Friday, August 30, 2013

Something for the Weekend: Miss Jennifer Garner

I have just put Miss Garner's entry onto our Legatus' Wargames Ladies blog.  Nothing naughty in this post, just Miss Garner looking very fit and a strange link to the Legatus!

Although there are some manufacturers who make 28mm models of TV and film action heroines (Kate Beckinsale's character in Underworld is well served, for example) no-one does a Sydney Bristow from Alias, sadly, despite the popularity of Spy-Fi games. I'd buy one!

I realise that I am a few ladies adrift, of those I have featured lately in the side bar of this blog, and so need to get them up as soon as possible.  Caroline Munro next!  I need to get on with my galley, however!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ships and stuff...

Nice view from our balcony

Nice view in the bar

Well, another lost weekend as the entirety of my wife's family (fifteen of us) decamped down to a hotel in Devon for Mother in Law's eightieth birthday party.  Six hours and forty minutes to get there on Saturday and five hours and fifty minutes to get back on Monday.  No real hold-ups but, still, that's over twelve hours of potential painting lost in driving time alone.  At least I got a decent Vodka Martini at the end of the drive!

While in Devon we visited the pretty waterside town of Salcombe where Guy got Shanghaied into taking part in a charity rowing challenge.  He'll do anything for a bleached blonde.  Said blonde was rather surprised that his time was faster than transatlantic rower Ben Fogle and one of the women's GB rowing squad.  We had to point out that he won a gold medal in the National Schools team Concept 2 rowing competition a few years ago.  Blonde was impressed. 

On the Friday I took Guy down to Portsmouth to visit the Royal Marines Museum which was small but excellent.  This was partly a reward for doing well in his GCSEs.  His school had predicted two Bs six Cs and a D.  He actually got five A's, three Bs and a C.  Pretty good for someone with quite severe dyslexia. We had intended to go to the new Mary Rose Museum and the Submarine Museum as well but there were delays on the A3 so we didn't get time.  We'll go back at half term.  He seemed more interested in the clothes outlets at the massive Gun Wharf Quays shopping centre, anyway.  Two Ralph Lauren Polo shirts for £62 was a bargain.  My wife had paid more than that for one the other week.  At his age I had no interest in clothes but today's teenage boys spend ages poncing themselves up.  The Legatus wouldn't be seen dead in a Ralph Lauren polo shirt of course, but that is probably because I bought a load of Brooks Brothers ones in Beverly Hills a few years ago at even more bargain prices.

One thing we did do was have a walk around the Historic Dockyard and check out the progress on HMS Victory's restoration.  It was interesting to compare the parts they had finished with the parts still being worked on.  When I first visited the Victory (in about 1966) it was painted black and cream but lately they have been using an orange-yellow paint which reminds me of the old Humbrol Afrika Korps Desert Yellow. They were removing the outer planks in patches to reveal the vertical planking beneath.  It will look spectacular when it's finished.

We also spent a lot of time in the Antiques Storehouse there, which has an amazing collection of militaria (as well as other stuff) for sale.  I didn't remember them having model soldiers or old model kits from our previous visit.  I was looking for any interesting African weapons but they didn't have any this time.  One thing I would have liked was the original painting from one of the Sharpe paperbacks. Like a lot of stuff there it's not cheap, though, at £3,500. They had a Waterloo period Belgic Shako for nearly £10,000. 

I've been very busy finishing a couple of reports and haven't had any time for painting really but over the last couple of days I got some of the base colours down on my Roman Galley.  All the colour edges need tidying up but it's coming along now.  Whether I have time to finish the marines I'm not sure.  I am at home this weekend but then I have to take Charlotte up to Edinburgh University the following weekend and Colours is the weekend after that.  Charlotte looked at the galley today and said that it "looks a bit German!"  

There is another trip to South America floating around at work like a smoking grenade at present and I had one of those emails that seems to be suggesting I should volunteer.  Hopefully I will be able to palm it off onto someone else.  I want to do some painting!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A meagre haul from ModelZone...and the end of an era

I went into Kingston today to get some new Windsor and Newton series 7 brushes and popped into ModelZone.  What a sorry sight it was, with gradually emptying shelves and an air of doom about the place (it is scheduled to close in mid-September).

I picked up a few paints at half price but nearly all the Humbrols had gone, although there were a lot of Vallejo paints left.

I thought I might pick up a model kit or two, almost for old time's sake, but the range was disappointing and the discounts only 20%.  Nearly all the Airfix kits had gone with just a few small aircraft and some HO/OO figures left.  ModelZone are not selling off an existing shop's stock in one go, they are gradually shifting stock to other branches leaving strange batches in the shops still open.  They must have had twenty of the big Airfix HMS Illustrious kits, for example, and quite a lot of the modern 1/48th Afghanistan range  but no other big models.  If they had had the Mosquito or the new Lancaster I might have been tempted.

Quite a few ship models were left including the massive Tamiya USS Enterprise at 20% off.  They also had the Revell 1/32nd Heinkel 111 which I nearly bought, but not at just 20% discount.  A lot of Star Trek  models too but even with the discount these were £30-£40.

Today was even more depressing as we exchanged contracts on my mother's house.  I lived there from 1968 until 1988.  My sister had the house cleared while I was in South America so I didn't get the chance to collect some of the things I wanted from there.  I also think I still had some model kits in the loft. Fortunately, over the last year I have got out nearly all the important stuff like family photos and books.

My room was at top left

When I looked on Streetview to get a picture of the house for this posting I found that the Google camera had captured my mother throwing another meal into the dustbin.  The main reason we put her into the care home, not long after this picture was taken last summer, was because she wasn't eating.  A spooky end to a faintly depressing day.

Maybe I'll have one of my remaining bottles of Chateau Giscours 78 tonight, as it dates from nicely halfway through my time at the house.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

10 Questions for Gamers, Hobbyists & Likewise Interested Folks: This One Goes to 11

Just spotted another question and answer thing on Sean's Wargames Corner which he saw on Laughing Ferret's blog.  I always enjoy these as it means I can post without doing any painting.  Although I did actually start my Roman Marines yesterday, in the first real bout of painting I have managed for two months.These questions are different in that in many cases you are provided with alternatives.  There are also eleven questions rather than ten.  This, I gather, is something to do with This is Spinal Tap, a film, I am afraid, which I have never found remotely funny.  But then I don't have a sense of humour.  My answers will be, of course, inordinately rambling.

1. Dinosaurs or Dragons? 

Well, this was easy.  Dinosaurs of course.  But only  Ray Harryhausen stop motion ones.  I have never been at all interested in dragons.  I couldn't care less what Smaug looks like in the next Hobbit film.  I have never seen any of the films about dragons.  Girls like dragons. Especially Goth chicks.  Anyway, most dragon legends were based on people finding dinosaur bones.  Dragons are nonsense.  Dinosaurs were real!

2. In an RPG would you rather be a Player or DM? 

Come on in...the water is lovely

I had to think about this one.  I used to play Dungeons & Dragons when I was at college and I never enjoyed the bizarre, science-based puzzles set by the beardy, chemist Dungeon Master.  So I would much rather create a scenario and make others suffer.  Oddly, I was thinking about just such a thing today around a Jason and the Argonauts game and the often seen scenario of a hero finding a naked girl bathing in a pool. Does he watch her unseen?  Does he try to engage her in, er, conversation.  Does he think she is an evil water nymph ( as they often were in Victorian paintings)? Is she benign?  Malign? Does she just go like a bomb?  Are there other nymphs lurking?  Yes, DM for me.  Anyway, I like being in charge.

3. You have a Time Machine: you can only take a trip to the future or the past. Return or not is your choice. Which direction & how far? 

The Legatus as he would be in the sixties

When there was a similar question in another one of these questionnaires I voted for London in the nineteen twenties.  That was posited as a one way trip, however.  I am afraid that I intellectualise it too much and think that if you go back too far the state of medicine will mean that you won't last long.  Without twentieth century medicine I would have died at the age of two, the age of six, or the age of ten.  So no Roman times for me, much as I would love to see a legion on the march, drink Falernian wine  and own a few slave girls. That would, however, be the option for the there and back again visit, I think.  For the non-return option if not the twenties maybe London in the swinging sixties; so dropping back to where I would have been if I had been born fifteen or twenty years earlier.  It would then mean living through the seventies again, unfortunately.  I wouldn't want to visit the future.  I am already living in it and its ghastly.

4. Favorite Online Comic 

Don Lawrence's Storm series are some of a half dozen of so graphic novels I own.  Can't think why I like them.

This is an entire world I have no knowledge of.  "Comics," my mother informed me when a relative gave me a Superman annual for Christmas when I was small, "are for stupid Americans who can't read."  Now, given I am interested in graphic design, had a place at art school and even own a number of "graphic novels" I should have got over this inculcated prejudice against comics. But I haven't.

 5. Of these Empires which do you feel is the BEST Empire and the WORST Empire? Roman, Mongol, Spanish, Russian, British, American. 

Now, you chaps, just see to reason and we'll set you up with a proper bureaucracy and a decent railway system

The British Empire was, of course, the best as, on balance, it brought more good than harm despite what all The Guardian reading, corduroy wearing, apologist pinkos say.  Although my recent experiences in South America have left me with a somewhat jaded view of the Spanish, despite admiration for the individual conquistadors' achievements, really the Mongols were in a class of their own as regards the brutal suppression of those they conquered.  I might add the Belgians to the naughty list, given their dreadful behaviour in the Congo. I would not accept that the Americans have ever had an Empire apart from, perhaps, a popular cultural one.  But you cannot build a real empire on Coca-Cola, Starbucks and iPads (especially when you don't know when to use capital letters and can't spell properly).

6. Who wins the fight? Roman Gladiator or Samurai ? 

Yes, even Beyonce would beat a Samurai!

Gladiator.  They were trained full time to fight.  Japanese Samurai were part of an, effete, feudal elite who have benefited disproportionately from their own publicity (most of the large Samurai families had to be courted by the US after WW2 to keep the country running) as fighting men: much of it driven by a post war need to rebuild their national confidence. I even remember reading a piece by Kim Siddorn arguing that the much vaunted Samurai sword was overrated as a fighting weapon.  So I would go with a retiarus and a net, I think.  That would soon entrap your silly horned helmet!   Anyway, most gladiators were Australian and everyone knows they are good in a fight.

7. Who wins the fight? Darth Vader or Witch King? 

The Force is weak in those with pointy hats. 

Darth Vader, despite not being Australian. I never found the Witch King very terrifying, largely because he had a silly pointy helmet whereas old Darth had a very scary helmet indeed.  Also Vader had a Death Star whereas the Witch King only has a tower with a disembodied eye. Stormtroopers couldn't shoot any better than orcs, though, but they were a lot cleaner.  Finally, the Germans in World War 1 gave up on pointy helmets and adopted ones looking more like Darths's.  Case closed.

 8. Who wins the dogfight? Starbuck in Colonial Vyper or Luke Skywalker in X-Wing?

Starbuck, of course.  Skywalker is only any good when George Smiley is telling him what to do, whereas Starbuck can take on eight Cylons at once and hot-wire a crashed Cylon fighter.

Also, Skywalker does not look like this.

 9. Who wins the battle of wits? Tyrion Lannister or Wesley?

I was confused by this as I had no idea who Wesley was.  Not the Founder of Methodism, presumably?  Surely not the annoying son of Beverly Crusher?  I sent the link to S in Vancouver who said it was a character from The Princess Bride (another film I haven't seen) called Westley.  Therefore, as he can't even spell his own name right, we give it to the dwarf, even if the latter seems to have modelled his vocal delivery on Richard Wilson.  Believe it or don't.

10. Money & Time no object, what movie or novel would you like to have the armies and terrain in miniature to recreate and expand on, and in what scale?

Despite saying earlier that I didn't like comics it would have to be The Trigan Empire from Look and Learn magazine in the sixties and seventies.  Hover tanks, Atmosphere craft!  Romans with guns (essentially)!  28mm, of course.

11. Human Beings die off. What species rises to take our place, becoming the next sentient species with a global civilization?

Chinese scientists have already genetically engineered the first woman/cat hybrid (actually wasn't that Julie Newmar?) to see what the new life form will look like.  So far, so good.

Women.  Finally they will evolve into creatures that can navigate, assemble flat pack furniture (four hours at my sister's house yesterday undoing all the bits she had got wrong and rebuilding them!) explain the offside rule, compose music, get dressed and out the house in less than an hour, make decisions and stop defining themselves by the way they look.  Wait, sorry, human beings.  Thought it said men.  In that case: Cats. Cats always look like they are thinking intelligent thoughts (unlike dogs who always look stupid).  Dolphins, for example, won't be able to make wheels as they have no hands.  Cats are deliberately restricting the size of their brains until....The Day.  Except Harry the cat next door who still gets fooled into leaving our kitchen when we throw a piece of chicken skin outside the back door, even after about five hundred times.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Well done Charlotte!

Charlotte's preferred residence in Edinburgh...

Och aye the good noos!   Well, Charlotte got her 'A' level results this morning.  She wanted to go to Edinburgh to do a masters in Astrophysics (she is a space cadet) but needed three  'A' grades.  Fortunately she got A* in Physics, A in maths, A in Further Maths and A in Biology.  We are all very pleased and relieved!  I woke up at five this morning and couldn't sleep and my wife woke at four and couldn't sleep. Phew!

So we are off to Edinburgh in just over three weeks!

Well done Charlotte!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's going on...Samurai, Sikhs, Colombians and ModelZone

Everyone's regular blog posts are really encouraging me to get back to painting at present.  I took a whole load of wargames magazines to Cowes with me and even managed to read some of them.  I'm back in Cowes for a few days while my son does a powerboat course at the Royal Yacht Squadron.  Looking at the magazines there seems a big buzz about Samurai at present but, I feel, it's always going to be a minority interest because of the time needed to paint an army.  It's like the Hundred Years War; you pretty much need to do nothing else. As a wargaming period it has seemed like it was always going to the next big thing for about forty years now.  It's like hypersonic aircraft. We're still waiting.  That 1973 cover of Military Modelling with that huge samurai archer figure being the start of it.  A few years ago my friend bought a computer game Shogun: Total War and had me try it out as he wanted to see how a (not very active at that time) wargamer would get on against a non-wargaming computer gamer (slighly better it turned out, after a few tries).  I was tempted when the Perry Figures came out and I had a whole selection of Stephen Turnbull (the Samurai answer to Ian Knight) books but it never came to anything (like most of my projects) so my Samurai Wargaming was confined to one game I had years ago.

Skirmish Samurai is something else, however, although I am not an aficionado of Samurai films.  I admit to never having seen The Seven Samurai (I have never seen The Magnificent Seven either!).  I have seen Ran and Kagemusha and that's it (well, apart from Ai no korîda which I went to see with S-A some years ago.  She was...surprised but delighted with it's, er, alternative look at Japanese culture).  In fact this is one of the issues I have with Samurai Japanese wargaming - I just don't identify with the culture.  This is why Divine Wind was the only WAB book I never bought.  I am also not interested in Koreans, Mongols, Ancient Chinese or those elephant war games that appeared at the shows a few years ago.

Despite, my anti East Asian wargames stance (although I love my Chinese back of Beyond Army) however, I am still considering the new North Star figures to go with Ronin but then of course I would need to buy some buildings.  It is the availability of these in laser cut form that may tip the balance for me and, indeed, others, I suspect.

Studio Miniatures Sikh Wars

The problem is that not only did I buy all the In her Majesty's Name figures and rules I bought in to Empire of the Dead and Wargods of Olympus (over £350 worth for the latter).  Last week I also joined the Kickstarter for Studio Miniatures Sikh Wars Range.  My interest in this being engendered by Flashman and the Mountain  of Light and the fact that I have a tiny, tiny bit of Sikh blood myself (something like 1/64th). These figures are looking completely splendid and it has got me getting some of my Indian Mutiny figures out to finish.

Orinoco Miniatures British Legion now based

I am also pleased with the way Orinoco Miniatures South America wars of liberation range is progressing with peasant uniformed Colombians promised soon, they tell me.  I got the British Legion figures I bought based today.  So far I have a set each of advancing, firing line and command. They have now come out with flags too. One thing I think about firing line figures, though, is that I feel that half of them should always be in firing poses, rather than the two out of six we have here.  I will get sand on the base and undercoat them soon although I have to concentrate on my Roman Galley for Big Red Bat's game at Colours.  

Anyway, all in all I don't need any new figures for a bit, I just need to paint some of those I have got!  Just before I left for Cowes I did put the base flesh colour on some of my In Her Majesty's Name figures so hope to get a faction finished in the next few months. 

Going, going...

One thing I discovered on the Isle of Wight was that Hurst, the local ironmonger, has changed the supplier for their washers and my favourites are no longer available. I've probably got a hundred or so left but after they are gone I will have to start using, unwillingly, one pence pieces which are exactly the same diameter but rather thicker.  These work out cheaper, actually, than the washers but I don't really approve of defacing the Queen's currency and I think it may be illegal!

Modelzone Holborn

While I was away last week I read that ModelZone had gone bust.  I used to go into the ones in Holborn and Kingston quite often and have bought from them a whole load of model kits I have never built.  As usual internet shopping was blamed (along with an over-zealous expansion strategy which was the more likely reason) but, oddly, I have never bought a model kit on the internet. My purchases were always impulse ones at ModelZone or Addlestone Models.  What I did use ModelZone for was stocking up on Humbrol paint and plastic filler which I use for the bases of my figures.  Six months ago I noticed that they had started stocking Flames of War and Warhammer for the first time.  I was worried that the easy availability of the former might tip me that way (and that would also be Scott's fault!).  It seems that the former owner of the chain wants to buy a number of the stores but administrators Deloitte only want to sell them all in one lot. Ten shops have closed already (five today). Hopefully it will be like HMV and we will see it survive.  Sadly, I suspect that in a recession most modellers have sufficient backlog at home (yes Fraxinus I am thinking of you!) to make stopping spending on kits fairly painless. That, and of course surplus kits can be bought and sold on eBay, hitting sales further.

So I am looking forward to getting back down to doing some painting but have very little time.  I am away for the Bank Holiday at a grand house party for my mother in law's 80th birthday.  I have to take my daughter to university in Edinburgh (if she gets the grades tomorrow - or the Day of Doom as it is known in our household- there was one dodgy paper everyone was ranting about) which is another weekend lost.  In October I am going to Poland again and, possibly Denmark and then in November its back to Colombia and possibly Panama and Costa Rica.

Anyway, I need to go and buy some super glue so I can finish the main parts of the Roman galley and get it under-coated this week!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Military Uniforms 1686-1918 by Rene North and John Berry

A month or so ago Mr Bob Cordery on his Wargames Miscellany blog was posting about Peter Laing 15mm figures.  I had forgotten all about these but I remember when his first 15mm Marlburians came out and everyone was amazed at the concept of such small figures.  I bought quite a lot (even on pocket money I could afford to) and had thought that I never painted any.  The figures have long gone (I can't remember where) and that was it.

The other day, however, I was moving some books around in a desperate attempt to gain some more shelf space and I found this long lost book from my seventies military collection: Military Uniforms 1686-1918. Originally published in 1970, mine was the 1972 reprint which had a different cover from the original. I suspect I obtained it about this time i.e: about a year before the Peter Laing figures came out.

I thought I never painted any of my Peter Laing infantry but this give away red splodge of Humbrol at the top of the page indicates the opposite!  It was almost certainly my only reference for the period other than my trusty Blandford, Military Uniforms of the World by Preben Kannik

Napoleonic War: French foot artillery gunner, light infantry cornet and infantry of the line

The book covers all the well known conflicts of the period: the War of the Spanish Succession, the American Revolution, the Napoleonic War, the Crimean War, the American Civil War and World War 1.  I was actually more intrigued by the uniforms of those more esoteric conflicts for which you couldn't get figures: the Great Northern War, the struggles for Latin American Independence, the Indian Mutiny etc.

Great Northern War: Swedish grenadier

I was entirely an Airfix plastics wargamer at this point, although I was aware of firms like Hinchliffe and Miniature Figurines and even had a few.  Who would have thought that forty years later I would be collecting figures for all these esoteric conflicts!

Indian Mutiny: Private and sergeant-major, British infantry

The illustrations in the book were largely of figures against a white or neutral background but there were also details of equipment and unniforms, such as helmets, and a few pictures with fully painted backgrounds.

Mexican-American War: Mexican infantryman

Rene North was best known for his paint your own cards which were later collected in books - I had the one covering armies of Waterloo.  However, he didn't do the pictures in the Hamlyn book.  The atmospheric and characterful pictures were done by top British illustrator John Berry.

Boer War: British Infantry man and Transvaal artillery officer

John Berry was born in Hammersmith in 1920 and attended Hammersmith College of art at the age of fourteen, eventually winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy.  World War 2 intervened and so he never took up his place.  He joined the RAF and was sent to the Middle East where he produced a poster for the British forces.  This was seen by Air Marshall Arthur Tedder who immediately had him seconded into the army as an official war artist.  He was the only official war artist who came from the ranks.

John Berry: 25 pdr gun and team in action on the El Alamein front (1942)

John Berry: A pathfinder (1943)

After the war he started doing book illustrations, initially for someone he had met in the army, and did advertising work as well.  In 1951 he drew a cartoon tiger for an Esso advertisement and when handing over the work to Esso executives at the advertising agency he worked for remarked: "put, a tiger in your tank, eh?"  He was subsequently given a one off payment of £25 so that Esso could use this phrase in what turned out to be a long running advertising campaign.

In 1960 he joined Ladybird books and worked for them for the next twenty years; working on 37 titles.   His illustrations for the Ladybird People at Work series are an amazing snapshot of Britain in the early sixties and the books are very collectible as a result.

The two tone car crossing Bank junction in this illustration from his Ladybird London book is Berry's own!

Certainly they illustrate the world that I remember as a little boy: the one on London being particularly nostalgic for someone who made his first trips up to town in the early sixties.

Berry had always been a fine portraitist, as some of his World War 2 paintings demonstrate, and after the war he painted many military and civic portraits as well as taking commissions from other individuals.

John Berry: Major General W. H. Stratton (1903–1989), CB, CVO, CBE, DSO (1951)

He had an appreciative market in the United States and after the Ladybird work dried up in the early eighties he produced a number of American Civil War and Native American genre paintings for clients there.  He died in 2009 at the age of eighty nine.

John Berry (1920-2009)