Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Three quarters of a million visits...

Some time on Sunday this blog passed 750,000 visits and so I apologise to all of you whose time has been wasted by reading my drivel.  It really was supposed to be about wargaming but over the years has morphed into something very much less focussed: rather like my life as a whole, I suppose.  But, look, I have stuff on the painting table and hope to finish some more figures before the end of the year. 

At least I have managed to avoid going to Saudi this weekend by cleverly letting my passport expire, although I have been informed that I need to get a new one rapidly!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Miniature Wargaming The Movie: a review

When I saw the Kickstartee for Miniature Wargaming The Movie at the end of 2015 I decided to back it purely because it was unlikely that anyone else would be making a documentary about wargaming anytime soon. I had no great expectations about it and, as the months of production turned into years I mentally pretty much wrote it off, especially when they had to launch another Kickstarter to get extra funding.  It was taking nearly as long to make as Cleopatra and some of the things filmmaker (presumably he saw it as a showreel for his future projects) Joseph Piddington had issues with, such as the cost of stock footage, baffled me. Why, I wondered, did you need to buy expensive footage of wars? It should be about war gaming not war. It was starting to look like one of those Kickstarters that were a litany of delays and excuses.

I was surprised, therefore, when the DVD dropped through my letterbox last week. Yesterday my computer decided to have one of its periodic issues when it struggles to install updates and while it sorted itself out I sat down to play a bit of the film at lunchtime. Much to my surprise it was good enough that I sat through all 105 minutes of it. I nearly didn’t bother as it starts slowly with a group of modern re-enactors in a wood.  Re-enacting has nothing to do with wargaming, I thought (discuss). Then we had the first of what seemed like endless aerial drone shots of market towns (far, far too much of this) placing each of the chosen people, who were to be the principal subjects, in their environment. I soon came across the second problem that I had.  There were a number of onscreen captions which popped up from time to time offering further snippets of information. However, some of these disappeared before I could read them and all of them were really difficult to read.  I am 58 years old and only have 70% eyesight.  Even on a reasonably sized widescreen TV I couldn’t read these as the font used a very fine line and it was too small.  I did manage to read one which told me that the world’s first wargames club was set up in Oxford University in 1874, which I appreciated, as a former member of the Oxford University Dungeons and Dragons Society from 1979.

Sensibly, the director realised that to give the film wider appeal it needed some personal interest stories; people whose wargaming projects we could follow during the programme, although of these only two were wargamers only, planning to attend an international tournament in Norway.  The others were manufacturers and I think the main fundamental issue I have with the film is that it was much more about manufacturers not players.  Although we were offered glimpses of bigger players, like Warlord, the focus, perhaps accurately, was on garage style one man (or one man and a long suffering partner) operations.  These threads, like much of the film, proved to be rather downbeat and told you more about the trials and tribulations of running a small business rather than wargaming itself.

With these chosen protagonists I did have another problem in that I couldn’t hear much of what they were saying. Partly this may have been down to recording but also, to a certain extent, it was the subjects not enunciating as clearly as they might.  I have done quite a bit of TV and a lot of speeches and presentations and you do have to make a conscious effort to speak more clearly when being recorded, as I was told in my media training.  Or maybe, like my eyesight, my hearing is going too.

Thank goodness, then, for Henry Hyde, whose section on the history of wargaming was excellent and was more like what I was expecting the whole film to be like.  I have to say that I liked the animated graphics too; it should be said that there was nothing about the production that looked low budget. When the two wargamers went off to their Norwegian tournament the camera went along too. It was not the filmmaker’s fault that the big international tournament turned out to be a dozen blokes in a Norwegian wood shed (sjed?) but it was another slightly downbeat thread.  Still, they did film Salute and follow the progress of one man and his scenery stand there.

This was another fundamental issue with the film; in that this character, an ex-soldier, not surprisingly traumatised by his experiences in Kosovo, had used wargaming as a way to fight depression. It was interesting to see that he took this up at the Combat Stress rehabilitation centre, Tyrwhitt House, which is less than a mile from where I live. This is a good story but, obviously recognising documentary gold, the director dwelt for far too long on it and it unbalances the film, particularly the last third. There was a war in Kosovo, OK, but we really didn’t need two long (and no doubt expensive) clips of Bill Clinton making speeches about it.  It’s like the director thought, oh damn, I am stuck with funding for this silly wargames film but I really want to make a BBC2 documentary about fighting depression. Wargaming was obviously pivotal to this man’s recovery but the war story element and his subsequent breakdown unbalanced the message somewhat.

No doubt because of the unexpected length of the project, there was a chance to revisit some of the protagonists eighteen month later which was interesting but not necessarily very uplifting.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed the professional standard of the film with its excellent animation and good photography, although we could have done with less drone shots. There was also one sequence of a man walking down an avenue towards the camera and I thought, after several long seconds, that we were going to get a re-enactment of Omar Sharif’s first appearance in Lawrence of Arabia.  ‘Cut! Cut!’  I shouted at the screen.  I also had trouble with the unreadable captions and some of the sound.  I enjoyed the interviews and behind the scenes looks at some of the bigger companies and figures in the hobby.  Not ‘The Hobby’, they were conspicuously absent, although much referred to by previous employees.

There were some things I expected but weren’t really covered; such as a little on the mechanics of wargaming; skirmish versus big battles, units, command, morale, shooting, melee, scenarios and campaigns.  No-one watching this would have any idea of how wargames work. This, however, finally begs the question: who is this film aimed at?  Not much for the committed wargamer but equally a little baffling for the complete newcomer.

A valiant effort, very professionally realised (the section on YouTube videos on wargaming had me recalling quite how cringingly unwatchable nearly all these amateur efforts are) with a few interesting things I didn’t know.  Slightly downbeat, because of the particular personalities featured, so that the subliminal message almost came across that if you are a socially inept, sad loser you might enjoy wargaming which probably just confirms to the rest of the world what they thought about it anyway.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Redcoats and what's been going on.

I haven't posted for over two months because I haven't managed any painting at all.  There were a number of reasons for this: some major work crises, a member of the Old Bat's family being very ill, some problems with my PC which meant I was on a laptop for two weeks (my poor eyes) and the extreme heat not being conducive to painting. However, last weekend I actually had some time on Saturday, so I set to for an hour (the maximum time I can manage, now).  I should be finishing my Byzantines (actually I did a bit on them yesterday) and my Carthaginian elephant crew but they all have shield transfers that need doing and I am putting that off until I feel braver.

Instead, I picked out a random box of part painted figures from my in-progress pile (now tidily sat on the shelf behind me) and this turned out to be some of Orinoco Miniatures British Legion for the Latin American Wars of Independence. This range coming out coincided with me having to travel to Colombia a lot and next year (August 7th) they are having a big celebration of 200 years since the key Battle of Boyacá, which saw the defeat of the Spanish and the subsequent creation of Gran Colombia. So far, the Orinoco Miniatures range isn't complete (they are lacking Spanish cavalry (although they have been sculpted) but at the speed I paint that doesn't really matter. The key thing was to find some figures with no shields!

Now, you may think, what are those armless plastics lurking in the background?  Not Napoleonics again?  The period I have said I was going to abandon at least half a dozen times. Well, it was like this.  I went up to London last Friday to meet someone who wanted some advice on something to do with work. I waited for the woman outside where we were supposed to meet, in the sun, in 30 degree heat and after half an hour I decided to forget it. As a man who I used to work with in Switzerland once said: "every minute you are late you are wasting one minute of the other person's life".  Turn up on time!  You're not Italian!  Sweltering and angry (I am increasingly angry about everything and I wasn't exactly Mr happiness and light before) I realised that I wasn't that far from Orc's Nest so thought I could pick up August's wargames magazines.  They had them and I went upstairs to see what plastic figures they had (less and less every time I go).   I wondered what would cheer me up (it's like my friend Sophie and shoes - you don't need 147 pairs of shoes (yes, really) but if buying them makes you happy...).  Well, I thought, my overheated brain operating on dehydrated logic (fuzzy logic), as I am painting British infantry from 1819 if I get British Napoleonic Infantry they will use the same colours.  Congratulating myself on my brilliance, I happily skipped off back to Waterloo Station (ironically) with that warm feeling you get from knowing that you have a box of Perry Miniatures in your bag. It's not quite as good a feeling as knowing that you have a bottle of Cloudy Bay in your bag or Miss Vietnam waiting for you in your hotel room but it still cheered me up a lot, especially as I hadn't had to talk for two hours about developments in infrastructure finance in Latin America to some ungrateful and disorganised, sponging bint.

Mostly armless

Back home, of course, reality dawned and I wondered what on earth happened to cause this state of affairs; like that time at the infrastructure conference in Dublin when, after a night drinking Bushmills with some insurance brokers and going to some Irish musical evening I woke up the next day to find a naked lady journalist in my bath.  How did that happen?

The first question,with this set, of course, is whether to do Waterloo or the Peninsula. Now much of my early wargaming was Waterloo, with hundreds of Airfix plastics and scratchbuilt models of Hougomont (not by me, by my clever friend Bean Kid from some instructions in Military Modelling - I paid him £5, I think and a copy of Penthouse) and La Belle Alliance to go with my Airfix La Haye Sainte.  But, as Mr Mike Siggins pointed out on my Facebook page this week, in doing Waterloo "you are digging a hole for yourself".  Not so much a hole as the Grand Canyon.  So, as you can see by the hats (I've always thought the Belgic shako was a bit silly, anyway) I have decided to go for the Peninsula.  Now the eagle eyed among you will notice that my close up of the paint table figures does not match the one further up the page.  Where, you almost certainly are not asking, is the British Legion; the spark that provoked the Napoleonic purchase in the first place?  The answer is, that they are back in the 'in progress' box. This is because I have started on the British and have decided to drop everything else and concentrate.  Hollow laugh.

I looked at the Peninsula folder on my computer and, in the May when Charlotte was born (1995) I had looked for a small battle in the Peninsular war to paint plastic figures for. I had settled on the Battle of Barossa, in 1811; this being, of course, the battle where Sergeant Patrick Masterson, of the 87th, captured Britain's first Eagle, from the French 8th Ligne.  Sorry, Sharpie. I even had an order of battle against which I had marked how many figures I had completed.  Now, given I don't like fictitious battles, this looks quite achievable in a decade or so.  At 1:33 (which is the ratio I had chosen for my plastics) you would need 133 figures on the British side; mostly infantry with only a few cavalry (10 figures) and two guns.  Oh and no Highlanders! So, time to start!

I am notorious for painting figures and not units, which may well be one of the issues in me rarely finishing a unit. When I do set out to paint a unit it usually goes better (tries to ignore his ACW project from last year).  So what I needed was a British infantry unit to paint for the battle of Barossa. The biggest British unit at Barossa was the 87th Foot, The Prince of Wales Irish, with some 820 men which, at 1:33 equates to 25 figures. Not at all impossible. So the 87th it is and I even ordered the Victrix ensign for them, which arrived today. There were also 750 men of the 95th Rifles at Barossa too, so the four figures in the box will need boosting, so I sent off an order for Perry Miniatures for some metal Rifles reinforcements and some mounted Colonels too.   I'm not even going to think about the French yet, as I am going to need 213 infantry but only 12 cavalry (dragoons - hooray!). Warlord (the Sky Team of wargaming) have an offer on their Early French foot at the moment but I don't know if their figures are any good as I have never bought any of their Napoleonics.  I have read some iffy reviews of some of them.

I have made progress this week, basing and undercoating the whole unit (apart from waiting for the Colonel (actually Lt Colonel Hugh Gough, later Field Marshal, Sir Hugh, Viscount Gough) from Perry Miniatures). I am not able to paint at the speed of the peerless Eric the Shed but while eschewing the dip I have decided to go for a wargames standard and will take some shortcuts on these. I have started by (grits teeth) deciding not to paint the figures' eyes and also leaving the arms off, initially, so as to be better able to get at the straps. I will also paint the packs separately.  Victrix do transfers for packs and canteens but I won't be getting those either (well maybe for the 28th as they had a plate on the back of their shakos).  So by this afternoon I had got the faces painted and shaded and the first shade on the jackets (remembering to do the officers and sergeant in scarlet).

Barossa (or Chiclana as the French call it) 5th March 1811 

This painting of the battle is by Louis-François Lejeune (1775-1848), who was a soldier (eventually becoming a général de brigade and Davout's chief-of-staff) and took his paints on campaign with him.  Although this painting wasn't done until 1824 he was on active service in the Peninsular and made many sketches while on campaign, giving his depiction of troops an authenticity other artists lacked.  He does not, for example, like a lot of contemporary artists, have the British in Belgic shakos. He left the army in 1813 after sustaining a number of wounds in battle and devoted his life to painting, also becoming the mayor of Toulouse in 1841.

So what else have I been up to since my previous post on May 19th? Not that you care but I am going to tell you anyway.  Well, I spent valuable painting time washing up as our dishawasher packed up and despite three vists from the Dishwasher Doctor he couldn't save the machine (it was nine years old and sometimes we run it two or three times a day if the children are home, as we all eat completely different meals). It took two weeks before a new one arrived which was very character building for the Old Bat.  Charlotte refused to help by washing the numerous pots and pans she gets dirty when making vegetarian sausage chilli.  "You're the housewife," she said to the Old Bat. "I'm on holiday!  What else do you do all day?"  This did not go down too well.  Now washing up by hand to the standards of the Old Bat is not a simple matter.  You can't just swill them around in a washing up bowl of soapy water (I have only just learned that the UK's use of washing up bowls inside their kitchen sinks is unusual - you must get lots of broken crockery, Johnny Foreigner) and then rinse.  Oh no.  You have to use boiling water (and super industrial washing up gloves as a result) which needs constantly changing.  Before we had the dishwasher the Old Bat would spend an hour and half every evening washing up but that was before she discovered Love Island (really?).

Back at home, the following week, I had a phone call early one morning.  The Old Bat picked it up and said: "It's Gerry Embleton for you."  Well, I was a bit shocked.  I had ordered this picture (from an Osprey) from the Illustration Art Gallery a few weeks before and they said it would be delayed because it was in Switzerland. I wasn't expecting the artist to ring me up but it turns out he lives there.  He was very apologetic and said that, unfortunately, he couldn't find the painting anywhere and he suspected someone had stolen it from one of his exhibitions.  We had a long chat about painting, wargaming, painting military figures (which he used to do as well) and working for Osprey (which he no longer does).  I actually didn't mind about the painting being lost (I did get a refund) as I had the opportunity to talk to one of my favourite illustrators, whose work I had appreciated since the pictures he did for Look & Learn back in the sixties and seventies.  It quite made my day.

As the heatwave continued I found myself locked in my study working on a series of big reports and proposals in the gloom I have to experience when the sun is out, as I have to have a blackout blind drawn down and the desk light on or I can't see my computer screen.  We had a whole series of deadlines to hit which made 12 hour days, seven days a week for over a month.  I basically didn't leave the house, so when I did I was sort of shocked by how hot it had become in the heat of the day. The thermometer in my study was reading 32 degrees first thing in the morning.

I realised how hot it had got when we all went to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which was part of Guy's 21st birthday present, held over from March.  It was just baking and I started to feel quite odd, despite guzzling bottle after bottle of water. Guy has no patience with older people and so I wasn't allowed to sit down and have lunch at any of the appealing looking pop up restaurants. The Old Bat does not approve of eating out, which she thinks is a terrible waste of money.  I am not a petrol head, have never owned a car and don't enjoy driving but I appreciate cars from an aesthetic standpoint, particularly the older ones.  There were a lot of cars there and while I wasn't that impressed by all the supercars, as living where I do you see them all the time anyway, but I enjoyed seeing the historic cars, including one of the three Mustangs which they used to film the chase in Bullitt (1968).

Best thing about the day was Jet Pack man, though, especially when he flew under the bridge over the track. I really want one of these to get to the station!  The old style Bell rocket pack they used in Thunderball (1965) and at the opening of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics could only run for about thirty seconds but this one can go for up to eight minutes. Invented by someone from Britain it is now being funded by the US Military.

I first came across the Napier-Railton in my Brooke Bond tea cards History of the Motor Car in the late sixties.  I loved all the pipes and stiff emerging from its body. It's certainly like a Pulp vehicle; it looks like it should have Doc Savage at the wheel.  The original car is in the Brooklands Museum, which is about seven miles from where we live and my Uncle Wally had a lot to do with setting up. 

"They're going to be running it in the hill climb!" exclaimed Guy as we looked at the Goodwood programme.  A replica surely? But no, more than eighty years after it was built, it was able to hammer up the hill in fine, gleaming, mid-thirties style,  Not just a dusty museum exhibit, this.

The following weekend Guy and I went to the Brooklands Trust Classics day (we both joined as members which means we can get in for free and use the members bar, restaurant and verandah). We went to have another look at the Napier-Railton, now safely returned from Goodwood.

This is the Daily Herald trophy, awarded for the fastest lap of Brooklands (the world's first purpose built motor racing track) which is now held, in perpetuity (as the track has been chopped up to make way for shops and offices) by the Napier-Railton, driven by John Cobb at 144 mph in October 1935

This is a great shot of Cobb setting the record on 7th October 1935, all four wheels of the Napier-Railton off the ground on Brooklands famous banking.



There is still some of the banking left at Brooklands and they had some of the British classics parked up on it. The bridge in the background of the colour shot above is the same one as in the black and white picture.  I was excited to see a Singer Gazelle and a Morris Oxford; two of my family's childhood cars.  The condition of most of these cars was amazing.  I don't think ours ever looked this good, even when they were new!

There was a large auto jumble at the event, where you could pick up bits of car, if you were so minded but having no interest in bits of cars I bought a naked girly statue instead, given I didn't think they would let me take the Daily Herald Trophy.  Guy though that this was typical.

Next it was music, rather than vehicles and a trip up to the Guildhall School of Music where my niece had an opera performed.  She has written a chamber opera before but this was the first one which has been staged with sets and costumes.  Called A Risk of Lobsters the story is far too convoluted to explain but was set in outer space, under the sea and in the court of a ferret prince.  She has now been taken on by the Guildhall as a fellow for next year and has done an interview and had her music played three times on Radio Three now.

Today's wallpaper is an appropriately Napoleonic period painting: Jean Auguste Dominic Ingres; La Grande Odalisque, which dates from 1814.  It was commissioned by Joachim Murat's wife Caroline, Napoleon's younger sister.  It was not well received at the time, with its deliberately distorted anatomy, but when I first saw it in the Louvre at the age of twelve I had to buy a print of it, along with a Renoir nude and Théodore Géricault's officer of the Chasseurs of the Guard. Soldiers and naked ladies being my two favourite things, even then.

Today's music also has a Napoleonic link (or perhaps an anti-Napoleonic link) in that it is my favourite Beethoven symphony; the 3rd, With Dvorak's New World this was the first classical record I owned when my aunt gave me her copy (as it was a duplicate) when she got married in 1968. I never get tired of it (unlike the 5th and 6th) and used to play it when setting up my Airfix Napoleonic wargames back in the early seventies so still resonates when painting British infantry (not that I ever painted any of my Airfix figures, except the British Hussars). This was the 1957 stereo recording produced by Walter Legge and it is still my favourite. My CD version has the advantage of no break part way through the second movement, either, like the LP did. I will be away for a bit shortly, so my painting will stop for a few days but will hopefully resume soon.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Byzantines, tempting figures,models from the past and an art blog

So, it is another Royal Wedding today and, luckily, the Old Bat will be glued to the TV all day, enabling me to get a decent amount of painting done.  The Old Bat doesn't even like the couple; Harry is a 'dim, bush mush' and Markle is an 'American trailer trash golddigger' who is 'making the Royal Family a laughing stock'. It won't stop her watching everything, though! Mainly so she can insult guests fashion choices.

I hope to get on with my Byzantine Infantry, which I have done a bit on this week.  If I can get all the black and leather bits done this weekend I will be pleased.  I have also got the shields started and have got some transfers for them, although I am already getting stressed about how to deal with these.  I have bought some Micro Sol and some Micro Set but even with my glasses I can't read the instructions on the bottles.  The key question is: do I still need to paint them with gloss paint or gloss varnish before I put them on? Also the transfers have no hole for the boss so I have no idea how I am going to deal with that.  Stressful times ahead!  As my particular friend A says.  Isn't this supposed to be a relaxing hobby?

Why come to Israel?

To relax I am enjoying watching the Giro d'Italia at present (although possibly the accompanying regional selection of Italian wines is helping in this) , although they haven't had the best of weather. It was even cloudy in Israel.  Talking of Israel, during Eurosport's coverage we are getting the usual travel advertisements for Tel Aviv Jerusalem; two places I wouldn't dream of visiting, despite the (rather engagingly old fashioned) use of alluring girls in the commercials.  

Follow me!  Oh, alright then

Last year's advert (only people who work in TV call them commercials) had top Israeli model, Shir Elmaliach, filmed in a point of view way, leading a lucky man through carefully selected highlights of the two cities.  Linking them together as a destination is quite clever (the original advertisement won a lot of awards) given that Jerusalem is an interesting historic city and Tel-Aviv appears to be like Basingstoke on sea with added bus bombs.  It was one of those adverts that I actually used to stop fast forwarding through the advert break for, so as to better appreciate Shir's pert posterior in a variety of clingy outfits.

This year, although they have bought back Shir (sadly, largely filmed from the front - it was like when FHM did a pictorial on Jennifr Lopez and only photographed her from the front) they have teamed her with British presenter Sian Welby (no I have never heard of her either - perhaps she is on the Shopping Channel or some such).  The new advert dumps the disembodied man being led through the two cities' delights and just has the two girls taking selfies of each other and people taking selfies annoy me enormously. Instead of intimating at naughty fun in the sun for the male visitor, as in last year's advert, in this one the girls actually look like they would prefer naughty holiday fun with each other.  Using two girls is not necessarily more effective than one! Sian is quite annoying, gurning her way through the film, and is not a patch on Shir, even though the latter looks like she has patently never ridden a bike in her life as she wobbles through the scenery.  Epic fail, as my son would say. It is supposed to evoke an Instagram story, apparently,whatever that is.

It doesn't quite have the Marmite effect of another travel campaign, for Tui (originally Preußische Bergwerks-und Hütten-Aktiengesellschaft), shot in Turkey and featuring gap-toothed British model Bethany Slater.  This advert carpet bombed our screens from last October and started to drive me mad with its stupid dancing crabs and annoying, gets into your head, synthesizer riff. The simpering singer, murdering the Rufus and Chaka Khan hit Ain't nobody, makes you think the girl miming in the advert is an insipid simpering girl herself; probably called Alison who probably lives in an unfashionable part of North London somewhere and works in HR.  Sorry if you know someone called Alison but I once had a simpering, insipid girlfriend called Alison (very briefly) who lived in Belsize Park.  She didn't work in HR but was a nurse which should have been more exciting than it was.

The advert has Bethany as a rather tragic singleton whose life is transformed by flying to a Tui resort in Turkey on a Tui airliner (they probably have their own Tui tank division as well,  so at least they might be able to get you out of Turkey if there is another attempted coup), having her face painted green and dancing badly, to the extent that in the follow up advert she appears to have sex in the pool with some random man (hopefully she uses a Tui condom).  Well, that's the way it looks to me.  You too can have naughty fun on a cheap package holiday, although not as much fun as promised by Shir in Israel (I would imagine). One of my friends loves gap-toothed Bethany and watches it every time it comes on, although latterly Tui seem to be using other more normal looking people in their adverts now, disappointingly for my friend.  Maybe the concept of Bethany being a tragic singleton is just too unrealistic, given her leggy charms.

Plastic Victrix Vikings sketches

Anyway, these aren't the figures I was meant to be discussing. As is well known, I can'r resist a shiny new range of figures, so if I see thone I tend to make myself go away and calm down for a bit before ordering them.  Kickstarters are particularly bad, as I get carried away by them and end up buying stuff I don't want (like Mars Attacks).  One I saw recently was by eBor miniatures (who I get muddled up with eBob) for Seven Years War plastic French infantry,  Oh, plastic people with tricornes I thought, excitedly. Shiny!  But when I looked into them, despite the Kickstarter having launched, there is virtually no information about them and just a picture of one figure.  Given they are asking for a rather eye-watering £40,000 and have only raised about £2000 I think this one I can give a miss.  Maybe if they had started with British figures.... Likewise the new North Star and Fireforge fantasy ranges, while tempting at first, would seem pointless given the number of Games Workshop Lord of the Rings figures I have got.  If you are going to have elves and dwarves at least have them sculpted by the Perry twins. Much more interesting is the recent announcement by Victrix of plastic Vikings (first), Normans and Saxons.  The first Victrix figures I bought were their Napoleonics and I didn't like them at all but their recent ancients have been wonderful. I will definitely be getting these!

Fraxinus posted about the new Airfix Vintage Classics range, which they are bringing out shortly.  These feature many of the models from my past. Plastic models, that is, not the walking up and down on a catwalk (sorry, runway) ones I used to know when I was younger, when hanging out in Milan during Fashion Week. It was no coincidence that Lloyd's Italian brokers day was organised at the same time as Milan Fashion Week. No coincidence as I organised it, with my Italian colleague.  During one of these was the only time I literally saw grown women eating just lettuce for dinner, when I went to the birthday party of a Brazilian model and my Italian colleague entirely failed to chat up Carla Bruni. Should have aimed slightly lower down the model pecking order. Heh, heh.

The Vintage Classics line will use some of the old box art.  Models will include the Bismark, the first model ship I built (it sadly ended its life in the garden being riddled with .177 pellets from my air rifle) and the Panzer IV, which I must have made a fair number of in the past (did anyone ever make it with the tragic short barrelled cannon?). The Panzer IV was my favourite tank kit and I might just get one to put on my shelf somewhere.  I wonder whether you can get a 1/56 one?  But then it would need some Perry Afrika Korps and that wouldn't go well.  I was looking at the Airfix website recently and was amazed by the almost complete disappearance of their historic ships ranges but now, at least, some of these will return. I did build the Royal Sovereign model in the past and it sat in my mother's lounge for decades as I, amazingly, actually completed, painted and rigged it.

Under the sea

When I thought my eyesight had deteriorated too much to paint wargames figures I did think about going back to making model ships again but the question for me is where do ship modellers keep their finished models?  You can't really hang them from the ceiling like aircraft.  That said, I recall reading an AE Van Vogt short story, once, where an alien creature sat in a space craft under the sea but could not sense water, so passing ships appeared to be floating in the air above.  Could you hang your ship models at exactly the same height so that they appeared to be floating in invisible water? Like the Grand Hyatt hotel in Dubai where I used to stay, sometimes.  It would be worse than trying to get pictures to hang  at the same height, though.

That said, I did dig my model of the RMS Mauretania out of the loft after visiting the ocean liners exhibition at the V&A,  Maybe I'll take it to Cowes this year.   I never made the HMS Belfast , either. and always wanted to, although back when I made model warships you didn't have to worry about the dazzle paint scheme!  That would be a nightmare!  Usually the biggest stress with ship models is getting the waterline stripe right. At least there would be more room on my workbench, now, for a ship under construction.  These old Airfix models are very crude compared with modern ones but that is part of their charm, really, as no doubt Airfix hope.   They are promising more than the initial release of 25 models (depending on how they sell, I suppose) but some are lost forever, the original moulds having being destroyed in the Second Iraq war (they had been sold by Heller to an Iraqi firm), supposedly).

Odalisque (1873)

Given it is the Giro I should have wallpaper by an Italian artist, so here is a Turkish-style odalisque (the lowest grade of girl in the harem) by Francesco Paolo Michetti (1851-1929). The orientalist subject matter is unusual for the artist who specialised in outdoor scenes.  Michetti originated in the Abruzzo region of Italy and after studying at the Academia in Naples moved to Paris to continue his studies, exhibiting at the 1872 Paris Salon.  In 1883 he bought an old convent building, back in Abruzzo, as his studio and home and took much of his inspiration from the local people and landscape.  He also exhibited in Milan, Naples, Berlin and at the first Venice Bienalle.  For the last twenty years of his life he lived as a virtual recluse and stopped exhibiting.

Given I haven't started a new blog for ages I have decided to do one which just features art from my Paint Table Saturday wallpaper, Art Friday on my Facebook Page, as well as a number of my other blogs.  Initially I have collected (and in some cases expanded) the pieces I have posted before.   You can find it here.  Expect lots of naked ladies and the occasional military, maritime and Baltic landscape painting.

Italian music too, with Giuseppe Sinopoli's tremendous Nabucco.  It's not my favourite Verdi Opera, that is Aida, but the first act charges along at a tremendous pace and is full of fantastic melodies.   I bought my copy in the legendary Farringdon Records in Cheapside, from the legendary Tony.  I got it when it came out in 1983, having bought the DG Aida the year before.  It is excellent music to cook Spaghetti Bolognese to!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fireforge Byzantines construction and a chicken recipe for the Giro

I put two posts up on a couple of my other rather neglected blogs over the weekend.

Firstly, a look at building some of Fireforge's plastic Byzantine infantry which is here.

Secondly, a chicken recipe to go with Stage 8 of the Giro d'Italia which is here.

Hmm, I thought.  I'll never get a picture that links Byzantines and chicken to illustrate this post with.  Wrong.  Isn't the internet wonderful?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Byzantines, a tidy workbench and a trip to Cowes

Regular readers of my paint table Saturday posts may be surprised by the absence of paint in this picture.  Previously there were dozens of pots of Humbrol enamel to the left, where my mug now resides in solitary splendour.  Under the computer screen were piles of figures I was working on and to the right was a horrible pile of paints, unopened figures and paintbrushes.  Chaotic does not even begin to describe it.  Then I read about a storage system in a review in Wargames illustrated and in less than 48 hours was presented with a heavy box of nicely finished plywood pieces.  Perhaps emboldened by my work in assembling my Victrix war elephants I charged straight in to start working on it.

I was so impressed with the unit and my skills in assembling it (er) that I sent off for two more units of drawers from the same manufacturer.  These went together as easily, although were not quite so robust, being MDF, but once painted black fitted pretty well with the big unit.  Together, the two were the same width as the large unit, although a little less deep from to back.  They came with drawer dividers but I wasn't going to use them so chucked them out.  No doubt Eric the Shed would have used the bits to make a Northwest Frontier fort!

So, here are the three units in situ.  Glue, filler, files and glasses top left.  Paints I am currently using underneath them.  Below that three drawers which hold tall bottles of varnish and paint, taller figures in process (Byzantines with spears) and bases,  The big drawer underneath that has all my Citadel paints and washes and the bottom draw has other figures in progress.  In the centre there is a space for white spirit and matches for stirring paint.  Top left there are special racks for paintbrushes and next to that are  knives, my magnifying craft glasses and my water pot.  In the big drawer below that are bits and transfers.  The bottom two drawers are more Humbrol tinlets.  It really is amazing how much I got into this thing!



I couldn't quite get everything in.  My pots of sand and gravel with some overflow paints have gon onto my old paint rack behind the computer screen but it is an amzing improvement on what was there before.



This is just part of an ongoing tidy up of my study.  There is still an awful lot to do but I now have one tidy corner at least.  The next job is to file a load of DVD's into albums and free up some shelf space for books,  Step by step!

So now that I have a less stressful working environment what is on today's workbench?  I haven't forgotten about the Carthaginian elephant crew but I am waiting the arrival of some Micro-sol and Micro-set for the shield transfers.  In the interim I have started the Byzantine infantry I got at Salute.  These aren't as refined as Victrix plastics but are perfectly serviceable and do not suffer from gnomish big head syndrome like the Gripping Beast plastics I have seen (at least their Vikings). I bought the extra resin command and these are very nice indeed.  Assembling the resin figures was a bit of a pig as even superglue takes ages to dry on them and you need to wait an hour after sticking on one arm, for example, before attempting to glue the next piece.  This is the second batch for a unit of twelve for Lion Rampant.  I have already started painting the first five but will leave them now until I get these up to the same stage.

I didn't get any painting done last weekend as I was down in Cowes for my father in law's ninetieth birthday party at the Royal Yacht Squadron at the Castle.  The Squadron are brilliant at this sort of thing and the weather was wonderful, which helped a lot as it meant that guests could wander out onto the lawn overlooking the Solent.  Tea on the lawn (technically tea overlooking the lawn) being a popular activity during Cowes week. A couple of years ago I had a nice chat with Zara Tindall, Princess Anne's daughter, there. Princess Anne knows my parents-in-law and has been sailing on their boat a number of times.  She is very nice too and was quite prepared to muck in on the boat, clean the decks, empty the bin etc.  The Old Bat is not convinced about 'that trashy American' due to marry into the Royal family imminently.  'I wouldn't curtsey to her!' she maintains. "She just wants a title then she will dump Harry and will be back to America and hope to become Jackie Onassis for the rest of her life!" says the Bat.  She'll still watch the wedding on TV, though, so she can be rude about all the women's outfits.

You are not really allowed to take pictures inside the Castle but I couldn't resist taking a shot of the Kaiser's racing ensign, from the Imperial yacht, just outside where the lunch was held (which isn't in the main building anyway).  There were two types of guests: yachtsmen and supercharged medical people.  All of them (and especially their wives) were snapping away inside on their mobile phones, disgracefully.  My father-in-law asked me to look after a girl (the youngest person there by about forty years) from a boatyard on the Thames who had single-handedly restored a Dunkirk little ship. He was worried she might be a bit overpowered by the type of guests (three potential Nobel prize winners) but there were enough boaty people for her to feel at home.  Last time I had seen her she was bending planks of wood to fit the hull of a boat. Talk about having all the skills I don't.  She came on her motorbike and despite wearing a nice blue dress, her arms and thighs (it was a very short blue dress) were speckled in paint.  Splendid, I thought, until I realised that I was old enough to be her grandfather. 

Lunch was excellent and, as a bonus the Old Bat wasn't there as she had to work and she certainly wouldn't have liked the Bembridge lobster. 'What sort of person eats something like that?" she cries in utter incomprehension.  Me, actually.  Isle of Wight lobsters are some of the best in Britain and when Mary Berry did a TV programme on them it was to the Island that she came.

The Squadron are very good at using local suppliers for their food and they had the full range of Isle of Wight cheese and even local crackers.  Yum yum.  It isn't that many years since the Isle of Wight was famous for being the only county in Britain without a single entry in the Good Food Guide but now it produces wonderful crustacea, lamb, tomatoes, garlic (especially), wine, beer and even gin.  There is even a Michelin starred restaurant on the Island now but I have never been.  The Old Bat would object to the price (she doesn't approve of going out to eat when you can 'buy the same food in a supermarket'),  Guy only eats breaded chicken and pizza and Charlotte is a vegetarian.  It's no wonder that I go out to eat regularly with ladies from my past!

I went to the Ocean Liners exhibition, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with one of these ladies recently.  This really is the best exhibition I have attended for some time and is highly recommended.  I have always wanted to cross the Atlantic on a liner, although my father-in-law says it is often a rough experience.  He lived and worked in the United States in the late fifties and returned home in the SS Saxonia.  He had bought a new car in the US and provided it was over a year old he would avoid the import purchase tax of twice the value of the car that would be levied on arriving in Britain. He had calculated that he would avoid this by one day but the Saxonia was making such good speed that it was due to arrive a day early and he would be clobbered by the tax.  Being my father-in-law, he asked the captain to slow the ship down!  This he couldn't do but instead, took an unscheduled detour to Le Havre instead and saved my father-in-law hundreds of pounds.

It is appropriate that today's music is the official CD of the Liners exhibition which is a great collection of twenties, thirties and forties music, which played inside the exhibition.  I bought the book too.  I really need to get my bookshelves sorted!

Nude lying on a couch (1873)

Today's wallpaper is by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894).  Caillebotte qualified as a lawyer and also an engineer but was drafted into the Garde Nationale Mobile de la Seine in the Franco-Prussian War. It was only afterwards that he began to study art seriously and he first exhibited in the second Impressionists exhibition in 1876. Although, as can be seen here, many of his paintings showed a tighter realism than his peers. Caillebotte's brother died at a young age and the artist (rightly) thought that he would not live into old age, so he wrote a detailed will leaving his collection of his and other impressionist paintings (Renoir was his executor) to the French State. Impressionism still wasn't really accepted in Paris by the authorities and they didn't want them balthough an exhibition of part of Caillbotte's collection, after his death at the age of 48, was the first show of impressionist paintings held in a public venue, at the Palais de Luxembourg.  More than thirty years later, the French government, having changed their mind about impressionism, tried to grab the collection but the Caillebotte family saw them off and many of the paintings in the collection were bought by Albert Barnes and taken into his Barnes Collection in Philadelphia, where the Legatus went to see them a few years ago.

This is an uncompromisingly realistic nude for 1873 and has none of the usual themes that artists used to justify painting naked ladies at the time; such as bathers or classical subjects.  As a result, it has a timeless quality which makes it look more modern than its 145 year old age.