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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Roger Eames, R.I.P.


Our friend Roger died on 30 September. He was born 1 May 1940. There was a memorial service to celebrate Roger’s life at Campoverde Church on Monday, 7 November at 11:30. Members of Chorale (Christine’s choir), Vivace, Coro Pilar and others sang, and Jennifer sang a solo, ‘Where’er You Walk’.
Order of Service - p2 - RAE - Roger Andrew Eames

As his obituary says, he was “a brilliant husband, dad, and grandpa who will be very sorely missed.”

Roger bravely battled bladder cancer for 6 years before it claimed him. He was full of courage, showed wisdom with a twinkle in his eye, and was a purveyor of “fabulous” jokes. His various pursuits revealed his endless patience: a wordsmith not averse to the odd pun, he was also an excellent model-maker and incredible jazz bass player and producer.

Six years ago I wrote an article about Roger that was published in the local magazine, The New Coastal Press, June 2010, under the title ‘A Model Retirement’. This is a fair portion of it, which illustrates his artistry, skill and infinite patience:

Roger Eames has three passions, it seems: his wife Christine, music and his modelling. The last developed from his childhood interest in model railways.
            While living in Northampton, he met an ex engineer called Arthur who offered to make glass display cases for him. ‘Indeed, quite a lot of modellers were Reverends or engineers,’ he says. Roger pointed out that the Pendon model museum, established in 1954, was and still is an inspiration to any modeller. Many excellent images of model scenes and dioramas can be viewed at www.pendonmuseum.com.
            For about forty years Roger has created models – some eighty of them, in thin glass cases, their edges soldered with copper. They’re attractive to look at and you can spend considerable time studying the exquisite detail.


            ‘It’s essential to plan ahead,’ he says. ‘I measure everything first on card and create a mock-up using Publisher, computer software. Remember, these buildings are 1:72 scale.’ The finished product will be semi-relief – false front, if you like – and three to four inches deep.
            His source material is usually a number of photographs, mixing and matching. He’ll begin with a prototype and work from there, altering as appropriate. ‘I’m very self-critical,’ he says. ‘Sometimes, I’m not satisfied, no matter how long I’ve spent on the piece, and it has to go – though I’ll butcher it to preserve certain items, of course!’ It’s quite satisfying, as often the process entails a certain amount of problem solving. ‘It certainly isn’t model-making by numbers!’
            The materials he has used over the years vary. ‘I’ve tried to keep abreast by reading railways magazines.’ Straws and spaghetti might serve as pipes or architectural embellishments; tealeaves mimic ivy, small pieces of Rutland oolite stone and cork can give a faithful reproduction of old stone walls. Care must also be taken regarding the potential danger of adhesive fumes and paint smells.
            In the old days, as if emulating Blue Peter presenters, he used brown sticky paper. Also, he’d utilise poster paints, oil, cardboard, Perspex and lichen. Now, he employs acrylic paint, modern glues, etched brass plates and obtains many of his materials via the Internet. For example, Spanish paints from the Vallejo Company offer over 200 different colours. Websites such as scalelink.co.uk are useful providers of items, such as bricks and stones, providing the scale is right.
            ‘I much prefer to depict real textures you can feel,’ he says. ‘I’m not keen on printed facsimiles of surfaces.’ Some items are only available from specialist suppliers nowadays, such as self-adhesive paving, but given the time and inclination he will make them himself.


            A single building can take from two months to two years from conception to end. In his individual miniature scenes, Roger has to have an eye for transposing – whether that’s trees, post boxes or people – thus moving them to different positions from those depicted in the source photo.
            Like many hobbies, it’s a solitary pursuit. ‘I find working on these models is an antidote to music-making, which is a more social activity.’ While working in the BBC – on their radio music programmes – Roger took a sabbatical and was part of a craft promotion in Japan. Various British craftsmen and women exhibited their talents – jewellery makers and model boat builders, for example. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Japanese were fascinated with miniaturization, watching Roger on the stand as he built a model with the aid of a magnifying glass. Roger sold twenty models and was even commissioned to provide others.
            Some of Roger’s models were displayed in the Savoy Hotel – a row of cottages, a pub and one was bought by Janet Jackson. Roger has been commissioned to replicate existing properties which entails making measurements he can then reduce in scale for his model.
            The amount of detail is quite remarkable, whether that’s a Vernacular arch or Georgian and Victorian buildings from London, completing the scene, an Austin 1934 taxi will be thoroughly appropriate to the era. Street signs and posters are somewhat easier these days, thanks to the computer.


            Often, behind the curtains, furniture can be glimpsed, walls decorated, lights courtesy of fibre optics and LEDs. He’s particularly proud of his pub, the Ruddles Arms with its drinkers inside.
            Roger created a film studio for his son Dominic, who is involved in filmmaking. For his son Miles, he created a pub with a band playing inside. For his granddaughter Sophie he is creating a ladies’ clothing boutique. For a close friend who was a Methodist minister he built a chapel and adjacent manse. Usually, he likes to include two or three figures to represent life and action.
            In effect, these models are slices from reality.
            Still on the drawing board are Victorian shops, a garage, and a ballroom. ‘One day,’ he muses, ‘I’d like to exhibit my collection. One day soon.’
            The theory goes that retirement was supposed to provide more free time, yet Roger is a popular and successful jazz musician and writes for a local newspaper as well. He has just celebrated his seventieth birthday and shows no sign of letting up: ‘I’d like to make models of the houses we’ve lived in – and there are lots! – but I don’t seem to have the time.’
***
Until recently, Roger and Christine played live jazz at El Pescadito restaurant, Mil Palmeras.

R.I.P., Roger.



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