About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 58-year-old Aspergic gardening 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.

Friday, April 10, 2009


The fritillaries need to be protected from pheasants, who like to snack on them, but it's 'snacking' as only usually practised by the likes of Billy Bunter! So I cast a network of garden string over the whole patch, set at two levels to stop 'flyers' landing in the middle and 'walkers'' snucking underneath.

[If you click on the first image, you'll see one 'flyer' got through!!!]


Some of the nicer daffodils currently gracing the garden...

I'll post some of the other shots from this sequence on my Imageshack account later this evening.

S is for Starlux (and Solido)

A quick look at one of Starlux's civil ranges, the Fire Brigade/Fire Service (les Pompiers) have been released in at least four different sizes and two versions. These are late production of the first version (old type 'Adrian' helmet), there being a second set in the newer space age 'chrome-dome'.

These are the 30mm range, not sure they ever got the head swap, the last guy in the bottom row on the far right, is an earlier moulding with the round base. Missing poses (not necessarily ever part of the 30mm range) are; a stretcher team, the hose 'head' operator, a doctor in jacket and slacks running with a first aid kit, a nurse in whites, (all available in the 20mm set) and two seated figures (probably also available with Solido fire appliances), a baseless hose operator and a guy kneeling (from the 40mm range).

This is the 'pond rescue' vignette, which was also issued as a military set with a change of rower. Again this was also issued with a Solido die-cast vehicle, The diver seems to have been licences to/pirated by Dinky Toys here in the UK, possibly through the French Dinky arm?

On; Heaping Praise Upon the Ruling Elite

My definition of capitalists;

A small minority, selling the lowest grade of Snake-oil they can find to as many idiots as they can fail to educate as often as possible, for as much as they can get away with, while keeping the majority poor enough to keep dreaming of being rich...without caring what Snake-oil production might be doing to the planet.

My definition of Politicians;

An even smaller minority allowing a small minority to sell the lowest grade of Snake-oil they can find to as many idiots as they have failed to educate as often as possible, for as much as they can get away with, while keeping the majority poor enough to keep dreaming of being rich...without caring how legal or just Snake-oil production might be.

My definition of Priests;

Selling balm for Snake-oil burns

Thursday, April 9, 2009

S is for Siblings

A few things that were raised by the Tudor Rose article, sort of more lose ends or, things I hinted at but didn't cover properly...

Staff Cars - The middle row are all Pyro (issued in the UK by Kleeware in threes in a service station set), showing the difference between the two designs with the coupe on the left, the booted (trunked) saloon in the middle and a civil colour-variant on the right.

Behind is the Lido example, not a straight piracy, but clearly drawing on both with the boot of one and the long swept-back wings and windows of the other.

Finally in the foreground, a bit of a problem vehicle, unless someone knows for sure? The colour is near Tudor Rose, the tow-hitch is more Lido and the wheels are similar to those used on Poplar Plastics helicopters and Pyro/Kleeware & Tudor Rose spaceships. Size wise it could be Tudor Rose or Banner, but Banner had their own 'Woodie' estate body/shooting break staff car?

With three votes it stays in the Tudor Rose box until I know otherwise!

Jeeps - With so many made, I will cover Jeeps and Land-Rovers on another occasion, but here are a few to be getting on with. Rear row, left to right; Tudor Rose, Manurba and Airfix. Middle; Lido large size with towed equipment. Front row - the real subject of the post - Pyro, Kleeware, Merit, Lido small size and Marx.

The four 'similar' jeeps, I say similar as close inspection reveals three different mouldings. On the left the Pyro original with the Kleeware produced casting (from the same mould) next to it. Due to the vagaries of import tax in the late 1940's-1950's, it was cheaper to ship the moulds over for a month or so than it was to import finished product, and a lot of mould sharing went on. Also some of the UK companies at the time were set up by the same guys who owned the US companies so natural affinity/group ownership played a part in the - sometimes hard to follow - duplication.

However, the fact that duplication was widespread, only made it easier for the less scrupulous to take advantage, with the result that on the right we see the Lido piracy, a smaller (pantographed) copy, with less detail transferred. To it's left is the Merit version by J & L Randall, this has a number of detail differences, not least the turn-in at either end of the windscreen and the rounded corners of the seat cushions. This was probably a licenced copy rather than a complete pirate, Merit did carry some of the Kleeware (Pyro) spaceships in a boxed set at one point.

Undersides of all four, the first two have just had the trade-mark stamp changed in the mould while the Merit one is quite different. The Lido one is clearly scaled down all round and of lesser surface quality.

Begs the question - why didn't Merit and Lido just design their own, this is a very crude, too-wide-for-it's-length (scale wise) simplified model, in one piece, they could have done much better!!

Kent Sprecher has now published a better picture on his news page;

TSHQ News page

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

S is for Spencer Smith Part 1; Figures

Some time ago we had a few of these figures sent in to the 'What the #%&*' section of One Inch Warrior (see Plastic Warrior link on right), and in a follow up article by Stuart Asquith used some of mine to help illustrate it. I photographed them - on that occasion - with Tudor Rose vehicles in support, and liked the combination so much I've returned to it here. We'll look at the Spencer Smith Miniatures first;

A bunch of advancing poses and the bazooka team, they are mostly a generic 'Combat Infantry' in style, somewhere between the Second World War and the mid-1960's, and you can see the Holger Eriksson ancestry straight away. The khaki-green ones are the most common, with sand coming a close second, the loader is just a colour variant produced when the green is run into an injector previously running the primer-brown used by a lot of the AWI/7YW figures. The black figures are the least common, being - I suspect - a late batch, while the grey are usually re-moulds from Harlow, especially if they are all shiny and clean!

Mortar and MG with crew and a couple of fighting poses. The MG is clearly modelled on something like the French Hotchkiss while the SMG's look like the Yugoslavian M56, a copy of the German MP40 with 'banana magazine, so a right old mix...but more on origins below!.

The two artillery gunners, one has a small round ideal for 25lbr's while the other guy is packing some heavy shite. Both guns here are Hong Kong products. Like all Spencer Smith, these were designed primarily for war gaming, accuracy of detail and/or moulding was never an issue.

I am not a war-gamer, I used to fight micro-tanks with a schoolmate 33 years ago, but not now, however I have all the stuff needed in 'The Collection', so thought it'd be a bit of a hoot to set up a little scenario from the Terrance Wise (I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy!!) school of how to do it! here the boys are rushing across a road 'dans la bocage', as they slowly encircle a small village.

While in this shot the mortar line provides suppressive fire-support with 2" 'personal' and 3" 'Infantry' mortars.

[Can any of the metal collectors tell me who or what should be attached to the plug on the log in the background?]

S is for Spencer Smith Part 2; Lose Ends

Ooh...Tudor Rose appear on the scene, dont'cha love 'em, No? Wrong blog mate, move along please, keep browsing, move along - nothing to see here!! Ammo re-supply squad wait for orders while something vaguely resembling a 25lbr fires in support of the assault.

Tudor Rose armoured car providing a bit of a stiffener for the guys holding the crossroads, wagons are from various sources and the hedges are all Merit (J & L Randall).

Comparison between Starlux (on the left) and Reisler (3rd from the left), the Spencer Smith figure is a little below the 30mm of the other two. I gave the Hotchkiss it's correct crew! They - perversely - are too small!!

Origins; Mr Smith almost certainly didn't have permission to copy the HE figures in the way he did, and it's probably only the fact that by the time Spencer Smith flourished (late 1960's - mid 70's) Holgar Eriksson was so well known and well regarded he didn't care, also he (H.E.) was known to avoid the limelight and a court/piracy case would have entailed publicity, I don't know?

Anyway, Smith copied from all over Eriksson's oeuvre, as can be seen here, the grenade thrower comes from the 40mm Comet range, the kneeling artilleryman is an HE original with a head swap, the ammo-Carrier was an ANZAC once! And the advancing figure was one of Eriksson's favorite poses, the 20mm one is Comet/Authenticast from the States, while the larger one is an HE figure. Meanwhile he was copying ACW and AWI/7YW figures (which will be covered another day) from the SAE range from South Africa! Also to get a day of their own in the limelight.

Smith put generic heads on most of them (Sort of half-way between the British Mk 3/5 piss-pot I had to wear in the 80's and the American M1), but a couple do have the 'Brodie'/British Mk 2 type helmet, most noticeably the kneeling firer.

T is for Tudor Rose Part 1 Vehicles

So, on to the support act - stars to me! In the 1950's Tudor Rose (Rosebud/Rosedale) made their own range of vehicles, while everyone else ran around copying/licensing each others, i.e.; Banner, Pyro, Merit, Kleeman/Kleeware, Lido and Wannatoys among others!.

The best is the Churchill tank, ignoring the dodgy turret, it's a nice model and fits in well with the only other high-street player of the time; Airfix. Detail is - especially on the suspension/running gear - a bit 'surface' or cosmetic but it does it for me.

The amphibious Jeep is too big and too ugly, so moving on...is that an AEC armoured car? I think it might think it is!!! Hey cumon! They were TOYS! And who's going to turn down a whole squadron of AEC's at pocket-money prices? Damage to aerials and windscreens is almost total after all these years, but the odd whole one turns up from time to time. The three that suffer are the Jeep, Carrier and 'amphijeep'.

Note also that some have the Liberation star recognition mark and some don't, these were thermo-printed, to such an extent you can use oven cleaner to strip war-gamers paint-jobs from these without removing the star underneath! I've yet to find a Churchill with the star.

The Jeep with gun and limber, a bit fictional on the artillery, while the ambulance is based on the Bedford MWD. Again the red cross is thermo-printed, but the cream roof is painted in household gloss! Likewise the rear gun (in the photo) has had the cream paint treatment, the hint of silver you will see in close-up (click on the image) was added by the war-gamer from the collection of whom this vehicle came. It has adhered to the cream underneath and won't fully come off.

He had a large collection of early plastics, all painted with red, blue, black and yellow markings (his four armies/units) and all the vehicles (Airfix/Blue Box/Marx etc...) were enhanced with silver, big blobs of it, all over tracks, radiators, mudguards, and gun barrels!!

My favourite Tudor Rose and one of my favourite pieces within the whole collection is the twin Bofors portee on a CMP chassis, all the early plastics guys (and Lone*Star in die-cast metal) did a twin Bofors, and they were all much copied/pirated.

In front is the best Bren carrier I have, the front gun is OK and the drivers bench also survives intact (it's a really thin moulding), but the pintle-mounted LMG is sadly missing its barrel.

When cleaning/paint stripping these you have to be careful of the wheels, they appear to be made of a vulcanised rubber/Bakelite material, and not only develop a white bloom or mould in storage, but can soften if immersed in oven cleaning foam for too long. So I tend to strip them in quick phases with periods of rest in between to allow the wheels to stabilize. Three sessions usually does it.

T is for Tudor Rose Part 2; Lose Ends

Comparison shot between the Esci Churchill IV with AMRCR and the Tudor Rose Churchill Mk ? As this model almost certainly pre-dates the Airfix one, and definitely came before the Hasegawa Mk III and Esci offering, one wonders what the sculptor and toolmaker were using as reference material? There is an almost hybrid III/IV aspect to the turret, other than that it's almost the same size, and made a cheap troop/regiment when little else was available.

With the Churchill as a sizer, we have a Sherman on the left, this is marked "Made in England" but with no makers mark, I suspect it's a late production Kleeware (plastic colour as much as anything?), Kleeman - the parent company - having been bought by Rosedale/Tudor Rose.

The Bofors portee is a strange one, we know it's aTudor Rose moulding, but the 'Tudor Rose' mark has been cut out of the mould? Again there is a clue in the colour of the plastic, this metallic blue was used on the ex-Pyro spaceships produced by Kleeware, so the assumption (only an assumption but also an 'educated guess'!) is that after taking them over, Tudor Rose gave the Kleeware facility some moulds for a range of garish pocket-money versions of the old khaki set? OR, that this mould was lent to Kleeware (there was interaction before the takeover) to provide a land-based element to one of the space sets?

Finally, the pop-up driver tank, a re-take of a US dime-store novelty, is again marked "England" but with no sign of a makers mark. Plastic colour of the hull points to Kleeware, however the bronze barrel is very Tudor Rose (they used bronze and copper coloured plastic for some of their spaceships) and a close look at the driver reveals he's had a run-in with the Tudor Rose cream gloss paint brush...so it's likly a Tudor rose model made with a batch of Kleeware granules.

The Plane is marked Tudor Rose, I've been told the cowboy 'walkers' are as well, but the bloke who told me was only an expert on early space, Dr. Who and Del Prado, so I stand to be corrected, they are unmarked. The staff car is unmarked, but identical to one of the two Pyro cars (licence plate; BV 4672, the other being a coupe with ducks tail; licence plate; DP 7189) so should be Kleeware or Merit, and again that yellowy-olive is a bit of a giveaway, however I've included it here as it has another version of thermo-printed Allied star.

Tudor Rose gun-line firing in support of the assault on the village as infantry tanks move off their FUP's. Crewed by Spencer Smith, this was the height of sophistication for a late 1950's - early 60's child's battle-gaming, all you needed was the imagination seemingly lacking in today's "can we have a set in shirt-sleeves to add to the 4 sorry; 500+ sets we've already been given since 1997" generation...

Churchill in fire support covered by a resin farmhouse (15mm) while the portee waits patiently for the last Messerschmitt in the Reich, or at least the last Messerschmitt with fuel!!

There are a few more images from this sequence on my Imageshack account, link to top right of page. [07-03-2012; I've closed my Imageshack account so I'm putting them below...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Imposing the Human Will on Nature

Rushing around trying to get everything ready before the full onset of spring - and it's attendant bionic-weed problem - has meant the blogs have taken a bit of a back seat recently. however here is a couple of photo's on the 'before-and-after' theme.

This is the top rose bed, wall-climbers interspersed with fruit trees, the boss likes to keep it free of flowering plants (I tried to leave a couple of established flowering weeds in as eye candy - but they came out while I wasn't looking!) but it still needs a bit of a tart-up after the long winter months.

Three hours later, I use a small hand/potting fork, as I like to cover the whole bed without digging up dormant stuff underneath, if you dig a bed like this with a garden fork you can damage roots and bring up opportunistic seeds. You can still get couch-grass out, by following the runners and pulling gently. Finally I edge-up with a tool like an old sheep shearer and flick the soil back from the lawn edge.

Graham - who comes half a day a week to tackle a big job, finishing-off the veg. patch, since this was taken we have got the early spuds, main crop and Onions/Shallots in, as well as planting out the broad-bean seedlings I planted back in Feb.