Sunday, 17 January 2016

Max Arrives.

I am not to be trusted.

It is a plain and simple fact, put me near to a computer and I am unable to stop myself from looking at doll sites and somehow, with (virtually) no help from me, my itchy index finger sometimes hits buttons that tell a certain doll that s/he can move to Bryn Derw. 

Now, back in December, I had enlisted the help of a sister-in-law in Vermont (one of several) in the search for Schoenhut dolls that might make chosing a second purchase, a sibling for Emmeline Grace, a possibility. Being impulsive these days, though, I just found it too hard to wait.

Somehow, I have mislaid the photographs of my latest little soul as she appeared for sale on Ruby Lane, but here is one of  her as I tried to convince myself, or get Dee of The Sasha Village to convince me, that she really was a girl. Wearing the dress and petticoat she had been sewn into years ago and holding a little doll might, I mused, might convince me that she was a little girl. So I asked her to pose for her first photo in her new home.

Perhaps, I reasoned, she's just a little grumpy after her long, solo journey. She looked a little down in the mouth, so perhaps being the centre of attention during a photo shoot might cheer her up? Perhaps those chubby cheeks would produce a dimple or two and the sad little mouth might lift a little at the corners?


'Don't like dollies.Want a teddy bear.'  she said in a gruff voice.

'OK, I'll find you one, while we discuss your name and then perhaps we can find you a white cardigan to go over that pretty, green dress so......'  I began.

'Don't like dresses, want take it off. Petticoat too!' she said.

'Well, I'm sure we could make you another dress soon if you dislike that one, but I don't think I have one right now and I wouldn't like to show you to my friends without any clothes on. Besides, it is very cold today.' I replied.

'Little boys got to wear dress here like my last house?' she asked.

'No, no. Your new brothers wear either dungarees or jeans most of the...' I started to say.

'So, I goin' take dress off too! Because I boy, not girl. Like girls and like boys but I not like pretend to BE  girl!' came the firm reply. ' I be boy 'gain, please? PLEASE?'

And, as the penny finally dropped, I rushed to find something, anything, a little more boyish for my new Schoenhut son to wear.

'Max go outside now?'  he asked, after struggling to pull on a pair of mittens.

'Oh, so your name is Max, is it?' I asked.

'Long time ago I be Max, then I be Millie, but now I be Max again? I play out in my boy clothes now?' he asked, his voice full of hope.

'Come on then Max! Out we go! But please could I take one more photo of you out there? The light isn't too good indoors.'  I said.

' Now I Max 'gain! I BOY 'gain!' said a cheerful little voice as Max happily plumped himself down in the melting snow, showing his willingness to have another photo taken.

Max is 16" tall and wears the same size clothing as the larger Sasha dolls. He is very slightly wider in the shoulders and hips than they are, due to his excellent 13 point jointing, but most items will fit him. 

Despite being over 100 years old, he is easier to balance than any modern, 13 joint doll that I have ever handled.
These spring-jointed Schoenhut dolls are a wonder of German-American engineering from the early 20th century and Max, with his close to perfectly preserved facial paint, was a very lucky find for me. He just needs a new wig now, as the original is falling quite badly.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

A Gift Can Be Bitter Sweet To Receive.

It has been a long time since a lovely, shiny parcel fell out of a package that arrived at Bryn Derw. The label said it was for Bertie and, as he scampered off to sit in Mamgu's room with it, we all listened out for the squeals of delight we all assumed would soon accompany, or replace the rustling we could all hear as he turned it over and over.

Several hours later, having missed lunch, Bertie is still to be found, parcel unopened, holding the label in his left hand and looking a little sad.

No amount of encouragement from the rest of the family seems to make Bertie feel more inclined to open it and, after several attempts to get him to do so, they all wander off to play, leaving him in solitary and gloomy silence.

Time ticks by and Bertie still sits in his grandmother's chair. Once in a while he sighs, but he doesn't move.....

until an unfamiliar voice suddenly asks,

     "May I sit here?"

"If you like." Bertie replies, before going back into his sombre daydream.

"I'm new here and feel a bit shy," the new kid says. "Which is a bit odd really, because my teacher used to say that I am too friendly and talkative for my own good and that that was why I never finished any of my work...."

"Not too shy to help yourself to the spider sweater set I brought back from The Village Snippy Chip day!" thinks Bertie to himself. "Nor are you too shy to interupt me when I just want to sit quietly and think about my REAL FRIENDS!!"

But Bertie is a kind-hearted boy and doesn't want to make a newcomer feel unwelcome.

"Sorry if I seem rude," he says aloud. "It's just that I've got this and it made me feel sad, you see."

" You got a PRESENT? A PRESENT makes you SAD? Why, if I ever got presents, I wouldn't need to help myself to things without asking. Take these clothes, for instance, they were just lying over there and as I arrived here in my birthday suit....."

"Is it your birthday then?" asks Bertie who, in his confusion, has been jolted out of his sad thoughts.  "What's your name?"

"I'm Sacha. And before you ask, yes I do have longish hair, because I like to keep my ears warm and no, I'm not a girl. S.A.S.H.A. is short for Alexandra but S.A.C.H.A. is short for AlexanDER. And I'm a C one not an S one, except in school where they INSIST on calling me Alexander so I'm a boy....... and it isn't my birthday, wearing your birthday suit means wearing what you wore when you were born and that means nothing at all.....
........You've opened the end of your parcel, so what was inside? because...." the boy goes on.

Bertie decides he'd  rather like Sacha to listen and to stop talking. He might pass out if he doesn't stop talking long enough to breathe. And anyway, he thinks, how can Sacha be short for Alexander? They don't even sound similar.

"Russian." Sacha informs him and Bertie nods wisely, though he hasn't the faintest idea what Sacha is trying to tell him.

"Wow!" he exclaims, trying to change the subject. " A great shirt! Look!"

Sacha looks down and, oh joy, he doesn't say anything. He merely points at the parcel.

When Bertie looks down, Sacha picks the parcel up and pops it over his head. They giggle as Bertie passes something out for Sacha to hold before he wriggles out from under the paper.

" Hey! These are really cool cords!" says Sacha. "Lucky you! Who sent them to you?"

" That's why I was upset. I miss them, you see. I mean my best fr....." Bertie begins. "I mean my OTHER great friends, Ollie and Wolfie from The Village."

"My cousin Valentine lives there!" Sacha tells him. "He'd love these cords, he'd rave over the quality. Just look at this waist band is what he'd say! Then he'd talk for ages about feeling the quality of the fabric and looking at the fine stitching. He's into fashion. Maybe he helped Ollie and what's-his-name choose them!"

"Woolfie," Bertie tells him. "Short for Wolfgang."

Sacha raises a quizical eyebrow.

"German." states Bertie.

Sacha nods wisely, though he hasn't a clue what Bertie means.

"Me too - German name." says Bertie. "Bertie's short for it."

Sacha stops nodding as he isn't sure what Bertie means, but IS sure that he is beginning to look like one of those nodding dog ornaments he sometimes sees in cars.

Bertie looks down at Sacha's feet. They look cold.

"No socks?" he asks. "Here, borrow these. They are my special Christmas slippers and I'd only lend them to one of my three best friends!"

Bertie will always look forward to seeing Ollie and Wolfie again, but life seems so much better now he has another great friend, right here, at home in Bryn Derw.

Friday, 1 January 2016

A Happy new Year from Patsy Ann.

      A week after her 85th birthday, Patsy Ann wishes you all a happy, peaceful and doll-filled 2016!

Patsy was bought in America and brought back for my mother's 9th birthday in December 1930. She spent at least 25 years in an old suitcase in my grandparents cellar and was unearthed in 1972, when Granny died. Poor Patsy had curls of her 'skin' hanging off her face and torso and none of her paintwork was salvageable. The dustbin seemed to be the most likely place for her, but Mum couldn't bring herself to do that and hid her, just as she was, in her wardrobe.

When Mum moved in with us, Patsy once again came to light and a friend from the US said he knew of someone who might be able to help her. Thinking Patsy couldn't look any worse, I handed her over to him and he took her back with him to the Mid-West. We agreed with the lady who specialised in Patsy doll restoration that we would pay for her work as Mum's 80th birthday gift and she came back to us in November 2001 looking as she does today.

She is the only really old doll that I have taken the risk of having completely repainted and is proof that this work is worthwhile if the doll is a much loved old friend, especially if it is done by a true specialist.

Hilary, the restorer, used pristine, original Patsy dolls in all the varying sizes from her own collection as models, copying the features as exactly as possible on the dolls she worked on. Her desire was not to put her own stamp on the dolls, nor to hide the fact that they had been restored in an attempt to present them as all original, but to give them back to their then aging first owners, or their families, looking as much as possible as they had done on the day they were first unwrapped.

Patsy Ann needs restringing again and can't stand unaided at the moment, but that is well within my capabilities. The unfortunate side of simple, old fashioned stringing is that it needs redoing every few years. The fortunate side is that it is so much easier and requires less strength than restringing a Sasha and far, far less know-how than reassembling  Schoenhut doll!