Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since those dreadful land pirates, The Chronic Agronauts, utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
Helping me this morning are two very special guests who have travelled all the way from the Lucerne Academy, Miss Lucy Etherington and her mechanical protégé Eve! Now do please have a seat here at the table ladies and I will put the kettle on. I hope your journey to our dimension was a good one and you had no trouble from land pirates or skyway men?
L: Thank you my dear and it’s a great delight to meet you in person, I must say. Stalwart work you are doing here for the dear young urchins.
There were a couple of, er, incidents in our journey, I must confess, but fortunately my companion Eve, being entirely mechanical, has the strength of several steam-powered elephants, so she was able to dispatch our would-be attackers very promptly. I suspect that our journey home will be far less eventful.
Oh dear I am sorry about that, thank the goddess that Eve was there to put them in their place! Now then, I see you have you brought some soup to share with the orphans?
L: My dear Eve made up a batch of her glorious lentil and mustard soup before we left the academy. It travels rather well, we find, but it’s very thick and, er, robust. You may want to water it down slightly before serving it. Eve, dear, perhaps you’d like to share your recipe…
E: I’d be delighted. You simply cook dried lentils in 4 times their volume of water, with a little salt for at least two hours. Add in any vegetables you have to hand (I used chopped carrot, celery and tomatoes, as I know children are sometimes put off by more exotic tastes), along with a few of tablespoons each of butter, genuine tomato ketchup and the finest mustard you can obtain. Then cook for another hour.
Oh how clever of you, Eve! Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us a little about your work at the Academy Miss Lucy?
L: Certainly. I was hired to teach deportment, geography and natural sciences. I must confess, I give little attention to deportment, other than to lead by example, but the other subjects have been tremendous fun. The board of governors was somewhat taken aback when I explained that I would need to take the girls on at least three major field trips a year. But how is one to learn geography other than by traversing the Amazonian jungle or the Russian Steppes? The young ladies have used their science lessons to create a veritable arsenal of ingenious defensive weapons – for use only in the direst emergency, naturally – and their latest group project has been the design and construction of a mechanical submersible vehicle, which will enable us to explore the depths of the ocean and observe the many wondrous beasts which inhabit it.
It must be marvellous to know that you are inspiring young ladies to become the inventors and explorers of the future! If only women were allowed to study here in Ire but sadly the towers of magic are only open to men.
L: That is indeed a great pity. Perhaps we could smuggle a few of the most daring young women back to Lucerne with us. I’m sure the Principal would never notice one or two extra girls at the Academy and our balloon’s gondola is very capacious…
Now that is an idea! But I am guessing you have not always worked at the academy, and surely Eve is not your only creation?
L: Ah no, I came to teaching quite late in life. Before that I worked with Herr Oskar Kopp as his laboratory assistant. He was the most brilliant man and gave me access to his facilities to enable me to develop my interest in automatons and other inventions. Once I noticed him packing a few of them into a valise, however, to take to a symposium where he was supposed to be presenting his own latest creations, I decided to look for a position elsewhere. I’ve brought you this photograph of my cabinet of curiosities, which contains a few of my gadgets and items I have obtained on my travels.
How marvellous! And Eve, do you help Lucy at the academy?
E: Most certainly I lend assistance where I can. Sadly, though, there is a strong bias against mechanical persons being employed there and the governors have refused to offer me a post as a full staff member on three occasions, despite my excellent abilities.
Oh dear, how disappointing for you! But I must say my dear, you seem to be a very accomplished and capable person, surely you do not intend to remain as merely a companion, what are your aspirations for the future?
E: Well, so long as I can remain properly lubricated, I have an almost infinite existence ahead of me. Certainly I will assist Lucy while she requires it, but I am convinced a time will come when the artificially intelligent are fully recognised and I will be able to take my rightful place amongst humans as an educator and innovator. I should also like to engage in space travel, since I do not need to breathe.
Splendid, I am sure it will not be long before those in power realise that automatons deserve the same rights and respect as other life forms. Ah, now the kettle is boiled, can I offer you both a hot beverage? Or perhaps some oil for Eve? What would you like and how do you take it?
E: I have been engineered to run entirely on clockwork, lubricated by camomile tea. So much more civilised than slurping oil. Thank you for the thought, though. It is also Lucy’s preferred beverage.
L: Indeed it is. We both take it, obviously, without milk or sugar. I enjoy a slice of lemon in mine, but not for Eve. The acid is corrosive, you see.
Oh yes, how lovely! Here you are, now do tell me, where can we read more about your adventures?
L: Ah, I’m so glad you asked, my dear. Our biographer and compiler, Jan Stone, is collecting information about ourselves, some of our pupils and various other acquaintances. These are stored in the BLOG section at a non-physical location known as www.steampunk-shrunk.com
And I hear that our dear friend Jan Stone has made some beautiful doll versions of you both – and many other steampunk adventurers as well, could you tell us a little more about those?
L: Indeed. Jan has long been a ‘snapper-up of unconsidered trifles’…
E: Lucy! That description is of a common cut-purse, from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. I have it my memory files. Surely you are not implying that our friend is a thief?
L: Of course not, Eve, dear. I merely meant that – in true steampunk fashion – she acquires and makes use of all manner of items, in the most unlikely and ingenious fashion. Her little dolls begin as dreary, mass-produced porcelain figures and she transforms them with oddments of cloth, wire, jewellery and watch parts into uncanny likenesses of ourselves. The models of Eve and myself, and many others, can be found at her son Matt’s shop www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse . I gather she also sells some at craft and vintage fairs and shops near her home in Glastonbury, Somerset.
Wonderful! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, my dears, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?
L: I suspect their little noses will be even rosier soon; Eve used her very hottest mustard in this batch of soup.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our visit to your delightful kitchen. With Eve to protect me from any lingering land pirates, I hope to explore more of Lancaster’s charms before our hot air balloon leaves at twilight this evening.
E: Although you may find it hard to believe that an automaton can experience feelings, Mrs Baker, let me assure you that meeting you has been a great pleasure and I will permanently store fond recollections of our conversation in my memory banks.
My dear Eve, having spent so much time travelling with my automaton friend Junkie I am well aware that you have the same emotional spectrum as us humans and it has been a great pleasure to have you both here today. Do enjoy the city, but be wary of the lemonade pushers, and don’t wander into a tiffin den by mistake!
Thankyou all for joining us in the soup kitchen today, I hope you will come and join me again next week so until then,
Blessings n your brew my dears!
Oh my goodness! Um…Greetings my dears! Do please excuse me…if you could just avert your eyes for a moment, I am just changing back into my usual attire…
Wizmas is a very dangerous time to be a witch. That’s why I have had to put on my false moustache and toupee and pretend to be my non-existent husband, Albert, to avoid awkward questions!
Nevertheless, to celebrate the fact that Wizmas is now over we’re cooking up a secret feast for all the little orphans here in the soup kitchen. Helping me this afternoon is a lady of extraordinarily adventurous inclination and impeccable fashion sense…
My guest has a most unusual name—Darq. No last name, but she’s a titled lady on her homeworld. Those titles are—
– Princess of the Misted Moon
– Warrior-Huntress of the Mayahi Dyn
– First Daughter of Pyhanni of the White Grasses
– Granddaughter of Zukaltay of the Octal-Ute Dyn, and an esteemed Naren (a chieftain)
Darq is also the twenty-fourth daughter of the late (deceased) statesman of the Chimalli Ishi Nation. His name was Gidwi. Definitely Darq is a lady not of our world but of the Wysotti nation, a matriarchal planet in a distant solar system. Darq is also a much-decorated Wysotti starfighter pilot, the heroine of her homeworld, and it is her avatar who is my guest today! Please welcome— Darq, the doll with a blog!
Hello Darq, it is so marvellous to have you here in Lancaster today, have you brought some cake to share?
Hello, Mrs. Baker, and yes, I’ve brought you my Fruity Cake.
Fruit Cake? Oh, my dear, no, surely not fruit cake!
(Darq chuckles.) No, no. Fruity Cake. It’s nothing like that atrocious stuff you Earth people make at Christmas and Wizmas, which is only good for use as a fighter plane’s stop-block. Here, look at the recipe and you’ll see.
Darq’s Fruity Cake
by Author Catherine E. McLean @2012 http://www.CatherineEmclean.com
1 stick of butter (softened)
one 14.5 oz can of Delmonte “no sugar added very cherry fruit mix” – not drained
one 8 oz. can of pineapple tidbits, drained
3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
1 carrot cake mix (cake can be made from scratch)
Into a bowl, pour in the cake mix, then add all the other ingredients and beat until well blended. Pour into a greased bundt pan or bundt mold. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 45-55 minutes (or until knife comes out clean). If using a 9×13 cake pan, bake for approx. 30-40 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream or pudding.
May be cooled and coated with confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) or Cream Cheese Frosting with a fresh fruit topper (mandarin oranges, sliced strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
Oh, yes, I see. Simple, quick . . . sweet . . . fruity . . . Shall we make some for the orphans?
(Darq chuckles again.) Yes. The MIBs said you liked to cook with your guests, so I brought my apron.
Lovely, now while that bakes, let’s sit and have a spot of tea. Do you have a favourite blend my dear?
I do. It’s called Xaaykop.
Xaaykop? I’m afraid I’ve never heard of it…
It’s from my home world. As a friendship gift, I brought you some.
Oh, my, such a lovely tea chest! Thankyou!
The artificial flowers on top of the chest are just like the real ones on my planet. Like the leaves, when the seed pods ripen, they are so dark a green they appear black. You grind and brew the tea like any regular Earth tea…
But? I hear a but.
I have to warn you, the longer you brew it, the higher the caffeine content.
Yes we do have to be careful, caffeine is strictly rationed here in The New World! Although, I have never been one to abide by rules and dictates so, how long do you like yours brewed my dear?
Until it’s darkest mahogany, and I take it with six sugars.
Hot, highly caffeinated, and sweet?
(Darq nods.) Some say the caffeine at that darkness has a kick is as powerful as a Ky starfighter at full throttle.
Well, I’ll have to take your word for that since I’ve never ridden in any starship. Now, my dear, as we have a little time while that is brewing, you can tell me about your home planet. Is it similar to ours?
In many ways. It’s what you humans call a Class M Planet. Thankfully, it’s still orbiting its sun-star.
I heard rumours of some type of doomsday curse your people were under.
That’s right. One of my ancient ancestors visited Earth and destroyed the Mayans. For that we Wysotti were cursed so that when the five thousandth year of the Mayan calendar ended, our planet and all its people were to be annihilated.
But you’re here. Alive and all is well.
And the tale of how that came to be can be found in the novel JEWELS OF THE SKY, by author Catherine E. McLean.
And what of these mysterious men in black you mentioned earlier? They’re not Wizards are they?
No. But the weapons the Men In Black have, and the alien beings they monitor, well, sometimes the technology and science seems like magic. If you are able to peer into the future, their story is accurately portrayed in the movies, which are titled Men In Black.
My, my, you lead such an interesting and exciting life. Can you tell us a little about your latest adventure?
(Darq laughs.) I’m now a doll with a blog, who is also considered a fashionista! And before you ask, the premise of my being on Earth is to act as an ambassador at large for my homeworld. My very first outing on your planet had me traveling to a cave in Mexico to be interviewed by Father Dragon (a very old Fire Dragon) who’s elves were quite the video crew.
In other words, I stay with the JEWELS OF THE SKY author, and periodically I go to events, like parties.
Parties! I’ve heard about some of those parties. Particularly this October’s Halloween party at Dracula’s Castle.
(Darq nods.) Yes, that was fun, particularly my steampunk costume. But, Mrs. Baker, parties are actually social events where more diplomacy goes on than one realizes. Yet, there are also dangers. One is that I cannot make headlines. And the paparazzi are a constant threat, so I’m always accompanied by a team of Men In Black who whisk me to exotic and clandestine locations.
Lancaster can be a dangerous place, too, what with the flesh-eating Liver Birds Lord Ashton employs.
Yes, they keep the streets free of what the Tea Time Lords would call ‘vagrants’. If you are travelling home late tonight or planning to visit Peril again in his Lovely Library, I hope you have brought something to protect yourself with?
(Darq grins, and then, from her apron pocket, produces a small pistol)
Mrs. Baker, meet the Noisy Cricket.
That tiny thing? Oh, no, my dear, that will never, never do!
Don’t let the size fool you. This weapon has more power, and one helluva mule-kick when fired, than The Jackhammer, a tri-barrel plasma gun, which is a staple in the MIB arsenal. The Jackhammer is a type of raygun. So is this Noisy Cricket.
Oh, yes, well, a raygun! Of course, Max has something similar which seems to work perfectly well. Yes, that should certainly put pay to any nocturnal attackers, be they Liver Birds, Lemonade Dealers, or Skywaymen! I now have no fears of you reaching the Skyway station in safety. More tea, my dear?
Now then, moving on to more pleasant things, I greatly admire those wonderful outfits you’re photographed in at your blog. Do you have any favourites?
If you asked me that before Halloween, I would have unequivocally said my top pick was the witch Evenora emerald green dress. Followed by Catherine’s favorite, the white and silver 1920’s Erte gown.
But now? Some other outfit is now your favourite?
Yes. The Steampunk Halloween Costume I wore in October.
And, my dear, I hear you have a bit of a passion for shoes as well?
(Darq laughs.) You could say I’m a shoeaholic!
That is certainly an impressive collection my dear! You must drop by and see Max and Collin while you are in town. Max can show you the infamous ‘spot of bother boots’ and Collin will be so envious of your shoe collection as, of course, tentacles do not lend themselves readily to footwear!
So, the MIB have told me!
Ah, I believe it is time for the cake to come out…
There now, that’s the cake ready, we’ll just let that cool.
(Darq looks at her hat’s timepiece, then at Mrs. B.) The hour grows late. I can’t stay but a quarter of an hour more or the MIBs will come pounding on your door to get me. The time portal doesn’t stay open forever.
So true. Well, my dear, thank you so much for helping me prepare this wonderful Fruity Cake for the orphans and for the tea and chat. As soon as the cake cools, I’ll slice it up and serve it to the orphans.
And don’t forget the ice cream.
Ice Cream, my dear? What Ice Cream?
(Darq grins.) The barrel of vanilla ice cream that I brought and which the Men In Black, with Collin and Max’s help, were hefting into your cold cellar so the ice cream wouldn’t melt. Not that it would melt with the frigid night air, but we couldn’t let a barrel just set on your doorstep, now could we?
No indeed! If The Good Folk of Her Majesty’s Revenue thought I was serving Ice Cream they’d have my head! I..oh, wait, what is that?
(There comes the sound of the door knocker rapping and a voice calls “Good Folk on patrol Mrs B, thought you’d like to know!”)
Oh, dear me . . . Darq, you had better fly and I must hide all this evidence! But my dear, you surely cannot run in that skirt!
Never fear, Mrs. Baker, I came prepared for all contingencies, including ninja stars disguised as gears on my sleeve cuff and daggers sheathed in the key-holders on my unmentionables.(Darq hugs Mrs. Baker.)
Thank you so much for inviting me to cook for the orphans. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
It is I who thank you for stopping by, Darq. And I look forward to seeing your Valentine’s Day outfit and reading your blog, we must certainly do this again some time, but now farewell and blessings on your brew my dear!
Oh my goodness, I must quickly hide all this sugar…and the tea! Do please excuse me my dears, and do please join me here next week when Captain Piper and her trade ship The Mischief will be dropping in to help me with the soup kitchen.
Blessings on your brew my dears!
A note from Penny… All of the amazing photographs, dolls clothes and accessories used in this blog post were put together by Catherine E Mclean, I use them here with her kind permission.
Mrs Bakers script was written by myself and Darq’s speach by Catherine. I have never interviewed a doll before! Thankyou Catherine for a heartily enjoyable and amusing experience!
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
Helping me this morning is Kylie Dexter, creator of the amazing Dolldrums – grown up dolls for strange boys and creepy girls! Good morning Kylie, thankyou so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
“Of course! Here is recipe for Curried Lentil and Pumpkin Soup!
1 Tsp Olive oil 1 Garlic clove crushed 1 Onion, finely chopped 2 tsp Curry Powder 1 ½ cups dried red lentils 2kg Butternut pumpkin, chopped 5 cups vegetable stock
Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Stir in curry powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
Add lentils, pumpkin, and stock. Stir until well-combined. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly until pumpkin is just tender.
Serve immediately, topped with a dollop of natural yoghurt, YUM!”
Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about your creations, when did you first become interested in making art dolls?
“Well, I found myself making “changes” to all my dolls as a child, the possibilities were endless! Then about 15 years ago I stated making clay dolls, and that progressed into needle felting! I am huge fan of Jim Henson, so I had a special place for puppets, I wanted a softer looking character, and this was where Dolldrums was born! I wanted to create an endearing soul that made you want to love it and look after it.”
Looking at your dolls, they each have a marvellous character of their own, what inspires you most when you sit down to create a new doll?
“I do spend a lot of time looking at art and sculpture in my other job at beautiful.bizarre magazine, so it’s often easy to get ideas from paintings and photographs. But I would have to say mostly from the dolls themselves. I always start with their little faces, and then they kind of tell me where to go from there! We try different “looks” and usually one will work the best!”
Your dolls really are adorable, where can we buy them and is it possible to request custom orders?
“Thank you so much! I occasionally have them in my Etsy store, every 5 months or so and I do gallery shows throughout the year, which I share on my socials. I supply the dolls as much as I can keep up to MONA gallery in Tasmania and Art Boy Gallery in Melbourne. I have actually closed my custom orders from now but I am hoping to re-open that sometime soon when things slow down!”
You recently took part in a special exhibition at the Poe Museum could you tell us a little more about that project?
“I was so excited to work with Nancy from The Good Goat gallery, and this amazing opportunity presented itself to make a little “Edgar” as part of the celebrations at the Poe Museum. It was a real honour to be asked and to show my work with other incredible artists in such an amazing space! Nancy asked me to make a little caricature doll as a tribute, and I had so much fun with him and his crows and black cats. The photo shoot down at the cemetery was especially fun!”
And do you have any new projects or exhibitions planned in the coming months?
“I am currently getting dolls ready for Christmas and hoping to have some in the shop soon! I am also working on some dolls for Exhibitions next year. I always like to have something new in the works, but it’s often hard to find time to experiment, but I have got some sneaky projects in the works and also working with another amazing artist and animator on a short film.”
That sounds very exciting I hope you’ll come back and tell us more about the film in the new year? And lastly, the all important question, when you are making your beautiful dolls, what fuels your imagination most, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)
“Tea, Black no sugar. I make it a rule to only get coffee if someone else makes me a lovely frothy latte!”
Delightful, I’m sure Max and Collin would approve! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Kylie, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and the little urchins have certainly enjoyed seeing all your marvelous dolls! Now I think that soup must be about ready now so shall we start dishing it up?
Max and Collin will be back in the parlour tomorrow with some tentacle-tingling tea at three, I will of course be back in the soup kitchen next Wednesday so until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!