“Paracosm ~ a prolonged fantasy world invented by children; can have a definite geography and language and history…”
Another glimpse into the life of a wartime child and the unique record of her home-made dolls’ house and its contents.
The following comes from a series of charming wartime letters, written by a little girl, Brenda, to her dad who was away during WW2. The letters were found on the pavement outside a charity shop, alongside a dolls’ house, and its contents. Many of the letters mention items still present in the dolls’ house.
The house’s curtains are faded to light green, now, and silk, with a subtle red and white abstract pattern on them – probably a textile from Brenda’s home. They are ‘green’ as she mentions, but not ‘flowered’ so maybe there were two sets of curtains, one now lost. They were not hemmed, but a running stitch along the top, done with linen thread, attached them to some screws on the inside of the windows. Brenda seems to have been allowed to see the curtains her father made for her, whilst she was in hospital, having her adenoids and tonsils (“As and Ts”) removed, in the autumn of 1942. Brenda was 8, that year.
1930s’ and 40s’ Triang doll’s houses came with little strips of fabric, attached to the window panes, made from an equally fine silk or faux-silk, and these were probably roughly what Brenda’s father was replicating. According to my Ancestry searches, Brenda’s paternal grandfather was an upholsterer, so it’s not surprising Brenda’s father was accomplished with a needle.
I will be carefully removing the curtains, giving them a gentle clean, and returning them to the inside of the house. One of the things that fascinates me about doll’s houses are the textiles.
Brenda also mentions her doll’s “frock” and unpicking a “skarf” (so presumably that was knitted!) I will have to look through the extant dolls’ outfits and see if I can find a likely candidate – if I do, I’ll photo it.
I have preserved Brenda’s spelling and punctuation, throughout. This letter is written in pencil, so I transcribed it.
My Dearest Daddy Pet.
How are you Dear? Quite well I hope. I had three letters in one day from you, because I didn’t get the one you posted to the Hospital but they sent it here. I could see the curtans you made from my bed, did you make those flowered ones? I saw the dark green ones, like we have got on the landing. It isn’t a very nice day yet, very windy and looks like rain.
I have done one side of my dollie’s frock and unpicked the skarf. I took Teddy to the Hospital. It took quater of an hour to take my As & Ts out because the nurse told me Mummy’s going to sit in the bed-room and sew.
Grandma Leatherhead came to see me on Saturday. I hope you will like the drawing of a garden. A week to-morrow you will be home. Won’t it be just lovely, what a time we shall have to-gether. I have got a loose tooth. I am writing this letter in bed. the time is 5- twenty two and I shall soon be having dinner, I shall have fish and saygo pudding. Dr Eastern came to see me yesterday. It is very cold out to-day. Dickey doesn’t sing yet. I am writing on the paper you gave me. my throat didn’t hurt a bit only when I swallowed. we saw one of those big lorries in Leatherhead once.
You ought to read JUST JAKE in the paper he says HANG IT HOW THE DEUCE D’YOU EXPECT AN ARTIST TO DO HIS BEST WORK WHEN THE MODEL KEEPS MOVIN’ ABOUT?
He’s making a marrow out of clay. It is so funny. I thought you’d like to read it. I rote the addres of the envelope well. Must say good bey for now, I hope you are quite well and fit I am quite well thank you lots of your from you Everloving xxxx Daughter xxxxxxxxxxxx Brenda XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX