Finished! (for now).

Very occasionally I’m quite pleased with myself.  I was this afternoon, as I washed the kitchen floor having tidied up all the mess engendered by mould making.

It is not dainty.  I wore the same plaster encrusted trousers for a week and shoes which are revolting, because of gravity.  On some other planet you might have to clean the ceiling after a week of mould making, but on this one, when you have done: the sink, the worktops, the bowl, the bowl used for melting plasticene, all the tools, the broken knife, acres of kitchen roll, numerous hand towels, endless scrubbing brushes and all the rest, you clean the floor.

I was so exultant at having finished that I asked Alexa (who I normally never bother, even though she keeps reminding me, pathetically, that my shopping list is empty) to play Canon by Pachelbel and play it loud.  I had it twice, then quite a bit of baroque music and finished with another Canon in D, because that is the hip place for a Canon to be.

What’s it all about (Alfie?)



Blimey!  Moulds as far as the eye can see (as long as the eye can only see as far as the end of the dining table, which would be further if the OH hadn’t cut the end off.)

Yes I am very pleased with  myself.

Will they all work?

Let’s not spoil it.  Let’s leave them for a fortnight and then, when they are drier than the Sahara (with touches of Vaseline) let’s have a pour and see what happens.  I might not be so pleased with myself then, but for now




        p                      p

           p            p





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Nearly done.

Or, nearly done in.  Difficult to say which.

I think I’ve been standing in the kitchen for a week, my fingernails have been bent backwards and filled with bits of plaster so often, my hands would like to run away.

The dining table is covered in moulds.  It’s a big dining table, (though not as big as it was before the OH cut the end off.)

So far there’s been one disaster.  The Roman dolls’ doll was doing OK, I had done the first half of the mould, was all ready to pour when lo! Half a leg turned up missing.  It was there a moment ago.  I did search with my plaster going off rapidly.  The half limb, all three millimetres of it had gone through the vortex and was now in residence on planet IHADITAMINUTEAGO together with millions of odd socks, a cliff of credit cards, the broken dunked biscuit lake, Mount Contact Lens and the Flooredida Keys.

I had to make one out of plasticene in a rush, so that doll may not see the light of light.

But last night, pointing someone in the direction of the Dementia Diaries, I started reading this blog at eleven and carried on until two.  I was reading the bit where I broke my arm, was diagnosed with cancer and all the palaver that followed.  I had forgotten that I had been medically threatened with irradiation and warned that this would cause a list of awful side effects as long as your arm (with or without a long nail and five screws) ending with ‘and lifelong bleeding from the back passage.’

And a doctor said this to someone who had been the proxy to my mother’s Munchausen’s by proxy.  No wonder I refused the treatment.

As it is the longest day, in another half a year and a couple of months, I’ll find out if I have survived cancer by five years without the extra bits.  If all that they threatened me with, is what poor Kate, Princess of Wales, has gone through recently, no wonder she looks shattered.

But, and I may be a bit premature in saying this, how much better I am now.  Four and a half years ago there is no way I could have stood in the kitchen for a week.  Two years ago in July, after the major abdominal surgery, I couldn’t even sit in a chair for long.

All we ever have is today.  Today I made more moulds to make more dolls for my collectors and then, because it was still light when I stopped I did a bit of very zen watering of the garden.

Today was a good day.

If you are a regular reader and like to go back over the years or follow a theme on this blog, be cleverer than I was and get a cup of tea first, there are sixteen years of writing to read, which have inadvertently recorded the ups and downs of my life.

The doll moulds are nearly done but the writing not ever, please keep reading (it’s a dying art, you know.)


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Horses for courses.

Having finished the sculpting and modelling I found I have twenty one new things for the one hundredth Miniatura.  That’s a lot for any show

As each item has between one and six two-part moulds to produce the porcelain shape, that’s a lot of moulds.

Today I started on the horse.  Being a twelfth scale horse, as each porcelain item shrinks by about 14% the moulds to mould the correct sizes for shrinkage are huge.  There are six moulds, for the body, the neck, the head, the hollow upper legs, the solid lower legs and the ears. Making the moulds has taken all day and I am stopping now because I am absolutely done in.  The legs proved very difficult, I had to do one half twice as it broke on completion.

Some days I wish I had an apprentice because apprentices clear up at the end of the day.  An apprentice would pick all the plaster out of the Lego bricks, an apprentice would lift the unheftable bucket of plaster, an apprentice would have to clean the plaster out of his fingernails and then wash the floor at the end of the day.

Sadly I do not have an apprentice.

All day I have been thinking about the horses belonging to the terracotta warriors.  They are life size.  The official website shows the warrior parts being made from moulds in the way you’d expect, a mould for each leg and so on and then details carved in the leather hard demoulded clay and parts stuck together with clay slip.

Terracotta shrinks too, when fired.  The moulds to make life size horses must have been absolutely immense.  They were all hand made over the course of forty years, just over two thousand years ago.

How did they do it?

Over 700,000 workers did it and I bet a lot of them were apprentices.  If you had spent most of your working life picking the plaster out of your fingernails, I bet you got very good at it very quickly so you could progress to the master caster job and direct operations, on a better pay scale.

If they were paid at all.

Blimey, I wouldn’t do this for a handful of rice.

I would only do it for the one hundredth Miniatura (and I don’t even know if it will work yet, because everything I know about horses could be written on a postage stamp.)

How nee ma and whoa dobbin.

Early to hit the hay for me.

Brrrrogh!  Neeeee!  Clip clop.

(Don’t worry, I’ll be back to normal tomorrow doing a doll.)


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Having it off.

It all depends what you are having off and you may make your own joke here… and here.

I’m having the day off.

I’ve been sculpting for a good two weeks.  The thing about arty stuff is you do get better with practice and that applies to every session.  Almost certainly by the time you are ready to pack up after several days, you are just getting good at it.  The blade is turning nicely, the water colours are going swimmingly, the sewing machine is performing and then, when you’ve worked your way on to the last six inches of the dining table, inspiration strikes.

I think probably the time previously is warming up time.

After a fortnight you’d think I was warmed through, but, getting picky in my old age, I find another doll hiding in my head that just needs to pop out through my fingers.

Plus, of course the next show is the 100th Miniatura and I feel the need to celebrate with lots of new ness. And, of course, I had only had the idea for a couple of dolls’ dolls but once I got started there were so many ideas. I foolishly researched dolls in history in various places and found many that I would like myself.  I always think if you want something the best idea is to make it, so I have begun, whether the strangeness of some ancient dolls will translate well to porcelain, I may be about to find out.

I could have just done a couple of ideas and perfected them but if I did, I wouldn’t be me.

I am getting pickier as I go, so there are ten pieces of sculpture heading for the bin, except that two of them are very nice thighs, so I might make the rest of the doll to go with them.

But not today, apart from a bit of gardening I’m having the day off. I’m not even going to do a blog.


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More dolls.

It’s been a busy week, for a sculptor.

I have an excellent forgettory.  I forget, in between doing it, how tricky modelling and sculpting for dolls can be.  I think, as I age, that I get much pickier.  A shape that I would have been very happy to produce ten years ago is no longer satisfactory.  I am wrestling currently with a partial horse.  I did do a unicorn some years ago but no longer find it satisfactory or big enough, I don’t like the joints, the range of movement is not realistic and it will be in the bargain box come the autumn.

I have got all the parts for my new twelfth scale man ready to mould.  There’s also a new 24th scale articulated lady, which is a portrait doll.  There’s a new twelfth scale child and plenty of dolls’ dolls.

The dolls’ dolls have been very interesting.  So far there are two Bartholomew babies, a jointed early Roman doll, a Hellenistic doll, a matryoshka, a thirties doll and a frozen Charlotte. 

The Frozen Charlottes were one-piece porcelain dolls, popular in the Victorian era as dolls’ house residents and dolls in their own right.  They were usually glazed white or skin tone porcelain with moulded hair and china painted facial features.  To get the doll in the right attitude has proved tricky.  The old dolls have arms that are bent at the elbow but the upper arm is held close to the body.  I’d like to offer all my dolls’ dolls undressed and dressed; getting the arms in a realistic attitude but dressable has been quite tricky.  Some of the Victorian dolls have tiny feet in painted boots but there is no way they would stand up.  Tiny feet were a Victorian virtue.  I do often think I am physically a throwback, I have sloping shoulders, a waist, a substantial bust, weeny feet and straight dark hair.  I’m probably the nearest thing you’re going to get to Queen Victoria without the later  sour expression and the antimacassar draped on my head.

The story of poor frozen Charlotte was that she was invited to go on a sleigh ride but was so proud of her pretty dress she refused to put a shawl on and arrived at her destination frozen solid.

It was probably the precursor of everything your mother told you before you went out:  to make sure you were wearing clean underwear (in case you got run over) to put your coat on for going out but take it off in the house (other wise you wouldn’t feel the benefit) and make sure your shoes were shiny (because this was the era before upskirting, though the advice about the underwear still holds good, obviously.)

I think there are a few more dolls’ dolls to do.  There is also a shoulder head, which I am thinking of as a kit, which would make a twenty-fourth resident.  I’ve had a request for twenty-fourth children and babies which will be included.

If there is anything you fancy and you are coming to the show please let me know before next weekend.

In the last autumn show I had a request for blokes in a garage.  I have done some of them and also made a garage box for them to live in until they get rehomed.  There will be more men when I get to the dressing phase but for now


all together…Grease is a word, have you heard…?


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Dolls’ dolls and dolls’ dolls’ dolls (and some dolls.)

In the last week I finally cleared the decks and got busy sculpting some dolls.  Sculpting is accurate as a term, also modelling.  All the masters from which I make the moulds are made in Milliput.  If you watch the Repair Shop on the BBC you will see ceramics restorer, Kirsten, making good, by filling losses in ceramic artefacts, sometimes with a two part epoxy putty.  This is Milliput.  On its own it has been used as a modelling compound for all sorts of modelling and repairs since 1968, you can read all about it at .  You can model with Milliput, as you would with any mouldable compound, once it sets, rock hard in about four hours, you can then sculpt with it as you would a block of concrete or limestone.  The two actions, combined, give the opportunity to refine your original shapes.  In my case, when making the small articulated dolls, which are fourteen parts of porcelain which have to interact, revolving and moving round each other as joints, the ability to refine my original models to make smooth movement and ensure the joints hang together and the dolls does not come unstrung, is essential.

I have modelled a new twelfth scale man and most of a twelfth scale child, the parts for my Christmas card and some dolls’ dolls.

I always have a book on my show table in which visitors who would like me to have a go at an idea they’ve had, are encouraged to write the idea.  I have a good list this time, top of which is Tudor dolls’ dolls.

We certainly know that dolls and dolls’ houses have been around for thousands of years because we have the evidence.  If you ask your search engine for images of an ancient Roman doll, you will find plenty of examples that were buried with their owners, or surrendered as offerings to the gods upon marriage. They are made of wood or ivory, beautifully carved with very Roman hairstyles.  In the Ashmolean museum there are many examples of miniature peopled buildings made by expert ancient Egyptian model makers for the Pharaoh to take with him into the afterlife.  I think the Egyptian modellers, working in the villages that serviced the dead had got the most pleasant job.  I easily conjure them as ancient nerds, shouting ‘Hang on a minute, I’ve just got to paint this man’s eyebrows!’ to a departing funeral procession, though that may have much to do with days gone by with the S&H up at one end of the dining table with metal miniatures and me at the other end with a dolls’ house.

There were also ivory, bone and terracotta ancient Greek dolls, also with modelled complex hairstyles and paddle dolls, which, as the name suggests, were flat paddle shapes with a head, which are attributed to the middle Kingdom period of ancient Egypt.

There have, of course, also been rag dolls throughout history, most of which did not survive.  I had a rag doll, known as ‘blue doll’.  My grandfather made it to comfort the crying baby that I was, by rolling up a blanket and handing it to me with the words ‘Here’s a blue doll for you, now you can stop crying.’  I am quite sure something similar will have happened  as long as there have been adults who could not stand the sound of a crying baby and babies who were comforted by the doll made of whatever came to hand.

The Tudor dolls were not known as dolls but as Bartholomew babies.  They were turned wooden shapes sold at Bartholomew Fair in London.  Any fan of Tudor architecture or furniture knows of the facility that Tudor workmen had with turning.  At a time when much of England was still forested, pole lathes were very popular.  To make one of these, you dug a pit in the forest next to a nice springy sapling.  You then felled a tree that would lie across the pit with the ends supported, tied a bit of rope to one of the branches and the other end to the top of the sapling.  You wind the tree up and get your chisels on it as the sapling springs back, revolving the tree for you.  This is the basic principle of wood turning, the tree turns and you carve it by putting a cutting blade on it as it turns, making a smooth pole. Tudor carvers were lathe virtuosi, making many furniture parts from elaborate turnings.  Bed posts, for four posters, table legs, chair backs and legs, triangular chairs for Elizabethan ladies to perch on in huge farthingales and every other thing you could imagine from carved wood.

The Bartholomew babies were the left-over turned branches.  They had heads, shoulders and waists but not usually feet.  They were dressed in typical Tudor fashions and are depicted in various paintings of Tudor families, clutched by little girls.  Boys had hobby horses, cups and balls and no doubt, little bags or boxes full of treasures such as funny shaped pebbles, carved dice and what we, as children in the North East used to call ‘Chucks and Handies’ but which were known to Roman children as knucklebones.

Bartholomew babies, according to museum records, did not have arms.  However some of the paintings definitely show dolls with their hands clasped, it is likely that arms could be made by threading a suitable material through holes in the torso.  Tudor clothing, pre buttons, was tied on.  Sleeves were tied on under the shoulder frills known as Piccadills, which were sold in the area of London now known as Piccadilly.  In a time pre-deodorant, replaceable sleeves must have been an airy blessing; if you visit as many costume museums as I did in the early days of doll dressing, you will be very familiar with garments rotted at the under arms.  Strings of various materials were finished at the ends with metal tags called aiglets, unless they were made of an unravelling substance, such a leather.

So my Bartholomew Babies will be made of porcelain but will have threaded arms.  I have also modelled a nineteen thirties style dolls’ doll and a shoulder head doll, typical in Victorian times, which may or may not be a kit.  If you fancy having a go at a doll kit, please get in touch in the usual way.  It might be suitable to be a twenty fourth scale person but I might shrink it if anyone is keen.  It might just be a small doll for anyone wanting to have a go at making a Victorian type doll.

I also have, ready to shrink, a Seventeenth century prototype. I was obsessed with the seventeenth century for so long I had dolls of the era, which were originally carved wood, to live in my houses as residents.  I did offer them years ago but no one was keen, so the time has come to shrink them down to dolls’ dolls as see what anyone else thinks.

The one hundredth Miniatura is the place to see all these dolls’ dolls and the dolls that are usually there and the new dolls. Whatever else there is, there will be dolls (I will make them and bring them!)


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Back to round the bend.

We are all here to learn, some days I think I inadvertently picked the advanced course.  Of course, if you pick the easy course, the one with a perfect partner, two point five perfect children, a mortgage-free cottage with roses round the door and a fulfilling, well-paid, extremely pleasant job, surrendered in the fullness of time for the happy hobbies that can be enjoyed by the strong and healthy elderly, well, you’re not going to learn anything.  Sure you’ll be happy but who wants to be happy when you can instead learn about life the hard way?

There’s been a lot of pain in my life, which reached a crescendo mid week when I realised I couldn’t actually do anything.  Paralysed with pain with my mind going in circles, I just called a halt to everything to assess exactly what was going on.

Several things at once.  Simultaneously two things that would have been wonderful had the plug pulled at the last minute.  I should have been on holiday in Florence, right now I should have been coming back.  The DIL had arranged it for us, her mother, them and the children some months ago.  However when we met in late March, her mother, who had been in and out of hospital could not get travel insurance.  She is very poorly, waiting for a kidney transplant from her daughter who was very light-blue-touchpaper-and-retire about it.  To get the money back on the accommodation the decision had to be made.  I was very conscious that the S&H had thought of the holiday for his mother who has not had a holiday since 2008 and will not go away with her husband who is inclined to drink problems away.  Twenty five years ago on the silver wedding holiday he left me in the middle of the road with the suitcases because he suddenly needed a strong coffee.  Matters have not improved, he has twice been on holiday alone with a singles group, each has featured embarrassment or just avoided litigation, in a way that made me glad I was not there.

It’s just as well we weren’t away, the OH has started having diarrhoea very regularly.  It is my personal opinion that his liver has finally started breaking down.

But the real problems were when I realised that worry about all of this was making me ill. Another setback or two to plans added to it until I couldn’t sleep, work or do anything but watch my mind run in circles and my intestines seize up.

Even an hour on the exercise bike or a day in the garden was not helping.  Even the flipping horoscopes were eager to tell me that Jupiter the great benefic had left my sign and moved on to bestow blessings elsewhere.

So I stopped running and went to get help.

It’s a hard thing to do for the generation that thinks the snowflake generation ought to get over themselves and all the talk about looking after your mental health is just enough hot air to dry the dirty washing.

I went back to Al-Anon family groups.  This organisation is a help centre for anyone with a family member affected by mind-altering substances, whether alcohol or anything else.  There will be a meeting near you that you can find with a search engine.  The ethos in a nutshell is to detach from the alcoholic with love and look after yourself.

I realised that through the years of caring for my demented mother, who was so difficult probably because she was the daughter of an alcoholic, my mind was so completely taken over by her disease that I had been able to shelve problems generated by the other people in my life.  Then I was so ill myself that I had to focus on myself.

In one way the fact that I am able to take a long look at sick people in my life who are not me, might be proof that I am getting physically better.

There is always someone worse off than you, if you are a miniaturist you probably know several of them.  Wheel chair users are always given a head start at the opening of the show, miniaturists with windmills in their mind just have to hobble in when it’s their turn.

You can, of course, always miniaturise when reality, otherwise known as one-scale, gets a bit much.

But sometimes even a bit much gets to be so much you can’t remember what to do about it.

One of the good things about the Internet, is that there will be an online group for whatever ails you.  A trouble shared is a trouble halved and all that.

If you actually find a group to attend in person, you will find people much better off with less to complain about than you and people very much worse off not complaining very much at all.

And some will, additionally, have worse fashion sense than you and, if you are lucky, awful hairstyles too.  These will get you through the door into the room no matter how low your self-esteem. Some may have a face like the back of a bus, or even really bad shoes.  On the evening in question the one with the bad shoes was me, still wearing sandals and socks.  I’m a sculptor, I can do that if I want.

At the very least you can remind yourself that you have classmates.  You are not alone in having picked the life with three A star difficulty. The real and most important trick is to do the course work without losing yourself.  The aim is to go through the course, learning as you go and emerge at the other end not twisted and embittered but wiser.

Which is better: thick as two short planks with roses round the door, or the wiser, advanced version of yourself?

You 2.0 with upgrades, more plug-ins, faster operating speed, extra added value.  In a word Improved.

We are here to learn.


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A different show.

Yesterday I went to a show that wasn’t a dolls’ house show.

Have I been sitting in the sun too long without a hat on?

I haven’t been sitting in the sun at all, I was indoors all day.  In the summer!  My mother would have lost no time at all in telling me off as she headed for a shady corner of the concrete with a cup of tea.

I went to a craft show.  I do all sorts of crafts. Most miniaturists do, we are a talented lot.  Caroline Hamilton was well-known for flitting round her own shows asking if people had had a go at glass blowing.  Yes, I have.  Not blowing as such, what I had a go at was called frigging and is what glassblowers did with the left over glass at the end of the day, which you cannot pour back in the pot as you can clay slip.

I also paint, make cards, do rubber stamping, am heavily into die cutting, which has been a great hobby but also very useful for making en masse all the little containers you get purchases from me in at Miniatura.  I have made clothes, quilts, embroidered, done leatherwork, decorating and everything to do with a dolls’ house which I can make and fill from scratch and everything in one, in numerous scales, so that the only problem now is where to put them all, though I have given quite a few away.

As the regular reader knows (hello, how are you?) I also garden, bake and even wash the kitchen floor so occasionally it comes under the heading of a hobby too.

And it is so nice to be a visitor at a show instead of an exhibitor.  It is instructive to see the show from the other side of the table.  It is helpful in assessing how much information to give to visitors, to notice what people walking past notice and what they miss completely.  (Like the sign about show discounts that was hidden behind the till, I might have bought that other item had I seen the sign.)  And it is lovely to save up and be able to go home with a case on wheels with little bags in, and a huge packet of paper that would have cost a packet to post or mighty arm ache to get home from a shopping centre.

It is of major importance to be contiguously parked for free next to the hall.  You can go mad and buy something massive.  I might go mad and have massive things on my stand in the autumn, now I know how easy it is not to have to get on a shuttle bus with a thing the size of a flattened elephant.

And it was a lovely day out and I realised the importance of chairs to sit on without having to buy a cup of something, which were missing from the show I went to yesterday.

The stand holders were not many, there were only 20 stands, though big stands and the stand holders were lovely, I do like show people but overall I  realised what an absolutely cracking show Miniatura is, how many fantastic original artists there are.  It’s like being able to time travel and buy stuff from Barbara Hepworth, Picasso, Vivienne Westwood, Turner and anyone else all in the same hall, all in miniature all at once.  The absolute glory of the weekend is not to be underestimated.

And I think I may have found two new exhibitors you might enjoy.  Maybe, stay tuned as usual.

Most of all I had a great day out.  There is nothing as nice as a day out, indoors, shopping for your hobby.

I had a lovely day, walked miles, slept like  a log last night and today I am going to ignore the sunshine and play with my purchases.

Hobbies aren’t just good for you, they’re essential for your mental health because there is nothing like being in a hall full of similar loonies to make you feel better about yourself.


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Karma lite.

If my health had always or even, mostly, been good I could probably have been the leader of the free world, apart from the slight difficulty of not wanting to be the leader of the free world.  Who would?  You’d never be free of other people’s troubles.

Currently, for a change, the worry is about someone else.  It looks as if extensive tests for the OH today may have extensive results.

If the health of those around me had not been such a trouble in the last decade or so, I could happily have been not the leader of the free world but been free of responsibility for other people’s wellbeing.

It is hard work caring for the wellbeing of someone close who will not do it themselves.

There are many interesting ways you can be a trouble to your nearest and most annoyed.  You can, for example, do what my mother did, you can get up and sit down expecting others to do all the work and consider sitting all day to be a luxury rather than a danger.

Many years ago when the jade princess was discovered, some investigation of the corpse, beautifully preserved in the wonderful jade burial suit, revealed that being given a lot of the best food and not having to walk but instead be carried in a palanquin was not the benefit it appeared to be.  The corpse of the pampered lady had high cholesterol, diabetes and heart trouble and she was only fifty.

Another way you can be a trouble to your relatives is never to be there in the evenings, having rushed through dinner to get to the pub.

When I had the broken arms and later the abdominal surgery, coming to, in my bed, with a thirst, I crawled out on to the landing to shout for a glass of water.  Having inched downstairs I reflected that I could have saved the energy needed for the shouting and put it into the crawling.

There are many things you can avoid in life.  Work, responsibility and caring being three of them.  What you cannot avoid is karma, the consequence of your repeated actions.  Did you ever play Consequences, the parlour game where you wrote assorted sentences on a piece of paper, folded it and passed it on?

In case you didn’t, if you can find one other person to play it with, it goes like this:

Each write: one or two names, fold and pass on, write actions, fold and pass on, write a location, fold and pass on and as many qualifiers as you wish and the final sentence which starts ‘and the consequence was…’

Not only a metaphor for life, an easy introduction to karma.

Karma lite, if you like, and when practised in reality, even if you don’t.


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Summer is…

icumen in, time to change your wardrobe over.

Is a line Shakespeare only wrote a bit of, the rest is mine.

Or how about:  For lo! The winter is past, time to change your wardrobe over.

It’s that there global warming, I expect.  Unexpectedly causing rain and more rain with rain to follow and cold.  Cold wet rain is what there has been in plentiful amounts.  So I was huddling around in a nice warm jumper over a long vest under a nice thick cardigan  and the sort of hefty trousers that make rushing tricky without causing friction sparks.

Then, suddenly, summer.

If I ever won the pools (unlikely because not only do I not do them, I’m not sure if they even exist anymore)  I’d have the sort of bigger house that has two walk-in wardrobes to every bedroom.  A winter one and a summer one.  As I do not have this I have to do what many others do, which is to pack away the winter stuff and get out the summer stuff.  The OH says this means I have too many clothes.

Yes, I probably have.  For more years than I can remember I did not.  Back in the Fifties my grandmother gave my mother £5 to buy a dress for me for my birthday present.  I had that, and school uniform, which I hated, and a pair of trews and a skirt.  Amazingly, this was the era of the washing machine that had to be wheeled out from under the worktop and connected to the tap in the sink via a hose.  Filled with water, which the machine heated, the agitator paddle was inserted and the clothes and the washing powder.  The agitator paddle agitated, the soapy water was syphoned off, clean water was added and agitated,  and the miraculously fairly clean clothes were fed through the mangle, sometimes twice until thoroughly squished.  Then the machine was emptied, dried off and returned to its place under the worktop for another week.  If your one dress got dirty midweek, tough luck.  My mother was expert at scraping muck off woollies with a fingernail and believed that if you rubbed a clean piece of clothing against a dirty one it would clean the dirty bit but not dirty the clean bit.  And we only had a bath once a week and the advert for powder toothpaste in a tin sang :You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you clean your teeth with Pepsodent.

Yet it was sufficient.

Now I chuck stuff in the washing machine every day and, in general, people don’t smell.  This is definitely progress.  I had an automatic washing machine when we got married and quite a lot of clothes, until along came the S&H and I only needed clothes for him.  The OH needed to be smart in suits for work and had clean everything else except the suit every day and we had a shower over the bath to enjoy every day, which was a bifurcated hose jammed on to the taps. At this time I was back to a dress and a couple of pairs of jeans and some tops.  A mere twenty-odd years later and the OH has left home for the five year holiday that is Uni and a slight four or five years after that he finally has a job.

So now I not only have clothes, I have a choice of clothes.  Then along came shopping channels and I have a lot of clothes, and a proper shower.  I’m so clean I wonder if new me would speak to old me, if I met me.

It may be sad that the only time most of us have plenty of clothes to swan around in is not when we are young and gorgeous but when the mortgage is paid off, the children are self-supporting and there’s a bit spare to decorate the expanding middle aged soul we have inexplicably become with a leg at each corner and a gut in the middle.  Or you could have gone the other way, and rather than being the promise of scrumptiously rounded, you could surprisingly be mistaken for string, with wrinkles.

Nature is quite cruel sometimes and having a laugh the rest of the time.

Whether too fat, too thin, too short or too tall, your best chance of having more clothes is the point three quarters through your life when your responsibilities to others are shed.  Having said that, in the years when I was carer to my mother there was no time to shop for clothes but every need of them.  Gardening in high heels and pearls might make your mother complain less at having you about the place, but it doesn’t do much for your heels or your pearls.  By the time I’d finished the job my ankles had turned to cankles and the heels were right out.

So here I am with more clothes than space (though still, naturally, with nothing to wear.)  I take a day for each type of clothing and take as much as possible to the charity shop, having tried much of it on in order to wonder what possessed me to buy it in the first place.  I imagined that having clothes at home to try on with everything else would circumvent mistakes purchased in cramped fitting rooms with grey mirrors carefully placed to afford an unflattering view of your own backside.  This just goes to show that I have a wonderful imagination.

I’m not buying anything currently.  Not until I have finished the ‘this is not a diet, diet.’  I think it’s possible that I’ve spent more time in my life dieting than eating.  Like Winnie the Pooh I am the short portly type designed to survive on an ice flow.  Every now and then the probability of getting stuck in a rabbit hole looms and I miserably restrict food until it wanes.

Meanwhile over the course of a fortnight, with days to rest between, the wardrobe has been changed and I can at last shiver in thin tops and let the wind whistle through my light summer trousers, raising goose bumps on my legs.  Glamorous, summer, characterised by the hum of wasps and the chattering of teeth.

Only got to change all the bedding and the duvet now.


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