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.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

B is for Ballard of the Toymen of Mankind


 
In the beginning there were 'playthings', and they did be made in people's spare time, out of mud and fingernails, sticks and birds' nests, they were poor playthings, but they were for poor people and they were made by poor people - in their five-minute breaks from losing their fingers down't 'Mine' or in't 'Spinning-jenny'! It was not good.

 
Yet for the rich, there did be toys a-plenty, they did be lovingly hand tooled from the finest materials known to man, or steal'able from the native citizens of the India, the Africa and the New World by artisanal craftsmen, the first of the toymen. It was good, if you were rich.
 
Sticks with hoops shaped and sanded to perfection the ends blended together and varnished until you couldn't see the join. Doll's in clothes of finest silk, satin, cotton and velvet, pull-along toys, ride-on toys, leather padded hobby-horses and hand-made wooden puzzle-pictures.
 
They did be made in small quantities and get sold in 'Toy Shops' in the larger cities and market towns, usually on a sale or return basis, the shop-keepers being 'merchants' did consider themselves above the artisan manufacturers. It was good . . . especially if you were a toy-shop keeper.
 
Then, did come the age of mass production:
 
"You, make 50 of those shapes, she'll make 50 of those, he'll glue them together and the child-man can paint them red with that lead-based paint. Stamp those in tin, sew these to that pattern, paint a hundred eyes before lunch or I'll dock your pay!"
 
Now the poor could lose their fingers in a toy-making machine, but they took the rejects home to their bairns, and things looked gooderer and gooderer. The rich could still identify themselves by paying more for better paint, locomotive-numbers and pin-stripes, or crocheted hems, and fancy bows. The 'deluxe' range.
 
And did Austria-Hungary and the new Germania excel at the making of toys with the mass-production and a new business was formed, the import-export haus. A middle-gentleman between the mass-producer and the toye shoppe (as it was now retro titled for no good reason, like all retro-fashion bollocks)
 
And in Albion did William of the Britains do well with a wide range of warrtoys, as it helped raise a fierce brood of adventurers who could be sent out to expand the colonies and find new people to lose their fingers making stuff, and was the international shipper begat.
 
 Then did come an actual warr to the world of mankind:
 
The sons of Albion did have to migrate in Pals Brigades to the land of the sons of the Franks, even toymen Pals, and there in a field of pretty poppies did they bash the brains of the men or the sons of the men who had been making their Elastolin and Maerklin toys, bash them to a pulp and empty their skulls unto the earth, and often did they get their own skulls mashed and emptied, for the warr is not good for toys or toymen.
 
And did the toys of the Germainians and the others become unpopular for a while, and did Mr. Frank Hornby and the Tribes of Hassenfeld and Lines and Louis Marx begat large toy combines who did sell direct to toy shops (for shoppe was dropped as bloody silly) in their own lands and through wholesalers to department stores and chains like The Woolies
 
And then did the toy trade settle-down for a while, and did toys come from all over the world to the lands of the Angles and the peoples who look like the Angles by shipper and import-exporter, through wholesaler and direct-sale to toy shops, chains and department stores. And it was good.
 
And did materials get cheaper, and machines safer and less hungry for fingers and did mass-production quicken. And the tribes of Elastolin and Maerklin did creep back to the shores of Albion and in the land of the Yank did the Import Haus in Yorktown also stock them and their brethren of the tribe of Lineol and co.
 
And even the bear-toy did get re-born (for in fact as 'bear' he had been around for a while) when 'teddy' did be christened after the man in the hat on the back of a train, or did it be a postage stamp he decorated?
 
But warr came back (the mankind can't escape it, he's too stupid, or votes for even stupider leaders who have a nose for warr) and this time did all toys become very thin on the ground, yeay verily, even unto the days of homemade things, though not of mud and fingernails this time.
 
There were wooden ships from the New Forest in Albion which fell-apart when you hit them, while in the land of the Yank did the tribes of Hassenfeld and McSomeone make flat figures of finest ply, with paper cut-outs glued unto them, for shooting with sticks and marbles until they fell down.
 
But did the Frank Hornby and the William of the Britains and all else be put to making brain-mashing things, not toy things, for the six long years (only four in the lands of the Yank and the Rous) that the warr raged.
 
And were the child-men sorely vexed for they thought it odd that they should fire stick and marble at the very likenesses of their elder brother's fine battle-ship or of him in his Brodie helmet, but they hid their disappointment as they could see the consternation on the faces of the grown-ups, and appreciated their simple toys. And did the Import Haus in Yorktown disappear never to be seen again.
 
And did the child-men of Albion take their remaining Cowboys & Indians from the William of the Britains and bury them in the ruins of the bombed-out dwelling next door on Blackheath using the 'lightning doesn't strike twice' rule to hide them from the Veewons and the Veetoos until the warr did end.
 
However all good things come to an end . . . .er, so too do all bad things, and yeah, hark how the warr had heralded the coming of the plastick!
 
So it came to pass that when the warr did go cold (for it never really went away - look at the lands of the Rous and the sons of the tribes of the Ott today) and Mr. Marshall did okay-it for the Germanian toymen left in the West Germania to sell toys again and the men of Nippon too, albeit with a 'Foreign' stamp, did things look like they might get back to normal.
 
But normal was far from the ways of the toymen and the plastick was to have a vast say over the toys of the mankind in the decades to come.
 
The men of Nippon did initially exploit the use of tin, and pumice, clockwork and celluloid to flood the land of their occupiers with a vengeance, while the locals in the land of the Yank did invent the plastick dime-store novelty which was quickly copied in the land of Aitchkay.
 
The land of Aitchkey was where the people who didn't want to live under the Mao went. It could not be part of the land of Mao as the men of Albion had pretty-much stolen it with the help of gunboats after the people of Por'cel'ain had stopped the men of Albion doing a nice trade in opium a few long years earlier . . . 1897, if you must be advised.
 
All this tin and plastick toy production over the seas, along with the dime-store novelty thing did lead to a new kind of toy business, the Importer, as now the export bit was done by coal merchants and car makers, toys only came in to the lands of the Angles and the people who look like the Angles. In the land of the Yank this was called jobbing.
 
Another new business model was the tie-in, where tribes of toymen - often set up with the help of Mr Marshall's money, or according to his plan - did swap moulds by aeroplane and manufacture the same thing in a different place; this was practiced by the tribes of Acme, Kleeware, Lido, Pyro, Thomas and others. And things did look good . . .for about five minutes.
 
For back in Aitchkay, the plastick did lend itself to the pyrate, and copies which were not mould-swaps did begin to appear in numbers likened to the grains of sand on a beach. And smaller tribes of toymen in Albion and the land of the Yank did go to the wall and not come back again.
 
And it came to pass that in the land of the Yank was a jobber known as the Tribe of Rosenberg, that jobbed the Aitchkay's pyrate plastick, calling it Giant because it was so small . . . the mankind is very humorous sometimes.
 
And the Tribe of Rosenberg did source direct from the individual Aitchkay toymen, which was copied by other jobbers in Albion, Germania, Neanderland (where they are all very tall and live in boats on bicycles) the land of the Yank and even unto Aitchkey itself.
 
And the tribe's of Cornelius, Durham, Fishel, Grossman, Hagemayer, Ja-Ru, Lanard, LJN, Larami, Mego, Nasta, Postler yeay even unto the Tribe of Rosenberg did decide that Importing or Jobbing left them over-exposed and so, verily did they re-invent themselves as FOB's passing the risk on to smaller jobbers and bigger chains back in the homelands, setting themselves-up with plush offices in Kowloon and they did have expense accounts for comfortable ladies.
 
And the FOB was a secret thing meaning whatever the mankind you were asking said it meant; sometimes it did mean Free On Board, sometimes it did mean Freight On Board, sometimes it did mean Fob-off with your questions! None were truly explanatory of the nature of the FOB's which was to make sure someone else paid for the cost of dealing with the toymen of Aitchkay.
 
And did the tribe of Rosenberg then change their name unto that of the tribe of Arco, to get to the head of that long list perhaps? And more importantly indeed did it get them to the head of the telephonic and telexian directories. And things did look good again . . . for about five minutes.
 
 For did come to pass the scourge of the Great Oylcrysiss, and the shortage-of-black times, when did go to the wall and not come back again, many, many tribes of toymen in Albion, and the land of the Yank and the lands of the son's of the Franks, Germania and verily elsewhere and everywhere even unto the lands of Nippon and Aitchkey, but not so much in Aitchkay as elsewhere and everywhere else.
 
And not just the tribes of toymen, for the department stores and dime-store chains did fall to the Great Oylcrysiss, car makers and coal merchants too (scratch that, coal merchants did have a minor rebirth and did do okay for a few years, yeay verily!), all going to the wall and not coming back again, while the sound of the rending of capital did spread like the plague over the lands of the Angles and the peoples who looked like the Angles.
 
And in the meantime the Mao did die and the cold warr did thaw a little, and while the people of Por'cel'ain (like the people of Rous) may never be as free as the Angles, they were a little freer.
 
And yeay did the Mao-clones and the replacement Mao's even free-up the economy unto market-forces, so did the people of Aichkay start getting their relatives in the land of Por'cel'ain to do a bit of plastick-work for them 'on the side'. And things did look good again - for about five minutes.
 
For it was that the tribes who went to the wall and not come back again did be both small and medium sized toy-tribes (SME's), and the picking over of the bones of the tribes of toymen did make some richer tribes very fat indeed and did the tribe of Hassenfeld call itself now the tribe of Hasbro.
 
And did the tribes of Tomy and Takara and Mattel grow inordinately large and swallow-up even some of the healthy FOB's, such as the tribe of Arco which did get eaten by the tribe of Mattel while the tribe of Bluebird did get eaten by the tribe of Kenner which did get eaten by the tribe of Hasbro which did already eat the tribe of Larami as a starter. And in this way too did the board-game and puzzle tribes of Albion become the game brands of the tribes of toymen in the land of the Yank.
 
But this bonfire of the tribes of toymen was mirrored in the bonfire of the keepers of toy shops. Everywhere the toy shops did go to the wall and not come back again, often as the Toysaurus did open its own toy hanger (like an aeroplane hanger, but bigger) nearby.
 
And did the toy-making tribes of Aitchkay become the toy-making tribes of Por'cel'ain, and move their plants across the straits due to cheap labour and reasonable start-up grants from the dictators who were the Mao-replacements.
 
And did the name of the tribe of Airfix be rescued from the land of the sons of the Franks, and did it join the names of the tribes of Scalextric and Corgi who were reborn under the tribe of Hornby, but of Hobbies not Mr. Frank. And did the tribes of Tomy and Takara eat each other unto a merged entity.
 
And so it came to pass that some Jobbers and FOB's survived the going to the wall and not coming back again, but they lost the expense accounts for comfortable ladies as margins were cut to the bones of the toymen, and all fed the gaping maw of the Toysaurus who did call the shots of the Aitchkay and Por'cel'ain toymen, and of the Jobbers and of the FOB's.
 
And even unto the land of Nippon did Tomy-Takara listen to the Toysaurus and respond with alacrity. And did a 12 month turnaround become the norm before a toyline did get sent to the wall to not come back again. This sorely vexed the grown-up mankinds as it affected collector choice and did mean the 'Star Wars Command' did not stay in (or on) the hanger long enough.
 
And did they turn to mature collectables and the 'New Production' which they said came from the land of the Rous, but in fact it did mostly come from the land of the You'crane. But to admit this would be to understand that they were contributing hard currency to the brain-mashing in the Don-bass and the Cry-more, under the absolutely not-gay, no never ever, straight-down-the-line, bear-wrestling, mythical hero; Poo-Tin.
 
And did few of the child-men worry about any of this as they were all too busy looking for virtual pokey-mans on the motorway flyovers and rail-tracks, and around the graveyards and cenotaphs of mankind and all other unsuitable and sometime dangerous places. Their little faces lit from below by their dumbfones.
 
And did few of the grown-up mankind's think this was good, yet it was what they were stuck with under the free-market Thatcherite-Raganomic capitalism, while they did wait for affordable micro carbons; buckminsterfullerene, carbyne and graphene to come into the world of the toymen, and/or did they wait for the Toysaurus to get so big it fell over and died.
 
And then too - did they wait for the next warr, as it was coming, and it would speed-up the changes that were needed, and it would probably leave the Chinasaur standing rampant on the ashes of the Toysaurus and then the age of the men of Angle and the people who look like the men of Angle would pass.

 

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