Thursday, 30 September 2010

How many....?!!!!

I've just spent the last hour going through the book manuscript to work out how many photographs I need.




Too much information...............

This morning I went to the Hastings 2010 Let's Do Business exhibition with the express intention of visiting not one, not two but FOUR book publishing/printing companies.

Armed with my carefully written list of FAQs I diligently approached each one with a request for information based on my requirements.

Oh. My. God.

I have SO MUCH information that I'm scared if I don't plug my ears it will all leak out of my saturated brain.

Don't get me wrong.  Information was what I was after. However I failed to take into account that when you talk to an expert in any field, they will tell you stuff.

LOTS of stuff.

Probably most of which you don't entirely understand. 

And don't even get me started on acronyms.  Personally I think that experts use industry-standard acronyms to find out how little you know.  By that measure I know next to NOTHING.

OK so I have a passing acquaintance with GSM, RGB, CMYK, (as in, "yes well of course I've HEARD of you, but what, EXACTLY do you do") but when it comes to BPIF, FSC, DOP, ROP et al, I'm all at sea.  However, I have collected reams and reams of brochures and booklets and will be shortly receiving sample packs and quotes based on my brief.

But most exciting of all, as all the companies are local, I can actually go along on the day of printing and watch my book rolling off the presses.  How amazing is THAT! 

I should imagine it would be like giving birth with none of the messy, painful stuff.

But I must restrain my exuberance and go get on with the photography. Only another 100+ photos to go.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

2011 Thame Fair workshops announced.........

Information has just been released on the Thame Dollshouse & Miniatures Fair website with details of full-day workshops which will run on Sunday 20th February 2011 at Thame Town Hall.

We did a workshop for the Thame Miniaturists group on the Sunday this year, and students successfully completed a little wicker toy pram. Next year we will again be offering a workshop.  Full details, including a downloadable booking form are available on the website.

Our workshop will feature a very special vintage toy doll, and students will have the opportunity to choose from a selection of colours at the time of booking.  Numbers are limited so Ron and Felicity, the fair organisers, are urging early booking to avoid disappointment. 

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Lights, camera, action.........!

So finally The Book manuscript is finished.  All 96 pages of it. 

I'm quite pleased with the layout, which has been changed umpteen times, and the general look of the thing.  It's an instructional manual so I have disdained any fancy arty-farty stuff and loads of 'stylish' clutter.  It could even be described as minimalist.

So now all I have to do *cough* are the illustrations. I made a start on them at the weekend, but decided that my little studio set up, which consists of a pair of halogen lights and a translucent light tent just won't work for what I want to do.

I need to be able to take step-by-step photographs as I'm actually carrying out each step of the instructions, so setting each stage in the light tent doesn't accurately portray exactly what's happening.

So I'm going to set up the camera right beside me at my workdesk, and take shots as I'm going along. It can't get any more realistic than that.

My daylight bulbs arrived this morning, to flood my work area with lovely blue-tinted 'natural' daylight.  I have a brand, spanking new cutting mat with not a speck of glue on it (yet) and I'm planning to spend chunks of 1 hour at time, throughout the day, working through the list of photos.

Well that's the plan anyway........

Sunday, 26 September 2010

My favourite ad....

To help cheer up a dismal, grey Sunday afternoon, I thought I'd share my current favourite TV ad which very appropriately is advertising TV advertising.

Works on SO many levels.

Small Dog's not overly impressed though..

Friday, 24 September 2010

Before and after.........

We seem to have acquired a new dog...........


Following months of writer's block, during which I endlessly faffed around with various page layouts in a vain effort to persuade myself that I was actually making progress, I am now well and truly unblocked and writing up a storm. Not only that, I am currently up to page 77!

OK so it's not War & Peace but take it from me, writing an really clear, easy to follow instructional how-to book is really, REALLY challenging.

For instance, I know exactly how to make a micro-miniature silk ribbon rose just the right size for a tiny 1 1/2" toy bride's bouquet. I've been making them for years and could probably just about do it in the dark with one hand tied behind my back. However writing the step-by-step instructions to enable a complete novice to do it is a whole other kettle of mackerel.

Is it best to refer to loops or folds? How do I describe the little quarter turn? Not to mention making and attaching the tiny calyx. (Yes it does get that detailed!)

It's a minefield, even allowing for the fact that there will be step-by-step photographs to accompany the step-by-step instructions.

No matter. I'm getting it all down and it's going really rather quite well. I'm not going to hit my deadline, which is next Thursday, but I won't be far adrift.

*fingers crossed*

In other news, PP is giving Small Dog a bath and trim. They're upstairs in the shower room right now and it's gone ominously quiet.

I await developments with interest............

Edit - Small Dog has been released and is racing through the whole house like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil. Chaos reigns.......

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Parable of something or other........

I've been trying to remember that parable about two animals. One works hard gathering nuts and seeds all summer to store for the winter, while the other faffs around, sunbathing, reading books, going on picnics, snoozing in the sun etc.

Come winter the lazy animal, (let us for the sake of argument call her Sandra), suddenly discovers that she has no food put by and will probably starve. Plus all the housework has piled up, not to mention the bills, which she can't pay because she's been doing sod all for months and months.

Were they squirrels?

Or mice?

Anyway, there is a lesson there for all of us.


After months and months of not exactly complete inactivity, I have finally grasped the nettle and made serious inroads into what should have been done and dusted ages ago.

Actually......*lowers voice to a whisper*.... it's not nearly as bad as I anticipated. Once I got past the huge, monolithic block which the task had assumed in my mind, and got right in amongst it, it's going really quite well.

I don't want to jinx it though so........

In other news, Small Dog is due for one of her occasional baths. Since we got back from Cornwall her fur is full of sand and salt and is subsequently sticking up in peaks and horns. She has also discovered something fascinating at the top of the garden and has been rolling in it.


Naturally she thinks she smells fragrant. However the scent is more reminiscent of Canal No. 5.

In other other news, the nights are fair drawing in. It's getting darker earlier and earlier which reminds me we are on the long slow slide towards the end of October and putting our clocks back by one hour.

Before we know it, it will be Christmas.........


Monday, 20 September 2010

100 followers competition..........!

By way of celebrating acquiring my 100th follower, here is a thought-provoking competition, open to all Tales from a Toymaker followers.

I've been playing around with haiku poems lately, which are great fun, so all you have to do is compose a haiku and leave it as a comment.

No specific theme.... it can be about anything - blogging, miniatures, the weather.......whatever you like.

For non-haiku enthusiasts, the haiku format consists of just three lines.

first line, 5 syllables
second line, 7 syllables
third line, 5 syllables

For example,

Wonderful small dog,
chrysanthemum head of fur.
Daily you make me smile.

Simple eh? Go on......have a go.

I'll put all haiku-composer's names in a hat and draw the winner at random on 30th September.

And the prize....?

Who'da thunk it..........?

In all the excitement of the return home I completely missed the fact that I now have 100 blog followers!

I can't quite believe that the antics of Small Dog, coupled with my complete inability to get myself organised and sustain any serious amount of work without resorting to displacement activity could so captivate fellow bloggers, but there you are.

Nowt as queer as folk, as the saying goes.

I'm not normally one for the impedimenta which permeates the blogging world but in honour of this small achievement *cough* I will throw caution to the winds and post a competition later today.

And if you happen to be one of the 100 followers, thank you very much for supporting my blog.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Displacement activity.......

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Sunday morning.........

Feeling even worse this morning despite a marathon sleep.

So tired, neuropathic pain, brain fog, icy tingles....... and I know it's going to get even worse before it gets better.

What better time then to thrust myself into the maelstrom of work demanding my attention in the run up to our busiest time of the year.

No pressure there then...........

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Home again............

And so we are back home, me after a marathon journey to Cornwall via Scotland.

Having kept the MS gremlins at bay over the past week with a deft combination of meds and white wine, they have now rallied their forces and are giving me, in the common vernacular, a good kicking.

I am so so tired and disorientated I can't even think straight, but in a nutshell....

Wedding wonderful - very moving and well worth all the travails to get there. Felt rather like a prodigal daughter coming back home. I have a somewhat tortured relationship with my place of birth, courtesy of a difficult childhood which culminated in a traumatic family experience, and following my move down south there were many years when I would rather have gnawed off my own leg rather than return.

However, as I flew in to land at Edinburgh Airport, passing over the Forth Road and Rail Bridges, I felt strangely emotional, and even had to wipe away a few tears. Although my stay was brief, it was very cathartic.

Holiday also wonderful.

Was met at Newquay Airport by PP and frenzied Small Dog, who appeared to be made entirely of wag. Holiday house amazing with hot tub and everything. Short walk to beach where hunter-gatherer PP (aided by Small Dog and I) harvested a kilo of fresh mussels for dinner one evening. Cornwall is a very beautiful county, with a justifiably famous coastline and it was good to rediscover old haunts. It's a long way from Hastings though, but thankfully the 7 hour journey home was blissfully uneventful.

Small Dog has been busy since our return, carefully checking the whole house and garden for alien incursions. She has rigourously reclaimed all of her nap spots and has been hard at work catching up on her sleeps.

But here, for your delectation and delight, is Small Dog's favourite bit of her Cornwall experience.......

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Mummy's little helper........

Small Dog has been helping with the packing....


Bedlam, bedlam, bedlam........

Chaos reigns.

The house is currently a complete and utter tip. The only tidy room is the workroom.

But that's only by comparison to the rest.

I HATE packing!

Camping packing is bad enough, when all we have to do is ferry piles of stuff out into the campervan, but packing for not just one, but two diametrically opposed trips to in one is sheer hell.
I'm trying to think calming thoughts, while the maelstrom rages around me. Small Dog has got wind of an impending trip, but since we're not packing the campervan she is particularly agitated. Every time I turn round she is THERE, head on one side, looking at me enquiringly. She keeps checking her collar and lead and has pulled her security blanket into the hall.

PP is working frantically through a sheaf of lists, pausing occasionally to ask if I've packed something vital. Naturally I can't remember, so I schlepp upstairs to check then forget what I've gone up for.

There is stuff EVERYWHERE. I'm sure that the logistical planning for the Normandy landings didn't require as much stuff.

My 'wedding' packing is dressy and formal. I've chosen my outfit carefully and all my accessories match perfectly. I'll be in Edinburgh for two nights so I'll need a modicum of toiletries, not to mention my habitual mobile pharmacy.

The 'holiday' packing is casual. We're heading to the surfing capital of Cornwall so even smart casual is probably way too formal.

Then there's Small Dog. Who for a small furry hound requires a disproportionate amount of kit.

Not to mention caboodle.

Then there's the weather. Which is forecast to be mainly wet and windy with a few days of sunny spells/showers thrown into the mix. So we need wellies for beach/cliff walks. Plus sandals for days when the sun deigns to shine.

Then there's the hot tub in the garden. So we need 'suitable attire' for that. I've decided to go for the Victorian bathing belle look, with colourful bathing shorts which go from under my bust right down to my knees, teamed with a matching bikini top. I'm fully prepared for the whoops of derision from the rest of the party but I shall respond with a calm, quiet dignity.

Or at least as quietly dignified as it's possible to be while looking like a total idjit.

Then there's PP who has assumed the mantle of hunter-gatherer, and is taking her shrimp net and crab line, with the intention of catching us dinner one night.


Oh well, back to the fray..................

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Loins girded.........

I am girding my loins (isn't that just a wonderful phrase?) for the coming weekend which will be a test of my stamina and inner resources for I will be travelling solo to Cornwall.

Via Scotland.

This isn't because I have bought an insanely cheap rail ticket which insists on particularly imaginative routing. Nor have I completely taken leave of my senses, although I'm beginning to wonder.

No. The reason for my peregrination around the British Isles is that a family wedding in Scotland clashes with a pre-booked holiday in Cornwall with friends. So of course the sensible thing is to try and do both.

*sighs and reconsiders the fact that taking leave of my senses is EXACTLY what I've done...*

So, PP will be taking Small Dog to Cornwall, setting off for an 8-hour drive at roughly the same time as I will be on my way to Gatwick Airport. Although I will be travelling solo, Gorgeous Daughter will be joining me in Edinburgh late evening, having also travelled up from southern England after work.

The wedding itself promises to be a wonderful affair and I am looking forward to it with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. Many of the people who will attend, I haven't seen for over 30 years and much water has passed under the bridge during that time, so I'm thinking of writing a haiku poem to describe my life path since then.

Brief, concise but strangely enigmatic. I'm going to work on it on the flight up.

Then on Sunday I will be flying down to Cornwall. I had no idea there was an airport in Newquay but fortuitously there is a single daily flight from Edinburgh to Cornwall precisely when I need it. So I took that as a sign.

Of course the plane will probably be of the very small variety, with propellers and stuff, but I'm fervently hoping I will get a proper seat and not simply be strapped to the wings for the duration.

Small Dog will be meeting me at the airport, hopefully appropriately attired.....

Monday, 6 September 2010

Giddy social whirl.........

I'm exhausted following a weekend of full-on socialising. Not that I'm complaining, but social events are a bit like the 22a bus which goes past the bottom of our road. None for ages then several all at once.


As a result, today I don't feel like working at all. If I didn't have to, I'd be curled up on the sofa with Small Dog and either a good book or an old film on TV. Unfortunately that is not an option, so I've been scrutinising my 'to do' lists (Volume VII, sub-section XII) and trying to decide which of the most urgent tasks I should tackle.

It doesn't help that the rain is beating down outside and the workroom feels like the Black Hole of Calcutta, even with ALL the lights on, including my SAD light pod. I was hoping to crack on with some photography today but the light (or rather lack of it) is too bad.

So, what to choose, out of the multitude of book-related tasks clamouring for my immediate attention?

Why, of course! Start something completely new which is going to require days of research and development, numerous false starts, endless charging down creative cul-de-sacs and inevitably fervently wishing I'd done something, ANYTHING, else.

This is a particularly self-defeating form of procrastination.

I am, without the shadow of a doubt, my own worst enemy.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Written in the stars.......

My horrorscope for today..........

By Rick Levine
You know what you want to accomplish at work today, but your plans may be totally unrealistic, even if you believe them to be doable. The sooner that you recognize that your feet are not touching the ground, the sooner you can start to work on restraining your fantasies. It's better to recognize your dreams for what they are so you can save yourself from being disappointed later on.

And as if that wasn't unequivocal enough......

Hello Sandra !
Your Sun Sign: Taurus
Date of birth: 23 April 1958

Your daily horoscope for 2 September 2010

You may be a bit oversensitive today, Sandra. It's possible also that you will be irritable and conflicted as you begin to suspect that long-term projects may not be realized. The time has come to take stock. There is likely a good reason that you have been unable to complete that project you undertook six months ago. Advice from others should steer you in the right direction...


In other news, I have managed to get my wedding outfit in a record time of less than 2 hours. Just a few minor additions to get and I'll be sorted. So that's a relief and has somewhat taken the edge off the prognostications of doom and gloom in both horrorscopes.

Honestly, some mornings it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps........

Back on track.......I wish

I had to be up at stupid o'clock this morning and due to an over-enthusiastic internal body clock, was actually wide awake an hour before the allotted stupid time.

Crawled out of bed, determined to put the additional hour to good use by getting all the usual morning stuff done good and early, so that I could go into town well before my dentist appointment *shudder* and try to find an outfit suitable for a family wedding later this month.


Especially clothes shopping. I didn't used to mind it when I was a lithe and lissome size 10 as I could generally find any number of potential items, and even if I didn't like them when tried on, at least there was a better than evens chance that they would fit and look good.

Nowadays everything has changed.

In line with my advancing years, my body has gone into a sort of glacial decline, with whole continents gradually going south. I've had a brief dalliance with the optimistically named 'shapewear' last year when I had to squeeze into a sheath-like beaded dress for a murder mystery evening, but the results were less than edifying.

I've come to the conclusion that to be really successful with shapewear, you have to be a decent shape to start with.

But I digress. Wedding wear is really difficult to get right. I know I will end up either ridiculously overdressed, or too 'bag lady' casual. Are there ANY rules for what to wear to a wedding these days?

It's going to be a traditional Scottish wedding, so most of the men will be in kilts. It's hard to compete with a man in a kilt. Instead of a sea of sober suits, enlivened only by the odd colourful tie or waistcoat, against which even the dowdiest woman will stand out, there will be a plethora of colourful tartans, sporrans, sgian dhus, glimmering silver buttons and shiny black brogues. So you've really got to go some to come up to the mark.

Then there's the weather to consider. September in Scotland is invariably an unknown quantity. It might be really hot and sunny, or cold and wet, or foggy, or windy.......or even a combination of all six within the space of a few hours. But one thing is certain. However I am dressed, it will be wrong.

If I wear something flimsy with no jacket there will be a cruel, biting wind to scarify my goose-pimpled flesh.

If I go for a warm, cover-up ensemble, it will be 32 degrees and the sun will beat down mercilessly for the duration.

Are trousers permissible? Can I get away without wearing a jacket? Do I have to wear a hat?
Or even....... a fascinator? *shudder* Shoes or sandals? Heels are out due to my propensity to fall over if my balance is disturbed but I do have a gorgeous pair of flattish Italian leather shoes (£4 from a Bexhill charity shop!) which look outrageously expensive and are as soft as Small Dog's ears. So perhaps I should build the outfit around them?

Anyway, I had intended to make a foray into Debenhams this morning to suffer the indignity of having the shop assistants look down their noses at me as I struggle in and out of a succession of unsuitable outfits. However apparently my dentist is indisposed so my appointment has been moved, courtesy of a phone call very early this morning.

So I am now on the horns of a dilemma. Should I venture into town anyway to see what I can find, or put it off till tomorrow?

All suggestions gratefully received.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I'm back.........!!!

Unsurprisingly, after 5 days of camping in decidedly dodgy weather, we have returned home to cloudless blue skies and balmy temperatures.


Nevertheless, the break was welcome and much enjoyed by all concerned. I will gloss over the various mishaps, including:

Lighting a sky lantern to celebrate a friend's birthday. We've done this on previous camping expeditions with no problems, but this time, due to a slight miscalculation about where to light it, we caused a small, (but, we judged, insignificant) hole. The lantern lifted off slowly, hanging in the night air, while we all held our breath waiting for it to sail off up into the sky.

However it didn't ascend.

It hung, apparently motionless, before erupting in flames then slowly sinking towards the roofs and awnings of some caravans on the other side of a large hedge.

We exhaled a collective NOOOOOOO!!!!! and two of our party sped off down the path to try to intercept the now flaming Hindenburg-like lantern. Fortunately there was no breeze and it plummeted onto a patch of grass by the side of the path, where it was hastily stamped out.

Disaster thus averted, we all regrouped back at our day tent, where someone innocently enquired as to the whereabouts of one of the dogs, who had last been seen moments before the conflagration which threatened to burn the campsite to the ground. The person who had been holding the lead was quickly interrogated and we then all ran off in different directions into the night to try to retrieve the dog, who, incidentally, is blind.

Thankfully he hadn't wandered far, and some passing campers alerted us to his position.

Knowing that things always happen in threes, we were chastened into behaving like adults for the rest of the evening, and the following day, until someone suggested that we assemble the unicycle and give it a go.


Yes, I know.

I don't know WHAT we were thinking.

Not only did the infernal machine require building, the instructions were written in German. I did German to A-Level many aeons ago, but I confessed I was stumped as unicycle assembly hadn't featured prominently in either the everyday conversational German, or the poetry of Goethe, both of which I had studied in some depth.

I was also disconcerted to discover that the instructions made liberal use of BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation marks to a degree that did not inspire confidence.

Undaunted however, three of the team set about putting the thing together. It shouldn't really have taken as long as it did. I mean, there is only one wheel, an upright frame, two pedals and a saddle so it wasn't exactly rocket science.

Whatever was possible to do wrong, they did. The saddle went on backwards, then skew-whiff. The frame was either too high or too low. The inner tube was subsequently over-inflated and bulged out of the side of the tire. The pedals went the wrong way.

Eventually, after much discussion, it was declared ready to ride, and a idiot willing volunteer was sought to try the thing out. There followed a merry half hour, while various people with little care for life and limb were supported precariously between two 'helpers' and wheeled around on a large, open grassy area.

I must admit, I've seen people unicycling and it always looks quite easy. I can't be the only one who has thought "that doesn't look too hard. Just a matter of balance....."

I can now testify, hand on heart that it is completely impossible to just get on a unicycle.

You can forget getting it to go. Just getting ON it is completely impossible.

In addition, any hope of maintaining even a modicum of dignity or decorum should be put firmly from your mind.

You will look like a complete numpty.

Even when 'safely' supported on either side, the wheel is always resolutely either two feet in front of your centre of gravity, or two feet behind it. The nanoseconds when your body is exactly centred over the wheel hub are fleeting and rare.

Needless to say, I did not volunteer to mount it. My balance is precarious enough at the best of times so I had no desire to add to the general hilarity our antics produced. A nearby group of campers, shouted encouraging suggestions, the best of which I judged to be "you might do better if you'd had a drink". I was on my way to do just that thing when I met PP striding purposefully towards the arena, with a very determined look in her eye.

After the latest would-be unicyclist dismounted and hobbled away, she took a firm grip of the machine and waved away the two helpers. I remonstrated that if the experience of any of the previous attempts was anything to go by she was being a tad optimistic, but she declared that she would be fine and that having watched where everyone else had gone wrong, she was confident that she would be able to just 'get on and go'.

Well part of that prediction was spot on. She certainly did go. Sort of up in a graceful arc, then backwards, then very swiftly down.

With a thump.

Thankfully, the experiment didn't result in concussion and/or broken bones. After being checked out and helped to her feet, she wobbled around for a minute or two before retiring to the comfort and safety of the day tent, for some liquid refreshment.

I've just re-read this post thus far, and it occurs to me that I haven't actually glossed over anything.

Except the provenance of the unicycle. Which is hardly standard camping gear, even for the most adventurous wild camper.

Apparently it had been languishing in the capacious storage compartment of our friend's big motorhome for some time. Bought as an inspired birthday present several years ago and never assembled due to its recipient having to undergo spinal surgery. Having seen it in action, I can confirm that if she HAD used it she would have had to have the surgery even sooner.

PP has suffered no ill effects from her brief encounter with the unicycle, despite all our assurances that she would develop a large bruise on her derriere. The bruise has not materialised, and PP's back problems have not resurfaced either. Perhaps she inadvertently jarred something back into place.

Small Dog, usually in the thick of any misadventures, was remarkably well-behaved and sensible throughout. Unless you count her rolling in something disgusting while she was out on a walk.

So, all in all, not a bad weekend.

There is, of course, both photographic and video evidence of the shenanigans, but they have been forcibly suppressed to protect the guilty. Also they might come in useful as a bargaining tool in the future.