A Magic Ride in the Golden Jaguar – To the Eastern Suburbs Kit Extravaganza
(April 2012)

Last year I slept in and so missed the opportunity of travelling down to Melbourne with Zim to witness the Eastern Suburbs swap and sell.  This year, not wishing to repeat that unfortunate performance, I set the alarm a day earlier to test that it would go off properly.  I got it right, the alarm went off right on 0600 but, since I was asleep at the time, I lept out of bed and started to get ready.  It took only a minute or two to realise that this was only a trial run, and I could sleep in …  The next morning the alarm went off in the middle of a rather pleasant dream, but by the time I had turned it off. it was too late …

The moon was still bright and high in the sky as I walked down to the gates of Stalag Hemsley to wait for Zim by the side of the road.  I was worried because I had remembered that I had forgotten the secret code number needed to open the gates of the camp, which only open automatically after sunrise.  I had images of Zim coming past and, not seeing me clutching at the bars like a prison inmate, driving off and leaving me behind.  Fortunately, I found that while you need to know the secret code number to get into the stalag, you can just get out by turning the door handle.  This, of course, meant that if Zim had slept in I would be stuck outside until the gates opened automatically for the day.

A few cars purred past in the early morning street light but it was not long before the powerful thrumm of a truly British motor let me know that Zim was coming down the hill towards me and, within a few seconds, his gorgeous golden Jaguar emerged from the darkness.

While Zim’s Jaguar is not an E-type, he tells me that it has the same engine.  It certainly has the right sound.  The last time I was in this kind of car I was driving it along one of Perth’s freeways, having promised to look after the thing while it’s owner was travelling overseas.  I did not enjoy the sensation of being behind the steering wheel of that car which, I thought, probably felt the same as driving a Centurion tank.  I was also terrified that somebody would crash into it, so I was not enjoying myself.  This time Zim was behind the wheel and seemed to know what he was doing, so I relaxed and took in my surroundings – the wood panelling, the ‘60s styling and the solid toggle switches lined up in the middle of the dashboard.  They don’t make cars like that any more.

Thus enclosed in golden metal, feeling almost as invincible as one would in a Centurion tank, we cruised down the Western Freeway, towards Melbourne and into the morning light.  Along the way we chatted about this and that; the life of a driver in the army, the impoverished life of a student and the ups and downs of teaching engineering to sometimes dubious students.  It seemed almost no time at all before we had arrived at the outer suburbs and Zim navigated us unerringly along freeways, main roads and suburban streets, occasionally breaking off a discussion on some informative point of lecturing about mechanical engineering to hurl sudden invectives at idiot drivers.

We arrived at the Box Hill Community Art Centre at about 0815 and pulled into the car park across the road.  Getting there early is a good idea; on some previous occasions when we’ve travelled down to this event we’ve had to park off in the distance, but at that early hour the car park is almost empty and parking is no problem.  While the parking was inconvenient for us, it caused consternation for an asian gentleman in his silken pajamas doing his morning ritual exercises – you know the kind of thing I mean, you’ve seen it often enough on the television, groups of people performing a gentle set of ritual movements in unison in parks – except there was only one of them in this car park.  When we pulled up he looked a little put-out and moved across a little to continue.  Within a few minutes more cars started arriving and our poor Bruce Lee began looking more and more disconcerted.  Well, you can imagine his state of mind, going down to the usually-empty-on-a-Sunday-morning car park, which quickly started filling up with cars.

The Community Centre hall looks fairly large when there’s nothing in it but tables set up and waiting for dealers.  But gradually people began arriving with boxes and bag of goodies to put out on their tables and the early quiet started to give way to the hubbub of people chatting to each other, catching up and talking about the items they’d brought along for sale.  By about 0900 the barbeque was heating up and breakfast was on the way – either the traditional snags and onion or the more substantial bacon and egg sandwich, enough to keep body and soul together.  As the opening hour of 1000 approached the hall had filled up and it seemed unlikely that anyone else could fit in, but then the doors were thrown open to the waiting hoard, and the room became suddenly even more crowded.

There were plenty of bargains on the tables, particularly for modellers who want even more Bf109, Fw190 and Spitfire kits but, for those of us with more refined tastes, there was not much of interest – a lonely Dujin kit and a couple of little treats that I thought might fill gaps in my collection (but which I later found I already had).  I did pick up a cheap facsimile of the 1919 Janes All the World’s Aircraft and a couple of little Sparrow Castings French tanks.  I was just beginning to congratulate myself on my restraint when Daryl (you know, of Victorian Hobby Centre fame) turned up with boxes of kits and decals that had belonged to a now deceased modeller that were being sold for his widow.  I don’t know who that modeller had been, but he had taste.  There were boxes and boxes of 1/144 airliner kits and generous lashings of decals to go on them.  There was also an Anigrand kit, now long out of production, that I had been looking for for the past couple of years, and a couple of other delicacies.  Very quickly I went from feeling smug about my restraint to almost uncontrollable avarice.  (I now draw a veil of modesty over what happened as all those frustrated airliner modellers – and there were a lot of us – finally found something worthwhile to spend out money on.  If you’ve ever been to one of those Boxing Day sales you have a general idea of what it was like.)

What with this bounty of kits and decals, and the enticing aroma from the barbeque, I was all spent up by about 1130 when Zim suggested that it might be time to head off.

And so we drove off, across the city and up the Western Freeway with the mighty Jaguar powering along.  With the window open the sound is even better.

Did we have a good time?  Of course.  Only my wallet regrets the trip.  I’m in trouble if Daryl turns up at Expo.

Our Display Day – The Experience of a Model Citizen
(May 2012)

The secret behind the success of our Display Days is all the work that goes on behind the scenes well in advance of the Day.  Already the initial work for next year has taken place and Yvette and Wayne have sewn the seeds for our next Display in giving this year’s sponsors feedback on what was achieved with their help this year.

Closer to the time there is the flurry of activity as all the final details are sorted out and locked in.  Again, most of the work falls to Wayne and Yvette and all I really hear about this is the occasional conversation or email.  This year one email mentioned all the people and organisations who were contributing to our raffle and one well known local distributor of kits who refused to contribute.  That email went on to say that Wayne would find out which kits that distributor brought into the country and would refuse to buy them ever again.  I’m sure that Wayne will be happy to give you a copy of his list if you feel inclined to join in his embargo.

The next thing I heard from Wayne was another email asking if I would join him at the Ballarat Courier office on the Tuesday before the display to meet a reporter.  Being of more or less sound mind this did not sound like an entirely good idea, knowing how prone newspaper reports are to mangling the truth, but since it was all in a good cause I promised to turn up.  Imagining that a photograph might be involved I planned to take along something to be photographed, something modest in proportions and easy to transport, but Wayne and Yvette insisted that it had to be the evil B-36.  So, on the appointed day at the appointed time I staggered into the office of the Courier with the rotten thing.

Have you noticed how the world is being run by babies these days, or at least people who are surely not yet old enough to vote.  Perhaps I exaggerate but it seemed to me that most of the people in the office were young enough to still be enjoying puberty.  All I can think is that Rupert Murdoch must be a very trusting person to leave that newspaper to the tender mercies of those so tender in years.  (He does own the Courier, doesn’t he?  He owns just about everything else.)  So we sat at one table and chatted to people while we waited for our designated reporter.  Somehow the conversation turned to football, as it often does, and when our reporter came along it turned out that he is, like I, a long suffering Melbourne supporter.  We talked about that for a while and sobbed into our hankies, and after we had established a suitable rapport the conversation turned to our upcoming display and he jotted down some random notes.  I gave him a little press release thing I’d prepared just to make sure he had little excuse for getting the date and the venue wrong.  Then we were ushered off to another area where another babe in arms took pictures of us, lots of them with an immensely expensive camera, while Wayne held his P-47 and I waved the dreadful B-36 around to suit the photographer’s needs.  And then we were sent out into the world again.

The next day I’m at the chemist picking up our accustomed bag of medicine and the chemist greets me like his long lost brother.  It turns out that he’d seen our photograph in the paper.  One of the bowls players at Stalag Hemsley also mentioned that he had seen a photo in the paper and wanted to know what it was all about.  So I went and bought a copy of the Courier and there, in place of the usual page 3 photograph, was Wayne and I holding models and looking less demented than I had expected.  There were also some words at the side getting the time and the venue right and quoting a couple of Wayne’s more entertaining comments to the reporter.  Success!

Setting up on Saturday turned out to be a fairly enjoyable affair.  The weather was pleasant and MoBsters had time to get things done without the sense of urgency that is inevitable on Sunday morning.  It also gave me time to organize dangling four models from the upstairs railing, a necessity because that horrid B-36 would have taken up so much room on the table that there would be almost no space left for other models.  (It had occurred to me that if I also hung up my models of a B-29, B-47, B-52 and XB-70 there would be a fair representation of US strategic air power on display but, fortunately perhaps, the B-36 was so big that there was no room for any of the others in the car.)  The only part of the exercise that I did not enjoy was standing on a chair to hook up the models high enough that they would be out of reach, either the chair was unstable, or I was.

The next day, Display Day, turned out to be exceptionally nice.  Arriving not much later than in previous years I attended to organising my models so they took up as little space as possible and Mark and I finalized the famous Mach 2 display that he had organised.  While all this was going on President Zimmer was striding about purposefully making sure that the final details were in order, Yvette and Steve were sorting out the raffle and the dealers were coming in and setting up, all a scene of busy activity.  At some stage the  public started coming in and they kept coming, and then there were more of them and then even more.

There’s not much I can say about the Display itself.  It was the same as when you go to a concert  – Glass’s Einstein on the Beach for those of us with taste and AC/DC for those of us with other tastes – and there is a timeless quality about being in the moment when time ceases to exist.  Or like a dinner party for a bunch of friends where you spend all day preparing and then the occasion itself is suddenly upon you and then it is over, with no sense of passing time when you are swept away by the good humour, conversation and sense of companionship.  At our Display there were people to talk to, models to look at, more people to talk to, dealers’ tables to look at and more people to talk to.  It all merged into one continuous sensation of involvement, comradeship and pandemonium.  During previous displays there have been moments of quite when it is possible to feel a sense or boredom, but for me not this time.  It just kept on going all day.  In previous years I’d taken along a kit to work on during the dull moments, and one year I almost a completed a Mach 2 kit (a little one to be sure), but this year I achieved almost nothing towards the Lockheed Starliner I’m working on.

There were some stand-out moments.  Early in the day I met Norm and Heather Darwin who had brought with them something precious.  In a cardboard box Norm had a model of a Lancaster him father had  made while on operations with Bomber Command during World War II.  I learned from Norm that aircrew had been offered kits of the bombers they flew to make in their spare time, most likely lumps of wood with the outline of the fuselage and wings printed on them as a guide, and some Bakelite parts such as propellers to complete the kit.  The end result was not very good by the standards of kits available half a century later but this was an artefact made by a man who took part in Bomber Command’s great assault on Europe in the mid 1940s and it had survived, with a few knocks and lost bits and pieces, for all those decades until now.  Norm had in mind to improve his father’s model somewhat but I hope I convinced he and Heather that the real value of the model lay in keeping it in the form that time had delivered it to them and that they should make sure they wrote down the story of its life so far so that future generations of their family could understand why they had kept it and the significance that lay in it.  Perhaps, in time, it could make its way to some museum like the Australian War Memorial where it would be looked after for a long time to come in the form that I had seen it in.

The Men’s Shed sure sold good sausages.  I try not to go to Bunnings on Saturday mornings because, if I do, I’m always tempted by the smell of sizzling sausages raising money for this or that charity.  While the smell is something, the taste is usually a disappointment, a poor excuse for a sausage probably bought at a supermarket.  I learned that the Men buy their sausages as a special butcher’s shop and the effort was worth it, a good solid sausage with a good solid taste worthy of the smell.  The first one was so good that I went back for another.  On the way back down the corridor to the Display I followed a group of people who stopped to reflect upon the model of the Titanic and the iceberg floating in the pond.  One of them commented that it might not have been in the best of taste but I restrained myself from telling them that there is a lot of history that modellers deal with that is not particularly nice, but we do aim for truthfulness.  I didn’t feel that the lecture that would go with these ideas would appear appropriate to the moment, so I left them to their thoughts.

Not long after I got back to my seat with the second sizzled sausage President Zim turned up with lunch.  How could that be, surely it was no more than eleven in the morning.  I looked at my watch.  What had happened to the morning?

The Display continued on and it seemed like little more than half an hour later that Yvette and Steve began preparing to draw the raffle prizes.  I looked at my watch again.  How had it got to be that late…

Only a few moments later all the prizes had been drawn and it was time to pack up and go home.  This not too difficult and it is good to have boxes to put models in so that I don’t have to worry about their fragility.  The only fragility I was worried about was my own as I cut down the models dangling from the roof, tottering on a chair again.  Steve, wearing his OH&S hat for a moment, confirmed me in my thoughts that it was not an entirely good idea.  The next thing I knew, everything was packed away and people were saying goodbye and heading home.  It was as though the entire day had disappeared in a matter of moments.

I can only hope that next year’s Display will be as good.

A Grand Day Out with Pythagoras
(July 2012)

Sitting in the back seat of the Statesperson must be a bit like being the Queen, except you’re not expected to wave at anyone.  There are subtle expressions of luxury and acres of space all about, which was just as well because Master Wayne had filled the boot of the Statesperson with his collection of no-longer-loved kits.  Thus, I had to sit next to my bag of no-longer-required kits for which I hoped to find new and good homes at Expo.

As I was about to sit I found the seat occupied by Pythagoras, in the form of a book about his life and teachings.  The Disciple of Pythagoras, who was also performing chauffer duties, had thoughtfully marked the pages which summarised Pythagoras’ teachings about the lives we will be reborn to if we demonstrated unfortunate personal traits; the only one I now recall is that the avaricious will be reborn as wolves.  This might go a long way to explaining the behaviour of many of the people one faces across the table at swap-and-sell events, they are just demonstrating wolf-like behaviours before they are reborn as one.

We glided down the highway – do Statespersons do other than glide – towards Melbourne and the uplifting (so we hoped) experience of Expo.  In the front Master Wayne and the Disciple of Pythagoras chatted and the sound system poured forth old soul music.  Sitting comfortably in the back seat I devoted myself to the study of the life, times and teachings of Pythagoras in the hope of being reborn as something noble.  In the Statesperson even the chaos of the Melbourne road system seems to achieve a greater sense of perfection and so we arrived at the venue in a state of serenity, prepared to learn from the experience that lay ahead of us.

In previous years we’ve arisen early and arrived at the venue well before the doors are opened to sellers.  This year, having reasoned that, since the doors were not opened to the avaricious hoard of buyers before 1000, there was no reason to arrive there well before 0900 and spend over an hour standing around.  Thus it was that we arrived at about 0940.  The attendants at the door waiting to collect our entrance fee looked bored and listless and we learned that they had been waiting for us for some time.  After they took our money they scurried off and, following the fuss they made last year, I felt that having to wait for us this year was a subtle form of revenge.  This made me feel a little cheerful but I’m sure I heard a quiet ‘Tut, tut’, in my ear, uttered with an ancient Greek accent.

We had not been waiting for long before the doors opened to the public, and it seemed to me that whereas the crowd had surged in in previous years like a tidal wave, this year it poured in like a gentle stream.  This general lack of enthusiasm seemed to pervade the entire event with less people less eager to spend money.  However, over the following couple of hours the piles of kits belonging to Master Wayne and I gradually decreased in size.  Master Wayne was keen to get rid of his kits to anyone, I was more discerning and tried to make sure that the kits I sold went to people who looked to be gentle of soul, the kinds of people who would give the kits I had once treasured a good new home.  This is a little like selling kittens.  I went out a couple of time scanning the piles of kits on sale to see if anything attracted me but the only kit I ended up buying was a B-36D.  Yes, I know I already have a B-36, but I have a cunning plan for this new kit which will come to fruition, eventually.

Towards the end of the event I was approached by a young fellow who wanted to buy my small scale B-25 kit.  It had $10 dollars written on it and he wanted to know if I would sell it to him for less.  He did not look to me as though he would treat this little kit well and so I told him that I would only sell it for the stated price.  He then introduced me to another fellow who he announced was his ‘negotiator’.  This was something new to me but, being relatively quick witted, I told the ‘negotiator’ that I would sell the kit to him for $12.  After some haggling, which wasn’t really haggling at all because I stood steadfast like the armies of Sparta, the transaction was finally concluded for the originally stated price.  I hope they enjoyed this encounter and came away feeling uplifted, I certainly did.

Master Wayne finally sold his remaining kits to a fellow with a bulging wallet and they will probably appear on some web site where you can purchase them, complete with appropriate markup.  He paid no attention to my remaining kits, which is probably just as well because I’m not sure that I’d like to hand them over to a bloated capitalist, who would treat them as mere items of commerce.

I must be closer to the state of perfection that Pythagoras teaches us to attain because, when we made our way downstairs to Expo itself, I didn’t feel at all avaricious.  The most expensive thing I purchased was a bucket of chips.  Whilst munching on this overpriced but still rather tasty treat, I overheard a conversation between a couple of modellers, one of them displaying a kit I had sold him.  He proclaimed that it was a real bargain because the kit (a Pegasus Gloster Gauntlet) sold for a lot more on ebay.  I was sad at overhearing this, not because I had sold the kit for less than its monetary worth but because I has sold it so someone who had purchased it for its commercial worth rather than is potential to teach through the ‘torments of cauterising and incision to be performed by fire and steel’ (as we have been taught to perform through making unmakeable models.)

In my wanderings around Expo I overheard two other conversations.  One occurred when one modeller asked another if he had ‘been to Ballarat?’, referring to our display.  ‘Yes’, the other replied, it was ‘fun’.  The other was between a couple of modellers chatting to each other in French.  As I listened in to this conversation I understood about one word in four, so it is back to French classes again one of these days.  I heard more of this conversation than I really cared to because they were standing right in front of the small collection of airliner models and stopping me from looking at them more closely.  As I could not remember the French for ‘Bugger off’, I had to wait until they finished and went away.

While wandering around the competition tables I was led, through my study of Pythagoras on the way down, to contemplate the paradox of modellers striving to achieve perfection in their work, not that there was too much perfection (though there were some excellent models of BAC Lightnings) on display.  It occurred to me that they were striving to achieve this perfection, not to attain perfection for themselves but to gain one of the legion of little trophies on display elsewhere in the hall.  Pythagoras was not on hand to explain this mystery so I had to try to figure it out for myself.

Thus it was that the Disciple of Pythagoras found me wandering distractedly about Expo.  Having also found Master Wayne he herded us back to the Statesperson for the return to Ballarat.  On the way home we pulled into a well known eatorium.  We found it full of young people hurtling about, expending energy to no good purpose that they will wish they had conserved in another fifty or sixty years.  As we sat, surrounded by this energy and noise, I asked my two travelling companions, ‘What have we learned today?’  The Disciple of Pythagoras thought for a moment and replied, ‘That many people don’t learn anything?’.  I wonder what he meant.

Our Epic Adventure – The MoB’s Annual Adventure in Melbourne
(October 2012)

Once again MoBsters piled into a tiny van and hurtled down the Western Freeway to raid the model shops of the suburbs of the metropolis.  As usual we did not venture into the centre of the city but skirted around it.  At one stage during the trip Master Mark said that what is needed to write up such trips is an ‘overarching narrative’ or, to use the technical term, a ‘metanarrative’.  However, there is another way to recount the events of the day which is, to use its technical term, ‘thematic’.  For a change we will embark upon a thematic narrative here.

On another point during our trip Master Sean commented to Pilot Zim that I seemed to be taking a lot of photos.  Indeed I was, and for a simple reason.  The more photos I put in this report the less words I have to write.

In the cockpit

Key to the success of this operation were the cockpit crew of Masters Zim and Steve, the former the pilot and the latter the navigator.  In all, they saw us safely across a vast expanse of the city, covering about 400km in about 11 hours and dealing with the traffic and the usual supply of idiot drivers, much to the consternation of the pilot.  It is his unfortunate fate that his exclamations to said drivers has become a principal source of entertainment to the occupants of the cabin so that, when he exclaimed that the idiot in front of him driving at sub-warp speed is a ‘Hopeless Dickhead’ or, when some goon transgressed the traffic rules, exclaims, ‘Good One, Dickhead’ his frustrations were turned to merriment up the back.

Master navigator Steve has provided us with a map of the places we visited.  You will see that the final couple of stages of the trip takes us through vast stretches of suburban Melbourne along roads packed with people in their automobiles, all tootling along for a Saturday afternoon’s drive.  Enough to drive anyone nuts.  There was also the passage of travel as we navigated ourselves towards and away from the Blackburn feeding station which involved some high-G manoeuvring through the leafy back streets of the suburb.  If I was either the navigator or the pilot we’d probably still be there, a bus load of lost souls searching for food or kits to the end of eternity.

In the passenger cabin

The van this year was almost, dare I use the word, comfortable.  I say this, having selected a seat in the middle of the cabin after last year’s experience of sitting up the back where my internal organs were thoroughly reorganised by the gyrations.  But perhaps those up the back this year will be clamouring to get middle seats this time next year.  I’ll be ready for them if they try.

As usual, we set off in high spirits, looking forward to the day’s adventures.  I had brought along a book of pictures of odd aeroplanes to pass the time but Master Mark had done much better and brought along several books of boys war comics from the 1950s, which were much more amusing to read in the year 2012 than they were in the 1950s.  The Germans all looked evil and cynical and the Japanese looked swinish, to put it politely.  The stories would not have been out of place in the pages of boys magazines at the height of the Empire with, for example, plots in which the evil and snarling cunning of the Germans was defeated by the courage and ingenuity of the heroic British.  As I write this I wish I had taken a moment to copy out some of the purple prose to repeat here, all I can say is that if I had the learning and talent to write like that I would be a lot richer than I am now.  I also liked the way that the comics turned defeat into victory and crappy bits of equipment into mighty expressions of triumphant British engineering.  I read one story in which the rather pathetic Blackburn Skua was turned into a powerful weapon of mass destruction, a stout British chap learned to be a team player after looking at himself seriously in the bathroom mirror for a moment, and the miserable defeat the British suffered in Norway became a heroic near victory.  They don’t write them like they used to.

As we neared the throbbing metropolis the happy chatter turned to expectations of where we might be going and what we might find.  Some of us started unfolding our shopping lists and contemplating the delights that we might find on the shelves.  When the van pulled up at each new venue we piled out like a bunch of paratroops exiting their aeroplane and headed for the front door with unerring accuracy.  Later we trickled out of the shop slowly clutching bags of newly purchased kits, adding them to the pile of kits that gradually built up in the back of the van.

The passengers also amused themselves looking out the windows at the people and places we passed through.  As we passed through Box Hill we were reminded that we should have our passports ready for inspection.  As we were driving through South Melbourne Master Mark remarked on the apposite arrangement of shop names with the tastefully named ‘Ella and Friends’ located right next door to the less tastefully names ‘Beds for Backs’.  We leave the link between them to your imagination or, if that fails, you can ask Master Mark to explain it to you the next time you see him.

As the day wore on the passengers gradually wore out.  After the animated chat of the first few hours the conversation gradually trickled out and, as we hurtled back along the freeway, there were long periods of silence.  Perhaps some of the older folks among us had a little snooze, but I wouldn’t know about that, and admit nothing.

We pulled off the freeway at Bacchus Marsh to pick up the navigator in a shopping centre car park and pulled off again on the way home to drop him off again.  Apart from that, we didn’t lose anyone along the way, except for poor Sean who we abandoned in a desolate parking spot off the freeway somewhere between Ballan and Ballarat.  He hoped that someone was going to come and pick him up from there and, with any luck, they remembered him, sooner or later.  Perhaps we should have left him with provisions, a bottle of water at least just in case, but he seemed optimistic as we drove off.

The soundtrack of our trip

Our trip was accompanied by a collection of CDs selected and fed into the sound machine by pilot Zim.  And a fine selection too, apart from the absence of great lashings of AC/DC.  As we pulled out of the car park Patron Lemmy was telling us about his Ace of Spaces and as we pulled back into the car park many hours later he was telling us about his Silver Machine.  But it wasn’t Motorhead and Hawkwind all the way, to fill in the time between there was some Led Zepplin and the Who.  Most appreciated was the classic ‘Magic Bus’, but next year the passengers in the cabin will be provided with sticks that they can click together in time to the music of that song.

The first Harley of Spring

The weather was magnificent.  As Master Wayne (no, not that one, the other one) remarked, it was the spring equinox and thus, according to some, the beginning of Spring.  You could see it on the roads too, with all those folks in need of some personal validation riding their recently polished Harleys.  There were also several other riders of more discernment astride other types of bike.  As we drove back up the Nepean Highway, in the vicinity of Brighton as you might expect, there were also a couple of expensive convertibles with the roofs down.  Were we envious? Not really.  We need no personal validation and, besides, we had a van full of model kits.  Which would you rather have?

Places of interest along the way

In previous years we’ve had shops like Snowy’s in Altona and Moonee Ponds Hobbies on the roster, but these places have sadly disappeared, so we didn’t go there.

Andrew’s Models in Deer Park

This shop was a late entry to the roster, apparently because we would have arrived at the next place before it opened and, given its location, the prospect was not enticing.

It would be easy to miss Andrew’s, and I have on the many occasions when I’ve stopped at the Deer Park shops on the way back from the airport to patronise the Bake Place which makes pretty decent vanilla slices.  To get to Andrew’s you have to find your way to a dark doorway and then up a flight of stairs that makes the stairway to the Victorian Hobby Centre seem like a gentle incline.  The shop itself is interesting but there was really more diecast stuff than model kits, which made the shop less interesting than it might have been.  On the other hand, on seeing the arriving hoard, the lady behind the counter announced that we could all have a discount of ten percent (the only shop to offer this).  This was encouragement enough for me and I emptied her shop of all the paint that I could find that was on my shopping list.

Having completed my purchases in Andrew’s I made my way down to the Bake Place and purchased one of their vanilla slices, which I consumed as other MoBsters descended and tricked back to the van.

Battlefield Hobbies in Brooklyn

I have no idea where Brooklyn is or how you get there.  One minute you’re driving along the freeways of Melbourne and suddenly you enter some kind of industrial area that seems a million miles from the suburbs.  I wonder where the shop’s clientele comes from, perhaps people who drive container trucks are all active modellers, or people who know how to get to Brooklyn, and then get out again safely.

The shop itself is interesting and full of stock attractive to MoBsters.  Having not bought an Airfix kit for many years I found entertainment in looking at the selection of Airfix kits in their new red boxes.  Many of the kits are new moulds but there’s no indication of what you are going to find on the inside of the box when you look at the outside, and whether you will be stuck with one of their antique kits instead of a new one.  This is where Master Steve comes to the fore with his esoteric knowledge about which boxes contain the old 1960s kits and which contain the new ones.  Thus guided, I picked up a MiG-15.  I haven’t looked inside the box yet but I hope it really is the new kit because even when I made my first Airfix MiG-15 in the early 1960s I thought it was a bad kit, and I wouldn’t like to have bought another one by mistake.

Battlefield proved to be a more fruitful shop than our first visit of the day, if it had any diecast stuff I didn’t notice.  Most MoBsters found something of interest there and one of our number, you know who you are, began contemplating kits in boxes so large it was a wonder they fitted in the van.

As we were driving towards Battlefield Hobbies, and as we were making our escape, Master Wayne (not that one) observed a shop down the road advertising that a new hobby store would be opening there soon.  It is hard to conceive of two hobby shops so close together in such an out of the way place, perhaps Brooklyn could yet become a centre for modelling excellence in Melbourne.  If so, somebody will have to show me how to get there.

Hobby HQ in Keon Park

Unlike mysterious Brooklyn, I do know how to get to Hobby HQ in Keon Park.  You get onto the Ring Road, drive for an eternity, then drive some more, and when you can’t stand it any longer you head off into the wilds of the less than salubrious suburbs until you find the shop over the road from the railway line.  There, I’m sure you can’t miss it, or if you do, call on Navigator Steve.

We always look forward to our visits to Hobby HQ, partly to say hello to its proprietor but mainly to investigate his shop.  Most model shops you go to have all the latest offerings, newly unpacked from the distributors, but not in this veritable alladdin’s cave.  If you think there might be some kit you saw two decades ago but it is long out of production, chances are that young William has it somewhere in his vast store.  All you have to do is find it, and that’s the challenge.  This is also probably the only shop in the antipodes that proudly has a display of Mach 2 kits and they are always an attraction – of serious contemplation to the disciple of Pythagoras and for mild derision by most other MoBsters.  Me, I’ve been attending Mach 2 Addicts Anonymous, so I felt only a twinge of interest.

Most MoBsters had their shopping lists out, doing some serious searching, and I think just about all of us came away with a kit or two, at least, young Mr Wong looked happy enough to see us and even happier to take our money.  I managed to find two of the three kits I had on my list and, to my delight, the Kawanishi Mavis I managed to pick up was a civil version.  I didn’t even know that the kit existed in that form, which is always the delight of calling into Hobby HQ.

As we were leaving young William called out that he wanted to take a photo of us holding our purchases.  We happily obliged, standing around the back of the van, posed like white hunters displaying our trophies of the day.

Metro Hobbies in Box Hill

If you thought the drive to Keon Park was long and tedious, the trip across the suburbs to Box Hill is even more of an adventure.  You can tell that you are almost there when most of the signs are in Vietnamese and you see the Box Hill ATO building.  Then you drive past the site of the annual Eastern Suburbs Swap and Sell, and there you are.  This year we were daring and parked right outside the front door.

I previous years Pilot Zim has remarked loudly and often that the owner of Metro were nuts not to have their shop open on the day of the swap and sell, but to no avail.  This time I saw that there was a sign in the shop window indicating that it is open seven days a week, so now modellers who attend the swap and sell can drop into Metro on their way home.  The reason for the change is that ownership of Metro has been taken over by Frontline of Newcastle.  This means that we were expecting big changes and Master Wayne (yes, the one over there) warned me that the display of models on top of the shelves would be gone and I would not be able to view my beloved giant Aerospatiale Concorde.

Fortunately, he was wrong.  All our old favourites were there, but the shop itself has undergone a significant make-over.  The general layout was the same as last year because that makes best use of the space, but the look of the place was eerily similar to the new look of Victoria Hobby Centre in the city.  The selection of kits on display was also similar but, fortunately for me, there was a generous selection of the paints I had on my list and you don’t see them in their other shop, so I spent up big.  Most other MoBsters also found something to take their fancy and, before long, quite a queue built up at the cash register.  As we passed through after handing over our hard earned, a slowly growing mob of MoBsters gathered on the footpath outside waiting for the rest of our number to be released from inside.

Blackburn Fish and Chippery in Blackburn

This has become the traditional feeding station for our annual trip.  I know it has another name now, and the service is much superior, but I can’t recall what the new name is.  Getting there is one of the mysteries of the trip and arriving successfully is only achieved by close co-ordination between the navigator and pilot as we hurtle through the leafy back streets of Blackburn.

Since the weather was so pleasant many MoBsters enjoyed sitting out on the chairs provided on the footpath, the remainder of us sat inside looking at the passers-by through the window.  It is fair to say, I think, that the people in this part of Melbourne look more prosperous and dress more interestingly than those in other parts of the city.

This stop is not complete without a visit to the famous Blackburn singing toilet.  This is partly because nature has made it a vital necessity by this time of the day, but also for the novelty.  When we first started using this facility it had the violet lighting that was commonly used to make it difficult for those inclined to injecting drugs to find their veins.  But the authorities seem to have given up on that and, these days, they provide instead bright light and soothing music to help users steady their hands while shooting up.

Wayne (no, the other one) and I were the first to wander over and I amused myself waiting to take a photograph of him emerging with a relieved look on his face.  This apparently caused some consternation to a father and his young son who were also waiting to use the facility, which caused much merriment to some MoBsters observing from the other side of the road.  When Wayne emerged he looked more startled than relieved, ‘Watch out for the toilet bowl’ he uttered in a shaky voice.  He was right; after the soothing music and the relief felt after using the facility for its intended purpose, pressing the wash button caused a geyser of water to gust up from the toilet bowl with startling force.  It would do you a serious mischief if you were sitting there at the time it went off.

Models 4 U in Boronia

Another long drive gets you to our next stop.  If you were to ask me, I’d say that you get there by following the road that leads to the Dandenongs, but it’s probably more complicated than that.

We always enjoy coming to this shop, partly because of its stock and partly because the staff are such pleasant and affable chaps.  All the kits are stacked up on tall shelves along one wall and then on lower shelves, separated from each other by a narrow aisle.  This is probably a good arrangement for every other day of the year except the one when we arrive and twelve far from small modellers try to jam themselves into this small space at once.  We manage to do this more or less successfully by all shuffling along together in the same direction, though there is much jostling if one of our number decides to pause to ponder a particular kit or, the cause of even more shuffling, if somebody wants to go in the other direction.

I found the selection of new Airfix kits as interesting as I had earlier in the day at Battlefield and, once again Navigator Steve’s knowledge of which were the safe kits to buy proved invaluable.  He finally handed me the new Airfix moulding of a Bf109 which I took with some reluctance – you know how I feel about these kraut aeroplanes.  Still, it looked as though I’d be stuck with it until, after more shuffling, I spied the new Airfix Fairey Stringbag kit, which has been very favourably reviewed.  Much relief as I picked it up and put the Messerchmitt back on the shelves.

As I was chatting to one of the staff he mentioned that we would have seen a Canberra bomber outside if we had come the following weekend.  ‘A real Canberra?’ I asked, imagining the traffic snarl one would cause sitting outside in the road.  But no, ‘only the nose’, he confessed.  Even so, I imagine that getting such a large lump of aluminium there and back again would be its own adventure, and I’m not so obsessed by Canberras that I contemplated the trip back again just to see it.

Brunel Hobbies in Cheltenham

Getting to this shop was the longest stage of our trip and, in many ways, the most interesting.  The route of this trip took us past many interesting sights including the Dandenong ATO building, the Keysborough campus of Haileybury College, Dingley Village and Moorabbin Airport where there was a lovely red Eurocopter on the tarmac.  There was even some open countryside that thoughtless developers had forgotten to fill in yet.  How we managed to get from Boronia to Cheltanham was a masterpiece of navigation and a test to stamina and patience for the pilot whose exclamations of exasperation at idiot drivers continued to amuse the passengers up the back.

Brunel is a smaller shop than some of the others we visited, with what one might call an eclectic assortment of kits and other things to look at.  I was tempted by what appeared to be a 1/72 scale kit of a Saturn V but the cost and size persuaded me not to buy it.  The box was so big that I was sure the kit would have gone home in the van and I would have been told to find my way home by train.  As it was, the van was stuffed full of kits and modelling paraphernalia by the time we had added our last purchases from Brunel Hobbies and closed the back door for the final time before heading for home.

The end of the day

The entire population of Melbourne seemed to be out driving as we headed up the Nepean Highway on our way home.  We stopped briefly at Rockbank to fill the van and empty ourselves.  Steve left us at Bacchus Marsh but we still managed to find ourselves safely back to Ballarat, abandoning Sean along the way as I have previously recounted.  We pulled to a final stop back in the Bakery Hill car park after just on eleven hours on the road.  It was a mammoth day out, made possible by Steve, and Zim in particular.  I don’t know about you but I retired home for a look at the new Doctor Who episode and a good long snooze.