Back to work this week after our hols in Cornwall. All decent vehicles but nothing out of the ordinary and no particularly interesting destinations, although the new town of Telford is just a few miles north of Ironbridge Gorge which only happens to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution (and an interesting place to visit if you have the chance).
Tuesday: Audi A3 1.8T Sport (2014) & Audi A6 S-Line 2.0TD manual (2013), both Rugby to Telford, Shropshire
Wednesday: Volvo XC60 SE Lux Nav D5 (2.4D) auto (2016), London Heathrow to Leicester
Friday: Ford Transit Custom, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire to Reading, Berkshire
Now I did go somewhere interesting last Sunday – one that played a small but important rôle in World War II. Beaumanor Hall in the Charnwood Forest area of Leicestershire is a stately home built in the 1840s, although manor houses have been present on the site since the first was built in 1330. Beaumanor Hall was requisitioned by the military in 1939 and it became a “Y station”, intercepting enemy radio traffic and passing the signals to the more well-known Station X at Bletchley Park for decrypting.
If memory serves me, Beaumanor Hall also featured in Robert Harris’s novel, Enigma, a fictional thriller set against the backdrop of Bletchley Park’s efforts to break the Germany’s Enigma code. It is widely rumoured (in real life) that the Beaumanor Hall listening post had intercepted intelligence about the Katyn massacre very early on in the war (in April and May 1940, the Soviets massacred about 22,000 captured Polish officers and other citizens in the Katyn Forest in Russia). The information allegedly received by Beaumanor Hall and the need to hush it up in deference to Britain’s Soviet allies provided a sinister sub-plot in Enigma and the subsequent film of the same name. Incidentally, the producer of the film was Mick Jagger who happened to own an Enigma machine which was used as a prop in the film.
The reason for visiting Beaumanor Hall was (surprise!) a classic car show. The hall is not normally open to the public but it does hold various events throughout the year. Here are a few photos:-
Fancy a Triumph TR2 for £425, a Lotus Elan S2 for £450 or a Supercar for £90? Is there a catch? Well, yes a small one. The small catch is, they are very small. And with the Supercar, its small and a fake!
A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I went to a toy collectors fair at the NEC in Birmingham. We are not toy collectors and have no serious interest other than being big kids and liking a bit of childhood nostalgia. It was a wonderful opportunity to say repeatedly “I used to have one of those” or “I always wanted one of those but only ever got a satsuma and a lump of coal for Christmas”. The latter was said more often than the former (maybe without the bit about satsumas and coal) but it was toy nostalgia heaven. Model railways, Airfix kits, Star Wars toys, the whole gamut of Gerry Anderson related toys (Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Stingray etc), Lego, Action Man, tin toys, boxed games and plenty of random stuff. However, the biggest category by far was diecast model cars. Thousands upon thousands of them.
Some of the prices were staggering – generally inversely proportional to their size. Take the Lotus Elan for £450. Apparently, the average weight of a small matchbox-sized toy car is 35g. If real Lotus Elan S2s were sold by weight at the same rate (i.e. £450 per 35g) they would cost around £8.8 million. Ultimate proof for your sceptical spouse that, pound for pound, a real classic car is an absolute must-have bargain compared to a toy car. The Supercar I referred to is an early Gerry Anderson TV creation. The model and box in the photo below are both reproductions and were selling for £90. The stallholder said that a genuine boxed original would go for about £500.
Here are a few more highlights and photos:-
Most Expensive (that I noticed!): This was a model car but not as glamorous as those mentioned above. It was a very small Corgi Ford Zephyr Motorway Patrol Car going for £495. I strongly suspect there were far more expensive things at the fair. You could pay extra to get in early and the big ticket items were probably snapped up by serious collectors before the hoi polloi like us arrived. We saw one bloke walking back to the car park before normal opening time with a massive Millennium Falcon under his arm.
Personal Nostalgia Trip: As a kid, Lego and Airfix kits occupied most of my time spent indoors. Lego back then consisted of standard bricks and you designed your own models. To younger readers that may sound strange. I only saw one stall at the fair selling old boxes of those standard bricks together with an old electric motor set (a big blue block that you could plug four wheels into) which I also had. Did anyone else frequently try building the biggest tower possible with all their bricks? Move on a few years and I became addicted to Airfix model kits – mainly World War II aircraft. I built loads. As well as building the models, I love the artwork on the boxes. Many new Airfix kits sold today still use the artwork from donkeys years ago but with gun flashes and explosions air brushed out. Bit pathetic. The really nostalgic bit for me was seeing the old series 1 Airfix kits (the smallest and easiest) which were sold in clear plastic bags stapled shut at the top with the folded instructions. I used to buy those for 19p each. No, I am not quite old enough to have paid in old money.
Most Unexpected. Reproduction boxes for model cars appear to be big business! Never knew that before. There were at least two large stalls selling them. To be honest, you could tell the difference. The artwork is scanned from an original so it has a sort of photocopied look close up. A reproduction box complete with inner cardboard structure for a Dinky Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle cost £19. Just so you know.
Most Bizarre/Random: This is a tie between a boxed Jerry Garcia action figure and a Paint Your Own Dalek set. No hang, the Jerry Garcia figure wins. At least there is something obvious to do with two small white plaster Daleks and collection of paints. But a Jerry Garcia action figure? (In case you’re not aware he was the leader of American rock group, The Grateful Dead. And yes, Ben and Jerry’s borrowed most of his name for their popular Cherry Garcia flavour). So could you get a whole series of rock legend action figures? Maybe you could combine them to make your own super group. Buy Jimmy Page as well and you could have Led Dead (or Grateful Zeppelin).
Rarest: Children. It was a toy fair and there were no children. Well, maybe one or two who were there under sufferance or to humour their sad parents.
So, the big question you are all dying to ask! Was I tempted into buying anything? Well I would love to have bought loads of old Airfix kits just to look at the boxes. But of course I wasn’t allowed (and, I admit, space-wise it would be a bit impractical). So, as a compromise, I bought a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle featuring a display of Airfix kits of different eras for a modest £3. Normally, the only time we do jigsaw puzzles is when we stay in a holiday cottage and it’s raining (so we have done quite a few over the years). Holiday cottages in the UK invariably have a selection of old 999 piece puzzles (one piece is always missing) – usually of Polperro or Mousehole, even if you’re on holiday in Scotland. That evening, we started the Airfix puzzle about fifteen minutes before we were going to watch something on telly. About an hour later, we were repeating at regular intervals: “We really should stop now…”. Addictive!