Category Archives: Personal

Can it really be four years?

Billy-puss has been living with us now since the end of May 2016. It is hard to imagine the home without him now! He made himself at home pretty much as soon as we unlocked the front door returning from the Cats Protection homing shelter.

He still loves being groomed, having his ears scratched and butting heads. He also likes his tummy tickled, so it’s pretty obvious he was handled by humans pretty much from birth. Billy likes to know where you are, and if you leave him alone in a room, he will come and find you. He just likes the company. As I type this, he’s snoozing on the sofa, only a couple of metres away.

So, apologies Billy for forgetting your fourth coming home birthday party. I’m sure you’ll forgive us, as our species has had quite a bit to deal with since March. Thank you for being here, and being a furry comforter when times have been a bit rough. We hope you’ll want to stay with us for a good few years yet.

Well, what’s new?

Hello there. It’s been far too long since I posted anything worthwhile here. I’ve been over the reasons in previous posts, so I won’t go over them again. So, what’s new?

I have spent an afternoon patiently going through my entire blog deleting all the rants and random news stuff. Enough negativity from me! I have edited posts referencing my now long-defunct Facebook page. Change is afoot.

My plan is to continue posting updates on life, the universe and everything. I want to continue sharing my photography—when I get back to it!—as well as linking to the photography of others. Long-time readers will note a few model aircraft have appeared over the years, and I intend to expand on that. Let me explain.

2020 is the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the epic aerial battle that took place in the skies over southern England during the summer of 1940. The Battle, and how events from the 1920s transpired to reach that tipping point, is something I’ve been fascinated by for over 40 years. Starting out with an ambition to build models of the main aircraft flown by Britain and Germany during the Battle, things have since got slightly out of hand—I now plan to build examples of every plane that was operating during the whole of 1940, from all the countries involved at the time!

What I hope to do is post something about an aircraft, or a series of aircraft, with some explanatory text and images of the models. I have reached the conclusion that 1940 was a pivotal year in the Second World War, a year where many things were still in a state of flux, and the stage was being set for the rest of the conflict. The scope of my interests covers the Battle of Norway in the early spring, through the so-called Phoney War in France, through the invasions of Holland, Belgium and France, the Battle of France through to the armistice, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and into the day and night Blitz over the British mainland.

Not being content with that, I hope to then cover the Mediterranean and North Africa theatre. So, I have my work cut out, and all the while I am still supposed to be building railway models for clients!

There remains unresolved the technical issues I have experienced with this site. I am unsure as to how to fix them, but I will soldier on with things for now. I will generally not be allowing comments on posts, so apologies for that if you like to express opinions. You can find me in other places to do that!

Thank you for you patience, and I hope to be back to blogging about life at Snaptophobic Towers soon.

GWR 3100 Class 2-6-2T

Later rebuilt and renumbered into the 4400 Class, the small class of 11 tank engines that formed the 3100 Class was designed and built between 1905 and 1906. They were among the last locomotives to be constructed at the GWR Wolverhampton works.

When he moved into the post of the Great Western’s Chief Mechanical Engineer in 1902, George Jackson Churchward set about dragging the venerable railway company into the 20th century—kicking and screaming if necessary! His first act as CME was to design and commission three new types of locomotive, bringing the latest ideas together and setting the pattern for the GWR “look” henceforth.

One of the new designs used a wheel pattern of single axle pony trucks at front and rear, with three driven axles between them—2-6-2, using the Whyte arrangement designation— plus side tanks. A coned boiler with Belpaire firebox was also new, as well as the outside cylinders driving the wheels. The end result was a tidy, purposeful-looking prototype tank engine. After running on various parts of the network, it was decided to produce more of these engines, and the first would have small 4ft 1-1/2in diameter driving wheels in order to give it a wide route availability on the many small branch lines the served the deeper parts of Cornwall.

Eleven, including a prototype, were built. The embryonic “GWR house style” was there, but also odd choices, such as the tiny bunker. Numbered in the 3100 series, the class would eventually be joined by similar locos with 4ft 7-1/2in driving wheels, and they would all be renumbered into the 4400 Class, and subsequently know to enthusiasts as the Small Prairies.

After World War One, the class was subjected to various modifications. The bunkers were gradually enlarged, finally reaching the classic GWR “bustle”. The cabs acquired steel roofs, and boilers were enlarged and superheated, until the classic GWR Prairie look was achieved.

Working their entire lives on the branch lines of Cornwall, these attractive little engines were finally scrapped in the early 1950s.

The model was constructed from a Malcolm Mitchell etched brass and nickel silver kit to 7mm scale (1/43rd) and ScaleSeven standards. The kit, billed as a 4400 Class, is still available through MM1 Models. Various parts had to be remodelled or scratchbuilt to more accurately represent the first iteration of the design. A new boiler front ring and smokebox was created, a new cab roof made, and various other modifications were made. Inevitably, some compromises crept in, such as adjustments to the brake rigging to suit the real thing’s arrangement. Some areas, particularly the tops of the side tanks and cab fittings, have been open to some conjecture. Certainly, it seems the original builds of the class featured neat and tidy tank tops and all the washout plugs on the boiler cladding covered. Gradually, over their service lives, the locos acquired all the fiddly extras and clutter to replace the Edwardian simplicity and elegance of the original builds. The finished model was painted by Warren Haywood.

I have several more loco commissions to get through, including the Large Prairie cousin of this little engine. Once they’re cleared through, I shall be concentrating on coaches and rolling stock commissions. Find out more about my work on my web site, and you can follow some of my antics on Twitter. The link can be found on the web site.

Considering the future

I miss blogging regularly. I enjoyed the process of selecting images, writing the text, editing the thing, and hitting Publish. What went wrong?

Well, for one thing, this WordPress installation is on the blink. I should fix it, but I don’t know how and really don’t have the time or inclination. I keep hoping each update of the back office stuff will improve things, but it never does. It’s been so long now I’ve forgotten what is actually broken and how to fix it if I try to make it work again.

So, I tend not to bother. And the blog languishes for lack of content.

Another thing has been the state of my mental health. Since that ruddy “B” thing, with the huge amount of commissioned work I foolishly took on and can’t cope with, I’ve been on the way down quite severely. Some days over the past year or so I’ve found it hard to even function. The first step was to acknowledge I had a problem, and the next step was to roll with it and find coping mechanisms. I think it’s under control, but occasionally it catches me off guard. There’s no point my adding to the general screaming that’s going on, even if it makes me feel better for a while. The blog, therefore, remains mute.

As a way of helping the mental health, I killed my Facebook account (again) at the end of 2018. I really don’t miss it. No, really. You ought to try it.

I’ve been trying to deal with the modelling work backlog. I think it’s beginning to make more sense again. Not a lot has been completed, but I have a lot on its way through the workshop.

7mm scale model locomotive of a GWR Collett goods tender engine

7mm scale model locomotive of a GWR Collett goods tender engine

This brute did emerge, finally in 2018. The model represents the preserved GWR Collett 2251 Class loco No 3205, with one of the tenders it runs with in preservation, but as it ran when new in 1946. All clear? Thought not! After a painful gestation, the model was finally shipped to its new home in Australia. While I like the finished model, I am very glad to see it go.

There are still umpteen commission builds being worked on and pending. I’ve closed my order book for another year in the vain hope I might get on top of things eventually.

Meanwhile, I cheer myself up by building plastic aeroplanes.

This thing is the Fairey Rotodyne. The prototype flew in the late 1950s, and was all set to take the world by storm until various mergers ended up with the project being scrapped. The model is built from an Airfix 1/72nd scale kit, the original moulds for which date to 1959. It really doesn’t fit into my themed collection, but I built it to join into a group build on a modelling forum. It was a lot of fun at a time when I was feeling particularly low.

This bizarre little contraption is an Avro C.30 Rota, built in the UK under licence from Cierva. It’s an autogyro, which works by having a free-spinning rotor that isn’t powered by a motor. A small rotary engine at the front of the aircraft provided thrust, and the rotor could be spun up to provide lift for take-off. This 1/72nd scale model is from an RS Models kit, and represents the type used by the RAF for calibrating the RDF stations. Part of my ever-growing 1940 collection.

Another RS Models kit, this time of a Marcel Bloch MB-152. As part of my 1940 obsession I’ve been acquiring examples of planes flown by air forces other than Britain and Germany. I’m working slowly through my French collection, starting with the single-seat fighters that operated during the Battle of France between May and June 1940.

Morane-Saulnier MS.406C-1, a 1/72nd scale kit from Azur.

From HobbyBoss, this is a 1/72nd scale Dewoitine D.520C-1

Finally, this A Model 1/72nd kit is of a Curtiss Hawk H-75A-2. All the French planes here were flown by aces credited with shooting down multiple enemy aircraft during the Battle of France.

So, there you are. A quick update on life at Snaptophobic Towers. I might decide to update more often, I might not. I might decide to move the blog to another platform—again. I might not. Who can tell. Equally, it’s entirely on the cards that a physical move of location from the lower right hand corner of Blighty to somewhere a bit more near the top might happen—but don’t hold your breath.

Life must still go on

Despite the real world continuing to have a nervous breakdown, life here at Snaptophobic Towers must go on. After my little breakdown, I’ve been steadily getting back into the workbench swing, and have just completed a set of five 7mm scale coaches.

Although the build had its moments, I am very pleased with how these models turned out. The crimson and cream livery really suits these coaches. They represent British Railways standard coaches built in the early 1950s. A pair of BSK Brake Second Corridor coaches will top and tail a CK Composite Corridor and SK Second Corridor, with a BG Brake Guard which can be added as the mood suits.

The models are built from Easy-Build kits. Four had been partly built by the client, so I was tasked with completing them, with an additional kit added later. I’ve added a few details, but essentially the finished items are made from what came in the box.

I am a professional modelmaker, specialising in British railway subjects generally at 1/43rd scale (7mm to the foot). You can follow me on Twitter, and I also have a web site that gets some love occasionally. I’m not currently seeking new commissions, but I am always happy to discuss potential work.

Oh, hello

It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Well, you can probably guess why. Yes, that whole B thing, quite apart from anything else. Everything is now seen through the prism of Brexit. Everything. It absorbs life and light, just like a black hole.

What was the point of sitting here, keyboard warrior, blethering on about things over which I have absolutely no control whatsoever? So, I didn’t.

At first, it was the world that was broken. Eventually, I thought, it would right itself. Except, instead, it seems to spiral further into complete insanity with every passing day. The world has now broken me. I only need to spend a few minutes looking around, or reading something about it, and I’m lost.

As a child of the Cold War, and having lived through the threat of thermonuclear annihilation during the 1970s and 1980s, I find myself seriously scared about the future. Just what does it have in store? Who knows, but it won’t be much fun from what I can see.

Anyway, aside from western civilisation collapsing and economic and social apocalypse come next April, what’s been going on?

I became overwhelmed with work. I just couldn’t do it. I sat and looked at my piled-up commission work, at what was happening on the bench, and threw my hands up in despair. I needed time off to consider my life, so everything is now way behind schedule. Thankfully, I have supportive and accepting clients. I am slowly trying to rebuild my enthusiasm for getting things done. The order book is closed until at least next year, perhaps longer. It’s a good job I don’t have to rely on my work to pay the bills.

Best Beloved is not well. He’s not really unwell, but he’s not the man he was. I think the global insanity, and my mental ill health, isn’t helping. We bumble on.

Billy-puss is the only real constant in life at present. He’s the rock that helps me keep somewhat grounded in the maelstrom.

We are actively considering a move. Not just to the next street, or town. I’d like to move to another country, but I’m about three decades too late to make that work. I could claim an Irish citizenship, thanks to a maternal grandfather, but I worry about maintaining links for my work and suppliers post that bloody B thing again. We could move to Scotland, before they split from this idiot England at last. Next best thing, I think, will be to move as far north in England as we can, to get away from the armageddon that Brexshit is likely to cause down here in Kent as the ports get clogged and the motorways turn into lorry parks. We currently have sights set on County Durham. It looks like a nice place, and we liked it when we paid a flying visit earlier in the year. A move can’t come soon enough for my liking. There’s nothing down here that inspires me any more.

The broken WordPress installation for this blog is still something I need to sort out. As I haven’t been posting here since the new year, there hasn’t seemed to be any point. There are alternatives, if I feel it’s worth the outlay, but good old inertia has a definite hold on me. I don’t expect I’ll bother sorting it out in the end.

So, there we are. Chaos and calamity reigns supreme, and it’s hard to keep a level head when all around is collapsing so quickly there’s no time to stop and think. I just keep trying to shuffle on regardless, though there seems to be less and less point to it all.

Don’t worry. Utterly depressed though I am, killing myself to end it all isn’t on the cards. That would be utterly pointless, and help no-one—least of all me! Something good will come out of all this, eventually. It has to.

A day—or two—out

When you work for yourself, and your other half is retired, it’s very easy to forget to take holidays. Well, I find it easy to forget. To overcome this problem, we’ve decided to try to take short breaks that happen to coincide with model railway meetings of one kind or another. The precedent has been set by our annual jaunt to Telford for the Gauge O Guild exhibition.

This past weekend we wandered up to the West Midlands. We stayed in Oldbury, in one of those identikit hotels, on a short visit that encompassed the ScaleSeven Group’s AGM at the nearby Warley Model Railway Club’s premises. We travelled up from darn sarf on Friday, had the AGM on Saturday (feeling relaxed and refreshed by not having made the journey on the day), and pottered back home on the Sunday.

With time in hand, we made a slight detour to a local attraction before heading home.

Blakesley Hall, according to Wikipedia, “is a Tudor hall on Blakesley Road in Yardley, Birmingham, England. It is one of the oldest buildings in Birmingham and is a typical example of Tudor architecture with the use of darkened timber and wattle-and-daub infill, with an external lime render which is painted white. The extensive use of close studding and herringbone patterns on all sides of the house make this a home that was designed to show the wealth and status of the owner.”

The house and gardens are run by the Birmingham Museums. Originally a farmhouse set in its own land, the hall is now surrounded by 1930s housing estates. Nevertheless, once you enter the property, it is a tiny oasis of calm in the bustle of a suburban environment.

There is a modern entry block, with the gift shop, toilets and a tea room. On the day we visited, there was a display of various birds of prey. Volunteers were on hand to guide round the house, explaining about the building and its contents, and the histories of its various owners.

If you find yourself in the Birmingham area and have a couple of hours to spare, visit Blakesley Hall. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and you might too.

You can see some more of the images I took on our visit on my Flickr page.

The Things You Find

I periodically attempt a tidying up and clearing out session. In spite of our modern digital world, “important” paperwork just seems to multiply. I am the worst kind of person to make decisions about what can safely be discarded, and so the piles grow.

While on one of my periodical sifting sessions, I uncovered some funny things I had kept for some reason. Funny, in this case, means amusing.

First was a parody of the small print you sometimes find at the bottom of corporate emails.


This email is intended for the use of the individual addressee(s) named above and may contain information that is confidential, privileged or unsuitable for overly sensitive persons of low self-esteem, no sense of humour or irrational religious beliefs.

If you are not the intended recipient, any dissemination, distribution or copying of this email is not authorised (either explicitly or implicitly) and constitutes an irritating social faux pas.

Unless the word absquatulation has been used in its correct context somewhere other than this warning, it does not have any legal or grammatical use and may be ignored.

No animals were harmed in the transmission of this email, although the yorkie next door is living on borrowed time, let me tell you.

Those of you with an overwhelming fear of the unknown will be gratified to learn that there is no hidden message revealed by reading this warning backwards, so just ignore that alert notice from Microsoft. However, by pouring a complete circle of salt around yourself and your computer or handheld device you can ensure no harm befalls you or your pets.

If you have received this email in error, please place it in a warm oven for 40 minutes and add some nutmeg and egg whites. Whisk briefly and let it stand for two hours before icing.


When I mention the foregoing paper had a time stamp of April 2000 on it, you will begin to realise the extent of my paper hoarding powers!

Next, some ways to maintain a healthy level of insanity—probably more relevant today, considering the way our world seems to be heading.


  1. At lunchtime, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and all the hairdryer at passing cars. See if they slowdown.
  2. Page yourself over the intercom. Don’t disguise your voice.
  3. Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.
  4. Put your garbage can on your desk and label it “IN”.
  5. Put the caffeine in the coffee maker for three weeks. Once everyone has got over the caffeine addiction switch to espresso.
  6. Finish all your sentences with “in accordance with the prophecy”.
  7. Dont use any punctuation
  8. As often as possible, skip rather than walk.
  9. Ask people what sex they are. Laugh hysterically after they answer.
  10. Specify that your drive-through order is “to go”.
  11. Sing along at the opera.
  12. Go to a poetry recital and ask why the poems don’t rhyme.
  13. Put mosquito netting around your work area and play tropical sounds all day.
  14. Five days in advance, tell your friends you can’t attend the party because you’re not in the mood.
  15. Have your co-workers address you by your wrestling name—rockhard.
  16. When the money comes out of the ATM scream “I won! I won!”.
  17. When leaving the zoo, start running towards the car park yelling “Run for your lives, they’re loose!”.
  18. Tell your children over dinner, “Due to the economy, we are going to have to let one of you go”.

I hope you enjoyed those. I don’t recall exactly where they came from, especially after all these years, so feel free to plagiarise them to your heart’s content.

In other news, after a slightly rocky upgrade of this blog software earlier, which has left some of the plugins in a precarious situation, I am starting to look at alternatives to WordPress. The WordPress iOS app is also a pile of doodah, too. I can work locally, but it always seems to fail to connect to the server and save the work. This blog was written on the iThing, but it didn’t appear in the drafts on the main computer when logged in. So, I had to cut and paste across a couple of apps just to get here.

Anyway, while I investigate and ponder changes, it’s probably going to be business as usual here until I can set things up—assuming I manage to without too many tears!

A journey into sound

When I was very young, my parents owned a reel-to-reel tape recorder. It had multiple speed playback and twin tracks. My sister and I played with this thing for hours, making funny noises, over-dubbing sounds, and generally having a high old time.

I was hooked. As they often say, “the colours are better on radio”. Theatre of the mind, where your imagination fills in the images from the sounds alone. I have a particular fondness for sound effects records, and ambient sounds of real places in particular. It’s just another of those myriad creative pastimes I’ve developed through my life.

Have a search around the interweb and you’ll find numerous projects which aim to capture for posterity sounds of the every day mundanities of life. Things like birdsong in an urban environment, the sound of a stream trickling through a culvert, the 8.15 to Harpenden… that kind of thing. A favourite is the London Sound Survey. Sound, for many, is something we don’t often think about, and with most of us plugged into headphones or earbuds, blocking out the world around us, it’s easy to lose that audible connection with our surroundings.

Anyway, last year, Best Beloved and I invested in a modern digital audio recorder. We’ve owned various analogue and digital recorders over the years, but most were strictly linear in form. You recorded the sound, you played the recording back, and if you wanted to get the sound into another format you had to transfer it real time. No accessing a digital file in those days. Now, with the new toy, we could make a recording, and get it into the computer for editing with a few clicks of a mouse.

Long story short, we are steadily building a library of some commonplace sounds of our modern world—and some of our not-so-modern world. To that end, I’ve set up a SoundCloud account where we can share the edited recordings with the world. The first playlist I’ve created is of recordings made on the Severn Valley Railway, Shropshire, last year. For best results, play back through good speakers, or a good set of headphones.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/259485122″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

 

A week later!

Telford was an excellent exhibition, a credit to the organisers and managing crew. I spent the weekend talking, buying, and ending up tired out! I handed finished models to clients, and collected some new commissioned work. I think it was a good show.

Lots of nice textures and colours were about. I wonder if all the cast plates were made on the site?

As is now our habit, we stayed in the Telford area for a couple of days after the exhibition. Our plans were flexible, with museums and the Severn Valley Railway high on the agenda. Monday saw us visit the Blists Hill Victorian Town. The link explains what the place is all about, and it proved a pleasant afternoon of wandering about. I spent much of the time cursing my DSLR, which is really cursing myself for being thick. I really need to get out with the beast more often and learn how to drive it properly again.

It would have been lovely to have seen more activity around the town. It was rather as if the inhabitants had all gone on a charabanc trip to the seaside and left everything unlocked.

Our last day we went to Bridgnorth and visited the SVR. We took the digital sound recording gear, in the hopes of more excellent recordings such as we had last year. Sadly, I hadn’t slept at all well the previous night, so our visit was somewhat curtailed. I still haven’t had a chance to edit the recordings we made. In fact, I’ve not even listened back to them, which is quite telling on what I think about them.

So, that’s the Big Exhibition over for another year. Back at home, I spent the rest of the week nursing a toothache and setting out plans for the year ahead. I have, it seems, a lot of work to be getting on with!