Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back from Bogota...and workbench

The view from my hotel room in Bogota

Well, I'm back from my trip to Bogota which was pretty exhausting given I think it took me longer to get to and from there than I actually stayed there.  I'd also forgotten that the city is at 2800m altitude, which made walking around urban regeneration sites quite tiring.  The Radisson Royal hotel had a nice bedroom and an OK restaurant but the bar was rubbish.  In fact all they did was push a drinks trolley into the lobby lounge in the evening.  Decidedly lacking in atmosphere.  Next time I go (and this is looking likely) I think I will stay at the Marriott again.  

Typical decor in the Hotel Zaza

As I booked so late I had to overnight in Houston on my way over so stayed at the trendy Hotel Zaza again. My particular friend S from Vancouver managed to get over too, so that perked up what could have been a dull eighteen hours.  Even better she came on to Colombia as well so we could catch up on news.  She spent much of the time (other than jewellery shopping) trying to persuade me that I should paint sixteenth century conquistadors, given they were so active in Colombia, looking for Eldorado!  I think I have quite enough on at present!

I was pretty jet-lagged the whole trip so actually didn't have a vodka Martini!  I mainly stuck to beer, which in Bogota was the ubiquitous Club Colombia.  This was a perfectly acceptable American-style lager with, perhaps, a bit more character than US equivalents.  It evaporated remarkably rapidly, however...must be the altitude.

In Houston we had a nice Oregon Pinot Noir with dinner. Erath was very satiny and smooth with an intriguing mixture of slightly smoky sage and plum tastes.  Anyway it went very well with our Texas steaks!

On the way back I had a four hour stopover in Houston airport and as soon as I arrived I found out that my plane was going to be an hour late.  S had a six hour wait before her flight back to Vancouver.  So a long lunch was called for! The choice of places for lunch in the airport, however, is not good at George Bush International.  The Sports Bar (death by tortillas), Ruby's diner (death by burger) or a seafood restaurant (death by salmonella).  Given neither S or I thought it was sensible to have seafood before a ten hour flight we went for Ruby's where, we have to say, the burgers were rather good.

Better still, beer of the month was Sam Adams Octoberfest, a nice red beer, which was actually not at all bad in a caramel sort of way.  The only way to remain in the restaurant for any length of time was to keep ordering more beer.  Next trip (next week) is to Serbia, which I haven't been to before

27th Jaeger's commander, Luitenant-colonel WJ Grunebosch, under way

I've managed a bit more painting this week but am currently working on 32 figures at once (24 Prussian line and 8 Dutch Jaegers) which, given that they are all Napoleonics makes for slow going.  I reckon each figure needs about forty separate stages and I am only getting one or two applications (e.g. two shades of a colour) done per session.  I was looking for a Dutch mounted officer for the 27th Jaegers and was about to order one from Perry Miniatures when I had a look at some of my file boxes full of "in progress" figures.  I had already got one and had even cleaned him up so just needed to base him.

The big question is, although it is still some time off, what unit do I paint after I have finished these?  The obvious thought is to do a unit of French infantry and I have based enough Perry plastics and metals for a 36 man French battalion but don't think I can face any more of these yet.  I have around twelve A4 file boxes full of "in progress" figures.  To qualify for this status they have to be based at least.  Some are well on the way so maybe I just need to look at some which have  a reasonable amount of paint on to go next.  I would like to paint a whole unit again, though, so I need to do an inventory of what I have.

I went to Bath today and when I visited a couple of years ago I bemoaned the loss of Bonapartes model soldier shop and the shrinking Games Workshop.  More bad news on this visit as this nasty orange shop front is all that is left of Bath Model Centre.

I always used to go in here to get paint and modelling supplies, at least, but, after 66 years, spiralling rates and loss of customers partly due to extensive building works nearby have done for it.  Shame.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Finished at last...The Mahdi

The Mahdi in October 2012

After starting him more than six years ago I have, at last, finished the Perry Miniatures Mahdi.  I gave up on him once I discovered I had painted his camel the wrong colour  (the Mahdi had a white Bisharin camel) and couldn't face repainting him.  However, I didn't have time to paint much on the Prussians this week (I'm, unusually, painting 20 figures as a batch so even one shade takes a long time) so finished him off yesterday.  A bit more about him here.

The Mahdi in November 2006

Sadly, I won't have any time for painting next week (I've only done a bit on the Prussians this week) as I am off to Bogota for the week on Tuesday. This wasn't suggested until Thursday so I have been running around sorting out flights, hotels and meetings.  Because it's such short notice the only tickets I could get were via Houston (you can't fly direct) which will involve an overnight stay, unfortunately.  I've managed to avoid any overseas trips (well, except Edinburgh!) for five months but it looks like this is all going to change in the next few months.

All of this meant that I missed my planned visit to SELWG today, annoyingly, so I will have to see if I can get to Warfare next month.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Miniature Wargames

I've just picked up the October issue of Miniature Wargames in the village shop.  It is the only useful shop we have here.  Famously, the Daily Telegraph ran an article about it a year or so ago saying it must be the only village shop in the country which sells two dozen types of de luxe Champagne (vintage Krug, Dom Perignon, Roederer Cristal etc).  You can even get Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc there.  But then if you are a premier league footballer, Andy Murray, Max Clifford, Colin Montgomerie, or any of the other peculiar people who live here, you need to be able to get some stylish fizz at short order from somewhere.  Most of the shops in our village are interior design shops which sell ludicrously expensive things for your deluxe home.  My wife has been banging on about our household insurance because the two sets of curtains we have in our living room (which were a hand me down from a friend) cost £15,000 and she is worried that our insurance won't cover them.  Of course it won't!  Who on earth spends £15,000 on two sets of silk curtains except a total idiot?  Maybe I should sell them and get a Lithuanian au pair girl for a year, instead.

Anyway, this month's Miniature Wargames, compared with Wargames Illustrated, is rather tragic; primarily because a lot of its content relates to Colours.  So, this is the October issue which is published at the end of September but Colours was 8th and 9th September.  They really have got it a month wrong; it should have been in the September issue published in August.

The only answer to this is to take these two young ladies from the production team and give them a good spanking.  No wonder the chap in the middle looks so smug.  Actually he looks like he has just swallowed a cactus, but there we go.

There are two interesting articles, for me, inside on Platea and Queenston (1812) but I really have no interest in this fashion for mid-thirties alternative history (A Very British Civil War etc.) which also features in this issue.   A Very British Civil War posits a battle between communists and fascists which, we admit, has a little bit of resonance for me as two of my great uncles were part of Oswald Mosley's bodyguard.  Another great uncle was in the Luftwaffe in World War 2 but we really aren't a family of fascists.  Honest.  When my son took my great uncle's medals to school during WW2 week he got into trouble for promoting Nazism, but that is another story.  

The really good news in Miniature Wargames is that they seem to have summarily dumped Steve Eardley as a columnist, thank goodness.  Eardley, who thought he was a much better writer than he was, used to drive me completely mad. He obviously thought he was a "controversial" voice a la Mike Siggins, except Siggins could actually write and did regularly offer up interesting pieces.  I didn't want to know that Eardley was drunk when he wrote his column, or that he was a committed Christian or that he was some sort of anti-capitalist (i.e. a communist) who felt that no-one in the wargames industry should actually make any money.  The editor rather cooly says "I am sure all readers will join me in wishing him well with his future writing projects".  Yes, for the Morning Star,  no doubt.  So long and thanks for all the (rancid) fish.

I admit to being somewhat choleric today as I have picked up a nasty bug from the perpetually snivelling children which means I have a shocking headache, a cough and am rapidly losing my voice, which is unfortunate as I am supposed to have a meeting with a Moroccan princess on Thursday.  As you do.  Oh well.  I am somewhat cheered by the arrival from Big Red Bat of a positive horde of Ancient British chariots which are destined to be the next unit I paint after I finish the Prussians. Contemplating all that plaid is not a good thing, however.  Time for a glass of Krug, I think.

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Prussians are coming!

I mentioned in a recent post that I had been "forced" by my German friend B (who I met at an event in Lithuania almost exactly five years ago) to buy some plastic figures in Orc's Nest which, without her presence, I certainly wouldn't have.  I was intending to show the whole unit when it was completed but given that that could be months away I have decided to post the ones I have just finished now.

They are, of course, the reasonably new Perry Miniatures Prussians.  Now while I feel, deep down, that wargaming should be, above all, about Napoleonics I have only ever dabbled in it, due to the number of figures you need to paint.  I have, of course, my blog about Quatre Bras where I intend to put together enough figures to fight portions of that battle and, indeed, am progressing quite well on my first unit, the 27th Dutch Jaegers.  I have even done some work on the next batch of those this past weekend.

I am also interested in the Peninsula and the recent announcement by the Perry bothers of pre-1812 French infantry makes that more likely.  I did start a few Victrix plastic French figures for this period but they were horrible to assemble and much taller than their equivalent British.  Why can't manufacturers keep figures in the same range the same size?  Warlord Games Romans suffer from the same thing and their Roman slave girls (so critical to the depiction of a Roman army) tower over the poor legionaries.  They can't all have been captured in Holland can they?

Prussians, though?  Ligny? Plancenoit?  If I was going to re-fight part of Waterloo it would be the largely self-contained action around Hougoumont or, possibly La Haye Sainte, if only because it brings back memories of my Airfix figures.  I had no intention of painting any Prussians until B forced me, saying that I should paint more Napoleonics and what better army to do than Blücher's at Waterloo "as it saved the world from the French" (she would, no doubt, appreciate Herr Hofschroer's work).  

One Waterloo picture that I had always particularly liked was Carl Röchling's painting of the 1st Pomeranian attacking Plancenoit. It was used on the cover of one of my books, Albert Nofi's The Waterloo Campaign, which I refer to a lot because of it's excellent orders of battle.  So it was units involved in this fight that I thought about for my Prussians.

Anyway, with B hovering over the entire enterprise like a sinister black eagle I thought I ought to get started on them or I'd be in trouble. Firstly, they were a lot easier to assemble than the Victrix figures and I put together a sprue's worth (six line infantry and a jaeger) in no time whilst watching Victoria Pendleton shimmer on the Strictly Come Dancing premiere show.  When I started to paint them I found that I was actually enjoying doing so!  I don't really like painting plastics (although I have no objection to them per se) but the detail on these made them very easy.  Indeed, I would say they are easier to paint than the Perry brothers' metal Napoleonics.  There is a little bit of guesswork required down the side of the trunk of the figures where the coat fades into the trousers but as this area is largely covered by the sword it's not really an issue.  The only downside about them is that the bayonets are very flimsy.  Next door's cat, Harry, got into my study at the weekend and managed to jump on them and bend quite a lot of them but they seem to bend back alright.

Harry the cat is always in our house creating havoc

I'm not going mad on the painting, just achieving, hopefully, "good wargaming standard", although I did paint in buttons on the leather greatcoat cover which aren't on the Perry figures.  The figures represent the second battalion of the 15th infantry regiment who were one of the first to attack Plancenoit in the closing stages of Waterloo. I have decided to go for four companies of six figures which isn't a huge number but looks good as a wargames unit.  I have already started the remaining eighteen and will paint them all together.   

54mm Prussian

While painting the jaeger I remembered that the very first model soldier I painted was a Prussian jaeger and not, as I thought, Airfix Highlanders.  My father gave me three bags of 54mm plastic Napoleonic figures at about the time the film Waterloo came out (so I would have been ten).  Apart from Prussians they also did British Infantry and French Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard.    I set to work with my Humbrol gloss paints and was delighted at the transformation from dull grey to colour.  It was probably this that got me hooked on painting soldiers.  I remembered that I had given my son a lot of my old toy soldiers to play with when he was smaller and when I looked in his cupboard this morning there was my Prussian; the very first figure I painted.  So maybe Prussians are in my blood after all.