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One Small Step

I turned 41 a few weeks ago and on impulse I asked Debbie to buy me the One Small Step Airfix kit, the same one (more or less) that I built with my dad when I was nipper. My memory is pretty shaky at the best of times, but I have a clear image of sitting with him at the dining table carefully putting the Lunar Module together and then promptly breaking it after I was repeatedly told not to play with it. I felt terrible and then forgot about it. Spin on thirty-something years one day the kit pops up on Amazon as a recommendation and with it a childhood wound was reopened.

Now, I can’t be sure if Amazon have an algorithm that can delve in your childhood memories and dredge-up feelings of unresolved Airfix related guilt, but it sure felt like it. I certainly wouldn’t put it past those bastards. The same persistent nagging algorithm ensured that I would see it over and over again, as if Amazon had taken up residence as my sub-conscious. Had I signed something agreeing to this, I wondered? Had I been secretly chipped? What other lost toys would start to magically appear in my shopping cart?

The kit has a wonderful retro aesthetic as things often do. My father loved making the little models, whereas I never had the patience to sit for hours carefully gluing and painting. The box always promised so much and delivered so little, and the resulting aircraft or tank (those made up the bulk of the Airfix catalogue back in those days) was an embarrassing sticky mess that, humiliated and frustrated at my lack of craftsmanship, I would launch out of an upstairs window in the hope that it might stutter into life and start dive bombing the neighbours dogs.

Looking at my One Small Step Airfix diorama, the undercoat still tacky to the touch, I sense that a youthful error has been corrected. But I’m also confronted with those same old frustrations. Why, for instance, do the manufacturers go to the trouble of including a set of paints when they know full well that it refuses to stick to plastic, regardless of how much sanding or how many coats you apply? Whatever these magical non-adhering components might be, you can be sure to also find them in the comically named “construction cement” that comes in the box, which like the paint merely acts as a kind of lubricant and never cures, even in today’s searing temperatures. Thankfully I had put together a little kit of my own I preparation for my much anticipated therapy-build, which included some proper superglue, otherwise I’d would have inevitably succumbed to desperation and drunk all of the little non-toxic paints in a symbolic act of suicide.

As if to further add to your humiliation they even include a detailed painting guide, which if you know anything about space vehicles means about forty different shades of grey all of which have dried to the consistency of an old ketchup smear. After spending half an hour meticulously trying to colour match a single set of panels I just gave up and hit it with some spray paint, which I think gives the module a rather pleasing gothic feel.

And I should probably also say a few words about the instruction. Were they always this hard to follow, I wondered as I searched YouTube for a video guide (they aren’t any, just a few fellas with a handful of “like” showing off their finished builds). The term “exploded view” is probably the most appropriate here, with those myriad dotted lines written in a shade of blue almost imperceptible to the human eye, showing how each of microscopic pieces slot together, just without any written guidance to help you understand in what order. Several times I had to prise the module apart like a reluctant clam (are there any other kind?) just to insert a tiny internal strut required for an unspecified but essential later stage. It’s not even a particularly complex model but do you think I could get the gold foil to stick to the legs or knew that the tiny little nubs I had snipped off earlier were actually thrusters and would need to be carefully reattached unless you wanted Buzz and the guys to drift helplessly through the celestial firmament. Had I worked on the original Apollo Mission back in the late 1960s I would have been shot for sabotage.

So what did I learn from this act of penitence? Well for one thing I have no great desire to build the Saturn V rocket and complete the set, but I did spend an enjoyable few hours visiting with the past. It’s also funny how modelmaking of this kind is trotted out on TV shows where a character is struggling with PTSD, which now seems quite cruel but there’s no denying that it focuses the concentration.

One Small Step


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