At the end of the war my grandmother’s dolls’ house came out of store and I was allowed to unpack and reassemble it. As a war time child I had been starved of toys but it didn’t matter because if you have never had toys you don’t miss them, we made our own. I had a hobby horse made from a stuffed sock on a bamboo stick, it had a bright yellow mane and angry red eyes – to me it was a magnificent charger which could get me out of any trouble, rearing on its hind legs before galloping through magical forests and over mountains to a palace full of delights where tables were loaded with jellies and cream cakes and clothes were always new and pretty and never hand-me-downs.
The dolls’ house was another sort of magic altogether. It didn’t call for the same kind of imagination because so much of it was real. I carefully unpacked everything a cook would need to be happy in a Victorian kitchen, pots and pans, a dresser and scrubbed wooden table, and plates of delicious food. Even the cook was there, a plump happy person ready to send up dinner to the family in the dining room above. A whole family lived in the house, father in a dark suit, mother in her crinoline, children including a baby in a pram with big wheels, as well as a butler, housemaid and footman. The greatest joy of all was a piano which, if you pressed the tiny keys and listened carefully answered in a tinny voice. After my mother died the dolls’house disappeared. Eventually I discovered some one had burnt it ‘because it had wood worm in the back.’ The shutters came down on my childhood.
Four years ago I had an unexpected wind fall, not a very large one, but enough to build a dolls’ house, not just for a child but for the child in me, to share with my seven year old grand daughter. At first we thought that there would be no people in it, we would inhabit it ourselves but, being rational individuals, we knew we would have to find a way of shrinking to one twelfth of our every day size. We discovered that if you look through the wrong end of binoculars everything appears much smaller, and if you look at yourself in a mirror you can make yourself look much smaller too. Some one whispered in my head the word ‘spyglass’ so I put that into Google and immediately there was my spyglass on eBay; brass, sleeved in mahogany and only eight inches long. A neighbouring teenager advised us and within a week we had the magic instrument we needed and we were able to enter another world where amazing things happened. In the basement of our house is a door which opens onto an ever changing view. Sometimes it is snow covered mountains, sometimes a wild desert, one day it will be a harbour side with a sailing ship about to caste off or it may be the drawer bridge to a fairy tale castle. I have never been able to find a piano that plays but there is a sewing machine with a needle that goes up and down when you turn the handle, a coffee grinder that makes a very convincing grinding noise, an easel and painters palette (Kezia loves painting) and a potters wheel for me and a lap top so I can go there and write about all our adventures.
Gradually other people have joined us in our magic world, the most important is Granny Oldham who sits at her spinning wheel and spins stories. She can see further through a brick wall than most for she has a crystal ball. At Christmas time she has been know to come to the front door to welcome passers by into her home.