Just put your foot on it!

train

When do you throw in the towel? At what point do you say “I’ve done my best, given it everything, but it’s time to move on”. As a model maker it’s something that I haven’t had to ask myself very often, as I usually persevere through an outburst of expletives, moaning, and much stomping about the house, and there’s usually a positive result. “I thought model making was meant to be fun?” my wife, quite reasonably asks, which doesn’t really help.

The reason for all this angst is my struggles with Eduard’s repackaging of Roden’s Gloster Gladiator, a kit with which I was very familiar having previously built two when it first appeared around the year 2000. For me to build two of anything is pretty remarkable, particularly as I did them one after the other, and it was at the time a pretty enjoyable and relatively painless experience even with a lot of photoetch embelishments. It was by viewing this experience through a large pair of rose-tinted spectacles that I agreed to take on Eduard’s kit for a review build, complete with its’ wonderful new decal sheet and a bag full of Eduard extras. What’s more, having previously built two classic silver wing fighters, this time I would challenge myself with a more complex camouflage scheme, camouflage being something that I don’t really do a lot of and to be honest, struggle with.

1/48 Roden kit

Roden’s kit from better times

To cut a long story short, the build didn’t go well. At least I thought it was until I decided to put the upper wing on, realising the that the slight, virtually imperceptible droop to the lower wings really did matter, lowering the level of the upper wing to a point half way down the windscreen. I turned a blind eye to this thinking that it wasn’t a problem, as after all, both previous models may have had the same fault but they went together OK, didn’t they?

Glad fit 2

No. This was a serious problem of my own doing because I was too lazy to check. What’s more, I found out at a very late stage of the build, post decal, pre final varnishing, washes, and putting the final bits together. In a frantic bid to rectify it I split the fuselage underside and inserted a few shims of plastic to form a wedge, so forcing the wings upwards. It did, but not enough. The cracking noises emitted  form the interior as I did so was painful, particularly as I’d lavished a good part of my Easter holiday on this kit, fiddling with microscopic particles of metal and with a complicated scheme that had been reworked three times until I got it right, and each time me thinking “this is doing me good, I’m learning all the time”.

Glad fit 3Glad fit 4

It then dawned on me that that I had three options open to me. The first was to make my own longer struts from brass using the distinctive lugs off the kit struts at each end, an extremely fiddly process where the geometry would have to be absolutely spot on. The second would be to build another. The third would be bin it and forget the whole thing. A good friend advised me: “Just put your foot on it. Move on. Life’s too short.”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Are you kidding? I just can’t do It! This confounded model represents all the time I could have spent doing a thousand other things during my holiday and free time. No amount of reassurance I gave to myself, that in spite of everything I will have learnt a lot from the process offered me no consolation whatsoever. My friend with the advice, a model maker of considerable skill and stature within the modelling community has astounded me with the lack of compassion he often shows towards his less successful efforts, borne out the necessity of the demands of his profession. But me, I make models for fun, and each one is a precious little creation. I just haven’t got the heart, and you never know, one day, in a better frame of mind, I might just have the patience. So the bits have gone into a box in the loft for another time. Maybe.

This idea of returning to a model after a period of frustration was swiftly put to the test the following day when I peered into the box of bits that represents the Blue Max Avro 504K that I started two years ago for Doncaster Air Museum. If you look under the “Latest Builds” section of this site you will see how much progress I’ve made, and I must admit, looking into the box after all this time I was pretty pleased with my efforts so far. I thought therefor that, with the kit 80% complete, I would get at least one model completed after the Gladiator disaster. Two days later I heard that voice again – “Put your foot on it”. With the white metal cabane struts in place I fitted the upper wing, only to find that all the metal struts that I’d previously prepared for the job were 1-2 mm short, and to compound what was turning into another swearfest, the cabane struts were coming away with my attempts to fit the wing. Everything is now back in the loft.

Doncaster Air Museum. I owe you all such a massive apology. I will, I swear, complete the kit that you gave me in good faith to make for you, sooner rather than later.

I’m not sure how different I am to other modellers but my approach to the making of kits is linear. You start one, you finish it, you start another. I’m not one for having lots of different things on at the same time. My free time is precious, modelling a means of relieving the many stresses of a stressful life, and I’ve been making models for most of it. So in a weird way I really mourn the loss of a model mid completion, and maybe a sensible form of closure would be to just get rid of it completely. As I mentioned at the start, this doesn’t happen often to me, but it did get me wondering how others deal with this. I’ve known many creative people, a lot of them artists, who are only as good as their last piece of work and see the no sense in getting  too emotionally attached to it. It’s either a financial means to an end or it’s the next stage in an ongoing path of learning. Mine is definitely not the former, so a bit of the latter thinking, for me, would probably do me good.

By the way, for anyone of a footcrushing persuasion, there is a blog for you: https://stompcrush.wordpress.com/2009/page/3/

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I love this place. The fourth time I’ve had the chance to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, just off the M1 to the East of Huddersfield, and each time I take something precious away with me. I just wish it were closer to home. Wonderful setting with acres of pasture (no grazing sheep or cows this time), woodlands and lake, peppered with world class sculpture. The visitors centre and exhibition space is one of the nicest I’ve been in (similar in feel to Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery), with a superb cafe terrace view.

Exhibitions this time included New York street artist Kaws with his large comic-like characters, and in complete contrast Bill Viola’s stunningly profound audio-visual works that dwell in the mind long after.

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Tristan’s Ascension (The Sound of a Mountain Under a Waterfall), 2005. Video/sound installation. Performer: John Hay. Courtesy Bill Viola Studio (from YSP website)

Ill

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Things have been a bit quiet on the blog front as I’ve taken some time out. I never get colds – maybe the odd sniffle, and occasionally what some might unkindly call ‘man flu’ – but it seems I’ve been saving it all up for an absolute beauty, one that came completely out of the blue. I’m getting over it now but after an ear infection my head still feels as if it’s stuffed full of cotton wool, and there’s a buzzer ringing constantly in my head. One has to look for the positives in any unhappy situation if they can, and in this case it has at least slowed me down, which is never a bad thing. I have to be ill to sleep beyond 7.00 and I’ve done that a few times this week. I also lost my appetite a bit, but I did find comfort food in the shape of Ambrosia Rice Pudding and Tapioca. I made my own rice pudding the other day which was very nice indeed, but nothing seems to touch the tinned stuff. And the other thing is Robitussin cough mixture. What do they put into that?! Has anyone thought about turning it into a lolly?

 

David Bowie

Only a couple of weeks into the new year and another sad death in the music world. First Lemmy, then John Bradbury of the Specials, and now David Bowie. I must admit I was never a massive fan during his classic years in the seventies and eighties, but I’ve learned to acknowledge his influence and appreciate his cutting edge creativity as the years have gone by.

My first encounter with Bowie was with ‘Space Odity’, for which I borrowed 2/6 for and bought on a whim when I was in town with some young friends. It was 1969 and the moon landing had had a profound affect on me. It just fitted in and I had to have it.

As a teen at school in the early seventies it always seemed to be the tough girls who would be seen carrying around copies of Aladin Sane or Hunky Dory, whilst I was happy to emerse myself in the ‘freaky’ world of ‘underground’ or ‘progressive’ rock. Bowie and Bolan seemed a bit too lightweight and poppy to me. However, at our school discos, tucked away amongst the more predictable inclusion of Jeff Beck’s ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’, East of Eden’s ‘Jig a Jig’, and for the final smooch, 10CC’s ‘I’m Not In Love’, were Bowie gems such as ‘Queen Bitch’, ‘The Jean Genie’, and ‘Suffragette City’. Oddly enough, it’s mainly for that reason that Bowie stands out in my memory during that period and I really looked forward to them.

Here he is on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ in 1972. I remember this broadcast, and even I was impressed by Bowie’s outlandish dress and Mick Ronson’s rasping guitar.

Although in my juvenile way I might have dismissed him out of hand, the truth was I don’t think I really knew what to make of him. He was influential, ever changing, often a bit scary, and in truth, never really deserving to be pushed into the same box that I put all the other chartsters at the time. I remember looking at a promotional display for Diamond Dogs when it came out, and the dog/Bowie-being that spread itself a good ten feet across the window seemed really shocking. He certainly wasn’t the Osmonds.

He was always at the forefront of the changes in music. It was of little surprise to see his work develop a more ‘industrial’ edge during the Punk/New Wave years, and I will be eternally grateful for his collaboration with Iggy Pop. I never really got the ‘New Romantic’ period, and I found ‘Ashes to Ashes’ a bit annoying and indulgent. I cannot deny however that ‘Let’s Dance’ is a truly great piece of work with Nile Rogers.

After that, Bowie drifted out of my life. Over recent years though I’ve come to appreciate him more and I revisited a number of classic Bowie albums last year, being amazed at how fresh his songs are, many of which have rightly earned classic status. When I heard on the radio at seven o’clock this morning of news coming in announcing his death, I really was shocked, and I’m surprised how much of my mind he has filled today. It’s very hard to see any of today’s rock musicians achieving the same status of that of David Bowie. For my generation, in my mind he feels like the equivalent of Elvis Presley, and his death is almost as poignant. Listening to the radio on the way home someone said that they will still talk of him in a thousand years time. I can believe that.

Lets all sing together………………

After a long illness, Jimmy Hill, a man close to the hearts of many Coventry City fans, passed away on December 19th, 2015. His achievements have been well documented during the glowing obituaries made to him, and as manager, managing director, and eventually chairman, he put into practice with Coventry City many of the things that the modern game takes for granted (seated stadiums, sponsorship, entertainment, trains for travelling fans to name but a few). What’s more, he turned ‘The Bantams’ into ‘The Sky Blues’ and over a six year period, took them from the old third division into the first in 1967.

His loss has made me reflect on the part the club has played in my life. Living a mile from the old Highfield Road stadium in 1967, I was bought up with the glare of the floodlights lighting up my bedroom, with the roar of the crowd telling me that we’d scored (or just missed). The crowds then were massive (regularly 30-40,000 plus) and the streets around us filled with parked cars. As an eight year old I hadn’t been to a game yet, but it was during that season in Div. 1 that I went with my mates to my first game against arch rivals Wolves. We lost 1-0, but to me it didn’t matter as the thrill of the spectacle brought me back for more. Saturdays became a ritual; chip shop for pie and chips at 12.00; ‘Football Preview’ on Grandstand with Sam Leitch at 12.45; to the ground with ‘the gang’ in time for the gates opening at 1.30; kick off at 3.00; back in time for the results and round up on Grandstand at 5.00; Match of the Day at 10.00.

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My first match day programme
John Tudor celebrates Ernie Hunt’s goal hitting the back of the net against Leicester the previous week (that’s a very young Peter Shilton on the floor)

 

We clung on to First Division status for an impressive 34 years, during which time we became skilled at escapology – I’ve lost count of the times that we were nearly relegated, and I remember someone in the press one describing us as the hippopotamus of the First Division, with only nose, eyes and ears ever visible. We got into Europe once in the seventies, won the FA Cup in the eighties, and that’s about it. During this time I spent a lot of  time watching the team, both home and away, even after moving away from the city permanently in my late teens.

With growing age and (geographical) distance came responsibilities and the need to consider priorities. I still went to see the team but less often, and  season tickets needed to give way for other important things, like a family. At the same time the teams’ fortunes changed, or maybe our luck finally ran out. We’ve had some great players, but we were never a glamour club, and relegation to the now the rebranded championship’ (old Division 2) started a rot. Financial mismanagement, together with a farcical battle over our new home (the Ricoh Arena) resulted in the club going into administration, then dropping another division, and eventually having to play our home games 35 miles away at Northampton Town.

We are now going through a period of relative stability after having shed a lot of managers, some good men who have suffered at the incompetence of the money men above them. We no longer have our own ground, being tenants at the Ricoh, guests of its’ new owners Wasps RFC, but for the moment doing well in the old ‘Division Three’ under the excellent manager ship of Tony Mowbray, and fans are getting excited about possible promotion.

It’s more than the death of Jimmy Hill that’s prompted these recollections. It’s as much to do with guilt as anything else. Saturday was for a good bulk of my lifetime a very important day of the week when everything I did was built around the team. Now however, although I go back home to visit family and friends, distance means that home games feel like away games, and I always usually have other things to do. Years of mediocrity have perhaps taken their toll, but as much as I like football I cannot support any other team, and I always keep a lookout for how they are doing, or follow their match day progress on the internet. I admire my family, friends, and many thousands of others who have managed to support them through thick and thin over all these years by annually paying for season tickets or turning up regularly for the games. I hate to think of myself as a fair weather supporter – I don’t think I’m that – I’m more of an armchair supporter now, though I have promised myself at least one game this season. Plus – I will choose my words carefully now – Aston Villa’s unfortunate situation at the foot of the Premier League, should it continue, together with our current excellent run of form could mean the resurrection of a ‘competitive’ local derby in the Championship next season. That would certainly appeal to me and perhaps even add a few extra thousand onto our season ticket sales.

Adam Armstrong celebrates one of his three goals with James Maddison during last Saturday’s five-nill thrashing of Crewe

I love Coventry City Football Club, and always will. Even though now I barely recognise the team, I’ve invested a good portion of my emotional life in them, and will never give up on them. I’ve had bad memories (having a bolt thrown at me in the West End, being caught up in pitch battles in the horrible ‘hooligan’ days of the seventies inside and outside the ground, having our front room window put through by a milk bottle, nearly getting caught up in a fight with a racist fan); but also many great memories (beating the Villa, beating Bayern Munich, the cup run and final in 1987, some brilliant players too numerous to mention, travelling to away games, being in a crowd of 48,000 on the ‘Spion Kop’, beating the Best/Charlton/Law Man. Utd. side on numerous occasions at Highfield Road, the very last game at Highfield Road…….I could go on).

It was Jimmy Hill who provided us with the Sky Blue song. I sang it at my wedding, and will no doubt have it played at my funeral. I may not always be there with the team and with the fans, but in the words of the song, “Lets all sing together, Play up Sky Blues, While we sing together, We will never lose….”.

What does that say?

Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen GreenHow good is your handwriting?

I used to be very proud of mine but over the years it’s got to a state where it’s very difficult for some people to make sense of it. I used to be proud of my calligraphic twists and curls, but any attempt at such at the speed I now write results in illegible scrawl.

I was of the last generation of children brought up with a dip pen and inkwell. It sounds positively Dickensian now, but whilst the rest of the world adapted to new fangled inventions like the ball point pen, my primary school, even in the late 1960’s taught handwriting skills for at least an hour a day, working from exercise books crammed with lines of italic repetitive text which had to be slavishly copied. This even carried on into the 1970’s when my sister left. Her beautiful handwriting still bears the mark of that rigid discipline, whereas mine has picked up some pretty bad habits which back then may have resulted in extra lines, or for the deliberately careless, a ruler across the palm of the hand (Lord help you if you were left handed!).

However I for one enjoyed the process of writing and the tools and rituals that went with it – filling the inkwells with blue-black ink, kept in a large bottle behind the teachers desk; sheets of blotting paper that had to be cut to small rectangles for the class to use; and above all, pens. This fascination, and with stationary in general, started well before I attended school full time, birthdays and Christmasses being marked with a new set of pens, a stationary set, and when I was five, dad bought me a Smith Corona typewriter (that’s another story, but I could type quickly with two fingers by the time I was seven, and I still have it).

In a bid to revive my handwriting I asked for a new pen for Christmas – the one in the picture to be exact. I thought I’d give it a test run by writing to an old friend who I haven’t seen for a long time, only to realise that it really is quite hard to get hold of a writing pad these days. So a question then; instant communication tools such as social media and blogs like this have reduced the need to write, so outside of your job, or whilst studying, when was the last time you wrote anything of length for fun?

I don’t think I’m alone in having an interest in all things pen and pencil related, and if you are you might want to look at this:

James Ward’s book is a fascinating, if somewhat fact heavy account of the development of all things stationery. You may want to visit these people:

Cult Pens

a magical place where you can find things you didn’t think you even needed! And they have a great newsletter.

So, when did you last put pen to paper? With all the Christmas card promises of “getting in touch with you next year”, delight someone by allowing them to receive some ‘snail mail’.

 

Return of the blog

As I come to the end of another year, ahead of any resolutions that I might make in a few days time I’ve decided that it really is time to sort this journal. It’s not been a very productive year as far as modelling goes, but it has seen a return to some magazine work and the completion of four models, documented in the Builds section. It’s odd looking back on the few posts that materialised two summers ago in a fit of activity that saw me set these pages up. I’ve been to the Design Museum a few more times, and I’ve seen one more excellent Tour De France. I’ve been tempted to delete the old posts but I have left them in to remind me of all the things that I should have documented since then, and not to fall into lazy habits. So, I’m back wrestling with the complexities of WordPress and with a commitment to keep this up to date – we’ll see!