Saturday, September 24, 2011

A taste of the Premier League

When Shrewsbury got drawn away to Arsenal in the Carling Cup I knew I had to go. A good deal on the train tickets (£23 return to Llundain) made up for not getting home til 2.30am with work the next day.

What an event. The history books will show that we lost 3-1, even though we took a 1-0 lead. That moment - when James Collins headed home after quarter of an hour - was immense. For a brief moment I thought an almighty upset was on the cards. (Truthfully they could have been 2-0 up after five mninutes, though - only 2 magnificent reflex saves from Town goalie Ben Smith kept them out.)

But even though this was the Arsenal C team comprised mainly of kids I'd never heard of, they were a class apart. Superhumanly fast, supremely confident on the ball. It was obvious they'd had a bollocking at half time because they came out and really played in the second half.

Still, it was a great occasion. The Emirates is easily the best football ground I have ever been to - better than the new Wembley or the Millennium Stadium. However, the new meadow has one thing the Emirates doesn't have - in Shrewsbury you can look out through the corner gaps and count the cows on the hillside. Halftime entertainment doesn't come much better than that!

Some  photos:

Outside the Stadium. I got there early and the only people milling around were Town fans.

Inside and everything is branded Arsenal - even the cups of tea. (I was also surprised that the seats were padded!)

Town warm up!

Uncomfortable moments for the Arsenal faithful. (It didn't last long!)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Building a model railway part 5: Shedloads of fun

I always used to look at the amazing railway lay-outs in the magazines and think 'I could never do that'. But recently I thought to myself, 'Well, why not have a go?' After I built the signal box I realised that modelling in card was time-consuming, but perfectly possible. I felt confident to at least try.

I wanted a two-lane engine shed, but none of the card kits would fit the space I had. A Hornby shed would, but they are a bit plasticky, and also I wanted a shed with a closed back wall.

I had a spare set of stickers from the Hornby Goods Shed and so I stuck those to card and cut round them to give me an idea of dimensions. (To do this I had to buy a cutting mat and a metal ruler - a sortie around the shops ended up with a reasonably-priced purchase from Staples.)

I worked out ahead of time that I would need to leave gluing flaps attached, so once I had cut it out I could assemble it. The first shed was pretty plain so I scratchbuilt a lean-to workshop cum office to attach to it.

You can see the transfers on the internal wall in the top picture. Pitbull and Snoopy fitted very snugly inside their new home, so that was a good start.

That shed looked a bit plain (!), so I looked into decorating it in some way. Metcalfe Models, who made the signal box kit I built do some very nice modelling sheets of card with a brick design on. They also include a sheet of roof tiles in their packets of brick card, which is very handy.

I had an issue though - the shed needed ventilation. After some googling I worked out that a raised central roof would be an acceptable form of ventilation in keeping with the South Wales area. So I cut the fascia card to match.

I wasn't sure how to create the centre ventilation section. I originally planned to use a matchbox, as seen in one of these 'under construction' images.

However, Cathy (as senior project advisor) had a better idea, supplying some black card and some patterned craft paper that looks enough like felting / concrete to intersperse the vents.

Having got the modelling bug, I then thought about adding a coaling stage nearby. So in this 'complete' shot you can see my roofless coaling stage in the foreground.

You can also see the transfer on the interior wall. I'm still not happy with the finished shed, although I am pleased with it as a first-try. The nearside wall in this photo has windows, but they could look better. I may replace the entire wall with a new one. If I do that I will paper the inside of the wall. I plan to brick-paper the other interior walls as well, just in case people decide to peep inside. I have also purchased terracotta paint to touch up the edges.

The coaling stage wasn't an original part of the plan, but it fills a space with a semi-authentic feature and it gave me the opportunity to scratchbuild something else. The base is a small packaging box that was about the right height and the walls are Metcalfe brick card. The steps are scratchbuilt from more packaging card.

I decided the coaling stage needed a roof, so turned again to my supplies mistress, Cathy, who located me some narrow-ridged corrugated card that was close enough to the correct scale to fit in quite nicely. A quick coat of paint in the 'SCRHC olive' and it was complete and ready to be 'coaled up'!

I'm now revisiting the location and positioning of the good shed, and also what that would look like. The current one is a Hornby model and it's not that great. Metcalfe do a goods shed in the same red brick as the newly revealed SCRHC buildings and the signal box base, so I'm wondering about substituting it.

Below is the possible new position that would 'open out' the model a bit, giving a view into the goods shed interior, and making it much easier to see the loading area in front. I envisage a road leading in from the right, and possibly a weighbridge next to the shed.

I guess the thing about railway modelling is that there are many, many possibilities. That for me is most of the fun.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Windy Walk to Work

(By way of explanation - it was very windy walking to work yesterday. As I passed the entrance to an alleyway I heard a banging noise, as if someone was hammering on a door. However the source of the noise was a bin bag caught on a gate. Hence this haiku.)

Windy walk to work

Wet bin bag flaps, black
Wind-pinned against a gate
Yearning to fly free

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2 recent films: Super 8 and Rise of Planet of the Apes

CAUTION: spoilers

Super 8 is proof that Steven Spielberg has been making the same film since the late 1970s.

First the good part - it's got some good pre-teen actors playing the young protagonists. However, apart from the fact I went with my good friend Connor to see it, there isn't much else I can say.

This is seriously Spielberg by numbers. It's set in the late 70s about a group of kids who find an alien who wants to go home (Close Encounters / ET). At one point they are trapped in a vehicle at night that is being attacked by a large beast (Jurassic Park). The military are after the alien for their own ends (ET). There are tunnels under the town (The Goonies / Temple of Doom). The main adult protagonist is a small-town sheriff (Jaws). There is hardly one original element here.

Except he's teamed up with JJ Abrams, the creative behind Lost, Alias, the excellent Star Trek reboot from a couple of years ago, and, er, Cloverfield. Which might be why the alien in this movie looks less like ET and more like the bastard brother of the thing that attacked New York, crossed with a spider. The only other thing Abrams brings to the party is unneccesary screen glare at every opportunity. It's his trademark.

So was it worth watching. Well, yeah, it was well made and not too long. I'd give it 6/10.

And so to Rise of Planet of the Apes, which is onto it's second reboot after the messy Tim Burton attempt, that even he admits went awry. Unlike the 2001 film, the 2011 one got most things right.

It's interesting that in the original films the audience was expected to side with the human hero. It perhaps shows how in a generation we have generated a racial self-loathing that puts the ape, Casear, at centre stage and has you rooting for them.

There were two stand-out moments for me. The first was when Caesar realises that he is being treated like a pet and reacts by getting into the back seat of the car instead of the trunk. The second was when Caesar was given the opportunity to leave the Guantanamo-like primate 'sanctuary', but chooses to stay with his ape brethren rather than return to a servile life.

There were weaknesses. I'm not sure how the intelligence-boosting toxin that boosts Caesar's brain power also enables him to evolve human-style vocal chords. Also, when the apes break free from the sanctuary there seem to be an awful lot more of them than you ever saw in the cages.

But apart from those mild gripes, I really enjoyed this film and would thoroughly recommend it: 9/10.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Warm and toasty with Handerpants - underpants for hands

These may be one of those things that people make up and stick on the web. But if they do in fact exist I would like a pair. I haven't googled them because who knows what would come up if you googled "underpants for hands".