Another Good Big Day In
Master Wayne is going to be disappointed. He insists that I write up events like our most recent Display Day for his amusement. However, after this year’s display, I find that I don’t have much to say. Why, you wonder. Perhaps because the day seemed to last about thirty minutes. From my perspective, nothing of any great excitement happened but, on the other hand (as the actress said to the bishop), there was not a moment when even the though of existential angst flitted across my mind. In other words, I was thoroughly entertained. My first regret is that I did not have the opportunity to partake in more than one of the Men’s Shed sizzles sausages. I had one for what might be considered morning tea but I was starting to think that I wouldn’t mind another one when Steve announced that it was time to draw the raffle, and it was too late. My other regret is that I only managed to visit the catering table, groaning under the weight of so much lovely food, once or twice during the day. (This may have been because of the noticeable lack of chocolate crackles, although the chocolate cake I did sample was magnificent indeed.)
In a way, my display day began a week earlier when a reporter and photographer from the Courier, organised by Master Wayne, turned up at my place to do a publicity article to promote the day. They wanted to have a photo of somebody working on a model so I set up stuff to make it look as though modellers use a lot of complicated equipment in the garage. Fortunately it was a very pleasant day so sitting with the garage door open was not a trial and, after a short conversation with the reporter the photographer began his work. We tried several poses and angles and I got some insight into what models who wear clothes go through as photographers want slight changes in angle and expression as they click away on their camera. They’re welcome to it.
Perhaps the best innovation of the display is the set-up on Saturday afternoon. It means that almost everything is in place come Sunday morning. The small amount of time spent then means that the atmosphere is much more relaxed at the beginning of the following day. I had promised to fold the sheets of our little handout pamphlet but it turned out that the machine Zim had run them off on also folded them, one of the modern wonders that saved me the effort later in the day.
As usual, I selected a kit to work on during the day. Something simple that demonstrated what modellers do to the public. I saw that Andrew also had some work with him, which demonstrated (to me at least) the fierce precision of what he does, instead of me just sticking bits together. I started work on my model but only got as far as sticking the fuselage halves together by the end of the day, mostly because people insisted on talking to me. I suppose that’s what we’re there for so I don’t mind, really.
It did seem to me that there were more fathers and sons and quite a few family groups going through our display. I’m told that the vendors did good business which suggests that people are inspired to have a go at modelling, for the first time or to take it up again. One father who came past where I was sitting tried to explain to his son the concept of scale, although he was having trouble saying why we use such odd scales; ‘Why 1:72 though, dad?’ So when I explained that it was a hang-over from the old days of imperial measurements the father looked informed and the son looked just as confused as ever.
There were several memorable conversations. One was when a member of the Eastern Suburbs group told me that he had made a Mach 2 kit and couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. I agreed and, showed him the secret handshake that all modellers of Mach 2 kits use to identify other members of this elect group when in common company. Another visitor told entertaining stories about his time working at the old Maribyrnong explosives factory. Later in the day Frank Morgan pulled up a chair and we chatted about modelling and life in general.
And then it was time to go home again. Thanks to everyone who took part in the organisation before and on the day. Your work is much appreciated.
On the Road with Pythagoras, Machiavelli and Jean Paul Satre
When the Statesperson pulled up outside my place so that we could place bags of unwanted model kits in the boot I saw three figures sitting in the back seat, some looking more uncomfortable than others. I recognised Pythagoras (despite what Master Mark says above), he has spent a lot of time in the Statesperson, one way and another, and you will be well aware of his philosophical stance from previous outings in this newsletter. (Some say he was the inventor of the philosophical stance.)
Master Mark introduced the stern looking fellow on the other side as Nicolo Machiavelli, whose work everyone is aware of even if they don’t know the name. I asked him what he thought of events in Canberra this past week and he made a sound of disgust; ‘They don’t listen to me these days. If she’d just run him through with her sword rather than sending him to the back bench he wouldn’t have been around to do to her what she did to him.
The other man, the one jammed in the middle with the Gauloises in his mouth, cut in; ‘And now she understands the full meaning of the phrase “existential angst”. A fitting rewards, perhaps.’
‘Let me introduce Jean Paul Sartre’, Mark said. We exchanged all the usual pleasantries and I said to Mark, out of the side of my mouth, ‘Where did you find them?’ ‘These two,’ indicating Pythagoras and Machiavelli, ‘were hanging out at McDonalds’. Then he shrugged and added, ‘The other one just turned up uninvited and won’t go away.’
(Some of you might not know of Sartre so perhaps a brief explanation would be in order. He is a French (of course) philosopher of the existential school. If you go to that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, you will find that school of philosophy characterised thus: ‘In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude”, or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world’.)
There wasn’t room in the Statesperson for Henry Purcell too so, with the CD spinning away, we listened to his music instead. The road down to Melbourne was swept away in animated discourse, overheard and occasionally added to by the men in the back. So interesting was the chat that, at one point, Master Mark turned to the left rather than the right, and so we arrived at Sandown a little later than we had expected. (I was reminded of another occasion, years earlier, when Master Wayne and I had ventured down to Melbourne for a swap n sell and realised, eventually, that we had gone far too far and had to retrace our tracks. No wonder we make our annual trip to Melbourne in a bus full of MoBsters, at least one of us knows where we are going.)
Pythagoras refused to go to the swap n sell which, he said, was far too base for him to endure. He went off to purchase a laté at the nearby van instead. We managed to sneak Machiavelli and Sartre in without upsetting the door guardians by explaining that they were merely philosophical constructs. (Our companions or the door guardians? An interesting question… ) While Master Mark and I set up our table our companions wandered about. Machiavelli studied the faces of the traders seeking signs of moral weakness that could be exploited if the need arose while Sartre amused himself by observing the absurdity of the prices of many of the kits on sale.
When the doors were thrown open at 1000hrs the crowd surged in. As usual there are some who see something they like and buy it immediately, and there are others who come back later and demand to know where the kits they wanted to buy had gone. Machiavelli lectured them on their inability to seize the opportunities that came their way and Sartre smiled at them and gave them his card. I observed that most people have firm ideas about what they want and scan the piles of kits quickly and expertly, moving on to the next table if they see nothing that interested them. There was little of the window shopping I had seen in earlier years. Even kits offered at amusingly low prices do not attract buyers if they are not on their mental shopping lists. I am the same, it seems. I found a vacform kit of a Fairey IIID (which can easily be made into a replica of the first aeroplane to circumnavigate Australia) on the table next to us but, despite several excisions around the tables, nothing else took my fancy.
Perhaps I was falling under Sartre’s influence, the selling seemed rather lacklustre in comparison to earlier years, despite the crowd. Perhaps, as he suggested, most modellers lack the sensibilities that I do and thus there was little interest in the Welsh Models 1/144 airliner kits I was offering. Machiavelli also set me a test. While I was away from the table someone came up to Master Mark and offered to buy one of my kits for $35, which was $5 less than I had marked on it. He told me of this and then wandered off in search of anything interesting. A little later a man came along who offered me $30 for the same kit. ‘No,’ I said firmly, ‘You can have it for $35.’ Mark came back at this stage and identified him as the one who had offered to buy the kit for $35 in the first place. ‘You have to try,’ the man told me and I noticed that Machiavelli was standing behind him. Later the same Machiavelli patted me on the back for my moral resolve and gave me some tips on how I might extract my revenge.
Although there was still a fair crowd at the swap n sell most of the energy had dissipated, so Mark and I packed up and left a little after 1100hrs. Despite my feeling that things had not gone well there was much more room in my bag then than when we had arrived, and my wallet had grown so fat I had trouble putting it in my pocket. This was just as well because I had a long list of glues and paints I needed to buy to sustain my habit, er …, hobby.
Dragging along a somewhat agitated Pythagoras, who was on his fifth laté when we found him – apparently they had not been invented in classical Greece, we entered the main hall of Expo. Master Mark and I agreed to meet back at the entrance at 1300hrs and I set off on my first task which was to find and buy an obscure motor cycle kit that Master Wayne wanted. However, after having inspected every kit on offer, it was found to be missing. During this search I also discovered that none of the items on my list were available for purchase there. My next task was to count the number of competition trophies on offer, to be compared with the number of models entered in the various competitions, to see what the odds of winning a trophy was. I accomplished that by taking photos of the row upon row of trophies and counting them later.
These duties out of the way, I turned my attention to the models on the tables. Jean Paul joined me after having spent time at the other end of the hall where the food was being served. He had a queasy look on his face so I didn’t ask him if he had had something to eat. Together we wandered among the tables of models entered in the competitions, some categories seemed poorly represented so that, in one category at least, only one entrant did not win a trophy. Other categories were better populated but there was still a lot of blank space on the tables. On the other hand, there were some works of extraordinary modelling skill. Even so, I felt dispirited at the whole thing. Here, for example, was a model of a submarine which had apparently just surfaced because the water was streaming down its sides. The work was exquisite, normally water looks unnatural in modelling but this model was exceptional for its realism. I found my way to the airliner category, which I always look forward to. There were but a few entries and the winner was a Compass Boeing 717 which looked so slick that it was more like a display model than a replica of the real thing. The second place getter was an amazing little diorama of passengers walking out to an Ansett 737-200, including a bit of interior work, all in 1/144, which was also outstanding. Still, I could not help but wonder why people go to so much effort just to make one little piece of plastic look so fantastic. Jean Paul, standing next to me, just nodded his head in agreement. What a strange little hobby modelling is.
I managed to shake off Jean Paul for a while when I went to look at the club displays in more detail. These I did enjoy. Most of the displays had themes, for example the Eastern Suburbs display was about modelling in the 1950s and had a good collection of box tops from the period and a number of kits too, including the old Aurora Avro Arrow that I had lusted after when I was little. Another club display was all about 1/72 scale and had a range of models from a huge Saturn V to tiny tanks. Elsewhere were some card modellers whose work was often intricate and delicate.
Soon enough it was 1300hrs and time to meet up with Master Mark to head off home. But there was time to make one purchase. Of late my airbrush compressor has been making very odd noises which suggest that it is contemplating going on strike and no longer working. My fat wallet and lack of other expenditure meant that I could afford a new one, so off I went and acquired a replacement. (Of course, when the old compressor saw me come home with a new one it decided it had better perform or get tossed out, and the new one remains in its packaging, for the time being.)
Back in the Statesperson Master Mark and I discussed our impressions of Expo. It seems that Jean Paul had effected us both and we felt underwhelmed by the event. On our way home we stopped at Rockbank for a feed and Pythagoras and Machiavelli disappeared into the crowds of young people, and we didn’t see them again. Jean Paul remained with us all the way back to Ballarat and the last I saw of him was as he waved farewell from the back window of the Statesperson as Master Mark drove off. When Valma asked me what I had thought of the day I said that if I hadn’t gone I would have felt that I had missed more than I actually experienced
So, I am left puzzled by how we felt after our experiences on the day. I do not doubt that an immense amount of hard work goes into organising Expo and thanks must go to the organizers. I am also sure that many modellers work very hard on the models they enter in competitions and their work deserves recognition. It is also clear, from remarks made on the interweb, that many modellers had a great time there. So why did I come away unsatisfied. One reason is, I think, that the models on the table were not the work of ordinary folks like you or I, but the work of ubermodellers with exceptional skills. Their skills are so great that they are not encouragement for me to improve my modelling skills, they are reminders that I can never expect to reach such a high level of skills. So, why bother? The other is that the competition tables are impersonal. There are people at the traders stalls you can talk to, and there are also club members watching over the club displays that you can talk to. It was the same with the amazing card modellers. But competition models sat on tables by themselves, disembodied from the people who made them. I also missed the personal contact of many smaller events, I enjoyed the swap n sell more because there were plenty of people to talk to but the experience downstairs in the mail hall was, for me, much more impersonal.
There is still much that puzzles me about Expo. I wonder if I will explore these feelings by going back next year?