Thursday, October 11, 2012

Teenage Kicks

I was not nearly so stylish

I hated being a teenager - it was awful. In fact, when I think about it seriously, I'm probably more contented today than I ever have been. It's not that I wasn't happy when I was younger, but I'm certainly more consistently happy now.

Old friends have a tendency to humble us, particularly if they've known you from childhood. They've seen past the facade that we present to the world, because they remember us before we were who are today. They remember the time you accidentally called your gym teacher Daddy infront of the whole class or the time you got drunk as a lord on plum brandy with your grandmother and got sick behind the sofa at Christmas. 

They remember haircuts. Desperate, terrible, unfortunate haircuts. 

And some very questionable wardrobe decisions. 

But the reason old friends, like old wine, are best is that despite knowing all of this they still fancy the pleasure of your company. They see past the mullet, the low alchol tolerance, the teenage obsession with grunge, the dull evangelical atheism and the truly awful poetry.  Or at least they pretend not to remember, probably I suppose because they were wearing the Nirvana t-shirt with you or because you helped hide the evidence when they almost set their parents house on fire. 

Sadly, there are also old acquaintances, who are not so kind and they remember who were before you realised who you were, really.  And they remember all those times you were petulant and the time you pretended to be a tiger in class and fell off your desk or the time you were cordially invited to consider Art rather Woodwork because one broken blackboard was quite enough thank you very much and Mr. Blank was worried that you do someone an injury if you dropped another chisel.   Every so often, you meet those people and they remember and suddenly you are fourteen, confused and terribly lonely again. 

A noble creature from an earlier age?

I've started unpacking the box room and it's been an experience. I found boxes that were packed in 2007/8 and four, maybe five house moves ago, but I also found a lot of my Second World War kit, including an Airfix Bren Gun carrier with attendant six pounder. I'm in the process of building a British army for Memoir '44 and I needed some guns, so it seemed like the perfect option.

A gaped, fiddly monstrosity - like meeting the school bully twenty years on

What a ghastly mistake that was. I've put some Airfix kits together in the last few years, but they were all made of a grey plastic that was a lot easier to deal with. This was made from a thin, unpredictable green plastic made from a mixture of spite and broken dreams. Christ it was awful.  I shan't dwell on the experience, but suddenly it was 1993 again and none of the parts fit and glue had shot with the speed of lightning off the model, onto my hand and down my sleeve.

The remains of the Airfix six pounder, shortly after they were removed from my shirt cuff

I may be a grown man these days, with a house and a career and a wide circle of friends who actively enjoy  wargames, but that Airfix kit saw right through me. It bared every inadequacy.

After much cutting myself, accidentally shaving important bits off while seperating pieces from the sprue, unpredictable glue and getting things to almost, but not quite fit I managed to get the carrier together. The gun was an entirely differant matter. I'll try again tomorrow.

I might  ask Dad to help me.

A much more pleasant experience was the Plastic Soldier Company Sherman which I got in a trade with Rostbif. These are made in a solid light green plastic and a pleasently robust. I'd show you a work in progress picture, but I put them together in a single night, in fact in less than two hours I had all three tanks assembled.

Look how fancy it is.

If the Airfix kit was a cringe making teenage love letter full of angst and bad spelling, the Plastic Soldier Company was a smooth seduction by a seasoned operator. They're beautiful kits, complex enough to allow the wargamer some options, but not so much that they take an age to put together.

The offending tricky track thingie

I did have one problem though. The tracks were fiddly, not nearly as fiddly as any part of the Airfix kit, but still taxing. The tracks came in four parts, two sections of track, a set of solid wheels and bogeys that attached to the body of the tank and sprocket type arrangement that pluged into the wheel. I found that the main issue was that once the sprocket was in place, the tracks didn't really fit. I scratched my head and moved the tracks around quite a bit, but to no avail. I finished by shaving the sprockets down, at which point the tracks fitted pretty well, though they weren't exactly right.

I began to consider stowage, of which there is quite a bit on the PSC frame, and not wanting to make a mess of things, I googled some pictures of Royal Tank Regiment Shermans. I picked up some good ideas and I also made a startling discovery.

And all is right with the world, the fit was sweet as a nut

I'd put the sprocket wheel on the wrong way around. Fortunately, this was not sufficient to cause a recurrence of the grinding physic torture that had been the Airfix Bren carrier. The second tank went together like a dream, no problems with the tracks, smooth sailing from beginning to end.

A Plastic Soldier Sherman (now with sprocket wheel the right way around) and with HAT tank commander added, rolls over the Airfix Bren carrier

Thoughts on the Airfix Bren Carrier

I may try and finish this model, but never, ever again. I'm beginning to experience serious doubts about the Airfix Bofors 40mm kits that I found with the Bren carrier. They may find themselves looking for another home.

Thoughts on the Plastic Soldier Company Shermans


The model is beautiful. It goes together easily and is no bother.

While it's not abundant, there is sufficient stowage to vary the appearance of the tanks somewhat.

The turret MG is solidly cast and probably overscale, but those are advantages for a wargaming model frankly.


There are no decals, though these will be available separately shortly. I suppose in one way this makes sense as it allows you to field the tanks as either British, French, Soviet or American without having to change the contents of the box.

There is only one tank commander. I'm varying this with the contents of the British Tank Riders box from HAT.

The turret MG is solidly cast and probably overscale, but those are advantages for a wargaming model frankly.

In short, I'm very, very happy with the Plastic Soldier Company Shermans and I'll be fielding them fairly shortly. I may never put another Airfix kit together.

Being a teenager once was quite enough thank you very much.


  1. Superb post - lovely touch and fine lighting. It would be improper to suggest you are at your finest when you are being self-deprecating, but I love it.

    You probably hit a few nerves for all of us here - I am reminded exactly why I was so happy to give away my ACW army, once when the world was young.

    All those things that we swear never happened are waiting in dark corners for that 3am moment - here we are - over here...

    1. Thank you very much Foy. I often deal with teenagers who are at a very low point in their lives in a professional capacity.

      I doubt that I do a very good job of it, but I do try to remember how awful it was to be fifteen.

  2. I wrestled one of those Airfic carriers a few years ago, just 1. I hear the PSC has just released their version.

    For the rest, less said the better.-;

    1. I'm looking forward to viewing them in the plastic.

      As you say, least said, soonest mended.

  3. So in the analogy of adult sophistication vs. adolescent ineptitude PSC Sherman equals Barry White and a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvee with the lights off and candles lit, and Airfix Bren carrier equals a slug of cooking sherry and a quick snog and a fumble behind the bike shed? :-D

    Glad our swap was worth it!

    BTW, yes, I am interested in another swap for your Italeri light cav. Get in touch re. particulars and we'll sort out another deal. Cheers.

  4. I'm going to be humming Teenage Kicks for the rest of the night - where's John Peel when you need him...that's what makes me feel old!

    1. I wasn't even thought of when it came out - but you still can't beat a spot of the Undertones.

  5. Ha... I remember sticking the tracks for an Airfix Panther together, and using a peg to hold them while they dried... and the track sticking permanently to the peg, and the track snapping, and..... enough... thank goodness for metal and resin models...

    If you actually need more carriers however, the following may be of interest??

    1. I saw - they look rather nice. I think they will be my first port of call for carriers in future.

  6. Hi CK,

    Wonderful post old chap! On a similar vein I still have 'embarrassing moment at primary school' terrors whenever I see a model of a Polikarpov I16 - the 1930's Russian fighter. The Revell version must have been the easiest aircraft kit in the world to put together but I still managed to make glue-infused hash of it - to the extent that the entire fuselage dented to the touch and the wings continually drooped due to overindulgence with the adhesive!

    Halcyon days? I don't think so....;-)

    All the best,


    1. Nasty, brutish and short.

      And that was just the second years!

  7. One of your best posts sir. Would that we could all tell our younger selves that it gets better.

  8. Ah yes, I had the misfortune recently to tussle with the Airfix Carrier and 6 pounder recently. It was not a ...satisfying... experience.

    Although I have been assembling some of the old Matchbox/Revel kits as well, and they have mostly been a pleasure, so I'm not sure it can just be put down to how old the airfix ones are. That said, I'm still sure my fingers used to be smaller...

  9. Oh dear. I recently put together the Airfix Scorpion and was reminded of being 11. I was right back then, it is a dog of a kit.

  10. Mostly I remember the acne... don't miss it one bit!

    Kind regards, Chris