Kidlington Journalists
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Michael Watts


Two Words of Caution
— Care and Patience!

Michael writes:
A challenging mix of science, engineering, and art, with a bit of design thrown in — that’s me!   I take advantage of this cross curricular mix to support my teaching/acting activities to develop the artist-craftsman skills in those willing to listen and learn. They now say I am, essentially, a teacher of practical stuff, especially modelling of boats, planes, and trains, but earlier on it was mostly planes. In all this, planning is important to me – initially to establish the prime concepts, then set out the fine detail, and finally get on and do it.

Born on the southern edge of London back in 1941, the war and the effect of all that was mediated by my parents who had very broad interests from walking and maps to theatre, from experimental cooking and ladies’ tailoring to fine art. In all this I was routinely and regularly bathed in spite of the dour circumstance – the consequences of bombs, rationing, and limited income. Music of the 1920s, 30s and 40s was the regular diet, that and listening to the Proms on the BBC Home Service, or was it the Third Programme?

As someone of similar maturity recently said to me – I don’t bother to tell the young ones what it was like back then, there is absolutely no possibility that they will understand. But that is probably true for every third generation.

I’ve been a postman, baker, semi-conductor engineer, research physicist, instrument maker, teacher, trainer, administrator, marketing manager, editor, and writer of technical articles. I now collect fine art, cook, and model boats, planes, and trains, but now mostly trains.

Take care when buying online

Readers may be interested and learn from my recent experience when using eBay … combined with PayPal is a wonderful tool, and I have successfully bought a considerable volume of model railway models and materials over the past six years, in addition to many other household, motor, and personal items. However, I recently made my first serious mistake although, because of the excellent facilities and service offered by all concerned, the matter was resolved even though the fault was entirely mine.

Never-the-less, I encourage you to take great care when researching and ordering items on eBay, and elsewhere on-line. This will save you time, expense and, not least, embarrassment! The caution I encourage in you is not to become too enthusiastic about an apparently new or rare item such that you miss an essential piece of directly relevant information.

A Brawa model of a Bavarian express passenger locomotive class S 2/6 built in 1906 © Brawa

Previously I have always reflected for a day or so before committing my order, such that I have noticed the key piece of data in time to realise that the item is, in fact, not suitable for my needs. In this particular case I was ordering a beautiful new Brawa model of a Bavarian steam locomotive from a German retail shop. It was a rare item at an appropriately rarefied price! I did not reflect of the purchase, and hit the Buy it now button. All was well until, a week or so later, I unpacked it for the second time to admire the exquisite detail when I noticed the long electrical pick-up skid between the driving wheels. Oh, I thought, its intended for 3-rail pick-up rather than the modern 2-rail design. Worst still, on checking more carefully, I discovered that it was for an a.c. electrical power supply rather than the more common analogue d.c. – oh dear – a no-go item on two counts then.

I then checked thoroughly, and discovered that this same model was indeed also available for a d.c. analogue power supply but with a very slightly different catalogue number. An e-mail to the retailer resulted in a very quick and totally positive reply – send it back and we will replace it with the model you want. Of course, I did have to pay the return postage – a relatively small penalty.

Model of an eighteen century gazebo made from a paper kit for a Bavarian railway model
© Michael Watts

Be Patient

If you are tempted, take care, do your research thoroughly, read all the data, and order only after careful consideration and having fully checked catalogue numbers for example. The really big danger arises when you are bidding on eBay with the time running out …

So, ALWAYS take care to do your research, decide precisely what you need, what is the maximum price you are prepared to pay, and be extremely patient, especially as the bidding-seconds tick away to zero. Experience has taught me that, despite apparent rarity, the chances are that another one will be available sooner or later, and did you really need it right now anyway?

Never under-estimate the effect of the wireless in its early days. Even with the short broadcasting hours of the BBC, the programmes were informative, educational, and entertaining. They ranged widely – ITMA, Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh, The Brains Trust, The Critics, Football Results, SOS Messages just before the News, Children’s Hour, Bow Bells, and the ever present BBC Theatre Organist Sandy MacPherson. Add to this the individual performers like Flotsam & Jetsam, and Spike Milligan. Many of us owe a great deal to this early rich public provision for our thinking, appreciation, and activities.

Model of an Austrian branch-line railway © Peco Studio

Michael Watts

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