The late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (of Chatsworth House, Derbyshire) used to say that in her later years when she and her contemporaries met up for a social gathering, these events always began with what she called “our organ recital”. That meant half an hour sharing news of their respective states of health and the condition of various personal organs.
To be honest, yesterday’s Henley Gathering felt much like that! As old friends creaked in by twos and threes the opening gambit was so often about the latest loss or the most recent diagnosis. Appreciation of the model that accompanied the exhibitor was generally some way down the line. And yes, I did the same.
The Henley show has so often been the last hurrah of summer: always on the Saturday following the August Bank Holiday it has often been a glorious day for weather. True, this year the sun shone as usual but the temperature was dropping noticeably after recent record temperatures and forecasters were talking about cooler conditions and autumn storms in the offing.
Perhaps we echoed this. Less modellers again (some will after all now, sadly, never return) and many of those who were there belong to an ageing generation. No blame to them for being old now – they have been exhibiting for over forty years in many cases so they began as young men – but there is a dearth of younger modellers coming after them. A few, but not many. Most models, too, followed well-worn themes this year with several recreations of models by the late Eric Taylor this year, as well as the familiar block-setting cranes of another era. “Steam power” remains popular, too.
The ISM AGM spoke bravely about new digital initiatives to link societies and individuals around the world but this remains a work in progress. (Check out “International Meccanoman” on Facebook for their latest news) But despite this I came away feeling this time that this particular event was in its autumn days.