Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Madness. I has it......

Apparently the campsite we were all booked into for the duration of the Easter break is flooded. All of the grass pitches are waterlogged and inaccessible and there are no hard standings available.

So at the 11th hour yesterday, three of us were frantically ringing around trying to find alternative campsites. One of the places I tried, the chap just laughed.


Thanks to (probably a glitch) on the Caravan Club website, we identified a sudden number of vacancies on a site which only 30 minutes earlier had shown up as full. Quick as a flash, all three couples in our little camping group booked in, and tomorrow we will be setting off to spend 5 nights in the Romney Marsh area.



I know what you're thinking.

Marsh = wet + boggy

However, any port in a storm and all that. Plus the site does have hard standing pitches, onto which they will want to put the two of us who are in motorhomes. Our friends in the caravan are probably going to have to go on grass but as they have a big 4x4 towcar I expect they'll be ok.

We're all of the opinion that as sites are cancelling their bookings left right and centre due to the weather and not wanting their lovely grassed pitches churned up to buggery, the CC website probably had a massive hiccough, which resulted in the pitches we discovered.


Since we will be turning up at the site as close to noon as possible, we are reasonably confident of bagging a pitch, and avoiding the inevitable mayhem at around 6pm when any potential 'double bookings' arrive to fight it out over the remaining pitches.

Unfortunately it is unlikely that we will be able to have three pitches together, which is disappointing. Thankfully the site isn't very big, so even if we're all at opposite corners, it will only require a 5 minute dash through the driving rain to reach sanctuary.

I've hit on a damn fine plan to use the two youngest dogs (Small Dog and Young Fred - full name Frederick Albert Chang) as messenger dogs. We simply attach a message to their respective collars and send them off to whichever of our camping friends need to be alerted to the imminent opening of a wine bottle, serving of lunch, or whatever.

Naturally this plan has its glaringly obvious flaws. But it has to be worth a try.

In other news....


Small Dog finally has her very own range of dog fud.

Apparently this is 'a balanced doggylicious meal for your Small Dog' with 'little pieces for smaller mouths'.

According to Small Dog the jury is out on the former, but she gives a firm paws up to the latter. The original version has chunks so big we worried she would dislocate her jaw trying to chew through them. In the end we had to pick them out of her dinner bowl out as she took to burying them down the back of the sofa.

We will be taking a small bag of these '35% smaller for easier chewing' samples and will report on Small Dog's qualified opinion in due course.


On with packing the van. I have to unearth a few more essential items........wellingtons, raincoat, sou'wester, plastic poncho, cagoule, rain hood, Small Dog's waterproofs etc, etc, etc.........

Sunday, 28 March 2010

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

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the blog has been eerily quiet for a while. Perhaps you have surmised that there has been a dearth of blogworthy news of late.

I wish.

Quite the contrary.

As is the way of things, life has decided to throw a spanner in the works and the past week or so have resembled nothing so much as a roller-coaster of stress and emotional angst, which has rather taken its toll and the blog has been an unwitting victim.

Needless to say, my good intentions project-wise have also come to nought and even the smallest creative endeavour has been beyond me.

Which is galling and frustrating in equal measure.

On the plus side, the clocks went forward an hour today so it will be daylight till gone 7pm, which may help to boost my flagging energy reserves. Not to mention the prospect of an Easter camping trip, to which I am looking forward immensely.

As is Small Dog, who invariably gives a firm 'paws up' to any excursions in the campervan. It will be her birthday over the Easter weekend too so she is anticipating her boney fido party with mounting excitement.

I may even blog it.

Dongle permitting.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Website spring clean, new toys...and clearance SALE!

I've spent most of the day working on the website, giving it a good spring clean and tidy up, before listing a selection of new Bebe Jumeau toy dolls, toys and games.

All colours of the little Rainbow Ballerinas are back in stock, as well as wicker toy prams in various styles

The illuminated Victorian Christmas toy theatres are available again, and I've added two new theatres to the range - Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel.

Also new are some miniature jointed porcelain toys on tiny hand-painted chairs as well as a set of 6 different Punch & Judy puppets.

Finally, a clearout in the workroom has yielded a selection of miniature toys, books, puzzles and vintage games which we are planning to discontinue. So they've all been listed on a new SALE page, discounted by up to 50% to clear.

The sale runs from today till 31 March so if I were you I'd pop along now and avoid the rush.....!

The duality of dolls.........

I came across this little gem on Bellabelle's Blog this morning, and naturally it spawned at least an hour or so of displacement activity as I got to thinking about the duality of dolls, and how, while they have the ability to delight, comfort and soothe, there is also an element of the truly creepy about them.

Even as a doll aficionado, I find something extremely unsettling about this for example...

Naturally, the horror genre has legion examples of cute little dolls turning out to be crazed killers. Who can forget the sharp-toothed, snapping jawed dolls attacking Jane Fonda in Barbarella, or the scary clown doll from The Poltergeist?

Not to mention the eponymous Chucky.

There are even websites and blogs dedicated to scary dolls.

Perhaps due to my overactive imagination, I wasn't particularly keen on dolls as playthings when I was a child. One Christmas, my uncle, who was a sailor in the merchant navy, brought me a walking, talking doll which was as tall as me. The walking action was achieved by my holding her hands and sort of staggering her across the floor, one stiff leg after the other. It was walking, but only after a fashion. To make her talk I had to bend her forward to activate her voice box. She wasn't a great conversationalist as I recall, her vocabulary being limited to 'Mamma' and a sort of mewling crying sound.

She had blonde curls and her blue eyes opened and closed.

I called her Elizabeth, and tried to be very grateful and appreciative, but in truth I was a bit scared of her. At night she sat straight-legged on a little cane chair, and I used to watch her outlined against the window, alert to any small movement or sound she might make.

Eventually I managed to break her while teaching her to walk down the steps from the front door. Due to her clumsy gait she toppled over and smashed her head open on the stone path, revealing her eye movement mechanism. I think I managed to be a little upset, but mostly I was relieved that she wouldn't be sitting in the corner of my bedroom any more.

I can't remember what happened to her. Perhaps we buried in the garden but I'm sure I would remember that, especially as in the summer months I was allowed to sleep outside in my little tent, and I certainly would have conjured up visions of her clawing her way out of her grave and staggering zombie-like across the grass to wreak revenge on her murderer.

Like I said, I was an imaginative child.

I kept her eye mechanism for years, in a little box of treasures. Strangely I didn't find the disembodied eyes at all creepy, and often played with the clacking, eyelash-rimmed eyes, making them open and close repeatedly.

The other dolls of particular note, again brought home by my sea-faring uncle, were a Mexican Gaucho, and a Zulu Warrior. The Warrior in particular was very splendid, with a real animal hide shield with tiny teeth embedded in it. His facial expression was rather fierce and he carried a spear with a sharp real metal tip which would give the Health & Safety brigade a fit of the vapours and be instantly banned nowadays. Because he was so fragile though I never really 'played' with him and he was displayed on my little bookshelf. I used to worry that he was cold, as aside from beads and a little fur skirt he was completely naked. Oddly I didn't conjure terrifying visions of him creeping across to my sleeping form and plunging his spear into my eye. Perhaps he was just too lifelike, whereas doll-like Elizabeth was the stuff of nightmares.

Of course, having said all that, I feel that I now have to defend my position as a dollmaker. However, doll's house dolls are mostly meant to represent actual characters, real or fictional, in realistic situations. And of course my little toy dolls are so sweet and unassuming that they could never be construed as anything other than delightful.


Although, I have been trying to make a two-faced baby, just 1" long, as a child's toy. The plan is that the head will rotate inside a little fixed bonnet to reveal one waking and one sleeping face.

My Dr.Frankenstein-like experiments thus far have been chilling to say the least. I now have a selection of genetically engineered two-faced baby heads which are really rather unsettling. Perhaps they will look less so when I crack the problem of stringing them down through a tiny body while still permitting them to turn smoothly on a neck flange thingy.

It's a work in progress.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mother's Day............

Had a rather lovely day today. Lovely, lazy lie-in followed by breakfast in bed.

Then as the weather was so gorgeous we decided to take the campervan down to the seafront and have lunch. Small Dog gave this idea a firm 'paws up' and took up her position as NavDog, sitting bolt upright on my lap on the passenger seat, keeping an eye out for any creatures who needed to be barked at en route.

Parked up facing the sea at West St. Leonards and spent several hours pottering on the beach and watching elderly mothers being guided along the promenade by solicitous grown up children. One poor old lady who could hardly walk, was frog-marched from the (presumably) son's car to a bench, then had a parcel of fish and chips thrust into her hands. Half an hour later, the remnants of her lunch was swept off her lap, deposited in the bin and she was escorted back into the car to be taken home.

Presumably her offspring thought they had given her a lovely Mother's Day treat. However, I watched them carefully throughout, and hardly anyone in the party spoke to her, mostly they were on their mobile phones or chatting amongst themselves. The grandchildren played on the beach and I couldn't help but feel sorry for the old dear.

If any of our children EVER try to do that I will disinherit them quick smart. Always assuming I haven't already blown their inheritance on wine, wild women and song. In which case they can go whistle anyway.

After watching a jaw-droppingly gorgeous sunset behind Beachy Head, we headed back home, then Prodigal Son cooked an absolutely amazing Thai prawn curry, completely FROM SCRATCH!

With jasmine rice and everything.

Artistic Daughter joined us, and during dinner, Gorgeous Daughter rang from deepest, darkest Essex to wish me happy mother's day too.

And so I am replete.

A lovely relaxing day by the sea, watching the tide ebb and flow, followed by a delishus dinner.

Sometimes it's not so bad being a mum.......

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Crufts critique....

Small Dog and I are watching Crufts on TV. She even enjoys the commercial breaks which have focused strongly on doggy topics close to her heart, specifically stuff to eat.

She's sitting by my side, bolt upright on a cushion, expressing her opinion on all the various breeds in action, and was particularly vocal earlier during the agility dogs section as they raced around the obstacle course.

Right now they're showing a range of doggy overalls which can be made to measure and which she has disdainfully rejected on grounds of good taste.

Ah, now they have a vet giving advice on doggy flatulence, from which, thankfully Small Dog does not suffer.

It's on every day till Sunday, so that's mine and Small Dog's viewing schedule sorted then. We're especially looking forward to the 'Heelwork to Music' section at the weekend. Better get supplies of tasty nibbles and gravy bones in then .........

Project hell..........


I have spent the past several hours turning a perfectly clean, tidy and neat spare bedroom, only this morning vacated by Gorgeous Daughter, into an absolute unholy mess.

There are two dry built kits on the desk, and the bed is littered with boxes of electrical bits, wood mouldings, wallpapers, doors, windows and all manner of fixtures and fittings.

I've beat a strategic retreat to regroup and gather my senses, and ponder on a course of action.

I have discovered why my toy shop basement kit has remained in kit form for two years. If I just wanted to build it as a straightforward basement it would have been finished ages ago.

But no.

I want to kit-bash it so that there is a pavement level with the outside of the shop, and cut out apertures for a door and windows in the front. The problem with this is that none of the MDF sections in the kit is the right size for what I want to do, so I'm faced with two unsavoury options.

1) Buy some new MDF and have them cut to size. In theory, this would be the simplest, but has the major disadvantage that the newly cut sections wouldn't have the routed slots etc.

2) Somehow utilise the existing parts and conceal the fact that there has to be a bit of a bodge in order to overcome the pavement problem.

I had a lovely but short lived 'eureka' moment when I was sorting through all my boxes of fixtures and fittings, some of which date back almost 25 years. I found a wooden shop front which I'd bought back in the mists of time, intending to use it to front a room box shop.


When I saw it I thought for one lovely, inspired moment, that it might fit perfectly in the front of the basement, removing in one fell swoop the need for me to cut separate door and window apertures. However my elation was short lived as the shop front is almost 3" too tall.

At this point I called PP in for a second opinion. It's not for nothing that PP stands for Perfectionist Partner. While I was all for just hacking it down to size, PP came up with a plan which was both amazing and great. In a nutshell, she suggested taking out the top row of window panes, and dropping the top fascia down to fit flush with the top of the wall.

Simple and brilliant.

But I would never have thought of it. Mainly because PP's solution, though wonderful, will require precision and patience, neither of which I have in abundance when it comes to woodwork. And so, since she came to my aid over the bay window debacle, I thought it only fair to offer her the opportunity to do the same for my basement front. Small Dog might even deign to schlepp upstairs to the 'hobby room' to offer help and guidance as she did when I built the original toy shop three years ago.

In addition, I have sorted through and identified all the lighting bits and pieces which will be going into the basement and the day nursery, although when testing the LED striplight I was disappointed to discover that instead of a lovely, mellow candelight glow I ordered, the light was harsh, bright and blue-white. So I have requested an exchange, which will hopefully be forthcoming, and since I haven't got beyond the dry build stage yet it won't hold things up at all.

Next stage is going to be the assembly of the basement, day nursery roombox and pavilion, although I'm minded to leave the ceilings off the two former, so that I have unrestricted access for electrics, etc. It's also immeasurably easier to do flooring, wall decoration etc without the ceilings and just add them and any associated cornicing etc at the end. I've had my fill over the years of trying to manipulate paintbrushes, screwdrivers, soldering irons etc in tiny confined spaces with restricted room heights.


Sometimes I DO learn by my mistakes.

Project heaven.........

I have been rather neglectful of my blog in recent days, for which I apologise.

Gorgeous Daughter had her 28th birthday at the weekend and has been visiting since Tuesday so I have been happily 'otherwise occupied'.

In other news, the next three days are going to be dedicated to sorting out my various projects, of which there are many, and starting to get properly organised for some serious 'playtime'.

The projects currently on the drawing board, are, in no particular order:
  • Small single storey shop to be redecorated and given an Art Nouveau makeover.
  • Small room box to be fitted out as a dollmaker's workshop.
  • DHE Pavilion kit, to be built and set in a neglected, overgrown garden setting.
  • Large room box kit - to be adapted and built to house a gorgeous Victorian day nursery.
  • Toy shop basement - still in kit form, to be adapted and built to house toymaker's and dollmaker's workrooms, plus a small office area, perhaps on a raised platform accessed by steps. This is the biggest single project as I have to completely redesign the front to create a doorway and two large windows. It also has to match the exterior of the toy shop architecturally, although I draw the line at any more herringbone brickwork.
That's quite a lot of projects, and they will take up quite a bit of space. However, as many of the associated tasks will be duplicated, for example assembling the three kits, painting, decorating, lighting etc, it would make sense to work on some of them at the same time, rather than doing one, then starting another etc. Once the basic assembly is completed, I can then work on the lighting in sequence, installing all the electrical gubbins at the same time.

Ditto floors, decorating etc.

The exceptions to this (hopefully) time saving procedure are the Art Nouveau shop and the pavilion folly, although as the folly is also currently in kit form, I can assemble it at the same time as the other kits. I have some rather exciting spray-on stone finish paint in Gotham Grey to use for that which will require a dry and wind-free day as I'll have to apply the spray outdoors.

However, that is all a week or so down the line. Today I want to sort through all the various bits and pieces destined for each project, and sort them out into designated boxes so that I can see what I still need in the way of fixtures, fittings and electrics and compile a shopping list. It's been so long since I started some of these projects (the toy shop basement kit is now 2 years old!) that I can't remember what I've already got and what is still required. Of course it doesn't help that I keep changing my mind.


After lunch I shall spend the rest of the afternoon with a notebook and assorted boxes, making careful, annotated notes on all the various elements for each project.

Which may well qualify as displacement activity.

But frankly my dears. I don't give a damn.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Controlled taste testing............

Ethnicity can be a sensitive subject chez nous.

PP is of the opinion that as a Scot, I am primarily British.

But as she is of English extraction, she is primarily English.

This makes for some interesting 'debates' in our house, as you can imagine.

Anyhoo, I am a champion of all things Scottish. From fine single malt whiskies, to the unsurpassable scenery of the Western Isles. Living on the southernmost coast of England, there isn't much opportunity to partake of Caledonian delicacies, but in recent years, some of our culinary exports has made their way into sassenach supermarkets, not least of which is Mackie's Luxury Ice Cream.

PP doesn't reckon much to Mackie's, but for me it is food of the gods, and I like to think it is quite superior to many other ice creams.


Tonight we had a blind tasting.

In the blue corner, we had Mackie's. And in the red corner we had Beechdean Farmhouse Dairy Ice Cream which we only bought because it was on special offer in Tesco, as it is usually multo expensivo.

PP put a surreptitious dollop of each on separate plates, and with my eyes closed, I was fed a spoonful of each.

I was absolutely sure that the first spoonful, even with no comparison to go on, was Mackie's.
A spoonful of the second ice cream confirmed my decision. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but it was a bit too sweet and synthetic tasting.

And whadyaknow?

I was right.



However, Small Dog, who is also a bit of an ice cream aficionado, also had to have a teaspoonful of each on her plate too.

Which naturally disappeared in a flash.

However, she was also adamant that the Mackie's was her absolute favourite.

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

I hasten to add here, that the pot was actually empty, and she was licking out the last few smidgens.

She's still licking her lips as I write, after having cleaned her face on the rug.

Bit of a gourmand, is Small Dog.

Spring is in the air.........

It's been a lovely bright, sunny day today, with not a cloud in the clear blue sky. So we took Small Dog down to the seafront for her constitutional.

However, a bitingly cold easterly wind assailed us and within a short time we were frozen stiff, despite being appropriately layered.

Still, it was a lovely change from the grey, wet days of late, and despite the cold, there was a definite hint of spring in the air and the newly painted beach huts added a jaunty nautical air to the scene.

Small Dog is gradually recovering from her traumatic shearing the other day. Little does she know that she has an appointment at the vet tomorrow to have her claws trimmed.

She may never speak to us ever again.......

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Terrier trauma........

Small Dog has finally succumbed to a haircut.

Well, perhaps 'succumbed' is putting it too strongly.

She fought tooth and nail throughout the entire procedure, inflicting minor flesh wounds on PP in the process.

Unsurprisingly, her struggling attempts to leap off the table have left her with something of a unkempt cut, so we'll be snipping wayward bits off her for the next few weeks.

However, despite her haircut's shortcomings, she now looks like a new dog and it's knocked years off her.

It's also aged us exponentially.

So here for your delectation and delight is a pictorial history of the procedure.

Seconds before her capture, the position of her ears shows that she's got wind of the impending cut

Captured and placed on the shearing table awaiting execution.....

Partway through. Note her tail tucked firmly between her legs........

Finally released she emits her hell-hound stare.....

....drags her blanky out of her basket and prepares to leave home with all her worldly goods.

Planning her getaway route at the computer, although she did later recant and decided to give us another chance.

She's now recovering from her trauma, although she keeps giving us 'Looks'.

'Nuff said.........

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Procrastination is the thief of time.........

Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.

I am a master procrastinator. I can work really hard at putting off doing stuff.

In fact I can expend more energy putting things off, than I would if I just did the stuff in the first place.

But there is is.

Procrastination is in my nature and I can no more change my nature than the leopard can change his shorts.

However, I'm having a reasonable go at it. And in the process I have come to the conclusion that I simply cannot operate without deadlines.

For example I now have the luxury of a month or so in which to work on my projects. I've been really looking forward to this creative windfall, and the projects themselves are a means to a hopefully fruitful end.

Similarly, I have a myriad ideas for new toys and games, some of which are already off the drawing board and languishing in various work boxes. They all need developing and refining, which takes time, which I currently have in abundance.

Granted we are only 3 days into my 'projects month' but thus far I have done nothing.

Well I say nothing.

I have in fact been china painting and firing, packaging orders, working on commissions and catching up with admin-related tasks, as well as trying to clear space in two of the spare bedrooms, so I haven't exactly been sitting with my feet up this week. But I just know that it will come to the end of this month and I will feel fed up and frustrated that the time will have slipped away without serious progress on my projects.

So I have taken an executive decision and set up some self-imposed deadlines, to give me a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Whether or not they will yield results is anybody's guess but without them I am surely lost.

In other, but related news, Small Dog has yet again slipped under the radar today and escaped being shorn. I think she's got wind of our intentions and has successfully made herself practically invisible. Either that or she's managed to get hold of one of these..........

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Barbers of St. Leonards.........

As has been commented on, Small Dog is looking extremely scruffy and unkempt.

We've been planning to give her a haircut for several weeks but what with one thing and another we just haven't got round to it.

However the time has come, and we can put it off no longer, so tomorrow afternoon has been scheduled for her shearing.

Prodigal Son, who is currently chez nous will be drafted in to act as secondary fielder. He may well draw the short straw and get the bitey end.

We will start at the bitey end to take advantage of her brief goodwill period, which can extend to as long as..... ohhhh, a whole 10 minutes.

If we're lucky.

I shall be primary fielder and treat provider. At the end of the goodwill period it will be necessary to distract her with a constant supply of tiny snippets of dog treats. However even treats will only act as distraction for a limited time.

At which point it's everyone for themselves.

PP is the designated trimmer, and will wield comb and scissors with consummate skill.

Not to mention speed.

Which is of the essence.

The trick is to get as much of her trimmed within the goodwill/treat distraction period, which never, ever extends beyond 30 minutes.

This sounds like a long time, and to be fair, she is only a very small dog. But getting her to stay still, stand up, and not wriggle all over the show is no mean feat. By the time she starts grumbling we can tell by the position of her ears that she's had enough, and the clock is ticking.

Hopefully we will escape with only minor flesh wounds, and Small Dog will look reasonably symmetrical and neat.

If I'm up to it I'll provide photographic evidence of the procedure.

And the winner is...........

OK, so the choosing of a new name for my French toy doll shop is long overdue. The original deadline was the end of January, which was then extended to the end of February.

Many thanks to all of you who left comments or emailed your suggestions. These were all transcribed onto pieces of paper then scattered randomly all over the floor this morning, before letting Small Dog loose to select a winner.

Predictably this did not go exactly to plan.

Initially she declined to participate, sitting down and looking at us with a perplexed air. I had hoped that she would sniff around and definitively choose a paper, either by licking it or placing her paw firmly on one.

After a while she did decide to have a wander round, carefully picking her way through the paper minefield, assiduously avoiding each piece. Perhaps my years of carefully training her NOT to tread on any open books, photographs etc laid on the floor were finally bearing fruit after all.

However, so far so useless.

We then had to resort to bribery, by casting a few bits of her favourite doggy biscuit (aka Gravy Bones) into the air and waiting for her to pounce.

There was pouncing aplenty but she still carefully avoided treading on or otherwise showing a preference for any one piece of paper.

Eventually, when all the Gravy Bones had been scoffed, she did finally sit down with her paw on a single scrap which she was then suddenly reluctant to relinquish.

And so the eventual winner is "La Petite Poupee", submitted by Julie.

Congratulations Julie, I'll be in touch later!

There were a number of French suggestions, in keeping with the style, setting and period of the shop, as well as many variations on the 'dolly' theme, including "Hello Dolly", and "Valley of the Dolls". Also worthy of note was a suggestion from north of the border "Hiya Doll" echoing the romantic greeting usually given by a Glaswegian swain to his paramour.

Anyway, now that the name has been chosen, I have no excuse for not pressing on with tarting up the shop...... except for not having chosen the colour scheme yet.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Sunny Monday........

After what feels like weeks of relentless rain, this morning dawned bright and sunny. In the garden the daffodils are going strong and several are already in bud, despite the recent atrocious weather. The strong winds have dropped and there is a definite, if tentative, hint of spring in the air.

Already this morning I have completed a batch of china painted dolls and consigned them to the kiln for their final firing. The remainder of my day will be taken up with tidying the workroom, which is, of course, a never-ending task, then I will be able to have some fun sorting out the bits and pieces for my projects. They've ended up in boxes all over the show, so it's exciting to track them down, especially as I've forgotten about many of them. I came across a lovely big double sash window earlier, which will be perfect for my day nursery window seat. I also found several packs of ivy, left over from the front of my toy shop, which will be perfect for the garden pavilion folly. Plus a box of electric lights which will be apportioned between the day nursery and the toy shop basement (remember that?!)

So I can feel some lists coming on.

Also later this afternoon, Small Dog will be doing the honours and selecting the winning name for my French Art Nouveau Doll Shop.

I'm getting really quite excited about all the various projects which will hopefully be brought to life over the next few months.

Bring it on.........