Sunday, 29 March 2020

Called to account.....

Well.... it's taken me ALL DAY, but on the stroke of 5.30pm I finished the annual accounts up to today's date.  So just another week's transactions to go and they'll be finalised.

I have never, in the history of ever, completed the accounts on the final day of the tax year.  I don't think you realise just how momentous this is.

I can hardly believe it myself!

Now I'm going to pour myself a large G+T and sprawl on the sofa for a short while, basking in the unfamiliar sensation of being ahead of the game.

*shuffles off to the kitchen, still shaking head in disbelief*

Saturday, 28 March 2020


Yes, go on.

Say it.

You KNEW I'd start faffing around as soon as I sat down to start the annual accounts.... didn't you?

And you're not wrong.

No sooner had I settled down with the receipts Box of Doom than I suddenly remembered A Very Important Thing that I had to do straight away.
No it couldn't wait.  
Not even for a short while.  
It was really urgent.
I simply had to reorganise the icons on my laptop screen immediately.  I only had enough space for two more and it was obviously critical that I put all else aside to concentrate fully on the impending desktop crisis.

One of these icons was an image that I'd saved a while back as it really resonated with me in a very deep, emotional way.  It spoke to me and initiated a binding connection with my innermost soul.

You want to see it?

I have to admit, I spent longer than strictly necessary, going through the various options, to determine which ones applied to me.

#1 The Cleaner -  tick. Obviously. As is evidenced by my urgent need to clean my laptop desktop.
#2 The Panicker - Hmmm.... not so much.  I rarely have deadlines these days, apart from self-imposed ones, and they're always subject to indefinite extension.
#3 The List Maker - double tick.  I've never happier than when I'm making lists.  Lists are my raison d'etre.  I am a list maker par excellence and my list making skills are legendary.
#4 The Napper - Not really.  Unless I'm poorly.  Small Dog, on the other hand.........
#5 The Sidetracker - triple tick. This way of thinking describes me perfectly.  I really should do something about it.
#6 The Social Sharer - No.  I don't do this.  Except... wait. Is that what I'm doing right now? 
#7 The Internet Researcher - multiple ticks. Although in my defence, the many hours spent on Pinterest are most definitely extremely important and invaluable. *cough*
#8 The Snacker - not so much.  Apart from the odd cup of tea and biscuit during the working day.  Very important to keep hydrated and blood sugar levels elevated for energy.  Plus Small Dog approves.
#9 The Gamer - definitely not.  I hardly ever play games.  Only very occasionally. Wordscapes doesn't count, does it?  
#10 The Watcher - no, I don't watch TV during the working day. Videos? Online videos?  Online videos of dogs and cats doing funny stuff?  *sigh*
#11 The Delegator - definitely not.  Well not very often. And only when PP will do something quicker, better and more efficiently than I will.  Oh, OK. Yes then.  
#12 The Perpetuator - it's a fair cop. 'Banged to rights' is the relevant phrase here. 

Still.... my laptop screen is lovely and tidy.  All the floating files and images have been neatly stored in folders, which I've carefully labelled so that I'll never be able to find them ever again.  
AND the entire process only took a few hours, plus the time to write this.
So plenty of the afternoon still left to get to grips with the accounts.  Which I WILL start straight after I've made a nice cup of tea.  

Thirsty work.... accounts.

Death & Taxes

This weekend, despite the lovely (though chilly) spring-like weather and the fact that tonight we put our clocks forward one hour and thereby gain much lighter evenings, there is a definite air of unreality in even the most mundane tasks.
As we can't go out I'm making a virtue of necessity and spending the weekend doing the annual accounts.  This is unheard of....especially as it's not even the end of the tax year yet. I usually have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the receipts Box of Doom, to sort through all the financial ins and outs of the past year and attempting to batter them into some semblance of order, before doing the thing with the spreadsheets and the tens and units and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth.
All I could muster this morning, when I carried the Box of Doom into the workroom was an apathetic shrug of.... meh.
Even the added poignancy of this probably being the last time I'll ever have to struggle with my most despised business task hasn't raised my flagging spirits.  The best I can hope for is that it will take my mind off things and that I'll have a muted sense of relief when they're finally done and dusted.
Incidentally, I had always believed that the famous 'death and taxes' quote was attributable to Benjamin Franklin but according to Wikipedia it first appeared in The Cobler of Preston by Christopher Bullock in 1716....
’Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes'

In many ways, at the moment, death is a much surer, more imminent threat than taxes ever were.....

I'll let you know how I get on..... *sigh*

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Self-Isolation Sanity Preservation Kits......Number 1

I've started and abandoned several blog posts over the past week, as the situation has been changing so quickly.  Things which seemed unthinkable just a few short weeks ago are now the new normal. Everyone's plans have been thrown into wild disarray and many of us are looking down the wrong end of a spell of self-isolation which could last for far longer than 12 weeks.

Drastic situations call for innovative solutions, and many businesses which can no longer trade normally are looking for different ways of doing things, ourselves included.

I had stopped making toy kits a few months ago, but over the weekend, at the Mini Miniature Show, almost all of my remaining kits, as well as all of the Red Riding Hood travelling toy theatre cart kits were snapped up.  Presumably, with lots of additional time to fill, people are looking for easy-to-make projects which reward them with a lovely miniature at the end.

So, I'm going to raid my extensive back catalogue of kits plus my private collection of vintage games and books to produce a series of inexpensive small kits, which will fit into an A5 envelope, so I don't have to go into to the Post Office.

They won't be available on the website, as they will be very cheap to post and our shipping cart doesn't allow us to fine-tune postage rates for different countries.  So if you want one, just drop me an email and I'll send you a PayPal invoice.  

If you want to you know as when new ones are released,  simply submit your email address in the 'Follow By Email'  box on the right and by the magic of the interweb you'll receive blog updates in your inbox.... I'll mark them Self-Isolation Sanity Preservation Kits so you need only pay attention to the posts which interest you. 

So, the first one is a kit to make 4 different traditional Punch & Judy themed toys as pugnacious Mr Punch seemed a suitably anarchic subject for the current crisis.

The kit includes 2 boxed games, a 3D toy theatre and an illustrated book.

Boxed set of double sided precision cut Punch & Judy characters with illustrated lid

Boxed set of colourful vintage game cards

Precision cut 3D toy theatre

Book with 8 full colour illustrated pages

The kit includes an illustrated instruction booklet and all of the elements to make the minis shown above.
Within the UK the cost of this kit, including P&P is £10.   I'm happy to post worldwide and the cost will depend on where you are but as the kit will fit in a A5 postal envelope the cost of shipping will be much less than sending a standard package.

To order, please contact me with your email address and I'll send you a PayPal invoice.  Also please let me know where you are.  If you need any other information use the contact form and I'll do my best to help.

We're all in this together..... stay safe and well people.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Day 10...... *sigh*

We're now on Day 10 of self-isolation, so almost 2 weeks in, and the reality is starting to bite.  It's not that we're spending all day at home....we mostly do that anyway.  Nor is it that we're seeing no-one except each other.... we mostly do that anyway too.

We've been out a few times for quiet walks with Small Dog, weather permitting. And once to collect a grocery order from Tesco Click&Collect service.  For all the talk of there being enough food to go round our normal weekly shop had only half the items we ordered.  No eggs, potatoes, chicken, tinned tomatoes.... basic staples.

It's Mother's Day today and we won't be seeing any of our children, or little granddaughter.... apart from a video phone call earlier.

The news reports are alarming.  Outside our small sanctuary bubble, the infection rate is rising steeply, and the death toll is mounting.  The same things are happening around the world.

My hands are like sandpaper, from constant washing and sanitising, and I'm starting to get mouth ulcers... a sure sign of stress.  It's impossible not to be worried and anxious... about ourselves, about family and friends.....

Yesterday evening we set ourselves the challenge of having a 10-minute conversation without mentioning Coronavirus, or its effects.  Despite several tries, we found it was impossible, as no matter what the topic, inevitably we were led back to the current situation.

We have a cruise holiday booked for September, which is unlikely to go ahead, and even if it does, we're 99% sure we won't go.  The recent dreadful results of hundreds of people being confined to their cabins on what were effectively 'plague ships' have limited appeal.

In any case, being away from home seems a Very Bad Idea.

So this is our new 'normal'.  Staying home and trying to stay well.

Of course it's not all bad.  With no distractions I'm able to get on with work.  
As the weather warms up over the next few weeks we're planning to sort out the garden and do some stuff we didn't get round to last year.
Small jobs around the house, which have been outstanding for ages, will now get done.

Looking out of the window on this lovely, sunny early spring day, it's hard to believe that we're on the cusp of such a serious global health crisis, although the lack of traffic and people walking by is definitely noticeable.  In the months ahead, it's impossible to gauge what the situation will be like as we're in such uncharted territory.

Will we eventually emerge into a brave, new world?  Who knows.... I just hope we're still here to see it. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

March Mini Miniature Show.... now live!

The March Mini Miniature Show is now open for business and our dealer page can be found HERE!

The perfect antidote to self-isolation.... please feel free to browse ours and the other artisan maker's pages 😊


Monday, 16 March 2020

Postal update.....

Lots of companies who send items by post are now putting out information on how their deliveries are likely to be affected by the Coronavirus outbreak.

At present, as we're effectively self-isolating, I'm reluctant to go and  stand in any queue, let alone the one at our nearest Post Office, which even at the best of times is l-o-n-g and slow-moving.

So, from today, we are only taking orders for items which can be packaged in a flat(ish) box which we can drop off at our local parcel-drop postbox.  Fortunately, this includes ALL of our kits as well as dressed toy dolls as they will easily fit into the required size of box.

For the time being, my Downsizing Sale has been put on hold, as many of the items are bulkier and also require an insured mail service, for both of which I must visit the Post Office.  If you've already had your eye on something, and are happy to wait, just let me know and I'll put it aside for you.

Otherwise it's business more or less as usual. 

However, as the situation worsens, I expect that a lot of small business, like ours, will be hit hard. In uncertain times, people tighten their belts and their purses, and it's likely that when the crisis is over, the business landscape will have changed.

Fellow miniature artisans will already have been working for months towards exhibiting at Miniatura, which has been cancelled, and KDF, which has been postponed for several months.  For many, those fairs represent a significant percentage of their annual earnings.

Granted, most of us have alternative selling platforms... our own websites, Etsy shops and the like, but with potential disruption to postal and delivery services, those avenues may become unreliable, or even close down completely for a time.

As self-employed individuals, none of the measures announced in the recent Budget will help us.  We won't get sick pay or any of the financial relief which larger businesses will qualify for.  Many hundreds of thousands of self-employed people are in the same boat which I fervently hope isn't named Titanic! 

In the meantime though, we will carry on while we can.... self-isolating is a perfect opportunity for me to create new dolls and complete languishing projects.  I might even get that book finished... who knows.  Let's hope it's not published posthumously!!!!!

Stay safe and well and keep on washing your hands! 

Sunday, 15 March 2020

What big ears you have......!

With events and miniature shows being cancelled and postponed around the globe, including the world famous Miniatura at the NEC here in the UK, which was due to take place this coming weekend, you can still visit an artisan only online show from the comfort and safety of your own home.

I'll wager that there aren't many miniaturists who won't have plenty to keep them occupied if you're having to self-isolate over the coming weeks... time to dust of all those languishing mini projects and kits and set to work (or should that be 'play'!)

The March Mini Miniature Show will take place from Wednesday 18th (for EarlyBird shoppers) through till Sunday 22nd.

I've been a dealer at every March show since the beginning, but this one will very likely be my last, so I've put together a few very special kits and offers, both on the show site and our Tower House Dolls website, for the duration of the show.

Here's a sneak preview of two of the kits available only at the show.....
Several years ago I produced just five of these deluxe Red Riding Hood-themed travelling toy theatre carts......

Red Riding Hood Travelling Theatre Cart

The laser cut cart is made of wood, lavishly decorated with vintage illustrations both inside and out.

Two doors open to reveal the interior, with panelled walls and wooden floor.

The kit comes complete with a full cast of precision cut characters, including several variations of Red Riding Hood and the wolf.  Movable scenery adds a 3-dimensional effect. Scenery and characters have clever magnetic bases so that they can easily be moved around but will stay in place without falling over!

Red Riding Hood's mother talks to the woodcutter

"Walk with me....."

Grandmother's cottage.... enter the wolf!

"Oh Grandmama... what big teeth you have!"


Externally, the cart is decorated with vintage illustrations on all sides.....

The roof is removable to allow easy access to the interior

 Last but by no means least, the cart is pulled along by a remarkably amenable wolf! 

He wears a lavishly decorated leather saddle and jewelled harness, while around his neck hangs a little golden bell on a silk ribbon.

"What big ears you have.....!"
I have made just five of these kits specially for the show.

Also available only at the show, a new Little Red Riding Hood toy doll kit..... 

She is dressed in a pretty gingham dress with trademark red silk hooded cape.  She comes complete with tiny basket containing a bottle of wine and sweet bread for her ailing grandmother, plus a miniature reproduction of a vintage book from my own private collection, as well as a box with illustrated lid.

Basket of goodies for grandmother

Tiny illustrated 10 page book

My original vintage book

Special offers on the website will go live when the show opens.... I'll post a link here when that happens.

Stay safe and keep making miniatures 😊

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Covid-19 Update......

With businesses being forced to close, either through staff having to self-isolate, or due to low footfall as people avoid public spaces, we here at Tower House Dolls have been implementing stringent measures to ensure the smooth running of our operation during the unfolding health crisis.

Thankfully, none of us are exhibiting symptoms, thanks to copious amounts of hand-washing and frequent applications of homemade sanitiser, which are ensuring that the virus is not present in the working environment. That and hardly setting foot out the door.

During the working day, staff are self-isolating, myself in the workroom and PP in the office.  The Dress Down Friday protocol has been extended to the other days of the week, although vigilance is being maintained to ensure that we don't slip further, as I fear that it is only a matter of time till we're all rocking up to work in our pyjamas, abandoning all semblance of civilised work apparel.

Small Dog has been recalled from retirement in order to access her wealth of experience in 'Markitten & Komewnikashun', and is firmly in favour of the newly implemented policy of more frequent, enhanced tea breaks with additional biscuits in order to keep energy levels high and maintain hydration.
It was during one of these tea breaks that she came up with the excellent idea of a pot luck offer on toy doll kits to help alleviate the boredom of fellow miniaturists who are self-isolating, and help while away the long hours.

Having offered this flash of insight, she immediately resumed her nap, which she had reluctantly abandoned in order to scoff half a biscuit.

This offer is now available on the website HERE, should you wish to take advantage of the 18% savings on a pair of pot luck toy doll kits.

Keep washing your hands and stay safe and well.

Best wishes from all at Tower House Dolls
(Small Dog sends a lick.... she claims they're antibacterial)

Friday, 13 March 2020

The Day After Tomorrow.....

You know those low-budget apocalyptic horror films, where something awful threatens the planet and the whole of humanity, but a few plucky survivors are saved at the last minute, to go on and re-populate the earth and rebuild society?

That's us that is.

As we plunge ever deeper into plague conditions and the wheels of globalisation begin to grind to a halt, there is a troubling lack of community cohesion.

After almost 4 years of Brexit-supporting leavers trumpetting that we can survive perfectly well on bread and gruel, it took only a few days from the Coronavirus hitting our shores for them to be clearing supermarket shelves of toilet paper and panic buying gallons of hand sanitiser, pushing up prices so that gram for gram it's on parity with solid gold.

Not to mention the bullish "I'm all right Jack" attitude which accompanies such madness.  While other countries are banning mass gatherings and sporting events, the Cheltenham Festival took place this week, with tens of thousands of people crammed into stands to watch the races.  I listened to one racegoer being interviewed for the radio news, being asked if he was concerned about the spread of the virus.....

"Nah mate.  I reckon if I get it I'll be fine so I'm not worried....."

Well.... bully for you mate (although young, fit people can absolutely get really ill and die, but don't let the facts get in the way of a good strategy) but what about when you visit your elderly mother later, or your uncle who has just had chemotherapy treatment? What if by your staggeringly selfish arrogance you inadvertently infect them?

I've been ill three times since January.  My latest lurgy was a common cold, which had me laid up in bed for two days and is taking me weeks to recover from.  Since having MS I am definitely more susceptible to illnesses and infections which wouldn't have troubled me at all before.  I get much sicker, for much longer, and it takes me ages to recover.  
When I'm ill with anything I tend to self-isolate, partly to avoid burdening my struggling immune system further, partly to protect anyone else in the family from getting ill too.  It seems like common sense to me.

The West as a whole has been relatively slow to respond to the unfolding threat, but countries are finally putting measures in place to try to protect their populace..... closing schools, banning mass gatherings, implementing travel bans, and even, as in Italy, putting the entire country on lockdown.

The UK stands alone in not implementing ANY of the measures above, as though somehow our famed blitz spirit will see us through the coming days and weeks.  

A few weeks ago, our PM, Boris Johnson, mused that the virus should be allowed to move through the population, eventually creating herd immunity.  However that potential immunity would be at the cost of tens of thousands of deaths, mostly of older people.

Now.  Call me an old cynic, but that seems like a powerful form of 'age cleansing'.... removing those most dependent on the NHS and social services, reducing the government's State Pension costs at a stroke.  He has actually said that "many loved ones will be lost, before their time".  

Reassuring or what?

So, PP, SD and I are hunkering down for the duration.  We are limiting shopping trips and keeping our distance from fellow shoppers.  Ever inventive, PP has actually made us some hand sanitiser, using the Isopropyl Alchohol I bought to clean the dining room chandelier a while back.  It's 99.9% alcohol so should kill just about everything.  
We already work from home so no change there.

However, when the situation inevitably worsens, I'm seriously considering getting one of these...

.........that would definitely clear me a space in the queue in Tesco.