The Dolls House

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In the 1960s or thereabouts, my Grandad (being an excellent carpenter, and having four daughters) made a dolls house.

It was made of solid wood (although I couldn’t tell you what type) and it was perfect. 

The front of the house opened out on hinges, it had an upstairs and a downstairs, and a set of real stairs that connected them. 

The outside walls were papered to look like red brickwork.  The roof papered to look like green slats.  And inside, each room was decorated in the taste of the day – which was garish 60s patterned wallpaper mainly.

Every room had a little door on that opened and closed and fit into its frame perfectly.   The windows opened and closed too, and the house even had a back door that led out onto an imaginary garden. 

I think I mentioned that my Grandfather was an excellent carpenter, but he also knew a thing or two about electricity as well.  Each room had working lights and there were even plug sockets for a little lamp in the bedroom and a little pretend fireplace in the living room.   I thought this was magic as a child.

There were no battery packs in ‘those days’ – the electrical system plugged directly into the mains (possibly contravening every modern day health and safety law!) 

My grandmother made tiny net curtains for the perspex windows, and furnished the house with tiny tables and chairs, little beds, wardrobes and dressers, a miniature oven and kitchen sink, and a small bathroom suite. 

The kitchen cupboards were stocked with tiny plates with plastic food in bright colours – sausage and eggs, fish and chips, cakes and jellys.  The kitchen even had tiny knives, forks and spoons so that the dolls could eat their synthetic food. 

The two dolls that lived in this house where a mother and daughter I think.  They had plastic hair and material clothes.  Their skeletons were made of wire, and they had plastic/rubber skin. 

The dolls house itself was appreciated by many of my relations. 

Three of my Aunts – now in their 50’s – played with the dolls house as children.  My mother, being the youngest probably got the most amount of mileage out of it.  My older cousins also used to have fun with the dolls house when visiting my grandparents. 

When I was a small child I also used to play with the dolls house whenever I went to visit or stay with my grandparents. 

I was fascinated with the miniture yet functional things inside.   My favourite game in the evenings was to put the lights on inside, close the front of the house, and peer in from the outside.  While my parents probably worried that I was displaying an early sign of voyeurism,  I was hoping that the dolls would maybe move about or something.  (In hindsight that is a very scary concept!) 

One day – when I was perhaps 7 or 8 –  my grandparents let me take the dolls house home.  I was pleased as punch.  Why my grandparents decided I should have it and not any of my cousins I will never know – but from then on it took pride of place in my bedroom.   

Over time in my care, the dolls house became home to more modern toys – my plastic dinosaur collection moved in for a while, as did my sylvanian families (remember them?).  The original dolls stayed however, making friends with the trendier toys, although they became increasingly decrepit and bent over time.  

We never replaced the 60’s wall paper or the 70’s furniture – the house remained in a time warp.

When I got too old for the dolls house my sister took over its care and maintenance.  I remember one Christmas she decorated the house with (real size) fairy lights much to the chargin of my mother who worried that the lights would somehow set the house on fire.

A true testiment of craftsmanship, the dolls house lasted nearly five decades and withstood the play of two generations of children.  

It saw the births of me and my siblings, it survived the divorce (and subsequent battle of property) of my parents, and it outlived both of my grandparents who took such care in making it in the first place.   

My dad smashed it to bits and threw it away anyway. 

Was it because he wasn’t very fond of my grandparents (they were my mother’s parents)?  Was it done out of spite in some way?  Or perhaps he just felt that because he had no emotional attachment no-one else did?  I just don’t know. 

All I do know is that he did it without telling anyone, without asking anyone else if they might want it, and that he doesn’t understand why it broke my heart a little when he told me what he’d done.  That by smashing up the dolls house he somehow smashed up a tiny little piece of my childhood and that of my sister, my cousins and others in my family.  And a little memory of my grandparents. 

And it really wasn’t his to smash.


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  1. […] get angry with my dad.  For his alcoholism.  For when he acts unthinkingly.  For when he doesn’t care about his health.  For when he is racist, bigoted and generally […]

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