Friday, March 11, 2011

Planes, Swedes, Portuguese, Africans and Mercedes Benz

More for Darkest Africa

Well it's been rather a lot of weeks since I posted on this blog although, to be fair, I have managed a few posts on my Darkest Africa blog.  Amazingly, I have managed to keep to one army for two months now, which must be the first time I have been so focussed since my Cynoscephalae force back in 2007.  I am now working on the last combat unit for my British colonial force; levy askaris (although I still need to do the baggage unit).  Rather than move on to the first Arab unit I may take a brief break to finish half a dozen Mexicans which are very nearly finished and have been lurking on the workbench for far too long. 

Mexicans under way


Since my last post, I succumbed to a box of the Warlord Games Swedish infantry although, having opened the box, I rather wish I hadn't: that is a lot of bits!  Never mind it looks like I will have to go back to Stockholm in May so that means another chance to look around the army museum (not to mention dinners with my particular friend Anna, as she tries to, yet again, persuade me that herring is food fit for human consumption as opposed to consumption by seals; which is all it is really good for).

John Jenkins tempting Portuguese


Talking of distracting figures, I was very taken with the new John Jenkins Portuguese conquistadors.  I bought a box load of the Foundry conquistadors a few years ago but just couldn't work up any enthusiasm for Incas or Aztecs despite doing a prize winning project on them at school (the only time I ever won a prize for anything but art).  However, I am more enthused by the thought of skirmishes with Brazilian indians and, indeed, West Africans, for which the Portuguese would be ideal.   Maybe if anyone stocks them at Salute, which is bearing down on us like the irresistible juggernaut it is, I will pick some up.

My only painted Foundry Conquistador

It was my little boy's birthday yesterday (actually he isn't little any more; he is fourteen and suddenly 5'7" tall) and having totally failed to procure the requested Blackberry (out of stock everywhere, it seems) I decided he needed something to open on the day so took myself over to Modelzone in Kingston yesterday afternoon.  That was, of course, a mistake. 

Mercedes Benz World


I got him two Scalextric cars including a McLaren Mercedes; one of his favourites, although Scalextric are promising a Bugatti Veyron later in the year.  I actually saw a Bugatti  on the road, in Guildford last year.  So far my sightings of these had been limited to two at Top Gear Live and one outside the Beverly Hilton.  McLaren Mercedes are far more common around here!  Now, I always always had this view, from many trips to Eastern Europe, that Mercedes are really only suitable for use as taxis in places like Bratislava.  However, I live fifteen minutes drive from something called Mercedes Benz World, which now takes up much of the old Brooklands motor circuit and Hawker airfield site. 

Inside MBW

Guy loves this place but I hadn't been there until recently when he spent some of his Christmas money on an off road driving experience there.  It is a huge place, with floors of shiny new Mercedes which you can climb all over and, more interestingly, some old cars too.  It has a shop, a cafe, a restaurant, several driving tracks and a disturbing number of very pretty girls in black Mercedes jumpsuits.  It is free to enter and is quite the most impressive example of brand loyalty-building marketing I have ever seen. 

Guy's favourite car

My favourite car

Of course, siting it in the Weybridge/Cobham/Oxshott "capital of bling" triangle doesn't hurt, where a Mercedes is what you buy your au pair girl to run around in.  There was an advert from one of the parents in Guy's school's parents association newsletter last February advertising a six month old Mercedes convertible.  "Would make an ideal Valentines gift" it said.  Quite.  Personally, I got my wife a heart shaped cucumber this year and she was lucky to get that.

Guy at the wheel

After a Mercedes lovely whisked Guy off to join his instructor and we had trekked out in the rain to the off-road circuit my wife informed me that she hadn't bothered to buy the optional £15 insurance for the session.  So I had a tense hour whilst Guy drove £58,000 worth of Mercedes around the course with me knowing that if he bashed it I'd have to pay the £1,500 excess.  Fortunately he didn't.

The ultimate car kit

I think the exhibit I liked best was the exploded Formula 1 car reduced to 2,500 components and hung on wires by a Dutch artist. Perhaps even more impressive, however, was the finish on the cappucino in the cafe; now that is branding!

Good grief!


Anyway, back to Modelzone.  As usual I ended up buying something I didn't need; in this case the new Airfix 1/48th DeHavilland Sea Vixen.  I'd been thinking about it since the big article about building it in Airfix Model World magazine a couple of months back.  Added to this, we saw one doing aerobatics over our house in Cowes a couple of years ago. 

Sea Vixen over Cowes

Airfix Model World really is a deadly little magazine.  Beautifully put together and full of unbelievably gorgeous painted models, there is usually something in it that makes me want to go and buy something or, perhaps, dig something out of the loft.  This month's issue has an article on the Airfix Vostok kit and I know I have one of those in the loft somewhere.  I also bought a model F-86 Sabre just on the basis of the picture on the cover of the magazine (and the kit).  Not since the days of Roy Cross have I been so easily influenced!

Now, I really don't need any more model aircraft (or ships or 1/35th tanks).  I never build them (or rather I never complete them) and the group model build I tried to do last year for the Britmodel site was an utter failure as well.  Except now I have decided to finish my Westland Whirlwind from that aborted project as a change of pace from painting Darkest Africa figures.  In particular I can contemplate doing a little in the evenings when the light is too bad for figure painting.  I also have a 1/48th Mark 1 Spitfire under way and I'm reading a book about the Hawker Hurricane which has a strong local association.

It's nice to go trav'lin...on a Lockheed Constellation


I have also been contemplating a Lockheed Super Constellation, largely, it has to be said, because I have recently been listening to Frank Sinatra's 1957 album, Come Fly with Me which features Constellations on the cover.  The problem is that I really want a TWA one but the current Airfix (which is the old Heller 1/72nd model) one only has Qantas and Aer Lingus markings.  I just managed to get an old Heller one on eBay with TWA markings! However, it is a bit of a problem kit to build, it seems.   I recently watched the film The Aviator which had a scene where Howard Hughes (a surprisingly good Leonardo DiCaprio) inspects his fleet of grounded Constellations following a crash.  Except I am enough of a nerd to have noticed that they were Super Constellations (as on the Sinatra cover) rather than the original Constellations they would have been at the time (it's all about the windows).

Increasingly, however my view on model kits is rather akin to that on figures.  I am tending to the view that 1/48th is the one true scale just as 28mm is for figures.  I find both 1/72nd and 15mm too small these days.  I also find it hard to get a convincing paint job on a 1/72nd kit.  I may have to bite the bullet and invest in an airbrush although the thought of all that cleaning isn't very exciting.  That said, I was also looking at the old Airfix B25 Mitchell in Modelzone but 1/72 for bombers seems more reasonable.  Although, apparently, there was a 1/48th kit of the B-25 revealed at the recent Nuremburg toy fair!  Maybe I need to actually finish a model first before I get any more.  No doubt all aircraft modellers have the equivalent of the lead pile. 

Talking of big boxes of Airfix, and prompted by a recent visit to the Imperial War Museum, Guy spent some of his birthday money on the World War 1 battle set.  This has trenches, figures and a couple of Mark 1 tanks.  The bizarre thing about it is, of course, is that it is totally historically inaccurate, as the figures are 1914 period whereas the tanks are from 1916.  It's rather like the old assault set they did with the Patton and Centurion tank attacking the German strongpoint.

Most of my time, lately, has been spent trying to sort out my book shelves.  There is no way I can display all my books, given the limited shelf space I have, so I have been going through them and packing some of them into crates to go up in the loft.  So it's goodbye all those "making of..." film books, American car books and many of my art books for a while, for example. 

Some of my early nineties planes in Guy's room

I certainly have no shelf space to display models so I may have to go for the Modelzone method and hang them from the ceiling!  I feel that I am now old enough that I don't care about this anymore!  I made quite a few model aircraft in the early nineties before I started painting soldiers again and now many of these are hanging up on Guy's ceiling.  For some reason I decided to only do US Navy carrier based planes.  I still have a half dozen or so unbuilt USN kits in the loft and an unfinished 1/32 F-14.  At least if you build them for flying mode you don't have to worry about the undercarriage!

Oh well, it's off to see the Iraqi finance minister now and then this weekend I start a two week trip to Asia so that will put paid to any painting or, indeed, Airfix kit building!

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