Saturday, November 16, 2013

Plastic fantastic?

Much has been written about the pros and cons of plastic soldiers and, of course, apart from some Games Workshop Lord of the Rings figures, I haven't actually finished many of the dozens of boxes worth I have  bought.  I don't have any great aversion to them it's just that I never finish much of anything these days and I was positively enjoying painting the Perry Miniatures plastic Prussians.  Some are just poor anatomically (Gripping Beast Vikings) but plastics are getting better all the time.  Price isn't an issue for me but some of them are expensive anyway.  The price variation in plastic historicals seems wider than that in metals.

Plastic is lighter of course and I was reminded of the increasing importance of this when reaching for a bottle of red wine in Houston airport yesterday.  On my way to Bogota again with the lovely S in tow we thought it might be a good plan to grab something red for a nightcap, given that we weren't arriving at the hotel until around 11.00pm.  The selection of red wine was frankly pathetic but there was a likely looking generic Australian shiraz which would act as a suitable relaxant.  Anyway I grabbed it and, shockingly, it deformed under my fingers.  It was plastic!  Or ratherpolyethylene terephthalate (PET), to be exact.

Now the Legatus well remembers plastic wine bottles from his childhood, which you could get in hypermarkets like Mammouth in the south of France in the sixties.  One litre for 50 centimes in a strangely industrial looking square bottle, with a flip off cap, which looked like it should contain bleach instead of wine.  Indeed, the taste of this wine was fairly indistinguishable from household cleaner and my father only used it for cooking.  Even at the age of ten my palate was sufficiently developed that I realised that this stuff was to be avoided. I didn't have any again until a holiday I had in the Loire valley with my best friend, my girlfriend and my immediate ex-girlfriend. (only slightly difficult).  It was my friend's turn to buy the wine for our picnic and  as he was someone who could be politely described as careful with money we ended up with one of these litre plastic bottles of red which, after twelve years, was just as bad as I remembered it.

Well, S and I were in a hurry and there wasn't much choice so I paid the (no doubt exorbitant) $12 and picked it up at the gate in that strange way that Houston airport handles duty free.  Incidentally, why is it that wine drinkers are penalised by duty free shops?  There are big savings on spirits but wine always seems to be more expensive than it would be in the shops.  In the end it was worth it financially, as the 18.75 cl bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon in the minibar worked out at about £10, or £40 a bottle. More importantly 18.75 centilitres wouldn't have gone very far between the two of us. 

So what was it like, our plastic-clad wine?  Actually rather good.  Perhaps a little lacking in definition, lightweight, some blurring at the edges?  No it was very nice.  Not that it lasted very long.  Fortunately S had bought one too which we are drinking now even though it's only 4.30 in the afternoon.  Well it's 9.30pm in England anyway.  Her excuse is that it is lunchtime in Vancouver.

The key issue for producers and shippers is that a PET bottle only weighs 54 grammes as against the 400 grammes of a glass bottle. Cutting down weight means less fuel expended in moving it around.  All good news for the environment and the bottles are recyclable (although not as recyclable as glass). There have, inevitably, been questions about plasticides leaking into the wine but this is not the sort of wine you are going to lay down in your cellar.

What with plastic soldiers and now plastic bottles of wine I wondered how soon it would be before we got plastic women which would really finish the Legatus off.  S pointed out that you can already buy very realistic plastic women, not just those inflatable ones beloved of bad comedy films.  They don't complain, nag and you don't have to buy them expensive lingerie (actually some of the "collectors" do I gather) but then the Legatus has always preferred an active rather than a passive woman so that would be one plastic product too far.  Soldiers yes, wine bottles possibly, women no.  Of course the real thing is best in the first two as well, really...

Friday, November 08, 2013

Something for the Weekend: from La Vie Parisienne

Who says that wargamers don't get the girl?  Well, this young lady doesn't seem to mind that her friend has a table full of toy soldiers but then again he is in uniform, which many women seem to find irresistible.  The Legatus' mother wanted him to join the Royal Navy, largely because of the uniform, but fortunately I did an aptitude test during school careers week.  It showed I was completely unsuited to an armed forces career on account of the fact that I was incapable of taking orders.

This being a 1915 illustration from saucy French magazine, La Vie Parisienne, which often got its illustrators to produce pictures of its pin up girls in appropriately morale raising ways, the German soldier is surrendering to his French adversary.

This picture is by Georges Léonnec (1881-1940).  The son of a cartoonist he was already doing newspaper illustrations by the age of twelve.  He began his long association with La Vie Parisienne in 1907.  Called up into the French army in 1914 his job in ancilliary services in Brest was far from the front line and enabled him to continue his illustration work; the effects of which on troop morale were no doubt more worthwhile than service as a poilu.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Antonine to Zimmerit: another busy few days.

Not much painting done again this last week, apart from a bit on my first Empire of the Dead figure, Captain Nemo, as I have been whizzing around Britain a bit.  Tonight I have to stay up to take Guy to buy some computer game he has ordered which comes out at midnight so I may just sit and type a bit while the varnish dries on Nemo.

I was in Poole on Tuesday visiting the RNLI college.  I had sort of expected a sort of Portakabin not the impressive edifice I was presented with.  This was one of just five huge buildings on the site with another new lifeboat factory under construction.  The impressive indoor wave tank is used for practising rescues, capsize drill and life raft work and can generate waves a metre and a half in height.  I have been a supporter of the RNLI ever since I had to jump off a burning powerboat into the Solent in the seventies and was picked up out of the sea by the Yarmouth lifeboat.  I also really like their special Lifeboat tea so picked up some more in the shop there!  I can't paint without it!

I hadn't been to Poole since about 1973 and the thing that was most noticeable on the waterfront was the huge Sunseeker factory churning out massive motoryachts destined for places which are a lot warmer than Dorset.

I finished earlier than I had expected at the RNLI and was surprised when my wife suggested we go on to Bovington Tank Museum which was about fifteen miles away.  Again, I hadn't been there since 1971 and remember absolutely nothing about it but I suspect it looked nothing like the splendid museum that is there today.

My "little boy" with a Challenger

Whenever I see real tanks I am always surprise by how big they are.  It's a life of being brought up on Airfix kits I suppose!

Little Willie

 Mark I The Airfix one!

Mark IV

 Mark V

 Renault FT-17

Medium Mark A Whippet

When I went in 1971 I was fixated on World War 2 tanks and German ones in particular, so didn't appreciate the really outstanding collection of WW1 tanks they have there. It really made me want to get on and finish my Great War Miniatures Mark IV tank.  It was nice to see that my choice of Humbrol No 29 was spot on for this period!

Mr Hayton works on the Tiger unaware that he is about to be collared by the Old Bat.  Even a Tiger cannot protect you!

Guy was more interested in the modern tanks and he and I wandered off leaving my wife behind.  Now all of her family have this embarrassing habit of striking up conversations with perfect strangers.  When I was small I was told not to talk to strangers.  Not because they might be dodgy but because they were probably going to be ghastly.  As a result the Legatus is a shy, retiring type but not my wife.  Having lost her, we went back on ourselves and found her up in the turret of the famous Tiger I.  Yes, she had got chatting to the workshop manager. Mike Hayton, who was now giving her a guided tour of the Tiger.  He was preparing it as it is off (this week) to the set of the new Brad Pitt World War 2 movie Fury, which is currently filming.  Mr Hayton did not seem too enamoured of the idea of his beloved Tiger going off to a film set!  Brad Pitt visited the museum last week but Mr Hayton said he didn't recognise Pitt and had to have him pointed out to him!

I took dozens of pictures which I won't inflict on everyone, especially as someone on one of the blogs I follow took some much better pictures this summer.  I was intrigued to see the Bolt Action rules on sale in the very good shop as well as Flames of War rules, tanks and figures.  I didn't buy anything though!

On Thursday it was up to Edinburgh to see how Charlotte was getting on at University.  As she had to do Astrobiology on the Friday we went to see the Falkirk Wheel, as Guy is interested in doing engineering at university.  This is an impressive piece of equipment that removes the need for a staircase of locks and replaces it with a massive lift that can carry boats from one canal to the other.  Frankly I thought it looked more like some sort of rocket launching accelerator ramp.

 The grassy bridge across the ditch is the main Roman road into the fort (centre bottom in the picture below)  The wall is the bank on the left.

I was pleased to discover that only about a mile from the Wheel were the remains of the Antonine Wall and Rough Castle Fort.  All just grassy banks now (it was a turf and wood wall not a stone one like the more southerly Hadrian's Wall) but it was a bit of a bonus to climb around it for an hour.

These are some of the defensive pits that would have been filled full of spikes on the northern side of the wall.

The main fort from a neighbouring hill.  The fort was built on top of a high hill which would have had very good visibility all round.

Next day a solid breakfast was called for (although no haggis disappointingly) before the ascent of Arthur's Seat in weather that could be politely called inclement.  Horizontal sleet is always bracing.

I have to say that the more I see of Edinburgh the more I like it and I can see why Charlotte chose to go to university there, although as we were moved away from our airport gate due to a fire alarm on Saturday I did rather wish she had gone to Southampton, which is an hour's drive away, instead.  Next stop is Houston next week and then on to Colombia and Cartagena, pirate capital of the Caribbean!  Hopefully that will be it for travel in 2013.