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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