Saturday, December 24, 2016

Paint Table Saturday: nearly a nasty moment

Well, I know its Christmas Eve and everyone else is banging on about how nice it is to spend time with the family but if you are like me the last thing I want to do is spend time with the family.  After all, you can choose your friends but your are stuck with your family whether you like them or not. So I thought I would shut myself away and do a bit of painting while the Old Bat made a mess in the kitchen making Bread Sauce for tomorrow's Christmas lunch at her sister's in Hampshire.  No one in the Old Bat's immediate family has any idea about cooking (or food, for that matter) but last year her sister's son cooked Christmas lunch and it was immeasurably better than before.  Fortunately, he is on duty again for tomorrow.

My American Civil War project will have to wait for a month as I need to get some more Zulus done for our Isandlwana re-fight organised by Eric the Shed next month and so thought I would do some shading on them today.  These will not be up to my usual (none too high anyway) standards as I just need to get them done.  Anyway, having got the base colour done last week I got the darker shade on today.  Given it was actually quite bright I thought I might keep going and do the lighter shade too.

So, I opened a brand new tin of Humbrol number 34 white and it was completely died up and solid. I have been using Humbrol paints since 1968 and I have never had a dried out one like this.  It was properly sealed too.  This was a disaster, given I was planning to paint quite a bit over the next few days.

There is only one place in the immediate vicinity where I can get Humbrol paint, so it was off to Addlestone Model shop, somewhere I have been going for nearly fifty years, although it is now in its third location.  It was quite busy in there, not surprisingly, as who wouldn't want a Chrirstmas present from Addlestone Model Shop?  

I then had to get diverted to buy more parsnips and wrapping paper but Tesco wasn't as bad as I feared and I was back by three fifteen, although I had lost the painting light, of course.  Still, now I will be able to paint over Christmas after all.

Today's seasonal distraction is by top American pin-up artist Al Moore who, before he worked as an illustrator, played professional American Football for the Chicago Bears.  After studying art in Chicago he set up his own studio, working on advertisements, magazine illustrations and, in WW2, government posters.  This work led to his big break in 1946, when he was hired to replace legendary pin-up artist Alberto Vargas at Esquire magazine.  He painted pin ups right through the late forties and fifties before the ubiquity of photographs in advetrisements and magazines made him switch to portraits.

Today's music is Rimsky-Korsakov's little performed Christmas Eve, which has the best musical evocation of a the beginning of a snowfall there is.  It deserves to be better known but suffers, no doubt, from its seasonality and is too long, at thirty minutes, to be played on the likes of Classic FM.

Ho, ho, ho, to all you Christmas lovers and I will be back after the thing is over with my inevitable reviews of the year.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Paint Table Sunday: Some progress on the ACW

My painting hasn't gone so well the last week or so as I have had to deal with a family bereavement  (which I won't expand upon or it will sound like one of those ghastly, maudlin posts you get on The Miniatures Page) and this has put my work on the back burner too, so I am having to work to catch up in my 'spare time'. I was grateful to be able to get the opportunity to go out and meet the Uber Geek himself, for dinner at the beginning of the month.  I was probably not very sparkling company, given the circumstances, so apologise if I was a bit dull but it did make me feel better in a very trying week.  So thanks for your company and, indeed, dinner!

I tried to get some painting done yesterday but the light was just awful.  I took this picture out of my window at about three pm.  Hopeless!  One good thing it shows is that we have taken down the children's trampoline, at last, which means the garden looks more open once more. 

So, not much progress but some, at least, on my plastic ACW project (the Uber Geek's enthusiasm for ACW was infectious).  This is my first unit, of Texans, with the three companies required by Terence Wise's rules, in different stages (this evening I put the Freshwater Bay sand on the figures on the right, so I can undercoat them tomorrow).  In the background the Union Cavalry have not moved on very much, although the blankets (horse blankets and troopers') on the saddles are now under way and all the colour research is done.

I have a new undercoated unit which is a totally unnecessary, metal add-on and is the fault of a picture caption, appropriately, from Terence Wise's An Introduction to Battle Gaming.  In his Battle of Centerville the cavalry fight as cavalry but that runs contrary to this caption.  It is a line that came back to me as soon as I started my cavalry, even before I looked at the book again.

As a result, I bought two packs of metal Perry dismounted cavalry which I will paint at the same time as the plastic riders.  Now, or course, I am thinking about horse holders!

Although I have been focussing on the ACW figures, Eric the Shed (his awe-inspiring blog has just passed it's fifth birthday and he has a year-end round up, here) is organising a Zulu Wars game next month and I am going to see if I can find some Zulus which I know I have started, to add to the forty I have already painted. You can never have enough Zulus!

Anders Zorn (1860-1920) The Hinds (1908)

Today's wallpaper distraction is one of Swedish painter Anders Zorn's lovely al fresco nudes, which I mentioned last time.  Zorn, a notorious womaniser, would sail the coast of Sweden in the summer with a 'crew' of models who he would get to pose by the water and in the woods along the rocky shore.   This seems like a good way to spend the summer to me, as long as you don't have to eat pickled herring. Prawn cocktail, yes. Herring, no.  

Today's music is one I have played a number of times over the last week.  It is my favourite piece by Brahms and the LP (above) I had, before I got the CD version, was one of the earlier records in my classical collection which I bought shortly after it came out, in 1974.  It's very nostalgic, for a number of reasons, and I have found it very calming over the last stressful week or so.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

John Glenn (July 18th, 1921 – December 8th, 2016)

I just need to note the passing of John Glenn today, at the age of 95; one of the Legatus' childhood heroes.  Although it may seem peculiar to those who know about my attitude to flying today but I really wanted to be an astronaut when I was little.  I followed all the space missions and got every book from the library I could about rockets and space. This was all before the Apollo programme and for me American spaceships were always carried by Atlas rockets, as was Glenn's first American orbital space flight. Later, as I started to grow (nearly six foot by the age of twelve), I realised that I was going to be too tall to be an astronaut (and wasn't American or a pilot or had any ability in science!) but the height thing seemed to be the biggest problem in those days.

We used to get Brooke Bond tea because I loved collecting the cards and albums.  Transport through the Ages, issued in 1966, was the first complete set of cards I collected and had this splendid painting of an Atlas launch on the cover.  Sadly, this set was followed by the tedious Trees of Britain and the ongoing disappointment of getting the Rowan or Mountain Ash card yet again.  Still, just the sight of these pictures takes me back to another world; a world of which John Glenn was an important part.

 John Glenn is launched in Friendship 7 on February 20th 1962

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Paint Table Saturday (just made it by three minutes!)

Well, I have had a not very exciting week this week.  I have been stuck at home, with no trips to London to break up the monotony, writing a report.  The light was so bad I couldn't even take the odd painting break, although I have continued assembling my Perry Miniatures plastics during the evenings while watching TV.  I also undercoated the Renedra American church and built their store model too. I have to say that I find that the fit of these models is not what they should be but maybe I have been spoiled by the Hasegawa aircraft model kits I used to make twenty years ago.  Some filling will be needed on the store.

Yesterday I went down with a strange 24 hour bug.  I felt really ill, had the shivers, a bad headache and had terrible pains in the joints of my legs.  I dozed on the settee all afternoon and was so ill the Old Bat had to get my dinner for me, the first time she has done that for years (and if you had ever had her cooking you would know why I always cook my own meals).  I went to bed at about eight  and slept for 12 hours.  Today however, as the Beatles used to say, I feel fine.  Very odd.

As a result, I had to do the work today that I should have done Friday and also had to go shopping as we literally had nothing to eat.  I did however, get an hour's painting in this afternoon and, after a brief panic when I thought I had run out of white paint, I have now finished the horses for my ACW Union cavalry.  This is a big part of these figures out the way. I am now glad I decided to paint all twelve at the same time.  Next I will do the saddles and blankets, which I hope to get done in the next week.  I even did a little bit on my first company of Texan infantry.

Union saddle blanket

I really have no idea about ACW uniforms so am having to do a great deal of research   Fortunately, the amount of re-enactors sites has helped a lot, although exact colour matches are a minefield given the vagaries of photography and the colour changes that weather and time has wrought upon original uniform items. Without a good re-enactment site I would not have known how the saddle blanket was folded and that the effect is an asymmetric look to the different sides.  Now all I have to do is paint orange stripes on very small blankets.  Perhaps it is no wonder I am such a slow painter!

Dans le patio (circa 1905)

Today's wallpaper distraction is from a French postcard with an illustration by François-Maurice Roganeau (1883-1973).  He studied in his home town of Bordeaux but was a good enough painter to win the prestigious Grand Prix de Rome in 1906, which gave the winner a paid year to study in the Italian capital. He was  director of l'École des beaux-arts de Bordeaux from 1929 until 1958 and lived to be ninety years old.  Proving, once again, that painting naked ladies leads to long life (unless you are Modigliani).

Today's music is nostalgic as it accompanied, how shall we put it politely, a rite of passage with the young lady mentioned in our previous post.  Oddly, however, until yesterday when I downloaded it from iTunes. I had never owned a recording of it.  I always argue with my best friend Bill about whether Puccini or Verdi is the better opera composer and he is firmly in the Puccini camp.  Given I have five Verdi operas on iTunes and this is my first Puccini one I am obviously in the other!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Paint Table Saturday, Warfare and a taste of the past...

Having finished a big piece of work this week I thought I might have a weekend off and catch up on some painting. I didn't get much done on the ACW figures this week, although I have now started the first company of Confederate Infantry,  I need to do the shading on two more horses for the cavalry and then I can paint the harnesses and manes and eyes etc on the second half dozen horses.  This week I have researched US cavalry horse blankets so now I know how to do those, so they will be next (blue and  orange, who knew?)

The six figures in the back have the horses and harnesses complete and of the six in the foreground just the black ones need shading.  Since I took this picture I have put the base grey coats down for the first company of Confederates.  I think these will be Texans.  I did look at some Redoubt flags for these but they seemed huge (some people do over-sized flags for some reason) and even I can paint a Texas flag!  I do need to research the sizes, though.

Eric the Shed kindly picked me up from home today and took me to Reading for the Warfare show.  I usually do three shows a year: Salute, Colours and Warfare and this is the end of the season show for me.  Nothing until Salute next April now.  Warfare is always very cramped and certainly seemed busy this year.  Eric picked me up at 8.30 and we were there within an hour, half an hour before doors opened, and there were very few parking spaces left.  By 10.30, apparently, people were having to park a mile away.  

My first port of call was to Dave Thomas' stand.  How much of my money has this man had over the years?  My key objective was to get a couple of Renedra's American buildings to start my town of Centerville.  They didn't have the basic farmhouse but I got the store which can be made as a house anyway and the rather dinky church which I hadn't seen before.  Given I already have painted their barn I feel I have made a good start.  I might try and get one started this week.  In the background you can see an odd fellow who was wandering around the show wearing rabbit ears.  Frankly, I don't want to see anyone wearing rabbit ears unless they are female, dressed in a strapless corset teddy, collar and cuffs and have a cotton tail.

I also picked up a pack of plastic hills (or, rather, bluffs) from Kallistra, which are needed for the Centerville layout.  This saves all that fiddling around with mod-roc as espoused by Terence Wise.  These things were all on the list.  Today's impulse buys were the new African princesses from Copplestone Castings, which I was going to get anyway (honest!), as you can never have enough African princesses.  These will see service for Congo.   The other impulse buy (well, it probably isn't an impulse buy if you ask them if they have got it when you can't see it on the shelves) was the new Warlord Games Stuart tank.  I still have a hankering to do WW2 in the Pacific and this will work for that. I better get some more plastic cement!

I hadn't had breakfast and when I got home the family were all out so I cooked myself brunch.  Some years ago I found a load of letters from ex-girlfriends at university and my letters to my mother from there, in my mother's loft.  This week I was looking for something else in my vast pile of file boxes when I found this box of letters again, organised by year and while having a big mug of Lifeboat tea and some Boots diabetic shortbread (very good, unlike most diabetic biscuits) I re-read some of them and was taken back in time to 1979 (my first term).  One letter was about my first trip to Dungeons and Dragons at Jesus College where one of the other players was involved in importing the rule books.  I noted that I wasn't going to get the rule book as it was a staggering £8.  My college food bill for a term was £40.  The first letter discussed the food in Hall which was...variable.  Despite my college's food being ranked second at Oxford by a review at the time, some of it was decidedly odd.  I had met a nice redhead, C, at the law interviews the previous year and I literally ran into her after being in the college for less than five minutes, on my way to my rooms on my first day. 


Within three days we were inseparable and, as we later discovered, the source of much amusement amongst the second and third year law students, who delighted in telling half the college that two of the new freshers were already 'at it'. We had not realised that one of the second year lawyers had the room next to mine and C was a very vocal girl. We also got caught coming down from the only decent bathroom in college, on Heberden Staircase, with wet hair, having had a companionable bath as, unfortunately, the bottom of the stairs was right by the entrance to the law library.  Who would have expected people to still be in there at gone midnight (after a week and our first reading list, we soon realised why!)

Brasenose Hall

Anyway, the endless background behind my brunch today continues in that in our first week (October 1979) C and I sat down to Formal Hall (the second sitting where you had to wear gowns which I didn't like because I only had a commoner's gown but C had a scholars gown as she was a swot) and were presented with, instead of pudding (Pear Conde was the worst), a savoury.  We later found that we would get this quite often and it was quite popular at dinners in Oxford.   C and I were sat opposite S, from Liverpool, who had an accent that sounded like she had escaped from an episode of The Liver Birds.  There were a lot of northerners at our college and I had never met any before.  Fascinating. 

"What the fucking hell is this?" she exclaimed, poking the rather rubbery scrambled egg in front of her (I apologise for the language but it is an exact quote).  What it was, was 'Scotch Woodcock' which is, basically toast spread with anchovy paste and topped with scrambled egg.  It is, a curious thing to have after dinner but makes a very good brunch.  Given I had just read about this in my letter home to my mother, had bought a big box of eggs this week and had a tin of anchovies rattling around in our cupboard (I am not allowed to open anchovies if any of the rest of the family are in the house) I thought it would be just the thing for my post Warfare brunch.  You can read the recipe on my food blog, inevitably.  

Serving suggestion

Well, C and I developed a taste for it and in our second year we had rooms in the modern college annex next to the Oxford Union which had kitchens.  We could cook (except C couldn't) and Scotch Woodcock became our favourite Sunday brunch.  She would lay on my floor (she was always horizontal) and read the Sunday Times while I had to do all the work in the kitchen.  To be fair she did do the washing up, which is no joke when you have cooked scrambled eggs.  I haven't made Scotch Woodcock for more than thirty years but it certainly was a taste of the past.  "Tastes like C!" I actually said to myself (actually she tasted like prawn cocktail) as I enjoyed it with more Lifeboat Tea and a flick through my new book on Sweden's finest painter, Anders Zorn.

Summer on the Beach (circa 1900)

Anders Zorn was famous for his paintings of naked ladies (and US presidents) who he scattered throughout the Stockholm archipelago from his yacht, like delicious ripe fruit.  No doubt one of his pictures will be inspirational wallpaper another week but today's is by another Scandinavian artist, Denmark's Paul Gustave Fischer (1860-1934).  Around the end of the nineteenth century, while previously best known for his paintings of grey scenes of Copenhagen, he painted a series of pictures of naked ladies sunbathing amongst the dunes of the Baltic.  He wasn't as good a painter as Zorn but these pictures give a welcome feel of warmth and light on what has been a cold day.

Talking to Eric the Shed about the new Star Wars film on the way back from Warfare, we both agreed that we were more Star Trek than Star Wars people.  Speaking of science fiction, Warlord had the new Dr Who sets for sale at Warfare but didn't have any figures on display so I couldn't see what size they are.  C and I always went to watch Dr Who every week at College in the JCR.  So, while I was writing this I listened to my new Star Trek Soundtrack Collection Volume 2.  These have the original soundtracks by Fred Steiner (1923-2011) from four series one episodes.  This really is the sound of Star Trek as I remember it, with Steiner's atmospheric, mainly minor key, compositions for these episodes being reused again and again for later shows.  

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Daleks, American football, SF babes and ACW infantry.

Well, you don't get any posts from me for weeks and then there are two in two days.  Although. one might say that the second is as unwelcome and pointless as two buses arriving together.  This is the first Sunday for two weeks that I haven't been at an NFL match.  The brandmeisters seem to have successfully changed the name from American Football to NFL in the UK.  

Just to spite them, I proudly wore my CFL Toronto Argonauts sweat shirt to both games, Mainly because it is thermal and really, really warm.  I went and watched the Grey Cup final in Edmonton in 1997 (it was the coldest place I had ever been -36 degrees) and later bought the celebratory sweat shirt in Toronto. 

I hadn't been to the new Wembley Stadium before and at least it had escalators to get you up to the top levels, unlike the long, dizzy-making spiral walk at Twickenham. The sound system wasn't so good, though so listening to the commentary was harder.  I had an aisle seat this time which was good as regards getting out but bad in the number of times you had to stand up while idiots went to get beer and then, of course, needed the loo. If you can't hold it don't drink it!  I felt like there were about 250 people in my row. Lots of Germans again. I left early, to avoid the rush, which was just as well as the game was drawn in overtime.   

It was nice to see the Washington Redskins play but the Bengals have always been one of those "couldn't care less teams" for me.  The latter were nominated as home team so they brought their cheerleaders (the Ben-gals - good grief!) with them.  My scientific research showed that they had a lot more 'blondes'' than the Los Angeles Rams did, which probably says something about the ethnic mix in LA compared with Cincinnati. Not that any of them have real blonde hair of course!  I remember striking eighties actress Sean (Blade Runner) Young being asked once: "What do brunettes know?"  "Most blondes aren't,"  she said. 

Now at 25 figures painted a year...

Less than ten minutes walk from Waterloo station is Dark Sphere "London's biggest gaming shop." Dark Sphere is almost entirely a SF and fantasy miniatures shop although it does carry a lot of Warlord's Bolt Action stuff and 4Ground scenics.  I just had enough time to go in there and pick up the new Perry Union infantry on my way home (they have a few boxes of Perry figures but seemed bemused by historicals).  However, because I am working on the Union cavalry at present I will do some Confederate infantry first, I think. I found a box of old Perry ACW plastics in my plastics pile today. They were not well thought of, I seem to recall but I can use some as unit fillers, I think.  I suspect they may be smaller than the newer figures in which case I will get rid of them.  I hate different sized figures in my armies.

Today the Old Bat made me go for a walk/jog in the woods near our house for thirty five miniatures.  It was nice and dry, fortunately.  Now you can get in by a new metal gate whereas before you had to apply for a key from Windsor Castle (it is Crown Estate).  We used to do this a lot but haven't for several years. It was just the sort of sunny, crispy autumnal day I like and I was surprised at the amount of  distance I manage to run without stopping for a walk.  ALthough my legs really hurt now!  Unfortunately, by the time I got back, had some lentil and bacon soup (200 calories), took a phone call from KPMG Botswana ("are you free to come here on 27th November?") and finished a document for them, the light had gone.  I did do the shading on three more horses but not really the progress I had hoped for this fine, sunny morning. At least it helped my decision as to how many cavalry to paint at  a time and I will do six rather than all twelve together.  Hooves, tails, eyes etc next.

 Last night, while watching Strictly Come Dancing, I assembled the other three Kurganova SF girly troopers I bought at Dark Sphere the week before. I thought Victrix Napoleonics were a pain to assemble but they are nothing compared with these.  I have lost a number of pieces from them as they are so fiddly.  Fortunately they come with spare heads as two disappeared completely somewhere on my floor.  Each figure has seven parts made form that hard plastic-type resin which, even with superglue, takes ages to set for pieces to join together.

These were very much an impulse buy (suggested by the evil Tamsin) and some of the other figures in the range suffer from Games Workshop rococo encrustation syndrome but these are fairly basic trooper types.  "They have very pert bottoms" my friend, A, observed when I met up with her at the Archduke wine bar after buying them. I explained that was because they were French.

Raging Heroes, the manufacturers, are planning to bring out rules for the figures but I am not sure whether I will buy into that.  Wondering what to do with them eventually I saw the announcement of the new Warlord Games plastic Daleks.  The whole history of plastic 28mm figures, since the first Perry ACW ones has been leading to this.  Little plastic Daleks! Excitement! It's like reading the words "Kelly Brook in Playboy."

I watched Dr Who from the beginning (yes, I remember William Hartnell) and loved the Daleks, of course. Actually, I didn't watch it quite from the start but I became aware of it through a large cough sweet tin I had which had this completely unappealing image on it (isn't the internet marvellous?).  Did they actually think this would help them sell more cough sweets?  Anyway,  I kept Lego in it but my mother said the man on the front looked like Dr Who (Hartnell, of course).  So next time Dr Who was on TV I insisted on watching it.  I remember several creatures other than the Daleks.  The  Zarbis (1965) were weird insectoid men in suits (I realised in retrospect).  I also remember some not very scary robots called the chumblies (not exactly a sinister name, either).

Mine will be these colours!

When I was little, a truck load of Daleks drove past our house on the way to Shepperton Studios for one of the Peter Cushing Dr Who films. I haven't watched many of the new Dr Who episodes yet (except a couple of Christmas specials with my sister) because I insist on watching TV shows in order and Charlotte has had my Dr Who DVDs up in Edinburgh for years.   Of course like James Bond actors you tend to relate to the one actor as the real Dr Who and for me that was Tom Baker.

Another Dr Who fan who lived nearby was our neighbour's son who was an only child and seemed to have far more toys than we did, including a train set layout in his loft.  What he had, which I coveted even more than the train set (and his Mousetrap game), was The Dalek Book.  I'd love to buy a copy of  this today but they go for over £100 on eBay and you can get an awful lot of Perry plastics for that!

I loved this book and my friend kindly lent it to me (again and again).  It had some pretty terrible comic strips and stories (I remember one about a Dalek invasion force being destroyed by diamond dust blown out of London Underground tunnels by tube trains- I suspect the physics was quite weak). I also remember a story called Monsters of Gurnian which featured what looked like two headed  dinosaurs taking on the bizarre two legged Marsh Daleks.  Daleks with legs! You would have thought that the Daleks would have developed this technology further!

My favourite story was a strip called City of the Daleks which was, basically, an excuse to show you what the Dalek city on Skaro looked like.  I subsequently built the Dalek City out of Lego.  My favourite bit was the Dalek War Museum which was full of exotic space ships (it looks a bit like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum).

Another favourite part of the city in the strip was the golden Emperor's quarters which I built out of yellow Lego.  In retrospect, it seems a bit odd that the Emperor Dalek (an invention of these books and not seen in the films or TV shows up to this point) had quarters.  What would he need quarters for?  Being a robot you would assume that he wouldn't need time off.  Did he relax and sip cocktails and listen to Mantovani?  

I populated my Lego Dalek War Museum with little model spaceships that had come with packets of Sugar Smacks cereal.  This was my favourite cereal (appallingly, it was 53% sugar by weight - it is now known as Honey Smacks) as they often had little free gifts in them and you would have to search around in the opened packet with a spoon (or my hand if my mother wasn't watching) to find them,  The little plastic packets would emerge, covered in sugar and cereal dust as you hoped that you hadn't got the boring Apollo Command module again. You would then have to clip the pieces together.  This sort of thing is probably not allowed now, due to health and safety (Kinder Surprise eggs are banned in the US for these reasons). They did quite a lot of Gerry Anderson giveaways too but these ones were a mixture of real and fictional spaceships.  

 Similar clip together (no glue necessary) fun looks like it will be had with the Warlord Daleks.  Looking at the Warlord Games website I noticed that the Dr Who figures are not 28mm as I thought but they describe them as 38mm (including the base).  This will be fine for the Kurganovas though, as they appear to be about 35mm tall.  So it will be Daleks versus SF babes!