Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 non-wargaming highlights...and a few lowlights


Well, it's still too dark to paint properly (although I have just undercoated my trolls from The Hobbit) so I might as well sit down and ramble away on the blog for a bit whilst listening to some defiantly non-Christmas music. Today we have Russ Garcia and his Orchestra's groovy Fantastica: Music from Outer Space.  Garcia, a prolific arranger and conductor also did the striking soundtrack for the original film of The Time Machine  (1960).

Wargaming highlights will be next but lets look at the non-hobby year first. Oh no, I'm starting to sound like that Meeples and Miniatures chap! 

Best Book

I've bought a lot of books this year and have no idea where to put them.  I wanted to put some more bookshelves up but my wife, who doesn't read anything except the Daily Mail, thinks they "ruin the look of the wall".  I'm seriously contemplating putting all my paperbacks on Kindle to gain space even though I don't like the look of the Kindle machines as their pages don't hold enough text to look like a proper book.  There's no doubt about my favourite purchase though: the monumental Ray Harryhausen: Master of the Magicks Vol 3: The British Films.  Well worth £100 (especially as they are now selling for £149 on Amazon).

Best Film

Berenice Marlohe in Skyfall

I didn't get to the cinema much this year and think I may have only gone to Skyfall, which was truly excellent although a James Bond film more in the nature of John Gardener's new novels in the eighties (which is a good thing).  It shows what can be done in giving Bond to a proper director and not a former second unit stunt director. John Glen, who directed five Bond films (badly) nearly killed off the whole series in the eighties by not understanding the essence of Bond at all.

Best TV show

This has to be Game of Thrones.  I think its older than 2012 but I only got it on DVD this year as I don't have Sky (as I refuse to give any money to Rupert Murdoch if I can possibly avoid it).  I haven't read the books (although one of my young ladies is urging me to) but it was great to see fantasy done in an adult way rather than the sort of Xena/Hercules approach usually seen in the past.

Best Musical discovery

I bought 1147 tracks on iTunes this year, it seems, plus quite a few CDs as well but probably the most unexpectedly enjoyable were Laurie Johnson's two orchestral jazz pieces: Symphony (synthesis) and Concerto for Trumpet, tenor saxophone and orchestra from The Musical Worlds of Laurie Johnson.  Johnson, of course, is better know for his groovy sixties and seventies TV music (The Avengers, The Professionals, Jason King as well, of course, as the theme music for This is your Life and Animal Magic).  

Best encounter with a fashion model

Coming across the winner of Britain and Ireland's next top model, Letitia Herod, on Oxshott station one morning.  It turns out she lives here and she certainly improves the scenery on the platform compared with my usual fellow travellers who include:  Mr Public Sector Cardigan (men shouldn't wear cardigans to work-it's not the nineteen fifties - also, don't wear your work ID badge around your neck before you get to work), Mr Nineteen Fifties Hair (again, it's not the nineteen fifties - no more Brylcreem) , The Grumpy Frenchman (cheer up for heaven's sake), Big Ugly (a bolt through your neck might actually improve your appearance), Once was Handsome (the bouffant Patrick Mower look is well past it's sell by date, as are you, I'm afraid), Madame Witches Hair (women in their sixties should not have long hair; especially long, frizzy grey hair.  Being French is no excuse),  Takes her Coat off Girl (actually we don't mind her), The Old Codgers (stop sitting on the aisle seats of the train when the inside ones are empty - it's not going to stop people sitting next to you), Mr Argy Bargy  (the ageing tango dancer look doesn't go well with your pin stripe suit), Slutty the Schoolgirl (goodness, you have grown out of that skirt haven't you?) Mrs Blancmange (you really shouldn't be eating chocolate for breakfast), Porridge-eating Baldy (you really shouldn't be eating porridge out of a Tupperware box on the train - get up earlier!), The Evil Twins (Do you know the Midwich Cuckoos?  That's you that is), Mr Broad-brimmed Hat (it needs a clean and it doesn't make you look like Terry Pratchett) and Mr House of Blues (you really are too old for that jacket).  

Best foreign trip

The Battle of Bunker Hill monument in Charlestown

Not too many this year, thank goodness. Mostly B's this year: Bucharest, Belgrade, Boston, Bogota as well as Dubai, Houston and...Edinburgh.  Most enjoyable trip was to the splendid city of Boston as there was some good military content, a superb art gallery, excellent food and the presence of my particular friend Sophie from Vancouver, who was single-handedly trying to re-energise Boston's retail sector.  Also I felt very intelligent giving a talk at MIT!

Best Artistic Experience

This one was also from Boston with the very rare opportunity to see all of Renoir's great dance paintings in one place at the Museum of Fine Arts. Dance in the Country and Dance in the City were brought over from the Musée d'Orsay to be shown alongside the Museum's own Dance at Bougival.  All three paintings were produced by Renoir in a frenzy of activity over three weeks in 1883 but they don't look rushed, just full of movement.

Best Exhibition

Warner Bros Harry Potter Experience was utterly brilliant even for someone whose interest in the series starts and finishes with Emma Watson.

Best Olympics Experience

Wiggo on the Portsmouth Road!

I've always enjoyed the Olympics although the closest I had got to them until now was competing in the Olympic trials for archery back in 1980. To have the games come to London and discover all the cycling events were coming through my village was doubly exciting, therefore. I remember I was having tea in Claridges with the Egyptian investment minister (as you do) when everyone started cheering and that's when I discovered that we had beaten the French (again).

Although I enjoyed my two visits to the Olympic stadium  to watch the athletics (I went to the rowing and the fencing as well) nothing really beat the sight of Bradley Wiggins at full pelt carried by a positively peristaltic wave of cheering as he powered down the Portsmouth Road to take gold at my birthplace, Hampton Court.

Best Olympic Party

We're all quite relaxed by this point

The one I attended at Canada House with an increasingly "relaxed" silver medal winning ladies rowing eight. Good fun was had by all!

Best Martini

Surprisingly, it was the one I had in the bar of the Howard Johnson hotel in Bucharest.  Really cold and with just one olive.  It was by far the cheapest too!  Excellent!

Best Wine

Probably this bottle of Château Prieuré-Lichine 1995 which I had in the Tate Gallery restaurant.  These can be a bit hit and miss, I gather, but we had a good one.

Best New Beer Discovery

A Harpoon I had at lunch in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

This would have to be Harpoon I.P.A. from Boston although it was best on draught at the trendy Hotel Marlowe  in Cambridge, Mass.

Best Meal

 Prosciutto San Daniele con Burrata Pugliese e inslata mista

 Ravioile ripiene di Taleggio, bieta e noci alla maggiorana

Controfiletto di manzo arrosto

My overseas eating experiences were disappointing this year and although I had some good solid peasant food in Belgrade my best meal was in the ever reliable Latium in London accompanied by a former PA of mine.  It's the only place in London that cooks my beef the way I like it too!  The wine list is fantastic: their Casale Marchese Frascati is the sort of wine I used to drink in Rome when I worked there and bears as much relation to the Frascati you get in Tesco's as Kelly Brook does to Ann Widdecombe.

Worst meal
Eats shoots and leaves

I attended some Olympic-linked business events run by the government in Lancaster House in London. I went to the China day which had a rather weird fashion show attached to it but I was very disappointed with the food.   Frankly, I don't consider a glass tumbler containing a few bamboo sprouts and leaves as lunch! However, looking at some of the Chinese models they look like they eat exactly that all the time.

Best wildlife

Eats shoots and leaves

My view tends to be that the only good animal is a cooked animal but I was rather taken by the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.  They are just so ridiculous!

Worst Jubilee nonsense

Not the BBC's coverage of the Jubilee sail pass (although that was so bad my father in law, who is involved with the Dunkirk Little Ships organisation, got engaged in a long correspondence with the Director General of the BBC).  No, it has to be this little display my wife put up in our front garden for the Jubilee period.  Gnomes !  Argh!

Best Discovery

The Legatus with V in Brasenose.  Splendid girl!

A tea chest full of old letters and photos from thirty years ago which reminded me of quite how many girlfriends I got through at university and how many I had completely forgotten about in the intervening three decades.

Worst discovery

 One of M's mugshots

M at my City leaving party in 2008

In trying to find her contact details finding that one of my friends M, a beautiful, classy and well-educated woman, who used to work with me in London, turned up on US mugshot sites having been arrested three times for trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer.  I wish I could contact her and find out what's wrong.

Next time we'll look at the wargaming/military side of things.


  1. I find little to disagree with here.... clearly I'm growing old disgracefully as well..... :o)

    I got "Game of Thrones" for Christmas as, like you, I refuse to have Sky but in my case for the sole reason I hate satellite dishes - next thing you know I'll be living in a mobile home...

    PS. Is there any inch of Letitia below the neck that isn't legs??? :o)

  2. What varied cultural interests you have, Stephen!

    That police mugshot is certainly not a flattering one...

    Cheers, Simon

  3. Fantastic reading! Really enjoyed the list of people on the trains, probably the same for most of us!

  4. I completely agree about "Old Codgers" on trains. A year of commuting from Chelmsford to Stratford and made me realise just how appallingly rude and offensive many commuters are. It's invariably the middle-to-older-aged men who are the problem: either trying to take up 2 adjacent seats by opening their legs a wide as possible, or playing on some mobile computer or device and using the adjacent seat to place all their wires etc on. The worst example I ever saw was a man who'd taken up 4 seats - his bad was on the seat to his right, his coat was splayed across the seat opposite him, and further bags were on the adjacent opposite seat. He didn't even look bothered. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR you've got me on a ranting mood now!

    Best Christmas wishes, Stephen - I've enjoyed your non-wargaming posts as much as the wargaming ones.


  5. A very enjoyable ramble Sir.

    I'm glad I never really had to worry about having to take the train to commute. I could/can always take the car.
    Must admit I dont like putting up with others on public transport.

    Game of Thrones .... this looked interesting from the ads and was recommended by friends but I didnt see it on SKY and hired it out instead. Have to say it didnt grab me... Ok the titilation was fun, but in the first episode a kid gets 'killed' and then in the following one a dog is killed for no reason. Honestly it just put me off, I didn't bother with the rest of it. I found the dwarf annoying too...