Sunday, 26 February 2017

A very modern view of Victoriana.....

At Christmas we had a peek into the Victorian world of the Walmer dollshouse.   Now it is time to take a look at that same era in a very different sort of house.

Our family has been collecting Playmobil, aka Playpeople, more or less since it appeared on the market in the mid-1970s.   We first met it in Germany and started off with the knights and Native Americans - and really we have never stopped collecting it.

We ended, some forty years on, with a whole town layout which occupied the spare room in our previous house.   This is now all sadly packed away, waiting for the next generation of children in the family to enjoy it as my children and grandchildren have done.

But there is still one item on display and that is the Playmobil Victorian House which my granddaughter has kindly allowed Small Worlds to borrow on a long loan.  

Each house in Small Worlds has a detailed description next to it in both English.....

.....and of course Czech - my thanks to Jana in Prague for her flawless translations.

The house has already made a brief appearance in a post about the Town Room three years ago but now that it is in Small Worlds I thought it deserved a little more attention.

Despite being the only house in the museum made entirely of plastic it has fitted in beautifully.  The detail is both astonishing and delightful.

On the front steps we have Mr and Mrs Bellamy arriving home from a shopping expedition...

....whilst on the balcony above their heads the resident peacock spreads his wings in the sunshine.
Nanny is making sure that the Bellamy baby is also getting his fair share of Vitamin D on the other balcony.
Meanwhile, on the somewhat inaccessible roof garden, Mr Cook the Gardener is tending his roses.   
We are not quite sure who the blonde female is - she stops by periodically to receive a red rose from him.

Inside there are 8 rooms including a conservatory.

At the top of the house is the nursery - in tune with the Victorian belief that the children should be kept as far away as possible from Papa, in order not to disturb him.   But this suits Ellie and Georgie very well since they have no more wish to be disturbed by him than vice versa.

Clearly, however, no one is very worried about disturbing Grandpapa since he is on the floor immediately below the children.  

He does not complain though - he is just very happy that he has the bathroom right next door to him!

Mr and Mrs Bellamy's bedroom is below Grandpapa's - they can often hear him snoring, in chorus with his beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog.

Rather unusually, the laundry, staffed by the cheerful Daisy, is right next to the master bedroom.  

Handy for gathering up the sheets and towels for the weekly wash.

In any Victorian household, one of the most important rooms is, of course, the kitchen so we have a number of pictures of it.

Cook is very busy at the stove undisturbed by the presence of her children...

...the red-haired Jill....
...and little Jack.   The Bellamys are kind employers and allow the children to visit Cook frequently. 
And finally we have the elegant drawing room with Molly the maid ready to serve the Bellamys their afternoon tea as soon as they shed their coats.

The Walmer house stands directly opposite this one - I wonder whether sometimes, at dead of night, the two Victorian families visit each other?   I do hope so.....

Butterfly and I are heading to Small Worlds and the Stables at the end of March where we intend to play to our hearts' content.   

We will be joined for some of the time by Andrea Small.  Those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning will know that she has been one of the most faithful commentators, continually coming up with challenging ideas, some of which I have attempted to realise.  This will be her first visit to Small Worlds, and I am both much looking forward to welcoming her there, whilst at the same time dreading what further challenges her fertile imagination may produce.....

Watch this space to find out in the months to come! 

Thank you for following and see you soon.

Monday, 23 January 2017

I am so excited!!!

It was my birthday this week - a half-round one as the Czechs say - and I had some simply wonderful presents.   But one in particular I cannot wait to share with you all.  And I don't even have to write a whole blogpost to do it since its creator has done it for me!

Before Small Worlds opened in 2013 I was lucky enough to find a haul of dolls houses in Essex, of which this was one.   Since then it has been standing on the windowsill in the museum, with the upstairs almost empty, a semi-furnished kitchen, and in the other downstairs room, the beginnings of a dolls house maker's workshop.

After my daughter-in-law Laura's successes with jewellery and corsets - all to be found in Gosthwaite's Department Store, though sadly there is no photo of the corsets in situ - I mentioned the need for a supply of dolls houses for this workshop.   

One very good reason for enlisting her help on this project was that she had already given me a delightful little room box with a similar theme, which is probably what gave me the idea of a bigger workshop. 


Empty now!
I was a little taken aback yesterday, almost at the end of the present opening session, to be handed a plastic cauldron brimming with red and silver tissue paper wrapped parcels, all neatly labelled and numbered, coupled with the instruction to open them over a tray....

I soon saw why, and if you go straight to Laura's blog you too can read all about it and admire the delights that I unwrapped.

Thank you so much Laura - I can't believe how lucky I am to be surrounded by such talented family and friends, so many of you willing to have a go at whatever I suggest might be possible - even if you had had no idea that you might have miniature skills at your finger-tips!

I had intended to end with a photo of the contents of the cauldron, beautifully set out in their temporary home here in England.   I have decided, however, to hold it over till the next blogpost because I think some of you might see the photo before reading Laura's blog and that would spoil the delightful suspense!

So watch this space.....

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Here Comes Advent - Week Four

These past four weeks have sped by!   Time for the last Advent post and then we have a whole week until Christmas itself.  

As I mentioned at the end of the last post, Christmas is all about tradition so when we sneak a look at what is happening in the big Walmer Victorian house, things do not in fact change too much from year to year.

But perhaps this year we are looking from a slightly different time perspective ....

The preparations on Christmas Eve are of course all-important.

In the dining room, Kitty is polishing the table..... 

...the silverware is ready for cleaning......

..and in the kitchen Cook is refreshing her memory of the family's favourite trifle.

In the school-room, a last minute practice is going on to make sure the carol accompaniment is perfect.  Someone will have to move that desk!

Charlotte is busy tidying the nursery - she is feeling slightly guilty because this year she is to be promoted from nursery tea.

The stockings are hanging in place on the drawing room mantelpiece.... 

...and in Baby's room, Nanny has made sure that he too has a stocking.   She has freshly washed his very best garment, crocheted by the family's friend, Mrs Randall.....

Time shift to Christmas Day and things are well under way in the kitchen - Mrs Davies the housekeeper has joined the rest of the staff for a well-earned cup of tea and a mince pie fresh out of the oven - it's not often that one sees her out of her room! She is clearly still having a problem choosing the tablecloth for the servants' Christmas feast......

The tree is safely up in the schoolroom and the presents are tucked underneath, ready for distribution a little later in the day.....

And then everything happens at once....nursery tea upstairs, complete with tree and crackers, a Christmas pudding, bravely borne up many flights of stairs by the faithful Miss Tilbury, and gingerbread men..... 
But where are Charlotte and Oliver?   Is it possible that they have both been promoted to dining on this auspicious occasion with the grown-ups of the family?

And yes indeed, that is precisely where they are.....

They have been waiting for this moment for years and are eagerly looking forward to plying the nutcrackers and pulling the crackers as soon as that mound of sprouts is out of the way! 

And outside, next to the chestnut seller, rather fewer carol singers  than in previous years are gearing up for their rendering of the inevitable song - not forgetting to put the heavy stress on every time the word "wish" appears!

Or as Scrooge puts it in A Christmas Carol  
" A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world!"

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Here comes Advent - Week Three

Just before greeting the Third Sunday in Advent, a little photo hark-back to last week's post.   Yesterday there was a Christmas market in Bavorov and I have just received some photos of the tiny Christmas village in situ in Small Worlds which I should like to share with you....

Sadly the train is still bound for nowhere.....

And now for the Third Sunday.  Just before I leave the Czech Republic each year my final task in Small Worlds is to prepare it - in a small way of course - for Christmas.   This can be quite hard to do in September.....

For the past two years I have left a "Christmas Card" in the window, to be revealed at the beginning of Advent, and my plan is that this should be a permanent tradition.   So the very first thing I did in my new work rooms, The Stables, was to create this year's card.

The inspiration for the card came from a single angel who emerged from among the miniature decorations.   As soon as I saw her I thought she was crying out for a shop called "At the Sign of the Angel"....

So I set about finding something for the shop to sell.   And what better at this time of the year than Christmas trees and all that is needed to decorate them?   I knew that I would be able to locate all the Christmas stuff with ease now that The Stables is in operation.

There has been a fairly grotty kit-shop knocking around for about thirty years.  I used it a few times for a Christmas scene, at one point adding the base of a date box to serve as a path for some carol singers.  

I tried to lever off the date box so that the shop would stand flat on the polystyrene snow but whatever glue I had used all those years ago proved intractable and I was instead left cutting a suitable hole in the polystyrene sheet to accommodate it.... 

The shop had suffered some damage in the garage when weedkiller leaked onto it so I had to wallpaper the inside.   

A horrid job because it is full of angles and I am spatially challenged - and fairly useless at wallpapering, particularly if I am using some ancient and much creased Christmas paper, also about thirty years old.  Still, the plan was that most of the wallpaper would be hidden from view by the shop contents so I wasn't too bothered by the poor results.

I needed some shelves to hold display items; an old cigar box dresser served for one set of shelves; for the other I removed the ugly wooden items from a rather nice Christmas tree shelf unit and glued it to the back wall, behind the counter. 

Filling the shelves was easy - there were more than enough tiny ornaments around including one bear made by daughter-in-law Laura, she of the jewellery and corsets in Gosthwaites Department Store. 

The two little bears at the top are among the last left of many made by Butterfly as relaxation after she had finished a set of public exams.   Some of the others found their way into a Teddy Bears Picnic (who remembers this?) Butterfly and I made years ago for another skilled maker - Lynda of the liquorice allsorts and teeny ballet shoes

And since this is a shop selling not only decorations, but Christmas trees themselves, I dug out as many of these as I could find, and pots to suit. 

The trees would eventually find a home on the cigar box dresser. But first some of them needed dressing themselves.   Suffice it to say that it was a very fiddly, sticky job!

Some more ancient items were dismembered and put to fresh use - this was a very satisfying project in terms of reusing objects that had been around a long time.



No shop selling Christmas decorations is complete without a nativity scene.   My tiny scene has appeared on the blog before, in 2013, but here it has much more room to spread out.

The sheep are part of a very fortuitous gift from Ruth Allen, who wrote the enticing text for the museum flyers.  She presented me with several boxes of model railway layout materials including a multitude of animals .....

What have we here I wonder?
Aha, so that's what they are!
As I set up the nativity scene I thought what a pity it was that there was no donkey in that horde of beasts and lo, what should appear on the thought but one single, solitary donkey!   

Not much else to do now, other than to source two signs, one in Czech and one in English, advertising the sale of freshly cut trees, and two more signs wishing everyone a Happy Christmas.

Then came the fun part of putting it all together.   I leave you with a few close ups and the final result, together with my very best wishes for a peaceful and joyous Christmas.

I hope you have enjoyed preparing my Christmas card along with me.   Next Sunday is the last in Advent, time to light the fourth candle on the wreath and take a peek at what is going on in the Walmer Victorian house this year.   Christmas is all about tradition so it may not be so very different from before - or will it?   Come and join me next Sunday to find out.....