Saturday, 29 February 2020

Cabin Fever

This is the one time of year when I dislike living in the fens. Visitors tend to shun us in mid-Winter, and those who visit at Xmas often question our sanity, but it is late Winter and early Spring that I find utterly depressing. Paradoxically it is because Spring comes early here.

Elder Cottage as it was in 1971.
Still as bleak today despite a windbreak of trees, and I wish the big shed had been retained

February isn't yet over but our snowdrops are on the way out. The early daffodils are also fading. Against a south-facing wall, we already have tulips in bloom. The grass in parts of the garden is already too long to mow and will need strimming first, and two of the fruit trees are setting blossom.

So why is it so depressing? Like all of the UK this year we have been lashed by a succession of storms, conveniently timed for weekends. We've actually got off lightly. Then that isn't surprising because unlike most of the country the fens accept strong winds and the threat of floods as part of life, especially at this time of year. And it is that combination of early spring with high winds and wet ground that is so soul-destroying. The garden runs away from you and you can't do anything about it. Every year I hope for a couple of those beautiful cold but dry and sunny winter days. Every year I plan to take a week off to prepare the garden but never choose the right week. This year seems worse because of the amount of work we had done last year, and the preparatory work for this year's plans that we've started. The new work has suffered by the inevitable, but planned for, shifting of the ground over Winter. Not built into our plans was the additional impact of the goats. It is a mud bath in the back garden.

Once again, oddly, the 7 1/4" track laid directly on the turf seems to be in better condition than the properly laid track. there is a lesson in that.

At least I now have the studio, though plans to move the last couple of bookcases and workshop equipment in have been stymied by hibernating butterflies...

And then there is Geoff and his brilliant foray into 7mm

With his use of Tanat Valley structures it calls into question if there is a point to me building a version that will not come close, but he is also making 7mm look a very attractive option now I have a little more space to play with.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

The Joy of Books

Moving into the new studio is a protracted affair. I suspect It won't be complete for another year as things get juggled around.  Progress is being made though, and most of my key railway and modelling books are finally accessible again. It isn't the same as having the dedicated library that we had in the old house, but that isn't all bad.

Moving did mean an awful lot of books going to charity shops. Most of them were fiction titles. Some were old friends from university days and before but it seems silly to use up precious space in the cottage when they can all fit on my Kindle and go with me on my travels.  It is also true to say that whilst in the old house Issy considered books to be "mess" in the cottage she sees them as adding character, so they are to be found in most rooms of the house. I just hope she never realises the combined value of the books in the photography section.

That raises a key, if morbid, point that many of us don't give our partners an indication of what is particularly valuable in our collections, be it in terms of monetary value, historical interest or just the things we would like to keep in the family as long as possible.

The original subject of this post was going to be the disparity in my books between those about making the best use of RTR models and kits, and those about scratch building. This is especially true when it comes to books about building structures. Putting them all on a single bookcase seems to have really highlighted this.

When I started Apa Valley I intended to scratch build all the buildings, but I did end up using a repurposed Hornby moulding for the wooden platforms and an Lcut signal box. I did have a couple of other signal boxes in mind and half-constructed both a scratch-built and a kit-bashed version, and one of them will end up on the next TVR based layout. For me the TAoC layouts need to use commercial kits to be in the spirit of Roy's original design. The ones I have sourced are very good, though not without issues. The problem is that those issues aren't easy ones to solve. And even if they can be solved do I still end up with people saying "Oh look that is xxxx kit of....." rather than "That is nice model of ....."

I think the scratch builder in me might win this particular battle.