Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back from Belgrade and Dubai...

Well, I've had rather too much travel of late but, hopefully, that's it for 2012.  This month I have been to Serbia, which I hadn't visited before (I think it's the 58th country I have been to), and the UAE, which I had.

Belgrade, I suspected, would be a horrible city full of seventies concrete buildings.  Well it wasn't.  It was very attractive and, better still, it was 22 degrees centigrade - not bad for early November.  I didn't have much time there, just two nights, so didn't get a chance to do any sightseeing, which is a shame as there was an interesting looking castle in the centre of the city.  While walking from my hotel to a TV studio (to appear on breakfast TV, which was a first) I passed these two heavily damaged buildings.  I was told that it used to be the Serbian defence ministry until it was restructured by Tomahawk missiles.  Serbia, in some ways, is not as advanced as the likes of Hungary or the Czech Republic, as they essentially lost a decade of development since the fall of the Iron Curtain because of the war.

The Serbs do like their meat!

The food was very good, provided you aren't a vegetarian, as was the wine, but the great discovery was the local eau de vie, rakija, especially the quince one!   I had a thing with a Bosnian Serb girl once and was amazed to meet someone who could have been her twin there. Spooky!  Quite a few leggy blondes but most of the girls seemed to be dark haired.  Many of the girls were very tall (as were the men - there is a reason that they are good at basketball).  Much better scenery than average! 

Sort of local...

I was only back for a few days and then it was off to Dubai.  I find Dubai completely uninteresting and cannot for the life of me understand why people would want to go there on holiday.  It has no history, no old buildings ("Old" Dubai was built in the sixties as far as I can see) and all the culture is imported.  Everyone speaks English because virtually everyone there is from abroad (mainly South Asia, although I did have a lovely Russian waitress at one restaurant).  I thought I'd met one local lovely but she turned out to be from Bahrain...

Gin for her, Vodka for me and very big olives indeed!

The only good thing about Dubai is the hotels, which are very good, and I actually managed to have the first decent Vodka Martini I have ever had in the Middle East there.  Usually they are far too weak but this one, apart from suffering from the current annoying fashion of having too many olives, was both strong and cold.  B worked her way through a lot of gin and tonics, which I always think is an odd drink to find a German having, and nagged me about my lack of progress on the Prussians she bought me.

The breakfast buffet was pretty good and the hotel went up in my estimation when I discovered it had the true sign of civilisation: HP sauce. 

Wine is very expensive in Dubai and the cheapest bottle on the hotel wine list was about £40 but for slightly more we got a very nice, but strangely smoky-tasting, sauvignon blanc from the Lebanon which we chose on the basis that there was no point in paying over the odds for something you could get at home when you could pay over the odds for something you couldn't.

Since I returned earlier in the week I haven't had any time to paint anything but did put some filler on some bases, including the last three figures to complete my Dutch Jaeger unit.  However, I need to get back to those Prussians.  Arriving at home while I was away was a complete impulse buy, the Hasslefree Miniatures 54mm Christmas pin up girl.  She came resplendent in a nice red box but I have absolutely no idea what to do with her.  Cast in a lovely ivory covered resin it almost seems a shame to paint her and no paint job I could manage would do her justice anyway.  Hmm!

There has been almost universal condemnation of Games Workshop's The Hobbit figure prices but the cost in the UK seems to be a fraction of what they are charging in some overseas markets.  It's not like I don't have any Lord of the Rings figures to paint and I haven't yet seen a figure I really want (unlike for the LotR films).  One of the annoyances for me is that the main characters have come out in plastic.  I still see plastic as something for rank and file troops so, however good they are, the plastic characters aren't going to be as good as the old metals or even the new Finecast.  It's not just the detail, it's the poses, which in plastic seem that bit more ungainly.

Talking of The Hobbit, Mike of Black Hat, pointed out to me that he had got me the 10mm Battle of Five Armies when it came out but that he hadn't painted any of the figures.  Well, I have!  Exactly two stands.  I enjoyed painting these, I seem to recall, but got quickly bored by the prospect of having to paint dozens of stands.  They are certainly the smallest figures I have ever painted!  Still, who knows what I might do when the film trilogy gets to that point.  Someone said on one of the message boards that someone else has the rights to do The Battle of the Five Armies in 28mm which is why GW had to go to 10mm.  I don't know if this true or not but surely they wouldn't miss the opportunity to sell lots of figures for the only real battle in the book?

I've really got the urge to do some painting, having been away, so hope to have some time at the weekend.  I think my wife is off selling her friend's ludicrously expensive Christmas tree baubles at some Christmas fair on Saturday so I may get some done then, if it's not too dark!


  1. Always fun to read about your exploits Sir.

    'Vodka-martini' - you are definitely the James Bond of the Wargaming world!

    We seem to have a similar opinion regarding HP Sauce, thank goodness you can get it here in 'Middle-Earth' ;-)

    That is indeed a lovely model. Painting it would be purely for the pleasure of it. I think I'd take my time, thin the paints and go on thin layer by layer, building up the tones. After all there's no hurry to get this one on the gaming board...

    I have sourced my Hobbit starter set from the UK thank the Gods, compared to price I would have had to pay here.

    I agree the Characters will probably be better when they come out as individual pieces, but they'll no doubt be a ridiculous price then, so doubt I will buy them...

    I have already started making extra balsa 'goblin town' wooden platforms to expand on what will come in the set... which will all go nicely with the Moria rocks I made ages ago ( I almost gave up on making them way back then, glad I persevered!).

    I did used to play Warmaster (10mm) but never got round to buying the BoFA set... I am sure that battle can be done with existing figures from their ranges in 28mm. It just depends whether you want to do it in SBG or WOTR...

    Hope you enjoy the movie.

  2. I have to say that when I read The Hobbit (along time agao!) I never imagined Goblin Town as being made up of wooden platforms. Cheaper and easier than tunnels I suppose...