Haberdasher’s House as it arrived.

Hello! Grandpa Roland here.

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Now, I know you might think it a little silly that I am standing in what looks like a giant’s house, but it is now part of Jean’s and my portfolio of property. You see, we don’t need to buy houses for ourselves or to make lots of money. We buy with a range of tenants, who quickly become friends, in mind.

Scale is not always important. We are more interested in whether we can make a nice home for someone else and keep the rent low enough for those who really need a place to lay their heads. We have been luckier in life than we expected and retired with a house of our own and a small nest egg, which we used to buy two cheap but rundown cottages to repair and sell on. That gave us the funds to buy, let out and use the rent to buy again. It means we don’t need to make a profit, just take in a little rent in order to buy our next house and give another person a home they will like. It is a wonderful and rewarding hobby.

I believe the JB let you into the story of how new tenants/friends have just arrived at Haberdasher House in the last post here? See the post below, if you haven’t heard the news of their arrival. We’re leaving them to think for a while about what they would like the JB to do to the general layout. They might as well make the decisions for themselves as they needed to move in straight away, before we could do anything to the place.

Here are some photos I took of it as soon as we took possession.

P1030951The exterior render needs a little work and, as it is no longer a haberdasher’s shop, the signs need to come down. There are quite a few tiles missing too.

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Jean and I really like the dimensions of the entrance hall and that sturdy banister is a bonus – so often the stairs and banisters in old buildings are a little suspect. But the decor is not to our taste at all. It is rather more suited to a pub or a small theatre with delusions of grandeur, don’t you think?

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This was the shop area. We are sure it could be put to good use as a large living space now, but will discuss that with Alice and Arthur so they can help in the decision making. I looked up information about Tudor buildings at the Mayhem library and discovered that the blacking of beams and doors and insistence on white was very much a Victorian fantasy. Though lime wash was used in earlier times, much of it was tinted with natural pigments to bring a little colour into homes and the same was true for paint house exteriors between the mainly natural wood coloured beams. Beams inside and out were left as natural wood which would looked bleached outside and become ingrained with smoke on the inside, but Victorian people who bought one as a country retreat tended to blacken them with paint as they thought it better than them looking rough and ready. Something to be considered there, maybe plain wood would look lighter? And a little colour to the plaster would be nice.

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The sitting room is at the top of the red staircase. It is a light room with windows to the back and the front. It will look very cheery with nice curtains and Jean thinks a change of wallpaper might be in order. Perhaps Arthur and Alice might decide what they would like?

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Now, I do like this kitchen. It brings back memories of my old Granny C cooking and baking on her own open fire range with the side ovens, many years ago. Apparently, Alice is very used to this type of cookery too and even prefers it to an electric or gas stove. The only fault with the kitchen is that it is rather small for any socializing, or even to hold a proper table. But Alice may prefer that. We must consult her.

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Of course, it is the stairs leading up to the bedrooms on the top floor that take up space and make the usable kitchen space seem so small. That’s one of the minor drawbacks of a very old house, I suppose, stairs in strange places!

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And finally, the attic bedrooms. It could be lovely sleeping under the eaves, but there is a lot of work to do to make these rooms comfortable. They seem to have been very neglected. Perhaps the previous tenant slept in the sitting room and used this for storage? It’s hard to tell, but we intend to give Alice and Arthur a proper home with a real bedroom.

Well, I’ll be off back to spend the evening with my lovely Jean. Bye for now!
Roland xx

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Dear Alice and Arthur

found love in their later years.

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Over a lifetime in service as a cook and a gardener, they had often passed a pleasant few minutes together, having a cup of tea and a slice of cake when Arthur dropped off the vegetables for the dinner Alice would be cooking for their employers. However, neither realised that their deep affection was reciprocated, each believing that the other thought they were just good friends.

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On the day that Alice was retiring, Arthur felt desperate enough to overcome his natural reticence and declared how much he would miss her, adding in a low mumble that his feelings went far beyond everyday friendship. As he turned away, ready to slink off, sure he had ‘overstepped the mark,’ Alice threw her floral pinny over her head and began to sob. To this day, she can’t work out whether that was due to relief that her love for Arthur was returned, or because she had been foolish enough to come so close to leaving her home of 50 years and losing him, all on the same day!
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Now, after three happy years together in temporary accommodation, they have been offered the old haberdasher’s shop in Mayhem Village. It has been decades since it was run as a business. Grandma Jean and Grandpa Roland bought it some years ago, but all potential residents proved to be too tiny to reach the door handles. They are now relieved to have found exactly the right people to move in and plan to have the Jobbing Builder convert it from shop to dwelling for them.

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Within six hours of the offer being made, Alice and Arthur have moved their few pieces of furniture into the upstairs sitting room of Haberdasher’s House.
‘We must write to dear Mr. and Mrs. Britton to let them know how wonderfully the beautiful chairs they made for us fit in here!’ exclaims Alice.

‘And to tell them of our good fortune too,’ says Arthur. ‘I never imagined I would move on from a lonely, bachelor life in a potting shed and become the husband of a beautiful lady like you, Alice dear. To have a home, a real home of our own to share and even to be able to have a hand in helping to plan the changes to it ourselves, is like the icing on one of your very special cakes!’

‘Which reminds me – the shop……’ he continues,

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‘I think we should ask the JB to convert it into a large kitchen.

The little one on this floor is very nice,’

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‘but somewhere for you to put your many talents to work is best on the ground floor. That way, I can bring in the fruit and veg from the garden I will create – not to mention the bouquets you deserve – right to the kitchen without the risk spoiling the stair carpets. I can’t imagine a better use for such a large space than a proper kitchen for a professional cook, such as yourself.’
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Tired from their journey and the general excitement of the day, they lean back in their comfortable chairs and dream of the long and happy hours in kitchen and garden that they hope to spend together over the coming years .

 

 

 

The Why And Wherefore Of Miniatures In Our lives.

Of course, the little residents of Mayhem Village have the only answer they need to the question I am putting to myself. In their view, the reason that large folk get involved in the world of miniatures is to serve them. Or, at the very least, to help them out with furniture shifting and installation.

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But WHY do we choose to do this? What are the reasons behind taking up the hobby in the first place? What is the fascination of the small? After all, most miniatures have limited, or even no practical use to our lives, life wouldn’t stop if all the dolls’ houses and their contents disappeared from the world.

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I’ve heard a variety of reasons for individuals having taken up the hobby. A few have been:
~ I remember happy hours of play as a child

~ I wanted, but never had one as a child

~ I love history and like to make my house look like a time capsule

~I’m an architect/interested in architecture

I’d have been a furniture maker if I’d been born before everything was machine made

~I don’t have room/money for real antique furniture

~My house is a real mess, so it’s nice to have a little house that’s always tidy

All are valid reasons and there are probably many more. I suspect most who enjoy miniature houses actually do so for a mixture of reasons. But my favourite two have to be:
1) That of one of a group of tough-looking mid-teens on a school trip to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London about 20 years ago.

They were blocking the view of a house there and, being unaware of me standing close enough to hear, they were discussing scale inaccuracies, the skill of those who made the furniture, the possible cost of making the house and a host of other things that showed they were truly interested in the production of the house and contents.
Along came their nervous looking teacher who berated them for falling behind the rest of his class, totally oblivious of, or perhaps totally disinterested in the fact that they were fascinated.
One of the lads asked why the houses were there. In his opinion, ‘They ain’t toys for kids. They’re art, innit?’
The teacher sneered at him, told him he was ridiculous, that the houses were just toys for girls of a long time ago and the group was stopping others including himself from enjoying lunch.
As he left, the youth said to his friend that he was going to learn how to make a house and tiny furniture and, even he didn’t want to do it for himself, he’d do it ‘just to p*** off Old Death Ray Eyes.’
Later, in the museum shop, he and a friend queued behind my much younger class, waiting to buy postcards showing photos of some of the houses. I hope he got to make his own!

 

2) That of my two year old grandson.

This morning he told me that ‘ nice big peoples has a little house’ and that the one below is ‘the likist one,’ which probably means the one he likes best.

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So, I feel assured that the best reasons in the world to have a dolls’ house to furnish are:

-to make potential residents happy – there are so many homeless small people…..

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~ because you want to and are not going to be put off, or put down by someone who has no imagination and thinks s/he is superior to you

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~ because the dolls’ house/miniaturist community is filled with nice peoples, both big and small.

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Hopes And Dreams Of Better Times!

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What is showing at Mayhem Village Cinema this week?

Once a month, the residents of Mayhem Village have the opportunity to go to their little cinema to watch uplifting films and slideshows about assorted aspects of country and village life. Of course, being almost homeless since the Great Wall Fall Earthquake, anything about possible future housing development is of great interest to them, as is dreaming as they view the many historic and modern houses at their favourite property advisors’ site, shown above.

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Audiences are small at any one sitting.

The cinema being tiny, there are several screenings throughout the day, allowing as many villagers who wish to go to be fitted in. You have to admire the older folk in particular, as the seating is somewhat hard and very low to the ground for those prone to unraveling leg disease. But a sociable air and a change of scene from four cardboard walls is not to be missed!

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The short, opening film is about the advantages to a village community of a shared vegetable garden.

Retired Dr. Label, in the centre of the audience, is especially interested in this.
‘Just imagine,’ he calls out, ‘The health benefits to us all of starting such a project!’

Young Jonathan wonders if a 9 year old could retire from school, if he took up full time gardening. He makes a mental note to contact a certain professional gardener he knows to ask about apprenticeship.

In the interval,  there is a short news flash. It seems it is entirely possible that the resident of the house that flashed up on the screen, known only as The Jobbing Builder, was negligent in taking out insurance with a company that failed to insure and this is the cause of so many Mayhem residents now living in Shoe Box Lane cardboard prefabs.

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As a photo of her house before the Falling Wall Earthquake is shown, the Grecons give their varied opinions to one another. During a minute or so, there are loud comments ranging from,

‘Compensate us!

Through, ‘Tutt, tutt’ and ‘Shame on her!’

And one or two mutterings of, ‘It wasn’t her fault!’

Meanwhile, there is a shifty scuffling noise at the back and the shadow of a large person is seen creeping out of the cinema.

Finally, the moment all have been waiting for arrives. The feature film about housing that may become available to them in future begins.

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The audience settles again and stares in wonder at the screen.

The images are not perfect but, oh, the rising of hope across the entire group! They had all but forgotten what solid walls and real, if somewhat grubby curtains might mean to them. Could they ever, they wonder, live in such luxury? Will much loved, but long gone furniture soon be replaced and installed in private rooms with rugs on the floor and pictures on the wall?

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Oh, the wonder of real wallpaper!

Some discussion begins as to just who the venerable white locks visible on the sofa in this part furnished room might belong to. Usually chatty, Grandpa Lonely, who is quite lively now he is no longer living alone and without friends, is suddenly strangely quiet!

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There are interesting little snippets of historical information to read and watch…

….some of which were discovered under houses in Dolly Mixture Lane after the great earthquake.

 

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But, of course,

it is the photos of houses and potential new neighbours that draws the most enthusiasm.

Finally, clicker in hand, granny Jamaica Patty Brixton stood…..

and gave a short slide show about the plight of some poor Ari children. So often mistaken for erasers, they are frequently found, imprisoned since the 50s or 60s by humungus beans in their pencil boxes. Social workers like Gretchen (pictured) are working year round to rescue them.

No matter our cardboard living conditions, we are still better off than these poor wee souls, she reminds the audience as they put their hands in their pockets and offer up what they have for this charitable rescue work.

A thoughtful, hopeful little band of Grecons followed Jamaica as she walked out into the foyer and then wend their way back to Shoe Box Lane.

A Message From Grandma Jean.

Hello!

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Mrs. Jean Crawshaw here.

I think I just might be the sane one in this little group of bloggers. Not that my hubby doesn’t mean well, and the JB can’t help the way she is. After all her building firm is called Bash, Bodger & Broke-Itt, so I suppose she is just living up to the family business name. None the less, someone has to keep calm and hope things will carry on, don’t you think?

With that in mind, I have made the decision. I have to take up the mantle of works organizer. I fear that some of you may have read a post in our old blog, which showed me having a slight meltdown over our living conditions. (Having to use a POTTY at my age, really did get to me at first!). But, after a holiday cruise, with proper sanitary facilities, I am now well on the road to recovery.

The hosting platform people decided to delete our old blog and I’m not sorry to put that disgraceful little episode of my screaming-ab-dabs out of the public domain. My days of deep depression at having to live in Shoe Box Lane after the falling of the human bean great wall caused an earthquake in Dolly Mixture Lane, have passed. I am quite happy to live in a small, cardboard dwelling for a while longer, if I have something important to focus on…..

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…..and that focus is to be the future housing and current medical needs of a growing band of elderly and widowed Grecon refugees and one or two other needy tenants. There are strangely few younger men or children in their ranks.

Though of a similar age, I have not had quite such hard times as some of the older ones, so will be doing all I can to help the less fortunate overcome some difficult experiences. Oh dear, does that sound patronising? I hope not. Some of them do need help and may need more when they have their ailments seen to. Funny how often Grecons suffer from falling feet and saggy legs, isn’t it? However, many still get around, even if they do have to slide down the stairs.

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I have a dream ( did somebody say that somewhere before?) that Mayhem Village will be a place of sanctuary where the oppressed of the Grecon community can live out their days in peace, surrounded by nice neighbours  …. If Roland and the JB get on with things….and Roland settles down and accepts he is no longer an enthusiastic cub scout ….which is unlikely, but……Well, I DID say it was a dream!

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Perhaps with my new friend, Alice Spell-Maker, my wish may just come true. She is the wise woman of Mayhem Village and is a whizz with curative herbs. I wonder if she could brew up something to calm dear Roland down? Just a fraction. I wouldn’t want to change him much, but a few less accidents and incidents would make for a more peaceful life.

Oh, NO!!! Now what is he up to?

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Roland! You KNOW what the judge said when you ran over….. ROLAND! Steer straight! Mind the…..

I better go and make a cheese toasty, food smells are the only thing likely to get him down from that machine. If he gets the idea of farming firmly fixed in his head, we may have pigs and cows instead of nice mannered Grecon people living alongside us.

Bye bye for now,

Grandma Jean.

This may take a while…..

Good Morning!~

It is a fact of life in Dolly Mixture Lane, that we only have one jobbing builder and a host of building projects in mind. Not only is the builder a lone worker of (let me whisper here) limited skill, she is also our banker with a similar, disorganised approach to paperwork when we attempt to take out a mortgage for our next house purchase, take out furnishing loans etc. So things can take a while to begin round here, let alone come to fruition.

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As you see, sometimes I must take matters into my own hands and break in to a house I propose we should renovate, the banker being slow to provide the means to purchase equipment and materials.

My dear wife Jean says I am a Menace To Society as I am always rushing into projects, but the Jobbing Builder (henceforth known just as JB) is the true menace in what must be either her slow, cautious nature or her downright laziness. I believe it to be the latter. But whichever project she finally decides to work on first must begin withing days, or I will abandon my role as her chief  assistant. And no, that will not be to her benefit, no matter what she and Jean may think.

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This one has been in my portfolio of properties for longer than I care to remember, but does the JB turn up to work on it? Well, not often enough! We have some wonderful Grecons waiting to sign the lease, but nothing hurries the JB. Look! There are even squatters hiding on the balcony now.

Please be patient. The JB says she has had internet problems…..not sure I believe it, but I can’t prove otherwise.

Your enthusiastic friend,
Roland Crawshaw, a.k.a. Grandpa.

 

Chaos Reigns In Our House(s)!

Since childhood, I have had a love of anything small, the tinier the better. I grew up in an era when children were not automatically assumed to be silly enough to eat their toys or push them up their noses and tiny things were deemed most suitable for little hands. By the age of a little over four, children had to learn to handle fiddly items, do up their shoe laces and buckles, manage tiny buttons, to treat books and other items with respect and eat independently. Those who couldn’t were sent home from school until they could. What better way to learn all this than by using small toys?

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Our Triang 61- a recent addition to the collection.

My passion was my little 1:16 dolls’ house (not the on above, but about the same size). It was made by my father under strict design instructions from Father Christmas. It had proper glass mirrors on the dressing tables, pictures glazed with…well…. glass. Nobody assumed I would pull it off the table and crush myself. Nor did anyone think I would open a vein on the glass parts, jump on the roof and break it, smash up the wooden furniture,  or rip the soft furnishings on the tiny chairs and beds. British children of around 3 years old were trusted to look after their toys in the 1950s, and we did. Anyway, as toys came only for Christmas and birthdays, even those children from wealthier families than mine learned early that a broken toy was gone for good, no replacement was likely to be offered. Sadly, my first little house was given away when I was at school one day. Well over fifty years later, my parents are still not quite forgiven!

When something is valued in childhood, as my friends and I valued our dolls’ houses, it becomes imbued with special meaning and memories. Inevitably, as the years pass other things take over, but the memories stay. In my case, those memories remained fresh in my mind and the world of miniatures has reeled me in again in what some of my friends laughably call my second childhood. Well, the joke is on them as, what they don’t know is that I have only had one childhood, it just happens to have lasted for over 60 years.

What I lacked until recently was time. Then increasing disability brought retirement slightly early and with that came “just one” dolls’ house, which quickly became several more, mostly of the cheaper, vintage variety. But there followed the simple pleasure of  beginning to turn them into homes for a growing community of little people, all of whom seemed to evolve personalities of their own. See? I told you I was still a child!

What I lack today is fine motor skills. I have almost completely lost the use of my right hand and have become a one-handed lefty. It means I need to retrain myself in everything – writing, cutting out, sticking, sewing, rolling clay – all those skills we learned as toddlers and primary school beginners. I’m on the way, moving forward, but have lost confidence in fine craft activities that I used to take for granted I could do well.

But my secret weapon is a tiny couple. Two special little people came into my life and immediately began to think they own all the dolls’ houses themselves.  Their names are Grandpa Roland and Grandma Jean Crawshaw and they were made by Robin Britton of Coombe Craft Miniatures. They now have a growing portfolio of houses that they let out at very low rents to other mini people in reduced circumstance.

They are also my joint alter ego. Grandpa is the bull in a china shop side of me. He is always rushing into things with enthusiasm, ignoring the need for planning ahead and, though genuinely wishing to make a good job of things, having so many  projects on the go at once that few come to a satisfactory conclusion.

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Carrying his trusty ladder down the street to peek through the windows of a house up for sale is a typical Grandpa Roland activity.

Grandma is the stabilising, practical one who sometimes has to rein in her husband for his own protection. She plans ahead, ponders on and discusses her ideas and is very organised, though she lacks the physical house maintenance skills, so would not be able to carry out her ideas without Grandpa’s help, anymore than he can finish anything without her support.

 

Grandma represents the part of my own personality that sees less of the light of day. I’m more like Grandpa than Grandma in my approach to miniatures. Balance ween these two approaches needs to be restored, if my long held dream of building a house, or houses, from scratch is ever to come to fruition.

But you notice that Grandma and Grandpa are quite elderly? They have minor physical issues – over bendy leg disease, days when they find it hard to stand with a straightspine  after sitting too long, the older gentleman’s inability to have his trouser waistband sit at his real waistline, Norah Batty wrinkled stocking complaint, etc. but they still get on with things. It feels as though the Crawshays are telling me to just have a go, that I’ll never know what I can do, unless I try , that disability and age shouldn’t be an automatic obstacle.

SO, here we go! Grandma, Grandpa and I (- also known as The Jobbing Builder -) will be sharing this blog. It will be a mix of miniature projects of many kinds and of story telling…..Well I am a child still, you know! 

 

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!
A person’s home maybe his castle – but, in the name of good manners, drop the drawbridge, put up the swords, make your guests welcome and enjoy the party.
Welcome to our chaotic homes.
Grandpa Roland.

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