Miniatura artisans.

Did I mention that a friend I hadn’t seen for twenty years came to stay to go to the show?  It was an amazement that thirty years ago I regularly had people to stay who were visiting the show and did dinner parties and everything.  I may have been younger then, possibly, which is why I am only just getting round to this post and I still have to tidy out and reassemble the bags for the next show.

However, having someone else to man the table means I can flit around the hall and take pictures.

First time exhibition from Coolkatzcraft, who you may have seen on Create and Craft TV, exhibiting in collaboration with Studio Partnership, included a range of MDF book nooks and small buildings.  For the uninitiated, book nooks are structures small enough to fit into a full size bookcase as dioramas or rooms.


Here is a little shop but there were also scenes of Venice and some promising free standing greenhouses and sheds.

I always make time to see Dave of Teeny Tiny Teddies and friends because I like Dave, who is lovely and I like his teddies, which are also lovely.  His wonderful toyshop full of antique tinyness is always worth a look


and he had some very nice little furry friends waiting to be rehomed.


One of the interesting features of Miniatura is how hard people find to give it up.  Visitors arrive telling me it’s their last time but I know I’ll see them again.  Similarly exhibitors reappear, sometimes reinvented.

Tanis from Tadpoles, who used to do various things in tiny scales long ago when everyone was screwing up their eyes and telling her it was too small, has now moved into model railways.


Why does the train look blurry?  The train looks blurry because it’s going round and round.


You can appreciate just how small these working model railways are by the size of the batteries that are powering them.  Crikey, small or very small?

Here, for those who ask, is a corner of my stand


with the relief pictures in paper, the edge of the 2inch dolls’ dolls stand and the start of the porcelain 24th scale ornaments, beyond are dolls in three scales.

My stand was two away from Nicola Mascall who does charted needlepoint designs on very fine silk gauze.  One day I will finish the large needlepoint silk gauze picture I began over thirty years ago, and have put in a safe place, though that didn’t stop me buying a cushion kit, which I will begin later today.  Nicola’s kits are complete, you can open the packet and get started immediately, the cushion kits even have the decorative cord to go round the cushion when you have finished stitching, and they come ready mounted in the frame to hold as you work.


You can see for yourself how fantastic the results are of working needlepoint on silk gauze.  Nicola showed a carpet in progress which is utterly breath taking.


Every Miniatura I am reminded if why I love this show so much.  It is the quality and variety of exhibits which make Miniatura such a great day out.  Every show you will see something you think you could have a go at, something which you just have to collect and something which you could never do if you practised for a million years, starting tomorrow.  Miniatura is the show for miniaturists by miniaturists since 1983. 

I first visited in the early eighties and thought it was better than Christmas and the happiest day out ever and I still think so.

I love Miniatura, I love the artisans, I love the exhibits, I love the visitors.

I am likely to be on my own in the Autumn, so probably unable to scoot around to see the show.  You’ll just have to come and have a look for yourself!


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Miniatura–the show.

Miniatura is the place where I meet the people I care about.  This weekend I met these people.

I met a mother and daughter who share the hobby and bring each other to the show and enjoy every minute of it.

I met an exhibitor whose hair had suddenly turned bright red and I met the collector who suggested she did it and the result was fabulous.

I met an exhibitor who had travelled from America but was concerned about the lady who used to help me on my stand.

I met a sister who wasn’t really a miniaturist but has been sent to the show by her sister who lives a long way away to suss out the show and report back.  Not only did the sister make time during the show to sit down, phone her sister and tell her all about it, she bought a little doll to dress as a surprise for her sister when she next sees her.

I met a good son who bought a picture for his mother and saw a photograph of the wonderful house it is going to live in.

I saw umpteen marvellous husbands, whose hobby this is not, patiently trailing round after their shopping wives, carrying all the bags.

I met a worker in the café who said: Aaah after ever sentence anyone said because she hadn’t encountered the hobby before and thought it was lovely.

I met a beautiful mother, on mother’s day, whose two daughters had rejected her because they had learned from bad influences on the internet that to grow up you need to reject your parents.  Worse, they were keeping her from her little grandson.  Her day out with her kind and puzzled husband was a distraction and a chance to look at the perfect miniature world you can create for yourself, instead of the one we really live in.

I met several ex-exhibitors, who said they had finished with the show but couldn’t keep away, a few came for a chat and one had turned back into an exhibitor but of a different kind.

I met many doll collectors and enthusiasts, many of them keen to tell me about dolls of mine they had rehomed and how the dolls were doing.

I met new exhibitors, amazed to be there and trying hard to keep up.  I met one family, visiting the show for the first time and utterly overwhelmed.  I knew they were because they kept saying: We are overwhelmed by it all.

I met many visitors who had come with someone who had just wandered off, entranced.

I met numerous people who wanted everything.

I met children from babies in arms to ten years old being very well behaved indeed with good parents taking them for a lovely day out to find a nice present for Mummy.

I met the miniaturists, the people I care about with the imperfect lives and the difficult relationships, using an absorbing and exacting hobby to put the world to rights in a way that makes them feel better but doesn’t hurt anyone else.

I met numerous people who said the venue was lovely, the hall was exactly right, the parking was perfect and the food was good.

And I met so many people that said my dolls were different from anything else that I suspect they may be art after all.

And I met people venturing out in a relaxed way after the worry of the pandemic, happy to be in a hall full of like-minded hobbyists, having the loveliest day out you can have.

I met people who Miniatura makes happy, the way it has made me, for thirty years.


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Almost here.

My latest twelfth scale glass eyed, removable clothes, brushable hair young ladies are extremely ready for Miniatura, in fact they are packed in their boxes sitting in the hall waiting to be loaded into the car to go go go!


My friend, who was the editor of Dolls’ House World magazine, last century and into the noughties, is on the coach coming north to stay with me for a week.

It’s Miniatura, it’s brilliant, it’s nearly here.

A quick reminder if you are coming, all the information, virtual tickets to load on to your phone, a list of the exhibitors and what you can see are all at   It is worth clicking on the Tickets button, there are savings to be had.

The hall is right next to the free car parking, easy peasy. The entire site is wheelchair friendly. Miniatura is all in one hall with a hundred stands, last time I counted.  It is in miniature, so that is like visiting a hundred shops in a day, which, of course is one of the utterly brilliant things about it.  This might be a day for comfortable shoes, perhaps.  I always think people who bring little cases on wheels for their purchases are very sensible.  Stand holders are various in terms of up to date, some have smart phones hooked up to card reading machines, some are old fashioned, like me and can only take money, though I do take cheques drawn on a British bank.  The only drawback of the NAEC that I have discovered, is that there are no cash machines in the building.  There are banks on site, but closed at the weekend.  I understand that the farm shop near the entrance did offer cash for a small purchase with a card last show but cannot guarantee it.  I suggest you bring a bit of everything and somebody strong to follow you and carry it all.

As always with this show, above all others, the content is carefully curated and exhibitors are by invitation.  The majority of them are artists but because it is Miniatura there are always items in all price ranges.  So there will be things you want and the advice is to get it if you see it and you want it.  As you know I make one of every doll; even though they are made from my own moulds, individuality abounds. Many other craftsmen produce similarly idiosyncratic items.

I’d like to tell you a secret that I know from my side of the stands, and that is that there is a lull  after the show begins before the shopping frenzy occurs.  So there is time to scoot round the whole show if you are quick and early and have serious FOMO.  A very experienced miniaturist once told me that the thing to do was begin at the back of the hall and work forwards, which worked for a while until everyone cottoned on.  There is no lull time for haberdashers, wood suppliers and retailers but they do tend to have multiples, keep watching and dash in if you see a gap, would be my advice.

On Sunday morning before the show opens, stand holders are requested to open up, so that other stand holders can shop with them, which is practically a reason to turn into an exhibitor, unless you are on your own, which I have been for years.  The impossibility of shopping the show while standing behind my stand, is frustrating.  But this time I’ll have a friend.* I also have  money, a shopping bag, a credit card, a loose cheque folded up, a couple of extra tenners down my bra, a spare pair of shoes and a sandwich.

See you there!



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Choosing a care home.

The continuing deterioration of my Step-mother-in-law is a prompt to write about this topic because most of us, faced with the responsibility of caring for a demented family member, are going to have to make decisions about the next step, which may well be residential care.

In the cartoon, the Simpsons. Marge says: You should be nice to your children because they get to choose your old folks home.

It’s funny because it is as true as it is depressing.  As usual I’m not going to attempt to advise you, just relate my experience and research in case it’s a help to you.  The reason you need to be happy with your choice is that your demented person will almost certainly predecease you and you will subsequently have to live with your choice and the outcomes it generated.

There is another possibility, you may not outlive your demented person, in which case the choice of care becomes even more crucial.  I was faced with this possibility for two reasons.  The first was that my mother’s location and mine were an hour and a half’s drive apart.  Sometimes the roads were not good, sometimes the traffic was terrible, in the five years of commuting, once, twice or more times a week, there were some dodgy moments.  We had had a terrible road traffic accident a couple of years previously on the return from my father’s birthday, I was nearly decapitated by a tree trunk, clipped by the car in front, rising into the air and heading for our windscreen.  The OH rapidly steered the car into the middle of the road and the trunk, which was at least five feet long (it was a wooded area in which tree management had been taking place) glanced off the screen.  For years I had problems in the car and still do have a feeling of panic if I am in the the car and a car next to me goes backwards without warning.

The second reason was that I knew after a few years of caring for my mother that I was not well.  I had tests for cancer during her care which came up borderline.  As you know if you are a regular reader, I have been ill ever since my mother’s death and am only now finally on the mend but still under the care of the hospital on two counts.  Caring for someone can be very stressful, stress is not good for your health.  My mother had previously been abusive, whether caring for someone who has been nasty to you is harder or easier than someone who has been lovely to you is difficult to say but makes little difference practically speaking if the responsibility is yours.

Therefore you need to research not only various care homes near to you or near to your demented person, if you live at a distance, but also what the policy of the care home is if the relative (that’s you) dies.

As always the finance is the sticking point, it can affect the care in unexpected ways.  For a few weeks SMIL has been very difficult to talk to; very aggressive, very inclined to throw the phone away.  On a few occasions the care staff advised me not to talk to her if she was swearing or shouting.  Later I learned that SMIL’s medication had been reduced in an effort to save money.  It has now been restored and she is able to talk again.

Why would a care home reduce the medication?

Dementia medication is horribly expensive.  Pharmaceutical companies exist to make money, if dementia is everywhere (which I know from your emails) then that’s a lovely worldwide customer base.  There is no incentive to work to cheapen production in any way.  Certain types of medication are more expensive to produce, for example, liquid sedatives are many times more expensive than pills.  I’m sure I told you that SMIL had developed a technique of holding the pills in her mouth until the administering staff disappeared and then spitting them out.  If you are running a care home to whom do you give the more expensive liquid sedative?  Is the the noisy one, is it the one who is on the way out?  Is it the younger one?  How do you choose?

There are several types of care home.  My mother was fortunate to have near her a complex of care homes founded between the wars and run as a charity.  Because the care home was a charity it was not allowed to make a profit.  Consequently the staff were paid good wages, attracting good and experienced carers and proper career carers.  Also my mother was allowed to choose her own decorating scheme both paint and carpet in her little flat with her own bathroom and her own furniture. A walk in wardrobe was built for her, when I explained how important clothes were to her wellbeing.  To her last week she enjoyed dressing up and making an entrance to the sherry afternoons with the small orchestra.  There was a minibus to take ambulant residents to a very nice upmarket supermarket, shops and places to visit.

SMIL’s home is run as a business and has just changed hands again.  If you run a care home as a business you are doing it to make a profit, if it is your livelihood, you have to do so.  Care homes are often huge houses that have become homes because they are too expensive or enormous for one family to live in.  Demented people, sitting around, can become very cold.  In the current fuel crisis, if you are considering turning the heating off to be able to pay for it, how would you feel if the care home you were running as a business suddenly quadrupled its heating bills?  You can’t turn the heating off, you’ll kill the residents and then you won’t have a business.

One of the advantages of my mother’s care home was that they had a policy of keeping long term residents on for free if the money ran out.  Moving my mother from twenty-four hour care in her own home at the cost of £13,000 a month to the care home meant that she had to be, funded, in the care home for long enough to qualify for free care if something happened to me.  I did some very careful sums, whilst fending off the equity provider, who was downloading to me monthly the money to pay the care agency.

SMIL’s daughter sought help from the county council.  In the UK councils have a duty of care to their council tax payers.  If you access this free care, which is most likely to be someone popping in to check on the demented person in their home, you are putting yourself and your cared-for person in the hands of the agencies providing the care.  Because I funded my mother’s care privately by the sale of her house to an equity release agency, I had the say-so at all times and was able to establish a dialogue with my mother from first diagnosis which meant that she actively chose at all times what happened to her.  I provided booklets I had made explaining her disease to her and talked to her about it at all times.  I never made a decision without consulting her, which continued up to and including her move to her care home.

I was helped by my mother’s personality.  She was very difficult, always but also being a battler was not going to give in to despair and was happy to be consulted and to make the decisions.

Whatever you decide about residential care for your demented person will be made easier if you have established the dialogue from early in their disease.  Running away in a panic or expecting someone else to do the work will not stand you in good stead.  Ideally you want to get the trust of your demented person at the outset.  They might be demented but they are still a human being with rights.  At every stage you can know the right thing to do by imagining yourself in the place of the demented person.

Doing the research on care homes fairly soon is a good idea.  Dragging someone demented round numerous facilities in the same day is unlikely to make your demented person easier to deal with. A better strategy might be to do the research and a bit of visiting yourself alone and make a short list, then do the discussion, maybe produce some booklets to look at and then visit the demented person’s shortlist, maybe on a few days with rest days between and then compare notes.

If you live far from your demented person you are more likely sooner to need assistance to care.  Whether to move your person closer to where you live or move them into a residence in the area they are already living is a consideration.  In the main demented people do best and are happiest in familiar surroundings, if you are moving them to a residential facility near to their present location it will help them because they may already have opinions of care homes near to them.  If they are able to be taken on days out of the home they know the area.  The landscape of their lives may have changed, but not the place.  The longer their surroundings are familiar the less demented they will be and the happier, which helps you.  Admittedly this leaves you commuting, but it also means you can escape back to your home.

One factor you need not take into great account is the promises of friends who are not family members, to visit or help, the count of the number of people who were going to visit my mother at home and never did so, was unimpressive but exceeded the number of people who stayed away altogether.  In the care home that number dwindled.  For a while her friend and hairdresser visited and then stopped.  I rapidly became a hairdresser.

It is a harsh reality that if you are the principle carer the only people you can really rely on to help you are those you pay to do so.  All the more reason to get to grips with what help is on offer early on in proceedings.  You may wish to have a plan B in case the care home scenario becomes urgent.  This could be the case if you become ill yourself or if some other misfortune befalls the cared-for.  I lived in fear of my mother breaking a limb and ending up in plaster, amazingly, though she fell many times, the only thing she ever broke was the furniture.

I did say at the start of this column that I would not tell you what to do.  So now I’m going to tell you what not to do.  Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.  The sooner you find out about your demented person’s disease and appear confident and knowledgeable, the more your demented person will trust you and relax, and then the less friction there will be.  You can find out online a vast amount.  Look up accredited agencies, such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Society, use your search engine to find help near you, go to the next doctor’s meeting with your pre-prepared written list of questions, go through all the leaflets in the hospital waiting room and collect any that might be helpful.  Knowledge is power, which is really why I am writing these dementia diaries.  I seek to empower you by my experience, so that, at the end, when the job is done you can feel happy with yourself.

We all have times in our lives when our lives are not our own.  Having a glittering career, making tons of money, looking good, all these might feel like a point and purpose of life but the real measure of a person is what they do when the chips are down and they are called upon to help a fellow human not only for no profit whatsoever, but sometimes at their own expense.

If you can do it you won’t need me to tell you that you are on the side of the angels, you will know it, enough to conjure happiness with yourself from misery.


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Not mayonnaise, glass eyed dolls.

I haven’t got time to say much, it’s a week and a bit to the show and it takes me several days to dress a glass eyed twelfth scale doll.  Here’s the latest.


As you can see one of the twenty-fourth scale girls popped in for a look.  The twelfth scale lady is fully articulated, has earrings, brushable hair, glass eyes, eyelashes, hand dyed silk clothing and so on and so forth.

I’m obviously in an orange mood.  I have no idea what next, I think I’ll just have a spot of lunch and do it.

Details of the show as always at

I notice it is snowing currently, which we could all probably do without, however, one of the huge advantages of the NAEC, Stoneleigh is that it is all on the flat and parking is right next to the hall, you could run into the hall from your car, parked for free, in less than a couple of minutes (depending on how fast you run.).

I’m going to start saying I’ll see you there any minute now.

Oh I just did.


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More dolls

Here we are at the first of March, the only item of interest in Jane Towers is the dolls.  This is frequently the case but ever more so with only eighteen days to go to the show.

I have not begun the fairies because I am still dressing children.  It has taken so long to develop articulated twenty fourth scale porcelain children, I’m just glad to have them.


You can understand why it has taken so long when you see them next to a ruler.

It is such a pleasure to dress them.


Here is somebody and his granny.

And here are the girls.


Who for some reason, I cannot biggerate.  Sorry about that.  Haven’t got time to fiddle with the picture editor thingy.  Dolls to dress, fairies to furnish, men to peel off walls and put into boxes.


Better get on.

details of the show and etickets to buy at


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Getting ready.

The usual pre-Miniatura scenario of everything happening in the time you’d set aside to do miniatures, pertains, in the usual way.  The S&H is popping home for a funeral, which does mean that at least I have cleared out the guest room properly before I have to do it for my friend and ex-editor’s arrival.

Nevertheless I have been dressing the dolls.  All 24th scale so far.  Here are a few.


Should we buy something of dubious attribution from that wide boy’s suitcase, Grandad?

Probably not.


This time there will be quite a few children.  It has taken me a while to perfect them.  They are one and three quarter inches tall and ten pieces of porcelain.  I’d be interested to know if anyone else, anywhere, is doing this, I’d like to compare notes.


Worth all the effort, I think.  The children are such dear little things.


When I say little I do mean it.  That is a normal sized reel of silk thread.

More dolls coming up later in the week.  I haven’t dressed anyone today because I was busy making fortune cookies, as you do.  The GDD had put in some earnest requests for fortune cookies, having seen them in a cartoon.  This grandmother had a blast writing fortunes suitable for a seven year old to discover.  Fortunes such as : tomorrow you will go to school by walking, on foot.  And: the cat will talk, he will say – mew.  And: If you have a bath you will get wet.

It amused me anyhow, though making fortune cookies is painful, they go hard as soon as you take them from the oven, so you have to pop a fortune in and fold them in half while they are still on the baking tray.  Hot, hot hot.  Then you have to fold them over the rim of a bowl and hold them while they cool in the fortune cookie shape.  The person who invented them must have had asbestos fingers.  When mine have healed I will return to dressing dolls.

This week is fairy week.  Nice.


Details of the show, tickets, demonstrations and workshops at


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I’m sure you’ve heard of FOMO.

It’s Fear Of Missing Out and it is definitely a first world problem.  I have known entire families afflicted with this, and would like to ask them about it, though it’s tricky to talk to them because they’re usually ferrying their children between venues, or rushing off themselves.

I have never had FOMO, mainly because I’m wonderfully anti-social, I prefer people one at a time, or by email rather than entire rooms full of folk, especially if they are all talking at once.  Once I may have thought that was good, and joined societies and groups, but teaching cured me of the need to have large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, and also, and especially, in fields.

My ideal number of people is one, and it’s me.

However I now realise I have FODTWT quite badly, or extremely thoroughly, depending on how you look at it.

FODTWT Fear Of Doing The Wrong Thing.  Yes, I am a Fodtwit.  Right now I am supposed to be dressing dolls for Miniatura but I am dragging my heels (and the rest of me) because now I am doll dressing my brain is flooded with ideas for card making.  You may say (feel free) that I might not think of that, if I stopped watching crafting channels while I work.  Not only do I watch, I join in with emails.  I’ve been on television, as an email, every day for the last week.  Should I stop watching television while I work?

I tried that and it was worse.  In the silence I write novels, paint pictures and do DIY.  It got so bad yesterday I stopped, changed into my gardening top and painted the inside of the airing cupboard.  It wasn’t until I got to washing the brush that I found I had entirely missed my top with the paint but not my nice velvet jeans.  It washed off with a sponge but I spent the rest of the day worrying if sitting in wet jeans was detrimental to anything.  I would have changed them but I was trying to catch up with dressing, there’s a man been sitting in this room for two days now waiting for trousers. (A doll, it’s a doll.)

When I am making cards I think about dressing dolls.  The only two occupations I have found that are entirely self sufficient in the grey cells are painting a wall (yes it did work with the airing cupboard, when I was in the airing cupboard I was there and nowhere else,) and gardening.  And porcelain pouring but I  don’t do that very often.  And meditating, obvs.

There are more possible connections in the human brain than there are atoms in the known universe.  We know this (someone made the connection) but no one has explained to my satisfaction why all the ends start buzzing when you are doing something else.  Is it a rush of blood to the head?  Probably not.  All the blood in your body goes through your brain every seven and a half minutes.  Is it handedness and the opposite side of the brain?  (If you are left handed, you are really right brained.)  Is it that a train of thought has many destinations, more like a long distance coach journey than a train, in fact?

Whatever it is, it seems to be true that as soon as I settle to one thing I worry that I should be doing something else.  Is the busy brain in league with my lazy OH?  ‘While you’re in the kitchen, could you…?’

I did know someone who was fond of saying that if you want something done you should ask a busy person.  He remained an acquaintance never being that busy himself.

I don’t know.  Well I might if I thought about it some more, but now I’m writing, I feel as if I should be dressing dolls.  If I get started now, in ten minutes our Leonie will be on Create and Craft demonstrating block printing, so in half an hour I’ll have designed my own sari and had ideas for a range of bedlinen, some guest towels and reusable shopping bags.

At least.


I’ll be taking my dolls to Miniatura.  Details at


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A longbow and a loss.

I knew as soon as I saw the letter on the porch floor that it was not good.  I thought at first that it was a hospital letter, then I realised it was hand written.

It was from my little cousin to say his mother had died.  It was only a few weeks since I got the letter to say she had been moved into the care home.

I read it, then I went back to making a longbow cover.

Then I rang my cousin’s sister whose contact details had been given twice in the letter.  She was full of cold, coughing.  Interrupting, chattering over me, listing all the things she had to do, not listening.  Bereaved.

I rang the cousin who sent the letter, I reminded him he was now a full orphan instead of just half an orphan and to look after himself.  He laughed.

And I got on with making a longbow cover.

In time the OH surfaced.  I told him.

I did warn you (and me) that as soon as Miniatura hoves into view, something will steal my time.  You wouldn’t think a longbow would need a cover, would you?  When the OH went off on his course to make a longbow, part of which was his Christmas present from the S&H and me, I told him he would need something to wrap it up in, coming home in the car.  When you have spent three days making something long, thin and breakable, you don’t want to just chuck it in loose and let it ping about.  What about sudden braking and roundabouts, would it cause breaking at roundabouts?  The OH was very laid back about it.  He was just going to chuck it in loose.  I thought, after he had made it, his attitude might change.  He rang me after the first afternoon of the course saying he had dreadful back ache.  He rang after the first full day to say everything else was aching.

You don’t fling a thing that has cost you more pain than pounds to make, into a car to rattle round loose.  It was obvious when he returned and demonstrated it, that he was very proud of it.  It is archery this morning, Sunday, and he has not taken the bow to show it off.  No, he has taken it to see if it works. On Friday night he was of the opinion that if I could quickly show him how to operate a sewing machine he could just borrow mine that cost several hundred pounds and run up a bow case, as you do, did I have any material?  It would have to be quite a long bit; a longbow is so called because it is quite long enough to break the shade on the living room light, easily, and nearly did so.

Friday night we examined my stash and found a brown woven fabric, a long thin bit that wouldn’t be quite long enough without joins and looks like the end of a roll of very expensive hacking jacket material.  It frays if you look at it squinty.

On Saturday I put my sewing machine, which I do not allow the untutored to touch, on the table, prior to collecting the post from the porch.

My aunt was, in some respects, very lucky and very unlucky.  She was my aunt twice over.  She was my father’s sister and she married my mother’s brother.  As you know I am adopted; I am like no one in this tale.  My aunt and uncle had four children.  The second, a girl, is only a few weeks younger than me.  We should maybe have been good friends but she was as unlike me as could be.  Perhaps she was like two spinsters on his side of the family who lived together before anyone remarked on that being a strange arrangement.

So the second child was the unmarried one who lived near her mother when all the others had moved away, one across the pond to the States, the third currently visiting a daughter in Australia.

Who stays in the same street, or lives in the same house as their parents anymore, other than the growing band who will have to work until their eighties to afford the mortgage they start in their forties?

The aunt’s bad luck came when her husband died in his early fifties, he was the funny uncle, I remember crying at his funeral.  The youngest child was a student still.

Some years ago my aunt told my mother that she had been a widow longer than she had been married.  She was fortunate in having been left sufficiently well provided for to finish bring up the children and not be reliant on anyone or have to go to work to pay the bills.  She trained and became a magistrate.  This suited her well, she was fairly thoughtful, quite judgemental and not the sort of person to lie awake wondering if she had made the right decision.  She sent me letters if she thought I had done something wrong.  She was eventually a very senior magistrate and got an MBE from the Queen.

As she aged her daughter living nearby became her mainstay, she took her mother round the town with her, did the shopping and arranged for carers to look in.  But it was decided, as the year turned, to move her into ‘respite care’, though her son told me, when they assessed her and told her she could go home, that she told them she knew she couldn’t live alone anymore.

She had a TIA, her health declined rapidly and she died on Tuesday.  Her house is empty and on the market.

With her death I have become the older generation.

I should have been close to my aunt twice over, but I was not.  The funeral is far away, I have been sent a video link.  I will not embroider the lavender bags that I was making for her 99th birthday, in just a few weeks.

I remember a TV programme called Tomorrow’s World that was aired in the late 1960s.  The presenter joyfully announced that we would be living much longer in the future, maybe as old as a hundred.  We would all have many years of retirement, how would we fill it?  The programme never touched on the statistics that were in the newspaper on Friday.  On average every female in the UK can look forward to twenty years of ill health at the end of life, males seven to ten (because they die younger.)

When I was child my grandmother was generally acknowledged as the family fount of wisdom.  Her opinion was sought, her family all lived near.  She was asked about things that could happen because she had a lifetime of experience and nobody had a Smartphone.  Nobody knew how to put their finger on a screen and, sliding it around, announce themselves as an expert on almost everything.

When she became old there was no problem of care; someone was in her house every day for shopping, coffee, a chat.  All the external care she required was the presence of a nurse for two days before she died, at home in her own bed, cherished, loved, admired.

How did we get from there to here?  Here we are, in Tomorrow’s World.  We can’t afford to turn the heating on.  We can’t look after our elders for the whole of their lives.

I think I may be bereaved after all.

Let’s go back to the longbow; back to the future isn’t doing me much good at all.  Making the cover was like sewing an anaconda, I had to do French seams, when I turned it through the first time, it just came to bits.  Making it took all day.

I am the senior generation, I have had an awful decade caring for my mother, trying to be back up for various friends and relatives at a distance.  It was 2017 when I broke my arm so badly, I have been ill, on and off, but mostly on, for five and a half years now, though I realise I had the symptoms of intestinal blockage for about twelve years.

Will the S&H shove me in a home when the wine finally gets the better of the OH?  Will having installed a lift save me?  Should we remortgage the house now and get someone in once a week to see if we are still breathing?  And. remember, I’m the woman who has been working out every day for twenty two years now.  I keep my brain active, my hands are only still if I am asleep, I have a long list of things I plan to accomplish.

I am trying to take my own advice and enjoy every day but right now the wheel has come off a bit.



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Sad developments.

The last few days of trying to talk to SMIL on the phone have been discouraging. She has started laughing maniacally.  Unable to talk to her for many sentences, I have redoubled my efforts sending cards I have made, sweets and other non-verbal forms of communication.

She has been moved to the wing of the care home for the seriously disturbed.  Listening to her you would not contemplate arguing that she should be anywhere else.  Care homes usually have a range of facilities to help residents with varying requirements.  It does not take long consideration of the number of ailments that can come with seniority, to know that anyone offering senior care needs to provide for some very special needs.  I think the situation was best coped with by my mother’s care home, which was not one but several buildings, each adapted for particular requirements.  There was one with lifting equipment, special beds, ramps and so on for people unable to move.  Another was for those whose dementia was causing difficulties for other residents; the lady who stole my mother’s engagement ring was moved there.

If you run the care home I would think the trick is to spot the special need developing in time to give the extra care.  SMIL had been terrifying residents on several occasions for many months before being moved to the secure wing with more staff per resident.  I think the management have been very tolerant.  The families of the residents whom she terrorised, may consider the management to be too tolerant.  I also believe tolerance may be dictated by practical considerations such as available beds.

What it all amounts to is that I would not run a care home for all the tea in China.  I continue to be grateful that there are people that will do so.  The fact that the majority of workers in the care system in this country are being paid minimum wage for one of the more difficult jobs you can sign up to, and whether care workers are themselves adequately provided for, although the better facilities all regularly train workers and insist on them having up to date certification, not least to satisfy the needs of their insurance agents, is another matter.

If you know someone working in the care industry, for goodness sake give them a smile; plenty of thanks and the odd block of chocolate wouldn’t go amiss, either.  Every time I ring SMIL, which is every day, I thank everyone I speak to along the way until I get to her and my goodness, I mean it.

The laughing crazily is daunting.  She goes ‘ho ho ho’ faster and faster until it ends in a screech and it is difficult to tell if she is laughing or crying.  She presses all the buttons on the phone and then either throws the phone away or the care assistant will gently take it off her.

Poor SMIL.  Her life disintegrated.  She had already had clinical depression years ago.  Determined to avoid that again, when my father-in-law died she carefully constructed a life for herself with an outing to a group or activity every day.  All that was snatched away by Covid, so that, instead of being busy getting ready to go out to an activity and walking there or getting the bus, she was just getting up and sitting down.  It wasn’t too bad; her son did the shopping, popping in a few times a week, once a week her granddaughter came with him and they had a fish and chip supper.  Then he committed suicide and she got a diagnosis of dementia and her daughter, at a distance, arranged Council carers to come in and then moved her quickly to a home near her, when a council worker, visiting unannounced, put in a report that she needed care in a home.

For the first two weeks she enjoyed the company then asked to go home.  Then she told her daughter nothing more would be said if she could go home.  Then they started changing her medication.  At some point she must have realised she was virtually in prison, having done nothing wrong.  Now she is laughing maniacally.

Wouldn’t you?

If you have independence, your brain is working correctly and you can live the life you want, more or less, be glad.  Enjoy every day.  If you can’t enjoy the whole of the day, celebrate the good bits. Don’t feed any egrets, plant seeds in the bluebird of happiness  as it flits by*, be kind to people working in dark places, and if you can move, do that, don’t just sit in a heap.

Tomorrow it could all change and you would look back on today as the golden era when you had so little idea that you had won the lottery of life, that you didn’t even know to be grateful.


*By having a hobby, dolls’housering is a good one.


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