Friday, 25 July 2008

Fancy a dogtail..........?

Up until now, I fondly imagined that I had singlehandedly elevated displacement activity from a time-wasting hobby to a serious art form.

However, I hadn't reckoned on Perfectionist Partner, who has spent the last few hours taking displacement activity to a whole new stratospheric level.

And so, Small Dog Productions is proud to present............ The DogTail Bar!


Yes, I know.

We need to get out more.

Holiday Wind-Down.........

And so at just after 3 pm on this sunny Friday afternoon, we three are now in full pre-holiday wind-down mode. I had envisaged that we would make it through till 5 pm before 'clocking off', but that was probably always a vain hope.

Nevertheless, after a concerted cleaning effort, our little camper van is now gleaming inside and out, and will be carefully re-packed over the next two days.

After the weekend we are off on holiday, meeting up with some fellow camping

reprobates friends for a week of partying by the sea.

The campsite is set in a lovely secluded valley but is only a 10 minute walk from the sea front, so it's one of our favourite destinations.
In order to maintain the holiday spirit regardless of the weather, we have planned a series of diversions which will include the following camping games...........

  • Guess the cocktail. The clue is in the title but basically, each couple have to concoct a cocktail. Other couples then have to guess the ingredients. Couple with the most correct guesses over the course of the evening wins. This has the potential for ending in a rout. Or should that be riot.
  • Balloon hat - contestants must make a wearable hat using modelling balloons.
  • Know your Partner - card game which is excruciatingly embarrassing.
  • Name that Tune. A karaoke variant of this popular parlour game *ahem*
  • Name that Animal - a modelling balloon variant of the above. Contestants must make a recognisable balloon animal. No snakes.
As you may surmise, we are aiming for a low-key week of quiet sobriety, philosophical contemplation and grown-up conversation. My reading matter will include Nietzsche for Dummies and the pop-up version of "A La Recherche du Temps Perdu".

Small dog, who has taken an active interest in all the preparations, will be modelling the very latest in doggy swimwear.......the dogkini.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Magic & Mystery.............

Have finally got round to listing some new items on the website courtesy of El Mysterioso, the aspiring young magician. He has been diligently practicising his sleight of hand tricks including pulling bunches of flowers out of thin air, conjuring up a rubber chicken......... and is only slightly flustered when his false moustache comes unstuck, which is often.

However there are still a dozen or so 'works in progress' on my worktable, including a new boxed magic set, various art and craft boards and some rather good puppets, which I'm really pleased with so far.

In addition, our latest summer project home workshop pack is now available to order. Full details are on the Tower House Dolls website.

Quite a productive week so far then, which is just as well as our summer break is just around the corner..........starting this weekend in fact. Small dog can hardly contain herself!

Woo and indeed hoo!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Toy shop update..........

A brief flurry of activity has produced several new 'to do' lists, to add to previous volumes.

The main task is to weather and age the exterior of the building, which currently looks too 'new'. I envisaged the shop as being late Victorian/early Edwardian, but set in a Tudor building, hence the herringbone brickwork and exposed timbers. The brickwork, timbers, and roof tiles, need to have damp patches, cracks, algae/moss growing under the eaves etc.

I'm still debating the guttering, which is not a straightforward job, as the front opens in two sections. I had in mind some fairly dodgy guttering, perhaps a bit rusty, with rust trails staining the brickwork down the front. It would definitely have to have a bird's nest blocking one of the downpipes.

Internally, there are still some tricky lighting problems to solve, but I've been tackling the internal window frames, skirting boards and exposed ceiling beams in the attic, which are all simple and straightforward stain, cut and glue jobs. They have the added bonus of being extremely satisfying, as I can see what I've achieved. Unlike tweaking the lighting which can take hours and achieve very little.

Except blown bulbs.

And solder burns.

So, all in all, despite my initial panic........I'm fairly confident that it will be done and dusted well before the deadline in September.

Famous last words...........

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Yet another deadline.............


The countdown timer on my desktop informs me that there are 140 days remaining till the Kensington Christmas Festival.

Sounds like a long time doesn't it?

A quick calculation reveals that 140 days is exactly 20 weeks.

Which doesn't sound much time at all.

Or to put it another way, 5 months. Which, perversely, feels much longer than 140 days.

But that's the thing about's all relative.

However, I now have yet another deadline looming, courtesy of being invited to feature my toy shop (remember it???!!) in the Christmas issue of one of our UK miniatures magazines.

Front cover no less.

I took mere nanoseconds to carefully consider the proposal, before accepting, only then to discover that the cover shot would have to be ready for approval by 4 September.
Now if you scroll back through the blog archive, you will discover that the last time I actually did any work on the toy shop, was 5 January this year. I have occasionally glanced at it longingly in the interim, but aside from 'playing' with the stock of miniature toys, which are neatly categorised in boxes, I have still to complete the exterior.

So, notebook in hand, I have just spent the last hour or so, carefully listing all the remaining jobs and planning a work schedule for completion of the shop.

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

Friday, 18 July 2008

New toys.............

Here is a preview of some of our newest Victorian toys. Perfectionist Partner has been working hard at designing, refining and developing the first in a series of these vintage ball games over the past few weeks.

I particularly like the Roll-a-Ball game, which has been cleverly engineered to allow the balls to return to the front of the tray after they have been successfully rolled into the holes. There is a tolerance of less than 1mm between the width of the balls and the holes, so several prototypes were tried before it was exactly, exactly right. She's not called Perfectionist Partner for nothing!

New designs are already in the pipeline for more vintage toys on a similar theme.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Displacement goblins rule........ok!

Grey, cold, windy miserable Thursday mornings are manna from heaven for the displacement goblins.

This Thursday morning is a case in point, and here is what the displacement goblins have slipped into my consciousness this morning

Watch it with your sound on.

Inspired, brilliant stuff!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Ring of confidence...........

D'you remember those toothpaste ads years ago which gave the user a sparkling ring of fresh breath confidence accentuated by a little star.......... *ting* ?

Well, we've been trying to do a similar thing for small dog. With mixed success.

At her recent booster vaccination and check up, the vet suggested that we brush her teeth to get rid of plaque build-up. So, we dutifully got a special dog toothbrush which slips over a finger, and has little rubbery bristles.

So far so good.

Small dog does not have a good track record relating to compliance with things that are 'good' for her, like having her ears plucked, or her claws clipped, or indeed any personal hygiene procedures.

At best she is sulky and uncooperative, as when she has to be bathed.

At worst she can become a growling, snarling bundle of snapping teeth, as when any potentially painful procedures are attempted.

Given that brushing the aforementioned fangs means getting up real close and personal with them, this plays right into her paws.

She may be small, but she can be very squirmy, and getting her into the right position for tooth brushing necessitates tucking her under one arm in a vice like grip, and prising open her jaws. It is then a race against time to complete the task within her brief 'goodwill' period, which can often be as short as a few seconds. When she decides she has had enough, it is then every creature for itself and she will practically turn herself inside out trying to escape.

Hopefully she'll get used to it over time, and will soon be sporting a set of gleaming gnashers.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Work ethic.........

And so this is my third consecutive weekend of work with no time off for good behaviour. At least the sun isn't shining today which would add insult to injury.

So, I'm making a virtue of necessity and in the absence of summer sun, instead I am basking in the glow of a positive work ethic.

This 'working weekends and evenings' thing is the curse of the self-employed. Not for us the cosy simplicity of a 9 to 5, 8 hour working day, 40 hour week. I daren't actually calculate how many work hours I've put in this past week, given that most evenings, after dinner, I've been working on the website, or preparing invoices, or packaging orders etc.

That's the problem with working from home........there is always 'stuff to do', and simply closing the door on the workroom is not enough to shut out the clamour of all the unfinished tasks, shouting for my attention.

I also suffer from the delusion that work done over a weekend has twice the 'value' of work done Monday to Friday..........

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


I am bitterly bemoaning the current appalling weather.

It feels more like March or November than the height of summer. Wind and rain have been continuously lashing down for the past three days and the temperature has plummeted.

The only upside is that the chore of watering the patio planters has been removed. However my hitherto gloriously blooming flower display is looking very sorry for itself, having been battered by rain and wind for 72 consecutive hours so far this week. The poor plants are huddled together for shelter and look as though they are shivering with cold.

Small dog has taken to her bed for the duration with an extra blanket for insulation. She hates going outdoors in such inclement weather as just a few minutes in the long grass leaves her soaking wet. As was evidenced just a few minutes ago.........

She had been surveying the damp scene in the garden from the patio doors, when she spied a squirrel on the lawn, busily engaged in foraging in the long grass. As she views flagrant incursions into her garden as an act of war, she immediately requested leave to chase the intruder, and as soon as the kitchen door was opened, she literally flew outside and up the garden steps. Of course, as she started squealing before she was even out the door, her element of surprise was lost, and the squirrel was long gone. This did not dampen her spirit however, and she spent the subsequent 10 minutes checking the perimeter and thoroughly investigating the route the squirrel had taken around the garden.

And so, completely soaked but with the air of a job well done, she has now returned and has been forcibly intercepted in her whirlwind journey progress around the house, up and down the stairs, rubbing her head and body all over the carpets in an attempt to dry herself.

The house is now permeated with the smell of small wet dog.............

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Trial by soft toy..........

In an unusual surge of energy this morning, I decided to tackle one of the spare bedrooms......the one which houses my terribly neglected toy shop.

The problem with having spare rooms, is that they are inevitably used as dumping grounds for stuff that needs to be stored somewhere out the way. However as they aren't in daily use, there is no impetus to carefully put things away and bags of 'stuff' are often just thrown in and the door quickly closed.

We have two rooms like this, both of which are used as repositories for things we can't decide what to do with. It complicates matters that when various offspring flew the nest, they couldn't quite manage to decide what to do with things either, so underbed storage, bookshelves etc are crammed full of 'stuff' belonging to them too.

However, today I set myself the task of making inroads (literally) into the smallest room, which I used to use as my hobby room. This was before the piles of stuff got so out of control that it was possible only to take one step into the room then stop, turn round and come back out again. There was THAT small an amount of space to manoeuvre.

In the right frame of mind I'm usually quite good at clearing out, so I took several black sacks (for rubbish), a couple of boxes (for Freecycle stuff) and a load of carrier bags (for charity shop donations).

All was quite straightforward until I unearthed a huge hoard of soft toys.

Am I the only one who cannot bear the reproachful look of a soft toy who is about to be consigned to a carrier bag?

A few......... a very few, were relatively easy. Anything very scruffy, with limbs missing and stuffing hanging out was quickly euthanized.

So far so good.

The ones which were just a bit tatty, but had no real prime emotional attachment were also fairly straightforward to deal with.

But then it came to the ones which had a real pull on the heartstrings. Very special ones which either I'd had as a child, or which my children had especially cherished.....or both.

I lined them all up on the bed and gave them a thorough inspection. There was nothing that a damp sponge and a needle and thread wouldn't fix so I couldn't instigate a cull on the grounds of infirmity.

I texted my daughter to ask about the status of Jemima Puddleduck, an ancient aardvark and several other candidates eligible for parole, only to receive the following immediate reply:

"Do not, repeat DO NOT bin anything cute."

I should have known better than to ask...............

Nevertheless, I have at least revealed a sizeable patch of carpet and removed several boxfuls of Freecycle stuff so I'm feeling reasonably virtuous.

Can't yet reveal an 'after' photo as the room is a work in progress, but here, to my eternal shame is how it looked before I started............It was most certainly, what my grandmother would have called, a 'guddle'.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Time to down tools.............

Small dog has an internal alarm clock which goes off every day between 5-6pm.

Wherever she is.......either in the house or garden, she comes trotting purposefully into the workroom or office and gives one of us a firm poke with both her front paws. She then stands back, head on one side as if to say:

"Don't you know what time it is? Almost dinnertime. So stop doing whatever it is you're doing and follow me into the kitchen. NOW!"

She's just done it to me again, so I'm now going to do as she suggests and meander into the kitchen to put a bottle of something into the 'quick chill' compartment. If small dog is very lucky, I'll then play a few rounds of 'Throw the Squeaky Ball'. This is currently her favourite game, ousting her previous game of choice, which has had to be abandoned due to her having chewed the head off her rubber chicken so it no longer squeaks.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

I was wrong............

Further to my last post, I've just spent a few more minutes trying some more unusual search terms and found this.

Apparently it's a Wristwriter and retails in the US for $20. Not quite what I had in's hardly sleek and unobtrusive........ but it does exist.

Eureka moment........

D'you ever have one of those days when you're just constantly chasing your tail?

When you have a great long list of things to do and no sooner do you start one than there's an interruption and you lose track of what you were doing?

When you put down your 'to do' list for one minute, then can't find it for over an hour, having turned the place upside down?

When you suddenly have a cracking idea, but between having it, and finding something to write it on, you forget the idea?

Well my day today was just like that.

So while I was fruitlessly hunting for my 'to do' list I had a blinding flash of inspiration.

Why does no-one make a wrist notepad? I Googled for same and found nothing.

It's not rocket science. Just a small notepad, mounted on an elasticated wristband which fastens with velcro.

Even better, a continuous roll of paper which could be wound backwards and forwards.

Even better still, a small integral pencil, with eraser on the end.

Now WHY doesn't anyone make these? I'd take a dozen.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008


So, today has been the hottest this year, a fact to which I can attest, having been incarcerated all day in 'Hell's Kitchen', aka the workroom.

I did escape briefly at lunchtime, to envy small dog lying in a little patch of shade on what passes for our lawn.

Then finally, at the end of work today, when we were released from our shackles, we decided to have a BBQ.

Namely, lamb escalopes with onions and peppers, with new potatoes and a huge mixed salad.


Initially all went well. Sunlight on the patio. Brick walls reflecting heat. Preparing the food outdoors on the table, with a glass of chilled white wine.



We happened to be both in indoors in the kitchen, preparing potatoes and cutlery etc.

A huge white seagull swooped past the kitchen window, snatched a piece of lamb from the plate and made off with it, small dog in hot pursuit.

Sadly small dog can't fly, or she would certainly have engaged the seagull in mortal combat. So we had to post a guard on the food, while small dog patrolled the perimeter , ever alert to enemy action.

I kid you not........I felt like I was either on the set of Hitchcock's "The Birds", or alternatively in the Arizona desert, down to my last few thimblefuls of water, crawling across the sand with a sign saying, 'Eat Me'.

The sky above our garden was suddenly full of wheeling birds, encouraged by the chutzpah of the gull thief, and with a beady eye to the main chance.

Then, to add insult to injury, one of the swooping gulls emptied its entire digestive tract right onto the lid of our George Foreman grill!!!!


All three of us stood open mouthed.........but not for long in case the same thing happened again.

Mere seconds earlier the grill lid had been open.

We quickly covered the salad bowl, plates and wine glasses, and small dog tucked herself under the table, while gulls, magpies and other avian hooligans laughed their silly heads off.

Thankfully, between the three of us, we manage to keep them all at bay until we had finished our meal..............

So, in the sultry heat of a balmy July evening, I give you small dog, kicking back and relaxing in our garden.

No it's not a wild flower meadow, just a very overgrown lawn...........


So we are now officially more than halfway through they year. Today is forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far, but I will be ensconced in the workroom for most of it, casting tiny toys and dolls.

No matter that the sun is shining fit to bust or that small dog is currently outside, revelling in a spot of sunbathing.
No matter that the grass on the lawn is so long you could lose a tiger in it.
No matter that the prospect of sitting on the patio with a good book and a glass of something long and chilled would be infinitely preferable to slaving away in a hot workroom.

No, I shall put all temptation firmly behind me and crack on with my 'to do' list.