Another MOB sortie into Melbourne
(September 2002)This time the MOB’s sortie down into the jaws of the IPMS Swap & Sell was organized like a well oiled machine and, for the most part, it worked like one too.  MOBster Darren was taking down a trailer for the stand he was setting up so the others, Wayne, Terry and l, went along for the ride.  This involved getting our act together the day before and taking the kits we hoped never to see again around to his place for careful packing into the trailer.  This, of course, was a simple task that could have taken ten minutes, but not by the time we had rummaged around in each other’s boxes and bags to see what was what.  Then Darren and Wayne demonstrated their prior experience with packing and wrapping so that everything was ready for the following morning.

Talk about cold! Living here in the middle of town I’d forgotten what frost and fog is all about.  When Wayne and I arrived at Terry’s place out in the suburbs the frost was deep on the lawns and the ice thick on the windows of the car. At least Terry took the trouble to wash it off with water from the hose. even if some did leak into the car (this is the car that you have to sit in the back seat of because the passenger door doesn’t open). Then we drove around to Darren’s place and piled into his car with the trailer already attached and drove off. ‘Don’t worry’, he said as we peered in fright through the frost on the windscreen, ‘I can see! He must have, we didn’t run into anything.

The trip down to Melbourne was hardly exciting.  Terry had commandeered my box of duplicate magazines and spent the trip browsing.  Wayne, who apparently can’t read in a moving car – must have something to do with his previous life as a police officer – surveyed the traffic and enlightened us with his usual apposite comments about people and what happens to the human psyche when placed behind the wheel of a car.

After last year’s attempt by IPMS to hold their annual Swap and Sell in the place of a thousand rooms, this time they had found a nice hall where everyone could be accommodated in the one open space which had been, for some unexplained reason, decorated with streamers and coloured paper chains hanging from the ceiling.  The tables were big and there was plenty of space for everyone and there were no hassles in getting everything from the trailer into the hall and onto the tables.  More people seem to be following Wayne’s lead with those big plastic zip- up bags that cost almost nothing and don’t get in the way like cardboard boxes.

Unlike previous swap and sell’s I’ve been to this one seem to run well with everything being in place on time and no significant difficulties.  There was a little time for the people behind the tables to wander around having a look at what others had on offer and then the doors were thrown open and the buyers swarmed in.  Well, I’m not sure if ‘swarmed’ is the word I’m groping for.  At the previous ones I’ve been to it really seemed as though a human wave swarmed through the place, washing up against the piles of kits and gradually eroding them away through the application of money.  This time it seemed that there weren’t as many people as before; maybe numbers were down on previous years or maybe the ball was spacious enough that the people didn’t have to jostle and push past each other to look at everything as they had in previous venues.  The event seemed to lack that little charge of excitement and anticipation that has buzzed through the air at other events, it was a friendly and amiable event but some spark seemed to be missing.

Not that I’m complaining.  The venue is much better and it was much easier to get around and see everything.  A few more people would have filled up the space better and given it a sense of excitement.  Most of the dealers seemed to do alright and, as usual, Wayne and Terry’s piles of kits steadily declined, as did mine, and there were a few things on other people’s tables that somehow made it back to my collection – at least I came away with more money than I had gone with and my bag had less in it on the way back than it did on the way there.  I even picked up some interesting items for my collection …  It’s interesting how we go about building up our collections, disposing of kits that were important to us as one stage but have lost priority as we get other passions. I guess our kit collections are a kind of expression of our interests and how they change over time.  When I looked at what I had bought this time around I noticed there were two general streams to it, there were a few airliners and a few French aeroplanes and, for some reason that I can’t quite explain, a 1/144 Tu-22M that l’ve already made but only cost $5.  That might be part of the usual human optimism that tells us that we need to make a kit again because we will do it better next time.

Closing time came around quickly, which surprised me because I hadn’t found the event very exciting.  I didn’t find any little gems that I could not live without and it seemed in general that there was little sense of excitement of urgency about the whole event.  On the way home Wayne and I decided that the best way to describe what the day was like was ‘beige’. Well, we’ll see how it goes again next year when people have got used to the place and hopefully those two kits that I will kill for happen to be there.

The MoB goes to the NNL
(June 2002)

The Ballarat Scale Model Builders has been holding NNL competitions for a few years but this was the second time that the junior club in Ballarat, us, the MoB, went. It is not a terribly difficult thing to do, it just involves getting a few models together and turning up on the day.  You fill in little forms, stick little sticky pieces of paper with your numbers on them on to the models and put them on the appropriate table.

Then you just sit around or stand around or go away and come back later in the day to find out who won.  Last year the club had judged categories, this time around they didn’t bother and prize winners were judged by popular acclaim only. Everyone got a sheet of paper with all the categories on it and wrote down the number of the model they liked the best.  The judging only involved tallying the votes and making the announcements.  It’s not a perfect system but any other kind of competition in which ‘experts’ judge are only bound to end up in tears and unhappiness.  Maybe the same thing happens after NNL judging also, but at least there are no judges to blame, just the ignorance of the masses in picking the wrong models.  But that’s democracy for you.  (Last year somebody went to the trouble of telling me what NNL stands for but this year I’ve forgotten … )

There was a lot of excitement and interest as people arrived and started putting their models on the tables.  Maybe it’s a male thing, ‘Mine’s bigger’ or ‘better’ or ‘redder’ or ‘more popular’ than yours.  Maybe it’s an opportunity to swap ideas about techniques because it always seems that somebody has discovered a new way to do something that you never thought of before or know how to get the right results with paints or where to find some decent decals.  Maybe it’s just the fact that there are more than enough models to occupy the day if you look at each one in detail. After that, when all the models have been entered, there is the challenge of having to pick the best model in each category. When I look at car models I usually haven’t got the slightest idea what I’m looking at or what I should be looking for that sets one model above the others. No doubt, however, that people who only make cars are equally bamboozled by the aeroplane or armour models and, having no idea whether they’re looking at a skilfully built vacform kit or something that has virtually built itself, they just pick the one they think looks the best to them.  I always enjoy looking at the truck models, mainly because of the amount of effort that their makers put into them. I get the impression that come modellers are happy to enter the same model year after year, it seems a little unwarranted to me but then, given the amount of effort that goes into some truck models, I’m sure that any opportunity to take them out and show them to others is a good opportunity.

After the initial excitement there is a very long lull in which nothing happens except people sitting or standing around looking at the models in the competition.  I usually find myself eandering through the tavles a few times looking at all the models on display and finding something that attracts my attention each time.  Otherwise there is plenty of time to sit chatting to people and to work on a new model.

Later in the day two members of the BSMB walked about among the tables chatting animatedly and distributing little ribbons for the third and second place getters.  This was a new thing and adds a little to the interest of the announcements because it gives people the opportunity to do some speculating … ‘If that came third and that came second, then that one over there should get the first prize.’  As well as announcing the winners and handing out the trophies to people, the club also dispensed ‘encouragement awards’ to one model in each category.  They were the real prizes because people who got a place with one of their models only got a ribbon or a trophy but the encouragement award winners got a kit.  Be honest, which would you prefer, a place and lots of acclaim or another kit to add to the collection? I thought so.

MoBsters ended up winning places in quite a few categories.  Congratulations all round to the organizers and participants and we look forward to next year’s event.

The MoB’s Big Day Out
(May 2002)

On Sunday, 21 April, the MoB put on its first model display.  It was a fairly simple event, put on with the intention of showing any visitors who cared to come what members of the Modellers of Ballarat do with their spare time.  The MoB was very ably assisted by the Ballarat Scale Model Builders who filled up several tables with models of cars and trucks and put up their wonderful barrier fences to keep little hands away from the models.  Their contribution helped to make the day as successful as it was.

There was no competition and no program at all beyond drawing the raffle.  The MoB set as its goal attracting enough visitors (each making a donation of a gold coin) so we could cover our costs, and we did that easily.  MoBsters also hoped that visitors would find the Display interesting and enjoyable and several people made an additional donation on their way out as a way of saying that they had enjoyed themselves.

The display was open between 11 and 4 in the afternoon and we allowed ourselves a couple of hours to get everything set up before that.  Tables scrounged from throughout the community center were lined up along the walls of our meeting room, BSMB members started putting up their barriers and members started arriving with boxes of models. At first there was a little concern that there might not be enough models but, as more members and supporters arrived and began putting their models on the tables, it began to look as though we might have too many models.  Fortunately we found another couple of tables and fitted them into the room, and managed to squeeze in just about all the models that had been bought along.  Later on in the day a couple of us tried to count them but kept on getting confused or distracted so nobody could tell for sure. Later I counted, using the photos I’d taken during the Display, and come up with the magic figure of 512 models on display (199 armour and military vehicles, 157 aeroplanes, 117 civil vehicles  (95 cars,  14 trucks and 8 motorcycles), 16 dioramas, 11 ships and boats and 12 miscellaneous). We agreed that we could probably call our event the biggest model display in the Southern Hemisphere in 2002.

When the doors opened visitors began drifting in, a few at a time for most of the day so there were always some people wandering around but the room was never really crowded.  The wide variety of models meant that almost all interests were catered for with some taking their time over the vehicles and almost ignoring the tanks and aeroplanes while others lingered over the aeroplanes and almost failed to notice the vehicles. At one stage I noticed a couple of old timers talking to each other in German and pointing out various German tanks – I wonder what old times they were reliving. In all, the display was open for five hours and the time seemed to fly by.  If there wasn’t somebody to chatter to there were more than enough models to look at and, no matter how many times you wandered around looking at them, there was always something that you hadn’t noticed before.  I spent a lot of time looking at the vehicles, not because cars interest me much but because of the exquisite finished that the models have. Another feature of the day was the refreshments that Yvette laid on for us, much appreciated as always.

At four o’clock the raffle was drawn and Wayne thanked everyone for their efforts.  Then the barriers came down and we all began packing up.  Within three quarters of an hour all the models had gone, the tables were put back where they belonged and everything else had been tidied away. It seemed a pity to end such a good event but everyone seemed pleased with what had been achieved and how enjoyable the day had been.

The MoB goes to ModelExpo
(April 2002)

‘Seven!’ I exclaimed.  ‘Yep, around seven I reckon’, he replied.  ‘Seven, as in seven in the morning?’ I asked.  I could hear him nodding over the phone.  ‘But nobody gets up at seven in the morning!’ I told him.  ‘Out here they do,’ he replied with just a hint of righteous smugness.  ‘Oh well’, I said, trying to sound hard done by, ‘is the sun up then? I think I have an alarm clock around here somewhere’.  ‘Good’, was his helpful reply.

So as the sun rose on the Monday holiday Wayne pulled into my drive way and we were soon on our way to the annual ModelExpo down in Melbourne.  Up in Victoria Street Terry was waiting with his car stacked fit to burst with kits to sell and Wayne and I followed him all the way down to Melbourne where he led us through the back streets of the metropolis to the Showgrounds.  At the gate a woman relieved us of $2.50 to get in, and that was only the beginning of the spending.

This was my first visit to the Expo and apparently this was a first for most people as the old venue had burnt down in the past year.  From what I heard people say, it was no great loss and the new venue was generally acclaimed as being a change for the better.  The format of the event hadn’t changed; the Expo is open for three days with the final day being a big swap and sell.  A couple of years ago some MoBsters went to the trouble of putting on a club display but that is too difficult to arrange from Ballarat so we haven’t the past couple of years.  There was an ex-MoBster who had gone to the trouble of entering which meant he had to get down to Melbourne and then go down again for the swap and sell, which seemed like a lot of effort to me.

By the time we arrived at a little before nine in the morning there were already two groups hanging around the building.  One was a queue lined up to get into the swap and sell and the other was the people with their boxes and bags who were the swap and sell.  Both Wayne and Terry had fat piles of stuff to sell, this time I had got myself organized and put some old duplicate modelling magazines in a  box with a sign on the front saying how much they cost.  We all stood around for a while until somebody came along, exclaimed ‘You’re all supposed to be in there by now’, then somebody else opened the door and we lugged all our stuff inside.

The hall that the Expo is in is more like a large empty warehouse than anything else. One half was fenced off with barriers and contained all the models entered in the Expo.  The other half was several rows of empty tables that all the sellers began piling all their stuff on.  To begin with there didn’t seem to be many there but by the time the little hand on the clock was nearing 10 the swap and sell had filled up nicely and in the few minutes to spare before the doors opened most people wanderd around to see what everyone else had on offer.  Then it was 10, the doors were thrown open and the crowd rushed in, a very big and eager one.  Terry and Wayne were soon disposing of their pile of kits and some people even bought some old magazines off me.  At various times one of us wandered off to see if there was anything on other people’s tables and we all succumbed to temptation though I was probably the only one of us to come back with more than I had gone with.

Unlike the event in August, the swap and sell for Expo is a more leisurely affair and goes on to well into the afternoon. The crowd thins off around two in the afternoon but people still wander through later and both Wayne and Terry were selling a bit as they were starting to pack up.  After everything was back in the cars we wandered into the Expo part and looked at the models on show.  Some were pretty fantastic, some were even better, but I’ve decided that 1 get as much fun out of making models as looking at them.  Terry headed off and Wayne and I spent a bit of time fossicking through the stands that had been set up by the professional dealers before we too headed off home.

I’m glad I went. I saw some excellent models, had a good time and finally got a Nord 2501 for my kit collection. What more could you want than that!

The MoB goes judging
(March 2002)

Terry and Leigh found their way out to Ballarat Airport on the Sunday of the long weekend in March to represent the MOB in judging the modelling competition for the Air Training Corps.  It wasn’t difficult to find where we had to go, there were hoards of youngsters in air force blue uniforms hurtling around all over the place.  It would probably have been interesting to stand and watch what they were doing for a while but the first person Terry asked to find out what we were to do was the person in charge so we were immediately led off to do our duty.

The competition was divided into a number of categories by age groups; for boys and for girls 8 to 11, 12- 15, 16-18 and over 18.  The largest category of models was the 8-11 boys with something like 15 models and there were a couple of girls categories where there were no entries. There were also four or so flying model aeroplanes which we both found very interesting.  When Terry and I were making balsa aeroplanes remote radio control was almost unheard of, but not these days.  Fortunately there weren’t too many of these because it would have been a little difficult to judge them using the traditional plastic modelling categories of gaps and gluing, painting, assembly and appearance.

We started at the category with the most kits in it, the 8-11 boys.  At that time we didn’t know what the age range was and so we made no allowances for how old the people were who made the kits.  In most cases we didn’t need to and, if I had been making models of that standard when I was that age, I would have been very proud of myself.  The models that came down at the lower end of the entrants was as good as what I was making when I was that old.  As for the winner, apart from some silvering on the decals I would be quite happy to own up to having made it even at my advanced age.  1 was particularly impressed by the Lancaster that won (anyone who can make the old Revell ‘Dambusters’ kit look so good gets full marks from me) and a couple of large scale Grumman F3Fs that were very well made and painted.

After we had finished that category we found it easier to judge the others, partly because there were less entries and partly because there were outstanding models in each category.  There was an all grey RAAF 1/48 F-111G that was very well made and had a very high quality finish. In another category the Caribou in Australian markings was exceptional and the two kits that came equal second were as good as anything I would hope to make.  Terry liked the P-47 better and I liked the Spitfire, both had their faults and in the end we couldn’t separate them.

There were less models entered in the girls’ categories but I was delighted to see that there were any entries at all. In one category the only entry was an old 1/72 Frog P-40 in Flying Tiger colours which was not exceptional but was very carefully assembled. and painted in colours that might not have been accurate but really did look attractive.  In another category the girl had made a very good A-6 Invader which was mounted flying over water.  Unfortunately she had got the colours wrong (but then not everybody has ready access to accurate FS colour paints) but the overall effect was good.

Overall, going out to judge the event was a worthwhile experience. I was impressed by the quality of many of the models and glad to see that an organization like the ATC is encouraging kids in our hobby.  The thing I don’t like about modelling competitions is that there has to be winners and losers.  This is fine for the winners but not for the losers who may not be encouraged when their efforts are not rewarded with success.  If there was some way of judging how much fun somebody got from making a model and how much they challenged their own skills in doing it 1 would be a lot happier.  Still, people seem to like competitions so who am I to complain.

We were left alone during the judging but after an hour or so kids started coming along and asking the person in charge when they could have a look.  It took us around an hour and a half to do the lot, which wasn’t hard work, and we left before the trophies were handed out – best to avoid the bloodletting.  We left behind a poster for our coming open day and some little hand outs, perhaps we might attract some of the modellers from the ATC.