Friday, 30 May 2008

Thank goodness it's Friday..........

So another week staggers to a close, and I realise with dismay that I have only ticked off 4 items on my massive 'to do' list.

BUT, and it is very big BUT, two of those things were doing the annual end of year accounts AND preparing the related tax return, both of which are now well and truly ticked off.

So hip, hip and indeed hooray!

Sadly the other 20 or so 'urgent' items are still outstanding, which is a source of some disappointment, especially as I'd promised myself I would clear the decks by the end of this month, which is tomorrow.

Still, the worst things on the list are done so all is not lost.

Tomorrow is pencilled in for making a start on putting up our new shed, which has been packed in its box for two months already.(that's it in the photo leaning against the wall on the left hand side, all wrapped up in black plastic)
We are drafting in some help and hope to get the old shed emptied and dismantled, then the basework prepared tomorrow.
Followed by the actual assembly of the new shed on Sunday.
Assuming all goes well, the weather cooperates and none of us get a slipped disc.

So this is what the 'old shed' area looks like now.

A bit of a shambles I think you'll agree. Hopefully by the end of the weekend it will look completely different.

Watch this space.............

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Ship ahoy..........

We will be going on a short canal boat holiday (actually it's only the holiday that's short. The boat itself is very, very l-o-n-g!) in the autumn with a group of friends, which has prompted a discussion on the health and safety aspects of such an expedition.

Top of the list for safety precautions has to be small dog, who only has to catch a glimpse of a duck and is up and off, throwing caution to the wind.

I am sure that she CAN swim but we have never tested the hypothesis. More to the point she would make a tasty snack for a passing pike.

So Perfectionist Partner has been surfing the net, looking for a suitable doggy life jacket. Small dog unwillingly submitted to the indignity of being measured every which way and apparently she is a very odd size, skinny and long. However a few hours of diligent searching has revealed an American website who sell lifejackets for all sizes and shapes of dogs, in all kinds of snazzy designs, and all with a useful handle for hoiking dogs out of the briny.

Of course, small dog, being a bit of a fashionista, will probably want suitable accessories. So if you happen to be in the vicinity of the Oxford Canal in early autumn and catch sight of a rather dashing nautical small dog, be sure to wave and say hello..............

Christmas in May...............

Was delighted to receive a letter in the post this morning inviting us to exhibit at the brand new Kensington Dollshouse Festival Christmas Fair on 6th December!

That's a whole 6 months away, but you know me and deadlines.

So, all those ideas for wonderful new toys and games now have very definite raison d'etre, not to mention a very definite deadline.

To help with the whole timing thing, I have installed a handy countdown timer on my laptop desktop. You might be interested to know that I have 191 days which an absolute ocean of time.
Still, take out at least 68 days for displacement activity, another 59 days for sourcing materials, research and development etc, say 23 days put aside for other unavoidable stuff, hospital appointments and the like....which leaves only 41 days for actual making. Yikes, that's that's less than 6 weeks!!!

I'd better get started then...........

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The joy of numbers...........


I was being ironic.

There is no joy of numbers, or indeed in numbers.

I can state as much with absolute certainty, having spent the past 4 hours attempting to complete my end of year accounts, left in abeyance over the holiday weekend.
Prior to that I had spent two whole days engaged in this activity.

Currently, the only room in the house with enough space to spread out all the paperwork etc is the dining room, which currently looks like this...........

I hasten to add that this photo was taken AFTER I'd tidied up.

Nor does it show the two boxes of paperwork on the floor, or the bag of waste paper and rubbish.
And I've pushed the empty tea mugs to one side, so as to reduce the general air of chaotic squalor.

However, on the plus side, I have at least collated the raw data and put it all neatly into a spreadsheet. Now all that remains is to actually file the tax return online.........a process which admittedly takes a very short length of time, compared to the actual doing of the accounts.

I am absolutely determined to get it all finished, done and dusted by the end of this week so that I can at last turn my attention to working on new ideas and projects, which have been bubbling away in my creative consciousness for several weeks now. And I need a clean slate workwise in order to free my muse.

Hence the assault on the accounts.
Plus outstanding orders.
Plus all the invoicing/paperwork related to those.

So nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel and all those other extremely uncomfortable phrases associated with work.

The wanderer returns..........

So, back home after yet another short break camping trip over the bank holiday weekend, meeting up with camping friends.
Despite predictions to the contrary, the weather for the first few days was and sunny.
Of course it all went pear-shaped on Sunday night, and yesterday morning we woke to found a duck lake on the pitch next to us.

A large proportion of the tent campers were soaked to the skin, as even built-in groundsheets struggle to cope with the inches of rain which fell overnight. However, as yesterday was 'going home' day, a spirit of stoic cheerfulness prevailed, and at the washing up area people were singing a medley of songs including "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life", Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and the ever popular camping classic, "Singing In The Rain".

Small dog, of course, had a great time, renewing her acquaintance with doggy friends, going for walks round the lake and as a special treat, her very own ice cream.

In the cool of the evenings, she then modelled her new hooded fleece jumper, looking just like Little Red Riding Hoolf.

She is now assiduously catching up on her naps while we get back to work.
It's a dog's life..................

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

My brain hurts.......

For TWO WHOLE DAYS I have been up to my ears (literally!) in invoices, receipts, bank statements, spreadsheets and all the paraphernalia involved in producing the end of year accounts, leading up to completing my tax return.

Question: Is gin tax deductable?

Answer: If not, why not?

Suffering as I do, from dyscalculia (see earlier post........much earlier) the whole numbers thing is a bit of mystery.

I know where I am with words. Words are so easy. Each word means something and put together they mean something else. They fit together in my head perfectly.

Numbers, on the other hand, are slippery buggers. They get in league with decimal points, who quite frankly should know better, and then it all goes pear-shaped.

Not to mention the thing with the tens and units.

And don't even get me started on spreadsheets, which should make the whole thing so much easier, but only serve to drive me to distraction.

So, for two days, these have been the parameters of my world................

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Fair enough........




Dolllshouse Festival



All of the above have been taking up most of my time and energy over recent weeks. Planning for the workshops in particular rivalled the logistical preparations for the D-Day landings. Every possible permutation was calculated, re-calculated and logged...many, many times.
Which is just as well, because completing the two projects in the alloted time of 2 hours, 30 minutes was a tall order, so everything needed to run smoothly.

In the event, there were no major problems. Nothing got dropped and broken, or covered in glue. I didn't have a nervous breakdown and everyone was very happy with what they'd achieved.

So all in all, a good result.

My showcase exhibit looked very good, even though I say so myself. Apologies for the dodgy camerawork but you get the idea.

It begins.........

And so, renewed and refreshed after two nights of 12 hour sleeps, I am now emerging blinking into the light of a brave new world, unfettered by lengthy 'to do' lists, deadlines, stress and 14 hour working days.

What AM I going to do now?

Since the beginning of this year, 5 months ago, I've been totally focussed, first on Miniatura, then KDF and working hard towards both those goals. Not to mention getting the new website off the ground AND doing all the usual stuff involved in making a living from miniatures.

Without that framework to my working week, the temptation to drift may overwhelm me *panicky look, trying to find paper bag to breathe into......*

However, even the briefest glance at my 'Ideas Notebook' reveals a plethora of interesting new projects to work on, with a view to expanding the new website.
Not to mention lots of exciting plans for new home workshop packs.
And of course, there is the small matter of my languishing, neglected toy shop, which really does deserve some TLC.

So all in all, I don't think I'll be short of 'stuff to do', which is just as well. For as you all know, 'multi-tasking' is my middle name.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


I am so tired I can hardly think.

Now home after two 'full-on' days in London, and my two miniature toy workshops in advance of KDF.

Both sessions went really well.......4 students on Thursday and 7 on Friday.

Had a brief look around the fair on Friday, but it was absolutely heaving, with queues at every stand in the main hall. However, I did manage to see all the exhibitors on my list except for the St. Legers who were only visible from a distance behind a sea of avid collectors.

I am fit for nothing today though, so more interesting blog posts will have to wait until my muse returns, or until I have recharged my batteries.......whichever is soonest.

Oh, and small dog, who was relishing her role as business mascot, is also 'sausted and has barely moved from her basket all day.

To be continued anon.........

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Think calming thoughts............

You know how you sometimes think you have everything under control?

That's pretty much how I felt over the weekend.

However, in the past 48 hours, everything that possibly could go wrong, has. As a result I am now as strung out and stressed as a strung out and stressed thing.

And then some.

We leave soon for London, and two days of workshops then back home on Friday, after hopefully having had a chance to wander round the fair after my Friday class, and see my showcase display.

I am determined to do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING over the weekend, except relax and recuperate.

And blog the details of the workshops and fair of course.

So stay tuned for more exciting adventures................... *cue cliffhanger music from vintage radio serial I can't remember the name of..... Dan Dare perhaps? You know the goes
dum de dum dum de dum dum de dum etc.......... sorry, it's been a l-o-n-g few days.........*

Sunday, 11 May 2008


My goodness it's hot!

Way too hot to work, so until it cools down a bit later, I'm engaging in some Sunday afternoon displacement activity/research & development/ebay surfing/google surfing.........tracking down supplies and materials for new projects.

This fits into the category of 'work' but only just.

Small dog is lying flat out in her basket, exposing the maximum amount of underbelly to whatever passes for a breeze filtering in from the door. She is hopeful that we might have a bbq later, which is almost as good as camping, in her opinion.

Whatever happened to spring? We seem to have gone from winter, straight into summer, bypassing spring altogether! Next thing we know, there will be a hosepipe ban, widespread drought and water rationing. Typical!

We did briefly consider going to the beach, but judging by the steady stream of traffic heading south on the A21 this morning, by now Hastings beach will resemble............

No, it's not a new version of 'Where's Wally', it is an actual beach somewhere in China.

Anyway, better get back to 'work' *ahem*

Friday, 9 May 2008

So much to little time........

It's always the way isn't it?

The more you have to do, the more there is to do........ 'stuff to do' seems to expand exponentially to fill the time available.

No matter how hard I try, I never seem to get to the end of my 'to do' lists.

Top of my TO DO -URGENT! list, is the prep for the Kensington workshops and the showcase display. There's a strict deadline for those so they will be ready in time.

Second on my urgent list is our end of year business accounts 2007/08. 'Nuff said.

Third on my urgent list is getting to grips with research and development for several ideas for new toys and games. I so wish that this was second on my list, but it will act as a spur to get the accounts done and dusted so I can move on to more pleasurable pursuits.
I have so many ideas which I'm bursting to try that it will be a job to decide which to try first.
I just love the whole R&D side of what I do. Very often, what I end up with bears little resemblance to what I originally planned, but this is part and parcel of wandering into artistic cul-de-sacs.

Fourth on my urgent list is doing something..........anything with my toy shop. When I opened it up yesterday to remove some of the display units I was struck by just how lovely it is, and how close to relative completion. I've done all the hard work and tricky stuff, and now it's the fun stuff........the 'distressing' and adding realistic, quirky touches.

Then there's the basement, which I bought before Christmas, and is still in kit form, packed away to lead me not into temptation.

And of course there is the small matter of finding a suitable home for my mini birthday presents, which included some gorgeous little books by Jean Day, a set of antique miniature tools, beautifully framed in a display case, and a wonderful working train layout, complete with DIY scenery, a fairytale castle, and even tiny cows and sheep!

So, after Kensington, I will definitely make a start on the accounts (yuck!) but to balance out the tedium and head-scratching and struggling with spreadsheets, I will allow myself time to work on new ideas, as well as one hour each day to work on the toy shop. My goal is to get the shop itself completely finished and stocked with my collection of fantastic tiny toys and dolls. Then relocate it to a more accessible place to free up space for Phase Two - the basement, which is to contain two separate rooms, one for a toymaker, the other for a dollmaker. The basement also provides a stretch of pavement which will be perfect for some street urchins to stand on while they press their snotty noses up against the shop windows. The toy shop owner, who is a kindly soul, may even gift them a small toy with the request to remove their noses from his windows...........

However, till then I still have lots of work to do so I'd better go and get on with it.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Modern Myths Debunked # 1

Not a lot of people know this, but I am a great admirer of guinea pigs.

My last guin died over a year ago, and I still miss his furry little face and happy squeaks, especially in response to carrot and celery tops.

Now, I suppose you're either a guinea pig person or you're not. Technically they're rodents, but they're not very rodenty. For example they don't have tails, unlike mice and rats *shudder*.
They have pleasantly rounded faces, not pointy little rodenty snouts. They're relatively placid and easy to handle and don't try to shoot up your sleeve or down your jumper (much).
They're gloriously vocal and have a wide vocabulary of grunts, squeaks, whistles, purrs, durrs and chitters (to name but a few).

Despite all this, some people are very disparaging about guinea pigs, and say things like:

"Yes that's all very well, but they don't DO much do they?"

This just goes to show that these people really know nothing at all about the wide and varied secret life of the guinea pig. So in order to debunk this popular modern myth once and for all, I present Exhibit A.

I rest my case..............


So onwards and upwards with the planning for KDF. A large portion of the day was taken up with trying to design and build a suitable display stand, no bigger than 1 cubic foot to show off the tiny dolls and toys to their best advantage.

Perfectionist Partner spent a chunk of the afternoon sawing, glueing, cutting and generally fabricating from scratch a display stand, which despite all her time and energy, wasn't quite right.

Back to the drawing board and experimentation with various stepped display units, none of which were quite right either.

Until I had an epiphany!

If you've been following this blog from the start, way back in December 2006, you may remember my delight at finding some wonderful wooden display units for my toy shop. My eureka moment late this afternoon was to scoot up to the 'doll's house room' (which has been so neglected I half expected to open the door to find ivy tendrils clinging to every surface) raid the toy shop *minor guilty twinge* and bring down a wall and two corner units, which when used together make a very elegant display almost exactly the right size.

Plus they all have adjustable shelves.
Plus the shelves are perspex so they don't inhibit viewing
Plus they're all nicely painted with trailing plants across the top
Plus they are so obviously shelves from a toy shop, so they will put the toys and dolls in exactly the right context so that people aren't confused about what I'm actually exhibiting.

The perfect solution.

Perfectionist Partner was remarkably good-humoured about having effectively wasted her time all afternoon, and in any case, her display will be excellent for photographing tiny toys on so all was not lost.

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together................?

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Hi ho, hi ho..........'s back to work we go.

After a deliciously relaxing few days away, it is now back to work with a vengeance. By this time next week I will have to be packed and ready for my two miniature toy workshops to be held at the Kensington Dollshouse Festival on Thursday and Friday.

Not to mention planning a spectacularly wonderful display for the showcase.

The former is well under control and will be completed in the next day or so.

The latter is not.

We have a display space of just 1 cubic foot. That's good in that I need only a few choice items.
But it's not so good in that a small display has to be absolutely perfect when viewed from all angles.
Also, I won't be able to set up the display myself, so I will have to provide a photograph and detailed instructions on how everything should be placed.

So, cue a lot of playing around with various display ideas over the next few days, with the intention of getting it completely nailed by the end of the weekend.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Camping capers.........

What a glorious weekend.

Despite the gloomy weather forecasts we mostly had the most wonderfully warm spring weather over our four days of rest and relaxation, far from the madding crowd.

All except for the day of our arrival on the site.

To say it was a bit blowy is putting it mildly.

However, undaunted we decided to erect the awning in the teeth of a gale, much to the amusement of the other campers. Our awning quickly became a 3 cubic metre windsock, and I half expected to take flight, clinging onto it, Dorothy-like, wailing "I guess I'm not in Kansas anymore............."
Finally, good sense prevailed and we abandoned the attempt, quickly re-packing it and trying to look as if we hadn't really wanted to put it up all along.

And so to small dog's favourite part........her first walk to see the baby animals. This necessitates us all 'trip, trap, tripping' over the 'troll bridge' right next to the billy goat gruff paddock.
Small dog is ecstatic...there are such good sniffings and things to investigate.

Back at the van she is on 'duckwatch', a task which keeps her fully engaged while we make dinner. As we do, I get the strangest sensation that we are slowly sinking. This sensation is confirmed when we investigate further to find that our levelling blocks are level with the grass, having sunk right into the damp ground. This created a problem mainly because the van fridge is rather temperamental, and refuses to work properly unless it is level, front to back and side to side. This, unfortunately, was not the case and we had developed a distinct list to starboard.

So off to the warden to beg for a few boards, which were duly delivered, along with the observation that we'd made quite a dent in the pitch. By this stage, windswept and bedraggled, I was in no mood to commiserate.
There followed a difficult half hour during which we resolutely tried to level the van on boards and blocks. It slowly dawned on us that we were top billing for site entertainment, as people near and far stopped what they were doing to take in the scene.

Trying to maintain a cheery and unconcerned demeanour, we smiled through gritted teeth, calling "to me, to me.........right a bit. NO! MY right not yours........back a bit, to me, to me. Oh bugger.........." the latter as the boards both split down the middle, upending, and being driven by the force of the wheels straight down into the ground, gouging deep troughs and sending the levelling blocks spinning off dangerously in all directions.

This, though uneniably dramatic, and great spectator sport, had achieved precisely nothing.
The van was not level
The fridge was not working.
And I had two enormous splinters from trying to reposition the wooden boards.

Call me paranoid, but I was beginning to wonder if I might suffer the fate of Lord Carnarvon, discoverer of the Tutankhamun tomb, who was bitten by a mosquito, cut the blister while shaving, contracted an infection, which led to pneumonia and died all within a few weeks.

Happily, minor surgery with mole grips removed the splinter and relative peace was achieved, despite small dog's jihad on a group of itinerant guinea fowl and the resultant tumult as she tried to chase them.

I did try to lighten the mood over dinner, by folding the napkins into miniature representations of the Titanic, which seemed appropriate considering the rate at which we were sinking. Some people have no sense of humour.

We finally got the fridge working at 8.10pm, a triumph which was slightly marred by the discovery that our runny honey had gone solid and could only be extracted from its squeezy bottle with the aid of a stick.

These are the joys of camping.

The remainder of our stay was uneventful. The wind dropped and we were able to put the awning up the following morning. The sun shone and we basked outdoors......... taking walks, reading, cooking al fresco and generally enjoying the bucolic splendour of the great outdoors.

Here's small dog's best bits................

Small dog on duckwatch. Although she looks relaxed, she is in fact doing complicated mental calculations based on range, acceleration, speed etc.

The view of the duckpond from our van on the first morning

Small dog in utter ecstasy, while rolling in something disgusting.

Her favourite three little pigs, all snuggled up together for a snooze.

Dizzy brunette............

There aren't many upsides to having MS. Except you get to experience for free a whole range of sensory anomalies that most 'normal' folks have to pay for.

For example, I know that there are many misguided souls who pay through the nose to go on white knuckle fairground rides, whereupon they are gyrated, oscillated, rotated and generally turned upside down, and, if they're very unlucky and have just had lunch, inside out *yuck*.

I, on the other hand, have all those sensations, (except perhaps for the vomiting) with none of the expense.


Or it would be if I enjoyed being subjected to feeling as if I'm on the riding 40 foot waves on the high seas in a very small dinghy.

So, I occasionally visit my local hospital, where I have a fun-filled session at the neuro balance clinic, with a very personable physiotherapist, who I affectionately refer to as 'the dizzy nurse'.

I had a session today, and the idea is that I have to be made to feel dizzy, in order to become habituated to the sensation. It's a bit like a more benign form of aversion therapy, which in my case would involve having large, hairy spiders crawling over me *shudder*.

So if I'm not feeling dizzy when I go in, I'm definitely dizzy when I come out, but with the knowledge that I'm doing my bit for balance and equilibrium.

Anyway, just so you know, I won't be doing THIS any time soon............

Monday, 5 May 2008

With a hey nonny nonny...........

........and a happy May Day to you to!

Home from our extremely relaxing camping trip today (blog post and photos to follow). Quickly unpacked the van and set off into Hastings for the annual May Day celebrations, consisting of
Jack-in-the-Green and the convergence of around 20,00 motorbikes and riders! The whole of the town is literally jam-packed full of motorbikes, all gleaming chrome and polished tyres, from WW1 classic bikes, right up to turbo-charged monsters worth upwards of £30,000!

Today the sun shone and all along the sea front, leather-clad bikers and Jack-in-the-Greeners mingled in perfect harmony. PP and I shared a bag of chips then moseyed on to Winkle Island for fresh seafood.

Small dog has been catching up on her naps this afternoon, and after dinner will review the photographs of the camping trip, which, predictably, feature mainly herself.

Hope everyone has had the opportunity to enjoy some sunshine this bank holiday weekend. It really feels like the start of summer at last!