Day to day

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.


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!

Charging the batteries

Took a couple of days out to go to London with the family. I always look forward to going because it makes me appreciate what a fantastic capital we have, but also how good it is to come back home! Providing I can cope with the crowds (and this year the heat),  there are so many things to do. Much of the time was spent on the South Bank and high on my list of priorities is a visit to the design museum, which at this time of the year has its Design of the Year exhibition, a showcase for nominations from around the world. It also  has two other great exhibitions at the moment, on architect Louis Khan and designer Daniel Weil. Too many things to mention here so check out the link.

Bradley timepiece

I’ve seen this watch for the blind mentioned in the news and is a great example of inclusive design. See for more info. I want one.

Holiday time!

I’m one of the lucky ones who get a long holiday. It’s unusually hot at the moment. Very hot. Too hot for model making in the conservatory which passes for my modelling room. So I spent the morning hacking away at various overgrown parts of the garden to let a bit of sunlight in to long neglected corners, a job I’d been putting off until the finer weather arrived. Well it’s here now and the job’s done, at least until the next one, and there are plenty of those around the house capable of filling a long holiday. So as a treat I’m starting this blog in the shady part of the garden.


Model on my mind at the moment – a 1/48 Blue Max Avro 504K, kindly provided by South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum and being built as part of their WW1 commemorative display. I’ve promised myself a visit when I deliver the goods next month. It’s the first Blue Max kit I’ve built for years and forgotten how involved they are. A good kit on the whole and a lot of work, like most British WW1 aircraft, but a handsome looking plane and it will be well worth the effort. I’m going to paint it in a standard Clear Doped Linen/PC10 scheme as used by 47 TDS based at Doncaster in 1918, and judging by the photos given to me, they’re typically oily looking so I’m looking forward to ‘distressing’ the fabric.

Detailing so far – added seat pads from Magic Sculp, straps from the spares box, new control panels, cut flaps away, drilled all holes for rigging, and used a spare engine from the spares box, ready for the big paint session.

Go to the model build section to check on going progress.