Tag Archives: airfix

making a hash of things.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2021

Silence.

Our parents would often demand it, but soon as they got it, they became suspicious. Worried, maybe.

And so it would be. I’d be playing quietly and thoughtfully in my bedroom on a wet and miserable day, and Mum would poke her around the door:

“You’re awful quiet,” she’d say, the distrust in her tone strikingly obvious even to a ten year old. “What are you doing?”

“Building a fort,” I’d reply in all innocence, draping a bedsheet over the two stools I’d earlier hauled up from the kitchen. Another blanket would be hanging over a couple of empty boxes, retrieved from the garage. “So’s I can repel the hordes of marauding raiders who are trying to steal my pots of gold.”

My vocabulary and imagination were infinitely better than my construction skills.

“That sounds like fun, dear.”

And it was.

For that’s how we rolled in the late Sixties and Seventies. It was the era of making our own fun.

It was the era for making everything.

From a very early age, my sister and I were encouraged by our parents to become involved with tending the garden.’ Modern day slavery,’ is how I think it’s now referred to.

We’d each be allocated a little plot to tend. We’d have to plant seeds, grow flowers and vegetables and learn the ethos and rewards of hard work.

I hated it! Rona’s plot always looked way tidier than mine. ‘Outside’ was for playing in, not working, was how I looked at it. I was rubbish.

Our garden wasn’t all that big, but my dad had it organised to maximise the space, and so we had a few rows of redcurrant bushes. These produced loads of fruit every year and of course my sister and I would be roped into the ‘harvest.’

With the berries collected, mum would then boil them and add ‘stuff’ then pour the mix into what looked like an old sock hung from the washing pulley in the kitchen. The smell was so sickly sweet, I wanted to barf for days on end.  Gradually though, over the next day or so, the liquid would drip into a bowl, then scooped into jars onto which a handwritten sticker was adhered.

‘Redcurrent jelly’ it said – as if we needed reminding.

To get away from the smell, I’d try to spend as much time as possible in the living room. But that wasn’t easy either. I’d have to tip toe through acres of tracing paper spread over the floor. And listening to the television was well nigh impossible. The volume controls back then barely went to ‘five’ never mind ‘eleven’ and so offered no competition to the constant ‘takka takka takka’ of the Singer sewing machine as mum rattled out another bloody home-made trouser suit for wearing to the neighbour’s Pot Luck / fondue party that coming weekend.

Crimplene was the favoured material, I believe.

I think I’m right in saying that girls at my school were offered sewing, if not dress making as part of their Home Economics course. Us blokes weren’t given the option – just as at that time, girls were not thought to be interested in woodwork and metalwork.

My four year old cousin, Karen, certainly wasn’t interested in my woodwork, that’s for sure. I made her a boat, all lovingly painted and everything. It sank in her bath. Sank! It was made of balsa wood for goodness sake!

It takes a special type of cretin to make a balsa wood boat that sinks.

And metalwork! Whose whizz-bang idea was it to have several classes of fourteen year old boys make metal hammers to take home at the end of term? The playground crowds quickly scattered that afternoon, I can tell you.

My effort was dismal.  

“Thanks very much,” said my dad, in a voice just a little too condescending for my liking as I presented it to him. But that was okay. We both knew I was total pants at making things.

Having evidenced my cack-handed attempts at simply gluing together several pieces of labelled and numbered bits of plastic to form the shape of a Lancaster Bomber, his expectations were naturally low.

I know – how hard can it be to assemble an Airfix model? To be honest, while I enjoyed looking at those my dad made on my behalf, I had more fun from letting the glue harden on my fingers and then spend ages peeling it back off to examine my fingerprints.

Yup – THAT’S how much I enjoyed making things.

It came as no surprise then, that Santa never brought me a Meccano set. By the age of ten, it had become obvious spanners and me would never get along – no need for me to screw the nut.  

For a while, I did consider there was something wrong with me. Every other kid I knew was into making stuff. It was The Seventies – it’s what children did; it’s what they (I’d say ‘we’ but I’d be lying) were actively encouraged to do.

The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.

The top children’s television programmes told us (you) so. They even showed how make stuff.

I tried that once. A Christmas decoration it was. A decoration to hang over the Christmas table; made from coat-hangers; and candles. And you’d light the candles. It would be joyous.

“Hark!” The herald angels would sing.

“FIRE!” The herald angels actually screamed.

I know NOW I should have used fire-proof tinsel. I’m almost sixty-three. I’m not stupid. But then I was ten. And impatient. Ten year old boys cut corners. And anyway, how was I supposed to make a surprise for the family if I was to give the game away by asking my folks if they had / could get some fire retardant tinsel?

At least they still got a surprise of sorts.

Valerie Singleton, John Noakes and Peter Purves had a lot to answer for.

Other than pyrotechnic Christmas decorations, they encouraged us to make models with Lego; less structured and more wobbly ones with plasticine; scrap books; hammocks for dolls; cakes for birds; puppets from old socks; pencil cases from washing up liquid bottles and even cat beds from washing-up bowls.

I did try, truly I did. But I was hopeless. A lost cause. Never has anyone said to me,

“Wow! That’s awesome!” when I’ve showcased my handiwork.

Just the other day, I prepared a meal. I threw some leftover corned beef, potatoes and onions into a pan and fried them through. I didn’t think it was burnt as such, but my wife screwed up her face and stared at it rather disapprovingly.

Without even the merest hint of irony she looked up and said …. well, I think you probably know what she said!



**********

stuff like that

(Post by Paul Fitzpatrick, London – February 2021)

A big part of growing up was having stuff, but it had to be the right stuff otherwise you wouldn’t be part of the gang.

It usually started off at junior Primary school with things like airfix models, stamps or miniature toy soldiers and I’m reliably informed, dolls and scraps (the picture scraps not the type you get from the chippy) for girls.

So this is what die cut Scraps look like?

I’m sure it was the same for most generations – I remember my poor wife going from shop to shop to procure ‘The New‘ Beanie Baby to add to the collection for our daughter.

A collection that’s been gathering dust in the loft for 20 years now, but that can’t be thrown out because one of them might be rare and valuable!

I can also remember her jumping out of moving cars to acquire Pokémon Cards from shady street corner hustlers for our sons.

We had all been mentally scarred before, so come hell or high water those kids were gonna get their stuff…..

Typically the stuff we craved was nothing life-changing just stuff that other kids at school had, the only difference was timing – a favoured few would get their stuff at the start of the craze (they normally had older siblings), most of us followed and an unfortunate few would be at the tail end or miss out all together.

The first ‘craze’ I remember at school for us boys was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. badges

T.M.F. U. was a TV programme that hit our screens c.1965, about a two-man spy team consisting of an American and a Russian.
Everybody at school watched it and before you knew it we were awash with merchandise, including badges with designated numbers.
Badge #11 was Napoleon Solo and #2 was Illya Kuryakin, the mild mannered Russian.

A bit like football teams you had to choose a side and that choice defined you as you strutted around the playground pretending to be a secret agent.

The next cab off the rank was also inspired by another American TV show which exploded onto the scene with requisite merchandise in abundance.

However, despite the groovy merchandise available to us – the Monkees dolls, the toy guitars and the far-out 60s clothes, the must-have item in Glasgow’s leafy suburbs for the class of 1967 was a bobble hat!

The inspiration for this wooly headwear of choice turned out to be Michael Nesmith, the quiet, unassuming one in The Monkees.

The Monkees at the time was a tv show, featuring a 4-piece band that mimicked the Beatles in almost every way apart from talent and Scouse accents.

Inspired by the movie A Hard Days Night, Hollywood execs put together the first boy band comprising of actors (Dolenz), musicians (Tork), ex-jockeys (Jones), and the heir to the Tippex empire (Nesmith), and anointed them The Monkees.

To be fair, the show was entertaining, and at the time, with only three channels available to us poor waifs it was must-watch TV.

The Monkees also had some catchy tunes written by heavyweight composers like Neil Diamond plus the best session musicians money could buy, namely the legendary Wrecking Crew who were the house band for a lot of 60’s hits including Phil Spector’s wall of sound. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wrecking_Crew_(music)

Anyway, for some reason that I’ve never been able to fathom, the simple bobble hat, later sported by that fashion icon Benny from Crossroads, became the thing we all latched onto and we implored our bemused parents to get us one.

They were stuck to our heads for a while before they were surgically removed.

We even tried to play football in them, but trying to communicate with your team mates or take instructions from the coach with your ears covered or attempting to head the ball with a tea-cosy on your head wasn’t easy, so we soon saw sense.

As is the case in such things, the bobble hat makers and retailers of the world weren’t expecting such an uplift in demand, so being ever resourceful the majority of us turned to our dear old Grannies & Nana’s and there was a boom in wool sales instead.

Fast forward to 1970 and the de rigueur was the Esso coin collection for the 1970 Mexico World Cup.

The Holy Grail in All its Glory

The coins, containing no more than a passing likeness to England’s world cup stars, could only be collected at Esso petrol stations, so there were strict instructions for parents everywhere to exclusively purchase Esso fuel.

It must have been irritating for parents back then with kids constantly reminding them from the back seat that they needed to fill-up even when the tank was three quarters full.

Or badgering them when they came home from work, to ask whether they had got petrol that day.

Or making them trundle past the Shell or Texaco petrol station with an empty tank, in search of an Esso stronghold.

Or suggesting every weekend that we go for ‘a wee run in the car’ when normally you wouldn’t be seen dead in the family saloon if you could help it.

The coins quite aptly became currency in the school playground where a Bobby Charlton or a Colin Bell could bring instant credibility, but as always with these things, everyone had heaps of the unwanted coins to swap – in this case the Keith Newton’s and Tommy Wright’s (no not that one!).

It’s strange looking back in todays jingoistic times, to realise that the collection we were prepared to burn the ozone layer for, was restricted to England footballers only…. fast forward to today and I’m not sure anyone north of the border would be quite as bothered.

We were all Bobby Moore in 1970

As we progressed through the years our tastes became more sophisticated of course and we progressed from woolly hats and trinkets to some serious hardware – SEGS

Again, I’ve no idea where the trend originated from but basically if you could walk round the playground like a Firestarter creating sparks by scuffing your feet whilst making a noise like Steptoe’s horse, then you were part of the in crowd.

Ironically what we failed to realise, was that instead of looking like the cool, flame heeled Jets from West Side Story we resembled a chorus-line of inebriated tap-dancers.

We all became amateur cobblers in 1972!

Also, and very inconveniently, it didn’t tell you in the small print but SEGS were really only meant to protect proper shoes or boots, the type hardy men wore to work. They weren’t meant for flimsy imitation leather numbers with plastic soles from Freeman Hardy & Willis.

Invariably the SEGS fell out of these poor excuses for footwear and within no time there was a mountains worth of scrap metal clogging up the playground, puncturing bicycle tyres.

Spare a thought for the kid in our year though who got very excited about the holy union of SEGS with his cherished oxblood Doc Martens, with their specialised ‘AirWair’ soles – a marriage that didn’t end well at all…

Other ‘must haves’ came and went through the school years, and inevitably we were hostage to the buying frenzy.

I swear at one point 75% of the pupils at our school were wearing airforce blue Gloverall style Duffle Coats and sporting Tartan scarves.

In retrospect maybe we should all have taken the advice of Graham Chapman’s Brian, in The Life of Brian –

“We are all individuals”, “We are all different”…….