Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Cheryl Vincent, Playboy Chicago Club, August 1964

The Legatus is not allowed chocolate so likes to celebrate Easter with something else instead.  May the Easter bunny give you what you want.  We would quite happily settle for popping a cork or two with Miss Vincent here. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Resisting Temptation 3

Well, I was contemplating four days of painting when I ran out of white paint on Thursday.  Never mind, I'm sure I would have some spare tins in my paint pile, built up from the time it looked like Humbrol were going bust and I bought ten pots of each of my favourite colours.  (Does anyone else choose their lottery numbers by the numbers of their favourite Humbrol paints?  Probably not.) But no!  None at all!  Disaster!  So off I go to Addlestone Model Centre; the nearest place I can get Humbrol paints.  Now I have been going to Addlestone Model Shop (as it used to be called) for years.  In fact, I have been going there so long that I not only remember the previous building it was in but the one before that.  I probably first went there in about 1970.

I get the impression that it mainly specialises in radio control planes and cars but they have Scalextric and Hornby, Games Workshop and lots of plastic kits including a very good selection of 20mm figures and vehicles including some of the more obscure ones.  They really do manage to pack a lot into quite a small shop.  Now I buy a lot of paints and other model supplies in there but occasionally (well, quite often) I go in there to buy a tube of model filler and end up with a 1/48th Hawker Hurricane, or some such.  I have stopped this on the whole, partly because I can no longer remember which models I have bought.  However, yesterday they had the newly reissued Airfix Dambusters Lancaster in there and I was wavering.  I have never built a Lancaster and I was very impressed when one of my fellow lawyers at college built one in the law library once (he was slightly eccentric).  It just looked so chunky!  My daughter Charlotte has actually been in the cockpit of the one from the Battle of Britain Memorial flight and so she was encouraging me like mad.  But then she is always encouraging me to buy model kits which she wants me to build for her room but I never do as I always feel I should be using hobby time to paint figures.  Still, I thought, I did have four days over Easter.  No, I resisted.  Then I saw the Tamiya 1/48th one.  "It's only £99!" says Charlotte, in little red Devil mode.  "Yes but it's two feet across!  Where will I put it?  Mummy will have a wicket!"  I resist.  Again.

Then I go around the corner and they have a model kit that is so big it won't even go on the shelves.  Forget your 1/350 Tamiya USS Enterprise, that is only 105cm long. This is Trumpeter's 1/200 Bismarck which measures in at 126cm.  That's over four feet!  And it's the Bismarck!  The first model ship I built!  "Daddy it's only £79 more than the Lancaster and you get a lot more kit for your money!" says the little Devil.  No, I am not going to buy it.  It's 1700 pieces for a start.  You would need the sort of focus that is just not my strong point.   I escape unscathed and vow not to buy another model kit until I finish my 1/48 Spitfire Mk1.  

I did buy the Airfix Model World Scale Modelling supplement though, as my model making skills are still stuck in the seventies and it really does have some useful tips in it.  I might have a look at my Spitfire again tomorrow, now I have actually located it under the pile of junk that was in the corner of my room.  I have to say that the standard of finish top plastic model kit makers achieve now is just staggeringly awesome.  I'm an OK figure painter (I would give myself 5/10 - 6/10 on a good day) but the level at which these model makers are working is just way beyond my wildest dreams; I'd be about 2/10 on that scale.  Oh, well.  I just want to have a couple of model planes hanging from my ceiling!

Today I've had my best day's painting today for months, if not years.  The family were out and I started at nine and finished at about five thirty.  It was helped a lot by the good light today.  I got on really well with my latest Darkest Africa unit (it will be finished tomorrow!), I did a bit more on some of the Foundry Argonauts and I have based and undercoated some Romans.  Speaking of which, I bought some Aventine Romans for the Marcomannic War and while looking at the selection of shield transfers by Little Big Men Studios I noticed that they had a shield for Legio II Augusta.  Grr!  If only they did those for the Warlord plastics I might overcome my distaste for their dwarfiness and actually build some units to take on my Ancient Britains.  I wanted Leg II as that was the unit commanded by Vespasian as featured in the early  (and best - I never felt the books were as good after they left Britain) Simon Scarrow novels.  On the off chance, I dropped an email to Steve at LBMS.  Would the Aventine transfers work on the Warlord shields?  He came straight back and said that they would be far too big but would I like him to re-scale them to fit?  A brief e-mail exchange followed and less than 24 hour later I had eight packs of EIR Legio II August transfers for my Warlord plastics - the only ones in the world!  Well, probably not by now as no doubt he will put them up for sale shortly.  This really was exceptional service from someone who has transformed the look of wargames figures more than anyone else.  Except now I am starting to build two Roman armies at the same time!

Anyway, tomorrow, as Scarlett O'Hara said, is another day and hopefully a day with as much painting in it!.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My favourite shelves...

My computer has been out of action for some days but it is now fixed, thank goodness.  Given I couldn't do any blog entries I took to tidying up my study as it had turned into a complete tip since Christmas.  There is still some way to go but I can at least now have unobstructed views of my shelves which allows me to post an entry inspired by one I saw on someone else's blog a little while ago.  This was of his favourite bookshelves which struck me as a very good idea so I thought I'd have a go.

I've always been a great collector of stuff.  My wife for example, has no books, CDs or DVDs.  She doesn't spend money on things (except lights and wacky ornaments for the house).  Some people I know spend a lot of money on foreign holidays, for example.  As I spend a lot of time abroad  I am completely uninterested in foreign holidays.  Bad luck on the family, they can go to our house on the Isle of White again!  No, I like buying stuff: primarily books, music and DVDs.  The problem is that all of this stuff needs to be stored.  I admit to buying most of my music on iTunes now even though my friend Bill says the sound reproduction is lousy.  But, then, I listen to my music on an iPod or through my computer speakers (today it's Jerry Goldsmith's score for The 13th Warrior) not a £25,000 stereo like Bill so I can't hear the difference.  Incidentally, isn't it strange how audiophiles bang on about the quality of a recording of a particular piece of music with no regard for the quality of the music itself.  This certainly explains a lot about Bill's "music" collection.  My friend from Bath, whose stereo cost even more than Bill's, uses records on a turntable because of the better sound.  All very well the first few plays, when they are new and fresh but over the years they inevitably deteriorate (bit like women, really) and the listening experience is ruined by random clicks and pops.  I recently bought a CD version of a record I had owned for many years and was actually annoyed by the lack of a certain click I remember from one of the movements on my LP version.

Anyway, here are my favourite shelves which are the ones in my study.  You can tell a lot about someone from their books, music and film collection.  My sister, for example, has lots of books about the KGB...

These are the shelves facing my desk as I sit in my "playroom" as the family call it.  

Top row left: Unread paperbacks (there are many more behind the visible books) 
Top row centre: Girly books 
Top row right: Darkest Africa books

Second row left:  a German WW1 pickelhaube, my unfinished model paddle boat, some model palm trees, a German incendiary bomb tail, an unfinished 1/48 Lockheed Lightning, a model Buick, a nearly completed Great War Miniatures WW1 British tank, a part completed 1/24th Airfix Hurricane engine, a mortar tail and a reproduction Zulu Wars helmet which I bought for a fancy dress evening at Guy's school.  There are no books on this shelf because the fastenings are weak and too much weight would cause it to fall off the wall, as it nearly did a few years ago.

Second row centre:  Small art books and film books; especially on Hammer Films.
Second row right: Zulu War books

Third  row left and centre:  Crimean War, World War 1, Back of Beyond and World War 2 period books.
Third row right:  Some books on James Bond and a few oddments which I have moved from my other shelves to make more room: Helen of Troy, Gerry Anderson and Titanic all feature.

Fourth row left: File boxes with unpainted figures (three more are invisible to the right) More unpainted and part painted figures on the shelf.
Fourth row centre: Unread hardbacks (with another layer behind)
Fourth row right: Books on (mainly) space exploration and Egyptian art.

Bottom row left: boxes of plastic figures, and a couple of volumes of Miniature Wargames.
Bottom row centre: My main lead pile in plastic drawers - about forty figures to a drawer.  I recently found two more of these little units in the loft so am now decanting the last 12 months worth of purchases into them.   Up until now thay have been sitting in cardboard boxes in front of my shelves. Grand Manner Argo in front.
Bottom row right: Wargames Illustrated (the ones I don't have on CD)

The filing cabinets below contain at least three drawers worth of wargames and modelling magazines.  One drawer contains my spare paint mine, all my aerosol cans and things like static grass and pva glue.  Another holds all my shield and flag transfers, more wargames rules and other mainly wargaming stuff.  At the bottom left is my 1906 Lincoln-Jeffries air rifle which I have just had serviced and can still punch a hole through  a garden fence.  It's a good job we only have fields at the back!  Guy is in the school shooting team and often pops away at his targets with this although his normal shooting distance at Bisley is 800 yards!  Also bottom left is a 1916 British 18 pounder shell case which I use to keep my umbrella in if it is wet.

These are the shelves to the right of my chair where I keep most of my military books.

Top shelf: Various oversize books on African exploration, The Trigan Empire, James Bond films, Hammer films and more girly books.

Left hand book shelf:

Top row:  DVDs (they have to have been watched to go here)
Second row:  Lord of the Rings, James Bond and oversize military books.
Third row: More large military books and transport
Fourth row: More DVDs
Fifth row: Mostly fantasy and SF graphic art books.
Bottom row:  Mostly ships and Ancient Egypt

Right hand book shelf:

Top Row: Trojans to Carthaginian Wars
Second row: Rome to Dark ages
Third row: Crusades to War of 1812
Fourth row: Napoleonic
Fifth row: Indian Mutiny to the Sudan.
Bottom row: Wargames rules

Big art books and Playboy books

I have another bookshelf which just contains art books and three more book shelves full of DVDs.  Basically, I have run out of room and need to get rid of stuff.  The DVDs take up a lot of space and I am contemplating buying some of those big albums designed to store just the discs and their covers so you can lose all the plastic boxes.  A friend of mine has done this and freed up a huge amount of space.

I have had to put a lot of books up into the loft: all my read paperbacks, books on things I look at less often, such as cars of the thirties, wine regions, Start Trek, Star Wars and Renaissance art.  The loft is now full as well so I need to do something drastic which means getting rid of some books.  Horrors!  However, am I really going to read Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian books again?  Or any of those techno thrillers I bought in the eighties and nineties?  I must have over 250 novels I haven't read yet and new ones come out all the time.  Not so very long ago period military novels were few and far between; Napoleonic naval, Sharpe, Kilworth's Crimean series and then you started to run out.  Now there are dozens of series covering all sorts of periods.  I can't keep up!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Some more for Darkest Africa and a busy week...

Last week was very busy with visitors from Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Chile and Colombia as well as a big Latin American event in London.  I had very little time in the evenings and had several receptions to go to.  At one of them I had Peruvian wine for the first time (always a pleasure with the Panamanian Ambassador).  My friend and I try to compete with having had wine from obscure places.  For example, I have had wine from Thailand (horrible), Zimbabwe (better than I expected), Uruguay (OK) and Luxembourg (dull). This was a Peruvian blend and was rather good.

Charlotte with Alice Temperley

Although the Legatus goes to a lot of receptions they are usually diplomatic ones full of dull ministers, presidents and ambassadors. That is, unless the Panamanian ambassador is there, Her Most Excellent Slinkiness to the Court of St James, as she always brightens things up considerably.    It's not often that I go to a glamourous fashion event but I went to a fashion show and reception for British designer Alice Temperley last week.  I haven't seen such a splendid collection of tall leggy girlies (they could have given the Panamanian Ambassador a run for her money) for a long time.  Some of them were taller than me so I carefully checked out their legs and they weren't even wearing that high a heel.  I took along my daughter Charlotte as a reward for getting her offer to study physics at Edinburgh, which was the one she really wanted.  I may have to cut down on my soldier purchases for a bit (well five years - she insists on doing a masters and Scottish universities require an extra year) given the £20,000 a year it's going to cost.


I managed a burst of painting over the weekend and finished another unit for my Zambezi Campaign.  I have now painted more than half the units of Arabs I need for my force so I may do a few more while I am in the mood.

I picked up the Saga supplement The Raven's Shadow which includes Franks as I have some Carolingians painted that wouldn't need a lot of work to turn them into a warband.  Vikings would be a natural opponent.  I haven't played Saga yet but as I am contemplating rejoining Guildford wargames club that might be the place to try it.  I also have another game booked at Guildford with Alastair (Back of Beyond) but I have had to delay it until April due to an Edinburgh University induction evening on Monday.

My best purchase last week has been a rack for my paints which I saw on  Bleaseworld's blog. As soon as I realised that they did one for Humbrol tinlets (there are other dinosaurs) I bunged in an order to Progressive Engineering Solutions straight away and it arrived in two days.  I haven't bought anything laser cut before so was unprepared for the rank, rotting salmon smell but a couple of coats of black paint helped that. 

Order from chaos

It has really enabled me to sort my desk out and order the whole workbench.  I haven't been so pleased with a hobby item since I discovered liquid Greenstuff.  Excellent!  Highly recommended!

When I did my post on very old figures from the loft a week or so back I was lamenting the fact that I have always wanted to do Samurai gaming again but the thought of painting hordes of Perry Miniatures put me off.  Now North Star have previewed some figures to go with the forthcoming (by the way, I can't stand this "upcoming" that everyone seems to use now) Osprey skirmish rules, Ronin.  This sounds like it could solve my problem!  Twang!

I have now worked out what my Roman project will be which is, coincidentally, the same as what BigRedBat is planning!  The good thing about this period is that I have already painted quite a few of the Romans' opposition although some will need re-basing.  More when I get my first batch of new figures!

I notice that there is a new blog by the authors of the In her Majesty's Name rules which I will follow with interest.

On the go at present are more Darkest Africa Arabs, Argonauts, Back of Beyond Chinese and a few characters for my latest pulp project: The Lost World...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

One Year Ago

Phil B has come up with another subject to enable you to put up a post without having to paint any figures; which is always a good idea.  The idea is that you go back one year and look at the post you did then (or nearest to it).

One year ago I was thinking about what armies to use for Black Powder skirmishing and the real shock is that it was a year ago!  I did go for the American Civil War and even have some figures on the workbench at present.   So some progress has been made!  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Technology. Aargh!

I was staying in the Palace Hotel in St Moritz once (as you do) and was sitting in the bar having a Martini (as you do) and over the other side of the bar were some Russian businessmen/gangsters (it's hard to tell the difference).  One of the businessmen's mobile phone went off and this glamorous Russian girl, wearing a very short black cocktail dress, undulated across from the bar, sat on his lap, pulled the phone out of his jacket pocket and held it to his ear while he had his telephone conversation.  "I want one of those!" I thought.  Not a mobile phone of course.  I didn't actually own a own mobile phone until 2010.  I had them for business before but I made sure I kept them switched off.  

A few years ago (quite a few years ago) I was considered technologically quite competent.  I was pretty good at using a PC and people in my office actually came to me for help if they got stuck.  This was after a shaky start.  I was working at a major London insurance market where, over one weekend in (I think) 1994 we went from having no PCs (except finance people) to everyone in the organisation (some 2000 people) getting one.  I was one of the few to have a primitive internal email machine before that (a Wang) with lovely green on black writing.  I asked for a word processing package so that I could modify letters for after when my secretary had left work but was told by a very senior executive that they didn't want managers wasting their time in typing: that's what secretaries were for.  He didn't actually say "women" but that was the implication.  When I went in on Monday to find my shiny new IBM PC I was all excited to get going on this new technology.  Unfortunately mine didn't work.  I stared at the black screen and rang IT support who had one or two other problems that morning.  By the time they got to me at four o'clock in the afternoon I was cross and they were frazzled.  They looked at my machine and told me calmly that I needed to switch the screen on as well as the computer.  Oh.

Over the last month or so I have been upgrading my technology:  a new back up drive (2TB good grief!), new speakers (a great success - my Sibelius sounds excellent), a wireless keyboard and mouse (I can now easily move my keyboard and gain a lot more painting space) and, rather more fundamentally, fibre-optic broadband.  During one of my endless tours of University Physics Departments with my daughter I discovered that fibre-optic cable was invented at Southampton University. 


Now, however I need a new laptop.  The problem is that all new laptops come with Windows 8 and, having had a look at it it is truly horrible.  This is because it has been designed for people who are used to these swishy-finger phones and iPads.  It covers your desktop with horrid tiles telling you what all your friends are doing, what the weather is,  and what Kelly Brook is wearing (alright, that one might be alright).  I don't want this.  I want Windows 7 (actually I don't really like that much either but it's what I have on my work provided laptop).  In fact I don't actually know what my operating system is on my computer.  I just know that I'm used to it and don't want a different one on my laptop.

This one at least has a decent sized screen

There are two horrid things that have tuned me into a technological dinosaur once more.  The first is the growth of the mobile phone and its bloated progeny, the tablet, as a computer substitute.  These cursed things work in a completely different way from my PC and as I have not grown up with mobile technology I can't deal with them at all.  I can't deal with "apps" (I hate that word) and most of them seem completely pointless.  I can't deal with touch screens.  A mobile phone isn't for entertainment it's a communications device!  The big issue of course, and this is even more annoying, is that it is an age discriminatory object purely on the basis that I can't see what's on the screen!  Even with my glasses I can no longer read emails.  Then there are all these tablets. What are they even for?  You can't work on them as they don't have USB ports or proper word processing software so they are just big mobile phone substitutes except most of them don't even have phones.  They have very small memories: I couldn't get all the music I have on my iPod onto one, for example.  You can put your films on them.  No I can't, I have over a thousand DVDs.  People do watch films on them, I'm told.  Why? The screen is too small.  I want to watch TV and films on the biggest screen possible.  That's why I never watch a film on a plane.   They seem to be compromise machines that don't actually do anything well but do everything rather poorly.  Yet the maker of the world's most common computer operating system is, in a pathetic attempt to become trendy, falling over itself to appease the minority of people who have these five minute wonder devices.

The second horrible development is all the pandering to social media.  This is something else I don't understand.  What is Facebook for?  My son has it and his page is just covered in unregulated input from his friends.  A blog I can understand, as you control the content but Facebook and (even more pointlessly) Twitter all seem to be about other people dumping stuff on your page.  Weird. The number of wargames firms using this baffles me.  The whole exercise around social media seems to be about trying to pretend you have lots of friends.  There are even programmes that help you increase the number of these "friends".  Why?     

I suspect a lot of this is all about getting everyone to put everything about themselves and all their content into the Cloud.  "You don't need a big memory, give everything to us to look after for you and you can access it when you want".  "Use social media to keep in touch with your friends!"  But of course this is just so that the large corporation that's looking after it for you can sell all the details of what you do and like to a dozen more large corporations so they can bombard you with intrusive advertising. 

So, what Windows 8 tells me is that we have now reached the point where the mobile phone and social media freaks have won and style is preferred over utility because the current generation is not interested in quality.  Music downloads are vastly inferior to CDs as regards sound quality.  Watching a film on an iPad is a far inferior experience to watching on a 46" TV.  Trying to access the internet on one of these devices leads to a poor "mobile" version of the webpage (if you are lucky).  On something like the new version of Kindle they were saying that you could make the rather poor internet browser better by downloading an app (inevitably) installing it and there you go.  I don't want this.  I wouldn't be able to download or install anything, anyway.  My son told me to put Blackberry messenger on my phone so he could send me messages ("Collect me from rowing!"  "Buy me pizza!" etc.) .  I think it's on there but I can't for the life of me find it amongst all the piddling little icons for things I don't understand.  I would want the internet on a Kindle to work out the box; not have to fiddle with it.  Why can't it just work like my computer?  But of course it isn't a computer.  It's another mobile phone and the underlying technology is immature (and battery technology hasn't kept up either - the bigger the screen on your phone the more power it uses). 

Yet, every morning on the train all these people are tapping away at their phones or looking at their iPads but you can't help think that a lot of it is about status rather than utility.  Increasingly I just want to smash them all up!  Grrr!  

So, I have now given up. The primacy of mobile phone technology has officially lost me.  No doubt over the next few years everything I am used to will disappear.  No CDs.  No DVDs.  No magazines.  Everything is all on the Cloud.  Until it is hacked by the Chinese!


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Very old figures from the loft...

Hinchliffe Imperial Guard - one of these is my first painted metal figure

Steve the Wargamer started an interesting discussion on the definition of Old School, recently, and also, in the last week, there were a series of posts about re-posting old items from your blog for Old Stuff Day (or some such).

Hinchliffe French infantry

Well, I was crawling about in the loft today looking for some papers when I decided to start rationalising the place.  If I can get rid of one box's worth of stuff every time I go up there then by 2020 I might have cleared enough space for the boxes of stuff in my study.  Anyway, while up there I found a whole load of stuff I had forgotten I had: Lledo cars for the Back of Befond, a seventeenth century mansion model, loads of dinosaurs and a box of very old metal 25mm figures.  Some of these were the first 25mm figures I ever painted, at the age of ten.  This was even before I had a go at painting my Airfix 20mm figures.

Carabiniers.  Still my favourite Napoleonic cavalry

Of course I was rubbish at painting then and it wasn't helped by the fact that I didn't undercoat them and had useless brushes.  But they are the reason that I am now, I am sure, almost exclusively a 28mm painter.  I loved that extra size over the Airfix figures.  The big problem with metal figures was their cost, of course, so this is as many Napoleonics as I ever bought.

The Napoleonics never saw a game but the same can't be said for these Garrison Miniatures gladiators.  I had quite a number of games against my school friends Cess, Bean-Kid and Jimbo using the Paragon Wargames Group rules.   I have to say that for figures that are nearly forty years old the sculpting isn't at all bad on these.  They all had to have names to identify them, for the purpose of the rules, and I remember the one on the right I called Duraglit Sparklius as he was so shiny!  These are the reason why I still paint gladiators!

Finally, I found these Samurai.  I don't know the manufacturer (Minifigs?) but I do know they were the first 25mm samurai range.  Again, we all bought  a dozen or so and had at least one game on a table set up in our garden as the weather was so hot that day.  It is interesting to note that my painting skills from the age of ten until fourteen or fifteen hadn't improved at all!  These figures are also the reason I still have a hankering after Perry Miniatures Samurai.  That and my friend HMS (who married one of my ex-girlfriends) who bought the game Shogun: Total War in 1999 which was the first computer game I ever played (I was rubbish at it).

It's hard to paint with manky brushes

Anyway, seeing how badly these were painted has cheered my up a bit as I have lost confidence in my painting ability lately.  Part of the problem is that I follow so may blogs where the painting is exquisite that it's depressing me rather than encouraging me.  I also have some brush problems at present (enamel paints are death to brushes) and broke out two new Windsor & Newton Series 7 00 brushes only to find that both failed to keep a point.  Annoying at over £7 a time!  I need to get some more.  I'm in London tomorrow so might go into one of the good art shops in Soho and see if I can get some.  

On another subject entirely, Scott was looking at my blog seeking a picture I had put in the sidebar of the Canadian actress Lexa Doig (actually, he had never heard of her but then New Zealand is a very long way away from Canada - or anywhere else, come to that) only to find that I had moved on.  He suggested an archive, so from now on they will have their own blog.  

Monday, March 04, 2013

Painting progress so far and my first figure for March

For my monthly painting log I use, for no fathomable reason, whole weeks; so if a week finishes half way through I keep counting until the next Sunday.  So my "February" ended on Sunday giving me sixteen figures in total.  As I managed twelve for January this gives me twenty-eight for the first two months of the year.  Not too impressive when put against the dozens of figures people are churning out for the painting challenge that many seem to have signed up for at present.  Still, it's much better than the same time last year when I had only completed six figures.  In fact, given I only painted ninety-eight figures in the whole of 2012 then twenty-eight is a good start!  Last year I managed nineteen in March so I need to get a move on!  I am going to try to aim for the simple target of getting at least one figure done every month as last year I had two months when I didn't finish anything at all.

John Hanning Speke (1827-1864) by James Watney Wilson

I decided to take advantage of the rare sunshine today and moved along another five Argonauts, started Bilbo Baggins (not going well) as well as finding enough figures for my next Darkest Africa campaign unit.  Speaking of which; it's odd what can get me digging out something from the lead pile but I was watching Top Gear last night which was all on location in that classic Victorian explorer's part of Africa around Lake Victoria.  The mention of Livingstone, Burton and Speke got me rummaging in some of my file boxes as I knew I had based the Foundry Speke figure a year or so ago.  After looking in eight boxes I eventually found him, although he had just been based not undercoated yet.  Still, this didn't take long and the sun was actually warm enough to dry him pretty quickly.  I thought I would just paint his skin base tone but then I just started the shading too.  Then I started on his shirt.  Soon (well, after a couple of hours) he was finished.  The Copplestone sculpted figure is of Speke in his later quest for the Nile days (rather than his 1855 encounter with the Somalis -which is the period of the Foundry Burton, oddly) wearing a rather distinctive outfit he designed himself.  I based the colour scheme on a famous painting of him by James Watney Wilson (based on a photograph taken by the famous London photographers: Southwell Brothers) which is now in the Royal Geographical Society.  I have had to guess the colour of the hat, which appears in an engraving of him with James Grant. I was baffled as to how to render the white crisscross pattern on his waistcoat and shirt so just resorted to some impressionistic drybrushing. It works acceptably from a distance.

Anyway, a positive start to March!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Scotland, the dentist, and even some painted figures!

My daughter, Charlotte, has always had expensive taste!

Good grief, I have finished some figures!  I've actually completed fifteen this weekend, mainly because I had a weekend instead of running around driving the children to their various activities.  Last weekend I was in Edinburgh with my daughter, Charlotte, who has been offered a place to read Astrophysics at St Andrews.  We also fitted in a visit to the Physics Department at Edinburgh University which she liked better.  St Andrews is nice but it is in the back of beyond.  It's over an hour's train journey north of Edinburgh.  I start to feel uncomfortable if I go north of London's Oxford Street let alone north of Hadrian's Wall.

Charlotte prepares to scoff an entire tea and two huge hot chocolates

Still, Edinburgh is a nice city and, although I hate to say it, I can't actually think of a nicer city of its size in Britain.  It was pretty cold, though, and walking back along a freezing Princes Street from the station to the hotel at four in the afternoon made me wonder how well Charlotte would cope when it got really cold.  The answer was, of course, to drink lots of hot chocolate and eat lots of scones and cake. For somebody who is a size six she really does have an enormous capacity for food.  It must be all the dancing.

Since I last stayed at the Caledonian it has been considerably ponced up.  I remember it having tartan wallpaper (Charlotte was disappointed this had gone) and the rooms having seen better days.  We didn't go to the posh restaurant as the food was a bit, well, odd.  It is one of those places where they mix things together that shouldn't really go in one dish; like scallops and cauliflower or sweetbreads and bean and bacon cassoulet.  Hmm.  Charlotte who is mostly, but not entirely, a vegetarian liked the look of the Brasserie instead and it turned out to be an excellent choice.  It was packed and there were a disproportionate number of very attractive women there, we have to say.  Well worth a visit.  I had a good plate of charcuterie and guinea fowl with lentils and sausage with a very good bottle of Chinon.  I've always liked the red Loires and this one was excellent.   Charlotte hadn't had red wine before (my wife is teetotal, doesn't understand alcohol at all and thinks anyone who drinks it is a disreputable drunk who is giving themselves brain damage) but the waiter poured her a glass (even if she isn't quite eighteen yet) and she happily drank the lot. Actually, I think that is legal provided you are eating.

Leuchars station for St Andrew's.  Yes, it is in the middle of a field

The next day we went to St Andrews and the best thing about it was the scenic railway journey up the coast and, in particular, crossing the Forth Bridge which I found very exciting.  If my father had bought me a train set rather than Airfix kits when I was small I might have ended up as a model train person rather than a wargamer.   I love railway journeys!  I can completely understand model railway enthusiasts although as  a hobby it seems to be even more expensive than wargaming.  I used to travel to Zurich a lot, which is full of model railway shops, and model trains cost a fortune!  Next time I go to Edinburgh (and this is looking inevitable) I will take the train.  At short notice flying was cheaper (BA was cheaper than Easyjet!) but if you book far enough in advance the train is better value.  

One wargaming effect of the trip was caused by the coastal train journey and the sight of all those inlets and islands along the coast.  I remember the painting of Agricola's campaign in Scotland from the Ladybird book Julius Caesar and Roman Britain which I mentioned in my Boadicea post the other week.  Somewhere in the loft I have a Grand Manner Roman warship and so I picked up the new Osprey on Mons Graupius.  I have an inkling to do Romans against Scottish Celts.  From the look of the Osprey (and it isn't at all clear) it looks like all the troops engaged were auxiliaries (the legions remained in reserve) and certainly that is how they appear in the excellent illustrations.  

One of Sean O Brogan's superb illustrations from the Osprey Mons Graupius AD 83. Loads of auxiliaries with different helmets!

I am still hampered by the fact that there isn't an early Imperial Roman range in 28mm that I like.  The Warlord  Games plastic legionary figures are stunted little dwarfs and the range, although comprehensive, suffers from figures of different sizes which, frankly, is unforgiveable.  The Foundry ones are too old and too small.  The new Aventine figures are very nice but the helmets are wrong for this period.  It's really frustrating (and surprising) that there isn't a decent, modern 28mm range covering the period from the Teutoburg through the invasion of Britain and on to Mons Graupius.  

Anyway, a more pressing matter last week was my visit to the dentist to have a broken wisdom tooth removed.  The tooth removal by the dentist (who is the son of some of my parents in law's best friends.  He came to my wedding so I do at least trust him!) was swift and pain free.  But the three injections of anaesthetic were agony;  especially the second one.  It was just the worse pain I have ever had.  Worse than when I broke my toe as a child.  Worse than when a girlfriend touched me in a very intimate spot after chopping Thai chillies.  Worse than when another girlfriend poured a kettle of boiling water over my leg during an argument.  Anyway, I was a good boy and got given a sticker.  "You look like the sort of person who would want one," said the receptionist.  Quite right. 

Anyway, the week was mostly taken up by loads of year-end paperwork which had tight deadlines but I did get some painting done and over the last few days I have finished sixteen figures which is a big total for me.  First up are the Grim Hammer dwarves from The Hobbit, which are my first Hobbit troops.  I thought that these would be quick and easy to do, in the manner of The Lord of the Rings soldiers of Minas Tirith, but they weren't; not least because some of the armoured panels (of which there are a lot) are not very clearly defined around the side of the figures.  Anyway, they look OK from a distance and en masse and it is nice to finish a whole box of plastics, even if it is only twelve figures.

When I have groups of figures on the go I also like to have some individual character types I can do bits of if I get bored with painting the same thing on lots of figures.  This is why my Prussians and ACW troops are stalled at present, as I can't face doing the shading on twenty coats on my Federals, for example.  Last time I put an order in to Foundry they threw in a couple of pirates.  They sat on my desk so I based them up and finished them today.  I have a number of pirates and have even played a few games with them at Guildford Wargames Club so it is always nice to add to them. 

I'm moving slowly along with the Argonauts and here is the latest one who is going to be Castor as he was a Spartan and this figure has long, flowing hair.  I've got five more on the way at present and these really don't take long as they have such a limited palette.

Finally, I painted this not Captain Blue from Crooked Dice.  I want to do Captain Scarlet now but can't for the life of me find where I put the other figures I bought.  In searching I found a whole box of Perry Sudan and Great War WW1 figures I had forgotten I had even bought!  Ah the lead pile!

I should have a bit more time this week so I'm going to do some more on the Argonauts, try and move the ACW figure along a bit and do some more on my Warlord Chinese Cavalry as Alastair at Guilford has suggested a back of Beyond Game against his Bolsheviks.