The West Enders Episode Six: The Holiday Special Part Two, Christmas

Christmas day has come at last and the parents are gathered in front room while the children open their gifts. Marvin, Emma, and Viviane are enjoying themselves, while Steffi is incredibly happy to have her husband Kevin at home as they have so little time together since he opened the pub.

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Unfortunately, Kevin is finding it almost impossible to relax. Barbie, Ken, and Barbie’s cousin Francie, who has arrived for Christmas, have volunteered to run the pub’s Christmas Day dinner and Kevin, who is something of a control freak, can’t stop wondering what is going on there.

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Upstairs, Esmée prepares for dinner while Layla plays with her new doll.

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Downstairs in the kitchen, the childless family members are gathered to prepare the Christmas dinner. Steffi’s sister Bonnie has prepared a fruit cake and Yvette, who has the day off from her barmaid job as well, is checking on the food in the microwave.

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Lara’s brother, Nick, who we met very briefly in the last episode, is sitting at the table talking about his trip to Australia with Monique, Marvin’s cousin, who had rather he were helping instead of talking, and Skipper, Bonnie and Steffi’s youngest sister. Nick, unfortunately, is horribly jet lagged and not thinking very clearly, and, even worse, the airline has lost his luggage. All he has to wear are his pyjamas and his work uniform, along with the shorts and short-sleeved shirt in which he arrived. Although it is unseasonably warm this Christmas day – 13 degrees Celsius – he has had to put on his work trousers. They don’t look particularly smart so he’s happy just to sit at the table and hope his shirt, which he’s worn for three days now, is not too stinky.

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Nicole has convinced Midge, Sam, and Sasha to join her for Mira’s buffet lunch in the yoga studio. She explains that in the USA, it’s a tradition for Jews to eat Chinese food on Christmas day and this is the closest thing for them in the doll house. Mira has put on the luncheon for all the Asian dolls, many of whom are students far from home but she welcomes anyone and everyone.

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Sasha things the buffet looks yummy, especially all those desserts!

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Midge is concerned that Sam, who isn’t Jewish, might rather be at the pub, which is having a roast beef dinner. But Sam would rather be with Midge than anywhere else, and tells her so.

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Yuki is attending the luncheon and seeks out Pierre. It’s time for him to explain to her why he has suddenly become so cold and distant, Yuki has decided. She’s not at all happy to see Nicole is also there but manages to confront Pierre anyway.

sg208400Yuki can’t believe what Pierre’s response is! He has nothing to say except to tell Yuki that this isn’t the time or the place for this conversation. And then he joins the queue for the food.

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There’s another new face in the crowd in the yoga studio. Jenny’s younger brother Hari Takara has arrived to start school in the UK in the new term after the holidays. He’s 14 years old and is in Year 9. Rikki thinks he’s pretty cute. But where is Jenny, now that we mention her? I don’t see her in the crowd.

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Jenny is in the garden with her boyfriend Jake. The snow has melted in the warmth and there’s a cosy fire burning in the barbecue grill. Jenny has a present for Jake.

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Jake tries to guess what it is while he opens it.

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It’s a dazzling guitar that he can wear around his neck!

sg208406Jenny helps him put it on.

sg208407I think Jake likes it. At least one romance in the doll house is going well!

Now let’s have a look in the pub and see how Barbie, Ken, and Francie are managing as bartenders. Things look under control so far.

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As usual, Steven is not too far behind Sandra. Liam and Sutton are chatting. The roast beef looks good, as do the jacket potatoes. Luna and her sister Merida share a toast. Robin B. Gee is chatting to Charlotte while Sutton and Liam look on. Why does Charlotte look slightly bemused? Is it because she’s sitting next to Luna and remembers that Liam has been busy chatting up both of them?

sg208383Stay tuned for our next episode, when we spend New Years Eve with the dolls. It’s always a night for romance – but for whom?

NB: Jake’s fabulous guitar necklace came from DollJewelsbyApril on Etsy.

The West Enders Episode Five: The Holiday Special, Part One

When we last left Yuki in Episode Three, she and Pierre were at the pub. It was Yuki’s first real date with Pierre and she felt very adult, no longer like Yuki the student. Yuki hasn’t much experience of pubs or alcohol consumption. Pierre orders martinis for them and after one, Yuki excuses herself to go to the ladies room. When she returns, she is in for a terrible shock. sg208303Pierre is embracing another woman, someone Yuki has never seen before! Yvette sees Yuki’s shock and explains. “That’s the famous American singer, pet, Nicole Bernstein. I think she and your boyfriend must be good friends.”

Yuki has never heard of Nicole. Yvette goes on to explain that Nicole is an opera singer, one of the world’s top sopranos.

Yuki watches Pierre and Nicole chatting and hugging like best friends and doesn’t know what to do. Will Pierre ever know that she is back?SG208310.jpg

Eventually Pierre notices Yuki and introduces Nicole to her, describing her as the greatest singer of her generation. Yuki is gobsmacked when Pierre introduces her to Nicole as his “friend.” She downs another martini. And then another. And then another. Eventually she feels very wobbly and ill and tells Pierre that she needs to go home. At least he is enough of a gentleman to see her home, but he seems somewhat put out. Yuki feels awful.

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Oh, no! Poor Yuki! Momoko is horrified at Yuki’s state and doesn’t know what to do.sg208315To add insult to injury, the bathroom is right next to the nursery and Sasha, Layla, and even one of the cats are spectators to Yuki’s distress.

sg208326A few days later, it’s the first night of Hanukkah and Midge is having a little get together for herself, Sam, and Sasha. Sasha wants to open the presents immediately but Midge has told her over and over again that she can’t open the packages until sundown when the first candle is lit. Midge has invited Nicole as she wants her to feel at home in the house and knows that Nicole is Jewish. But she is completely gobsmacked when Nicole shows up with Pierre! Isn’t Pierre seeing Yuki? What is he doing here with Nicole? But she says nothing and listens politely as Nicole explains how American Jews traditionally eat Chinese food and go to a movie on Christmas. This isn’t the case in the UK, but Midge is intrigued when Nicole tells her that Mira is throwing a party for all the Asian students and friends in the yoga studio. Nicole tells her that she and Sasha should come along and have fun instead of sitting at home on Christmas day.

sg208316Not only is it the first night of Hanukkah, but it’s also Christmas Eve. The youngest children are tucked all snug in their beds, but it looks as if Evi and Layla are still awake instead of dreaming of sugar plums!

sg208338The older children, Lottie, Alexandra, and Viviane, are in bed while Viviane’s cousin Monique reads them “The Night Before Christmas.”

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Downstairs, the parents are enjoying a quiet cup of tea and a chat before Santa arrives. Lara’s brother Nick has just arrived from Australia, where he’s been working on his PhD research on invasive species. He’s now busy chatting with his old girlfriend Emma. Fortunately, Marvin, Emma’s husband, seems oblivious. He’s chatting with Josh, Lara’s husband. sg208328

In the meantime, there’s a dance party in the yoga studio as the band, Luna and the Dolls, does their last rehearsal before their New Year’s Eve gig. Everyone is having a great time. Except for Yuki. She told Pierre about the party. Where is he?

sg208329Poor Yuki! Little does she know that Pierre is right next door at the Hanukkah party!

sg208321In the meantime, the party at the pub is rockingsg208320Don’t miss the next episode when we’ll find out how the dolls spend Christmas day. Is Yuki set for heartbreak? And will we get to know a bit more about our new residents, Nicole and Nick? We will get to meet another new resident, Hari Takara, Jenny’s brother, who has also arrived for Christmas. Stay tuned!

The West Enders: Episode Four

We last left Midge and Sam in passionate embrace and since enough time has passed for their subsequent activities to remain discreet, I think we can pick up the next morning and see how things are going between them.

sg208302-version-2It looks as if they had a pleasant night together since they are now playing in the snow in the garden along with Sasha Sherwood, Midge’s younger sister. She looks a bit terrified at the sight of her older sister and her new boyfriend throwing snowballs over her head. Midge has had the care of Sasha since their parents died a few years ago. While the Christmas season in the doll house is quite secular, focussing on Santa Claus, shared meals and sweets, it presents a problem for Midge, whose parents were adamant that their children be raised as Jews. Midge, although not religious, is determined to make sure that she honours her parents’ wishes and that Sasha retains her Jewish identity. She has even ordered a beautifully crafted menorah from Israel for Hanukkah. She just worries whether it will arrive in time. The fact that Christmas Eve and the first night of Hanukah are on the same day is almost a relief as it means that she and Sasha can have their own special celebration while the rest of the children wait for Santa. The fact that Sam is not Jewish would have upset her parents so despite missing them desperately around important holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Passover, Midge is glad she doesn’t have to explain her relationship to them.

sg208288The Lamb-Cuthbertson family also love to be outside in the snow. Lara Lamb is the local GP at the Medical Centre. Her husband Josh Cuthbertson is a singer and songwriter. They have two daughters, Lottie and Alexandra, who could not be more different. Alexandra is very like her parents – calm, serene, and not easily ruffled. Lottie is unlike both her parents in being exuberant and emotional – “bouncing off walls,” as they say. She loves sport and is hardly ever still. Sometimes Lara and Josh laugh and say that the fairies switched their real daughter with Lottie at birth –  she’s a changeling. They adore her, however, and wouldn’t trade her back for the world.

sg208291The last group of characters I need to introduce are the band – Luna and the Dolls – and their friends. Luna is Merida’s sister and is the lead singer. Robin B. Gee is the drummer in the back and to either side of Luna are Dexter Delaval on bass and Jake Blake on guitar. Dexter and Jake are quite young – just eighteen – and are still at school. They attend Sixth Form at one of the local schools. Although under a lot of pressure from their parents to go to university, they are bewitched by the idea of going on the road with Luna and becoming stars. They’re sure they’re going to make it. Dexter comes from a “posh” Northumberland family while Jake is a working class Geordie lad, but they are best friends and inseparable.

sg208297Both Dexter and Jake have found love with fellow students from abroad. Jake’s girlfriend is Jenny Takara, from Japan, on the left, while Dexter’s is Kurhn Lee, from China, on the right. Jenny and Kurhn are also best friends and inseparable so the four of them are together constantly. Jenny has always planned to go to university to do dentistry and has done work experience with Esmée, but lately she’s found a new passion in photography and wonders if she should do an art course of some sort instead. Kurhn’s parents have very high expectations of her. She is doing all the courses required to go to medical school but she hates the idea. She wants to be a singer. She’s sure that she could be the next Chinese pop star if only she didn’t have to waste so much time on biology, chemistry and maths. She and Jenny love the fact that their boyfriends are “in a band.” Unfortunately, they aren’t old enough to be able to accompany them to most gigs, as neither has turned 18 yet.

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Marcelo Bambolini is our next character to meet. Marcelo is a Brazilian of Italian ancestry and is the manager of Luna and the Dolls. He is a taciturn loner, puzzling everyone who meets him. Nobody is quite sure what his relationship with Luna is. They don’t seem to be a couple, but he seems very protective of her. Rumour has it that he and Charlotte Armstrong were once engaged when they worked together in the Barbie Agency, but that Marcelo’s frequent infidelities drove her to end their relationship. Apparently he has never recovered and tries to rekindle the romance from time to time, never with any luck.

sg208294Momoko Moto and Ryan Williams are two young people passionately in love. Momoko is a university student from Japan, best friends with Yuki Yukimura, who we met in the last episode. She’s studying fashion design. Ryan is an interesting character. After finishing university, he felt a bit lost and went began wandering around the world trying to figure out what to do with himself. He discovered Tibetan Buddhism and meditation and became certain that this was his path. He took refuge with the Buddha and then spent some time in Scotland at Kagyu Samye Ling monastery and Buddhist Centre. He was convinced that he should become a monk but at the last minute, decided to take one more trip into the secular world and travelled to Newcastle. There he met Momoko. It was love at first sight for both of them. Ryan has had a difficult time getting his head around his feelings – from almost monk to lover seems pretty daunting to him. He’s had some long talks with Mira about the Buddhist view of sex and marriage. So far, he and Momoko have a chaste but loving relationship. But the passionate desire between them is hard to ignore.

With these introductions almost complete, we’ll start to look into the relationship dynamics of our characters in the next episode. We’re hoping that two more dolls will be joining the house before the new year.

The West Enders: Episode Three

sg208266Welcome to the pub, the King George III, or “the George” as it is known to the dolls. It’s the favourite watering hole of the local singles, many of whom you can see here. Holding hands at the table, we find Midge Sherwood and Sam McLaughlin. The fact that they are holding hands is something new. Midge and Sam have been “together” for several months but Midge has been very frustrated at how slowly their relationship seems to have been going. Sam is an actor and Midge is the local psychotherapist. Sam was immediately attracted to Midge because she seemed so natural, so genuine, so different from the actresses and models among whom he normally found himself. Their “dates” have been hours together in coffee shops and in the doll house talking and talking and talking. Midge finds Sam incredibly physically attractive and wonders when their relationship will move beyond the talking stage. On those rare occasions when they touch, her heart flutters and she hopes… but nothing ever happens. But today Sam sees her in her gorgeous holiday clothes and finally notices how lovely she is and thinks he’s been taking her for granted. Will sparks finally fly between them? Stay tuned…

sg208267Mira Tan and Tommy Lu are in the back of the pub, deep in conversation. Mira owns the local yoga studio and is active in promoting community events. She’s an immigrant from Malaysia, a Buddhist and vegetarian, but is known to enjoy a pint occasionally. She is beloved by all the dolls for her calm, kindness, and for being eminently sensible. She likes to dress in traditional clothes and so when she dons sexy holiday garb, everyone is slightly taken aback. Tommy seems to find her quite attractive. He’s a relative newcomer to the doll house, a business associate of Barbie’s.

sg208278Sutton Matthews, in the striped tie, is another relative newcomer to the doll house. Sutton came to the UK from the USA to play basketball, a sport that is gaining in popularity on this side of the pond. Merida MacDonald, with the gorgeous red hair, thinks he’s the hottest thing she’s seen in ages. Merida is a former model with the Barbie agency, always in a state of discontent, always seeking something new, especially if it comes wrapped in a handsome male package, like Sutton. Merida hasn’t decided what she wants to do with her life but saved enough money from her modelling days to give herself a little time to think about it. Unfortunately, she seems to do most of her thinking in the pub. She hails from Scotland originally. We’ll meet her sister Luna a little later. sg208272In keeping with the international flavour of the doll house, Sandra González hails from Spain and Steven Obi, although born and raised in England, comes from a family that immigrated from Nigeria. Sandra is another business woman who started her professional life working for the Barbie Agency. She remains one of Barbie’s closest friends. Steven is a former model and they originally met at the agency. For him, it was love – or lust – at first sight. Unfortunately, Steven’s reputation as a womaniser has preceded him and Sandra is not interested in being his newest conquest. Steven and Merida had a long passionate affair during which Steven was regularly unfaithful until he finally dumped her and then proceeded to seduce his way through the rest of the agency. He’s convinced that his passion for Sandra is the real thing this time. She’s not and keeps him at arm’s length. But he just won’t take no for an answer. She seems to tolerate him, if nothing more.

sg208283Charlotte Armstrong is Ken’s sister. Another former model, her career was far more successful than his, reaching supermodel status. She hated the modelling business, however, and yearned constantly for something more fulfilling. She thinks she has found it at last. She has always been a keen yogi and is now doing yoga teacher training with Mira. Liam Hemingway, Sam’s best friend, is busy chatting her up, but she’s not really interested. Liam is an actor as well, and has been working his way through the various beautiful dolls in the house trying to get lucky. No luck so far. Merida is looking a bit shocked because the last time she saw Liam, he was trying to chat up her sister Luna.

We’ve already met Kevin, pub owner and manager, and Yvette, barmaid, so we’ll move on to two dolls who link us to our next episode in which we’ll meet the students and the band. sg208277This is Pierre Tomy and Yuki Yukimura. Yuki’s been a regular on the blog, but has never been properly introduced. Yuki is a university student from Japan, studying fine arts. She’s eschewed romance for most of her time in the doll house, but has suddenly developed a passion for Pierre, the optometrist who works in the Medical Centre. They met over the summer at a barbecue in the garden, when Pierre overheard Yuki and her best friend Momoko speaking Japanese. He joined in their conversation to their surprise and Yuki’s delight. Pierre speaks French, English and Japanese fluently. He’s a classical musician as well as an optometrist and spent much of his life in Japan. Yuki is smitten, but Momoko doesn’t understand the attraction at all. We’ll meet Momoko formally in the next episode.

What’s this? It looks like Sam and Midge are heading out… sg208284So we shall follow them!

sg208286And now, we’d better leave them…

 

The West Enders: Episode Two

sg208263The next family in our cast of characters is the Olivier family. The Oliviers are also immigrants to the UK; this time from France. Esmée (seated) and Yvette (standing next to the tree) couldn’t be more different. They are children of a French father and a French-Moroccan mother, both fiercely secular. Their mother was a feminist writer who focussed on issues of colonialism, feminism in Islam and North Africa, and in modern France. Esmée is a dentist and works in the Medical Centre, as well as a single mother. The father of her daughter Layla remains a mystery; Yvette suspects a former North African boyfriend but Esmée is silent on the subject. Esmée is something of a workaholic while Yvette has a reputation as a hard partier. After finishing school, she worked at odd jobs, saving her money, and then spent a year travelling around the world instead of going to university. Yvette works as barmaid in the King George III. Both sisters share an independent nature but friends who know them well describe them both as warm and generous.

sg208264 The Ekpo-Holmes family are also inhabitants of the doll house. The woman standing next to the window is Emma Ekpo, whose family are also immigrants to the UK, this time from Nigeria. Emma is the Creative Director at a design firm. Her husband Marvin Holmes is a singer and television presenter. Marvin’s father is a British Afro-Caribbean whose family came to the UK from Jamaica. His mother is from Scotland. Emma and Marvin have one daughter, Viviane, introduced in Episode One. Monique Holmes, seated in the chair, is Marvin’s paternal first cousin. Monique works as a nurse in the Medical Centre and is close friends with Esmée Olivier as well as being very close to Emma. Viviane adores Monique, who loves to spoil her young cousin. sg208265The doll house wouldn’t be complete without the Queen of Fashion Dolls, Barbie Roberts. Barbie is an entrepreneur, a wealthy business woman with interests all over the world. She was running a modelling agency but decided that she wanted to relax a bit more. Ken Armstrong is her fiancé, a former model in the Barbie agency, and some people whisper, Barbie’s toy boy, as he is somewhat younger than she is.

The West Enders: Episode One

Today I am going to take the dolls in a new direction. I’ve been working on a doll house for some time now and it has taken shape in unexpected ways. The house consists of a kitchen, front room, master bedroom, nursery and bathroom on one side, and a walled garden, yoga studio, pub, and medical centre on the other. Building the pub reminded me of the British soap opera, the East Enders, centring on a pub, so I decided that my dolls should enact a soap opera as well, called “The West Enders,” particularly since the house is located on the western edge of the city in which I live. The pub is called the King George III, for the last king of both England and America, the two countries in which I have lived.

For this first episode, I am going to introduce some of the cast of characters.

sg208260 First up is the Panenka-Puppe family. Kevin Puppe was born in Germany but migrated to the UK while we were still part of the EU. (At the moment we still are, but have voted stupidly to leave.) Kevin is the part-owner and manager of the pub. His wife, Steffi Panenka is sitting in front of him holding their youngest child, Mitzi Panenka-Puppe. The Panenka family emigrated to the UK from the Czech Republic, now known as Czechia, many years ago when Steffi and her sisters were quite young. Steffi has five sisters, only two of whom feature in our story at the moment. To her right is her youngest sister, Skipper. Her daughter Evi stands in front of Skipper. Their oldest daughter, Gretchen, is at a friends’ house. On the far right is Dr Bonnie Panenka, palaeontologist and university lecturer, holding Uwe, Steffi and Kevin’s only son. The other three sisters are Ivana, Claire, and Katie Panenka, but I’m not sure if we’ll be seeing much of them soon.

Steffi and Kevin have had a difficult marriage. Before they began having children, they were both very active in sport but when the first two children arrived in short order, Steffi had to spend most of her time looking after them. Kevin lost his job, became very depressed, and when Steffi told him she was pregnant with their fourth child, he left her. He simply vanished, leaving Steffi in a terrible way. Because she had three small children and another on the way at that point, she decided to earn her living as a registered child minder. Kevin blamed Steffi’s sisters for the collapse of the marriage, claiming that they interfered constantly and encouraged Steffi to criticise him. The sisters don’t believe a word of that. They think that the responsibility of fatherhood was simply too much for Kevin. In the end, he came back after Mitzi was born, saying that he wanted a reconciliation because he missed his children. Steffi noted that he didn’t say he missed her, but she took him back anyway.

Kevin struggled to figure out how to make a living for months after his reconciliation with Steffi. Previously he had worked as a football (soccer for the Americans) coach for a school district. To his extreme annoyance, Bonnie Panenka, a keen footballer, has recently taken on coaching some of the children in the doll house as a volunteer. At last Barbie Roberts, a wealthy businesswoman, offered to be the silent partner in a pub, along with her fiancé, Ken Armstrong. Business in the King George III is now booming and Kevin is happy.

Poor Steffi, however, is not very happy. Kevin works long hours and is rarely home. Their marriage seems to lack any warmth, although both she and Kevin have tried to rekindle the excitement of their early years together. Steffi is lonely and without her sister Bonnie, feels as if she would not have any one else with whom she has any rapport.

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Christmas is approaching and the Panenka sisters have organised a party for the children for whom Steffi cares. Layla Olivier (age 2), on the far right, is the only child who spends the day with Steffi; the rest only come after school until their parents come to get them after work. To the left of Layla is Lottie Lamb-Cuthbertson (age 8, attending Year 4), then Evi (age 3), and then Lottie’s little sister Alexandra (age 6, attending Year 2). To the left of Alexandra is Viviane Ekpo-Holmes (age 4, attending Reception). Behind Alexandra is Rikka-chan Kayama, nicknamed Rikki, a student from Japan who boards with the Panenka-Puppes and has become Skipper’s best friend. Rikki is 12 and Skipper is 11; both are in the first year of High School, Year Seven.

We’ll leave the West Enders for now and return soon for Episode 2, in which I’ll  introduce more of the characters.

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Yuki goes to Beadnell

It’s been some  time since I posted anything because I have been working on the doll house non-stop in my free time. It will be “finished” enough to start posting photos and to debut the soap opera that will take place in it, called “The West Enders.” In the meantime, I’ve been meaning to post some of these photos for ages. I spent a weekend in Beadnell back in August and brought Yuki along to model for me. I think some of the photos, all done with just my phone, worked quite well.

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Lines and curves
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“Moonlight”
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Yuki at the Lighthouse at Two Lights, with apologies to Edward Hopper.
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“The Voyeur”