Thursday, 28 March 2013

Easter Greetings.....

Despite the fact that large swathes of the UK are still under feet of snow, and the rest of us are shivering in unseasonably cold temperatures, I am convinced that spring will soon be with us.......*fingers firmly crossed*.

I've always felt that Easter and spring are synonymous, with their themes of rebirth, renewal and regeneration, although the links between Easter and chocolate eggs has always seemed to me to be a bit tenuous.

No matter.

We have several spring-themed events scheduled over the coming week.  On our website there is an Easter Egg Hunt....just go to the home page and see the slideshow for your first clue.

The prize is shown on our Facebook page HERE! While you're there do please 'Like' then share.....

Also on our website there are some new Weekly Specials, again with a spring flower theme.

Finally, for auction on Ebay this week is a tiny porcelain Humpty Dumpty toy, complete with half scale wooden chair.... good luck if you decide to bid!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A close shave......

Despite the fact that we've been rather preoccupied with the disruption of all the work going on outside, yesterday's status as a red letter day shouldn't go unremarked.

I refer, of course, to Small Dog's inaugural trip to the dog groomer for her first ever 'professional' haircut!

We've always trimmed her ourselves, with varying degrees of success.  During her standard 10 minute goodwill period, PP can usually do her face and head but thereafter all bets are off and it's every woman and dog for themselves.

It's not unknown for a Small Dog haircut to take several days, in stages, during which she refuses to be seen outdoors for fear that some wag might say,

"What eedjit's been cutting your dog's hair....?" 

We've been contemplating having her professionally clipped for some time now, but we were sure that she would hate it, and we would hate it, and she would hate us, and we would hate the groomer, and so it goes.

However, following a recommendation from our vet, we decided to give it a go.  So when, after speaking to the groomer by telephone, and describing Small Dog's many foibles, she was undaunted, we decided to give it a go.

Of course, as we didn't actually witness proceedings, we have no idea if her reported exemplary behaviour was accurate.   Certainly, when we returned to pick her up she was newly trimmed and clipped, toenails cut, ears plucked, anal glands expressed (Ewwwww!), freshly washed and blow dried.

All in the space of just 60 minutes!

To say we were shocked and amazed is a massive understatement.

I suspect Small Dog felt much the same.  Anyway, here's photographic evidence of the transformation.......



It feels as though we have a new dog........

Day 3......

Day 3 of our front garden makeover and the very early morning starts are beginning to take their toll.  It's not often I experience two six o'clocks in one day!

The tarmac drive is coming up today so getting in and out of the house will present something of a challenge.  I wonder if we could abseil down onto the pavement from one of the upstairs windows......

Anyway.....  we've had quite a lot of this.....

 And even a bit of this.....

 Not to mention the obligatory glimpse of 'builder's bum'.....

We've only experienced an hour of the pneumatic drilling this morning and I have the makings of a thumping headache already.... surely they could fit some sort of silencer.

I think it's going to be a l-o-n-g day....

Monday, 25 March 2013

Stepping up a gear.....

It's been all go all day, and if the bustle of activity, noise and vibration are anything to go by I think they're doing well.

As I write, the base layer is being compacted by a vibrating machine which is so loud I can hardly hear myself think.

From our estwhile vantage point in an upstairs bedroom, a wide-eyed Small Dog and I have been monitoring proceedings, watching the comings and goings of delivery trucks and grabber lorries.  I can only assume that Small Dog thinks huge monsters are devouring her garden.

So far so good.......

Oh. My. Dog......


I suppose it's too late to change our minds now.....

It begins......

We were all of us up and about at stupid o'clock this morning (Small Dog, admittedly under duress) to await the start of work on our front garden which currently looks like this.....

This is one instance to expose the fallacy that the camera never lies, as it actually looks much worse.  The big bare patch on what we laughingly call the lawn is where the caravan normally resides.  All those gouges and tyre tracks are what happens when we have to move the van when the ground is wet.

It is, to put not too fine a point on it, a complete mess.

Of course, over the next few days it will be even more of a mess as the ground is dug out and prepared.  But at least it will be a mess with purpose......

To be continued.......

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Interesting times......

I currently feel that we may have been 'blessed' by the homily "may you live in interesting times........"

This will be particularly pertinent next week, which will be as far from an oasis of calm as it's possible to get.

Of course, high on the list of stressful events is trying to move house.  I've made a concerted effort over the past few weeks to put it out of my mind and forget all about it.  We've also decided to do a few things about the house which have been on our 'wishlist' for a while, the first of which will start early Monday morning, when a team of workmen will arrive to sort out our front garden, which exists in one of two states, depending on the weather and time of year.

1.  A moss and weed-infested wasteland with 3,726 ant's nests inhabiting a baked solid clay base.

2. A porridge-like substance, oozing mud and water, spongy underfoot and liable to swallow the caravan up to its axles.

Getting the caravan on and off is almost always a nightmare, as in addition the the above mentioned problems, the garden slopes on two angles. 

We've been thinking of having something done to improve the situation for several years, but never got round to it.

Until now.

So next week we will be living on a building site, with heavy machinery, compacting equipment and workmen all going full pelt.

Not only that, we've booked Small Dog into a professional dog groomer to have a proper haircut.  Apparently the woman who does it is exceptionally good with 'difficult' dogs and has gained something of a reputation as a 'Dog Whisperer'.  I'll wager she won't be doing much whispering after she's encountered Small Dog, who is highly resistant to any interference with her flowing locks.

We have to drop her off on Tuesday morning then return to collect her after an hour.  Given that when we trim her ourselves we normally do it in shifts over the course of several days I'm somewhat sceptical but I'm happy to give it a go.  I'll take 'before' and 'after' photos for comparison and Small Dog may well document the episode on her FB page in due course.

There are also a number of other domestic concerns, adding to our elevated stress levels at the moment but the ones I've mentioned will do for going on with.

After all, what could possibly go wrong.......?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wednesday Weekly Special.......

In preparation for my workroom makeover, I've been delving deep into cupboards and stock boxes, clearing out, rationalising and generally endeavouring to make more space.  In doing so I've discovered things I never knew I had.


The first of this treasure trove, a kit to make this nautical 1/144th scale Beach House,

is now listed on the website under Weekly Special.  I'll be changing this listing every week, on Wednesdays, until I run out things to list.

Also, on Ebay this week I've listed the following Deluxe Toy Doll's Doll.

The auction ends on Sunday and started at the frankly ridiculous price of 99p!  Bargain at twice the price.......

In other news..... well there is no other news.  I'm just finishing off packaging the last orders from the Mini Miniature Show at the weekend, as well as embarking on lengthy soft-cleaning sessions following my marathon casting last week.  If my hands were desiccated husks then, I dread to think what they're going to be like by the time I'm finished.

And no.

I can't wear latex gloves while I'm soft-cleaning.... even the superfine surgical gloves interfere with the small amount of feeling I have in my fingers and I end up breaking dozens of tiny pieces because I can't gauge how much pressure I'm applying.

Still..... looking on the bright side, my hands will soon be so rough that I won't need to use sandpaper during Phase 1 of my workroom makeover.

Every cloud and all that.....

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The march of time.....

I’ve had a letter.

Nothing unusual in that you might say…… but it IS unusual and noteworthy these days to receive a hand-written letter, on sumptuous writing paper, in a hand-written envelope, from a real person, telling me all about her new miniature toy shop and requesting a paper copy of our catalogue.

Personally I can’t remember the last time I actually wrote a letter by hand.  If I have the choice I will always type it on my laptop and print it.  I’ll even print the address label. 

This set me thinking about how much the way I do business has changed in the 25+ years since I started Tower House Dolls.

Back then in the 80s I had an electric typewriter and my ‘catalogue’ consisted of a single typewritten sheet which I would take to the post office to be ‘Xeroxed.’  (Prior to that, when I was a student in the 70s, I'd had an ancient Remington manual typewriter which required force equivalent to a small pony sitting on the keys to make an impression on the paper.)

A few years on and I was the proud owner of a duplicating machine, which I regarded as one of the wonders of the modern world.  For those of tender years, THIS is a duplicating machine, although mine was very old and decrepit..

I bought mine second hand from the Parish Council, who were upgrading to a new-fangled electric model.  It was ENORMOUS!.... mounted on top of a large storage cabinet.  It was so big I had to keep in one of the outbuildings as we couldn’t get it in the house. 

Printing anything was a time-consuming business.  First I had to cut a stencil.  I could either do this by hand or using my electric typewriter.  Then I had to schlep down the garden to the machine and load the stencil onto the drum.  The ink was a nightmare…. Like tar…thick, viscous and very, very black.  It got everywhere and was impossible to remove from clothing.  I had to prime the drum to ensure a thin, even layer of ink, then do a test print.   

Generally there was problem every time as the machine was very temperamental.  As it was manual I had to turn a huge handle and watch carefully for any of the multitude of problems which might arise…. Too much ink, not enough ink, ink blotches, paper jams, wrinkles in the stencil.  Ink had to be allowed time to dry otherwise it smeared across the page and double sided printing was only undertaken under exceptional circumstances with the aid of a stiff drink beforehand to steady the nerves.

A few years further on and I was the proud owner of an Amstrad word processor with a green screen monitor and dot matrix printer.  It might have looked like a computer but it wasn't.  It was a glorified typewriter.


I had access to FOUR different fonts.  How exciting was that?!

Instead of laboriously making corrections on the page I could fix them instantly on the screen and a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me.  With the click of a button I could print out copy after copy.  Only text of course, but I was in seventh heaven.

Fast forward a few more years and I sat uncomprehending before a PC, watching a cursor blinking on the monitor.  I think the OS was Windows 3, immediately pre-dating the famous Windows 95 which started the Internet revolution.

Moving from word-processor to computer meant a learning curve so vertical it was obtuse.

I did a college course to learn Word, Excel and Access and I joyfully embraced desktop publishing, learning how to import and manipulate digital images.  I could print entire brochures in full colour.

Of course the world hasn’t stopped there.  Nowadays I can create an interactive online catalogue in the form of our website.  

I have slideshows, videos, podcasts and live video conferencing at my fingertips.

I can create an interactive e-book with embedded hyperlinks and video.

I can communicate with existing and prospective customers via this blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Skype or my smartphone……  the possibilities are endless.

And all of this has happened in a just 25 years…. a mere quarter of a century.  Which, when you consider that the first printing press came into use over 550 years ago is nothing short of amazing.

However, despite my delight in the written word, and the undoubted wonders of modern technology, I can’t help feeling a pang of regret at the loss of the hand-written epistle, and the joy of receiving a ‘proper’ letter.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Mini Miniature Show now open - Day 1!


The 4th online Mini Miniature Show is now open and you can find the Tower House Dolls page HERE!

This time, the dealers are listed by scale (we're in both 1" (1/12th) and 1/2" (1/24th) and on the home page there's a handy downloadable booklet with details of all of the dealers.

Each day of the show, from now till Sunday, we will be listing a new Show Special (scroll to the bottom of the page) so do keep checking back for new additions.

Also for the duration of the show, (March 13-18 inclusive ) we are offering a 10% discount voucher which is redeemable against purchases from our website 

Tower House Dolls Website  

Recently added items on the site include new pullalong toys and a new toy doll kit - Rainbow Ballerina!                           

To use your voucher, simply place an order on our website to the value of £20 or more and receive a 10% discount by using the following code OnlineShowVoucher2013 

This code (case sensitive, no spaces!) must be entered in the discount voucher box during checkout and the discount will then be automatically applied to your order.  If you also wish to include any items from our Mini Miniature Show Page, (which have already been discounted), I will deduct postage and amend your PayPal invoice so that you only pay one lot of shipping.

Over the next five days we'll also be scheduling a Q&A session using a live video link so that
you can see our miniatures in 'virtual' reality.  However, surely the 'pièce de résistance', and high point of the show, will be a live appearance by our Business Mascot and erstwhile Employee of the Month...... Small Dog!  (always assuming she can be winkled out of her basket)

Exciting or what.....?


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

4 seasons, 1 day.....

Following 12 hours of continuous snow yesterday and overnight, we woke this morning to an arctic wilderness, with drifts of snow feet deep in the garden, and the road at the front  resembling a ski slope.

Over the course of the day, the sun has come out and a thaw has set in, sending huge chunks of snow thudding off the roof, accompanied by the steady drip, drip, drip of meltwater from every horizontal surface.

Hopefully the thaw will continue as tomorrow we have to be out and about relatively early in the day, and the prospect of driving in conditions as bad as they were this morning is not appealing.

Small Dog is not a lover of snow.  

Her fur is so fine that after just a few minutes of walking around she gathers large snow balls up her legs and along the underside of her tummy.  Despite the undoubted comedy value, there is a downside, as it is impossible to pull them out and she has to be dunked in a basin of warm water to melt them.  In addition, having to do this every single time she goes out is a bit of a disincentive....for all of us. 

However, having been confined to barracks for the past 24 hours has had its advantages.  I've been coccooned in the workroom making massive inroads into my porcelain casting schedule, inbetweentimes completing preparations for the online Mini Miniature Show which opens tomorrow.

In fact, things have been going so well that I think I might even have some free time this week to pick up where I left off on La Mignonette*, which has been sadly neglected for weeks. 

*fingers crossed*

Monday, 11 March 2013

A winter's tale.....

Last week I could have sworn that winter was finally over and spring was on the cusp of springing.

So, this morning, when we woke to this......

 ..... it felt as though I had somehow slipped back in time to the depths of winter.  Since I took that photo it's been snowing steadily, mostly horizontally, driven by the strong wind.  Outside the office window I can barely see to the opposite side of the road, such is the swirling white-out.

Spring, suddenly, feels a very long way away.....

So today I shall be confined to the warmth of the workroom, continuing my batch of casting, interspersed with putting the final touches to my dealer's page for the online Mini Miniature Show, which opens its doors on Wednesday.

I'll post more details tomorrow, but over the duration of the show we're planning a few special events, one of which may, or may not, feature Small Dog in her role as Tower House Dolls Special Ambassador.

Predictably, she has enquired whether this requires her to pose beside a pyramid of Ferraro Rocher chocolates........

To which the answer is a resounding  NO!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Fed uppedness... I has it.

I make no apologies for not posting for a whole week.

In fact you're lucky I'm here now.

The past seven days have been a bit like the curate's egg..... good in parts.

The good part involved a short break away with friends, which was relaxing and fun in equal measure.  Away from the cloud of stress and worry currently permanently moored above our house, I was able to sleep properly for the first time in weeks.  It was lovely to just kick back and not think about stuff.

Predictably, the rubbish part is predominantly down to our house moving woes, which continue unabated.  Once again our hopes were raised momentarily by a lady coming to view last Friday who seemed to really like the house.  In fact she liked it so much that she arranged a second viewing on Monday and seemed even more keen.  However, the very next day we found out that she'd had an offer accepted on another property.


Back to square one.  Do not pass 'GO'.  Do not collect £200.......

No matter, we still had the fallback position of a viewing today, at lunchtime.  For which we spent all morning cleaning, tidying and cosyfying.  Only to receive a call from the agent to say that our viewers had cancelled. 


I'm rapidly reaching the point where I'm so fed up with the whole thing that I'm ready to throw in the towel and just try to get my life back again.  The past 6 months have been a continuous roller coaster of raised hopes and dashed expectations.  

I'm fed up with being at the beck and call of people who expect us to have the house available to view at a moment's notice, but cancel at the last minute, or even worse, don't turn up at all.

I'm fed up with people who tell us a pack of bare-faced lies (we don't need a mortgage/our own property's under offer/we're ready to proceed/we'll let you know by tomorrow/we'll inform you straight away if there's any other interest in the property you have an offer on, etc etc etc).

I'm fed up with estate agents who promise the earth (or at the very least a few potential purchasers through the door) but deliver bugger all.

I'm fed up with having my life on hold and being unable to make future plans for anything much.

I'm fed up.  Full stop.

So fed up that I'm going to start a batch of casting this afternoon.... the dollmaking task guaranteed to make the maximum amount of mess and cause the maximum amount of disruption in the workroom.  Just because I can.


THAT fed up......

Friday, 1 March 2013

It's all a question of trust......

We had a bit of a shock yesterday afternoon.

A shock so cataclysmic that we were forced to abandon our 'Mon-Thurs No Wine Rule' in order to steady our nerves.

Let me give you a clue......

Which professions would you say were the most untrustworthy?

Bankers must be right up there.  Secondhand car sellers? Politicians, Telemarketers, Double Glazing Salespeople.....?

What about Estate Agents?
"A recent survey by found 59% of respondents ranked estate agents as the least trustworthy profession."

I wonder why.......

Late afternoon yesterday, I was still at work, putting the finishing touches to our latest workshop offerings when PP called me through to the office.  She'd been clearing out some of her bookmarked favourites on the computer and there, on the screen, was the house we'd been hoping to buy, marked as SOLD!

Shocked and stunned doesn't even come close.....

After all, we had put in an offer on the property, which had been accepted, IN WRITING.  Obviously, as we couldn't proceed, the house remained on the market, which is fine, BUT we were absolutely assured that we would be informed straight away if there was any other interest.

I immediately rang the estate agent, who was initially rather cowed and defensive.  It transpires that an alternative offer was accepted several weeks ago and the sale is now well underway.

When pressed to provide an explanation why, as prospective buyers with an accepted offer we were not informed, he said he thought one of his colleagues had done so.


So we get a letter from the agents to confirm our offer has been accepted, pending the sale of our house, but we DON'T get a letter, or even a phone call, to let us know that the vendors have had a better offer and accepted it.

In fact we get bugger all information of any description and have to find out by chance on the internet.

When I, perfectly reasonably, asked why nobody in the office had thought to inform us, his initial defensiveness smoothly morphed into something more akin to arrogance.

Which, in my experience is the default setting of a large proportion of estate agents.

Having slept on it I'm making a concerted effort to be philosophical about things.  After all, it's not the end of the world, worse things happen at sea, 'que sera, sera', *insert similar meaningless platitudes here* etc.

I'm sure that something even better will come along in due course.  
I'm sure we'll soon sell our house (at least the pressure is now off to accept a ludicrous offer for a quick sale)
I'm reasonably sure that all the stress and worry of the past 5 months won't have any long-lasting side-effects other than an increased propensity for the odd glass (or three) of wine.

I'm also resolutely hopeful that on our house moving journey, we don't have to cross paths with Lampons of Eastbourne ever again..... nil points for effort and consideration on client care lads!