Our annual expedition to Expo has become something of a tradition. I suppose I could find out when it started if I were to go back through MoB newsletters but, as a guess I’d say it was some time in the 19th Century, it seems to be so long ago.
It always happens the same way for me. Master Mark pulls up outside my place, I put a bag of kits that I’ve fallen out of love with into the car and climb in. Master Mark is always the driver, Master Wayne is his navigator (or interested observer when things don’t go right), Master Mick sits behind Wayne and I fill the vacant space. And away we go. Mark has always picked something interesting for us to listen to, most memorably was the year we had old American radio serials including The Shadow (who knows). Customarily Mark also provides me with a book on the life and saying of the great Greek philosopher Pythagoras because he feels I need that kind of help as I am going to Expo with the intention of buying and selling. Thus equipped we seem to reach Sandown in a only a few minutes.
Things did not go that way this year and discombobulated me right from the start and where I stayed for the rest of the day. Having sold off quite a lot of my unwanted stuff at our display day I didn’t have much of interest to put on our sellers table at the Expo swap n smell but, nevertheless, I had a bag to go into the car. But when I got in there was no Master Mick who had called in sick at the last minute. This was disturbing enough but then I discovered there was no Pythagoras to read to put me in the right frame of mind for the day. Instead, I had to gaze out the window at the world outside. It was wet and miserable, and even more miserable when we got to Melbourne. ‘How do people live here happily?’, I asked myself. The answer is, of course, that we keep Ballarat a closely guarded secret.
The trip became even more disturbing when Master Mark announced that he had devised a new route to get to Expo, more direct apparently without the optional extras of visiting unsuspecting car parks in the middle of suburbia. And this was so. We got off the freeway and headed up one of the suburban main roads until, without any confusion or drama, we arrived at the turn off to the Sandown racecourse.
It was raining when we got there. Usually there is a long queue of sellers with their bags and boxes lined up across the car park, chatting and comparing their wares. This year we all headed for a covered area upstairs and huddled in a state of semi-confusion waiting to be let into the hall. As a result there was less of the usual convivial banter that sets the tone for the day. Then, the biggest blow to my equilibrium, the swap n smell had been moved into a different hall – a bigger and more commodious one with plenty of space for people to walk around without the overcrowding we experienced in the previous room.
It is a step in the right direction as far as Expo is concerned, really, but it put me right off my game. It had been a morning devoted to confronting me with the unexpected, one or two changes can be invigorating but not a cascade of them!
This year Wayne and I put our small collection of surplus kits on our table and set off in search of new kits to fall in love with. I had a short list of things I might be interested in and saw none of them. I did manage to pick up another Revell A.310 for a mere $10, and a couple of other things, but overall the kits on offer seemed to be all the usual stuff that we’ve seen at swap and sells these past decade. Either I’m a jaded old modeller or the events of the previous couple of hours had disabled my enthusiasm, I looked over pile after pile of pre-loved kits with little of the interest and excitement I’ve had in previous years. I hope I’m not jaded, I’d like to think that the events of the day had just put me off my game.
Perhaps the prices that sellers are asking for their kits has something to do with it. Master Wayne, who is a student of such things, tells me that these days many of the prices he saw were comparable with the prices of new kits. All I know is that I was so desperate enough to buy something that I was tempted by a kit of a Citroen CV2 but when I looked at the selling price I put the kit back on the pile again. True, I did pay about the same price for a kit of the Boeing Stratoliner that I found later on, but one was the kit of an interesting airliner, and the other wasn’t.
Eventually the hall was thrown open to the great unwashed masses and they swarmed in. In this new, bigger hall, it took a while for them to work their way up to our far end, but eventually they made it to our area. Boy, there was a lot of them. It was crowded, not as thickly as in previous years but still enough that you had to barge your way through the crowd if you wanted to get anywhere. I’m told that the reduced population density also reduced the offense caused by some modeller’s lack of experience with hygiene products, it certainly wasn’t as pungent on our side of the table as it has been on some earlier visits.
Also evident was a lack of interest in most of the stuff on our table. Buyers would come to our table, fumble listlessly through our piles and move on. We both sold a few things but it seemed to us that most buyers didn’t know what they wanted and were just looking for some inspiration. I thought some of our kits were bargains and I reckon that if you can’t find inspiration in a nice resin kit of an A.310 you are having difficulties with life. There were some people wandering around with piles of kits under their arms or in bags they had thoughtfully brought with them. Some had wives or girlfriends with them who looked intensely uninterested in proceedings (perhaps they were there to supervise their male’s spending).
After about an hour and a half of this listlessness we packed up our stuff. This is the first time in years that the volume of what I purchased was more than the volume of what I sold so my bag was bigger on the way out than on the way in. Well, the Stratoliner and A.310 did come in big boxes. (You may have noted that I had an A.310 for sale and bought another one, which is an interesting tale I might get around to one of these days.)
Expo downstairs was pretty much as it has been every other time we’ve been there. There are people selling stuff around the edges of the hall and models on display in the centre, some of them in the competition and some of them in club displays. I heard later that there had been over 800 models entered in competitions and there were, as usual, over 100 trophies to be handed out, so a lot of people were to go home happy, if you like that kind of things. I personally enjoy the club displays more than the competition models. True, all of the work put into making models makes we wonder if we could not instead achieve world peace if we put as much effort into that project as we do into making models. On the other hand, perhaps making models is a kind of contribution to world peace, in its own way.
One of the club displays was on the theme of flying boats and there were some beauties, including the Amodel 1/72 Martin Mars which confirmed me in my desire to acquire one. On the other side of the aisle was another club display which included an immense 1/72 kit of a Saro Princess (1950s flying boat airliner), partly stuck together with tape which captivated me. Had there been a kit of it available then and there I would have whipped out my credit card. Fortunately it was not, and I have since calmed down a little and a modicum of reason has returned. Still, I did order a kit of the Martin Mars on the interweb and that is quite big, so I might have scratched that itch enough for the moment.
In my wanders around Expo I said hello to a few people, Wayne and I chatted to Frank Morgan and I had a talk with Peter of Hawkeye Models who sold me some more decal sheets of Australian airliners. Somehow, however, I felt overwhelmed by Expo, it was either too big to take in or lacking something to attract my distracted frame of mind. So, when Wayne and Mark and I decided it was time to head back to the civilization that is Ballarat, I was happy to leave.
Another tradition of our trip has been to stop for a late lunch at a large service station and eatorama on the highway near Rockbank. We did it again, and discovered that it had been invaded by hoards of leather lunged school children. The noise was deafening. ‘So, what did we think of the day?’ asked Master Mark, yelling to make himself heard. I thought about it. As usual I had enjoyed spending the day with good friends, but I had not felt any of the enjoyment at what we had seen or done that I had in earlier years. ‘Discombulated’, was all I could think of to say.