When I was very young, my mother got very excited one evening when she discovered a cricket, sitting on our living room hearth in our ancient cottage home, ‘singing’ its little heart out. It is an old belief that such an occurrence will bring great good luck. Magical! It stayed with us for several evenings and finally disappeared, never to return.
This led to my parent reading certain passages aloud from the story entitled ‘The Cricket On The Hearth’ by Charles Dickens… but it is only during this past few days that I felt prompted to take down one of my volumes of Dickens and read the whole of that short story all the way through… and there, to my utter amazement, I found a description of my younger family working life… something so common and familiar to us all… it took my breath away!
For in the story, there is a toy maker called Caleb Plummer who lives with his blind daughter, Bertha. Their living room is also their workshop which is filled with every kind of wooden toy in every stage of completion imaginable… among others, horses, animated toys, musical instruments, dolls and doll’s houses… and it is this last which held me spell bound!
In view if my recently rekindled interest and involvement in doll’s houses and doll’s house miniatures through the current children’s story I am writing, this has taken on an even greater relevance than when I first made these observations on Facebook six years ago.
For in my younger years, and for at least two decades of my adult life, my family and I were miniatures makers – in other words, makers of doll’s houses, furniture and accessories, but for the collectors markets, not as children’s toys. And the room that we all congregated in to work together most often was the dining room in my parents cottage, where indeed, just such a similar scene of industrious chaos was created. We regularly had every free surface covered with wooden work boards on which stood miniature furniture – beds, dressers, tables, chairs, spinning wheels, tapestry frames, stools, bed steps and dough troughs of every shape, design and quality. Miniature residences of equally varying degrees in size, shape and comfort and in equally bewildering stages of construction could be found covering the dining table or various work-stands. While over all, a thick layer of saw-dust lay, obscuring the pattern on the carpet and sometimes even the sleeping cats… tools, beakers, paint pots, tins of stain and varnish, paint brushes everywhere… well, you get the picture!
So although I am neither a poor and harassed little man, nor a young blind doll’s dress maker, I feel a very strong fellow feeling for these fictitious characters. But as the author, Alan Garner, once said: there isn’t a story that hasn’t already been written. (Think about it!)
My only concern is that, among all Charles Dickens’s fantastical caricatures, I might also find a description of myself one day… !!!!