All posts by Heather Kavanagh

The latest from the workbench

Life goes on here at Snaptophobic Towers. Despite the real world apparently collapsing at a rate of knots, work must go on. The latest to emerge from the workshop is this static model of a BR Western Region diesel-hydraulic loco D1042 Western Princess.

A 1/43rd scale JLTRT kit assembled to represent D1042 as the loco appeared, ex-works, around 1963. The model is static, and will be displayed in a case.

A 1/43rd scale JLTRT kit assembled to represent D1042 as the loco appeared, ex-works, around 1963. The model is static, and will be displayed in a case.

Close on D1042’s heels are three ex-GWR Collett bow-ended 57ft coaches. More on those shortly, I suspect. Another long-time workbench resident is a BR Mk1 RMB, which after a protracted gestation has finally got the roof fitted and painting under way. Hopefully, those builds plus one other will be cleared relatively quickly, helping the old bank balance, and leaving room for some new projects.

Don’t forget you can keep up with stuff on my web site, and I tweet modelling nonsense @HKModelmaker.

A new family member

It’s been just over a week since Sophie-puss left us. As is our way we went straight over to our nearest Cats Protection centre to be chosen all over again.

Losing a pet is always hard, it never gets easier, but is made easier for us at least by finding a new friend as soon as possible. On the first day, we met a few likely cats, but it was our second visit where Billy-puss made his feelings known.

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Here he is. Another black cat, so that was one box ticked. The second box was a fluffy tail. Oh boy! That was a definite tick. Billy came to the front of his pen as soon as we went in the main door, and spoke to us. Another box ticked. We were formally introduced, and we pretty much made up our minds Billy would like to come home with us as soon as we’d met properly.

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We collected Billy from the centre this morning, and got him home just after eleven o’clock. It took a little while for him to find his bearings in his new home, but by the time two hours had passed it was obvious he felt very happy with the way things were turning out. He has even met our neighbour, and wasn’t freaked out, which was a relief.

Billy, is four years old. He came into the rescue centre a few months ago, and was originally in the pen with his brother. Billy was very timid and nervous, while his brother was boisterous and a little aggressive. Separating the pair let Billy blossom into the friendly boy he is now. 

Now he is home, he seems to be very, very happy. He just joined me at my desk and tried to help type this post. What he really wanted, of course, was a big fuss. He likes his ears rubbed. He likes a head-butt. He likes to be groomed. He doesn’t sit on a lap—yet. 

We generally like to home house-trained cats. As we know Billy is already domestic, we find it best to let him explore, find where everything is. We didn’t follow him around so he wouldn’t feel intimidated. We know there are various places Billy can go where we would like him to feel safe. We are giving him space to feel at home.
Barring unfortunate illness, Billy should be with us for some years to come. We might consider another cat in time, but for now, Billy is Top Cat.

Some milestones yet to pass are using the litter tray and eating something. Billy knows where they are. 

Sophie-puss

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In November 2013 we said goodbye to Penny-puss. Penny and Sophie were homed as a pair of rescue cats from our local branch of Cats Protection. All of our cats have come from CP. When Penny left us, Sophie became Top Cat.

We had originally thought both moggies were of similar ages, but it turned out Sophie was a bit younger than her chum. We didn’t know how many years we would have left to share with Sophie.

Penny was always the quiet one, but it was fairly obvious she kept Sophie in her place. With the Strong Paw of The Law out of the way, Sophie could fulfil her potential. That was to occupy any and every lap that came into the house, often times without asking permission first!

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Being a black cat, she always felt she should be the centre of attention, at all times, no matter how inconvenient. Cuddles came first, second and third, and more so once Penny had died. Sophie would be the one to get up to mischief, climbing onto wardrobes and disappearing behind settees. On one occasion, while we were having the central heating serviced, Sophie went to find out what was going on behind the hot water tank. She emerged, wreathed in cobwebs, looking like a feline Miss Havisham.

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Being a black cat, she was also notoriously difficult to capture in photographs. The best photos I have are when she was gallivanting on our large shed roof, where I was low enough to capture playful moments with her.

She had started calling plaintively and loudly, soon after Penny’s death. At first we thought it was just calling for her friend, but it soon became evident she was letting the world know, at volume and at length, what she had just been up to.

“I’ve just used the litter tray … I’d give it a few minutes if I were you … I even impressed myself with that one … No, don’t thank me, it was my pleasure …”

“I’ve just been out in the garden … it was a bit parky out there … I’m back in for a warm … any grub going?”

… and so on.

Cuddles and laps were the order of the day. Sophie and I would often end up having a bit of a tussle on the settee should I be so bold as to insist my lap be reserved for other uses.

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Old age catches up with us all eventually, and it was no different for Sophie-puss. When we homed her it was thought she might be eight years old. She’d been with us nine years, all but. That would make her not far off 18 years old, or around 70 in human years. A good age for a domestic moggie.

Sophie started having little collapses where her back legs gave out and she would soil herself. She would usually recover in a couple of minutes, and dash off to the food bowl as if nothing happened. The collapses started happening more regularly. Then she didn’t look well at all. Her breathing was shallow, and anything mildly strenuous would leave her out of breath for several minutes. We took her to the vet, fully expecting not to bring her home again. The diagnosis was heart failure—she’d always had a heart murmur—with the chest cavity full of fluid, and the collapses might be due to partial fainting, or possibly blood clots. The vet gave Sophie a vitamin injection, and prescribed some pills to help flush fluid out of her chest cavity and also help with the back legs.

That was about three months ago. The medication helped, when Sophie would eat the food containing it. In the past couple of weeks, her back legs had shown signs of some improvement. We had a new back door fitted in March, with a cat flap. After a little persuasion, Sophie decided she liked this innovation, and provided it was unlocked she would let herself in and out to her heart’s content. As the weather got warmer, she spent more and more time in the garden, following the sunny spots around during the day.

Accidents happened, usually involved missing the litter tray. We got used to cleaning up after Sophie. She was getting old, and we have to expect these things.

This week, though, things began to change. She was getting more confused. She managed to get herself on the garage roof, but couldn’t remember how to get back down. We had to effect a rescue with a ladder. Her eyesight wasn’t as good as it used to be, leaving her blundering into doors if she wasn’t careful. She didn’t want to sit on my lap at all—unheard of. Then she found a convenient low shelf near my workbench where she could curl up and sleep. That’s not usually a good sign. Cats are generally known to find somewhere they can hide when they think their time is nearly up. I made up a little nest of a blanket and some soft things for her.

Yesterday she barely moved. She did totter out to the kitchen for a drink, but tottered straight back to her little nest. She didn’t eat at all. She responded with a purr if she was stroked, but it was obvious she wasn’t really happy. We decided to leave her alone, monitor the situation and decide whether to make That Call to the vet in the morning.

We hoped nature might take its course overnight, but it didn’t. When she showed little signs of improvement, an appointment to have Sophie put to sleep was made for this afternoon. We went out to do our grocery shop, and when we got home, Sophie had died. We think she had either had a seizure or slipped and had a heart attack struggling to right herself. Either way, we hope she didn’t suffer unduly.

Sophie-puss has gone to join Penny-puss, and Snowy and Bootsie from next door. Perhaps even our old Tom and Misty will be there. Thanks for the cuddles and fun, Sophie. Yes, I shouted at you when you insisted on making a racket. Yes, you did like to land on my head if you felt it was time for breakfast. But we still loved you to bits, Charlie. You will be missed, especially on cold evenings when you warmed my lap while we watched telly together. Farewell, furry friend.

As has become traditional after the loss of a cat, we made our way straight to CP to see what new furry friends might want to make a home with us. We plan to go back on Sunday for a proper look, but we might have one likely candidate already. We’ll see.

 

While the sun shone

It was a nice day yesterday. While wondering how to spend my time, trying to relax for a change, I stumbled across my big camera. It was my fault for leaving it on the floor of the living room, I suppose. Anyway, dusting it off and checking the battery still had a charge, I wondered if I could remember how to operate it. Out to our back yard I went, and tried to find interesting things to snap.

I uploaded the selected best shots to my Flickr photo stream. Please go and have a look.

There might just be an inkling of a glimmer of interest in photography making an appearance. I must try to cultivate it again. I have got in mind a long term project, but I’m trying to get the enthusiasm together to get it started.

Exercise

I am no spring chicken. I am well aware of this fact. I am also becoming aware I really should have taken a bit more care of myself when I was younger.

I have an active brain. It’s always churning away on something. Some nights it keeps me awake because it won’t let go of something. I may be worrying over how to accomplish a task on a model build currently on the workbench, or I may be reliving some disaster in the previous day or so and how I could have either prevented it or retained more dignity than perhaps I may have managed at the time. I think it’s fair to say my brain is the most active part of me!

As I grow older, it is becoming more critical that I begin to take an active, albeit belated, interest in looking after myself. I need to lose weight, and I need to do some exercise.

I bought a bike a few years ago. For a while I was riding it every day or so, building up stamina, feeling better for moving various bits of me that don’t customarily move quite that much. Then we had some bad weather, and the bike stayed in the shed longer. Winters and springs came and went, and the bike remained locked away. A pang of guilt strikes every time I venture into the shed to retrieve something or other. There’s my bike, sitting there, patiently. I will often flick the bell on the handle bars, for old time’s sake. Perhaps this year, I think to myself. Perhaps I will get back on the bike.

I see people running, or pounding away on machines at leisure centres and gyms, and I wonder what they see in it. What is going on in their heads while their body burns the calories? Could their lives be so empty that they actually get pleasure from physical exercise? I know exercise releases chemicals into the brain that makes you feel better, so perhaps that’s it. After a while, it must become an addiction.

Last year I had a run in with the medical world, as we tried to find out why my heart was seemingly skipping a beat or three very frequently. Again, the rejoinder was to change lifestyle, get more exercise, lose weight. If only it was that simple. Now, it seems, my blood pressure has decided it needs to be higher than normal. My body may be ganging up on my brain after all!

The trouble is I’m a lazy sod. I know I need to exercise more. I realise it’s for my own good. But that active brain of mine keeps nagging at me that if I start walking every day, or—heaven forfend—break out the bike again, it’s time away from productive work. Walking anywhere without a purpose, or riding up and down the same bit of road, just for the sake of burning calories and building up muscles is not my idea of time well spent. The simple fact is I find exercise the most tedious waste of time. I don’t, I tell myself, have time to spend away from things that might be much more interesting, or even making some kind of living.

Then again, I can’t afford to be ill. I am just going to have to find the time to get a little fitter. It looks like the bike will see daylight once again. The time has come, it seems, to take my lifestyle by the throat and give it a good shaking. Wish me luck.

I know, I know…

I am sorry. There, I said it. I’m sorry I don’t have time to make copious posts here like I used to. Obviously, when I worked at a computer nearly all day it was easier to open a tab and pour forth. Now I am making models for a living I don’t have nearly as much computer time as I used to.

There’s also an awful lot I could be writing about. The political scene, the NHS, the world’s inexorable spin into death and destruction… There’s too much to be annoyed about, too much to offer my opinion about, and what good would it do anyway? Just another scream into the void.

It’s easy to be negative, and I try not to be as often as I can. Sometimes, though, looking around at the state of the world, one can’t help but wonder how we have let things get quite so bad.

I have had an idea for a couple of ranty historical posts about the recent rebirth of the Flying Scotsman, and celebrating an 80th anniversary of the Spitfire’s first flight but ignoring the Hurricane’s 80th last year. I may still work something up, but I’m only typing now because today is a fallow day for domestic and medical stuff to be done. Normally I’d be ankle-deep in metal filings by now!

So, I apologise for being quiet. I’ll try to make amends soon. Possibly.

Ex-GWR 4200 Class 2-8-0T

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The latest commission build has just rolled out of the paint shop and had its official portraits taken. Hopefully this will be handed over to its owner next weekend. The 7mm Finescale model represents one of the fairly numerous class of 2-8-0T heavy goods engines designed by G J Churchward for the Great Western Railway at the start of the 20th century. The type was designed for the heavy coal trains from the South Wales coalfields. Many locos survived into the 1960s, and there are at least three in preservation or undergoing restoration.

The model was partially built from a Just Like The Real Thing kit by the client, but he got a bit stuck and asked if I’d take on the project to completion. It has been an interesting exercise, and I have become rather fond of the big beast of a machine. It certainly has some presence on the workbench, and in some ways I’ll be sad to see it go.

I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in railway subjects. You can find out about the work I do on my web site.

On a brighter note…

After a couple of morose postings from me, here’s some good news. A finished model, delivered and paid for, with one happy new owner.

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Riddles WD Austerity 8F 2-8-0 No 90643. This loco ended its days at Aintree Shed, and is depicted in model form as it was photographed at some time in the mid-1960s. For its kind it is remarkably clean, probably not long from an overhaul.

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The model is built from a Just Like The Real Thing 7mm scale 1/43rd kit, with detail additions.

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The crew figures were from Andrew Stadden.

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The weathered finish has been kept to a minimum, with signs of rust, dust and grime beginning to appear.

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I don’t mind admitting this build taxed me at times. It is my first big locomotive, and it taught me quite a few lessons, as well as a few new choice phrases when things weren’t quite going to plan!

There’s room on the bench for another couple of builds now.

Motivation

Me and my shadow

There are times when being self-employed is a curse. Yes, there is all that “being your own boss” malarkey, and my hours are set to suit me. The thing is, motivation is hard work: sometimes you need someone else to drive you.

As I type I have two shelves full of commissioned models to build, and the workbench is home to three partially-built models. I currently have enough work to keep me going well into next year. By most measures I seem to be pretty successful and have plenty of work to be doing.

So why can’t I get on with it? There’s the million dollar question.

It is true that some builds do hit snags, and have to be sidelined for a spell. Usually I will pick up another model and let the snags resolve themselves in their own good time. There are times when real life has to be dealt with, such as medical appointments or car servicing.

There are also times when the mood just isn’t right. You may scoff, but building models isn’t simply about following instructions, wielding tools and miniature engineering. There is also art involved, and when the Modelling Muse bimbles off somewhere more interesting I can be left with no choice but to seek other things to do.

Last week was supposed to be busy; I had loads of workbench stuff to get on with, at any rate. On Monday I had an appointment around midday, so the morning and afternoon were sufficiently disrupted as to stop meaningful work. Tuesday, I was struck by some sort of malaise which left me moping around the house trying not to be annoyed at everyone and everything. Experience tells me best not to tackle anything involving sharp tools in that kind of mood. Wednesday saw our weekly shop a day earlier than normal—a knocked-on disruption from a short break a month ago. Best Beloved also decided he wanted some new electronic toy (a printer), and that ended up with me sorting out a rat’s nest of cables and installing software across our various computers for the rest of the day. Thursday appeared to have trickled away with nothing constructive being achieved. Friday vanished into a miasma of nothing much.

I suppose I could blame the season and the weather. It is November, after all, and looking from my window into the near-darkness more rain has set in, with its close colleague wind not far behind. It’s a singularly depressing time of the year, despite the glorious leaf colours on a bright and sunny day. It’s all too short, though, and already the talk is of Christmas.

Ah, Christmas. Here it comes again. It is true what they say. The years fly by faster as you get older. And on that happy note, I think it’s time for me to do some other displacement activity to avoid actually working.

Mortality

I think it’s fair to say I’ve passed one of those significant milestones in my life. Although mentally I still feel like I am thirty, physically it is becoming apparent I am starting on the downhill side of life. Things are wearing out, falling out and generally aching. I groan when I stand up, I can’t kneel properly any more, and the old back aches and twinges more frequently.I am beginning to feel my age. There is a slow dawning that I am mortal, a realisation that one day I shall no longer be around.

Many of my friends and loved ones are older than me. Best Beloved is a full quarter century older than me, interestingly more or less the same age as my parents. There are not many of my friends—not counting those online and spread across the planet—who are actually younger than me. I also don’t have children, and neither does my younger sister. These are lifestyle choices we made, but it means we don’t actually have direct relatives to take on whatever we leave behind. I assume my sister will outlive me, but one can never be sure of these things. Will she even want to deal with the detritus of another life?

In short, I am going to have to think carefully how my property and, if you will forgive the pomposity, my legacy will be handled once I am reduced to a forgotten bag of ashes. I am also having to consider how I will approach the closing of my life. I suppose it is pretty obvious that I will be alone at the end. Will I be able to control my decline, to keep some dignity at the end, to be able to dispose of possessions to people who might care about them before it’s too late? Should I begin to organise my affairs now, before senility sets in?

Sobering thoughts, and not a little depressing. Still, I suppose that’s life.