Pauline loved visiting as a child. Granddad had made her this special dolls’ house. It was just a room but it was where Pauline and her parents would spend Sunday afternoons when they went for tea. Her grandmother baked the most delicious cakes, different every time, but always a small individual one for her to take home for the next day.
Every detail in this room, what would now be called a family room, was replicated in one twelfth scale. She didn’t know at the time the dimensions were so precise.
‘How do you think we can do the wallpaper?’ Granddad asked her.
‘How about we copy the pattern on the wallpaper here and then we can do several sheets but with a smaller pattern. You could help colour them in, Pauline,’ suggested Joan, her mother.
‘I could make some newspapers and a jigsaw and leave them on the table,’ said Pauline.
‘That’s a good idea,’ said Joan.
‘I could get some scraps of material and thread and put them in Grandma’s sewing box,’ she added. She didn’t know it then, but she would probably have been better disposed doing detailed scale drawings of the model with plan, side and elevation views. When you are seven years old, things like that don’t really occur to you.
Granddad produced a tiny wooden table and chairs and even an upholstered fire-side chair. Ornaments on the mantelpiece were lovingly recreated in plaster of Paris and painted.
The small room was taking shape. The tiny rugs had been difficult but by going through some salvage at the local haberdashers’, Granddad managed a fair facsimile of the flooring. Joan had worked hard on the wallpaper. She even cut it in to strips just like real rolls so it fitted better. It was fun seeing it develop over a few weeks.
When it was finally ready, Pauline asked, ‘But where’s Grandma and Granddad?’ They all laughed. Granddad said, ‘I’m in the outhouse tidying up all my carpentry tools and Grandma’s in the kitchen baking cakes for our tea.’ He gave her a big grin and obviously felt that was enough, but she couldn’t understand why no one was sitting reading a newspaper in the fire-side chair or doing a jigsaw at the table.
Her perplexed expression must have got them thinking because the following Sunday, Little Granddad was reading The Evening Standard and Little Grandma was half way through a jigsaw of a rural scene. Pauline was thrilled at this perfect depiction of Grandma and Granddad in their room.
For a number of years she lived for Sundays, seeing her beloved grandparents and playing with the special dolls’ house.
As Pauline got older, the draw of hanging around with her friends meant that her parents no longer took her on what she was seeing as a duty visit. In fact, she barely saw them at all.
And then Grandma died.
Pauline was heartbroken… and embarrassed… and guilty. Why had she not bothered to visit them these past few months? She knew Grandma had been ill. She felt awful. Her mind kept replaying the happy times, playing with her dolls’ house. The only thing that gave her any comfort at all was Little Grandma was still with Little Granddad. Then she promptly burst into tears thinking how distraught Granddad must be.
Joan was very sad and spent a lot of time with Granddad helping him to sort through Grandma’s things. After much thought, he decided to move to a smaller place where he could manage better.
When he moved into his new flat, Pauline started to see him regularly. By then, she was studying graphic design and telling him her plans to become an architect.
‘Wish I’d been able to do that sort of thing when I was your age,’ he said. ‘Chances just weren’t around then.’
‘But you had skills you used,’ she said.
‘No one really appreciated it at work, though. You just got on with your bit,’ he said. ‘What I really liked doing was those models. Do you remember? I did one for you when you were young.’
‘Of course!’ she said, ‘How could I forget? It was lovely.’
‘You know where it is now, don’t you?’ he said. Her face fell.
‘Long gone, I suppose,’ she said.
He grinned at her and said, ‘Your dad’s got it.’
She gave him a broad smile. She held back her tears and hugged Granddad so tight he feigned being unable to breathe, but laughed and hugged her back.
‘I am so sorry I neglected you,’ she said.
‘I suppose it wasn’t cool to hang round with your grandparents,’ he said with a knowing smile.
‘It was unforgivable,’ she said, ‘but I hope you can.’ He nodded and hugged her tighter.