Model Making and How I Excelled At It

There’s a popular myth that when we were nobbut lads “we made our own entertainment” and its partly true that as long as the council or the local cricket club didn’t mind us playing football on their pitches and as long as someone else had a football, then we could manage the rest for ourselves, jumpers for goalposts and all that.

And sometimes when I think about those epic day-long football matches at the cricket field with 30 players on each side that only finished because one of the cricket club members who lived in the houses facing onto the field would come home from work and chase us off, I sometimes think that there must have only been one football in the whole of Cookridge.

We tried to make our own entertainment of course and to that end Blue Peter always played a leading role, but we usually fell at the first hurdle, take for instance the time that Peter Purves, riding on the tail of the first moon landing, showed us all how to make an exact copy of the Apollo 11 Command Module, an EXACT copy mind, using just some sticky backed plastic and a washing up liquid bottle.

Because this was the BBC they weren’t allowed to advertise of course and so couldn’t use words like Sellotape and Fairy Liquid, they even had to paint the brand names out of the empty boxes and containers they used, or stick big lugs of Duct Tape, sorry, sticky backed plastic, across logos.

“Mum, I want your washing up liquid bottle when you’ve finished with it”

Faller at the first fence for we didn’t buy Fairy Liquid bottles in our house, our mother stole industrial sized containers of washing up liquid from  the college that she worked at, she never admitted to stealing it of course and nor did any of the other cleaner ladies that she worked with, they’d just “found it” or “borrowed it” when my dad asked where it had come from, our house was a veritable wholesalers warehouse of cleaning products, we should have had the cleanest house in Leeds, I was still using yellow dusters with “Bronte College” written on the corner in indelible ink ten years after she’d died.

“Well have we got any sticky backed plastic then ?”
“Eh, what are you talking about ?”
“I don’t know, they just said it on telly”

So I’d make everything that Peter Purves made but out of cardboard instead and my model of the Apollo 11 Command Module ended up like all of my models ended up – looking like someone had just rescued it from the bottom of a dustbin, covered in gluey fingerprints with bits not quite finished where I’d got bored, messrs Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong wrote in their biographies how relieved they were that “that kid in England didn’t get his final design for the Command Module passed by NASA” or the moon landings could have been a different story and we’d never have heard of messrs Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong again, not for another three millennia anyway when the inhabitants of Planet Zog would get a message back to us asking if we’d ever sent three astronauts over to their galaxy in a hastily constructed space craft that looked like a kid had got bored halfway through designing it.

And then at school one day someone slipped me a piece of paper that was actually a letterhead from Vauxhall UK in Luton, it was an invitation for all young boys with an interest in model making and cars to join, for the stipend of half a crown per annum, The Vauxhall Craftsmans Guild, no girls allowed, and for your half crown stipend you’d get a certificate stating that you were a Vauxhall Craftsman, a badge stating that you were a Vauxhall Craftsman, and an opportunity to design a new Vauxhall car every year.

Sounded too good to be true but a gaggle of like minded individuals at our school had joined too and so I did and I’d go along to their meetings on a wet playtime and sit with a group of ten older geeks who scribbled designs on pieces of scrap paper with stubs of pencil and then spend the rest of the lunchtime arguing about whether it would fly or not.

“Fly ?” someone would ask, “aren’t we designing a car then ?”
“Yes” someone more in the know would reply, “its a flying car”
“Are you sure thats in the Vauxhall design brief ?”
“Yes’ its this bit here, the bit that says, “Above all else boys, use your imagination””
“Well I was thinking more in terms of a beer dispenser in the dashboard”
“Don’t be ridiculous, how are we going to build that ?”
“Well I’m not the one talking about flying cars am I ?”

I don’t think that our branch of the Vauxhall Craftsmans Guild ever submitted an idea to Vauxhall UK, borne out by the fact that Vauxhall UK still haven’t found their way to bringing out a flying car, or a car with a beer dispenser in the dashboard.

Its probably just as well though or if they followed my car designs we’d all still be driving cars that looked like someone had taken a cornflakes packet, glued a Bisto Gravy packet on top of it and four cardboard discs stuck on for wheels, one in each corner.

In other words, a Lada.

Did my designs get re-directed in the mail ?


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