Saturday, May 24, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

Well, last week was the first Paint Table Saturday I have missed since the beginning of the year and I haven't achieved anything today either.  I have a few figures well under way at present and would like to finish some of these before the end of the long weekend.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Liebster Blog Award

Well, Lee has very kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award (or rather he has nominated my blog).  They key thing for me is that it gives me a chance to highlight other blogs out there I follow.

Harry the Cat is most amused

The rules are that you then have to copy and paste the award on your blog linking it to the blogger who has given it you. Pass the award to your top 11 blogs with less than 200 followers by leaving a comment on one of their posts to notify them that they have won the award and listing them on your own blog. Sit back and bask in the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing you have made someones day! 

Anywhere here are my 11.  As everyone else has said don't be offended if I haven't nominated you (it doesn't mean I don't enjoy your blog!) and don't feel that you have to carry the process on either.  There is enough stress in life without having it imposed upon you by others!

1 Thoughts of a Depressive Diplomatist.  An interesting mixture of interests from the Far East (well East Anglia).

Land of the Lead  Excellent painting and an engagingly eclectic collection of periods painted.

3 One Man and his Brushes A man who has been known to use Humbrol Enamels!

4 The Royalist Roundhead  This blog contains some excellent interviews with some key players in the hobby.

5 Waterloo to Mons  Matt is back with a vengeance now on the second incarnation of this blog.

6 Solo Wargaming in the UK  Lots of varied interests here and a real sense of enthusiasm for the hobby.

7 Steampunk Miniatures Review  Hugely useful for those of us interested in VSF.

8 A Wargaming Gallimaufry  Wargames, board games and lots of photos on the blog of one of my few regular (well once a year) opponents.

9 Savage Lands  This is a new blog so how can I give it an award?  Because it's all about building striking scenery; the ability to do which always fills me with envy.

10 The British Army at Waterloo  The sort of project that demonstrates how Britain came to rule the world and more focus than the Hubble telescope.

11 Carry on up the Dale  Big games with lots of tricornes.  Jealous.

This years version of the awards carries with it the usual somewhat random associated questions which recipients must answer.

Why did you start blogging?

The idea was that by having a blog it would get me to focus on one army and I would stop jumping around from period to period and actually get an army painted. My first blog was actually my Spartans one, which I started in November 2005.  The fact that I now have over 20 wargaming blogs, most of which haven't had an entry for years, shows what a complete failure this policy has been.

I do not feel pressured to put up posts for any of them and just post when I feel like it, which is usually when I don't feel like painting.  So I tend to post less in the summer when the light is better.

What really keeps me energised is seeing what other people are posting on their blogs and it is particularly nice to have met some of my fellow bloggers in real life.  

 If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?

All 28mm figures!

Do you know, I do have one thing, although it is not achievable, so is rather akin to
desiring world peace.  I wish all figures were made to a strict and consistent scale!  I hate figures which are supposed to all be 28mm and then aren't compatible with each other - even more so when they are from the same manufacturer (Warlord Games Romans spring to mind)

What is best in life? 

I remember vividly the answer given by my particular friend S, from Vancouver (actually she has told me recently that she isn't from Vancouver, of course, (hardly anyone who lives there is) she was born in Kingston, Ontario - the site of the Royal Navy Lake Ontario fleet in the War of 1812) to a similar question during a reception at a conference we both attended in Banff.  S and I were standing around in the ballroom of the Banff Springs Hotel drinking (quite a lot of) Moosehead beer when we got into one of those slightly awkward conversations with a very senior insurance executive who had obviously been told to circulate amongst the younger people at the conference.  "What do you like most in life?" he asked S as his opening small talk.  "F*cking and shoes" was her concise answer.

My own answer will, inevitably, be rather longer and was actually given to me by my father. "The only important things in life are women, wine, food, books, music and art.  Which are all basically the same thing!"  I  could not express my life's drivers any better, although I would add model soldiers, of course, but perhaps they qualify as art, being sculpture.  

Fame or fortune? 

Fortune of course! The fun is to be rich and anonymous!

What miniatures are you most proud of having painted? 

My cavegirls came out OK

Oh dear.  I'm not really proud of any.  I always start a new figure with high hopes and it always ends up looking fairly awful.  Oddly (or perhaps not), my attempts at painting female figures have sometimes been a bit more successful.

How do you deal with burn out?

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc and a DVD featuring under-dressed ladies usually perks me up.   I am currently enjoying this sophisticated examination of feminine and religious identity in an ecclesiastical institution.

Why is a raven like a writing desk? 

"I haven't the slightest idea."   I've actually been in Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's old rooms at Christ Church! 

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Lesley Parrish in the ne plus ultra of women's Star Trek costumes (and Thiess's favourite) from Who Mourns for Adonais?

This is really like being asked to choose between Kelly Brook and Scarlett Johansson (although I would probably opt for Johansson on the basis that I met her, briefly).  I loved Star Trek when I was a boy and many of those episodes were instrumental in giving me an appreciation of the fairer sex, especially in William Theiss's extravagant costumes.  Theiss famously said that "the degree to which a costume is considered sexy is directly proportional to how accident-prone it appears to be".  A very perceptive comment indeed.

I remember seeing my first excerpt from Star Wars on  Tomorrow's World just before it was released in Britain.  It was the first science fiction film that looked like I imagined the action in the EE Smith space operas I had devoured when I was younger.  However, I can't get over the fact that Star Wars is really a children's film whereas Star Trek often tried to deal with rather more meaningful issues (at least at an American TV network (i.e. fourteen year old) level).  I wouldn't go as far as to wear the badge I saw being worn by an American government official which said "Everything in life I've learned, I've learned from Star Trek" but despite over-stretching the franchise it gets the nod for occasionally trying to make the world a better place.   I do have a Klingon Empire lapel pin and I have made a construction kit of both the USS Enterprise and a Klingon battlecuiser, sadly.

If you could only buy from one miniature company from now on, which one would it be? 

Tricky though they are to paint, compared with some sculptors work, it would have to be Perry Miniatures.  Not least because their range is now so vast it would keep me busy for ever!

What is your favourite takeaway?

Battered sausage (I hate fish) and chips, with HP sauce and pickled onions from Corries Cabin in Cowes, Isle of Wight.

One final apology to those awaiting their prize draw prizes I haven't had single minute for several weeks (no painting either) and then lost internet at home for quite a few days so couldn't get people's addresses off my system (a mechanical digger and fibreoptic cable do not mix) but hope to send your Salute figures on Saturday

Monday, May 12, 2014

Back from Oxford...


It always feels a bit strange going back to Oxford.  Some of it has changed a lot in the nearly thirty-five years since I started there as a student.  Most of it, however, is much the same.  One of the things I noticed on this occasion, when we went back for a Bentley and Rolls Royce car event organised by my father-in-law and his friend (who once gave me a Zulu Wars period assegai so is a very sound man indeed) was how little traffic there was in the High Street.


Oxford has successfully managed to almost get rid of cars from the centre of the city using its (excellent) Park & Ride system and draconian parking and access regulations.  Forty per cent of journeys into Oxford are now done by bus.  As a result the High is now pretty much like it was in the nineteen fifties (maybe even emptier).  In the late seventies and early eighties you literally took your life in your hands trying to cross the road from college to Oddbins, because C was demanding more claret.  It wasn't dubbed the City of Screaming Tyres for nothing when I was there.  Now you just have to dodge the odd bus and the inevitable cyclists.  The Legatus didn't cycle when a student as he didn't learn to ride a bike until he was 33 years old!

Here is the Old Bat and my "little boy" Guy next to my father-in-law's car parked outside Brasenose's seventeenth century library.

It is a 1961 Bentley Continental S2 Flying Spur; the last one of  125 built.  These were built in the old fashioned way as a chassis only.  The customer then had to commission his own coachwork.  This is one of fifteen with an HJ Mulliner body. It still goes like a rocket although the 6.23 litre engine gets through about a gallon of fuel every twelve miles.  

Here is a better view of my college.  Today, academically, it ranks second on the Norrington table; the controversial measure of academic excellence for Oxford colleges.  In my day it was well down in the bottom six.  For many years it was more well known for its sporting achievements (and linked drinking activities) than any academic excellence.   Eveleyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited contains the phrase "pub-crawling hearties from BNC" which pretty much summarises the college image for many decades.  William Webb Ellis, the inventor of Rugby, went to Brasenose as did the cricketer Colin Cowdrey.  The Boat club is one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world and is credited with winning the first modern rowing race, against Jesus College, in 1815.  Six years dilution by women, when the Legatus joined, saw the boat club in a pretty sorry state but the women's first eight were altogether a different proposition.  

BNC Ladies Boat Club's magnificent M.  Wouldn't have propositioned her, as she was far too scary (and tall)!

Brasenose is also credited with the invention of the coxless four although this came about due to a nifty piece of improvisation (or cheating as the unimaginative authorities would have it).  Walter Bradford Woodgate was the Steve Redgrave of his day, winning eleven Henley titles in the 1860's.  He would undoubtedly have been a gold medal winning Olympian if they had had the Olympics in those days. At the start of the 1868 coxed fours at Henley, Woodgate, as stroke of the Brasenose boat, got the cox, Frederic Weatherly (later an eminent lawyer), to jump out of the boat (whereupon he nearly drowned after becoming entangled in water lilies thus almost saving the world from endless maudlin performances of Irish favourite Danny Boy for which he later wrote the lyrics ).  Without the weight of Wetherley on board the boat won by a hundred yards and was promptly disqualified.  Nevertheless, Henley created an official coxless four race the following year.

L to R: Radcliffe Camera, Brasenose, Brasenose Lane, Exeter College Gardens

The first floor windows in the centre of the shot are the Principal's rooms.  I think we all got invited there for tea in our first term but never went inside again!  Just over forty years ago the Beatles met the Brasenose principal there.  Jeffery Archer (who didn't actually attend Brasenose as a student but was actually a junior groundsman at the BNC sports ground) wrote to the Beatles manager Brian Epstein and asked if the Beatles would support the 21st Birthday of Oxfam campaign he was working on.  Epstein, worried about an avalanche of charity requests, said no but Archer pushed his way backstage at one of their Liverpool concerts and asked the Beatles directly, promising them dinner at Oxford with former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.  In the end Macmillan wasn't available so they went to meet Brasenose principal Sir Noel Hall instead.

Brasenose March 5th 1964 L to R McCartney, Harrison, Archer, Hall, Lloyd  (student) Starr and Lennon

Exeter College gardens overlook Radcliffe Square and the end of Brasenose Lane.  They are raised up above ground level and give a good view of the square so have been a popular location for Inspector Morse shoots.  Brasenose has appeared in the series too, more than once, where it is dubbed Lonsdale College.  

Between the college and Exeter Gardens is Brasenose Lane. Another thing about Oxford today is that it is a lot cleaner and tidier than in my day.  Brasenose Lane runs between the side of Lincoln and Brasenose on one side and Exeter on the other and takes you from the central Radcliffe Square to the main part of the town.  Brasenose Lane always used to reek, mainly because it passed Lincoln kitchens (why did they have boiled cabbage every day?).  It has the last remaining kennel or medieval central gutter in the City and maybe Oxford City Council are better at keeping it clean these days.  It was very poorly lit and late at night (or early in the morning) was quite a good place for spontaneous vertical intimacy (usually after too much port), provided you had a young lady who didn't mind the cabbage smell.

C, who didn't mind cabbage at all

In Brasenose Lane I once literally ran into C (another C not the one above), who was a famous model at the time, munching on a baguette which she had bought in the covered market.  Market Street, which continues on from Brasenose Lane was where the Co-op was (it's no longer there) which was where everyone at BNC got their milk, although there weren't many fridges in college - probably about the same number as bathrooms.  You had to keep your milk on the window ledge which sometime made it perilous for passers by if you weren't concentrating when trying to place it there.

The covered market is a lot cleaner today as well and is full of trendy little shops selling useless things for girls, largely, although there are still some food stalls.  There are no cars in Market Street either!

Two (four?) of the talented Polish performers at Eurovision

Fortunately, I did get to watch the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, although it wasn't quite the same without Charlotte's trenchant comments on the contestants' costume choices.   We did enjoy the talented Polish ladies despite their quite horrible song.  The Eurovision vote from each country is currently split 50/50 between a panel of "experts" and a public telephone vote.  Interestingly, the British experts put Malta in their top spot. The song finished 23rd out of 25 so it makes you wonder about their actual expertise. Perhaps they were the same experts who selected our dismal entry this year, Molly Smitten-Downes (whose name sounds like a character from a Jilly Cooper showjumping and shagging novel) who finished a gallant 17th (out of 25). What was more interesting was that the 12 points as awarded by the British telephone voters, rather than the experts, went to Poland. Which either shows quite how many Polish people we have in Britain now or how much British people like girls flaunting their busts. Or maybe both.

Anyway, after the comparative calm of the weekend (and too much food) and a little bit of painting yesterday evening (the next couple of Afghans are coming on well) it's back to the noise of the builders.  At 6.15 AM this morning this lot turned up in our front garden.  Now we have a digger, a dumper truck and a pneumatic drill going.  Maybe I should just head back to the dreaming spires for a rest.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Paint Table Saturday: Off to Oxford

I won't have much chance for any painting this weekend as I am going back to Oxford for a car event my father-in-law is organising, coincidentally, right outside my old college.   So today I have one of those splendid railway posters of my college as my wallpaper.

This lithograph dates from 1935 and is by Claude Buckle (1905-1973) who did a whole series of similar posters advertising rail destinations between 1933 and 1960.  Original examples of his posters go for about £1000 these days.

I'm hoping to get a little bit done on my Artizan Designs Afghans but have now run out of washers on which to base the remaining packs.  I have ordered new steel washers from several places but they are all too small.  Unfortunately, I hadn't realised I had been using Imperial 13/16" washers which no longer seem to be available in Britain.  I have some zinc ones on order to see if they are alright.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Matamoros Batallion Completed

I have finished the Matamoros battalion; my first complete unit for the Texan War of Independence.  More about it and more pictures on my Americas Blog here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

More Mexicans, an Afghan, my neighbour's art and the perils of green drinks...

I've been up in the City today, meeting Latin Americans, but got back and finished off my next batch of Mexicans.  These three companies of grenadiers, fusiliers and light infantry complete (for the moment) the Matamoros regiment.  I may give them a more distinctive officer in due course and may also have to bolster their numbers but at present I am happy with a 1:10 ratio, which gives a unit of 32 figures.  I may try to get a shot of the whole unit tomorrow, although I may have to go to London again.

The cazadores are slightly different from the other regular Boot Hill troops I have painted in that they have Baker rifles, black belts and green facings.  These figures also have shako cords which makes them look very smart (rather smarter than they probably appeared).  The cazadores of the Matamoros regiment were the first Mexican troops into the centre of Béxar before the arrival of Santa Anna and his main army to besiege the Alamo.

I also finished off my first of Artizan's new Afghan tribesmen.  More of these on the way soon.  These 13 figures bring my total for the year to 64; so about 15 a month.  Much better than last year!

Talking of painting, while walking through the Royal Exchange today I spotted these two pictures in the trendy art gallery there.  The distinctive design is, of course, the Rolling Stones logo which was done, as were these prints, by my next door neighbour, back in the early seventies.  He worked for many other music acts, including local Guildford band The Stranglers, designing album covers and tour posters.  Sensibly, he kept the copyright and reproduction rights of the famous lips and tongue logo!

Two more splendid visual treats I encountered today were these young ladies persuading me (successfully) to try a cocktail made with a dubious Bolivian drink.   Resistance was futile.  It was like when I joined a gym in the City because Elle Macpherson happened to be there when I was shown around and she told me membership would be good for me.  Needless to say I never saw her there again (the only Australian member I saw regularly was Clive James who was not the same at all).  Anyway, I was told once; "never have drinks which are green; bad things will happen". 

The St Regis in Washington DC.  The bar is at the far end through the arch

This is advice I wish I had followed while staying at the St Regis hotel in Washington DC a few years ago, where they, briefly, had a period where they served absinthe in the bar.  If I hadn't had it I wouldn't have got into a rather awkward situation with the mother of a lady friend.  It certainly did make her heart grow fonder. To be fair I didn't know who she was but she did know who I was and had already had two glasses of the stuff before I arrived.  Tricky.  Especially when the daughter turned up.

Absinthe in Montreal

I have since learned not to drink absinthe with anyone unless I know them really, really well.  The only other hotel I have been to where they serve it is the InterContinental in Montreal, where I had it with S from Vancouver.  Fortunately, she can absorb her alcohol in a rather more robust way than M's mother.   

Anyway, Agwa de Bolivia is made from Coca leaves and after three at lunchtime it felt like it.  No more green drinks for me!  Until the next time.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Sorting out my paints and the next thing on the Paint Table!

Until recently, I have kept most of my paints in an old biscuit tin which I have had for years (possibly decades).  It sat in the small chest of drawers next to my desk with all sorts of other rubbish like model filler, glue, rubber bands, bits of acetate and metal etc.  The problem was that if I ran out of a particular colour and tried to find a new one in the tin if I pulled it out the drawer all the tins on top would fall out and everything else in the drawer would collapse in to fill the vacant space.  Thus, getting one tinlet out often required fifteen minutes of sorting out to replace the biscuit tin in the drawer.  I also had an overflow box in another drawer which was buried under lots of tins of spray paint, static grass etc in another drawer.

So I decided to get rid of the biscuit tin and the buried cardboard box and put all my paints in two file boxes. All the tins of spray paint were moved to the drawer where the biscuit tin was, leaving access for the file boxes in the other drawer.

So now I can find my paints comparatively quickly!  Hooray!  For the newer readers of this blog you might be surprised, as others have been, that I continue to paint using Humbrol enamels rather than acrylics, which now seem to be almost universal for wargamers.  I started using enamels in the sixties for my Airfix kits and never saw any reason to change. I like to blend all my shades and enamels don't dry that quickly so I can mix a colour and use it on a dozen figures.  If it starts to get too thick a bit of white spirit thins it down again.  I sometimes use acrylics for certain colours but I hate them: they dry too quickly (I know there are things you can add to slow this down, but what a fiddle!) and, more importantly, they are far too bright for pre-chemical dye clothing.  Also the choice is better: Humbrol have lots of different shades of grey, brown and green, for example, which are really useful when painting Dark Ages figures (as I used to do almost exclusively).  Anyway, I am too old to change now!

I've had a good few days painting over the holiday weekend and my next batch of 12 Mexicans are now varnished and just need the metallic parts doing on them.  I do use acrylics for metallic areas but always paint them after varnishing.  I find it odd that some people paint on a metallic paint and then matt varnish over the top.  The metallic paint doesn't rub off like normal colours and you get a nice shiny finish.  The Mexicans have rifle barrels, bayonets, hat bands, chinstraps and buttons that need to be done so it isn't a quick job but I hope to get them done this week.

After that I think I will take a break from Mexicans and work on my new Artizan Afghans which arrived last week and I have already started.  These are very easy figures to paint (note how I keep putting off my Perry Confederation of the Rhine figures!).  The faces are very full of character but if I have one criticism of them is that they don't have a lot of equipment.  No-one has a scabbard, a dagger or the pistols stuck into their belts that many contemporary illustrations show.  

In short, they look just a little too tidy.  Studio Miniatures have a few Afghans and they do, at least, have daggers as well but I'm not sure how well they would go with the Artizan figures size wise as their Sikh Wars figures are quite slight.  It might be worth ordering a pack once I have painted the ones I have got.  

I have started eight Afghans (Pathans, really, I suppose) nearly finished another and have seven more based but I have now run out of suitable washers.  The ones I ordered from Amazon arrived yesterday but they are too small.  It turns out that the washers I have been using are not 20mm at all but 21mm.  The difference is quite noticeable.  I have some more from another manufacturer on order but I am not hopeful.  It was about seven years ago that the washers they sell in all the main shops were slightly reduced in size which is why I was so pleased to find them on the Isle of Wight.  Up until then I could get them at places like Homebase but now they are all these shrunken ones.  Oh well, the search goes on!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Salute Figure Draw - the winner!

Or rather winners, as I decided to have three winners to also celebrate my reaching 150 followers.  Charlotte put all the numbers into a box and drew out three.  Fortunately, the three winners all wanted different figures.  The Force was, indeed, with us.  The first out the box was number 14, Celtic Curmudgeon, who wins the 2014 Salute figure of Colin Maud.  Charlotte is here with her astrophysics birthday cake which has chocolate stars, Mars Bar and Galaxy chocolate, flying saucers and the Sun made out of marshmallow.  Strange!

Second out the box was number 24, Mark J, who gets the 2006 Arthur and Mordred figures.  

Finally, it's number 29, Naiconn Log who wanted the 2013 Jason and the Argonauts figure.  

Congratulations to the winners and for those unlucky this time I will have another competition in the future!

Salute Figure draw today and happy Star Wars Day!

We'll be making the blog 250,000 views prize draw today.  In order for it to be completely fair, my daughter, Charlotte (whose birthday - Star Wars Day - it is today), is going to make the draw in Edinburgh using the  numbers listed below (if I asked her to write all the names down we would still be waiting in June).

How much does Charlotte love Star Wars?  Taken at the 2009 Star Wars Musical event at the O2 where she was grabbed to pose for the press with R2D2

The draw will take place this evening after her pole dancing class!  She is very excited because this week she has just heard she has been chosen to perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony this summer.  Not pole dancing, I should add.  They'll probably dress her up as a wild haggis or something.  She's not allowed to tell us what she will be doing!

These are the people I have down who have entered the draw, with their chosen figure. Let me know if there are any alterations.

1 Edwin King 2006
2 TamsinP 2007
3 Justin Penwith 2006
4 Fez-man 2010
5 Andrew Saunders 2007
6 Ubique Matt 2013
7 Rodger 2014
8 john de terre neuve 2006
9 Simon Miller 2006
10 Mad Tin Hatter 2014
11 Francis Lee 2007
12 Mike Lewis 2010
13 Wargame News and Terrain Blog 2012
14 CelticCurmudgeon 2014
16 Lee Hadley 2014
17 LittleArmies 2006
18 Brownk 2013
19 Dannoc 2014
20 Spyros Pachos 2012
21 Robert Audin 2007
22 Michael Mills 2006
23 Carlo Pagano 2014
24 Mark J (Anonymous) 2006
25 Cedric 2014
26 Michael Awdry 2012
27 Michael Peterson 2007
28 David 2006
29 Naiconn Log 2013
30 Ray Rousell War & Conquest
31 Pat G 2014
32 Panzer Kaput 2010

Good luck everyone!  I'll get it off in the post to you as soon as I have the winner's address (although it won't be going from the Sir Chris Hoy golden Olympic post box in Edinburgh!)

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

I'm looking forward to our three day weekend so hope to get the next batch of Mexicans finished.  If I have time I will also do some more work on the Neanderthals and maybe start the North Star Egyptian standard bearer.  In the background are some of the new Artizan North West Frontier tribesmen (left), Mexican cavalry (centre) and more Mexican infantry (right).  

Since I started taking part in Paint Table Saturday every week, on 18th January this year,  I have painted 41 figures which is half what I did for the whole of last year!  It's really helping to keep my momentum up.  Unfortunately in the same period I have bought nearly ten times that number of new figures.  Oh dear!

Friday, May 02, 2014

North Star Egyptian size comparison

 L to R: Foundry Egyptian, North Star Kadesh and Foundry Trojan

More lead arrived today in the form of a lot of Egyptian Harem Miniatures.  I based one of the ladies and she will work very well with the new Northstar figures.  Following a review on The Miniatures Page I also took this picture, which compares the North Star standard bearer with a Foundry Egyptian and a Trojan,  The North Star figure is a lot bigger (28mm foot to eye as opposed to the 24mm of the Foundry figure).  He also has a very chunky base.

However, he works much better with the new Egyptian Harem Miniatures.  Realistically I am never going to build two chariot period armies but some Egyptian skirmishing by raiding Sea Peoples after the odd piece of Egyptian totty might work well.  Especially as some of these figures might appear in an In Her Majesty's Name game!  Hence the round bases.