Saturday, March 02, 2019

Paint Table Saturday: Byzantines, Dutch, Indian Mutiny, some Kickstarters and back to school.


It's a very long time since I have written a Paint Table Saturday post but I am indeed, doing some painting, thanks to the ongoing Sculpting Painting and Gaming Facebook Group (although the lack of a comma in the title continues to annoy me). In theory, you are supposed to paint for 30 minutes a day but what with the bad light and four proposals to get done for work since January my output has dropped a bit. I am not managing 30 minutes a day but I have now painted for at least 30 minutes a week for 16 weeks in a row.  Some weeks I am close to, or even over, the required 210 minutes.

So far in 2019 I have completed 29 figures which is not a bad start for me, given that my bad eyesight makes it hard for me to paint for very long. Last month I finished a unit of twenty figures depicting the 64th Foot from the Indian Mutiny (Iron Duke Miniatures).  I will get some more of these soon as I have actually painted all of the ones I own, shockingly. As usual with wargaming flags, for some reason, the standards are rather oversize making it difficult, given I gave them the correct length (scale 9' 10") poles.  I wish flag manufacturers would say that there flags are oversized. 'Oh they look better on the table' say idiots on TMP. Not to me they don't. It's like those people in the past who used 54mm figures on the table to depict their generals. Also, the standard bearer figures' hands are in just the wrong position to easily hold the flagpoles. It took me a very frustrating hour to get them attached, Immediately afterwards I had to go to the doctor and he was concerned about my 'alarmingly high 'blood pressure. I had to explain what had caused it.

My current projects include a unit of Fireforge Byzantine archers and three Byzantine command to go with the nine rank and file I finished in January. I have all the base colours down on these now so hope to push on with them this weekend, In addition, I am working on a couple of individual figures for when L get bored with production line painting. One is a pulp Turk/Egyptian and the other is a Harry Potter figure for my daughter, really just to see if I can do it justice and thereby justify buying the game which my daughter would then play with me, at least.

These six figures are a purchase from this week; six North Star 1672 Dutch. I ordered these at lunchtime on Tuesday and they arrived Thursday morning, which is nearly as good as Amazon.   This purchase was inspired by a new book on the Dutch army of the period which came out this week. I bought some of these Copplestone sculpted figures ten years ago when they first came out and even painted a couple but finding information on the Dutch army of the time proved impossible so I gave up on the period. Hopefullym I will now be able to produce something for use with The Pikeman's Lament.  Compared with the plastics I have been painting lately these big chunky metals are going to be easier to deal with I think.  I just need the book to arrive so I can get properly started.

A big box of a Kickstarter I backed some time ago arrived this week: The John Carter role playing game. I couldn't even remember if I had backed this or cancelled it but here it is. Now what on earth do I do with it? Lots of delicate looking resin figures. Oh dear!  Thirty four figures and a 238 page rule book!

I first read the Edgar Rice Burroughs books in the early seventies when I was enticed by the covers of the New English Library paperback issues which largely featured under dressed ladies, much to the delight of my twelve year old self.  They key painting issue with these is going to be devising an appropriate flesh tone for the Red Martians.

The problem is that the more I paint the more figures I want. When I wasn't painting much I didn't buy many figures. I really, really must sell some I am never going to do!

So absolutely no reason to back another Kickstarter this week, of course. But that is exactly what I did with Paul Hicks' American War of Independence figures for Brigade Games (it's funded with 26 days to go). As usual I am influenced by the sculpts not the wargaming potential but this is a period I have literally toyed with for many years, ever since my Airfix days. I bought a lot of the Perry Foundry figures but although Perry Miniatures comprehensive range is very fine the older Foundry sculpts look rather old fashioned (and small) now,   Rebels and Patriots will be the set of rules for those and I will resist the temptation to do a historical battle (always my downfall) in favour of some skirmishing.  The only issue will be, I suspect the massive customs duty and shipping charges for the 20 packs I have committed to.

I was actually supposed to have a game Sunday week at Eric the Shed's. He is doing one of his big weekend games and this one will be Hastings; a battle I have always wanted to game. Sadly, I discovered yesterday that I have to return to Botswana next Saturday so will miss it. This will be my third visit in thirteen weeks. Never mind it will provide some money to buy more soldiers I will never paint! Also lurking about is another Kickstarter I bought into: West Wind's War & Empire Dark Ages figures. Maybe I can do 15mm Hastings instead!

Other than lots and lots of work (although it would be nice if some of our government clients actually paid their bills - not mentioning any names, effendi) not much else has been going on.  The most bizarre day was being invited back to my school to talk to some pupils about working internationally).  One thing I hated when I was young were all the 'Back to School' adverts in shops at the end of the summer. Not something I wanted to be reminded of when i was on holiday.

I really enjoyed the tour of my old school they gave me, although I hadn't really been back properly for forty years. They now have twice the number of pupils we did and the buildings are three times the size.  The first thing I saw when I walked through the main door (we weren't allowed to do  that when I was there) was a group of willowy teenage girls from the school next door (where my daughter and, indeed, the Old Bat, went).  They have a number of joint lessons with the boys from my school now. This would have actually caused a riot in my day. We weren't allowed within 22 yards of the fence between the two schools in order to prevent any fraternisation at all. There was, however, a small area behind the CCF glider hut where you could engage with conversation with the young ladies without being seen from either school building. So I was told.

The school had copies of the School magazine out from when I was art editor and we looked at the pictures I had done for several issues. Mostly of young ladies. I was notorious for being the first person to submit drawings of women to the school magazine.  The food choice at lunch was amazing (whatever happened to beef/lamb burgettes and the spaghetti bolognese that looked like worms in a cow pat) and I was surprised to learn that fifty percent of the staff were now women. We had one lady German teacher and that was it.

Although a lot of the fabric of the school I attended was still there it has been extended and changed so as to be almost unrecognisable. In particular replacing the parquet floor has changed the whole nature of the place. Walls which were external are now internal with additional atria added putting what was outside inside, like parts of Las Vegas. Occasionally there would be an unchanged part, like the school hall and it would take me right back. I told them that my Uncle went to the school and they found his entry details from 1932. They emailed this to me, I sent it to his sister and she sent it to his children and as a result I have reconnected with my cousins who I haven't seen since 1975. 

"What one piece of key advice do you have for the boys?" I was asked. "Don't have anything to do with the girls from the school next door!" I replied.  It wasn't just the Old Bat. There had been other stressful interactions with these girls. As my friend Dibbles told me at the time: "you are better off with the girls from Surbiton High, they are prettier, sluttier and less stressful." I wore my old school tie and they wanted it for their museum display case. I felt like a museum piece myself after I left.

In memory of Andre Previn, one of my favourite conductors, I am listening to his recording of Prokofiev's atmospheric Cinderella. It's not as well known, or as melodic, as Romeo and Juliet and takes a bit of time to get into but the more  I listen to it the more I like it. 

William Etty Female nude in a landscape circa 1825

Today's wallpaper is by the English painter William Etty (1787-1849).. He was the first major painter of the nude in England but scandalised parts of the artistic establishment by continuing to paint from life well after his student days and scandalised parts of the rest of society by including ladies' pubic hair in some of his paintings. Out of fashion for a hundred and fifty years after his death, he has recently come back into favour again, particularly after a large retrospective of his work in his home town of York in 2011

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Wargames Review of the Year 2018

Victrix Carthaginian war elephants.  A good start to the year.

Determined not to issue my wargames review of the year when the crocuses are coming out I have decided to start it before Christmas. In fact, 2018 saw very little wargaming but an otherwise disastrous hobby year was saved by a late flurry of painting.

Figures Painted

The Army of the Dead from the Lord of the Rings Painted in just five weeks!

I began the year full of good intentions and a nice project of the lovely Victrix war elephants but having finished the pachyderms I had a failure of nerve as regards shield transfers on curved surfaces so haven't quite completed them. I have just four crew to complete so will try to get them done in January. I counted each rider and elephant as two figures so I had completed just four figures come October.  I did do some odd bits on my Fireforge Byzantines and started some Napoleonic British but was stymied by continued struggles with my eyesight and can now only paint in bright daylight.  I have had a series of injections into my left eye and it has really improved my vision in that eye, which was my weaker one but is now the stronger. Today, the hospital has recommended that I get my right eye done too over the next six months.

My painting year was saved, however by the Sculpting Painting and Gaming Facebook Group. Someone had the brilliant idea of having a 'paint 30 minutes a day' challenge. I set to work to do some more figures for the Lord of the Rings and although I haven't managed to paint quite every day I have painted the most for about four years. So my completed totals are:

Lord of the Rings: 89
Punic Wars: 4

Ninety-three figures in a year is my best total since 2014. I have also finished another nine Byzantines in the first couple of days of January.  I tried using washes for the first time (hit and miss) and acrylics (definitely a miss) and I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I just can't see to paint as well as I could even two years ago.  Figures with shield transfers, even though they are a pig to put on, make my figures look much better than they are.

Wargames played 

Just one wargame, again, in 2018 with a Napoleonic game for Richard Sharpe and associates at Eric the Shed's.  Epic scenery, of course, and an entertaining large skirmish which also incorporated offshore naval; bombardment.  Sadly, that was my last visit to the Shed as I am too unreliable an invitee because of evening conference calls as well as my total inability to remember or understand rules. Although I have now discovered the reason for this, as it turns out that I am dyspraxic. This explains many things about me; such as the fact that I didn't learn to tie my shoelaces until I was about fourteen, still struggle with tying ties and cannot do knots for sailing. It also explains my total inability to play ball games such as football, tennis or golf or play computer games. This may also be why I can't use tools, do DIY, constantly drop things, trip over all the time, can't parallel park and have difficulty reversing the car (I cannot comprehend how people can reverse into a parking place at a supermarket and always choose those slots with an empty space on each side). I basically cannot envisage stuff in three dimensions and my brain just freezes.  Difficulty in interpreting rules of games is part of this, it seems, which may explain why I can read them but cannot imagine how they work out in practice.  I'm too stupid for wargaming, basically, as I have long suspected.

So it will be solo gaming going forward, if any, where I don't feel pressured to think quickly, so I am going to focus for next year on rules that allow for this (like The Men who would be Kings and the new Sons of Mars gladiatorial set).


I started a number of scenic projects in 2017 but haven't progressed any of them at all in 2018, apart from some undercoating.  Several projects have got stuck because I started painting them and now can't remember what colours I used on them.  I did buy some more stuff from Grand Manner before they went to only selling painted items, principally a Zulu village and some Sudan type houses. I really hope to move some of this along this year.  I have been buying the occasional piece of aquarium terrain, and plastic plants though, for my Lost Word/Savage Core project.


Sixth from the left

I did get to Salute this year and it was, as ever, nice to catch up with other bloggers but that was my only show as I didn't get to either Warfare (I hate driving into Reading) or Colours, due to having to collect Guy from Oxford for the end of term. Anyway, I really do not need any more hobby stuff!

Lead (plastic and resin) Pile 

I stopped recording my purchases this year so have no idea how the lead pile increase went but I bought a lot, mainly in the second half of the year.  I bought the Red Book of the Elf King figures but may sell these on as I can't do them justice in paint, especially now that I am painting Middle Earth again.  I also bought the Star Wars Legion boxed set but I have seen so many exceptionally well-painted figures for this it has put me off painting them, even though I have wanted such figures since 1977.  I have bought quite a few plastics (Victrix Republican Romans, Perry Zulus, Lord of the Rings Pelennor boxed set and Fireforge Byzantines) and some metal figures too, such as more North West Frontier, Stronghold female Vikings and even some English Civil War.   I also bought some more resin Raging Heroes figures although assembling them looks to be a nightmare!


I did buy into a number of Kickstarters.  I couldn't resist the 28mm Bunny Girls from Dark Fable miniatures even though I have no idea what I will do with them but I did create this Osprey cover for them!  Not that I would need an Osprey as I know pretty much everything about the evolution of the uniform! At least these have arrived, as has another load of Ancient Egyptian ladies, also from Dark Fable.  Other ones I backed and am still waiting for are the John Carter of Mars roleplaying game figures, the Black Hallows townsfolk and the War and Empire Dark Ages figures.  I am still also waiting for anything from Kongo Acheson Creations African scenery which I supported back in 2017. In February, nearly four years after I ordered then, my Wargods of Olympus figures arrived. I am not planning to play the game but use the figures for Jason and the Argonauts.

Wargames Rules

I didn't get many sets of rules this year, which is just as well as I never use them! The new consolidated Middle Earth rules were in the battle of Pellenor Fields set. I also got some Back of Beyond scenarios. The main rules were the Red Book of the Elf King ones and the Sons of Mars gladiatorial rules which are supposed to work for solo play.

Wargames Blogs and Facebook

I only posted twenty times on my main blog (this one) in 2018, which is the least ever. Mainly this is because, of course, I didn't really paint anything until the last quarter of the year. I also only posted on four of my other blogs.  The most popular of these, with nearly 200,000 visits, is my Sudan War one and I haven't posted on that since 2012, although it still gets around 2000 visits a month.  I passed 750,000 vies on this blog this year and the most popular post, with 2025 views, was my Salute post.

I am posting more on Facebook, hence the lack of blog posts and in the last few months there have even been some wargaming posts! This time last year I had 151 friends and today I have 246, although I have deleted a lot due to political posts. The real positive aspect of Facebook for me is the groups and I have joined a lot of these this year. The most influential was the Sculpting Painting and Gaming group as someone came up with the idea of a paint for thirty minutes a day challenge and this has re-energised my painting.  In the last 9 weeks, since the challenge began at the beginning of November, I have averaged four hours forty two minutes painting a week.  I hope to keep this going!

Plans for this Year

I want to keep my painting momentum going but need to finish a few odds and ends including the War elephant and the Byzantine spear unit. I have the first unit of Byzantine archers ready for painting now (undercoated today). I also want to dig some figures out of my 'under way' pile which I can complete fairly quickly. I'd like to do some more ACW, some more North West Frontier and also some more on the 1864 Danes. If I am brave I will go back to my British Napoleonics too, although I am stymied on those by not being able to work out which arms I need to fit for which pose and I don't want to paint them all and find I don't need half of them! . It's the dyspraxia again!  I have also, at last, found the painting reference I have been looking for for my Franco-Prussian War figures so they might get some attention this year too.


Another Facebook group I joined was the Mediocre modellers group on the basis that I might have to move onto making model kits if I couldn't paint figures any more.  The name proved to be a total misnomer, however. with people posting the most amazing things. any of these (and on some of the figure groups too) have the poster saying something like "Hey, guys, this came out OK, I suppose, what do you guys think". They then show some incredible example of construction/painting.  One day I am going to tell them not to fish for compliments because it is vulgar, desperate and arrogant. The false humility does not fool me. These are my most hated hobby group of people of the year (even more than the 'we shouldn't paint small figures of objectified women' types.  Sorry, I will continue to appreciate women as beautiful objects (as long as you don't treat them like objects) and that includes tiny sculptures of them. You are girly men (like Chris Boardman banging on about abolishing podium girls at cycling races).

Anyway, I bought a Tamiya Sherman to have a go at in the a dark evenings when I can't paint.

Musical Accompaniment

While writing this post I listened to John Williams' soundtracks for the first three Harry Potter films although I am not really a fan of the films and certainly haven't read the books. I have just ordered the limited edition seven CD extended soundtracks for the first three films.  Charlotte has been trying to persuade me to get the new Harry Potter miniatures game but I have heard bad things about the quality control of the set: broken and missing parts, mainly. The real issue is that I just wouldn't be able to paint them properly!

Next time it will be my non-wargaming review of the year.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Commemorating 100 years since the end of the Great War by La Vie Parisienne

There are many serious commemorations of the end of the Great War happening at present so, instead, I will present this rather lighter tribute from the French magazine La Vie Parisienne. This issue appeared on November 10th 1918; the day before the Armistice was signed. The ‘elite troop’ type illustrated is a grenadier, in this picture by Georges Léonnec (1881-1940). She is holding a pomegranate (grenade in French) which, of course, engendered the name of the hand held explosive device due to its shape. In addition, split pomegranates are symbols of suffering and rebirth, as well as being fertility symbols.

It is typical of an illustration from La Vie Parisienne that it gets all this symbolism into what otherwise looks like a pin up (American troops were banned from buying the magazine in case paintings of ladies in a state of déshabillé overcame their moral sense). France lost over 4% of its population in the war, mainly young men, of course, and the magazine seems to be saying that the ‘elite troop’ ladies of France would have to help repopulate the country to contribute to its rebirth.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Paint Table Saturday: Back to Middle Earth, a painting challenge, time at Brooklands and an unexpected trip to Mordor

The Legatus hasn't being posting on his blogs much of late for the shocking reason that he has actually been painting some wargames figures!  So what has engendered this return to painting after a very poor year?  It was actually prompted by two new ranges of plastic fantasy figures: the imminent Fireforge Forgotten World Kickstarter and the expansion of the North Star Oathmark figures.

I was very tempted by both these ranges but put off by the Fireforge ones as one of the first two planned armies was for undead.    Now I don't get the whole zombie/undead thing at all; it is just a genre I have no interest in.  My particular friend, Angela, vaguely remembered some Games Workshop issue last year with politically correct people from PETA objecting to fur on their figures and GW pointed out that their figures represented fictional races.   Was, she posited, (having studied philosophy) having undead opponents to your armies more ethically acceptable to some people as you weren't depicting conflict between humans?  Did this, also, make them happier to watch horribly violent TV and films as the battles were with creatures not people (former people, perhaps). Was it, she continued, like people who watch soft core sex scenes but claim that they don't like hard core sex scenes; a moral cop-out?  If you are going to watch people having sex, watch people really having sex not some, literally. emasculated version. I said I think that most wargamers just buy the nicest looking figures they can.  Well, I do anyway.  This discussion, however, coincided with the release by Games workshop of their Battle of Pellenor Field boxed set.

Carefully selected still of Ms Brook with a lovely pair of jugs

I had a fantasy revelation (which didn't feature Kelly Brook for once - goodness me she was looking ripe on Celebrity Antiques Road Trip last week). I have hundreds of GW Lord of the Rings figures and have even painted a lot of them.  Why mess around with other similar medieval fantasy worlds when I had already got figures for Middle Earth?  I managed to find the box on sale online for about £62; a considerable saving on the £80 asking price.  It is a big box with lots of plastic figures and a complete new version of the rule book. My daughter was enthusiastic and we have played LotR games before.  I decided to get going and paint some of the figures immediately, callously abandoning the Peninsula British and the Byzantines.  Bizarrely, given what I have said earlier, I started on the Army of the Dead and soon had the twenty figures in the box built.  I actually thought that they were such nice figures I wish I could have painted them in full colour but they have to be ghostly so I went down to Games Workshop in Epsom and bought some paint.

Under way with metal and plastic extra recruits

Oh. dear.  this is where it all went wrong.  I decided to use Citadel acrylics so that I could get the right colours. Then I realised that I had no idea how to paint using acrylics.  Did you use them straight out of the pot?  Did you have to mix them with water?  After undercoating them black and looking at other people's attempts online I saw that most people dry brushed them in pale grey.  How on earth do you dry brush with thick, gloopy acrylics?  If you thin them then they are too wet to dry brush!  I was getting very frustrated. I found the paint filling all the recesses. It was horrible. Then I tried to over-paint in a colour I thought was  the right shade of ghostly green.  This paint was even worse and had gritty lumps in it.  I went into another Games Workshop and the man told me that you had to mix it with something called medium, not water.  What? It seems Citadel paints are all different types now, not just generic paint. This man saved me and provided me with the right type of paint (I had bought one called 'dry' - I have no idea what it is for) which was no use.  It seems you need A-level chemistry to use Citadel paints now.  He also recommended I paint over them first with a dark green wash to recover all the recesses. Miraculously, it worked (I have never used a wash before). I carefully picked out details with the proper paint and highlighted the metal bits with a metallic silver and they look...well, OK at best.

Nearly done

I decided that twenty figures didn't look much like an army so bought ten more plastic (you only get ten figures in a box now!) and ten metal ones from eBay (I didn't even know that they had issued the Army of the Dead in plastic which is why I didn't have any in my collection).  Games Workshop were out of stock of the King of the Dead but I had one in my collection from the old Battle Games in Middle Earth magazine.

Here they all are completed.  I painted forty-one figures in just under six weeks which is not bad considering I had only painted four for the whole year before that.  At this point a new Facebook group I have joined, Sculpting Painting and Gamingdecided to launch a painting challenge for November; suggesting people paint for half an hour a day.  Inspired by my recent painting progress I decided to launch into the 36 orcs in the Pellenor boxed set.


Progress is going quite well on these too but having doubled the number of Army of the Dead figures I had to order some more orcs too.  These are being painted in good old Humbrol enamels! The first seven days of November I did manage at least 30 minutes a day but on Thursday I was at the Burne-Jones exhibition at the Tate Gallery and Friday and today I was in Oxford for a dinner of Alumni from my school who attended Oxford.  It is not like me to attend a men only event but it turned out to be great fun even if there was no-one from my year there.  There was someone from two years below me who remembered me as the 'boy who used to draw pictures of naked women' (surely not).

I stayed at the relentlessly trendy Malmaison Hotel, which used to be Oxford Prison until 1996.  I have stayed at a Malmaison before (in Manchester - yes, I went there once) and the chain suffers from a overly precious self-aggrandisement and really terrible levels of lighting.  I kept crashing into objects as I couldn't see. Still, it was nice enough and the breakfast was very good.

2 Litre LC Supercharged Lagonda (1931)

Other than Lord of the Rings painting (I had to give up today as it went black this afternoon and poured with rain so I only managed four minites - hence this post) I have spent quite a bit of time visiting the nearby Brooklands museum.  Guy and I joined the Brooklands Trust in August, as it means you get in for free and we have already saved the cost of membership in just a few months.  It means we have access to the members' bar and balcony overlooking the site. Brooklands was the world's first purpose built motor racing circuit and was, for many years, the site of the Hawker aviation factory.  Over a third of all Hawker Hurricanes were built there.

There aren't many famous things that come from my home town of Staines, where I lived until I was in my twenties and where my sister still lives.  Linoleum was invented there and I remember a huge lino factory in the town when I was younger. The actress Gabrielle Anwar was from Staines (or rather Laleham, the posh end, where I lived) and went to the same junior school as I did. As a sixteen year old she appeared in the Staines and Egham News in this picture, saying how she was going to be an actress. I remember thinking at the time that you have no hope of becoming an actress and you are only in the newspaper because you look nice in a dance leotard.  I couldn't believe it when I next heard of her and she was starring in a film (Scent of a Woman (1992) ) with Al Pacino. Other than that, the band Hard-fi,  and comedian Bobby Davro (whose daughter was in my son's class at his (posh) school) complete a short and motley list.

The most famous thing, therefore, to come out of Staines (or Staines-upon-Thames, as it pretentiously renamed itself in 2012) was the Lagonda motor car. Guy and I were at Brooklands in September and they had a beautiful example there, complete with its radiator badge proudly proclaiming its town of manufacture.  My uncle Len worked at the factory (now the site of Staines' Sainsbury's) and my father-in-law owned two Lagondas in the past.  Most famously, Captain Hastings, in the ITV Poirot series (I am currently working my way through all of them), drove a 1932 two litre low chassis tourer, like the one we saw at Brooklands.

Vickers Viking replica (twin wing floats under the nose with wings against the wall on the left)

We had another look around the aircraft display hangars and found something I remembered from the days when all the aircraft were jammed into an old corrugated iron shed, before the recent museum expansion.  It was so jammed in before you couldn't photograph it and although they have removed the wings for display, it is now possible to get a shot of the replica Vickers Viking amphibian.  

The replica was built for the film The People That Time Forgot (1977) and featured on the poster.  In the film it was piloted by a character played by Shane Rimmer, who was the voice of Scott Tracy in Thunderbirds!

Awk! Awk! Awk!

In the film, the amphibian, as they call it, is attacked by pterodactyls and while our heroes set off to try and find Doug McClure, Rimmer's character sits with the plane (which he manages to land on an impossibly boulder strewn landscape), taking pot shots at the flying reptiles.

Unable to refrain from making comment about twin floats

I didn't see this film when it first came out, so only caught it some years later on, no doubt, Sunday afternoon TV, where my appreciation of the Vickers Viking was overshadowed somewhat (as were her feet) by the magnificent Dana Gillespie, as just the sort of cavegirl you want to discover in a lost world. 

Royal Canadian Air Force Vickers Viking IV

Only 34 of these aircraft were built and the Brooklands replica is the only full sized one of its type that exists today (there is a 7/8th sized replica in Canada which was also built for a film).  The prototype crashed in 1919, killing its pilot Sir John Alcock, who worked for Vickers, who had made the first successful non-stop crossing of the Atlantic (with Sir Arthur Brown) six months earlier.

There is also a full sized, flying replica of Alcock and Brown's trans-Atlantic Vickers Vimy at Brooklands museum today, too and at the recent First World War commemoration day they got it out of the hangar and ran the engines, which certainly generated an impressive sound.  Next weekend its militaria day so I will probably go along again, even though it means missing Warfare (I really don't need any more figures!)

The only sight in Iceland I expected to see

I did have an unexpected work trip in September when I had to go to a country I had never been to before, Iceland, (my seventy-first country).  The weather was supposed to be cold and wet so I wasn't expecting to see much of the place other than the hotel and football stadium (they are trying to finance a new one, hence my presence) where my meetings were.  I had a meeting with the Icelandic Football Association about this and met the current chairman.  Now what I know about football could be written on the back of a very small postcard ('it's a game for primitive thugs' as my father told me just before I went to one of the only two matches I have attended: the 1970 Schoolboy International against (West) Germany (we won 3-0, shockingly).  I had no idea, therefore, that the bright lawyer who is now chairman of the Icelandic FA, Guðni Bergsson was a well known footballer in the nineties for Tottenham and Bolton Wanderers. 'That must have been great,' said someone I met in London afterwards. Er...

Fortunately, I met a very nice lady architect at the accompanying conference who didn't seem to mind that I had been chatting up her daughter and the next day we had a trip to the Snæfellsjökull where I was very excited by the sight of the volcano from Journey to the Centre of the Earth! I actually expressed the opinion that I had no desire to ever visit Iceland, given it looks like Mordor, in one of my blog posts a few years ago but I grudgingly admit to being rather impressed by its stark landscape.

Things were also helped immeasurably by the fact that the weather was unexpectedly (and atypically for the time of year) very good and that the lady architect and the Icelandic chamber paid for most of my meals and drinks (Icelandic beer is very good which it should be at £10 a glass).

It was certainly nice on a business trip to be driven around and see some of the sights, something I rarely get to do as I am usually stuck in some ministry or other.  Iceland does feel like the edge of the world, however. There is a small possibility of another overseas trip before Christmas but this would be back to Botswana.  My passport has actually expired so I am going to have to run around next week and get a new one sorted out.

Sleeping Beauty (1910)

Today's wallpaper distraction is Sleeping Beauty by Bernard Hall (1859-1935).  Hall was born in Liverpool but spent much of his life in Australia, where this picture was painted, and was the director of the National Gallery of Melbourne for forty one years.  His works are traditional; nudes, interiors and still life and he had no time for modern art at all.  He died in London during  a rare working trip back to England.

Today's music is Canteloube's Sons of the Auvergne, music inspired by a very different volcanic landscape.  I have the Victoria de los Angeles version and although I don't like her voice as much as Netania Davrath, the de los Angeles version has wonderful orchestral accompaniment by the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureaux which just tips it.  I first heard the famous Baïlèro when it was used for a Dubonnet TV advert back in the seventies (which featured Richard Stilgoe playing some Bohemian artist in a bucolic landscape).  I wonder what happened to him?  He is one of those professional smart alecs (like the equally annoying Stephen Fry) which only Cambridge University could produce.

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.