Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Voyage of the Spammed - Part 3: "A 162 Hour Tour"

So the ship had left Liverpool at approximately 6:30 pm on Tuesday, June 2, 1964.  First a quick stop in Greenock and then out to the Atlantic.  The family has been berthed in a starboard cabin, M115, on the main deck.  It's a window seat!  But more accurately it has a porthole, so we get to see the water and waves splashing at us all during the voyage.

Location of the cabin is shown in this snip from a JPEG of the deck plans.  (I was trying not to use any outside source material for the series, but Mum and Dad never had any plans.  So I gleaned the plans from "The University of British Columbia" online library.  If you would like to see the full image, you will find it here.  Have a look around; there is a lot more to see there!


The cabin had a wash basin, toilet, shower, dressing table, a main berth and a double bunk.  Here's your young author getting ready for the night, whilst older sister "A" gets in some mirror time; she'll be getting the top bunk of course.  The porthole is just to the right of the dressing table, and younger sister "M" is the lucky one to get the crib.

Apparently the family spent the first three days in the cabin for the most part.  Once we got past Northern Ireland, we were met with Beaufort scale 6 conditions; strong breeze, large waves, and white foam crests.  No one was going anywhere or eating much.  Most of the ship was down with sea sickness so it was rather quiet.  There will be more on the weather conditions in a future post.

So finally the sea (and tummies!) have calmed.  We are fit for touring the boat, so here is the family all nice a fresh.  That's me on the left in short trousers.  Mum is in the middle with sister "M" and sister "A" is on the right.  All pretty in pink!

Here's Mum near the deck tennis courts on the Sun Deck, the topmost deck of the ship for public access.  Looking forward you can see the rear left side of the funnel and just the edge of the checkers.

One level down is the Sports Deck.  Here is an aft view with Mum and the 3 kiddie winkies.

The Sports Deck is also where you would board the lifeboats.  This is a view from the starboard side.  There were only 12 lifeboats; 4 were larger with canopies, as can be seen here.  With 105 First Class passengers, 877 Tourist Class, and 487 staff and officers (including the dancers...) for a total of 1469 souls on board, would there have been enough room?  Woman and children first!  Sorry Dad....

Next level down was the Promenade Deck.  Another aft view of just the edge of the deck.  Yep, England is far behind us now! 

Based on the calmness of the sea, I suspect these photos were taken well past the point of no return and we very close to Newfoundland or even already past entering the St. Lawrence River. 

Surprisingly no photos were taken inside the ship, and the few I have here all taken in what seems to be the same day.  But there was more to do than walk the decks and keep an eye out for icebergs.  Next time we will discover what was on the menu to keep us all fed, when we could keep it down that is! 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Voyage of the Spammed - Part 2: "Departure"

It was time to say our final good byes to relatives and friends; those who remain behind.  The family is leaving England.  Time on the train en route to the Liverpool docks to read the ticket which will get us across the ocean.  Opening the ticket gives you the first series of conditions:

On the back of the ticket, the fine print continues:

But inside has all the details.  I have blanked the rest of the family names.

So we can see the name of the ship, date of departure, from and to, the cabin (which I will go into more detail in a future installment), and the fare.  That amount of 247 pounds would be 4915 pounds if taking the same trip today, which converts to $8,363.00 Canadian dollars as of this writing.  Was it a good rate for two adults and three kiddies?  No idea...

But we are now boarding the big boat; surprised my parents never took any photos of this part of the journey (as they usually took photos of everything else!).  To help us with the transition and a preview of the upcoming voyage, my parents have been given a nice glossy Passenger List booklet.

There are 8 pages in this booklet, full of fun facts and a complete listing of all on board.  There are two classes of passengers on the ship; first class and tourist class.  Tourist has the largest number of individuals and we are five of them...  I have not scanned in the complete list of names for privacy of the other passengers.  So when you open this 8" x 5" book, the first thing you see on the inside cover is a nice colour illustration of the "Empress of Canada".

I have not been able to make out the artist's name, but the location is identifiable.  It was "taken" somewhere on the St. Lawrence Seaway, as can be verified by the "Fleur-de-lis" flag on the lower left side of the painting.   We also get informed as to how much this ship weighs!  

Moving on the book itself, the title page:

More fun facts!  A brief synopsis of the ship, and the officers from captain right to the dancers(?).  What kind of ship is this....?  Next page is the 64-65 schedule of the White Empress Fleet, the sister ship being the "Empress of England".  This is also a cruise ship!

The next few pages are passenger listings.  Of course the first class get their own page (105 people actually...)  A few doctors and some other naval types.  And then onto tourist class.  When you reach the "centerfold", you get to see the route we are going to take.

No idea which of the two possible routes the ship took.  Guess it depended on the ocean conditions, weather, etc.  But I do remember seeing icebergs as we got closer to Newfoundland....  

A few more pages of tourist class, and then the last page.  

A listing of all Canadian Pacific offices throughout the world is the last page of the book.  The inside back cover shows the insignia of crew members.  Maybe do a bit of "Officer Spotting" whilst on the trip.  The back cover is nothing but the same navy blue as the front cover. 

The "Empress" has departed Liverpool and heading for Greenock.  Cabin M115 will be our temporary home for the next seven days.  Bon Voyage!  In Part Three I will explore the ship further, both above and below decks.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Voyage of the Spammed

It has been some time since posting, but the last several months were very hectic and life-changing.  I am going to take a detour from the usual format for a while to tell the tale of what was a pivotal moment for myself and the family.  But it does have to do with ships...

The recent passing of my Mum has kept me busy on the personal level dealing with the estate and the associated headaches and frustrations with the legal machine.  So in sifting through the immense amount of photos, (my Mum saved everything!),  I came across a very interesting stash of memorabilia, all to do with the time we said good bye to the homeland, and emigrated to Canada. 

Basically, it was all my father's idea.  (He passed away four years ago)  One day out of the blue, I was told he just outright said, "We are moving to Canada.  You can come with me if you like..."  At the time we were living in the quaint village of Lichfield, West Midlands, UK.  Lichfield's claim to fame is a very large and impressive 800 year old medieval cathedral.  Dad had done his National Service as a Senior Aircraft Man in the RAF (air frame mechanic on Meteors and Vampires and the like), and was now running an off-licence known as "Whitalls Wines"

Although the company still seems to exist, I can find no history prior to 2011.  Here he is in his "uniform" ready to keep the locals happy.  I have been unable to identify any brands on these shelves, but it was not just wines sold, there were other spirits and beers.  Here is the shop on Tamworth Street taken in 1963!

The early family (Mum, Dad, and sister "A") lived above the shop.  With another sibling on the way (me!) my parents bought a bungalow which overlooked a cricket pitch and had a beautiful view of the railway, where steam trains ran by many times.  Sister "M" arrived 16 months later.  Despite running the shop, Dad would also have to make deliveries and pick up stock.  The family "car" was also the work van:

A Morries J2 Commercial.  Right had drive and standard transmission of course, but only two seats.  So it wasn't like we would pile the family in and go for a drive or a picnic, but in the times I got to ride along, an improvised car seat....

No worries; I am firmly secured in the pram!  Amazing what was done in those days and yet we are all still alive today!  But Dad was not a merchant; he liked to work with his hands.  Before the shop and the service, he apprenticed (as you did back then in the trades) as a trim carpenter.  Dad was also a master modeller, who encouraged and taught me along the way.  He had heard from someone that skilled trades were needed Canada; I suspect my Auntie who was here already after marrying a Canadian soldier must have told him.  Calling Liverpool...

So the house is up for sale, personal belongings sorted and sold, the family dog and cat adopted, and the trip across the ocean booked.  Kids are getting immunized but only "A" is having to leave school.  I would have started next year.  But Dad is back from the west coast with a bright yellow 4" x 8" ticket.  It's a done deal.  On June 2, 1964, we leave Liverpool to Montreal for a seven day Atlantic "cruise" on a new Canadian Pacific ocean liner, the "Empress of Canada".  Bon Voyage!

That's it for Part One of "The Voyage of the Spammed"  (and yes, we did eat spam!)  Future installments will deal with the ship, pictures of the crossing, menus, entertainment, logs and other various memorabilia.  In researching for this blog I was curious about how the old shop on Tamworth Street looked today, as I have not been back since 1982.  In reality, not much different.  It never ceases to amaze me how much history is preserved in the UK.  Although I don't know why the pavement was up in front of the store....

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Scrap(book) Yard #6 - "The Future is out of Shape..."

Yes, it's been a while, but the yard is still open for business!  Although I have had no time for personal modeling, I still follow the genre.  Tonight's post is another article featured in the "Special Effects Modeler" magazine from 1979.  (See Scrapbook Yard #5)  This was only a two page feature on a Canadian film, "The Shape of Things to Come" which Brick Price Movie Miniatures was contracted for the model work.  More about the film later, but here is the original print:

Normally I would end this post here, but in re-reading the article I drifted off and began thinking about the other miniatures made for the film.  I am a little reluctant to admit I actually saw this in the theatre, way the hell back in 1979!  But it being a Canadian film, "The Starlost" had been cancelled 6 years ago, and nothing else sci-fi related at the movies that week, it seemed like a good idea at the time....

It was the late '70s, 1979, but the actual month is forgotten.  This was originally supposed to be a sequel to "Things to Come", a 1936 epic film about war, famine, and the rebirth of civilization.  (If you have never seen it, I urge you to check it out.  It is one of the ten greatest sci fi films of all time!).  I think poor Herbert George must still be spinning in his grave from this one!  The only real connection are the names of two characters,  evidently descended from the savior of mankind, John Caball.  

It's a basic comic book plot with evil dictator on Planet Delta 3 planning on taking over the last survivors of Earth who have retreated to large domed cities on the Moon.  Our poor home planet has taken yet another beating after rising from the ashes, this time a robot war. The population is now dependent on a drug, Raddic-Q-2 which cures the radiation sickness caused by this war.  Unfortunately the drug is only available on D3, so begins our tale....

Of course the quintessential baddie Omus is played by Jack Palance.  Who else could pull it off so well?  He has seized control of Delta 3 with his robot army and commands from the massive Citadel.

This miniature was about 5 feet tall.  Here is a top view:

I also remembered this film discussed in another magazine around the same time.  Here is the feature in Starlog #23.  It describes the destruction of this miniature.

A very familiar actor also appears.  It is four years later and he is back on the moon!  Another time; another place.  I would have preferred him to be in Season Two.  You know what I mean!

Barry Morse in John Caball, and he is a scientist (again) who has constructed the Star Scream.  This warship is can be seen on the first page with red background.  Here is a screen cap of the rear view:

Part of the fun I had watching this film was "shape-spotting", trying to pick out and identify the various kit parts used for the model.  The disc on the front of the ship is easily identified as the central hub from the K-7 Space Station model.  This section can also be separated to be used  to land on other planets.  Behold the image I refer to as "The Project UFO Shot"!

Another shot of the Star Scream on the launch pad of the New Washington moon colony:

The other major player in the miniature fleet is the Delta Three freighter, used to transport the mineral to the moon.  We got lots of swooping and overhead shots but very rarely was the model in full frame.  Here it is lifting off from the mining platform on Delta 3:

The opening of the film had this ship crash into the moon city dome.  About 15 minutes spent with long swooping shots building up to the impact.  To repair the hole in the dome, the besieged inhabitants send up the repair drones.

These swan-like ships trail behind them some sort of sealing mist.  Kinda Tholian Web style!  Now I have to mention some other elements of this film not related to the miniature work.  The locations include Ontario Place, which was meant to represent the future moon city.  Many shots feature the pods and Cinesphere (IMAX) as well as connecting corridors.  All external filming for both the radio active Earth and Delta Three were done somewhere north of Toronto.  No distinction between planet locales!  Of course there had to be obligatory robots, especially since evil baddie Omus has an army of these mechanical horrors.  

Hard to believe these are from 1979.  I think Robby or B-9 could have taken them out with one claw behind their backs!  Must have been a shock to some hikers or campers in the area!  And thanks ot R2, had to have the cutie robot.

This little fellow was salvaged from the robot who piloted the suicide run at the dome.  They name it Sparx, and it can, of all things, teleport.  Why they never exploited that plot point further I don't understand.  

Here is the closing shot where both ships fly off into the "sunset".  If you want to watch the film, I'm sure you can find somewhere on the internet where you can stream....

OMG!  I paid real money to see this!  Looking back I think there was only about 12 people in the cinema!  And it only lasted a week.   We didn't have the luxury of Rotten Tomatoes back then.  And if anyone is interested, I have a 27 x 41 official 1-sheet for sale!  Contact me if interested!

That's it from the Yard this time!  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Gunpla - Kobayashi Style

I have been a big fan of Anime for many years, first being introduced in the '70s to a show called "Star Blazers".  Since then its been pretty much out of control, with acquiring many kits from dozens of series.  The franchise know as "Mobile Suit Gundam" began way back in 1979, and still continues today.  Luckily Bandai has no problem with churning out plastic model kits of the many machine variations, so Gunpla (Gundam Plastic) was born.

In the early 80's I became aware of an artist, Makoto Kobayashi.  Not only a manga artist, he is also a master modeler, concept artist, and mechanical designer.  His distinctive style is easily recognizable, most notably in his distorted and bloated mechs.  His work can be seen in many series.  The Marasai, Bound-Doc and The-O in "Z Gundam", his own "Dragon's Heaven", machines in "Venus Wars", and "Last Exiles" to name only a few.  His many models have been seen in "Hobby Japan" magazine, as well as individual publications such as the "Hyper-Weapon" series and "AS Wars".  Rather than do a full bio I encourage you to pursue his work further; there are ample sources all over the internet.

So with Kobayashi on my mind, I looked for a suitable kit to convert and settled on a mobile suit from the 1989 OVA Gundam "War in the Pocket", the MS-18E Kampfer.  Actually a spacey mech, I decided to make it more down to Earth and put it in a desert environment.  So then it was many nights of scrounging for the perfect shapes, and altering the model accordingly.  I wanted this to be a walking battleship of the desert.  Eventually this evolved...

The finishing began with a basic coat of khaki from the Krylon Camo line.  A nice series of paint which dry quickly.  So far it has not harmed any of the plastic I have used and you can paint over it with both acrylics and enamels from several sources.  Thus was created the MS-18SK Desert Kampfer "Schildkrote": 

More guns than it can handle, but I use the philosophy of Jayne Cobb.  Start with the biggest gun and work your way down.  Schildkrote translates as turtle.  I thought this very apt because of the nice chunky appearance.  All of the large form shapes are acrylic scoops, spoons and tongs.  Thank you kitchen aisle of the dollar store!

The "radiator" on the back-pack is simply an acrylic honey dripper.  I carefully cut one in half, then quartered it.  There is also the other half under the rear "skirt"; not easy to see in most of the shots.

Any of you long term visitors may be wondering, where are the customary Kinder eggs?  They too are under the rear skirt but not so visible either.  After primary painting and accents, weathering was achieved with good ole pastels.  For the final display base, scenery materials, sculptured foam, and some dried Sedum heads for the sparse foliage.  In hindsight, it probably would have been a good idea to put some figures or vehicles in for scale, which is 1/144 by the way...

This is definitely not the last of the Kobayashi-influenced mobile suits.  As if it isn't enough, there are also the works of other artists such as Kow Yokoyama (SF3D), and Kazuhisa Kondo.  All with their unique styles.  Retirement cannot come quickly enough!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Bastards from Outer Space #3: "Terran Trade - Alliance?"

Recently I was very lucky at a local second-hand bookshop.  While scanning the many shelves of the sci-fi section and breathing in the aroma of thousands of old musty paperbacks, I happened upon an almost mint copy of "Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD", the first in the four book series of the "Terran Trade Authority" handbooks.  They are full of beautiful art tied together with fictional histories.  While carefully reading this gem from 1978, I saw a painting by Bob Layzell on page 53, the "Martian Queen"...

Its bulbous configuration with the outrigger engines was strangely familiar, but I couldn't quite place it, so on to the next page.  The next spacecraft was known as the "Intersellar Queen", and this ship was so impressive it garnered six pages with three paintings, but the one which hit home the most was the page 57 image.

This was by Angus Mckie, another artist I had been quite familiar with, especially with his contributions in "Heavy Metal" magazine.  I had also seen this particular craft in another similar book known as "Mechanismo".  Apparently this ship is known as the 'Hooded Swan', and was used on book covers in the early 70's.  I think because I saw the concepts so close together is what triggered the memory.  Anyone see where this is going?  From the 2002-2003 (cancelled way to soon...) series "Firefly", the ship known as 'Serenity':

I like this shot because of the anti-grav train...  But it should be obvious now.  Outrigger drive engines, a very bulbous stern, and the very bird-like neck and 'head' of the forward section of the ship.  Apparently Joss Whedon was the primary concept designer for the ship, and I have a feeling he had a copy of the art book maybe about the same time I did.

What better 'parents' for yet another iconic spacecraft than from two artists from the Golden Age of British Science Fiction Art!