Saturday, 30 January 2016

Rebuilding Castle Roy

You might be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing new to be discovered in Speyside. The Cairngorm National Park is one of the most popular areas of the Highlands. Easily accessible by train and from the main A9 trunk road, the attractions of Speyside are pretty well known: the distilleries with their excellent whisky, its well-ordered 'capital' Grantown-on-Spey, the (over?-) developed tourist settlement of Aviemore, attractive villages like Boat of Garten, its lakes, forests and mountains and the broad River Spey itself wearing away the rock of this ancient, once glaciated, valley. One could go on and on.

Every so often, however, even in this relatively well-frequented area, the regular visitor can still be ambushed by small pleasures. One such is Castle Roy. There you are, bowling along the B940 on your way to Nethy Bridge when suddenly, at the side of the road, you see a ruinous stone structure rising above the level of the surrounding fields.

Now, Castle Roy is not one of the great defensive castles of Scotland. It is not a Stirling or an Edinburgh. It is not a regal palace such as Linlithgow or Holyroodhouse. Nor is it a scene of bloody treason, witchcraft and murder like Glamis or the seat of a great clan chieftain like Dunvegan, nor even a gentleman's fortified country home like Crathes or Craigievar. Castle Roy isn't even very beautiful, though its situation most definitely is. There it stands on a glaciated mound, looking out across the plain towards the mountains of Cairngorm.

No, nowadays Castle Roy is a ruckle of stones, the scant remains of what was once just a fortified shelter and look-out post built some time in the thirteenth century. Here, the chief of the local clan would have stopped for a night or two with his retainers while he went hunting in the nearby forests of Abernethy. The Comyns were a well-known family, Norman colonists who came over from France with William the Conqueror. In 1306, the Red Comyn died when he fought Robert the Bruce, offspring of another Norman-French family, for the Scottish throne. In 1420, the land was taken over by Clan Grant.

When members of the Comyn hunting party rode through the high arched doorway, they wouldn't have been met by very much. Huddled within the seven-foot-thick square walls would have been just a few wooden structures, perhaps two storeys high, now long disappeared,. A rudimentary kitchen and some basic mediaeval sanitation - a hole in the wall with a drop down the mound at one corner and another hole one storey up, called a garde-robe. In its basic very solid structure, however, Castle Roy is to all intents and purposes unchanged from the day it was built.

And that is just about that. What more is there to say?

Nothing much, except, of course, what are we to do with all these piles of old stones? Britain is scattered with old churches, ancient castles and crumbling stately homes. What are we going to do with them all? London Bridge, of course, was sold to an American. But London Bridge was famous. What about somewhere like Castle Roy? Not famous, not beautiful and with few historical stories to make it interesting.

Well, the people of Nethy Bridge knew just what they wanted to do with Castle Roy. They raised money, set up the Castle Roy Charitable Trust, took the ruined building over from its last owner, a member of of the Grant family. In the late 1990s, the Trust started to plan the rebuilding. Walls have been braced, foundations stabilised and collapsing masonry rebuilt. And further plans are afoot to bring it back to life once again, developing a visitor centre and even holding weddings and other events there.

Funds have been raised through a variety of means, not least of which is opening up ownership to Tom, Dick and Harry. You too, can own a 'square yard' of Castle Roy and even, as a landowner, call yourself Laird or Lady! Don't get too ambitious, however. There'll be be no building bungalows at the foot of the crenelated walls. At the end of the day, Historic Scotland is in charge.

A similar approach has been taken to the historic Abernethy Old Kirk, below the castle mound. The site has been used as a church since the 1100s, with the present structure built in the 1740s. When it proved surplus to the church's requirements, the local community purchased the building and has managed it as a local resource ever since.

This kind of approach cannot work everywhere, Buildings fall down and others take their place. Just think about Edinburgh's Royal Mile. The striking Georgian mansion houses and public buildings of Edinburgh's Lawnmarket would never have come into existence if the rambling old mediaeval city had not been demolished or built over.

Even great stately homes may be allowed to disappear when so ruinous that renovation is impractical or too costly. Much of the great eighteenth century house in Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire burnt down in 1879, and was eventually demolished in 1938, leaving only the chapel and stable block. Interestingly, however, the National Trust is planning to rebuild Clandon House, a lovely eighteenth century mansion house in Surrey, which was burnt down last year. Even more shocking, only the ground floor will be an exact restoration. Other floors will be modern in design and furnishing. The newspapers have had a field day.

However, Castle Roy is different. The decision to make the castle rise and live again was not taken by a government agency. No matter how respected the National Trust or Historic Scotland may be, their decisions cannot really be said to be based on the views of the local population but rather reflect national artistic, cultural and historic priorities. Nethy Bridge, however, is a community and it is the villagers themselves who decided that Castle Roy should rise again.

So, why don't you drive along the B940 one day and see how far they have got?

The information in this post has mostly come from the website of Nethy Bridge village. The photographs are my own.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Falling out of love with Donald Trump

Of course we all laugh at Donald Trump. We laugh at his ludicrous stuck-on sticking up hair. We laugh at his waving hands and his flushed cheeks. We laugh at his ever more ridiculous assertions and outdated prejudices. We laugh at his disgust about menstruating women. We laugh in horror when he imitates the jerking movements of someone with cerebral palsy. Well, we do in this country, anyway.

Above all, we laugh at Trump's bullying and blustering. How very un-British, we quietly think, just like an American. And we remember other American clown politicians at whom we have also enjoyed laughing, people like Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and George W Bush.

So why then is he so popular in his own country? Well, it has been said, notably by Paul Lewis in today's Guardian, that despite the frissons of the liberal world, his home audience express admiration at his temerity in saying the unsayable, in saying the things they would like to say themselves, in offending against soi-disant 'political correctness'. (Trump rallies: where supporters get their pumped-up kicks from his bellicosity)

How superior we feel. America's clown politicians seem so much more ludicrous than our own more restrained political representatives, conveniently forgetting dear Nigel Farage with his own line in saying the unsayable.

Recently, however, we have stopped laughing quite so hard, for Donald Trump has become dangerous. We note his pronouncements on gun ownership, for most Britons are puzzled and disgusted by the American obsession with personal weaponry. In June Mr Trump called Mexican immigrants 'rapists' and called for a wall to be built along the United States-Mexico border. As liberals we are repelled by Trump's assertion that Muslims should be denied entry to the USA. No matter that almost all deaths in America, an incomprehensible number to us, are perpetrated by home-grown 'Christians'. Blaming the outsider is a guaranteed vote winner.

Most worrying of all is the real possibility that, like Reagan and Bush, Donald Trump might actually become President, bringing the prospect of a crazy flag-waving gun-toting Republican occupying the White House and dominating not just domestic but also foreign policy. In a world already teetering on the edge of political, military and environmental disaster, such a possibility is genuinely terrifying. Bloated American nationalism on overdrive.

So what are we doing about it? In our self-righteous and ineffectual British way, we are signing petitions: Keep Trump out of Britain! 570,000 people have signed the petition, which is due to be debated by the UK Parliament some time this month. The rationale behind the petition is that Britain has laws which prevent those who preach racial or religious hatred from entering the country. If such laws are used against foreigners from the Middle East, why not against a foreigner from the USA? Indeed.

In response, Trump has once again threatened to pull out of his investments in Britain, blackmail, but only to be expected.

As Suzanne Kelly, the organiser of the petition has said, 'The irony of a man who wants to ban Muslims from entering the US throwing a temper tantrum over being similarly banned himself is apparent to everyone except the tycoon himself.'

So much, so utterly predictable. And yet, and yet..... There is the bigger question. How did someone as politically extreme and socially repulsive as Donald Trump manage to grab a significant financial stake in our ostensibly tolerant and liberal country?

Because he was invited, of course. Donald Trump is only able to exert such influence here because Scotland - not the UK, but Scotland - welcomed him. To be more specific, Alex Salmond opened the doors. Yes, Alex Salmond, Scottish Nationalist and then First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, brought Donald Trump, that misogynistic hater of all that is not white Anglo-Saxon America, into our country. Scottish and American nationalism marching comfortably hand in hand. Forget Salmond's recent foot-stamping about his erstwhile protege. He had been in love with Trump for years before their recent falling out.

And those investments? Trump is threatening to pull £500 million out of the Menie Estate on the northeast coast of Aberdeenshire and £200 million out of Turnberry in South Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland. The two investments are different. At Turnberry, Trump has taken an existing world-class golf course and introduced various improvements designed to make it even more world class, distinctly more profitable and more in line with American tastes in golf courses. So much, so positive, or at least harmless. The course already existed, after all.

However, on the Menie Estate along the coastline of Balmedie, Donald Trump's impact has been far from harmless. The original project included two championship golf courses, a five-star hotel, a golf academy, almost 1,000 holiday flats built in 7 or 8 storey-high buildings (this in a rural area!), 36 villas lining broad boulevards and 500 private houses in a gated community. All these structures were to be built on a protected site of special scientific interest (SSSI), covering miles of dunes and providing habitat and breeding grounds for birds and other wildlife. Much of this site and its ecosystem, has now been irretrievably damaged.

Donald Trump knew exactly what he was destroying as every environmental group in Scotland had objected to the plans, including Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Alex Salmond, SNP MP for the local area (Gordon), also understood the impact of the plans but believed that the £60 million and 6,000 jobs it was supposed to bring in would be worth the destruction of an irreplaceable part of Scotland's natural heritage. After all, he must have thought, just think of all the votes it would bring in from grateful workers!

So much for the nationalists' love of the natural landscape of Scotland.

In fact, the project has been losing money and only 100 or so jobs have been created. Much of the work has been carried out by labourers from outside Scotland.

So much for local economic development.

When the proposal first came before Aberdeenshire Council in 2007, councillors were divided and it was turned down by the chairman's casting vote. However, the Scottish Government's SNP Cabinet Secretary for finance and sustainable growth, John Swinney, overturned the local council's decision. The general view was that tourists would flock to the north east, the income thus generated replacing some of the funds which the Nationalists recognised would  be lost because of the continuing decline in the oil industry. The government did not call for a independent enquiry or research report. Instead it used the report commissioned by Trump International Golf Links as the basis for its own decision making.

So much for local democracy.

One of the reasons Trump gives for wanting to grab part of Scotland is that his mother came from Stornoway. Stornoway is in a completely different part of Scotland. It is the main town on Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, and could not be more different from Aberdeenshire. During the development of the golf course, the people who already lived in the area have been bullied into selling their land. Trump has threatened and insulted those who refused to do so, sneered at their homes and their lifestyles, cut off their water, built high mounds blocking their view and, on occasion, denied them access to their property. He even resorted, unsuccessfully, to offering thousands and thousands of pounds to one of his main opponents, Michael Forbes, to get him to sell up. The community received no support whatsoever from Alex Salmond, their local MP. They resorted to setting up a campaign group Tripping up Trump to deal with his intimidatory tactics.

So much for any respect that either Trump or Salmond might have for the Scottish people.

As David Milne, a member of Tripping Up Trump, told Seaside Business in 2012: 'Trump is primarily a property developer, and his golf course is just tacked onto it. He will make his money through selling houses and time-share flats. Only 3,000 people have signed up for tee times, which equals less than one month of golf. It’s not going to make any money.'

This whole sorry story undermines many of the key principles and values on which Scottish nationalism claims to be based, its commitment to fairness and the rights of ordinary people and, of course, its environmental agenda.

Ah, the environment! Having connived in the degradation of Balmedie's precious sand dunes, Alex Salmond suddenly came over all 'green' when Donald Trump objected to the construction of a £230m European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, an 11-turbine project located 3.5km offshore from his golf course on the Menie Estate. Trump feared it might spoil the view. Salmond had a tantrum. Trump then had his own tantrum, understandably feeling very cross as he must have thought that he had 'bought' Alex Salmond and, indeed, the Scottish Government, what with the trips he had provided to the USA, the wining and the dining. Trump's objection eventually went to the UK Supreme Court where he lost. His spokesman asserted that 'those involved' demonstrated a 'foolish, small-minded and parochial mentality'. Well, that's Alex Salmond in a nutshell for you!

Since then the Salmond-Trump love affair has gone from bad to worse. It has probably been excruciating for Salmond and his party to observe the increasing unpopularity of Donald Trump in this country after their years of misdirected sycophancy. The nationalists backed the wrong horse.

Very quickly, following Trump's most recent and most outrageous declaration - that Muslims should be denied entry to the USA - the Scottish establishment has tried to divest itself of all connection with the American maverick. In fact the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews has even suggested that the Open might not be held at Turnberry next year as planned.

Nicola Sturgeon has removed Trump's status as GlobalScot business ambassador, for example. You can find a definition of what it means to be a GlobalScot in these words taken from Alex Salmond's invitation to Rupert Murdoch, another unpleasant and dictatorial tycoon, to become a GlobalScot in 2007. 'Globalscot is a prestigious, international network of Scots, and those with an affinity for Scotland, who are committed to advancing Scotland's economic success.' 

It took a petition with 68,000 signatures to persuade Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen to revoke Donald Trump's honorary degree, a degree given as recently as 2010, in recognition of 'his business acumen, entrepreneurial vision and the long-term future his company had planned in the north-east'.

Significant pressure was also applied to the university by David Kennedy, a former Principal, who returned his own honorary degree in protest. Kennedy stated 'Along comes Mr Trump with all his bombast about the greatest golf course in the world, et cetera, and I thought what an obnoxious person this is, and I learned how he was pushing around the people of the Menie estate as if there was no consequence because he was a billionaire.'

And, of course, the whole monstrous exercise has been a failure. Trump may brag about pulling out of his Scottish investments, but the Menie golf course has lost him £4.8 million over the last three years. There are few enough tourists who want to troop up to Balmedie to play golf when there are other excellent courses more conveniently situated.

As for Turnberry, in an astonishing act of hypocrisy, Alex Salmond has now demanded (as of 17th January) that Trump should withdraw his investment. I do not know whether he discussed his views with the golf club committee before airing them, but it appears doubtful. It looks as if simply by shouting even more loudly than usual, Salmond hopes that gullible Scots will forget his own responsibility, nay culpability, in bringing Trump here in the first place.

Scotland is a very small country. It is a country which has been trying very hard to 'punch above its weight', in that hackneyed phrase, and achieve a status which makes it noticed in the outside world. One way in which it has tried to do this is by adopting expatriate Scots or those who claim some degree of Scots ancestry - also known as 'hobnobbing with the rich and powerful'. Mixed in with these national ambitions are the personal vanity and, it could be said, hubris of Alex Salmond himself. He is known for trying to ingratiate himself with other influential people, not always to much avail. Salmond's recent overtures to the President of Iran have not been well received, for example. With Donald Trump, he may have over-reached himself.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

A dolls' house isn't just for Christmas

Christmas is already past and the New Year is upon us. As yet I have made only one resolution. During this coming year if I get myself organised, I will embark on a long overdue and rather ambitious renovation project. My doll's house, constructed by my father in the early nineteen fifties and presented to me one Christmas Day when I was around five, is badly in need of renovation. Loved and played with constantly when I was young, and then handed on to my sons who used it as a rather grand residence for their Playmobil people, it now desperately needs to be refurbished for the next generation.

However, as I contemplate the future of this precious family artefact, I have also been thinking about the past. This post is therefore about our family Christmases, during the nineteen fifties when I was growing up. In particular it is about the Christmas Day on which I received my much loved dolls' house. These family festivals may not be all that different from your own Christmases, if you are a similar age to me. In contrast, if you are somewhat younger, they may appear like the rituals of a completely alien civilisation. This then is not just the story of my dolls' house but also of those now strangely foreign Christmases of the past.

Although people complain that Christmas starts far too early these days, it started pretty early back then also, though in the kitchen rather than the shopping mall. Culinary preparations began at the beginning of November. You would have been forgiven for thinking that suet was the essential ingredient in our family Christmas, especially if you were the only girl in the family. In those days, suet did not appear in neat little packages produced by Atora but was bought from the butcher in the form of a large hunk of hard white fat attached to a kind of thin membrane. While my mother was washing and blanching the almonds and chopping the orange and lemon peel for the Christmas pudding, it was my job to grate the suet. You held the membrane side of the hunk and pushed it up and down the grater, crumbling it into breadcrumb-sized fragments. It was not an unpleasant task, as far as I can remember, but it did take a long time and you did risk grating your knuckles as well. All our Christmas puddings were served with a generous helping of knuckle.

After the suet there were the currants, raisins and sultanas to wash, pick over for stones and drain, and also a great deal of weighing. For not only were there puddings to steam, but mincemeat to store in jars and, best of all, the Christmas cake to bake, though, mercifully, that did not require suet. Lots of extra suet needed to be grated, however, for use on Christmas Eve when my mother and I would prepare the stuffing for the chicken. Turkeys fell well outside our family's budget and chicken was a once-a-year treat.

Most of the recipes came either from a Radiation Cook Book given to my mother in 1944 by her landlady in Muswell Hill or from a manual produced by the Ministry of Food in the early 1940s to help housewives stretch their family's rations. The resulting products were hardly lavish, therefore, but who were we to know that, a family struggling to live on the inadequate stipend of a poor Baptist minister in a Lancashire mill town? The important thing was that Christmas food was special, far different from the macaroni or rice and dahl we ate routinely during the rest of the year.

Christmases were not an easy time for our parents and in this they were little different from many families living in depressed urban communities in the north of England and beyond.  Nevertheless, Christmas was in some ways, perhaps, a bit easier than nowadays, as expectations were so much lower. I don't think many of our friends had particularly luxurious Christmases either. I am sure there were many children among my father's congregation who received nothing at all. Now, of course, decades later, I realise that European and American Christmases are a unique phenomenon. Most children in cultures which celebrate Christmas, such as in Uganda where I lived for a while, rarely receive presents.

One family Christmas in particular stands out for me. It must have been about 1955 or 1956. My father hadn't been paid for some time, not an unusual situation. His church was in the slums and served rows of terraced back-to-backs. One of these terraced houses, a slightly better one with indoor plumbing and a garden, was the manse and our childhood home. My father's congregation was poor and his stipend entirely dependent on collections at church services. Now it was Christmas and there was no money. Things must have been difficult for some weeks already, as I later realised. It all came to a head, however, on Christmas Eve. My parents were never before time in decorating the house and, anyway, did not believe in putting up the Christmas tree before then. This year, however, we didn't go down to the market to buy it until Christmas Eve itself. My parents were hoping to pick one up cheaply.

My memory of that afternoon is branded indelibly on my psyche. We went from market stall to market stall, trailing after our parents, in an increasingly desperate attempt to buy a Christmas tree. It wasn't that they had sold out. Far from it. Indeed, there were still a good number of trees left. However, none of them fell within our parents' means. Nowadays it wouldn't matter so much. They could have gone to a cash machine and drawn out more money, even if they were already in debt. Not in the 1950s, however. There were no cash machines, debt wasn't entered into lightly and anyway it was far too late in the day.

By late afternoon, my younger brother and I were beginning to become very worried. I begged my parents to get a tree. Sometimes we revisited the same stall several times in the hope that the price had dropped, but no it hadn't. There was to be no tree that year. At the end of the afternoon, when it was already getting dark, my mother quickly bought a couple of branches of greenery to tuck behind the pictures and that was it. We marched off back home feeling depressed and anxious. What would Christmas be like without a tree?

Our worries were soon forgotten, however, as we drank our cocoa around the fire (a centimeter of milk and a great deal of hot water!) and chose our father's best long socks to be placed at the end of our beds for Father Christmas (not Santa!) to fill. As usual, I found it virtually impossible to get to sleep but eventually I did, and in the early hours of the morning, there at the end of the bed was the satisfying weight of my stocking. I have no memory of what was in it that particular year, as all my stockings over the years merge into one. However, it probably held a sugar mouse, a tangerine, a bright red apple, some monkey nuts (pace, Jonathan!), some 'gold' coins, a curled up paper trumpet with a feather at the end, some colouring pencils and one or two small items like hankies, which varied from year to year. Just what a proper stocking should contain! We were, indeed, lucky.

Downstairs we crept and there, miracle of miracles, was a little Christmas tree decorated with baubles and clip-on metal candleholders with real candles (no health and safety in those days!). How had my parents managed it?  My father had sawed off a length from a broom handle and my mother had tied on bits of greenery, some from the garden and some bought in the market the evening before. An unconventional tree, but one that did the job perfectly satisfactorily and, for us children, was just like a real one.

The rest of the day proceeded as normal. We all went to church, where my father took the Christmas morning service. We came back, tucked into our chicken and stuffing and struggled to eat our mince pies and Christmas pudding with white sauce, eager to see which of us would receive one of the silver sixpences buried inside.

Then it was time for the 'big' presents. In those days children received one present from their parents, not the multiplicity they tend to get today. However, remember that my parents were pretty much penniless. There really had been no money for presents. We never doubted that we would receive one, however, and never thought to consider how our parents were going to manage it. Nevertheless, there around the foot of the little Christmas tree were three satisfyingly large parcels. What could they be?

My younger brother, then around three or four, received a beautiful bright red railway engine and tender, with a cord to pull it around with. My father had made it from an old national dried milk tin and scraps of wood, with a cotton reel for funnel. He had few, if any, carpentry skills and the design employed a fair number of nails rather than dovetailed joints, but it was a splendid construction. The only thing which puzzles me are the wheels. How my father managed to shape these without a lathe, I have no idea, but he did, quite probably re-using some other household object. However, it was a wonderfully solid creation. It lasted right through my brother's childhood and that of my own boys until it was passed on, eventually, to my nephews down in Cornwall. No doubt this indestructible engine is still in existence and will be passed on to their own children in due course.

My elder brother received a garage for his Dinky cars, complete with showroom and workshop. Again, my father had made it from offcuts of wood, with transparent plastic sheeting for windows and discarded cotton reels. It was finished with petrol pumps and replica 'advertisements' for motor products. Much cherished it is now safely in his attic having been played with over decades by the many children who visited my parents' house.

And I, I received my all-time treasure, my dolls' house. It was made from an old 'orange box', with knobs attached to doors which opened out. My father had added stairs, each tread of which he had cut and nailed on separately. He had also wired it so that each room had an electric light made out of a torch bulb, with a shade made out of a paper case for sweets. The master switch was in the attic. I hesitate to think about the fire risk!

My mother had furnished my house with brightly-coloured curtains strung on elastic cords each with eyelets hung on tiny hooks. It had beds with bedding, rugs, and a sofa and armchairs made of offcuts and upholstered in red velvet. My father had even made a sideboard with doors which opened on 'hinges' made of nails.

My parents had bought bathroom fittings and a tiny washing machine with a handle that swished the 'washing' around and another that turned the mangle. I could go on and on describing these marvels.

My dolls' house was a magical present.

My father, a man whose life had been a disappointment in so many ways, who struggled to keep his family going on what the church provided and who was not really cut out for parish life, had put aside his many difficulties and spent days in our freezing cold wash house lovingly creating these wonderful presents. To do so, he had developed and applied carpentry skills which he had never been taught but had had to learn from scratch. He had been rewarded by the look on his children's faces. It was a wonderful Christmas, after all, for all of us.

In due course, my father applied his newly acquired carpentry skills to other projects. He made a sledge out of the top of an old piano stool and got the blacksmith to forge runners for it. Many years later, and out of love alone rather than financial necessity, my father made my younger son a Noah's Ark, now in the possession of my granddaughter and no doubt, to be handed on to her own children. However, that was many years later.

That Christmas Day in Lancashire sixty years ago continued and ended as all such occasions did. We played Musical Bumps and Oranges and Lemons. We took turns to perform music on our instruments: piano, violin and cello. We gathered round the piano and sang Christmas carols, some traditional English but also some German ones such as O Tannenbaum and In Dulci Jubilo, with its mixture of German and Latin. My mother was a modern linguist and German music and culture meant a great deal to her. She had a beautiful soprano voice and accompanied herself on the piano. Indeed, some years earlier she had achieved some local fame singing German lieder on Pakistani radio!

My father, on the other hand, could only grunt along. His own father had forbidden him from singing around the house when he was a child, so my mother once told me, and he had absolutely no mastery of tune or tone. However, he loved to listen to my mother, as we all did. Some songs such as Joseph liebe, Joseph mein were beyond us so she sang them on her own. Only the other day, I was caught unawares by a rendition on the radio of Schlaf, schlaf, schlaf, Mein liebes Kindlein schlaf.... and my eyes filled with water.

It all seems so long ago, but I still have that wonderful Christmas present, if now somewhat battered - for doll's houses can perform many functions beyond the conventional. They make wonderful horses, for instance, if you sit astride, holding on to the chimney.

My dolls' house has had a long rest now and is ready to enter a new phase in its life. Perhaps, by next Christmas if I get myself organised, it will have joined another household and begun to bring pleasure to another generation of our family.