Friday 28 August 2015

Rubbish or Raw Material?

In Doctor Who – Pyramids of Mars, Sutekh tells the Doctor: ‘Your evil is my good.’ The same reversal of truth often stands with scratch building models.

You can spend a huge fortune in a model shop buying polystyrene strips and blocks, thin strips of wood or sheets of cardboard to use in the construction of the model in question, and then throw away exactly the same materials as rubbish the next day.

It’s no secret on here that I collect up old coffee sticks and firework sticks post Bonfire Night to use for the wooden planking and beams on my models instead of buying strips of balsa wood, but there are so many other raw materials for building that can be sourced cheaply or for free that can make this a very cost efficient hobby indeed.

My mind has sometimes been described as a scary place. I admit it can tick over slightly differently to many others. It has been known for its darker side, as you would know if you have read the Karl trilogy, but it also tries to see more than is obvious.  Hence any unusual packaging that comes my way is almost always sized up for its potential.

A colleague at work came back from vacation with some chocolaty treats to share. Very nice they were too. However my greater excitement came at the packaging, there I could see exactly what I needed to make more window panes or broken windows from. This is just the right sort of stiff plastic that I need, and this time it is slightly cloudy hence these windows will be either misted over or dirt smeared depending on what effect I’m going to go for this time.

With a growing CD collection of audio drama I have had to invest in a couple of new storage towers. These came as flat packs, and once the Krypton Factor (Look it up) test had been completed without any of the listed pieces being left over I did have left over pieces that were not going to end up in the rubbish skip. These blocks and strips of polystyrene packing will make excellent starting points for walls and other constructions.

All the items in the above photo have been viewed as potential in one way or another and later I’ll share more of these thoughts. In the meantime since my coffee stick mountain is growing I am going to add a couple more cheap and simple buildings to the ghost town layout. The exact style and shape of these will depend solely on the next few empty boxes that come my way.

The first will be made from the Nature Valley, Cupasoup and Gu boxes...

Karl Bank Holiday Offer


The Kindle edition of the first volume of Karl’s trilogy is now available as part of the Amazon Countdown Deals promotion starting today 28th August. This will run until Thursday 3rd September. So why not give the adventure a try this Bank Holiday. With Countdown Deals the biggest discount is applied at the start of the deal and over the week the discount is reduced so that the price steps up eventually returning to its original price at the end of the run. The steps will vary from product to product depending on the exact length of time the deals run for, and the original price.

For more information on the trilogy click the links on the right hand rail.

For the original price is £2.99. For the first half of the week the price will be just 99p, it will rise to £1.99 before returning to £2.99 on the 3rd September.

For the original price is $2.99. For the first half of the week the price will be just 99c, it will rise to $1.99 before returning to $2.99 on the 3rd September.

As far as I know these deals only run on these two Amazon markets.

See the following for more details on Amazon Kindle Countdown Deals.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Moss on the Roof

The standalone haunted house model is almost complete. I’ve finished the white dry-brush/dusting around the woodwork and turned my attention back onto the roof. I felt it needed a little something, and that was a greenish tint for moss. I got the idea after missing my train on Saturday and whilst stood on the platform at Romford, I found myself looking out onto a roof that was tinted in such a way. So using a deep moss green paint, which I also picked up from a pound store as part of that shopping trip, I mixed with it some PVA glue and a sprinkle of dark green flock and proceeded to tint the roof in patches. In most cases it was a fast flick of the wrist in downward strokes using the paint in the same dry-brushing approach, and on occasions picking up a little of the thicker mix just to add that little extra depth where the moss has actually taken.

I also gave the front tower a light brush with the green as well just to age the tower up and make that feel slightly more decayed than the rest. Something more sinister about the tower, maybe?

I’ll take some more photos in outdoor light before and after I varnish.

Finally I’ve glued the stone pillar in place on the bottom corner, and now I’m leaving that to dry before making a final check prior to varnishing. My next stage will be to build a baseboard to set the model off in its grounds, maybe a crumbling outer wall and an old gate, an over grown path leading up to the front door.  Who knows?

For anyone who might be interested in the first volume of my trilogy, a heads up, the first volume will be available at a discounted price for a week starting this Friday, 28th August. It will be part of the Kindle Countdown Deals which will have the greatest discount at the start of the offer but then the discount is reduced as the week goes on. That will be on & from Friday morning.

Previous post in the Haunted House series: Woodwork Painting

Next post: Coming soon

Thursday 20 August 2015


This post jumps aboard the time ship and travels back to 1975 before jumping forward to 1979. 
So what happened in 1975 and why this post? 

Me, Mum & Auntie Darkie, July 1975
There’s no great weather report to speak of, the hot summer of the 1970s that gets mentioned by those of a certain age is a year later, 1976. If you want a list of events for 1975 then try Wikipedia although nothing jumped out at me when I took a quick scan through the list. Maybe a couple of interesting birthdays might pop up. In Doctor Who Tom Baker was already the Doctor, having d├ębuted in the first episode of “Robot” a few days before the start of the year. So why this trip back in time? 

Oh by the way, this was me back in 1975.

The reason is because Big Finish has recently released a couple of audio drama box sets based on a couple of other TV series from back then.  Their second series of new stories for Survivors and the first of a series for The Omega Factor have had me gripped to my CD player.

Their releases for both series begin with an audio book reading of the original novels written by the two show’s creators. In the case of Survivors this was Terry Nation, he of the Daleks fame who would later go on to create Blake’s 7, and for The Omega Factor, Jack Gerson. Both audio books are read stunningly by the show’s original female leads, Carolyn Seymour and Louise Jameson.  These stories really pulled me in and made me eager to not only move on to the new audio drama ranges but to seek out those original TV episodes on DVD.  These dramas were designed for adults, and as you can see from the photo above I was certainly not old enough to be allowed to stay up and watch. Whilst shopping for these I did discover a DVD release of a children’s series I remembered from then, one which I will admit, at the time, certainly freaked me out.  More on that later.

Having listened to the original books then watching the programmes I found they differed in many ways, so the audio readings are certainly worth a listen if only to gather what the show’s original creators saw as their direction for their creations.

The first two box sets from Big Finish have brought back the original leads from the first series of the show and introduce new survivors in the same way as the show often did. Carolyn Seymour departed from the original show after the first series, but is now back giving Abby a new lease of life. The TV series ran for three years on the BBC, from 1975 to 1977 and having watched all three series back to back it did feel like it began to run out of steam. It must be noted that Terry Nation only ever wrote for the first series of the TV programme.

After the survivors had faced the great plague that had wiped out around ninety percent of the population and had gone on to face the worst of human kind could offer that the BBC would dare to feature back then there really was not a lot of direction for the series to go. In their second series Big Finish have been a lot braver in their material, maybe this is because we live in more enlightened times. The series is certainly a lot darker and as such I would say more believable than the later offerings of the original.

The Omega Factor
This series launched on the BBC in 1979 and promptly ended after one series. Which was a bloody shame. It fell at the wrath of Mary Whitehouse, the self appointed moral guidance councillor that oversaw all that was broadcast. The DVD release today actually makes a point of noting on the cover that she described it ‘Thoroughly evil’.  There was nothing evil about it. The only thing it could be accused of was being ahead of its time.  Having watched the series today, with one special effect not quite up to scratch the rest of the series could easily still be aired today as a supernatural investigation drama set in the late 70s. When Journalist Tom Crane (James Hazeldine) discovers he has psychic powers he is recruited by Department 7 and finds himself working alongside Doctor Anne Reynolds (Louise Jameson). The stories keep a very open approach to their subject matter, not everything is unexplained and not everything is as it seems, plus with a darker thriller aspect on top.

The Big Finish version, unlike Survivors which is set in and around the events of the original TV series, this picks up three decades later. Anne Reynolds once again played splendidly by Louise Jameson is contacted by the son of the recently departed Tom Crane. When Adam Crane (John Dorney) , contacts Anne he finds himself drawn into the problems of Department 7 and the reawakening of many dangers for the team. Again this series is not aimed at younger listeners and certainly appeals to the darker side of many of its listeners. John and Louise make an excellent team, long may this series run, and having heard both John and Louise’s scripts for other Big Finish ranges I would hope they would both be persuaded to contribute to future releases in this series.

The Changes.
And finally on to the last of the throwback DVDs I recently purchased. This is reported in the supporting booklet as being, “the oldest surviving BBC science fiction TV serial developed and scheduled exclusively for children.” Produced in 1975 it dramatised the three Peter Dickinson young adult novels, The Weathermonger (1969), Heartsease (1969) and The Devil’s Children (1970). Now that young me shown at the start of this post watched the series, or some of it, back in 1975 and was freaked out by it. I carried with me for some time a mental image of the electricity pylons and a strange sound that was associated with them. I have a feeling that maybe I did not watch the whole series. Watching this back now, obviously I’m not going to have the same reaction to it, although I was able to pick out the scenes from two of the episodes that fixed those memories for me.

However, unlike the two other shows I watched, this one released by the BFI rather than the BBC on DVD does not stand the test of time so well. Whether this is because it is a children’s production, or the story which felt patchy and inconsistent, or the fact that the release felt the need to apologise for not being 100% politically correct in every episode - I don’t know.  We know a lot of TV back then would fail that test; we have to accept that as historical fact, learn from it and move on rather than dwell on it. It is hard to put my finger on what exactly grated but something certainly did. The premise was another society in meltdown, but the cause, despite the final episode, for me is never satisfactory explained. After a freak weather pattern, you could not even call it a storm, society goes mad and smashes up all machinery and declares it as ‘wicked’. Nicky Gore is separated from her parents as they try to escape England for France, in a crowd of about ten people and sets out on her own journey to try and find them.  Very quickly she changes her mind and begins her own crusade to try and find out what caused this break up of society’s sanity in the first place.

Survivors, All 3 Series on DVD is released by BBC Worldwide Ltd.
The Omega Factor on DVD is released by Simply HomeEntertainment under licence from the BBC.
The Changes on DVD, is released by the BFI, made available to the BFI by the BBC.

The Omega Factor & Survivors Audio Books and Audio Drama series are produced and released by Big Finish Productions.

 Oh go on then, another photo of me from 1975.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Woodwork painting

A few close up photos of the front of the haunted house. I have now moved on to painting the woodwork. The whole model was given a black undercoat, and the stonework and roof tiles were painted up with varying shades of black and white mixes until I dry brushed with white.

The woodwork, likewise, is painted with a limited pallet of black, burnt umber and white in different mixes. The planking on the walls of the model were given one less coat than the beams which had a lighter burnt umber applied in a light application before I started dry brushing (or I like to call it dusting) with white over both the planking on the walls and the beams.

Front part dusted with white, shows as contrast to yet to be dusted section
I'll post a further update once this part of the painting is finished.

Previous article in the Mystery Model / Haunted House series:
Stonework Painting

Next article in the Mystery Model / Haunted House series:
Moss on the Roof