Category Archives: Collecting

Airfix versus Warhammer

Assault on Black Reach - apparently

In the morning I am taking Boy the Elder into Leicester to spend his birthday money.  The only thing which was on his list was a Warhammer series 40,000 Assault on Black Reach gaming set. If you understand what that means you are either likely to be a 13-25 year old male or a nauseating parent who is really sucking up to her children.  You know who you are, Sister the First.

BTE has been an avid Airfix fan for ages and has got some beautiful models of WW2 planes, tanks and ickle tiny soldiers.  He’d started to get really good at the building and painting and I understood it; it was real things painted to look like real things that did stuff that actually happened.  The Aged Parent bought him membership of The Airfix Club for his birthday and he gets enamel badges and everything.

Supermarine Spitfire - obviously

Then suddenly Warhammer came on the scene and there are dozens of little grey plastic mutant figures littering the house and desperate, plaintive pleas for Ork Stompas echo around the rooms, and I just don’t ‘get it’. But then I’m not really supposed to, am I?

Thus, tomorrow morning, we are venturing into Leicester to find a shop called ‘Tabletop Tyrants’ where, being a Saturday morning, it will be awash with hundreds of teenage boys, who are strangers to soap and don’t have a girlfriend or a clean pair of underpants between them.  BTE will hand over his shining debit card (the glancing light blinding the shuffling youths) in exchange for box loads of plastic mutants with machetes and assorted weaponry plus the associated paints, brushes and glue.

I begged him to shower tonight or wash his hair, as a gesture that he has a shred of individuality, but to no avail.  He did paint his nails purple though, which I suppose is a start.  I will hide his trainers and leave his Chelsea boots where he will trip over them but I fear that the use of a toothbrush will be a step too far.

Lancaster Bomber

Ork Stompa

Airfix seems wholesome, Wargaming does not.  Still, at least he’s balanced – an Ork Stomper on one shelf and a De Havilland Mosquito on the other.  Boy the Younger will, of course, insist on combining the two and will strafe and dive bomb the mutants with neatly painted Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers.  Boy the Elder will flip his lid and a horrible fight will break out on the dining room table between a lanky evil-smelling geek and a  malevolent, grudge-bearing 8-year old.

Now THAT I get.


Filed under Children, Collecting, Indoor Activities

Golly Territory

Good morning everyone, I trust you slept well and that you have less of a headache than I do.  Off to the market for some monosaturated medicament, I feel.

Now, seeing as we’ve strayed into Golly Territory, and I’m too busy packing boxes and taking down shelves to write anything of any depth, have a look at these previous posts:-

My name is the Wartime Housewife and I love Golliwogs

By Golly, I need to buy another Golly

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Filed under Collecting, Life in general

How to make an attractive display case out of an old cutlery tray

Cutlery trays

Old wooden cutlery trays can make useful display cases or storage trays for little things.  My boys love little things and have masses of tiny plastic abominations which are carefully abandoned about the house in case I should feel the need of a nasty accident.

I had a cutlery tray left over when I bought a larger one to accommodate a new cutlery set, but you can pick them up at junk stalls from between 10p and £1.  I bought acrylic paints because they dry very quickly and wash off hands and clothes easily with soapy water; these cost about £1.25 a bottle and last quite a long time.  I found the felt squares in the local stationery shop costing 45p each.  For sticking the felt, you can use PVA glue, although I used a hot glue gun in the interests of speed and less mess.

First coat of paint


1 x wooden cutlery tray
Acrylic paints
PVA or hot glue
Paint brushes – 1cm wide
You might also like some transfers or sparkly things or varnish
2 x Small mirror plates if you wish to hang it on the wall

Line with felt

Firstly, choose your colours
Then paint the insides of the tray, overlapping a bit on the bottom where the felt will go
Leave it to dry then apply a second coat
Then paint the outside edges, leave to dry then apply another coat
Lastly paint the back, leave to dry then apply another coat
If you are varnishing, apply a thin coat and leave to dry, applying another coat if necessary
Cut out the felt to the size of the compartments
Glue the felt into place, making sure the glue goes right to the edges

Add extra decoration

Apply any other decorations
If you wish to hang it on the wall, apply two small mirror plates to the back

Boy the Younger's Blue & Green tray

Boy the Elder's Gothic tray


Filed under Collecting, Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Re-use Recycle, Tips, Skips and Scavenging

I find a perfect tin to put my buttons in

At Christmas, I found a delightful button tin in Oxfam, that had more than a hint of 1940s utility about it.  I pounced, brought it home, only to have overlooked the fact that my cantilevered sewing box has a maximum height of 1 ¾” per tray.  Foiled.

This hardly constitutes a national emergency, but whilst doing a little mending yesterday, the fit came upon me to find a more suitable button tin.  Maybe something with ‘Gold Flake’ or ‘Gee’s Linctus’ written on it.

Being a child-free weekend, I had the mother of all lie-ins this morning.  I dozed intermittently through The Archers Omnibus, snuggled pleasantly through Desert Island Discs and finally emerged winking and blinking into the light of an overcast noon.  I made a lovely plate of Egg Florentine (you see, I do eat my own recipes) and settled down to watch a wonderfully romantic 1945 film called, ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ starring a young Wendy Hiller and the delightful Roger Livesey.

Then I started to feel a little lazy.  I ought to go for a walk, get some air in my lungs, burn a couple of inches off .. well.. anywhere really.  Then suddenly I had the overwhelming feeling that today I was going to find my special button tin.  But I wanted to finish the film.  Then I remember that I had it on DVD in a Powell & Pressburger boxed set, if you please.

I jumped up, bunged a bit of lippy on and headed for the Harborough Antique Market.  I searched and searched but no tin.  There was a small ‘Players’ tobacco tin but it was scratched and dull and simply didn’t fit the bill.  I tore myself away, managing not to buy a silver-topped, cut-glass claret jug that was calling to me, and trudged sadly home.

When I went to pick up The Boys, I told The Father of My Children about my Button Tin Sadness, knowing that he would understand.  “Mmmmm”, he said, and disappeared upstairs.  He came down proffering a small chocolate tin which had been produced by Cadbury Bournville to commemorate the Queen’s Coronation.  “Would this do, do you think?” 

I fell sobbing with gratitude at his feet, murmuring my thanks  like Jenny Agutter in the ‘Railway Children’.  And here it is.


Filed under Collecting, Sewing

Shire Books and The Joy of Lavatories (as well as many other subjects of note)

We are blessed in Market Harborough, as we have a Waterstones, an independent bookshop – Quinns, and a couple of excellent second-hand bookshops.  As you go through the door of Quinns, there is a rack of Shire Books which will have any right-minded person drooling and cooing at the boggling array of deliciously English subject matter.

Shire Books was set up in 1962, producing low-priced, factual paperbacks on the most astonishing range of subjects which catered for the enthusiasms and niche interests of ordinary people all over the country.

The only problem was, that despite the indisputably interesting content, they began to look really dull and old-fashioned in their layout and with black and white photography and illustrations.

But then in 2007, the owner retired and sold the company to Osprey Publishing.  In 2008 a major revamp of its list of titles as well as an overhaul of content and cover designs, was undertaken, resulting in the gorgeous and irresistible collection of books on sale today. Even the paper they’re printed on feels lovely. And they’re still cheap.

I have taken the reckless step of obtaining the current Shire Catalogue and, because I am a dangerous obsessive, I have typed up the list (leaving the catalogue untouched for posterity) so that a) I can remember what I’ve got and b) I can mark the books with which to treat myself each month.

The First Six

My latest purchase is entitled ‘Privies and Water Closets’ (making this a Bog Blog?) and the front cover features a delightful illustration c.1814 by Martinet of Paris, of a large gentleman with a rather strained expression, sitting on a commode.  The book contains a beautifully written, lavishly illustrated history and technology of the lavatory, beginning with an interesting explanation of where we get our words for ‘toilet’ from.

I am allowing myself two Shire Books per month and I now have four weeks to agonise about which two to buy next.  Shall it be:-

British Family Cars of the 1950s and 60s?
British Pigs?
The Victorian Workhouse?
Old Medical and Dental Instruments?
Fields, Hedges and Ditches?
Women of the First World War? or
Nailmaking?   Who wouldn’t want to own a book about nailmaking?

Then again, it’s still February, and March is only a matter of days away…


Filed under Collecting, Leisure, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

Out of an old sewing machine came forth a kindling box

Our homes should be places where we can be expressive of who we are.  Even if we can’t afford the furniture or paintings we would like, we can always make comfortable compromises by putting an attractive throw and bright cushions over a tatty sofa or, as I do, photocopy pictures of paintings (in high resolution) that I love and frame them.

As I have said before, I am deeply uncomfortable and perplexed when I go into a house where everything is white and there are no books or pictures, precious few ornaments or fol-de-rols and no clues as to the identity of the inhabitant. 

The ability to make things oneself comes in so useful, particularly when money is shortUsing up old materials to make new things is not only deeply satisfying; it makes your house more individual and exciting but also means fewer  items going to the tip.  For good examples of this, you need only visit Sue at the Quince Tree or The Vintage Knitter to see the lovely things they do.

As usual for a Sunday, I was wandering around the Market Harborough Antique Market and spotted an interesting looking box, half under the table of a stall that I frequent.  It was a slightly unusual shape and it drew my eye, something about the shape nagging at the back of my mind.  The vendor had put a few small logs in it and I thought “What a super, neat little box for kindling”.  I’m currently using an old straw bag for kindling which does the trick but it looks untidy and just ‘not right’. 

The cover off an old sewing machine

I asked what price she had on it and immediately beat her down a few quid.  It turned out to be the lid off an old Singer sewing machine.  How completely perfect.

which became a kindling box

I am the owner of four sewing machines; an 1890s treadle, a 1910 flower-enamelled Singer, a miniature 1950s Sew-ette and a fancy new modern jobby that goes shopping for its own bobbins and advises you on your colour schemes.

Everything in your home should tell a story – your story.  So make it an adventure.


Filed under Collecting, Decorative, fashion, General DIY, Re-use Recycle

The Importance of Art

On Saturday I went to a private view at the wonderful Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham, Rutland.  The Exhibition was John Piper and an incredibly charismatic man called Orde Levinson gave an inspired and informed talk about Piper and his work and then took Q&As from the floor.

 I’m not a huge fan of Piper, although there are some pictures that are wonderful, but I often find that I can appreciate art, and indeed music, much better when I know something about the creator’s life and motivations, and so it was with this collection.

I spoke to a several people about their personal collections and I took the opportunity to brainstorm about an idea that was discussed on Radio 4 a few weeks ago.  There are these art clubs springing up comprised of people who want the joy of original artworks in their houses but can’t afford to buy them.  The form a club into which they put a set amount of money each month and then elect a small group of people to be the buyers.  Obviously, they discuss in advance what sort of paintings, sculptures etc they wish to acquire for the group, and then they take it in turns to display the pieces at home.

I think this is a fantastic idea and many of these clubs become stalwart supporters of new and developing artists and, if the buyers are canny, they often buy early works of artists who  later become very desirable indeed.  Works are then sold on, often at a profit, which then goes back into the pot to buy more art.

This idea has also been taken up with considerable enthusiasm by some schools, who share the works on rotation so that children, who might not normally have access to original works, can experience them and draw inspiration from them in their own classes.  My school had a central, classroom corridor, an eighth of a mile long, lined with well-framed, reproduction paintings from virtually every period of history.  I often used to walks slowly along that corridor, really taking time to look at individual pictures and trying to memorize who painted them and why I did or didn’t like them.

The appreciation of art is something that should be intrinsic and accessible to all of us.  Not necessarily just staring at paintings or pots or piles of ceramic seeds, but having the understanding that the things around us should have an element of beauty.  Victorian engineers understood this and even a simple beam engine, operated by simple men,  would be painted in red and gold and green and embellished with acanthus leaves and scrolls. 

William Morris said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”.  If people grow up with no beauty in their lives I truly believe that it will be harder for them to be beautiful.  I can’t afford to buy original paintings or prints but sometimes I scan pictures from books or magazines and frame them in order to have that picture where I can see it.  I once, very naughtily, photographed a painting at someone’s house using the digital macro feature on my camera.  Admittedly, I do have a really good printer, but the print which emerged was so sharp, you could almost feel the brush strokes and several people have commented on what a lovely print it is!

I do have lots of small items which I have collected over the years from antique markets and general sales.  These things are of no significant monetary value, but they give me an enormous amount of pleasure and, on the (increasingly rare) occasions when I entertain, the silver and cut glass come out and gleam and sparkle on the table in such a joyful way that it adds an extra dimension to the meal.

It would be very easy to lead a utilitarian life and it would certainly make house moves a lot less arduous, but where’s the fun in that?  Whenever I see something I would like to buy at the antique market at Harborough, I ask the boys what they think.  Do they like it and do they think it would fit in with the things we already have.  Boy the Elder has often advised me, very sensibly about pieces and Boy the Younger is starting to develop his own taste. 

Enjoying art and artefacts has far wider impact on our lives than simply liking a pretty picture.  Stand with a child in front of a painting and ask him what he sees and how he feels; not only does this encourage a different use of language and descriptive ability, it also encourages children to explore their emotions and responses to their visual environment.  Have you ever looked at a picture and wondered why it makes you feel angry or calm or unsettled?  – what a wonderful opportunity to think about our feelings and perceptions.  Art therapy is a recognised and longstanding technique for allowing troubled people to express themselves in a structured and non-threatening environment and it’s easy to see why.

Go out into the streets, dear friends.  Find things you like and put them in your houses.  Pick up your needles and embroider something, put some beeswax on that neglected table and watch the wood glow into life.  Off you go.


Filed under Collecting, Leisure, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art