Like so many young boys I always made the assumption that when I grew up I would own a car, even though we did not have a car in our family. Unlike many boys I did not dream about having the biggest, fastest and most macho car around, I dreamt about having a Mini.
Way back then the Mini was just one of an array of British, and to an extent Australian vehicles that were available on the South African market. The big Japanese and German car makers had not made that large an impact on the locals with the models on offer. For some reason I wanted a Mini and nothing less! On my daily trips by bus to primary school I would avidly keep an eye open for them and count them; with 5 probably being the norm, and 10 the exception. The part of town where I lived was not a rich area and there were more second hand cars in Mayfair than there are in Jeppe Street (Jeppe Street eventually became the hub of dodgy used car lots).
Wind forward to the point where I could theoretically qualify to learn to drive and I never did. Public transport was available, and I did not really need one, and again, our family did not own a car, so I did not come from a car owning culture. All that changed in 1989 when my aunt passed away and I decided that the time had come to learn to drive. I bought a very battered 15th hand 1974 VW Beetle Lux Bug and it ended up hanging around for a year in the underground parking of the building where I lived while I learnt to drive.
I got my license in 1990 and spent the next few years paying for repairs for that dieing Beetle which I disposed of in 1997.
What happened to my dream of having a Mini? The Mini was no longer manufactured by then, in fact one of my workmates had amongst the last Leyland Minis around, and by then I recognised that it was not the ideal car, although it still stirred something in me. When he sold it I was very tempted to buy it off him, but it had an oil leak so decided against it.
Amongst my few surviving childhood toys is a Matchbox Mini which was released in 1970, and which spent most of its life in the display cabinet at home. It is a very old model now, and worth nothing except to me.
In fact I have more than one Mini model,
and of course when I see one I am drawn to photograph it. In the UK they are not as rare as in South Africa, so opportunities abound. They do command a steep price now, but I do recognise that it is not the perfect car as it does lack many of the items that I look for in a vehicle: reliability, safety, air conditioning, cost of insurance, comfort etc. If I could pick up one in a good condition at a good price I would consider it, but that is unlikely. So, I will just have to enjoy other people’s Mini’s along the way.
And finally, in June 2016 I saw this half Mini at the London Science Museum. It was really quite quirky.
To go with my RMS Ivernia, I have also acquired an RMS Carinthia, as a sister ship. I have also outfitted both ships with cargo gear and mainmasts.
Because the masts and cranes are pricey, I decided to remove the gear from one of my C4 Mariner Class cargo ships and use those on the two Cunarders and convert the C4 into a early container ship iteration. Fortunately I had a duplicate Volunteer Mariner so she ended up donating her cargo gear.
The containers are left overs from my P&O City of Durban and I filed down the crane housings till they were level with the hatch covers and pasted the containers onto a false deck and glued that onto the hatchcovers. I stayed with only one stack of boxes though, too many would have left them with no view to the bow. I also added a foremast but I am not quite done with this ship yet, and of course she does not have a name, but is more of a generic interim vessel.
My other major acquisition was the “Might Mo”: USS Missouri,
I have also been working on and off on the HMY Britannia. This model was available in the Royal Yacht livery as well as in a hospital ship livery. She was built to be easily convertible to a hospital ship in the event that she was needed, but she never fulfilled that role in her long career. Triang Minic used to sell the model as part of a boxed set
In 2014 I bought a Revell 1/1200 QE2 model, the intention being to waterline it and add it to the collection.
I bought the paint and brushes and packed it all away and never built it, and like the original ship it has been languishing in limbo until last month when I got it back with the rest of my collection from storage in Lichfield. Last night I attacked it with a saw and cut away the underwater part of the hull and started to build it. The big problem is trying to find the sheer line as it is not really marked on the model. I also used gloss black instead of matt black as the matt paint is really lousy.I am probably going to have to give it a 2nd coat so will see how the matt works on it. By this morning the QE2 was looking somewhat odd.
It is not a very complicated kit, but the painting is a pain. the upper deck has not been glued down yet, but the fore and aft decks have. And the funnel has had its first coat. This is very close to the livery that I saw her in in 1986, although she did have a few changes in her stern area then.
I will try get more pics of her before I glue down the main deck, at the moment I am waiting for paint to dry.
I have a 1/2000 QE2 model that was bought for me on board QE2 in 1994. It does not have any makers identification on it and I have been looking all over for an answer and finally found it on the 2nd day of 2017! The model was made by S.R. Precision in the UK, and was available with a blue hull too. Unfortunately it is not a very good likeness and it does not fit in with my 1/1200 and 1/1250 fleet, but it is an interesting keepsake.
Meanwhile, back at the building dock QE2 is looking more like QE2 every hour.
First coat on funnel and fore and aft decks painted. Lifeboats are still not on. Big problem is that the davits were all black at this particular part of her career, but frankly painting them black was a lot of work, and I decided to leave them white. I may do it later. The other question is, what colour was the roof of her bridge and the suites as well as around the funnel?
Lifeboats are added, most of the superstructure elements are in place and I am starting to look at the fit onto the hull. It was not a good fit.
But eventually I got it on and started to fit the bridge and their wings as well as try to make sense of her sheer line, as you can see it is wobbly as can be. I will sort that once all is built and when there is better natural light. I did give it a coat of matt black and it looks better. Now to fit forward cranes and mast and touch up paintwork
Mast is on, cranes are on. I have not given the funnel its final coat as I have white drying in the funnel area. She is more or less completed now and she just needs touching up, the sheer line needs finalising, and of course I have to add colour to the lifeboats, at one point their superstructures were orange and I do not have orange paint. I have also seen her with green above the bridge. The QE2 changed many times over the years, and this model has her original thin funnel which puts this before 1986, and probably just after the Falklands when they gave her the traditional Cunard funnel livery. I was also considering giving her a false flat bottom, but must first complete her properly and then she can join the fleet. Gee, I enjoyed that bit of model building.
QE2 and Canberra were contemporaries, and that is partly one of the reasons I bought the model; to see them together once more, but on 1/1200 scale.
I was also able to buy a 1/1250 Oriana to add to the collection, and while it is a small scale it does fit in well with the QE2 and Canberra. The model is by Mercator and it sold for £20 on board the ship when we sailed on her.
My newest addition is really one of two similar vessels operated by the French Line. The ill fated SS Flandre, or SS Antilles were both lost to fire. My particular model is numbered M714 “Flandre” so I will stick with that. Incidentally, she was also known as the “Flounder”, and was lost to fire in 1994.
I acquired a pair of Ton Class Minesweeper. Actually I now have two of them, the ship on the left (HMS *.ton) I got from Waterline-ships.com. The Triang version (HMS Repton) is on the right.
A finally a particularly rare beastie came my way: SS France. I repainted her and added in masts and this is the end result. Unfortunately she never joined the other major liners that were re-introduced in later years from Hong Kong and tends to be hard to find. Her funnels do not have their distinctive wings though, and I believe that this was the original funnel design.
One of the more rare Triang ships out there is HMS Albion in her “Commando Carrier” guise. I had a spare scrap HMS Bulwark laid up so decided to convert her into an HMS Albion. Here the pair of them are together, Albion being in front. I bought 5 x 1/1250 Westland Wessex helicopters for her and am busy trying to make rotors for them, Ye gads, what a job that was!
Other acquisitions are:
TSS Vikingen (Triang MInic)
Since repainted and with masts and cargo gear, although I am not too enamoured by those overly heavy masts. I may rethink those (since replaced).
At this point my Minic Ship collection really becomes a small part of my much larger waterline ship collection which started to grow alongside it, eventually overtaking it and leaving it behind. You can read about that collection here or by using the arrow below.
This evening on my way home I could not help but remember that on 1 March 2013 I started yet another chapter in my life, only this time in a country very far from where I was born.
Lots of water has flowed under my bridge since then, I have seen and been places, I have shipwatched and gravewatched, I have played at being a baggage handler, a team leader, a recycler. even a motor vehicle parts assembler, and currently I am back doing my old job as a workshop bench tech. I have lived in London, Southampton, Salisbury, Basingstoke, Burntwood and now Tewkesbury. I have been through rough patches and smooth, I have seen so many new things, and lived the dream of going elsewhere.
I have looked back on the happenings in South Africa and tried my best to not comment on what I see; by the same token I have looked at happenings in the UK and often can only just shake my head. It is not a perfect place, but it certainly feels more like home to me 3 years down the line.
Have I picked up any odd habits? I still enjoy my cuppa, and of course nowadays I carry a raincoat and walk a lot more than before. I have a bicycle, and I have covered many kilometres around the country just taking in the sights. There is a lot to see, and I am trying to see as much of it as I can. I am sort of used to the sun going down late in Summer and the beautiful light that seems to be the norm in the colder months. I am probably loosing some of my South African mannerisms, but cant quite shake the accent. Damn!
Do I regret leaving South Africa? No. I was never considered to be a South African because I spoke English, and was told to “fokof terug Ingeland toe” on more occasions than I can recall, consequently I never viewed it as home. The changes in 1994 were great, although the results could have been so much better for everybody if only corruption had not reared its ugly head. I do fear for the future there though, but I do know that there are good people of all races there, and hopefully they will prevail.
The future? is there one? as long as I have work I will be able to stick it out, although next year is crunch year. A lot hinges on next year, but I cannot go into detail about it. Needless to say though, hopefully next year this time I will know more. As I like to say: watch this space,
As an afterthought, in Std 3 we had to do a project on Britain, and I recall my brother doing a collage of images for one of the pages. I have always remembered it (as well as the teacher and some of the pages inside that project). I never thought I would be sitting in Britain thinking about that project so many years down the line.
The image above is a large one (2026×1571), open at your own risk.