London Day 4: Wedding dresses

I had two choices today. Number one: I could head up to Alexandra Palace and go to the autumn scrapbooking fair. Which in itself was very tempting since it is very, very big. On the other hand, as I reasoned at home, two fairs in two days? Do I really need more scrapbooking stuff at this point, when I have so much, it is overflowing my bedroom? Well, perhaps that is over-exaggerating, but let’s say, I have a lot, and I am not using up my stock since I am too tired to scrapbook, come evening. Thanks to handicapped children and having Hashimoto’s myself. How can I then justify buying more scrapbooking supplies? And how much does it not weigh? More over, if you have 4 1/2 days in London, is it justifiable to spend two entire days away from central London, at fairs? It was  just a co-incidence that I noticed that the scrapbooking fair was on the same weekend as Miniatura!

My other option was to head to V&A and look at beautiful wedding dresses in their temporary exhibition. I realized that if I headed there, I would have time to go chasing after gifts for people afterwards and also start running some of my own errands. It broke my heart, but I had to rule out church. I really wanted to go to church since it was Sunday, but having no dress with me, no dress shoes either, it was just out of the question. That is how dress oriented we are in church, I’m afraid and as I type, I realize how silly it sounds. Not going to church because one does not have the appropriate attire. How wrong is that? But that is the way our culture is, and I would not have felt the least spiritual in jeans. Besides, I would have drawn too much attention to myself, which I hate.

No, I headed to look at beautiful works of art instead. Arriving early in case it would be the same sort of madhouse about the tickets, as it was two years ago when we tried to get tickets to the Hollywood Costume exhibition, and had to go there twice, in order to get tickets! There was no need. You could buy tickets right by the entrance to the little exhibition, which was in the same place as the ball gowns exhibition was, two years ago. I was first in the queue as a matter of fact and there I remained, since they could not get their card machine to work. While I had been waiting for them to open, I had bought two postcards around the corner, in a tourist shop. Cash. And now when I could not pay with card, those £0.80  were missing in order for me to pay cash, like everyone else resorted to doing. Finally the man felt sorry for me. The man from the technical crew was taking his time in arriving and there I had been the first in the queue and one by one, people got to go in and I just stood there. Instead of taking what I had in cash, he just told me “Just go in!”. I asked “Are you sure?”. He nodded, so I saved myself £11 there! And he was of course very nice!

It was a very beautiful exhibition, as you can imagine. I am not going to say too much about it because I know that a lot of people have blogged about it already. But certain things touched me, which might not have touched others. I wouldn’t know, since I don’t have the time to read the others’ blog posts about the exhibition. What was striking was that even the most simple peasant girl wantedimage to look nice and pretty at her wedding. Even if the rest of her life would be a struggle with too much work and frequent dangerous child births and the babies not surviving. Perhaps even dying in childbirth. A wedding was hope. And at least that day was filled with happiness. Even though thoughts went deep into the planning of her wedding dress, because it was meant to be worn after the wedding as well. And that continued for a long time, in all the social classes it seemed. Which meant that it wasn’t always white or plain coloured, but had flowers or any kind of pattern really.

imageMy first favourite among the dresses, was the simple “Jane Austen” one. (Right in the picture. Cameras are not allowed in the exhibition, so all pictures are downloads from people who broke the rule!)The muslin, regency dress. They really look so innocent and cute. It really can become too much, when it comes to wedding dresses! While as a teenager, I thought that the most romantic wedding dress to wear, would be a Victorian crinoline, I honestly do not find them pretty anymore. Don’t know why? My best friend at the time, Marie Qvarnström, always said to me that on her wedding day, she would wear a crinoline, and when I walked around looking at the Victorian era dresses, I reflected on that I did not find them pretty, even though the brides probably thought them a dream, and I wondered if my friend ever got to be a bride and wear what she dreamt of? I lost contact entirely with her over 20 years ago and always wonder what became of her?

The dress I really stood and admired extra long, was the Worth dress from 1880.image image Gone was the crinoline and the bustier had taken its place. Much nicer looking. Worth was the designer that any self-respecting young lady went to for her entire wedding trousseau. From wedding dress to corset basically. Nouveau rich, from the USA, travelled to Paris for their wardrobe. The buccaneers who planned on to capture and marry British Lords, went to Paris first, in order to be able to charm the old names and titles with their exquisite Parisian clothes, which the British pauper aristocratic girls could only dream of. In my head, I have always pictured what a Worth dress would look like. My imagination served me well, because the wedding dress on display, perfectly fits my picture and I guess they were worth the price!

On 8 June 1899, Harriet Joyce, aged 35 married, finally. She made her own dressimage in a purple-magenta colour, not so much for wearing after the wedding, but because she felt she was too old for white. This really made me sad. When my parents finally married, me being 12 at the time, I was so disappointed that my mum refused to wear white. A bride should wear white, no matter how old she is. Or? In this case, this poor woman probably dreamt of marriage for many years and then when she finally got the chance, she no longer felt entitled to the dream dress. As a matter of fact, she had started out as a lady’s maid, coming from the working class, and in service chances of marriage were slim. She packed away her dress after the wedding, which is why it is in such a good condition, but it is sad to know that she forewent a white dress because she probably thought society would frown their noses. She should have stepped in to a time machine and seen 50-year old Marie Osmond get married in a white Princess dress! Pathetic! First wedding, by all means, marry in white what ever your age, but when you are re-marrying, perhaps you should restrict your fairytale fantasies somewhat?

imageMy favourite dress of all, was actually Margaret Whigham’s. The socialite of 1933, who got as much attention on her wedding day as Royals do today or perhaps Brad Pitt and that Jolie woman. She loved the attention of the press and they loved her because she was young, rich and beautiful. I watched the blurry black and white film from her wedding and wow!

imageThe rich in Britain at that time, were our time’s pop and film stars. They covered the gossip columns and they were filmed for newsreels. Her wedding was as much of a show as a commitment to a man, for the rest of her life. I loved the dress which sadly has gone all peach coloured so it is difficult to think what it must have looked like on the big day. The way it sat on her perfectly shaped body was amazing. And imageyet, it all made me sad and made me start wondering. I know nothing of the woman really, but I do know that she re-married. When I started to think, my thoughts went to Lord Curzon’s daughters. One was married to Oswald Mosley while he cheated on her, with Diana Mitford. Or Guinness as she was then. His wife basically died from a broken heart assisted by a failed stomach surgery and he moved on to cheat on Diana with another Curzon sister. This time and age was, in the upper classes, one of bed-hopping and divorce. One bed-hopped because of what? Love of danger? Needed a kick? Or was it that one didn’t really marry for love but for money, prestige, title…? It was alright to have a mistress as long as it did not get out. And when I looked at Margaret Whigham’s beautiful dress, I wondered if she even loved her husband, who was cinema handsome, or did she just want a handsome man by her side?

imageDiana Mitford sprung to my mind again, who married Brian Guinness to get away from her insane family, but while he loved and adored her, she had no problems with abandoning him and her children, to become the official Mosley mistress, taking up residence as close to his house as possible, so she would always be available! Disgusting! I would have died from a broken heart as well or I might even have committed murder?

I finally had to move on from my day-dreaming, to see the war-years wedding dresses which could be made out of everything between furniture upholstery imagefabric to parachute silk. Or a regular red dress bought with ration coupons if not your WAAF/WREN/ATS uniform! They have their charm since they tell a story and are very much part of a historical fact, that there was no way for an ordinary person, to get hold of a real wedding dress, unless she borrowed or rented one. (Two dresses to the left.) From then on, the dresses went downhill really. Ghastly 1960s wedding dresses followed by sentimental dresses, like the one I wore myself, which I would never have chosen today! And then very modern times, when the rich and beautiful, or not so beautiful but famous ones, try to shock and compete in going overboard. It’s not about love anymore and a special day, but making media pass out. Who can wear the most ugly dress? Of course some wear classical nice dresses today, like Kate Middleton, Lady Helen Windsor, but I must say that for the most part, when looking at today’s brides, I just shake my head. If you don’t have the body for a sleeveless, almost topless dress, don’t wear it! Less is not better! There is nothing more disgusting than seeing flobby fat resting by the arm-pits in those dresses and seeing the bride pulling up her dress the entire time, in order for the breasts not to pop out. Your wedding day is a day to be beautiful, you can be a sex-bomb some other day! Preferably not in public either.

In other words, the second floor of the exhibition, which always seems to show the most modern and over-exaggerated things, did not hold any interest and I left the exhibition soon thereafter. I looked a little at the general clothes permanent exhibition, and took some photos of my favourites. Like the Jane Bennett dress and the funny knitted bathing suit!

image imageNow I had to have something to eat. I had an awful carrot cake slice, because it was Sunday, which had raisins in it. I hate cooked raisins, so it was wasted money. (By the way, I never eat cake at home, except on Birthdays. It’s just in London that I treat myself, since they have funny things to try, plus I can’t go home and fix myself something proper! I am getting more and more anti-sandwich.) Then I headed for the bookshop where I stood dilly dallying about the wedding dress book for the longest of time, sending SMSs to my husband to have him check if one could send for it from Amazon or V&A. He could not give me an answer, so I walked up to them and asked at the cash register and to my surprise, the lady carried out scales and we put the book on them. You can buy what you like there and pay postage. They take care of the rest. So I bought the book and one on tiaras, which was fantastic, and then came my second decision of the day. Should I go in and see the Horst exhibition? imageThere was no queue! In the bookshop I had seen prints, souvenirs related to the time period, books… I was keen but when I looked at my watch, I realized that I had spent too much time on the wedding exhibition, eating and in the book shop, and I still lacked gifts for my two girls, entirely, and I could see “Kitty” being a little bit upset as well, when he compared his pile to “Boo’s” and “Gubby’s”, who were receiving funny “minion” clothing. I sighed deeply and decided against culture and enjoyment and went for duty instead. Not that I mind shopping for my children, but it felt like it took over my trip really. Trying to find reasonably priced things for them turned out to be a real chore, since prices have gone up a lot, and some things are not that different from home, clothing wise.

I headed quickly to Covent Garden. Why? Well, I had planned on going to the Disneystore there and look for a T-shirt for “Cookie”, possibly for myself as well, since they had this cute one in grey with a butterfly outlined in black, filled in with the Union Jack, and saying London in cursive writing, under it. But I forgot! I headed for the Radley shop first, in order to check size and colour of their imagepetrol Bloomsbury bag “Canteen”. Last time I bought a Radley bag, it was from their internet site and while it said that it was cream coloured, it was more of beige when it arrived, and somewhat of a disappointment. Its alright but the colour feels more of an old lady’s bag, than my age! I wanted to SEE, HOLD and check for size, but when I walked in to the shop, they just shook their heads and said, both that one and the oblong one, sold out right away. What a disappointment but WWII style handbags are popular, because of their different, not so common look today, fun styles. I at least got to see that the orange colour is very dark, could classify as red, and the petrol one is a much darker nicer colour than the one they show on the internet. What do do next? Well, my plan was to order it from an outlet shop, which I knew had them for almost half the price and lots of them left. (Only now, since I write this long after returning home, I have discovered that they sell fake bags, which could look any way, shape and form!  But Radley, once again, have the bags and in more colours, which the young men did not tell me was something which was going to happen! They can’t be that clueless about what will be introduced shortly!)

Am I the only woman who feel that men has no place in a ladies’ handbag shop? Two young men worked there and I must say that when they described how big the Bloomsbury canteen and the headache pill shaped bags were, they over-estimated the previous and under-estimated the latter. Nor were they particularly helpful, when I started to look at the wonderful watches, I found in a corner of the shop. Yes, I can understand that they have to watch them like hawks. But selecting a watch among several beautiful ones, is no easy thing and takes time, and they had no patience. I fell in love with two in particular and ended up walking out with one, but I was annoyed at the sales people. They know nothing of my life. Nothing of how I dress. Nothing of where I go, my age, my children’s age, if I am “old” in my actions or “childlike”. What they see is a single woman who walks in wearing clothes carefully selected for being a tourist. One young man, saw me wearing the fancier looking watch and the more playful, original looking watch, both at the same time on my arm, and told me that I should take the fancier one because he gave that to his mum and she loves it. She has had many nice comments on it. I am sure that she has, but how old do you think I am, young man? That watch was a mature looking watch, for the woman in the middle/end of her career, hurrying to her office job in the city, where she will be in meetings all day. The watch would have looked lovely with my Sunday dresses but seriously, the week has 7 days and most of the time, I wear “casual” clothes like blouses and jeans/trousers. While that watch was pretty, it was just a twist on a very common looking lady’s watch. Like a bangle in a way, in rose coloured “gold”. But the other one, was more unique and definitely the playful mother kind of watch, that I still am, very much. So, that is the watch I walked up to theimage counter with, the other salesperson in tow. Only to find out, that they can not make any alterations to watches one buys from them. Right, and it costs a fortune to have it done in Sweden, in  a shop where you have not bought the watch.

I will jump to the end of the story, that happened the next day, when I went to H. Samuel’s with my watch. Radley had told me that they sell Radley watches too, so they will shorten them for free. While others will charge £5. My watch is in taupe, cream and steel-blue. (You can’t see the steel-blue above, but it is nice!) At H. Samuel’s, they carried both that one and one where the steel-blue had been traded for dusty pink. Now I was upset, since I might have prefered that latter one, loving pink so much. But that was not all. They charged me £10 to have it shortened! I was most unhappy and could have strangled the young people at Radley, since they should offer to shorten it themselves and they should definitely not tell you to go to another shop, declaring that they do it for free, and then they ask you an arm and a leg for it, just like in Sweden! I could have brought it home with me and had it done here, but I was just fed up then and I don’t get to go in to town more than about once a month, if even that. This way, I could start wearing my watch when I wanted to! But it still upsets me! He had no idea what he was talking about!!!!

I walked out of the shop, having asked for directions to Neal Street, my next stop. Only, it was not where he had told me. I walked around in circles for I don’t know how long and my feet were killing me by now. This is how I forgot the Disney store. I walked in to some shops to see if there was a wallet for E. Since “Boo” took scissors to her beloved wallet, which she has had for years, when he could not figure out the clasp opening. But, nothing was remotely similar to her old wallet and noone knew where Neal Street was. I was giving up. I walked in to the Marks & Spencers, by Covent Garden,  to use their loo and had to stand in the longest queue. This family, mum, dad, older homosexual son and younger son, were in front of me. Some older man had gone in to do a number two I think, because we stood there forever and I had to stand there and listen to the crap that came out of the older son’s mouth. I was ready to ask his parents how they could allow him to speak to his mother, the way he did. He stood there and wouldn’t let her be alone. Pulling at her hair, telling her how awful she looked, pinching her, just being rude and plain mean in that lisping “I am homosexual and the only way I can show it to the world, is by talking the way I think women talk”. The younger son, about 16-17, just turned his head and did not agree, when his older brother wanted affirmation from him, that their mother looked awful, her hair being a “disgrace today” and “what have you done to yourself today…”. And the father just stood there silent while his wife was humiliated in front of the entire queue and tried to pull away. I wanted to scream at him “SHUT UP!”. There were only two loos and suddenly they both opened. He went in to one, his mother in to the other. And then she came out, and the brother went in. And he came out and the father went in. Still no sign of the older brother. I have no idea what he was up to, because when the father came out, I went in and they were still waiting for him when I got out.

On my way out, I saw a deep purple wallet, like a plum, without zipper around it, which is what E. hates in everything I have shown her, and SMS:ed T. to find out if she would like that. I stood and sent probably ten messages and no answer. I received an answer two hours later, “perhaps”. Like I would stand in a shop and wait for two hours, to receive an answer. By then I had moved on to many shops. I stepped out of Marks & Spencer sad, because they had no stationary department, where I had planned on looking for “Emily Button” stationary. My penfriend has it, and it is soooooo cute. And then, I discovered that I was on Neal street! Those morons who had sent me hither and dither and it was almost in their place of work! I headed for the Dr. Martens shop. This journalist and mother of three wild boys, probably with ADHD, because she seems to have it, did a program where she wore these funny pink Dr. Martens boots and they looked so comfortable and fun. But since then, I have done a lot of research. Her kind, with lacquer, breaks easily and scuffs. And they are only comfortable when broken in. Still, I had seen two wonderful ones that I wanted to try.

imageimage Happily I sat down and took off my shoes, massaged my poor feet while I waited for the Russian girl to go fetch my size. I put first the polka dot ones on, or let’s say I tried to put them on, and once my feet were inside: PAIN! She assured me that “they will stretch one size! If you just persevere! We have special socks now, which will help!”. Sorry, but I will not live long enough to tell, if I keep those shoes on, I told her. The blood supply to my toes was cut off. It hurt so much over the ankle I wanted to scream. The pressure was so immense and her saying that they would stretch, well it’s a lot of bogus because leather will stretch but thread doesn’t! Ladies’ models are sewn with their tongue starting further down on the boot, for what reason I do not understand, because it will prevent a lot of ladies to wear them all together. You can lace a boot tight, which is too big, but you can not wear a boot that presses that hard on your foot, so you soon can’t feel that you have feet anymore.

So, off with the polka dot ones, which made me sooooo sad. And then, I put on the pink with flowers on, but there was absolutely no difference. She talked me in to trying on  solid coloured ones in plum, saying they were different, but it was no difference there either. This was very disappointing for me, since I knew that buying a pair of dress shoes/church shoes at Clarks was out of the question at this point. IF I was going to have done so, I would have had to go and buy them first thing when I arrived to London, before pain and water blisters. But a pair of boots should be something I should have been able to buy! Or? I started to think of an Agatha Christie, which I saw some years ago. Set at the end of the war or right afterwards. This mother, works as a Landgirl I think, to make ends meet, with a son to support and no husband anymore. I couldn’t help but noticing her brown boots and the socks folded down over the top of them. WWII like. I LIKE! So, finally I had to go in to the men’s section basically, and buy myself a size UK 4 brown boots. Hooray, how feminine! Well, she did say they were unisex, but why were no other women looking at them? I did try a size 5 first, being so discouraged, but when she asked me “how do they feel?” and I said “Wonderful! Very comfortable! Lots of room everywhere!”, she told me “DR MARTENS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FEEL COMFORTABLE!”. You are supposed to wear them comfortable and she told me that if I got a size 5, they would still grow! No, not again. I bought a pair of Clarks boots in 1999 and they became so big that E. was the only one who could wear them. She now wears size UK 7 (40) so noone can wear them anymore, “Cookie” having the same size as me. She is overtaking me actually. I don’t know which size she will land on. But I was size UK 2 till I started gymnasium and then I grew to size UK 3. After my first pregnancy, my feet had grown to UK 4 (37). But back to my brown boots. I had to buy a pair of thick socks from them, in order to try the boots on properly. They don’t provide trying-on-socks like in Sweden. And the size UK 4 definitely need to be stretched over the ankle, but I should be able to do that with wear. To make sure, I did buy one of the breaking-in socks as well.

Now, I started to really panic. I had to find something for the girls! I went in to shop after shop but honestly: I am not willing to pay £30 for a blouse in Sweden, so why should I do it in London? Alright, if it is a WOW blouse or sweater, then I could consider it for myself. Since I don’t grow out of things. Since I wear my clothes for at least a decade. But the girls don’t. And nothing I saw, was a wow garment. I was slowly moving towards Leicester square with the crowds and then I saw a shop which everyone seemed to go in to. So I tagged along. T K Maxx. What a place! At first when I got up to the women’s section, I thought that I might be in a second-hand shop. Because there was only one garment of each kind. And the shop was just a mess. It really looked like a second-hand clothing shop, because you couldn’t really find anything. I walked around and felt panic creeping on me. I want order when I shop. Then I just did what others did. Started to pull out things which had a nice colour or whatever, to see what it was. The thing is, that my oldest daughter is no longer easy to shop for. Her breasts seem to be ever-increasing and I stood there and wondered what size to really look for. How fun is it to come home and it fits super tight over the breasts? Or it hangs too loose and she really resents that. Believe it or not, but I found a funny top with elephants on it, one with a grumpy dinosaur and one romantic blouse. All for the price of one at the regular shops, I had been in to. I also stumbled in to a pink T-shirt saying “Smart Cookie” on it, which had a chocolate chip cookie with glasses on it. Felt it was perfect for “Cookie”, who loves to bake, who has her pet name and well, could study more! And I found a nice purple Adidas shirt for “Kitty”. Armed with five tops for three children, I suddenly heard in the loud speakers, that the shop was closing and one had to go and pay. I moved downstairs and started looking at handbags, and then it dawned on me that I should be looking for a wallet. And there it sat, screaming at me. A purple wallet with screamy pink piping and a gigantic covered button in the same pink, looking like a big nummy Galaxy minstrel. I loved it and counted on E. doing so as well, since she loves purple. This lady angrily told me that the store was closed so I moved to the long queue. Right, like one needed to rush to just stand there and stare? But in the queue I found a red beanie with white polka dots and a big white pompom on top. Typically, I did not decide which girl was going to be the recipient, which was wrong of me, since there has been a wild fight over it, after getting home. I honestly did not think E. would be caught dead in something like that, but it comes from London so… “Great big place!”. (Mrs. Musgrove in Persuasion, speaking about Bath.)

Now I felt depressed. No more shops open. Still more errands to do. And hungry. When I went to London last time, I lived on sandwiches, for lunch and dinner. Why? Well, on the first night I walked in to a pizzeria on Leicester square and stood in queue to be seated and they just ignored me. Like I was invisible. I felt so hurt by it, after standing there for a long while, that I walked out and felt too humiliated to try somewhere else. I hate sitting alone eating in a restaurant and having people stare, wondering why I am there alone. So sandwiches in the hotel room, became my dinners. Bought at Booths. But, now I happened to walk imageby an Italian restaurant, which I have always loved to walk by. It has a funny narrow shape, or the building has,  and looks so cozy inside. I have dreamt of eating there and now, armed with a gigantic Dr. Martens bag, which was in the way everywhere, I just walked resolutely up to the door and inside. This older man came up and asked me at once “table for one?” and I nodded. He took me to my favourite place: At the VERY back of the restaurant in a CORNER beside the windows. So I could look out at everyone walking by. Perfect spot for a person with agoraphobia! To sit and have the “square” in front of you, being in the corner and against the wall. I could relax. And to celebrate my victory over myself, I decided to not get the wonderful sounding Carbonara and go for Quattro Formaggi pizza instead. Mmmmmmm! Mozzarella, Parmesan, Gorgonzola and I think it was smoked Mozzarella (?).

Beside me, came an Indian father, possibly Pakistani, and his ca. 10-12 year old son, and sat down. They had their food too, and soon the father had to go to the loo downstairs. This family was sitting in another corner and suddenly the mother asked the boy if he was in the musical they had just been to. Matinée. He said yes. How embarrassing with star struck people, but the boy had not let his first performance go to his head. Yet. The woman was so impressed and praised him to the skies. Asking him silly questions, like had people recognised him out in the street and he assured her that some had. The father was soon back and was half embarrassed, half proud, when he realized that they were fans, but not really meaning anything bad with their nosey questions. The daughter of the woman was about the same age and the mother kept on repeating everything the boy told her, to the daughter, like did you hear that… The daughter just thought the whole conversation was embarrassing and so did I finally. But of course it must be fun for the boy to receive nice feedback, so soon after his first, nervous performance. Can’t remember which show it was, but I guess it has many children in it. Think what opportunities you have as a child in London, if you have the voice! “Cookie” should be in London, that’s for sure.

On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at WHSmith. It had dawned on me, that I had forgot to look for a small box of some kind, where I could put all my little fragile miniatures safely, for travel. Walking around WHSmith I decided to get a tin of some kind, but the perfect size ones, were all full of tea bags and since latter-day saints are not allowed to drink tea, I did not know what to do with them. The majority of the tin price is after all for the tea! I did not have the heart to buy a tin full of tea and throw it away. Then I found, behind other things, a bumped tin in the shape of Big Ben. A piggy bank really, full of toffees. Perfect. Except for the dents. But I bought it since they reduced the price, and then I headed back to start the packing. Armed with chocolate minstrels as well, to egg me on. Besides, I knew that part one of “Downton Abbey, season five, was to be on.

I did my packing, while watching “Downton Abbey” and while I thought it would be fun, I did not understand a thing since I have not seen season four. The only thing I did understand was the fact that Lady Edith must have had an out-of-wedlock child and her parents know nothing of it? How is that possible? E. sent me an SMS saying it served me right for not having watched season four. But I honestly did not know when it was on. Plus I feel the series have become a soap opera. Nor is it fun to watch when Matthew is gone. But I probably will see to, that I watch it after all. Frankly, there is so little worth watching on TV, that one grabs at straws.

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And Dame Maggie Smith is so fun, that one should watch the series just to see her in action. I would like someone to just clip together all her lines, because they are the best! Best actress ever and best delivered lines! She has the dowager down to a T!

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EXACTLY! TOTALLY AGREE!

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London Day 3: Miniatura in Birmingham

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.

imageAround 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 andimage 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, imagefrom 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 imagediscovered, 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 imagetimes. 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. imageAnd 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!

imageI 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.

imageI 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, imagethis 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 imagemore 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! Iimage 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 image imagethat 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 imagethree 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 imageDeco 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. Sheimage 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.

imageI 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! Fourimage 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

imageimageperfect 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?

imageIn 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!

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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.

imageThis 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?image

 

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.

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London Day 2: A Day at the Palace

imageI had set my alarm for 07:00 this morning which was completely unnecessary. I did not sleep all night! Let us say, that Sussex Gardens is a street in London where the traffic never ever ceases. It runs at high-speed ALL NIGHT through and thanks to me still being on a high stressed out level, from home, I could never wind down enough to fall asleep. I guess I was not exhausted enough or something. I grabbed the only other short-sleeved T-shirt I had with me and got dressed for breakfast while I listened to the news that Scotland had decided to stay part of the United Kingdom. Thank heavens for that. I think that had they left, then Wales and Northern Ireland would have followed suit, and if that is not sad, then what is? I can understand people being frustrated and perhaps feeling that London only cares about London. The same goes here at home. Stockholm couldn’t care less about the rest of Sweden, but still, we can’t all leave can we? Skåne could leave no doubt and would be fine on its own, or like D. and I discussed, join Denmark again, like we used to be. But Scotland has been together with the rest of the UK since the first years of the 17th Century. It has seen many wars together. It went through the Blitz together, with bombings of London as well as Glasgow. All the commandos and paras were trained in the Scottish hills and coastline. To break up a common history that has lasted for over 400 years is insane. After all, Elisabeth I, had no other heirs than Mary Stuart’s son, who was already king in Scotland, when she died. They were joined under one crown, by a lawful king, who was entitled to both countries. But when the Swedes took Skåne, there was no such thing. They just wanted land! Megalomaniacs!

To my horror, this morning I also discovered that my new mint green rucksack, in real leather, which I bought from Zatchels and love, is staining my clothes. I wore a white pretty double layer T-shirt yesterday, and there were mint green spots all over it. This was really bad news. No way I wanted to wear that T-shirt again today, going to Buckingham Palace of all places. So I headed off in a Navy blue shirt which I had planned to wear at Miniatura, and my first stop was the breakfast room. The people who gave it bad reviews, must have been unaccustomed to London and London hotels. The last ten years, London’s hotels and restaurants have been flooded with Russians. They are rude and not one bit service minded. It is just to get used to it, because that is the way it is all over. The Orchard hotel has a rude Russian lady with bleached hair, toast bread, and yes, you get to sit and wait for your toast till she notices that you are waiting. And she doesn’t serve with a smile, but with a sour lemon face. But I am not there to be charmed by the serving personnel. The orange juice is not real orange no, like the reviewers said, but I have been getting this sort of “saft” orange juice in London since 1993, so what is the big deal? It probably is less likely to spoil and it is not as acid as real orange is, so it is easy on my sensitive stomach.

I got to Buckingham Palace and I was surprised at not facing a long queue on arrival. I just walked in and bought my ticket and then I went over to the waiting area. They have airport security and when this young man came with a microphone and told us about that and about the fact that the nearest toilet, was 1 1/2 hours away, I panicked. I had to leave, just as the security check was about to start. I had to get my ticket slip back and head off to find a toilet somewhere. The directions the young man gave me, were no good and finally I had to run in to an Italian café and beg to use their loo, because I could hardly hold on anymore. When I was done and had reflected what a nice place it was, with Italian written even on the loo doors, I had to sprinter back to the Palace before they changed the ticket person. I arrived and there was a long queue, but I headed to the front of it and was relieved to see the young man again, who opened the gate and let me in. Not everyone had got through security yet, so for you who plan on going next year, the security check takes at least half an hour! The first group entering  at 09:30. To my surprise, my bracelet did not sound this time, which was a great relief since my arm was so sore from where it got scratched badly. Sore scratch and something had happened inside my wrist as well, when I fell on the stairs, because I could not carry things with my right hand without a stabbing pain. Typical!

I have wanted to go see Buckingham Palace ever since they started opening it for the public, every year in August and September. Last time I had the opportunity and remembered about it, I did not know where one goes to enter, but this time I had checked out the map, and knew exactly where to go. It’s on the left side of the Palace if one stands with Pall Mall behind oneself. I don’t know how I have missed it before? You get head phones to wear and an excellent guided tour, through the State Rooms, which is second best, after having a tour guide. Or even better really since you can listen at your own speed and not get disturbed by others’ chatter. Soon I discovered other Swedes walking right in front of me. A mother and daughter from my church (another ward than mine) in Sweden and as their London guide, was this homosexual young man who left church years ago, but whose mother used to belong to our ward. None of the three recognised me though. I am such a non-entity. Noone ever recognises me. The monkey knows everyone and noone knows the monkey.

The Palace rooms are very, very beautiful, especially the ceilings. And entering it imageall, by the grand stairs, felt like a real privilege. Having cost all of £20 to do so! (But compared to a lot of museums, I guess it is about on target.) And I loved the fact that the picture gallery had lots of Canaletto paintings. I LOVE his paintings and had them all to myself since everyone else was just interested in the Rembrandts etc. I can’t see enough of Canaletto and imagebeautiful Venezia!

Part of the State Room visit at the moment, also entails the exhibition Royal Childhood, which was something I really loved. Getting to see all the little toys, furniture and so on, of the present Queen and her now deceased sister, as well as other Royals’ belongings, was a rare  treat. She was such a serious little girl and they showed her speech to the Nations’ children when a lot of them had been evacuated, during the Blitz. I had  heard it before but not seen the broadcast with pictures. The tour was over all too soon, after seeing wedding photos of her but also Prince William and Kate, and moving through the room where Prince William was christened. I am sad that “Cookie” did not get to see all this when we went over two years ago, in November.

imageSome pictures from the exhibition: “Gubby” would have loved to play with these cars! The building blocks with family members must have been a nice thing to play with, when one could not get to see them. And I just loved how Queen Victoria saved all her children’s milk teeth in specially made boxes. So wonderful! image image

When the tour was over and I had handed over the head phones, I headed over to the toilets and wondered why the ticket people could not have shown people to this newly built structure, some back way, instead of sending us away from the premises. I also headed to the gift shop, not thinking I would find a single thing that I could afford in there. But there is a variety of things in the gift shop. Things for us ordinary people, and then expensive things for the rich Americans who walk up to the counter with their arms full of things, that the personnel will package up for them and SEND to America on their behalf. A lot of the souvenirs are porcelain, replicas from the Royal collections, but there are also a lot of tin things full of cookies, tea and chocolate. I bought more modest things which do not weigh anything, like a tea towel, imagebecause it had such pretty colours (royal coat of arms), bookmarks in leather, a guide-book, a pen and a thin metal plate which was a replica of one found in the Palace. I thought one could put cookies on it for Birthdays? imageBut these Americans which stood by my side, looking at them too, decided to get them for picnics. I don’t think they were made for such heavy usage. Their new picnic plates will soon be scratched up and without colour! (The plate is a replica of Queen Victoria’s plate from 1877, with her insignia and also the different national emblems or flowers: Scottish thistles, Irish shamrock and England’s roses. Hm! Where’s Wales?)

I was feeling hungry by now and decided to actually sit down and have lunch in the Palace café which stands right outside, as one enters the garden from the State Rooms, where Prince Charles and Diana were photographed when they had just got engaged.

imageI bought a sandwich and then I could not resist another cake piece, because it had a Royal crown on it! I sat down at a table, it was very crowded by now, and started to send an SMS to T., to hear if he wanted a tiny chocolate box from the gift shop. I had stood and looked at it because it had mint chocolates in it. Just a 100 gram box, so not too much weight to carry home and I did not know what other sort of gift I could bring home for him. He is the worse to shop for but he does love good chocolate and especially with mint in it. While I sat their typing, this Australian asked me if he and his wife could sit down on the other two chairs and I nodded. And suddenly I noticed that we had all her coffee all over the table. I quickly looked down on my plastic bag and rucksack which were both leaning on the only leg of the table and yes, they were covered with her  disgusting coffee. It is bad when someone spills coffee on you but even worse for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We don’t drink coffee or tea  and we are totally against the consumption of such. Our Word of Wisdom forbids us to drink it and here I sat with coffee, stinking coffee, all over my souvenir bag and my leather mint green rucksack. The lady started a small non-fertile attempt to wipe some of it off my plastic bag but there was so much of it. I got so angry, said nothing, but left the table and fetched a whole wad of paper napkins. I started to wipe and wipe and wipe. It seemed like there was no end to all the coffee and the smell was overwhelming. Stupid clumpsy cow! I know, very un-christian of me, but she did not even ask if my things were alright! I had paper products in that plastic bag and my rucksack is just one month old and is not shiny surface but has a grainy surface so the coffee settled deep in the grooves. I sat in silence and just wiped and wiped. When I felt I could do no more without water, I started to eat my sandwich, looking out over the garden, ignoring the couple.

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They left a little before me, and as soon as I had finished my meal, I walked back to the toilet and tried to wash off the spots from my rucksack, hoping for the best when it dried out. Better water spots than coffee spots. Then I walked back in to the Palace gift shop and bought the expensive chocolates for my husband, and asked for a new big bag, telling the woman at the till that a lady had spilled sticky coffee all over my previous bag and that I could not get the smell or stickiness off. I could not care less that the couple stood right behind me! What is it with 60+ people? They think they can behave in any manner they want to? They could have offered to run off and get me another bag! As it was, I was now in a bad mood, even though it had all started so good with getting to look at wonderful rooms, with amazing colours, ceilings and history! A truly pretty exhibition of childhood items, showing parents who really cared that their children had everything to be able to play and have a wonderful childhood. The way we all tryimage now as well, but with less funds of course! (Picture of the room, Queen Elizabeth enters from her own private apartments, to see guests. The secret door is behind the mirror on the left. All things on the table in front, have had to be nailed in place so they do not fall off when the door opens! Funny details like these are told on the audio tour!)

By now, it was time to head to my next stop. Which was Goodge Street and Waterstone’s by the University. For a couple of years, I have been wanting this book: “American Women during World War II”, a big heavy encyclopedia. Problem being that it has cost an arm and a leg. Except for one copy, held at Waterstone’s used books department, at Goodge Street (not quite on Goodge street but that is the tube station). That one has cost £12 but they have not sent outside Britain. So my goal was to go to the shop and hand carry it home! I checked it was still in stock the night before I went to London and now I headed to the shop to finally buy it. Things were not quite that easy though. First of all, the sky opened up and the rain that came down was of the very wet kind. Yes, there is a difference in rain and rain. Everyone screamed and ducked for shelter. Thing was, I had by now spent 20 minutes, on aching feet, trying to locate Waterstone’s. It is the same thing every time I go there, I can not quite find the street and the corner it is on. Standing for 15 minutes under a convenience shop’s marquee, I finally asked the man beside me if he knew where it was and then I ran out in the rain. I just did not have time to waste. But things got more complicated. Waterstone’s was being re-modelled and the used books moved around. I finally found the help desk and the lady working there told me the dreaded news that they keep used books in the shop separate from the ones they sell on the internet and that you can’t buy the internet books in the shop because of her boss and his system. Now I felt sooooo sad I did not know what to do and I told her how I had wanted it for so long, that it only said domestic shipping on it and that I had come all the way from Sweden to buy it. She said she thought she knew where the man in charge was and headed to have a chat with him. I waited and waited and 10 minutes later she came back and soon he arrived too. I had to show him on the internet, which book it was and he kindly went to search for it. He warned me that it would take a while but I said that it didn’t matter one bit and when he finally appeared with the book in his hands, I was overjoyed.

By now, I needed to go to the loo, but when the man in there finally came out, having stunk up the place horribly, there was no paper! I went to tell the staff and this girl told me she had no idea where there was loo paper to be had, but she would have it sorted soon. I walked off, since I had managed to overcome the feeling and went to look at their stationary. Two years ago they had Cath Kidston things, so hopeful, I went in search of anything Cath Kidston and found one letter set and a 2015 diary, so I was very , very happy when I headed for World War II Homefront History. I looked in a lot of books till I just HAD to go use the loo and but still no paper. This time I walked in to the cafeteria and asked if they could please get paper and the lady, Russian?, grumpily said that it is the job of the bookstore but she would look in to it. Her English was so bad though, that at first I did not understand that she would sort it, because she just stood there doing nothing and she got angry with me. Well, excuse me but I do not appreciate having to go use the loo without paper thank you! Nor do I like to go ask for paper twice! They have one tiny loo for a several floor big store. If you want to sell, you have to provide a way for people to go and relieve themselves. Especially if you have installed a café in the shop!

After my visit to the bookstore, I headed for Paperchase, which is out on the main street where the tube station is, and limping in there, I walked  around in search of more fun stationary. My penfriend had suggested this since she usually finds fun things there. I can’t say they were cheap but I did find some cute stationary. And I moved on to the proper Cath Kidston Flag Ship shop on Piccadilly. I wish I had known about this shop before. It is huge and it is just absolutely fabulous! And yet, I felt overwhelmed walking in there, because everything is SO pretty! I didn’t know what to look at first and this American woman was standing holding on to a bag I fell hopelessly in love with on first sight. She told her friend she did not know if she should get this one red bag or this other one which there was only one left of. That made me feel upset, since that was my new love. A bag that looked like it came straight from the 1940s-1950s. I decided to keep my calm and walk around and not hover around the lady to see what she was doing and I walked off looking at wallets, bath- and beauty paraphernalia and finally I found the paper and office products. But they did not have stationary to write letters on at all.

To tell the truth, the shop was so overwhelming and I started rationalizing away one thing after the next as perhaps not something I needed at this point. I decided to not get E. the wallet we had looked at on the internet, since it was £5 more in the shop. “Boo” tried to get in to her wallet here a couple of weeks ago and when he could not, he snuck in to the bathroom and tried to cut it open from the bottom, with a pair of haircutting scissors. E. was devastated since I received that wallet years ago, and had no use for it, being too big and long for my taste. I handed it to E. at that point and she has loved it because it was long and had a clasp for lock instead of a zipper. And now her brother had ruined it. I also decided against a make up bag and beauty bag, because I could not decide which pattern I liked the most nor the style. I moved over to the shoulder bags and boy are there many styles to choose from and patterns. I saw that the blue bag was back with a red one just like it, and started to look at the inside when a salesperson walked up to me. For some reason, we started to talk about how I had  looked at the internet in Sweden, to find out where in London one could find Cath Kidston, something I have never done before, and how I to my amazement found the address to this entire shop of hers. She started to laugh since she is from Stockholm. We quickly switched over to Swedish and I told her how I had thought the American lady was going to buy the blue bag. She told me that she did, but that it was not the last one that they had. She went to see if they had more in the back, since it is a special edition one, only sold in the Flagship store.

imageThey had another one, so I could sure buy it if I wanted to. We started to look at the typical Cath Kidston bags with flowers, in waxcloth fabric and talked over which ones one can use all year in Sweden and which straps that work over the shoulder when you wear a thick winter coat. It was fun talking to her. She had lived in London for a year and a half and is moving on to working at a ski resort in Austria next, before she is going back to Sweden, to pick up her studies. I envy her. No such thing when I was her age. The only thing Swedes could do was go and work as au-pairs in England, since we were not part of EU. I would have loved to have had another job in England, than that, since you are just a cleaning lady and an under-paid such. I earned £14/week for cleaning, from 07:00-15:00 every day but Sunday, and in my second family, which had children aged 5 and 9, I also had to babysit three evenings a week and make sure they did their homework in the afternoons instead of watching TV. Ghastly! Going in to London, from the suburbs, cost so much, as did going dancing, that after a Saturday night out, there was nothing left of the £14. We lived for Saturday nights and Sundays. My friend who  worked in a more central London living family, used to ask me to stay the night, so we could go to a freebie museum Sunday. Staying “home” Sunday meant working on Sunday. You were not allowed to sit around in the house doing nothing. But it did not pay to stay away Sunday, because Monday morning, my “family” had nothing to eat on. The wife, Mrs. Lawrence, refused to load the dishwashing machine so Monday morning, every single piece of cutlery and porcelain was out of the cupboards and I had to get up extra early to handwash at least enough for them to have breakfast on and with. In the job description it said that one would be like a family member. Right! I don’t know anyone who treats their family members like that. I ate in the kitchen, away from them and was treated worse than a servant girl! I would have loved to have worked at Cath Kidston! Or at Waterstone’s. That would have been perfect. Or at a museum! Oh to be young again and have all sorts of opportunities.

When I had bought the things I could not live without, at Cath Kidston, I said goodbye to Rebecca and headed for Oxford Street again, to see if I could make it to Clarks shoe shop, before they closed. They have the most comfortable shoes there are, and that is exactly what I needed at this moment. I could hardly walk. My toes killing me and my heels likewise. I had decided to go look for church shoes there, but there was no way I could press my swollen feet in to a pair of nice lady’s shoes, no matter how soft or comfortable. I arrived in time to look around and this man came up and wanted to help. He started to show me winter boots and I told him, I have wonderful winter boots at home thank you. “I need something to walk in NOW.” I tried to tell him exactly how much my feet hurt but he wasn’t listening. Finally he just walked off. I asked this lady instead if she could help me. I told her that I did not want boots nor gym shoes, even if most tourists wear that in London. I told her I hate that look and that I wanted to buy a pair of shoes that I can wear when I get home as well. That I still want to look imagelike a woman even if I wear comfortable shoes. She brought out some shoes but they hurt my feet. One pair I could not get my feet in to at all. Finally I saw a pair that we had both overlooked. They were softer than soft, looking like jazz dance shoes almost, from their comfortable selection, and yes they look like nerd shoes, but tolerable I think, so…

By now, I could hardly walk and I was starving. But the idea of having to search for something to eat, was not appealing. I had eaten a dry Booths sandwich for dinner the evening before. I stood there on Oxford street right outside McDonald’s and then I just gave up. I limped in there and ordered a filet of fish without cheese and grabbed the first chair I could find. I was in too much pain to do anything else even though I hate McDonald’s! After eating, I had no idea how to get back to the hotel. I just had to do it one step after the next. It was a relief to finally sit down on my hotel bed, take off the Converse, puncture the water blisters and put my feet up on the bed to rest till morning. The lady at Clarks had said that I could test the shoes at the hotel and bring them back if they did not feel right, but I knew that I would have to wear them the next day, because I could not spend another day in my Converse. My feet could take no more of them! And then I had even put in a gel heel thing, before I left Sweden, which is supposed to prevent heel pain in Converse shoes! Little they did to help!

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London Day 1: Back to the trenches…

From the 18 September 2014:

Early on in 2014, my husband broke my heart, when he declared that our car would never make it down to Italy and back, even though the man at the car inspection thought that it would! So much for that planned vacation. I kept saving money anyway, just in case something would happen. When May came around, I almost had a fit. I showed him all the things which were going to happen 6 June, in Normandy. This is after all a very special year for historians and veterans alike. It is 100 years since WWI started but also 70 years since Operation Overlord and the beginning of the end, to WWII.

Suddenly he and E. started to say that we must drive down to Normandy. I did not react the way they thought I would. “So the car can not make it down to Italy but it suddenly is well enough to go to France?”. T. started mentioning that the car inspector seemed to think it would be fine. Well, I told him, that no way was I going to drive to Normandy, even if I would have loved to have seen all the re-enactments and that it was a unique event, since it will never happen again. They will never do it again, since the veterans are getting too old to travel. But to have the car break down in France, not being fluent in the language, far from it, no… And there was also the matter of D. graduating. To go to France under such rushed circumstances, was not my cup of tea. He was graduating on the 11th and then having the formal ceremony on the 13th. I am a realist and knew exactly what sort of work I was in for, in order to prepare everything for the 11th. My husband just does not realize what sort of preparation goes in to everything. A symptom of ADHD in adults.

Summer came, and more and more meetings got planned in at BUP and habilitation for our three youngest boys. And “Cookie” was having braces put on in the middle of everything as well. For months now, I have felt more and more overwhelmed with things, and I already knew I would feel this way, when all the appointment papers started dropping in. So I started to look at when the appointments would start easing off, and that was going to happen after the 17th September. I studied my Dollhouse magazines and discovered that the Miniatura fair/show was to take place on the 20th September, and decided that since I missed it in the spring, here was my chance to actually get to go and see all the things for real, that I have studied in all the internet shops, on eBay and Etsy. I bought a ticket to Miniatura long before I booked a trip! The Saturday tickets sell out quickly they said, so I was not going to stand without. But it felt weird to have bought a ticket for a fair without having a hotel or air planeticket to get to England. About a month later, I booked the needed tickets for a stay in London, tube ticket and a train ticket to Birmingham, so I could attend the fair.

After ISIS or IS or ISIL, or whatever they choose to call themselves this week, started to behead people and threaten all Christians and the Western World, I stopped being happy about my journey plans. Birmingham, being the hot-pot for fanatic Islamists among other things. But the closer my departure date came, I started adapting the Blitz spirit.Back in 1940 and onwards, the Londoners among others, knew that the bombers would come. But they couldn’t stop living because of that. They went on, business as usual, and they did the same a couple of years ago, when Muslim fanatics blew up a bus and bombs in the tube. You just can’t let terrorism get to you and make you too afraid to live. So, I packed my bag on the 17th September while the children were running a marathon in the town park, a reoccurring yearly event. And in the morning, the 18th September, I got out of bed at 04:00 to shower and get myself ready. Since “Gubby” was going through terrible separation anxiety at the moment and cried his heart out every day when I left him at pre-school, clinging to me and D., who had had to start coming along, I said my goodbyes the night before. At 05:00, T. got out of bed, finally, and D. crawled in to our bed so that “Gubby” would not notice we were gone, and we could be off.

We arrived at the airport after 06:00 and I was so nervous, that I had to run to the loo before I did anything else. As we had turned out from our street, a black cat ran across the road, which means bad luck according to superstition, and when I went up the stairs at the airport, after my visit to the loo, I fell on the stairs. Everyone stared and probably thought I was drunk. Most unpleasant! I managed to get up on my feet again but now it really felt wrong to sit down and fly. T. had to convince me that I would be alright, even though the cat had run in front of me and I had taken a nasty fall. So, I took my suitcase and said goodbye, only to stumble on to the next glitch. Not getting any help with checking in. When I am really tired, then my eyes are not really awake enough to see through my old reading glasses, and I still do not have new proper glasses for my current eyesight, after 3 1/2 months of trying to rectify the problem. So, I could not see the things in my papers which needed to be entered on the computer screen. It took twice the time it needed to, the computer told me it would shut down, and when I finally had got everything entered and walked off to hand in my suitcase, they asked me for the tag. I had not seen it come out and fall on the floor. What a mess! Why can’t they have at least one person patrolling the area and helping out, if someone is in need of help? Is that too much to ask after paying an arm and a leg for the tickets?

Next I headed to security and boy, talk about rush hour traffic. I have never seen so many people in that area before. A digital sign said the wait would be 14 minutes but it took more than that and when I went through, my silver bracelet, which I can not take off myself, so I always have to sleep with it on, beeped. A lady had to help me unscrew the little lock while I pushed the two ends of the bangle towards each other, so it could be unlocked. Then she more or less ripped it off me instead of letting me bend it so I could wiggle myself out of it. The result was a gigantic painful scratch. I will now have a nice long scar across my arm, on the top of the wrist, so it can be seen by everyone. Thanks for that airport security! There was no time by now, to look at anything in the taxfree area. I just headed for WHSmith, which is nothing like in Britain, and bought myself a drink and head ache pills, since I had packed them in my suitcase by mistake! And then on to the gate where boarding had already started. And when I got to my seat, someone else was sitting there and got really perturbed when both the air stewardess and I told her to move. Everyone else had got to choose their seats at check in, which I did not get to do. Weird! But this lady was in the wrong seat, wrong row, wrong everything!

When we landed at Gatwick airport, it was already warm outside. The captain told us that it was going to be 25 degrees Celsius and I couldn’t believe my ears. I who had dark, long-legged jeans on and a wool jacket! In other words, I had completely packed the wrong things for this trip and was going to perspire!!! It was somewhat tricky to get a ticket for the Gatwick Express since I did not have the time to get my reading glasses out. Everyone was screaming and in a hurry, including the people who assigned you to a machine. So I hope I did not overpay and bought a first class ticket, which I did not need. And then I was bawled out when I showed the ticket man my receipt instead of my ticket, them looking identical. The little green and orange cards you get that are supposedly your tickets. Well, I couldn’t read which was which, I just had to follow the throng. No time to piddle around with reading glasses in order to show the right card. I got down to the right platform, only to see the train leaving in front of me. So back up all the stairs to see what platform the next one was leaving from. All trains were running late, platforms were being changed and I had to leave for another platform. I think that all in all I lost 45 minutes, before I finally got on to a Gatwick Express train and was on my way to London. I who had hoped to have been at the Imperial War Museum at 10:00 when they open, had to scrap those plans. I got off at Victoria and took the tube to Paddington, being very nervous about my hotel.

On the 16th September, it suddenly dawned on me that we had not contacted the hotel to find out 1) if I would be allowed to drop my luggage with them, early in the morning. Some hotels really mind or charge for it. 2) if I would be allowed to check in late since no way was I coming back to the hotel at 14:00, interrupting my day, just to check in formally. As we tried to get the address, e-mail and phone number, both T., at work, and myself, read the reviews the hotel had received the last month or so, and I got more and more depressed reading them. Most of them gave the hotel, the Orchard, one star, saying that it was a ghastly hotel where the staff starts cleaning and slamming around things at 06:45. That the personnel is awful, that you don’t get clean towels, that breakfast is appalling, that the noise from a pub and the street is overwhelming and so on. So, it was with trepidation I turned on to Sussex Garden, wondering if it was going to be the hotel where I stayed a couple of years ago, which had terrible Indian staff, no toilet paper, no lift, the stairs having rickety banisters/railings and the rooms the size of a shoebox. To my amazement, it was not. I walked in to a hotel, which was part of a group of hotels laying door to door with each other, which meant that there are people night and day and when you travel alone, this is a good thing.

Walking in to the hotel, I was greeted by a Russian girl who told me that sure, I could put my suitcase in the lounge. I quickly placed my wool jacket in the suitcase, cursing the fact that I had brought it in the first place, and I was on my way to Lambeth. I arrived about 11:00, so I had 7 hours to see the newly re-imagemodelled museum. This was part of the reason for my trip. Getting to see all the new and fantastic things they had made to it and to see the Exhibition “Spies” by horrible histories. I loved “There’s a stench in the trench” so I was really looking forward to this. I walked in, and could not make heads or tails of the place. So my first question was, where did people get the maps? I was told to go outside and get a timed ticket, for the new WWI exhibition and also get a map at that time. I had missed the two people handing out tickets, thinking they were only doing so for the big school classes entering the building at the same time as I did. I walked out and got my ticket for 11:15 and I asked where to get the tickets for the “Spies” exhibition. The young girl  standing at the entrance looked at me, and told me “That is for kids only! You can go and read lots more in the regular spies exhibit!”. Making it sound like I was VERY old and under no circumstances would they let me in to the exhibition. In other words, part of my trip was ruined. I had really looked forward to this bit, but the museum being re-modelled promised something good for the adults as well, right? In the spies section?

So, disappointed I walked down the stairs and had a very quick glance to my right and left, where I noticed two different book shops/gift shops. Odd! Arriving on the lower floor, I noticed that this is where they had put the café and yet another gift/book shop. I had 15 minutes so I went and bought myself some water, since suddenly I felt faint, being very dehydrated from perspiration. The café was a great disappointment compared to the old one. The menu seemed more fancy, the setting looking very fancy and believe it or not, but I did not find it inviting. It was too cold and sterile. The old cafeteria reminded you of a canteen at perhaps an airforce base or something. In line with what the museum is about. It was light and unassuming. Now it is all fancy 21st Century imageblack and it reminds you of a fancy café in say perhaps Harrods or one of the posh department stores, and not a museum one. I was surprised that I could even afford the water, the way this place looked. Sorry, IWM, but thumbs down to your fancy cafeteria/café!

I went to stand in the queue which had formed, and soon we got to enter. Sadly enough, so did the school classes and let me say this, I have noticed some differences between Swedish and British school classes. On the tube and at museums. They SCREAM! They scream the entire time. There is no mumble or low-key speaking like Swedish school classes are encouraged to do, but there is constant screaming from the pupils and as soon as we got in to this exhibit, they started to lean on the displays. It felt like they were going to tear the entire place down. I have no idea who the teachers were, they did not seem too clever and they seemed to be totally acclimatized to the sound level. As a teacher, I would have summed up the visit as  a total waste of time. They needed to have walked around with a guide who could have pointed out what they should have paid attention to. As it was, I think they learned absolutely zero. And my visit had its second disappointment, since I need quiet to stand and read lengthy text and image image imageunderstand what it says in English, which after all is not my native language. It took me forever to get through the WWI exhibit thanks to their screaming and I must say that I miss the old trench experience since that part of IWM made it all much more alive. The dolls, the voices, the sounds, the smells, the shelling. They took away something which was good. And I started to think, why? To be high-tech? More modern? Or because people nowadays have the attention span of a peanut?

imageWhen I was done with WWI, after about 3 hours, I did walk in to the cafeteria to see if there was anything to eat. I wasn’t overly hungry and when I saw the delicious looking lemon poppy-seed cake, I decided to just have a small snack of that. It was very empty in the café, so I ate a little bit too quick I think, to move on to the next stage and be out of the cold sterile environment. WWII I thought. This is when the real shock came. Gone is basically all of WWII. I guess they ran out of money, after spending it all on tearing away the big hall floor and making WWI in to something they find grand. I am a WWII historian and my disappointment met no end. Sure, the floor with the Holocaust is still there. And “A Family in Wartime” which has the fantastic Allpress Dollhouse or replica of their real wartime house. But WWII has been reduced to a floor that is just basically a corridor around the open atrium, which shows a couple of airplanes and a V1 and a V2 bomb. How can I describe what the WWII floor now contains? Big vehicles and artefacts! Everything that was down on the entrance hall floor, is now standing in the WWII corridor. There are not even signs by the items but you have to find  big boardsimage somewhere, which has all of the artefacts outlined on it and saying what they are. It’s up to you to remember what you read and sort the items out between that sign board and the next one. NOT GOOD if there is a lot of people on the floor, standing in the way.

Gone is the Blitz experience which is one of the main reasons why I kept going back to the IWM over and over again, to get a dose of WWII. Gone is the 1940s house, which I wanted to see this time, to get ideas for my own WWII dollhouse. There is nothing in the exhibit that recounts what happened in the inter-war years and 1939-1945 only have the artefacts. So, it started to dawn on me, that IWM is now all about WWI and everything else is less important. I guess the next major re-modelling will cover WWII, but that will be in 2039 and I am not likely to be able to go and see it when I am in my 70s. Like a dehydrated person in the desert longing for anything to drink, no matter what, I went to the corner of that floor and imagespent all my time in “A Family in Wartime”, trying to take photos of the dollhouse and study wallpapers, items they used back then like what the pots and pans looked like, imagecolours, radios, taps in the sink, what the sink looked like, the tub they bathed in, … What else was there to do? imageI wanted to walk away with SOME new knowledge of WWII, even though they deprived me of the bigger heavier stuff. Fy on them to take away the blitz experience, how could they??? I didn’t bother with the cinema and the film about Afghanistan. Couldn’t care less. Not interested.

Next I went to the secret war and to my horror, I discovered that it is the same boring thing we saw there in 1993! It has not changed one bit! No improvements made at all, exactly left as it was, during the re-modelling of the rest. And this is what that girl thought I was going to stand and read instead of the funny horrible histories way of describing things, which is made up to make history fun and educational. All the stuff found at the grown ups department of the spies section can be read in a book. I did not want to use my brain, I just wanted to see things out of the eyes of children. And for that teenage girl to stand there and say that it is just for children! What does she know of my age and what I have at home? I have three boys and my 6 and 8 year-olds are not on the level of 6 and 8, but years behind their peers. I was fuming with anger and it was 17:00, so no use in going to get myself a ticket at that point. I sat down on some steps in the SOE part of the secret war area, fuming for a while,  and then I took the lift up to the spies exhibition level. I bought my three youngest boys a para-rat each as a gift and I also bought the book describing the exhibition that I was not allowed to go to since I was “too old”. COW! I wish to voice a formal complaint against that girl and her judgemental attitude!

image image

From there I went around to the four bookshops. This was really the last nail in the coffin! I don’t appreciate having to whip out my Master card four times, in order to buy the things I want to purchase. I don’t appreciate that one shop has some things, another one totally different things, a third one… This is absolutely ridiculous. For heaven’s sake, this is one and the same museum and one should be able to stand and compare the things one has put in one’s “shopping basket” and then make an intelligent decision. This way, they force you to make silly purchases, that you regret at the end of the day, because there was not a single shop which had an overview of everything available. Good for business but not for me as a visitor! I got one book in the WWII bookshop, which did not exist in the general book shop, where I bought a book on WWI instead and a funny book for D., while in the WWI shop, I got all sorts of general souvenirs. Worse of all, the things I had decided on getting, beforehand, after looking at their internet site, were not even there, in any of the four shops! I had to walk home without the things I really wanted, and with things I had not planned on buying.

So, to sum up the new and improved Imperial War Museum: I take off one star, for staff that tells you that you are too old to attend one of their exhibitions, because you left your young children at home! I take off another star, because the general gift and book shop was done away with, where it was easier to shop what you wanted and compare what is available! Another star is taken off, because the café has lost all its charm and only is inviting for those with money. It’s become too posh for a war museum. And I take off three stars for the simple reason that its become a WWI museum, with little emphasis on WWII, which in some respects was a more important war, with first the rise of the Nazis and then  the war years themselves that entailed so much which was never present in the first world war conflict! To decimate it to what it now has become, is an utter disgrace. Sure, the dollhouse is there to show a little bit homefront and the holocaust is there, but honestly, artefacts can not take the place of explaining the rise of Hitler and the war itself. You need all aspects, films, signs with text, interactive screens. So, while the Museum before held a ten star status in my book, it now has slipped down to a five-star museum and I am not sure I will continue recommending it, like I have in the past. I made sure to take my two oldest sons there, when I took them individually to London. I planned on taking E. there, like I did with “Cookie”, two years ago, but at this point, I think I can take the museum off our itenary. That is exactly how disappointed I am in its new shape.

At this point, the museum was closing and I headed back to the hotel with my purchases and to check in formally. I also had to stop off at Booths since the cake must have contained lots of eggs or grease. My indigestion was killing me and the personnel at the pharmacy was clueless. They did not have simple indigestion tablets like we have here in Sweden. I told the pharmacist that I was in so much pain that it felt like I was having a gall stone attack. And he sold me medicine against GAS! Honestly! How could I forget my indigestion powders at home? They would have weighed nothing! Showing up at the hotel, I was happily surprised when I discovered that they had a lift. They always place me on the third floor, when I travel alone, and they did the same thing this time. So it was great to be able to not drag my suitcase up three flights of narrow stairs, being scared that the railing/banister is going to fall down and me with it. Up on the third floor, my room was right by the lift, which made me a little bit worried, but entering the room, I was excited. Everything was new and fresh. A giant TV on imagethe wall, plenty of room to move about, and a very nice bathroom with shower cabin which prevented water to run out all over the floor. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I left my suitcase and my WWI bag from IWM and decided to head out again. My feet clad in converse, were sore, but I realized that to use all my time in London wisely, I could not be at the hotel at that hour, but needed to run errands till everything closed for the day. So off to Paddington tube station again, and soon I stood at Marble Arch and the first NEXT store on Oxford Street. I did not find what I wanted: A new winter jacket. I did find a pretty sweater but they did not have it in size 8, so I had to head towards Bond Street on foot, to try to find the correct size there. My hunt for souvenirs and gifts for the children had by now started. I love buying things for them, but to have the pressure of finding things for everyone and for the same amount of money, well let’s say, it ruins your holiday! D. was all done in my book. I got him a trench whistle and a book at IWM. Since his Birthday was to be two days after my arrival home, I decided to not bother with more things for him. Already having too much for his Birthday, since his dad went off and bought something for him behind my back.

I found Mothercare and to my disappointment, they were sold out on everything “Thomas the Tank Engine”, in “Gubby’s” size. This was a great disappointment since he loves Thomas and we don’t have Thomas-clothes in Sweden. Even more disappointing was the realisation that I soon have no business in stores like that at all. Not being able to have another baby, like I’ve dreamed of for the last five years, and my children growing out of the sizes they sell. It really makes me loose my will to live. It feels like my life is over and not worth living anymore. The only Thomas thing I could buy for “Gubby” was a Thomas beanie, which he will love but I thought I would come home with a pyjamas and shirts too.  In the Disney store, I found pyjamas for him and for “Boo”, with Toystory on them, which I knew would excite them. But would make “Kitty” jealous of course. They did not have his size. I did look at T-shirts for “Cookie” but did not want to get her anything quite yet, since this was only the first day. Once again, I was thrown in to depressing thoughts when I looked at all the little girl toys and Princess things. No little girl to shop for anymore. Serena would have loved all those things, had she got to live. She would have given me an excuse to go hunting for little cute dresses all over. Never again! Life is just too cruel.

At the second NEXT store, I found my sweater and I went to the children’s image imagedepartment just to see if they had anything funny. They did! Wonderful “Minion” T-shirts for “Boo” and “Gubby”. We love the “Minions” from “Despicable Me”, so this was great! There was also a sweatshirt with one Minion on it and I splurged and got one for “Boo”. At £17 I thought it cost too much to get two of that one, as well. “Gubby” has a lot of inherited things, so he will not miss it. Besides it is grey and it is not really his colour. But “Boo” has a serious deficit in clothes. I don’t know what “Kitty” does to his clothes, but most can not be handed down to his brother. The thing about ADHD: they wear hard on their clothes! Unfortunately they were sold out of both kinds of Minion shirts in “Kitty’s” size and this really became the continuing story of my trip. His size being sold out. At 21:30, everything closed, and I was forced back to the hotel, where I arrived at 22:00 to sit and watch the Scottish election news. I sat down to listen to what they were saying and took a look at my poor feet which now had three water blisters on three little toes. So much for Converse being comfortable shoes!

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“The King’s Speech”, the book

imageOn the 20th September, I sat down on the train to Birmingham and started to read this book. I had bought it the day before, at Waterstone’s, as second-hand, and simply because I am probably one of the few people in the world, who still have not seen the film. Not at all because of lack of interest! Not at all! I meant to go see it in the cinema, but that seems to be an impossibility for me nowadays, to get to go somewhere at all, except between the different schools and church. And then I meant to buy the DVD and see it at home, at least, and I finally did buy it at a very reduced price, since everyone has already seen it already, right?! But, it still sits with its plastic wrapper around it. The few times I have enough time to watch an entire film, I put on an old Midsomer Murder! Why? Because I don’t have to think, I don’t have to stay awake, I can just relax and let my mind wander or drift in to a short nap… I know how it ends, I know the lines. To see a new film, I really need to stay awake for sure don’t I? And I can not guarantee that I will after a long and strenuous week. Friday and Saturday evening being the only nights, one would be able to put on a film, in this house.

A book on the other hand, I can read whenever. Sitting in the car, helping with homework, when the children watch the children’s TV programs or a film. That is why I bought the book and for the life of me, I can not understand why the film became a hit, because the book certainly is not. Sure, the Amazon picture of it says it is the number one bestseller and on my copy it says, the top ten bestseller but I think this is the effect of the film. People running out to buy the book after watching the film, wanting more. Gorgeous Colin Firth sitting on the front of course is also a sale argument! I doubt the readers would say that it is a worthy bestseller though. Why?

Well, not having seen the film, I can only say what I think about the book and the fact that I started it on the 20 September and it taking me 20 days to finish it, says it all. Up till today, I had only achieved 80 pages and those 80 pages were pure struggle. To be honest, I don’t know what the author wanted to achieve? Telling Lionel Logue’s background up till he met the future King, might have caught the interest of his descendants, but it was worse than a sleeping pill. And to be honest, Mark Logue, doesn’t have that much to go on. He doesn’t REALLY tell who his grandfather was. The portrait is not a warm one, it just feels like bits and pieces put together in to a book, trying to tell us the readers of every meeting he had with Albert, later King George VI. What he comes up with, is something you probably could just puzzle together with the help of the internet, instead of being a deep insight in to what really happened. I guess his co-writer told him that he had to fill out the book with historical facts, to put things in context, but there are several mistakes, like saying something so stupid like the Allied forces meeting up on the Elbe on the 25 May and Hitler killing himself 5 days later. Excuse me, but since V-E day was the 8 May, that date is of course completely off the mark. And many times, the dates don’t match. Most of the time, he does this very annoying thing to, of first mentioning an event, like the King’s Christmas speech in one year, and then jumping back months, talking about this and that speech and how his health was deteriorating. Either you decide to write in consecutive order, or you focus on one thing first, like his health, and then on something else. So, poor writing technic from both men, and they really ought to have checked their facts before going to print.

Today, I decided that “this book has to be finished NOW because I have funnier books arriving next week”, I hope, like the biography of Churchill’s bodyguard. Can’t sit with this boring book then! That said, when George V’s health started to deteriorate, the book started to pick up. Before then, Albert and Logue had not really seen each other for years, since the initial treatments. But, to be honest, nothing of what I read next, which was fascinating, was new to me. The fornicating Edward becoming King, him soon tiring of the responsibilities and him having been so utterly seduced by the snake Wallis Simpson, that he no longer could think of responsibilities toward the Empire, well what can I say. It angers me every time, how he let his head be twisted like that, for a woman who was just after glory and attention! And money of course! Good thing he got out of the way. England would have lost the war with him at the throne, him and Chamberlain. As it was, the two best people for the jobs got in to power, George VI and Churchill, and it is always a delight to be reminded of this fact. But there are better books of course to read about that fact, than this one.

Yes, Logue did a tremendous job but as it says in the end of the book, what was his method really? Why was he successful where others had failed? The book doesn’t answer it because I don’t think Logue really knew himself and there is no documentation of it either. The fact is that noone knew that much about speech impairments in those days. Logue proclaiming that women don’t stutter because they do not listen to others, they just chatter on without listening to a word people say to them, just shows how clueless he really was. Someone says in the end of the book that he was a great psychotherapist and that is probably closer to the truth than that breathing exercises would have cured the King. As with all handicaps, one has to get over them. Whether it is learning to walk, talk, not be shy, not having social phobia  or other phobias.

Knowing that in those days noone dared to talk to Royalty in a normal way, people bending over backwards to please, and never telling them the truth, is it strange that noone had been able to help Prince Albert? What Logue did was disregarding who his patient was, talking to him like he would with any patient. Not scraping the floor after each sentence, would have made the Prince relax and see him as a professional. Giving him encouragement at every turn, taking away all words that would be difficult in speeches, and making him practice, practice, practice, was the true trick. With practice comes perfection and with perfection, critique will not come from the press/audience and self-esteem will slowly rise. And when you have self-esteem you will be less and less daunted by public speech, talking to strangers and in front of an audience. The fact is, that when a person is nervous, he will breathe faster, break out in a sweat, stumble on words and speak very quickly. A nervous person will rarely give a good speech. So what Logue did was psychological, building the King’s self-esteem up so that he could deliver. But this could not be done without speech practice. How one does this, is the trick of course. What Logue really did, was being a friend to Albert when he gave the Prince/King, a safe haven and empathy.

On Shelfari, I gave the book three stars, but if I could, I think I would have given it three and a half, because it did show how much George VI had to struggle and especially how great importance the nation gave to his speaking abilities. They really would have been appalled by what the current Swedish King is getting away with today! My dad always said that the man is an idiot and he really is. There is no way to cover it over. The man can not even read a speech off, from a piece of paper. Both he and the heir to the throne, lack all ability to deliver a speech but since people today are less impressed with royalty and know that they are just clowns, it doesn’t really matter. They have absolutely no purpose what so ever in this country, except helping in the sale of gossip magazines with cute baby photos!image

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Bear with me!

To all of my followers and to you who get notified when there is a new post etc. I am aware of that I am awfully behind in updating you on the latest in my life. Sometimes life just takes off in a direction you are not totally prepared for, or you are in the way that it is always hectic, but you did not really realize exactly how draining it would be and exactly how little free time you would have. Since school started in August, my life has been like that and one of the things which has come to suffer from this, is my blogging. I can stand in the shower and start a post or go to bed composing an entire blog post in my mind while falling asleep, but I never get my thoughts typed up. So, things feel very upsetting right now, because I have SO much to tell, so little time to do so, and I just keep falling more and more behind.

I will update all of you as soon as time permits and to be frank, the largest stumbling block today, is Apple and their new forced update on my iPad. They have made it impossible for me to import photos to my blog and downloading photos from the internet. I can’t even add pictures to my Pinterest account, which is enormously aggravating! I went away on holiday, all on my own, and when I came back, my iPad behaved like a monster. If the screen doesn’t freeze or it refuses to let me use my keyboard, then there is some other hiccup. My husband has promised to take a look at my picture problem at least, since this has prevented me from pushing the publish button on several posts now! But, he has absolutely zero time to help me.

So bear with me, my draft list is FULL of posts that only need editing or pictures. As soon as I can get help, I will publish a whole “book”! So just hold out for a little bit longer and there will soon be lots of words from me.

See you soon!

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To vote or not to vote, that really is the question…

imageLast night, D. and I sat and watched the debate, on TV 4, and I must say that half way through it, I had a difficult time not agreeing with D., who claims that he will vote blank. He is 19 years old and is about to vote for the first time and he has already realized that it is just a bunch of lies. Every party promises things they will not be able to keep. Every party say the same thing, more or less. And last night was catastrophe in my view. They screamed at each other, hatred shining out of the redhead Center Party leader’s eyes and all of what they said sounded like a broken record, them having memorized their lines well, but not being able to give flexible answers. What a waste, sitting up till 23:00 listening to that!

I was surprised how long it took for all of the parties to get their posters up around town and all the signs they usually put up in our village, have been missing this time around. I almost thought I was wrong in assuming that this was election year. But then the voting cards arrived and the commercials started on TV and now we are suddenly drowned in advertisements, leaflets, handouts and radio commercials. But what to vote for? I feel completely clueless this year. And I can understand D. feeling even more so. He graduated from gymnasium, officially on the 13th June and since then he has been looking for a job. He has applied for hundreds so far and haven’t been called for a single interview. Last night he said that it must be because he is half-American and I told him that how would the places he applies to, know that? “Well, my surname then? It’s English.” I told him that it is not. It’s a fake name that his potty grandmother put together to fit her Kabbalarian views. He pointed out that it exists in Britain and I had to inform him that it does not because the Scottish spell it differently and so do the French. In other words, his surname exists nowhere else and indicates nothing or any kind of  origin.

For him, the election is all about getting a job or not and I can understand him. Solidarity is gone from this country since long. You vote for what is most important to YOU, NOW and TODAY! He is unemployed and can not receive any money while unemployed because he has never worked and belonged to a union. It’s a catch 22 for the young. And would be, if I went looking for a job as well. Last week, they had a program from a community in the north of our province. A community with high unemployment. One young man was living at home, 23 years old, and had applied for 1000 jobs. He had been to three  interviews but did not get the jobs because he has no driver’s license. Only, he can’t get a driver’s license without money and without a job he does not have any money. This Stockholm brat, who leads a program which tries to help people in debt, sat in the studio and said that youths of today are lazy. That they sit on their bottoms and apply for jobs on the internet, which is not the way to get a job and that they should use their social network to get a job.

I wanted to strangle the man, through the TV screen. When I grew up, getting a job was all about having social contacts. My dad died when I was 14 and my mum, well let’s say she had no friends and no social network. We were on our own. I managed to get a summer job, one summer in gymnasium, by really slipping in on a banana peel. Right then, hospitals were screaming for youths to clean during the summer months. I cleaned during three summers because they liked my work, that I did a good job and the last year in gymnasium, they even called me on weekends, if someone of the regulars had called in sick, to come in and take over the cleaning of a ward. I was lucky because the second year of working at the hospital, they had changed the rules, and the summer jobs only went to youths studying to become nurses. Like you needed any nursing skills to clean! But the jobs got folded for that category of students and I was far from a nursing student, being in a history-language program.

But nothing has changed in these 30 years! It is all about contacts and influential parents. Our neighbours’ children have had summer jobs every summer, for the council, because their mother has a council job. The rule is that the few jobs available, are supposed to be put in a pot and then a lottery is supposedly taking place, but I’m afraid the rule and practice do not go hand in hand. It is all a big sham! The same goes now, when the neighbour’s son was forced to finally bite the bullet and go and look for a job. A friend of his works at a supermarket called ICA. That supermarket chain says in its employment ads that they do not want people without experience from the supermarket business, to apply. The neighbour has never worked a day at a supermarket and yet, the girl he knows, got him a job! He stood here and bragged about it to D.! He had the gall to shove it down D.’s throat, how he has a girlfriend in town, whose family owns three properties and he and she is setting up home in one of them and he starts working at the supermarket here shortly. How can I tell my son that life is not unfair? That A. will have to face life sooner or later? That yes, A. has been served everything on a silver plate throughout his life, but D.’s turn will come one day.

D.’s goal has been for years, to go out on a mission for our church, as soon as he graduated. He’s been a good boy and not at all like his older brother, who gambled away all his mission money on “World of Warcraft”. The church helped him out and he served his two years. But, the church does not want to help D. He’s been told to get a job and get the money together. He has tried, summer after summer, to get a job, without success and now he sits here, still without a job and his hopes and plans for serving a mission, seems to be out of grasp for years to come. No party in Sweden can guarantee him a job! The blue, the right side called the Alliance, stood in the studio, bragging about how many jobs they have created during their eight years in power and especially the last year. But the neo-Nazi leader Jimmy Åkesson mentioned that sure, those jobs were created (can’t remember the number) but we also got twice the amount of new Swedish inhabitants, so in a way, no jobs were created since the same amount of people are still unemployed. I hate to give the neo-Nazis a point, but in that light… There is always a backside to all numbers isn’t there, something they do not tell when they brag!

What is important to me then? What am I looking for? Well, I am a stay-at-home-mum and naturally family is very important to me. But so far, I have not seen any party doing anything good for the family, really. Yes, the Christian Democrats has a very nice, VERY nice, party manifesto, but since they barely get above the 4% they need to get to sit in parliament, that manifesto means nothing in reality. They can vote no, when they vote whether homosexuals should get to adopt etc. But none of the policies they want to implement, can really be forced through with so few votes and representatives.

In an ideal Sweden, for me and my family, I would like a health care system that works. When I phone the health clinic, I would like someone to answer the phone and not put me in a one hour queue. And when the nurse finally answers I want to be treated with respect and not be told to take paracetamol and wait for a couple of days and see if I or my children will not get better with time. I hate this attitude of them assuming that we all phone because we are hypochondriacs. Everyone I talk to tell me the same story as my own, we all wait till we are deathly ill before we make the dreaded phone call, because we know how the health care system will treat us. Not believing that we are really ill.

When I go to the emergency room, I don’t want to sit for two-three  hours before I even get to go in and tell a nurse why I have come there! I could die or my child could die before I even get to talk to someone. That is not right! And when a referral is sent, to a specialist, be it an ear specialist or dietician or psychologist, it should not take months or years to get to the person! “Gubby’s” hearing was questioned and it took over six months to get it tested at the hospital. Because of queues. Two years ago, I had a gallstone attack, and the doctor told me that I ought to go and see a dietician to find out how I should eat to get all nutrients I need, when too many things make me ill with indigestion or bring on gall attacks (not having a gall bladder anymore). My diet is so limited and yet, I still have not received an appointment, two years on! And I must say, that the testing my two sons have had to go through, to get their diagnosis at the child and youth psychiatric department ((BUP), has dragged out way too long from start to finish. “Gubby’s” started September 2013 and he got diagnosis at the end of March 2014. Too long. And “Boo’s” started at the same time and he got his diagnosis yesterday! WAY too long. And all this time wasted, when they could have received help, just waiting and waiting since we don’t know what sort of helt they actually need, depending on diagnosis!

That brings me on to the next ideal thing I am looking for. All our neighbours have had their children in the local council schools. Their children are only let out the door in the morning, they bike off to school and their parents have no more concerns. When your child has any kind of problem, your child can not handle the council schools with 30+ students in each classroom. But that is what the Alliance has given us for 8 years including the Christian Democrats, whose views often coincide with mine. It is so sad, that my children are forced to go to an independent school/free school, to be able to get a classroom with fewer students in it. Because you pay a hefty price for choosing a free school! The independent schools do not have the money to hire resource people and get the help for handicapped students, that council schools easily can get “for free”, if they ask for it. So you have to choose when you have a child with ADHD or Autism: small class with 15 students but no extra help or classroom with 30-50 students but perhaps an assistant. The law says that all handicapped students have the right to learn on their terms and get the help they need to progress but the councils do as they please and the free schools as well. Government handed over all responsibility for the school system to the individual councils in Sweden and this means that a poor council needing to save money, will save where they feel it matters the least: cut the money from the schools. After all, most politicians are middle-aged with grown up children so it doesn’t effect them! That is why Sweden today has 13.1% of all students graduating from ninth grade and obligatory school with grades which will not allow them to go on to gymnasium. What is the right-wing answer to the problem? Our Prime Minister stood there last night and said the answer is to make kids go to school ten to eleven years instead. Why would two extra years make them learn more? There will still be 30-50 students in the classroom preventing learning! And to make children go to school for 11 years ( I assume they include the zero-class in those) and then the 3 years in gymnasium, in order to be able to get any kind of job at all, will create VERY school tired children. It is most likely that children will drop out in gymnasium, being too tired of school to finish the degree. I was an A student, and I had to take a year off after gymnasium because I felt exhausted. D. feels the same way. He has worked SO hard these past three years in particular, that when I told him that he should apply for University if the church will not let him go on a mission without money, he just screamed that he can’t. He would not do well because he is too tired of school right now, was his explanation. And then he has done 9 years plus the three, ONLY.  Not the 14 which Fredrik Reinfeldt suggested last night.

In other words:

If one votes for any party on the right side, for the Alliance, then in all likelihood the classes will remain the same size and a council school is nothing to contemplate for my sons, since they can not handle big classes with their handicaps. And they will all have to go to school forever, before they get to graduate and go on to University or life in general. Also, a vote for the Alliance means that the hospitals will continue with their long queues, bad attitudes towards prospective patients and dirty premises. The prices for bus tickets will continue hitting the roof, which effects my family heftily, since when you have a child in free school/independent school, you have to pay for transportation yourself.

If one votes for the left-wing/red-green side, money might get spent on making classes smaller and employing more teachers. BUT this will never effect OUR village, since they only see to the town’s interest. Our village is always the last one on the list, which means that when the other villages  got their council pools and pool areas re-modelled and fixed, ours still look the same as it did twenty years ago and when all the other villages got new, fresh modern health clinics, ours is still housed in the cellar under the supermarket! There is never any money left when it comes to our village, even though it is growing and the most popular village to live in, within the council’s borders. And a vote for the red-green group, also means that they will do everything they can, to close down the free schools by cutting their funds. In other words, it would be a death sentence for my children.

Talking about a death sentence, all the council politicians in town are talking about, is the planned tram traffic. Instead of spending money on the schools, they want to build tram tracks all over “our” (our council’s seat) mediaeval town. Today, I read that before, the town was ranked the 10th best council in the school world, now it is has gone down to 18th place in Sweden. And no doubt it will continue going down hill if the money are spent on trams instead. I was going to say that I don’t mind trams at all. I find them a charming aspect of Gothenburg, Vienna (Austria), Wurzburg (Germany)… It smells of centuries gone by. The old-fashioned way to travel. All that said, it would not do anything for our closest town and council seat. And this morning I read something which made me start thinking that trams might not be so cozy and charming after all. I hope the man who sent this in to the free newspaper we all get in our post doesn’t mind that I translate what he wrote, but it was one of those things which makes you stop and think. And it made me sad, very sad. The author of this story is called Staffan Fogelmark and I sort of wonder if he is not writing about Gothenburg which has trams and lots of hills.

“Christer just knew that he had done well on his exam and after a whole term of hard studying, it was nice to party with his fellow course mates. The exam party had become just as lively as he had hoped, albeit a little bit too wet, but does that really matter when one is young and is having fun? He felt exhilarated: Life was wonderful and after New Year’s he was getting engaged to Marja. They were going to celebrate Christmas together as well, but he didn’t know what to give her yet. Since she was studying theology, he had been looking at a nice book about inner and outer prayer. Maybe he should get her that one?

Full of anticipation and excitement – I want it all, and I want it now – he left the party and walked out in the dark November night. It had been raining and blowing hard for two days now which had left all the autumn leaves glued to  the ground. How beautiful they were in all their colours, laying there on the ground, but soon they would be decomposed.

He put his headphones on, AC/DC blaring in to his ears, and got on his bicycle. He loved it: the frame made of titan, super light, just the way he felt himself after the exam and the party. And it was fast, especially here going down hill toward the city center. What a sensation of power and speed! Now he was getting closer to the spot where he needed to turn in order to get on to the bicycle lane beside the tram tracks. He had bicycled here many times before and knew exactly how to take the turn. Life was wonderful!

When Marja was reached by the news that Christer was dead, she lost it. At the inquest, the tram driver described how he had seen the bicyclist 60-70 meters away, at a good speed, making the turn to cross the tram tracks. But the bicycle came in at a wrong angle and ended up in one of the tracks. Maybe it was the leaves that made it impossible for the cyclist to take the turn. The bicycle was slung to the side and the cyclist himself somersaulted a couple of times before he landed right across the tram tracks. He was so badly hurt that he could not pull himself off the tracks and away from the tram, which was fast approaching. The driver hit the breaks at once but he knew that the distance it would take to make it stop was a long one and even more so with the rain-drenched leaves on the tracks.His voice grew thick when he tried to describe the  powerlessness and despair he felt, when he realized that he would not be able to stop the tram in time and would crush the helpless cyclist laying there across the tracks. Then he broke out in quiet sobbing.”

The story written by Fogelmark is heartfelt and no doubt it concerns someone close to him. Even if it is not a true story, it does say something about tram traffic and its dangers. Because the truth is, that a bus driver could have swerved the bus away from the cyclist laying on the ground, even if it would have meant going up on a pavement and maybe in to a shop window! A tram is stuck in its tracks and can do  nothing to prevent an accident! And “our” town is full of traffic accidents since it is full of students on bicycles who has not been educated in general traffic rules and/or think they own the town’s  streets because of sheer number. And it is full of aggressive bus drivers  who detest how the cyclists ignore the traffic rules and whose only concerns are to  get from point A to point B on time. Trams do not seem to be the solution at all and I suspect that not only cyclists will be hit by them but pedestrians who also have come to relax on the rules of traffic, because so little traffic is allowed in town.

I told my son right now, that he can not vote blank. That he must vote for something, anything, because it is his duty in a democracy and that many people around the world envy him that right. Yes, the politicians are liars. They are corrupt, they earn too much, they live too far away from reality to know what we need and want, but we still have to vote. You just have to choose a party that have some things in common with your own views. That said, you also have to make sure that some people do not get in to power! You do NOT vote for the neo-Nazis! Noone really want Hitler Germany in Sweden 2014! Anything will be better than them! In that way you really have to vote solidarity.

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