Saturday, April 22, 2017

Back from Salute 2017

Attractive ladies at right  probably aren't going into Salute - I suspect they may run fast

Well I am back from Salute, with the usual sore feet and tired legs but at least I won't feel as bad as all the London Marathon runners, who were all registering at ExCel too this year (after a break from coinciding with Salute last year) will after tomorrow.  I first ran the London Marathon in 1987 (3hrs 56 mins - marathon runners always tell you their time) and went to work the next day, stupidly.  I have never had such agony in my legs ever.  Literally every step was excruciating.  I ran it again in 1990 (3hrs 35 mins) and it wasn't quite as bad as I was better trained but it was still bad.  Even worse, when I got back to the station at home this afternoon, the Old Bat was at the garden centre and I had to walk home.  Good exercise, I suppose.  Ow.

The Raphia Mafia

I was going to say that I took the fewest number of pictures I had ever done at Salute but that is not true.  Still, I took less than ten pictures and this was mainly because it was so packed you couldn't get to anything.  You couldn't see the games and you couldn't see things on vendors stands.  Or at least. I couldn't but I am not patient and won't queue. There were far fewer of the big display games this year and really the biggest was Big Red Bat's splendid Raphia game using his excellent To the Strongest rules.  I nearly went and bought a load of Victrix pikemen as a result, as I actually have quite a lot of painted Macedonian cavalry and skirmishers from the Society of Ancients Cynoscephalae battle we did with Guildford Wargames Club almost exactly ten years ago, for which I panted sixty Greek figures just in April!  Still, not beyond the bounds of possibility in the future.

I did succumb to the new Victrix EIR Romans and some Little Big Men shield transfers.  I used to have some of the big Steve Sahleh Foundry Romans but I sold them to Big Red Bat some years ago.  I bought the Warlord ones but didn't like them as they were too small to match my (largely) Renegade Celts and Foundry Germans.  These, however look just the job.  I tried to get some in Orc's Nest this week but they have stopped stocking Victrix.  I don't know whether the bag rather than the box was just because they are new out or whether this is a permanent change.  Some of the Victrix boxes were huge but this doesn't offer much protection to delicate plastic components.  I think they are planning to make auxiliaries too, so maybe I will be able to field the mixed chainmail and lorica segmentata units I want to for the invasion of Britain in 43 AD; if they have interchangeable heads, for example.  But do I paint the tunics red or off white?

Some rather different plastics were on display at the Warlord stand with the new plastic Daleks and Cybermen.  You only seemed to be able to get them as part of a game (called Exterminate!, naturally) for £35 which they were selling, which looked far too boardgame-like for me.  Too many tokens in it!  Still, it seemed to be attracting lots of interest.  Also selling well was the new Perry TravelBattle and Mr Robert (Bob) Cordery, who I was delighted to meet for the first time said that if it sold well they might do an ACW one.

The Perry's always have some 3-ups of forthcoming plastic sets on display and this time they were showing those most useful of French cavalry, the Chasseurs a Cheval.  Not for me, I think but Eric the Shed had a huge bag stuffed with boxes of Napoleonic cavalry for his not a skirmish any more Peninsula project.  He has also posted some excellent pictures here.  Getting Salute pictures up is rather like the Beaujolais Nouveau race these days.

More interesting and something of a surprise were these 3-up Perry Zulus.  Neither the Warlord Games nor the old Wargames Factory plastic Zulus were brilliant but these should be excellent.  You can never have enough Zulus.  However, Perry and Warlord used to say that they wouldn't duplicate plastic sets but this is certainly happening now, as was the case with the Zulu Wars British on sale today.

Also attracting a lot of attention was The Drowned Earth team who were running several games on their stand.  The metal figures are really nice but the man there said it wouldn't really work as a solo game, so I think that has meant that I won't buy into this Kickstarte, apart from my other issues with them.

It was one of the small The Drowned Earth boards that I liked the most, from a scenic point of view.  I'm not quite sure what appealed to me so much about it but if I could have taken one home this would have been it.  The game itself seems to also suffer from counter-itis though.  I cannot understand why people spend ages painting figures and making splendid scenery and then cover it in counters or cards.  That is probably the painter versus gamer differentiator I suppose.

On the scenic front I bought two middle eastern mud brick type houses.  One was a 4Ground laser cut one and one was a foam resin one from TableScape, a firm I didn't know.   They have a number of other buildings which I could use for Afghanistan, the Sudan, Egypt or even Darkest Africa.  I will paint them both to match my Renedra one.  I picked up a few bits at the Renedra stand for my ACW project.

So that was really it.  I didn't arrive early enough to get the Black Scorpion pirate Salute special and for the first time I didn't get the Salute free figure either, which was more annoying as she would have gone in my Back of Beyond Bolshevik force. Still, I got more than last year with some: Iron Duke command for my Indian Mutiny British, Perry Afghans, Perry ACW Confederates in frock coats, Renedra worm fencing and 'American style' gravestones for my church model. Forty one figures added to the lead and plastic pile, though.  Could have been worse. I resisted (just) the Crooked Dice female minions, for example, the Vixtrix pikemen and some North Star 1672 figures (the fault of Versailles on TV, although to reflect last night's first episode of series 2 we would have needed a 28mm naked pregnant lady).

The Legatus at far left (picture stolen from Tamsin's blog)

I really enjoyed the bloggers meet (although there were less of us than last year) and it was nice to catch up again with The Wild Goose and hear his plans for the latest Latin American War of Independence figures from his Orinoco Miniatures.  Having spent all yesterday with Colombians I was looking out some of his British from the conflict to finish.  Always nice to see fellow Guildford Wargames Club and Shed Wars gaming ally/opponent Alastair.  I also caught up with the prolific Wargaming Girl, Big Lee and various others.  It was also nice to meet, for the first time, the well travelled Bob Cordery and the endlessly inventive Michael of Victorian Warfare fame.

I got to Salute at 11.30 and was out by 14.00 which was, I think, quite enough, given the bad light, the concrete floors and the number of people.  I am pleased with the things I bought but it is more a targetted shopping expedition now than a gentle saunter looking for inspiration, which it was in the past.  I don't know how much it costs to get a trade tand there but it seems much more corporate than the other shows like Warfare and Colours I attend.  Apart from one stand, the days of the amateur scenics maker, who you could pick up a few trees from, seems to have gone.  Everything is in professionally made boxes these days.  Probably a good thing for the hobby but..   Still, it was good to see quite a few youngsters playing games and more ladies than ever (although a disproportionate number did seem to have hair dyed in various shades of unnatural red).

In 2012 I went to ExCel to watch the fencing at the Olympics with my daughter and, like the Olympics. I wonder whether Salute hasn't now got too bug for its own good.   It is almost an endurance event.  I'll still keep going though, no doubt!

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's Salute Eve...and Death in the Dark Continent

It's Salute (or Sloot as my daughter used to call it) Eve and what better Eve to celebrate with than, in the centenary of Verdun, this fine illustration from La Vie Parisienne.  So, (that is just to annoy Mr Treadaway. who was fulminating about people who begin sentences with "So...") what am I looking for this year?  A restricted list, as ever, but possibly:
  • some Iron Duke command for my further along than I remembered Indian Mutiny British.  
  • Some Perry ACW Confederartes in Frock coats
  • An Artizan North West Frontier gun with crew if someone has some old stock
  • The Black Scorpion Salute special girly pirate (probably will have sold out)
  • The Crooked Dice female minions (probably will have sold out)
  • Victrix EIR Romans and shield transfers.
That is more than enough, especially as 12 more Artizan North West Frontier figures turned up yesterday to enable me to finish my British force (except the mountain gun is still missing!)   I bought into the latest Dark Fables Egyptian Indiegogo this week too, as you can never have enough under-dressed Egyptian girls.  I also backed The Drowned Earth Kickstarter but then cancelled it as I had a panic that I just wouldn't be able to do the figures justice with my increasingly blotchy painting.  I also had a panic over the amount of scenery I would have to buy and whether such a game would lend itself to solo play.  This all started to put me off and then, tipping me over, there were several things on the creator's and the community Facebook page I didn't like.  I'm not one of those people who happily accepts differing views and opinions!   Don't assume everyone agrees with what you agree with and don't expect me to buy into your product if I find other things on your Facebook page which are offensive to me. Or maybe I am just generally grumpy at the moment as I have had too much work to do and not enough painting time!  

Anyway, I was cheered up by the arrival of the new Death in the Dark Continent edition today, with its free African villagers.  I do actually have the rules in their old ring bound version (they are not materially changed) but this is a de-luxe product indeed.  These are big battle rules and I probably have enough Belgians and Azande to try them out (although they use the horrible stand basing. which I will ignore).  More on these another time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An update on my ACW project.

I started back on some ACW figures again yesterday, after my diversion on the North West Frontier.  More about it on my Americas Wargaming blog here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

With an illustration from 1926 on Legatus' Wargames Ladies here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Paint Table Easter Saturday...and resisting temptation

I was very pleased to finish five more figures for my 2nd Afghan War The Men who would be Kings force this week.  Sadly, I mistakenly thought that these would finish a unit (12 men for these rules) but I had only painted five others for this unit so am two short.  Although I have some other painted figures I could have used I like my units to be in similar poses so bunged off an order to North Star to fill the gaps in this and the other unit of British..  

This order will give me some leftovers but I have already decided to build a second force representing troops later in the conflict, where khaki trousers had replaced the blue ones and poshteens were commonly worn.  I can mix my leftovers with these less regulation looking figures for my second army.  Despite the inordinate amount of time it's taking me to paint them the TMWWBK force is only 36 figures plus either a cavalry unit or an artillery piece.  

I am going to have two units of the Royal Surrey Regiment and one of Sikhs plus a Sikh mountain gun, except the gun still hasn't arrived from North Star due to production problems. I might have a look at Salute and see if I can find one.  I am going to paint the artillery in their pre-khaki dark blue with red turbans as I found a period photograph of them on campaign in the early part of the war where they are obviously not yet in khaki.  I want to do a mule train for a gun and am wondering whether I can convert the Perry Miniatures Carlist wars one, given a spare gun.  

Anyway. I had a good day yesterday on the Sikhs and hope to get them finished by the end of the long weekend.  I am finding these a lot easier to paint than the Perry ACW figures but I will get back to these after my Afghan diversion.  With good light and a new Windsor & Newton Series 7 000 brush I got all the horrible straps done today.  I still have shading on the knapsacks, red lines on the trousers, tidying up on loose blobs, bases, varnishing and metal work to do.  Someone was suggesting I try the dreaded dip but, apart from the fact that it is cheating, I find dipped troops tend to have a rather murky look about them. Today my sister is coming over for tea, though, so  I need to have a good bash this morning as Sunday we are going down to the Old Bat's sister in Hampshire.  Guy is hoping my brother in law will have taken delivery of his new Ford Mustang!  

Tries not to think about Louise Redknapp and honey

I don't get hay fever, really, but I have been suffering with some sneezing lately, which is always annoying when trying to paint belts with triple 0 brushes.  Both Guy and Charlotte suffer quite badly but not as badly as my sister who does actually get a fever with it.  In the past, eating local honey has helped Charlotte (it works like a flu jab) but I have always had to order it at great expense from a specialist shop in Clapham.  However, Louise Redknapp was telling the Old Bat that you can get the right sort of honey in the Medicine Garden in Cobham, as she gets really bad hay fever too. Worth trying.

The Old Bat went to the Garden Centre yesterday to look at pumps for our new girly water feature and I decided to tag along at the last minute as I remembered they had a big aquarium section where people from around here can buy Koi carp at £200 a time.  I got an excellent selection of plastic plants for my planned jungle bases.  Eric the Shed very kindly offered to cut me some bases for them but I don't want to put him to any trouble as he has already done so much for my wargaming these past few years.  I have found a big pile of old CDs and am going to have a go at using these as I remember seeing something about someone using these in the past in one of the magazines.  I also remember that you have to score them to make things stick to the better.  I think I am going to have to get a hot glue gun too, given suggestions on my last post.  Fortunately, the Old Bat has used one, although she happily told me that "you will get third degree burns from it!"  I remember studying the case Smith V Leech Brain (1962) where someone got molten metal on them, then later developed cancer and died.  I am sure that hot glue will give the same result.  It's probably deliberate on the Old Bat's part.  If she gets me a hot glue gun for Easter I will know...

More on scenics in that I am assembling the Renedra mud brick house which I bought at last year's Salute (I think).  This is the fourth one of these kits I have assembled and although the concept is good they really are horrible to put together,  Maybe I was just spoiled by building a lot of Hasegawa aircraft kits years ago but the fit of the parts is awful and I am having to use a lot of filler on it. I might have a look at the 4Ground wooden ones at Salute.  Just as I worry about the differences in jungle in South America and the Congo so I worry that, actually, mud brick houses in Afghanistan, Egypt and the Sudan do look different but I doubt whether anyone else does.

I am looking forward to Salute next week and I am hoping there will be another Bloggers meet up, although I haven't seen anything yet about one. I don't think that I am after any figures but will be looking for scenic items, although nothing too big as I have to carry it home on the train.  Eric the Shed is planning to go on to the newly reopened National Army Museum afterwards but I usually get to Salute a bit later.  to avoid the queue, so won't be able to fit it in.  I used to live in Chelsea and just along from the NAM was a really good restaurant I used to go to called La Tante Claire, which was one of London's few three Michelin star restaurants (Pierre Koffmann was the chef) at the time.  It closed some years ago, though and is now Gordon Ramsay's main restaurant in London.  Last time I went Helen Worth, from Coronation Street was there (she has a house nearby, I think). 

Even though I am painting much more than last year I still have a huge lead and plastic pile but that doesn't stoe me looking at new tempting things.  The ability to resist temptation is not one of my defining characteristics ;whether it comes in a blister pack, a bottle, or a cocktail dress.  I am intrigued by North Star's new plastic fantasy range, which will be coming out later in the year and will consist of dwarves, elves and goblins.  The pictures of the dwarves look good but I think I can resist these as I have so many Lord of the Rings figures to paint.  

I do like dwarves though and the only Warhammer figures I ever painted were some dwarves (above).  I bought a big army box but sold them all in the end as I didn't like any of the opponent figures in Warhammer.  Wargamed Foundry (I think) used to have a nice series of Norse Dwarves some years ago but as I have actually painted some Lord of the Rings ones I will not be sidetracked by these figures!  Definitely.

The next figures I must resist are Black Scorpion's new Wild West figures for their new Tombstone rules which are the subject of a Kickstarter (which was funded in four minutes!).  I have always had a hankering to do something set in the Wild West and I like Black Scorpion's very unhistoric pirates and have even painted some (above).

These western figures are also bordering on fantasy (especially the women) but their resin figures are really nice to paint so I am quite tempted by this one, especially as I can see some of them turning up in Victorian London for In her Majesty's Name.  Speaking of which, I definitely want to get the new IHMN Gothic supplement.

Finally, one Kickstarter I am also having trouble resisting is The Drowned Earth one (it begins tomorrow), despite it being a very different game and setting from that which I am usually interested in.  This has been well marketed with some stunning supporting artwork and some very interesting figures.  I am not sure what it is that I like about this; maybe it takes me back to the days when I read a lot of science fiction but I like the small factions and the variety in the figures.  Whether I will be able to do them justice with paint is another question.

Today's wallpaper is A Young girl Sleeping by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806) or Une jeune Italienne à demi-nue, couchée volupteusement sur un lit de repos, où elle s'endormie as it was described when sold in 1776 for a thousand livres (the equivalent of about £10,000 based on the value of gold then).  This was an early nude by Fragonard, painted when he was in his most Boucheresque phase during his first trip to Italy from 1756 to 1761, so he would have been in his twenties at the time.  In fact, it was the only nude he painted in this period but is a forerunner of the tastefully erotic work he would do later in life.

The picture disappeared from the record at the end of the eighteenth century and reappeared in 2014 when it was put up for auction.  Due to a piece of luck it could be positively identified, as someone, at the original 1766 auction had made a quick sketch of the painting in their catalogue and this had been preserved in the Bibliothèque National.  It was sold in 2014 for the comparatively bargain price pf $395.000.

Today's music comes from the period the painting was created.  The eight symphonies of William Boyce (1711-1779) like Fragonard's painting were also not known for many years and weren't performed again after his lifetime until an edition of them was published in 1928.  They are very melodic and mood lifting.  It is impossible to feel fed up when listening to Boyce, however much filler you are having to shovel into a Renedra biilding!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Paint Table Saturday: Back at it

So, having had a varnish disaster with some of my figures I did manage to get some repair work done the other week.  I repainted the British jackets, trousers and black parts.  So I just have the rifles  and the stripes on the trousers to repaint now.  While doing this repair work I got on with the NCO, so hope to move them along today as it is bright and sunny (that means the paint dries on my palette really quickly, though).

This shows my 2nd Afghan War figures under way at present.  Still no sign of the missing mountain gun from North Star, though. Somewhere I have the Renedra mud brick house so maybe I should dig that out so at least I have a backdrop to photograph the figures against.

Baby O.  Intelligent.

Last Saturday I couldn't paint as I went up to Oxford with my sister to see my cousin and his baby.  My cousins emigrated with my aunt to Australia when I was at College in 1980 so I only see them sporadically.  He is a journalist and lately has been the European correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald, living in North London. I haven't been to see them there, as I try not to go north of Oxford Street in London in case I catch a nasty case of Guardian,or corduroy.  His wife has got a job as a lecturer in one of the Oxford colleges so they are renting a house in Oxford.  Much more civilised.  A bonus was that his brother (who works for a well known IT organisation in San Francisco (why is it that all Australians try and leave their country as much as possible?) was there too.  It was nice to have an intelligent conversation with the baby over a very good lunch for once, rather than listening to the Old Bat's inane prattling about her pond (we left her at home, as she has no intelligent conversation).  Guy joined us and is now home for Easter so that will push the food shopping bills up considerably.

Baby O (I won't give her real name as she is probably the only person in England with it - it is a real name, just very, very unusual) was a well behaved delight.  I think she is my first cousin once removed,  She also, unlike my incredibly fussy children, eats everything put if front of her.  She scoffed about three slices of bread, quite a lot of cod and a lot of linguine with crab, chilli and lemon.   Guy won't even eat baked beans as they are "too spicy". She really likes lemon and happily sucked on about five wedges of it, to the extent that the waiter brought her a little plate of them.

The restaurant we went to, Gee's, is just a short walk from their house in North Oxford and is, amazingly, in the next road to the one I lived in in my third year. To get there we had to walk down North Parade Avenue which used to be the site of an Italian restaurant called Luna Caprese where I went quite a bit (I was making money by selling drawings in the third year) with my girlfriend from nearby St Hugh's College.  Most of the tables at Gee's are in a bright conservatory and it really is a very nice place for lunch.  I had actually been there once before, about eight years ago, when I was interviewing a girl from the Oxford University basketball team as my summer intern.  She was very fit and got the job with no problem, partly because she ate properly and didn't pick at salad!

Talking of greenery, I was in Chessington Garden Centre looking at possible ponds for the Old Bat (she sat in the car as she took a job there once but only lasted four days so she won't go inside there any more) when Charlotte wanted to go and have a look at the fish and reptile house.  While in there I got some 'tropical' plans to start some scenic bases for the Lost World.  Now even the most basic scenic item is beyond my hobby skills so I expect they will sit there for the next four years.  I just have no idea how to even start attaching these to a base - or how to make a base.

Oddly, my new favourite TV programme is called The Repair Shop, where carefully selected members of the public bring in various broken objects with a heart warming story attached and very clever craftspeople make them as good as new (except the monkey - that wasn't a total success.  "Failure!" chortled the Old Bat in malevolent delight as the poor monkey's broken mouth opening mechanism defeated the repairer).  The Old Bat is quite clumsy and is always breaking stuff which I then have to repair but other than being able to open a bottle of superglue (and that sometimes defeats me) I have no idea what I am doing.  I think that this is the appeal of the show.  These people are really clever. It's like Strictly Come Dancing.  I will never be able to dance a single ballroom step but enjoy watching experts who make it look easy.  I did, actually, have a ballroom dancing lesson with the Old Bat before our wedding, as she expected me to dance on the day (I didn't).  Both she and the dance instructor were incredulous at my lack of ability.  "Anyone can dance!", he had said confidently, at the beginning of the lesson.  He wasn't saying that at the end.  "Anyone can make a scenic base!" Actually, I have no idea where to start.

So, imagine how delighted I was to see a link to a YouTube video, in the Warlord Games newsletter, giving  a link to The Terrain Tutor who has some lovely jungle bases.  Well, I started to watch one of these but I had to stop as I couldn't stand his speaking style.  This is because. yeah? he breaks up just about every sentence, yeah? with the word, yeah?  It is unbelievably annoying. Interestingly, when Darcey Bussell started as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing she had the same annoying vocal tic (or at least the Sloane Ranger equivalent, "yuh?").  However, by the second episode she had stopped this (due to total derision in the press).  The Terrain Tutor also waves his arms around for emphasis like an Orangutan who has been living in an Italian zoo. No more Terrain Tutor for me, unless he sorts this out!

Today's music is the enjoyable contemporary orchestral piece The Seven Wonders Suite, by the Scottish composer Stuart Mitchell,  It's very good painting music and is like the soundtrack to a film

Today's wallpaper distraction is Early Morning by the Irish artist Sir William Orpen, which was painted in 1922.  The story of the girl, Yvonne Aubicque (his mistress), is fascinating and involves a TV show revelation, Grand Prix motor racing, dog breeding, WW2 French resistance, MI6 and an amazing twist. You can read about her on Legatus' Wargames Armies.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Reading Wargames Magazines over Lunch and a scandalous lady.

I have been putting together a big bid (bid leader, so I am co-ordinating two firms and six staff - oh dear, I am sounding like that 'friend' on Facebook who always posts things about what he is doing at work, which are totally incomprehensible because they are to do with IT)) for a project in Africa (which we aren't going to win but which we need to be seen to be bidding on) so haven't had any time to paint or, indeed, go to Eric's Shed for a wargame, despite his kind invitations.  My bit's done now and it just needs to be assembled for couriering off on Monday,  Last week, I had a morning meeting in London, followed by a meeting in the late afternoon.  Given I had a couple of wargames magazines in my bag I thought I would pootle over to the National Galllery cafe to have some lunch.

Now regular readers (are there any others? - I can't imagine so) will know that I regularly have lunch in the National Cafe when I am between meetings or even just after one, when I can't be bothered to go home to the Old Bat without a couple of glasses of wine to desensitize me to the endless monologues about her latest project.  This time she has taken against the rockery "It's so fifties!" she says.

"It's called mid-century, now, and it's very trendy," I claim, to no avail, as she swings the pickaxe (she loves smashing things up).  So out go all the rocks and in will go a pond with a fountain.  Except, the rocks weigh so much I can't get them around to the front of the house (we would need some Stonehenge style rollers) let alone lift them into the car, so they sit, isolated and forlon like crashed meteorites, in the mud.  The dump now weighs your rubble, anyway, and charges you for it. £4 a rock, it would be.  She has dug a big hole for the pond, which 'she' bought on eBay (using my account).  "We can pick it up as its not far!" she says. It's in Winchester.  It's sixty miles! I tell her.  Each way. Four gallons of petrol.  She has no idea where Winchester is.

Last week she bought a floating plastic lily pad solar powered fountain in Chessington Garden Centre (where Eric the Shed gets a lot of his cork bark and aquarium 'jungle' plants) and she put it in another of her ponds, temporarily.  These are all round.  She doesn't like irregular shaped ones..  It emits a desultory spray if it has been in the sun for a few minutes and then stops to recharge.  "That doesn't squirt very far!" said my daughter (I refrained from making a comment about an actress and a bishop).  Both the Old Bat and my daughter love it though; sitting next to it in rapt expectation, waiting for another intermittent squirt like an unreliable version of the Old Faithful geyser.

"It's much more naff than a rockery!" I claim. Dark frown slowly appears.  I back away.  So what she needs now is a bigger fountain, she reasons.  More eBay bidding (on my account of course) and now we have to go to Primrose Hill to pick up, an admittedly charming, little (but metal - 'two of you will be able to lift it', says the man, cheerfully) fountain which cost 14 times what the pond did..  Well its not that little.  It's two feet high.  Now she worries the pond she has bought will be too small.  "Maybe I need a bigger pond!" No wonder I need a drink in the National Cafe.

But, horrors, they have renovated the National Cafe in the six weeks since I was last there.  Now, as the Old Bat would confirm, I hate change, especially of things I like.  It's the same when you buy some food and it says 'new improved recipe' on it.  You know it's not improved, it won't taste better and they are just saving money by using cheaper ingredients.  So what have they done to my favourite cafe?  I think that the technical architectural term is 'ponced up'.  This isn't a sprucing up, this is a complete rebuild inside.  Now it looks more like a restaurant and less like a cafe. They have put in screens which break the room up and make it seem smaller.  I got there at 12.00 when, in the past, it would already have been nearly full of ladies who lunch.  Not that day.  It was almost deserted.  Stop 'improving' things!  Needless to say, the prices had been 'improved' too, no doubt to pay for it all.  It was like when I started College and found my termly food and accommodation  expenses were half what my friend Jeremy's were, as he went to Magdalen and they had just spent millions of pounds on shoring up their tower, so decided to make the students pay for it.

Oh well, the only thing to do was order some (more expensive) wine and hope the food hadn't got worse.  I don't drink white wine at home as if I do I drink the whole bottle in one go, so switched to red and drink about a quarter as much as I used to.  Just as I was about to order a glass, however, I was sent an email which said that my three o'clock meeting had been cancelled.  So I ordered a bottle of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi at the rather usurious price of £26.50. It was organic, I later discovered. I never buy organic wine, not because it is a rip off (which it is) but because do you really think that Italians will be honest about how organic it actually is?  Or do they just call it organic, take the EU subsidy and spray it with DDT when it's dark. Their definition of what is organic is much less strict than ours, or course.  Still, it was actually rather good.  You may think I am being unfair on the Italians but I worked with them for eight years!

Anyway, time for a very good Minestrone with toasted fregola, which are toasted Sardinian pasta shapes (although they would probably call them fregula). In fact, of course, my eight years working with the Italians means that I know that 'they' should be called fregole. One fregola, many fregole.  Sigh.  So,on to the first issue of the 'new' Miniature Wargames which was the March issue. The first thing that caught my eye was a review of Victrix's new plastic Iberians and Numidians.  Who would have thought, many years ago when I first bought some of A&A's Carthaginians, that you would ever be able to get these in plastic?  Amazing, really.  As ever there was no mention of the key thing I am looking for in a review of historical figures which is: are they historically accurate?

Musketeeer/Footsore Saxon Gedriht

Still not very many people had turned up in the cafe.  The main article I wanted to read was by the redoubtable George Anderson and provided some scenarios for Dux Britanniarum, which I don't have (at least I think I don't - I found a copy of Sharp Practice the other day and I was sure I didn't own that!) but scenarios are always useful and he has an engaging writing style.  This is also my favourite Dark Ages period, although I have only painted one unit for it so far.  As I looked for a picture of it to post I discovered I had, actually, also painted ten figures from a second unit (above).  This might be a good 'unit to finish' project if I can work out where the other figures are.  Thirty figures, in this new world of skirmish wargaming is getting on for an army!  I didn't find much else of interest in that issue so it was on to the next magazine.

First off I had Galician bavette with Datterino tomatoes and gremolata.  This really was quite superb although at £22 quite pricey for what was a cafe.  This was last week, though, and I am now boycotting Spanish products, over their sabre rattling over Gibraltar, in solidarity with my neighbour down the road who hails from there.  No more chorizo or Rioja for me!   Take that Diego!

There was even less of interest in this one apart from the Indian Mutiny rules and the Salute show insert (I have now bought my ticket!).  Slightly oddly, in the fantasy facts section, was a review of a figure by Black Pyramid of the Scandalous Lady Worsley.  A 'Victorian lady', said the review.  'I'm not quite sure what makes Lady W scandalous' said the reviewer.  Oh dear. Sighs at another display of complete ignorance from Treadhead's comic.

Seymour Fleming (1758-1818 therefore not a Victorian lady at all) was the heiress daughter of an Irish baronet and married Sir Richard Worsley of Appuldurcombe House on the Isle of Wight. To cut  a very long and torrid story short she and her husband were ill suited and she took a string of lovers (as many as 27 she admitted, over a seven year period).  One of these was one of her husband's best friends and fellow local South Hampshire Militia officer George Bisset.  She ran off with him (abandoning her four month old baby by Bisset) and her husband then sued Bisset for £20,000 (in 1782!) for 'conversation' (which is adultery with a fellow officer).  During the case, Lady Worsley admitted the numerous lovers but said that her husband had 'displayed' her naked to Bisset, which encouraged the affair which made it, by implication, his own fault. Sir Richard won the case but was only awarded one shilling in damages, due to this revelation,  Bisset left Lady Worsley when her husband refused to divorce her so he couldn't marry her.  Relying instead on donations by grateful and 'friendly' gentlemen she had to flee for Paris to escape debts with her French lover.  Trapped by the French revolution she was probably imprisoned during The Terror.  She returned to England in 1797.  Her husband died in 1805 and she inherited £70.000 (about £8 million at today's values).  A month later the 47 year old Lady Worsley married her 26 year old lover, moving to France after the armistice of 1814.  She died there four years later. The Black Pyramid figure is based on a painting of her, in the uniform of her husband's militia unit, by Sir Joshua Reynolds and now hangs in Harewood House.  It says everything about the character of this independent, unconventional, sensuous woman who was, indeed, scandalous.

She was portrayed by Game of Throne's star Natalie Dormer in a BBC film in 2015, who recreated the pose of the Reynolds painting for a publicity still.  Shaun Evans (young Endeavour Morse) gave a creepily brilliant portrayal of Sir Richard Worsley although Dormer, while certainly looking the part, was not quite up to it (except in the sex scenes, which she handled enthusiastically).

The shell of Appuldurcombe House today

I have visited Sir Richard Worsley's Appuldurcombe House on the Isle of Wight, of course, although now it is a picturesque shell.  A Dornier 217 dropped a mine very close to the house, then being used as a barracks, in 1943, which  blew a hole in the roof.  It wasn't repaired and gradually the house fell into disrepair and the interiors and roof were removed and sold.  Recently, several rooms have been re-glazed and restored.  When I last went there, coincidentally, a group of re-enactors were demonstrating late eighteenth century uniforms, drill and weaponry from the time of Sir Richard and Lady Worsley.

Hopefully, on Saturday, without a last minute panic on the bid, I might actually get some painting done!