FP Manager Wai crafted Tiger I in 2016 from a Tamiya model kit he aspired to have but couldn’t as a kid. Time changes many things. What does his lasting zeal tell us about the forgettable yet unforgotten of growing up in Hong Kong?
[English translation follows from Chinese text. Please scroll down]
清靜的下午，偶然的鬧市蹓躂，被一間店舖的鬧哄哄氣氛吸引住了，反正無事，就入內逛逛吧。近門口的位置，擺放著大量日本科幻動畫的人偶模型，擠滿著青年及小孩，有凝視著貨架觀看新產品的，有諮詢著店員的，也有三三兩兩熱烈地討論著的，我欠了欠身，信步走入店的深處，一個清靜的角落，這裏擺放著一些數量不多的過時貨品 － ‘Tamiya’ （田宮）的二次大戰軍事模型！曾幾何時，這些東西是發燒友的至愛，今日卻已被打進幽幽的冷宮。
上了初中，一次生日前夕，又舊事重提，大著膽子央求媽媽給我買一套新推出 “Tiger I”（「虎一」戰車）模型，這次媽媽沒有說話，只是眉頭輕皺了一下。夜裡，睡夢朦朧中，聽見媽跟父親提起這件事，耳中隱約傳來爸爸輕輕的埋怨聲音。隔天，媽媽領我到家附近的玩具店，給我買了我的心頭好，我垂下頭來說了一聲：「謝謝！」，心中卻難過得再說不出話來，我知道，自己的任性，已令媽媽費煞思量，也為這個捉襟見肘的家庭，帶來沉重的負擔。自此，暗地裡下了決心，從每月微薄的「零用錢」掙一點下來，能買的就買，負擔不起時，就買些模型雜誌翻看以「畫餅充饑」，可想而知，當然是看的時候多玩的時候少了，卻也增長了不少知識，興趣一點沒減退。
It was a quiet afternoon. I was tarrying in a busy part of the city when a shop bustling with customers caught my attention. Since I got nothing to do anyway, I stepped in. Blocking the entrance area were children and young people who crawled over stacked-up figure models of Japanese sci-fi anime. Some of them were staring at the “new arrival” items while others were making enquiries. Here and there groups of two or three were eagerly exchanging information. A deep yawn… I squeezed my way to the depth of the back end of the shop and found a somewhat forgotten corner. There, you would only find outdated goods such as Tamiya’s WW2 military models. Once upon a time, these were the hottest items everyone fought to own.
“Long time no see!” – these favorite items from my long gone childhood. I came from that generation when material lack was not uncommon, and when crowded living space in public housing estates left us with minimum provisions for playing except the long corridor that held the cell-like flats together, or the widening spaces at either end of a corridor. Toys were limited in variety – a plastic ball, image-cards (with famous fictional characters), a bamboo stick game called 3-6-9 that costs almost nothing, or various riddles played on paper. One year, a neighbor’s sons started to set up a small table outside their flat with a few folded stools, and started to build models. I watched with intense excitement, holding my breath: neat packages, the distinct double-star TAMIYA trademark, rows after rows of plastic parts and so on spread out on the table. How intensely they worked through the manual, and their hands incessantly matching, comparing and joining parts this way and that way… Then came the coloring of the assembled clusters. It was all heavens to me. Summer came, I begged Mom to buy me a kit of the Tank Series model, but to no avail. Instead, I got a box of much cheaper tiny German Nazi soldiers. Back then proper tool, glue and cleansing solution were far too expensive. I retreated to inexpensive glue and thinner available at hardware shops in the neighborhood. I was also easy with coloring agents. Nothing would take away my fun. “Keep going,” I was totally single-minded.
In no time I was in junior secondary school. It was my birthday eve when I asked Mom once again to have the latest “Tiger 1” for my gift. Mom said nothing this time, and just frowned a little bit. In my half sleep in the middle of the night, I heard Mom taking my request to Dad who responded with muffled grumbles. Two days later, Mom took me to a toyshop near home and bought me what I wanted. My head drooped, and I uttered, “Thank you!” It was a saddening moment; I was speechless. I knew I was asking for too much and had put Mom in trouble for an extra spending item that our hand-to-mouth household budget could barely accommodate. Since then, I told myself I would save from my meager pocket-money to get whatever I could and, when I really couldn’t afford it, I would turn to reading model magazines for a temporary relief of my unsettled appetite. You can already imagine: I was reading about more models far more than “making,” which turned out to be a timely boost for my “knowledge” about models, thus sustaining my interest on and on.
Time waited for no one. I was a working adult, moving from one job to another, just to make ends meet. My enthusiasm and the leisurely mind required of model making dissipated.
Today, in this crowded shop, I “reunited” with my long-gone “friend” — the exact same packaging, the same “double-star” trademark, the same model series, the same style. Has time stopped flowing in this little shop? In thirty years, one could name hundreds and thousands of changes in our world. Moments of the past “replay” in my mind like washed-down images made on overdue film stock. What has become of me? Once young and frivolous, had ideals of my own, committed, striving through hardship, rising and falling, I drifted through all kinds of jobs and met people from different walks of life. I had looked up to the hills and also known earthly vanity, and now I’ve lost a bit of my edginess, coming to terms with the fact that we’ve got to accept thing and people the way they are. So-called meanings of life are blurry: the world is perhaps a big playground, and life is like a labyrinth whose “way out” is difficult to find.
My years advancing, friends and dear ones came and went. Mom is no longer young, but I still regret for once making things difficult for her, as if that is just yesterday. All the same…
This very moment takes me all the way back to that first moment in the remote past, not without too many twists and turns.
A deep breath. I took down that box from the shelf and walked to the cashier. I gently left several paper bills and left. No more regret, I told myself. This is the moment to soothe the yearnings of my childhood.
Long time no see. Speechless…
Back at Floating Projects, I couldn’t take my eyes off the box on the table, and what screamed on the box: Tiger 1. (2016.11.01) […to be continued]
Toy as Medium: FP Assemblage 玩具之間－ 句點聚疊 [event post]