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. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

News, Views Etc . . . Overdue General Roundup!

PRB - Plastico Rastignano Bologna
An eMail from Theo van der Weerden, a Blog follower from the Netherlands, adds rich detail to the recent post on PRB, in his own words:

"When I read your blog about the Rastignano Bologna Toy Soldiers it brought back some good memories.

Those soldiers came with bubble gum. The brand was called Bang. It came with a piece of gum of course and a small cartoon. If you got a certain picture within your package you obtained a figure.

I remember one time buying 40 pieces to empty a box and hoped to get a figure. No luck with the special picture, but my brother and I got one each.
I think the man behind the counter felt sorry for us".

So basically - as I understand it - the bubblegum was like Bazooka, with a little paper novelty, but some of them (clearly not many) were prize tickets earning you a figure you had to exchange/collect from the vendor - in person - which may well explain why they tend to turn-up in large quantities, but very infrequently; they are old shop stock to be exchanged for prize tickets which seem to have been in much shorter supply than the figure-stock?!

General de Confiteria S.A of Barcelona, Spain issued a bubble-gum brand called Bang Bang, while Mis Biskuvi Gida  San ve Tic A.S. of Gazintep, Turkey issued a Big Bang whether either of these  is the same 'Bang' brand, or not; I don't know.

Theo also ID'd those Fire Service motorcycles from May/June as Minalux, not the Cofalux I'd penciled them in as, thanks Theo.



Following the brief news of the Britains Trojan stamp, there was more coverage of the set over the next few days, and for those who didn't follow the link last time, other toys/playthings covered in the eight-stamp set included Sindy, Spirograph, Stickle Bricks, Fuzzy Felt, Meccano, Hornby Dublo and Action Man, along with a Space Hopper and Merrythough teddy-bear . . . apart from Cindy I have fond memories of all of them!

The next set issued by Royal Fail (mid-September) was a set of Ladybird book covers, with three books illustrated per stamp and six large-format stamps it's a game of spot-your-favourite! I remembered/recognised the Postman and Fireman titles; Nelson, the Things to Make and Piggly Plays Traunt!

Other stamp new concerned the LeedsPhilatelic Society which was drumming-up new members in the 'i' on the 13th September with news of a roadshow, but no dates, as they tend to say on the Radio "Check local press for details!"

Mr Men
Sticking with books for a second - a set of adult-oriented parodies of the old Mr Men books are to be issued, four to begin with and in the same vein as the recent Famous Five parodies, using Roger Hargreaves old illustrations but with 'alternative' text! To give you a flavour; one of the books will be called 'Little Miss Shy Goes Online Dating' and another is 'Mr Greedy Eats Green to get Lean'!

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Mr Man parody-land (Sanrio Publishing), there are now 12 Mr Man / Dr Who mash-ups (one book for each Doctor) available online from https://shop.mrmen.com/collections/doctor-who

Inexpertly torn from the 'i' Newspaper's Weekend edition on Saturday 29th July with a blunt knife, this was 'Image of the Week' and while I've tried to find a better version online I couldn't, I just liked the juxtaposition of British Hollow-cast and an Erzgebirge horse & cart against the rolling hills of Shropshire farmland.

Star Wars
Walt Disney unveiled the concept models for the new 'land' at Disneyworld, on Thursday 13th July last, as you will have gathered from the heading; it's to be called Star Wars Land!

Meanwhile a life-size model of R2D2 made from the collected remains of actual movie props sold in June for £2.1-million. The 3½-foot tall droid was star [wars] item in a sale which also included Darth Vader's helmet (£75,000) and Luke's Lightsabre (£350,000).


More Licensing & Licenses

The High-street (rather; mall, rail-termini and airport-) retailer (owned by Primary Capital) announced at the start of August a deal with Hello Kitty to produce a new range of school stationary with the Miffy-clone's branding. Paperchase are also staying quite on rumours of a public share-offer, but have mentioned plans for US stores - 2 being due to open in Chicago next year.

Character Group have signed a deal with Wicked Cool Toys in the 'States to handle the Pokémon licence in the UK, adding the franchise to their Pepper Pig and Postman Pat stable - the toys will include Action Figures, Play-sets and soft-toys.

Wonder Woman
Time Warner exceeded their profits forecast, mostly due to the success of the Wonder Woman movie and associated licenses (presumably shared with the comic owner DC)

Mr Ben
There was an exhibition celebrating 50 years of Mr Ben, but it ended on the 16th September and I only learnt of it afterwards, however there is a movie in preparation . . . and an opera! The Author David McKee was interviewed in our local paper (Star Courier) at the time.


Evil Empires

THE 'Evil Empire'
£24.99 vs. £29.99, they aren't paying for a license as an investment to get the feet through the doors or the units through the tills, they're getting their customers to pay for the license up-front! Your Lego is cheaper if it isn't Star Wars, yet the bricks cost the same-per-unit to manufacture.

Coverage of Lego or Lego-related stories has reached ridiculous proportions, with more news stories about or pertaining to Lego in recent weeks than Hasbro, Mattel and Tomy put together! And yes - I'm well aware of the irony of covering them all again here!

However; good news if you're a bit of an 'anti' (like me) as Lego announces it will be shedding 1400 jobs worldwide as the wheels start to come-off the wagon, the Toysaurus warning of dropping Lego sales. [Covered in a separate post now] Nano-blocks, Minecraft and computers being identified as the main culprits, but the high price-point Lego has maintained for years also being fingered by other commentators as part of Lego's problem - buy Megabloks, I've said it before and I'll say it again.

The Equally Evil Empire
We covered the news last 'News, Views . . . ' and I can't remember if I nicked this from Matt or Huw's Facebook feed, but it sums the situation up very nicely, I'm sure the well-paid bosses of GW will agree!

The Not-so-evil Empire
On the 18th of September a small piece in the 'i' suggested the Toysaurus might be preparing to file for bankruptcy . . . on the 20th Toys R Us filed for Chaper-11 protection in the US (and Canada) with most commentators giving them little hope of a recovery, long-term - they are sitting on a mountain of debt; owing £3.6-billion. Although; the 'Wall of Lego'* not selling as fast as normal will have been a factor?

* Like Ramesh's 'Wall of Crisps' but not so tasty! (link)

UK stores are - apparently - not affected, but having found the huge new aircraft-hanger sized Smyth's in Farnborough (rhymes with 'fleur' not 'morrow') totally empty - when looking up stuff for Rack Toy Month- I would imagine that whole retail sector is struggling, but as it's struggling with a toy industry it actually, deliberately, created (to the detriment of diversity in toys, and all small toy-makers) I have no sympathy whatsoever and I hope they all fail.

Everywhere you look now, you see the signs that 40-years of Thatcherite-Ragannomics have failed all but the few at the very top.

The entire UK workforce (who do have my sympathy - if it comes to the worst) is only 2,500-odd (in 110 stores), think about it for a moment, if you closed the Woking branch (average staff: 22.7) and replaced all the old toy and model and hobby and craft shops long-gone from the surrounding streets and nearby towns and villages, you would have work for 50-100 people, probably better paid that the Toysaurus's staff, but with a dearth of fat-cat executives flying round the world, carving it up, for their further profit?

Of course; my naive hopes ignore the elephant in the room - on-line retail. Comes to something when an elephant can bring-down a dinosaur!


Another one in trouble and one of the few sources of cheap toys and novelties outside of the discount stores or Toy Chains, has also announced difficulties, with 4,000 jobs at risk in the UK; Wilkinson's have admitted they are struggling with costs due to the fall in the Pound and are in talks with their staff-unions to make the cuts as kind as possible.


Useful Links

Toy soldier bedding and soft furnishing, 'nuff said -

New makers in Singapore with varied product lines -

I've recently discovered (looking for a show date!) Eric Johns has published an index of PFPC articles, too useful! -

We may have had this one before, there are several around and I still have to look-up the one in the last PW, my favourite remains the Preiser road workers doing sultanas to grapes, that was priceless . . .takes a while to load, mostly Preiser -
I'll definitely be ordering number one, it's for Vichy's, obviously!


Coming Shows and Exhibitions

Winter Reading

War-gamers or modellers of the Ancient persuasion (I refer to their chosen period of historical interest, not their age!) may like to know there's an exhibition on the Scythians being mounted at the British Museum from this Thursday - 12th October - through to Sunday 14th January 2018.

Next date on my calendar is the final 'Christmas' Sandown Park show which is on Saturday the 18th, but the above show on the 19th might be of interest to some, from the publicity shots it looks like it probably has a cut-off date of about 1960, so lots of lovely old toys.

I've totally lost track of the Birmingham show these day's; I'll try to find a date (it was yesterday! At the time of editing), but in the meantime Peter Bergner's 2nd show of the year is on the 3rd December at the usual place.

Freize London
The Autumn Frieze arts event (160+ Galleries) in Regents Park featured large-scale (human sized) Dunny-Bunny / Deathney-Mouse type sculptures in a gunmetal finish which would look lovely in a large garden, wooded-area, or - indeed - a formal park, and better-still . . . in a landfill.

Dolls Architecture
A bit late I'm afraid, but this is also running until January, called 'Small Stories: At home in a Doll's House', it's on at the Weston Park Museum in Sheffield and is a history of the more unusual Dolls houses made over the years, I particularly liked the stackable, unitary tower block (Jenny's Home) with its leery 1970's wallpapers, but would probably choose the coloured Perspex 'Kaleidescope House' (from 2001) - simply for its athletics.

The Moomins have their own museum! The 'Moomin Muesum' (clearly they used the same naming agency as Star Wars Land!) is in the Congress Centre, Tampere, Finland, and contains 1,009 original artworks, donated by Moomin author Tove Jansson before her death (2001). As well as the Moomin stuff, the Museum exhibits 38 of the wonderful models and dioramas made by the author's partner Tuulikka Pietila.


Other Bits

I was looking at a Meccano motorbike the other day (French owned I believe), and it's come a long way from the slightly rusty, anodised mild-steel of my child-hood, or the even rustier, heavier red/green of my father's childhood; it's all a bit Lego-likey with specialised parts, powder-coated alloy shapes (or at least - they look to be alloy, they may be plastic?), and not much construction, there were about 72 nuts/bolts and 12 of them were the spokes! But worth a thought as you start the seasonal shopping for younger family members or friends.

Next big craze - if the hype works (and I'm indulging too, so it must be having some effect!), are things called Hatchimals which come in egg-boxes and have to be hatched; Tamgotchi plus ten years extra technology! There are 70+ to collect and what you get inside the egg is something resembling multi-coloured Gonks crossed with wind-up walker-toys!

Yacht Race
Some local lads (Epsom Collage) are hoping to become the first team to successfully navigate a remote-controlled model boat across the Atlantic Ocean, the boat was expected in Antigua in six months time a couple of months ago so should have been far enough-out to miss all the recent nothing-to-do-with-human-driven-climate-change-oh-no-definatley-not-that's-a-Donald-fact-not-fake-news series of record-breaking storms battering that part of the world.

Kids Bed
Cuckooland have a bed in the shape of a high-performance sports car in red (unbranded but I think we all know which brand of Itailan Sports car we are to infer), suitable up to age 12 or so, it's £249.95 which seems a lot for what is probably only a coated MDF box! Still - that 5p saving makes all the difference, huh? And the VW Beetle's over a thousand-quid!

Trumpundbrexit News Department
An RSPCA inspector was called out to deliver a 'terrified' family from the long, slow painful death about to be provided by a rubber toy spider the other day, in Alresford (home of the best model-railway show), there was me thinking we bred brighter souls in Hampshire, no, clearly not!

Hampshire Spider - apparently!

And that story (Hampshire Independent 28th July) came a month or two before the national 'news' story of the family (London? Birmingham?) who had to be rescued by the Fire Service from a smelly-sock 'lizard' under a bed.

People are becoming incapable of serious, rational, independent thought.


Three other stories from previous 'News, Views . . . ' have returned to the headlines;

Ship Shape
Plastic on the Beach was highlighted in a novel fashion in July - here reported by the Metro on 20th July 2017

The Britains Best Shed competition (accurately: Cuprinol Shed of the Year) was won by something which looks more like a tree-house which I think is a bit of a swizz!

Lost Bears
Following the lead of the Spanish holiday firm we looked at in June's 'News Views . . .' Glasgow Airport has started a lost-teddy service, from the press-release photo it looks as if stuffed dogs and Muppets (good news for the PSTSM if they get lost) are included in the rescue plans, but girly-dolls will be melted-down and served in-flight to customers in economy-class!

I'm joking - or am I; have you tasted in-flight meals?! If you are travelling via Glasgow, with bear-equipped kids; be sure to collect a 'Take Care of my Bear' tag when you first check in and then if the chap or chap'ess gets lost, they should be quickly reunited with their young owner.


More Bears
Back to local news; Alton played host to the annual Teddy Bear Festival on June 17th in the Assembly Rooms, bears and bearabilia (?) old, new and orphaned were on show, sale or available for adoption, while songs and stories were performed to younger fans!

Zeus on the Loose
Found this on Amazon a while ago, I won't be buying one but I know two Blogs who are working with Asterix or bubble-gum Romans, in the larger scale, who might like a cartoony Zeus to add a bit of mischief to their narratives! And it'll be turning-up in mixed rummage trays at toy soldier shows in a few years! Gamewright


Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

So, when you think of it, people who collect old plastic soldiers and other toys are doing their bit to save the environment.Very laudable really.

Hugh Walter said...

That's definitely one way of looking at it Ross! My - slightly less ethical - excuse is "...because it's there"!