Saturday, August 16, 2003

The house of the dollhousemaker

We had heard the thunders for a while. Although they seemed to be getting nearer, we kept on riding. Probably the endorphines.

Then, all of a sudden, eerie crackling, followed by a loud bang! The thunderstorm had caught up with us. We stopped. We had been riding along a small lake, watching people come in on their little boats. Fleeing from the coming storm. Right in front of us a big, bulky man came running across the road, on his way to his house. He was almost bald, probably in his sixties. Wearing only swimming trunks and sandals, he shouted to us: "Get in! It's coming, it's coming!"

We gratefully accepted. Tucked our bikes under a balcony and followed him inside, just as the rain started to pour. I thought we were entering the house through a garage, but around here, no-one uses their garage as a garage. Instead, the 'garage' was a full-fledged wood shop. Not one of those hobby wood shops, but a real one, with weathered tools and saw dust in the window sills.

The bulky fellow lead us up the stairs and into his living room, where he proceded to tell us his life's story. He was a good storyteller, and we soon forgot about the raging storm outside. It turns out that our host used to make fibre-optic systems, but got really, really bored. So he started making furniture – for dolls. Itsy-bitsy chairs, and armories, and end tables, and beds. With headboards. And rounded feet.

This was it. He had found his craft. So he decided to retire. Luckily, soon afterwards, his company decided to lay off some people. He pleaded with his boss to be among those laid off. That gave him a year's pay. And he could take up the furniture making. Full time. Soon afterwards, he expanded into making whole houses. Dollhouses, that is. Which he wires. And paints. And puts wallpaper up in. He even glazes the windows.

When he finished his story, the rain had stopped. As he led us out again, he gave us a tour of his workshop. He showed us the dresser. The cupboards. And the free-standing chess board, with inlaid pine for the white parts and mahogany for the dark ones. The whole table was less than two inches wide. In the hands of this large man, it seemed even smaller.

We walked out into the drizzle. As we rode our bikes down the road, the sun finally broke through the clouds again.