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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

W is for Webbing

Another update of the Royal, Loyal, German, American! This time he gets armed and dangerous! 60th Rifles are go!

A collage showing the file of paper and card oddments, the three sheets selected (two neutral 'linen' colours and a black for the Rifles belts and straps) and in the main picture the little strips cut ready, using both the Airfix template and the Chappell artwork as a guide, cut longer they will be trimmed down as I work on them.

By the numbers;

1) Waist belt, rifle sling and two 'webbing' traps cut ready for use. The waist belt and rifle sling have been dampened (I just lick both sides) and are being shaped.

2) The ends are folded over two pieces of fine wire, to make the sling-swivels. Old motor windings will produce nice workable wire in copper, bronze and brass finishes (although I think this came from a shaped-wire Christmas decoration of a basket/star thing?) while phone line gives steel wire and fuse-wire and solder provide very soft 'steel' wire in several thicknesses. Thicker wire in brass or steel finish comes from power flex, while stiff (tensile) steel wire can be bought from music shops as piano wire or guitar string. Finally; model shops have a selection of stiffer brass finish wire/rod and the same steel wires sold in music shops.

3) Once the superglue has set, the wire is folded round and over itself and trimmed-off. The joins will face the figure where they won't be seen by the casual observer.

4) Shaped and ready to fit, again a second damping helps, it actually looked exactly how I wanted it to look at this stage, slightly falling forward in line with the angle of the weapon and the effect of gravity.

5) By the time I'd mucked about with it for five minutes, damped it again, had it fall off, re-glued it and then 'set' it with a painting of superglue, it had lost the 'perfect' shape, but was still OK.

6) The finished strap against the un-worked off-cut. The coat of superglue gives a dirty/sweaty, 'used' colour and a bit more texture.

O is for On Yer Bike!

There are some Hong Kong items which come into the collection one at a time, or in such small quantities it can be stated with some assurance that they only ever appeared in Christmas Crackers. This is one of those 'sets'...no doubt someone will now turn-up a carded or bagged set to prove me wrong!

Straight copies of both poses of the 54mm cyclists from Britains, but in approximately 25mm/OO gauge, and a simplified version of the Britains bicycle. Painted-up they are perfectly good for a model railway layout, giving a bit of movement to the sometimes too static scenery/background. Memory serves that you got two per cracker in a little poly-bag.

There seem to be two generations, the guy with the orange bike being a far inferior casting to the others. He does not have the locating hole in his shin, which the other standing figures do, and while the eye for a waist-spigot is still present on the bike, he does not have the required protrusion. Also he's too short to stand up so has to be propped against something! The (older?) versions though, do stand-up in both poses as you can see.

P is for Pop-together?

This popped-up at the NEC this weekend, seems to be an Athlete (vest and pants/leotard). with a buckled belt, and is in the style of both 1970's Breakfast Cereal giveaways and Monta-man from Montaplex.

Smaller than Monta-man, but in a very typical Motaplex colour, the quality too is more 'Sobre' than 'Sugar Smacs'. I initially thought he was supposed to be Tarzan the Ape-man swinging through the trees, but suspect (after photography and closer inspection) that he should be swinging from a parallel-bar?

Markings are as overlaid; anyone got any idea as to his make, origin or identity?

13th June 2015 - He is on Kent Sprecher's site as Mattel for Shell Petroleum 'Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus'  and he goes with set #10 Trapeze Artist and set #11 Accessory Act. The 'overlaid' markings were never published - I used to upload pictures without saving the edits in Picasa, and they'd lose the changes! I think it was only a (C) mark on the lower back?

Monday, February 7, 2011

U is for Update - Royal American

Just blocking in the colours before all the straps, belt and normal panoply of gubbins the PBI are loaded down with is added to him.

'This week I'are be mostly using....ACRYLICS' and they seem a bit bright for the job in hand; a sweaty soldier two years on campaign in the Iberian peninsular, in the middle of a battle. Also the camera (still; Thanks Giles!) cuts straight through any thin bits! I want the trousers to end-up blacker, more like the border of the collage.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

D is for Kaleds...and Davros, Doctor...Dapol?

Pre-Scriptum...I love Daleks (from behind the sofa), but I increasingly hate the BBC. So, a bit later than I had hoped, here is the Dalek/Dr. Who round-up I mentioned in the autumn. There are a few thanks due on this one, thanks to the Philosophical Toad for A) sending me the earlier Dalek and Cyberman from the Doctor Who Adventures Magazine and B) telling me about the later ones and thanks also to Bill from Moonbase for sending me the white-metal Doctor and a lose Citadel Miniatures Dalek and Cyberman in sand plastic. These are about the same size as real life relative to each other, but there is a poorer quality line-up lower down for a definite scale/size comparison. From Left to right - top to bottom; 3 Marx 'Rolykins' Citadel Miniatures Kit 2 Character Options Daleks Doctor Who Adventures magazine Dalek, earlier version (maker unknown...Toad? Still got the card?) Premium World Dalek, later version (Doctor Who Adventures magazine) 2 Fisher Price/Strawberry Fayre board-game pieces 2 Product Enterprise Daleks Cherilea 'Swoppet' Dalek Premium World 'Dalek Slime' container (Doctor Who Adventures magazine) Henbrandt 'Build Your Own' Dalek (Doctor Who Adventures magazine)
Bottom shows a comparison shot between the two types of 'Rolykin'. When Product Enterprises first announced these in the...err...(quickly checks the boxes!)...late 1990's! I remember the collecting and Sci-fi press waxing lyrical about the return of Rolykins and other lapped-up bumpf from the toy companies PR department, but they were in fact quite different, first the base was rather too heavy (Boo!), but yet!...the detail was much better (RAY!!), although they were very pricey for such a small toy (Boo!), something to do with the amount of packaging I don't doubt! However the Entertainer chain of toy shops in the South-East would remainder each range for almost no money after it's 'run' and if that moment happened to occur as I visited the store I'd pick one up, so managed to get 4 from - I think - 2 series (RAY!) They are shown in the middle shot, left to right; 1st is a chrome plated 'movie' Dalek in silver, then the gold movie Dalek followed by the Dalek Invasion of Earth Limited Edition; Dalek with Sensor Dish Black / Classic Dalek and finally a Special Weapons Gunner Dalek. The convoy lights/horns are the main way of telling them apart, the first series had short ones, the second series had long ones. The full range would seem to be thus; 1999 Dr Who and the [TV] Dalek Rolykins (short lights on head) - Drone (Blue) - Imperial (White) - Supreme (Red) - Emperor (Gold) - Command (Black) - Battle (Pale Blue) - Darlek Invasion of Earth Limited Edition; Dalek with Sensor Dish Black / Classic Dalek 2000 Dr Who and the Movie Dalek Rolykins (long lights) - Blue/silver head - Black - Red - Silver/blue head - Gold Chrome-plated Limited Editions - Gold - Silver - Cherry Red 2000 - Others - Special Weapons Gunner - Incubating Dalek - Davros Rolykin The top photograph shows some of the other Marx Rolykins, Batman and Robin - having clearly eaten all the pies - are pretending not to see the Dalek threatening Earth... "What was that noise Robin, that noise that sounded like a Dalek threatening Earth?" "Farting-fireworks Batman! I think it was an auto-exhaust backfiring" "Yes, That'll be it, let's move over there a ways, I think I saw a Kebab-van go round the corner" Meanwhile - Lenny the Lion (I think he was called Lenny? Not having the web here as I write this, nor having time to look it up before I upload it later this week you'll have to Google it yourselves!) our 1966 Savior intends to give the Dalek a good old British drubbing with a Milbro orange-plastic World Cup football! "Exterminate That! You shriveled-prune in a colander! Three-nil, threeee-nilll threenil....." It must be said however, that despite the vast sum these change hands for, boxed, at shows or on FeeBay, the body is still the most accurate representation of a badminton shuttle-cock in the toy world. There may be others to find, gold, blue or yellow?
The rather fuzzy 'sizer' top left, construction of the Fisher Price board-game Dalek, the lump of metal in the base often comes loose and rattles around inside these - now - quite old models and similar break-down of the Chrilea Dalek. Finally the 30mm white metal Doctor sent to me as part of a swap by Bill at Moobase. I think it's John Pertwee in his foppish Victoriana, but Bill thinks it's [someone else I can't remember and can't find the email and I've got 3 minutes to finish editing this so maybe he'll tell us who it was!?] any other votes?. The Fisher Price Dalek is a classic example of the madness of collecting vis-a-vis dealers. This game, or the lose pieces always fetches a pretty penny at collectors auctions or toy shows, yet turns up at car-boot sales almost as often as Kadgagoogoo 12" singles, for pennies. it was issued by Strawberry Fayre for a while before the Fisher-Price re-branding and may have had a Mattel label as well, ran for a fair few years and sold by the bushel. The only problem is the automated Maginot Line cupolas in place of a Dalek head! As both companies also issued the Dad's Army board game with cardboard flats of the main characters, it may be that Strawberry Fayre were the licensing 'arm' of Fisher Price, until corporate image became all in the 1980's and it no longer served to have separate labels in-house?
The Citadel/Games Workshop bits, strangely for a company that has spent the last 34 years turning 22mm into 32mm by half-millimeter increments these were almost too small! and are the smallest on show here today. But perfectly formed! I hadn't the heart to take the sand ones off the sprue, as the grey ones had come freed from the card anyway at some other time, so it was brilliant when Bill sent me a couple. Next question; do I risk stripping the paint off the Cyberman or wait for an unpainted one to turn up? The excess stock of what seems to have been a unpopular line (as part of the GW oeuvre, yet now having quite a cult status) was cleared in the bag shown, and some were kicking around a dealers stall at Andy Harfields show a few years ago, where I got the loose one.
All the recent stuff from the BBC's Doctor Who Adventures off-shoot. Various companies supply the giveaways/premiums and you do have to be quick to get them, this - in an age of failing/short-lived kid's magazines - is usually sold out within a day or two, well it is round here! Known lines (all shown bar the orange one which is only in the group photo's above) Issue No. 98 - Cybermen (x5, approximately 25mm, grey) Issue No. 99 - Daleks (x5, approximately 20mm, original type, gold) Issue No. 170 - Dalek Soldiers (x5, approximately 30mm, new type, orange) Issue No. 183 - Dalek Slime [container] (approximately 45mm, new type, green) Issue No. 186 - Build-your-own Dalek kit (approximately 54mm, new type, black & white) Issue No. 203 - Dalek Army (as No.170, but 17 ‘Fat'lek’ Daleks in 5 colours) Issue No. 204 - 16 Mini Monsters/Monster battle Pack (8 Cybermen - as No.98; 8 Sontarians) Issue No. 205 - Dalek Pencil Set (4 ‘Fat'lek’ pencil-toppers) Issue No. 211 - Dalek Slime (reissue of 183) Issue No. 223? - Build-your-own Dalek kit (reissue of 186, red/black, Xcel Concepts) Issue No. 224? - Dalek Slime (reissue of 183/211) Issue No. 229 - Dalek (or other?) Micro-figure (from Character Options) + mini ‘Dr Who’ note pads Issue No. 237 - Weeping Angel Army (16 figures [8x2 poses] in PVC/vinyl; HMA + collector card pack) Issue No .238 - Monster Battle Pack (6x each; HMA Cybermen and Sontarans; 5 Daleks, each of a different colour) Issue No. 241 - 16 Glow-in-the-dark Who Shapes (Some items of use as approximately 60mm ‘Flats’) Issue No. 254 - Mini Monster Army (8 Judoon and 8 Ood) Issue No. 255 - Mini Monster Army (8 Silence and 8 Silurians)
When the Philosophical Toad first mentioned the new design, I thought she was just having a go at the crap modeling of the orange miniatures against the gold ones from the year before, but have since realised that - as part of their determined effort to dumb down the whole country and lose the license fee - the retards at the BBC have built a 'new' Dalek (I guess it was part of a story-line?) which has lost both the Battleship-prow of the original and the 'Soldiers-spine', and in so doing has lost its meanness, its menace, in favour of some PC fluffiness, all roundy-cornered and not so nasty?? If something's not broke...don't try to fix it! As Batman & Robin have eaten all the pies, I guess the Cyberman has been at the cakes?
...[Wane Slob at his babies Christening] "It's not a Buy'bee it's a cayke, Jewanna'piece Vicka'...aw'riot if we cum back next wayke?"
A selection of the Character Options micro-figures, like most of this new production, it starts life hideously over-priced (for what it is), and after a set shelf-life gets cleared for a few pence. Sainsbury's were selling-off the 3-figure sets when we moved here (autumn 2008) for 99p and Toys-r-Us shipped-out the 5-figure sets and ships for a similar mark-down. Way-way-back in the Dark Times, when Dr. Who fans kept their little magazines going with monthly calls for Dr. Who to be resurrected, and the Bloody Bastard Corporation kept saying "No, no plans, no demand, kids/times have changed, ran its course" etc...etc...ect...ad. nauseum, there was a little company in South Wales called Dapol, who fed the fans with a small range of Dr. Who merchandise, and paid the Big Bad Cretins an annual fee for the 'privilege' of keeping alive this dead concept. Now it came to pass that the Boringly Bland Cripples at Broadcasting house, suddenly, and a year or two before they announced the 're-birth' of their dead-baby, ended all licenses with Dapol and yeay, verily, did they give no good reason. Then, Supprrrise! Supprrrise! chooks! a couple of years later...they're issuing all sorts of licenses left, right and centre to global corporate toy giants and faceless marketing concerns, with 99% of all production in China to meet the demand for the bright, new, "worlds ready for the return, can't think why we ever ended it" Doctor. Now...Dapol operate in one of this Unions unemployment black-spots...what the BBC did was against everything it was set-up to represent, everything it should aspire to be and everything that is morally or ethically decent about and within a civilised society, and for that alone they should have lost the License Fee. So that's my Daleks but there are dozens of others, in the larger sizes for instance Marx alone made several in tin-plate and plastic, Poplar (was it?) did a 12-inch blow-moulded one, Cherilea did a bigger one, various plastic money-box Daleks have been produced with or without a license, and talking of no license, Hong Kong and Japan were the source for lots of battery-operated machines. Even now there's a board game with a bunch of small scale gold Daleks I keep seeing but never quite bring myself to pay for!
Such are the mysteries of synergy, that while I was preparing this article the other day I had no idea there was an upcoming issue of compatible figures! Therefore 'Bod' Paul's comments were a bit of a mystery, and I sort of thought "Ah, she (his sister) must have gone to one of those excellent comic markets (like the one I once got the 1st and 2nd issues of Heavy Metal from under Hanover station) and bought a couple of copies of one of the back issues mentioned in this article"!...
...however, I then popped over to Moonbase before my aloted time was up here at the Library, and found a whole bunch of Daleks in new colours and found WOTAN talking about a Dalek 'Army', so over to the newsagents in the main square, where I managed to get the last one! The 'last one' being a pattern that has followed my attempts to obtain these issues from the start! Not only did I now have a Dalek Army of my own, but the 'next issue' feature told me I'd be able to get Cyberman and Sontarian units as well (pencil toppers this week!), so was busy this weekend tracking down two of them.
My Sontarians have been taken out of the mould early and two of them are going to sleep, hot water should provide a cure, while a couple of the Cybermen seem a bit shaky...probably the weight of their body-armour or all those pies?
More updates below - in her own words - courtesy of Philotoadia meandering over from the Moonbase... The badly painted ones are 6 mm metal "Attack Robots" (NOT Daleks, in a bid to avoid paying a licence I am guessing). These are from Irregular Miniatures, and I think there might be rules for playing games with them in the later "Tusk" rule books.
The black Dalek is the one which came from an Advent calendar some years ago. Cannot recall the exact year, but definitely during David Tennant's time. [Well jellous of the last one!]
Absolutely the last update...for now! This was last week's effort, 2D pencil-topping Fat'leks, I love that title Toad...we should go on to Dr. Who forums commando-stylie and use it until they can't help but use it too!

These are currently to be found in Sainsbury's and Toy'R'Us among others, the trick with them if you are a Dalek Fan is; (whispers...) Squeeze the bag, the Daleks are obvious!

M is for 'Multipose'

While I am off-line at home I'm getting 3 toy/model soldier related things done, one is sorting out the archive, both figures/vehicles and paper/ephemera, second is getting a lot of the archive onto PC/disc, including the list of small scale articles someone asked for a while ago (and I've found the list I was looking for a few months ago in relation to that request, see; News, Views etc...Passim), and thirdly is this little project.

Those hoping for an update on the painting comparison with the elves will have to give up; The three pairs were so different it wasn't going to work, the Mantic figures were the ones that threw it, they had so much armour on, it didn't matter what colour scheme I selected, they were never going to fit in with the others, so the whole point of the exercise was rather in-valid! But this chap kept singing to me from the blister, so I took a knife to it and freed his sorry arse!

A surprisingly clean desk!

My employer asked me for a 95th Rifle's ages ago, and when I finally picked this up for him in the big 'Autumn purchase', along with some Airfix ready-made line-infantry (which I offered to convert to 95th's for a smaller fee than building the 'multi-pose'), he turned them both down and announced he really wanted an eight inch paper flat! So while a couple of mates go off to search for expensive antiques of Light Infantry 1800-1900, I was left with this.

I was going to do him from the box, just to 'keep my hand in', but the legs worked with one kneeling and one standing, so we were off...the next thing was to find a better painting guide than the backing card! Philip Haythornwaite's 'Uniforms of the Peninsular War 1807-1814' published by Blandford Press in their Colour Series seems to be the best in my Library which is a bit short of Napoleonic's.

The basic pose.

I am going to model the 60th Royal Americans from Plate 13 of the book, it calls for a small amount of work on the Shako cords, but not much else, as they were all (95th Rifles, 60th and most others) in rags by the time my chap got to taking a bead on Johnny Frenchman (or should that be Jean'ee Frog!), so the rendition of George Simmonds, the officer in shite-order in Plate 12 will be a major influence.

The pack will be dropped, one of the beauties of the illustrations in this book is the realism, not many packs on show, if they are shown, they're misshapen by weather and loot! In fact the Artist; Michael Chappell has got it just right, lots of mud, blood, looted equipment, rags and patches, very few war-gamers parade-dress here! The peak will be cut and I'm hoping to fashion a gourd water-bottle from a Crescent Swoppet knight's plume!

I dropped the arms without changing the angles or doing any of that cut-n-shut stuff, the right armpit opened up as it does in real life (try it, if you adopt the firing pose and then drop the arm while cupping the armpit with your other hand you can feel it just stretch!), so it needed a dollop of Humbrol filler. I've tried Testors and Revell over the years but always come back to Humbrol, the others were too thin and sloppy!

Having said the others are too thin, once the lumpy fill has dried, you need a thinner layer to 'fine-fill' which I make by using liquid poly to water the grey stuff. Also shown is the ammo. box I'm going to have him standing on, it's a soft ethylene plastic one from Merit (I think?) so will need pinning to the base, and he'll need pinning to it, 'cause nothing really works with the softies, glue-wise.

I might have shown the Hussar before, he was made by me about 5 years ago (before my eyesight started to go long!), and while I was pleased with the horse, the figure was flat painted and not only remained unplaced at a BMSS show (once I'd seen the competition I wished I'd left mine in the car!), but also went unsold on eBay and at several shows! It's a very personal thing this painting/modelling malarkey, and while you can share it via a blog like this, everyone has his or her own way of doing things...John, a friend of mine, took it (out of kindness?) off my hands and I'll try a bit harder with my 60th Yankee, who - in fact - by 1812 was probably a German National!.

A shot of the 2nd fill being removed, most of it gets taken away again; you're just trying to get the joins 'invisible'. With the other leg combination; again no cut-n-shut involved, the waist-line needed levelling once the join had dried/fused, but otherwise all it needs is a bit of filler (and another torso?) and it's ready to use. It would need pinning with wire from that heel - through the landscaping to the base though.

Last minute addition to this article, the changes muted above, peak has been cut flat and thinned slightly, apparently a common field modification in this campaign - if not others and while seemingly more common among the officers, soldiers did do so as well. The shako-cords are a bit of a guess-work, based on the photographs, but with all the shakos in the three works I'm referring to having different cord arrangements, I'm not too bothered it has to be said.

I pin the cord in the middle with super-glue, pull it round and anchor again the same way, then soften and shape the run between the points with liquid poly. For the tassels, I knot and stiffen a section of cotton thread and only when it's fully dry, cut it to size and super-glue it in to place. I then discovered that liquid-poly and super-glue mix without curing each other, so buttons were a blob of the thinned filler with cynocrylate, set with the Plastix activator pen.

PS - Anyone who's got the kit, have a look at the artwork, four guys 'running' with both feet stuck firmly to the grass! The guy at the back is starting to fall forward onto his face, the middle bloke is looking worried at his inability to free the back leg, while maintaining a text-book pose and the guy on the left is stoically pulling hard to free the rearward leg. The man on the right has gone into total panic mode and is furiously shaking his hips in an attempt to free at least one of his feet and has started waving his Baker-rifle about like a big girl!

In the background a Nuclear-test has combined with a Turner'esque sunset to provide a distraction for anyone not involved in the immediate battle or the problem of sticky-grass. Indeed the kneeling firer on the extreme right has not yet realised some devious Corsican or Neapolitan engineer has covered the grass in super-glue! Oh, it has to be one or the other...no Frenchman could come up with an idea that clever, one has to remember that while the rest of Europe experimented with hams, jointed-meats and sausages; they were still eating frogs and snails!

S is for Spot-On

It's been a while since these starred in 1" Warrior, and then they were in black & white, so I thought I'd chuck some up here in colour. Not much to say, they were issued to accompany the 1:42 scale die-cast cars from Triang under the Spot-On label. Sold typically as three figures (and the odd accessory) to a card, with a larger boxed (?) roadwork's set.

They are classic early British, sometimes chalky, basic factory paint-jobbed, 30mm softish polyethylene (ICI Alcathene?) figures, mostly of civilian subjects, and dressed to be contemporary - 1958/1969'ish. They were replaced by hard styrene-plastic Tommy Spot figures in the 70's which I'll look at another day when I cover Minimodels and the Havent factory's output.

Top; Soldiers and a Sailor, there was an Officer in Sam Brown to keep the two squadies in order as they perused the shelves of Woolworth's in their lunchtime, but sailor-boy seems to have been a one-off.

Bottom-left; Two paint versions of the 'Postie', as the blue is an less-common colour he may have come with the Sailor and the Traffic Policeman (below), but not necessarily.

Bottom-right; Three variations of 'Old man in jacket with soft hat and walking-stick' he was sometimes issued with two naughty boys to take for a walk/be annoyed by?! Sometimes there were two old men and one boy to the card.

Top; The professionals: University Professor, Priest and Doctor, all - only ever seen in black.

Bottom-left; The three naughty boys, one throwing a stone, one scarpering in a guilty fashion and the middle one is supposed to be sticking his tongue out! It was two of these that Granddad above had to keep amused in the absence of the parents!
Bottom-right; The two smaller children dancing to a street musicians ditty.

In common with all figure collecting, women are a bit thin on the ground, but in Spot-On's defense they had more than most as a percentage of the total, top we see three versions of...farmhand/milkmaid? With the nurse; below left and 'Girlfriend' and 'Woman with dog' to the right.

It should be noted that all these 'Titles' are my own invention, as far as I know they were never given titles or names with the exception of the road-menders (below) who appear as drawings on the back of a Spot-On catalogue with code numbers. Missing from the fairer sex are a lady shopping with handbag and a WPC, that I know of?

Top shows the building trades, left-to-right; 'Chippie', 'Brickie', site foreman's 'Boy' and the Decorator.

Below are three mixed figures; Bus conductor, 'Boyfriend' and Traffic Policeman.

Motor mechanics from two sets, there's a missing pose from the upper set, and these come in various colours but more commonly white.

The figures I collectively call the street traders...

Top; Fruit & Veg. Barrow-boy (actually a middle-aged man!), there should be some sort of leg arrangement or props, that fit into the dent under the apples, but as a small part it was always going to go missing! Anyone got an image or link to a complete one?

Bottom-left; The 'Street Band, and an advertising 'Sandwich-board' wearer, there should be an accordion player and beggar to go with the band, while the hording carrier probably goes with other figures, the paper seller and another?

Bottom-right; The Flower-seller, again missing little bits, which would seem to be 6 bunches of flowers/plant pots to plug into the holes in the display steps.
[I have a spare set of wheels for the barrow, if anyone has a spare prop]

Two sets of three Road Menders, with the codes for the larger 'Road Construction Set', missing is L221/2 a man hefting a moulded-on spade. The inset carded set (which has lost its spade and compressor-drill through the lose cover-film) shows how sometimes the sets are more than one colour, while my two samples were clearly both all-one-colour sets. With 8 poses and various accessories (plank, spade, drill, brazier) the contents of the three figure sets does vary.

The sitting guy is shown as reading a newspaper in the catalogue images; however I've never seen one and the others are different enough from the original artwork to suggest he is the numbered figure from the larger boxed set.

Also note that the packaging is almost the same as the Almark 20mm WWII sets, both plastic British and metal Germans. Indeed the Germans also came as tear-off cards, part of a larger hanger while the WD series just had the sticky vacuumed cover-film. I wouldn't say any of these were Stadden designs, but it's a further link between Almark and Lines

The other busy bodies...

Top-left; Baker's delivery boy, Coalman and Bin-man.

Top-right; Paper-seller from the street traders card.

Bottom-left; Laundry-man and Removals man.

Bottom-right; Short, fat Butcher who's clearly been spending some time divvying-up his produce with Batman & Robin (see Dalek article above!), Milk man with two paint treatments and a deliveryman who I like to think has a large box of chocolates, but as he won't ever take the lid off; I just live in hope!

T is for Trojan, not so 'Tiny' Trojan's

I keep meaning to cover - in greater detail - the 'Tiny Trojans' I supplied to PSR a while ago, but with my camera out of sorts and Fuji pretending they can't find the Gardening blog to comment on the images I put there, along with internet access problems (meaning this is coming to you courtesy of West Berkshire Library Service!), when I was leant Giles' camera (thanks Giles!) the other day, I grabbed the first few things I could, to knock up a quick article or two, and as a result, you've got the 50mm Germans instead.

Quick shot of the poses. The grenade thrower has lost most of his black helmet paint, and might have been enhanced with a second red (but I think not; they are both Trojan colours), otherwise this lot is all from the same period/batch. Although sculpting is crude on these figures, they are very well animated; Standing firer leans-in nicely, the Panzerfaust guy was the best available for 40-odd years, having only really been beaten in recent times and their officer has a sense of urgency about him.

The guy running is my favorite, stick-grenades swinging wildly from his belt while he struggles to get a pistol out of its holster at the same time watching the ground in front of him so he doesn't trip-up!

"I vill get you Frenchie! I'll slot your swede, if you stop running away zo bloody fast"

The grenade thrower again, showing both some of the different paint finishes one is likely to encounter, and the size difference between two of the masters/moulds. This size variation is common with both Speedwell (covered elsewhere) and Trojan, and extends to their Japanese Infantry as well. I think this shows earliest on the left, latest on the right, but that's pure guesswork, based on the paintwork.

You can just see the guy on the left has the more orange scarlet colour, while the man in the middle has the darker shade, both of which appeared on the 4th throwing figure in the previous photograph.

More variations, although it's not too clear in the photograph; the tank-killer has an overall coat of greyish-brown which has mostly worn off, it's also unclear (due to his age/general grubbiness) whether this was a gloss coat, or a semi-transparent varnish/wash?

The brown belt-order of the running guy to the left is a more unusual colour, matt green or gloss black being the common applications. Finally a run was made in a very chalky darker grey plastic as show by the MG gunner - far right (Sieg Heil!...geddit? far right? Oh, never mind!), this tends - now - to be very brittle, and this guy is definitely on borrowed time!

The Japanese in a similar vein seem a lot harder to obtain, and I've only got three, in two poses, so it will be a year or few before they're covered here!

S is for Speedwell

Because the Trojan figures only fill half a box in the archive, they share space with the Speedwell Germans, these are called Afrika Korps in the catalogue and wider collecting world, but 'Field Grey' versions were made, although they remain uncommon, so I tend to just call them Germans! In common with the Trojan's, these are around 50mm.

All eight poses, one damaged, they always had silver helmets, but these might have been re-painted? The officer has a plug-in moving arm, and like the Lone*Star ships officer we saw back on Trafalgar day (spanking the surrender-monkeys!), this suffers from 'early-English chalky-plastic syndrome'; that it's usually been separated from it's owning shoulder! There is a thinner slim-calved version of this moulding, see the Plastic Warrior 'special' on Speedwell (ISBN: 1-900898-20-9) for a good image of him. Indeed, the aforemetioned publication is definite reading for any student of these figures.

Although sculpting on these is marginally better than the Trojan set, it must be said; the animation is pretty abysmal. The grenade thrower seems to be hurling a piece of 1940's fitness equipment, or a detachable whisk-head, while the machine gun has clearly been liberated from a fireworks-night 'Guy', having been made from three sticks and a gift-wrapping card tube! But they were ONLY toys! Not much else to note, the different treatment of the bases being the only obvious point and very much in-line with the evolution of Trojan painting.

Far right is the greenish 'Field Gray' version I mentioned above, a mate of mine has quite a few of these and the helmet camouflage is both standard and the same as the Speedwell copies of the Timpo GI's. To the left is the multi-coloured granule moulding that is so common in early plastic production, going right back to the very early days of Bakelite and Ivorene ashtrays and pen barrels! Unpainted examples in sand and multi-colour turn up with only slightly less frequency than painted, but the green/grey ones always seem to have at least the remnants of a paint-job.

Behind is one version of the stretcher team, taken from Timpo, via Kentoys and spread - with variations - throughout all these early British producers; Kentoys, Speedwell, Trojan, Una, VP and possibly/probably Benbros and Paramount. The reason I've included it here is that despite the British Guards Brigade/post-war Tommy Atkins' 'piss-pot', I suspect this is meant to accompany the desert version of these Germans. [No - it's the 14th Army stretcher team from Trojan!]

I also have the same multi-maker British-helmeted mortar No.2 in sand yellow plastic, yet I've never seen other 'Allied' figures in that colour. Also, the same mate has boxes of all these makes figures, with a similar dearth of sand-yellow, so the guess is; the sandy Stretcher and Mortar teams were included in one of the bigger German boxed sets by Speedwell to increase play value? Maybe one of the Coronet series in the above mentioned PW 'Special'.

Close-up to show the distinctive base on most (but not all) of these figures. Indeed in the lot that came-in in the Autumn, from which these are taken, were large numbers of the multi-coloured figures (badly painted in a black scheme, probably home-painted) with flat bases, which may well have been sold as Trojan or Kentoys, or included in boxed sets by either, or Una/VP?

Compost Heap Project

Behind the two rather ragged old bits of sheep or pig-pen in the upper shot is the compost heap from 2009/10 a few days before it was covered around the 1st of May last. The lower shot shows the basic tools and bits I used on this project, but first a bit of background...

When I first came to the Rectory, the compost - as used - was a half-rotted foot'n-a-half of mossy gunge with recognisable lumps of household kitchen waste in it. The part-timer and I would pull it apart, and spread it on the veg-patch and stand back; within days a green carpet of dormant seeds would spread over the composted areas and we'd have to get the hoes out!

This had been going on for years and annoying the gardeners for years, yet it still took me over a year to convince the boss to go over to a two year system, by which time I was producing about twice the volume of compost, a lot of 'good stuff' had been burnt-off in the past.

Obviously, with only two compost bays, doing year on year off, a third bay would be needed, and this is how I built it, and two proper leaf-moulders.

After I had cleared a patch big enough at one end of the old bays, cut a few branches and cleared a dead stump, it was time to double-up the old iron pen sides so that the broken bits would create a half-decent 'wall'. This was done with simple wiring together where there were two bits roughly opposite each other.

Once the bits were together, the three sides were wired at the corners to hold everything together and hold everything up! Big gaps were then filled with lose bars wired in across the holes.

Old chicken-wire was then draped over the fence panels, pulled tight and hooked over any sticky-out bits, it was then laced to the top and bottom run and down the corners, again everything being pulled tight as you go.

Anyone who decides to follow this (? mad arse!) will discover that the wire is a real pain to work with like this as it has a natural curve and won't go where you want it, so you keep having to pull it all out again, then it goes slack where you'd got it all taught, it drives you round the bend, and then - just when you think you're winning, you get a tight little kink in it and half-pull your fingers off, yanking against the whole structure!

The thinner wire was then used to stitch panels of old fertilizer sack together, and then pin them to the fence/bay walls. Simply poked through either side of a join (panels) or fence-bar (pinning) and given a few twists the other side. All twists are outside the structure with all sharp-ends tucked away round the corners or under the bars with a hammer. Note also the slight overlap of the 'skirt' with the ground surface. What you're trying to obtain is something that will be relatively air-tight, yet collect moisture when it rains, or snow melt.

Thanks to the Farmer at the end of Brightwalton village, who's name I - shamefully - don't know, but he had no problems when I popped in on a walk and asked if he had some sacks spare. He said yes, and pointed to a barn, when I entered the Stygian gloom I found a pile of sacks bigger than a sugar-beat clamp! Some of them still had the dregs of fertilizer in them and I wandered off up the road like an Asian stall-holder in downtown Kowloon with this precarious pile of bags on my head, grinning like a loon at passing dog-walkers while fertilizer trickled down the back of my T-shirt and filled my....

Last thing was to start it off with a bit of leaf mould, leaves are natural ground cover-uppers and the little red worms you need will come up through this quicker than a fresh heap of grass or a bucket of spud-peelings.

This was actually the second bay I'd made that winter/spring, the previous October I'd built the one nearest the camera in the lower shot. This was for leaves over the winter and when this shot was taken (mid April) it had been covered for about two months. The lowest bay (second from the view-point) was the one I inherited and having had two years covered now, is looking better than the one we emptied my first spring, but it's still not as good as the stuff in the one behind, which has only had a year, but has the first magic ingredient...Volume; the more you put on the pile, the more the weight will press the air out, the better the chemical brake-down, the more worms will come...

The second magic ingredient; when I lifted that old rush matting to look under it, back in the summer, there was another mat underneath of small red worms, like earthworms, but much redder, shorter and thinner, these are called Brambling worms I think? With most of my gardening books still in boxes and no Internet, I can't be sure, but there were millions of them and they made the stuff in the next photographs (below)

Since this photo was taken; the other gardener and I have found various excuses to remove all the wriggly-tin (thanks Granite-head!) from the roof, as another reason the old compost was such a mixed blessing was that it was always slowly drying out!

Bottom right shows the third bay built this way in the background, back in October just gone, it's near full and will soon be covered, but look what's come out of the year old one! Cuts like cake, but crumbles like the stuff people pay 3, 4, 6, 8 quid a bag for (top right), it's a bit frosty in the photo, taken yesterday, but as you can see from the bed, will be a real soil-conditioner, and help with weeding, as they have to come up through it which makes it easier to pull them from the looser top surface.

The level it's at where the cover is thrown back is roughly the level it suddenly dropped to between the previous photograph and about June. It just collapsed one day when no one was looking, and within days the rats chucking out scrapes of stuff which looked the same as it does now, so I recon if you get it right you can use this from mid-summer, less than 6 months from covering?

There is a bit of leafy stuff left on the very top, but I've just thrown that on the new one to 'kick-start' it. This will go on all the flower borders, the true compost - which is looking just as good in the two-year old one now - will be for the veg-patch, roses and soft fruit.

I is for It's an Illness!

Freedom - What is it good for?

Good luck to the peoples of North Africa and - one suspects; the wider Middle East*, but one wonders what they will be saying of their 'Democracy' in ten years?

I would suggest they go ask an ex-East German, someone from the former Yugoslavia, or maybe; someone from Georgia or the Ukraine or a citizen of the Caucasus...

Some pundits think this is a brilliant move; "Democratic governments don't wage war" one talking head said on the radio yesterday (Wednesday 2nd Feb). Well, let's suppose that in the next few years Egypt, Jordan and Syria (no chance there!) all adopt 'Western style' democratic principles and governance, then lets go forward - say - fifteen? years; 'The People', annoyed at the continued treatment of their brother Arabs, brother Muslims in the 'Palestinian Territories' by the occupying Israelis, demand that their - Democratic - governments 'Do something' and let's suppose that those governments get together and decide once-and-for-all, to deal with Israel militarily?

One; Bush and Blair prove Democratic governments DO wage war, and Two; If a coalition of democratic Arab states (probably with the backing of Russia and China) were to go to the UN and deliver the correct ultimatums prior to acting, America would not be in the position it has claimed as it's own in the past, of supporting the Israeli forces with loss-replacement aircraft and an air-lift of military vehicles and ammunition.

Israel would cease to exist, and probably Lebanon at the same time, with the South joining a greater Palestine and the North being 'protected' as a protectorate of Syria!

*PS. What the hell happened to the Near East? Did the 8th Army or Afrika Korps take it home with them? That's about the last time it got a mention!!

W is for Would you like a bigger bill with that Sir?

Here's a mystery (or three) that beautifully illustrate Democratic Governance to those seeking 'Freedom'.

At least ten years ago (the 3rd instance), and possibly as long ago as 15/20 years (the 1st instance); I watched on television three programs of the Panorama/Equinox/Horizon type, or of News-Night calibre, all of which dealt with upcoming/forthcoming 'in trials' dental treatments, each of which - it was claimed - was going to prove likely - by itself - to greatly reduce the frequency and/or cost of attending dental practitioners anywhere; democracy or North Korea!

In no particular order, as I can't now remember the order (the documentaries/news items were a long time ago) the procedures were;

1 - From Scandinavia; an acid-gel, placed in one of those mould-taking 'guards' or targeted at a specific cavity, which would over a few minutes or an hour or so (I can't remember the details) clean the decay back to white enamel, allowing for the filling to go into the existing cleaned hole, with no drilling at all.

It should be explained that each time your filling comes out, they re-drill to clean enamel, after about three fillings, over 30-odd years there is not enough tooth left for another filling if the third (or 1st/2nd if the cavity was large enough to begin with or after drilling) filling falls out. Allowing the Dentist to indulge in highly expensive and sometimes painful work such as pegs, veneers, root-canal work etc...

With the acid-gel system, a far greater number of fillings could go in, and the painlessness of the procedure would - over time - see people coming in earlier, with smaller cavities, or as soon as a filling worked-out and/or while the cavity was still quite clean?

2 - The second procedure was from one of the teaching hospitals in London, and involved using ultra-sound to do pretty-much the same job as the acid-gel, a targeted beam of ultrasound would clean the cavity without the need for expansionist drilling.

3 - The third line of research - which was going to trial as the program aired - was an inoculation against the bacteria that causes the plaque that leads to cavities, gingivitis, ulcers &etc. It was hoped this would lead to the end of a need for regular dental work in human beings in general. There only being a need for reconstructive post-trauma work (i.e. road accidents, trips), or childhood cosmetic work (i.e. overbites, cleft palates etc...)

Now...writing this at home without the Internet, it may be that there have been developments since I last looked, but when I looked (about a year ago) there was very little to be found. Wikipedia had a half-page note on the ultra-sound maybe? But on the web overall; there was nought.

Why have these world-changing procedures disappeared without trace? Vested interests; Dental lobbyists, Big-Pharma, Dental Instrument manufacturers etc...You name it!

Do not think that living in a democracy ensures the constant betterment of life, or the sure dropping of the cost of living. Reganomic-Thatcherite 'Free-market' capitalism means you get what they want you to get and nothing else.

And if they don't make money at it, they'll either charge us until they do (witness the Banks; they bankrupted Europe, gambling with American debt, and now we are paying. How does that work?), or; if they can't make money at it, not carry it to production at all.

If the customer was always right, every branch of every supermarket would carry a few boxes of Grapenuts, instead many just have another two meters of shelf-space devoted to own-brand Cornflakes...sorry 'Flaked Corn'!

If the 'Market' was free, we wouldn't have lost our Nations best Rail Service a week ago, because Virgin (MEGA-Multinational multi-billion group of companies) Rail, would not have had an anti-competitive clause in their 'competitive' tender contract!!!!!

Yossarian! Where are you? Milo Mindbender is running the 'Free' West.