of me.

But it all began over ten years ago when my mother went back home to the town we had lived in and went round telling anyone who would listen how evil I was.  She blackened my name in every quarter, my step-mum-in-law told me she had.  Many family members, believing her, ostracised me.  But Richard ran in the other direction, towards me. Out of the blue he rang me and said he needed to make a doll’s house and when was I available?

But it wasn’t until his email a couple of days ago that I put two and two together.  Ten and a bit years ago my mother had dementia but was not formally diagnosed until my father died.  Slagging off the N&D is very typical of the early stages of dementia, in my experience.  SMIL has been calling her daughter names.  My mother-in-law told the neighbours her husband was cheating on her and they never spoke again until my father-in-law’s funeral.

I suffered for years from frosty silence and have only just realised the reason why.

I’m not going to tell family members.  The ghosts of Christmas past can lie easy. I won’t disturb them.

What I have is the best Christmas present you can have.

Peace.  Internal peace.  A calm mind.  Realising that what went wrong in the past was not your fault. Knowing, in a difficult year, that you have done whatever can be done.

I am happy with myself.

(Though, when I get on the scales tomorrow I may not be quite as ecstatic with clever clogs me.)

I wish you peace.  I wish that you be happy with yourself.

I wish you Happy Christmas.

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Housewives Real Treasure–Easter edition.

Welcome reader to the HRT Easter edition.

Angelica, your editor here. First a little notelet of warning, you may be a tad late getting your copy as our usual distributor is embroiled in the current van driver’s dispute and won’t be loading the copies on to the vans until the Industrial Action is resolved.  But here at HRT we don’t let such trifles get us down.

We have some cracking! egg articles.  Jackie has some great Easter Makes for us in the kitchen- iced biscuits in the shape of Santa stockings – without a special cutter! How clever is that!  There are fruit cake buns with snowman icing, which will turn out quite like the drawing, if you use your imagination and we know how imaginative our reader can be. The iced advent calendar is really something, as the artist’s impression indicates.

Please do send us pictures of your Easter Makes, we will award a prize of three years’ supply of icing sugar to the best fifteen and we will publish every picture.

Finally if any reader has a working camera that they don’t need, we’d be grateful for a donation.

On with the eggs!

Happy Easter

Angelica.

Knitted winter boots.

(This is the end of the article from issue 97 that was chopped off the bottom of the page when the cutting machine malfunctioned at the printers. Thanks to all the readers who drew our attention to this.  The editor apologises unreservedly.  The postal address of the magazine will appear in the next issue but one, the phone number is not the same, please do not ring the old number, which now belongs to the new takeaway on Wold Street.  The cutter has been mended but future editions will be an inch shorter and the page ends may be missing a

Turn the heel into the toe and finish off.  Finally an autumn themed pumpkin decoration is embroidered round the welt as shown in the photograph.*

Macramé Christmas stockings.

Beverley here with some easy stockings to macramé while you are waiting for the great day!

42 square knots, in a line, ideally with red thread.  41 horizontal half hitch for fifteen rows.  Two rows of decorative


Christmas centre plates.

Throw six flat-rimmed plates to your desired size, allowing for 12% kiln shrinkage.  Dry three days.  Fire to biscuit.  Glaze using food safe glaze and decorate with Christmas themes as in the photograph.  These are my own designs which I have given to the magazine, which took me three weeks to do.  I am a potter, not some poncey picture painter.  You can copy them but only for your own use, if I see these at some craft fair I will sue.  You can depend upon it.

Happy Christmas from Duncan.

In keeping with our Easter theme here is a little how-to on boiling


Easter fashions.

Here are some wonderful pictures we managed to upload before the camera got squashed.

Here is Beverley behind the huge bowl of Easter punch.  Beverley is wearing a red semi-cashmere scarf (£12.99 Barganz Galore, corner of the High Street),  a blue charity shop puffa jacket, her own boots, a macramé jumper (Pattern issue 56) embroidered nipple covers and a macramé bracelet (Pattern issue 34).

Duncan is sitting in the corner holding a mug he threw himself, wearing brown semi-cashmere gloves (£6.50 Barganz Galore, corner of the High Street), a jumper (watch out for the January issue’s articles on how to get clay out of anything without clogging the washing machine by guest contributor, Duncana) and trousers, we hope.  (Hard to see under the clay.)

Jackie is sitting on the settee wearing a festive red tent dress (£532.65 MassiveModes) pink suedette boots (Bootylizious.co.ak).  Hair done by KerlUpNShade back of Pizzer’s Alley and the Jolly Drunk.

I am taking the picture but you can see my thumb!

Here is the editor’s secretary, Mary, in a top from a shopping channel, jeans which you can see through the half-empty punch bowl and Santa socks (£12.99 down the market.)  She is holding a megamug thrown by Duncan (instructions in issue 22 and handy list of industrial kiln hirers).

Duncan’s hair by KerlUpNShade.

The large punch bowl is actually a kiddies rigid paddling pool, (£14.99 HomeWares4U), soup ladle (HomeWares4U) turkey baster (Cookery editor’s own) plastic bucket with dolphin decoration (£5.99 HomeWares4U), lemon- editor’s own.

Fashionable pic of a corner of the office ceiling.  Fashion shot, the soles of Mary’s shoes.  Fashion shot – something.

That’s it for now, look out for our Early Summer Break edition.

*The editor wishes to apologise for the lack of pictorial content in this issue, we do hope the four page fashion spread made up for it.  Once again, all camera donations gratefully received, especially any that can talk to an Acorn Electron, or a word processor.

Iced biscuits in the shape of Santa stockings.

Make your own who gives

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HRT magazine is indebted to Market Drayton Sugarcane storage facility trading as Fluffy Rugs Ltd Balsover Road, for the donation of two pallets of icing sugar, and the Wendover Water company and fizzy drinks Ltd. for warehouse space.

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Housewives Real Treasure. Late December Edition.

Hello Readers!

Angelica, your Editor here!  My Goodness!  What a packed fortnight it has been!  Next issue will be the Christmas Edition!  How quickly it comes round! It seems like only twelve months since we were telling you what to do with leftover turkey and how to pack your baubles away and here we are (nearly) all getting them out again.

On page 97 our wonderful wool department can be found with instructions on how to macramé eight matching flower pot holders to use as drinks containers or as holders for pots.  These look very festive in red, though done in orange will bring the Halloween drinks holders tally up to a cheerful sixteen!

The centre pull-out section is all about how to choose, wrap and gift footballs, for the men in your life, or the sporty teenage girl.  What sixteen year-old would not like her own football? The pull-out team have pink glittery balls and collapsible goal posts with attractive macramé decorations, which, done in orange, will perfectly co-ordinate with the Halloween scarves, four issues ago.

We are all glad most of the team are back in the office, despite lockdowns and working from home and have a Family Firework purchasing advice article to celebrate.

As always the Final Word is something funny from Noel, who this issue is writing humorously about choosing a roller blind but we kick off with a three page spread on the latest version of Upcycling. Yes! Repurposing comes to HRT. Enjoy!

Your

Angelica.

Repurposing in the Twenties.

Look around you.  What can you see in the house that is looking a little tired and could do with repurposing? Not got a clue?  Don’t worry the team is on hand.  We have all been busy beavering away.  Every team member has repurposed a common household item from their own homes (because at HRT we like to Get Real for the Readers.)

As you can see Beverley has repurposed unused gravy browning to dye her white macramé socks brown to go with her new trousers.  Stylish!  Beverley recommends varnishing the socks to make them waterproof, so they are washable! Stylish and practical Beverley!

You would never guess these stylish brown lampshades are in fact, repurposed macramé pot holders dyed with gravy browning.  On a safety note, they hold well away from the lightbulbs because they have been varnished!  Nice touch Beverley!

These side plates have been repurposed as dinner plates by simply making a plaster mould, casting a ceramic hole, attaching it to the rim of the side plate with slip, firing in the kiln to biscuit, glazing with a glaze made from gravy browning, re-firing and painting with daisy sprigs to match.  Next issue Duncan will demonstrate throwing ceramic mugs to fit your macramé pot holders.

Savoury nibble cakes made from repurposed gravy browning.

Ingredients.

Half a lb. gravy browning.

4oz. plain flour.

Some sugar off the staff tea tray.

Fifteen tiny packets of hotel butter.

Half a tube of mints.

Method.

Crush the mints, unwrap the butter pats, stir everything together in the cachepot from the pot plant, spread the mixture on the back of a file folder and put in an oven for quite a while.

Serving suggestion.

Tip out, cut up and put on a plate.

Eat them or repurpose as floor tiles.

A reader writes.

I am very interested in this idea and would like to repurpose my husband, if the team have any advice?

The team reply.

We have asked around the office.  The general consensus seems to be that if your husband is tall and can stand still, he could probably be repurposed as an uplighter.  Thread the electrical lead down his trouser leg and under the rug.  You could also paint his shirt to match the wall.

Acknowledgements this issue – thanks to United Gravy Browning Inc for the donation, to the Greater Manchester Wool Spinners and Dyers for String and to High Street Games Ltd for footballs.

The team hope Jackie Biscuit, the cookery editor, who is quarantined in Dubai, will be home soon.

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Still busy

With the Christmas cards.

Ever year recently I have designed something amazing, at length, usually late, while others, whose cards were pieces of cardboard with a printed picture, delivered theirs on to the doormat on December the First, with such a smug flop on the mat, you could practically feel the smirk.

As always with anything creative, real life intervenes to steal crucial lumps of time.  I passed the ‘stay up late and finish this bit’ a week ago.  I am now stopping for a TV show every night slightly past nine so I can get up in the AM and get on.  I’m amazed I did that only once this year.  Thirty years of shows have shown me that staying up late just leads to tiredness (I know! – Who knew?) and that it is more efficient to go to bed at a reasonable time. One day I may be sufficiently mature to figure sleeping into creativity, though I may leave that till the bit of life where you’re telling people about the importance of sleep through closed eyelids on your third nap of the afternoon.

The daughter of SMIL writes wondering what to do about Christmas.  In the dementia diaries there are, I think, four Christmases documented.

If everyone is healthy and happy and the children are aged between three and teenage, these are the years.  I made a big production number of Christmas then, with quite a lot of home made for financial reasons.  They were very happy.  The S&H’s first Christmas all I could afford to give him was a plastic bath duck. My father made him a ride on rocking sheep, which was wonderful.  We still had the demented Mother-in-law and desperate Father-in-law staying for a fortnight, hence the plastic duck.

The one thing not to do with an abnormal Christmas is to carry on as normal, or to believe that tons of presents will somehow make things better.

In the Diaries, I recorded the Christmas that had to be cancelled at the last minute on doctor’s orders when my mother became hysterical.  My cousin and wife visited for four hours, numerous neighbours and friends just popped by for an hour each time, all to be entertained, given drinks and food, all ‘making it worth it’ for the poorly person, in the process making her much worse, and exhausting her to the point of hysteria.

I also recall Christmases following deaths in the family, where we tried to carry on as normal, that were miserable.

Christmas is about family.  Where ever you are in the world, what ever the faith that inspires you or none, no matter what cost of the presents, Christmas is about family.

Once you have recognised that, it is easier to know what to do.  Because it is about family, if some of the family are missing, or compromised in some way, you have to take note of that first and honour it.  Ploughing on as if nothing had changed does them no honour.  Perhaps the most important part of the day might be the one where someone raises a toast to ‘absent friends’, because for people who have no family, there is no Christmas.

Largely because of political situations there seem to be more refugees than ever in the world just now.  I am sitting in a building, warm dry and fed, writing this, for which I am truly thankful.  My health seems finally to be on the mend, for which I am truly thankful and the OH is on a more even keel, for which I am truly thankful.

Each year recently the OH wonders why I do the Christmas cards when it is such a lengthy and tiring process.

It is my way of giving thanks.  This year I have 60 cards on my list, which means I know 60 people who are alive and have doormats.

In an uncertain world that is something to celebrate.

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The shop.

The S&H (who is very clever) is building his mother (who is me) a shop (which is great).

As a result all along the top bar you can see words specific to remote shopping, such as shop and cart.  However when you click on them, nothing happens.  That’s because there’s nothing there yet.

In order for there to be something there, the shop assistant (me) will have to stack the shelves.  This involves taking a photograph of each item, writing the description and the price and going through several routines to get them into the shop. 

At present the shop assistant is writing this while watching the thick, thick snow falling (in November) and planning to spend the rest of the day making the Christmas cards.  The cards are a major production number involving a month of planning and making.  I have just got to the tricky bit, involving engineering, to make it work.

I would be Internet shopping but there is no Internet, I believe because everyone else has woken to see the snow and decided to go Internet shopping.* The snow is so thick I am not even going to walk round the corner to the garage supermarket, I am going to visit the freezer of my own fridge.

In theory (which is always fine and dandy) the shop will come into existence when the S&H and his mother meet, and the clever one with computery knowledge can teach the other one (me) how to do it.  When I have done some learning the shop will appear and I will tell you it is there.

Meanwhile the S&H has installed a doodah for security.  When you click on ‘Leave a comment’ a box comes up for you to tick.  Please tick it.  That’s all.  Your message will come to me as always and I will reply, as usual.

I have been doing a lot of reading about tax and customs and excise and all that.  My reading has lead me to the conclusion that the shop should be for UK customers only.  I am sorry if you live far away, very sorry.  A reader alerted me to the difficulties of shopping from the EU in the UK following Brexit.  (Do you know, I have days when I think I’m writing English and days when I’m not so sure.)  She said goods get impounded and export duties are levied on the remote collector.

I have some experience of this as I have been shopping for miniatures round the world for thirty years.  If you are a giant TV shopping channel you can afford an entire legal department and another postal department and do deals with the post office, though it is worth noting that some giant shopping channels open studios in other countries rather than exporting, because of the difficulties.

I am just one pensioner, I’m the same height as the Queen, younger and with rather more al fresco hair.  I am not expecting, even if the shows reopen and stay open, to make enough to have to pay tax. But I would like to have a few selected porcelain items for sale for collectors.

The situation may change.  Politicians make trade deals round the world, it keeps them out of mischief, sometimes.

These days if I wanted to buy something from abroad I might ask friends in the country I’m shopping in, to do local shopping for me.  One of the huge benefits of attending Miniature shows such as Miniatura, which is properly called Miniatura International, is that you do make friends with exhibitors and visitors from all over the world.  When the countries of the world have finally acted together to save all the people from Covid and then, I hope, save the planet, we’ll be able to do that again.  It may be that we’ll all be given a number of air miles as a lifetime allowance, if it happened I would applaud that and use mine to visit a show somewhere and quite a few museums.  In the current health situation I am staying put.  I would not currently get on an aeroplane with air shared with other people breathing germs into it for anything, I don’t even like being in a room with a lot of people, unless they are masked or family.

I do collect house kits from over the pond.  I pay the import duties happily, they have, in the past, been hefty.

So that’s where I’m up to currently. There will be a shop attached to this website, probably after Christmas and if you are a UK resident you’ll be able to shop there.

I had a French teacher at school whose saying ‘There’s a good time coming but it’s a good time coming’ is frequently very apt. When the good time arrives, I’ll tell you.

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* No, it was because something blew over in the gale and then got snowed upon.  I really hate winter. (And it’s only Autumn, so far.)**

**People burble on about crisp, clear days but it’s only so they can sell you a scarf.


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Shop!

When I threatened  a shop here again, or, to be exact, the S&H thought he could do a shop here again, I thought a response to the question, would you like one? might come flooding in.

As no response has occurred of any variety, I thought three thoughts.  1) You are too busy doing Christmas things to have read the blog and seen the question.  2) You have wandered into this website by mistake and were actually searching for a video of Miley Cyrus twerking.  3) You just come here for a bit of reading and didn’t know I made miniatures and sold them and 4) it was so long since there was a shop here you can’t remember what kind of stuff I made.

Therefore, thought I, perhaps I should show you what it is I do make.

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These are things I make.  They are bas relief pictures, the largest would fit in the palm of your hand.  They are made of paper clay.  To make them I make an original sculpture.  Then I take a silicone mould from the sculpture.  When the mould is cured I press paper clay into the form, remove it and dry it.  Then I paint it.  The results are small, they are for doll’s houses.  The largest, which is my take on a mediaeval inn in Chester, would fit in the palm of your hand.  Prices are various but the largest, which can take up to a day to make, cost about ten pounds sterling.

I make sculptures of all kinds and then reproduce them, either as a solid form, or, in the case of the dolls, as multiple hollow porcelain forms, internally jointed by metal embedded loops and resin elastic. Smaller scales have hollow lower limbs that are jointed to the torso by wired, stuffed cloth upper limbs.  The smallest have solid limbs with a hole in the top that are wired to the torso with a wire that goes through the hole in the torso and comes out at the arm top or hip in a tiny wire loop.

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Here are the dolls I was preparing for Miniatura just before the world went mad.  The scissors are big scissors but not gigantic, the dolls are 48th scale.  They are smaller than your little finger. Each is an individually made, porcelain doll, china painted, fired twice in the kiln and dressed by sewing clothes on to them.  Prices are variable, about eighteen pounds.

On top of the cost of the item there will be postage costs and packing, though where possible I will reuse packaging that is clean and in good condition, for green reasons, though you will never get a recycled supermarket cake package. I did have a miniatures friend many years ago who was famous for that, you could tell what she’d had for tea last week.  Postage and minimal packaging costs will be actual where possible and I think will have to include tracking costs.  I have been remote shopping like everyone else recently and have discovered that stuff doesn’t always arrive, or arrive in good order.  I cannot make anything twice.  I do not make by factory methods, except for many porcelain pieces going into the kiln for a firing.  Each made item, especially those of many parts, like the dolls, is an individual.  They are made from moulds, which I have also made, but in the drying or firing they can change. Many of the fabrics are hand dyed.

The items I make are art.  They are not meant to be realistic. I do not like dolls that are miniature people.  The dolls are dolls, they live doll lives, some would be permanently smiling at the bottom of a cup of tea.  My version of what I see is usually cheerful, optimistic and slightly naïve.  I like that.  I do not wish for gritty realism.  Life is gritty realism.  Gritty realism is miserable, I’ve had too much of it in the last nine years.

Most of what I make is not expensive for what it is, or the time involved in the making.  The most expensive dolls so far have been £45 at shows, they are the twelfth scale glass eyed dolls, which, despite being those things, were still cheerful and doll-like.

Having said which, if there were a shop, that would give me the chance to make and sell things that were not dolls house items.

Until I find a literary agent (still looking) and get a novel published, the words are free.  The words here will always be free whether there is a shop or not.

If there is a shop it will not be huge.  It will not be the online kind of shop where you sit down in the evening and emerge at bedtime much poorer having bought goodness knows what.  There will just be a few things.  You will not be able to try them for three months then send them back covered in gravy in April for a refund, which you will have to argue with someone in a call centre for two hours of your life to get back.  When I had the shop, shoppers frequently expressed surprise at how much nicer the items were in the hand than in the photograph.  I will always try to rescue a doll you love which has broken in the normal course of careful, gentle play by a collector.  Porcelain is strong.  If you’ve dropped it on concrete and then jumped on it I retain the right to charge for the repair. If you live far from the UK whatever you are buying may take months to arrive, some of my Christmas cards last year got to their destinations in March.  I will never chase you to rate, comment on or give feedback. My inbox currently is clogged with requests for me to do the marketing for huge companies who have already had my money.  I will not put cookies in your computer (though you’re welcome to balance a biscuit on the keyboard.  Every now and then turn your laptop upside down.  You’ll be amazed at the crumbs.  Crumbs!  Chocolate covered ginger fingers, they stopped doing those last July!)

But the items will be 100% me.  They will not be fair leftovers.  They would only be available in the shop.  Once sold they would be gone.

What do you think?  If you are interested please click on leave a comment, below and, you know, leave a comment. (But don’t give me a rating or stars.  Your comment will not go through a third party, or even out for a coffee, it will just pop up in my inbox.)

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To shop or not to shop?

Long time readers (you know who you are!) may well recall the halcyon days of there being a shop attached to this site, in which you could buy the dolls I make and I would post them to you wherever you are.  Some corners of the world do not have very secure post but in the main I managed it because the individual porcelain dolls that I make individually are an individual collector’s item.  They are not plastic dolls of pop stars or Elton John’s music box, or somebody famous’s socks or anything worth nicking, they are not even very big.  They are seriously under priced for the amount of work that goes into them.  It’s a niche thing, like my words, either for you or not.

The shop vanished when the swop of a defunct laptop caused all sorts of stuff to drift off in the ether.  I have just got some of the pictures back from the hard drive, saved by the S&H.

The S&H has just offered to restore the shop.  A way to do it that is less work for the computer donkey headed (me) (and I do apologise if I malign donkeys some of whom can knit*) has appeared on the horizon and the S&H, who is clever, could bolt it on so it would work.  He could even teach the dolt (me again) (hello)  to work it, he thinks.  (He’s very optimistic.)

The question is, would you like it?

In the late 1950s they discovered how to put flavourings on to potato crisps.  I lived in the test area.  What this meant was that for a while I was among the first in the world to try tomato sauce flavoured crisps (huge success). Salt and vinegar (epic) and so on.  Then they branched out and tried haddock, which was not well received and kipper, a spectacular failure.  A fair few fish flavours were floated and, failing, fairly frequently, fank wifout frace.

It is mainly thanks to me and my pals, walking the streets and spitting flounder flavour crisps in the gutter that there are so few fish crisps on the market now.  (I would try lobster but it would have to be lobster and lemon, I think.)

So this is my question, would you like a bit of this fish stick flavour chewing gum?

No, no sorry, wrong question.

What do you think about reopening the shop?  Might you be a customer?

Opinions please via the click and leave a complaint about all the fish jokes button below.  Thank you.

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*A lie, sorry, I got carried away on a wave of fish.  Donkeys cannot knit.**

**Quilting maybe.***

*** I’m lying again, as I’m sure you’ve spotted. Donkeys’ cannot do quilting.  They can only make a cup of tea.****%%

****No they can’t.  Very sorry.  I’m stopping, Now.

%%Just a quick coffee and wipe down of the worktop.()

() No.

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