Wednesday, September 30, 2015

5-4-3-2-1 Thunderbirds are Go!

Or they were exactly fifty years ago today, when the very first episode of Gerry Anderson's series, Trapped in the Sky, was broadcast.  A five year old Legatus was watching it, as I had previously watched Stingray, Fireball XL5 and even Supercar.

I had all the Thunderbirds toys, of course (even the largely unloved Thunderbird 5  - the model of which really looked only vaguely like the one in the TV series but had flashing coloured lights and would move randomly across the carpet, squawking), and wish I had kept them as they would be worth a fortune now.  My sister and I both had International Rescue hats too!

The most expensive Thunderbirds toy I had was a large Thunderbird 4 which also needed batteries and actually was waterproof enough to go in the bath, not that there was enough space for it, really.  Fortunately, Uncle Len, next door, had a swimming pool and it had at least one outing there.

The Thunderbird 3 model offended my aesthetic sense as it had a nose wheel and a friction drive unit (where you could rev the wheels up, let it go, watch it streak across the carpet and then have an agonising second or two of worry that the nose would break when it hit the skirting board)  built in to the back which spoiled the lines of the original.  The Thunderbird 1 model had the same issues.

My favourite, of course, was Thunderbird 2, and I remember the strange metal legs which tucked up underneath it, as the sort of retractable ones on the TV show would have been impossible to do in a model.  They offended my aesthetic sense too, however, so when it was supposed to be flying in my games I used to pop them out and only replace them when it was supposed to be deploying the pod, up on its legs, so the little model of the Mole could get in and out.

Trapped in the Sky was a marvellous episode and the sequence where they try to land a stricken Fireflash on the elevator cars is one of the greatest action sequences in sixties TV, driven along by Barry Gray's tremendous music.   Gray, who lived in Esher, about three miles from where I live now, produced some of the greatest TV music ever for Thunderbirds and it is very much the soundtrack to my childhood.  

Derek Meddings prepares the Fireflash for Trapped in the Sky

People who haven't really watched it (twenty something journalists, usually) decry the terrible special effects in the original series but actually they are very good and special effects supervisor Derek Meddings would go on to a stellar career in feature films, including many of the Bond films.

A girl on the International Rescue team?  Get back into the kitchen and make the coffee like you're supposed to!  (Actually, she is the best thing about the new series)

I still love Thunderbirds and was delighted when it was re-shown on TV when my children were small so I could go and get, er, them, all the new toys.  I didn't let them play with them, of course.  They are all safe in their box in the loft!  Watching the new digital incarnation with its laws of physics defying movement, ugly vehicles and boy band characters makes me realise how very, very good the originals were.  More excitingly, a team have crowd funded a project taking some recordings made with the original cast which were released on LP record in the sixties and are adding new visuals using exact replica puppets and vehicles.  Thunderbirds as it should be!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Thinking about 1864: 1

While I await the arrival of my first sample 1864 Danes from North Star I am starting to do a bit of research on the war, which isn't easy as there is not a lot of information on it in English.  I have bought Tom Buk-Swienty's book on the conflict and this is very good indeed, although it does have one of those peculiar structures where the first third of the book is about the day before the climactic Battle of Dybbøl.  I have skipped this and started with the second third of the book which tells the story of the reasons for the war and the initial actions.  I will read the opening after this!

Austrians attack the Danes

One thing that is apparent is that there were a lot more skirmishes than the TV series (although I have only watched the first four episodes so far) leads you to believe.  Hopefully, this gives me the opportunity to think about some battles which don't involve trenches and fortifications. Interestingly, one of the scenes from the TV series which does lend itself to some gaming is the pursuit of the Danish army after they abandoned the fortifications of the Dannevirke.  The series shows this being undertaken by evil looking Prussian hussars in black with deaths head badges.  This was annoying because North Star/Helion never made any Prussian hussars.  However, my Danish friend Mette has pointed me towards some other material which has revealed, for example, that this pursuit was actually carried out by Austrian troops and, hooray, North Star do make Austrian hussars. Hungarian troops were there too.  This may explain some of the comments I have seen from Danes about the lack of accuracy of the series.  Frankly, I just want mid-nineteenth century troops in the snow!

Contemporary illustration of Danish soldier

There is a lot of uniform research to do, not least concerning the colour of the Danes greatcoats.  They look black in the TV series but several contemporary pictures have them looking dark grey.

I wonder whether there is an opportunity here for a what if, using the Perry British 1861 American Civil War intervention figures, although Queen Victoria would not have been amused.

Four months on Facebook - time for a cull

So far my experience of Facebook has been more positive than negative but recently, when looking at the Home section I realised that none of the posts were really about wargaming, which is the main reason I signed up.  So, rather like Tango01's posts on The Miniatures Page, posts I might be interested in are being swamped by stuff which I have no interest in whatsoever.  So, although it may seem slightly peculiar, given the nature of Facebook, I have decided to unfriend a lot of pages.  I will keep those of people I have actually met in real life, those who post wargames or military history content and those who post comments on my blogs (on the whole).  But I have decided to unfriend pages (and there is no insult to the people behind them) which: just post endless so called funny captions (create your own content, don't recycle other people's),  constantly ask me to share stuff, are written by people who rant on about politics or are pages obviously put together for family purposes and don't reflect their wargames interests (fair enough).  Total wargaming content isn't required (I don't do that myself) and I do particularly enjoy seeing other peoples photographs, even if they don't have military content, (and pictures of food, obviously!) but some de-cluttering was called for!

I think I have dropped about 20 pages now.  Maybe a few more to go.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Paint Table Saturday September 26th 2015

Well, I have actually done some painting on Saturday.  I am working on these Lucid Eye Neanderthals, as they have been sitting on the paint table for eighteen months.  They are very nice to paint but there is an awful lot of fur!  This is what I wanted on Frostgrave figures!  Fur cloaks!  I wonder whether I can sculpt some with Greenstuff?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What's on the horizon?

Well, having finished a couple of figures last weekend I am now wondering what to have a go at this weekend.  I didn't mention it in my last post but nearly all of my spare time is being taken up by putting together an academic course for a London university business school at present.  This involves meeting lots of university staff and discussing how the course will be structured, at present.  I need to write the fifteen page course guide so that will take up most of this coming weekend I think.  So any painting will be peripheral but I think next on my hit list will be some Lucid Eye Neanderthals, which are well on the way.  Given the amount of stuff on my workbench it is really crazy to be contemplating anything new but I have just, rather belatedly, started watching 1864.  North Star have announced and 1864 Danish range (the Prussian opposition being provided by their already existing 1866 range).  The first shot of them (above) is really irresistible; such wonderful character in their faces.  I wish I knew who the sculptor is!  I have nearly bought into the 1866 range several times but always held off and hoped that Footsore's Franco-Prussian range would more along but it hasn't. 

I have spent quite a bit of time in Denmark and was disappointed that Matt's First Schleswig War range was never completed.  The only issue I see with the North Star figures is that their more realistic proportions will look odd next to the Prussians (I am sure the current range is smaller than that originally launched by Helion).  The other, issue, of course, was that the conflict was a bit of a one sided walkover with only one principal battle.  Probably won't stop me though!

The other thing that is on my mind at present is Frostgrave, despite my initial disappointment at the lack of winter clothing for the figures (it's supposed to be cold). It's another game that should only involve a small number of figures.  Guy and I used to enjoy Lord of the Rings Battle Companies, which had a similar evolving warband structure.   It's just a question of seeing if anyone else is interested in playing.  As it is already nearly October I need to get on with my Jason and the Argonauts figures for the planned Shed Wars campaign next year.  I still haven't found my 7th Voyage rules, though!

Monday, September 21, 2015

A bit of painting...and where I have been

Argonauts yesterday!

A few days ago Eric the Shed sent me an email asking what had happened to me, as I hadn't been blogging for a while (well six weeks).  A friend of mine sent me a similar missive on Friday too.  I wonder whether it had anything to do with the fact that I am getting lots of adverts appearing on my Yahoo mail asking me if I had made financial plans for my funeral.  Everyone expects me to be dead.  My sister actually sent me a note asking me if I was dead, following the fatality of someone my age on the recent Surrey Ride London event as I had been contemplating (not very seriously) having a go, as it goes past the end of my road.   Only my sister would send me an email asking me if I was dead.  

Coming up the hill in Oxshott

Not dead, exactly, but having taken the Old Bat to work that day we had to park the car on the other side of the course as the main road was closed for the event.  I had to walk back home but first I had to cross the road.  This was not easy given the number of people coming along the A244.  In fact, that morning, "an older person like you" as the helpful but faintly insulting marshalette had said to me, had been hit by a bike trying to cross in the village and had to be taken to hospital.  I was now trying to cross the road at the same point and had been waiting for fifteen minutes for a break in the traffic.  The problem is that this is not like the London to Brighton Bike Ride, which I have done four times (admittedly twenty years ago).  These are good club cyclists from all over the country and they are bowling along at 25 mph.  However. I used to be a good sprinter, or at least, 400m runner (admittedly forty years ago) so, glimpsing a short break in the peloton I took off from the kerb in the direction of the The Victoria pub opposite (not a pub I have ever been to as A) I don't like pubs and B) it is often full of Premiere League footballers).  Ping, went my calf muscle two thirds of the way across but I couldn't stop, as plunging down the hill towards me, shoulder to shoulder like the Light Brigade, was a pan-highway frontage of rapidly approaching wheels.  I know that at this point on the road, as I have to follow pelotons of cycles every weekend as they all have a crack at the Olympic road race route, they are pushing 30 mph.  My leg was so bad by the time I reached the other side that I couldn't even attempt to walk for fifteen minutes.  It then took me twenty minutes to cover the half mile home.  Well the result of all this was that I was in considerable pain for about a week and by the time I got back from work I was too tired to paint or blog.  When you are an "older person" you don't recover as quickly.

Just before this at the end of July we had had a week in the Isle of Wight for the Royal Yacht Squadron 200th anniversary.  As Guy was busy being a marshal it meant the Old Bat and I had to talk to each other and we went on a walk around Carisbrooke Castle.  March's Miniature Wargames had a Lion Rampant scenario set around the French invasion and siege of the castle in 1377.  

We have been to Carisbrooke many times but it is only when you see it from a distance that you realise how it is built up above the surrounding landscape.  Worth bearing in mind if trying to recreate this action (as I would like to do) as it really sits on top of a substantial mound.

We took the Old Bat's parents to Ventnor Botanical gardens which is really not my thing but just above the cliffs they have a small planting of hops.   They are tucked in a little hollow between the coastal path and the cliff edge (above).

I hadn't noticed when visiting previously, but now they make a beer, Botanic Ale, from these hops.  I bought a bottle for my friend Bill but decided to keep if for myself in the end.  What a meanie!   I haven't tried it yet but will do very soon.

Charlotte's costume for the Tattoo took over forty minutes to get on for every performance

Anyway, after that it was off to Edinburgh for a few days, to watch Charlotte dance in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  I have watched it on TV a few times as I really like military band music and it was a great show live.  We were also lucky with the weather. Charlotte had got soaked on at least one occasion as, unlike some of the performers, they didn't have waterproofs for inclement weather and umbrellas are banned in the arena.  It was nice to see her, as she left for Edinburgh in January and we hadn't seen her for more than seven months.

We all went round Holyrood House, which we hadn't been to before.  It was quite spooky to see the site of the murder of Mary Queen of Scots private secretary, David Rizzio, which I remember reading about when I was studying History A level at school.  Just as impressive for me was visiting the ruins of Holyrood Chapel.  Felix Mendelssohn visited the place on 30th July 1829 and wrote home: "In the deep twilight we went today to the palace were Queen Mary lived and loved...The chapel below is now roofless. Grass and ivy thrive there and at the broken altar where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything is ruined, decayed, and the clear heavens pour in. I think I have found there the beginning of my 'Scottish' Symphony."   He even enclosed, on a piece of paper, what would become the opening theme for the symphony.   It is my favourite Mendelssohn symphony and it was wonderful to stand in the place that directly inspired it.

We couldn't avoid shopping (I wondered why Charlotte had asked us to meet her in the Edinburgh Tattoo shop when we arrived - that was expensive) but at least in Edinburgh they have the wonderful old style department store, Jenners.

However, Jenners was the site of my biggest disappointment of the trip.  On the top floor they have a branch of superb Italian-Scottish delicatessen Valvona & Crolla (this is the firm who FedEx fruit and vegetables from Italy direct to my foodie friends in Bath so they don't have to eat supermarket vegetables).  There were many tasty looking things in the shop but they would have been out of the fridge too long to get home.  Even worse was the fact that we had hand baggage only so I couldn't buy anything from the tantalising display of Scottish beers there.  I really want Orkney Porter!  I want to try Kelpie!  But I couldn't. We had already checked out of the hotel.  Grr!  First stop on my next trip! 

We were back on the Isle of Wight a few weeks later but this time with Charlotte who had actually decided to leave the delights of Edinburgh to come home for a fortnight.  While Guy went out in a RIB to watch the powerboat race starts she and I watched them from dry land and then headed across the Island to Freshwater Bay (adjacent to Freshwater, home of Fighting 15s).  It was low tide and we found a pirate cave (well that was what it looked like) although Charlotte decided it was actually the Cave of the Sea Pigeons as they seemed to be the main inhabitants.  Even at low tide we had to wade through eighteen inches of water to get in.  An easy place to get cut off in.

Freshwater Bay

Actually, in retrospect, it probably wasn't a brilliant idea to go inside the cave as on this, the south side of the island, bits of cliff are constantly dropping into the sea which is how they keep discovering dinosaur fossils there.

In fact, when we got back from the Isle of Wight we watched a rather bizarre TV documentary called Dinosaur Britain where they visited this very same bit of coast and even recreated it as it looked in the time of Iguanodons! 

The real reason for going to Freshwater Bay, though, was to restock on the sand I use for basing my figures.  It is quite coarse but not too coarse and the lot I picked up should keep me going for a year or more.  I also got another hundred washers from Hurst (or "Urrrst" as the locals call it), the ironmonger in Cowes, for my skirmish figures.

Even better, although the RNLI shop has replaced my favourite Lifeboat tea with inferior Lifesaver tea, Charlotte spotted the original in Waitrose in Cowes and. of course, we got 15% off with the Old Bat's discount.  I stocked up on that too!

Anyway I was determined to paint something this past weekend even though I haven't had many free weekends lately.  So I finished the two Foundry Argonauts at the top of the post and this Warlord Games slave girl who reminds me of a Greek girl I used to work with.  When I told my friend (the one who gets the air mail vegetables) about how lovely she was he didn't believe me, until he met her with me in Leadenhall market!  Anyway, although these slave girls are supposed to be Roman and are due to serve with the legions in the Marcomannic War, she will probably turn up in the Jason and the Argonauts campaign Eric the Shed and I are planning for 2016.  The Greek ruined temple in these pictures was an uncharacteristic present from the Old Bat off eBay.   The grey paint offends my sensibilities though so I intend to repaint it in a more Mediterranean shade.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Russian Frigate Shtandart

Recently I went on board this replica early eighteenth century frigate.  See more on my Great Northern War blog.