Footage and Photos from Fitted 2021

I have the luxury of not needing to own a car, being within walking, cycling or public transport distance of the places I need to be most often- with car clubs for those occasional delivery runs too big for a pannier. So, if I do buy a car, the urge to have something custom will be strong. Luckily, there are show like Fitted to give me inspiration for what that imaginary ride might look like.

This year’s show was in Manchester Convention centre, so I grabbed my camera and phone, and headed over to shoot some video and take a lot of photos. As well as the video above, there’s a photo gallery on Flickr.

While I put more pennies in the change jar to go toward a full size car (and the electric engine swap that’ll be part of my customisation plan), I can apply some of the inspiration to the contents of the model stash. I’m sure I’ve got at least one Mini waiting to be built….

Fitted 2021

Around Ashton Again

Ashton-under-Lyne does not present its best face to you if you arrive by tram or bus. The new bus terminal is more attractive than the one it replaced, and it does a good job of hiding the back side of the shopping centre, but you’ve still found your way there past soulless big-box stores and venues. The more interesting part of town is on the other side of the Escher inspired maze of the shopping centre.

The market square and market hall lead you on to a small grid of streets, well stocked with interesting finds.

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Of course, when I say interesting, I mean to me- so it’s all old facades, abandoned stuff, and a surprising number of dead nightclubs.

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The Hudson Bay is even more exclusive now it’s shut down and no-one at all can get in.

Club Denial

Club Denial can’t accept that it’s now a small supermarket.

Tameside Hippodrome

The Hippodrome survived a century, but something between 2004 and now has led to its closure.

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I’m not sure what Slotworld was before it was Slotworld, but it’s not Slotworld any more, either.

I wandered for a while, and was back a couple of days later to get a couple more pictures. There are more photos in the gallery.

Now, which satellite town should I visit next?


Shalom Christian Church

Shalom Christian Church

It’s only in the last few years that I have been introduced to the concept of the “estate pub”- basic brick buildings providing booze in newer build areas. Functional, but far from attractive, many of them never got the chance to age into the character you expect of a good boozer, having been demolished already.

The Shalom Christian Church building has the look of estate pub thinking applied to a place of worship.

Shalom Christian Church

The “ramparts” at each corner provide more of an architectural flourish than most estate pubs were blessed with. Combined with the barbed wire along the roof line and the brieze blocks on the inside of the windows, it has an air of a fortress about it.

Shalom Christian Church

The biggest surprise- to me- was that the building isn’t as abandoned as the barricaded windows made me think. Walking past it yesterday morning, I was surprised to find the door open for the regular Sunday service. I didn’t look inside- that would have felt like prying (and I hadn’t had any breakfast yet, and was in a hurry to find food).


Letting the sun set on Solstice

Last month, I unpublished one of my books. Solstice is no longer available to buy.

I’ve stopped selling books before, but there’s a bit of a tale to this decision. It needs to start with the story’s inspirations, and what happened in it. I’d put a spoilers warning here, but you can’t buy it any more, so let’s dive straight in.

Inspiration is a wonderful thing. Sometimes stories come from a single idea. More often- for me- a bunch of thoughts combine, and I’ve got something to build from.

Solstice came from three directions.

The first was an urge to create something akin to 24- a fast moving, time limited challenge for my characters. It was going to be a Rain & Bullets story, so the crime needed to have an immediate and further threat related to it.

Next, there was the news that the government wanted to outsource management of youth detention centres to private providers. Given the history of this sort of thing, the inevitability of corruption or incompetence harming children was obvious. For a crime story, it’s the corruption and harm that I would be concentrating on, so what form would that take?

As Solstice started to come together, I was becoming aware of the then starting Operations Yewtree and Midland. The threat of a ring of child abusers with powerful connections was compelling, and very “ripped from the headlines”. If those powerful connections had access to children, then there was the danger and harm for the story.

The story came together quickly from there. As the Rain & Bullets regulars investigated a murder with ties to corruption after the invasion of Iraq, a young woman and her activist friend are trying to rescue her nephew from detention. They have a suspicion that something very wrong is going on, and as they find out what it is, they’re heading for collision with Kay and Irwin’s case.

All good ingredients for an action adventure, and I’m very happy with the structure and pace I managed to give it. So why have I deleted it from the back catalogue?

Shortly after publication, it started to become clear that the claims of a VIP paedophile ring all originated from the testimony of one supposed witness. His stories fell apart one by one, until he ended up on trial for the damage they had caused.

Still, Solstice was a solid story. I figured I’d still leave it out there, though. What harm could it do?

Then, along came QAnon, and its bizarre British mirror image – the SRA hunters.

SRA stands for Satanic Ritual Abuse. It isn’t a new fantasy, the Satanic Panic of the eighties and nineties damaged countless lives because of unfounded tales of mass abuse. The professionals who deal with children have learnt a lot from it, thankfully, and now know how not to lead children into creating tales that confirm the interviewer’s beliefs. There are, however, far too many amateurs unwilling to learn anything, who happily fall for fantasies that align with their prejudices.

As an indicator of how far-fetched SRA is, not-friend of Spinneyhead, long-time fantasist, petty bigot, and, now, convicted harasser of the judiciary, Richard Carvath has staked his non-existent reputation on pushing it. It definitely made me uneasy about the premise of Solstice, that it could be getting too close to the beliefs of folks like him.

The final nail in Solstice’s coffin was an event last year, when Carvath’s latest bigot-crush travelled to Wales to kidnap a child at knife point, only being caught several hundred miles away. The child, of course, was allegedly a victim of SRA. A different reason, but so close to the plot of Solstice that it made me uncomfortable.

Luckily, no-one was hurt during the kidnap. But it’s too short a step from rescuing children from Satanists (or lizards, or whatever) to deciding they’re so corrupted that the only way to save their souls is to kill them. As the details came out about the event, I decided I no longer wanted to have a book out there that could, even slightly, feed into the SRA fantasy. I don’t want to have accidentally written a Turner Diaries for kidnappers.

So, Solstice is gone from the Rain & Bullets series, and is no longer available. You can, however, still buy my other books, and those of Garth Owen.


To and from a COVID Jab

Vaccination wander
Photos from a wander to and from my first Coronavirus vaccination.

Yesterday was the first of my Covid vaccinations. As I’ve worn a groove between the flat and work over the last few months, and barely deviated from it, this was something of an expedition. So I took a few photos, and visited some spots that weren’t directly on the route*.

Today, I have a few aches as the vaccine teaches my body how to fight off the real thing, but none of the fever-y and flu-like symptoms others have reported. I’m working from home tomorrow, just in case.

Hopefully, the Flickr album is embedded above. If you can’t move between photos, click through to see them all.

*Don’t worry, I didn’t go mad. A mask was worn in shops and on public transport, and I maintained a safe distance. And, as the photos will show, a lot of the wander was through practically deserted parts of town anyway.


Flashback- Time Trumps

As the Trump presidency tumbles down in its final days, I thought you’d like a trip back to a more innocent time, when I wrote this piece of silliness in anticipation of the orange one’s inauguration.

Hopefully, the Biden inauguration will go off without a hitch. But Trump is going to be furious if it gets higher ratings than his. Which is likely, given his efforts to turn it into a racist version of White House Down.

January 20th 2017

It happened just as President elect Donald J Trump went off script whilst swearing his oath of office. A figure appeared from nowhere, gun hand outstretched toward The Donald, finger already pulling the trigger.

She had come from the future, her mission- to kill the President before, on January 25th, he nuked Latvia to prove the country’s Prime Minister wrong and show that his fingers were long enough to press the atomic button.

Even before the bullet had left, she was joined by dozens, maybe hundreds of other assassins. With everything from lasers all the way down to clubs, each of them had come back with a specific mission- eliminate Trump before he could carry out the action that blighted their particular future.

It was one of the lasers, by an almost immeasurable fraction of a second, that got the job done. Which triggered the second wave of temporal assassins. These were dedicated to cutting down Mike Pence before he could institute his plans for homosexual re-education camps and sexuality snooping.

Into the middle of this already confused mess came a pair of twenty-second century Men’s Rights Activists. Angry at the unfair advantages equal wages gave females and the sissification inherent in paternity leave, they had decided to travel back and kill the first female President. Incompetence had shunted them sideways as well as backwards, but they never found that out, as they were burnt to a crisp by one of the many flamethrowers present.

With so many bodies and temporal anomalies overlapping, a critical mass was formed. A gore explosion was followed by collapses in the fourth dimension. Time went crazy.

Washington is now the flickering city, to look at it is to watch a jump cut time-lapse of the city’s past and possible futures. Buildings and people appear and flash away randomly, as the time-line tries to knit itself back together.

The inauguration was ground zero, but the effects have radiated out, and there are pockets of temporal instability all over the world. There are pockets where you can step into the past and pull people and things back. The USA is currently being run by the dream team of Kennedy and Lincoln, snatched up just before their assassinations.

It’s a crazy world, ripe for adventures and wacky hijinks. Annoyingly, I can’t think of any silly stories to tell in it right now.


The attempted coup will be Tweeted

Soon-to-be-former-President Trump is currently failing bigly to overturn the result of the US election. Which is good, because there were times earlier this year when I thought we were living through the prequel to one of my novels.

Sounds of Soldiers was started on November 1st 2008. Whilst not stated explicitly in the story, the back-story was that McCain and Palin won the election, McCain keeled over from the stress, and the (then) worst person imaginable became President of the USA. The culture/civil war that ensued affected the rest of the world, as US troops ran amok in Europe.

Luckily, Obama and Biden won in 2008, and it wasn’t until 2016 that the US got its worst President ever.

Sounds of Soldiers wasn’t finished during NaNoWriMo 2008, as planned. But I wrapped it up in 2009, and published it in 2010. It remains one of my favourites of the books I’ve published, and is available in paperback or for Kindle from Amazon, or- if you don’t want Bezos to get any more money- you can find it on Smashwords and other online book shops.


A blast from the past goes to prison 1

Just over a decade ago, I decided I was going to follow the 2010 General Election on the blog. In a post on three particular Manchester constituencies, I introduced a character who would go on to make further appearances on Spinneyhead.

Last, and certainly least, is Richard Carvath. He’s standing as an Independent, on the More Self Righteous and Homophobic Than Anyone Else platform judging by his blog. Everything’s a conspiracy, it would seem, intended to turn our children into French speaking Muslim homosexual perverts or something.

Dick provided an insight into a certain type of bigot. His posts made a lot of noise, but shed very little light. They provided enough content worthy of criticism or mockery that I gave him a category of his own, nested under the wider banner of Idiots. He was clearly unwell, and I didn’t just mock him, but kept pushing for him to get help.

The delusions of being a politician faded, and Dick disappeared for a while. When he returned, he had decided he was a journalist, and most of my interactions with him were on Twitter.

The Carvath school of journalism consisted of trying to interfere in court cases, mostly by trying to intimidate witnesses and complainants. This escalated. I reported him to Twitter multiple times, and the Police at least once.

I won’t go into the details of the case that proved Dick’s downfall. Unlike him, I believe in protecting the children involved. He was found guilty of harassing a judge earlier this year. I would have written this piece then, but he promptly disappeared, failing to turn up for his sentencing hearing and claiming to be out of the country. When he was found by Police, in Manchester, it was still a few more weeks before he was sentenced. But I can now say that he’s a couple of weeks into a twenty week sentence, the maximum for what he was convicted of.

It’s not a surprise that Richard Carvath’s tale- this part of it anyway- ended with him doing time. The shock is that it didn’t happen sooner. I’d like to think he can learn his lesson whilst inside, and come out with some insight into how wrong his beliefs and actions have been, and a plan to reform.

But experience tells me he won’t.

Update

Somehow, Dick is out already, after serving only a few weeks of his sentence. And I was right, he hasn’t learnt anything. If anything, he’s worse, talking about starting a crowdfund for a private prosecution to continue his harassment in the case above. He’s also jumped to the defence of another SRA fantasist, who’s been arrested after kidnapping a child (possibly at knifepoint, details vary).

This story will drag on, I can tell.


Not Coming Back

I’m getting out more, now. Not rushing out to pubs and all that stuff, but leaving the flat for more things than just going to work or shopping for food.

After last week’s jaunt, I decided to go for another bike ride around Manchester City Centre. This time, I thought I’d pay respects to three Manchester venues that this week announced they won’t be re-opening.

In reverse order of their importance to me-

Nexus RIP

Nexus Art Cafe has been one of my favourite coffee shops for years. I’ve gone there to write, do life drawing, and meet friends. It was a quirky semi-basement space, which hosted art exhibits and all sorts of other events. A not-for-profit, it was run by a Christian group that displays all the best qualities of religion- caring, inclusive, and all round decent. I’ll miss it, and I hope something as lovely rises from the ashes.

Deaf Institute RIP

The Deaf Institute. Two bars and a mid-sized music venue. I’ve drunk in there a few times, but may only have been to one gig. I would have liked to go to more….

Gorilla RIP

I don’t know if I’ve ever been in Gorilla. I’ve been too broke for too many years to do the gigging I wish I could.

I’m sure these buildings will be taken over by new management, and the new venues that are created will hopefully be as good. It just sucks that they had to end this way.

I have a job now, and a bit more disposable income, so I’m going to do what I can to get the cash flowing for other local small businesses. After I’d taken my photos, I took the time to go buy some stuff in Fred Aldous and FanBoy Three, because I don’t want to be posting photos of their locked doors in a few months time, saying how much I’ll miss them.

Update: Embedded Nexus’ farewell Facebook message below-


The big list of figure model makers and suppliers- 2020 edition

From the Spinneyworld blog:

A few years ago, I wrote a post listing all the model figure manufacturers I could find sites for. I updated it in 2013, and it’s now time to do it again.

One of 2020’s aims is to build and paint more figures, to improve my skills, so this is as much a placeholder for me as a resource for you.

Alternative Images – USA Film and fantasy resin kit figures. Some dead image links, so I don’t know how up to date it is.

Alternative Armies

Ancient and Modern Models

Andrea Miniatures – One of the world’s premier figure manufacturers. You can get Andrea figures on Amazon.

Armorcast – USA Fantasy and Wargame figures

Army Bits

Artomic Studios

The Assault Group

Miniaturas by F. M. Beneito – Spain Historical Miniatures specialist

BNA Model World – Australian model shop. More than just figures.

W Britains – Military figure manufacturer

Bronze Age Miniatures. 28mm and 54mm figures, mostly for gaming.

Brother Vinni

CP Models

Creative Beast. Mostly dinosaurs, but some fantasy figures.

Crusader Miniatures

Le Cimier – France Military Figures, tools and reference books

Denizen Miniatures – 1:43 motor racing figures- drivers, pit crew, etc, – and 90mm fantasy and sci-fi figures.

Devils Own Resin An interesting selection, but no obvious buying links.

Dragon Models – USA Home page of Dragon Models.

Dream Master Creations – USA Erotic resin figures

Drum and Flag

The Dunken Company – figure casting supplies and moulds.

Dutkins’ Collectables – Among the many products sold by this company are figure models.

E2046

Elan13

El-Greco Miniatures – A shop with a wide range of companies stocked. I have bought from them in the past, and will do so again.

El Viejo Dragón Miniaturas – Spain Historical Figure specialists

Empress Miniatures

Essex Miniatures

Eureka Miniatures

Fields of Glory

Firing Line Miniatures.

Fontegris Miniatures. The Fontegris site has been taken over by a beauty product retailer. This is a list of their products at Noble Knight games.

Footsore Miniatures and Games

Friendship Models

Frontline Figures – Beautiful 54mm award winning collectible figures!!

G-Force Models

Germania Figuren 1:72nd figures in resin and pewter, as well as 3D printed items in various scales and even 3D files for home printing.

Gremlins in the Garage! – USA Welcome to Gremlins in the Garage the first webzine dedicated to figure kit modeling

Ground Zero Games. Gaming miniatures and fantasy figures.

Wayne “The Dane” Hansen – Figure Kits and Sculpting Supplies

Hassle Free miniatures Gaming figures and accessories. Great figures, mostly in 28mm. I own a few, and love the company’s sense of humour. The models are great sculpts, and tongue was firmly in cheek when most of the names were thought up.

HaT Industrie – HäT Industrie produces 1/72 and 1/32 scale soft plastic military miniatures or toy soldiers. Our goal is to produce a line of figures not produced by any of the past or present manufacturers.

Heresy Miniatures

Historex Agents – UK Historex Agents represents over 70 different companies, specialising in connoisseur model soldier kits and AFV conversion set

Hobby Search – buy direct from Japan

Image Anime – USA General Anime kits and figures

Jimmy Flintstone/ Dr Flintbone Primarily manufacturers of hot rod and custom car bodies in resin, Jimmy Flintstone also produce figures to complement the vehicles. Dr. Flintbone is the more adult arm.

Kaiyodo – Japan Star wars, Godzilla (original) and Anime figures.

King & Country – Design and manufacture the most amazing (and affordable) range of toy soldiers, miniature figures,military vehicles, model aircraft and buildings in the world today! All our products are hand-made and hand-painted to the highest professional standards.

Kings X Toy Soldiers – Models from various toy soldier manufacturers, plus an exclusive range of Alamo figures

Legends – Kits, accessories, reference materials, Japanese si-fi & anime, from all over the world.

Magic Sculp

Magister Militum

MBM Models – Holland Military, Sci-Fi and Fantasy fig specialists

Micro Mark – tools for the serious modeller

Mic Shaun’s Closet – Plastic figures from many periods to include Napoleonic, American Civil War, Alamo and World War II from a variety of manufacturers.

Minutemen Toy Soldiers – USA Military figure kits and gaming specialists

Mithril Figures – Ireland Mithril was founded in 1987 and has been dedicated since then to the creation of miniature figures, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth as portrayed in his famous works “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”.

MK35

Moebius Models. Licenced re-releases of old Aurora kits.

Monsters In Motion: A Sci-Fi Gallery – Welcome to Monsters In Motion, the world’s greatest gallery of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror & Famous Movie Personalities as finished statues and model kits for the hobbyist and collector.

Mooncrest Models

Mr Dandy

Nagleworks

Otherworld Miniatures

Paleocraft – models of extinct animals

Perry Miniatures

Pegaso Models – Italy Manufacturers of 54mm, 75mm, and 90mm figures.

Prince August Factory Shop – Ireland Military figures for the collector, together with moulds and Chess sets

Quarter Kit – France White metal and diecast military miniatures

Reaper Minis – Minis, paints, and more.

Resin Crypt

Resin Realities

Ronin Miniatures – Based in Ukraine, and trading through an Etsy shop, Ronin produce figures primarily in 54mm/1:32.

S & D Models

Saratoga Soldier Shop – USA Pewter Civil War and American revolution figures

Shiflett Brothers

Sideshow Inc – USA Site specializing in liscensed figurative vinyl/resin model kits and collectibles based on some of todays leading artists, including: Clive Barker, Bernie Wrightson, Tim Bradstreet, Frank Kelly Freas, Brom, and Bill Stout.

Der Sockelshop German webshop stocking Modern Armies In Miniature, and others.

Spectral Motion Inc – This company sells some amazing horror figures!!

Spectre Miniatures

S & S Models – UK 1:76 scale model figures, games and accessories

Stockade Miniatures, Inc – USA “Soldiers of the World” figures, plus metal and plastic figures from a variety of manufacturers

Styrene Studio – Excellent resin figures

Tedtoy Miniatures Online – USA Civil War Military figure specialists

The Toy Soldier Company – The Toy Soldier Company featuring the sales of toy soldier figures, sets, books and accessories

Valiant Enterprises. Figures and wargaming miniatures.

Wargames Foundry

Watson Sculptures and Models – Dinosaur, Ancient reptile and Prehistoric figures and models

Zotz – Mexico Glamour and Erotic figure specialists