About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play.

Monday, May 23, 2011

W is for Wagons...again!

Having delt with the Blue Box ACW carry-over, let’s go back to the third boxed set in the original article (two above - hopefully), this was the Hong Kong one with the factory painted blue horse…

A quick reminder with the sides in view, while it was/is similar to the Blue Box/Marx sets, the contents are very different, both the horses and wagons are of a different design altogether, know to some as being by National, a Hong Kong brand, while the figures, although also based on Britains Swoppets are different poses to those adopted by Blue Box for their range, and while having a lookie-likey paint job, it’s with a different overall look/feel or colour scheme.

With the predominant blue to the artwork and the yellow inner tray, it’s trying very hard to be Blue Box, but I personally feel there’s no real connection other than these HK guys were as quick to pirate each other as they were anyone in the west!

The National wagons, they seem clearly the same as those in the boxed set…until you look closer, when you find a general drop in quality from the previous set, both in horse flesh and wagon wood. The pirates were pirating the pirates of Blue box piracies! Sieeempuulls!

Still; it gives you a good idea of the full range of these clip-together wagons, there is at least one more, probably two or three designs I’ve still to track down, some of which are hinted at in the further images below.

These horses are the same as the boxed set, but are in sensible colours and came pretty-much exclusively in Christmas Crackers, always as a matching pair, always with a single two-horse draw-bar and always with a copy of the Giant ACW cannon (which usually had two draw-bars).

When I say they are the same, I mean the lower pose with the bent foreleg, the upper pose, which is far more common with a bent rear-leg, dates from the mid-1980’s (the complete example you see hear came from a cheap Christmas Cracker at the 1 Glosters Cookhouse Christmas Dinner 1987, see below for the whole sordid tale!), and seems to have been a late re-design, probably to account for damage to the old mould. Although it’s not clear in the photograph, these late ones also have larger wheels, and a thinner drawbar, the mounting spigots on the drawbar that hold the horse in place also have rounded finials rather than the pointed ones on the earlier, less common versions – see the little graphics I’ve done below each towing pair.

These still turn up in budget Christmas Crackers of the sort sold to institutions and the big tent-party companies who set up on the outskirts of medium sized towns to cater for corporate ‘Do’s’ and works ‘Blowouts’ in the month leading up to Christmas, I got another from a cracker at the place which always sets up in Rushmore Arena, Aldershot, and a third from ‘Knights Out’ in Reading a few years ago.

Comparison between the Cracker Horse/boxed-set Horse on the one hand (left) and the National copy (on the right), cruder tail, mane and ear are obvious, the spigot-hole is smaller, higher-up and further back, the angles of the neck, raised foreleg and tail are all different and the buckle on the shoulder is a blob. Some of the National horses are also quite deformed with widely splayed legs or an shrinkage-induced arched back (too soon out of the mould again).

There is one other version of the horse; this one is quite heavy, definitely eaten all the hay-pies! He comes with a more elaborate range of Wagons with separate push-through axles, although using the same pulling bar as the National and boxed-set ones, clipping into the eyes on the fronts of the vehicles.

Some (the red one) do come with the other axle type though, but I’ve yet to get a complete one, so I don’t know if they have just been mucked about with by kids or actually did come with both types of wagon.

Wheels are slightly heavier than those above and as you can see, the Stagecoach comes in two halves, while the Buckboard is a more substantial molding than the National/Boxed ones. Again these were Christmas Cracker toys.

Irrelevant Story;

The 1st Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment Christmas Lunch

The Cookhouse, Wavell Barracks, Berlin, 1987;

A Christmas Dinner parade was held outside each companies lines at approximately 12:45 Hours. To ‘encourage’ good behavior each company was to parade in No.2 Dress uniform and Service cap…which we did (green plastic belts, not white ceremonials). We were then marched by company into the Dining Hall where the tables had been re-arranged into 4 company lengths, with the spare HQ bods spread among us (there weren’t many, they always seemed to wangle home-leave at Christmas, plus a lot of them were ‘pads’).

Support company marched in late…they were wearing their (newly issued in ’87) Kevlar helmets - sans covers, so we all knew what was to come (at this point you are allowed to feel sorry for RQMS; Cookhouse). RQMS; Cookhouse then gave us a lecture about how his boys had slaved over hot coals for six weeks to bring us the taste of home, and that we should behave ourselves, Padre said something religious and the Senior Officers retired to the Mess for a bloody-Mary before their own lunch.

A soup was served with hot rolls by the Junior Officers, Sergeants and SNCO’s and Crackers were pulled, a fine plate of institutional fare then followed, from memory being; 3 slices of Turkey, 2 chipolatas, a slice of bacon, 3 stuffing balls, 4 roast spuds, 2 boiled spuds, more sprouts than are decent when you are 4 men to a room, a roast parsnip, bread-sauce, carrots, peas in white sauce and the whole drowned in gravy to the rim of the plate…oh!...and a dollop of Cranberry sauce. [I might have invented the parsnip over the years in a tragic false-memory loop?!]

Once the 2nd-course plates had been cleared along with everything else on the table that wasn’t either part of the table or 1x bowl and 1x spoon per man and much stamping and banging on tables rattling the cutlery (probably worrying the local populace!) had ensued along with a roared round or two of ‘Happy Christmas to Us’, the ACC boys served Christmas pudding with rum-flavored white-sauce in indecent haste and ran for their block, closely followed by the Junior Officers and most of the SNCO’s.

Once we had eaten enough of the pudding to remember the taste of it (which I can, to this day!… just that parsnip still worries me), it was good, it really was, but…you see; we were stuffed, we couldn’t eat it all…and as RQMS; Cookhouse started screaming…screaming like a demon in a nightmare, Support Company put their helmets on, A Company on the other side of the hall pushed all their tables over, took cover behind them and let all-hell break loose.

A pre-arranged volley of spoon catapulted plum-duff and an assortment of previously secreted roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts arched through the air away from the A Company redoubt like a cloud of arrows at Crecy, raining white-sauce and lose raisins on the two companies between, while Support Company realised that helmets were funny, but up-turned tables were tactical…just too late.

By the time Support Company had recovered, built their own stockade and got their counter-battery fire properly ranged, the full length windows down the side of the cookhouse looked like very old oven-doors, spotted with half a hundredweight of steamed fruit in a brown treacle suet.

C Company had quickly calculated that overturned tables were fine if you enjoyed the strategically advantageous position of being down one side of the Dining Hall, but in the middle you were better-off leaving the table just where it was and getting under it. B Company (the fools) had followed A Company’s lead, and thinking Support Company were the natural enemy had turned their tables to match A Company and - as a result - were taking heavy mess from misfires leaving A Company and short-drop incoming from Support Company.

As this Author remembers it, Corporal Grey (the Elder) rallied C Company under the tables, and instructing us to gather handfuls of projectile-pud from the floor (spoons had by now either been dropped from sticky-mitts, or accidently fired at the enemy like Napoleonic ram-rods, to fall short on B Company due to their weight) he then lead us ‘Over the Top’ cresting the B Company barricade, where we deposited our fruity mud-bombs on the nearest human before running for the door, giggling and whooping like little kids who’ve just won a ten-day pass to Disneyland!

Of course we took casualties, Taff Davis tripped over his B Company victim in the confusion, several personnel fell victim to skidding on turd-like puddles of spent rounds of Christmas pudding and - as a Company - we took a broadside from A Company to our right in the headlong dash for the exit. Reforming outside we laughed until we cried and retired to the NAFFI for a beer and to ring home and tell our long-suffering mothers of our wholly un-festive yet - self-regarded - hilarious misbehavior.

As RQMS; Cookhouse started to lose his voice only to find it replaced by the RSM bellowing like a wounded bull-elephant (you could hear him in the NAFFI!), the Spirit of Christmas raised her hands and slunk out the back of the kitchens, and the real world returned to that little corner of leafy Spandau.

So who won…C Company of course, Support Company got collared to stay behind and clear-up - those helmets were guilt by association before the action began, while A and B had a Guards Division rainy-parade dry cleaning bill. Any HQ Company guys who were foolish enough to have stayed for the dessert course (most having joined the exit of Catering Corps and Senior ranks as pudding was served) were in the end to be found face down in a melted pool of mixed fruit and molasses sponge in a rum-custard, which really was very good RQ…thanks!

And nearly 25 years later, I wish I’d been cleaning-up with Support Company and rescued more Hong Kong cannon-&-horse combo’s!!!

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