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.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Still More Wildlife

Mike Beale over at the Norfolk Wildlife blog, link to right, writes in answer to my query about the white moth bottom right "That's a White Plume Moth you have there, Its wings are deeply divided into several 'fingers', each of which is finely feathered, or plumed."

Basic Topiary

It was almost too hot to garden today, but it makes for lighter work if you manage to accomplish something which is more pleasing to the eye afterward than when you started...

Two little box-tree step guardians get their annual haircut, I've made a start on the left hand one, taking about two-and-a-half inches back, basically taking-off the matt, herb-green new growth and taking it back to the gloss olive-green old leaves.

Job done!

The Tools...

Q is for Quandary

A bit of a conundrum tonight, for which I seek the input of those who have an opinion;

Sorting out all the recent acquisitions of Airfix small scale, most of which have come in mixed lots from here and there (this is actually an intermediate 'sort' as the bags in the box contain only the pickings of the last year or so), when I was drawn to a coincidence involving the Afrika Korps...

Two of the type 2 figures seem to have been painted in the same style/at the same time as some of the type 1, meaning they are almost certainly the 'semi-rare' (less than common!) two replacement cavities from the 'transitional' issue.

The quandary being, I usually strip the paint on this stuff before they go in the spares box, if I strip these there will be nothing to link them, but if I leave them painted I have a part-set of 7!

What would you do? Is it even worth getting excited about them, I tend to think not...

Monday, June 21, 2010

News, views etc...Prize!

OK, I notice we're not far off 30,000 visitors, not much by blog standards, not even that many by toy/model/war-game blogs standards, but as collecting commercial plastics seems to be the smallest niche in the whole gamut of toy collecting from Victorian board games to Lego, via dolls and soft toys, it's a respectable total, for which I will thank you all for passing through.

If the thirty-thousandth visitor takes a screen-shot/screen-capture of the event (the counter at the bottom of the page showing '030000') he/she will be eligible for a prize, just email me with the image attached and state whether you are a small scale collector, 54mm fan, war-gamer or other and I'll find something suitable, though it may be a week or two before I get it in the post; logistic problems!!

We have a winner...wishes to remain anonymous, I'll email you tomorrow, as I must go to bed or I'll oversleep and not get-up for work! I normally average 60 to 120 hits per day depending on whether or not I've updated in the previous day or two, I've had 230 hits in less than 24 hours, so a bit of competitive 'following' I think! Thank to all who have visited in the last day...and the last 31 Months.

Winners Blog - removed to maintain anonymity!

D is for Darlek and The Dr...Doctor Who?...Exactly!

These were given away free with the Doctor Who Adventures magazine last week, I only noticed them on the Monday (it's a Thursday-to-Thursday publication cycle), so grabed the last one in Sainsbury's Wantage, then managed to get the last one in Great Shefford's petrol (filling) station on Wednesday night!

The reason I show them is not to crow (although I did get two sets!!!!), but to point out that about two years ago these were issued with the same magazine in Gold plastic, and about 3 weeks later they were followed by Silver Cybermen, sooo; If they are following a free gift 'cycle' look out for Cybermen any day now?

You can also watch feeBay for these on £4.99 buy-it-now in the next few weeks as that's what happened last time...the mag is £2.20

Sunday, June 20, 2010

H is for Hand-carved; Coaster

Not really a 'Collectable' but something I'm fond of, I carved this by hand from a piece of Marble I ploughed up in 1983, the plough left some huge gouges in the surface which I sanded out by spending a hour or so rubbing it on the Patio while I had my after work cigarette and cup of tea! After a week or so it was half the depth it had started, but smooth on both sides.

I then penciled-in a design and cut it with lots of back-and-forwards 'scratching' with some wood augers that had a fine chisel end, not the right way to go about it but it worked, and has been with me everywhere since! It's very 'long-haired greebo' with the runes an'all; "Yeh man! Bruford & Howe, Tolkien, Anderson, Fields of Taliesin..." Aah! Childhood huh?

Why was a small square sample of marble in the middle of a field in Alderney, C.I.'s? Anyone's guess...but...whispers...I like to think a Roman left it there for me to find!

More Wildlife

More wildlife encountered out and about in West Berkshire in the last couple of weeks;

Top left is a busy Bumble Bee, to the right is a caterpillar covered in parasitic beetles of some sort, I have to say I killed the beetles, which was probably not the right thing to do, but I felt I'd rather have another butterfly in the garden!

Bottom left is a moth of unknown name and an 'instar' of immature grasshopper shedding his skin by literally wriggling out of it!

Large White Butterfly who wouldn't open for me, but like the Orange Tip the other day is almost nicer to look at closed!

Z is for Zoo Animal Premiums - Update

A quick update on the Zoo Animal premiums post ( Here ) of a few weeks ago, thanks to the Philosophic Toad for sending this image in of the 1972 issue of Zoo Animals;

This shows the 8 Animals as issued in 1972 (the date I couldn't tie down in the previous article?), but raises the questions of where Ratcliffe gets his list of 16 animals if there were only another 8? Why if this date is correct (it appeared in TV Comic and Look-In Sep/Oct '71 in one of two layouts) did they carry a set of 8 animals the same as the 1971 set, but remoulded, only to re-issue them again as a set of 16 later in the decade? And/or; Were the set of 16 taken from some of the smaller animals issued in Europe as Bubble-gum premiums as I suggested last time, or not issued by Kellogg's at all?

Note that this issue is related to/promoted by Puffa Puffa Rice and Coco Krispies, while the '71 set included two other brands; Sugar Smacks & Sugar Stars.

I suspect the set of 16 were not Kellogg's Frosties at all, but one of the other mentioned products, or an as yet unmentioned (in connection with these) brand...such as Peak Freans, who you'll remember had got involved with the equally internecine 'Soldiers of the World'. Leaving The two sets of 54mm'ish animals for Kellogg's, both coming from whoever (Tudor*Rose?), the second set being uprated and added-to for bagged rack-toys or a second customer such as Cadbury?

It's still not very clear and yet again I've got three web-pages open and two files next to me (at least I haven't had to cover the sofa this time!) but still seem to be confusing myself, let alone the reader! So I will try to redo both articles into one and delete the two older ones soon, in the meantime you'll have to jump between the two to try and make sense of the nonsense!

Also turning up in the last few weeks are this lot of vaguely HO/OO copies of Britains 54mm Zoo Animals, they are marked with a faint HONGKONG and probably came in Christmas Crackers of the 'Budget' variety.

Also Arlin Tawzer got in touch with an image of a set of animals which while similar to the (already similar) Dunkin and Kellogg's/not now Kellogg's (?) small scales contains some very different animals, I can't get hold of the Copyright holder so can't show it here, but the set is identifiable by a Water-Buffalo and an African Elephant with a very pointed back along with a small scale version of the above Rhino (not the blobby, cartoonish one of the other sets), also colours are different with dark greens and dark blues. If anyone has an un-copyrighted image of this set - complete - we'd love to see it here!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

S is for Statuary

One of the best ways to 'set the scene' whether on a war-games table or a display shelf is with the use of era-specific scenery, and what better for that than with a bit of monumental masonry!

Here we see Sphinxes for Egypt, the upper one is a touristy thing from a museum gift shop by an unknown maker, here being fought over by a couple of Caesar's Mycenaean troops, what they're doing in Egypt is anyone's guess, but they looked the part and were the first thing to hand!

Below them are two sizes of Sphinx being scaled with the old Atlantic Egyptians, the maker is sort of unknown...I bought them from the chap who always does Andy Harfield's show in Kent, if anyone knows his name let me know and I'll update this post.

The Romano-Greek period is much easier to accommodate as there are plenty of figures to paint-up from the larger scales as I have done here - on the right - with a Britains Herald Trojan. Figures are Quaker Gladiators also issued by Tom Smith and I'll be covering these soon, but PSR will have them first.

To the left is a Matchbox center-piece from the Counter Attack play set. He has some HK copies of the Giant/Baravelli Romans (based on the Britains Trojans!) parading past.

Finally a fine piece of Victorian/Wilhelmian colonial corporate town-center statuary, in this case from something like a Polly Pocket set, it needs a good paint and weathering to make it more presentable, but again you could use a 40-70mm mounted figure to produce something much better, or indeed an animal, imagine a big bear on it's hind legs in some German town as your Shermans thunder past!

News, views etc...Basic HTML for Blogs, Forums etc...

Might be of some use to some people? I know it took me ages back in 2008 to discover all this. The last three also work in comment boxes on Blogger/Blogspots.

Black text is explanatory, blue text is the required code - type in the normal way, green text is where you paste links, khaki text is were you type the text of your choice (the bit that will appear as a 'hot-link' in a different colour to the rest of the text after you publish (mid-blue is the default, if you haven't chosen another colour in 'layout').

If you enlarge it and print it out, you can pin it next to the PC and it'll always be there when you need it. The important thing to remember is the 'closing code' needs to have the forward slash before the a,b,i, or u. Otherwise you will turn the rest of the text, article or comment into a hot link or underline it all!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A bit of seasonal wildlife!

Well, that Hedgehog I woke in November while re-building the sheds, came and forgave me the other evening, just as I drew up in my new (old!) car, so I jammed-on the anchors and shot out with the camera ready and got a couple of good shots off before he/she (I'm sure it's a 'she' but have no idea why!) dived under the hedge behind!

Driving up the lane the other lunchtime these lot were crossing the road, so again; Brakes on, pocket, camera, and got this half-decent long-shot as they followed the hedge-line at the other side of the field.

These were all over the place about a week-and-a-half ago, most were hanging out of Holly trees in a heavily wooded area. while several ended-up on my jumper! One was on a lime tree having a good nosh, and the other was climbing an ash, don't know what they are - could be a moth, or one of the Whites? Looking at the book it could be a Small Heath or one of the Browns...

These are the calves of a rare breed a Farmer has in a field over by one of my clients places near Brightwalton, they did look even sweeter three weeks ago, little four-legged baby-bears, but they are starting to look like cows now! Couldn't get a photo the first time I saw them. I think they are 'Highland Long-horns' but I'm no cattle expert...

...except to say that Aberdeen Angus raised on natural pasture above island cliffs make the best roast I've ever tasted, marbled with crispy yellow veins of fat...mmmmm, not Matterson's!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

V is for Vac-forms, Part 1 - Airfix & Atlantic

Vac-forms (for; Vacuum-Formed) have been an integral part of the modeling and war-gaming scene since quite early in it's inception, and for AFV modelers, dioramists and war-gamers they have produced a wide variety of items to enhance a scene or provide authentic (or not so authentic) background to the gaming table.

From the Sublime (2 foot by 3 foot play bases from Bellona) to the ridiculous (horrid little plinths from er...Bellona!), this is my take on them, it's a three-part'er, so keep scrolling when you get to the end of this post!

Airfix, and their partner in the US (MPC) produced quite a number of vac-forms over the years, and indeed are doing so again. This is from the Battlefront play-set El Alamien, Allied Attack Force, and is presented - for your ridicule - as painted by my younger self, some 30 odd years ago! In front of which you can see two plaster-of-paris moulds I took of the revetments, in order I should protect a few more AFV's from the German Paratroop Officer (who was always 'last man standing'!), the funny thing about taking mouldings from Vac-forms is; they end up with better detail, as vac-forms are 'pulled' onto a former (by vacuum - of course!) so end up with the finer detail of the master on the underside, consequently taking a negative cast provides better mouldings with less rounding/smoothing-off of detail.

More Airfix, more plaster casts, more ridicule to be poured on my teenage colour schemes! The beauty of these plaster moulds was that as/when they got chipped (or miscast) I just brushed in a bit more mud or dirt, and when they broke, I could either glue them or make them into a smaller defence work, hence the little one-man thing on the left-hand end. These are all taken from the storage sheds and Sand-bagged post in the Forward Command Post (CP) set.

Top right are actually Bellona, who are dealt with in the next post down. Note how the original painted sandbag guard-post is shot-to-bits with cracks, the Airfix vac-forms were among the thinnest in the business. Basing - as in the pile of stores from Bellona makes for a much more rigid plaything.

About fifteen years ago I tried to cast the Cantina from the AMT/MPC/Airfix Star Wars vac-formed play-set base (made far more substantially than the earlier stuff), but thought I'd be clever by using wall-plaster mixed with PVA/wood-glue and water at a 1:1 ratio, six months later it was still damp, and I managed to destroy both the moulding and the base, separating one from the other! Still, if you don't try, you don't learn...Airfix purists would hate to know what I've done to boxes over the years teaching myself how to renovate them, Ha-hah!

Atlantic were also a prolific maker of 'value-added' bases, and painted theirs to boot! If you call that 'painting'? These are from the medium-sized sets of Wild West, and were designed to fit together as they are photographed. Inside the fold-out cover of the box, there is an illustration suggesting a 1E and 1F to come, as far as I know, they have never seen the light of day?

Variations of 1A, note how the upper one has had a better defined paint job than the lower one, these look - upon a quick glance - to have been airbrushed, but closer inspection reveals they have been done with sponge in the traditional way, Messerschmitt fuselage uppers - oh I remember it well, grey finger-nails for a week!...with a duck-egg blue undercoat...the fingers as well as the fuselage!!!

The bases are very smooth however, so there must be some sort of protective coating applied after painting, in a semi-silk finish. Given the number of vac-forms Atlantic indulged in, and given that the colours don't run into each other, i.e.; Were allowed to dry between stages, it's no wonder they went bust, their labor-costs must have been horrendous, even if they were paying peanuts to the poorer workers in the South.

One of the smaller play-sets from the 'modern' sets, there were umpteen of these in all sizes, I'm showing this one as it was meant to be cut into even smaller vac-formlettes! as can be seen in the arrowed flier. Note also how the vac-forms in the flier are a darn-sight better painted than the ones that left the factory...disappointment being another good reason for eventual bankruptcy!

V is for Vac-forms, Part 2 - Bellona Battlefields, Powerplay Battleground & Efka Battle-Ho-Rama

Bellona set on the left, this is one of the smaller sets from Micro Mould Plastics (Unifax group), and they have appeared in various header-cards over the years, all white, and green that I know of and were sold as Bellona, Mico Mold, and Almark, they also supplied some to Roco Minitanks. I've recently seen it said Bellona were 'Always in a dark brown colour', as will become apparent further down the post, they actually came in a wide verity of colours, from pure white and grey to dark olive covering most shades of sand and fawn on the way! I'm also pretty sure the upper cottage of the two was copied by Skytrex in 1:300 scale lead!

To the right a Battleground set, these were made in Stockport in the UK, by Power Play/Mainstream Products, but seem to have been mostly sold in the US, probably so's not to get into a major war with Bellona. Some sets are similar to Bellona, others however, are quite unique. There seem to have been at least 18 in the rage of which I now know of 13.

To the left are a couple of Battle-Ho-Rama's from Efka, which I am pretty sure is a Belgian company, Unlike Battleground, these are all straight copies on Bellona ideas, tweaked to be less than identical. On the right we see the Bellona 'Small Bridge' with the Efka copy - Campaign Bridge with 2 machine-gun posts - behind, their walls, tents and gun-positions are all equally similar, and the 'Albert Canal' base in the bigger bag is clearly aping Bellona's 'Canal Wharf' set.

Going back to the bridges, you can see two treatments, either cutting them out with the culvert filled and painting it a dark colour, which leaves a little strength in a flimsy moulding (bough-in in a mixed lot of tat), or as I began to do (20+ years ago!), base it and cut out the culvert arches ready to paint 'water', the base giving it a strength that will help it survive a hundred war-games.

Of the various vac-form companies, Bellona seem to have been the most prolific, both in number of sets (40 or more in the final list) and in production, model shops still had large quantities of these to shift in the late '90's. Top right shows a couple of roofed bunkers, quite a few of both Bellona's and Efka's pieces were of this 'constructional' type, they called for a steady hand with the knife/scissors!

Here we see more examples of mine and another's work's to strengthen/enhance them for war-gaming, A) shows the basing of the set to the left, with two different approaches to cutting it out, the other guy (far left) will get cracks forming inward from the acute angles he's cut at the back of the position, cutting straight, on the flat area of 'waste' sheet prevents that, basing gives stability. B) Filling the gaps in a tightly-trimmed piece and starting to landscape with door-mat beatings.

C) shows a plaster-cast I've taken from the shell-scrape to the right, you can make quite a few castings before the vac-form starts to suffer damage. D) Is two treatments of a shell scrape to show in the upper example; a 'usable' (by troops) 'shell-scrape', in the lower one; a mud-filled 'shell-hole'. Humm...not much difference between shell-hole and hell-hole, huh?

The wall's (top left); Showing the way I created the one in the middle, first I cut the ends off two short sections (I couldn't wait for Tangley or Concord Models to get the long lengths in!) and glued them together before highlighting the 'gaps' in the dry-stone with matt black (1), then painted the stones in one-at-a-time with different shades of grey, keeping the darker 'Atlantic Grey' as the predominant shade (2) and finally dry-brushed in pale gray before flocking the base with saw-dust 'scatter'. Twenty-plus years and I've got one length finished!! Ah...you either collect, or war-game, or model, if you try to do all three you're bound to fail at at-least two of them!

I've also shown made and unmade corner pieces, note there are at least four colours/shades of plastic here, if someone tells you otherwise, send them here!

Again Efka produced a very similar sheet (I recon - if treated the same as mine they'd be hard to tell apart), but with angled sections at about 50% and a strange corner piece that meant you couldn't produce a usable enclosure (or 'run') from even two sheets?

The Bellona tentage, I seem to have lost the pup-tents that came with this set, but they were a bit shite! I added flaps to the bell-tents (a common design dating from before the Crimean War until well after WWII, and taking in most of the main campaigns of the Colonial period and the ACW.

The other tent is a bit of a dead-loss, can't get it to look realistic enough for my taste and if I re-did it now, I'd replace my rather weird attempt at a rolled up door with something bunched in ties, from tissue-paper. Efka went with a slightly more plausible medieval looking thing, but binned the Bell-tents for two horrendous 'coconut-shies' and had a similar number of blobby Pup-tents.

V is for Vac-forms, Part 3 - Others/Unknowns

Here we have a few odds and sods; Top left is what I suspect is the insert for the box-packaging of a 1950's set of toy soldiers, or a wagon or such-like, being a sort of trench, open at both ends (07-03-2017 - it is - Cané of Italy trench, issued with 5/6 figures in a blister above it's own, on a backing card). Next to it - in black - is what I thought was an Amera moulding, being in a heavier gauge plastic than the older makes, however it's not on their website, so I guess it isn't, however it looks quite modern so someone will know, JNT? Far right is something I know I've got somewhere in the collection/archive, but just because it's supposed to be there doesn't mean I can find it! I think it's from the Esci board-game/play-sets of a few years ago but don't quote me.

Below left, could be from one of the earlier Esci Polystyrene play-set/kit compendiums of the 1970's but I favour it being a Power Play MPG 10 - Wrecked Vehicle. Easily identifiable are the broken bits of an Airfix 88mm Gun and Tractor, along with the Austin Ambulance and K6 fire-engine from the same manufacturer's RAF Emergency Set. You can see in the enlarged Photograph (click on it) that it's had to be reinforced with copious amounts of liquid glue - itself stiffened with sprue shavings, in order to fill the cracks of ages.

Finally a space-base, which I had hoped - when I saw it - was part of the base for my Marx Mystery Spaceship, however it doesn't seem to 'go', so I guess it's a more modern thing. Interestingly it has a hole in the middle for mounting some model or other, and has a wall hanger tucked underneath, so I'm sure a kit-guy will instantly recognize it, whether they choose to share the info with the rest of us remains to be seen (Oh yes!; I'm very cynical this week!).

Here we have the vac-formed mould for Linka walls and European style cobbled pavement, Linka being carried by Merit at one point, and - I believe - still going, now in the States and with a truncated range. They also used vac-forming for the Steeple mould and as part of the rather complicated Tower moulds.

Below to the left is a small piece taken from a larger base-plate, with a small cannon and a pile of cannon-balls, I know Bellona did a few historical pieces so it could be them, they did use this colour of plastic on at least one run, however it might be from a ship kit's base?

Finally - the tray from a Tesco packet of fish (a rather nice mackerel if I recall correctly!), sides cut away and you get a fine set of British pattern Dragons-teeth for an early war 'Sea-lion' scenario, there is a line of these type running straight through the middle of Guildford to this day!. This type of food packaging often has useful repeat pattern mouldings, or equally useful (larger) shapes (individual puddings) for war-games scenery, I've seen a fantastic Sci-Fi tower made - primarily - out of yogurt pots, a plastic wine glass and chocolate-moose bowls! Word of warning, these are often ABS, polypropylene or PE based plastics, so gluing is much easier with a hot-glue gun.

Guildford, Surrey, these are to be found behind the Travelers Lodge down at Ladymead, on the footpath to the River Wey. In the valley itself, where the main German Trust was expected, they follow the continental fashion of having shorter ones at the front (facing the East-coast as you look along the downs) so that any vehicle failing to see them all covered in brambles would ride-up them and get 'beached', while on this steep slope - unsuitable for vehicles, they are all of the same height, as they are to force infantry to weave their way through them under 'effective fire' from brick pill-boxes and entrenchments (now overgrown) set further back.

There are more remains of this line near the 'secret bunker' you can get guided tours round!..every English Heritage weekend! (or Guildford Arts Festival week? Either way - It's about now each year), beyond the London Road railway station, but on the other side of the road.