The story of a (very small) house.

I have recently inherited a dolls’ house, and it has made me think a bit about houses, homes and the stories that they tell, as well as the ideal world that the dolls house reveals in its miniature perfection.

The story of this dolls’ house begins with a “Once upon a time …”

The dolls’ house belonged to my Aunty Chris, who sadly died earlier this year in her late 80s. (I should point out that she wasn’t really a biological aunt, but my godmother: not a fairy godmother, admittedly, but a godmother nonetheless.) image1 (58)

Aunty Chris had a fairytale chidlhood, but not in a good way: her mother died when she was very young and her step-mother didn’t treat her kindly. She had always wanted a dolls’ house, but never had one as a child. Her husband, my Uncle Peter built this one for her in the 1990s after they retired and they moved to Goathland in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors.

When the TV series Heartbeat started filming in Goathland Chris and Pete got involved. Pete was an extra – in the early series you can spot him, often along with Tasha the spaniel, sporting a very fine moustache! Chris provided board and lodgings for one of the make-up crew and some of the money from their adventures in “Aidensfield” (as Goathland was renamed for the series) was invested into the dolls’ house.

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Making the dolls’ house was a real labour of love for both Chris and Pete. They listed everything that they made and bought for the house in a little red notebook; Pete not only built the house but made some of the furniture for it himself, and Chris sewed carpets and soft furnishings, and the finished house was amazing. I used to enjoy looking at it whenever we went to see Chris and Pete, and I was incredibly touched when I heard that she wanted me to have it in her will.

With the dolls house came a fascinating history. Photographs of the house when first constructed, documents from the company which sold it to certify its authenticity, as well as that little notebook listing where everything came from.

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So, when the dolls house arrived, I left it empty for a while, with the furniture carefully packed away in boxes. It took a little while to decide that I wanted to change a few rooms around – Chris had added to the original house so she had a kitchen on the main floor of the house and a music room in the basement which was added later – I wanted to change this round to have both the kitchen and the scullery “below stairs” for a start. While it stood empty, a couple of curious new residents moved in:

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And now it’s ready to start a new chapter in it’s story.  My husband has carefully altered the original structure (slightly) to fit into its new home, and I’m ready to start furnishing and redecorating in the weeks ahead – if I can get the cats out, that is – beginning a new chapter in it’s story.

 

Happily Ever After – what a trip to Disney World did to my creativity.

I had an unusual experience at the beginning of the year. Usually I find my main inspiration for writing is the places that I visit, but for the first time, I found myself totally demotivated by having the best holiday ever!

We went to Disney World in Florida at Christmas, and it was the most fantastic holiday. We ate some wonderful food, we went on some thrilling and spectacular rides, we were awed by the amazing customer service, the ambience and the design of everything we saw. Everything was done for us, it was so easy it was positively magical. Like living in a fairy tale. Really! And I’m one of the world’s biggest sceptics! We came back with a mountain of photographs and memories, and I came back totally demotivated. Nothing in reality could compare with the magical escapism of Disney World, it was like holidaying in the legendary “happily ever after”.

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I’d like to say that I came back buzzing with ideas for new writing, but in fact the opposite was true. Everything had been too perfect, too fairytale, too pretty. Because  stories and life need a little imperfection to be interesting. Even in Disney films, the prince and the princess might meet and instantly fall in love, but something needs to get in the way of that perfect love to make it a worthwhile story. If there isn’t a wicked stepmother, or a curse or a poisoned apple there isn’t a story to tell. It’s the conflict that provides the story. And that’s what happened with Disney World; the happily ever after isn’t an interesting part of the story.

So it’s back to British reality. Cold, miserable weather, home-cooked food that at least one child will refuse to eat, laundry and cleaning and definitely no fireworks at the end of each day. But, as I keep trying to tell myself, at least there are story possibilities round every corner.

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(Photos all taken by myself or my husband. No Disney material was used in the production of this blog post.)