Monday, August 03, 2009

Warhammered in Cowes

The view from our balcony: north east facing so not brilliant for painting

I don’t know what it is: the sea air, the feeling of being dropped back in time to the nineteen fifties or lack of proximity to the lead pile, but whenever I come down to our cottage 0n the Isle of Wight I always end up with piles of Games Workshop stuff that I don’t really need.

I usually join the family for two or three weeks here in Cowes; usually coinciding with Cowes Week, which is the World’s biggest yachting regatta. Increasingly, unfortunately, it has very little to do with yachting and a lot to do with ghastly corporate entertaining of people who can’t handle their drink. It’s interesting to see that many of the corporate boats have disappeared this year but I see that Linklaters, who laid off 180 lawyers in the last few months, still have an eponymous yacht. Wonder what the partners who were chucked out think of that.

Charlotte dreams of her own command!

We tend to come at Cowes Weeks so my daughter, who is a keen sailor (she is very excited about having bought her first dinghy this week), can watch the race starts; usually from the lawn of the Royal Yacht Squadron, which is about the only civilised place left in town during the week. This year she might be doing a bit of crewing.
Our former steed. Looking a lot better than when we raced it!
My days of racing in Cowes Week have long gone although we did see our old boat out sailing yesterday. We will sail off to Newtown Harbour today, an idyllic complex of creeks further along the coast, and leave all the lager louts behind to crash about in their horrible plastic yachts. Then we might sail over to Beaulieu as Guy wants to see the new Top Gear exhibition. Beaulieu's always tricky, though, as we have to get in at high tide and the boat draws 6'8" so we only have a narrow window.

Anyway, I always bring a few figures to paint during the holiday and this year, given I have a Sudan Wars Sword and the Flame game coming up in a month, I bought 42 Perry Beja, 8 Highlanders and a few Foundry Mountain Men with me to work on. The mountain men are because I have just bought the excellent Charlton Heston/Brian Keith movie The Mountain Men on widescreen DVD. I’ve only got the US pan and scan version which is a travesty as the original was filmed on location in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming in glorious widescreen. I managed to get a European widescreen version on eBay, however. I’m also reading the enjoyable Terry Johnstone mountain men novel, Carry the Wind. So the mountain men are because I started them a few years ago and want to finish them and also to have a change of pace if I get sick of Beja (which I do, very quickly!).

I should, therefore, have quite enough figures to last me for the holiday but I have acquired, over the last four or five days, a whole pile of Games Workshop stuff. Partly I justify this on the basis that in the evenings I can’t paint under the rather gloomy light we have in the cottage but I can construct a few plastic figures. This is really retrospective justification, however. If this was really true I would have bought a few sprues of Victrix Napoleonics down with me.

There aren’t any wargames shops on the Isle of Wight any more. There aren’t even any model shops. A few years ago there was one called Wight World of Wargames, which had closed before I had even discovered it existed. Then, for a year or so, there was one called Fun, Fact and Fantasy in Ryde. The latter was one of the most dismal shops of any kind I ever had the misfortune to visit. A dusty, tatty looking emporium in an unfashionable back street of Ryde (not exactly Juan Les Pins itself). It was the sort of shop where the boxes of Warhammer in the window were so faded that you couldn’t see what they were. Inside they had a wargames table set up with really lumpy papier mache scenery and a few battered 40K models on it. Most of the shelves and racks were empty save for a few blisters of Black Tree Design historicals. I felt so sorry for them that I bought some fairly horrible BTD Anglo Saxons and a box of Uruk Hai. In retrospect, maybe it was this that started my holiday Games Workshop buying habit.

Now, the only source of miniatures on the Island are two toyshops and a comic book shop. All of these carry, unfortunately, a rather good range of GW products. Equally unfortunately, they are much frequented by my little boy Guy, in search of model supercars. Inevitably whilst he closely examines every Matchbox car in the place looking for exactly the right model Ferrari I end up browsing the GW shelves. My office is exactly 150 paces from the GW store in Oxford Street yet I don’t go in there browsing. This is, of course, because they are intimidating places for anyone over the age of 13. When I venture in it is usually to buy a pot or two of metallic paint. It’s a case of getting in and out as fast as possible. I certainly don’t want to get into conversation with some 23 year old troll. The only 23 year olds I want to talk to are female and from a Baltic city, thank you very much.

So the combination of time on my hands and the lack of hovering GW employees means I have time to look at some of the books they produce. Books, of course, are my biggest problem habit (after Baltic women). Since I have been on the Island I have bought about ten hardbacks in some of the very good second hand bookshops here. I’ve acquired a couple of excellent South African books on the Zulu Wars I hadn’t seen before, Michael Glover’s From Waterloo to Mons (that’s your fault Matt!), Michael Barthorp’s British Infantry Uniforms since 1660 and the Funcken’s The Age of Chivalry Part 1 (which has made me want to revisit my Carolingians). I also got some very old editions of Slatin’s Fire and Sword in the Sudan and Sir Samuel Baker’s Albert Nyanza Great Basin of the Nile which will get me back onto Darkest Africa (at least I have already painted my Foundry Sir Samuel and Lady Baker figures!). I also picked up a book called A corkscrew is most useful, about Victorian travellers (people who travelled the world not chaps in horse drawn caravans).

High Down Rocket museum

On a visit to High Down, the site of Britain’s top secret rocket programme, I a bought a book called Vertical Empire about the UK rocket programme, which my daughter, Charlotte, has temporarily pinched (she is not sure at present whether she wants to be a pirate or a rocket scientist at present so is also simultaneously reading Treasure Island (which I got in the RNLI second hand bookstand at Freshwater Bay).

Pirate or scientist?

Anyway, I stupidly bought the Citadel Miniatures catalogue along with a box of Lord of the Rings wood elves (encouraged by Charlotte who has played some LotR games with me). Then I made the mistake of looking at the catalogue with Guy. Next year his school is resuming its Warhammer club and his new little friend (the Russian billionaire’s son) is a keen player so we need to get Guy an army. Given that his friend has somewhat greater resources than us we need to practice our tactics and work on the composition of our armies. Fortunately, they live near by and his mother is a fine example of a Baltic woman so I never mind taking Guy around there. A few months ago I bought the 40K (the favoured incarnation at Guy’s school) starter set which contains Space Marines and Orks. While I quite like the Orks the Space Marines don’t really do it for me. In fact very few of the 40k armies appeal. Many of the armies are too monster-like for me (I’m not a natural fantasy person; I like my armies to look like historical ones; with men not monsters). However, Guy and I agreed that we liked the look of the Imperial Guard. He liked the tanks and I liked the rather Space Above and Beyond looking infantry. Oh dear. Sold. One Imperial Guard Battleforce.

Then I was looking at the Warhammer pages of the catalogue. Now I had already decided to give up Warhammer despite having a massive box of Dwarves and Goblins a year or so ago. But no. I decided I liked the look of the Dark Elves. Nicely sinister looking and quite a few girlies to boot. Three boxes of those and the codex.

The holiday workbench: Beja, Cadian Imperial Guard, Dark Elves, Wood Elves, Gordon Highlanders, Mountain Men and a dinosaur!

We’re off cruising for a few days so no more early morning painting but at least I have some plastic people to glue together. We shall see if I progress further than that. At least I have completed 15 Beja so far!

1 comment:

  1. If you like visiting somewhere that's stuck in the 1950s, you should go to New Zealand...