Miniatura was the true reason for coming to Britain at this time. After reading dollhouse magazines all spring and summer, it dawned on me, that before I even start any heavy plans for making my WWII dollhouse, I ought to go to a show/fair and see the items for real. Get a feel for what is out there. And ask for advice. Miniatura seemed like the right place to go for everything, since it seemed like it would be the most prestige filled show Britain has to offer. Most sellers doing their utmost to attend that one in particular.
I got out of bed at 06:00, in order to make sure that I would not miss the train from Euston Station at 08:05. I was so nervous that something would go wrong, especially since tickets are priced differently throughout the day and the trains to Birmingham, all required seat reservations. At 07:00, I walked out the door to the lobby attendant’s great surprise. I had my new shoes on and even though my toes were full of blisters and my heels ached, I was able to walk to the tube station at a good speed. It was raining but I had brought my umbrella and I had also decided to inaugurate my new Cath Kidston bag, because I was sick and tired of getting sweaty on my back, carrying around the rucksack in the heat. It is better to have a bag over your shoulder, actually. Besides, I was wearing a blue and white striped sweater and since the major colour was white, I did not want another garment stained with mint green spots.
Arriving at Euston Square, it took a little while before I sorted out where the train station was located. But I still had plenty of time to walk there, buy myself some croissants for breakfast and find out which platform the train was leaving from. Surprisingly, the boarding procedure reminded of an airline boarding. They would not let you on to the platform without ticket and seat reservation and the Japanese girl in front of me, did not have the latter. She had her ticket on the phone and the cockney lady told her that she must go and purchase a seat reservation. The girl argued in no coherent language and pointed at her phone. The girl held up the entire line and finally the cockney ticket lady got angry and said “Look, if you don’t go and buy a seat reservation at once, you are going to miss the train. Is it really worth that?”. I suspect that the girl did not understand a word and what she was supposed to do, but the lady sort of pushed her out-of-the-way so I could come through and show my tickets. I entered my car and decided to go to the loo at once, since the standing and waiting had made me needing to go. I had a window seat and did not want to bother the aisle person when the train was in motion. So I headed to the loo with my bag and tried to sort things out while I voice instructed me that I was not allowed to flush out, among other things a goldfish. Seriously weird!
When I went back to my seat, the train had started to move. I doubt the Japanese girl was on it. But the train had filled up during those few minutes that I was gone and two Indian teenage boys were sitting in my seat and the aisle seat. I told the boys that one of them had taken my reserved seat and they got so upset that one of them had to move. Not my problem, so why should I be made to feel guilty? Our seats were facing backwards and my neighbour’s had one friend beside him, on the opposite aisle seat, facing forward and his friend who had to move, had an aisle seat right behind that friend. If you looked at it, it made it easier for the three of them to talk to each other but for the first 20 minutes they sat and argued over, when their mothers had booked the tickets and why they did not get to sit together. Seriously boys! They sat like they would around a table, facing each other so what was the problem? Their mothers had only booked a couple of days earlier. I did not join the conversation and tell them that I booked my ticket a month earlier! Beside the friend across the aisle, sat this Japanese man, and he just looked at me with compassion, because the boys were making idiots of themselves. The thing was also, that the boy who had to move, was obviously behind in his school work, because he got his math books out and sat and worked on that all the way to Coventry! So I did him a service by asking him to go to his own seat! Otherwise he would no doubt have sat and chatted all the way.
Around 09:15, I was standing in Birmingham looking for the NEC which is where Miniatura was to be held. I started to follow the signs and I walked and walked and walked. It seemed like I would never ever get there. The NEC is connected to the train station so it is indoor walking, but it was very far. Escalators all over, both going up and down and going along corridor floors like in airports. It seemed like I was the only one going there, but when I finally arrived at Hall 11, people were sitting waiting. A short queue had already started to take shape and this man walked around selling programs. I bought one, and felt the anticipation everyone else felt as well. Soon we had lots of people behind us and the program seller called out that we should not be shy and crowd together or the queue would become way too long. I booked my ticket to Miniatura as soon as they were released, since it said that Saturday’s tickets sell out early. You can’t get any if you arrive there on the day. Unless someone has returned theirs. At first I did not realise why, but at the end of the day, I realised how sad it would be to go on a Sunday, because the best items sell out during the early hours of Saturday! I missed out on one item that way, because I did not get to a seller until they were closing!
But I am jumping ahead of myself. At 10:00, they opened the doors and some sellers were at the entrance to take photos of us all coming in. I guess it is as fun for them with many people as it is for us when many sellers are there. My first disappointment was to discover that Jane Harrop, who I had planned to visit and shop from, was not there. She had skipped the show thanks to a family wedding. And of course a family wedding is more important than a trade show but still, I was disappointed since I would have liked to have seen the furniture she makes for 1930s-1940s houses and my plan was to buy at least one of her kits. You make her furniture yourself and I have her book with all the instructions and the description of the right style of furniture for the period.
As a matter of fact, when I came in through the doors, I started to feel depressed. I suddenly felt very lonely, wondering what I was doing there, and the first items I looked at inside the door, were way out of my league price wise. I had to take a minute to think why I was there and decide that even if I could not afford anything, it was not a waste having come, because I was getting to see some really pretty things. I also had to make a decision on how to go about the fair or show. I decided that I could not jump around the way I did in the beginning, but would have to have a system. So I backed up to the entrance and decided to walk around the outer edges first and then walk up and down each row like I do at fairs here in Sweden. But with the difference that I would not look first left and then right, but keep my eyes on the one side first and then go back on the other side. It seemed to work fine.
How does one shop at a fair like this one though? Well, one brings lots of cash since only about a handful, if even that, can take a card. And while a strategy of looking at everything first and then going back and buying after serious consideration, might work for some, it did not work for me and I soon abandoned the plan. A lot of items only exist in one copy and if you do not buy it when you see it, then someone else will. There is also the problem at the end of the day, that you don’t remember under time pressure, where you saw that magic little item that you just can’t live without. So you end up leaving without it, hoping that you will find something like it on the internet!
At an early stage, I made the decision, that it was rather pointless, looking at wallpapers, flooring, bricks, fabrics and curtains, because I don’t have a house, so there was no way I could buy anything for a house that would require knowing measurements. In a way, it prevented me from buying anything really, so I have “put myself in a corner” with some of my purchases. But I got carried away, which I think a lot of people do at these events. I also pretty soon had to make a decision of not buying any furniture. More thoughts need to go in to what I really want to create. And I had no idea how I could safely get brittle furniture home, in a heavy suitcase that might get run over by a truck at the airport. It has happened to our suitcases in the past, so I was not going to chance anything. But it was difficult to abstain! This sour man and his non-English speaking wife, from Indonesia or Thailand, had this pretty bookcase that also serves as a table. I had seen one just like it in the Allpress House at the IWM two days before, so boy was it tempting, till I later on in the day finally dared to ask him how much it cost. £22! It was not very well made, said made in China at the bottom, and I felt that it was an outrageous price for it. The wood pieces were sitting uneven, so that price was not a good one. And I will never ever pay that much for a rickety tiny bookcase/table. A kitchen sink or a mangle/wringer might be worth that price but not what he was selling. He had boxes with plastic bags standing up in them and one woman was leafing through them. I started to do the same, since he kept all carpets this way, but I lost patience with his system so I moved on. Too difficult to see things that way and too time consuming at a fair that only lasts from 10:00-17:30.
This is where this older West Indies lady from London caught up with me, together with her younger friend. I happened to walk behind them for a long time and I had to bite my lip, to not laugh at their comments. They were hilarious and suddenly I felt happy about being at the show. It really is a certain kind of people who are drawn to all things small! The first stall that the three of us arrived at together, was J&A Supplies. The younger woman commented “it is insane of me to even look at furniture because I don’t even have a house yet”. Know the feeling lady! But she fell in love with these two white metal chairs and asked the stall owner if she had more. She said that she did not. And the lady put them back, as I looked at this kitchen table I have in mind for my family, and I discovered, the embarrassing way, that the little drawers at the ends of the table, are real because they fell out on the floor. I went all beet red while I picked up the tiny drawers. At the same time the West Indies younger woman, grabbed the two chairs and said “I will regret it if I do not buy them, so I will. Now my people have kitchen chairs to sit on even though they don’t have a kitchen!”. The older woman did not comment, but I thought, why not? At least she has a beginning. But weird chairs for a kitchen. But everyone has different taste don’t they?
I decided to just take a business card and move on, since all the wonderful furniture would break in my suitcase BUT I loved the prices and that you paint all the furniture yourself in the colours YOU like. I am starting to hate when people have bought furniture, probably from this J&A, and then have painted them in bizarre colours and selling them at great expense. Better to do the job yourself and get things exactly the way you like it! The three of us accidentally moved on to the next stall together and the older woman exclaimed “Heidi Ott! Yes!”. The table started with all these dolls that were bald. Some teenage girl dolls had braids but the majority of the dolls were bald. And there were clothes and accessories. The older woman from the West Indies with a funny dialect, suddenly stood with little miniature shoe boxes on her outstretched hand and I thought “How cute!”. Then she asked the stall owner what shoes were for toddlers. “These!”. She grabbed a pair and then asked for a pair for an older child and the lady showed her which basket they were in. The older lady settled on four shoe boxes and exclaimed “This is what I came for. Now I can take the train back to London!”. I had to bite my lip HARD! She was so funny! Her friend was looking at something else at the stall and I got the feeling that SHE had a lot of more shopping to do, so she did not comment. I must say that when I saw the tiny shoes, I could not resist. One pair was a nice 1940s pair in red and black and while I probably will end up buying complete dolls, with shoes and everything, I could not resist buying them. Already, my family had started to come alive and the shoes will stand in the hallway! I can see it in my mind you see. I know exactly what I want for the hallway and just hope I will find it all so I can realize the look! Heidi Ott had lovely dolls but I was not tempted to buy a bald doll, especially after I got over my shyness and asked the stall owner about the hair. One has to buy wigs and she realized to her horror, as I was asking, that she had forgot all the wigs at home.
I have been in on Costume Cavalcade’s internet site many, many times. The lady who makes these dolls, have the nicest dolls I have seen so far. One grey haired man is wearing the clothes of an ARP Warden and carry a helmet, gas mask bag and everything. But his age has concerned me, since I want to do a little bit of a younger family. In my mind I have been wanting a young woman in WREN or WAAF uniform and Costume Cavalcade does dolls in uniform, so… But how can I get a family together between an old ARP Warden and a young servicewoman? Suddenly, standing there with the pretty shoes in a little shopping basket, it all came to me. Two sisters. One married with two boys (because there are a lot of little boy toys available that would be fun to paint and decorate with) and a sister living with them, when she is not away in the WRENs or WAAF. Perhaps the husband being an ARP? Having settled on two sisters, the shoes felt right! My first purchase! And the stall offered more. I saw all these nice carpets laying stacked on top of each other, in flat boxes instead of like the way the man at that other stall had organised them. I started to realize that carpets can be very difficult to purchase over the internet. Not just colourwise but also patternwise. And the first carpet I stood and stared at was so pretty. I went through all the carpets in all sizes and that was the only carpet they had which was blue in colours. What a pretty bedroom carpet it would be and to make the married couple’s bedroom in blue, would not be entirely wrong, since I love blue myself and if I lived back then, that is the colour I would have gone for. It is the colour I went for when we bought this house too!
I found a big sitting room carpet in burgundy and dark petrol, just lovely, and it will finally help me settle on what sort of armchairs I will have to get. They must match those two colours, so the ones I have seen on the internet in orange, will not do at all! Maybe the arts&crafts chairs, from Jane Harrop will be the best after all? You have to buy your own fabric for them, which could easily be done at another fair, if I get to go to another one! Then I found a wonderful carpet in green and all sorts of autumn colours. I have no idea where to place that one, but I was carried away by these three carpets and the fact that they were the only ones they had left, but plenty of others in duplicate numbers. This grandmother with her grandchild in tow, asked me if I had seen more of the ones I held in my hand and I answered no. “Typical to want what others have picked!” was her answer. I felt sorry for her, but she was British, I am not, and she might have a local shop as well as being able to go to more fairs than I can, so I was not going to give up my finds. I know, not nice, but where else will I find carpets? She did seem to take her loss at a stride though! People was not pouty in general, except the man previously mentioned.
The next stall was Jennifer’s of Walsall, and I must say that she had tons of wonderful things. The West Indies younger woman, about my age, asked the husband about flooring, so I guess she was really getting in to things. She was horrified when he told her that she must saw the flooring but he agreed with her that if she really sharpened a knife, she might be able to cut the floor with a knife. Since I came home, I have been in on Jennifer’s site and I could make a long wishlist. They had wonderful wallpapers, which people were crazy about. I wish I could have bought as well, but you buy sheets and how fun is it to buy one sheet and need more or buy three sheets and then sit with two left over? I had to pull myself away! But I took her information, as did lots of people, since the shop is closing down but they will have a big internet shop instead. Sounds great too my ears!
The next stall had dollhouses that were unpainted and I did not even dare to check in that stall, since I assumed that it was the shop I have checked out on the internet, which has really expensive houses. But I was drawn to the stall across from it which was cancer research. I think that people might have donated everything in the stall and all proceeds were going to cancer research. I immediately was drawn to two beautiful art deco beds in mahogany. But I stood there with them and thought, are they really the kind that would feel right in my house? I put them down to think and walked around looking in the stall that had tons of different things and only one or two of each kind. That is when a woman asked why one of the beds cost £6 and the other £8. She bought them and I felt awful! Of course they were a great bargain! I am trying to tell myself that MY family would not have had such beds. From my research, only a few people went for the Art Deco style of the 1920s-1930s. Most people lived with furniture and items from past decades. The past was secure, Art Deco was part of the new and strange world that to most people, was very daunting. IF they bought Art Deco at all, it was small items that could easily be replaced. In a traditional home you might have found an Art Deco lamp or clock but people were very hesitant to decorating an entire room in Art Deco. That was going too far. In a way we are like that today as well. We will add something modern but not go all out for the latest craze.
I did buy a mattress and pillow, from the cancer stall, since they came at a good price and after all, my family will need lots of mattresses. After I got home, I realised that most beds are sold with mattresses, but some are not, so I will find use for it! It was nice! What was really sad in this stall was the fact that Barbara’s Mouldings had donated a Georgian dollhouse, which someone was going to be the lucky winner of! They asked me if I wanted to sign up, but I said no. IF I had won it, I could never have got it home, could I?! And they of course would not have sent it home to me, to Sweden, since then they would have lost money instead of getting lots of money for research. So, I did not even want to get in to the lottery. They probably thought I was a weirdo!
The stalls after the cancer one, are more or less a blur but when I got to the Dollshouse magazine stall, I stopped to ask them a question. I have desperately tried to get hold of issue 203, which contained the entire description on how to make an Anderson shelter. You can find the description on the internet, but you can not see the pictures in the article on my iPad, my laptop nor on our big stationary computer or T.’s work laptop. In other words, either there is something weird with our house’s internet reception or with the site itself. I explained my problem and they were so sweet and told me to give them my e-mail address and then they would send me the article as a scanned attachment. It has arrived and I am so excited about now having the means to create my garden, as soon as I have a house. It will have an outhouse, an Anderson Shelter, a Victory garden, wash line… Very exciting!
Unfortunately, there were too many people flocked around the next stall belonging to the magazine too, where the contestants for the WWI scene had their creations exhibited. I would have loved to have seen them in real, but I did not have the patience to stand and wait till one could see something. I moved on to a stall that among other things, were selling muddy boots and inspired by almost getting the garden article I wanted, I started almost buying a pair. Till I studied them closely and realised that they did not look naturally muddy. It looked stuck on and not like someone had walked around in a muddy garden. The mud went far too hight up on the boots and had straight lines. You don’t get straight lines of mud, so after a lot of deliberation and a cheeky kid wondering when I was going to pay, I walked off, having told him that I had not made up my mind if I really wanted them, yet. A pushy adult is bad, a pushy kid is not to be tolerated!!!
By now, it was time to first go visit the loo, far back from the show area itself, and then I went to the information desk, where they sold these little one pound cloth bags to carry your purchases in and which of course is a funny souvenir since it has Miniatura printed on it. Navy blue or burgundy bags. It seems like the navy was an older edition, but that is the one I went for and now I felt like I belonged since everyone else had purchased them as well. My purchases this far were a tiny pair of shoes in a shoe box, three carpets and a mattress. And time was flying by. Now it was time to start on the rows themselves and I started at Five Valley Bears because the owner stood and crocheted poppies. I walked up there and bought two handmade poppies with antique pins at the back, to support the Poppy Legion. She said that I should have been there earlier when the stall had had almost 200 of them. It had been a sight to see. Unfortunately I had just looked to my right when I walked down this “lane” earlier, so I missed the sight alright, but it was still pretty. Among all the miniature bears were all these poppies which were selling well. A lady from the Poppy Legion (not correct name but what people call them) had been there to approve of them first and they were lovely! I will give the one poppy to my penfriend A. who is British and who can not crochet herself. For her to wear till 11 November.
Many things on this row had very expensive furniture and I did not spend too much time looking at them, because I realised that if I did not speed up somewhat, I would never be able to see the entire fair that day. And I had ONE big goal, one stall that I had to visit. I walked up to it actually as soon as I got in through the doors but was too shy to walk up and look closely. Now I headed there in slow motion.
As I said earlier, I have been in on Teresa Thompson’s page for “Costume Cavalcade”, SO many times. It is my favourite miniature page because her dolls are just fantastic. The detail of their dresses and clothes…! Pretty faces, beautiful hair, all is perfect. My favourite page of course is 20th Century part 1, but ALL her dolls are amazing. Before, I had decided to not have any people in my house, but when one has seen her dolls in real, one changes one’s mind. When I got up to her stall, one woman was ordering a doll to be specially made for her. And that is how this “shop” works. You can buy one of the ones she has for sale. Or if you don’t see what you like, you can commission her to make a special doll. When you look at her site, you can see what people have commissioned her to do in the past. It is nice because I think she likes the challenge and learns along the way!
When I stood there admiring the WWII dolls, this woman walked up and started to look at the Regency ones. My eyes were drawn to what she was looking at and she stood and chose between young ladies. One was in a bonnet and might have been the one pictured, and one looked like Jane Bennett in “Pride&Prejudice” (1995), dressed in a white and gold muslin dress, ready for the Netherfield ball, of course. She could not make up her mind and was asking the now free Teresa, which one she should get. I was going to say the one in a bonnet, since it was more detailed in dress, but suddenly she just grabbed “Jane” and then she looked at this little boy, and grabbed him and said “I might as well get him as well and then my family is complete!”. Wow! Talk about being decisive! I wish I could have got to see her house and the entire family. Must be gorgeous, all of it. Very hesitant and shy, I walked up to Teresa when the lady had paid and left. “Would you ever consider making a WAAF or WREN girl?”, I asked her. She got all excited and told me “Oh, I just got a book on women’s uniforms so YES!”.
Some serious talk ensued. Which social classes went in to the WRENs and which ones in to the WAAF. Yes, all were present no doubt, but to be honest, upper class girls were mostly interested in the WRENs and became officers there. And I am not really creating an aristocratic WWII home, nor one of the very affluent. Nor am I creating an East End terrace house with the most poor of poor families. We settled on that the WAAF would probably be the most suitable and the right service under the circumstances. Then I had to decide on hair colour. Not easy! I stood and looked at the two young ladies with bare heads and decided that the blonde one is very pretty and will look very pretty in RAF blue. Now I had an even more important decision to make, whether I wanted her hat on or not have a hat at all. She explained that the wave on the hair, had to be left off, if the WAAF wears a hat, because otherwise she can’t get it on properly. And the wave is so pretty! I also started to think about how you are not allowed to walk with a hat indoors, in the military. You take it off as soon as you get indoors and have to put it on as you walk outside. I did not want to force the girl to stand in the hallway with a hat on, but want the liberty to place her where I want her, so I said “Can we leave it off but still include it?”. “But you would not be able to put it on later, with that hairdo! But sure, perhaps she can have it in her hand or under her arm even, or?”. “Or it can be sent along, so I can place it somewhere…?” “Yes, perhaps on a hall table?”. “Yes, good idea!”. It’s wonderful to talk to someone who gets in to this as much as I do and who sees these people as real people, like I do. That is what you have to do when you create these houses, I’m afraid. No matter how insane it sounds.
So, all details settled, I gave her my address and she is now going to create! When she is done, she will send me photos and if I like what she has made for me, then I will pay via paypal and my little WAAF will be sent to me. Or if I don’t like it, I guess she will put it up for sale on her site or at the next show. I can’t see that I would not love it?! I wish I had had tons of money because the whole section with WWII people is just wonderful. All the service men, the ARP warden, the Land girl and of course the little boys. These are the little boys I imagine in a little boys’ room with all sorts of boy toys like trains, cars. Jane Harrop even have a kit for a Noah’s ark!!!
I am not going to go in to detail, about all the other stalls I visited, except I do want to mention four more. The first one I want to bring up, was one I had also looked forward to a lot, and that was Phoenix and Warwick pewter items. Many sellers were selling these, painted by themselves, at outrageous prices. So I just walked over to the source itself. And if I do not count the WAAF doll, which is not ready yet, these were my second most favourite purchases. You get pewter items that you have to paint yourself and they have lots and lots of wonderful items. Unfortunately they had not brought even half of what they have. They only had a fraction of their extensive selection and that was disappointing, since this was one of my planned major stops! One thing I had planned on buying was a bread bin, which they had not brought. I also was going to get a radio and perhaps gramophone. They had the gramophone with them, but they had painted it entirely black! They actually had brought a lot of items that they had painted black and I am not sure why? So, I had to settle on three items that I had on my Birthday wish list, instead, that T. did not go for, and that I am most excited about: An ARP Warden helmet, a stirrup pump and a bucket, so my family can put out those incendiary bombs the awful Germans are dropping on them! These were not painted in black by the way (as you can see)! One can choose whether one wants the chin strap to lay flat along the helmet edge or like I am showing on the picture.
Another stall which brought my now completely trained 1930s-Art Deco-WWII eyes to it, was Halls Clocks. They had put up tiny clocks and alarms in a tiny bookcase and I saw my kitchen clock from a distance. I had touched a display like that earlier and then the whole case came towards me, which was a very embarrassing moment, so I had to ask the lady if I was supposed to take the clock off the case wall or what. She told me to just pull so I did and this lady behind me exclaims, “Oh please don’t say that that kitchen clock is your last one in that colour?”. It was and I was not about to let go of it. My dream clock! Yes, I have dreamed of a clock just like it, in my imagined cream and green, Kockum, kitchen which only exists in my imagination at present. Art Deco and perfect! I quickly added a little baby blue Art Deco clock for the married couple’s bedroom and a brown Art Deco frame for a sitting room and one in off white for their bedroom. The lady behind me said she decorates Art Deco dollhouses, was British, and I did not see why she should get all Art Deco items in the stall. She was going to have lots of kitchen clocks made for her, so she did not see what I was grabbing, while she was ordering them. The sad thing about my frames was that Mrs. Hall (?) had been selling frames like that all day, and had had pictures to put in them, but they were all gone and now I have to sort that out myself. She told me to just download some image off the internet and shrink it. Right! I am computer illiterate and don’t have a functioning printer, so it will be a chore alright. But I will not worry about that now! (Above, you can see the kitchen clock, the blue bedroom clock but also another Art Deco clock which I bought from someone else, and that one was of better quality actually, being heavy pewter. You can also see some other purchases like 1940s newspapers from Dateman books, mentioned below, a garden shovel, at last, in pewter, and coal which I will place in a shuttle and in a fireplace, if there is enough for both.)
I also want to mention Dateman Books, which was a terrific stall with tiny books. Of course the ones in the front had to be Jane Austen novels and I of course decided in two seconds that my two sisters of course are Jane Austen fans. And they are in the process of reading a novel each, which will be placed on their respective bedstands. One sister will have a big copy of “Mansfield Park”, my very favourite novel of Jane’s, and the other sister will be reading a big copy of “Persuasion”, very fitting for war-time Britain. I love those books! Yes, they did have “P&P” but why be so boring? E. got upset that I did not buy that one, but I could add to my library. I could not understand why there were two sizes of all books though and the man explained that the smaller ones are the ones you must use for putting in a bookcase, but the other ones can lay on a table or whatever. I did want the bigger sizes, since you can open these books and read the first chapter!!!! E. thought that was amazing. So I did something right. “S&S” was sold out by the way so I guess what all visitors at Miniatura prefered. I guess I showed the sellers that all Austen novels need to be brought? I also carefully chose two newspapers for the husband, about the Blitz. They are dated 1940 so I guess by this I have dated my house to the beginning of the Blitz. No way will I make any bomb damage to it though!
As the last thing almost, that I did, was to walk over to Barbara’s Mouldings. She had some absolutely fantastic houses on display and I felt that she would be the right person to ask for advice on a house purchase. I told her that I envisage a WWII house and she immediately pointed me to her Terraced house. I told her it would have been perfect but for the fact that I did want to have more than three rooms in my house. She pointed out that they would not have had more, but they actually did. Maybe in the East End the houses were only three rooms, but they were not 2D like dollhouses are, in a way. Difficult to describe what I mean by that but they would have small rooms in front of each other and so on. And when one sees the Allpress house in the IWM, one realizes that only the poorest of poor had less than three rooms. She suggested me buying two Terrace houses and putting them together and when I pointed out that then there would be two stair cases, which would look weird and not be true to history, she suggested that I do not install the second stair case and fill in the whole in the floor. Hm! I sensed that she did not really want to talk to me anymore! I have never done anything like this before, so starting to do alterations to ready-made house kits, seem a little bit too advanced and scary. Besides, two front doors? It just would look insane and not right.
I asked her about her starter house which is priced nicely and looks a lot like the right thing. But she said, “noooooo, not that one”. Interesting sales technique! She pointed out that it has awful windows, which are not put in afterwards, but are part of the wall itself, but you can saw out the window bars and put in real windows instead. Sounds complicated. Where would I get hold of windows? I tried to sound more cooperative. She took me down to the cancer stall and showed me the Georgian house down there, called the Bath town house, which she had donated for the lottery. It is a wonderful house, I agree. But there are just four large rooms and no stairs! Four boxes/rooms on top of each other. She had this image that you put a fake door at the back wall, pretending that the stairs will be on the other side of the wall. But I did not say this: A 1930s-1940s house did not have a great kitchen that covered an entire floor. Nor did they really have large sitting rooms, bedrooms etc. Especially the kitchen was small. I did think she was on the right track though. I asked her about shipping to Sweden and she said it was better that I order from a shop in Sweden, which she ships to. She could not remember the shop’s name, so we sort of left it at that. What she really wanted me to do, was to buy a house from her then and there and hand carry it home as excess luggage. It would be cheaper according to her. Only one problem. With my bad back, aching feet and me planning on taking the Heathrow Express from Paddington, walking to the station with one suitcase and one carry-on, there was no way I could cope with a big box containing a heavy dollhouse. Had I had a travelling companion, perhaps. But…
What I did not want to tell her was that I was not entirely convinced that I want to get one of her houses at all. They are gorgeous, yes. And not a bad price. But I can not quite see that I could transform one of them to my WWII family’s home. With brick, I could easily make the Bath town house in to a Georgian attached house in London, but no stairs and too big rooms, excludes that house. She has another Georgian house, and without the basement, this would have been an almost
perfect option. Had it not been for the fact that it has the stairs on the left side in the rooms. I have to show in pictures, why this is a problem. The bottom rooms would make kitchen and sitting room fine. In my mind I could also see the first floor with the couple’s bedroom and the room with the stairs having sewing machine and other things. The attic rooms being the boys’ bedroom and my WAAF’s. But after a lot of consideration, I have come to the conclusion that it would not feel right to put up a coat hanger in the sitting room where the ARP helmet will be hanging. I will need a place for that helmet to hang, the red shoes to stand and I need a hallway table for the WAAF hat to rest on. Also you did keep a bucket of sand and one with water and stirrup pump in your hallway, to put out fires with, caused by bombs. I can not clutter up the entire sitting room with hallway things! So, unfortunately that lovely house is out of the question as well. I would have loved to have bought a Barbara house, but for the time period that I want to create, none of them will work the way they must work. Very sad!
But, Miniatura taught me this: I need a hallway for the items that have to go there. I have to exclude a bathroom because if you had an outside loo in the garden, you did not have a bathroom. It would have meant taking a bath in a tub in the kitchen or in the sitting room, as someone told me at the fair. Just like my grandfather did when he grew up. Not because people were backwards but the depression had slowed down progress somewhat and of course noone would have installed a new bathroom 1940, in a house which could get bombed any minute. And if you chose to make a bathroom in your house, you have to lose another room. What I need at this point is a hallway, in other words, and kitchen, sitting room, master bedroom, children’s room and a bedroom for the WAAF sister. In my mind I now picture the older sister, who got married and had two children. And the “much” younger sister who lost her parents and came and lived with the married sibling. Perhaps she even grew up in the house and when she was orphaned, her sister with family moved in? That would explain no bathroom, because the elderly parents would not have thought of installing one or nor perhaps had the money? Them being used to the old ways of chamber potty and loo at the bottom of the garden. The story of my house and family is coming along nicely isn’t it? In my mind, it would also be nice to make a little sewing corner in the sitting room. With sewing machine and mannequin? I already have a darning thing for socks purchased since before, so by one armchair that could be a work in progress? Or making black out curtains by the sewing machine???? I do not have any problems with ideas!
The very last thing I did at Miniatura, was running back to a place where I had seen some real looking carrots, leaks and margarine on paper. It took me a while to find it, but I did make it and got to purchase some food items. Sadly the bacon slices had now been sold out and with rations in mind, I of course could not buy a hefty piece of meat! We discussed the possibility of just finding a can of spam for my kitchen instead, when it was announced that the show was now closed. I was disappointed since there was some other places I would have loved to have re-visited and bought things from but… My hopes went to the program and all the addresses in it. I walked out as one of the last people and headed for the train station.
Was there anything that was disappointing with the Miniatura? Definitely Jane Harrop not being there. Them not taking VISA or Mastercard. And worse of all, the fact that if you don’t go to the cafeteria and eat, when business is at its busiest in the stalls, then you will not get any food at all. I went there at 16:00 or thereabouts, when I had seen almost everything once, except the dollhouses at Barbara’s Mouldings, and there was nothing to eat which was cooked. They had cleaned out all the trays etc. and after three days in England, I was so sick and tired of bread and sandwiches, that this was the last thing I wanted to eat. I sat down to drink a Diet Coke and while I did so, they locked the cafeteria doors, so that this couple could not get in. That far from closing time! I thought this really bad on NEC’s part. But what was worse was the fact that when I got to the train station, the only places still open, was Subway sandwiches and a café with sandwiches. I could not get myself to eat bread, again, so I went to the vending machine and bought chocolate to hold me over till I got back to London. Unfortunately, the Miniatura ended 17:30 and my train did not leave until 19:00, getting back to London at 21:30.
Like if the food situation wasn’t bad enough, when the train came in to Birmingham International, it came from somewhere else. It was full with intoxicated footballers who had been to see Chelsea or something play. But I had my seat reservation of course. Only this mother and her eleven year old son, was sitting in that and the adjoining seat. I had to tell her that I had a seat reservation for that seat and she got angry. “No way, not another one!”. I have no idea what she was talking about, but she jumped over on a seat opposite, one row back. Her son stayed in his seat, feeling sorry for himself and resting on the table he had folded down. She had left her enormous shopping bag from Primark by my feet, so I had nowhere to put my feet. Then her son needed to go to the loo, against her wishes, and he could not get out because of their gigantic bag, so she finally had to move it for him to get out. You know, I had paid for my ticket and reservation and I don’t understand why they were let on in the first place without seat reservations. And they were only going to the next town, which I think was Rugby, if I don’t remember wrong. The thing is though, that she acted like I had done something wrong and not her.
When I got back to Euston, probably 30 policemen were standing on the platform keeping an eye on the very happy footballers. They failed to see these teenagers that screamed and started a fight between some big pillars. I just walked by it all quickly and started to look at the different food places. One was a place selling Cornish pasties baked in Cornwall. Since I sat and watched Alex Polizzi, a couple of months ago, helping this failing business in Cornwall who baked pasties, I sort of was curious to see what a pasty is and what it tastes like. Being the way I am about meat, I ordered one with mozzarella cheese, tomato and basil. I sat down to eat it, at the station, after buying a funny magazine for “Gubby” with theme “Postman Pat”, which had a hat, glasses, postman bag, stamp and sticker, to dress up with, coming with it. While I was watching all the police officers flooding in, I tried to eat the very hot and VERY spicy pasty. In a way it resembled a Calzone pizza except the dough or bread is much more dense and there is more of it. The inside was not melted cheese at all but felt like apple sauce consistency. It was hot and I don’t really like my tongue and upper gum/palate to burn from spices, so while T. would have loved this food, it was not really my thing. But it was at least a variation on sandwich right? I headed back to the hotel at 22:00 and just got ready for bed, suddenly feeling pretty tired.
All in all it had been a really nice day and quite worth the journey. Even though I today, a long while later, wish that I had prepared even better for my experience. It really would have helped if I had known exactly what I was looking for and what I plan for my house. As it was now, I felt overwhelmed, did not really know which company I had looked at before on the internet, during the spring, which company I had a wish list for at home, and which company has the best prices. It also would have helped immensely if I had had the colour schemes ready. As it was, I could shop for the kitchen but not really for a whole lot of other rooms. I should have looked at wallpapers and fabric needed for say making armchairs, quilts… Those things are the most difficult to buy over the net, almost impossible actually, since you are always going to get disappointed. The pattern is going to look different in your hands than on a screen where you only see a little piece and the colours are also going to be different. So, with these thoughts I conclude that I need to go back, but better prepared!
Yes, there should be room for spontaneity, but I will from now on sit down and think through my family properly. I will also plan the rooms more properly and put down my visions in a little book. I will make lists for every room with necessary items but also writing down what I have so far. And perhaps also writing down the companies which have the perfect items, for my dream look! I tried to start doing all this in my mind, at the fair, but that was not the right spot really, when I faced SO much merchandise! It just made me feel panicked and going home from Birmingham, I sat and thought, what one earth have I really bought for the house, I don’t even have yet?
In the following pictures, you will see some of my wild purchases. Wild, because they were not very planned. The shopping bags were bought from A basket of, which also sells on Etsy. I could not decide which looked most WWII. Ladies used wicker bags to go shopping food with. In my imagined house, the lady of the house has just returned from a frustrating shopping trip, bag on a chair and the foods unloaded on the kitchen table. In a cupboard in the kitchen, I will place the little jars that a relative out in the country, have sent for the family. Honey, pickled onions, preserved plums, gherkins and mustard. You also see a carpet whip, the two Jane Austen novels, the red pretty shoes, the frames without the much-needed pictures and a wonderful little metal thermos in just the right colours! Cream and green! I am so glad I did not buy the one I saw back in April, on Etsy. This is just what I wanted!
The tins were bought really cheaply and I will paint them cream and green but probably keep the cookie tray and roast tray as they are? The last stall I visited had the bread loaf on the left, the lettuce, leak, carrots and margarine. The right loaf of bread, was a mistake, since it doesn’t look as realistic as the one to the left.
This purchase has a little history as does the next picture and purchase. They were sold ready-made, the oven gloves and hot water bottle covers BUT not in the colours I liked. The company was called Ladybird. This other lady was standing there and the owner of the company, tried to persuade her to get a kit and knit herself. I just thought, no way, without reading glasses that work, and horrible size needles. But when I was about to pay, for ready-made oven gloves and hot water bottle plus cover, I suddenly thought, I am an experienced knitter, I will have proper glasses soon I hope and why not make them in colours I WANT? What woman buys oven gloves in cream colour so that all stains show extra much? No, my WWII married sister, is a realist and has knitted or bought green ones with cream lines. Much smarter! And when I had settled on making my own oven gloves, I might as well make hot water bottle covers in colours that I like as well. So a lovely periwinkle blue one and one in petrol. For the boys?
The very last picture, of this post, is a funny one. This lady was selling patterns for tiny little animals and teddies. She had had tiny elephants for sale, all made up, but they had sold like melting butter in the sun. What really brought me to her stall was an adorable little bunny with long ears. But she told me it was an advanced pattern. Well, she told me and two other ladies who complained of their unfinished product piles at home. They did not go for any kits but she persuaded me that I would very much be able to make the little elephant myself. Very simple she said. So I bought it and the kit makes two elephants in grey, with trunks going up or hanging down, whichever you like. Two would be perfect for the boys’ room! Now I just need a pair of properly working reading glasses.