Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Unfixed And Finally Unstuck ...

As we speak, grown men all over this planet are wiping away a tear, a tear from a lost childhood. From a time when they had no idea as to what the world held in store for them, nor did they care. As they learnt the ways of mankind, young boys would spend happy carefree hours in pursuit of their dreams, with a hobby that could turn any hyperactive monster into a calm, clear thinking individual - a near pacified state was attained when this youngster was gluing, painting and building an Airfix model aircraft. This was the one thing that had boys hooked.

The company responsible for inducing such home-grown serenity has now gone the way of a tube of unsealed glue - Airfix has gone into administration. For those of us who grew up in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the magic box with the red logo held the treasures of a world full of fascination and heroism, derring-do and adventure. Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lancaster bombers, Heinkels and Messerschmitts ... you name the model and it was guaranteed to keep a small boy in a state of concentrated nirvana.

In 1939, Hungarian businessman Nicholas Kove founded Airfix in the UK but it didn't 'take-off' until after the second World War when, in 1949, the company was commissioned to create a model of a Ferguson tractor. Moulded in acetates, the model was assembled in the factory and handed out to Ferguson sales reps as customer give-aways. Airfix discovered that it could make more cash by selling the kits in shops.

Their range of models grew and Airfix soon became the leader in the plastic kit field. The Spitfire was launched in 1955 and post-war Britain loved it. Even kits from other manufacturers became known as "an Airfix" - the trade name had become synonymous with model building. But Airfix was transfixed with the Second World War with their final hanger doors closing on 1277 Military aircraft as opposed to 28 Civilian. Boys and their planes were inseparable as mock bedroom battles took place with planes, tanks and whole infantry divisions fighting it out for world domination. Unlike board games, model aircraft helped youngsters develop their imagination and to understand how to deal with the enemy.

At night, the lad would lie in bed, as above, his assembled 'big wing' were suspended on strands of cotton. There is a whole generation that owes much to Airfix and their copy-cat manufacturers. Another form of 'The Battle of Britain' continues today between different types of aircraft. The RAF Museum in Hendon sells 1000's of aeroplane kits every year and says that the Airfix Spitfires outsell all other aircraft in the museum shop "by 10 to 1".

Modern day toys (trigger-happy, CD-ROM computer games) tend to be aggressive and could, according to experts, breed violent trends later on in adult life. Others would say that there is no evidence to prove it. The closure of our beloved Airfix is "terrible news" but it has to be said that Airfix has been losing ground to computer games for many years. The company has also stopped introducing new kits and has simply been repackaging old ones. Their prices have also risen sharply.

Airfix's plastic kits have since moved on from being toys and have since been elevated to their new status as collectors' items, many to be found on eBay and other online auction rooms. Airfix itself is now part of our history - as historic as their model subjects as distant as our childhood memories.

But, wait a minute! Wipe away that salty droplet ... the good ole USA has come to the rescue! Well, not financially, but they seem to be offering a replacement for today's model-hungry child. Make way for 'Draft-Dodger Dubbya'! Complete, dressed in his "Pop, I don't wanna go fight in Vietnam" National Guard uniform and several changes of underpants, this new anti-action figure will bring hours of boredom to any child. Watch as the new plastic hero in your life just sits around and does bugger all except making terrible decisions and invading places he can't even spell. Unlike other models, this one is supplied with lots of glue for his sticky little fingers. Put him in his swivel chair and let him go ... round and round and round and round and round and round and ... going nowhere. Buy now and get an 'In Over My Head' T-shirt, a Stetson logo lapel badge and a 'Redneks Rool' car bumper sticker!

Your child will be captivated for literally ... minutes ...

Stu

Coming soon, Barbie 'Condie' - one hairstyle fits all and with that 'lemon sucking' expression and a never-ending supply of figure-hugging tweed skirts, she'll be a guaranteed hit with 'Draft-Dodger Dubbya'. What a team! (also available as an African-American)

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