My earliest recollection of having a model was a gift bought at the 1967 Battle of Britain airshow at RAF Benson (or was it Abingdon?) - an Airfix SM79 Italian bomber which my father made and painted for me. The earliest kit I remember making myself was the ubiquitous Airfix Spitfire MkIX which my mother bought for me the day after I watched "The Malta Story" on TV. My reaction was "cor, a Spitfire!", whilst my brother's was "only a Spitfire?" (He is now a keen angler - our interests diverged!)
During childhood/teen years, my main interest was WW2 aircraft. If it wasn't propeller-driven, it was a boring subject. Jets were made on occasion, but they always sat on their tails and not the nose wheel. A few tanks were made too, but I always made my way back to my core interest. I concentrated on UK, US and German subjects, from the Airfix, Frog and Revell ranges.
After a break from the hobby in my mid teens, when music from T.Rex, Deep Purple, Bad Co. and, most significantly, The Jam, assumed great importance, along with a social life centred around The Swan at Ley Hill and Ley Hill Cricket Club (near Chesham, Bucks), I ventured in to a toy shop in 1985 when away with friends in Hastings. They were selling two Airfix kits for the price of one, so for a laugh I bought two (one was a Sopwith Pup, the other a Harrier GR3) and, lo and behold, here we are two decades later and in that time I have made countless kits and have served as both Treasurer and Secretary for the IPMS(UK)! It was somewhat surprising that my wife agreed to help make the Pup on our second date! (Chaps, don't assume all women would be so easy to please because as it turned out, aviation was in her family - her uncle was a flight engineer with an airline at the time, and her grandfather was Amy Johnson's mechanic.)
Before joining the IPMS in 1993, a kit could be assembled and painted in a day. The standard was, to say the least, poor. Seamlines were left in full view, paint was hand brushed, decals were given inadequate attention and when my wife suggested I enter something in the National competition I said "No, I don't think I'd be good enough". (Besides, at that stage I wasn't a member - I only knew of the National exhibition as result of being given a flyer when visiting Hannants' shop in London which mentioned the competition.) My instincts were proven correct - I visited the Nationals in 1993 and came away amazed and "gobsmacked" at what could be done. And all those after-market specialist items!
I joined the IPMS and started attending the Thames Valley ATC branch (now the Earley Risers) in 1994. Since then my modelling has vastly improved. I still do not think of myself as being to a competition standard - if I were it would only be if I had made one of the hi-tech/precise kits as produced by Tamiya or Hasegawa, or some Revell offerings. I am still stumped by older Airfix kits, or cottage industry products such as Aeroclub, though I make some of these because of the subject matter - I do like Aeroclub's Gnat T1, for example, and I have built one and have another in stock.
I still concentrate on aircraft, but now it tends to be just UK and US (though not exclusively), from WW2 to modern jets. Jets are no longer boring to me; they are machines of great power and excitement. I now spray paint and apply weathering. I have even been known to buy after market detailing sets and conversion parts.
In the few years I have ventured back into tanks and military vehicles. They are great fun, and as the join lines do not need the same attention as does the join along an aircraft's fuselage, they go together somewhat more quickly. The weathering is great fun, but I tend to copy others' ideas (but then I suppose that's the point of reading hobby magazines) rather than experiment myself. I really admire the armour modelers - some of their output is fantastic.
A kit takes about a month to complete (if I finished one in a day I would suffer greatly from jibes from my fellow club members). The stock of unmade kits has grown to ridiculous numbers, and the pile never seems to diminish. I have sufficient to last well into retirement. I just hope I survive long enough to build them all!
Click here to see some of Mark's models