Tag Archives: life the universe and everything

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sophie 73

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.

 

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.

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.

Life goes on

Once again, I find the old blog has been neglected. Reasons for this are several: time, lack of; worthwhile, nothing to say that’s; way, life getting in the.

The workbench is busy. Having said that there isn’t much to actually show for it. Several client builds have reached an odd kind of stasis where there’s ongoing work but not much to see. The photo shows five part-built models, but doesn’t show four others I’ve started, or the growing pile of unstarted models! I’ve begun a process of building up some of my own models that have been in storage for some years, with the idea of using them to populate my table when I demonstrate at model exhibitions. You see, I’ve built some lovely models over the past few years but they don’t hang around once they’re completed, tending to go to their owners, so I can’t show them off to a wider public. Having a semi-permanent collection of various models will be useful, I think.

In other news, a general election has come and gone. After one of the dirtiest, fib-ridden and frankly far too long campaigns, the result, as you might expect, was not quite what I had hoped for. In fact, it took me rather badly—yes, even cynical old me—with the result that I’ve been trying very hard to not fall ill over it. I’m currently undergoing a battery of tests to see what might be wrong with me, but so far nothing has surfaced.

The election results have also prompted some serious discussions at Snaptophobic Towers about moving somewhere else. It seems neither Best Beloved nor myself hold out much hope of things improving round here. Of course, I could get off my backside and actually try and do something about it, but there’s that thing called “lack of time”. Well, it’s an excuse anyway.

On the up side, it’s encouraged us to do all the things round the house and garden that we’ve been putting off for so long, with a view to improving likely selling prospects. Even if we never sell up and move out, we’ve made where we live nicer.

Photography. Now, there’s a thing. I haven’t been out for a proper photo expedition for ages. The passion has simply wandered off, and is probably doing something more interesting without me. I very nearly decided to sell all the gear a while ago. I know. It shocked me, too. I need something to give me a kick up the arse and to encourage me to blow the dust off the gear, and to get out there to explore again.

So, here we are, half-way through 2015. This year is simply flying by, and if I’m not careful I might miss it!

I think I’m getting too old for this

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I’ve been holding off updating my desktop Mac’s operating system for ages. This was partly inertia, partly “if it ain’t broke”, partly worries over an incompatibility with some hardware management software.

Having got an iPad, though, I eventually found my lack of interest in updating the OS was leading to incompatibilities. I couldn’t sync properly, and some of the apps I use were being updated but not supported on the otherwise happily working OS. Also, a new version of the OS will be with us quite soon.

I’d sort of made up my mind about how to do the upgrades a few weeks ago. I began the process of migrating photo libraries, and then forgot about the upgrade! This weekend, the news broke that my preferred photo management and editing software, Aperture, was no longer going to be developed by Apple.

My hand was being forced. I took the plunge. Better to be as up-to-date as possible, making a potential switch to new software less painful down the line.

As I type, a great chunk of iMovie updates are downloading. Numbers, Pages, iPhoto and Aperture all wait in the queue. Then another ton of OS patches.

If I am lucky, I’ll get to see if the hardware drive management software will be compatible after all. If it’s not, then the drive gets reformatted to Apple standards.

I’m getting too old for all this. Gone are the days when I wanted to be at the bleeding edge. I much prefer the comfortable, if worn out, slippers to the shiny, new, but toe-pinching ones everyone else is wearing!