Wednesday, 30 April 2008

No pressure...........

You would think, wouldn't you, that just having got over Miniatura, getting our new website up and running, and only a few weeks away from the Kensington Dollshouse Festival, that I would be actively seeking a bit of professional peace and quiet (aside from a few day's camping!)

But what is life without a bit of risk-taking.

Or a healthy dose of work-related stress.

It is in this vein that I've decided to do both of the above and submit a very special piece of work to IGMA with a view to achieving Artisan status.

The primary aim of IGMA (International Guild of Miniature Artisans) is to promote fine miniatures as an art form, thus removing them from the category of crafts. Twice a year their selection panel of 9 committee members meets to evaluate submissions from prospective Artisans. They use a weighted points system that includes overall impression, degree of difficulty and workmanship, creativity and adherence to scale.

Many prospective Artisans are unsuccessful at their first, or subsequent submissions, and if you look at the quality of workmanship which is required to meet their standards, it is easy to understand why.

In line with my 'good grief I'm 50.........what now?!' musings over recent weeks, I've decided to take the plunge and put my heart and soul into creating a submission which is the very, very best I can do.

So, I have pre-registered for May 2009.

Which gives me a year.

To plan and execute.

But you know me and deadlines..............

Carry on camping..........

So, with the spring bank holiday looming, we are planning a short camping trip to take in the glories of nature and to enjoy the majesty of the great outdoors.

Small dog is beside herself with excitement at the prospect of camping, especially as the site we've chosen has some lovely lakeside and country walks, not to mention being on a farm with all manner of animals for her to peruse.

I am looking forward to getting away from it all for a few days with several books, my music player and ideas notebook, with the intention of doing some strategic planning.

Unfortunately the weather forecast is not encouraging, with the possiblity of rain showers practically every day. However to hardened, year-round campers such as us, the prospect of a bit of rain doesn't deter. We are taking an outside shelter/awning which will fit as close to our little camper van as possible and provide us with an outdoor room to shelter in during light showers. Should the showers develop into a steady downpour we will retreat inside the van, which has all mod cons including heating, so we're not exactly roughing it.

Unless it's blowing a gale we will be bbq-ing all evening meals in the awning, and staving off the cold with the odd glass of something cheering.
Also I'm stretching a point as far as my birthday goes and taking my resiliantly airborne helium balloons to tie outside the awning.

Small dog has a locker all to herself, which accommodates her essential accoutrements, including:
  • Her own fluffy towel for wet dog/muddy paw episodes
  • A cosy outdoor blanket with waterproof lining
  • Hot water bottle with fleecy cover
  • Waterproof coat with hood
  • Warm jumper
  • All-in-one winceyette pyjamas (yes really...see photo)
  • Dog bowls
  • Water bottle
  • Gravy bones & treats
  • Spare collar and lead
  • Pooh bags
  • Squeaky toy
  • Brush..........
So, all in all, you can see that we have mastered the art of travelling light and getting back to nature.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Monday evening..........

A very productive day!

Got most of the preparation done for the Kensington Dollshouse Festival workshops not to mention completing the next edition of the online dollclub newsletter, as well as tinkering with the workings of new website, hopefully without breaking it.

So all in all a satisfactory day.

The icing on the cake however, is the knowledge that the several hours I spent in the garden on Saturday were hours well spent.
I waged a one woman war against the inexorable march of dandelions across our lawn, having bought a rather expensive selective lawn weedkiller, which promised death and destruction to everything not grass.
Despite the effusive promises on the bottle, I remained sceptical...........

Until today.

And the sight of several hundred dandelions, lying prostrate on an otherwise unblemished lawn.

Hoo and indeed, rah!!!!

Three cheers for systemic weedkillers.

Although, given that the lawn is 75% dandelion (and other assorted weeds), this WMD may necessitate remedial action to fill in all the little bald spots.

Still, it felt like a victory of sorts.

Monday morning..........

Doing what I do, and enjoying it so much, I rarely get the Monday morning blues. On a morning like we have here now (clear blue skies, light breeze, brilliant sunshine) it is even less likely.

As ever, I have a 'to do' list of gargantuan proportions, with top priority going to preparations for my two workshop sessions at the Kensingston Dollshouse Festival on 15/16 May. We put several hours in yesterday, and will do so again today.

I'm also long overdue casting my three wonderful new Cynthia Howe doll moulds for three girls. I have some special projects in mind for those *secret smile*

Our online dollclub newsletter is also overdue so I have to tidy up the loose ends and get it finished.

Not to mention our next project, which has been shrouded in mystery primarily because I've been trying to source some materials which have proved elusive.........

So, there is no lack of 'stuff to do'. But it is all enjoyable and while the sun is shining into the workroom it's hard to feel anything other than invigorated and enthused.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Garden tales..........

A gloriously sunny day today......warmest so far apparently. A day to relax in the warm sunlight with a good book and a glass of something highly chilled.

Or not.

Much better to dig out half a ton of pebbles from the gully around the patio, then wash them all clean of clay. Back-breaking, hard work.....even sitting down, which is how I performed my duties as pebble-washer (first class). By the end of the session I resembled nothing so much as a small, muddy garden gnome. Even small dog, who had been helpfully nosing around in the empty, but still clay-caked gully had bits of garden detritus glued onto her nose with wet clay.

So far we have cleared a 4 foot stretch.

Only another 24 to go.

We'll probably be completely immobilised with back-pain tomorrow. However, it is a job which has to be done to stop the patio from flooding as with all the mud and clay cleared out, the water will be able to percolate down through the pebbles and run down the gully into the drain.

Or it will when we've done the other 24 feet.


Anyway, here's small dog savouring the sunshine...........

and a view of a sunny spot completely devoid of buckets of clay and piles of pebbles.............

Farewell Humph........

I was saddened to read of the passing of Humphrey Lyttleton, who died last night at the age of 86. Although I admired his prowess as a jazz trumpeter, I was a particular fan of the Radio 4 'antidote to quiz games', "I'm Sorry I haven't A Clue", of which he was chairman and inspired leader.

The programme has been running since 1972, and I have often been reduced almost to tears by the anarchic wit displayed, by Humph in particular.

Fellow aficionados may wish to visit the official fan site, which is a treasure trove of quotes and excerpts, including an encyclopaedic set of rules for the labyrinthine 'Mornington Crescent'. The instructions for playing "One Song To The Tune Of Another" are also worth a look for a 'stream of consciousness' set of analogies.

In the 'Gallery' there is also an extremely rare photo of Sven and Samantha.

You either 'get' the humour or you don't but in my book the programme is one of the funniest on radio.

PS Have just been googling "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue", the better to illustrate the inspired humour which permeates the show.

Found an excellent Wikiepedia entry.........scroll down to Format, and Humour.

And enjoy.'m_Sorry_I_Haven't_A_Clue#Humour

Ta dah!...........

Finally, after almost 5 months work, our new miniature toy and doll website is up and running.

Admittedly I've been dragging my heels as we had so much Miniatura preparation from January to March, but I have been gradually adding bits and pieces to it over the past month and yesterday I buckled down to get to grips with finishing the shopping cart entries.

So here, for your delight and delectation

*reveals with a flourish*

Have a good look round and I'd be pleased to know what you think.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Rant of the week ............

Have just returned from popping to the post office with a bagful of orders, all carefully packaged, labelled and documented, ready to post.

Actually 'popping' suggests a short visit, 10-15 minutes max. Back in February it would have been just that, but following the closure of our nearest local post office we now have a 5 mile round trip, by car then a nightmare parking scenario, all for the privilege of queueing for up to 30 minutes to post a few packages.

We have lost 4 post offices in Hastings over the past few years, with the obvious result that the remaining ones have become very much busier. Often, the queues stretch out the door and down the street.

Now, I don't mind queueing. The ability to queue is what marks the British from many other nations on earth. Not for us the anarchy of a mass onslaught on the nearest available counter.

No, we quietly submit to standing in line, shuffling forward towards the holy grail of the post office queue, the yellow and black chevron tape stuck onto the floor which marks the front of the line.
This lengthy wait gives us ample time to size up the other people in line, and make an educated guess as to how long their respective transactions will take. I know my heart sinks when I see anyone with large carrier bags full of small jiffy bags, each of which will have to be weighed, then a stamp printed out and stuck on, followed by a proof of posting receipt which requires the assistant to decipher the handwritten postcode.
Even worse is when the bagful of packages are destined for 'forn parts', and each destination requires a lengthy discourse about customs labels and declarations and airmail stickers and relevant documentation.

I blame eBay.

Years ago, pre-eBay, the most anyone wanted to post would be a birthday card to auntie Ethel, or perhaps a cheque for the gas bill.

Nowadays, the world and his brother sell stuff on eBay and have to post it all over the planet.

Now wait a minute. I sense the accusation of hypocrisy hanging, unspoken, in the air.
Yes I do sell things on eBay and from our website and yes we do post packets to destinations far and wide.


And it is a significant BUT.

I carefully package every item in appropriate packaging,.... jiffy bags, double wall cardboard boxes, card-backed envelopes.......all sourced specifically for the purpose.
I carefully print out a clear, spell-checked address label for each package, and include a return address label on the back.
I check whether the country of destination requires a customs label, and weigh it to check that it is within the guidelines for the particular postal service chosen, completing any additional documentation which the country specifies. I keep stocks of Airmail labels, and the various different international mail slips.
I write on the front of each package the precise postal service I wish to use.
I complete a certificate of posting for each package, with the full name, address and postcode of the recipient. This is not strictly necessary, but it does save valuable minutes at the PO as the assistant doesn't have to type the postcode into their computer for a printed receipt.

I have stood behind people in the post office who send obviously delicate items packed in little more than a black bin liner, with a few sheets of newspaper as protective packing and then have a major go when the package is rejected as being unsuitable for mailing..
Ditto people who regard a Tesco carrier bag, turned inside out, as a fitting external mailer. I'm all for recycling but this is just rank stupidity.
Ditto illegible, scrawled addresses, written in felt pen on the outside of the plastic bag, which not even the writer can decipher, much less the poor post office assistant.
Ditto completely oblivious to the need for customs labels, airmail stickers, return address labels.
Ditto asking for details of every conceivable method of postage, in duplicate, for each of 20 packets.

It's not rocket science.
It's just sheer laziness and general incompetence.

I don't mind people posting lots of packets.
I DO mind if they take a half-assed approach to everything to do with the procedure, wasting their time and mine in the process.

There is definitely a gap in the market for a "Preparing Stuff for Posting for Dummies' book. Which should be available free at all post offices.
They'd be doing everyone a favour.

Rant over.

Whirlwind of activity.........

So back to work with a vengeance today, after lazing around all day yesterday, snuggled up with small dog, reading, watching TV and generally taking some much needed 'time out'.

I am still installing software on the new laptop and gradually getting to grips with Vista. Despite having apparently successfully networked to the printer, the laptop and printer are only on intermittent speaking terms.

Personally I blame the printer, which is recalcitrant at the best of times. If you even look at it squint it goes into a sulk so I'm not surprised that the new laptop is having problems getting it to cooperate.

Frenzy of order packaging today, catching up with the backlog which has build up over the past few days, which means a trip to the post office shortly which will take up most of the afternoon. I think I can feel a rant coming on re post offices in general..........

The day after.........

........the morning after the night before.

Or something.

I seem to have lost a day.

Well not lost it exactly, but after the extensive celebrations on Wednesday night I had an extremely long lie-in yesterday and spent the rest of the day in quiet R&R, recuperating from what was a most enjoyable party.

I did think about posting some photos but in the interests of protecting the anonymity of the guilty I have thought better of it.

Small dog also had an excellent time, all dolled up with her best bling collar and revelling in the attention of 25 birthday guests. She was cuddled and cossetted, cooed over and carried around, the better to see the festivities. Eventually she tumbled into bed at about 2am and was also a bit the worse for wear yesterday, having to take more than her usual quota of naps to recharge her batteries.

Still, a good time was had by all, complete with a firework finale after the birthday cake(s).
A big thanks is due to Perfectionist Partner, for organising it all with such panache, and of course to all our friends who came along to help me celebrate my half century.

Small dog has requested that I post no incriminating photos of her on the dance floor, or partying by the chimenea, so instead here's one of her taken yesterday........looking rather pale and wan, wrapped in her blanky.........

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


After a dull and rainy start to the day, the sun has just come out for my birthday!!!

Small dog was unceremoniously plucked from her bed early this morning and subjected to a bath which she regarded as an affront. Especially as it wasn't HER birthday!

However she is not one to hold a grudge and she thoughtfully helped me open my presents after breakfast, running off with the ribbons and wrapping paper to decorate her basket.

We have just finished the food preparations for the party this evening and the buffet table looks like it's set for the feeding of the five thousand. We can't even fit a wafer thin mint in the fridge and the freezer is groaning with ice for chilling the party drinks later.

Several surprise visits from friends this morning, bearing flowers and good wishes, and the post has produced a plethora of cards from well-wishers.

Perfectionist partner has popped into town for something involving helium, small dog is having a nap before the festivities and I'm having a pre-party drink to set me up for the evening.

It's not so bad being 50...........

Monday, 21 April 2008

This week............

As the actual day of my birthday fortuitously falls mid-week, on Wednesday, I have declared that this whole 7 days be designated as 'Sandra's birthday week'

To start the week's festivities with a bang, we have decorated the house. Just in case I forget which age I am to be, there are now several hundred 50's hanging in and around the ground floor and outside on the patio, where we have erected a gazebo in case of unclement weather on the night of the party.

Forgetting is a distinct possibility, as to get into the birthday spirit, we have started on the chilled, sparkly, bubbly stuff which comes in a bottle.


Not lemonade.

No by no nonny no.

But I digress.

As we were hanging the decorations, I was listening to today's episode of The Archers and was gobsmacked to learn that it's also Phil and Daniel's birthday on Wednesday.
And to think I call myself a fan!
And not knowing that.

I also share my birthday with the most famous playwright on the planet.
William Shakespeare.
Who was remarkably tidy in that he was born on 23rd April 1564 and died on the same day in 1616.
Not a feat I intend to emulate.
Not this year anyway.

Other people born on the same day range from the sublime (Vladimir Nabokov, Prokofiev, Roy Orbison (?!) to the ridiculous (Lee Majors, Shirley Temple and an obscure US president James Buchanan......well have YOU ever heard of him?)

However, the ultimate irony, is that my birthday falls on St. George's Day.
Patron Saint of England.
Which, for a Scot, takes some living down..................

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Up and running.............

So new laptop arrived bright and early yesterday morning and after a not entirely unexpectedly frustrating day is finally up and running.

Getting onto the internet proved a seemingly insurmountable obstacle until I discovered a tiny wee button at the front of the machine which switches on the Wi-Fi thingumy inside. Easily overlooked by both myself and the 'helpful' internet connection wizard which suggested just about everything except "look for a tiny wee on/off switch".

Setting up emails etc is always a bit fraught, but went relatively smoothly although getting to grips with the new email programme might take some time.

Setting up wireless networking to the printer was a 4 hour marathon, during which I completely messed up the printer settings on the main office machine and had to uninstall and reinstall the whole thing, which involved scrabbling around on the floor under the desk trying to find the relevant printer port.

However, I am nothing if not tenacious and a mere 10 hours after its arrival I emerged triumphant, if a bit dusty and battle-weary with a fully functioning, internet-connected, printer-ready, shiny new laptop.

Essential files have all been transferred and are now settling into their spacious new hard drive.
I am hesitantly wandering around Vista, which looks and feels disconcertingly different to XP, but comes with lots of helpful pointers when I get hopelessly lost which is often.

Poor old laptop is looking rather forlorn and I fear it must have the computer equivalent of a shot to the head, as it is both unusable and unsaleable. Even if a replacement graphics card could be found it would be difficult to replace, and most certainly an uneconomic repair, given the age and spec of the machine. So it has been usurped by a younger, slimmer, faster model, which happens to us all in the end. Still it has been a good and trusted friend and I will miss it.

New laptop is still too unfamiliar to be comfortable, although it's trying hard to please, and I'm sure that I will warm to it in time. It needs to be personalised though, so I've put a photo of small dog on the desktop which helps immensely.

So, things are getting back to what passes for normal.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel..........

The thing about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is that it might, just possibly, be the headlights of an approaching train!

I have spent many, many hours today, laboriously transferring file after file onto the external hard drive, which fortuitously we bought just last month.

This has been rendered especially difficult by not being able to see anything clearly on the laptop screen, due the absence of a functioning graphics card.

If I say that I've been trying to work at a screen which looks like it's been overlaid with opaque animated tartan, then the more imaginative readers of this blog may have some idea of the scale of the problem.
Not only animated tartan, but randomly colour changing tartan.
It makes me feel quite bilious.

Add to that the necessity of going through my entire email inbox to identify 'really important stuff' and ditch all the rest.
If I say that the contents of my inbox and various folders this morning numbered in excess of 8000 emails, then again, you have some idea of the scale of the problem.
I have systematically weeded out all the dross over the course of the day, becoming more and more cavalier as the hours have passed. If this has taught me anything, it is to be more ruthless with routine cleaning of my inbox and sent folders in future.

At some point tomorrow, between the hours of 9am and 6pm I will take delivery of a new laptop, all virginal and unsullied.
This is a great responsibility and I intend to be scrupulous in what I load into it. Always assuming that it all works and I can get onto the internet etc.

However, conscious of all this 'sturm and drang' for the past 24 hours, I think some light relief might be in order, and since I had to go through hundreds of jpgs today in my clearout, here is just one which I've had saved for ages, and which, despite my angst, made me laugh outright.......

Sleepless night.........

Pounding headache notwithstanding, I spent a sleepless night, worrying about the demise of my laptop.

For those of you not wedded to your computer this might seem a tad excessive, but in my case, the laptop contains EVERYTHING business related, from workshop programmes to costume instructions and patterns for every doll I've ever created.

Not to mention all tax/financial information for the past 5 years.

Not to mention just about everything else in personal terms from finances to holiday planning.

In short, my entire life.

I've managed to back up all the most important stuff, but there are lots of other things, emails for example, which are not so easy to save, file and transfer.

Anyhoo, still awake at stupid o'clock this morning, trying to decide on a course of action till finally I could stand it no longer.

So, at some point tomorrow, a shiny new laptop will arrive by courier.

That's the easy bit.

Then I have to get it set up, install all the programmes I need, connect it to the network, get it connected to the internet, wirelessly connect to printer etc, install all my files and documents AND get to grips with Vista, which I haven't used before.

I can guarantee that not all of the above will go smoothly.

So much for a leisurely run-up to my birthday

Normal service may (or may not) be resumed as soon as possible.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The last straw..............

My laptop has a major problem.

The display adapter (ie graphics card etc) has broke, which means that my screen is unreadable.

So today has been a complete write-off.......... spent ages attempting to identity the problem, trying assorted troubleshooters, downloading drivers then phoning the local laptop doctor who commiserated but said it was an uneconomic repair even if I could manage to get the relevant part for a 5 year old machine, which would be unlikely.

Cue tears of frustration.

And rage.

And more frustration.

Now I have to buy a new laptop, toute de suite, and attempt to transfer everything off the old one.

Which will be interesting as the screen is covered in tiny little dancing specks and bars which continually rain down from top to bottom, making everything look alive and giving me the mother and father of all headaches.

On the plus side, for a fraction of the price I paid for the old one I will get a state of the art machine.
On the minus side, it will take ages to load all the programmes, transfer all the files and that's without the nightmare of getting it networked and trying, probably unsuccessfully, to export all my emails etc.

I now have an excruciatingly pounding headache behind my right eye and I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Gardener's Question Time..........

Preparations continue apace for my birthday party next week.

Today we made a start on the garden, which has been looking very sorry for itself after the long, wet winter.

I am not gifted with green fingers.

Yes, I can appreciate a garden with well-manicured, lush, green lawn, perfect shrubberies and colourful flower borders.
Unfortunately I can neither create or maintain one.

However, needs must, and with the recent flush of warmer weather, the grass had gone into overdrive and grown 6 inches in the past week, complete with thistles almost a foot tall and dozens of dandelions and other assorted pernicious weeds.
To make matters worse, our garden slopes up towards the back hedge, and pushing a heavy petrol driven (but not, unfortunately, self propelled) is beyond me. So Perfectionist Partner drew the short straw with the lawn mowing, while small dog and I busied ourselves with some basic weeding.

I say 'basic' because my grasp of what actually constitutes a weed is a little vague. I can recognise thistles and dandelions, but some of the stuff growing in the shingle looked quite pretty so I wasn't completely sure if it should be hauled out or not. After a long ponder, I decided that as it was growing in the shingle, it was where it shouldn't be, so I had it out. Or most of it. Some of the growth must have tap roots a mile long.

Meanwhile small dog was 'helping' by carrying old leaves and prunings carefully down the steps and into the house, where she dropped them randomly on the kitchen floor. Her grasp of 'helpful' is about as good as mine is of weeds. In between bouts of this arduous activity she stretched herself out on top of the brick wall, the better to soak up the warm sunshine and indulge in a few naps.

Still, unlike housework, with lawn mowing and weeding you can actually see where you've been so although we're tired out and aching all over, the garden does at least look a lot tidier.

Anyway, here's one of small dog getting into the birthday spirit..............

Monday, 14 April 2008

To bee, or not to bee..............

.....that is the question.

I have a bee trapped in my head.

It is definitely a bee.

Not a wasp.
No. A wasp has an altogether more tinny, nasal, high-pitched buzz. Wasps have no class.

However, neither is it one of those sleek busy, buzzing honey bees, rushing here and there, waggling its tail to show its workmates the way to the nearest nectar rush.

Hopefully its not one of those African killer bees, so beloved of B-movie horror films.

It is a fairly benign bee. One of those big, fat, spherical bees which defy the laws of physics in being able to fly at all.
And it doesn't really buzz.
It has a low-level drone.
Almost soothing after a while.
And it's been in there a while......... since yesterday morning.
Just buzzing around.
In my head.

Just in case you're thinking that this post should come with a 'Sanity Disclaimer' perhaps I should explain that yesterday morning I started on a short, sharp shock, high-dose medication, which is supposed to deal with some disturbing new MS symptoms.

I'm always just a bit wary of starting any new medication, just in case it sends me doo lally, as they are wont to do. The bee is not as bad a reaction as I'd feared.

Especially when taken in context against the very long list of potential side effects which run to several pages.

So all in all I'm happy with just having a bee in my head.

For the time beeing..........*feeble pun*
Ok I'll buzz off now.
Yes I wouldn't get puns this toe-curling in a bad 'B' movie.

But this is truly unbeelievable..................and strangely compelling. It appeals to my inner bee on any number of levels.

Odd too that so many of them appear to be Yorkies. Is this a sign...........?


Little Red Riding Hoolf............

We had a long overdue visit from two very close friends on Saturday. Due to mitigating circumstances we haven't been able to see them for ages and ages.

So cue an afternoon of laughing, crying, indulging in a group howl and generally behaving like our shoe sizes rather than our ages, aided and abetted by a bottle or two of wine.

At some point (and Perfectionist Partner denies any involvement or knowledge in this, despite the fact she was in the kitchen at the time) it seemed like a good idea to put Small Dog into their basket, which they had brought filled with goodies to share.

I must have had a glass of wine too many, for I remember dissolving into fits of giggles, and rushing to find my camera, declaring that she looked just like 'Little Red Riding Hoolf'

Sometimes wine make my speaking English good.

Of course I meant to say that she looked like Little Red Riding Hood.
Or the Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood.

But it got lost in translation.

Still......... quite good I think.

Small dog seems less than impressed, which is her default position these days. Normally she would enter into the spirit of the thing and ham it up for all her worth.

However the position of her ears leads me to believe that she was contemplating leaping out of the basket and going for one of us.

Probably me.

They say animals don't like to be laughed at and she had four of us, all in various stages of inebriation, laughing like loons.

Well it seemed funny at the time.

I'll get me coat..............

The Full Scottish...........

I finally got round to reading Saturday's Guardian in bed last night, which included a pull out section on The Great British Breakfast, or to be more specific, the Great British Fry-Up.

Pages and pages of recommendations for the best places up and down the length and breadth of the country, which can serve up a Full English at the drop of a fiver.

Now I'm sure that all fry-up aficionados have very specific ideas about what should constitute the perfect specimen. I have just discussed this briefly, in the interests of investigative blogging, with Perfectionist Partner, who was aghast at my suggestion that chips might be an essential ingredient. But she would definitely include beans, and there we are at odds.

I won't go into the pros and cons here, but suffice to say the author of the piece made a cogent case for the inclusion of chips, as they are excellent for soaking up the bean juice.

Fair point, well made.

Passing mention was made to breakfasts other than the ubiquitous Full English, but I feel I have to take issue with the description of the Full Scottish.

This institution is probably partly responsible for the plague of morbid obesity currently rampaging north of the border, but I feel that I should attempt a defence of this artery-clogging, cholesterol-raising, waistline-bulging behemoth of a meal.

I have fond memories of Sunday mornings as a child, waking to the mouth-watering sizzlings coming from the kitchen.

We wouldn't have this EVERY Sunday. Even my mother, in those days of fried food nirvana, when anything fried was considered healthy, balked at the notion of feeding us a Full Scottish more than say, once a month.

Actually, I used to think, as I waddled away from the breakfast table, that I probably wouldn't need another meal for a month, let alone breakfast, but that is by the by.

In the interests of truth, I therefore submit our family's version of the Full Scottish,
  • Bacon - preferably unsmoked, thick cut and fried till crispy
  • Lorne sausage - this is a square cut sausage which is hard to find outside Scotland but well worth the search.
  • Fried egg
  • Slice of fried bread - this has to be white bread, thick cut and fried in dripping or lard.
  • OR Slice of French Toast - this is bread dipped in beaten egg, milk, salt and pepper then fried, naturally
  • Drop scone - small, round, sweet pancake, fried
  • Potato scone - triangle of floury potato cake, fried
  • Black pudding - cut from a long sausage shape, fried
  • Dumpling - also hard to find south of the border but basically a fruit pudding in a sausage shape, fried
  • Half a tomato - fried
  • Button mushrooms - fried
Yes. Really.

And yes, it was quite filling.

As a health concession we usually didn't have chips or beans, unless this feast was served at tea-time (or as you say down south - dinner time) in which case they would be served as an accompaniment.

Actually, looking at the list it has just occurred to me that just about the only non-sausage shaped ingredient is the sausage, which is square. Strange that.

Of course you didn't have to have it all, there were options, but we usually all had a fairly good stab at it. Oh and I forgot to mention that it was offered with a range of condiments, notably, brown sauce, tomato ketchup and/or mustard.

And washed down with huge mugs of sweet tea. Or if we were feeling especially sophisticated, orange juice.

Hand on heart (yes it is still beating, just) ALL of those ingredients made up one of my mum's all day breakfasts, so called, not because they were available all day, but because they filled you up all day.


Usually we would regain the use of our legs by around midday, and could trot outside to work off some of the zillion calories ingested in that one meal.

Of course if any readers of this blog have any more extravagant versions of breakfast, I'd be glad to hear from you.

I tried to find a photo to set your taste buds tingling but this is the best I could come up with. It's frankly Lilliputian compared to my mum's towering platters. And it includes beans, which as I said, we didn't include. Possibly because of their vegetable origins but more likely because the bean juice ran everywhere and got mixed up with everything and we were a family who liked strictly segregated ingredients, especially in breakfasts. However it's the nearest I could find.


Moment of truth............

You know a couple of posts back, I was musing along philosophical lines and saying how much I enjoy what I do.

Well I stand by that.


There is one element of porcelain production which is just mind-numbingly tedious and boring. And frustrating.
And sometimes infuriating.


Sounds innocuous doesn't it?

Don't be fooled. It entails having your hands in tepid water for hours on end, painstakingly removing seam lines and imperfections left on the castings after they've been released from their moulds. The greenware is soft-fired first, to create impermeable castings which won't revert to sludge when soaked in water. This makes them stronger than in their original state, but they are still very fragile and fingers especially are liable to ping off at the slightest pressure.
However, it must be done.
It's only saving grace is that I get to listen to Radio4, uninterrupted for hours at a stretch while my hands shrivel to prunes.

Anyway, after sometimes several days of this tedium, there comes the relative excitement of loading the kiln with shelf after shelf of tiny bodies, arms and legs and setting it to fire.

The bisque firing takes a long time. Up to 8 hours if the kiln is very full. At the height of the firing the temperature reaches 1215 degrees Celcius which is very , very hot.
Small dog loves firing days and I can gauge the temperature in the kiln without resorting to looking at the LDC display, just by seeing how close she can lie to the kiln.
Heat shimmers above it, which on cold days is lovely as it can heat the whole of the ground floor of the house. Peeking at the slight gap between the lid and the body of kiln revels a line of bright, white heat.
During this infernothe extremely fragile greenware is vitrified into slightly less fragile porcelain. Magically the colour changes from a chalky white to glowing flesh tones, depending on the colour of porcelain slip used for the castings. Each piece also shrinks by up to 1/3.

Over my almost 20 years as a porcelain dollmaker, the anticipation of opening the kiln after a bisque firing has never diminished. The kiln stays very hot for hours after it reaches the end of its programme so it is usually next day before it is cool enough to open.

Lifting the lid is the moment of truth.

If the firing has gone well, there will be serried ranks of little flesh coloured heads, bodies and limbs and sighs of relief all round.

If the firing has gone badly, there will be wails of anguish and sometimes even tears of disappointment and frustration.

An underfire is the least bad 'bad firing'. As the kiln elements age, they struggle to reach the highest temperatures and keep them there for the required 'soaking' period. This produces an underfire. The porcelain is not fully vitrified and has a dull, chalky appearance. The colour does not fully develop and the pieces do not shrink to the correct size, which of course is vital in a scale piece.
This, though frustrating, is at least capable of being put right. Underfired pieces can be refired to the correct temperature, although of course it is wise to replace the ageing elements first. A costly and tricky procedure which most kiln owners put off till the last possible minute. The minute after an underfire.

Overfirings are a complete disaster. I have only ever once experience an overfire, and every single piece in the kiln......the result of many weeks work, was lost.
On that occasion I was using my old, manual kiln, and a prop fell against the kiln sitter (a low-tech, mechanical way of switching off the kiln at the required temperature) and jammed it so that it didn't shut down the kiln.

So the temperature rose, and rose, until the smell of the floor melting under the kiln alerted me the fact that something was badly wrong.

Overfires turn the porcelain pieces into glassy objects, completely white, or completely black, depending upon the porcelain slip. I had hopes of using some of the less glassy ones as ghosts but china paint wouldn't adhere to the surface of the faces, and anyway, most of them were blistered on one side where the extremes of temperature had blasted them.

I now have a computer controlled kiln, in which overfires should never happen.


There is always a first time for everything.

However, when I opened the kiln this morning, I was relieved to find that it had gone well.

Which I never, ever take for granted...........

Friday, 11 April 2008

Resentment simmers..........

Small dog is very distressed.

Apparently I posted a photo which shows her at less than her best.

Half cut.

I apologise unreservedly.

And to make amends I have printed a copy of her favourite pinup.

Laminated and everything.

And blu-tacked above her basket.

A tentative truce has been reached....................

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Spring cleaning.............

Small dog has had her spring trim.

Under duress mark you, but after 60 minutes of shearing, she is now like a new dog.

I'll let the photos speak for themselves................

Firstly, a 'before' shot, where there is a slight air of suspicion on her face...........

Halfway through..............

Stares in disbelief at the amount of fur she's lost...........

Ordeal almost over.......only the shampooing still to do.

Clean and shorn and exhausted. At least we can see her face now.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Plans & Projects......

So, with the exhilaration of Miniatura over, I must now turn my thoughts to 'what next'? Not in any existential 'meaning of life way.......but in a much more practical and prosaic 'work-related' way.

There are already a number of pressing items on my 'to do' list, the least enticing of which is preparing the end of year accounts for 2007-08. All being well, I will embark on that task next week, unless something more fascinating turns up, like catching up with the ironing, or scraping algae off the patio.

Then there are the two workshops I'm running for the Kensington Dollshouse Festival next month, for which the preparation is already well in hand. Although perhaps not so well advanced as it might be.
As I have also been accepted as a showcase exhibitor at KDF this year, I will have to design a small display which should be no bigger than 1 cubic foot which will be exhibited in a glass showcase for the three days of the Festival.

Beyond that I have a blank slate, which is rather exciting, liberating and scary all at the same time. Normally, at the beginning of the year, we produce a programme of one day workshops to run throughout the year, so I have a basic framework to hang all the other work-related stuff on. However this year, with the prospect of having to prepare for Miniatura, not to mention KDF, we decided to delay any decisions on a workshop programme, which in the event, was very wise.

We have tentative plans for a new series of workshop packs to be accompanied by a DVD video tutorial. Having already successfully uploaded a few tutorials onto our website, we are now painfully aware of the technical difficulties involved in producing a good quality video. These difficulties also extend to mastering the presentation software as in order for the tutorial to be 'user-friendly' it has to have 'chapters' to allow students to move back and forth through the various sections. The whole process is time-consuming and often frustrating and involves lots of trial and error.

Actually, if I'm honest, it's been mostly error, but we learn more with each tutorial.

Then there's my new online toy shop, which I've been 'toying with' for the past few days. If I could only discipline myself to spend an hour a day on it, then it should be ready to go live in a few weeks and it certainly needs to be ready in time for KDF.
However I have identified the need for some further planning before I go any further with Zen Cart, which I hope will save me a lot of possibly wasted time in the future. This may sound like prevarication, and I hold up my hands to that in many areas, but in this case I have to rein in my natural tendency to just get stuck in and 'do stuff' without thinking carefully about what should go where. I've got all the jigsaw pieces but I need to find the picture first to see where they should all go.

If that makes sense.

Plus there is the small matter of my long-neglected toy shop, which was the impetus for starting this blog in the first place.
The new basement is still in kit form, and I'm determined not to start it until I have the shop itself finished. It is tantalisingly close to completion but I just can't find the time or the energy to kick-start the final push.

So having just articulated all of the above, it is now startlingly clear to me that I should not be resting on my laurels, but cracking on with it all.

Onwards and upwards................

Monday, 7 April 2008

Philosophical musings........

There's been far too much whimsy and nonsense on this blog lately. It's time to address more weighty matters such as some of the great unsolved mysteries of life.

Like........why am I here?

As I approach my 50th birthday, which somehow feels much more of a milestone than any of my other 'decade' birthdays, I find myself musing on what I have achieved in my life.

For example, in personal terms, I have two grown-up children, which could certainly qualify as an achievement, although admittedly not a very exclusive one.
I have a circle of very good, close friends, with whom I can laugh (and sometimes cry) and generally share life's ups an downs.
I have a loving partner who understands me better than I sometimes give credit for.
I've come to terms with a life-limiting illness with what I hope is good grace and humour, with only the occasional 'howl at the moon'.

In professional terms, I am engaged in work which I love (mostly!)
I've been able to spend the past quarter of a century learning and developing my craft then honing my skills in making and teaching.
I've passed on my hard-won knowledge and experience to hundreds of students, many of whom I now count as friends.
My miniatures have found homes in collections all around the world.
I've built a business which though small, is perfectly formed and provides us with a comfortable living. We won't be retiring to Barbados any time soon but we don't need a fortune to make us happy.
Best of all, every day, I get to do what I enjoy most. And it doesn't get much better than that.

All in all, I'd say there were many more positives than negatives.

So bring on the next decade.............

It's a small dog's world..........

Imagine small dog's delight this morning, when into our inbox popped a message from Jilli Dog, thanking her for her kind words on the blog and for being such a fan!

Yes really!!

Not only that, she also received advance notification of Jilli's new videos, which will be filmed in Italy later this year.
Such is small dog's enthusiasm that she insisted I share just one more item featuring her pin-up.

This is more in by way of an interactive game for those seeking major displacement activity. Just visit the following website
(you may need to cut and paste the link into your browser)

It's pretty self explanatory but you have to guess what tricks Jilli Dog can do and type your guesses, one at a time. There are at least 15 commands, and in the spirit of investigative blogging, small dog and I spent quite some time earlier today finding every single one of them.

Small dog will send a prize to the first person who emails me with the complete list.


Sunday, 6 April 2008

Small dog presents.........

If you can't indulge in a spot of displacement activity on a cold, snowy April Sunday afternoon then there is no justice in the world.

Small dog has emerged from beneath her cosy duvet and has been surfing the net, admiring the exploits of her favourite online dog. She's a big fan of Jilli.

So here, for your delectation and delight, small dog presents.............

Zen and the art of website maintenance..........

I'm feeling particularly virtuous today, as not only have I caught up with my casting shedule, I have also been getting to grips with my new online shop facility, which should have been live on two months ago.

Having successfully completed the basic template last December and input information on my little toys, how they're made etc, I have been putting off the hard bit, which is getting to grips with the intricacies of Zen Cart, which is the shopping cart thingy.

Back in January I dutifully printed out the basic manual, which runs to 20 pages so it's not that basic. I then carefully filed it in my project folder, fully intending to work my way through it systematically, step by step, in conjunction with the test area on the website. Needless to say, our eleventh hour admission to Miniatura rather put everything on the back burner, which is where it has stayed until this week.

A few days ago, in preparation for making an exploratory foray into the bowels of Zen Cart, I carefully bound the manual, using my new thermal binder (an impulse buy on Ebay, ahem) This precautionary measure was to ensure that it would remain in pristine condition and prevent it becoming dog-eared and possibly tear-stained.

So it is all lovely and crisp in its shiny new binder with a wipe-clean cover.

Lovely and crisp and ever so slightly intimidating.

I am sure that in the fullness of time I will become completely au fait with 'product attribute options', EZ pages and sub-category images. That the mysteries of multiple categories, discount coupons and 'read only' settings will become clear to me.

Today however, I am cock-a-hoop at having successfully entered my first 'product' into the dedicated shopping cart interface facility.

With a picture and everything.

Of course it's not live yet........I will need to have more than just one solitary item available to purchase and a bit like ebay, the whole listing process is not a speedy one.

Nevertheless, having carefully followed the instructions in the manual, I am now confident that I can at least create categories and enter product listings. So all in all, I'm counting that as a result.

I must not, however, become complacent, for I now need to move on to much more complicated matters, involving newsletters, workshop pages, site maintenance and the aforementioned mysterious and scary 'attributes', about which I am completely clueless.

Still, Rome wasn't built in a day, and I'm sure that if I stick with it and follow the manual carefully I'll have a new shop front live on the net in no time at all.

Yes indeedy.

So there's probably no immediate urgency to get this keyboard upgrade either..........

A Winter's Tale............

So it would appear that my assertion that spring has sprung was a tad premature. As I write this there is a veritable blizzard blowing outside so winter has returned with a vengeance.

It's hard to believe that on this day, just a year ago, we were sweltering in 70 degree heat on a campsite over the Easter weekend. I even got sunburn on my April! Today I'd be more likely to get frostbite, which is equally unattractive and has the added potential of my nose falling off.

Small dog was scheduled for her 'spring trim' today but is currently snuggled up under her duvet with a definite 'don't 'sturb me' stance to her ears, so she has been granted amnesty till the temperature rises.

Still, it's vairy purty outside, and getting whiter by the minute..........

Weather update........ an hour and two inches of snow later.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Call the Humane Society..........

Now, before I go any further, I must stress that the following can in no way be referred to as displacement activity.

Displacement activity can only exist when the activity in question, displaces another, usually more urgent and useful activity.

So, browsing for doggy birthday stuff on the net, late at night, with small dog's enthusiastic cooperation most certainly does NOT come under the heading of displacement activity.

I found the following among the usual offerings of doggy birthday parties, with pampered pooches in party hats running amock and starting arguments with each other. Much like human parties in my experience but I digress.

I feel that it should come with a disclaimer. It is NOT meant to be amusing. Banish all thoughts of laughing at the poor creature. The dog is obviously traumatised and instead of joining in the general hilarity, the off-screen onlookers (or should that be perpetrators?) should be calling the Humane Society, RSPCA or any other animal welfare organisation to offer it post-traumatic stress counselling. Its party, where it was forced to model some particularly ill-advised birthday presents, represents all the very worst aspects of the 'party experience'.

I feel genuine empathy, as the scenes evoked painful memories of my own 'birthday party horribilis'. 42 years ago but as fresh and distressing as if it was yesterday.

I too was dressed to the nines with, (and I remember this with forensic clarity) shiny new silver shoes with sparkly buckles.

I too was the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons.

I too had to be physically removed, shaken and traumatised, after the fattest boy in my class at school executed a flying leap during a party game (it may have been the Hokey Cokey), which flattened me, and left my little silver sparkly shoes sticking out from under his great bulk, twitching slightly, reminiscent of the ruby slippers after Auntie Em's house fell on the Wicked Witch of the East.

I too remember the resounding laughter of my so-called 'friends' ringing in my ears, as bruised and battered, my dignity in tatters, I was led away even before the ice cream and jelly.

Painful, painful memories.

So, you will understand if the following strikes a very personal chord with me.
Being a sensitive soul, I know you will understand the very palpable distress and refrain from sniggering, smirking, giggling or any other unseemly displays.

I thank you.........

The birthday dog!

Small dog embraces life with enthusiastic vigour. No less on her birthday, which was yesterday.

As a special treat she was taken to our nearest beach at low tide and let off her lead to run like a lunatic up and down the sand, nosing in rock pools, tugging at seaweed fronds and generally having a high old time.

She even threw caution to the winds and paddled in some of the larger pools, right up to her knees, which admittedly is only about 2 inches, but since she's not usually keen on getting wet under any circumstances this merits special mention.

Stupidly, I didn't take my camera, so you will have to use your imagination to come up with a mental image.

So, eventually, a small, wet, sandy dog, tired out by her exertions, travelled home in the car, wrapped snugly in an old towel. It was only later yesterday afternoon that we noticed how gritty the floor felt underfoot, and after further investigation the culprit was indeed found to be small dog, who rather in the manner of 'The Great Escape' was surreptitiously depositing large amounts of sand which had been stuck to her furry legs and tummy.

Nothing else for it.......she would have to submit to a shower. Much to her disgust. It was her birthday after all and she's not keen on being washed at at the best of times.

So, I give you one freshly laundered small dog..........

Thursday, 3 April 2008

I'm not the only one........

....with an ambivalent relationship with ebay

Ebay blues............

I have a love/hate relationship with ebay.

I love searching for that elusive miniature marvel and the thrill of bidding to win it.
I love the way I can keep track of all my 'doings' in the one place.
I love the fact that I can have a shop window open to the whole world (if they know where to look)

However, for all the positives (and there are many more) there are just as many negatives. And ebay often has me tearing my hair out with frustration.

For example, today ebay uk have had a 5p listing day. As with all ebay offers there are strings attached and there is a long list of do's and don'ts which must be adhered to.

Fair enough.

As I've been otherwise occupied for the past month or so, my ebay selling has been rather neglected, so today I wanted to take advantage of the cheap listing to put up a few more items, on auction and buy it now.

So far so good.

Took photos and settled down to list a fairly modest batch of around 12 items which I anticipated would take 2 hours at most.

The process took almost 6 hours.

6 HOURS!!! To list just a dozen items!

And that's using mis-named Turbo Lister, which is the least turbo-charged tool I have ever come across.
I can't be the only one who finds the whole listing process tedious in the extreme. Which is why I tend to put it off till cheap listing days. When of course everyone else is trying to list their stuff too so the whole thing system slows to a crawl.


Still, at least I managed to finish without Turbo Lister crashing my laptop (which it is wont to do) or freezing solid so I can't close anything down and have to resort to taking out the battery, which requires finding a small screwdriver and struggling with 4 microscopic screws. So I suppose I must be thankful for small mercies.

However I have most certainly had enough for today so I'm downing tools early to indulge in some displacement activity.

With the aid of small dog.

Enuff said.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Is there life after Miniatura..........?

So the dust has finally settled and I've even got round to unpacking all our boxes which have been littering the hall and workroom since we got back home on Monday. Of course the workroom does still look like the set of 'Armageddon and the Four Riders of the Apocalypse' so no change there then.

I've been easing myself back into work mode, slowly and carefully, aided and abetted by the odd glass of something cheering. The evenings are lighter for longer and all the signs are that winter is over and spring is well and truly sprung.

So, new ideas, new plans, new projects have been swirling round in my head like a primordial soup, full of interesting organisms, which may or may not evolve into fully fledged life forms.

Of course there are some pressing concerns, such as preparation for the two vintage toy workshops I'm doing for Kensington Dollshouse Festival.
Not to mention the end of the tax year this Saturday, which means I have to spend 3 days submerged in drifts of paperwork, completing our end of year accounts.
Plus there is the small matter of my 50th birthday later this month, for which I am anticipating at least three weeks of celebrations.

I have requested a birthday party, a proper one with balloons and stuff. In all of my nearly 50 years I have only ever had one proper birthday party.
This was when I was 8 years old. It was held at my grannie's house, but I had to be taken home early, in tears, after a fat boy fell on me. I probably suffered birthday post-traumatic stress for the intervening 42 years, for I have never since experienced the desire for a party.

However, apparently 50 is the new 40 so a party is practically compulsory.

In the midst of all this birthday euphoria, we mustn't forget that it will be small dog's second birthday on Friday. Last year she had a proper doggy birthday party but this year she will be celebrating quietly at home.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Wagons roll..........

And so to Monday, and the journey back home. Not quite as traumatic as the journey up to Birmingham, not least because the sun shone most of the time, and the only shower of rain was thankfully light and brief. However the M25 section of the trip was as hair-raising as usual, especially the stretch from M40 to Heathrow Airport and beyond, which is always a complete nightmare.

On the way, I was in charge of maps and directions, second in command to our Sat-Nav, which is often, frankly useless. Known as NavWoman, she has a pronounced lisp. Anyhoo, whenever we take a wrong turn, which is quite often, she intones:

"Perform a U-turn ath thoon ath pothible"

This is only hilarious for the first few times, mildly amusing for the next few times, then downright irritating forever.

But I digress.


I love them.

I think perhaps I should have been a cartographer but I was always rubbish at Geography so that wasn't really an option. Give me a map, (and if it's Ordnance Survey so much the better,) and I am happy for hours.

So I am always first to volunteer for map-reading duties on long journeys. Britain is a haven of odd place names, and one which particularly caught my eye on our way home was the macabrely named Gallowstree Common, which I imagine must be a spookily eerie blasted heath, with a single twisted tree in the centre of a wasteland, populated by big, black crows.

So, while I pored over my maps, the conversation turned to holidays, in particular our summer holiday, which is still unplanned.
Personally I favour a trip to the land of my birth and a tour round the Highlands and Islands. This would have to be in June to avoid the plagues of midges which will turn out to eat me alive, but that aside, there are few places in the UK to rival the west coast of Scotland, with its perfect sunsets, unspoilt beaches and jaw-droppingly stunning scenery.

Perfectionist partner is understandably unenthusiastic about the epic journey required to get from the south coast of England, all the way up to the Scottish west coast. So she suggested the West Country, Dorset or Devon where there are some wonderful campsites with sea views, plus the added attraction of clotted cream teas just in case our cholesterol levels fall dangerously low.

Small dog, who is allowed a vote as we are a democratic household, put forward a strong case for holidaying in Barking, which we suggested is probably less exciting than it might sound. Undaunted she then proposed Dog Village, (Yes it does exist. Look it up on Google Maps) which isn't far from Dartmoor and 'Hound of the Baskerville' country. Sensing that a theme was developing, we duly agreed to note her request. Her final suggestion was the rather disgustingly named Lickey End which sounds less like a holiday destination and more like something which would require an emergency visit to the vet. Nevertheless, small dog is entitled to her opinion so it was carefully minuted.

All suggestions will be thoroughly researched and discussed at the next meeting of the aptly named Holiday Enablement And Destination Action Committee (Heartily Endorsed). Maybe we should think of a snappier title..............

Day Two..........

On Sunday, day two of the fair, we woke to brilliant sunshine, which set the tone for thewhole day.
Arrived early again, as the hour before opening to the public was designated for exhibitors to browse and shop with each other. This was a godsend for me as perfectionist partner had spent most of the time on Saturday in the van dog-sitting, shuttling across to the hall every few hours to bring me refreshments and allow me 'comfort breaks'.

However, even the shopping hour on Sunday morning wasn't nearly long enough and there were still lots of my favourite makers I didn't get the chance to visit.

Doors opened at 10am and a flood of eager miniatures enthusiasts were released into the hall and from then till lunchtime there was a steady flow of visitors to my stand. I talked myself hoarse, explaining how the little toy dolls are made and chatting with visitors about their (and mine) dollshouses. By lunchtime I was seriously flagging, and throughout the afternoon the excitement and exhilaration had taken their toll and I was fit to drop. 4.30 pm rolled round and the show was pronounced closed........time to pack up and ferry the remains of our stock back to the van, where small dog was once again in fine fettle and looking forward to getting back to the campsite for her walk.

It was something of a challenge trying to fit everything back into the van so that we could actually move around in it, but once back on the site, with the late afternoon sun glinting on the lake, a sense of peace and calm descended.......aided by a glass of Merlot to celebrate our success.

So, all in all, a very worthwhile experience.

Oh, and just to prove our credentials.

All's fair.........

And so to Saturday, Day 1 of the Miniatura International Doll's House and Miniatures Show.

Had to get up at stupid o'clock in order to stow all loose articles in the van, shower, get dressed and drive the 3 miles to the NEC early enough to bag a good parking spot.

When we arrived at 7.30am the hall was already bustling with exhibitors setting out their wares. Unfortunately our business mascot wasn't going to be allowed into the hall, so had to stay in the comfort of the van. She was not amused at the early start, not being an early riser at the best of times, so she was somewhat disgruntled at the prospect of staying in a car park all day. Even when I took her for a quick constitutional around the car park, she disdained chasing a particularly large and probably very unfit squirrel, who had been scavenging in a bin and was breakfasting on a large sticky bun!

So, on the stroke of 10am, I was settled behind my stand, nervously awaiting the start of the fair and the arrival of our first customers. I didn't have to wait long, as one of our online dollclub members, Jenny, soon appeared along with her two grandsons, ready for a day's browsing and buying. Having a chat with Jenny soon dispelled my nerves, especially as she'd brought a gorgeous hand-made card to cheer us on. Miniaturists are such nice people!

The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur. I didn't even get the opportunity to slip away and attend to some of the items on my own shopping list.

One of the highlights of the day was the interest shown by the editor of Doll's House and Miniature Scene magazine. She took lots of photos and then asked if they could feature my Vintage Toy Doll Kit in the Kit Review section of the magazine during the summer. What a result!

Modesty forbids me from repeating the glowing feedback from customers and browsers alike, but it was wonderful to know that all our creative endeavour was appreciated. Sale followed sale, leaflets flew off the stand and I finished the day at 5.30pm exhausted but exhilarated.

Thankfully, small dog's morning frostiness had thawed sufficiently for her to greet me enthusiastically when I got back to the van, footsore and weary, but brimming with ideas and plans for future projects. Even the rain didn't cloud our euphoria, and the evening was pleasantly spent over a delicious dinner with a bottle of most acceptable Sauvignon Blanc.

We even remembered about to put our clocks forward by one hour to herald the start of British Summertime, which was somewhat ironic given the continuing deluge, but a very early night would hopefully make up for the loss of one hour..........