Posted by: Andrew | April 3, 2010

Half Built Spitfire

There hasn’t been a post on the blog for several days because we have had the painters in to decorate most of the downstairs, and part of the upstairs too.  We are planning on moving to Ottawa in the summer and so we wanted the house to look nice before we put it on the market.  The new paint scheme has been chosen to be as inoffensive as possible!

However, the upheaval has meant a lack of time to do blogging.  I have managed to steal some time here and there to build my Airfix Spitfire.  It has been thirty-ish years since I last built a plastic model, and so it has been a re-learning experience.  I am quite pleased that some of my modelling skills seem to have been retained, although I am less pleased with my eyesight, which clearly (or not!) is on the downhill slide.  I’m having my eyes checked out in a couple of weeks. I expect my contact lenses my need replacing, and I might need to start wearing glasses for close-up work.  Reading is no problem, but try painting 1/72nd scale components on the aircraft.

The other nice thing is, I can now afford to buy all those useful things which make modelling easier, such as filler putty, very fine sandpaper, needle files, good quality acrylic paints and nice brushes.  When I was younger, I could just afford the kits and a few tins of paint.

I’m making the kit up out of the box (OOB as they say) in an RAF western desert camouflage paint scheme, which looks rather eye-catching.  Having done a bit of research on the Spitfire over the internet, there are one or two things which aren’t quite perfect about the kit, but unless you are an expert, you won’t notice. (The wing cannon blisters are the wrong width, the carburettor intake is wrong and there are overwing wheel blisters which shouldn’t be there – but you all spotted those in the photo didn’t you?).

Supermarine Spitfire IXc half-built

Supermarine Spitfire IXc half-built

Thanks to Light of My Life for taking the photo with her dSLR.  She can do a much better job of photography than I can.  In the photo the propeller is wonky because I haven’t glued it in place yet!  The canopy is also just there for show and still needs some refinement of the apint on the frames.  The construction was actually pretty straightforward, and the fuselage and wing sections mated together very nicely.  I used a little filler round the trailing wing roots, and on the tail, but it was a good fit (much better than Airfix kits of yesteryear), and the wings have that nice dihedral on them characteristic of a Spitfire (7 degrees upwards – it’s actually a reverse gull wing). I am impressed by the kit so far, it certainly looks like a Spitfire.  The main difficulties were actually very trivial – I couldn’t find the gunsight for ages because I didn’t realize that it was a transparent component! The only parts that didn’t fit together well were the spinner boss and hub, which needed a couple of rounds of filling and sanding.  I’m using Tamiya acrylic paint, which washes out in water, so no more white spirit or turps (yay).  The main snag so far is the underside of the plane, which should be in Azure Blue.   Tamiya don’t do a paint in exactly that colour – their closest match is the RAF blue-grey used for the uniform.  The azure blue is actually a surprisingly vivid colour, and to mix out of Tamiya colours I need to use the existing blue, white and a dash of purple, which I don’t have yet.  Another trip to Hobby World beckons. I’m painting with the “hairy stick” – an ordinary fine sable paint brush.  An airbrush would be nicer to give a softer demarcation line on the brown and sand colours, but that is an investment for later (although it is my birthday soon….)

If you want to see a real expert build one of these kits, take a look at Magnus Fridsell’s building report…

His model is the same aircraft, but with the alternative underside colour – a much lighter blue.   Somehow I don’t think my effort is going to match his…  He also makes a second Airfix kit, the Spitfire PR XIX, a photo-reconnaissance model, which looks very smart too

I’d like to make the alternative aircraft in the present kit, with the more recognisable dark grey/dark green upper surfaces, as a nice contrast.  The added attraction is that the aircraft is JE-J, the personal aircraft of “Johnnie” Johnstone, the top RAF ace of the war. I think Hobby World had another one in stock….

So, lots of things still to do, but a good start. It’s also very therapeutic after a hard day to do a bit of painting or gluing or whatever.  It’s quite a cheap stress relief technique.

Posted by: Andrew | March 25, 2010

Airfix Spitfire

Having been reading about Spitfires all week, I couldn’t resist the urge to go out and buy a model kit, so I could make one!  I used to do a lot of plastic modelling when I was (much) younger, and I am doing some again now, and number one son is also interested too.  I got him some simple kits for his birthday recently, and he is making a couple of models.  But now for the shameless self-indulgence (all $12 of it, courtesy of Hobby World in Saskatoon).

Here is a picture of the kit I got, it is a Spitfire Mark IXc by the British company Airfix.  Airfix is another national icon in the UK, a plastic model kit is often called “an airfix kit” regardless of the manufacturer.

This model requires the basic skill level one (very suitable for me!) and can be made up in tow different paint schemes.  The one on the box is the western desert version, with the aircraft flown by one of the Polish squadrons in the RAF.  It looks rather fetching with a desert tan/brown top and a deep blue underside, rather different from the usual colour schemes seen particularly in the Western theatre of operations.  I haven’t started making it yet.  As usual, there are lots of internet resources available, with a good online review here:

The reviewer certainly knows his stuff.  If you browse the internet you can find a lot of very earnest discussions going on about the relative merits of the various Spitfire models on offer. Personally, I will be quite happy if I can make a reasonable representation of the aircraft.  It won’t have to pass very close inspection, because number 2 son might get to it if it is easily accessible….  Also being a physicist by trade, I tend to look for something which is a good approximation for the real thing rather than an exact facsimile.  There are people measuring the length of the fuselages of their models and checking to see if the scale is correct.  As most of the measurements are probably only accurate to 1 mm anyway, this strikes me as being a little bit excessive.  I was also staggered to find out that you can now buy “add on” parts for these kits to superdetail the model.   The snag is that you can end up tripling the cost (or even more) by getting these add ons! My model will be strictly OOB  (out of the box, as the modelling jargon goes).  I will also be quite cavalier about the paint colours, it has to look reasonable, not be an exact match.  I will probably be excommunicated by the serious modellers  for stating such heresies, but it’s meant to be FUN!

Posted by: Andrew | March 21, 2010

Spitfire Parade

I’ve been reading the book Portrait of a Legend: Spitfire by Leo McKinstry in the last few days. I found it by accident while I was browsing through McNally Robinson, the best book shop in Saskatoon. It is a good read, and has some interesting observations to make about the aircraft, the design and manufacturing process and the pilots who flew the plane. One of the interesting observations is that the RAF could have had many more Spitfires available for the Battle of Britain if the production lines had been better run. That would have been an interesting “what if scenario” – posit an RAF with a dramatically improved capability. How would the Luftwaffe have responded? One suspects that they would have suffered terrible casualties and that would have accelerated aviation research in Germany in an attempt to regain air superiority. It might also have delayed Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union. Another comment is that the command and control organisation of the RAF was perhaps a little too decentralised. If Air Marshal Dowding had retained overall control of operations, instead of devolving it down to the Group level, the RAF effort might well have been better coordinated and able to respond even more effectively. It is quite an interesting counterpoint to the usual view that the RAF was very hard pressed and only won because of German strategic errors in changing targets, from the airfields to London.

Spitfire Mk2a

Spitfire Mk 2a

The book is very well written, in a journalistic style rather than an academic one, which is hardly surprising, as the author is a journalist, albeit with a history degree. As usual with this type of popular history, there are many short comments from eye witnesses included to give the perspective of the “ordinary person”. I did find the content to be a little unbalanced.  There is a lot of detail of the pre-war design phase , and on production and operation before and during the Battle of Britain, but much less on the rest of the war and postwar service. A highly recommended read, particularly if you are interested in World War Two, or the Spitfire or both.

Spitfire, showing the distinctive elliptical wing shape

Spitfire: the elliptical wings are the distinguishing feature in these early aircraft

I shamelessly borrowed the title of this post from Capt. W. E. Johns 1941 title in the “Biggles” series!

Posted by: Andrew | March 16, 2010

Bank accounts for non-resident UK citizens

If you read my post yesterday, I was writing about a discussion over on Dad’s EconomicDisasterArea blog. We got a bit off topic and started discussing bank accounts for UK citizens who are not resident in the UK. Here is my own experience.

When I lived in Berlin, 1988-90, I opened an account there with the BHI ( now Dresdener Bank, I believe). I kept my UK accounts with Midland bank (now HSBC!) but changed the address to my German one. No problem.

When I moved to Canada, I had accounts with First Direct (HSBC) and again I changed the address to my Canadian one, no problem. Again, I have Canadian accounts too.

Britain and Canada do have a tax treaty, so you only pay tax once. Phew!

Life is not so simple if you are a US citizen, as you have to pay federal taxes to the US government regardless of where you live. Eek.

Posted by: Andrew | March 15, 2010

Icesave and the Channel Islands

There is a good thread on Icesave over on Dadi’s blog, Economic Disaster Area.

This includes investors from Guernsey in the Channel Isles, who have been left out of the negotiations.

We have had several holidays on Jersey, the largest of the Channel Isles, so I am always interested in news from that quarter.

They are a remnant of the Duchy of Normandy, which was where William the Conqueror came from. When the Anglo-Normans lost their possessions on the (French) mainland, the isles remained loyal to “The Duke”, as the Queen is referred to.

Posted by: Andrew | March 9, 2010

Icesave Controversy: part 2

I got interrupted yesterday by having to put number two son to bed

I didn’t get to add the extra links for Icelandic news sources.

And I just lost the changes I had in draft…

Blog by Sigrun Davidsdottir, London correspondent for RUV, the Icelandic state broadcaster:

Nordic news site:

Some of the stories are pretty inconsequential, but the comments sections of the Icesave stories have some excellent contributions from a variety of Icelandic and British commentators. Look for comments by Bromley86, Bjarni, Easy and Fisy.

Posted by: Andrew | March 8, 2010

Icesave Controversy

I’ve been monitoring the news for the last few days about the Icesave dispute between Iceland, Holland and the UK.

The short version of a very complex financial situation:

In 2008, the Icelandic banking system collapsed. All three major banks went bankrupt and had to be nationalized. One of these banks had an Internet banking operation in both Holland and the UK, although legally, it was operating as a branch out of Iceland. There are European Union and European Free Trade zone regulations which cover deposits up to just over 20,000 Euros. Countries are supposed to have some form of deposit insurance system to pay out. The Icelandic version did not have sufficient funds in it to do so. The British and Dutch governments refunded their savers and demanded that Iceland pay them back for the insured amount (not the full amount deposited). The directives governing this are not clear on whether the national government is liable in the event of the insurance scheme not being sufficient. Legal opinion is divided too. To complicate things, the British government froze the assets of Landsbanki in the UK. The legal framework to do this is contained in the British Anti-terrorism Act. This was, quite understandably, not at all popular in Iceland, and a public relations disaster for the UK. The Icelandic government was forced out of office and a coalition government formed.
A deal of sorts was reached and a bill passed through the Icelandic parliament. In getting it passed, amendments were made to the original agreementvwhich were not acceptable to the British and Dutch. A second bill was then very narrowly passed which was acceptable to the British and Dutch, but imposed very onerous terms on the Icelandic people. Iceland is sparsely populated and so the per capital cost of this deal was very high. An electronic petition against this (possibly organized by the Opposition parties) circulated, with the result that the Icelandic President used a rarely invoked power to send this second bill to a popular vote.
In the mean time, another offer, somewhat more favourable, was offered by the UK and Holland. Thus the vote on the controversial law was already obsolete. The vote was yesterday, with over 90% of the voters voting “No”. Not surprising.

It is a very complex situation and there are some valuable resources on the web:

A great blog on current happenings:

Posted by: Andrew | March 1, 2010

Vancouver Olympics Closing Ceremony

In the Opening Ceremony, one of the four pillars failed to lift out of the floor to make up the Flame Holder.  This left Catriona Le May Doan, the Canadian Olympic Speedskater, with nothing to do during the lighting.  The other 3 Olympians lighting the flame were Steve Nash, Nancy Greene and Wayne Gretzky.

Catriona Le May Doan

Catriona Le May Doan

In a nice touch at the Closing Ceremony, the “missing” pillar was still down, but a mime came out of the underfloor space, made a show of plugging in a large power cord, and then the fourth pillar popped up into place, with Catriona Le May Doan on hand to light the flame this time.  She had been working for CTV, the Canadian broadcaster, but according to the commentators, had kept her role secret!

Here is a picture of the Opening Ceremony taken by Jmex, and posted on Wikimedia.  When someone has uploaded the closing ceremony pictures, I’ll upload the complete Olympic flame holder.

The Canadian flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony was, most appropriately, Joannie Rochette.   For Great Britain, well, there wasn’t much choice, it had to be Amy Williams, our sole (gold) medal winner.   Someone texting into the BBC live coverage suggested that “Great Britain” should be replaced by “Amy Williams” in the medal table….

Vancouver Opening Ceremony, 12th Feb. 2010

Olympic Flame in the Opening Ceremony

Posted by: Andrew | February 27, 2010

Canada Top of the Medal Table. UK not quite there yet!

After a good day for Canada, they are now top of the medal table, at least the way it is ordered in Europe, where the number of gold medals counts first.  In Canada and the USA, they just add up the number of medals, in which case the USA are in the lead.

Here is the BBC medal table for the day. The British look like not getting any more medals, as both curling teams bombed out yesterday and the 4 man bob had a nasty spill today.  I still think “Own the Podium” is a silly name.

Medal table 26th Feb

Medal Table 26th Feb 2010 (European Style)

Posted by: Andrew | February 26, 2010

“C’est pour toi, Maman.”, Part 2

She did it!  Joannie Rochette gets the bronze for Canada with another good skate.  It was a bit tense at the end, as she skated second from last.  The last skater was Mirai Nagasu from the USA,  who put in a very, very good skate indeed to get a personal best way above her previous one.  Then there was an agonizing wait for the final score.  Light of My Life was quite blubby. (Ahh!).  Normand Rochette, Joannie’s father looked very very proud.  Not a dry eye in the house…

The Gold medalist Yu-Na Kim, was coached by Brian Orser, a Canadian Olympic Silver Medallist himself.  (Memo to Skate Canada: hire him!).

Of course this will be overshadowed by the gold medal won by the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team. But it shouldn’t be…

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