The Little World – The Wonderful Can Of Beans

A bit of a digression in today’s LW…I attended my monthly collector’s meeting yesterday, and while I did not get a monthly newsletter, at least I got to see some rather wonderful tin toys.

They hold a monthly competition based upon a theme, and I guess this must have fitted the bill. The theme, by the way, was the letter M…perhaps these are M of metal.

In any case they are the cheeriest set of racers in the hall. You can make a fuss about scale modelling or not, but these toys would have been the delight of the young when they were new and have remained to delight to old now that the world has become more sophisticated.

I grew up in the 50’s and Japanese and Chinese tin toys were commonplace in the dime stores. They were somewhat despised by us kids as we got older for their simplicity and garish colours, but we didn’t know art when we saw it. Now they are regularly traded and reproduced as cultural objects and I can count several cars, locomotives, and robots in my collection. Nothing as good as these, though.

The forms were simple – I suspect the racers were formed in a press over a wooden master buck and in some cases the pressing wrinkles are still visible. The sheets of tinplate would have been lithographed before the forming process, of course and they are a tribute to their artists. I think they might have loved their design brief as well, because they have certainly not hesitated to use every colour in the poster paint box.

It does raise a question about whether they would have as much appeal if they were printed up as contemporary Jaguars, Ferraris, Astons, etc. The heading image seems to indicate that they might be just as good in a closer to real configuration.

And I should be fascinated to see modern Australian stock racing cars in their complex paint jobs done in tin style. I wonder if there is still the artistry and machinery available?


Trash And Treasure Is Never Treasure

We have all gone to the Trash And Treasure, flea market, retro market, bring and buy, parish jumble sale, or weekend market in our time. Some of us have picked up bargains – the rest have picked up garbage. The really fortunate ones have picked up a bacterial infection and vowed never to do it again.

It is a basic feature of human psychology – that desire for a good buy. If it can be a swingeing bargain or a criminal rort, so much the better. But it does lead us down some dark passageways of the soul:

a. We seek for these El Dorados of dreck in the worst places. Council car parks on Sunday morning when we otherwise we could be asleep in bed or awake in the arms of a lover. It is the unwashed bottom of the top of the morning – either cold and wet or hot and distressing, and we’re out there looking for bargain clothespegs? Sheesh…

b. We deal with people we would avoid under any other circumstances. To a man, or woman, they have the look of wolves fattened on babies. None of them love us, and we do not love them, and the emotions are entirely justified from either side.

c. We do not need what we seek. We do not seek what we need. It is all greed or grot.

d. Just as Quentin Crisp eventually had to admit that there was no great dark man, we must eventually admit that there is no great dark treasure to be found. We can’t even find Quentin Crisp.

e. We do need the money in our pocket that we think we do not need. Just today a letter arrived from the water supply racket telling me that the state government will remove a subsidy they used to give to old people to help them pay for water. The money will presumably be given to mining magnates or their bankers. I now need to save my money for water. I would like to make water on the state government…

f. The things discarded by others were discarded for a good reason. They are ugly, broken, useless, poisonous, sad, or superfluous. What they are for others they will be for us, but doubly so because we spend real money on them. And if we want to resell them we will have to return to the garbage sale and become the persons we bought it from to get even a pittance back. Do we really want to exchange our souls for that?

g. We can live without it. We lived without it until we arose this morning, and we can make it through to the evening without it.

h. No-one looks cool at a junk market. Sellers, buyers, pickpockets, etc…All have a patina of naff on them, that they could have avoided assuming by staying home and doing something useful.

Well, that should make Sunday morning a lot more fun. See you at the markets?

Dominion Day, 2017

Well it is that time of the year again, when all loyal Canadians assemble to make sure the Americans know that we exist. We have been dancing up and down, in our modest sort of way, for the last 200 years to make the point but no-one seems to care. But at least the people who kick-started Ottawa way back when did one thing – they made us a national holiday that is three days before the Yanks’ day and we can get in a little glory before it all rolls over us and swamps us for another year.

Here in Wet Dog we are going to have the traditional parade up Pearson Street ( formerly Diefenbaker Street ). Since the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces and the closing of RCAF WET DOG as a serving station, we have fewer Air Force personnel available for the march, but this year we have organised a fly-past of two Ansons and a Canadair Sabre at 12:00. Apparently they will be in tight formation for only a very brief period of time, so shutterbugs are advised to get their cameras set well before noon. Refreshments at the RCL Lodge 123 Hall will commence at 12:01 and continue until the mounties break it up.

This year we are going to have visits from First Nation representatives and the deputy vice-speaker from the Societeé Nationale de Francais from Chicoutimi, so be sure to give them a great big warm Wet Dog, Alberta welcome. But make sure you don’t get caught.

The July special down at Mangina Motors is snow tires and chains. 50% off if you have them fitted before August. Better safe than sorry, eh?



The Little World – The Perils Of Perth

Perth, Western Australia is a good city to live in. We eat and drink well, sleep safe, and have about as much fun as we deserve. But it can be a frustrating place when it comes to buying certain things.

You can apparently get narcotics here and there and hamburgers everywhere. I have avoided both for years. People who regularly dose up on either of these are a nuisance.

But the real nuisance is the fact that we are at the end of the world as far as retail goods go. This is no new thing – we’ve missed out on stuff for the last 200 years. But now we have the instant reportage of the internet and we find out about it all daily. Unfortunately the local retailers and wholesalers are limited in the amount of stock they can afford to carry and there are vast classes of desirable things that we never get.

How frustrating to have this paraded and reviews, forums, and overseas travellers crowing about our loss.

For those who point out the internet trade as the answer, we can only say that you have to look carefully and sadly at the cost of shipping for whatever you want. You might be able to order some new thing from New York but if the cost of transport makes is double the purchase price, the joy is gone before it arrives. Fools run out of money faster than wise people.

For modellers there is always one golden Western Australian rule: If something is offered for sale and you both want it and can afford it…buy it. There is a very real possibility that it has come as an extra in another shipment and will never be seen again. If you wait a week, you lose it forever.

You will also need to be careful in your online dealings as there are shops who will not sell to you…preferring to deal with people who do not live at such a remove. It is sad, but you cannot force someone to take the time and trouble to post something to you if they are not used to doing it for their own countrymen. Take it as an encouragement to scratch building and the development of skill. It is no different in other remote regions.

Also take advantage of the extensive do-it-yourself shops and suppliers here. If you have  a Little World hobby that is a larger scale, there are no-end of things in a regular hardware shop that can be turned to good account. Do not be afraid to buy from furniture stores or IKEA either – I have been building structures for years from the off-cuts of IKEA wooden slat blinds.

The retro markets and collector’s warehouses that dot the outer suburbs are tempting – their advertising suggests everything you have ever desired. I cruise their stands, but find that their definition of retro and/or treasure is drawn from a different dictionary than mine. I read Webster – they read Captain Kidd.

And the toy stores? Large amounts of several items…

The Little World – The So-Called Hobby

Some years ago a person who wanted to appear smarty at a party sneeringly asked me how my so-called hobbies were going. I smiled and left it at that – not willing to engage in an unwanted argument. As a matter of fact they were going fine then and have gotten better since.

I was reminded of the unpleasant questioner this week when I visited the West Australian plastic modellers annual show. Oh, he wasn’t there, of course. Plastic modelling would be too tame for him. Too plebian. Too much fun. In his place was the biggest crowd of so-called hobbyists that I have seen in the exhibition hall – and I have seen any number of different shows for different purposes there. The so-called hobby seems to have called quite a few…so…

So they weren’t just mooching along with nothing to do and nowhere to go, either. This was no mall crowd or idlers in a pub. This was hundreds of dedicated craftsmen, artists, and connoisseurs who were making a show to dazzle themselves. There was a cheerful roar to the place and business deals being done left, right, and centre. Plastic models are not cheap things to start with and by the time the dedicated builders have started to modify them there is serious money being spent.

And being spent by all ages. The canard about the hobby dying out in favour of video games was put to bed by the number of kids in attendance. Dad’s discretionary wallet was being stretched to the limit in some cases, but it would be hard to imagine a better buy than skill and concentration for your children.

The other thing I loved was the fact that age had no upper barrier for this group of people. One of the highlights of the show for me was to see a rendition of Perth’s long-lost electric trams and their base by a chap who remembered them well…and he in his eighties. That’s one view of it at the top of the column. The layout is so good that it has been purchased by a transport museum.

I am immensely encouraged by this all, and will look forward to a die-cast collectors show at the same venue in a month’s time. I get to have a table and show off a couple of my dioramas. They won’t have the skill of a lot of the work I saw this last weekend, but who knows what interesting people I will get to meet.

A Desireable Property

Going to car shows is sometimes an exercise in patience – waiting until the car you want to photograph is free of strolling gawkers or until a glacier whizzes by…either one…and sometimes an exercise in tasteful criticism. Not that you are allowed to voice it – even the worst cars are there because someone thinks they are the best cars, and gentlemanly behaviour prohibits you from suggesting otherwise. But it is rare that I can go to a show and see a car that I would like to drive.

It’s not that I am mega ambitious – I drive a little green Suzuki Swift all day, and am perfectly satisfied with it. I can look at exotic vehicles all day and not raise a sweat or anything else. But occasionally I do get the wannas. This Dodge has excited the feeling.

It is a simple pre-war coupe with a rumble seat. Still in LHD form. As stock as they come, if you disregard the metallic blue paint finish. The interior has all the characteristics of the era – deco dash instruments, painted finish, and long gearstick. I see an air conditioner there, which bespeaks a larger engine, perhaps. But the whole suggests the best sort of daily driver.

I was also charmed and enlightened to see the handle on the rear part of he cabin. Now I finally know how they secured the rumble seat in a closed position. A daunting place to ride but I’ll bet there would still be takers wherever you went.

Again – if they made them look like this now, we would buy them in a second.

The Retirement Scoreboard – Part Six – The Retired House

structure2Retired houses are different from houses that are still working. If you enter one you need to be able to discern the difference – and here are a few pointers to make your stay pleasant:

a. A working house may have a fresh smell to it – that is the result of hiring a cleaner to drudge at home while the householder drudges elsewhere. The fresh smell has been sprayed from a can.

The retired house with a fresh smell has it as a result of the retiree throwing out all the old crap that was hanging around and opening the windows.

If it does not have a fresh smell it is because the retiree has something better to do – model trains, or petunia gardening, or Pokemon – to do with their time. If they are cat-person retirees beware of any areas with a fresh smell.

b. Working houses are never finished. There is always something being renovated or replaced or upgraded. The working person has a wage and can spend it. The retiree hasn’t, and as a result tends to make do with what is there already. This may account for the state of the lounge room furniture. A retired house is a painting that rarely has any more brushwork added to it.

c. Retired houses have animals. The cats mentioned before, budgies, dogs, or worse. Some retirees in the country take to native animals, or vice versa. Few actually have sheep roaming in their dining room but it is not impossible. Chickens are likely.

If you are phobic about animals choose someone other than a retiree to visit. Apartment dwellers are a safe bet.

d. Retirees sometimes have children or grandchildren to visit – thus their houses have to make some concession to modern times. The television set is the most common thing, and might only be fired up for those visits. It is a brave or stylish grandparent that keeps the 16″ HMV black and white set prominently in the lounge room  ” for the littlies ” and compels them to watch it when they visit. I think it is a peculiar form of abuse that they find charming.

e. Retirees have liquor cabinets. You can groan as much as you like about the prospect of a nice warm sweet sherry on a nice warm day, but the fact remains that you might get a ” wee drappie ” from the garrulous pensioner that consists of a half pint of single malt. You takes your chances.

f. Retired houses are a bad prospect for robbers. The people are there during the day, and if they have been warned, they lock up. If they are like some of the people I know, they are armed, and itching for the opportunity…

g. Retired houses have pictures of children and grandchildren on every available horizontal surface. Comment on one, and you will be forced to comment on them all. Make sure you are complimentary.