Monday 20 September 2010

Live the life you love.

Celebrating Dad's 70th with my sisters

He hobbled his bulk towards my kitchen, at which point I suggested he might like to sit on a chair while I made his lunch, nonchalence carefully contrived to disguise my concern.  Age is taking its toll on my Dad's stoutly gouty knees and after years of ignoring their pleas, they are fighting back, demanding their right to a peaceful retirement.

As he eased himself onto a chair, I busied myself about the kitchen.  The twinkle in his eye was still very much in evidence, but I sensed age impinging on his mobility, frustrating his attempts to live life as he would choose.  If the choice were still his own, I knew he would elect to live a life full to overflowing with the great outdoors he loved so much and when the need for company called to him, would relish the opportunity to flirt with the ladies, oil his joints with a decent bottle of red and dance the twist all night long.

As the cheese bubbled and browned on his toast, he told me indignantly that after his recent arthroscopy examination, the nursing staff attempted to encourage him to use a zimmer frame.  He's an irascible old devil at the best of times, so sent them packing, leaving them in no uncertainty regarding his feelings on the matter.  I smiled as, full of his usual bluff and bluster, he recounted his exploits, knowing without any doubt, he'd rather those pretty young nurses paid more attention to the twinkle in his eye, than to his recalitrant knees.

My father is a man who loves to talk and is at his most animated with an audience.  With very little encouragement, he will capture his listener with flambuoyant tales and with every yarn he shares, zest for life bursts from him, painting pictures of his exploits in the brightest imaginable hues.  In both stature and character Dad is an imposing man, commanding respect from all who meet him.  He can be a hard man, a determined man, but always a fair man.  Not one to fight shy of life, Dad has never hesitated to come out fighting whenever the world has dared to take him on. 

As a father, he was a strict disciplinarian, but he was also the man who gathered all the local kids together, stacking them into his estate car to drive to the woods to find sand dunes, so we could all run, roll and rejoice in the fresh air.  He would show us how to gather willow to weave baskets, how to bang nails into wood to create boats to float and how to find squirrels in those wonderful woodlands.  He would take us blackberry collecting, bringing us home with buckets brimful of juicy fruit, purple faced and deliciously sticky.  Heaven help us though when we misbehaved, then his roar would terrify us, sending us scattering for cover.

These days he visits when he can.  It is always with the greatest of pleasure and pride that he enjoys the company of his grandchildren and in turn, they are intrigued by him and love his humour, greatly respecting the mischievous twinkle in his eye.

As he tucked into his lunch with gusto, I heard him ask his grandson, my nineteen year old son, how he was getting on at University.  I waited with interest for the answer.  It came openly and honestly as he shared his frustrations with his Grandad.  With almost half a century between them, Dad gave him the sense of direction which I, as his so very responsible mother could not.  "Don't waste a single day on anything in life that you hate," Dad advised, " a life you love and don't waste a single day."

I watched as the tension which had been tormenting my son for the past few weeks, left his face and later, as he waved goodby to his Grandfather, it was with the warmth of genuine respect and affection. 

Thanks Dad.

Written 25th August 2004

My Dearest Dad, I will miss you more than you'll ever know.

PJ x

Tuesday 14 September 2010

A river runs through ...

So, as I was saying yesterday, my car only just managed to wend its way home after Sunday's show and the engine sounded like a rocket launcher as we pootled along the motorway.  By the time we arrived home, she was complaining bitterly.  Unluckily for me, the auto-centre is what I would term 'a significant hike' from my house, so when I limped my little Saxo gingerly along the road for surgery yesterday morning, I knew I'd be in for a long, tedious wait while she was fixed ...

The Royal Star Arcade coffee shop

... and that was when I remembered a comment Yvonne made on Sunday about enjoying my blog walks!  So, rather than mope around in town for hours on my own, I slipped my point 'n shoot digicam into my handbag so you could join me while my catalytic converter was being fitted! 

The Royal Star Arcade built in 1989 on the site of the old Star Hotel - where I used to disco way back in the days when strawberry lipgloss was 'cool'!

The first picture is a bit of a giveaway; after popping into a book shop to hunt down a new paperback, I decided to indulge myself with a cappucino and pecan and maple syrup danish pastry.  Several chapters of my book later, I remembered my camera and began to snap discreetly as I went on my way ...

Middle Row, I used to go to disco's here too when I was a girl!  Sadly the street is fairly run down these days - a real shame; but if you look above eye level, there are still  plenty of clues to Maidstone's history ...

Fortunately it stayed dry while I was walking and it was quite warm,  so although the skies were heavy with cloud, rain didn't interfere with my play. 

These days Maidstone suffers in much the same way as many other towns, with boarded up shops, gum plastered pavements and general air of 'can't be botherdness', but if you know where to look, it is still possible to enjoy the best of this historic County Town and after more than thirty years of residence, my feet have traipsed all over the town and know exactly where to take me ...

The Bell Tower, All Saints Church

All Saints Church is a beautiful building, whether you 'got religion' or didn't.  I won't whitter on here like a history teacher, suffice it to say this is a fourteenth century church and not only was my niece baptised here, I have also attended many charming Christmas carol, Easter and Harvest Festival services here whilst working with the infant department of All Saints C of E Primary School, which is across the road.  One day I'd like to look out at Maidstone from the top of that magnificent bell tower!

The Archbishop's Palace

Taking these pics for you gave me the perfect excuse to slip down the steps behind the Bell Tower to show you 'The Archbishop's Palace' built by Archbishop Courtenay in 1396.  I think this is probably the most impressive building in Maidstone.  These days it is the town's Register Office and many a bride and groom have been photographed with the front elevation gracing the background (including two of my sisters in fact!) but my favourite view is here at the rear of the building, where it dominates the riverside.

The Millenium Bridge

Surprisingly perhaps, modern mingles quite comfortably with medieval in this area.  I'm guessing no matter how rich in history an area is, life moves on demanding practical solutions to modern day needs - no matter the romance of yesteryear!  I confess that when the Millenium Bridge was opened in 1999, I shuddered at the concept of something so blatantly contemporary being built across the Medway close to the Archbishop's Palace and All Saints Church, but when I realised this little metal bridge could bring the local 'B &Q' do-it-yourself store so much closer to me, my ire began to soften ...

Medway Bridge

I have no idea how many times I have crossed this ancient bridge.  As a child I crossed it twice a day to reach school and as an adult, who knows how many times to reach the shops!  I think it's one of those purposeful constructions that is used so frequently, it becomes almost invisible with time.  It was rebuilt in 1879 and now draws traffic away from the town centre but I think it lends the town a sense of permanence and has a certain solid, supportive charm ...

Travel Lodge

I couldn't resist including this recent glaring monstrosity.  A 'Travel Lodge' now perches on the side of the river upsteam from the historical buildings ... talk about a blot on our landscape!

Invicta Regimental War Memorial

I think Maidstone is like many towns, a mix of the old and the new.  It's a little jaded around its rather scruffy edges, but like the river that has always flowed through it, the town moves forward reflecting current times, whilst quietly remembering its past.

Monday 13 September 2010

Showing off ...

Well, show day came and went in a flash as they always do and now my head's in a whirl after all the chatting yesterday!  As the hours have slipped through my fingers today, I've been feeling wearier and wearier and ... yawn!  I shouldn't complain though, it was a very good day for 'All Bear' yesterday and I am so thrilled to be able to tell you, all my bears found new homes.

Set up in the nick of time!

We arrived in the morning with half an hour to spare before the queue of eager collectors flew into the building and from that point on, I don't think I stopped chatting for more than about five minutes at a time - in fact, whenever I tried to grab a mouthful of sandwich, or gulp a glug of coffee down, someone else said 'hello Paula'!  It was fun catching up with old friends at the show and meeting new collectors for the first time and I was very happy to have my stand situated next door to lovely Yvonne and Chris ( so we could enjoy a good ol' natter between customers ... oh yes, it really was the very most sociable kind of day!

Kensington Town Hall

Barbara and Mungo

Those of you who have visited the Hugglets shows in past years may remember Frank Webster's 'Charnwood Bears'.  (In fact, Frank made the very first artist bear I ever collected!)  Frank, one of the UK's longest standing teddy bear artists, has created many great bears over the years but one of his biggest characters (quite literally!) must be 'Mungo', shown above with his owner Barbara.  'Mungo' has visited many bear shows over the years and yesterday, he arrived at my stand in spectacular style garbed as a pearly king.  Barbara, who I have known for many years, has worked tirelessly creating fabulous outfits to assist Mungo in his charitable fund raising activities and after chatting with creator Frank, she decided to rise to his challenge of creating a special nautical themed pearly outfit for Mungo.  Little did Barbara realise at the outset exactly what that would involve!  It's hard to imagine how many hours were involved in researching, designing and sewing on 4,200 buttons to create such a stunning outfit for Mungo, but I think you'll agree with me, the result is absolutely fabulous!

The Great Hall

I almost forgot to mention my Autumn Dolly Doodle!  If you were wondering, yes I did finish her just in time for the show and here she is .. (this time wearing bloomers to spare her modesty!)

Autumn Aggie

After a successful day 'showing off', Stuart and I loaded the stand equipment into my Saxo and started the engine.  Fortunately the traffic home wasn't too heavy, but as we sailed along the motorway we both noticed my little engine emitting more of a roar than its usual gentle purr ... 

... but, *yawn*, that's a story for another day.  I think it's time for this sleepy bear maker to sink into her armchair before she falls asleep at the keyboard ...!

Saturday 11 September 2010

Nailing it!

By some little miracle seven new bears have materialised in time for tomorrow's show ... hooray!!!!  I'm calling them my 'Careworn Classics' because they are all lovely cuddly traditional bears created in semi-careworn style.  Needless to say, I would have preferred to have a couple more bears for my stand, (isn't that always the way?!) but never mind, seven should be fine.  I spent yesterday on my knees crawling around the living room floor between cables and lighting equipment, with camera in hand ... you would not believe how long it takes to photograph seven bears and today my old lady legs actually ache as a result of all the crouching and crawling!

My 'Careworn Classics' collection
Full details and more pics can be found on my website at

Unfortunately I haven't quite managed to finish 'Autumn Prim Dolly Doodle', so she sends her apologies because it's unlikely she will be able to attend in person tomorrow.  As you can see below, she's not really dressed for the occasion!

My Autumn Prim Dolly Doodle

If I conjure up some spare time this afternoon, I will make her dress and bloomers from those lovely fabrics on the chair and if by another little miracle they don't take too long, maybe I'll be able to finish her hair and shoes too ... but with all the other 'little' jobs waiting for me today, I think it's unlikely she'll be dressed and decent enough to show off in Kensington tomorrow.

So here I am on the day before show day with a list of jobs as long as my arm to complete, not least of which is making time to paint my tatty chipped nails before they disgrace me in public! 

If you were to peek into my workroom today you'd probably frown at the chaos I've created, but I'm simply going to close the door this weekend and worry about tidying next week - there's no point making too much work for myself today when there are so many more important jobs to deal with.  The most important thing is that everything is packed and ready to travel to London at the crack of dawn!

For full show details please visit:

If you are hoping to come to the 'Teddies 2010' show tomorrow, please stop by stand 75 in Hall 2 to meet my bears, we'd all love to meet you!

Thursday 9 September 2010

Teddies Worldwide Holiday Show!

How exciting, a new online show in time for Christmas!
Daphne Blau of
'Backroad Bears' is well known for creating lovely bears, ellies and dolls (and occasionally the odd lion too!) but she is not only a teddy bear artist, oh no!  In her 'spare' (ha!) time Daphne also organises two super US teddy bear shows.  How she finds the time for all these commitments I will never know, but I am delighted to announce multi-talented Daphne has now added 'international webshow' to her list of promotions and as I never could resist a good idea, I've signed up to exhibit!

This show looks like being a whole lot of fun with bear artists from all around the world creating special bears and gifts especially for the event, so please reserve the weekend of 20th & 21st November to join us!

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Elves, where are you when I need you?

This week is disappearing fast and I still have so much to do before the show opens in London on Sunday morning.  My poor old arm is holding me back - I'm not quite sure what I've done to it, but I have a sneaking suspicion it probably falls within the 'repetitive strain injury' category ... bearmakers beware, those years of stuffing, tweaking and tugging may well catch up with you too one day!

I am trying to rest my arm as much as possible, but of course, that isn't a very practical solution for stocking a show table ... I could really do with a cheerful team of helpful elves at my disposable!

Thursday 2 September 2010

One for the pot!

This poor little bear is still a 'work-in-progress', but I thought I'd share his before and after pics here with you before I give him a brush and maybe a rusty ol' bell, and send him on his way.  When I first started distressing bears to achieve a careworn look I was nervous about treating my bears quite so radically, but as you can see, I'm so over that now! 

Cute, but not nearly grungy enough for the scruffy, careworn look I want ...

Aha!  Did you notice my stockpot in the previous picture?  Time for this little bear to take a very quick dunk in my magic brew ... I know, wicked aren't I?! Lol!

To stain the parts my special brew can't reach, a thorough sponging!

Oh dear, one soggy little bear ...

A night spent in the airing cupboard to dry and here he is, a rather scruffy, grubby and  sorry looking fellow!  Perfect!

Before and after!

Careworn bears may not be to everyone's taste, but I think they have a special 'take me home please, I need to be loved' quality and they sure are fun to make!


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