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, April 30, 2014

N is for No Mystery!

The Marx Mystery Space Ship was so well illustrated on the box it was no mystery at all really! But...best toy ever!

Now, this will be the third time I've announced 'Best Toy Ever' on this blog, but if one casts one's mind back to childhood; that's par for the course...the best toy was always the one you were playing with, and I had to play with this yesterday, to get the photo's of it in 'full flight'!

I am actually missing the curved cradle that should go on top of the pink shaft, but these ships are not rare, there are several on FeeBay at the moment, and there are most weeks, when a damaged or box-less one turns up for a reasonable amount I'll grab it, but it's not a priority. I would point out that some of the buy-it-now's on these are ridiculous.

However, missing piece aside, this is a fantastic toy, and once you get it fired-up you have a package of contained kinetic energy that - if you lose control of it - can do a lot of damage to furniture, china ornaments, gerbil cages and anything else of a frangible nature you might find in a 1950's/1960's living-room or bedroom, or anywhere else for that matter!

Along with the main ship you got two spring-loaded rockets and two strange semi-flats that seem to have been included just to 'square-off' the the mould-tool or 'fill the sprue'? The pilots had a plug in their bums and they need it, as once the thing's fired-up they would rattle-about without a decent anchorage!

There are three boxing, the early one with 'groovy' '50's graphics and US and UK versions of the illustrated and more common later type.

When you Google-search them you will read all sorts of nonsense about them (most of which could have been sorted with a quick 'Google'!), one of which is that the US ones where one colour set, the UK ones; another colour set - the inference being that never the twain would meet. In point of fact there are several colours of ship (yellow, primrose and 'aqua') and all the accessories come in three colours which can be interchangeable.

This is due to the fact that the ships came from a third party (Sperry Gyroscope Company of Brentford, Middlesex; the UK branch of, and probably supplied by; Sperry Rand,  Great Neck, New York; a subsidiary of the Rand Corp. in the US) and weren't Marx products at all.

The figure and accessory 'sprues' were Marx, and again you see these being sold as "...'mint' with seven moon-men and two seated astronauts" or (as one 'definitive list' puts it) "9 unique aliens" and 9 astronauts. Other listings will try to fob you off with one colour only, others give one colour of aliens and the other colour of spacemen...

The fact is you get two un-seperated sprues (correctly; runners), one of each colour, they have 6 different aliens and 6 standing astronauts. There are also 2 seated astronauts in each colour, giving four all together, 6 'unique' aliens (12 in total) and 7 unique astronauts (16 in total).

The only rarity with this set is a small run of oxide-red figures which seem to have been sold usually partnered with the orange set.

The aliens are all different [species], with the last one apparently being related to Frankenstein! The figures are scaled down from other Marx figures from the various space-based play-sets and none of the astronauts are armed - only one alien has a hand-gun.

As to best toy ever...once you've got the hang of the winding, and can crank it up to full speed, you can with little practice or effort get the machine to carry-out all sorts of tricks, it will dance on a sixpence, defy gravity, whirl up and down a piece of string and can do "up to 50 tricks", and...despite the potential for damage, is so robust, there are lots of survivors, and you really should try to track one done, especially if you have young kids...they'll love it!

Monday, April 28, 2014

G is for Great Helms

Sounds like something out of Spaceballs! "Bow-down before the Great Helms or they will pulverise your planet into little-bits, littler little-bits than last time, too!"

These are heavily rated among collectors, but I don't think they are that rare, just desirable and sought-after, so there is a demand for them...but they are always on evilBay. Although I guess it's easier to say that once you've got them!

Also they do tend toward damage, the crests and plumes that make them 'Great Helms' in the first place can be broken-off relatively easily, and the visors can get lost after they crack at the back of the little spigot-hole.

I got these almost by accident, in that they were in with some other stuff I bought in a big lot a few years ago which was mostly early British combat although, with Wild West and European mixed-in, so were one of the nice surprises when they turned-up in the sort-out.

I can't think of anything else to say about them so that's it really; a bit of a box-ticking exercise and some Timpo eye-candy!

M is for Memories

Sorting-out in the loft and I found a box of old childhood Meccano under the eves, in among which were a few things I recognised as being both non-Meccano and from a long time ago!

Taken downstairs and duly washed, they make an intriguing pile I think?

King Kong from Hong Kong, I'm not telling him he's got a  sharpie up his arse!

A little clockwork robot I well remember getting in a Christmas stocking back around 1975, his mechanism has ceased to work, not because the springs broken but because someone (?) forced the winder until it broke its seal to the housing and now just spins uselessly! However he can still help carry a phial of Airfix paint to the recycling!

Tyrannosaurus Rex from Addar, his head needs re-glueing, I made him up and painted him (bloodied him up a bit!) during a wet holiday in Alderney many moons ago, his Raptor mate is actually in the collection somewhere and I wondered where Rex had slopped-off to!

The Morse-code signal kit from Palitoy; Action Man would settle under the Rhus tree by the extension and fire-off missives about the Cherilea-Sharna Afrika Korps half-track bivouacked by the cherry tree!

News, Views...etc...Space Candles

Tom Clague has sent me this picture, which he took in a store 'down-under' somewhere...

As Tom pointed out they are Matchbox sculpts...as candles! I did Google Noup Design and couldn't find them but I did find ten-stud Lego bars as candles and cartoon bombs with fuses!

Tom makes music of a trancy ethereal nature, and gives it away! Details of the new album - which features Airfix astronauts on the cover and mentions Gerry Anderson - are here;

Mood Processor

and the free download is here;


In other news, I updated the Foreign Terms and Figures pages yesterday and should add some more to the Khaki Infantry page today.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

D is for Ducks! Flying Ducks

There was a funny little facsista from the North of Italy (where else!) who used to knock-about on the small scale forums, who once - while losing yet another point/argument with the more sensible members of the forum - suggested I was A) less than heterosexual and B) blogged toy ducks for a hobby! Well at the time he was wrong on both counts, and while I do re-post the odd bit of pro-gay stuff on 'the' Facebook (tolerance - it's just common sense isn't it?) he is still wrong about the first point.

On the second point however he's been right for a while, I seem to remember a duck sneaking in to a post some time ago...well, you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb...

Three of 'em! These are painted metal 'Flying Ducks' from Barratt and Sons (or; the Barretts of Sonderburg Road N7, to be accurate), designed for dolls houses in about 1:12 scale, or the 6-inch figure size, that's it really ducks, flying...or 'Ducks in Flight' to be accurate!

But to people from a certain age (or area?) they will always be Flying Ducks, my grandparents up on the North Notts/Yorks boarder had a set scooting across the living-room wall, along with the matching marshland wallpaper (with mallards) in the bathroom and a clothes brush disguised as an Indian Runner. Note the similarity to the Britains 'B'.

They've gone; the ducks and the grandparents, but this little set reminded me of them, unfortunately it also reminded me of 'folgor', but that's life...sweet and sour!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

News, Views etc...Update to Khaki Infantry page

Added the Hilco section and edited the Cherilea section to conform. Also added a picture to the Timpo section which was contributed by Dave Scrivener and is most interesting, not least to a Zang enthusiast like me!

I'm sure you're getting annoyed with these 'update' updates on the homepage so I'll find something nice to put up here in a day or two.

UK Khaki Infantry

Saturday, April 12, 2014

News, Views, etc...Khaki Infantry Page - Charbens, Cherilea and FG Taylor

I've now added Charbens, Cherilea and FG Taylor entries to the new page; UK Khaki Infantry

The Charbens section is no more than a bookmark at the moment and the Taylor entry is a bit frugal, but it's a work in progress and we already have some contributions to come for Reisler and Zang's entries when I get to them.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

News, Views, etc...Khaki Infantry Page - Britains

I've now added Britains to the new page; UK Khaki Infantry

News, Views, etc...Khaki Infantry Page, Benbros and Britains

I've added Benbros to the new page; UK Khaki Infantry, Britains will be next. Eventually it will have entries for Charbens, Cherilea, FG Taylor, Hilco, Kentoy, Reisler, Speedwell, Trojan, VP, various 'unknowns' and piracies from Brazil, Hong Kong and Poland.

While the Britains Swoppets have gone in on the homepage, below this entry.

S is for Swoppet

So the other main range of 'Khaki Infantry' not deserving of a place on the page I'm publishing the rest on is the Britains 'Swoppet' British Infantry. They did lead to piracies and derivatives, but they too are, or tent to be, stand alone, rather than mixed-up with all the derivations of the Herald and Timpo GI ranges.

There are basically four body types in this range, and while some arms are plug-in, others are fixed and the plug-in ones don't have much room for variations, so although there are technically six poses, this was quite a limited set.

The play value really came from the constructional aspect and all the little bits and pieces. Packs in PVC that could be removed from the belt, picks and shovels, separate SLR semi-automatic rifles, pop-on helmets and swivel-heads and waists. The medical sets and the mortar were also stunning with the 'extra mile' that other makers never attempted.

The Swoppets posed with their nearest rival in the Herald range. The similarity is another failing of this set, why didn't they (Britains) give them new poses? Though the fact that they all had SLR's rather than the experimental EM2 was a bonus!

Back in the summer I bought a Junk lot off a chap who collects Swoppet Knights and always contacts me with the pictures of what's left.The pictures included the one top-left here, a nice shovel and the standing stretcher with storage box were the high-points of a typical car-boot lot.

However, once the deal had been done and the stuff had arrived there were some bits not shown in the photographs, namely the plasma-bottle and another shovel. This 'missing' bottle allowed me to add the whole vignette to the collection, although the blanket is brittle and on the shopping list!

Another shot of the kneeling firers and a close-up of the exquisite mortar tube round-off the collage.

Typically - Hong Kong couldn't leave this set alone though, so there are various versions of both the 'swoppets' in the lower shot and the solids above them to be sought-out by the completist collector. The solids are also given an additional pistol, while the mortar bomb seems to have become a walkie-talkie!

The 'Regiment' by S (Star?), the upper torsos are soft synthetic vinyl rubber as are the packs (by both S and Britains), and there is a hint of Herald Khaki Infantry in the pointing officer and one of the poses is struggling to hide a Timpo bugler's heritage!

Ethylene piracies of the swoppets done as single-mould solids as seen in the upper-shot three pictures above.

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for; From Hollow-cast Mouldings

Further to the new page on UK produced plastic 'Khaki Infantry' I've started (see UK Khaki Infantry at top of the blog-page), some sets were stand-alone. We looked at some of the modern troops a few years ago, and Trojan's Germans and small scale have been covered, along with some of the 'swoppits'. Another set that suffered little plagiarism or derivative production, but was itself derivative of it's own hollow-cast forbears was the WWII British Infantry from Timpo.

Nine poses in plastic, from ten in metal, I don't know what the tenth one was, I suspect a motor-cycle dispatch rider, a casualty of some kind or a sentry/ceremonial marcher? These were all themes in the US set of the same era. Prone firing - see comments, thanks Dave.

There are two generations with the British in plastic, the first taken from the hollow-casts with little change, although the bases where beefed-up and given the same marks as the early plastic Wild West from hollow-cast range; 'TIMPO ENGLAND' or 'TIMPO MADE IN ENGLAND' in the recess under the base of most - but not all - the figures. They also had a gloss finish. The later versions have a matt finish and the mark is now on the upper surface of the base (like the later 'solids' from Timpo), reading; 'MADE IN ENGLAND' only.

The above shots show older bases/figures top left, and - from the top; left, right and centre of the right-hand pictures, with bottom left being the newer version, along with right, left, right of the smaller images. The left-hand figure in the bottom-right image is the hollow-cast original with the drain-hole showing in the helmet.

A couple of line-ups; Above being the earlier set in  a glossy plastic with gloss paint and the deeper bases. it can be seen that a couple of the figures don't have the deeper bases, but rather have the original 'puddle' of their hollow-cast brethren. The kneeling shooter has no base, as per the original and in contrast to the US GI's, where all the kneeling figures taken into the plastic range were given an additional base.

The lower group are the second versions, they are matt-finished, and the plastic has added chalk to help the paint adhere, as a result these suffer far more from brittleness than the earlier set. They've now all got the larger base with the upper-surface marking, even the chap steadying himself on a substantial rock...a really nice pose as well, by the way! I haven't tracked-down a kneeling firer from this second batch, so don't know if he got a base, he may not have been kept, I believe some sources think the second set only went to 8 poses (?), although I would drop the crawling guy if I had to drop one...

From left to right on both images; lead hollow-cast original, intermediate glossy plastic and final incarnation in the matt scheme. Note how time also lowers the quality of the painting from 7-colours, to 5, to only 3, with the gaiters, bayonet frog, chin-strap and eventually waist-belt & yolk falling by the wayside.

It goes some way to explaining why the old hollow-cast collectors always viewed plastics people with a little pity, the figure on the right is but a shadow of the figure on the left. A mass-produced plastic 'scrap' with a stab-and-hope paint job in three colours, as opposed to a figure hand-cast from a scoop of molten-lead - a carefully measured scoop by an experienced eye, hand-finished (fettled) and hand-painted to a high degree!