I remember long sunny days, the smell of cellulose dope; I dabbled in aeronautical engineering, well, balsawood and tissue. I started with off-the-shelf kits, free-flight gliders, which sounds nice but it just means that you throw them into the air and see what happens, well, okay, you carefully launch them and see what happens. One of the proprietary models I had was a tow-line glider, it had a hook on the underside and with the aid of a goodly length of string or twine as a tow-line and help from a friend or family member, the glider was hoist aloft by the action of two people running, one holding the glider and the other out in front pulling the string. As the glider rose into the air, the tow line slipped off of the carefully designed hook and flew free.
Thinking that I could build a better product I designed and built a balsawood and tissue tow-line glider from scratch. I used an aerofoil silhouette from a plan in an old copy of AeroModeller Magazine but the rest was all mine. It flew! It flew very well in fact. Spurred-on by this success I built another, slightly larger one. The wing span of the first one, which I grandiosely named “Gaia” was about three feet, the second one had a wing span of around four feet, this one was named “Uranus” but something in my design had changed and Uranus never really flew as well as Gaia. They are both still with me, up in the loft. Both of the fuselages anyway and one of the wing assemblies as I recall.
I had Airfix kits on the go, I still have some, unmade, in my “projects cupboard”. They aren’t mine from the seventies, someone’s, but not mine. I bought them a few years back, trying to re-live childhood memories, a return to childhood. Hmm, that would seem to contradict what I said earlier about not wanting to be a teenager again. No, I would not want to be a teenager again but I do fondly remember some of the feelings, the experiences of teenage years, maybe those were what I was trying to regain.
In the cupboard.
Unbuilt kits in cupboards, waiting for the day when they will be painted and assembled, waiting to be complete, but in that completion they become obsolete, kits no longer.
Are we like that? Waiting to become? Older? Wiser? Grown up? Accomplished? Fulfilled? Ratified? Vilified? Vindicated? Assembled? Do we ever, “become”? Are we at the moment of realisation, obsolete?
Look at that, I’ve gone all philosophical now; let’s get back to the past. Airfix kits, unbuilt, in a cupboard, waiting.
R.M.S. Mauretania, 1:600 scale. I built that kit when I was seven or eight years old; it was one of my favourite kits, one of my favourite ships. Yes, it’s a boy thing I suppose, having a favourite ship. I had several in fact but Mauritania sticks in my mind as a particular favourite. And making a kit like that brings you close to the subject of your affection.
I had seen photographs of the actual ship in books; some had strange, almost surreal perspectives, one in particular, from “The Book of the Ship” by G. G Jackson, a book I still have from my childhood, shows a view looking up from the bottom of a dry dock, the prow of the ship towering over the photographer. Whilst constructing the Airfix model I held the partly completed hull in my hands and squinted up at the bow trying to recreate that viewpoint and I understood what it was that I was looking at in the photograph. I held that hull, I ran my fingers along it, I knew the curves and shapes. I understood it better.
When I saw the kit again a few years back, second-hand but unmade and in original box I just had to buy it, it was a tangible link to my childhood. When I got it home I opened the box and looked through all the parts still on their sprue. I was a child again. Then the box was put into the “projects cupboard”.
So yes,”projects cupboard”. It’s somewhere to store-up things for the future. Maybe you have a “projects cupboard” but not a physical thing on a wall, maybe you, like me, store intentions for future perusal. I have a list in my head of course, things that I would like to do, things that I tell myself that I must do but I also have this little cupboard with some projects in it. It’s a comforting feeling to know that come the appropriate “rainy day” I have a little project to dabble in. R.M.S. Mauretania, 1:600 scale is one of those projects.
Now I come to think of it, Gaia and Uranus are also in the “projects cupboard”, not physically, they wouldn’t fit but in some sort of intangible, ethereal extension of the cupboard, waiting for repair, waiting for the smell of cellulose dope once more to permeate the house.
So there you are, a few odd perspectives, and who knows, I may in due course I may even build that kit of the Mauretania, Gaia and Uranus may fly again.
EDIT: 26 March 2020
Searching through some old photographs I came across this one of Gaia, resting on my bed. Ah, the memories…
One thought on “Airfix kits, metaphysics and aeronautical engineering; in no particular order.”
My “projects cupboard” contains the computer from my childhood times to be fixed and rebuilt some rainy day… Still so many other things to be done before that time comes…
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