Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Extreme camping........

There has been a general outpouring of disbelief that we should even entertain the idea of going camping in December/January.

However, having invested a sizeable amount of hard-earned cash in a campervan, it makes complete sense to use it all year round, rather than just May -September, and it is actually really good fun camping in winter.

Yes really.

Our van, though small, is perfectly formed and has proper central heating, a full kitchen with oven, hob, fridge, and drinks cabinet. It has a compact shower room with shower, WC and washbasin. We can seat 6 adults in comfort for a full 4 course meal. Not for us the normal camping fare of beans on toast or spam fritters. We cook proper dinners using fresh ingredients, complete with chilled wines, romantic candles, twinkly lights, music, conversation, general hilarity and at the end of the evening, when our fellow campers have staggered back to their vans, we fall asleep looking at the stars though the Heki rooflight.

Winter campers are a breed apart. There is real sense of camaraderie and fellow feeling. The campsite we're going to is fully booked over the holiday period and EVERYONE will be fully entering into the spirit of the season.

I cannot understand why people spend thousands of pounds on state of the art caravans/motorhomes then winterise and store them away from the end of October when the seasonal campsites close, through to Easter when they all open again.

OK, so you can't sit outside in the winter, and BBQs, although not impossible, somewhat lose their lustre in sub-freezing temperatures. The daylight hours are short but that just leaves more time to cosy up inside and while away the evening hours talking, playing games, eating/drinking and generally having fun, freed from the tyranny of the internet and TV.

Actually, we do have a TV in the van, but it is monochrome, has a 4" screen and only works properly when one of us is standing on one leg with our head out of the Heki at an angle of 45 degrees precisely.

So we don't use it.

Similarly, we don't close all our blinds as soon as the sun sets. One of the joys of camping is doing the evening dog walk around the site, which is an opportunity to peer into other people's vans and extemporise their life stories.

There's the young family who have just bought their first caravan. The two kids are leaping from one bunk bed to the other, totally hyper, while their harassed mum struggles to put a meal on the table from a kitchen which consists of a three-ring hob and dad is outside under the van with a torch trying to work out why the bathroom sink isn't draining properly.

There's the retired couple who love caravanning but have lost the knack of communicating. He sits glued to the football match on the flat screen TV while wifey, having cooked dinner and done the washing up, knocks back the rest of the bottle of generic Vin Rouge and tries to concentrate on her book.

There's the group of friends, all sat round the table, eating, chatting, laughing.........ah,wait.... hang on a minute. That's us.

Seriously though, most winter campers are sociable animals. Dog walkers (who are generally quite sociable anyway) will stop to pass the time of day, or night. A stroll around the campsite will almost never be complete without a chat with several other campers en route. And why do the washing up in your van when you can put all the dirty dishes in a bucket and trot over to the communal washing up area where the seasonal fun continues en masse. If you haven't washed up under the stars with snow falling softly all around then you simply haven't lived.

Similarly, a trip to fill up the aquaroll, or empty the water waste or chemical toilet can bring you into contact with all sorts of interesting people. Actually, to be honest, not many women ever empty the chemical toilet so the few intrepid women who do achieve mythical status.


So I am anticipating a few days of fun and frolics. We will spend far more time in the great outdoors than we would otherwise. We will eat/drink and talk/laugh ourselves hoarse.

I wish everyone a very, very Happy New Year, and let's all hope that 2010 is a better year all round.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Winter displacement activity......

I've suddenly remembered that the Winter Olympics will be held in 2010.

A quick google has revealed that they will take place in and around Vancouver, which as we are 8 hours ahead will make watching most live events a nocturnal exercise.

No matter.

I like watching winter sports so I'm wondering if I can set up a portable TV in the workroom to keep an eye on while I work as there will no doubt be wall-to-wall coverage during the day.

They run from 13 through to 28 February, so in conjunction with my SAD lamp I now have the perfect antidote to the winter blues.

Edit: just been browsing the alpine skiing portion of the website and THIS rather puts our paltry couple of inches of snow last week into perspective.......

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Twixmas limbo............


That's it.

I've had enough of Christmas now and am keen to move on to pastures new.

The week between Christmas and New Year is traditionally the one week in the year when I get to work on my own miniature projects unhindered but this year is different primarily as we are going camping with friends for New Year.



I've just checked the forecast and it will apparently, after the windchill factor is taken into account, feel like -9 degrees.

So a bit on the nippy side.

Before we go we will have to get some red-bottled calor gas which doesn't freeze. We learnt the hard way a few years ago, when camping in sub-zero temperatures and our blue-bottled gas froze solid, and so we had no heating. We won't be making THAT mistake again.

No by no nonny no.

Small Dog, who is always up for a spot of camping, has already started on her packing, which consists of all of her fleecy jumpers, her coat and her all-in-one pyjamas. Not to mention BOTH of her fleecy blankys and her little hot water bottle.

I am lobbying to take a spare duvet and will be scouring the sales tomorrow for some thermal pyjamas and bed socks.

However, despite the prospect of freezing to death, I am sure that we will have a good time. The campsite is fully booked, which means that there will be dozens of little impromptu parties breaking out in caravans and motorhomes all over the place, and we will even be hosting a few ourselves. Our little campervan will be decked out with twinkly, sparkling lights and made as warm, cosy and welcoming as possible.

As a boney fido Scot I will of course, be observing the traditional Hogmanay rituals. We will be taking a piece of coal, not to mention a bottle of excellent single malt and will be going 'first footing' in the wee small hours of New Year's Day.

All in all, the whole endeavour sounds like an excellent antidote to Twixmas limbo..........

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day sloth..........

The last of the family left this morning.

So that's another Christmas survived, although it was a close run thing at various points.

Actually the whole thing has been a bit of a blur, and that blur had nothing to do with over-indulgence in any form.

Last week Prodigal Son announced that instead of coming home for Christmas he was going to take a job at a ski resort in France for 4 months and would be leaving on Christmas Eve.

However, the polar weather conditions at the beginning of this week resulted in airports being closed and an enormous backlog of delayed and cancelled flights. This in turn meant that he couldn't get a flight till today and was therefore able to get home for a few days over Christmas.

So far so good.

However, the ad hoc decision to go and work abroad for the ski season brought with it the necessity to get fully kitted out, plus organise all travel arrangements etc in the short, stressful period of just three days before Christmas, which in themselves are normally chock-a-block with 'stuff to do' pushed already high stress levels through the roof for all concerned.

Not to mention losing his wallet containing all his cash/Euros/bank cards etc between paying the driver then getting out of a taxi in the early hours of Christmas morning, and walking the short distance from the kerb to the front door.

All searches proved fruitless so the most likely scenario is that the wallet was dropped inside the taxi, and by the time its loss was realised not long afterwards and reported, driver had already picked up another fare, who most likely thought Christmas had come early.

Great start to Christmas Day but we all managed to successfully avoid recriminations and other family members rallied round to rummage down the back of their sofas and come up with enough Euros to keep Prodigal Son solvent for at least the first day or two in France. Of course with no cash cards he had no access to cash until new cards arrive here, probably sometime in the New Year, and are then forwarded to him. Luckily his job includes bed and board so at least he won't starve.

Then there was the problem of getting to Gatwick Airport in the early hours of Boxing Day morning for a flight at 6.30 am. Obviously public transport was out of the question because there wasn't any.

Fortunately, Artistic Daughter, who had already selflessly travelled up to London to collect her brother on Tuesday, was still well enough disposed toward him to offer to take him to the airport, thereby volunteering herself for no alcohol on Christmas Day and no sleep last night.

At 2.00 am this morning, Prodigal Son was still preparing for the trip, and after we waved him off at 2.30 am we fell into bed exhausted. Even Small Dog was unusually sleepy, although that may have been due to the hot buttered rum she surreptitiously snaffled from my glass when I wasn't looking.

We have heard that Prodigal Son has arrived safely in Grenoble and was en route to the ski resort where the temperature today is not expected to rise above -14 and there is a predicted snowfall of 10 cm tonight. He will have had no sleep either and will probably be expected to start work tonight.

And so today, with the departure of Gorgeous Daughter, we are alone at last, I have planned a day of indulgent sloth, after the frenetic activity of the past week. Small Dog has just wandered into the sitting room and settled down beside me after making a cosy nest in her fleecy blanky.

Sounds like a plan........

No comment...........

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Real Good Life.....

I'm just listening to a radio programme where people are panicking about not having any 'Christmas'.

D'you remember that 'Good Life' Christmas special where Margo had ordered 'Christmas' to be delivered and it all went base over apex.

Well that scenario is apparently being played out for real across swathes of the country, as people who have ordered their entire Christmas shop online, have seen their delivery slots come and go with no delivery and the backlog means that perhaps thousands of people will have no Christmas.

How awful.

No, really.

Don't snigger.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Sheer purgatory...........

We're finally back home following a marathon trip into Hastings during which icy rain, driven horizontal by a cutting north-easterly wind, successfully managed to flush away most of the ice and snow, save for a few renegade pockets up our road.

As predicted, Hastings town centre resembled nothing so much as all of Dante's 9 levels of hell rolled into one, which is the closest to classical allusion the place is ever likely to get.

Every shop was packed to capacity, labyrinthine queues snaked round every aisle, and a full contingent of lethal baby buggies waited round each corner to knee-cap the unwary.

On our peregrinations I noted that the most salubrious level of hell was most definitely Debenhams, where there reigned an air of quiet desperation amongst the better-heeled customers, which the store tends to attract.

Predictably, the lowest level of hell was reserved for Poundland, where the great unwashed jostled cheek by unshaven jowl to snap up the bounteous wares on sale. I lasted just 10 seconds before I had to beat a hasty retreat in order to avoid being swallowed up and lost forever in the milling, heaving mob.

After a few hours we had more or less lost the will to live so headed back to the car where we heaved a mutual sigh of relief at being safely out of the madness.

However, an even deeper, hitherto uncharted region of hell awaited us at our next stop.

Deeper than all the Stygian depths of Hades and containing tortures so diabolical that people were falling horror-stricken by the wayside even on the approaches.

The Tesco Extra Superstore.

We should have turned back right at the outset, when we registered that the enormous car park was full almost to capacity.

We should have turned back when the keening howls and screams of dozens of hyperactive children reached our ears.

We should have turned back when the lift doors opened to reveal a scene not unlike the chariot race from Ben-Hur.

However we girded our loins, stiffened our resolve, and set off into the maelstrom, heedless of the dangers which awaited us.

It seemed as if the entire population of Hastings and St. Leonards was of one (probably unhinged) mind, and alerted to the possibility of further inclement weather hampering their conspicuous consumption, decided to do their big Christmas food shop today at 3.30pm.

We had to queue 15 minutes purely to glimpse the parsnips, and the fresh sprouts were housed in a mythical Shangri-La section, accessible only to those who had achieved nirvana. Mere mortals could only sigh and pass on.

However, the Armageddon Scenario was being played out for real in the fresh turkey aisle, at which a free-for-all was in progress over the remaining carcases which didn't need funding from the International Monetary Fund to make them affordable.

I mean. £35 for a turkey!

Has the world gone mad?!

We raised our eyes heavenwards and smiled our secret smiles, secure in the knowledge that a frozen bird at a fraction of the price of fresh was our achievable aim.

I'll gloss over the unseemly fracas we encountered at the stuffing and cranberry sauce promotional area.

Similarly I won't give the oxygen of publicity to the scuffles which broke out periodically by the mince pies display.

Not to mention the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that the only salt in the whole store was hugely overpriced Maldon Sea Salt. So deep was the general despair that there was a member of staff permanently stationed by the empty shelves to explain that the stock situation was due to profligate panic buying by frail old ladies attempting to stave off the potential for broken hips by slipping on icy paths.

Undaunted, we ploughed on, tenaciously sticking to our list, unswayed even by BOGOF Pringles and Half Price silverskin pickled onions.

Then we came to an aisle eerily deserted and silent, as if it existed in a temporal dimension outside of the frenzy of activity elsewhere.


They had sold out of frozen turkeys.


Our anguished cries rent the air and our shuddering sobs eventually alerted a member of staff to our distress.

"HO yus" he said. "We 'ad loads but they're all sold aht. Youse should've got one wen we 'ad 'em. Nah, dunno if we're gettin' em back in."

Broken and defeated we headed back to the fresh turkey aisle, where a few plucky survivors were tending their wounds, and surveyed the shelves. Aside from the possibly gold-plated birds at £35 upwards, only a few sorry specimens remained.

Some with only one leg. One with two necks. These were probably the results of genetic engineering experiments gone wrong but needs must, and we sorted through the flaccid bags, our spirits sinking ever deeper.

We did eventually manage to find one which bore an approximate physical resemblance to a turkey and shuffled away from the carnage to join one of the 36 queues at the checkouts, where all the staff were wearing comedy Christmas hats, or reindeer deely boppers in an effort to jolly shoppers out of their catatonic trances.

It didn't work.

So after forking out the equivalent of the Gross National Project of a small third-world country we are now back home safely.

Poorer and wiser.

The fridge is straining at the seams and we have had to set up an overflow coolbox outside the back door, which is hopefully cat and fox proof. Although I suspect no self-respecting fox would risk all for several boxes of fresh vegetables and a few cartons of clementine juice.

Just why this mayhem transpires year after year amazes me. Everyone appears to be laying in for a siege. The shops will only be closed for 24 hours on Christmas Day, so the chances of anyone actually starving to death within that time, especially in Hastings, is remote.

I need a drink and a lie-down. Not necessarily in that order......

Snowed in..........

Another light dusting of snow overnight has rendered our road practically impassible. Even the monster 4x4s who live at the top of the hill have been crawling gingerly up and down.

Mostly down.

Our road is very steep, and a few areas never get direct sunlight during the winter months, so a combination of ice and snow can quickly make it into ski run.

However, we have important shopping to do, including our Christmas food shop, so we really need to get out if at all possible.

We may be gone for some time.........

Sunday, 20 December 2009

What did I just say..........?


Plans have been changed yet again.

Prodigal Son is not now coming for Christmas after all but may put in an impromptu visit 'sometime this week'.


In other news, our road is like a skating rink. On our way home today the car in front of us was really struggling to get up the hill, slipping and sliding all over the place. People had come out of their houses to help and advise.

Primarily the advice seemed to consist of "don't you dare hit my *car/van!" (*delete as appropriate)

Eventually, when three of us were stuck partway up the hill and couldn't get any traction at all, someone from the top of the hill came down in his 4-wheel drive Range Rover Discovery with a bag of sand, which he kindly scattered all over the black ice. By this point, the car in front of us had chickened out and managed to reverse into a side road, leaving us to act as reconnaissance guinea pigs on the newly sanded ice.

Thankfully we managed to reach the top safely, and tucked our car neatly off the road to avoid it acting as a 'brake' to cars skidding down.

Tomorrow, IF we can get down the road again, we intend to go and get a bag of sand to keep in the car for emergencies. As well as salt for our drive, paths and outside steps, all of which are treacherous in the extreme.

But for now I'm going to go and snuggle up cosily with Small Dog in front of the TV.

Sounds like a plan...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

6 days and counting.........


Donchya just love 'em?

Or not.

As the case may be.

Let me take you back a few weeks, when PP and I were trying to ascertain from various offspring what constituted their plans for the festive period.

Specifically Christmas Day.

"Ho Yus". (they all said, bar one^)

"We will deffo be with yous for Chrimbo".

Or words to that effect.

Since then plans have apparently become somewhat 'fluid'.

At various points we have been anticipating the following numbers for catering/sleeping purposes:
  • Christmas Eve 6
  • Christmas Day 7
  • Christmas Eve 3
  • Christmas Day 4
  • Christmas Eve 4
  • Christmas Day 3
At this point in the proceedings I just want to strangle most of them. PP and I spent most of today valiantly trying to make three spare bedrooms sleepable in.

With mixed results.

At this rate, some of them might end up out in the campervan.

And good luck to them.

Gorgeous Daughter, who was intending to travel down from Essex to Mordor* today is snowed in. Not to mention being embroiled in moving home again..... the fifth time this year.

Prodigal Son has changed his plans umpteem times over the past few weeks and should be arriving tomorrow but when he will actually appear is anybody's guess.

Artistic Daughter and her partner were going to be with us on Christmas Day, but instead will be going to her partner's father's house. However they will be with us on Christmas Eve and staying over.


I am sure it will all turn out alright in the end with minimal blood loss.

*Mordor is the 'affectionate' term I coined for her father's house. I have no idea if he reads this blog, but if he does, what happened to the regular updates I was supposed to get about ^Recalcitrant Son......?

Is he still alive?

As you all can see, I am fully entering into the seasonal spirit of goodwill to all men.

*memo to self* - late night blogs after a few glasses of wine are perhaps.....inadvisable.

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Big Freeze.........

Woke this morning to an inch or so of snow and not a frozen wasteland resembling the Siberian Steppes we were warned to expect. Roads were completely clear so we had no problem at all getting back home which was mildly disappointing.

All remaining orders have subsequently been packaged and despatched and I'm now feeling too tired to do anything very much, although there are still two bedrooms to be cleaned and beds made up. Think I'll leave that till tomorrow when I'll hopefully feel a bit more energetic.

More snow forecast for later today though so we need to root around in the shed to dig out the de-icer/car windscreen shield/icy scrapy things. Also need to salt the front drive which was like a skating rink when we got home this morning. Ditto back steps which are a broken hip waiting to happen.

Small Dog was unimpressed by the snow as she suffers from cold paws. V. amusing watching her trying to walk without letting any of her paws come in contact with the ground. She is now snuggled up in her basket catching up on her sleeps and I just might join her shortly.

On the sofa though. NOT in her basket.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Pre-Christmas cheer........

We're off later to spend the evening with a group of friends who live near Rye, for a spot of pre-Christmas cheer in the form of a delicious hog roast, a modicum of wine, some silly party games and much general hilarity.

Thankfully we're staying overnight, which is probably just as well, as we have heavy snow forecast for later this evening. In fact, if it's really bad, we might not be able to get back home tomorrow.


Small Dog blues...........

Small Dog is not a happy bunny.

Over recent days, we have become increasingly concerned about an intermittent limp affecting one of her back legs.

A visit to the vet yesterday confirmed that she does indeed have a luxating patella for which we are trying a conservative treatment of rest (HA!) and anti-inflammatory medicine. She's not allowed to jump, run around, go upstairs or in any way exert the knee joint.

This, of course, is much easier said than done.

Voluntary inactivity is one thing, but enforced inactivity does not sit well with Small Dog so we don't hold out much hope for the resting cure.

The alternative is surgery, which sits even less well with Small Dog. We're not keen on that option either, especially as last time she underwent surgery we had to buy a new kitchen.

Oh, it's a long story.......if you pester me to tell I might relent.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

10 days and counting........

Depending on how you look at it, 10 days is either a very long time or no time at all.

In view of the fact that we have family descending 'en masse' on Christmas Eve, I've decided to bite the bullet and try to get two of our spare rooms ready for guests. This is easier said than done, because during the course of the year, all the 'stuff' we can't decide what to do with, goes into one room or the other.

Fortunately we do have one permanently 'ready' guest room but over the festive period we will have to press the other two into service which means that they will have be tackled.

This is what they looked like.....


Yes I know.

Even I am shocked and I live here.

In our defence, they probably look worse than they actually are. I spent an hour in the smallest bedroom today and have succeeded in clearing most of the 'stuff' out. Of course, as a consequence, there is now a pile of clothes and several boxes of departed offspring's belongings in two of the previously tidy rooms.

However, the pile of clothes is destined for the charity shop tomorrow, and later this week departed offspring will be commandeered to decide what of their stuff is to be kept and what is to be recycled/binned. At the same time they will be cajoled into boxing up stuff to be kept and lugging it up to the loft.

Two birds with one stone.

Other than that, the dining room is still full of the Christmas decorations empty boxes which need to be stored back in the small loft, before I can decorate the table.

So I'm working on the basis that 10 days is more than enough time to restore the house to a tidy, welcoming, cosy and fully festive condition.


I may live to regret that ........

Monday, 14 December 2009

Christmas preparations continue......

Many thanks to everyone who has sent me 'get well wishes'.

You will (hopefully) be pleased to know that I am now on the mend, and that the swine flu vaccine is most definitely coursing through my veins as I am eating like a pig.

However, I seem to have lost a weekend (which at this time of the year is quite alarming) but the good news is that I have done most of my Christmas shopping online from my sickbed (aka sofa in the sitting room) so it's not all bad.

I have decided to do the present wrapping thing in batches this year, rather than in one huge, 'lose the will to live' wrapathon on Christmas Eve. I actually quite like wrapping presents, but only if they come in boxes.

Square or rectangular I don't mind. So long as there aren't any curves.

Or angles.

Wrapping presents shaped like parallelograms, or trapeziums, or dodecahedrons is a nightmare, as they always end up going pear-shaped.

So this year no-one will receive anything from me which can't be wrapped with hospital corners.

Apropos of nothing at all, I was reminded earlier of a Scottish tradition which my mother developed into a fine art.

Each year, as soon as our Christmas decorations were put up (just a few days before Christmas), my brother and I would both laboriously write our letters to Santa, then my mum would send them up the chimney for the elves to catch at the top. If your letter burned up in the fire then you'd obviously been bad and you wouldn't get your Christmas wish.

Harsh but fair.

Miraculously (considering our behaviour over the course of the previous year) our letters never burned up in the fire. They always went straight up the chimney then Tom and I would rush outside and my mum would swear that she had seen the elves snatch our letters and take them straight off to Santa Claus.

Many, many years later, I wanted to revive the tradition for my own children, but I didn't want to leave anything to chance, and although I had my suspicions, I wasn't quite sure how my mum achieved 100% success year after year. So I did some controlled experiments while the children weren't around.

Of course, the secret was to get a really good through draught allied with a blazing fire. I tried several combinations of open doors/windows until I got just the right updraft to whisk each letter swiftly up the chimney without them falling into the fire and burning up fiercely. Talk about the potential for childhood trauma.

I didn't quite manage 100% success rate, but the one time my daughter's letter fell in the fire was NOT MY FAULT. Some eejit closed the back door which I'd carefully left ajar just before the 'up the lum' ceremony. I had to do some quick thinking and came up with a heart-rending story of a poorly elf who couldn't fly properly and had just missed the letter.

Hence the conflagration.

I don't know if my daughter was more traumatised over the burnt letter or the poorly elf, but the following year I didn't leave anything to chance and warned everyone WHO SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER that if they closed any open doors/windows without checking with me first there would be ructions on a grand scale.

Nevertheless, I hope my children remember this yearly rite when/if they have children of their own......

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Pandering to my hypochondria.......

This weekend has been pretty much wiped out.

Thank goodness we had cleared our social calendar otherwise we would have been cancelling events left, right and centre.

I felt absolutely dreadful all day yesterday, and the limit of my endeavours was to lie, Camille-like on the sofa, swathed in fleecy blankets, dozing fitfully while watching wall-to-wall Film 4 all afternoon.

This morning I feel marginally more human, but I have no energy whatsoever and my arms and legs feel as if they're made from boiled spaghetti. So another restful day is in order.

Rampant hypochondria aside, I was really quite worried yesterday, as I've never had such a bad reaction to any seasonal flu jab before, and I (wrongly) assumed that the swine flu vaccination would have no substantial ill effect other than a sore arm for a few days.


I checked out the vaccination website, and discovered that each person who has the vaccine, should be given a leaflet to read BEFORE the shot. And I'm not talking about the useless NHS leaflet which extols the virtues of the vaccine but says not a word about the possible side effects.

Anyway, the official Pandemrix vaccine leaflet cites the following potential side effects:

The frequency of possible side effects listed below is defined using the following convention: Very common (affects more than 1 user in 10) Common (affects 1 to 10 users in 100) Uncommon (affects 1 to 10 users in 1,000) Rare (affects 1 to 10 users in 10,000) Very rare (affects less than 1 user in 10,000) The side effects listed below have occurred with Pandemrix in clinical studies in adults, including the elderly and in children aged from 3-9 years:
Very common:

  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Pain, redness, swelling or a hard lump at the injection site
  • Fever
  • Aching muscles, joint pain
I had all of the above

  • Warmth, itching or bruising at the injection site
  • Increased sweating, shivering, flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin
I had all of the above.

  • Tingling or numbness of the hands or feet
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, feeling sick
  • Itching, rash
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Sleeplessness
I had 1,2,3 and 6. Although tingling and dizziness I experience frequently due to MS so those could have been due to an exacerbation of my normal MS symptoms rather than the flu vaccine.

The leaflet continues....

These side effects usually disappear within 1-2 days without treatment. If they persist, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR.
The side effects listed below have occurred in the days or weeks after vaccination with vaccines given routinely every year to prevent flu. These side effects may occur with Pandemrix.

  • Generalised skin reactions including urticaria (hives)
I don't have that one, although my arm is extremely painful and has developed a hard area around the vaccination site.

The keep the best till last, and it is 'comforting' to know that these can occur up to a few weeks following vaccination.

  • Allergic reactions leading to a dangerous decrease of blood pressure, which, if untreated, may lead to shock. Doctors are aware of this possibility and have emergency treatment available for use in such cases.
  • Fits
  • Severe stabbing or throbbing pain along one or more nerves
  • Low blood platelet count which can result in bleeding or bruising
Hmmm. I have no. 3 on a regular basis too, again MS-related, so the jury's out on that one. However they keep the best till last.

Very rare

  • Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels which can cause skin rashes, joint pain and kidney problems)
  • Neurological disorders such as encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the central nervous system), neuritis (inflammation of nerves) and a type of paralysis known a Guillain-Barré Syndrome
If any of these side effects occur, please tell your doctor or nurse immediately. If any of the side effects gets serious, or if you notice any side effects not listed in this leaflet, please tell your doctor.

So, quite an extensive list of possible side effects, a mere 13 of which I have experienced over the past 48 hours. Let's hope it stops at that and another 'duvet day' today will see the rest of the symptoms off.

I'm off now to reclaim my spot on the sofa from Small Dog. I shall make a cosy nest and continue my convalescence with the aid of the TV remote and my laptop.

PP is preparing a restorative home-made soup for lunch.

I might even finish off my Christmas shopping online.

Saturday, 12 December 2009


.....was not such a good day.

It started off well enough.

Swine flu vaccination first thing in the morning, no problem.

Back home I got the last of the pre-Christmas orders packaged and set off to the Post Office, anticipating a huge long queue. However I was able to walk straight up to the teller's window and quickly dealt with two bagfuls of boxes which were despatched to destinations worldwide.

So far so good.

Back home again and the traditional foraging in the small loft to find the Christmas Decorations. I started decorating at 1pm and finally finished at 5.30, exhausted and starting to feel a bit 'odd'.

PP prepared an absolutely delicious mini Christmas dinner in honour of the festive decorations, after which even Small Dog had to take a bone out of her stays.

By 8pm I was most definitely feeling ropey, so I retired to bed where I tossed and turned, alternately too hot then too cold, aching all over, headache, mild hallucinations......feeling as if I was actually coming down with flu. Hardly slept all night so feeling less than human today, although the worst of the pain has thankfully subsided.

So I'm going to have a supremely lazy day, snuggled on the sofa with Small Dog, watching old films. There's a Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple on shortly so that'll do me.

At least the sitting room looks all festive and cosy.........photos to follow when I'm a bit less lurgiefied, including Small Dog's personal Christmas card to all her loyal followers.

Bet you can't wait!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Today has been...........

.........a good day.

  • Got all but three of our outstanding pre-Christmas orders packaged and ready to go.
  • Remaining orders will ready to package and despatch first thing tomorrow morning.
  • Pavilion kit arrived
  • Have found excellent stone finish spray on interweb (will probably opt for 'Gotham City' grey)
  • Ditto verdigris kit for copper roof.
  • Did a bit of Christmas shopping
  • Cooked lovely dinner while watching 'The Simpsons'
PP and I have very differing views on The Simpsons.

I love it, she hates it.


Tonight's episode was Lisa's Pony, and even though it's not in my top 10 favourite ever episodes, it still made me laugh. And let's be honest here, how many 'cartoons' would feature use of the words 'usury' and 'chicanery'.

I rest my case.

Tomorrow may not be such a good day. First thing in the morning I have my swine flu vaccination which I'm not looking forward to. Not the jab itself but the potential grotty ill effects afterwards.

However, things should look up in the afternoon as I shall be decorating our Christmas tree and making the house look cosy and festive. We've even planned to have a mini Christmas dinner in the evening, in honour of which, Small Dog will wear her festive collar.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...........

Can you guess what it is yet..........?

I couldn't resist it for a moment longer.

It's not my fault. The box was sitting on the workroom floor, all invitingly tempting.


I swept all the stuff off the worktop and did a 'dry build' of the Pavilion kit to see what it looked like and kick start some ideas.

Firstly, the kit itself is absolutely top notch. It's made from MDF with routed slots so that each piece fitted together perfectly. The dry build took approximately 10 minutes, and as a seasoned kit builder I didn't even have recourse to look at the instructions, although admittedly that had more to do with the ease of assembly than any particular skill on my part.

I almost wept with relief when I saw that the 'interesting' roof was already assembled.

As I am congenitally incapable of making up any kit using only the components provided, I am already thinking of 'improvements' which can be implemented during the build proper. I'm not too keen on the rather slab-like staircase sides for a start, and perhaps the balustrade rails could do with some refinements. However, all in all it is a super little buy for only £7.51 and I can't wait to get started on it.

I want to make it look as if it has been in a forgotten corner of a large country estate. I think it was probably a folly built by the squire with the express purpose of luring his paramour somewhere private in order to have a 'dalliance'.

It should look neglected, and overgrown, with lots of critters in cracks and crevices. I have my eye on some very realistic spiders on ebay, and I'm sure I can rustle up a slug or two.

It will form the backdrop to a new project for next year which has been rumbling around in my head for a while, just waiting for the perfect setting.

Et voila, the perfect setting just dropped straight into my lap. I wish more things in life were so serendipitous.

I can feel a trip to the DIY store coming on........I need some 'old stone' coloured paint, and perhaps some moss coloured paint too. Not to mention some of that stuff you use to make verdigris copper. I still have several boxes of ivy etc left over from the toy shop build which can be called into use, as well as various decorative bits and bobs which I hoped would come in useful.

Anyway, here are two quick snaps of the dry build.

You can see what I mean about the roof. All those angles.......a recipe for disaster, or at the very least some experimental expletives.

As always, suggestions and ideas for architectural embellishments, decorative flourishes etc are very welcome.

Happy days.....

Christmas has come early.........

The bargains just keep on coming this week...........

On Tuesday I won one of these kits on Ebay for £7.51. It used to be available from Dolls House Emporium but was discontinued earlier this year. It used to cost around £40. I have a brilliant idea for it which will be revealed in due course when I've done a bit of displacement activity, *ahem* sorry, research.

The lady who was selling it lives in Whitley Bay and wanted it to be picked up so that she didn't have to post it. However she very kindly checked out a price for postage (also a bargain!), I paid yesterday afternoon and it was delivered first thing this morning.


I'm going to have a play with it this afternoon........the roof construction in particular looks 'interesting'.*


*interesting = common doll's house parlance which roughly translated means 'infuriatingly impossible'.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Every little helps........

This must be the bargain of the year........

We've just bought a dozen bottles of one of our very favourite gorgeous New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc wine and only paid £2.10.

That's TWO POUNDS AND 10 PENCE for the dozen!

At the normal price of £8.99 a bottle it's a bit pricey for us, especially as the total for 12 bottles would have been an eye-watering £107.88.

However they're on special offer in Tesco at the moment - 3 for £10.
Subtract a further 5% wine discount on 6 or more bottles and the total saving in-store is an unbelievable £73.28.

So our 12 bottles, would have cost £34.60. Still a bargain I think you'll agree. However we had a £10 off wine voucher, plus a further £22.50 of cash vouchers purely for collecting Tesco Clubcard points on all our regular shopping, so the total amount I had to pay at the till was a princely £2.10.

Even the checkout girl couldn't believe it and the news swept back through the queue like a tsunami as people abandoned their shopping to dash down to the wine aisle to see if there were any bottles left.

So that's our Christmas tipples sorted then.

I shall be famine and drought resistant.

Woo, and indeed, hoo.........

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

A comedy of errors........

Back home today after our 'let's throw caution to the winds and have a night away' farrago yesterday.

It started off OK...despite the pouring rain. We had no problem getting to Canterbury and finding the Park & Ride facility, which whisked us efficiently into the heart of the city without the stress of having to find car parking. The much lauded 'Christmas Market' was a disappointment, consisting of maybe a dozen wooden cabins selling rather expensive hand-crafted items.

Apparently the reindeers don't arrive till Thursday. Ditto the carol singers, gluhwein vendors and other assorted festive attractions.

Undaunted however, we managed to find a cosy little bistro where we wiled away a pleasant hour over a glass of wine and rather delicious lunch, before striking out to find two shops which I particularly wanted to visit, both of which specialise in miniatures.
The first turned out to have been gutted by fire and had subsequently changed hands.
This was disappointing but we trudged on towards Northgate to find the second miniature emporium. Luckily, we were overhead by a chap heading in the same direction who informed us that the shop had closed down some time ago, so we thanked him and turned back towards the city centre having avoided a long and futile, damp trek.

After perusing the delights of the city centre throughout the afternoon, and as it began to grow dark, we headed back to the car and set off to find our hotel.
This proved to be easier said than done as our SatNav was resolute that our route lay by way of Azerbaijan and no amount of inistent button pressing by us could dissuade her. Eventually after several wild goose chases down single track country lanes we finally managed to find our Travelodge and booked in to our £9 Saver Sale room.

Now. I've stayed in many Travelodges in the past in my peregrinations around the country, and I remember them as being basic, but warm and clean.

Our room was most definitely the former, but neither of the latter. In fact I will be shortly composing a letter of complaint to Travelodge Head Office, which will accomplish nothing except allowing me to vent steam.

Nevertheless, we determined to make the best of it, especially as I had researched a particularly fine pub nearby which served exemplary food worthy of a Michelin star.


Off we set at 7pm. Our SatNav had relented, and to make up for her previous intransigence, tried to make amends by taking us via a particularly pretty scenic route. At least we assume it was pretty. All we could discern were pitch-black country lanes, driving rain and a road so twisty and turny it made us feel dizzy.

However, we did manage to find the hostelry, out in the middle of nowhere, which looked warm and welcoming, despite the fact that the car park was eerily empty.

We tried the side door.


Round the front, tried the main entrance door.


Round the other side. No door.

We repeated this fruitless a few more times just to reassure ourselves that we hadn't inadvertently missed the portal, but we hadn't.

Realisation eventually dawned that it was closed, so we retraced our steps back to the Travelodge and pondered what to do next. We couldn't face the trip back through the rain into the city centre, and as far as we knew, there was only one eatery in the immediate vicinity. By then it was after 8pm and we were tired and hungry. So there was only one thing for it.

Little Chef.

Not quite the gourmand experience I had planned but any port in a storm and all that. It had the advantages that it was only a few feet away, and open.
In an effort to quash our disappointment we reasoned that since Heston Blumenthal had revised the Little Chef menu, it would probably be the closest we'd ever get to eating at the Fat Duck.

Actually, to be fair, it wasn't bad.

PP had steak and ale pie and pronounced it delicious. I had a prawn and warm salmon salad which was passing fair, although it's probably quite difficult to muck up something so simple.
We also had a really quite reasonable bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for the princely sum of £8 which can't be bad.

And as my grannie would have said, "hunger is a good kitchen".

We also consoled ourselves with the fact that had our preferred gastropub been open we would have spent considerably more.

This morning dawned bright and sunny and we set off after breakfast to wend our way home by way of a friends' house to meet their new dog.

It rapidly became apparent that our SatNav had undergone a change of heart in the night, and decided to make reparation by showing us hitherto unexplored tracts of Kent, accessible only by the most intrepid adventurers. We were soon plunging down rutted and potholed single track roads, streaming with rainwater and completely devoid of human habitation, not to mention signposts. Only when we reached the outskirts of Tenterden did it repent probably due to overhearing us muttering about drop-kicking it out the window.

However, we did eventually get home safely. Small Dog, who had been leading her dog-sitters a merry dance in our absence was exuberantly pleased to see us and has barely left our sides all afternoon. She is currently curled up in her basket, keeping a watchful eye lest we disappear off again without her.

Tomorrow is back to work with a vengeance as there is a pile of orders to get through, which I'm determined will be done and dusted by the weekend. Only then can I relax and begin our festive preparations, aided and abetted of course by Small Dog, who just LOVES Christmas......

PS No. That's NOT her.........

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Burning the candle at both ends.....and the middle!

It's been a very busy week.

Aside from our electrical woes and impromptu camping trip, yesterday I had a long-awaited visit from Gorgeous Daughter who I haven't seen since February when she stepped bravely into the breach and accompanied me to the Thame Fair when PP was indisposed.

Also impromptu visit from PP's daughter's partner's electrician buddy who equally valiantly fixed our lighting problem.


Yesterday evening we went to a big 'family do' for PP's niece, then today we attended a Christmas lunch social gathering with many of our Hastings, Bexhill and beyond friends.


No let up tomorrow either, as we're off to experience Canterbury's Christmas Market with a hotel stopover courtesy of Travelodge's 'you'd be mad not to' £9 room deals.


Once we're back home on Tuesday I plan to catch up on my sleeps then crack on with Christmas orders which should hopefully all be despatched by Friday.

If only I can survive this giddy social whirl........

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Let there be light.........

Thanks to the help of a knight in shining armour yesterday afternoon, we think we have identified the seat of our lighting problem, and have taped over the offending light switch so that no-one will use it. We still need to have it checked out but at least we now have operational ceiling lights, thank goodness.

In other light related news, my new SAD lamp has been in use, more for illumination than light therapy!

Here it is in action......note the fact that as soon as it arrives the sun is suddenly streaming through the windows fit to bust.


And yes, the eagle-eyed among you will no doubt have noticed that big white flat thing which rarely ever sees the light of day.

The uncluttered surface of my workdesk.


Friday, 4 December 2009

We're in the dark.............

We have had no downstairs ceiling lights for the past three days.

We've tried checking all the bulbs one by one but when I flick the trip switch on, it immediately trips back off with a flash and a loud, unnerving bang.

The earliest our electrician can come round is Sunday morning so in the meantime we've been struggling along using table and desk lamps, as the ring main/wall sockets are working OK.

Work has been pretty much out of the question as the workroom is like the black hole of Calcutta without an overhead light.

In the end, we were so fed up that we decided to bail out of the house for the past few days, and instead set off for an impromptu camping trip with friends which was all the more enjoyable for being unplanned and 'last-minute'.

However, we're back in the Stygian gloom again now though, and the house feels very cold, unwelcoming and dismal. It's sobering to realise how much we take for granted, flicking a switch for instant illumination. It's also amazing how the lack of overhead lighting cannot be adequately substituted for by low-level lighting.

We're not even going to attempt cooking tonight and instead will be ordering in a takeaway.

Roll on Sunday when hopefully light will be restored to the darkest recesses of the house......

Happy Birthday Blog....!

Tales From A Toymaker blog is three years old today.......

Monday, 30 November 2009

St. Andrew's Day.......

The 30th November is St. Andrew's Day.......patron saint of Scotland.

Traditionally, on this day, Scots enjoy a meal of haggis, champit tatties and bashed neeps, washed down with a dram (or two) of a good single malt.

And this Scot will be doing no different.


Sunday, 29 November 2009

Global domination..........

I seem to have inadvertently acquired 52 followers.

I have become very lax in welcoming new followers, for which I apologise, as if you take the time to read this blog, the least I should do is extend a warm welcome.

So welcome all new followers. I've also been looking in some detail at the countries from where people are 'dipping in'.

60 countries!!!

I am amazed.

And curious.

For example how did the visitor from the Republic of Moldova discover this blog.

Or Serbia, Uruguay, or Bulgaria.

Moving up the rankings, I've had visits from residents of Korea, China and Mexico.

True aficionados with visits in the hundreds come from as far afield as Canada, New Zealand and the US.

As a boney fido amateur cartographer, I could spend hours trying to match up the little red dots with actual places on the map.

I am particularly intrigued to know who has visited from the red centre of Australia. If you're reading this, do get in touch and let me know where you are. I'm worried in case you're lost in the desert and used the last few minutes of your mobile phone battery trying (unsuccessfully) to find a SatNav map on the internet. Although if that was the case, you are probably past saving.

Similarly, other followers/readers from far flung corners of the globe....... leave a comment or drop me an email. I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Lazy Saturdays and How to Banish the Blues........

I have had a supremely lazy day today, nesting on the sofa watching old films on TV.

The weather this past week has been horrendous.....thunderstorms most nights, driving wind and torrential rain. What little light there has been during the days has been grey and depressing.

So in an effort to banish the blues, I have taken the plunge and ordered myself a SAD light therapy pod which hopefully should arrive on Monday. I then need to spend about an hour each day soaking up the 10,000 lux lightwaves, which will throw a switch in my brain and release more of the mood enhancing hormone serotonin, while simultaneously decreasing production of the sleep inducing hormone, melatonin.

Well that's the theory anyway.

My 'light therapy' can be taken at any time during the day, while working or relaxing and I'm looking forward to giving it a go. I know from experience that a run of grey, dismal days will result in my craving sleep and feeling very low, while bright, sunny days lift my spirits and increase my energy levels, so it certainly can't hurt.

I've been promising myself one for years and years, but it has always felt like an unnecessary extravagance. However since practically the whole of November has been dismal, and we still have to endure the dark days of winter, I decided to bite the bullet and go ahead.

With any luck, by this time next week I shall be bounding round like a spring lamb..........

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Oh what a tangled web(site)......

I have spent the past 5 hours deep in the inner, secret workings of the Diminutive Dolls website.

It was sorely in need of a good clearout and tidy up before I could begin the process of uploading new listings, but I'm always a bit wary of messing about in there in case I inadvertently pull the plug on the virtual life support system. I've had a few close calls in the past, most notably deleting the home page which disappeared in a puff of smoke leaving not a trace, and eventually I had to enlist the help of a tech bod to sort it out. Fortunately it was a mistake anyone could have made due to 'fault in the code'. But that 'anyone' just happened to be me.

So nowadays I tiptoe around in there, just in case.......

Fortunately there were no mishaps today. However it took what felt like forever to clean out redundant product listings, tidy up the categories etc etc etc. After a while I enter a trance like state, when the endlessly repetitive processes lull me almost to sleep.

I've had enough for today though. There's only so much website maintenance I can stand in one day and I've exceeded my quota. However there are now several new toys listed on the site, with more to come when I can work up the energy and/or enthusiasm.

As this week has progressed I have been feeling more, rather than less tired. Presumably the cumulative effect of 8 weeks relentlessly long working days and the associated stress of having two fairs in the space of two weeks.

I have a niggly, naggly, sparkly headache licking at the fringes of my peripheral vision, which has the potential for blooming into a full-blown migraine. Not to mention a looming cold sore, which may or may not send all its mates an invitation to a party on my top lip, regardless of the liberal application of precautionary anti-viral cream.

Run down? Moi?


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dental trauma........

I had a check-up at the dentist this afternoon.

Thankfully, everything toothwise was OK, and nothing needed doing, which was a relief, but my head and mouth are still jangling from the drilly/poky thing he used to scale and polish. Also he put the chair so far back that my head was lower than my feet so I went all swimmy.

For some obscure reason he had two dental nurses/assistants and they were chatting away to each other non-stop the whole time, not paying the slightest attention to what they were supposed to be doing. So the one who should have been watching what she was doing with the squirty water and suction tubes in my mouth was completely distracted and the tubes were everywhere except where they should be. At one point the squirty water tube was so far down my throat I thought I was going to drown, and the suction tube got stuck on my face.

Eventually, after I gagged on the squirty water tube, the dentist told her off, but not before I was at at point where I wanted to grab both tubes and ram them down HER throat.

Hastings town centre is wall-to-wall Christmas but there was precious little festive cheer to be had. In the shopping centre there is an animatronic Santa's Grotto already juddering away, and outside in the square what looks like two wooden sheds have been erected for no discernible purpose. Surely they can't intend to shatter childhood illusions by having TWO competing grottoes, complete with twin Santas!

It's been a horrid, grey, cold, wet, windy day, yet again and the house feels very dark.
Sod carbon footprints, I want every downstairs light on in an attempt to banish the gloom.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Moving swiftly on...........

Back to work with a vengeance today....orders to package, invoices to process, so no time as yet to get to grips with restocking the website.

However, to balance my deficiencies in that department, a vital element of one of my forthcoming projects has unexpectedly fallen into place, thanks to the wondrous Freecycle.

To explain..... our workroom is a reasonable size but our office/study is tiny and subsequently crammed chock-a-block full of all the office paraphernalia required to run a small business.

We already have a rather lovely solid wood pedestal desk and two matching filing cabinets, but they are really too big for the tiny space. PP has the use of the desk for the office computer, but for the past six years I have been forced to work at my laptop on a very small, flimsy folding tray table, only marginally bigger than the laptop, crammed uncomfortably into a small area in front of one of the filing cabinets. As a result I have nowhere to lay out books, papers, notebooks etc, so they usually end up in a teetering pile on the floor.

Quite why I have endured this situation for 6 years I cannot fathom, but as of now I have had enough and have petitioned for a complete re-organisation of the room so that I can have some proper desk space. To this end, we will be relocating the desk and filing cabinets elsewhere in the house and replacing them with one large desk which will fit all along one wall in the office and allow both of us space to work properly. We will also be doing away with a tall bookcase which is always overflowing with stuff, and replacing it with something sleek and streamlined, with drawers and cupboards, within which all the dispossessed 'stuff' can be hidden out of sight.

While we're at it, the scruffy old carpet will have to go and we might slap a few coats of paint on the walls to freshen them up a bit. I have a vision of a neat and tidy office, much more conducive to creative endeavour than the current unholy guddle.

So..... when PP saw that someone on Freecycle was giving away a large beech topped desk this morning, fortunately she spotted it and was able to respond within the 'golden 15 seconds' before the world and his brother saw it too.
Measurements were requested and supplied and miraculously, it appeared that it would fit perfectly into the space available. So we arranged to go and have a look.

10 minutes later we were unsuccessfully struggling to fit one large, unassembled desk into our tiny car. The legs and back panel fitted in fine, but the desktop wouldn't fit no matter which configuration we tried.

20 minutes later we had returned home to get the campervan in order to retrieve the desktop.

30 minutes later we had successfully unloaded the desktop, plus legs etc and it is now leaning up against the wall in the dining room, pending further developments.

Of course in order to establish the new desk in situ, the old one will have to be emptied, drawer by drawer, and all the extraneous stuff dispensed with. Ditto the four drawers of the filing cabinets, in which there are invoices, accounts and tax stuff going back decades, and which I can probably safely dispose of. Ditto the bookcase, the whole bottom shelf of which holds several hundred vinyl LPs which may themselves find their way onto Freecycle in due course.

However, I can sort through a drawer or shelf each day for the next week or so, by which time we may have reached some agreement about the relocation of the desk.

Another positive knock-on effect is that we are both going to get new office chairs. Plush and comfortable, ergonomically designed with proper back support and everything!

I am sooooo looking forward to having a lovely, sparkling, uncluttered office space. Best of all, in the process, I get to visit stationery/office stores (my secret guilty pleasure!) in search of new chairs and useful, coordinated, storage and stationery organisers.

Be still my beating heart...........I LOVE STATIONERY!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Sold out city...........


I've just finished going through all our stock boxes, made a list of what we still have, and spent a while going through the website systematically removing toys which we sold on Saturday.

As a result, the website now looks very bare, so tomorrow my primary task will be to upload as many of the remaining new toys which hadn't been listed on the website in advance of the last two fairs.

These will include several new exotic animal pullalong toys, a boy's magic set and a really fantastic boy's toy tool set, as well as some new handpainted puppets, wicker prams and a selection of boxed Jumeau style doll's dolls.

Also, over the past two weeks since the Charmandean Fair, only the bare minimum of housework has been done, as we have been heads down working hard towards KDF. I looked around this morning as if I had awoken from a dream and the house looks as though it's been ransacked. So some major clearing up and clearing out is also the order of the day. I can't believe how messy and unkempt everywhere looks..... especially the workroom and the office.

I'm hoping that rolling my sleeves up and getting stuck into some clearing and cleaning will be cathartic, as I can put my brain in neutral and give some serious thought to moving on to new things. I can then sit down in a (hopefully) tidy, sparkling clean room and sketch out a plan of campaign for my new projects, about which I'm really, REALLY excited.

Back in the land of the living......just

What a weekend!

I've had to have two long sleeps to recover from Saturday and although I still feel a tad fragile today, I'm fortunately much less zombiefied than yesterday.

Saturday was both wonderful and awful.

Wonderful in that we did amazingly, jaw-droppingly, eye-poppingly well. By mid afternoon we were staring at each other in disbelief and the customers just kept coming.... and coming.... and coming!

It was like travelling back in time to the heydays of miniatures fairs, perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, when the melee around each stand was 6-deep, and customers were literally throwing money across the top of other people's heads in order to bag a coveted miniature. If I hadn't known better I would have thought I had slipped back into the Twilight Zone.

Despite the weather, long queues built up outside Kensington Town Hall long before the fair opened at 10.30. As soon as the doors opened the Main Hall seemed to fill up very quickly, and within 15 minutes we were submerged under a deluge of collectors, intent on serious spending.
We didn't stop all day.........I didn't even have time for any of our delicious lunch as wave after wave of really enthusiastic buyers besieged our stand.

People were still flooding in up until lunchtime and the crowds were astonishing. From our vantage point up on the stage the whole of the Main Hall was a seething mass of people. Apart from a very quick dash before the show opened, to pick up some essential materials for my next project, I wasn't able to venture out from behind our stand all day.

The awful bit began at 5.30, after we'd packed down the stand, headed down into the car park, loaded up the car and set off home.
What had been a straightforward 2 hour journey in the morning, turned into a nightmare 4 hour marathon, in horrendous traffic (it took us 45 minutes to travel just the few miles from Kensington High Street to get back over the river) then driving wind and rain. Roads turned into rivers and at some points we were forced to drive through mini lakes of water which had pooled in dips in the road.

4 hours to travel 69 miles. Nightmare!

We arrived home at 9.30, absolutely exhausted and traumatised by the journey back. After wearily unloading the car we didn't even have enough energy to cook dinner and resorted to eating our lunch instead. It was all I could do to struggle upstairs and fall into bed.

Yesterday I could hardly move. I ached in places I didn't even know I had. The limit of my effort was to make a cosy nest on the sofa and snuggle down with Small Dog to watch films on TV.


So, today will be a day for very gentle pottering. We haven't even touched the fair boxes yet, which are still in the hall where we left them on Saturday night. They're filled with mostly empty boxes so I have to sort through what remains and remove whole swathes of miniatures which have been sold, from the website.

The weather today is still horrendous.....driving wind and torrential rain so that is a perfect excuse (if one were needed!) to stay indoors and recuperate further.

In other news, I have the luxury of a whole 88 days till our next fair.

Woo, and indeed, hoo!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Stop press..............

Just back from shopping for our lunches tomorrow. Tesco was absolutely heaving, and to add to the throng there were various fund-raising efforts for Children in Need going on. I hate doing food shopping on Fridays but we like to push the boat out a bit on fair days, and treat ourselves to a special lunch-time menu so we had no choice.

Tomorrow we will have Chargrilled Chicken, Bacon and Pasta Salad; Layered Cheese Mixed Salad; Brie, Cranberry and Rocket sandwiches; Roast Beef Salad & Horseradish Sauce sandwiches. Put like that it does sound like a lot but we will be leaving home at 6am and won't get back till around 8-ish in the evening (if we're lucky!) so it's going to be a long day and we will need to keep our energy levels up.

In other news, I've been quite distracted over the past day or so, and although I was vaguely aware that PP was busy making something, I wasn't paying much attention to what it was. So it was a lovely surprise when she unveiled this earlier today....

That little wicker cart is just gorgeous! It's lined with pink leather and has plenty of room in the back for a selection of tiny toys. In the front there is a sweet little raised leather seat for the driver. My contribution was the lamb's silk roses hat in various shades of pink, to coordinate with the cart. I'm secretly hoping it doesn't sell tomorrow as I'd love to snaffle it for my toy shop. It would look fantastic in the window, with the cart full of toys.

So, early night tonight. Every alarm in the house set to go off at 5am *middle of the night*.
Small Dog will most likely stay in her bed until her sitter arrives, and will thereafter submit to being mollycoddled in our absence.

It's a dog's life..........

KDF information......

The friendly countdown timer on my desktop informs me that there is just 1 day left till KDF.

Normally at this point I'd be locked in my own private hell, racing against time to complete just one more miniature toy while simultaneously packing and trying to do a multitude of other essential fair-related tasks.

But not this time.

No by no nonny no.

I'm not sure whether that bodes well or not.

Either way it's a refreshing novelty. Yes there are still a few bits and pieces to do. I might print out a few more brochures. We have to go shopping for tomorrow's lunch and finalise our travel route.

But trust me, those are as nothing to the chaos which normally reigns at this point in the proceedings. D'you think that belatedly, after over 20 years of exhibiting at miniatures fairs, I might finally have cracked it?

This will be our final exhibition of 2009, and plans are already afoot for exciting new projects for next year. I'll share them with you in more detail next week, after the dust has settled.

However, as you probably know, after the end of this year we will no longer be selling our character porcelain doll kits. So we will be taking a selection of Clearance Sale kits with us tomorrow. This will be a final opportunity to see them 'in the flesh' and snap up a bargain in the process. We probably won't have space on our stand to display them all, so if you're interested, just ask to have a look in the box.

Today, I also have the unaccustomed luxury of time to compile my own shopping list, with new projects in mind. However, whether I will have time tomorrow to leave the stand in PP's capable hands and go walkabout is anyone's guess...

Thursday, 19 November 2009


You know what they say.

The devil makes work for idle hands.

I've been messing about with my blog settings for the past 20 minutes, and for one awful, stomach-churning moment, I thought I'd inadvertently deleted the whole thing!

Thankfully that is not the case. Unless I'm back in the Twilight Zone and this is all happening in my imagination, and there has never been a blog to delete in the first place......

Anyway, I've done a bit of tidying up. Put up a new header. Swept out some of the cobwebs etc.

I'm going to stop messing about now though, otherwise something irrevocable will happen and I'll never forgive myself.

The Twilight Zone.........

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. it is the middle ground between light and shadow between science and superstition and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call- the Twilight Zone.

Yeahahknow. I'm in it right now. Just to the left of the pit of man's fears.

I am never, EVER, this ready, this far in advance of a major fair.

It is completely unhead of. Never been done. That is how I know I have slipped into an alternative dimension.

If I weren't in the Twilight Zone I would be hobbling around like a headless chicken, tripping over boxes, swearing like a trooper, inefectually flapping about trying to get organised.

Instead I am in an oasis of calm. Everything is done and packed.

It's really, really scary and I want to get out......

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


Today has not been a good day.

This morning I had to be at the hospital for a regular appointment with the MS nurse. These usually follow a fairly well-trodden course.........

MSN: Hello Sandra, good to see you again, come in, come in.....sit down. So how've you been.......still got MS then?
Hmmm, that's a bit of a bugger isn't it.............

Actually, although I'm slightly exaggerating for comic effect, that is pretty much the tenet of the conversation. However, to be fair, she suggests various things I might like to try for the panoply of symptoms which have cropped up since our last meeting, and I try to sort out the wheat from the chaff. We are actually incredibly lucky to have a specialist MS nurse in Hastings. Many areas of the country don't.

Anyway, this morning was rather different. On my way to the Neurology Dept, which is in the bowels of the building, I was near the top of one of the flights of stairs when I lost my footing, grabbed hold of the handrail to stop myself tumbling down the steps, and twisted round on my left leg. Aside from the shock of almost falling, the pain in my knee was sudden and breathtaking. After regaining my dignity and composure, I slowly completed my descent without further incident, but it became apparent as I was hobbling along the endless corridors that I'd probably wrenched my kneecap out of place.

The MS nurse, bless her, helped me into her consulting room and did an impromptu examination. Sitting down it didn't hurt at all, and she decided that it was unlikely anything was broken, but strongly suggested that I pop back up to A&E to spend the rest of the day waiting to have it assessed properly. I knew nothing was broken. I wouldn't have been able to walk at all if it were. As I was resistant to taking the A&E option she recommended strapping the knee, taking painkillers, and if it wasn't improved in 24hours to have it checked out.

So I entered the hospital feeling relatively OK and emerged an hour later hobbling like an old woman.

Typical! Two days before a major exhibition too......... brilliant timing Sandra!

Small Dog is sniggering behind her paw and I'm sure I heard her refer to me as 'hopalong' earlier. So much for sympathy and an offer of the 'healing paw'.

I'm off to put my feet up and perhaps imbibe some liquid pain relief *hic*

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Point of no return Tuesday..........

Today is the point of no return, and I have to accept that I'm not going to get everything on my 'to do' list completed in time for Saturday.

In reality I have just two 'making days' left, as Thursday and Friday will be taken up with the 3P's - printing, pricing and packaging. Four if you count packing the whole kit and caboodle into as compact a size as possible, to fit into the boot of our very small 'compact' car.

I have about a dozen things on my workdesk to finish off, and if I put a late shift today and tomorrow I might, just might get them completed. But it will be a close run thing.

Next thing on my list is to make a appropriate hat for a lamb which is pulling a little cart. I'm not quite sure what levels of sartorial elegance are appropriate for a lamb's headwear, but I'm leaning towards a pretty little silk cap, tied neatly under the chin and decorated with tiny handmade silk roses to match those on the cart.

I'm sure it won't look too baaaad. *holds head in hands to conceal embarrassment at awful pun*

After that I will rejoin battle with the Jack-in-the-Boxes which are driving me round the bend. Don't even get me started on minuscule 1mm wide brass hinges which ping out of my tweezers at every opportunity and leave me scrabbling around on the floor under my desk trying to find them among the dust bunnies and other assorted detritus. All I will say on the matter is that they've come yay close to being drop-kicked out the window at several points this week and they're not finished yet so that fate might still await them.

After that, if any vestiges of sanity remain, I will complete two little toy dolls which are awaiting their dresses and bustled jackets, wigs and bonnets. This will be a walk in the park compared to the JIB's and might even restore my shaky mental equilibrium.

The floor plans for Saturday have been released on the KDF website, and we are in the Main Hall, up on the stage at the top of the hall, right next to Jamie Carrington, so no pressure there then. We're in exactly the same spot as last year and I quite liked being up on the stage area which was a great vantage point from which to view the fray in the main hall. The downside is that none of the stage stand are accessible to those with walking difficulties or in a wheelchair, which is not so good.

We're dreading the journey up to London, although as we'll be leaving home at 6am(!?) the traffic shouldn't be too bad en route. Negotiating the underground car park at Kensington Town Hall can be a little tricky, then of course there's the wait for a lift to descend into the bowels of the building so that we can ascend to the ground floor. However, I'm not even going to think about any of that today.

Today is all about finishing off that which is capable of being completed and moving on to the next thing.

I'll keep you posted..........

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Working 9 to 5..........

What a way to make a living.....

Yes, even though it's Sunday, the traditional day of rest, I am working. By this time next week the biggest fair in my calendar will be over and next Sunday I will most definitely be doing absolutely NOTHING even remotely work-related.

However, the 6 days between now and KDF will be filled with an increasingly frantic spriral of work, work, WORK. As always, my to do list is unrealistically optimistic and as the days count down towards Friday, which will be a 'packing' day, I will be sloughing off tasks like a snake shedding its skin.

One day I will get the hang of realising my limits. Till then I will subject myself to unrelenting stress, worry and stupidly long working days, trying to attain my self-imposed insanely unachievable goals.

Still, it's not all bad.

Hopefully later today a very nice chap will risk life and limb climbing up to our roof and blocking off the entrance to our soffits, rendering our squirrel haven inaccessible.

Hopefully I will complete the little Jack-in-the-Box toys with no major unforseen problems. I'm particularly looking foward to fitting the hinges, which are 1mm wide.

No pressure there then.