This Is Me! – TIM’s Modelling Memoirs – Part 1

Not for the first time recently I have been feeling nostalgic.  Well, truth be told, I still am so I decided to do something about it, after all, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be!  That something turned out to be writing my Modelling Memoirs. 


So firstly, why the title – “This is Me!”?  Well a very recent and popular film musical by the name of “The Greatest Showman” features a rather poignant song entitled “This Is Me” and by a remarkable coincidence the first letter of each of those three words spells TIM!  Clever huh, and to think some of you probably think this shit is just randomly thrown together!  Then I thought, why not also incorporate a couple of photos of yours truly through the ages to either cement or shatter IRO’S image (and anybody else’s for that matter) of what I look like with my pipe, bedroom slippers and beige cardigan, so I have!

Now without further ado let me explain why I decided to jot this stuff down.

When I essentially retired 11 years ago one of the projects I got involved in was doing my Family Tree.  A great thing to do and something I shall pick up on again when my eyesight and ability to hold a brush steady finally get the better of me.  The reason I make mention to my family tree project is that when I was doing it I kept asking one question more than any other – “why?”.

Why did they move? Why did they die? Why did they live there? Why did they do that job?  You get the idea I’m sure.  So many unanswerable questions but nobody asked, nobody was told and nobody wrote anything down (mainly because they couldn’t write of course!).  I guess it could also be argued that nobody cared either.  But when you do care it is frustrating to say the least.  So, in the unlikely event that my kids ever wonder why and how I ever got into modelling I thought I’d write this so that they would know.

So as Julie Andrews (who?) might sing – “Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start …”

The Foundation Years  – 1957 to 1969 


Me in 1963 aged 6, butter wouldn’t melt …

As best I can recall toys of the late 50s and early 60s were for my older brother and I dominated by Matchbox (cars), Dinky (cars), Britain’s (figures), Airfix (figures and kits) and Hornby (trains).  We weren’t heavily into cars and trains so the Britains and Airfix catalogues were the main focus of our attention.  To be even more specific, we were into all things Wild West.

Star Wars which changed everything was light years away. The playground, TV listings and the cinema were dominated by Westerns and we loved them.  TV was black and white but you could always tell the bad guy because he wore a black hat while the good guy wore a white one.  Our heroes were John Wayne, Alan Ladd, Gary Cooper and Robert Mitchum along with countless others. We had cowboy hats to wear, guns that fired caps to shoot and could do what we liked all day as long as we were back by the time it got dark (usually earlier on the longer summer days because we were hungry and when a mans gotta eat a mans gotta eat!).  Everything we read was about the Wild West.  In short we were both fixated on the period and fell hook line and sinker for the legends and Hollywood myths.  Nothing has changed, we are still besotted but just show it in different ways.

Indoor play centred around our collection of figures. We had little in the way of lead soldiers but had loads of Airfix 1/72nd figures and Britain’s Swoppets.  The Airfix figures and the Swoppets were very different but little did I know at the time that  both would prove to be major influences in my years to come as a modeller.

The 1/72nd Airfix figures probably require very little explanation, partly because you can still buy them to this day exactly as they were all those years ago except for the packaging (I suspect production techniques may have changed too).  The figures were wide-ranging but the various sets included cowboys, indians, pioneers and the American Civil War.  My brother and I called them “Little Men” and it was on these figures that I cut my teeth painting.  Armed with a poor quality brush and a small selection of Humbro enamel paints I would spend wet days painting away and then later sitting back and admiring how I’d managed to turn a brand new plastic figure into a muddy gloss coloured one!

Swoppets on the other hand probably do require further explanation and rightly so because I think but cannot be certain that they had a major influence on some aspects of future figure development, in particular multi-pose and the concept of conversions.  They are probably best explained with the use of a few pictures.


The photo above is of four 54mm Swoppets as they would have been bought. They could be purchased individually or in sets.  There were only ever two series of figures for the cowboys and one series for the indians.  Each series consisted of six foot figures and six mounted figures.  The bodies for the foot and mounted figures were the same.  The first series cowboys hit the streets in the 1950’s so these little chaps are almost 70 years old.

The photo below shows how the Swoppets came apart.  You could even remove guns from holsters!


The next photo shows how the figures can be rebuilt to creat a new one from swopping the parts (hence why they were called Swoppets).


Now I’m no mathematician but I’m guessing that if you had all 24 cowboys and all twelve indians you could make up a fair few combinations.  My brother and I had them all.

Having introduced the world to Swoppets (they also did some WW2 soldiers too) Britains expanded the range to include buildings.  They brought out a jail, saloon, livery stable, ranch house and a bank which meant we could create even better setups.

So, between painting 1/72nd figures and creating setups using Swoppets the foundations were laid for my eventual passion to paint and create vignettes and dioramas as well as making my own buildings.  This unknown passion was to lay dormant for many years.

The non-modelling years – 1970 – 1984?

Me 1974

Me in 1974, just left school to start work, age 17

As I entered my teens and young adult life so my childhood was consigned to the past.  Toys were packed away and put in the loft or even worse, as was the case with my Swoppets, they were given away! (Thanks to Ebay I’ve since bought them all again!).

To old to play life became dominated  by football (soccer), girls and drinking (to be honest it was a fun time!).  Work then followed along with meeting she who must be obeyed and in 1982 I got married.  Nothing was happening whatsoever on the modelling front until a fateful day in 1988 which was to change my world.

… (To be continued in Part 2).


25 thoughts on “This Is Me! – TIM’s Modelling Memoirs – Part 1

  1. Sadly, I worked out the “TIM = This Is Me = The Imperfect Modeller” before you explained it! I can remember Swoppets, but I don’t think I ever had any, instead having quite a few of the (similarly styled) Timpo figures! This appears to be shaping up to be a real ripping yarn!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Less sad more great minds think a like! Timpo, I had some of those too as I recall. Ought to have mentioned that. A stagecoach, covered wagon and numerous figures. They came apart as well but we’re slightly less detailed. Having said that they all look very poor up against today’s models. Like everything, things move on!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I always thought TIM stood for Tiny Illiterate Man

    I know I’ve enjoyed something when it comes to an end and I’m actually sad. Like a Pint or a jar of Nutella. I can’t wait for part 2.

    The first photo of you reminds me of William from the “Just William” books. Do you know those?

    The second photo, don’t laugh, reminds me of my Dad a bit. He’s seven years older but he had the same hair cut for yeeeeeaaaaarrrrrs and he also rocked the BIG tie.

    I had Swoppets. Can’t remeber what sets but I remember my dad showing me that I could pull them apart and mix and match.

    I had plastic soldiers too. Heaps of them. I didn’t have the 1/72s until I can to Australia though. My grandma gave me a whole bag of them. There Napoleonic ones, US civil war ones but my favours were, what looked like, Rambo ones. I think they may have been Ghurkas.

    Hurry up with part 2, as long as your arthritic hands allow you to type. Or do you use slate and one of those metal scratch pen things?

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You get cheekier and cheekier! Actually TIM stands for Thats an Impressive Manhood but I’m to modest to mention that! Glad you enjoyed part 1, hopefully you’ll enjoy the next instalment too. I just need to get some more parchment and a new quill! I do remember Just William and back in the day we all had hair like that along with big ties, flared trousers and penny collar shirts plus a lot more besides, just ask your dad (the real one).

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I could have been cheekier but I actually held back haha. Funny how hair styles and fashion etc change over the years. When I was 16 I had long hair with an undercut haha. I also went through a stage of getting Mum to plait my long hair . Dad must have been well proud haha.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. “The second photo, don’t laugh, reminds me of my Dad a bit.” This keeps getting more eery! ;P

        What’s an undercut? In the 90s I had shaved all my hair except the top, and let it grow out. Not surprising, inspired by something Michael Patton had going on at one time. Now my hair is pretty much the opposite of that, lol!

        Liked by 4 people

  4. Swoppets were a bit before my time, Britain’s had gone onto the one piece casting by time I was getting into them. That is not to say I didn’t have a few from the old Jumble sale, but to be honest, I probably thought they were Timpo. I did have the Timpo stagecoach as well as the ACW gun team. Airfix was my first real foray into toy soldiers, both 54 and 20mm. I was never allowed the Japanese as my mother forbade them. Funnily enough I still have the guardsmen set in 20mm. Still in the crushed cardboard box lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I remember Timpo figures but forgot to give them a mention in my post. Airfix seems to be a starting point for many of us of a certain age but of course we didnt have the range on offer that we do today. Nice looking back even if it is with rose tinted glasses. Glad to see you still own some bits!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name…the second photo looks like you probably sung that contemporaneously 😁

    The funny part is I had a similar hairstyle in 1978-1980, until the Army of course. When I got out I tried it again, but by 1992 it was not going to have the same allure.

    Lovely read and ya left me wanting more. Never heard of swoppets!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Funny you should quote those lyrics as my brother is off to see the Rolling Stones at Wembley tonight, great song. I loved the 70’s, the music particularly but I don’t think the fashions will be revisited anytime soon! It was fine when we all looked the same. Glad you enjoyed the read, next installment next week all being well. Swoppets were a UK thing as far as I am aware.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for sharing TIM! Maybe because I was born a ginger, but I find freckles to be cute. Hated that I had them as a kid though. Anyways, 6 year old you, was quite the cutie!

    I never knew about Swoppets, but if we had those in the States, I might have been all over them. Of course, being a little younger, figures that I grew up with were Mego Superheroes, and then Star Wars took over everything. Such a major explosion and a great time to be a kid.

    Wish I was catching up on all my blog reading much quicker, but can’t wait to get to part 2! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m pretty sure Swoppets were a UK thing. They were cool in their day and a clever design for the period too. Dated now of course but like every generation we remember our toys with fondness. Start Wars really did change everything. Makes me wonder what if anything will have such an impact in the future. I’ve been very pleasently surprised by some of the comments on this article, I just hope part 2 doesn’t disappoint!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The world is changing, so I don’t know that anything will have quite the impact that Star Wars did back then. I think a big problem is just scope. We are bombarded with too much noise these days, with lots and lots of stuff competing for our attention. For one monolithic franchise to break through all that, is tough.

        I did spot kids playing “Star Wars” when the Force Awakens movie came out though. I was pretty shocked, as I hadn’t seen kids play acting any movies for quite some time. Whether you like the movie or not, it is kind of heart warming to see them embrace something that you loved as a kid.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Just seeing kids playing is great to see, sadly life is becoming far too serious for youngsters these days. Childhood appears to be a thing of the past when I think of the pressure school kids in the UK are under these days. Fun and humour are so important. You only have one life.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Great post Dave ,a lot off parallels with my youth except for the availability of figures no shops in my nearest town supplied any, and it wasn’t until mum went down to Melbourne when I was about six or seven and returned with some (12 ) WWII plastic Brits that just about made my best Christmas ever I truly can still remember the joy !
    After that the only way I could get figures ,and these were cowboys and Indians was to eat a nasty cereals called What else but OK”s made by Kellogg’s .At this stage I was the only child left on the farm as in those days my older sisters would be billeted in town to attend high school or sent away to boarding school in Melbourne . That was the problem ,only I to eat that big box just to get that beautiful cowboy or Indian in its large cellophane packet ( they later stopped putting toys in cereal boxes because they felt children might choke on them ,first stage of stupidness that we have now eh! )
    I might not have told you this but I’m mightily tiny and was tinnier back then so to eat all that shiitty cereal was going to take weeks , what to do ,of course what else would a farm boy do but enlist the help of my chooks (hens ) ,mum was surprised but I got away with it and ended up with about eight before dad sold up and moved to the city ,wow and all those soldiers in TIM THE TOYMANS , now that was the ants pants shop back in the days you are referring to Dave .
    The first photo could well be me ,just with less freckles and the second is my mate ,but he still has the same hair style ,I only met him at eighteen but I always want to ask him if he was born with it ! , at that age I was a Sharpie with shaved to and a rat tail twelve inches down the back , now that is the only way I could go ,except no shave needed .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great story mate, love it. I think the tales we have to tell will to some extent die out with our generation. We had to go to great lengths in pursuit of our hobby that current and future generations will probably never do. It honed our creativity that’s for sure. Not that the kids today aren’t creative, they have more at their disposal to be so than we ever did but they just get to express it in other ways I think. I’m beginning to get a little worried about how I remind one or two people of people they know. It’s got me wondering what my dad got up to when he was younger! I’ll have to have a chat with him. As for you being tiny, all I can say is its what’s inside someone that matters!


  8. Yeah mate I do think that our kids are creative as you say ,young WOOFER is a natural caricature illustrator something she is really good at, but has realised it doesn’t put the tucker on the table ,fortunately she has saved money and is still living with us in between Woofing so she can gain experience with folk until she decides what she wants to in life .
    As for the tiny bit ,I exaggerated that bit I would have been of normal height if I had been in WW1 ,but I would not want to change it ,like your self and the ginger hair it has made me the man I’m now ,able to take any comments any one wishes to throw my way .The thing I tell my girls is ,learn to laugh at your self and you will have lots of mates !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can relate to your daughter in the sense that my son wants to be a script writer. No idea how he can get into that industry as it’s not my field of expertise at all. Not my place to derail his dreams so I encourage and support in the best way I can, which basically means I pay for things! You have to have a sense of humour in this life and that starts by being able to laugh at yourself, just as you say. The women in your life have a wise man at the helm!


      1. Great that you are supporting your lad ,that’s all a good parent can do ,I’m fortunate that I had great parents that encouraged me to travel early in my life feel that helped with the wise bit Dave .

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I really love the posts how one becomes a hobbyist/modeller/painter. Thank you for sharing this!
    I too started with 1/72th “Little Men” that my father would fetch from the attic (the first ones were his) and give to me like long lost treasures.
    Great writting too, a joy to read!

    Liked by 1 person

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