Zooming with Zim to the Eastern Suburbs
April 2015

When you sit in the front seat of Zim’s heritage Jaguar you feel as though you should be Lord Somethingorother and all the serfs along the road should be tugging their forelocks to you as you pass by.  When you sit in the back seat you feel more like Arthur Daly.  (If you don’t know who Arthur Daly was you probably don’t remember The Beatles either.  Both products of the Swinging Sixties, like Zim’s Jaguar.)

Sitting in the front seat were Mick and Zim, and we were all on our way to the annual event, the Eastern Suburbs Swap and Sell.  Behind us, in the boot of the Jaguar, were a couple of bags containing kits to be sold, hopefully, at that event.

I can’t say that I remember much about the trip down.  What do you expect since I had to get up before sunrise to embark upon this adventure.  The engine of Zim’s Jaguar roared away in a comforting sort of way so I dozed off.  At one point Zim pointed out the tray tables in the back of the front seats and I played with that for a while.  This was because, unlike the kinds of tray tables that you find in airliners that just fold down, the ones in Zim’s Jaguar are much more sophisticated so as you pull the table down it also rises up on some clever contraption so that it doesn’t hit your knees.  This needed a number of openings and closings before the novelty wore off.  The only other thing I remember was being woken by one of Zim’s enthusiastic commentaries on other drivers to see an E-Type Jaguar zoom past.  Well, that sighting made my day and everything thereafter was a bonus.  (Zim tells me that the ending in his Jaguar and the ones in E-Types are the same, but since E-Types are so much smaller it should be no surprise that that car zoomed past us so excitingly.)

Having travelled with Zim to this swap and sell several times now I reckon I could find my way there by myself now.  Down the Western Freeway, cut across to the Calder Freeway from Melton (I’m so old (and wise) now that I can remember when there was only farm land along this stretch of now highly urbanised road), turn up onto the Tullamarine Freeway, turn off at Bell Street and more or less drive straight ahead but gradually curve to the right until you get to the major road with the tram tracks and drive along it until all the shop front signs and advertising are in Vietnamese, and you’re there.

When we arrived at this event last year we were greeted in the car park by a gentleman doing exercises in his pyjamas.  We weren’t disappointed, he was there to greet us again this year, although he looked more grumpy this time at being disrupted in his morning rituals by us louts in our noisy cars.

In years past the swap and sell had taken place in what looked to be an old scout hall. It was satisfactory but a bit cramped. This year the swap and sell had moved up in the world and was held in a rather posh looking hall in another part of the complex. It had a stage at one end and large sliding glass doors at the other that opened up onto a nice bit of timber decking that led out into an attractive garden area. Those people in Box Hill sure know how to look up-market when they want to. By the time that we three arrived the busy beavers of the Eastern Suburbs mob had set up all the tables and told us we could plonk ourselves where ever we liked. I chose the table right next to the door out onto the decking because they were setting up for the famous Eastern Suburbs sizzled sausages out there. We emptied out our bags of kits onto our table and then watched as the room slowly filled up with other sellers and their wares. In comparison to others there we had a pitifully small pile to offer, but still high quality stuff I told myself.

There was a raffle which members of the Eastern Suburbs mob were enthusiastically selling. There were three colours of raffle tickets, each for a single prize in each category. (Call those prizes, I thought to myself smugly, recalling the raffles at our display day.) The prize in the aeroplane category was, for example, the old Monogram B-36 and although I tried to beg off, saying that I’d actually already made one, they didn’t believe me so I had to buy a few tickets and hope that my number wasn’t called.

There’s not much you can actually say about the swap and sell itself. Sellers fill up their tables with stuff to sell and then wander about seeing what others have to offer, chatting about it and occasionally buying something. Then the doors open and other people flood in and go around looking at what is on the tables and buying what they like. There is also a lot of chattering as old friends catch up and as sellers try to convince buyers to actually part with their cash. A lot of the stuff I was selling was as the result of me downsizing from 1/72 to 1/144 for larger models so I had a few large boxes to get rid of. (One was an Airfix Lancaster that I sold for more than I had paid for at an earlier swap and sell. What a sly Shylock I am, but, of course, most of my stuff sold for less than I’d paid for it.) On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of larger scale stuff around these days as modellers with failing eyesight compensate by going to larger scales. I wandered about looking at everything that was on offer but I must be getting jaded because the only things that I picked up were a couple of 1/144 airliners.

Some time after 1100 it seemed as though most of the selling had happened and the mood of the event has slowed down. So we packed up and headed off. Still getting over having to be out of bed too early in the morning, I don’t remember much about the trip home apart from the stop at the Bacchus Marsh pub for lunch. Not that I was feeling so hungry after having partaken in a couple of sizzled sausages during the morning. The roar of the Jaguar engine lulled me off to sleep again and before I knew it we were pulling up next to my trusty old Falcon parked outside Stalag Hemsley so I didn’t have to carry bags the rest of the way home. We dragged the somewhat deflated bags out of the boot of the Jaguar and Mick and Zim headed off into the distance. I put the bags in my car, got in and started the ignition. The engine was so quiet in comparison to the Jaguar that, at first, I thought it hadn’t started at all.

Another Display Day
May 2015

Each year our display day is the same and yet it is different.  We plan to do more or less that same thing and yet the circumstances of the day make each display day experience quite different.

And you can certainly say that about this year’s display day.  If nothing else, the gloom that greeted us at the beginning of the day was novel.  Fortunately, after the efforts of some of our number who know more about electricity than I had come to nothing, Zim found the person who did know, and there was light.

My feeling was that numbers were down on last year.  In particular I thought there were less family groups than the last few years, and they may well have decided to spend their weekend dollars and time on the Lego display that was held in Ballarat that day.  Still, I’m told that we made enough to be able to pass a small profit on to ‘Make a Wish’.

Some members work very hard during the day and behind the scenes to make the day a success.  The fact that the day seems to go off without a hitch means that there is a lot of work going on that isn’t seen – like the proverbial duck gliding across the water – so thanks to all those whose efforts on the day made the event seem to flow so smoothly.  And thanks also for the providers of cake and coffee though, as things turned out, I managed only one slice of delicious chocolate cake during the day.

I see my job on the day as being to talk to people, sometimes those who turn up year after year, sometimes folks I’ve never seen before.  The fact that I’m poking away at pieces of plastic seem to encourage people to come and chat about modelling techniques and the like.  Last year I recall explaining to someone in more detail than I knew I knew about how to apply decals to models and this year the discussions included a detailed explanation of how to get a finish to a model that looks a bit like bare metal.  (Had I thought I could should have sent that person off the Earl who certainly seems to have it worked out, judging from the finish on some of his recent models.)  In any event, I must have done a lot of talking because I only got four pieces of plastic glued together during the entire day.

The day passed quickly.  When Zim arrived with my traditional nachos for lunch I was convinces that he had bought me morning tea, and it seemed like only an hour or so later that Steve announced that the raffle was about to be drawn.  Then, only a few minutes later, it was time to pack up and go home.  How did that happen?

Again, my thanks for everyone’s efforts that made it another enjoyable display day.

Memories of Expo
July 2015

It all seems like a dream now, so I’m going to write it down before I forget everything.  Perhaps in remembering I will learn why I keep doing it, over and over.

The first thing was the agreement.  ‘Do we want to go to Expo again?’ I ask my comrades and they respond, without hesitation, in the affirmative.

The next thing I recall is sending off an email to somebody at Expo and getting a positive response that our table had been booked.  But in my name with no hint of any association with the MoB for regulatory reasons best understood by the officials who run expo.

So we’re committed.  I go and look in the bag of kits that I want to sell and, apart from a few kits that I’ve been selling for the club, there are only a four of my own kits there.  I reckon that it would look very poor form, a table with only ten or so kits for sale on it, so I go through my piles of kits, weeding out the duplicates, the ones that are so poor that nobody in their right mind would want them, the orphans and no longer loved kits.  After a day of looking at and fondling the kits I’ve filled up a bag so that our table will look at least a bit respectable.

Then next thing I recall is this sleek vehicle pulling up outside our place in Stalag Hemsely and Master Mark and I discovering that I had put too many kits in the bag – predictably of course.  So it had to go on the back seat between Master Mick and I, which made it a little difficult to continue my reading on the life and teachings of Pythagoras in the tome that Master Mark always leaves in my seat, hoping, I suppose, to encourage my spiritual and intellectual improvement.

This attempt at making me a better person was somewhat spoiled by the music Master Mark had chosen for the trip – girl groups of the 1960s.  You know, the Ronnettes, the Marvellets, the Supremes and all that lot.  I first heard many of these songs in the early to mid 1960s and I now learned that they are burned into my brain because, as soon as they started playing, these songs came back to me, entire songs in all their glorious detail. This was fun at the time, but it’s five days later and the bloody things are still rocketing around in my brain, and won’t go away.  Thanks a lot, Master Mark.

Not that I had time to read much of the Pythagoras or listen to the Motown because having to get up at 0630 is too much for some of us.  So I nodded off and don’t remember much about the trip down to Melbourne and Expo.

I returned to consciousness just as we were coming up to the entrance of the Sandown Racecourse where Expos are traditionally held.  The venue for Expo is a huge hall under one of the grandstands at Sandown and the swap and sell is held upstairs in a smaller, but still large, hall.  Outside there is a racecourse, one for horses and another for cars but I rarely pay any attention to them.  This time, however, my attention was drawn to a queue of cars lining up to get out onto the racecourse.  My travelling companions, who apparently know about such things, told me that this was an occasion when people are allowed out onto the racetrack to drive their cars as hard and fast as they can for a not inconsiderable financial consideration.  I contemplated this concept for a moment, wondering if my comrades were pulling my leg.  Surely people have better things to do than drive their cars fast on racetracks, just for fun.  Then I remembered that I was headed to an event at which grown men show off little lumps of painted plastic and buy and sell boxes of plastic bits.  That sounds even more preposterous than men driving their cars fast and furious, so I put the idea to one side for later consideration.

As we entered the hall to set up our table of kits we no longer wished to own Master Mark reminded us that, in the Pythagoras view of the world, those who attend an event such as this one, merely to buy and sell, are the lowest level of humanity.  If this is so, there were certainly enough of us debasing ourselves that morning.  Some tables were piled high with a large assortment of kits, other tables specialised in books or accessories such as decals.  In comparison to most of the people debasing themselves there our table was a modest affair so I hoped that that meant we were not as low as some of those with tables groaning under the weight of immense piles of kits.

After we had set up our table we took it in turns to wander off to see what was on offer that might be worth acquiring.  A few tables along was a seller with a goodly collection of French Mach 2 and F-Rsin kits which took my fancy.  Eventually the lure of this table became too much for Master Mark and he ended up with yet another Mach 2 kraut aeroplane which, he assures me, will be beautiful.  Master Wayne found nothing of sufficient interest to have him opening his wallet, although he was tempted by one item which was so expensive that he realised he could buy it cheaper and new over the interweb.  For my part, I wandered around looking for anything of interest and eventfully found a table with piles of kits which included a bright new Revell 1/144 Airbus A.320 and an A.321.  Operating on the belief that ‘a chap can never have too many A.320s’, I bought both and, since they were only $10 each, I also picked up a Minicraft DC-4.  I really don’t have a need for the DC-4 but, at that price, it would have been an offense against the laws of nature to leave them there on the table.  That’s what I tell myself, anyhow.

Then, on the stroke of 1000, the doors were flung open and the ‘great unwashed’ flooded in.  For some of the modelling fraternity this description is entirely apt.  I know that, on occasions, I forget to have a regular wash (wives exist to remind one of this need) but there are some modellers who are apparently unmarried and also lack the sense of smell.  Phew!!  On first impression I thought that there were less buyers than in previous years but when I tried to make my way through the crowd, the densely packed bodies, and the occasional disagreeable smell, made me glad that we had booked a table that we could hide behind.

The majority of the kits I had for sale were small bits and pieces for which I was asking $5 or $10 each.  I was selling them because I had no great interest in them any more and most had been superceded by more modern and better kits.  I doubted that they would be of interest to buyers but it turned out that they attracted the most interest.  They were also quite a conversation starter with many people and, by the time we had finished for the day, most of them had gone.  It was during one of these conversations over an old kit that I remembered that what I enjoy about the swap and sell is not so much the swapping and selling but the casual conversations with passing modellers that the kits on the table start.  With one I had a conversation about the quality of an old Frog kit which has now been overshadowed by a new Airfix release.  With another about an equally ancient Airfix kit.  None of these conversations was deep and meaningful, just a way for modellers to acknowledge each others’ existence and shared interests.

By about 1145 the throng had mostly drifted away so we packed up, put what was left of our stock back in Prussian Steel and headed downstairs to the Expo main hall.  As usual, I am ambivalent about the Expo display.  Given the huge space and the number of modellers the competition tables seem strangely empty (at least in comparison to the way we fill up tables on our Display Day).  For sure, most of the models are made to the highest standard and I guess that the difference between winning in a category and barely rating a mention must be very small.  The displays I enjoyed more were the club and special interest groups, usually on a theme, which usually displayed models of not the highest standard but many more of them.  There was also the array of vendors arranged around the walls of the hall that demanded to be inspected – though I saw nothing that I had to have.

Time flew.  By the time I chatted to Frank (of ModelArt) and Peter (of Hawkeye), and a few other people, it was time to head off.  In the back seat of Prussian Steel I was probably asleep before we got out of the gates of Sandown.  I returned to consciousness when we stopped for a feed at our usual wayside stop and then lapsed into sleep as soon as the car pulled out onto the freeway.  The next thing I knew we were on the outskirts of Ballarat and not long after that I was home again.

My overall impressions of the day?  At one point I found myself chatting to a couple of modellers who had driven over from Adelaide for the duration of Expo, staying with a relative on one of them overnights.  (They had their own club display which, as Master Mark pointed out, included two well make Mach 2 kits, the only sign of Mach 2 on any of the competition or club display tables.  This, of course, demonstrates how lily-livered most modellers are).  But I digress.  I reckon that those three or four modellers from South Australia deserve some kind of medal for their efforts, for dedication or for folly I’m not quite sure.  One thing is for sure, I don’t enjoy Expo so much that I’d attend it for three days and drive the distance they did to be at Expo.  A few hours is sufficient for me.

We came, we saw, we shopped
October 2015

Commeth the hour, commeth the big white van.  Once again we piled in and hurtled down the freeway towards big, bad Melbourne.

You can tell when you are approaching Melbourne because those walled developments start appearing on the sides of the freeways.  But wait, no, that Bacchus Marsh.  We pulled off the freeway and picked up Master Steve, who took the navigators seat and saw us not get too lost later on in Melbourne.

We drove on.  Look, there’s another walled housing development, it must be Melbourne.  No, wait, that Melton.  How big is Melbourne going to get?

After a few more kilometres of open countryside and trees there were more walled housing developments, we had finally arrived in Melbourne.  You could tell because there were no more trees and open ground.

First stop was Andrews.  Notable for three things.  First the stairs, provided specially to confound Master Wayne.  Second, the goodly supply of Tamiya rattle cans which were the main things on my shopping list.  Third, the nearby bakery that does halfway decent vanilla slices and chocolate eclairs.  I consumed one while waiting for the rest of the troop to reemerge from the shop, and saved the other for later.

Loaded back in the van we hurtled along some freeways towards our next stop.  There were lots of roads and lots of traffic.  Some of this annoyed Master Zim who was at the controls.  If you ever forget how big Melbourne is, just come on one of our bus trips and spend most of the day on the road and a lot less time in hobby shops.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you, Masters Zim and Steve do a nighty job, but Melbourne is a hugely big place and I wish they’d get on and invent those teleport devices they keep talking about.

Battlefield Hobbies might be in the middle of an industrial wasteland but it must be doing alright because it has opened up a whole new area upstairs from the old shop.  There are very nice wooden stairs, with a tasteful modernist kink halfway up, just the sort of thing to test Master Wayne’s agility skills.  We would have given him a round of applause as he finally made it to the top but he would probably have attacked us with his walking stick if we had, so we didn’t.

Here I acquired a couple of the new tooling Airfix kits, two Bristol Blenheims.  Perhaps that was a bit excessive.

Then we drove on, seeing more roads, freeways and annoying traffic.  Have I mentioned how horrendously big Melbourne is?  We ended up at a place called Village Hobbies in Keilor.  The evidence suggests that lots and lots of people live in Keilor but I can’t imagine that many of them are happy about it.  The only consolations that come to mind are the fact that it appears to be under a flight path into Melbourne Airport so you could spend many happy afternoons sitting in the back yard with a glass of bourbon in one hand and binoculars in the other.  The other consolation would be Village Hobbies which must win the world award for the smallest hobby shop with the most stock.  It was like the Tardis in reverse, bigger on the outside than on the in.  In keeping with the size of the shop I bought one tinlet of Humbrol paint there.

Traditionally the next stop would have been the Wong emporium, but since it was school holidays he wasn’t open, so we didn’t go there.  To make up for this, we made a detour into an industrial area somewhere along the ring road to pick up something mechanical for Master Zim.  I would have sworn that it was just around the corner from Hobby HQ from the look of all the buildings, but it could have been anywhere in the vastness of Melbourne.

Having broken with tradition once, we did it again.  From here we normally drive on to Blackburn which is notable for Metro Hobbies and the Blackbury Fish and Chip shop, which is just across the road from the Blackburn railway station and the famous musical toilet.  Alas, that was not to be, and we headed directly towards the heart of the city.  You can tell that you’re headed in that direction by the gunge in the air, the increasing density of loonies on the road and the impending sense of doom.  They say that Melbourne is the world’s most liveable city.  If it is, I can’t imagine that I’d want to see any of the others because Melbourne is quite dreadful enough.  As we forced our way through the traffic we passed through Brunswick and Carlton, old haunts of mine that have gained nothing and lost lots since I lived there.  I used to think that Sydney Road was vibrant and exciting, now it just seemed claustrophobic, crowded, worn out and grimy.  I was glad there were no hobby shops to visit there.  There used to be shops along there where you could buy kits, not hobby shops but ordinary shops that sold all sorts of things including kits, and I still have a few of the ones that I bought in those shops back them.

This gave me a bout of nostalgia which was reinforced when we eventually pulled up in the centre of the city, right outside Wesley Church as it turned out.  This was an old haunt of sorts too because I had to go there every Sunday when I was down in Melbourne visiting my grandparents when I was little.  Wesley is an old Methodist Church.  If you are too young to know about the Methodists let me give you a hint.  My parents were good Methodist people and, although they were married in that church in 1944, they didn’t have me until 1948, and that was in the days before modern birth control.  As I once heard Diamond Jim say on the radio, Methodists didn’t believe in sex because it could lead to dancing.  (If you don’t understand this I’m sure Master Wayne can explain it to you.)

As an aside, those same grandparents would give me ten shillings to go shopping with and were not too pleased when I would spend it in Myers buying a couple of Airfix kits.  One of those kits that I recall clearly was the Airfix Defiant when it was first released.  Coincidentally, I bought on this trip the new mould Airfix kit of the Defiant that finally replaced the old one.  As far as I can see, the old kit has three advantages over the new one.  Firstly, it was cheaper at 4/9 (48 cents).  Next, it was simpler so you could stick it together in an hour or two, at the most.  Finally, it was moulded in black plastic so it didn’t need painting.  Who says progress is always for the best?

So much for nostalgia.

If I thought that Sydney Road was depressing, that was only a foretaste of what was to be found in the streets of the city.  Hoards and hoards of people in claustrophobic and grimy surroundings.  We battled our way through the crowds down to Hylands Bookshop, which has so much interesting stuff that is not a place you want to visit unless your credit card has a very large limit.  Then on to Showcase in the heart of the city.  The model kit retail business must be doing well despite all the predictions because, like Battlefield, Showcase had opened up a lot of new space and has a lot more stock on display.  As usual, there were a lot of enticing goodies there but I had been practising saying ‘no’ and putting kits back on the shelf in preparation for our outing.  The only kit that seriously attracted my attention was the new Eastern Express Antonov An-22 large freighter.  Showcase wanted $164 for the kit which was a bit too steep for me, so I said ‘No’ and put it back firmly on the shelf.  (When I got home I looked the kit up on overseas sites and found that there it was selling for around AUD145 (before postage and handling), so the Showcase price wasn’t so bad after all.)

Showcase is on the third floor of an ancient building in the centre of town (with a lift so Master Wayne didn’t have to battle his way up).  We could hear the sounds of the city below through the open windows, including the distant sound of another protest march.  How I longed for the good old days of noon closing in Saturdays after which the streets of Melbourne had turned to wastelands.  Desolate, but no people to think of thank god.  Pushing our way through the crowds again we arrived back at the van and, when others arrived back from a visit to the Metro Hobbies in Swanston Street, we drove off again.

Soon the gloom of the tall buildings, the crowds and the dirty air was behind us as we sped along another freeway to that other Metro Hobbies, the one in Blackburn.  After the city, the suburbs were most pleasant and a nice big shop on the edge of s shopping street was quite pleasant and relaxing in comparison to what we had just gone through.  At this Metro I ticked off the last of the Tamiya rattle cans on my shopping list, bought another new tool Airfic kit.  There was lots and lots and lots of other stuff but I practised again, ‘No’ and put the kit back firmly on the shelf.  It felt almost good about this, but when I got back to the van I discovered that those who had bought more than I had also ended up with free gift eggplane.  Such is the price for being virtuous.  How annoying.

Finally we all piled back into the van and headed for home.  I was hungry, I consumed the vanilla slice that had been waiting for me since Andrews’ much earlier in the day and been quietly maturing under my sear.  After that I drifted off to sleep, missing the drive through the city and coming too just in time for a stop and a bite to eat at one of the road houses.  The food there was even less healthy than a nutritious vanilla slice.  After that we hurtled again up the freeway, I would have enjoyed the trees and open spaces again, had I not drifted off to sleep again.  I must be getting old or something.