Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 non-wargaming highlights

No, it's not Mars!  I took this picture of a red moon in Cowes, July 2013

Given how little wargaming activity there has been this year I thought I would start off with a repeat of my non-wargaming highlights from last year.  Not an exact repeat, of course; that would be pointless.   Having "non-wargaming" highlights sounds like I define myself by wargaming highlights which, of course, I don't.  I'm reminded of the existence of the Non-Marine Association at Lloyd's of London, set up at a time when pretty much everything that Lloyd's insured was marine, but still defining itself by what it isn't rather than what it is.

Last year I recorded what music I was listening to when I wrote the post and this year it is Prokofiev Symphonies: 1 and 7 in particular (see below).

Biggest upheaval

Picking up a few bits for her room on her first day

Getting Charlotte packed off to university for the first time, to start her five year masters in astrophysics.  Even though she never got up at the weekend until 1.00pm and spent most of her time locked in her room watching Sherlock I still missed her.   Thank goodness for Skype!   Fortunately, she is really enjoying it, unlike some of her friends who have found adjusting to university life difficult.  She has discovered a number of life enhancing things since she has been there: bhangra dancing, Pot Noodles and Dr Who.  University certainly broadens the mind.

Best day out

My "little boy" Guy on the streets of the City

The whole family took part in the Ride Lonodon bike event.  It was unfeasibly enjoyable to be able to safely cycle around roads that you normally only go down by bus or taxi, particularly in the City where I worked for so many years.

Best Book

My book buying has been out of control again and I have had to shovel crate loads up into the loft to make way on the shelves for the new purchases.  Things have, however, been changed significantly by the purchase of a Kindle Fire HD.  This was, I admit, largely because of the advocacy of Steve the Wargamer.  Since I bought it for a trip to South America in May I haven't bought any novels except in electronic form,  This not only saves money (I used to buy favourite authors in hardback and then not read them for years so I might as well have waited for the paperback), but also weight when flying and, best of all, bookshelf space.  Probably my best book this year is a comparatively recent one.  I went round the British Museum exhibition Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art with an ex-girlfriend, J (of Chinese rather than Japanese extraction), and she sent me the accompanying book as a thank you.  I have a few books on Japanese erotic art (I was commissioned to do some drawings in Shunga style a few years ago by a friend) but this whopping great book is unlikely to ever be bettered.  Nearly 600 pages long, beautifully reproduced illustrations and even including some fold out pages.  Rubbery!

Best Film 

I am pretty sure that the only film I saw in the cinema this year was The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey so it wins the prize by default.  Actually, I did enjoy it a lot and didn't have any problems with what some critics called a slow start.  It's really one film split into three so I felt that the scene setting was not disproportionate.  When you are immersing yourself in another world such as this a lot of the pleasure for me comes in the visual representation of that world, not just plot, character and pacing as opposed to stories set in contemporary times (I very rarely watch films with a contemporary setting).

Best TV show 

I've been enjoying a diverse number of TV shows on DVD this year including Arrow, NikitaSherlock (thanks to my daughter), Mad Men season 5, Game of Thrones season 2, The Crimson Petal and the White, and most of the ITV Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes.  It's rare for me to watch TV live but, only slightly time shifted by the Tivo box, I have been watching Ripper Street series 2, Atlantis (dreadful but I will watch anything the kissable Jemima Rooper is in) and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (really dreadful).  Absolutely the best new series, however, has to be Masters of Sex with stunning performances by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan.  Just superb.

Best Musical Discovery

Over 1400 tracks on iTunes this year but quite a lot seem to be downloads by my daughter who has just discovered the sort of music featured in Kerrang Magazine every week (better than One Direction, anyway).  In addition she has taken up bhangra dancing at Edinburgh so there are loads of downloads of strange Indian music too.

I listen to a lot of film soundtracks and have been picking up some extended versions of ones I already had such as: Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines by Ron Goodwin, Casino Royale (the sixties one) by Burt Bacharach, Koyaanisqatsi by Philip Glass, High Road to China by John Barry and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea by Paul Smith. Given I have been to South America four times this year then it's not surprising that I have bought a lot of Latin music too including quite a bit of Colombian music such as Pedro Laza.  I did buy some CDs too and was pleased with my Vaughan Williams discovery of The Solent and the Sibelius rarities CD.  The best purchase was made  only last week, however, as, after a thirty year search I got my favourite performances of Prokofiev's 1st and 7th Symphonies on CD.  I had these 1960's recordings by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky and the Moscow Radio Symphony recording on LP which I bought in 1980 when I was at Oxford.  I lost the record of the 1st and 7th when a girlfriend ran off with it when she went back to America and then it took me two years to get the recordings replaced.  I had to buy two records and import them from France, as the original record was out of production and they had changed the order of the symphonies on the records.  Although I have had an acceptable version of the 1st Symphony on CD for some time I couldn't get a good version of the 7th, the original version of which, as recorded by Rozhdestvensky, has a quite different (and superior) ending to that which most conductors use.  An impecunious Prokofiev had to tack on an upbeat ending to win a prize from the Soviet authorities but he preferred his original ending, as do I. Last week one of those Amazon recommendations popped up and there was the version I had lost so many years ago on CD.  Very happy!

Best foreign trip 

Can't think why I enjoyed this trip so much!

An interesting selection of cities this year: Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Bogota  (four times), Medellin (twice), Barranquilla, Cartagena, Panama City,  Poznan and Copenhagen.  Plus three trips to Edinburgh.  Too much flying anyway!  The visits were longer on the whole, however.  About eight weeks out the country, this year.  Most enjoyable was my two week visit to Colombia and Panama in July.  An airshow, the Panama Canal, excellent rum, hot sunshine, Miss Barranquilla and my particular friend Sophie on top form.  Perfecto!

Best Hotel Room

The over the top suite I had at the Hotel Zaza in Houston in July.  Shame I was there only one night!

Best Encounter with a Fashion Designer

Charlotte with Alice Temperley:  You've no idea how much this is going to cost you!

I went to a trendy opening party at Alice Temperley's new shop in Mayfair.  I was accompanied by Charlotte whose little black dress seemed to go down well with the plethora of leggy fashionistas wafting about  the place (obviously recognising a kindred spirit) enabling me to chat with the splendid Miss Temperley who invited Charlotte to a private sale later in the month.  "But daddy I will need clothes for Edinburgh!"  Jeans, that's what students wear not tiny little sparkly frocks.. Expensive.

Best Artistic Experience

The least risque picture in the exhibition!

The aforementioned Shunga exhibition at the British museum.  It is very dubious to go to such an exhibition on your own, of course, so having the lovely J with me was a particular pleasure.  I hadn't seen her for ten years, as she went to work in Docklands, which is so far east it's somewhere near the beginning of the Silk Road.

Best Exhibition

Why the Spaniards went to Colombia

This has to be the Gold Museum in Bogota which manages to turn what could be quite tedious ( a lot of gold - not that interesting, per se, as I'm not a girl) into a fascinating history of pre-Hispanic Colombia.  World class.  You can also see a good deal of the exhibits in London at the British Museum at present.  So you can pop in there after looking at all the pictures of Japanese people having sex.

Best Vodka Martini 

A clear win by the bar in the Hotel Angleterre in Copenhagen for a really large, ice cold effort in a retro coupe.  Shplendid!

Best Wine 

I didn't get a photo of the bottle but it was the Vega Sicilia I had at this lunch with the President of Panama.  Never had one before.  Yummy!

Best New Beer 

I had a number of interesting ones this year and Sainsbury's should be congratulated for their regional beer competition but the award has to go to Brovaria's honey beer which I had during a trip to Poznan in Poland.

Best Meal 

Lobster bisque

After a disappointing set of overseas dining experiences in 2012 this year I had some much better ones.  The winner was a stunning lunch in the Marchal restaurant of the Hotel Angleterre in Copenhagen.  Sadly, I was without my usual international dining companion, Sophie, but the food was so good I almost didn't miss her. Almost.

Turbot with cucumber and mushroom bouillon

Fillet steak with sweetbreads

All washed down with three very expensive glasses of Comte Lafond Sancerre.  Copenhagen has some of the best restaurants in the world at present, for some odd reason, with a lot of concentration on locally sourced produce.   Head chef Ronny Emborg won a Michelin star at his previous restaurant before being head hunted by the Angleterre.  Another star can't be far off for Marchal. 

Biggest food regret

That I didn't buy a haggis and brie sandwich when I went to see the Falkirk wheel.

Best Breakfast

Well, there is no doubt which was the biggest and that was the terrifying Steakfast  at the breakfast nirvana that is Eegon's of Cowes.  This consists of two sausages, two rashers of bacon, two fried eggs, two slices of black pudding, an eight ounce steak, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion rings and a huge portion of saute potatoes. It was the latter that did for the Legatus. I soon polished off all the protein and vegetable accompaniment but those saute potatoes defeated me! Even with the help of my daughter (whose suggestion it was to try it) on the toast and potatoes there was still a lot left at the end.   The amazing thing is, is that they actually do an even bigger cooked breakfast but so far only two people have finished it!  Not the highest quality but good value at £8.50 including tea.

The banana is for Charlotte.  She doesn't do 8.30am

The best one was probably the one I had in the Caledonian Waldorf Astoria in Edinburgh.  Top quality ingredients (most English breakfasts in the UK are let down by poor quality sausages) and the added attraction of haggis. Rather more than £8.50, though.

 Best wildlife

I only included a best wildlife category last year because I was very taken with the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo so didn't expect to have an entry for this year.  That was before we went to see the alpaca farm on the Isle of Wight and had been informed that a baby alpaca had been born twenty minutes before.  Cute!  I wonder what they taste like?

 Best Discovery 

Well maybe oddest. I've never bothered to Google myself because I have quite a common name but Sophie (who doesn't have anything better to do as she retired at the age of thirty) searched my name on Google images and I had four pictures in the top 21.  Weird.

 Worst discovery 

She looks very Renaissance!

Finding out quite how much it cost to turn my daughter's hair into a birds nest for her 18th birthday party.  I did actually say: "I could buy the Warlord Games Rorke's Drift set for that!"

So, that's it for 2013 and it's wargaming highlights next but I haven't even started on that post yet!


  1. A fecking good looking 2013, hope you have just as good 2014!

  2. All in all, pretty damn good I'd say!

  3. Quite possibly my favourite review of the to date!

  4. Legatus

    I love your lifestyle, your opportunities and the way that you savour and appreciate them. But I have to admit that envy is kicking in.

    We have two things in common, our daughters started uni and Bavarian beer...after that...err you win!

    Please keep posting about your wargames and if I am reborn I am coming back as your fingertips.

  5. Not sure I can compete with that...have a great Hogmanay and a fantastic 2014!!

  6. An amazing action packed year no doubt!

  7. Brilliant - I'm tempted to do on similar but for the fact my life is so boring in comparison I would provide the only known cure to insomnia...

    Glad the Kindle worked out - here's another tip - I got a new phone last week, for the first time ever I have an Android type thing... and the killer app (as the young people say) for it?? Kindle! I now have a book to read wherever I go - and I'd have the phone with me anyway - and being Kindle it syncs between devices so whichever one I'm using opens at the last page read... love it!

    Best beer for me this year Courage Imperial Russian Stout - currently for sale in Tesco's no less - 10% and delcious - as Fran would say "feckin' good"

    Haggis and brie sandwich - genius - sent a copy straight to my Dad (who lives up there) as a wind up... :o)

    You are so right about sausages making the breakfast - most are hideous - the same goes for black pudding...

    PS, Are you the one third in from the left top row?? :o))