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The Case of the Missing Chapter

It all started with The Case.

You see I make mysterious 1/12 scale room settings in little cardboard carry cases and I had decided to turn one of them into a library.  A friend suggested it should be called The Case of the Missing Chapter, so I set to work writing a very small book, with a chapter missing.

I’ve never liked dolls’ house books with no writing.  They make me feel cheated.  Consequently my books are written in a very small font, but they would make perfect sense if you could read them!

This book, I decided, needed to have a story that started one way and ended somewhere very different because of a surprising plot development in Chapter Four.  However this vital section would be missing, so the mystery would be to work out what had happened in the main character’s life to change things so completely.

How could anyone know this, when the text is too small to read without a good magnifying glass?  Obviously, people need to follow this blog, where the whole test will be printed!

At last the room box, along with various books including the mystery volume, was complete and available for purchase.  Please use the contact form below if you would like more details.

The thing is, I became caught up in the mystery I’d created.  Yes, it started as a prop for the library, but it got under my skin.  I kept thinking about the main character, wondering why the Peacock Affair had affected him so deeply, wondering what part his clever and ingenious wife had played, wondering whether the balloon flight had taken place and – if so – just how it had affected him…  Most of all, I wondered how such a sad, downtrodden character could turn – in the space of one chapter – into a most remarkable hero.  Finally I realised that this storybook character had developed a life of his own; he had to be created!

I searched in my stock box for the most insignificant and unhappy-looking male doll I could find.  Here he was.  It would take all my skill to transform this sad little man into someone splendid, but I love a challenge!

The first job was to make a wig and add some appropriate facial hair.  Now that rather weak mouth was hidden beneath a bristling moustache and the eyes defined by bushy brows, I could see a new determination begin to take hold in his features.

Next a smart uniform, befitting his new status.  Why, he positively swaggered as I pinned that medal to his chest!

Of course he wasn’t finished yet.  A few more items were needed, but I don’t want to give all his secrets away just yet.

Who was he?

What did he become?

To find out, you’ll have to read the next post, where you can read the text of the book that started this character off.

If you would like to find out more about the Steampunk – Shrunk characters, room cases and other items, follow this link to my son’s online shop, where many of the characters are available for sale worldwide: www.etsy.com/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse

Alternatively, fill in the contact form below and we’ll get back to you with any details you request.

 

Gertie and Lord Horatio Backgammon

Well I didn’t know what to expect.  In truth, I’ve never encountered a lord before.

I was met at the railway station, after a most bracing journey in a steam locomotive, by one of his staff in a gleaming vehicle.  The man didn’t say much during the journey, but as we turned into the drive, he said quietly, “Don’t be alarmed by his Lordship, Miss.  He’s fine when you get to know him.”

If anything, these words made me more apprehensive than I had previously been.  As I alighted from the contraption and the smoke from its boiler began to clear, I saw a figure who could only be Lord Horatio standing beside a rusting collection of gears and machine parts.  Despite my determination to maintain a calm demeanour, I have to admit that I gasped – or possibly squealed slightly.

“Miss Jekyllton-Smythe, I presume?” he boomed, as he began advancing towards me.
He wore the tallest top hat I’d ever seen, adorned with a pair of very complicated goggles, and on the arm of his leather greatcoat he carried a most fearsome-looking weapon.  I must have been staring at it, for he glanced down and lowered his arm.
“Don’t worry yourself about the transducer,” he said. “I was just tinkering with it when you arrived, and it takes a while to unstrap it, don’t y’know? So, welcome to Backgammon Towers, my dear lady.”

His words were friendly enough, though it was difficult to read his expression, since the vast majority of his face was covered, either by his enormous moustache or by the huge monocle he wore.
I fixed my gaze on the remaining visible eye, smiled and bobbed my head slightly (should one curtsy to a lord?) and thanked him for his hospitality.

“Hmph, yes,” he responded gruffly.  “My housekeeper tells me that you’d probably like to be shown to your room so that you can tidy yourself.  Not that you appear at all untidy to me, let me add.  The ways of the fairer sex are something of a mystery to me.  After that I suppose you’d like to take some tea on the terrace?”

“That would be delightful,” I said, quite relieved to discover that he found our meeting at least as awkward as I did.

As soon as we’d finished an excellent pot of Earl Grey, Lord Horatio escorted me to ‘The Board’ – the area of his garden I was to be redesigning and planting for him.  It was a level area and had been well cleared, however I wasn’t sure how I would fit all the features he wanted into this small space.

“You mentioned a pond, your lordship…” I ventured.
“Yes. Doesn’t have to be large. Cleo positively thrives in small, cramped spaces. She’s currently housed in a large bottle. Be good for her to get some fresh air.”
“And Cleo would be the, ah, pet you mentioned in your letter?”
“That’s it. Highly intelligent, she is. Beautiful creature. Just needs a bit of room to stretch her tentacles once in a while.”
My next question died on my lips. I swallowed and nodded.
“Perhaps a little fountain or some such?” his lordship continued. “She’d enjoy that.”

I dutifully made notes. The orangery was to have stained glass panels. Flower beds in four sections. A gravelled path.
“Oh and some lawn!” Lord Horatio exclaimed enthusiastically. “You simply must come and see my lawnmower. One of my greatest inventions!”
I followed as he strode towards an enormous outbuilding.

“What do you think of that?” he demanded, his voice bursting with pride as he threw open the door.
“Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed, as I stared at what appeared to be a fire-breathing, metal-clad dragon.
“All my own work!” declared his lordship. “Call him Galahad! Entirely run by clockwork, don’t y’know? The flames aren’t real, of course.  Just a bit of wimsy!  Blades are razor sharp, though.  My gardeners tell me the cut he gives is second to none.”
“Stunning,” I replied. “Quite splendid.”
“Jolly good,” he smiled (probably – it was hard to tell with the moustache). “I think we’ll make a fine team, my dear lady.”
“I think we will, your Lordship,” I said, bravely.

And, do you know, I really think we will!

Lord Backgammon’s garden is a work in progress.  However the 1:12 scale figures of his Lordship (pictured here) and the delightful Gertie will be on display on the Steampunk-Shrunk stall at the Craft and Vintage Fair in Glastonbury Town Hall, once a month.

Other Steampunk and Victorian themed figures, rooms and items can be found online at The Steampunk Dolls’ House or at Rune Smith of Glastonbury at 1 Monarch Way, just off Glastonbury High St.

 

 

 

A Letter for Gertie

Did I hear a squeal emit from your lips, Gertrude?

“Yes, you most certainly did!  And with good reason!  I’ve just received the most extraordinary letter.”

Have you now?  Do tell us more.

“It’s from a lord!  A genuine lord!  It has his coat of arms at the top and his name and address (a very prestigious address) in curly writing embossed beneath it.  And – oh! – he says the most astonishing things about me.”

I think you’d better share the contents of this letter with us, Gertie dear.

My dear Miss Jekyllton-Smythe,

No doubt you will be somewhat surprised to hear from me.  Allow me to introduce myself:  I am Horatio, the fifth Lord Backgammon, of Charlton Regis.  I have a rather interesting project, with which I would be most honoured if you felt able to assist me.

You came to my attention through a friend who dabbles in temporal transportation – a ‘time traveller’ in common parlance.  His favourite era is the first half of the twentieth century, upon which he has become something of an expert.  Henry tells me that in that time, you are a lady of some renown.  In fact he says you are the most sought-after garden designer in this nation of ours and have published some quite excellent books on the subject.  Obviously, this will be news to you, since we have not had the privilege of visiting the future, but no doubt you will greet the information with some delight.

Now to the purpose:  I have, in my grounds, a small piece of land known as ‘The Board’.  It was laid out by my great-great-grandfather to the dimensions of a backgammon board (a pun on the family name, obviously).  Since his time, it has fallen into disrepair and I recently had it cleared.  I enclose a photographic print for your perusal.  Each of the two sections measures 8 x 17½ foot and is enclosed by a low wall, approximately one foot high.  I would be delighted if you would agree to design and oversee the construction of a garden in this area for me.

The brief is as follows:

  • The layout of the original backgammon board is to be retained, in deference to my ancestor.
  • There will need to be a lake or pond of some kind, to house a pet of mine.
  • I should like a small glasshouse or orangery, since I am most partial to exotic fruits.
  • Mechanical systems should be incorporated wherever possible for watering, grass-cutting etcetera.          I will gladly undertake to design and manufacture these elements myself.

Please contact me at the above address, should you feel willing to undertake this project.

Yours very sincerely,

Backgammon

“Just imagine!  I’m to become famous!  And successful!  And – well certainly it’s a very small space – but what an exciting proposal.  So much more entertaining and creative than designing red, white and blue bedding plant displays in municipal parks, as I do at the moment.”

Certainly it is an interesting project, Gertie.  Congratulations.  I wonder what sort of aquatic pet his lordship owns…

 

 

The Case of the Withdrawing Room

It’s a tiny room – just 8 inches wide by 6 inches high, and a mere 3 inches deep when the case is closed.  As it’s at 1:12 scale, that equates to the same number of feet in our measurements.

That suits her ladyship very well, though.  She can withdraw to this secluded space and make her plans in private.

As her songbird warbles mournfully above her and the light of her lamp flickers on the table, she puts down her parasol,  loosens her corset, sits on the leather-upholstered chair and takes up her journal and pen.

Her ladyship has a dream.  She wishes to become a tinkerer.  Certainly there are social mores which frown upon such behaviour from a lady in her position, but she finds following her husband and his acquaintances around the grounds, while chatting politely to their dull little wives, incredibly tiresome.

She has persuaded one of the gardeners to tutor her in the rudiments of welding and metalwork, and by patiently dismantling clockwork machinery, she is teaching herself to build simple gadgets.  The lamp was one of her first.  It’s simple, but effective, switching on when the attached clock shows that dusk has fallen.

Her latest invention sits on the shelves beside her chair.  It is a jewel-encrusted mechanical insect which scuttles about the room.  Certainly it isn’t yet perfected, but the one thing her ladyship’s life has taught her is endless patience.

There is a short video tour of the room on my Instagram feed.  Can’t load it here, for some reason.

The room has attracted considerable interest and several people have expressed a wish to buy it.  If it doesn’t sell, it will be on my craft stall in Glastonbury on June 17th, as will copies of her ladyship’s journal.

Heart of Glass – Part 2

Hello.  It is me, Bjørn again.  I was telling you in the previous post how my life was saved by Dr Oskar Kopp and how I started to work as his assistant, while secretly wishing to study and become a great man like the Doctor himself.

One day I was brave enough to tell him of my dreams.  He sat silent for some time and then a strange expression crossed his face.
“Bjørn, my boy,” he said, slowly, “you have not the heart, or the brain, for greatness.  To do work like mine you need a strong, strong heart.  You need a keen, keen brain.  You are a good boy, but alas, you have neither… as things stand.”

Those last three words hung in the air, as if they held a promise.

“If you ver villing, though, zis could be altered.  Wat if I ver to offer you a new heart and a new brain?  You have seen ze marvels I can do.  It would be ze most glorious experiment, in ze name of Science!  If you ver villing, you could become a showcase of mein art!  Your mechanised brain and heart on display for all to see ze vunders of ze clockverk body.  You could achieve anything once zese adjustments had been made.  You’d be as great as me.  Maybe greater…”

Eagerly I agreed.  My weak heart, which had almost killed me once, would be replaced with a dependable clockwork mechanism, encased in a glass dome, so that all could wonder at its strength, and at my master’s skill.  I would be a walking advertisement for his abilities.  He explained less about the alterations to my brain, but I was led to understand that my ability to learn, to reason and to imagine would be considerably enhanced.

With a delicious sense of anticipation, I lay on the slab, allowed him to cover my face with a cloth soaked in some sleep-inducing substance  – and later awoke as you see me now.

Certainly now my mind and heart are stronger, keener than they were.  I can work harder, faster, better and I hold information and make deductions at lightning speed.  All this, the Doctor expected.  Perhaps he feared it slightly.  Yet he found a way to maintain his dominance.

Clockwork must be wound.  Each day my heart must be wound up or I will cease to function.  The winding mechanism has been set into the centre of my back – where only he can reach it.  In this way,  he ensures that I remain his servant.

Oh yes!  I can’t blame him.  He could not risk creating a monster who would overpower him.  Each day I must stand meekly before him while he winds, and winds, and chuckles gently to himself.

I am grateful to Doctor Kopp.  Yet I must think of myself too.  Am I destined to be subservient to him for the rest of my life?  Also, he is an old man.  Who will wind my heart when he is gone?  I must make plans.

It is indeed fortunate that in my ‘adjusted’ state, I no longer require sleep.  That secret room, the alchemist’s study, with its ancient spell book and equipment is my domain while he sleeps.  There are spells in the grimoire he has barely glanced at – spells that could create my freedom…

Bjørn, Dr Kopp and the Alchemist’s Study have now left the Steampunk Dolls’ House and moved on to a new home.  However there are many other figures still available there and at Rune Smith of Glastonbury.

Here are the links:  Steampunk Dolls House online Etsy shop

Rune Smith of Glastonbury

 

Heart of Glass – Part 1

Steampunk Anomaly 'Bjorn the Heart of Glass' Dollshouse Scale 1/12thI am Bjørn.  People call me Heart of Glass.  People pity me.  Or they are fearful.  Or disgusted.  A few show curiosity tinged with admiration.
“How does it feel,” they ask, “to be part man, part machine?  Do you have feelings?  Do you hate your employer for what he has done to you?  Do you seek revenge?  But then, do you have powers and skills the rest of us lack?  Is it glorious to become part machine?”
So the questions go on, and I am grateful to the enquirers. They are better than the ones who simply shudder and turn away, shaking their heads.

Let me tell you the story – my story – from the start.

Fire, Steamboat, Stoker, Boiler RoomI encountered Doctor Kopp when he saved my life.  I was a boiler-man on an icebreaker in the Northern seas.  For long, long shifts I shovelled coal into the great, ravenous furnace that powered the ship.  The owners worked me hard and my body – always thin and long and rather weak – was close to breaking point.

This day I was shovelling, then there was blackness and the next thing I knew was the Doctor bending over me anxiously, pushing up and down on my chest and giving a triumphant cry of “Ja!” as I blearily looked up at him.

It seemed I’d lost consciousness.  The chief stoker had run onto the deck and asked if there was a doctor amongst the passengers.  Doctor Kopp had rushed to my aid.  He tells me that without his intervention, I would have died then and there.

They wanted to put me back to work, but the good Doctor insisted I was to be allowed to rest for some days, until he pronounced me fit to work.  He had my meagre possessions moved to his cabin from my hammock in the engine room.  He cared for me, fed me and mixed potions to strengthen my body.

Dr Oskar Kopp

Soon I began to feel better, but still he would not let me return to work.
“Your heart, my boy!” he would exclaim. “It is sickly. It is not fitted for zis verk. Leave zis ship. I vill give you verk. You vill be mein assistant! You vill say yes!”

I did say yes.  Of course I did.  I had the chance to stop shovelling coal into that great gaping hell hole of a furnace; to become assistant to an eminent doctor.  I owed this man my life, and now he was offering me the opportunity to work with him.  Maybe I could learn from him, study hard, gain qualifications…  I could not express my gratitude and delight.

So when the ship docked at Newcastle, I left beside the doctor and travelled with him to his laboratory.

My jobs were menial, it’s true.  I cleaned his equipment, ran errands, acted as receptionist for his patients.  All this I did without complaint.  Also I saw the amazing work he did – creating mechanical limbs, weapons that were grafted onto the very bodies of their operators, even clockwork mechanisms to regulate irregular hearts.  The man was a genius!  Also I occasionally glimpsed the work he did in his private study after dark – the alchemy from that ancient grimoire, but this he tried to hide from me.

Ah!  But now I must stop!  The Doctor has retired to bed.  I have no need of sleep.  I too have secret work to do at night, so excuse me now.  I will continue my story soon.

 

Bjørn, Dr Kopp and the Alchemist’s Study have now left the Steampunk Dolls’House and moved on to a new home.  However there are many other figures still available there and at Rune Smith of Glastonbury.

Here are the links:  Steampunk Dolls House online Etsy shop

Rune Smith of Glastonbury

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying into the Sunset

Finally the day arrived!  My dear guardian, Uncle Razzy as I call him, has allowed us to celebrate our wedding in his glorious cliff-top mansion.   Not only that; he gave us two wonderful presents, both invented and built by himself.

He knows I’ve always loved the stars and planets, so he made us a clockwork orrery, encased in a glass dome.  He also knew that my dear husband (how strange it feels to use that word!) is fascinated by the idea of remote communication, so his second gift to us was a telephonic device – also clockwork, naturally – that will enable us to speak to him from anywhere in the world.  My Beloved insists that this is just the start and one day everyone will have one of these devices and be able to talk together from all corners of the earth.

I dare say you’re longing to see our wedding finery, so here’ is a picture of us about to enjoy a goblet of Uncle Razzy’s finest wine after the ceremony.

It was just at this point in the day that my Dearest drew me across to the window.  As you’ll see from the picture, I was too busy posing for the camera to notice what was approaching!

When I looked, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes!  The most beautiful airship you can imagine was coming closer and closer.  At first I simply thought it was a happy coincidence that the pilot should choose that very moment to fly past our window.  But no!   My wonderful husband assured me that we were due to embark on this exquisite vessel and fly off together into the sunset.  This was the honeymoon surprise he had been teasing me with over the past few weeks.

So we bade fond farewells to Uncle Razzy, my sister Grace, and all our other guests as we stepped into the ship and rose into the evening sky.

I am happier than I can possibly convey in words alone.  Wish us well on our adventure!

 

The Case of the Steampunk Wedding – containing the bride, groom, their gifts and other details – is currently on sale at Rune Smith of Glastonbury, as is another room from Professor Erazmus’ (Uncle Razzy’s) mansion.  Grace and many of the other wedding guests can be found at the Steampunk Dolls’ House

 

The Steampunk Bridegroom

I rather regret my – um – outburst now.  I confess I hadn’t realised the amount of work that goes into sewing a tailcoat – especially at 1/12 scale.  The seamstress grew quite angry.  She showed me the number of darts (never knew darts were used in sewing) and the intricacies of lining the tails and collar, and all with those huge clumsy fingers of hers.  I was anxious, though.  Only three days to the wedding, and there I was in my shirtsleeves, waving my watch at her and demanding that she finish the jacket quickly.  After all, she still had my hat and goggles to make.

Needn’t have worried, though. Everything was done in time and, I think you’ll agree,  the outfit does me justice.

Now I just have to finalise the arrangements for the honeymoon and all will be well.  My beautiful fiancée still has no idea where we will be going.  I’ve led her to suspect that we will be taking a journey on a steam locomotive, but my plan is that, as we celebrate with a goblet of wine after the ceremony, she will look out of the window and notice the airship approaching from over the sea.  I can’t wait to see the expression of amazement and delight on her pretty face as she realises that her dreams will come true and she will be sailing with me above the clouds.  Oh joy!

The Steampunk Bride

“We almost sold the engine room,”  announced the young man who runs one of the shops (the physical one) I supply, when I wandered in with some new stock last week.
“Came that close!” He squeezed his thumb and forefinger together.  “It was going to be a wedding present. They’re going to a steampunk wedding. They still might buy it, but then one of them said, ‘Oooh, I wonder if she could make a steampunk bride and groom…’.”
He looked at me quizzically.

“Maybe,” I said cautiously.  “I’ll give it some thought.”

I’d made a promise to myself when I started making the steampunk miniatures: NO COMMISSIONS.  I’d done them in the past and my vision rarely coincided with my clients’.  It often ended in tears.

This project was interesting, though.  The groom would obviously be in the usual smart dress suit with top hat and goggles.  I even had the ideal fabric – the remains of a black and gold jacquard scarf I’d found once in a charity shop.  It was dressing the bride, though, that intrigued me.  There were so many ways that could go…

I held out for at least two days, busying myself with the Garden of Ingenious and Mechanical Delights that is my pet long-term project.  Then I thought, ‘Well, if I just make a bride and groom and take them down to Rune Smith, it’s not exactly a commission.  The customers can decide whether they want to buy them, or go for the engine room.’

Bride first.

I trawled through steampunk websites and Pinterest for inspiration.  Would she be a cheery burlesque bride –  all thighs and cleavage?  A Victorian crinoline type with parasol and meringue skirt?  I didn’t fancy either much.  I wanted to do something new.

The fabric scraps box was upended and I picked out everything cream, ivory, coffee and toffee coloured.  The ribbon and lace boxes followed.  Then the leather offcuts box.  A plan was forming.  Steampunk is all about innovation, reusing and combining materials in unexpected ways, so that was what I would do.

First  lace-trimmed drawers and a cotton lawn petticoat, with gathered organza hem and a layer of coffee-coloured lace.  The skirt itself involved a solid day of handstitching all manner of fabric shapes and layers together – khaki drill, cream cotton lace, satin, ribbon, bias-cut pieces of handkerchief fabric and embroidery floss.  This was embellished with copper wire and (wince – hate it, but it had to be done) an assortment of watch cogs and fly wheels.  I always baulk at gratuitously applying machinery parts that have no function, but I had a feeling they’d be expected.

The bodice was a fragment of pale chamois leather, cut asymmetrically and laced at the front with gold thread.  The bouquet was a ribbon rose embellished with more cogs and wire, and I opted for a Game of Thrones type veil in bronze and blue organza with a simple wire and ribbon headdress.

I loved her.  I was exhausted.  But did she fit the brief?  Was she steampunk enough?

I decided to ask for some wisdom from a Facebook group I belong to – one specialising in making miniatures from everyday objects.  I posted a quick video of her and asked their opinions.  I’d purposely chosen this group, rather than one of the dedicated steampunk groups I belong to, to get a more ‘person-in-the-street’ opinion on what constituted steampunk.

The responses were many and various! Many iconised likes, loves and wows. The comments ranged from the singularly unhelpful ‘Dress her in black!!’, through ‘What IS steampunk?’ to one person who solicitously explained the difference between cogs and fly wheels as she thought I must be confused.  As I had hoped and expected, though, many of the kind and lovely people took time to suggest extras and modifications that would help me to fulfil the brief.

The veil – their collected wisdom told me – had to go.  The headdress had to include (oh shudder and groan at the dreary cliché!) a top hat, and possibly goggles.  The bouquet needed to be bigger and bolder, the bodice more decorated and – at her waist – either a pouch or (I loved this idea) a chatelaine.

So, having added several necklace chains worth of metalwork, a (heavily disguised) kid leather hat and gone along with the other ideas  – except the dratted goggles; I have my pride! – I reposted my altered little lady.

Unanimous praise – well almost.
‘I wish she had the glasses’  one of the goggles advocates wrote!

Well if that person is reading this, they might like to take a trip over to the Steampunk Doll’s House, where they will find many of my steampunk ladies and gentlemen sporting goggles in all shapes and styles.

Now I’m off to finish the groom.

 

 

Sir Ernest Buckleton-Tweedy – Airship Pilot.

Oh yes, I’ve been tinkering around in airships since I was a boy.  Had an uncle, don’t you know, who owned one and allowed me to go along on some of his journeys.  Goodness me, they were rough old machines in those days!  I remember having to move the rudder by manhandling a length of wire.  Cut your hands to ribbons, that did.  So I fixed up a little device that linked directly to the compass and the anemometer.  Far better.  The old boy saw what I’d done and was pretty impressed; kept me on as crew.

I thoroughly enjoy tinkering with the machinery even now.  Just take a look at my clockwork air-pressure measurement device here.  Dashed proud of that, if I say it myself.

A chap doesn’t like to brag, but I designed and built my own dirigible from scratch, y’know.  Steam-powered beauty of a machine, she is.  Now I regularly navigate to the Americas in her.  Off on another trip next week, as it happens.

I commissioned that woman – Mrs Steampunkle, or whatever she calls herself these days – to make me a new leather coat and helmet.  Made a dashed fine job of it in my opinion.  Good and thick with the fleece collar.  It can be bitter when you’re flying over Cape Horn, don’t y’know.

Anyway, can’t hang around here dilly-dallying all day, pleasant as it’s been to chat to you.  I need to go and sort out my provisions for the trip.

Toodle-pip.

 

Ernest – like the rest of the Steampunk- Shrunk figures – is a one-of-a-kind 1/12 scale figure with a porcelain head, hands and feet and movable limbs.  His coat, helmet, goggles and air-pressure gadget were handmade in Glastonbury, England.

He is no longer for sale, as was been bought as a gift for an aviation enthusiast.  I’m told there’s even a chance he may get the chance to fly in one of this gentleman’s remote-controlled aircraft.  Ernest would love that!  Other figures, including some more aviators, can be found at The Steampunk Dolls’ House (online) or, if you’re visiting Somerset, at Rune Smith of Glastonbury.