Topic 1: Young & Fogg.
Here are a couple of well-known - nay, historic - wargaming photos from the days when the whole world was still black and white. What common element is in both these pictures?
Yes - well done at the back, there - the buildings are from a fondly remembered range marketed by Triang, which was most famous because they were made of rubber.
Clive, the celebrated Old Metal Detector himself, has a collection of these splendid little buildings, and there are some fine pictures on his blog [click here].
So who were Young & Fogg? Well, they were a firm specialising in the manufacture of rubber items, who were taken over by the Triang company in the late 1950s. The first result of this acquisition was a range of rubber buildings to suit Triang's Spot On range of 1/42 scale diecast vehicles (the range is attractively described here, on a link provided, once again, by Clive); shortly afterwards, the more famous, HO model-railway-sized Countryside Range appeared, which lent itself more comfortably to gaming scales.
I remember these very clearly - my model railway days were over when they appeared, but I was very taken with them - especially the church. I never had any. The most pleasing thing about them was that they didn't look like other model buildings - model buildings mostly had very straight corners and bright colours, and didn't really resemble proper houses. The Triang rubber houses had cheerfully quirky designs - Cotswolds meet the Brothers Grimm - and had a nicely distressed, rounded appearance. The one feature which was a problem in the long term, of course, was the material of which they were made. Rubber grows old and perishes. The reason you see so few of these on eBay is because they have mostly rotted and been throw away.
I acquired one of the churches last year, or maybe it was the year before, as a makeweight in a job lot purchase from eBay. It wasn't an important element in the purchase, and I was expecting it to be a wreck. It pretty much was a wreck, too.
The rubber had dried out and cracked and twisted - never mind - I stuck it at the back of a shelf somewhere and vaguely thought I might have another look at it some time.
Now this week, I came across the Donald Featherstone picture at the top of this post, and I thought, righto - let's have another look at that rubber church.
Well, it's pretty awful. It should probably just go in the dustbin. However, since I am a madman I did some online research, and it seems that rubber can be softened by immersion in various brews, and the strategic ingredient in these concoctions is Oil of Wintergreen. Hmmm.
Thinks (this should be read in Bluebottle's voice, from the Goon Shows):
(1) I could purchase some Oil of Wintergreen and maybe a few other cheap constituents, and I could stew my church in this for a while.
(2) It would lose it's paint, but when it was softened I could pack it with bits of wood and whatever else was needed to train it back into a church shape.
(3) Leave it to cure and then refinish.
(4) Be the envy of my chums (if I had any).
I'm not fired up into any state of fevered excitement. The first snag is that Oil of Wintergreen is not available in bath-sized containers, as far as I can see. It is prized in the purple world of aromatherapy [ah yes, quite so], and thus it retails in poncey little 10ml bottles, with an eyedropper and an art nouveau label. The prices are not amusing, either.
Which brings us up to date. Has any devoted collector of these rubber buildings ever attempted a makeover of this type? Any views or war narratives which might help?
All advice will be most welcome. In my heart I fear my little rubber church is, to use a technical term, knackered.
Topic 2: Who's this then?
Here are two Napoleonic-period British light infantry officers. Like me, you may feel that you have seen this pair appearing as a comedy act at a seaside theatre. The one on the left is clearly from Les Higgins, and he is there simply to provide a scale comparison. What is the one on the right? He is obviously one of André Maurois' Filifers. This casting is of a very gangly officer - one of his feet is interestingly strengthened by placing it in a clump of grass. I have some ideas about his origins, but would welcome some better informed views.
Topic 3: Luddites' Cup - Inverted snobbery in the world of Tech.
Here at Chateau Foy we attempt to strike a balance between our love of the venerable traditions of our stately home and of our uncomplicated, rural life and the heady excitement of the rush of modern technology advance.
Overall, we probably tend to be just a little reactionary - I am subjected to much scorn from my son, for example, simply because I cannot see any point in being able to take photographs with my razor, nor watch movies on the tumble dryer. Some element of versatility in my assembled gadgetry is welcome, but I find too many examples of solutions in search of a problem to solve.
Now the Contesse has a Kindle Fire, which she uses to - any guesses? - yes, that's right - she uses it to read e-books. Good. It would, of course, be possible to distract herself while she was reading e-books, by also using it to check continually if she has any email - this is always a good way to avoid coming face to face with the exact dimensions of one's attention span. But she does not normally do this; however, the other night she decided to make use of the Fire's internet capability, and check her social media accounts. She received the warning screen shown below, with which we are delighted. This must get us straight through into the group stages of the European Luddites' Cup, surely?
What a fine achievement. Our son may be too ashamed ever to speak to us again, which is not an unattractive idea.