A Pleasant Saturday’s Amusement
(November 2005)

The last time that Wayne and I went driving to a swap and sell event we got lost.  Well, not so much lost as misplaced.  We were on the right road heading in the right direction but we missed the turn-off because we were lost in a discussion of British comedy.  After a while one of us noticed that the Dandenongs seemed a whole lot bigger than they should be, and we turned back.  Fifteen minutes later we arrived where we were supposed to be.

This time things were different.  Perhaps because the turn-off is a lot more noticeable.  You drive down the Western Freeway until you see a big bridge over the road and a sign that says ‘Werribee’.  That’s where you turn off, and you drive off to the right until you get there.  I suspect that Wayne might have had a look at a street directory beforehand because we shot around some suburban streets before arriving at a scout hall.  ‘This must be the place.’  Wayne said.  ‘Yes?’ I asked.  ‘There’s Frank Morgan’s car.’

This scout hall was a bit like a Tardis, if you know what I mean.  Inside there were people setting up their tables to sell stuff, other people were putting out models on the competition tables and others were committing other acts of organisation.  Somebody was setting out the table groaning under the weight of the competition trophies, I didn’t know it was legal to assemble so many trophies in one place at the one time.  Outside others were firing up the barbeque.  They know the trick by now; set up just outside the door so the smell of cooking sausages and onion wafts into the hall.

Originally Wayne and I had just intended to only go and have a look but then Wayne suggested that if we took a table we could sell stuff, but we’d also have somewhere to sit during the day.  This turned out to be an excellent idea that worked well.  It also reminded me of one of the main reasons for sitting at a table behind a pile of kits and stuff, it is a great excuse to chatter to people about modelling.

Unlike other swap and sell events that are all something of a rush, the Werribee event was much more relaxed.  There were quite a few people who came in off the streets and bought a few things, but there were just as many who were modellers and knew their kits well enough to know what was worth buying and what wasn’t.  You could find yourself discussing intimate personal details of your modelling life with perfect strangers before you knew what was happening, and happy memories of younger, carefree, modelling times came flooding back.  Somebody lifts the lid on an old Frog kit and, overcome with nostalgia, recalls the time when a dab of black on the wheels was more than enough to make us happy with our models.  In the next minute you could find yourself going over that debate about Foliage Green that was sparked in Frank’s journal.

The most astonishing part of the entire event was the tables taken by Mr NKR, laden with huge piles of kits being flogged off at irresistible prices.  Had it not been for that table I would have come out of the day feeling very virtuous, with less stuff than I had gone with.  However, things didn’t work out that way and now I have most of the lovely little WWI fighters that come from Eastern Express these days.

Things started to drag around two or three in the afternoon so I got out a kit and started working on it.  Isn’t it amazing how much work is needed to bring even a Hasegawa kit up to scratch in some cases?  A bit after four they began the process of dispensing trophies, and it took a fair while.  Wayne came away with two or three, which is only to be expected.  Then they drew the raffle.  There was only one prize, a huge box of kits from Mr NKR and it was taken off by our President, Zim.  He has already gone home by then but Wayne managed to find unexpected space in his car for them.

And then it was time to pack up and head for home.  My only complaint about the day was that it seemed to go an hour or so longer than my stamina.  Apart from that, a very relaxed, rewarding and amusing day.

To conclude; the day led me to some thoughts about the different ways clubs can run events.  I was somewhat disappointed at the number of models put on display and it seemed to me that this might be because it was a competition rather than a display.  That meant that most of the models put on the tables were little masterpieces designed to attract the attention of the judges.  There’s nothing wrong with that since that’s what competition standard models are for.  However, in comparison to the MoB’s display where the visitor is exposed to over 500 models, there was very little at the Werribee event to keep visitors interested for long.  So, if you are a modeller who likes building high standard models, the Werribee day is a good event for you.  On the other hand, if you are an interested spectator off the street, there is much more likelihood that the MoB display will have something to attract you.

This leads to some thoughts about whether the focus of club activities should be for the amusement of club members and fellow modellers, or whether it should be on spreading the word about our great hobby to a wider audience. I know which one I go for.

The Latest Bunninyong NNL
(June 2005)

Several MoBsters took themselves out to he the Bunninyong Golf Club towards the end of May for the annual Ballarat Scale Model Builders event.  It followed the same format as previous years with modellers putting their models on the table, the judging, the waiting for the results to be tallied, the announcement of winners and finally everyone packing up and going home.  A very simple program for the day but really a lot more complex than our own display day which has only the beginning and ending of the BSMB event.

The term NNL might need some clarification. It apparently means ‘National Nameless Luminaries’ and is, in fact, the modelling competition you have when you’re not having a competition.  It seems that the NNL concept arose somewhere in the United States a couple of decades ago when a bunch of modellers were debating the endlessly fascinating topic of judging at competitions.  What was the solution to the problem they wondered, and came up with the idea of getting fellow modellers and visiting members of the public to do the judging so they couldn’t complain when they got it wrong. Hence the organization at Bunninyong.

When we arrived we were asked to fill out some slips, one for each model we were entering in the competition.  When we handed them in we were given little sticky labels with numbers on them that we stuck to our models.  Then we put them on the appropriate tables and wandered off.  The result was a number of tables, each with a different category of models on it, with the only thing to identify each model being a little sticky label with a number on it.  Since there were no names on the models there was no possibility of people voting for their mates’ models.  When it came time for the voting we were each given a voting slip with the names of each category and a box to write a number in.  We then wandered around looking at all the models and decided which one we liked the best in each category and wrote it down.  When all that was over the club committee tallied up the votes to find out who the winner was.  All fair and above board, possibly, but no more likely to get the winners right than any other judging system.  I was wandering past the table with the aircraft on it when a mother asked her little boy which model he liked the best.  He pointed to the biggest, brightest one and that was the number she wrote down.  On the other hand, Wayne took his judging duties much more seriously and actually tried to find the best model in each category, no mean feat for a table swarming with twenty or thirty car models.

The trouble with the NNL system is that it misses the whole point of judged competitions – to give modellers the world over something in common to whinge about.  If it were not for model competitions the world would be full of happy modellers doing what they like best which is, I hope, making scale models.  Without competitions there would be little encouragement for modellers to develop the symptoms of the dreaded Advanced Modeller Syndrome.  There would be nothing for gatherings of modellers to talk about in common; recalling some of the most monumental injustices in the course of human history and the greatest demonstrations of mental ineptitude seen on the face of the earth.

After we had done our democratic duty some MoBsters took themselves to the Green Parrot fish and chip shop in Sebastapol and returned to the NNL venue where we examined s couple of big yellow earth moving machines parked nearby in detail, pondering the lack of decent earth moving model kits.  Then it was back into the hall to look again at the models.  After a while I noticed that Wayne and Dr Z had disappeared from view.  Later I found them sitting in another room with our friends from Bendigo, talking about modelling and life in general. Eventually the conversation turned, as it inevitably must, to competitions and judges.  All I can say is that I wouldn’t be a competition judge for quids.

Eventually it was time to return to the hall and the winners were announced.  The unfairness of the system was soon discovered when we learned that the place getters got a prize ribbon or a little wooden trophy for their efforts.  The winner of the ‘encouragement award’, that was judged by the club committee rather than the general populace, got a model kit.

It doesn’t take long for your average modellers to figure out that they would rather have a kit than a piece of ribbon or a small wooden artefact.  And so it was revealed that the point of entering the competition was not to win a place but to attract the committee’s attention by putting in entries that clearly demonstrated the need for ‘encouragement’.  Poor Dr Zim was devastated to learn that he had aimed too high and ended up with a ribbon.  Never mind, the awards gave modellers more to talk about in the future.

And of the day itself, languid might be a positive description. Not having been to the past couple of NNL events I don’t know how they went, but in comparison to the previous Bunninyong events I’ve been to this one seemed to lack a sense of energy.  Perhaps it was a result of my general dissatisfaction with the NNL process or perhaps it was that there were fewer models to look at than I recalled seeing at previous events.  On the other hand, the event was smoothly run and I’m sure people whose modelling is more inclined to vehicles than mine would have got a lot more out of it.  For myself, the entire day was made worthwhile by a modelling tip I picked up from one of the Bendigo people that involves Maskol and small pointy objects.

The Display
(May 2005)

Our fourth display went well.  Lots of people came, there was lots to look at and people enjoyed themselves. What more could you ask for?

Of course, putting on the display doesn’t just happen on the day, it takes a lot of planning, organizing and tub thumping to make it happen and, as usual, Wayne and Yvette did the lion’s share of the work.  Let’s thank them for their efforts. As an example…

As a prelude to this year’s display Wayne turned himself into a media celebrity with interviews on ABC Local Radio, 3BA and The Voice community radio.  I only heard the last one but the ABC put up an interesting web page with quotes from the interview, some photos of Wayne and Jeff, and on demand sound.  The 3BA interview went very well but the one at The Voice was a bit of a fizzer.  Not that it matters much, all promotion is good and if a few people heard the interview and turned up it was all for the best.

I was curious about the Community radio station so I wandered down to see the interview first hand.  When I arrived at the station I found Wayne and Yvette disappearing into a second hand sofa waiting for Wayne’s turn.  After a while a little man appeared out of a door way and led Wayne and I into a small dark room dominated by a huge console.

The presenter disappeared around to his side and, being short, never reappeared.  The sound of his voice issued forth from the gloom on the other side of the console but there was little chance of eye contact, and radio doesn’t go well unless the people involved can give each other visual clues about what they are doing.  The event went for about fifteen minutes but Wayne had to struggle with somebody who knew nothing about scale modelling, except the possibility that it had something to do with flying models.  Sometimes a question arrived out of the gloom that left Wayne wondering what it meant and what he was supposed to say in response.  Wayne and his tormenter finally began to establish some common ground and the interview was just starting to warm up when the presenter said it was time to wind-up.  He must have thought it had all gone well because he invited Wayne back to talk again.

On with the display.  There was a last minute problem when we learned that the owners of the hall wouldn’t let us have all the tables, solved simply by going out and purchasing some.  There was some last minute angst about the raffle, but when everyone began arriving on the day things began to fall into place nicely.  It is always fun to see models being unpacked and put onto the tables and to see the number and variety growing rapidly as more members arrive.  The Modellers from Bendigo also arrived and began putting their models out, adding more variety to the display.

Then it all started happening.  Without really noticing the hall gradually began to fill up with people, most of them people we’d never seen before who seemed genuinely interested in looking at the models.  Suddenly I found myself having an interesting conversation with a modeller who likes airliners and that merged into another conversation about modelling the complete set of RAAF aircraft with somebody else.  I’d taken along some work to do but somehow I got only a little bit done, what with all the disruptions.  The atmosphere was amiable and light hearted, just what we wanted.

Steve went around counting the models, over 600 on display this time.  I’ll take his word for it.  Just looking around the room it was easy to see there were thousands of hours work invested in the collected display.  You could either say we have too much spare time on our hands or, to put it more positively, we’re keeping ourselves occupied so we’re not a danger to society.

I had a look to see what were the most popular subjects in the display, there were the usual Tigers, Shermans and T-34s.  The most popular were F4U Corsairs and A7V, but all the little German tanks belonged to you-know-who, so I don’t know if that counts.  One model that took my eye was the SAAB Viggen painted in that complicated Swedish camouflage.  Anybody who takes on that job, particularly in 1:72, deserves some kind of medal and a free visit to the psychologist.  There was also Wayne’s lovely little French tank, beautifully made but with a little placard casting aspersions on the French, again. Mon Dieu!!

And then, before I knew what was going on, the raffle prizes were being drawn.  For once I even won something, but not what I had hoped for and I have no intention of making that huge submarine kit I now have in my collection.

People began taking their models off the table and within half an hour it was all over.  I’m told that the hall is already booked for next year.  I can hardly wait.

The MoB goes East
(March 2005)

The sun was only just beginning to cast its glow across the landscape as Wayne and Terry pulled up in the Panzer, prelude to yet another expedition to a swap and sell in Melbourne.  My bag was all prepared, full of kits and stuff I had once intended to make fabulous models with.  So much for the folly of youth and the wisdom of age, and we jumped into the panzer and drove off into the dawning of a new day.

Terry and Wayne talked about the dastardly doings in another organization in Ballarat as we drove down to Melbourne.  Don’t ask me what it was all about, I was reclining comfortably in the panzer’s back seat, packed in snugly with bulging bags of kits for sale or swapping and contemplating the implausibility of people actually being awake and alert so early in the morning.  Occasionally one of them would toss a question into the back seat; was I awake?  Was I awake!  Of course I was awake (or what passes for awake at such an early hour) because they kept me in that state with their questions.  They also made ongoing reference to the fact that the Eastern Suburbs club would be sizzling sausages at the swap and sell and querying me on how many I would be able to consume during the function.  All this because I had once made a passing reference to the tempting aromas of sausages sizzled at a previous Eastern Suburbs event…

And so we hurtled through the metropolis of Melbourne.  These days Deer Park is starting to seem like an inner suburb.  Because we were so early we missed the flood of traffic that usually accompanies the annual car race at Albert Park.  We also made the trip much easier by availing ourselves of the tunnels that make it so much easier to get from one side of the city to the other.  Terry and Wayne amused themselves during out subterranean travels by making jokes about the tunnel flooding.  This reminded me that a few years ago I had written a little book about the construction of a road tunnel through central Perth.  At least Main Roads Western Australia had the decency to install paneling inside the tunnel so you couldn’t see where the water was leaking in while the cheapskates at CityLink had not installed paneling so you could see all the damp patches where the water was seeping in.  I didn’t mind that so much, it was the glistening of some of the patches because they were so wet and that set me thinking about the overall soundness of the tunnel’s construction.

Moving on to happier thoughts, we knew we had arrived at the venue; partly because it looked familiar and partly because Frank Morgan (the publisher of that famed journal) was standing in the car park.  It seemed unlikely that he would just stand randomly in car parks around Melbourne over the weekend so we reckoned we had arrived.  Terry and Wayne amused themselves with another comment about my capacity to consume sizzled sausages as we pulled up, and we got out.  It wasn’t far from the car park over the road to the hall so we picked up out bags and headed over.  Already the hall was buzzing with the sound of modellers setting up on their tables, greeting each other and checking to see what everyone else was selling and how much they were asking for their kits.  One vendor soon had his sticky labels out and began writing cheaper prices on them, placing them carefully so that the old prices were clearly visible under the new ones.

The table Terry, Wayne and I were to share seemed smaller than the one we had had last year.  So we scrunched up and made the best of it.  Far worse was the location of the table.  In one way it was very well located, just inside the door of the hall so the people coming in came past us first.  However this placed it very close to the barbeque that was being set up as we arrived.  It was not long before the aroma of cooking sausages and sizzling onion began wafting into the hall.  I may have been able to resist the smell of the sausages, but sausages and onion … The bastards!

We were all pleasantly surprised at how the event went.  There did not seem to be a tidal wave of modellers when the doors were thrown open, but those that did come in knew what they were looking at and what they wanted.  Trade was much brisker than at previous events and people were quick to snap up a bargain or a kit or decal sheet they’d been looking for.  By mischance I happened to have two old Airfix Boeing 707s there and they both went to appreciative modellers who knew about the value of such things, even though one was without its decal sheet (but remembering the Airfix decals sheets from that period it was probably a blessing).  Another modeller snapped up three old Frog kits I had, he seemed more interested that they were by Frog than the aeroplanes they represented.

After an hour or so a couple of us wandered off to have a good look at what was available, leaving one of us to tend the stall.  Wayne and Terry threatened to attract modellers to buy their kits by offering one from the other’s pile of kits for free – but I never saw it actually happen.  I don’t know what to make of the fact that they never offered a kit from my pile free to sweeten a deal, but perhaps they just didn’t tell me about it.  Come to think of it, my pile of kits did seem to go down fairly quickly.

One of the reasons for going to swap and sells to sell kits is to buy more. From talking to other vendors I get the impression that most go to get rid of kits they no longer want and pick up things they do want.  Some don’t seem to mind whether they go away with more than they came with, others are waiting for something to sell so they can afford to go and buy that kit they saw on another table.  I admire their patience.  Or perhaps it’s fear, or a healthy respect for ‘she who must be obeyed’.  I had a very interesting conversation with one modeller who thought that while getting married might have some entertaining fringe benefits the resulting restrictions on modelling and kit purchasing would probably make it too restrictive.  I gave him some pointers on how this problem might be managed but he wasn’t convinced.

By about midday things had begun to quieten down and some serious haggling began.  Vendors had kits they didn’t want to have to take home and buyers were keen to take advantage of this.  On one occasion Wayne offered a prospective client two $25 kits for $40 but the buyer was focussed on how much money remained in his wallet rather than the fantastic deal.  Wayne suggested he could solve the problem by looking to see how much money was left in the wallet, but that didn’t work. Another buyer offered to take a kit off Wayne if he dropped the price and threw in a couple of figurine kits as well. He left with nothing.

People began packing up at about 12.30 and we began packing up too.  But there were still modellers looking to spend the last of their money and a couple of kits were bought virtually out of our hands as they we were putting them back in our bags to go home.  Eventually we did pack and headed off, back to lovely Ballarat.  We stopped at Deer Park so Terry could hook up with his wife who came down to the city to do some shopping.  Together they headed back into the city. He had a fine morning, I wonder how his afternoon went?

By the way, I only had two sizzled sausages with onion. I might have had a third but they ran out of onion.