Monday, October 31, 2011

Reliving my childhood through retro packaging

I made an impulse buy in the supermarket tonight - a Star Wars figure on a retro style backing card that reminds me of buying them first time around back in the 1980s.

Having only returned from abroad in 1983, I only ever bought Star Wars figures on the Return of the Jedi backing cards. A whole load of the figures I had back in the day have been retooled and re-released now, including Luke Skywalker in his Jedi Knight outfit, and the Gammorean Guard from Jabba's palace.

I could leave those ones, but when I saw my favourite space admiral ever, I had to have it! Altogether now: "It's a TRAP!"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Building a model railway part 8: new / old acquisitions

Those following this series will know I have acquired a few things from my Dad. recently I was able to raid his boxes of stuff and install a few new pieces on my model railway.

I also brought home a railcar that Dad bought in the 1980s, just to see if it would run. Surprisingly it does, but the headshunts at either end of my lay-out are too small for it to traverse. But at least it runs. It's in a nice early BR maroon as well, so fits in with the other locos.

Dad had a couple of Cambrian wagons - another mainline one and one produced by Dapol.This rake looks pretty good on the surface, but you can easliy spot the same numbers on the side. I am considering how to go about altering them (or at least the ones on my Mainline wagon).

I borrowed a few other pieces of rolling stock. But also some vintage trackside pieces, including two water cranes, a loading gauge and some signals.

They are a mix of manufacturers, including Triang and Hornby Dublo, and date to the 60s, I think. Part of the ethos of building a heritage railway has been to include some 'vintage' pieces like this, so it's 'heritage' in real-life as well.

I plan to build a water tower to back on to the water cranes, which I've placed together to function as an 'exhibit' in the heritage centre.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why Shrewsbury Town struggle to attract new fans

It seems whenever I take someone new to see the mighty Shrews, the team don't live up to their 'mighty' name-tag and turn in a performance that can put you off football as a sport, let alone supporting Shrewsbury. It was thus when I went with a kid to his first ever football match last season. It was thus when I took my cousin for the first time in 26 years.

And it was thus today when I took my friend Connor to his first ever Town game, making him get up at an unearthly hour on a Saturday (well, unearthly for him seeing as he's a student), and drive 110 miles to see two teams struggle to do the basic things right. Like get shots on target. Or pass.

There were a few 'firsts' though. It was the first time I'd ever seen a matchball delivered by helicopter (from the local RAF station as it's poppy appeal time). I don't know how hard it is to land a helicopter in the centre circle, but they made it look easy.

It was also the first time I'd ever seen an opposing team's fans applauded when they were announced.

AFC Wimbledon were formed by fans after the terrible FA decision to allow the original Wimbledon to 'relocate' to Milton Keynes and become the MK Dons. As such, they are held in tremendous esteem by most fans who care about football as a whole, rather than the exercise-in-branding Premier League team they've chosen to support this year. (Yes, I support a real football team; so sue me.)

However, I will hold them in less esteem from now on. I can live with the stifling 'come-for-the-draw' tactics that killed the game from about 10 minutes in. We've seen that time and again, and it was understandable that after shipping several goals and losing three on the bounce, they played cautious tactics. It's boring and frustrating to watch, but really it's up to my team to pick the lock.

But what I can't forgive is a player falling to the floor and clutching his face, rolling in simulated agony after his shirt was tugged gently by an opponent. That is shameful play-acting to get another professional sent off. Okay, it was one player, but it sullied the AFC Wimbledon name in my eyes.

It ended 0-0. Not the greatest intro to the blue and amber for Conn as he sat there loyally wearing the scarf I'd leant him. Town were lucky Wimbledon hit the post after about 3 minutes, but the missed a few good chances and had a decent shout for a penalty turned down, so there were talking points. Just not many good ones.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mid-October Mayhem

I seem to be too busy to blog of late, so here are some random bits and bobs to keep however many people click on here regularly to see what is going on in my life in the loop:

Crazy busy driving round Wales filming brilliant people doing a brilliant job improving healthcare and saving lives. Had a day-trip to Wrexham the other day, which involved 8 hours driving and a fatality. A suicidal pheasant added itself to my roadkill tally and managed to rip a bit of the bumper off The Tank for good measure.

My favourite quote from filming so far was the person who said they had been on "a real learning kerb". (Don't hit that too fast.)

Cathy got baptised at the end of September, after 20+ years of waiting. When she read me the first draft of her testimony she made me cry. Friends and family turned out to see her get dipped, and make it a real special moment for us.

I've been co-opted onto the youth co-ordinating team thing and also taken on responsibility for Soul Mr, the once-a-month boy's night. It's fun, but we are in a period of adjustment as our new youth leader in training settles in.

Back in August, I did a Sunday morning talk ('sermon', if you want to get old school about these things). You can read it here. It was my first talk of that kind for over 5 years.

We survived a week with the family in Herefordshire. Some pictures will make their way on here soon, including my cute little niece, Joy, who is in the grabbing-your-thumb-and-not-letting-go stage of adorability. Given the location, I didn't buy too much cider (although how much is too much?)

Freelance theology
I haven't had much chance to write for this project for a few years, but I have been buoyed by having my first ever donation off the site in the last couple of days. Someone likes it. (More importantly, someone reads it!)

I have had some good sessions on UCB Radio on the back of it. The most recent one was last Friday. I may be doing some more 'slots' for them in future. I've also recorded some stuff for them for future broadcast about the possible existence of aliens, because apparently I'm the guy to talk to about stuff like that.

Model railway
I liberated some of my Dad's old model railway gear last weekend. Will post some pictures soon, because I know how much you all love them!

Most recent film
Cowboys versus Aliens - fairly daft, but enjoyable. 6.5/10

Currently reading
'Franny and Zooey' by JD Salinger. I'm on a bit of a Salinger kick at the moment. I've recently finished his collection of short stories, 'For Esme with Love and Squalor'. One of the stories made me laugh so loud Cathy arched her eyebrows at me.

What's on this week?
More filming and editing in work and lots of plans outside. Going to see Bowling for Soup on Thursday, baby-sitting Friday, model railway exhibition on Saturday and ice hockey in the evening, leading youth on Sunday morning (need to prep for that - aagh!), visiting relatives in the afternoon (possibly). All good stuff.

Monday, October 10, 2011

You want me to what?

These posters have been put up around my workplace.

Now I'm all for raising funds to cure cancer, but the choice of slogan is open to (pervy) misinterpretation. I'm not sure everyone would be happy if I 'unleashed my inner pink'. Especially in a predominantly female office.

Of course, this ambiguity might be what they were going for, to 'get people talking' (or blogging). But I'm sure there are ways of putting it that would sound a bit nicer.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Building a model railway part 7: Upgrading facilities

I said in an earlier post that I was thinking of changing my Hornby good shed.

I wasn't keen on the model, so decided to replace it completely. I opted for a Metcalfe Models kit, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, even though it's just made from card, the signal box kit really impressed me, and I wanted to try another one. Secondly, it's in the same red brick pattern as the signal box lower floor and the engine shed I scratchbuilt (using Metcalfe card), so would fit in. Thirdly, from the pictures I'd seen it looked more interesting than the Hornby one, with an extended platform and an office attached to the shed. Fourthly, it came with a bonus kit of a weighbridge and office. And I love bonus kits!

Anyway, I got glueing and sticking last night. Here are some pictures:

 Bulldog clips are useful to keep the card together while the glue dries
 The shell of the building takes shape
Interior detail - a loading platform and roof trusses. Note the elastic band keeping the edges together so the platform stays flush with the wall.
 External office attached - also the shed doors stuck in place.
Some detailing to go (e.g. chimney pot), but virtually finished.

And it is now happily in situ on the railway.

 The detached building next to it is the weighbridge.
A few other scenic details added, like a skip between the goods shed and the weighbridge (just about visible). I've kept the Hornby loading gauge (above the tank wagons, top right).

Next jobs - painting and sealing the baseboard (Cathy's instructions). Ballasting (which will be fun I'm sure). Touching up the engine shed (possible re-engineering job!) And maybe installing a crane on the platform outside the new good shed. I'm looking into options...

Friday, October 07, 2011

Building a model railway part 6: New loco

I imagine very few men get given model locos from their spouse as a wedding aniversary gift, but I've long suspected my wife, Cathy, is the most awesome wife in the world!

Anyway, for my 13th wedding anniversary I was given a Hornby model of a Thompson L1 tank engine. It was, coincidentally, quite an unlucky class of loco. After a brief working life in the 50s and 60s, all examples of the class were cut up within 20 years of being built. None survived into preservation - a fact Cathy described as "very sad"

But in the world of model railways, one did survive into preservation, and is now on the manifest of the SCRHC. Number 67772 is known locally as 'Lacey', named by Cathy in honour of our 'Lace' anniversary. (Did you know that 13 is the Lace anniversary? no, neither did I.) Among the drivers, the dog theme means it also goes by other names - 'Black Dog', 'the Hound' (as in the Hound of the Baskervilles - a big black dog), or simply 'the Big Dog' because it dwarfs Pitbull and Snoopy.

Here's some pics of it 'running in'.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Asda staff humour makes Hallowe'en less horrible

Personally I don't know why you would want to fill your house with creepy-looking fake crows for any reason, let alone Hallowe'en, but I do admire the Asda employee who labelled these guys.

(I think they meant Sheryl Crow not Cheryl Crow, but stil 10/10 for effort!)

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

In search of Salinger; and other books

Back in the summer I bought 'Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters' by JD Salinger. Cathy found it in a RNLI fundraising bookshed near the ferry crossing to Iona. Bit of an odd place to find it, but there you go.

This cover image is for illustration purposes only, as my copy has a blue cover. (I couldn't find it to scan it. I think I might have loaned it to somone in my book group.) It's two novellas, featuring the same characters. The first one was very funny.

Anyway I now want to read the two other books in print by him, 'Franny and Zooey' and 'For Esme, with Love and Squalour'. However, being a bit cheap I don't want to buy the recently re-packaged, fairly expensive Penguin paperbacks. But tracking them down second-hand is proving problematic.

Despite three trips to the town of books, Hay-on-Wye, and a tour of all the second-hand bookshops in Cardiff city centre, I can't find good reading copies anywhere. In fact, the only version of either title I have found was an early Penguin of 'Franny and Zooey'. It had the classic orange cover, and the classic Penguin affliction of hardened binding gum meaning the book would soon self-destruct if you started reading it. And, being on a 'classic Penguin' shelf in a bookshiop in Hay-on-Wye it was priced at a ludicrous £6.95 anyway.

eBay isn't much help either. I think generally the bargains have dried up on there, compared to when it first started out back in the day. Most of the books on there are being sold by professional dealers, for the kind of money that makes you think 'Well, I'll just buy it brand new, at that price.' I've been outbid on a couple of auctions with a reasonable starting price, but I will get one eventually, I'm sure.

Books by JD Salinger may be hard to come by, but I did find two reasonable books about him on eBay that looked worth a punt. They should be arriving through the post any day now.

It's not all doom and gloom. In Hay I found the most recent Culture novel by Iain M Banks, 'Surface Detail' for less than half cover price in hardback.

I've felt Banks has drifted off form for the last couple of Culure novels. 'Matter' wasn't very good at all. But even so this was a 'must purchase' and I'm very pleased to say I thought it was very good, with a 'twist' in the epilogue that I had been hoping for and wondering about since halfway through the book. You probably do have to be a fanboy or girl for the twist to mean anything to you. But if you are a fanboy or girl, then I think you'll like it.

The story is essentially about 'saved souls' in a virtual afterlife and a war in reality to liberate those who have died from hell. It sounds crazy, but the future is going to be a far weirder place than any of us can imagine. And if the future has a Culture (and I dearly hope it does), than that plot premise is not going to be too far-fetched. My favourite character was an Abominator-class starship. That really tells you all you need to know about what kind of book it was (and possibly a bit too much about me!)