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Happy Birthday Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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posted by alias raaen99 on Monday 17th of May 2021 01:59:52 AM

Wickham Place is the London home of Lord and Lady Southgate, their children and staff. Located in fashionable Belgravia it is a fine Georgian terrace house. Today we are in the day nursery where we are celebrating the Southgate’s daughter, Sarah’s, birthday. As instructed by Lady Southgate, the children, Piers and Sarah, have been taken for a special trip to St. James’ Park to feed the swans and other waterfowl that live on Duck Island on St. James’ Park Lake by Nanny Tessa. Whilst they are away, the Southgate’s cook, Mrs. Bradley, and her scullery maid Agnes set the nursery table with the china and tablecloth especially reserved for special occasions, Nanny Tessa’s beloved floral teapot, a vase of fresh flowers from the Wickham Place garden, a jug of milk, a jug of freshly squeezed orange juice, some beautiful floral cupcakes and a strawberry Victoria sponge cake made by Mrs. Bradley and Agnes. Bursting into the nursery, Piers and Sarah stop in their tracks, their mouths and eyes agog at the beautiful table setting. “Oh Piers, look!” gasps Sarah. “Isn’t it wonderful! Do you suppose it’s for me?” “Well of course it’s for you,” Piers scoffs with the knowledge that the year and a half of gives him. “Who else would it be for?” “Happy birthday Sarah!” Lady Southgate exclaims with pure joy, slipping out from her hiding place through the door of the adjoining night nursery where Nanny Tessa and the children sleep. “Mamma!” Sarah gasps. Forgetting all the protocol that is usually associated with a visit from their parents, Sarah and Piers rush from Nanny Tessa’s side into their mother’s open arms, as the lady bends down and envelops her in a warm embrace. They lavish each other in kisses and laugh wholeheartedly. Unlike most of her British friends, Lady Southgate has a different idea about parenting and doesn’t like to remain the cool and distant figure most Edwardian children view their parents as. She finds any excuse she can to visit the nursery and enjoys spending time with her children when she can, taking an active interest in their lives. Nanny Tessa, a seasoned nanny, does not entirely approve of Lady Southgate’s rather unorthodox approach to parenting, and if Lady Southgate’s husband knew, he wouldn’t approve either. Both come from the majority that like the status quo who believe that children should only be seen for one hour every evening under strict supervision of their nanny in the drawing room just before bedtime. “Let me look at you!” Lady Southgate exclaims, resting back on her haunches placing a hand on each child’s cheek as she takes in their happy smiles and sparking eyes. “Why Sarah, I do think your hair is looking particularly beautiful today with that lovely pale blue bow.” She turns to her son. “And Piers, I’m sure you’ve grown a full inch since last I saw you!” “Oh, I have Mamma!” Piers leans back and stands proudly to attention. “Look!” He places his right hand flatly across his head as if indicating an invisible measurement. “Ahem!” Nanny Tessa bristles, looking down her nose in distain at the vulgar show of emotion. “Children! That’s no way to greet your Mamma.” The children’s faces both fall a little as they turn to their Nanny, who loves them very much, but is quite strict about good manners and proper behaviour. “Oh nonsense, Nanny!” Lady Southgate chides her quickly. “This isn’t the drawing room before bedtime, is it children?” The children smile and shake their heads. “No! So, I think we can allow ourselves a little informality on this occasion,” She smiles. “Especially as it is Sarah’s birthday.” She reaches behind her and withdraws a present wrapped in magenta wrapping paper that she has kept hidden from view. “Oh Mamma!” Sarah gasps. “Thank you very much!” She kisses her mother delicately on the cheek and accepts the gift held out to her with a sudden awkward shyness. “But,” Lady Southgate adds seriously. “This must be out little secret. All of our secret.” She looks sharply at the nanny, who quickly looks away attempting avoid her gaze and thus become complicit in this secret. “So, when you come down this evening and tell your Pappa how much you enjoyed your birthday tea and the presents we have given you, you must pretend that I haven’t been here and tell me just the same as you tell him. Alright?” “Yes Mamma!” Sarah says dourly. “Alright Mamma.” Piers promises seriously. “Good!” Lady Southgate sighs, rising awkwardly to her feet, brushing out the crumples in her French blue serge fitted skirt front. “Now children,” Nanny Tessa says matter-of-factly. “Give me your coats and hats and then you may take your places at the table.” The children gladly obey, relinquishing their outer clothes to Nanny and hurrying to the table where their mother is already seated. Sarah takes the seat of honour between her mother and her brother, whilst Piers sits with Nanny Tessa seated to his left. “Cook has been busy,” Lady Southgate exclaims. “Just look at those pretty floral cupcakes!” “And a strawberry Victoria Sponge, Sarah,” Nanny Tessa says as she joins them. “Your favourite! What a lucky girl you are.” She smiles beatifically. Sarah blushes and falls silent as she takes in the beautiful cupcakes, each topped with cream icing, sugar sprinkles and a marzipan flower, and the splendid pink iced birthday cake dusted with icing sugar and decorated with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. “Will you be mother*, Nanny Tessa?” Lady Southgate asks. “And I’ll hand out the cupcakes.” “Of course, Lady Southgate,” Nanny Tessa replies obsequiously. She takes up her teapot and pours tea for her mistress first, and herself. “And what would you like to drink, Sarah?” “May I have orange juice, please Nanny?” she asks politely. “You may, Sarah.” Nanny gifts her charge with a beaming smile as she fills her glass with orange liquid from the jug. “What lovely manners you have, Sarah.” Lady Southgate acknowledges, also smiling at her dark haired daughter. “May I have milk please Nanny?” Piers pipes up. “You may Piers,” the older woman replies. “But not before I ask you.” Rebuked, Piers sinks a little lower in his seat. “Now,” Nanny Tessa turns to Piers. “What would you like to drink, Piers?” “May I have milk please, Nanny?” “You may young man, because now you have been asked.” She fills his glass with creamy white milk bought fresh from the milk float in the square outside Wickham Place by Agnes just this morning. “It is always polite to wait until you are asked, before you share what you would like to eat or drink.” “Yes, Nanny Tessa.” Piers answers. “Well Sarah,” Lady Southgate asks. “Aren’t you going to open your gift?” “Oh yes!” Sarah says excitedly, having quite forgotten that she was holding her gift tightly to her chest. She carefully pulls at the wrapping, but even her gentle tugs cannot stop the paper from being torn, and once it starts, she quickly forgets about being delicate and ladylike. Both Lady Southgate and Nanny Tessa chuckle and exchange indulging glances with one another as the little girl loses all self-consciousness and enjoys the playful child-like moment of abandoned delight at unwrapping her gifts. Within the pink paper she finds a copy of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum, and ‘The Wonderful Game of Oz’ boxed boardgame. She squeals with delight, carefully places both presents on the table where Piers can see them too and throws her arms around her mother’s neck. “Oh thank you Mamma!” she gasps, showering her with kisses. “And your Pappa,” Nanny Tessa adds. “You’re welcome, darling!” Lady Southgate replies. “You can thank both of us properly when you come down to the drawing room this evening.” “Yes, Mamma.” “I take it you like your presents then, Sarah?” “Oh yes Mamma! They are wonderful!” “We can start reading the first chapter at bedtime tonight, Milady.” Nanny Tessa says. “And perhaps we might all play the board game after tea?” Piers asks hopefully. “Oh, what a good idea, Piers!” Sarah says. “May we Mamma? May we Nanny Tessa?” “I don’t see why not.” Nanny Tessa says. “I can only stay for a little while though, children,” Lady Southgate adds. “I must go soon and change. Your Pappa will be home before we know it, and I must be there to greet him.” The children both look downcast. “Now! Now! No glum faces. It’s Sarah’s birthday! Let’s eat these cupcakes, and then we will sing happy birthday to Sarah and have a slice of birthday cake before we play the game.” The children and their Nanny all smile and everyone at the table takes up their dainty floral cupcake and starts eating it. *The meaning of the very British term “shall I be mother” is “shall I pour the tea?” You might be surprised to learn that this rather delicious birthday nursery tea is not exactly what it seems. It is in fact made up of 1:12 size artisan miniatures from my large collection, including a couple of items that I have had since my childhood. I wanted to create this tableau to celebrate the birthday of one of my favourite children’s books, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum, which was first published on the 17th of May 1900 by George M. Hill Company, New York. I was read it as a child, and then read it, and all the thirteen subsequent L. Frank Baum Oz books when I was twelve. I still have the books to this day, and whilst they fell out of favour and were very hard to get hold of for many years, I am pleased to say that all the Baum Oz books have now been re-published in individual and omnibus form, which has enabled me to introduce the delight of Oz and all the wonderful people and creatures who inhabit the magical land surrounded by a deadly desert to my godchildren. Fun things to look for in this tableau include: The edition of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ on the table features the original American edition cover with the Cowardly Lion wearing the green spectacles everyone entering the Emerald City had to wear. An artisan miniature made by Little Things of Interest in Ohio, this book can be opened and features readable text in an abridged version of the story, and also copies of the original W.W. Denslow illustrations. Based on whimsical stories he told his children, Lyman Frank Baum’s book is known as the first American faerie tale. Following the adventures of Kansas girl Dorothy Gale and her friends the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion across the Land of Oz, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ was just the first of fourteen Oz books written by L. Frank Baum. Originally published somewhat reluctantly, the book is now one of the best-known stories in American literature and has been widely translated into any number of languages. It led not only to further books but to successful Broadway shows, silent films and of course the MGM movie musical, ‘The Wizard of Oz’. ‘The Wonderful Game of Oz’ on the table is a 1:12 artisan miniature made by Little Things Dollhouse Miniatures in Lancashire. ‘The Wonderful Game of Oz’ was just one of the many pieces of promotional merchandise that was produced after the great success of the Oz books. Based on the L. Frank Baum book and characters, the game board and pieces are based on the John. R. Neil book illustrations. John. R. Neil illustrated all the Oz books except ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ which was illustrated by W. W. Denslow. In the game, you make your way through Oz, from Munchkinland to the Emarald City. Published by Parker Brothers in Salem Massachusetts in 1921, I hope you will forgive me for putting it in this story, which is set around 1910, and will indulge me as I celebrate everything Oz in this tableau. The divine little cupcakes, each with a flower on the top, has been made in England by hand from clay by former chef turned miniature artisan, Frances Knight. Her work is incredibly detailed and realistic, and she says that she draws her inspiration from her years as a chef and her imagination. Each cupcake is only five millimetres in diameter and eight millimetres in height! The strawberry birthday cake has also been made from polymer clay and is very realistic and was made by Karen Ladybug miniatures in England. Nanny Tessa’s floral teapot I acquired from a specialist high street tea shop when I was a teenager. I have five of them and each one is a different shape and has a different design. I love them, and what I also love is that over time they have developed their own crazing in the glaze, which I think adds a nice touch of authenticity. The jug and glass of orange juice, the jug and glass of milk and the glass vase of flowers all came from Beautifully Handmade Miniatures in Kettering. All the pieces are made from very fine glass and are hand blown, so each one is unique. The porcelain tea set, which has two matching cups and saucers, a milk jug and sugar bowl, were part of a job lot of over one hundred pieces of 1:12 chinaware I bought from a seller on E-Bay. The pieces are remarkably dainty and the patterns on them are so pretty. The floral plates are part of a larger dinner set I acquired through a miniature stockist on E-Bay. The tablecloth has been crocheted by hand and is actually a small doily that I picked up in an antique market. I imagine it is around one hundred years old. When I bought it, it was badly stained, but some bleach and lemon juice quickly righted this and brought it back to its original gleaming white. I loved it for its delicate weave. The table itself is a Jacobean style round drop leaf table of dark stained oak which I have had since I was seven. The dainty little chairs are carved from fruitwood and were part of a lot I bought at auction many years ago. In the background you can catch glimpses of the Wickham Place nursery which is papered with William Morris’ ‘Willow Bough’ pattern. In Nanny’s chair by the fire sits a big teddy bear, which is one of just a number of small 1:12 size teddy bears that I have in my collection. The ewer set in blue and white Delftware I also acquired from a specialist high street miniatures shop when I was a teenager.

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