Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Review : Music A-Z

Last year i created an A-Z playlist of bands who i had listened to a lot in the year, some letters were hard to fill (not sure i've ever liked a band whose name starts with a Q). I've created another playlist for 2012, this can be considered my Music A-Z of 2012 and concludes the 2012 Review.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Review : December

The final month of the year began with icy cold and ended with milder but wet weather. I prefer the mild weather but i hope 2013 will be a bit drier. I paid 2 more trips to Stratford, the first was to do some final research in the archives and the latter one was purely a trip out.

I scored a retro tech hit early in the month when i purchased a gorgeous 70s typewriter off eBay. Why i want it is still uncertain, as is why i need it... but i did trust me. The rest of the month was spent writing my dissertation proposal and research essay (they need to be submitted in early January 2013) and also planning my return to railway modelling. I have been using the excellent RailModeller app to explore virtually some layout ideas, i shall get my hands on some real track in early 2013.

Christmas was great, my wife surprised me (yet again) by buying me a new iPad. How technology advances, a couple of years ago she bought me an original iPad and that was becoming difficult to use with websites like Facebook. Song of the month was "Darklooming" by The Depreciation Guild.

Now for the final couple of days of 2012, which will be spent in London which is where this story started...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Review : November

The damp soggy Summer and Autumn turned towards an even damper and soggier early Winter. November was not the most inspiring of months and the only trip i made anywhere was to Stratford (and that mostly for MA purposes). However the month was still rather busy, as usual i did a good deal of my Christmas shopping (be prepared thats my motto) and also assembled a strange collection of animals made from recycled fabrics which became my Christmas decoration theme.

I didn't do many canal walks at all, i preferred to stay around the campus at lunchtimes. Sometimes i was able to take the odd nice photo though.
My Mum purchased a Chromebook which was interesting, and i was pretty impressed. Most of November appears to have been spent preparing for my dissertation proposal and research essay, they are now in the final stages of writing. I did register for part 2 of the MA though that still seems far off at the moment.

Song of the month was "A vision of hell, 1996" by The Ice Choir.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The continental question

The good thing about planning my return to railway modelling is that i can evaluate all of the options and alternatives, the bad thing is i have so many options and alternatives to evaluate. Reading the Continental Modeller magazine has led me to consider a mainland Europe layout. The railways of Germany, Switzerland and Austria for example look so interesting...

The problem with this of course is i have a lot less knowledge of these railways so it could easily go so wrong (but maybe thats part of the fun?). Its also rather more expensive than British layouts though not insurmountably. As nothing is set in stone yet i still have time to decide. At the moment a layout perhaps based on somewhere like Assmannshausen which i went to in the late 80s could be on the cards? Maybe this train set can start me off.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Review : October

October is the birthday month but the big 4-0 was last year so this year it was fairly inconsequential. I had a nice day in Stratford and also went back to the town later in the month to do some research for my dissertation proposal. Study with the Open University can take you to many places, actually in my case in October it took me to Leeds for the first time when i attended my final Day School!

One happy unintended consequence of going to Leeds was that my photo of the golden postboxes there has now ended up in print in a magazine in Bradford. I got my complimentary copies in the post last week and its an undoubted thrill to see your name in print and a photo you have taken nicely glossy. In late October i also went to London and visited Little Venice again.

In October i went to my second gig of the year (lets try and make it 3 in 2013!) when i saw Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin. I also decided on my new computer, though this did not arrive until early November... I tried my hand at a bit of baking when i made some mince pies, and they didn't turn out too badly to be honest!

The model building season came to an end in November (i do my models in the kitchen extension and as its unheated it just gets too cold in the Winter!) when i completed a Spitfire I and a Chipmunk. Song of the month was "Separate sense" by The Dreamscape.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Instagram's suicide note?

Instagram's announcement yesterday that from next year they would be claiming the right to sell our photos without permission or any commission caused a negative reaction, oddly enough. The social media storm raged across the world and by the next day Instagram were backtracking and saying it was all a misunderstanding. More updates and clarifications will come in the coming days and weeks.

Well maybe we'll see, i am keeping an eye on the situation but keeping my account for now (one of my friends has already deleted hers). Facebook bought Instagram for a billion dollars so they have to find some way to monetize it. It will be a shame if i do have to leave the service, I find the photo format excellent for blog posts for example.

Looking at alternatives can't hurt right? The new Flickr app actually has a similar filter mode, an example of what can be produced can be seen below. Its not as good as Instagram but seems to be a viable alternative.

2012 Review : September

After the adventures of August September was a quieter month, i spent much of it deciding on the area of my dissertation and then doing some research to see if it was feasible at Stratford's archives. I also visited Worcester on one of the last hot days of the year and had a great walk along the Severn. At the end of the month i did a photoshoot in Pype Hayes park, somewhere very close to where i live but i've never really explored it.

In September i also scanned a lot of old holiday photographs, my Mum keeps all of the photographs taken and i was surprised exactly how many i had taken over the years, especially in Germany.

Model making wise i completed a fine Vampire, more painting occurred when we redecorated the landing! Song of the month was "Butterfly kisses" by The Depreciation Guild.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012 Review : August

The London 2012 Olympics began in late July but the main event was in August. I headed down to London to watch volleyball at Earl's Court and badminton at Wembley Arena. My whole Olympics experience was brilliant and i am so glad i went to see some stuff. The organisers and helpers did us proud. I also took some other photos in London along the canal at Little Venice and along the Thames. The rest of the month included  to Stratford-upon-Avon too (as opposed to Stratford, London where i had been the week before) and had a walk along the Avon.
At the end of the month came our second holiday of the year, this time to Aberystwyth. Its probably been about 30 years since i've been to Wales and i really enjoyed our few days at the seaside. We travelled on the Vale of Rheidol Railway up into the Welsh hills and had a great time exploring Aberystwyth.

All that travelling meant that model building was a bit slack but i did complete a Bristol Beaufighter. Song of the month was "Lay baby lay" by Jackie DeShannon.

Designing my layout

At the weekend i bought some model railway layout design software to help me develop my future layout. RailModeller is a great tool which allows you to play around with layout designs using real track elements. I have not decided on what the overall theme of my layout will be yet though and have experimented with double and single loops, both with and without branch lines and shunting opportunities.

One current idea thats ticking the right boxes is a double loop mainline plus branch line layout similar to Hatton. What i plan to do is buy a trainset next month (maybe it can be my end-of-year treat) and this can help me get back into the groove. It will also help me visualise the layout i am planning especially when i build the boards. Then i shall get more track and more stock and see how we go from there.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Review : July

The Summer rolls on, not that it was very summery at times in July. Heavy rain continued to plague the countryside meaning that even when it didn't rain the ground remained muddy. My only real trip out anywhere was to Wootton Wawen, though my towpath stroll was curtailed as it was in Wilmcote in June because of mud.

July saw the start of the London 2012 Olympics and i saw the first of 3 events at the end of July when i saw some women's football at Coventry. Actually this was the first time i'd ever seen live football in a proper stadium and it was a great experience. Ironically it was the second time i had been to a football ground that month as earlier in July my work department held its away day at Walsall. In the afternoon we played some team building games in the car park.

Model wise my train sub-project got into high gear with the construction of 2 cattle wagons and finally a tank engine to haul the 5 wagons i had built. Song of the month was "Blue eyes" by Ladyhawke.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Review : June

After the action packed May June could only be a bit quieter but still a lot went on. I went to Stratford a couple of times, the second time for the river festival (although i didn't know that was on until i went there anyway i found myself in boat heaven!) Sandwiched between the Stratford trips was a return to Wilmcote but the wet weather meant my towpath walk was curtailed but i explored the lovely village a bit more.

I went to Birmingham Archives for my MA, this time doing some proper source analysis with some 19th century ledgers, i also went to the Stratford archives for the first time. The month also included the first of the year's Open Days though my job was in the office which was nice.

Model kit wise i was busy. I built a BR Brake Van, 2 Cattle Vans and an Albatros biplane. Song of the month was "Flashes" by Sea Dweller.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Last trip to Stratford in 2012 (maybe!)

Today I had my last day of annual leave before Christmas and so decided to go to... Stratford-upon-Avon of course. It was actually the third time i have been this month already but today i did not go to the SBTRO archives, i have pretty much done all the research i need for my dissertation proposal and EMA (hopefully). No today i was just going to have fun, and do some Christmas shopping!

A very cold day though, my phone's weather app says it was -1C in Stratford all day. The canal was frozen over though the river was still flowing. I took some photos of course. Thats probably it for me in Stratford until the new year but you never know...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Review : May

May was when the year really got going, in fact so much was packed into May i actually referred to the month as "Massive May", but i am strange i know.

So what happened in May, well first of all my first visit to Henley-in-Arden which was nice though mostly memorable for falling on my arse while going down a steep muddy hill. Later in May i went to RAF Cosford for the first time in years and very enjoyable the visit to the air museum was too. I also went down to London for the second Day School in my A825 Open University course.

Highlight of the month was at the end though, the first of our 2 holidays this year and it was to York. Again its been years since i've been to York. I vaguely remember coming as a small child in the late 1970s but other than a few vague memories and fuzzy photographs i can't recall much from that trip. This time we basically went everywhere, the National Railway Museum of course, the York Minster, the town itself and several museums. I shall return to the NRM next year hopefully...

Another highlight of the month was receiving my Olympic tickets, or rather my volleyball ticket - i did get some more later on as will be described later in this review. I also went to a gig seeing Ladyhawke and She's So Rad and they were both brilliant! Model kit making got into high gear as i began my sub-project building Airfix railway kits building a couple of mineral wagons. Later on i built a Folland Gnat too. Song of the month was "Let me in" by Class Actress.

And that was May, now breathe.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 Review : April

Things were warming up (marginally) and April was quite a busy month. A return trip to Tamworth started things off followed a few days later by my first trip to Droitwich Spa which is a very nice place to visit. Stratford naturally followed a few days later. My first trip to Edgbaston to watch some cricket also took place early in the month when i saw some of a pre-season game against Cardiff MCCU... little did i know this would be the only time i would watch cricket live this year! Its a shame but my heart isn't in it anymore and i will let my membership lapse. Finally later in the month I visited Brownhills later in the month for a canal walk.

Model making began to get a head of steam with two light aircraft built, a Cessna Bird Dog and a Piper Cherokee. Looking back at my photostream April was when i really went crazy with Instagram. Song of the month was "All i asked you to do" by The Wake.

Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Review : March

With the temperature finally rising and Spring on the way March included my first ever trip to Shrewsbury and a canal walk from Hatton to Leamington Spa which can only be described as epic! The highlight of the month though was finally getting an iPhone, bought for me by my lovely wife. This allowed me to enter the mysterious world of the likes of Instagram and Fourquare...

I am expected to go to official archives as part of my MA History and in March i broke my "archive virginity" by going to the Birmingham Archives. Since then i have been there again but the focus of my research is at Stratford's archives now.

Model aircraft building resumed after the stuttering start to the 2012 season with a lovely F-89 Scorpion being built. Music wise i got a pile of old Top Of The Pops LPs off my Mum and also over the rest of the year have tried to buy up all the CD reissues of this series (only a couple left to get!) Song of the month however was Help Stamp Out Loneliness' "a ghost with a hammer in his hand".

Thursday, December 6, 2012


A recent article i read about the ending of typewriter production in the UK (though to be honest i was surprised it lasted as long as it did) have spurred me to get a typewriter of my own. I am a sucker for certain types of "retro" technology (dial phones for example) and when i saw a typewriter on eBay i knew i had to have it... and yesterday i received it!

Its a Brother Deluxe 1350 to be exact and its lovely with the kind of 70s retro styling i love, and it works fine too. I probably won't be typing out my course work on it though, i think i'll stick to my Mac and Pages... I apparently can download a matching font though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2012 Review : February

Early January was relatively mild and the colder snap later in the month caught me out a bit, i didn't complete the Bristol Bulldog kit until early February because it was too cold in the kitchen extension. I didn't built any more kits for a while until it warmed up!

The ground was frozen when i went on another canal walk, this time walking the final leg of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal up from Gosta Green to Brindley Place. Later on in the month i also made the first of what will turn out to be a number of visits to Stratford. My first trip of the year included a walk up to Anne Hathaway's cottage in Shottery.

I also visited Witton Cemetery a number of times, taking photos of some of the more ornate gravestones and shrines and also re-locating the burial plot of my great-grandfather and uncle. Their graves did not have a gravestone so finding the plot required a map and counting down from extant gravestones. The problem with this is it does mean a certain amount of guesswork so you cannot be 100% sure you have the right place...

Song of the month was "Dusk till dawn" by Ladyhawke. Highlights of the month include buying a small table for meals in the kitchen and my main bookcase collapsing and giving me a nice bruise on my arm.

Going N

My model railway layouts in the past were always OO scale (apart from a brief excursion once into the smaller N gauge) but now i am planning my return to the hobby i am thinking of going with the smaller scale again despite still having my old OO gauge stock, buildings and track in boxes.

The reason is space, as in i don't have a great deal to play with. Atop my desk in the study looks to be the best place for the layout and this would allow a board of about 150x70cm. In that space i could have a basic end-to-end OO layout but it would be pretty limited. If i use N gauge however i could easily get a much more extensive loop layout with a fiddle yard. I've been playing around with a layout planning software tool and think i could just about get a double loop!

This would allow me to have the early 70s BR layout i've always wanted. Class 20s and 25s hauling freight passing a DMU... Well thats the dream and maybe next year it can become a reality.

Monday, December 3, 2012

2012 Review : January

Last year on this blog i reviewed my exploits in 2011 so i thought i would do the same for 2012...

2012 began in London for me as i spent New Years at my sister-in-law's though only for a few hours as i headed back to Birmingham New Years morning, sharing the train with a number of groaning drunks. January seems to have been a fairly quiet month as i got on with my postgraduate degree in earnest.

I began the year's canal and nature walks with a crisp walk along the Worcester & Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon Canals in Bournville. Later on in the month i also visited Tamworth (mostly seeing the castle), the first time i can remember visiting the town even though its not that far away from where i live. The castle there is really nice and well worth a visit. Another highlight of the month (literally) was purchasing a set of glow sticks! I started my model making season a bit earlier than usual and built a Bristol Bulldog.

Song of the month was "Keep you" by Class Actress, neo-synth pop which would be my soundtrack for 2012.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Putting up the tree

As its December i thought it was time to put the tree up. In the past its gone up in the living room though finding space is always a problem. This year i have put it in the porch instead, plenty of space there and many more people will see it!
I also bought another little animal friend. I really need to stop going to Homesense as i seem to leave with a new friend every time...
In other news i went down to Stratford yesterday to do some more research for my dissertation proposal and research essay. I can't say i'm overly confident with either at the moment but oh well, maybe once i start writing the essay everything will flow. I took a few photos in Stratford which you can see here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More model railway musings

Last night i took a break from study and (as well as watching Masterchef) i had a look at a book i have bought recently on the railway from Birmingham to Stratford (and from Hatton too). Some of the old GWR stations on the route have given me some inspiration for what my new model layout could be like if i do restart this hobby next year.

Claverdon station in fact looks like it could be a perfect starting point for my project. The station is very reduced now with just a single track and platform, back in the 1930s it wasn't that much bigger but it had a second track and platform for goods. Such a simple layout could fit in very well with my plans. My major problem at the moment is where to put the layout. The loft is an option of course but i don't really want to have to go up there all the time to play if i can avoid it. I found in the past that locations like that are fine in the Summer but too cold in the Winter (when you are more likely to have time for hobbies!) I must visit Claverdon next year and get a feel for the place, ironically its one of the new stations in South Warwickshire i haven't been to yet...

Yesterday i had a look on the Hornby site to get some measurements of stock. Ideally i want a station that can have 2-3 coach trains. I worked out that roughly a 3 coach train and a small loco is about 920mm long so that can be my guide for how much space i need...


I am currently in the final stages of A825, part 1 of my MA History course with the Open University. Yesterday i registered for part 2 of the course (A826). The deadline for registrations is the end of January but i thought i would do it now and get it out the way, as i'd probably forget all about it otherwise and end up in a mad rush!

A826 is a shorter course which i think runs from May 2013 to January 2014. The purpose of the course is quite simple, in it i have to write a dissertation of 15,000 words. Now the subject of that dissertation i have to define in my final assessment of A825. I have to come up with a full dissertation proposal as well as a 3000 word research essay based on the subject area by early January.

Both are in hand, i am going down to the archives in Stratford again on Saturday where i can hopefully complete the research i need to do for my essay. I sent my tutor a second draft of my dissertation proposal on Monday though have yet to have any feedback from it though i am more confident with it, i think i am getting closer to my final topic which i have discussed here on this blog already though the proof will be in the pudding as they say (whatever that actually means).

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Return to rail?

One of my major hobbies when i was a child was my model railway. I had one from about the age of 5 or 6 when i was bought a trainset for the first time (Hornby Royal Mail set with a BR blue class 37 locomotive). Until my late teens i continued with the hobby with layouts first in my parent's garage and later in my bedroom. You can see a photo of the early garage layout here.

I stuck with OO gauge most of the time though did experiment with N gauge at one stage. I lost interest in my late teens and needed the space for other things anyway. My rolling stock, buildings and track were packed away in boxes... and remain there to this day! When i got my own house i did start thinking of restarting the hobby though never quite got around to it. Well now i am thinking about it again!

While my later layouts focussed on contemporary British Rail i am now thinking of going back in time and travelling the popular track of an interwar GWR branch line. I might even do a small layout based on the line down to Stratford. I got an excellent book on this line a few weeks ago and its given me a bit of inspiration to consider recreating Wilmcote station circa 1934 for example.

In the meantime the Perry Barr turntable is still in existance, hidden away behind a fence. This is one of the last remnants of a live steam layout that once ran on the sports field next to where i worked. I've never actually seen the trains running on there but they did up until the mid-2000s i think. The track indeed was only lifted in around 2006 or 2007. I don't have any photos of the track in existence but these photos from 2008 clearly show the trackbed (this photo i took in 2004 for a Quicktime VR does show the track - just about). You can compare the turntable with the photo below (one of the two turntables was destroyed of the layout was destroyed).

Early microcomputer nostalgia

The appearance of some of the earliest (if not earliest) known Apple computer photographs on-line has sparked some early microcomputer nostalgia for me. If you haven't seen this article about the Apple I then its well worth a read, especially some of the comments below the article.

I'd love to have an Apple I though i am content to own a pair of Apple ][s! The mid-70s were the true genesis of the personal computer revolution though my own story started in the early 80s when my Dad bought a Sinclair ZX-80 and i started to program.

The original Apple I was a kit as were many microcomputers in the mid-70s, in fact the ZX-80 also came in kit form. My Uncle bought and built the kit, i don't know whatever happened to his one though.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Proposal version 2

Sometimes its best just to start again as i did this evening with my dissertation proposal. I indeed wrote the whole thing again too and sent it to my tutor for comments. I like my second version a lot better, the structure is more logical, the questions my dissertation will seek to answer are clearer and i've packed in more sources. Well i like it anyway, hopefully my tutor will too!

I've requested Stratford archives dust off some more old ledgers for me on Saturday, though i saw on the TV today that there had been flooding in Stratford! The archives are quite some way uphill though from the river bank, if they ever got flooded it would probably be on Noah's comeback tour.

Another animal

This year's Christmas decoration theme appears to be fabric especially if fashioned into an animal. Fresh from buying Maggie the mouse and Rodney the reindeer last week now i also have a moose which i have named Morrissey, natch. To complete the theme i also bought a felt wreath to put on the door. We'll augment these with other decorations next weekend probably.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


This house is an Apple shop, indeed at times it can look like an Apple Store that has been left forgotten in a decaying mall. Thats before we get to the Apple Museum currently housed in my loft. However i have an interest in technology in general and when my Mum chose a Chromebook* as her laptop ahead of a tablet or other device i was secretly delighted as i was interested in what the Google powered laptop would be like...

The Chromebook (an Acer one) replaces a Dell desktop monster that has Vista on it, it takes so long to boot up ice ages come and go before you can get anywhere. Thankfully the Chromebook is very fast to boot up. Indeed if you wanted to check something online you could boot up, check it out, read a few other things and then shutdown before the Dell monster had even got to the desktop stage.

The Chromebook is basically a stripped down subnotebook that uses a restricted version of Linux and the Chrome web browser as its interface. It works really well too. The trackpad is maybe a bit annoying but i am comparing that against my new Macbook Pro (which costs a lot more, indeed you could buy 5 Chromebooks for the price of my Macbook!) The screen is also no more than adequate compared to retina displays and the like but the speed and functionality is fine. I set up a few sites for my Mum including BBC iPlayer and full-screen video playback was fine. It may struggle to do much more than web surfing and email but if thats all you do on a computer then the Chromebook will be fine for your needs. I like the Chromebook a lot, do i prefer it to my (first generation) iPad? I think they are on a par though newer iPads would leave the Chromebook behind a bit (but cost a lot more). Of course you get a proper keyboard with the Chromebook... though its not the best i've ever used on a notebook, but still better than virtual keyboards which i've never got the hang of.

It all depends on what you need out of a computer of course but its hard not to recommend the Chromebook.

* She chose it without any prompting by me, she went purely on price.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Christmas decorations 2012

I have bought a couple of Christmas decorations, this year my theme appears to be knitted or cloth animals. I have bought a little reindeer and a huge mouse with an advent calendar apron (as you do). This really is the kind of thing i like, or retro 70s tinsel. Very little in the middle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

One step back or one step forward?

I went to Stratford today to consult some archives and try and get more of an idea of how my dissertation proposal and research essay might progress. I checked out some sales ledgers and accounts from a timber merchant in the mid-1800s and a mysterious world they belong to indeed...

Unfortunately i do not think my research essay idea is that feasible after having a look at these sources so i am back to square one in thinking up a topic... which has to be researched and written up by the end of the year. No pressure then!

However it isn't all bad, the sources will be useful for my dissertation next year and may have given me an idea for a research topic anyway. I just need to try and interpret my notes over the weekend. While in Stratford i took some photos of course as well as some of the Birmingham German Market which was very impressive and makes Stratford's Xmas decorations look a bit weak!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Losing (a bit of) faith

The score for my final TMA was not as high as my other ones, though to be honest it was still a decent score and i am confortably over the 40% needed for that part of the assessment to pass the A825 course by some margin. It was still a bit of a disappointment though but not totally unexpected. I did not engage with the TMA question as much as i would have liked, to be honest i did not like the question that much but it was the least worst of the three options...

Onwards and upwards, now i am awaiting feedback from my first draft of my dissertation proposal. The lower TMA score has knocked my confidence slightly and i am feeling a bit disillusioned but its a bit late to stop now! I have booked some sources out of the Stratford archive on Friday so will hope to do the bulk of the primary source research i need to do for my final EMA and proposal for further study. I just want to get it out of the way and get writing to be honest.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Awaiting feedback

I've sent a draft of my dissertation proposal to my tutor and now i am awaiting feedback. I can't really proceed with anything until i get that feedback and an initial "yay or nay" which is a bit frustrating but thats the way it is. Time is short but then again i do have two months more or less before the final deadline. Christmas (which you may have heard of) unfortunately looms at the end of that so in reality my deadline is about 6 weeks.

In that time i have to refine and complete my proposal and write a research essay (and of course do some research for it!) However i think thats all in hand, as long as i can get to the archives this month then i can write it all up in early December.

I think my research essay (which has to be related to the dissertation proposal) will be along the lines on assessing whether trade directories can be used to track economic change. Well thats the idea anyway. Lets see if thats a goer or not...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tom and Jerry Annuals 1973 & 1979

Two more reviews of Tom & Jerry comic annuals.

Tom & Jerry Annual 1973

We approach the mid-70s and the Tom & Jerry cartoon has all gone a bit hippie. Tom is no longer trying to catch the mice but instead is drinking tea with them, that soon changes however but even then when he is catching them its because of some ulterior motive (i.e. money) than anything else.

Tom also tries his hand at a bit of sculpture and building a pirate ship. He does such a good job of the latter you wonder if his talents are being a bit wasted.

The stories in this annual are a lovely variety indeed including a Mouse Musketeers story supposedly set in pre-revolution France where Tom becomes a "pooseycat"!

Tom & Jerry Annual 1979

This annual includes some later artwork and the drawings arn't quite as good as before. The stories are up to spec though and include a memorable one where Tom becomes an ice skating waiter at a mountain top cafe in Switzerland.

In nearly all of the stories Tom is no longer chasing the mice but instead being menaced by ghosts or trying to become a TV advert star.

The best story however is a little more traditional (and has the classic era artwork natch). In one of my favourite Tom & Jerry stories Tom takes up knitting and confused by this change of behaviour Jerry and Tuffy begin a scientific study of the cat.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Here she is

As  i said in an earlier blog post i thought it was time i bought a new computer and yesterday i did just that when my shiny new Macbook Pro arrived! My old Macbook has served me well but after 3 and a half years is starting to slow a bit especially on the likes of Photoshop, software bloat drives forward computer sales like nothing else after all...

It took me a few hours to get everything transferred across and the applications i needed installed but everything seems up and fine now. Hopefully in another three and a bit years we'll be doing the same dance (i buy these computers in installments over 36 months hence the 3 year and a bit upgrade cycle) again. I suspect the next one won't have an optical drive (few computers in the Apple line-up do these days though my new one does) which is a shame as i found burning a DVD on the old one the best way to transfer files as the over-the-internet migration tool didn't work... oh well they have 3 years to get it right!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tom & Jerry Annuals 1971 & 1972

I do have a blog dedicated to comic reviews though i've left it dormant for some months now (well until this week) and in any case i have crossposted some of the reviews here too, so here are a couple...

Tom & Jerry Annual 1972

If you are familiar with the Tom & Jerry cartoons then the annuals (the classic ones anyway) are actually very different. For a start the characters talk and often the story isn't "Tom trying to catch Jerry" but something often quite surreal... all with dialogue thats all quite hip (or was in say the 1950s).

Some of the stories in this annual for example include Tom as a hairdresser (trying to cut a  lion's hair natch) or trying to take a photo of an elusive snow rabbit. There are also a few comic strips starring Spike and Tyke, a pair of bulldogs.

What i like most about these stories are the ones that take place in Tom's house, especially behind the walls where Jerry lives with his friend Tuffy. The one where Tom forces Jerry and Tuffy do some home improvements for him is a highlight.

Tom & Jerry Annual 1971

Another collection of Tom & Jerry cartoons from the 60s (or earlier) and also some stories from Droopy and a Professor Putter too. If you haven't read one of these annuals before you are in for a treat as they are very different to the cartoons and often enter a quite surreal turn of events.

Stories in this annual include Jerry and Tuffy joining a circus (disguised as baby elephants), Tom being terrorised by a toy woodpecker and all three of our friends hitching a ride down South to avoid the winter in a box car.

One of the best stories involves Tom trying to get some maple syrup for his pancakes and being thwarted at every turn by Jerry, Tuffy and a bear. Its all great fun with a sprinkling of hep cat lingo.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Getting closer

I went up to Stratford's archives today to continue my evaluation of sources for my dissertation next year. The visit was very useful, i think i have managed to fine-tune my proposal a bit (though i haven't sent it to my tutor yet...) I am also a little bit more confident that i have enough sources to play with when i get on with the research next year.

I'm still not 100% sure though, and that is the problem with the proposal. I know there are sources but i'm not yet sure they will be sufficient to answer the questions i have posed. What questions are they? Well i am going to research if new transport links (i.e. the canal and tramway) in early 19th century Stratford had an effect on the economy of the town. I have found one possible snippet that may show an effect, coal merchants increased in the town after the tramway was built but can i show the tramway (and canal) caused these changes? I don't really want to spend the next year trying to research something only to find its all a bit inconclusive. So anyway thats why i am not yet 100%.

I took a few photos around the town (naturally). The Christmas decorations are also up (though these were up last week to be honest).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Time for a new Mac

For the last few years i have been happily using my little Macbook but i have been thinking of upgrading for a few months. I did think of getting another notebook but i hardly ever move the computer around, especially since i got an iPad a couple of years ago so i am thinking that the next computer should be a desktop...

So perhaps the new iMac when it comes out next month. One problem with it is that it does not have an optical drive and (gasp!) i still buy a lot of CDs though an external drive connected via USB will do the trick. I do like the convenience when required of a notebook so nothing is set in stone yet...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

March to the EMA

The last TMA of A825 has been sent now there is just the little matter of my EMA before i can complete part 1 of my Masters degree. The EMA consists of writing a dissertation proposal and a research essay which is derived from that proposal and that little lot has to be done before Christmas! (Technically early January but the end of year festivities may get in the way a bit...)

To make matters more complicated i need to get my proposal agreed informally by my tutor before i can do the research essay part (though its only 3000 words) so that can also eat into a bit of time. I know more or less what i want to do now, i shall be researching the economy of Stratford-upon-Avon and the effect new transport links had on it in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Well that is the plan anyway (i won't call it plan A as there is no plan B really) and the next week or so i need to do some final feasibility research. That involves searching existing research to see if anyone has done this topic before (it doesn't seem so though there have been similar studies of other towns) and also seeing what is available sources and material wise to see if i can actually research the topic! I have investigated some sources already and will be going to the archives in Stratford again at the weekend to check out some more.

Then assuming all is fine i can start "negotiating" with my tutor about my proposal from next week and getting it fine tuned. I can start the research essay once i have a green light on the topic so do not have to wait until the proposal is perfect. November will be spent researching and December writing. I'm not 100% sure what the research essay topic will be yet to be honest but it may involve passenger traffic on the tramway.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mince pies

Its been some time since i did any baking (not that i have done a lot), last week i made some mince meat and then my wife helped me make my first mince pies. Tonight i flew solo for the first time as a baker and made some more mince pies. They taste fine though are a bit crumbly. I should be a great baker being a descendent of the Grants who had bakeries in Birmingham and Oxford but maybe i just don't have the genes. Or need more practice...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A weekend in London

I've had a birthday week this year, "festivities" which started back on Monday in Stratford ending this weekend in Stratford (but London this time!) I had a few days down in #ThatLondon culminating in dinner in Kimchee Korean restaurant which was amazing. I had my first bibimbap and it was great! It was the first time i have been to a Korean restaurant in this country (i have been to one before in Beijing but it was rather different, dog indeed was on the menu there!) I settled for chicken this time...

I also had another trip to Little Venice which is fast becoming one of my favourite parts of London. I took a few photos in London and you can see them here.

The week hasn't all been fun, amid the restaurants, travelling and concerts i also had an essay to write! This is the final TMA of my course, i just have to tidy and polish it a bit over the next couple of days and then i can move onto my final EMA and dissertation proposal...

Mary Chapin Carpenter & Shawn Colvin live at Birmingham Symphony Hall (Oct 18 2012)

Some may think its a bit of a departure from the electro synth indie noise terror i usually listen to but on Thursday evening i enjoyed ... some folk and country rock in an acoustic setting.

In fact i have been a fan of Mary Chapin Carpenter since i was a teenager and as those years are (ahem) some time ago i thought it was about time i saw her live. Here the two singer-songwriters were without their bands, just them on stage with a bunch of acoustic guitars.

And it was great, despite being in a (nearly full) big hall the feel was intimate. Carpenter mentioned how the two of them often just played songs to each other in their kitchens, this was a bit like that only sans coffee. The banter between the songs was great especially from Colvin, the little stories adding much to the songs that followed. As for the songs, they were a mix of old and new and performed well.

Carpenter plugged her new album quite a lot (which is brilliant by the way) but there was a cheer when the golden oldie "This shirt" was played. That indeed was a song off the first album of hers i bought so many years ago...
I'm early as usual

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ending the 2012 building season

I could have gone on for maybe one more kit but i have decided that Project 041 which is now complete will be the end for model building in 2012. The DHC Chipmunk makes it 16 kits completed this year which is more than previous years though some kits were simpler railway kits which were done in parallel. Its still a good achievement and now i can build up some stock ready for the 2013 season which will likely start in February or March next year.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A nice birthday

My birthday was today, as usual i was not at work (in fact i have never worked on my birthday and i never will). Instead i went to Stratford-upon-Avon, for a change. I know i do go there a lot, and indeed have been there 3 times over the last 3 months. However my dissertation is likely to be based on Stratford so i will be visiting a lot to access the archives there. I took some photos today anyway, today was a day of relaxation not work. I shall return to my essay tomorrow...


I haven't mentioned my latest model project much. There is no reason for that as Project 041 a DHC Chipmunk has gone fairly smoothly (though today i was about to start putting on the decals when i realised the white bands on the wings were supposed to be painted on not decals!)

I think this will be the last model project of the year though i could revisit some early projects to do some upgrades. Next year i will do some warship kits, two of which i bought today ready for the 2013 season.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day School 3

Yesterday was the third and final day school for my current course A825. It was held at Leeds Met University, the first time i had been there and indeed been to Leeds! The day school was useful though the next few months of my course will be tough with a final research essay and a dissertation proposal due by early January (which in essence means before Christmas). As adverts keep telling us Christmas is getting closer...

I took a few photos around Leeds with my iPhone. You can see the photos here including the post box painted gold in honour of Nicola Adams who of course was the first woman to win a boxing gold!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Along the Rhine

Yesterday I found a pile of photographs i took during a couple of visits to the Rhineland in the late 1980s (i think 1987 and 88). I was surprised that i took so many photographs to be honest as i haven't seem them for a long time (and forgot all about them!) I got a Praktica SLR for my 16th birthday so i suspect this was one of my early opportunities to test the camera out. Some of the photos are actually rather good, and you can see the scans here (i think it includes a few in 110 format too).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Another Spitfire

Project 040 is now pretty much complete (i just need to give it another coat of varnish) and is the latest Spitfire to join my fleet. I did get another Spitfire kit (a F22) at the weekend but i think that will be kept for 2013. I might be able to fit in 1 or 2 more kits before the season ends in November (and it becomes too cold in the unheated kitchen extension where i build these babies.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pype Hayes

Time for another walk, this time much closer to home. I only live a mile or so from Pype Hayes Park so i walked up there (which seems a lot closer in the car to be honest), had a walk along part of the Plants Brook and then back through the park. Its a very scenic and green part of what still is fairly urban Birmingham. My Great Aunt lived in Pype Hayes back in the 1930s (and beyond presumably) so its a bit of an ancestral land. The photos i took can be seen here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Project 040

I wonder if Project 040, a Spitfire Mark 1, might be the last kit i will build this year as the nights are drawing in and thus the workshop (which is unheated) is getting colder. This will be a nice kit to end the 2012 building season however, being the Spitfire in its original configuration and the 5th one i have built since i restarted making kits a few years ago. In previous years i have continued building up to November though so there may be space for 1 or 2 more...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Homing in on my dissertation choice

I spent the morning at the archives in Stratford-upon-Avon looking at a selection of papers relating to the Stratford & Moreton Tramway (of which i have written about before). For some idea i have had a vague idea that the tramway could be the basis of my dissertation or at least the EMA that will mark the end of my current course. However the deadline is now fast approaching and so i have been evaluating a few papers to see if studying the tramway is a viable option (as there is no point choosing something to research if there is little material surviving to actually research).

I also need to tie down exactly what i am going to research about the tramway, as i can't just say i am "researching the tramway" i have to tie it into the themes of my MA course somehow. Industrialisation is a key theme of course, maybe i can look to how the tramway affected businesses and trade in the South Warwickshire. As the tramway was a bit of a failure its likely i am going to have to try and find out why it didn't affect business that much! Of course this can mean i can compare the tramway to other contemporary transport systems which were more successful...

Two of the three sources i looked at (the third didn't really have anything for me) involved illegal carriage of passengers, in one case carrying passengers illegally on a coal wagon (which resulted in a fine) and another case where a man fell off a coal wagon (resulting in his death). Maybe this could be another aspect of study, more a social effect. Why did people travel illegally, was it expensive?

I probably need to do some more research before i commit to anything, though to be honest i do not have much alternative idea as to what to do... Anyway i took some photos in Stratford today too and you can see them here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Old Asian Pics

Last night i had a hunt through my archives (or rather the motley collection of DVD-Rs and CD-Rs i have assembled over the years recorded whenever i've had a "OMG I haven't backed up for ages!" moment). I was looking for photos taken during my various holidays in Asia in the late 1990s and early to mid 2000s. I didn't find many to be honest, i think there may be more somewhere but all i could find digitally was a rather poor collection of photos taken by an old camera phone (Panasonic X200 to be exact) in the Philippines.

I did find some other photos from China, HK and Indonesia when i had a hunt through a box of photos. Not many though, of course back in the days before digital cameras we did not take as many photographs! When you were limited to a few rolls of 35mm film you had to pick and choose, whereas nowadays of course you can take 50 photos of your dinner with your phone. You can see my photos here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Worcester & the Severn

I haven't been to Worcester for a few months so thought it was high time i paid the lovely place a visit. I wanted to explore more of the river banks so went upstream a bit and then down as far as Diglis Bridge. My visit coincided with a University boating regatta so i was able to take plenty of photos of boats being rowed up and down.

It was like being in the film "True Blue" with the coaches bellowing orders through megaphones and students yelling for their teams. You can see the photos i took here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Vampire complete

Project 039 is a De Havilland Vampire and is the latest complete kit. Its also the first Revell kit i have done, quite a nice job too though i shall still remain loyal to Airfix. Time for a little break (of a few days anyway!) until the next project.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Vale of Rheidol Railway

One of the key events of my short trip to Aberystwyth was a journey along the Vale of Rheidol Railway from the town up to Devil's Bridge in the mountains. The railway is a steam heritage line which uses narrow gauge. Interestingly the railway remained in British Rail hands until 1989 and for a time in the 1970s the steam locomotives on the line were in BR blue and had the double arrow symbol!

Nowadays the engines are in GWR colours. The trip takes an hour each way and the view is breathtaking as you go higher and higher up the valley sides. I took a number of photos on the trip which you can see here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Its been a long long time since i've been to Wales, the last time i can remember is a family holiday to Barmouth when i was around 9 or 10. So i thought it was high time i came back! We've just spent a couple of great days in Aberystwyth. The weather was variable, at times it was fine but at others it was what you may call "bracing" but we had a great time including a trip on the Vale of Rheidol Railway (of which more later) and plenty of wind-swept walks along the promenade.

I even had a little paddle, the water was rather cold but it was fun. The last time i've paddled in the sea was probably when i was in Bali so this was a bit different. And to be honest... much better. As always i've taken plenty of photographs, i took both cameras as i didn't want to risk my DSLR if it was very wet so the photos have been taken using both... and indeed a few with the iPhone too.