Saturday, June 28, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

Another paint table Saturday and I actually managed to get a couple of hours done this morning and another couple of hours done this afternoon.  I think that's about as much as I can manage in a day without getting a headache (the peril of enamels!).  Halfway through the day I had to do some taxi stuff for Guy and go with the Old Bat to Kingston look at a loo seat she is getting for the extension bathroom.  £356 for a loo seat!  It's just white too.  Not even malachite!   At least I picked up the July issues of Wargames Illustrated and Miniature Wargames in Smiths.  I tried to find Playboy as Miss July is from Surrey!  No luck though, I'll have to get it in London.

Anyway, this is the paint table after today's painting session.  There is nothing really close to completion so I suspect I am not going to add anything to my monthly total in the rest of June.  So, a little bit more on my Spartans, Carolingian general, pirate girl and next Egyptian slave girl (I might be able to finish her tomorrow) and rather more work on the next batch of Afghans.  

Last weekend I finished another half dozen Afghans.  These really are starting to move along quite well now and I have now finished ten with another ten well under way.  I think I still have a pack or two to base.  I'm using a simple palette of white, greys and tans for them and  they are very easy to paint.  I should be able to get a few more hours done on them tomorrow. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Circles and Space - My 500th Post

The Legatus doesn't really have heroes but...

Well, I know the sub-title of this, my five hundredth post (imagine how many figures I could have painted using that time instead of writing rubbish), sounds a bit like the title of a James Burke TV series, or is reminiscent of that Michel Legrand song:

And the world is like an apple 
Whirling silently in space

but the Legatus is feeling somewhat spaced out at present.  

Now, I have always been interested in space and space travel and was allowed to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing live (yes, I am that old).  One Christmas I got all the Airfix space models: Saturn V, Lunar module and the rather unloved Sikorsky Sea King.  Through all these early astronomical interests it was the hip computer salesman image of James Burke that was my hero rather than the prattling eccentric that was Patrick Moore (although I have to be careful as the latter was a close friend of my father-in-law) or the laconic drone of Raymond Baxter (another friend of my father in law, because of their work on the Dunkirk Little Ships charity). Emerging from Tomorrows World, like the sun appearing from behind the moon after an eclipse, Burke's engagingly frenetic Apollo coverage led to his first big show The Burke Special (I can still sing the hip and groovy theme tune).  I went to a recording of this when I was at school (sometime between 1972 and 1976) thanks to my aunt's contacts at the BBC, despite my mother's amused derision at his last name.

Baxter v Burke: I know you were a Spitfire pilot but I'm about to go supernova on TV

Burke was about the only person in the seventies who used the word "technology" (which he did a lot) although he was not the only person to wear a safari suit (which he also did a lot).  Then came his next series Connections, where he was taken out of the studio and hurled himself into one of those globe trotting documentary series that are now all too common but in those days were very unusual.  I realised then that he was a very clever man indeed.  I watched The Real Thing and The Day the Universe Changed but then he disappeared from the BBC and was banished to American cable stations.  Despite this he had an enormous influence on the way TV science programmes have been presented subsequently. He was, for example the first TV presenter who proved he could walk and talk at the same time.

The rights to his DVDs aren't owned by the BBC and while you can get them from the US they are fabulously expensive so you have to confine yourself to fuzzy YouTube versions.  I saw him in the Underwriting Room at Lloyd's in the early nineties, filming a follow up to Connections, complete with white suit.  Excellent, I thought, he'll soon be back on TV...but he wasn't.  Not in Britain, anyway.  Too clever a man for UK audiences, seemed to be the BBC view as they plunged ever downwards towards the lowest common denominator.  It was, therefore, very good to hear him back on BBC Radio 4 last September as a follow up to a piece he did for Radio Times in 1973 where he was asked to predict the world in 1993.

He correctly predicted the fact that ordinary people would be able to access enormous amounts of information (or "data" as he always called it) via the rise of personal computers, IVF treatment and cheap airlines. This time, interestingly, he predicted that by 2040 people will start the process that will eventually lead, by 2103, to them being able to make everything they need for their lives with nano-fabricators; a sort of molecular level 3D printer.  You bung in earth, air and water and acetylene gas and through molecular manipulation produce anything you want: chorizo sausage, a Rolex Daytona, Alma-Tadema's In the Tepidarium, Chateau Lafite 1966, an Airfix kit of the SS Canberra, Perry miniatures etc, virtually free.   Of course, even if this does happen and it is possible it may take much longer than that.  Back in the sixties and seventies people in programmes like Tomorrow's World and in magazines like Look & Learn were always banging on about how we would soon be able to fly from London to Australia in ninety minutes by hypersonic plane.  We still don't have any hypersonic airliners, possibly because no one has answered the question as to why we should spend billions of pounds developing a plane that can fly to Australia.

Burke today.  Still very, very clever but better dressed

Burke's utopian future, where everyone is their own world creator, not dependent on companies to manufacture things, also ignores the obvious: that the people who make the money (which he says will be irrelevant in the future) out of nano-fabricators will be those who write the programmes to create the objects.  In a way it will be like those firms that make those tragic paper model soldiers and scenery.  You make them yourself at home but they create the software you need to do so and you pay them for that.

Anyway, we have been comparing extension notes with our neighbours who live next door but one (the other side of The Rolling Stones logo designer) as they have just had a big extension put on the back of their house.  It's not a fiddling little one like ours but runs the whole width of the house at the back.  As we discovered, when we visited it the other week, the main purpose of it was so our neighbour (who is from Gibraltar and works in advertising but is otherwise reasonably normal) could put an observatory on the back.  Not a conservatory, for potted palms, ugly Habitat rugs, cane furniture and glass coffee tables to hold your copies of The World of Interiors but an observatory for star gazing.  It has a special floor which doesn't transmit vibrations.  It has an electric retractable roof.  It has three computer controlled telescopes bolted to the floor (and four free standing ones) where you just type in the co-ordinates of the star you want to look at and "bzzz" it goes straight there.

My moon globe was just like this one- except I didn't keep mine upside down!

I've only looked at the moon once before through a telescope and that was a reasonable one which my father in law uses from the balcony in Cowes.  Excellent for observing sailing races and underdressed French women on yachts approaching the harbour for Cowes Week.  This was something else however.  Extraordinary detail was revealed of the surface of the moon.  The neighbour seemed surprised that I knew the names of many of its features but then I had a moon globe when I was small because of my Apollo fixation.

I took this picture with my normal camera from the Isle of Wight last summer- imagine what it looks like through a £12,000 telescope

Then we looked at Mars and you could clearly see the polar ice cap and then Saturn and its rings.  Most amazing of all was Jupiter with three moons all in  a line and the big red spot.  It's all there, seemingly just above you.  I was in Surrey and I could see the Moons of Jupiter!  It was all a bit Arthur C Clarke. We went around there intending to stay for twenty minutes and stayed three and  a half hours.

Now the Legatus is not a deep thinker. I do not spend my time wondering about where I fit in the universe, what the meaning of life is or even what the future holds.  I work on a much more basic level. Where am I going to have lunch?  What wine shall I buy? (25% off in Waitrose last week and our 15% discount on top, so I stocked up on regional French wine for the Tour de France).  What DVD shall I watch tonight? (Sirens, I think) When am I next going to see one of my particular lady friends? (Nothing arranged.  Grrr!)  More importantly, what model soldiers am I going to buy next? More on that in my next post.  So, given the basic nature of my drivers I was somewhat surprise to find that I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about the size of the universe this quarter, following my visit to the observatory down the road.  Maybe I need to go up into the loft and find an Airfix rocket of some description to bring myself down to earth, mentally!

Newtown Harbour, Isle of Wight.  It's quiet.  And dark!

What I really need to do is replicate the spaced-out experience but with some nice wine and some appropriate music on the iPod.  Hmm.  Not easy in the light polluted south east of England but there is one place not far from here where the skies are extraordinarily clear: Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight where you can regularly see the Milky Way (the galaxy not the chocolate bar.  Actually Galaxy is a chocolate bar as well, of course.  And not to mention the Mars Bar.  Much to the delight of the press a few years ago, Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space, used to work for Mars in their chocolate flavouring department).  Incidentally, speaking of chocolate bars we have been buying Penguin biscuits for the builders and they are tiny. And don't give me all that rot about my hands having got bigger. I would estimate that they are at least a third smaller than they used to be. As my daughter would say: "scummage!"  The  trouble is with Newtown Harbour is that you can only really get there by boat as the landward route involves walking along a precipitous wooden bridge which, while bigger than the old one it replaced a few years ago, you still wouldn't want to do it in the dark!

It's not just about space for me at present though, its about circles or, rather, discs.  The main ones driving me mad at the moment are those which constitute my DVD collection. Having bought some cases for them a few weeks ago I thought I would have them all tucked away by now, but no.  All enthused I filled the first case of 500 in one evening but I haven't touched them since.  This is because putting 500 away has made virtually no difference whatsoever to what is left piled up in my study.  It's all a bit depressing.  If someone had asked how many DVDs I had got I might have guessed 750. Its looking like three or four times that now.  Oh well!  Must get back to it!

Metric on the left Imperial on the right

To conclude on an actual wargaming point, I am becoming obsessed with what circles I can use to base my skirmish figures.  The quest for 13/16" washers in Britain has proven utterly futile and now I only have five left.  I have been looking at pennies but apart from the fact that I don't want to deface the Queen's currency (although I don't think it is an offence anymore) they are still just that little bit too small.  I also don't think they are magnetic.  I have thought about giving up on the magnetic aspect and seeing if someone like Litko could laser cut me some or even contacting a washer manufacturer and seeing if they can make some for me.  The set up costs would be horrible though.  I could order them from the US but the postage will be huge. Of course, anyone else would just move to 20mm washers.  Actually, the real idiocy is that I was spending 5 pence on a washer instead of using a 1 pence piece. One thing I am now contemplating is prizing off the washers on some of the hundreds of figures I have based but not painted so that my existing armies won't suffer from mixed base syndrome.  Maybe I'll just have to give in!  As my daughter said, "who but you will ever notice?"  But that, perhaps, is the point.

So having got my 500th post out the way my next one will actually show that I have finished eight figures last weekend!  I got a big work thing out the way this week so hope to be able to have a bit more time to paint this weekend.

Music wise I could only really be listening to Holst's The Planets.  This is one of the first pieces of classical music I owned, when I got a cassette player for Christmas in 1971.  I never get tired of it, although Mars, my least favourite movement, does get done to death a bit on Classic FM.  The best movement for gazing at the moons of Jupiter, of course, is not actually Jupiter as that is, naturally, for too jolly.  It has to be the mysterious Neptune which I remember listening to when reading Arthur C Clarke's The Lost Worlds of 2001 and finding it spookily appropriate.

Of course Holst wrote The Planets before the discovery of Pluto in 1930, so it was not included in the suite.  After the discovery of Pluto, Holst was asked to write an extra movement but refused, increasingly annoyed by the popularity of The Planets at the expense of his other works.  In 2000 the Halle Orchestra commissioned Colin Matthews to compose an eighth movement called Pluto The Renewer. It's actually been recorded twice but isn't performed very often because it is a bit rubbish really and sounds like a minor Star Trek film soundtrack cue.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Paint Table Saturday: Here come the Girls!

Well, I have managed a couple of hours today, unusually, and in prime place on the paint table today are a selection of 28mm ladies.  We have a lady pirate from Black Scorpion, two Victorian ladies (well, perhaps, one definitely isn't a lady), two of the new Egyptian Harem Miniatures, a Warlord Games Roman slave girl and Goldberry from Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings range.

Also getting some attention today, in the background, are some Artizan Designs Afghans.  I hope to get some more painting done tomorrow and maybe even finish a figure or two. 

Something for the Weekend: Pirate women by Norman Lindsay

We haven't had something for the weekend for a while but given that I have just signed up for the North Star pirates pre-order I thought I would post these sensuous pirate pictures by Australian painter Norman Lindsay.

They are on my "adults only" Legatus Wargames Ladies blog here.  It's not really an adults only subject, of course, and the Legatus does not think that naked bodies are rude but some people (including a lot of Americans) do, so we have to be careful our blog isn't deemed objectionable by the puritans at Blogger and are required to flag it as adults only.  I like Americans and travel to their country reasonably regularly but they do have a much less relaxed attitude to nudity than Europeans, which I find rather odd.  As a pertinent example, in 1940, Lindsay's wife took 16 crates of his work out of Australia as they were worried about a potential Japanese invasion.  They were on a train in the US on which there was a fire.  The crates were hastily evacuated and the contents, as a result, were discovered by American officials who promptly destroyed the whole lot as "pornography".   The word Philistines does not even come close.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Francis Matthews 1927-2014

With Ros Drinkwater in Paul Temple

The Legatus can't let the passing of actor Francis Matthews pass without comment, given that the TV shows of Gerry Anderson were such a large part of my life in the sixties.  Although obituaries make much of the fact that he was the voice of Captain Scarlet I actually remember him best as TV detective Paul Temple; one of my mother's favourite shows and, indeed, he was one of her favourite actors.  In fact I didn't find out that he voiced Captain Scarlet until quite a lot later.

Granger, Matthews and Gardner

It wasn't just my mother who thought he was "dishy"; he had an affair with Ava Gardner (and who wouldn't) while filming Bhowani Junction (1956).  He also appeared in several Hammer films and I also remember him in the entertaining comedy drama serial Don't Forget to Write (1977-79) with George Cole.

Captain Scarlet end titles artwork by Osprey (and Look & Learn) stalwart Ronald Embleton

He based his Captain Scarlet accent on, famously, that of Cary Grant (Anderson offered him the role having heard him do his impression in a radio interview) although as Jack Lemmon said to another Cary Grant impersonator in Some Like it Hot "nobody talks like that!".

There are not many of the original voice cast of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons left now; other than the actresses who played the Angels and Jeremy (Virgil Tracy) Wilkin who played the far from regular character of Captain Ochre.  I need to finish my Crooked Dice Captain Scarlet figure now!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

I got about an hour done today.  I still can't face working on any units at present so am just fiddling with whatever I find.  Currently that is another half dozen Artizan Afghans, two Spartan officers, an Artizan Carolingian general and three Ancient Egyptians.  

I hope to finish a couple more figures tomorrow (probably Afghans).

This won't reduce the lead pile, however, as I bought a unit of twenty seventeenth century Spanish in North Star's sale the other week.  These figures are technically by Phoenix Miniatures and are not part of North Star's 1672 range but they match exactly.  I think they are destined to be Spanish defenders of Panama against Henry Morgan.  Initially, at least, in a small unit Donnybrook sort of way I think.  

I also ordered two more batches of figures today,  More on these when they arrive but one of them is the North Star On the Seven Seas pre-order so they won't arrive until August.  

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Back painting once more...

More Mexicans!

Things have been tremendously busy in the life of the Legatus and have not been helped by several IT issues meaning that I haven't had any spare time and if I have I haven't had access to a computer for long periods of time.  All is now sorted and so I hope to catch up on various urgent tasks, not least of which is sending out my prize draw winners figures, as it is now a month since the draw.  Apologies to the winners but getting to the post office has been impossible.  Anyway, this weekend I managed an hour or so on my next unit of Mexicans and finished the nine other figures I have been working on, in a somewhat desultory manner, for the last few weeks.

I finished 17 figures in May which was my best month of the year.  The longer evenings are certainly helping on the painting front.  I don't know if more than 17 will be possible in June but maybe a dozen is more realistic.  I didn't mange any in June last year but this June I have already managed five so far.  These pirates have been sitting on the paint table for far too long but now they are done.  I'll probably dig out a few more to keep building on them ready for the new Osprey On the Seven Seas Rules which come out in August.

I haven't done anything for IHMN for a bit but here are two new figures.  Firstly we have the North Star Moriarty (who will actually be Alberich von Tarnhelm in my companies).  More on him in my earlier post here.  I don't know where the monster figure came from, maybe he is a Foundry figure, but given the excellent news of the new IHMN Gothic supplement (online only at present) I knew I needed to get him painted.  

Next up were another three Afghan tribesmen from Artizan Designs.  Although irregular figures always take longer to paint, I am keeping a batch of these on the go and just painting the odd colour when I have time.  I have another six under way at present.  Very easy figures to paint.  

Finally, I did a test figure for the Orinoco Miniatures Latin American Wars of Independence British Legion.  This was also a nice easy subject so I will work on a few more.

£500 to move this two miles?

Lots of expenses this month what with the dreaded extension and things such as moving Charlotte from her halls of residence of the first year into her flat for the second year of university.  To move two suitcases and seven cardboard boxes of stuff Pickfords wanted £420 with VAT on top.  What a joke!  Fortunately we found a local firm that charged the comparatively bargain price of £192.  10 boxes of Perry plastics saved!

The work on the extension is driving me mad, not least because the Old Bat keeps wanting my opinion on carpets, bathroom tiles, lights, curtains and all sorts of other nonsense. I also thought that after pneumatic drilling the garage floor away it would quieten down; but not so far.  It's very hard to research the economic impact of direct flights to Bogota with a constant grating, high pitched whining in the background.  But enough of the Old Bat, the brick sawing is nearly as bad.  Also the builders have added significantly to our weekly shop by consuming huge boxes of tea bags (I always wondered who bought those 240 bag boxes), cans of Coke and biscuits.  I can't say that I have seen Wagon Wheels since the seventies but the builders love them.  And Club biscuits and Jaffa Cakes and Penguins and Hob Nobs and Kit Kats and chocolate caramel digestives.  It all got really out of hand when the Old Bat bought them Bahlsen Choco Leibniz biscuits at £1.80 for nine.  Can't they eat custard creams and bourbons like everyone else?  I'm going to do the next biscuit shop!  Maybe I'll get them fig rolls, that will teach them!

The scariest children's TV show ever made

My mother used to get my sister and I these "figgy biscuits" when we were little, largely, I suspect, on the basis that we hated them so much that we couldn't bear to eat more than one at a time.  I particularly remember being given them as a "treat" while watching Tales from Europe on television after school.  This was a collection of children's TV series from Europe (obviously) which were either dubbed or just had English narration over the top.  I particularly remember one featuring some boys and a motorbike filmed in Istanbul I think.  Every time I go to Istanbul, now, I think of fig rolls.

The really memorable Tales from Europe series, of course, was the utterly terrifying The Singing Ringing Tree.  Forget Dr Who, I never hid behind the sofa for that, but The Singing Ringing Tree gave me nightmares for decades.  Originally an East German film made in 1957, you can buy it on DVD, if you really want to scare your children to death, although the DVD is in its originally filmed colour, which is somehow less scary than the expressionist black and white version the BBC showed in the sixties.  Everyone is used to seeing people of "reduced stature" these days thanks to science fiction films and, indeed, the Paralympics, but in 1964 the scampering dwarf from Das singende, klingende Bäumchen  (it sounds even scarier in German) frightened the life out of me.

Girders!  We'll need biscuits after shifting these!

Anyway, stuff keeps arriving on large lorries at 6.00am in the morning, much to the neighbours' delight.  Do I really want to spend £4,500 on steel girders?  I do not but because of the sort of soil we have here we have had to have a complicated foundation put together with a sort of cage of girders underpinning tons of concrete.  You could build a rocket launching pad on the foundations!

I do have a floor, somewhere

My room is total chaos at present and is not helped by the fact that I have bought a couple of those CD album cases to hold my DVD collection.  I had filled all my shelves and had built up an overflow of three piles of DVD's which were over a three feet high and kept falling over.  So all the boxes are going to the dump and I will put them in the sleeves.  Except I don't have time to get on with it.  I haven't even unwrapped the second case.  I did start on my unwatched TV series and have already filled one 500 disc capacity case and have only reached the letter L.  I've still got the rest of my unwatched TV series, unwatched films, watched films and watched TV series to go.  In the meantime I can't find anything!

I don't need any more figures, of course, but was in Orc's Nest this week and saw the new Victrix Greek Unarmoured Hoplites and Archers so picked them up for no real reason whatsoever.  I constructed a few and had forgotten quite how long these multi-part plastics take to assemble.  I'm thinking about Greeks again because of the recent release by Foundry of the Steve Saleh sculpted Persians which have, after many years, seen the light of day for the first time.  These would be perfect to pitch against Macedonians.  Although I don't have any phalangites painted I do have 66 Greek skirmishers and 24 cavalry painted for the Cynoscephalae force I did for a Society of Ancients game in 2007.

My Foundry Greek heavy cavalry from 2007

I think Persians of this period are among the very worst wargames armies to paint.  The troops usually rate low points in most rules so you need lots of them and they have extremely complex patterned uniforms.  They are like Celts!  Or samurai! Anyway, I found a couple of Spartan officers I had started some time ago, so hopefully they will give me the opportunity to do a post on my Spartan blog this month. 

Now it's time to pay the builders their weekly money again!  

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Paint Table, er, Sunday

Another disastrous week on the painting front, although I did complete two pirates but haven't had a chance to photograph them.  I finished two more figures today and did a bit on some of these.   Hopefully next week will be better.