Sunday, September 14, 2014

Afghans completed, Cairo 1921 and another visit to the Shed!

Well, I finished 11 Afghans this morning which means I have painted the entire (initial, I hope) 28 figure Artizan Designs release.   Given I use The Sword and the Flame for Colonial wargames, which uses 20 man units, I am going to need a lot more.

Here is their fearless leader, Bungdit Din, inevitably.   I haven't given the standad bearer a flag yet as my research on Afghan tribes' flags has been particularly fruitless other than they may have been green and triangular,  I did see something on one of the boards about a firm producing suitable flags towards the end of the year (although I can't remember who) so can wait a bit longer.

Another one-off from the paint table is this Egyptian girly assassin by Dark Fable Miniatures.  She will see service in Ancient Egypt as well as Victorian London and possibly 1920s Egypt too.  I was invited over to Eric the Shed's again last week and had a look at his splendid Egyptian temple and other scenery he is collecting for a 1920's Egyptian pulp game.

I have been painting a few figures with the thought of an Egypt in the twenties game for some years.  My principal protagonists are the infamous Croissant sisters, French archaeologists from Lyon.

From left to right we have:

The second oldest sister, the team's artist and responsible for cataloguing their finds. A keen cyclist and rather distant from her other sisters as she was sent away from home to a Swiss finishing school when she was fifteen, after being found in a compromising position (one of many she is expert in) with her older friend Coralie in the family house near Lyon.  Posed for some artistic postcards in Paris just before the Great War.  These cards were considered key in keeping the morale up of several front line French regiments at Verdun. Collects erotica. Likes girls.  Has been scouring Cairo looking for a Circassian dancing girl to add to her "collection".

The second youngest sister and the only one to have been married. Her Belgian husband was murdered by renegade Schutztruppen in German East Africa and she led a group of her own Askaris to wreak revenge on the Germans during the Great War. A crack shot, she favours a Sharps rifle for sniping and a Holland and Holland Nitro Express for close up work. Smokes cigars. Borderline psychotic

The oldest and most serious of the sisters. She is the historian and writer of the team and despairs of the romantic escapades of her younger siblings. She writes long and appalled letters home to dear Maman in Lyon reporting her sisters' shocking behaviour. Completely unaware that her dear Maman had been discovered by her father in a waterfront bar in Shanghai where she provided the customers with more than just drinks.

Although she is the youngest of the sisters she raises the money for the girl's digs (usually from impressionable older men), obtains firmans (permissions to dig) and generally runs things. She has lived and excavated in America and enjoys driving sports cars (useful in fast getaways from shocked wives who have discovered her with their husbands).

The middle sister. Has no interest in history or archaeology but is a daredevil pilot. Likes the tango, absinthe and seaplanes.  Is in a steady relationship with her Schneider trophy plane's industrialist sponsor and his wife. Is rather closer to her sister Varsité than is socially acceptable. 

On the male side we have from left to right:

Elton Mowbray
American railroad tycoon and joint backer of the Croissant sister's forthcoming expedition up the Nile.

Brendan O'Connell
Charming former French Foreign Legion officer with a penchant for lady Egyptologists.

Harry Hawkes

Ace Great War pilot who specialised in downing Zeppelins and is an expert on photo reconnaissance.  Very keen on getting to know Velocité much better.  Last seen trying to surreptitiously photograph her undercarriage.

Max Kalba

Egyptian (or Turkish or Lebanese) expert on ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Seems to have some sort of a mysterious map.  Suspiciously seems to also speak fluent German.

Sean Sweeney

Kalba's hired muscle.  He and O'Connell, despite their shared Celtic heritage, do not get on.

I have many other characters from my erotic story The Croissant Sisters and other characters, just for the game, ready to take their part in the story.  My recent purchase of the Renedra mud-brick house might start me out on some scenery.

Anyway, no Egyptian follies at the Shed but my first game of Muskets and Tomahawks which was hugely enjoyable.  There is no point me talking about the detail of the game because Eric has done that on his own blog.  As ever, the scenery was superb and Eric gave me some time talking about some of his scenic secrets.  His ability to make splendid scenery is awe inspiring.  The game was a raid by three groups of Indians (sorry, First Nations Aboriginals) on a settlement.  It occurred to me that the secnario would also work perfectly for a pirates or an Indian Mutiny game too.

The best thing was the relatively small number of figures needed.  My force was just 25 figures.   I lost three figures during the game which was a sort of treasure hunt.  I have a big load of Conquest figures somewhere and some Galloping Major ones although I don't feel that they are compatible.

Here, on the left, is a Galloping Major figure and on the right my only painted Conquest one.  They are quite different scales unfortunately.  I am wondering whether the North Star figures might go better with Galloping Major's.  Something else to think about!  I am very grateful to Eric for an excellent game.  I think that is my fourth game this year!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

Well, the end is in sight for the Artizan Afghan tribesmen, with just 3 left to finish out of the original release of 28 figures.  I am also hoping to move along the Sikhs.  Artizan have just announced a set of kneeling Sikhs and some Highlanders in trews (tartan, oh joy!) so I will be ordering those soon too.

Also on the table are six of my latest arrivals; the Victrix Early Republican Romans,  I will undercoat them and get the base colours down this week.  They are splendid!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Hooray for Captain Spaulding, the African explorer!

"I've been looking for a girl like you - not you, but a girl like you"

The first two figures for September are two oddments that have been sitting around on the workbench.  I always have a number of these on the go  if I need a break from painting units; Afghans, in this case - although the end is now in sight on these.  

The Captain Geoffrey T (for Edgar) Spaulding figure (from the Marx Brothers Animal Crackers, of course) is a Copplestone Castings figure.  The film contains one of my favourite Groucho Marx lines: "We took some pictures of the native girls, but they weren't developed. But we're going back in a couple of months!"

Working out a colour scheme from a black and white film is a challenge and, at one point, I actually contemplated painting him in monochrome but that would have limited his use!  I wasn't sure whether to paint a band on the cigar so had to consult the only person I know who (occasionally) smokes cigars, my particular friend Sophie.  She informed me that removing the band can tear the leaf so she leaves it on although some think that leaving the band in place on an expensive cigar is showing off.  Picture reference of Groucho Mark, however, shows that he invariably removed the bands of his cigars.  So close, but no band.

The lady of the night is one of Tim Prow's Foundry figures and she will lurk around Victorian London.  I have a number of these to paint so really ought to get a gas lamp or two!  She is wearing a side-laced corset, although we have to say that it is not historically accurate as these only had lacing on one side, not both as sculpted here.

Captain Spaulding dates from 1930 so is more likely to appear in my long-contemplated 1920's Egypt project.  Eric the Shed has got me thinking about this again.  I am going over to the Shed again today, this time for a game of Muskets and Tomahawks, which will be too much for my poor brain. no doubt!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

The first Paint Table Saturday in September sees more progress on the next batch of Afghans and also a start on the North West Frontier Sikhs.  The latter are going to be quite quick to paint, I think, so I will try to get some more done on them tomorrow.  I'm used to painting Sikhs from Darkest Africa!

A few oddments in the background: Spartans, Neanderthals, Captain Scarlet and Mexican cavalry.  I've also got three one-off figures I hope to finish tomorrow to open September's painting account.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Eight for August

I have now added he grass which I had forgotten when I took these pictures!

So, in the end I did just get eight figures completed for August, even if I did have to finish them at midnight on Sunday 31st!  First off were another seven Afghans.  I now have just ten to do,  This batch includes some with swords and they all have their arms held as if they should be carrying shields which, interestingly, the Studio Miniatures figures have.  Did Artizan just forget to include shields?  I've just ordered a pack of Studio Miniatures Afghans to see how they compare in size.  The Sikh Wars figures I have are slim, more anatomically correct, Perry Miniatures in style but the Afghans look chunkier.  We'll see.

Lastly, I finished one of those non-unit figures that lurk around on the workbench for months.  A Black Scorpion pirate girl for my all female crew.  Anne Bonny from the new North Star range is also now well underway and I have undercoated Blackbeard's crew.  Next up will be the North West Frontier British, who I have now started, plus some more odd figures which are close to completion but I couldn't quite get done by the end of the month.

I couldn't finish them as I spent the weekend down in Cowes for the Cowes-Torquay-Cowes powerboat race.  I have been watching this since I was about eight, although it is a shadow of its former self with only just over a dozen competitors this year.  I remember the whole width of the Solent being taken up with a mass start in the seventies and eighties but this year the whole field could fit into the Royal Yacht Squadron haven.  Although it was nice to see the original Dry Martini, which won in 1974, competing again.

While walking along the front my son, Guy, said that there was a Lancaster about to fly over.  It wasn't a Lancaster, however, but a B17!  I've never seen one at all, I don't think, let alone one flying!  It was en route to the Bournemouth air show. It was the Sally-B which is based at Duxford, somewhere I really need to visit.   I only had time to grab a quick shot as it thundered overhead!  Impressive!  I always wanted to build the Airfix kit when I was younger but had never saved enough pocket money to be able to afford it!  Thanks to Airfix (or rather Roy Cross) I always think that they should be silver though!

Osborne Court

Just along from our house in Cowes is Osborne Court, a large Art Deco apartment building, constructed in 1938.  My father-in-law told me that it was paid for by the German government with the idea that it could serve as the German army headquarters when Britain was invaded.  I couldn't find this mentioned anywhere else but he is usually reliable on history and has been visiting Cowes since the mid-thirties himself.  An intriguing thought, anyway!

We haven't had a musical interlude here for a bit but there is a musical link to Cowes and Osborne Court in particular.  I am currently listening to a CD of music by the largely forgotten British composer Albert William Ketèlbey (1875-1959).  You might not think that you know any of the composer's work but the first few bars of In a Persian Garden should be very familiar.

Rookstone, the house of Albert Ketèlbey, Egypt Hill, Cowes

Ironically, Ketèlbey was tremendously famous in his day and was heralded as Britain's greatest living composer in 1929, as his work was performed more than any other British composer that year.  He is also believed to have been Britain's first millionaire composer.  Yet by the time of his death in 1959 he was almost forgotten; his melodic, programme music becoming very unfashionable.  Now he is rehabilitated somewhat, with compositions such as In a Monastery Garden, In a Persian Market and Bells Across the Meadows being performed regularly and receiving airtime on radio.  In fact, the latter composition was actually banned from radio broadcast (the first recording banned by the BBC!) during WW2 in case people thought that the bell chimes in the piece were the warning for a German invasion!

Born in Birmingham, the son of an engineer, he began piano lessons at the age of eight and started his formal studies at the age of eleven at the School of Music of the Birmingham and Midland Institute.  At the age of eleven he performed his own piano sonata in Worcester Town hall and greatly impressed Sir Edward Elgar, who was in the audience. At thirteen he won the Queen Victoria scholarship to London's Trinity College of Music, beating one Gustav Holst into second place. At Trinity he won numerous prizes and became a very young professor there; affecting a tail coat to make himself look older.  His first major compositions followed at the age of eighteen and by the age of twenty his Piano Concerto in G Minor won the Tallis Gold Medal for Counterpoint.

He met his first wife, Charlotte Siegenberg, while acting as musical director of the Vaudeville Theatre, where he started work at the age of 22.  For over forty five years his compostions made him "The King of Light Music" and in 1926 sales of the sheet music for In a Monastery Garden, the composition that made him a household name in 1915, passed one million copies.  He composed a lot for the pre-sound cinema and was also involved in the early days of gramophone recording.  His wife died of pneumonia in 1947 and he moved out of London to the south coast to recover from a nervous breakdown. There he met  and eventually married Mabel Pritchett, then the manageress of a hotel he was staying in and who had initially refused his request to have a piano installed in his room. They moved to the Isle of Wight, which was where Pritchett's family came from, in 1948, initially living in Bembridge. The following year the couple moved to Cowes and Rookstone, a bungalow on Egypt Hill, where he continued to compose, although his music had faded from popularity after World War 2.  He wrote one piece, in 1952, named after a place on the Isle of Wight, On Brading Down (which is just above a splendid Roman villa and well worth a visit if you are on the Island), but it wasn't published and is now lost.

Osborne Court, Cowes 1958

In 1959 he moved to Osborne Court on the Parade at Cowes but died there on December 1st the same year.  While Osborne Court is still there today and, hopefully. listed, given it's prime seafront position and the alarming rate of development in Cowes (a pub had gone from the high street, I noticed this summer, to be replaced by yet more luxury apartments), we don't know how secure its future is.

Osborne Court today

Last summer I was walking up Egypt Hill in Cowes and noticed that Rookstone, the bungalow he moved to in 1949, had been demolished and replaced with a rather horrible (and expensive looking) modern monstrosity (not that Rookstone had any architectural merit but that's not the point).  There were several letters of protest to the Isle of Wight County Press at the time but to no avail.  Fortunately, I had captured it in the photo in this post a few years ago.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Feeling scenic in Edinburgh

Edinburgh from the Botanical Gardens

Well, I am just back from a few days in Edinburgh and feeling rather scenic.  You can't fail to feel scenic in Edinburgh as it really is the most attractive of Britain's larger cities with almost every street in the centre of the city offering views of characterful buildings, hills or the water.  Really, we went up to have a look at Charlotte's flat which she is living in for this year.  After twenty minutes work in the hallway outside we actually cleared a path so that we could get into her room.  Another twenty minutes saw her flat packed shelves assembled so she had somewhere to put the years worth of Kerrang magazines which were all over the floor.

Everybody loves a flexible girl

Anyway, that evening we attended an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event.  My heart would normally sink  at the words "Edinburgh Fringe" as it inevitably reminds me of pretentious "drama" types from university.  Indeed, there were a fair few street theatre types indulging in the sort of behaviour which would, in the past, have had them locked up for being an annoying loony.  However, the Old Bat had arranged tickets for an acrobatic/gymnastic/circus performing show called Circa.  In this a bunch of the most flexible Australians in the world did impossible (and dangerous) things with their bodies.  I have seen Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas and these people were better.  Most impressive!

Imagine you can travel back in time...

Having done most of the major tourist attractions on previous visits the chosen attraction for the next day, the Botanical Gardens, was not exactly filling me with enthusiasm either.  I think one of the biggest wastes of time and money in the domestic environment is gardening and Gardeners' World's Monty Don is the most annoying man on television.   However, the Royal Botanic garden was a marvellous place with 12 glass houses full of exotic environments.  My favourite. of course, was the pre-historic looking area which was full of plants from New Zealand, largely, in an evocation of dinosaur foliage.

Camellia Sinensis

Even more exciting (tragic, I know) was seeing, given my earlier post, this tea plant!  An Assam bush, to be precise!  I can't think that I have ever seen a tea plant growing before!  The tea I had in Edinburgh was uniformly excellent and it made me wonder whether the water had something to do with it.  We live in a hard water area whereas the water in Edinburgh is softer.

Outside one of the glasshouses was a small raised bed of Alpines (as gardeners call them) and this, to me looked like a splendid basis for a rocky wargames board.  I think the imminent completion of my Afghans has got me thinking about some appropriate scenery.  Perhaps its just that many other bloggers are working on exciting scenery projects at present and I, as usual, am not.  This is just the sort of thing I would have wanted to get my Airfix US Marines onto when I was small. Perhaps I liked it because it reminded me of our rockery at home!

Well, thinking about some pirate games I ordered this box of plastic palm trees and they look like they will be useful.  I read once about a man who made scenic items using CDs as bases and wondered if I might try something like that with these plus some other "plants".  I am a bit worried about them looking too regular but it may be worth trying a few bases out.

While in Edinburgh I was very impressed with the Games Workshop store's Goblin Town diorama in the window.  This really captures the 3D nature of the terrain in the film but I shudder to think how many sets of decking they had to use for it!  The chap in the shop said they had a really impressive Goblin Town layout in Warhammer World now.  More pictures here.

I've been away much of the last ten days so really need to catch up on everyone's blogs!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

I did get about three hours painting done this afternoon as I move on slowly with the Afghans.  They have been on the paint table now so long that we have actually moved into a different geological time period from the one I started them in.  In order to try and actually log some completed figures for August I have decided to take six of them and try to get them finished tomorrow.  There are only eight days left in August and I am away for four of them.  I will aim to finish the other twelve next month.