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.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

P is for Prickle-Pins

Following-on from the previous post on Hedgehogs I promised some more, and these are they;

A couple of days after the nigh-time encounter covered by your intrepid reporter, this little chap (or chap'ess) turned-up in the middle of the day, rummaging in the long grass, which - I'm sorry to report earned it a bit of a back-kick from Jimijames. that well-known ravager of all things prickly or porcine! No damage was done, a young hedgehog got a lesson in where to go in the human world in the hours of daylight, and having clearly passed with distinction, got a reward of some watered-down milk!

Back in July, I managed to catch this one running across the lawn, and dispersing under the nut hedge.

He or she than appeared up by the pond a couple of days later, scruffling around looking for snails and slugs, two of the few lifeforms to have benefited from a very odd summer...well; very odd year altogether.

It was there discovered and flushed-forth by Frodo, not - as the more astute of you will have realised from the image here presented - a Hobbit, but one with equally furry feet, nevertheless.

Once the hair-ball had discovered that the new kid on the block was not a new playmate, and worse...prickly not furry...and particularly prickly to the nose, he first looked disinterested, then licked his tail, then had a scratch before fixing his gaze firmly on the yellow poppies the other side of the lawn..."What? Me? No, not remotely interested, far better things to do..."

F is for Farm Folk

Starting to work through a few of the smaller offerings from the Marx 'Miniature Masterpiece' range, we begin with the civilian 'crystal box' sets of farm animals and people.

The four larger sets, I have no contents for set 4, and can't tell you what they might be! But the backing card is the correct design. If anyone has a shot of the contents I could Photoshop in, that would help everyone, if anybody has a spare set 4; I have some ACW sets for swaps.

Due to the smaller sizes of the some of the animals, the 'count' tends to be slightly higher than some of the other sets in this range (Wild West and ACW), but the human figure count is down on the ACW sets, at six per card. Glued-in with the same dark brown evostick-like substance as the Blue Box miniatures, there are more clues to the link between the two.

The smaller sets; 1-6, top left to bottom right with 3 missing completely this time! Again - I have a couple of small ACW sets if anyone wants to do a straight swap. When I was a kid these sets were great favourite as take-home gifts from other peoples Birthday Parties and I always assumed they would all line-up with the backing cards matching...they don't! Ah...the dreams of youth shattered on the anvil of adulthood!

These have four human figures and a lower count of animals. The calf at the far end of set 4 is the Corgi calf reduced in size, Blue Box also carried copies of this animal, albeit in a larger size.

A few lose bits and pieces, the figures are a bit large for 20/25mm war games (recent comments on another post in mind), but the animals can be utilised. I think the cows above have be 'enhanced' by a previous owner, while the poultry are really fine little mouldings.

The figures are a mixture of copies of Britains Herald, Marx's own larger scale moulding, the Corgi animal mentioned, and other makers stuff...I think the girl with the bucket held low is from the uncommon soft ethylene range of 70mm farm from Elastolin?

Friday, September 28, 2012

A is for Arnold

This was sitting with the far more common Tri-ang tinpalte jeep on Adrien's stall (mercatortrading) at Sandown the other week, and while I kept meaning to shoot the other one as a comparison, I never got round to it. Luckily I could see the quality of this one and shot it immediately, as it sold before the doors opened!

 I'm assuming most of you are pretty familiar with the Tri-ang one as it is to be spotted at most shows (sometimes it seems - most stalls!), it is a nice little tin-plate model, usually adored with an Allied star and...er...that's it!

This on the other hand is absolutely exquisite, and while I have seen one or two over the years; I've never seen one with all three composition crew, the spare and Jerry-can, the windscreen intact etc...Made by Arnold, who went on to make the Rapido range of N-gauge railway stuff when I was a kid.

It is in a different league to the Tri-ang one, and most similar models, I have the Penguin jeep in Vulcanised Rubber somewhere and it too - is crude next to this.

A couple of three-quarter views, I could wax lyrical for a while on this, but I'd bore you, just click on the images and add it to your 'Wants List'!!

Cleaner ones with different crew; Here and Here

O is for Original Orientals

Except these orientals are Germans!! Continuing the slow progress of looking at the Blue Box lose figures, we come to the 50mm German infantry. Six poses including two officers and these are pretty unique - in the larger (50mm) scale there is nothing really quite like them. In the smaller scale however they seem to match the Marx 'Miniature Masterpiece' figures in all but plastic colour and pose, being the same height and style and having the same paint scheme. I wrote on my theory about that at length in 1" Warrior, but that's the small ones and we're really looking at the bigger ones today!

The main point of note is that some versions come with the separate base of the Farm Hands/Zoo keepers, which I ascribed to the Australians a while ago, and which comes as a moulded-on feature with some of the GI's we looked at the other day.

Again - there are better, worse and unpainted runs, and the small scale ones were copied by/licenced to (?) Rado/Ri-Toys, while other HK guys had a go at the mouldings, we'll look at them in better detail when we cover the smaller ones, but I've included a comparison shot above to give an idea of various types, along with a darker grey figure in the 50mm range.

W is for Brimtoy - Wells-Brimtoy

Brimtoy were an early British tin-plate toy manufacturer, who used to work with  Bing, the famous German tin-plate Toy specialists. Founded in 1910, they were absorbed by another UK toy company - A Wells and Co. and became Wells-Brimtoy, whence came these half plastic half metal trucks, in the years immediately before they folded (1965)

There are several military vehicles in the range, a bit bigger than 1:72 they go best with the larger figures of someone like Spencer-Smith.

And the 'military' green chassis of both the push-and-go and free-running versions are used with other bodies, to give a wider range of transport that could be used in a war game in the 1960's, when vehicles for the purpose were thin on the ground. I have the canteen lorry with a green body and it looks very much the part of a YMCA or NAFFI-wagon.

The standard 'box body' came litho'd in a variety of types, these all being the push-and-go version. I got talking to a chap back in the Spring at the early-year Sandown Park toy fair who is publishing (or hoping to publish) a book on these little trucks and he did tell me how many variants there are (excluding body-colour variations) but I've forgotten how many he said...50-something I think.

These were mostly shot at Sandown a couple of weeks ago, with two recent additions (but older purchases) to my collection at the top, and one from the main collection (on the Jean transporter) which used to be on Imageshack and has lost some resolution. I also have the street-lamp mender/cherry-picker, and a cement lorry. There was also - I think I'm right in saying - an articulated version with a low-loader attached to an blank chassis/cab unit

The free-runner has a generic cab design and a smaller bed than the push-and-go design which is larger to accommodate the fly-wheel mechanism and gear-cog. It also resembles my favourite; the Bedford RL or 'Big Bedford'.

The smaller un-motored versions also seem to have the closed bodies, Ambulance, Horse-box, Cafeteria etc...While the motorised ones often have the open back (albeit with nicely turned-back edges to protect little fingers), this may point to the two ranges running contiguously rather than together/side-by-side? If so I wouldn't know which came first, but they were probably quite close together, time-wise.

I knew I'd find a use for 'Contiguous' one day, once I'd met it on my old fragmenting graphic!! We will come back to these one day, as I have quite a few somewhere, and I do like them.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A is for Autumn

The sun setting over the fields behind May's Wood to the West of Enham Alamein Last week

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

C is for Codeg, Cowan de Groot, Camberwick Green, Censorship and Criminal

An interesting little series tonight and one you won't find in your local definitive list of other people's eBay images reduced to black and white thumbnails! Generally agreed to have been supplied by Marx (Swansea works) and probably made in the ELM factory in Hong Kong, these figures and the accessories that went with them were sold under the Codeg label by Cowan, de Groot, who by the time these came out were a large multinational PLC with a finger in every pie.

Cowan, de Groot was founded by S.D. Cowan and A. de Groot in 1919, and while initially being an importer of all sorts of stuff from around the world (Empire?!), among which were early tin-plate toys from Germany and Japan, they would go on to become one of Britians biggest wholesalers of toys, diversifying into the supply of plastics machinery and non-toy retail such as The Russian Shop in London and - I believe - an International property portfolio.

By the time this range was issued they were known for their commissioning of toys from third-parties to service the TV licences they were establishing with the BBC (Dr.Who/Daleks) and independent production companies (in this case; 1966 BBCTV). More recently they were the importers of Jotastar plush toys and bears from China, apparently ceasing to trade in the early-to-mid 1990's.

The evidence for these being from the Marx stable include both; that some of the larger CdG Daleks and Trumptonshire toys were resplendent with the Marx moniker (despite the fact that Marx had their own ranges (they wouldn't turn down a opportunity to shift product!) both as Marx and under the Combex label, and that while the base mark here isn't particularly a Marx style, the shades of pink plastic are identical to the Marx Miniature masterpiece American Indians and other Marx product from Hong Kong (the 40mm road crew for instance).

The above image is a near complete set of figures (missing the Murphy's daughter) and one of the accessories and should remain here in glorious technicolour for the next thousand years (Google or visit-stats willing!), with a list of the characters by name and other known items in the series below;

Left to right in above photograph;

Roger Varley the chimney sweep [but not much like the original - hat's too short], (the brush is missing the top part)
Farmer Jonathan Bell
Windy Miller
Doctor Mopp
PC McGarry Number 452
Mrs Honeyman and Baby Honeyman
Mrs Dingle
Peter Hazel the Postman
Mickey Murphy the Baker
Mr. Carraway the Fishmonger
Paddy Murphy
Mrs. Murphy

Not shown but known to exist

Mary Murphy
Section of Wall
Tree (almost certainly the Britains apple tree - sans apples)

Street Lamp

Not Shown/Not known to be part of the series;

Mr Crockett the Garage Owner
Thomas Tripp the Milkman
Mr Dagenham the Salesman
Captain Snort
Sergeant Major Grout


Set No 1 - Mr. Murphy's Bakery
Srt No 2 - Mr. Carraway's Fish Shop
Set No 3 - Post Office
Set No 4 - Dr Mopps House

- Camberwick Green Village Set [all four buildings, wall, lamp post, pillar-box and Britains tree]

- Camberwick Green Village Folk [all 13 figures and the pillar-box]

Close-ups for identification; The bases are quite distictive with their little hole, the two women with dresses and the piller-box being solid while the rest of the figures have a very light, thin base with little 'overhang' The figures are all between 25 and 30mm with the Piller-box being exactly 25mm and the Dr. Mop (with his tall hat) being an almost perfect 30mil.

For foreign readers it should be pointed out that Trumptonshire is the collective fan-title for a set of three children's TV series from the BBC's 'Watch with Mother' feature at lunchtimes in the 1960's, which consisted of 13 episodes each. Camberwick Green was the first series set in a small English village, this was followed by a series set in Trumpton - the local town, and finally 13 episodes set round the big house/estate of nearby Chigley. They are noted for being among the first colour TV productions here in the UK, and - it must be said - I have fond memories of them myself! "Pugh, Pugh, Barney Magrew...Cuthbert! Dibble! Grub!

And so to the 'Censorship' and 'Criminal' of the title bar!...

Two things came out of the research for this post, firstly; That despite being a major movement in Toys for 70 years and going under long after the coming of age of the Internet, there is almost nothing on CdG to be found other than the odd side-note to an eBay auction or other toy listing, this shows that despite the Internet becoming a more and more comprehensive (if often - still - inaccurate) source for the sum total of human knowledge, there is an undeniable undercurrent of censorship, and it's practised by the rich, powerful and corporate, who will ensure they delete the things they don't want you to know.

The other is the 'one born every minute' lesson; There are several of these figures on FeeBay at the moment, the seller is asking £29.99 for each of them...that's thirty quid folks...60-odd dollars! These things have an intrinsic value of less than 50p and shouldn't be worth more than a couple of quid each to collectors, I've never paid more than 50p-each for mine, yet this person who probably hoovered them up with something else at a local auction-house or car boot sale wants a third of a ton for them?

While someone else has some on his little antique toy site which - while well described - include things that have absolutely no connection to the series whatsoever; An HK Tree, an HK import of a European model railway building copy, a polyethylene windmill by Taylor & Barratt or similar (which has its own value in the correct guise anyway) and some HK dolls house copies of the Britains garden...now, the fact that the descriptions are so good means - to me - that the seller knows damn well he's ripping people off?

But the real tragedy is; the 'one born every minute' are the sharks, there are a hundred born every minute to pray-on; and rich know-nothings will pay those prices! I don't often mention money or value but it incenses me to see such profiteering of mass-produced plastics from the second half of the 20th century, the stuff isn't rare, I keep saying it because it's true; people used to think Giant was rare but a warehouse full of the stuff was sold-off a couple of years ago! Truffle-hunt round the car-boot sales and evening toy fairs and you'll get these for next to nothing, just be patient.

H is for Hampshire Wildlife - August 2012

One or two of you may have noticed I have now imported all the old posts from the gardening and moaning blogs, so from time to time you'll have to put up with the odd bit of wildlife or plant life on this blog from now on. I will try to finish re-tagging the 'Index' (preferably before the final imposition of the 'New Style' blog layout - as it's much easier in the old version) and bring over the last of the links in the next few weeks.

I also have about 30 articles in preparation, some of which I've already mentioned, but there's a lot going on in 'real life' at the moment so they are not going on-line as quickly as I'd like. For now here's some of the visitors to my flat in Enham (Nr. Andover - an old stomping ground from my Army days!) and my mothers garden in North Hampshire.

This little chap - or chap'ess - came calling just after midnight on Thursday and I would have given it some milk but the caterers here had given us yoghurt disguised as milk (for our self-catered breakfast) which I figured would not go down well with a house guest, so I just took some pictures for the visitors book and saw it on it's snail-hunting way.

Creepy-crawlies are always a favourite of mine and these are all from the last 30 days, the slug was even longer, but he started to shorten as I focused, a phenomena I have noticed before with slugs and snails and I suspect they somehow detect the beam from the camera, as you can always approach them (with care) but the moment you press first pressure on the shutter button they freeze up/shrink.

I don't know what the ants were finding so interesting, I inspected the stick after I took the shot and it was a stick...just a stick! The snail was so small yet so beautifully constructed it would drive a simpler mind to religion!

Flyers - after a couple of really good years for butterflies, we have now had two bad ones and this year they have been so thin on the ground (and the Buddleia!) that I try to shoot them whenever I see one. While I continue to fall for moths, who are so much-more pretty than a quick glance ever betrays, their buffs and grays, browns and fawns being actually patterns and designs as complex as any butterfly.

These three little voles came out of a bank on Saturday afternoon and sat around on the grass together, so tame we could stroke them, although they did tend to rush back into their hole after a couple of touches!

It is one of life's undeniable pleasures to encounter wildlife close-up, commune with it (on any level) and let it carry-on with it's day. I'm not sure if a 'Greenie' wouldn't cry "foul" at the stroking of voles, but they were gentle little one-finger passes (these things are about 45mm nose-to-tail-base, and the animals were back out in minutes - so obviously weren't that bothered, I guess you'd be nervous if a 600 foot giant came and patted you gently on the head!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

B is for British Bearskins

The most iconic Toy Soldier type, by the most iconic Toy Soldier manufacturer; Britains. Famous for their hollow-cast ceremonials, they were bound to produce them when they started experimenting with plastic and indeed, some of the first figures they commissioned from Zang were the predecessors of these figures.

The moulds were re-cut upon the change from 'straight' Zang to the Herald brand, and would continue in production for decades with a slow decline in paint style and quality and a change to a softer vinyl/PVC material. Three shooting poses were added after production had moved to Hong Kong, and the officer was dropped from the range, there is a standard bearer missing from the above line-up and I have Michael Melnyk to thank for several of the above figures.

A mounted officer (similar to the Highland pose - no removable arm) also went the distance, and while I've tried to arrange all the above shots in chronological order with the oldest to the left, I'm not sure on the various saddle's originality, nor the age of the last horse which may be older than the PVC rider.

The out-painters had two ways of painting the SLR, with some silvering the bayonet only and others painting the barrel silver, right back to the gas-parts. These two versions are as common as each other and therefore make a collectable paint-variant.

The lower shot shows four of the main base types, again; oldest to the left, they are; Herald original, early Hong Kong figure with moulded-on base, later (1970's) glued into the box tray and finally the plug-on late style base, a hierarchy they share with the Combat Infantry and Wild West figures from 'Herald Hong Kong'.

When Britains introduced the Deetail range they added a set of six guards (the 'Royal Salute - Present Arms' pose is missing from the above image), which would run alongside the Herald pretty-much 'till the end. I don't know the significance of the base colours - except that the green is the commoner (perhaps the black are from some touristy thing commissioned by someone else from Britains?) and the black-based ones seem to have the matching (and correct) black trousers every time.