We’re well into May now. 2023.
I was thinking about Euro Militaire. And the brief reprieve we got from being thrown into the history bin thanks to Euro Miniatures Expo. I’m writing from Florida this moment. It might seem utterly queer to think of Euro in September when one is boots up (or barefoot up) in 32c heat with 67% humidity in May, however let me take you back to 2003 and a certain September in Kent when Europe was suffering the most dire heatwave since 1540.
In 2022, a certain weekend in September met its final demise after thirty-seven years. My own history with this legendary concorso will have met its own notable tick in the history box this year. September 2023. Twenty years since I attended my first Euro Militaire. It’s near impossible to wrap my head around two decades having passed since a fateful decision was made to accept an invitation from Jon Tamkin of Mission Models to visit a place called Folkestone.
The first mention of the phenomenon that was Euro Militaire came during an AMPS West club meeting at my house in Sherman Oaks in the spring of 2003. Jon Tamkin, a friend of mine and owner of Mission Models, enlightened me with his tales of a visit in 2002 to a concorso in England called Euro Militaire. I’d never heard of it. Up until then I only participated in some local Southern California miniature competitions, Mastercon in Missouri and the AMPS Nationals in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Jon travelled by train to Paris after the conclusion of this concorso with Pat Stansal to visit, amongst other things, the Azimut shop. It all sounded exotic and exciting. It was time for change.
My first journey to Euro began on Monday, September 15th with a flight from Long Beach to JFK on Jet Blue. An overnight, I arrived to my apartment on 29th & 3rd early on Tuesday the 16th. That evening I went to dinner with some friends at Les Halles on Broadway a short walk from my apartment. Anthony Bourdain was then head chef but I didn’t know who he was then. Great menu. The frites to die for. The next day,
Wednesday, the 17th I prepped for my BA flight out of JFK that night. Flight BA182 departed at 11 that evening, arriving to Heathrow the next morning.
Thursday, September 18th arrived at The Ritz London after a seven years hiatus.
Weather — it is oft said — is a third to place and time. Never is this more true than in Folkestone. In fact it is so true it’s quoted on the Harbour Arm lighthouse. In 2003, England, like most of Western Europe, was suffering through a summer heatwave like none had seen since 1540. Even the Danube River dried up, revealing dozens of scuttled German ships from WW2. I had gotten on an aeroplane in hot sunny Southern California and arrived to hot and sunny England.
I spent a day in London, booked into the Ritz — of course — and met up with Darren Gawle who was traveling down to Folkestone the same day as I.
On Friday, September 19th we departed London by train from Charing Cross. Leaving The City behind, I was soon gazing out our old-school First-Class Carriage at the Kent countryside. It was glorious, reminding me of my childhood train rides through East Sussex. We detrained at Folkestone Central station, cadging a ride in a taxi. As the driver made his way along Castle Hill Avenue I gazed upon a charming English town reminiscent of my childhood in Southwick and Brighton. When the cab came to a halt and I climbed out before the Clifton Hotel, the familiar waft of English Channel sea brine heavy to the air and the sound of seagulls, I knew then I arrived at the right place.
And for me at least, it was to be the right time. I turned to the facade of the hotel. Edwardian grandeur. Faded. But no less glorious. It felt familiar. I went in. It smelled like nana’s house. It looked like nana’s house. Reception gave me the key to my room and I took the smallest lift I’d ever seen up four levels to perhaps the smallest room I’d ever seen in a dormer. But, as such short notice it was all they had. Blessedly, the English Channel breeze warded off the heat.
Leaving my bag, I had a swift wash up before meeting with Jon Tamkin in the trader hall of the Leas Cliff Hall. Descending the stairs of the Hall, I entered into a glorious gilded age hall brimming with trade stands in various states of construction with brands both familiar and new to me: Resicast, Accurate Armour, Azimut, AFV Modeller, Historex Agents and Aber. Lest me not forget to mention Mission Models. Jon gave to me an extra Mission Models entry badge so I
might come and go as I pleased before he, his wife Shanon and myself headed to Folkestone’s High Street to a delightful coffee shop called The Chambers. Brilliant sunshine at our backs we caught up on the events of the last weeks that brought us here. I was never more happy than in that moment. I felt I had found the place where I belonged.
I knew then this was an event that would ever more change my perspective.
And it did.
I couldn’t have imagined in those golden years of modelling that there would be a time when the ritual of attending Euro Militare in September would be no more. In retrospect, it’s necessary isn’t it? All things have their moment in the sun. Euro grayed. Its organisers passed away. The show didn’t remain current. There are other concorsos in the autumn. In Holland. In October. SMC, Scale Model Challenge, it is even bigger, and in most regards better than Euro could ever have been.
I would argue that the Golden Age of Modelling is now. And it’s really all about the company you keep.
Same rouges. Same chatter. Conversation picking up where we left off from before. Just a different environment. A different month. A different concorso in a different city in a different country.