Friday, December 05, 2014

Something for the Weekend: Sheena Easton

We have had several incredulous comments about the presence of a Sheena Easton poster visible in a picture of  our old university room.  In our defence we offer some pictures of her on our Legatu's Wargames Ladies blog, although there is nothing racy about these pictures (sadly).

Monday, December 01, 2014

Utter chaos...and babydolls

No, this isn't something to do with Warhammer forces.  Incidentally, the ridiculously Rococo models that GW started to produce for their Chaos forces were really the first slide down the slippery slope of ludicrous over-encrustation which has led to many of their models being too detailed to paint for youngsters.  Simplify the models and young people can paint more of them more quickly!  No, the chaos I'm talking about is that in my "playroom", as it is dubbed.  For various reasons we have to move a lot of stuff around in the loft which will mean, essentially, taking everything out of it.  This really is a nightmare as it is completely full.  Given my room is already over-stuffed I have decided to put a lot of things on eBay to give me space for things I really want to keep.  Looking around yesterday I was struck by the number of plastic model kits up there and I decided that as I haven't completed a model  kit for something like twenty years I really am not going to get around to all of this lot.  So I retrieved some of them and have started putting them on eBay.  Most of them I didn't even remember buying!  

My room at university in the third year

Despite this evidence to the contrary I am usually a reasonably tidy and ordered person and untidy people (yes, Sophie I am thinking about you) drive me around the bend.  This is also apposite given some of the comments I have received in my recent Proliferation of Blogs post.  Given my mother was a very tidy person (she still is; she is still "tidying up" everybody else's possessions at the old peoples home) it was only when I went to University that I realised that not everyone was like that.  The worst example I encountered was in my third year when I was living out in North Oxford while all my friends managed to bag rooms in college for the third year.  Because my room was very small I had to be very tidy anyway.

On the ground floor of the large Victorian house six of us shared, lived F, an aristocratic Classicist from one of the women's colleges whose father was something very senior in the government.  F was the most disorganised person I had ever met.  She could not cook and lived on cold kidney beans and cold custard, all eaten (often together) straight from the tin.  She could make tea but was unable to buy milk (she could never find any money) and if she did it was probably off by the time she offered it to anyone.  She was, not surprisingly, a skinny girl but was blessed with  a surprisingly large bust (as I later discovered).  She also seemed to be incapable of operating hi-tech equipment, such as drawers.  All of her clothes were just strewn on the floor, as were her books, music cassettes, tins of beans and custard, soap, toothpaste, lacrosse equipment, tampons, pens, crockery, clothes pegs (never used, as far as I could see), bottles and bottles of Fairy liquid (also never used - she must have won a competition) etc.  I am not exaggerating when I say that her carpet (I did see it once) was covered to a depth of about six inches.  Her room looked like the garbage compactor in the original Star Wars film.  Now some people who take this approach to, say, papers on their desk or floor (most lawyers) can instantly locate anything at a moment's notice but F was hopeless.  She would run up to my room on the second floor at least three times a day desperate to get help in looking for something she needed (usually a book but sometimes her written work) before a tutorial.  It was like being one of those poor Brazilian children who spend their lives picking through refuse tips.  Quite often you would find something only to discover it was stuck to something else with a vaguely unidentifiable but invariably sticky substance of indeterminate origin.  Once I did find an open pot of mouldy Marmite with a lolly stick (or spoon, as she referred to it) embedded in it like some disgusting Excalibur.  She did throw away the Marmite but kept the stick, or, at least, dropped it back on the floor.  Needless to say the room was soon infested with woodlice, spiders, mice and probably packs of feral pigs.  "How do I kill the mice without killing them?" she wailed, when our landlady, an eminent Italian Egyptologist, returning from her annual dig in the spring, threatened to take everything out of her room and incinerate it.  All sorts of humane traps followed and the University Parks were soon awash in a lemming-like tide of mice. 

One evening I was happily sitting up in my room listening to Reginald Goodall's Rhinegold on my radio cassette player (I remember paying £149 for this in 1979 - not everything is more expensive now) when she knocked on the door yet again.  She had invited her two tutors for dinner, they were arriving in one hour and she hadn't planned anything to eat.  Could I help?  All I could manage was a very large spaghetti Bolognaise, which essentially used up my food supplies for the next four days.  I cooked while she tried to locate plates and clear her desk which we then had to drag into the middle of her room to serve as a dining table. As I pulled the desk across the carpet she had to shovel the floor-bound detritus out of the way using a Wellington boot.  I turned down the offer of joining her for dinner with her professors (she picked the plates and cutlery off the floor and laid them straight on the table - the Fairy liquid obviously being of unknown use to her) and she never did replace the food. 

Now at that point my girlfriend, C, was living in another women's college and was getting annoyed that every time she came round F would knock on the door (usually at a very inappropriate moment).  "Are you having an affair with that frightful girl?" C asked one evening, in her rather over-dramatic, Celia Johnson way (what sort of eighteen year old speaks like that?). 

"Of course not!  She's untidy! She's ghastly!  And annoying!  And not very clean!"  I replied, quite truthfully.  

Needless to say, within a few days F turned up at my door once again but this time dressed in a babydoll nightie with matching knickers.  I immediately saw her in a new light; the light from my desk which was making her outfit almost completely transparent.  Actually, my first thought was to wonder how long had it taken her to find two matching articles of clothing.

Younger readers may not appreciate the excitement of the babydoll which, even in the early eighties was rather old fashioned although, on the right woman, was very, very effective.  A subsequent girlfriend, V, who we have featured before, also had a fine selection of them.  F looked, as my friend HMS would have said, "most diverting".

This particularly diverting article of women's clothing gets its name from the 1956 film Baby Doll starring Carroll Baker who wears such an outfit and, thereby, caused an overnight fashion sensation, to the delight of men everywhere. Originally this style was designed for children so having an adult wearing something so short was extremely daring, even though Baker's outfits from the film look comparatively modest by today's standards.  It reached its zenith in the sixties and the ne pas ultra example of the garment was worn by Ann Margaret in the Dean Martin spy-spoof Murderer's Row (1966).

Ann Margaret dolled-up

My first personal experience of a babydoll was in Paris in 1972. The entire first year of my school went on a French trip to Paris and Dieppe.  In Paris we were put in dormitories of about eight, in a special international schools hostel. The Legatus and his classmates, Lugs, Dobbin and Smuttley (the latter two he still sees; one is a property lawyer and the other a BBC TV producer) for some reason ended up having to share with four Germans who were considerably older than us (we were twelve). That first night three or four very well developed German girls appeared in the dormitory after lights out, to see their male friends. All were wearing chiffon babydolls with knickers but, very obviously in at least one case, nothing underneath the top. The Legatus and Dobbin, who were somewhat more mature than the other two at this stage (in fact, I was already about 5' 10" tall at this time), were exceedingly diverted by these gorgeously leggy (one of the side effects of a babydoll is that anyone wearing one looks leggy) young women who were, probably, about seventeen.  The German girls thought we were "dear little English boys".  Dobbin and I thought they were the ultimate personification of female sexuality.  The fact that they then sat on our beds almost drove us insane. One of these girls actually patted me on the head and everything under the top half of her nightie jiggled enticingly.  This first proper encounter with the opposite sex had emboldened us both. We then moved to Dieppe for the second half of the trip. Foolishly, the teachers put the four of us in a small annexe to the main hostel. Within minutes Dobbin and the Legatus were out onto the street and down the road to the local magasin where we brought several litres of cider (we looked older than we were, luckily).  In the shop we met two French girls who were also staying at the hostel who, whilst older than us (they were fourteen), were not as intimidating and out of reach as the Germans. They needed little persuasion (fortunately Dobbin's French was much better than mine) to return to our quiet annexe, where they happily swigged our cider and, in return, stripped to their underwear, which was considerably more French than we imagined the girls in the school next doors to ours at home wore. So, it was. thanks to the confidence given me by talking to provocatively babydoll clad German girls. that the Legatus had his first proper snog and, indeed, my first squeeze of a silk-clad female bosom. I still remember her name, Francoise. Any further developments were stalled by the unexpected arrival of the wife of one of our French teachers. Fortunately, she was French herself, so just politely told the girls to get dressed and disappear. She poured the rest of the cider down the washbasin but never said anything to our French teacher. In fact she was trying not to laugh all the way through the process. What a sound lady!

Anyway, it wasn't cider that F was clutching ten years later but a bottle of wine and not just any bottle of wine but a Chateau Palmer 1970.  "Do you have a corkscrew?" she asked.  She had one but, needless to say, couldn't find it.  I opened it for her expecting her to take it down to some hapless visitor but she had brought it for me!  Well, the evening proceeded as well as you might imagine given a bottle of classed growth claret and a girl in a chiffon babydoll.  I was amused, when the time came, however to discover that F had put her nightie on the wrong way round!  Today, she is Dr F, still a very striking looking lady and an award winning TV documentary producer. Somewhere along the line she must have become organised!

So, I am planning a major push on eBay to clear some of this stuff out of the house as I am fundmentally embarrassed to be existing in such utter chaos!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Proliferation of Blogs

Blogging and painting - it all happens here

While the title of this post does rather sound like the name of an AE Van Vogt novel it is really engendered by a recent post by Steve the Wargamer where he asked if he should have separate blogs for different periods or put them all on one.  The majority (all?) of the resulting comments said that one blog is best.  Recently, the estimable Eric the Shed also ventured that I should not have started yet another blog for my food entries. Needless to day, I don't agree or rather, to be more accurate, I don't feel I can now change. 

I currently have 24 wargaming blogs and another six under my other online incarnation.  Surely it is too much to keep 30 blogs up to date?  Indeed it is and most of my blogs go months if not years without an update. This does not worry me in the slightest and the reason goes to the heart of why I blog.

I originally started to blog with my Spartan Wargames Armies blog back in November 2005.  The clear intention was to log painting progress in one place on one project and use the blog to collect other useful information and links. The rot set in early because within a few weeks I had set up another one covering Byzantine Armies (a project which stalled because of my unhappiness with available figures and their incompatibility).  I didn't start the Legatus' Wargames Armies blog until nearly six months later, in April 2006.  

These blogs and the others that followed were, originally, purely designed as a reference for myself because I am always simultaneously working on so many different figures (I estimate that I have around 2000 in various states of completion) that I genuinely lose track of what I have started.  If I can go back to a blog and think "I wonder where those Carthaginians I started are?" it helps me decide to take something off the back burner.

What I never really expected was to get any comments or indeed, any followers.  In the first year of this blog I had precisely four comments.   In the following year I had 12.  In fact it wasn't until 2011, nearly five years after I started this blog, that I got a reasonable amount of comments.  As regards followers I didn't have a followers widget for many years and it was only when someone suggested I add one that I did.  

This was because, still, I was producing the blog for myself (and several friends in Canada who, despite being women, enjoyed the occasional game of Lord of the Rings - why do girls like elves so much?) which was why I started to add some non wargames content.  Maybe it was this that attracted more comments as it certainly couldn't be either my blotchy painting or my (total lack of) wargaming.

Anyway, much to my surprise I ended up with a small and friendly audience.  This was transformed when I started to meet some of them in real life - Giles (whose wonderful blog got me into the whole blogging thing), Big Red Bat at a Society of Ancients Battle day and Matt at Salute.  Others, like Eric the Shed, have followed.  This changed my attitude to the posts on the blog because I now realised that some people were looking at it regularly. I still thought that my blogs would only be of interest (if at all) to people interested in, say, just Spartans, or just the Dark Ages.  People would, therefore, primarily find them through search engines, not by following them.  I get, on average, about 300 views per post on this site, yet I only have 185 followers and probably only a dozen or so people who comment regularly so I still think that most people who look at the blog are not regular readers.  While it is nice to know people follow the blog, I am not interested in chasing hits or followers (that has unpleasant shades of Twitter and Facebook) which is why I don't post, for example, on The Miniatures Page regularly.  On the rare occasions I do, like my post on the re-branding of the Games Workshop shops, then the views will shoot up (to around 1000 in that instance).  Still, that's not the driving force for my posting or the blogs.

So I was quite happy to spread my content amongst multiple blogs because it never occurred to me that the same people who read my ramblings on Spartans would be interested in Vikings.  Certainly, from my point of view, I really enjoy those blogs which focus on one period (probably because I can't). These first ones I started to read regularly (Giles', Big Red Bat's, Matt's) stuck to one period so I thought that this was what to do.  I hadn't seen, at that point (because I didn't look at many other blogs for the first few years), what I would call general wargames blogs by people who also had an eclectic interest in multiple periods. Since then I have followed many excellent blogs, including a rare few where I knew the person first and their blog came along afterwards, like Alastair.

Now, if I was starting wargames blogging now, being more familiar with other peoples blogs, I would, indeed, just have one blog because the blogging has become an enjoyable process in itself over and above being a figure painting project monitor. This is especially true, as at present, when I don't feel like painting.  

However, I now feel I have gone too far down the multiple blog route to combine them all so I will continue in my usual way. I have a sidebar on the right which illustrates all my other blogs anyway so someone can always click on one of those is they want to look at them.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Something for the Weekend: Beaujolais Nouveau featuring Holly Madison

I picked up a bottle of Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau yesterday, which I had hadn't done for about twenty years.  You can read about it on the Legatus' Food and Wine blog and see Miss Madison treading grapes and having a shower with her friends on my Wargames Ladies blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Legatus' Food blog

The idea behind the new Wargame Bloggers Quarterly is to give wargames blogs and blog posts a wider audience.  However, I realised that my piece in the second issue hadn't actually appeared on my blog as it was specially commissioned, thanks to Big Red Bat.  Rather than put it on my main wargames blog I decided to create another blog just for food and wine posts.  This new blog contains the Poulet Marengo post (with a few more pictures) and a new one discussing the constituents of a Full English breakfast.  

Much more to come!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Something for the Weekend: Katheryn Winnick, Viking shield maiden

After our recent Vikings post I felt I had to feature the splendid Katheryn Winnick, from the TV series Vikings, on Legatus' Wargames Ladies this weekend. So I have posted some pictures of her in her marvellously inauthentic textured leather costumes as well as some more contemporary outfits.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Lewis Chessman in Shepperton and other Vikings

The other weekend I was out watching my son compete in the big Silver Sculls rowing event which his club runs.  Over 500 crews competing upstream (against a very strong current and strong wind) from Walton to Weybridge on the River Thames.  Walking along the river bank on the Walton side I spotted this curious statue in a Garden on the Shepperton side of the river.  I recognised it immediately as a representation of one of the Lewis chess pieces now mainly in the British museum (some are on display in Edinburgh and there is a big argument about where they should reside).  It certainly looked rather curious, especially given its size, and I wonder how and why it got there.  Makes a change from a garden gnome, I suppose.

Actually, if you want a Viking Garden Gnome you can get this one which is very much from the Warhammer school of anatomy.

Discovered in Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in 1831 it is thought that the originals, which are mainly carved from Walrus tusk, are 12th Century and originate from Trondheim in Norway.  The late date is evidenced by the fact that the warriors have kite shields rather than the prototypical round Viking ones.  The lack of wear on them has led to the suggestion that they were a trader's stock perhaps en route to Dublin.

Inevitable feisty shield maiden included

Currently, I am watching the drama series Vikings which is grimly enjoyable.  As ever, some of the costumes owe rather too much to the whims of the costume designers (those enemies of cinematic authenticity) using far too much textured leather (the same issue as in Musketeers) although the villagers costumes look quite good.

 Vikings set in County Wicklow

The buildings look much better, however.  They eschew the usually depicted thatch roofs for wooden shingles.


A few years ago I went to a very interesting exhibition at the University of Oslo Museum of Cultural History on the Viking town of Kaupang. The buildings illustrated in pictures and models at the exhibition were just like the ones built on the sets in Ireland.

The series is filmed in Ireland although a few shots of the fjords were done in Norway.  The ships look excellent, although I winced when I saw the steering oars on the port side of the ships (er, steer board).

Gripping Beast Vikings were the first 28mm metal figures I bought and I have a number of them, plus some Artizan and Foundry ones.  I painted most of these a long time ago, probably the earliest ones were in the late nineties, but I could probably tidy them up fairly quickly.

I suppose the ideal rules for Vikings would be Saga, which I have got, although it seems a little too "gamesy" for me.  Something like the Games Workshop Lord of the Rings Battle Companies rules might work well.  I'm also tempted by a larger Lion Rampant force to fight the Moors in Spain and maybe the Carolingians.  Hmm.  At least I have enough unpainted figures to not have to add more to the lead pile!